"To be, or not to be, that is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?"
Snow fell like feathers from the broken sky, twirling to a song that haunted the recesses of Jenny's memory. She reached out a hand, catching a snowflake to watch it melt against the warmth of her palm. Letting out a breath, a cloud curled away into the winter twilight.
Softly she whispered, lip quivering, "To die, to sleep, to sleep: perchance to dream."
Swallowing, she looked down on the rushing water far below the bridge rail where she sat, feet dangling over the raging surge.
"Aye," she went on, "there's the rub, for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come."
She loosened her grip, a tear tracking her reddened cheek, freezing in the growing chill. Drawing breath, lungs burning, she pushed free, falling, falling, falling. She closed her eyes and plunged into the mad torrent, limbs aching with sudden cold. Gasping, her lungs burst into icy fire and she struggled, panicking. This wasn't right. This wasn't what she wanted!
She didn't want life, but this was cold. So cold. So agonizing. Death shouldn't hurt!
Help! she tried to call, but her voice was gone, lungs full of water. She hit a chunk of ice, felt it slice through her numbing leg. She fought the current, even as it swept her downstream, away from the bridge, away from life. Cold enveloped her, chilling her deeper than bone. She broke the surface for a fleeting moment, catching sight of the shore, where shadowy trees lined the bank, distant, unconcerned. A figure stood there, she saw him, cloaked and hooded, darker than the black around him. Snow swirled like a halo around his head.
She reached for him and was swallowed by the angry river. Black bled into her eyes, stealing the last of her senses. Death had come at last.
But the darkness receded.
"I cannot explain why. I only know she must live." The voice was silken, dark and smooth.
"Her body is broken. Her mind seeks death. But you want to break a commandment to bring her back to life?" The second voice was light and lilting, even as it argued.
Jenny felt strange, like she was floating. There was no cold now, nor was there warmth. She was aware, yet unattached. Opening her eyes, she found herself laying in a snowbank. Looking around, she saw two figures standing several feet away in a flurry of snow which danced about them. One was cloaked and hooded in black. The other wasn't hooded. He wore white; even his long hair matched the falling snow. He stood with hands clenched, a desperate glint in his silver eyes.
Odd that she knew his eyes were silver, even from this distance. Odd that they were silver at all.
The hooded figure turned to her and she caught of flash of black beneath the shadow of his cowl. "Her fate is mine to decide."
"But why her? It doesn't make sense. This isn't like you. She must move on."
"She committed suicide."
Jenny remembered that, vaguely. And yet here she lay, not cold even in the snow. She sat up and reached back to push herself to her feet, but caught sight of her hand. It was transparent. Staring, she flexed her fingers. She could still see the snow through them. Impossible.
The white-clad man ran a hand through his length of snowy hair. "I realize that, but even still...this won't set well with the council. Consider carefully. It will be the second law you've broken."
The cloaked figure bowed his head. "I will take full responsibility."
"She's dead. Let her go on to judgment."
The cloaked figure became very still. Snow drifted around him, never landing on his head or shoulders. "I cannot explain my feeling. I shan't try."
The white-clad man drew a breath. "It will be on your head, Death. I can't back you in this, even as I want to."
Jenny felt a tremor course through her body. No, she realized. Not her body. Glancing behind her, she found her lifeless form laying against the blanket of white, separate from her consciousness. I'm a ghost.
The cloaked figure moved, catching her attention. He raised a gloved hand. "You have been given a second chance to live, mortal. I pray this time is not so bitter to taste."
The snow gathered around his fingers, spinning in a vortex, faster, faster; then it shot forward as she opened her mouth to protest. The snow shoved her back and she fell into her body. Needled pain lanced her flesh. The bruises and aches returned, the horror of drowning filled her mind, the sting of betrayal stabbed her heart.
She was alive.