This was it, the ultimate ultimate, the absolute and total cessation of existence.
It was indigo.
Not that she had much time to notice or admire the color, you understand. Life was long since over, but a lot of stuff still had to be wrapped up.
She went to the far realms, where the few remaining natives clustered in a ring of standing stones. There, the once-mortal queen of Faerie, now old beyond belief and lonely with the weight of uncountable years of solitude, raised her chin and walked proudly into oblivion, leading the motley fair folk as she had done a thousand times before.
To hell, where the demonspawn bowed before her in fear and trembling, and the souls of the damned kissed her pale fingers in gratitude before winking out like tiny stars.
To heaven, where the blessed souls graciously thanked her, and entered this second death with fear, but with grace.
She knew all of them, although in most cases for the shortest of times-- the space between dying and what comes after.
The space of Death.
So she was sad when they ceased. They were her friends, her children, her charges.
In some ways the others, the ones who had never expected to die, were easier.
The heavenly host, in the Silver City, sent an emissary forth to greet her. Azrael, the angel of death, whose face was beautiful and terrible as the morning, and whose wings were whiter than light themself, asked, "Lady, we have served faithfully since our creation, and now we are told that we must cease to be. Have we somehow offended the creator? Did we do wrong?"
She had to shrug at that. She didn't know.
Azrael frowned, the expression unfitting on its perfect face. And then it shrugged in return, and said, "Perhaps it is for the best. Eternity was a lot longer than I thought it would be, and my service has not been easy. It was often my honor to serve with you, lady. I wish you well."
When the angels were gone, the Silver City crumbled into dust, and then into nothingness.
To find Lucifer, she had to go to the opposite end of the dwindling universe. When he saw her, he laughed like a drain, unable to stop for a long time. When he did straighten up, he wiped merry tears from his golden eyes, and said through his chuckles, "So this is what I was waiting to see? What a bloody anticlimax. Never let anyone tell you the old bastard doesn't have a sense of humor."
She spoke, then. "Yeah, I know. You coming or what?"
Then there was nothing for a while. By now, space and time were completely distorted, so "A while" was the only way to describe it. She chilled.
Then, as the indigo darkened into black, she sat, the last consciousness in an emptying universe, and cleared the decks for the big one.
Space, time, and matter… by now, entropy had triumphed, and the boundaries between them were gone. But they stored the memories of the ages, and as they collapsed, she felt their sorrow. An infinity of space, all the dimensions, spiraling and spiraling downward into a single point of infinite mass and zero size…
And then nothing, save a tiny pinpoint of light, and then even that was gone.
The lights were out. The chairs were back on the tables, the floors were swept. And now the universe was locked.
"Then if you'll hand over the key, you can head on out," said a soft voice. Death spun around and grinned.
"Hello to you, too."
"Sorry. Hey, it's good seeing you again. Somehow it seems we never get together except at times like this."
"And whose fault is that?"
"Well, obviously, it's mine. Who else would it be?"
Death giggled in the emptiness. "Good point. So… are you ready?"
Slowly, hesitantly, Death raised a lily-white hand to her heart. When she drew it away, a pure and radiant light lanced into the emptiness, and the void at the end of all things was no more.
For at the heart of death, there is life.
But the other gently extended a hand, and in that gesture, the light was diminished, until it was a small sphere of aching radiance. The other took it, examined it closely, and tucked it carefully into her shirt pocket. Darkness once again spread over the void.
"What did you think of it?" asked the other.
"Of the universe? Oh, you know. It was pretty nice. A lot of good music and bad poetry. The usual."
"And did you enjoy being you?"
Death sighed, "I did. I liked having a family. I liked the apartment you made me, and collecting floppy hats, and taking one day a century to walk the earth. I loved my brothers and sisters, even when they did act horribly. "
"But… it's hard, you know. Everyone's afraid of me… or of the unknown, anyway, which amounts to about the same thing. And it's sad. I get to meet everyone, and they're all amazing, they've all got incredible secrets inside them… but no one stays with me. I don't get forever. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Actually, yes," replied the other, her lips curving in a half-smile, "Remember who you're talking to, here. So…" and flopping down next to Death and rumpling her black hair, "Would you like me to do something about it?"
"Like what?" asked Death, curiously.
"Oh, all sorts of stuff. I could give you oblivion, if you like. It's wasteful, and I hate waste, but you've given me good service, and I will grant it to you, if you wish. Or I could give you a new life in the next go-round. You don't have to be Death… you can be an angel, or a demon, or a human. Or a bunny rabbit, if you like."
"So the next universe is going to have bunny rabbits?"
The black-haired woman hesitated, and rubbed her neck reflectively, "But then who would do my job? I've been doing it since the beginning."
"Actually, that isn't entirely true. You've been doing it since your beginning. I've been doing this for a lot longer than you've been Death, little one. Before you came around, I tried several options… other anthropomorphic personifications, metaphysical constructs, doing it myself… at one point I tried making a universe without you."
"How'd that work out?"
"Crappily. You either can have it expand unto infinity, or else cut off creation. Either way, it makes for a half-ass setup."
"You know, I just don't get you," grumbled Death, "I mean, I've done this whole "end-of-the-universe" bit more times than even I can count, taking billions or trillions of years each trip around. Now you tell me that you've been doing it for even longer than that… what's the point of it all? Why do you make these wonderful places only to destroy them in the end?"
The other just smiled, and shook her head. End of the Universe or not, there was no way she was going to answer that question.
"Sometimes you can be a real bitch, you know that?" asked Death.
"Nah. Just ineffable. So what'll it be?"
Death mused a little space, and said, "I guess I'll give this job another try. There are things I could have done better."
"Yeah. I wouldn't mind another chance to get it right."
"Good kid," said the other, grinning, and reaching out her arms, "Come on, then."
The two embraced, and were there any left to hear, the beating of wings would have echoed in their ears.
But no one was left except the other, who reached into her breast pocket and examined the radiant sphere of the last universe's life. "The answer, you know, is that someday, you guys will get it right. When you do, then you'll be ready for eternity. Until then…"
She smiled, and her blue eyes glowed from within. "Well, you're getting closer and closer." And setting the sphere down, she stood back.
It expanded wildly, matter and energy and space and time bound up into a raging indistinct chaos. It was everything: the raw star-stuff from which the universe, and all previous ones, had been made. Infinite in mass, it was now infinite in size, and growing. The chill of the void was displaced, and the subtle hiss of background radiation was everywhere.
"And in the mean time, I'll keep an eye out for you."
There was a heavy book under her arm, now. She handed it to a figure coalescing nebulously from pure energy, still shapeless, but with the potential for shape written within it.
"Hello, Destiny. This belongs to you," she said, as chains of starlight bound the book to the figure, "This is to be your labor. The plan for this version of the universe is written within. It is not absolute: small details may be changed, but the end, it can not be subverted."
Her laughter rang out. "Not yet. But someday..."
This was written on the first page of the book of Destiny:
A voice walked away, still laughing which Destiny could hear saying faintly: