That great equalizer of all men.
The Abomination. The Harvester. He who reaps. He who moves in the dark; who cannot be escaped. Men have tried to outrun him. But he is patient.
He is at the beginning of the race, to see the runners off. He watches, from the stands as they sprint, sometimes with ease, sometimes panting. And he is there, at the end, to shake hands with winners and losers alike. All men are equal to him. Kings and peasants. Old and new. No prejudice stands, in him who in time conquers all things.
Men have tried to overcome him. Kings have sought godhood. Mortals have hunted for immortality. Gilgamesh sought a fruit, to keep him young forever. Xerxes sought a power that would never fade from the earth (and Death saw them both beneath the ground, clearly as above). They have built palaces to last through all ages, and tombs to house them after their earthly time is spent. Death laughs at them all; at their grand schemes and their endless armies, their stores of wealth and golden temples. He laughs at them because despite their splendor, he knows that he will greet them all in time. He will shake their hands, and walk them away, another soul hewn down at the ankles.
Wheat. He, the harvester, must hew it all in turn.
Of course, death knows nothing of what awaits the souls on the other side of him. He is a gatekeeper. He is the toll-collector, to pass the bridge. He is the price that all men must pay, willing or not. Adam-spawn. Humanity’s Bane.
All things of this world are his.
Or so it seemed for many years. Eons of human lives were spread out before him; races run and ended, and he lay his axe to the roots of the young and the old, and let their ankles splinter.
All men had to pass him.
Then came a day, when something was not quite right.
Death stood as death has always stood, smiling. He had set his axe against a young tree; his might could not stay the stronger and the older blade. He had passed by, and there was fear in his eyes, as there always was, as he went on. Then, for a few moments, Death remained. He wanted to watch. To witness the fruits of what he had wrought. The sorrow that followed. Such a peculiar trait, so human in its essence. Sadness.
He watched, and was satisfied.
And then, something changed. It appeared that there stood a man, before him. Not a king. A simple man. But he stood as one that none could refuse, as one whom even the stars trembled to praise, and for the briefest moment, Death felt something tremble inside him.
The man stood, and he looked Death straight into the eyes. Fear. Death had never felt it, himself, though he had seen it enough to understand what it must have been like. The man was not afraid to look at him, to see him for what he was. And then the man reached out his hand, and spoke quietly:
From behind, emerging from that void into which Death himself had never looked, the man who had already passed by him, appeared again. He walked away, and with his back towards the darkness, he returned. But of course, Death knew that this wasn’t possible. No one walked away from him, once he had taken their hand, or greeted them with a kiss. No one returned from that great beyond.
Something most certainly did not seem right.
And this was not the last time that he saw that man who stood so boldly, who spoke so clearly, he who looked Death in the eyes. Not much time had passed before his axe had claimed another. Her ankles were taken from under her. She had fallen gently, and passed by him afraid. He had greeted her with a nod and a smile.
But then the Man had appeared again, and stared with unwavering eyes. He lifted his hand, and spoke that word again: “Arise.”
And from the darkness, the girl stepped.
This could not be so. No one returned. No one. Death knew that much. Not kings, not queens, not prophets. All died, and all stayed dead.
Even this was not the end. The man, with those blazing eyes, had stared into his dark soul again. Another life claimed, that would not be allowed to rest. “Come forth,” the man cried, and the tomb was opened.
No! It wasn’t possible. Death roared at the unfairness, at the unrightness of it all. No one came back. No one passed him by a second time. No one. No one challenged him and lived. Of course, he knew, this man would be the same. Like all the others, he would have to meet Death himself, one day. He would feel the axe at the ankles, the scythe at his shadow, and he would tumble. He would have to walk that dark road, into the shadows of the after-path, with the fear in his eyes.
And soon enough, the day came. Death was pleased to watch. Because now, of course, he got his answer. This man, who challenged him so bravely, was nothing to fear. He was another prophet. A madman, and a fool. His own people handed him over to die, and Death was not begrudged a smile as the man was hanged upon the tree.
The blood. The tears. The sweat. Death loved an execution. He loved the taste of it, and the billowing ripple, which poured through the crowd. He loved to stand before them, with his axe in hand, as he struck at the roots of his victim, and took a soul by the scruff of its neck. Here, he was in the spotlight.
Here, the man on that cross was just like every man. He had no power to stay the axe, to rebuke he who hewed every ankle. And soon, the man released his last breath. He fell, and when his soul slipped free of its frame, the earth rattled. The sky broke, and the whip of heaven tore across it.
When he passed by Death, he passed with doubled shoulders. He was a broken man. Little better than a slave. In his eyes, terror shone; the terror of a condemned man. The terror of a man who knew that he was stepping into the dark. Death laughed. Even this man, who spoke and called men forth, could not overthrow him.
Long, Death waited in the streets that day, tasting the fear and the sadness, the hatred and the loathing from every soul he found. But soon, even those flavors died, the excitement at the end of the hunt. All that was left was sadness. The numbness of mourning.
Until, that is, something happened that he had never felt before. That flicker of fear that he had felt, when those human eyes had met his, had returned. This time, it was worse. It was greater. It moved in his soul and it shook him to his feet. The road beneath him was buckling. Something was happening that had never happened, in all of history.
He turned, for the first time in his entire life, and stared into that void, the fearful blackness, and saw it shake upon its pillars. He heard the screams of voices and the cheer of celestial trumpets, rattling his teeth inside his jaws. Horror and jubilation mingled.
And then, in the midst of the darkness, a shape appeared. The shape of the man, returning, but not as Death had seen him, before. He stood tall, now. He stood as a king. But no king of earth was he; no king who claimed a scrap of stone and sought to be a god. This was much more than that.
The light that shone from him was not stolen light; it was his to give, and his to take away. It was the same light that he had spoken himself, and which Death had never seen with his own eyes.
Fear. Deeper and more horrible than Death had ever imagined it could be, surged within him, knotting in his stomach. An anchor in his soul. He was captivated, and for the first time, it was he who found himself incapable of fleeing. There was no escape. There was no conquest, here. Death raised his axe, but it wilted in his hands. He bared his fangs, but they were dulled to nubs. His venom was dried. His malice was spilled out, and as he fell to his knees, a collar was bound around his neck.
A yoke. Death became a slave. No more to run free. He was turned into a trophy by this shining Prince of Heaven. “But how?” He cried in misery. “I am Adam’s Bane. Only Adam can undo me.”
And the man replied, with a voice that rumbled in the sky: “I am the UnAdam. I am Adam as he should have been. And you, Death, the Abomination of Creation, have lost your power.”
Bound. Once stronger than all the nations of men, Death was lay upon his face, and the man passed by him, into the light again.
For not even Death could escape the fate, which he had so frequently wrought. For here, he had no place to stand. Here, in the glow of the UnFuneral. Here, in the presence of the Prince of the UnDeath. The New Adam.
He who snatched souls from the jaws of darkness, and rescued them into the light. Before him, Death’s knees were weak. The axe fell to his own ankles, and he, one time the gate-keeper, found himself peering deeper into the darkness which waited beyond, into that mouth which would swallow him, someday.
For Death was dead. His time had expired, and in the light of the Death-Conqueror, the Soul-Saver, Death was no more than a memory. For Christ the Unbreakable has broken the Breaker.
The Abomination was Bound.
And Christ, the Emerger, holds his chains.