Being Death had taken its toll on him. He looked down at his hands, at the flaky skin covering his once-great body. He tried to smell the evening air, but his nostrils had long since been blocked. He tried to watch the sunset on the horizon, but all he could see was an orange blur in the distance.
It was time for Death to die.
He could feel it in his arthritic bones. He could sense it in his foggy mind. Death knew death only too well.
He limped along to the middle of an empty, deserted road, dragging his chair behind him. Death wanted to be looking at the beautiful sunset, at least what he could see of it, when he went, when his time came.
He gave a small chuckle at the thought, which turned into a mild coughing fit. Death, dying, waiting for his time to come. It was poetic irony.
Death sat himself down on his chair. He stretched his legs, slowly, settling into a comfortable position, looked at the orange sky, and closed his eyes.
He didn’t know how long he had slept, or if he had slept at all. When Death came to again, the sky was still orange, but his back was stiff from sitting.
Though he could feel no pain, Death was sick of his deteriorated body. Though he had lived for a long time, longer than he cared to measure, the agile days of his past seemed only a few years gone.
He knew then that he had never enjoyed those last walks with the departed souls.
Just then, there was a deep rumble from the skies. Death looked up and saw a huge humanoid shape descending from above, landing on the ground in front of his chair. As suddenly as it had started, the rumbling stopped.
The shape shrunk itself to Death’s size and sat down. It waved a hand in front, settling into a position similar to Death. Now, Death could see clearly.
Sitting in front of him on a chair identical to his was a person smiling at him. He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. The face seemed to tell that He was neither; it was the Creator Himself.
Death looked at the sky behind Him; the sun was making breathtaking strokes through the clouds.
Still smiling, the Creator tapped his wrist with a finger. Death nodded. His time had come.
The Creator raised His hand above. From a cloud came a wooden board spinning down, landing between them on a just-materialised table. Death leaned in front, staring at the board. It was completely blank, except for a border carved into it.
Death looked up at Him. The Creator conjured up a pair of dice in His hand.
Of course, Death thought to himself. Now that my time is up, it is time to choose my successor.
The Creator nodded, juggling the dice in His hands, smiling that eternal smile.
The Creator let the dice fall on the wooden board. Two sixes.
Death closed his eyes, feeling his own end coming nearer as ever. The stiffness of his back faded, the wrinkly skin started pulling tighter over his bones.
Death opened his eyes and looked straight into His, searching for the meaning of the result of the dice roll. The Creator simply continued smiling at him.
The edges of Death’s vision started getting black. As it spread towards the centre, leaving him in the ultimate blackness, he kept staring at the Creator; His smile never wavered.
The next Death went about his business as usual, taking the just-departed souls on their last walk to death, helping them complete the journey they had started with their birth.
Not that the journey actually ended there. Death was a destination, but the journey started anew after that, with the souls being regenerated and entered into their next life. The dance of life was continuous, and each soul had their part to play.
One day, after several long years in his position, Death was at his desk, going through his notebook. He was surprised to find that the list of upcoming departures ended in the middle of a page.
Strange, he thought. I remember writing much more.
He closed the notebook and went out to his backyard. It was a stormy evening, with black clouds overhead in a dark blue sky.
There was a sudden rumble. By the time Death finished his blink, there was a gigantic form standing in front of him, the head a hundred feet above the ground.
Just then another form appeared, even bigger than the first. Within seconds, both the forms had shrunk in size and were standing in front of Death — the Creator, with all four of His heads visible; and the Preserver, with His skin the colour of the sky.
Both of Them were smiling at Death, though they were sad smiles.
I am afraid it is time, said the Creator’s voice inside his head.
“My time?” Death was confused. He had always assumed that he could detect his own death long before it would happen.
Yes, my friend, said the Preserver. We know it is quite earlier than planned.
The Creator called down the wooden board from above and placed a pair of dice on top of it.
Death just stared blankly. He did not understand.
The world is saturated with sin, said the Preserver. He held His hand out and conjured a glowing blue orb, spinning slowly around. This was how it was long ago.
The orb started darkening in patches then, turning from an indigo hue to a dark, almost-black blue. The sins being committed have started decaying the universe rapidly. They would have to be absorbed soon, or it would be too late.
Death nodded solemnly. He looked at his own hands, at his young and strong body. He hadn't expected to die until at least a few hundred years later, when enough sins had cumulated to signify that his time was up, when a fresh, new Death would take his place.
But the people of the universe had been busy committing them lately. So much so that him absorbing them and dying had become the only solution to preserving the universe. The Creator and the Preserver would not ask it of him otherwise.
He looked up and nodded at Them. He would make his sacrifice. His successor could take care of the job just as well.
Death picked up the dice from the board to roll them, when something caught his eye.
All the faces of both the dice were sixes.
The Creator and the Preserver resumed their ever-present smiles. He looked into Their eyes, realisation dawning on him. Death then looked behind to find the Destroyer standing there with His trident, also smiling at him.
Twelve, the number that would always result from the dice roll, represented the different forms of the Destroyer. As soon as Death realised this, the Destroyer’s image split into twelve beings, forming a circle around.
The Destroyer would be the one to make Death’s body perish, while the Creator would help form his new one. The Preserver would make sure that the universe was freed of its sins.
The death and rebirth of Death would be overseen by the Trimūrti.
For the first time ever, Death smiled: at the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer; and to himself. He started rolling the dice in his hands.
The dance of death, too, was continuous, after all.