‘Tickling Butterflies’ – Death’s List

Tickling Butterflies is an epic fantasy, containing 128 fairy tales that together create one huge story.

Here’s the story so far. The story continues:


Death’s List

(Containing an astonishing account of unknown forces.)


“My first question to you is this,” said King John the Cute. Death, who refused to sit down, listened closely. “I have heard it told that you carry a list of those who must die. In the story I have heard you are not the one who controls the names on the list. You do not choose who dies at your hand.”

“How do you know this?” Death demanded.

“I wish to know,” King John the Cute continued, ignoring Death’s question, “where the list comes from. I wish to know who puts the names on the list. Who is more powerful than Death? Who decides who lives and who dies?”

Death lowered his head. “Very well. I shall tell you the story of the list.”

The story of the list is the story of my first days in the Land of All Legends, Death said, as he began to tell his tale.

Once upon a time, I had simply come to life. I was not born, I simply was. I was this size, with this voice, wearing these clothes, and holding this scythe. I looked around and saw that I was standing among rolling green hills, and the light of the day was quite bright. That is what the Border of Nothing looked like during those days.

I did not know who I was. I did not know my purpose. I only knew how to speak and how to think. I knew how to look and how to hear. And I also knew my name: Death. But at the time, I did not know what that name meant.

For seven days and seven nights I wandered the land, discovering its secrets, looking at its creatures. And yet, I talked to no one. I touched no one.

Then, at the end of seven days and seven nights, I was standing on green grass, when a sudden movement near my feet awakened my interest. I looked down. A blade of grass was stirring, and nothing was touching it, not even the wind. Another blade of grass stirred. And another and another and another, until the all grass around me was moving for no reason I could fathom.

Then the green grass turned golden and shiny. The shine turned white, and the grass broke into small objects, objects I later learned were magical fairy dust. The fairy dust rose into the air, danced before me, then coalesced into a shiny square in front of my hands. The shine shone less and less brightly, until it disappeared completely. In its place was a piece of old, yellow parchment that cannot be torn. The parchment was empty.

Not knowing what to do, I reached forward and touched the paper of the parchment.

The instant my fingers touched it, I knew this was what I was born to do: to touch this yellow parchment. It felt right.

The grass beneath me was gone, and the land had turned into a dry desert. All but a single blade of grass remained, still green. Then the single blade stirred, as well, slowly becoming fairy dust, slowly rising into the air, swimming in it. The small amount of fairy dust danced in the air above the yellow paper parchment, then sank slowly upon it. And where it touched the list, it had turned to writing. A name was written now on the paper: Igda Bigda.

Not knowing what to do now, I walked around the Land of All Legends and asked everyone I had met who Igda Bigda was, and where I could find her. At the end of a two week search, I found her.

During my travels, I had noticed that everyone has a special aura, which as far as I could tell only I could see. The brightness of that aura changes from person to person. On Igda Bigda, the aura was a remnant of a flicker. Unable to resist, I tried to touch it. And when I did, Igda Bigda died, and her soul was in my hand.

At that moment, I knew that this was my purpose. I knew what the word ‘Death’ meant, and I knew who I was and why I was here.

At the moment I took her soul, the writing on the yellow paper parchment turned to dust and fell to the ground, more lifeless than the grass it had been.

Over time, I learned that a creature’s aura was the amount of life still to be lived by the creature. Over time, I learned that the names on the yellow paper parchment were creatures I was meant to touch, whose lives were flickering at an end. Over time, I learned to tell by a person’s aura how much time they had left. And yet, if I ever touched a life that is not yet over, if I ever tried to take a life whose time has not yet come, my arm would burn. When I had met the mysterious creature that had taken my hand, he had no aura, not even a flicker. And yet he spoke. When I touched him, he did not die, nor did it hurt me. I have never experienced such a thing.

But these were not the only things that I had learned. Over time, I have seen trees and chairs, blades of grass and flowers, and inanimate objects of all kinds turn to fairy dust which turns to names that appear on the piece of paper parchment I carry. And once I had taken the souls of the creatures whose names appear on the list, the writing turns to dead dust.

Thus for every living object whose life I take, the life is taken out of a non-living object in the Land of All Legends. For every death that takes place, the Land of All Legends dies a little, too. Once upon a time, land and new creatures were appearing all the time, and so there was more life than death. But for centuries, this has not been the case. Now both land and creatures are dying with no new land, no new creatures being created, and very few creatures being born.

To answer your question, my king, I do not know what manner of creature commands what words are written on the parchment. I do not know who chooses the names or how they are chosen. For all the time I have been in the Land of All Legends, never have I seen a hint of this.

And this, King John the Cute, had been the story you requested, the story of Death’s list, which was also the story of my first days as Death.

“Thank you for the story, Death,” King John the Cute said. The ministers, advisors, and general help around the two were silent, frozen in fear and awe. “Yet another mystery to solve – a creature who dictates Death’s deeds. Now to my next question—”

But King John the Cute stopped in the middle of his words, as a picture on the wall began to glow. It was a picture of King Charming the Fourth, the previous king, and it slowly glowed in shimmering radiance. Then the radiance broke apart into shimmering fairy dust, which danced in the air, in front of Death.

Death took out his list.

The fairy dust settled upon the list, and, with a last glow, turned to writing.

Death looked at the new name silently.

“What name does it say?” King John the Cute asked.

Death looked into the king’s eyes, only a foot away from Death. “It says ‘King John the Cute’.”

The ministers, advisors, and general help gasped.

King John the Cute did not take his eyes off Death.

“If I had my hand,” Death said. “I would take your life right now.”

“But you don’t,” said King John the Cute.

“No. Surely, as soon as I regain it, I will touch you.” Death looked down. “I assume now that our bargain is void and that you will not help me get my hand back.”

“You assume mistakenly, Death,” said the king. Once more, the ministers, advisers, and general help gasped. “I already know I am going to die young. I know it will be at Death’s hand, be the hand on Death himself or on the one who stole it. I may yet find your hand and restore it, a year and seven months from now, and then you will slay me.”

“Yes,” said Death.

“Our bargain is still on,” said King John the Cute. “If you answer all my questions, I will do my best to restore your hand.”

Death looked at the king with calm respect. He had never seen anyone behave like this. “We will see how true you are to your words,” said Death, “and we will see if I hold up my end of the bargain. I may answer or I may refuse to answer. What is your next question?”

This has been the appalling story of how King John the Cute’s name came to appear on Death’s list.


(To be continued on Thursday…)


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