• Published 1st Sep 2019
  • 1,731 Views, 231 Comments

No Longer Living In A Van Down By The River - Peni Parker



Since The Dazzlings agreed to be motivational speakers at CHS they're no longer living in a van down by the river, but the job may make them wish they still were.

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Aria and Death

“W-what?” Aria bewilderingly uttered as she stared at Death from down on all fours…in the middle of nowhere…during a mild thunderstorm.

“I said, ‘Shitty day, huh?’” Death reiterated, sounding just a sympathetic as the first time she’d asked it.

Aria was finding it extremely difficult to comprehend what was happening. One minute she’d been all alone in the middle of who-knows-where grieving the loss of her beloved emu, Glen, as it rained down on her. And the next, Death herself was crouched down in front of her, talking to her and holding an umbrella over her head to protect her from the rain. She didn’t even understand how she knew that this actually was Death, she just…did.

Not only that, but Death didn’t look anything like Aria had ever imagined she would. She wasn’t some grim skeleton wrapped in a dark cloak like you see in cartoons or movies, she was a pale young goth woman with long black hair dressed in a simple black tank top and jeans with a studded black belt. She also wore a silver ankh pendant on a chain wrapped around her neck. Lastly, she was very beautiful but in a way she’d never seen before, like there was something just beneath that beauty, something old and sad.

Not surprisingly, the philosophical and metaphysical nature of all this was almost completely overwhelming for Aria. She felt like her mind was going to implode in on itself, until she suddenly remembered something Pinkie Pie had once told her.

There’s a lot of weirdness in this world. She heard Pinkie’s voice say inside her mind. You just need to accept reality for what it is and roll with it.

Thankfully, this little piece of advice from her friend seemed to help her with her current predicament.

“Yeah, really shitty.” She tepidly answered, choosing to accept the reality of the situation, as she lowered her head. “And it looks like it just got even shittier.”

“Why’s that?” Death curiously asked.

“If you’re here, then that’s it for me, right?” Aria morbidly replied, keeping her head down so as not to look Death in the eyes. “Game over?”

There was a brief moment of silence between the two girls as a bolt of lightning quickly flashed off in the distance, causing a loud roar of thunder that last for a few seconds.

“I’m haven’t come for you, Aria.” Death solemnly informed her once the thunder had died down.

This unexpected bit of information caused Aria to promptly raise her head and stare straight at Death with an expression of befuddled astonishment.

“You…you haven’t?” She quizzically asked, a slight hint of doubt in her voice.

“Nope.” Death reassuringly, and rather affably, answered. “Not yet anyway.”

A twinge of fear ran down Aria’s spine when she heard Death say, ‘Not yet anyway’.

“W-what do you mean by that?” She nervously inquired.

“I mean I’m not your Death, Aria.” Death casually explained. “I will be at some point, just as I will be for everyone else in the end, but for now, I’m not your Death.”

Aria wasn’t sure she understood what Death meant by all that, but as long as she was there to take her to whatever lies beyond life, she didn’t really care.

“So, then why are you here?” She falteringly asked, feeling a tad fearful of what the answer was going be.

A small, amiable smile crossed Death’s face just before she answered.

“To talk.” She simply said.

This was not the answer Aria was expecting.

“To…talk?” She skeptically reiterated.

“Yep.” Death affirmed as she extended her free hand out in front of the Dazzling. “You seemed upset, so I thought maybe you could use someone to talk to.”

As Aria stared at the outstretched hand before her, she pondered whether or not she should take hold of it. One the one hand, she knew from her experience as a motivational speaker that talking to someone about your problems and woes was a good way to help you deal with them. But on the other hand, this was Death she’d be confiding in, and she was the reason why she was so upset right now.

“If you don’t want to talk, that’s fine.” Death affably added. “But even if that’s the case, you still look like you could use some help getting up.”

Why is she so…friendly? Aria asked herself.

While she still wasn’t 100% sure she wanted to have a talk with Death, the sheer amount of altruism Aria felt emanating from the gothic girl was enough to convince her to reach out her hand.

