IN DEATH WE MEET
Romance | Fantasy
Based on the tale of Romeo and Juliet
Inspiration: Japanese animated films such as Howl’s Moving Castle, Spirited Away and Hotarubi no Mori e
June had always been able to see spirits ever since she was a young girl. They weren’t exactly scary – most of the times they just look like normal people, but for that reason June always has to ostracise herself from people. If she lets her guard down for just a moment, people would eventually find out about her condition. Nonetheless, because of her looks and pleasant demeanour, she was still relatively popular among her classmates and was not totally without acquaintances.
One day, as she was going about her usual routine of buying groceries, she spots a guy from the corner of her eyes. For the next few days, she keeps seeing him. He was always wearing black, and looked around her age. The only odd thing was that he always seemed to be looking at her. Realising that he might be some sort of spirit, she gets a bit wary of him and what he might want from her.
After a week of this, as June is keeping her groceries at home, the guy appears again. In shock, she drops her items, backing up against the wall. He reassures her that he means her no harm, and that he is merely here to inform her of something. His face changes, and she senses that the news he is about to break to her is not something pleasant.
He informs her that he is not a spirit, but a grim reaper. Her time on earth is about to come to an end, and it is his duty to collect her soul when her death happens. Being in shock, she is unable to comprehend what he had just told her. He proceeds to leave, and she tries to grab on to him in an attempt to get more answers from him. He recoils back before she can touch him, stating that grim reapers are observers and exist to guide people to the netherworld, and they thus have no business interacting with humans or spirits other than for that purpose. There is a delicate balance between spirits, grim reapers and humans, and any further interaction or contact would upset it. In other words, once a human comes into close contact with a grim reaper, he too will become one. Sensing that she was at a loss, he asks her to spend her last few days with close friends and family.
She slumps, stating that she has no real friends. Conflicted, she doesn’t know what to do with the time she has left. Taking pity on her, the grim reaper stays with her. They naturally start to converse, and she finds out his name is Rin. Over the course of the whole week, Rin keeps visiting her, and June enjoys his company. She feels in her a longing that she has never felt before; in front of her was a man who wouldn’t think she was odd, who wouldn’t judge her, who could see her as she was. She felt a sort of comfort that she had never felt before. His warm hazel eyes were always soft and inviting, and he was always so curious about what she had to say. For once, it felt like she was having a real human conversation.
Picking up her courage, she asks about his job. He explains that his job is tough because he knows when people’s times are up, and is in charge of executing their deaths. She asks if it is customary for grim reapers to have this sort of relationship with the people they reap. He says no. Most of the times, when people are told that their time on earth is about to end, they start going into a frenzy and eventually channel their despair and hatred towards him. Never has he been able to have a proper conversation with a human being. He admits that this is the first time he’s ever spent so much time with another person and felt so connected. At the same time, he is intrigued by her and her personality, and how she isn’t afraid of death. He asks her why.
After pondering over the question for a while, June explains herself. To her, death was beautiful – for in death you could finally leave all worldly desires and worries behind and be who you want to be, love who you want to love and say what you want to say. Death was beautiful, and death was freeing. She wasn’t afraid of death, because he would be there too.
She asks when her time is. Rin looks away.
Wanting to be with him, she asks to embrace him. He doesn’t want her to have what he has, to always be stuck in a position where you take people away from their loved ones. He wants her to pass on and move on. She reasons with him that for once in her life, she has finally found someone she can call a friend, or perhaps even more. For once in her life, she has something she feels so strongly about. For once in her life, there was someone whom she longed to see, and vice versa. It was her decision to make.
Seeing no point in arguing against her, Rin gives in. He opens his arms for her, and smiles at her reassuringly. He understood her now. There was no one waiting for her in the afterlife, and there was no one she would be looking forward to meeting either. He had been there for her, and always would be. She went willingly and happily, relieved that she could be with him. She embraced him.
Finally, she had found something so precious. Love, friendship, and human warmth so undeniably real and strong. Ironically, it was all from an unworldly existence. Nonetheless, it was love, and it was love that finally freed her.
I have always been a fan of Japanese animation, and I love how Japanese story telling always places an emphasis on the characters and their thoughts rather than the events of the story itself. Since this is a romance genre, I felt that the female lead’s thoughts were an integral part of the story and how it should be told, and thus decided to stick to the conventional method of telling the story from the her point of view.
The main point I was trying to bring across in this story is the concept of how love transcends all things and knows no boundaries, and how love always happens when you least expect it. While it is a very common and perhaps even overused concept, I wanted to portray it in a different way. I placed the emphasis of the story on the main character and her thoughts so that readers would feel more involved in her journey, and so that the romance would be able to develop better. With the story being more character oriented, I wanted the readers to be able to feel what June did, and feel a strong connection to her.