The year is 1837, Christmas Eve, and a young man by the name of Luigi Lucheni is hanged for stealing silver from the house of a local noble. He was hungry and merely wanted to sell it to feed himself, but that matters not, nor does the time of year. There is no mercy for the poor, only pain, suffering, and death. As the hatch is pulled out from under him, he closes his eyes, fearing the pain. There is none. Instead, he feels cold lips on his and a sort of tug, in the place where his heart is supposed to be. When he opens his eyes, the face that he sees is one of otherworldly beauty, with large, intelligent eyes and a smiling, inviting mouth. The creature in front of him draws back and towers over him, tall and imposing, wrapped in purple and black shadows that swirl around his legs and arms and up his back. They seem to blend seamlessly into the white-purplish hair that almost floats around him, framing his face. He – or it, Luigi isn’t sure about its gender – reaches out to Luigi, and pulls him from the ground. Confused, he stumbles up. Where is he? What happened? Then he turns, and sees himself, hanging from the noose, deathly still. He turns back to his companion. To Death. He never thought there was anything beyond this world, but here he is. His reaper smiles once more, and disappears. Luigi tries to follow, but finds that he can’t. Even Death is out to get him.
As time passes, it becomes clear to Luigi that he cannot leave. Perhaps he was supposed to move on when Death came for him, but if so someone forgot to leave the instruction manual. He watches, seething, as they leave his body where it hangs for weeks, until someone finally decides that even thieves deserve a final resting place. They bury him under an oak tree not far from the gallows, and Luigi finds that as they move his body, he is forced to move with it. Great. So he is bound to his bones. Just his luck.
Being stuck to one place is decidedly not the most amusing thing in the world, especially when the spot is as secluded as this. At least if there were people around here, he would get some entertainment, but all he gets is the occasional sheep and sometimes a love-struck couple fooling around under the canopy of the tree (at least then he has something to occupy himself with, though without a body it is a lot less enjoyable). He isn’t sure how much time passes, it’s difficult to tell, but he thinks it has to be years. In the beginning he tried to keep track, but even as a ghost his attention span definitely does not last for multiple months.
One day, maybe a decade after he dies, a young man wanders up the hill and to his oak. Luigi perks up, something to watch, but as the man draws closer he realises that this distraction will not last long. The man is bleeding, and quite heavily so. As he collapses against the tree, Luigi feels the air around them grow colder. Confused, he moves down a little from his perch high up in the tree to look around him. He hasn’t felt anything in years, not since…
Below, shadows start creeping across the grass towards the dying man, and before his eyes he materialises out of thin air. A shiver runs along his spine as he watches Death approach its victim. It - he - doesn’t look at all like they tell you in the stories. No grim reaper with scythe and dreary black robe, no… Death is magnificent. Majestic, even. He strides confidently across the grass, shadows trailing in his wake. He still has the same strange white-purple hair that struck Luigi years ago, and wears a cloak that shines like broken glass. Thin, elegant fingers carefully, gently, lift the man by his chin. As Luigi watches, his soul comes loose from his body, which falls limply to the ground. But contrary to what happened to him, this soul does not open its eyes but seemingly fades as soon as it is let go. So that was what was supposed to happen…
Luigi slides down the side of the tree, and slowly, lazily, Death’s gaze shifts to him. He feels trapped, lost in those eyes, unable to move or speak. Death’s lips form a slight smile, quirking up to one side as he cocks his head curiously to observe Luigi.
“So…” comes an almost disembodied voice, “still here then…”
Luigi can only nod, staring at Death in rapt attention. He wants to speak, but it’s like his mouth is frozen. Instead, he finds himself kneeling to the shadowy figure in front of him, hand reaching out to a fold of his cloak, pressing it against his forehead. Above him, he hears a soft, melodic laugh, and cold seeps into his not-skin.
“Do you wish to leave…”
A heartbeat of silence.
It’s like the control over his voice has returned by his name falling from his Majesty’s lips. He looks up at Death, and nods.
“Let me go with you, please…” it’s hardly more than a whisper, but he is heard.
Death inclines his head, and pulls him up by the chin.
“As you wish…” He looks Luigi over, and shakes his head a little. “You are no angel, but we’ll find a use for you.”
Still holding Luigi, his other hand moves in a flourished motion until the ground besides them starts to move, and something is pulled into Death’s waiting palm. It takes a moment for him see what it is, through the soil and the roots, until he recognises the bleached white colour underneath. Death vanishes, and with a tug he is pulled along. Bound to his bones still, but at least now he is no longer alone.