“T-thanks.” She apprehensively said as she took a hold of Death’s hand.

The small, amiable smile on Death’s face grew a little bit as she felt Aria’s hand touch hers.

“No problem.” She replied as she stood up, hoisting Aria up along with her.

Once Aria was standing upright again, she took a few moments to brush as much of the mud off her face and clothes as she could. She managed to get most of it off her face, but her clothes were practically stained with it by now. Oh, and then there was her hair too. She weaved her fingers through her hair to get the worst chunks of mud out of it, but she knew she was going to need a good, long shower before she got it all out.

Wait a second. She thought to herself as she realized that it was still raining but that she wasn’t feeling any raindrops on her head.

Aria looked up ever so slightly to see that Death was still holding her umbrella out over her head.

“Um, you don’t need to keep holding that over my head you know.” She benignantly informed Death.

“I know, but I don’t mind.” Death stated. “I just don’t want you to catch a cold.”

Admittedly, Aria couldn’t help but feel a bit touched by Death’s concern for her well-being.

“What about you though?” She concernedly asked. “Won’t you catch a cold without it?”

“I don’t catch colds.” Death pragmatically answered.

Feeling a little stupid for asking Death if she’d catch a cold, Aria facepalmed in embarrassment.

“Right, of course you don’t catch colds.” She said, as if stating the obvious. “Duh.”

“I appreciate the concern though, Aria.” Death jovially said. “You’re a very caring person.”

As Aria lowered her hand from her face she once again felt touched by Death, this time by her kind words. Although, she didn’t quite believe those words to be true. She certainly didn’t feel like she’d been a very caring person today.

“Yeah, caring.” She sarcastically, and somberly, remarked. “I’m such a caring person that I left Glen when he was sick. I knew he wasn’t feeling well, but I left him anyways. I just pawned him off on my sisters while I had a gay old time at school. I…I left him to die.”

At this point, Aria felt like she was going to cry.

“Oh yeah, I’m a really caring person.” She emotionally concluded.

So many thought and feelings started running through Aria in that moment. Why had she just said all that? Only a little while ago she was blaming Sonata and Adagio for letting Glen die, but now she was blaming herself? And why was she opening up to Death of all people? Death; the one who’d started all this by taking Glen away from her.

Feeling a few tears starting to form in the corners of her eyes, Aria brought a hand up to wipe them away.

“Just because you weren’t there with Glen when it was his time doesn’t mean you didn’t care about him.” Death gently said as she moved a bit closer to the Dazzling. “Out of everyone he’d ever know in his life, you were the one who showed him the most kindness and love, Aria.”

“Yeah?” Aria contemptuously said, believing that Death was just spouting a bunch of BS to make her feel better. “And how do you know that?”

“Because that’s what Glen told me.” Death explained.

Just then, another quick bolt of lightning flashed off in the distance, once again causing a loud clap of thunder to roll across the empty field.

As the sound of thunder roared, Aria quickly contemplated Death’s claim. Had Glen really spoken to her? It seemed a bit farfetched to be sure, but then again she was talking to her right now, so she figured it wasn’t that farfetched.

“You…you really talked to Glen?!” She franticly asked.

“Sure.” Death nonchalantly answered. “I often talk to those I take before I guide them to the sunless lands, if only for a little while.”

Aria didn’t know what Death meant by ‘the sunless lands’, but that wasn’t what mattered to her. What did matter was what Glen had apparently said about her.

“What did he say?!” She hysterically pleaded as she grabbed hold of Death’s shoulders. “Please, I…I need to know what he said!”

“He said quite a few things.” Death calmly began to say, seemingly unphased by Aria having suddenly grabbed hold of her. “Like most he asked me questions about what was next, but unlike most he confided in me a few feelings about his life as well. He said, and I quote, ‘Most of my life was pretty rough. I was bullied, beaten, and largely ignored by others; so much so that at times I actually wished I would die. But all that changed when I met someone special. Her name was Aria, and she showed me more love and kindness than I’d ever been shown before in my life. We didn’t know each other very long, and I wish that we’d had more time together, but I’m just glad that I had her in my life at all.’”

