The Girl Who Was Afraid to Die, by Gabrielle Skerpan
There once was a girl who was afraid to die. The fear knotted her stomach and caused her to shake. Her tears ran dry, and she could do nothing but worry what would happen to her once she had left the world. She could not sleep for fear, so one night she rose from her bed and left to wander the dark streets after a storm.
She followed the wet pavement on bare feet in whichever way it beckoned, until at last, she came to a church. Inside was a priest, and she asked him, “What will happen to me when I die?”
“My child,” said the priest, “when we die, God welcomes us into his heavenly kingdom where we never suffer or cry, and we live with him forever in glory.”
And this calmed the girl for a while, and she left with the intention to turn towards home, but soon she began to fear again, and she wandered farther instead. She followed the wet pavement on her bare feet in whichever way it called, until at last she came to a garden. On a bench was a man smoking and gazing at the stars, and she asked him, “What will happen to me when I die?”
“My friend,” said the man, “when we die, the earth welcomes us into her solemn arms where we never suffer or cry, and our bodies rest in the earth forever in peace.”
And this calmed the girl for a while, and she walked away with steady steps, but soon she began to fear again, and she wandered farther still. She followed the wet pavement on her bare feet in whichever way it pulled her, until she came upon a man in a dented motorcycle helmet leaning against his bike by the road. She asked him, “What will happen to me when I die?”
The man looked at her with solemn, shaded eyes, and as she looked into his, she became aware that he was Death.
“Would you like me to tell you,” asked the man, less like a question and more like an offer. The air became heavy again with the threat of rain.
The girl looked at Death, and pondered. “No,” she said, “for I may not like what you would tell me.”
Death nodded, and the girl turned, and she walked home as the rain fell down around her.
Gabrielle Skerpan is a graduate of Hendrix College in Arkansas, where she studied English with a Creative Writing emphasis. Her nonfiction work has previously appeared in The Aonian. This is her debut fiction publication.
Katie Whatley is a second-year student at Louisiana State University. She is pursuing a Painting and Drawing minor in addition to her bachelor's in Political Science. Her work has been featured in the June 2021 publication of 805 Lit + Art, as well as a number of art shows in her hometown, Vero Beach, Florida.