Ned slowly blinks open his eyes and sits up. The wet feeling of blood under his back was gone, along with the feeling of, well, everything else. The world had gone dark and grayscale. He looks at his hands, translucent and shimmering, then back at his still prone body.
Swallowing the fear rising in his throat, he takes in the scene. Mama was still kneeling at his side, tears streaming down her cheeks. Her hands are pressed against the bullet wound in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. Jake sits next to her, a hand over his mouth in shock. The other towns folk had crowded around him, murmuring to each other softly. But he couldn’t hear what they were saying.
Everyone was looking at the corpse, no one was looking at him.
His breath catches in his throat as he sees the three people standing in front of him. Immediately, he recognizes two of them: the woman in a crimson red robe, and the man in study blue pants. They were two of the Birds that had saved the world just a few years prior. The other he doesn’t have to think hard to figure out. They’re nothing but a skeleton in a flowing, black robe with glowing red eyes. As Ned looks him over, his form shifts, turning into a rather handsome young man. They were Reapers, and they had come to collect.
Lup bends down in front of him and extends a hand to help him up. He accepts it and rises to his feet. He opens his mouth to try to speak, but no sound comes out. It would have been a stupid question anyway. He was dead, and there was no denying it anymore.
Instead, he chuckles bitterly and shakes his head. “I guess that’s it. What a way to go…”
“It could have been worse,” Barry says. “You saved that woman, Edmund.”
Lup nods. “We we’re watching. You have no idea how brave you were.”
Tears prick in the corners of his eyes. Him? Brave? That couldn’t be further from the truth. He just couldn’t let Dani die.
There’s a bright flash of light and Aubrey runs through the gateway. Guilt tugs at his heart, threatening to snap his heartstrings. She stops, looks at the crowd, then sprints towards them. She puts her hands against his chest and a light orange glow comes from her palms. The wound closes, but nothing else happens. Her body shudders as she sobs. Mama pulls her into an embrace.
That… wasn’t right. She hated him. She had every right in the world to hate him and to be the one who finally stole his final breaths. That’s what he’d said in the letter. She didn’t deserve to feel angry about this. She should be glad and rejoice at the fact that he was finally out of her hair.
But that wasn’t what he saw. He saw Aubrey sobbing over his dead body, trying her best to heal him. He feels a hand on his shoulder, and it takes every bit of self control he has to not shrug it off.
The Grim Reaper steps in front of him. “It’s time to go,” he says in the fakest English accent he’s ever heard. The Reaper swipes a long arc with his scythe, opening up a rift.
Barry and Lup step through first. The Reaper takes his hand and leads him through. One last time, he looks behind him at the world he’s leaving behind. The stars above twinkle brightly, and they’re beautiful.