As soon as Death finished speaking, Aria had a complete emotional breakdown. She leaned forward and started crying uncontrollably into the Death’s chest as a typhoon of emotions hit her without warning.

“It’s okay.” Death gently said as she wrapped her free arm around Aria in a supportive hug, letting the distraught Dazzling cry into her. “Just let it all out. It’s okay”

Aria couldn’t even hear Death’s words over the sound of her own sobbing. She’d never felt such a chaotic mixture of emotions within herself before, happy and sad at the same time; happy because of learning how Glen felt about her and sad because he was now gone. It was all just so overwhelming for her.

This continued for some time, Aria crying into Death and Death allowing her. It only ended when Aria had cried all her tears out and started to regain her composure.

“I-I’m s-sorry about th-that.” The Dazzling apologized as she removed herself from Death’s chest, causing Death to break her one-armed hug.

“Don’t be sorry, Aria.” Death soothingly told her. “There’s nothing wrong with crying your emotions out like that.”

Death’s amiability continued to touch Aria’s heart.

“I…I think maybe I could use someone to talk to right now.” The Dazzling meekly admitted once she’d felt composed enough to speak up again. “If you’re still willing to listen that is.”

“Of course I’m still willing to listen.” Death warmly relied. “Though might I suggest we go somewhere a little less…rainy before we begin?”

Aria felt glad that Death was still willing to listen to her, but she also felt confused by her request to go somewhere where it wasn’t raining. She wasn’t opposed to it, of course, it’s just that they were in the middle of an empty field with no signs of shelter in sight.

“Um, yeah, sure.” She confusedly said. “But, where would that be, exactly?”

“Don’t worry, I know a place.” Death replied. “I just need you to close your eyes for a few seconds.”

While Aria silently questioned why Death was requesting that she close her eyes, she figured the girl had a reason for it and did as instructed.

“Good.” She could hear Death say next. “Now don’t open them until I tell you, okay?”

“O-okay.” She tentatively agreed as she started getting a little worried about what Death was about to do.

There was a few seconds of silence, expect for the sound of raindrops falling, until Aria felt Death embrace her and she heard a pair of wings beating. The beating was loud, suggesting that the pair of wings were very large. It was so loud in fact, that Aria almost opened her eyes out of startlement, but she quickly remembered what Death had said about keeping them closed until being instructed to open them, so she kept them closed tightly.

“You can open your eyes now.” Aria heard Death say once the sound of beating wings stopped.

When Aria opened her eyes, she saw that she and Death were no longer in the rainy field, but in a bleak and lifeless place; a place that was so quiet and still that it seemed like it didn’t belong in the natural world. As she scanned her surroundings, the only thing she could see other than barren land were a few piles of large rocks scattered throughout and a small campfire about ten feet away from where they were standing.

How did we…? She began to ask herself, before remembering that this was Death she was dealing with.

“Wh-what is this place?” She nervously asked aloud. “Where are we?”

“We’re on the borders of the sunless lands.” Death solemnly began to explain as she walked over towards the fire, presumably to dry off. “It’s the closest place a mortal can get to my realm without entering it.”

This wasn’t very comforting news to Aria. While she’d become rather comfortable being around Death herself, she wasn’t all that keen about being so close to her realm, and whatever might lie within it.

“Why did you bring us here?” She asked as she followed behind Death.

“Because it’s not raining here.” Death simply answered as she took a seat on one of the large rocks by the fire.

It was hard for Aria to argue that point, but she couldn’t help but wonder one thing: If Death was capable to bringing her to this…limbo of sorts, couldn’t she have taken her to a place on Earth where it wasn’t raining? She decided not to ask this question aloud though. Instead, she decided that she was just going to take a seat on the rock next to Death and let the fire dry her and warm her up.

“Your realm.” She said once she was properly seated. “That’s where Glen is?”

“Yes, that’s where he is.” Death casually answered.

“And he’s okay there, right?” Aria then asked.

