The Fashion Thing observed her latest case study with fierce determination. If this man was supposed to be the bearer of the next trend then something must happen soon. All she could see was a man with a red ribbon ("on the wrong side") walk into his small flat with a brown paper bag. Nothing very remarkable about this scenario, she thought, or as Mervyn would say when she asked for another closet in her room, "No big whup."
After sitting down, turning on the television, flipping through a couple of channels and deciding that there was nothing on, the man opened the brown bag and began pulling out pill bottle after pill bottle. The Fashion Thing's eyes began to widen. Maybe this would be the moment she was waiting for. She watched the man stand up, pull back the kitchenette screen, and pour himself a glass of water before sitting back down.
If the man could see her face, the disappointment flowing out of every pore of her body, he would have probably apologized for over an hour. She had seen scenes like this before, and for the "life" of her, she could never find the style in suicide. Sure, the Japanese had created a wonderful ritual, filled with pomp and drama, but she could never find the fashion in it. Maybe these feelings were part of a personality given to her by Dream, maybe her quest only centered on fleeting things. Suicide was far more permanent.
Yet still she stayed, and watched as the man slowly swallowed pill after pill. She stayed in the background as the man pulled out papers from a drawer and placed them by his side. She even studied his final sleep as his breath slowed to a standstill.
And then Death arrived, dressed in her usual torn black T-shirt, jeans, and silver ankh. Death turned to the Fashion Thing and spoke, "Well hello! What are you doing here?"
"I don't really know, milady. I was drawn here."
"So was I."
The Fashion Thing looked puzzled. "Sorry, that was supposed to be a joke," Death replied as she called the man out from his body, "why don't we ask him? Dean?"
"Did I do it? Did it work?"
"Yes, Dean, it worked."
"Who is that?" he said, pointing to the Fashion Thing.
"She is a dream, Dean. Maybe not yours, but a dream, nonetheless. She is
doing a little
research. Do you want to tell her why?"
The man looked scared, as if all the stories he had heard about the punishment of suicide were true, and he was on his way to eternal torment. His lowered his head. "I got scared. They cut my benefits."
The Fashion Thing looked confused. "What?"
"The laws changed. I can't afford the drugs on my own. I don't want to end up like all the others. I don't want people to see me in some hospital bed, looking like a skeleton with tubes sticking out of me. I don't want to feel my body shutting down, and know that there ain't nothing I can do about it," and he began to sob. His shoulders fell and his legs started to shake. He looked at Death like a child begging an adult to tell him that all his pets were waiting for him in heaven and his voice wavered as he pleaded, "Tell me you understand. Tell me that it was okay to die."
"It's not my job to judge, Dean. I am just here for the end of life. All life. I'm just here to help you move on."
"I understand," he said as he cleared his throat and took a deep breath, "I don't know if its okay to ask this or not, but... could I give you a hug?"
Death smiled. "Of course you can, Dean."
And the two embraced, like friends reuniting after a journey. Death opened her wings, and took him in, and then there was just she, and the Fashion Thing in the one-room apartment.
"Milady, I do not understand. I have been called here, and I know I was called to see some new trend from the waking world, but I am confused. Is this something for me or not?"
"You are the one called the Fashion Thing. You should be the one telling me. I'm just doing my job. Are you?"
And with that, Death was gone, and the Fashion Thing was left alone. She looked all around the apartment, and took a deep breath herself. She smiled, like she had just been told some big secret. She reached down to the man's body, and kissed his forehead.
An afternoon breeze drifted in through the window. She could hear children outside playing and laughing. She knelt down beside his body and carefully pulled out the stickpin holding the red ribbon in a loop on his shirt. The scrap of fabric was caught in a warm gust of wind and floated to the floor. The satisfaction poured out of her as she picked it up.
A large truck rumbled past the building. She could feel the floor shake and the rattling of unsecured glass. She clutched the ribbon to her chest like the first butterfly caught on an early spring morning, and returned to her room in the Dreaming as the last few rays of the day's sun filtered across the man's sleeping face.
Copyright (c) 1999, Brian E Bengtson. The Dreaming and related characters are copyright (c) & TM, DC Comics, 1999. All Rights Reserved.