the nāive's end

Death rode his steed (a slip-foot nag with bones instead of body and a vapor that filled each lung with a dry, white winter) through city streets (as ashy as the horse with buildings by this point more chalk-line than of brick) and gazed (an eyeless squint) upon the tower (say no more). White flowers lined the streets and with each hoofstep toward the spire, they bloomed further to erase beneath the words the city men had written, words in blood and words that brought their fingernails to rinds. A pageantry of corpses; knaves and bishops, televangelists and soldiers too, and hands raised up but death, he did not deign to lower chin.

In need to taste his presence all the same, hands without shake left in them but instead made steady by the lateness of the hour pressed towards ever blossom, and as the corpse-alls touched their fingers to the petals as smooth as skin, their bodies faded pale and disappeared.

The city emptying like so, no words were sang as death made way up to the tower gates, and with a witch's weary sigh the doors creaked open for the rider.

Death did not look back as he made his way to the monster's throne; his steed made wav'ring on the steps, though neither fell, until the throne room opened and its presence swallowed up the two intruders.

The beast-kind turned his head as though it needed to take in this sight with every eye (and so he showed his hand a bit too soon). But face to face at last, the two parties now stood at odds, and for many hours, neither made a move to speak. The sky cracked without sound outside and its silence grew unbearable, and so the monster-king, he rose his head a half-inch higher.

"Why have you taken my followers from me? Why have you made the cities so empty when all I've done is weave a beautiful disease that kills none at all?" The beast's claws scarred the floor beneath the throne. Death said nothing. The beast's unflickering eyes burnt black upon death's armor.

Finally, death spoke. "You'll not open their eyes, for you've made them despise this unweaving upheaval and you at its rise. Though you've filled them hate of their kind and their fate, there's still kingdom to bring them to, comforts so great."

It was the man-faced skeleton who-