“Well, that’s kind of a loaded question with an answer that doesn’t really make sense.” Death admitted. “But yes, by your understanding of things, he’s okay.”

Despite the confusing nature of Death’s answer, it was good enough for Aria.

“So then, would it be possible for you to take me there to see him?” She then listlessly asked, even though she had a pretty good idea what the answer was going to be.

“I could easily take you there, Aria.” Death solemnly said. “But then I would be your Death. Once a mortal enters my realm, it’s ‘game over’, as you put it.”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Aria wistfully remarked. “I just…I just wish that I could see him one more time, so I could tell him how much he meant to me.”

“Didn’t you tell him that this morning though?” Death quizzically asked.

“I told him I loved him.” Aria clarified. “I didn’t tell him about how happy he always made me feel each morning when he’d wrap his neck around my back in a hug, or how he’d given me the strength to start coming out of my shell by coming out of his own, or how…how much I appreciated the fact that he accepted me for who I am. I never told him those things.”

Aria could feel tears of regret welling up in her the corners of her eyes as she stared at the cackling fire. There were many more things she’d never told Glen, so many things she wished she’d told him before it was too late.

“But you did tell him all those things, Aria.” Death said. “You did when you told him you loved him.”

Death’s unexpected words caused Aria to cease staring at the fire and turn her attention to the girl sitting next to her.

“W-what do you mean?” She confusingly asked.

Sensing Aria’s confusion, Death to a moment to contemplate how she was going to better explain what she’d just said.

“Well, think of all the times you’ve said, ‘I love you’ in your life.” She started to say. “Was there always the same meaning behind it every time?”

Aria did indeed take a moment to think back on all the times she’d said, ‘I love you’ in her life. She thought about the one time she’d said it to Glen, but she also thought about all the times she’d said it to Adagio or Sonata throughout the years.

“I suppose not.” She studiously admitted. “Sometimes I’ve just half-heartedly said back to someone who’d said, ‘I love you’ to me first, and other times I’ve said it just as a way of expressing gratitude, like when I told Adagio I loved her for going with me to that anime convention a few towns over that one time.”

“And what about when you said it to Glen?” Death tactfully interjected.

Death’s question made Aria give pause. She thought back to this morning and really tried to focus on what it was she’d been feeling when she’d said, ‘I love you’ to Glen, but she found it difficult to put those feelings into words.

“I…I think it meant, ‘I’m worried about you’.” She replied, sounding uncertain of her answer. “Or maybe, ‘You mean a lot to me’. I’m not really sure.”

“I think you meant both of those things.” Death cordially remarked. “And a lot of other things as well. See, when you say, ‘I love you’ to someone and mean it, I mean really mean it, you’re telling them a whole bunch of stuff at once; ‘I’m worried about you’, ‘You mean a lot to me’, ‘I want to spend the rest of my life with you’, things like that. I varies based on who you’re saying, ‘I love you’ to, but everything that you need to say to that person you are.”

Just as the fire was warming her body, Death’s words began warming Aria’s spirit.

“I know that when you said, ‘I love you’ to Glen that you really meant it.” Death continued. “And I know that Glen knew you meant it. So you see, Aria, you did tell him how much he meant to you, you just didn’t do in so many words.”

There were no words to describe how Aria felt in that moment, though the closest one would have to ‘bliss’. She felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from her soul, a weight she didn’t even know had been there. She still had some regrets in regard to Glen, but she was just so happy that her biggest regret wasn’t actually a reality.

“Thank you.” She ardently said as started crying tears of joy. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome, Aria.” Death amiably replied.

There was a few moments of silence between the two girls as Aria let her tears run down her cheeks and death silently let her do so in peace. Once Aria was feeling more composed though, she started asking Death about things like, ‘What is the meaning of life’ and ‘Why do we die’. To her credit, Death did answer Aria’s various questions, but much like the question about Glen being okay in her realm, they made no sense to the Dazzling. Still though, Aria and Death had a nice, friendly chat as they sat by the fire.

“I should probably be getting home.” Aria eventually said. “My sisters are probably worried about me, plus I…need to apologize to them.”

