“Brutha’s body toppled forward almost gracefully, smacking into the table. The bowl overturned, and ‘gruel dripped down on to the floor.
And then Brutha stood up, without a second glance at his corpse.
“Hah. I wasn’t expecting you,” he said.
Death stopped leaning against the wall.
HOW FORTUNATE YOU WERE. “But there’s still such a lot to be done …”
YES. THERE ALWAYS IS.
Brutha followed the gaunt figure through the wall where, instead of the privy that occupied the far side in normal space, there was …
… black sand.
The light was brilliant, crystalline, in a black sky filled with stars.
“Ah. There really is a desert. Does everyone get this?” said Brutha.
WHO KNOWS? “And what is at the end of the desert?”
Brutha considered this.
Death grinned and stepped aside.
What Brutha had thought vas a rock in the sand was a hunched figure, sitting clutching its knees. It looked paralyzed with fear.
“Vorbis?” he said.
He looked at Death.
“But Vorbis died a hundred years ago!”
YES. HE HAD TO WALK IT ALL ALONE. ALL ALONE WITH HIMSELF. IF HE DARED.
“He’s been here for a hundred years?”
POSSIBLY NOT. TIME IS DIFFERENT HERE. IT IS … MORE PERSONAL.
“Ah. You mean a hundred years can pass like a few seconds?”
A HUNDRED YEARS CAN PASS LIKE INFINITY.
The black-on-black eyes stared imploringly at Brutha, who reached out automatically, without thinking … and then hesitated.
HE WAS A MURDERER, said Death. AND A CREATOR OF MURDERERS. A TORTURER. WITHOUT PASSION. CRUEL. CALLOUS. COMPASSIONLESS. “Yes. I know. He’s Vorbis,” said Brutha. Vorbis changed people. Sometimes he changed them into dead people. But he always changed them. That was his triumph.
“But I’m me,” he said.
Vorbis stood up, uncertainly, and followed Brutha across the desert. Death watched them walk away.”