“I need to get going too.” Death concurred as she got up from her seat on the rock. “I’ve enjoyed our time together, but I can’t stay here all day. I’ve got a job to do.”

“Wait a minute.” Aria said as she too got up, coming to a great realization. “If you’ve been with me this whole time, then does that mean nothing has died since we started talking?”

“Oh no, plenty of living things have died since we started talking.” Death clarified. “I’ve been there for them all, while also talking with you, Aria.”

“Um, okay.” Aria confusingly stated. “So then, does that mean you’re like, everywhere…all the time?”

“That’s one way of putting it.” Death said as she moved closer to Aria. “I need you to close your eyes again.”

“Oh, right.” Aria said as did just that.

Soon enough, Aria once again felt Death embrace her and she heard the sound of wings. Only this time, they didn’t frighten her.

“Okay, we’re here.” She eventually heard Death say.

As Aria opened her eyes, she found that she back home on the emu farm, on the porch of the house to be exact, with Death standing just beside her. It was still raining outside, but thankfully the two of them were protected from the raindrops by the porch’s awning.

“Well, I best be off.” Death spoke up. “It really was nice talking with you, Aria. I’ll see you again someday.”

And with that, Death unfurled her umbrella and started walking out into the rain.

“Wait!” Aria shouted before Death got more than three feet off the porch, causing the girl to stop and turn around. “There’s one thing I need to know before you go.”

“Yes?” Death asked.

“You said you came here to talk with me, but why?” Aria inquired. “Why did you want to talk with me?”

Death dawned a warm smile on her face before answering.

“Like I said, you just seemed upset and looked like you needed someone to talk to.” Death congenially replied before turning back around and leaving.

Death's comity continued to touch Aria. Part of her wanted to stop Death or go after her, but a larger part of her knew that she had to leave, that she had a job to do and couldn’t stay. As she stared off at the girl walking through the rain, she felt like she was watching a friend who was moving someplace away. She felt like she wasn’t sure if she’d ever see her again, but she knew she would, Death herself had said so.

Once Death was out of sight, Aria moved along the porch until she reached the front door. Much to her surprise, she found that the door was unlocked, so rather than reaching into her pocket to get her key, she simply opened it and stepped inside.

“I’m home.” She hollered as she closed the door behind her.

No more than two seconds later, Aria heard the sound of rushing footsteps making their way towards her.

“Aria!” Sonata shouted as she entered the room, followed closely behind by Adagio.

“Hey, girls, I…” Was all Aria was able to get out before Sonata and Adagio practically threw themselves onto her in hugs.

“You big idiot!” Adagio emotionally scolded her. “Don’t you ever run off into a storm and scare us like that again!”

“S-sorry.” Aria apprehensively replied, having been caught off guard by her sister’s chiding words.

“Oh, Aria!” Sonata just as emotionally spoke up. “We’re so, so, so sorry about Glen! We did everything we could for him, honest!”

“I know you did, Sonata.” Aria gently informed her little sister. “And I’m sorry for the way I acted in the barn. I shouldn’t have yelled at the two of you and blamed you for Glen’s death, it wasn’t your fault.”

Both Sonata and Adagio broke their hugs at this and gave Aria a confused look. Neither one of them had expected their sister to be so…calm and rational after how she’d been back in the barn. They were happy that she wasn’t angry or sorrowful anymore, but they were confused as to why she this was.

“Wait a minute.” Adagio spoke up as she noticed something rather odd. “How come you’re not soaking wet?”

Aria looked down at her cloths and realized that she was relatively dry for someone who’d run out into a thunderstorm. She knew, of course, that she was dry because she’d sat by the fire in the place Death had taken her to, but how the heck was she going to explain that to Sonata and Adagio?

“It’s a long story.” She decided to start with as she wrapped her arms around her sisters and led them into the living room. “And frankly, I don’t think you’re going to believe any of it.”

Author's Note:

I hope you enjoyed this chapter featuring Death from Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series!

If you have a suggestion for a future chapter let me know in the comments.

The next chapter will feature Sonata and Apple Bloom.