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"What Death Knows of Love" by Lisa Lerma Weber

Death stands in a dark alley, smoking a cigarette, watching a scrawny black cat slink behind an overflowing dumpster. Greasy fast food wrappers, beer cans, and rotting food surround the dumpster like offerings to an absent god. Tendrils of smoke wrap around Death's cloaked head before fading into the starless night sky. Music pours out of an open window, reverberates off the brick walls, and echoes through Death's empty chest. He closes his eyes, takes a long drag, then blows out smoke in the shape of a heart. He opens his eyes again and laughs as he wraps his bony fingers around the smoke heart and crushes it.

A couple walks down the alley, the man's arm wrapped around the woman's waist. They laugh, too drunk on alcohol and passion to worry about the cold or anything that might be hiding in the shadows. Before they can exit the alley, Death whispers something. The couple stops walking, suddenly frozen.

Everyone thinks Death knows nothing of love. But they are wrong. Death knows much of love. He knows the man and woman live for each other. He knows the pain the woman will feel when the man suddenly falls ill and fades into the abyss. He knows the grief that will wrap itself around the woman's heart like a carnivorous vine. He knows how it will grow and grow and squeeze and squeeze, until the woman struggles to breathe, to live. Death almost feels sorry for the woman. Almost.

Death flicks his cigarette and walks around the couple. He looks into the man's grey eyes, sees the woman through them. The way her golden-green eyes sparkle when she's had too much wine. The way her lips tremble when she's fighting for the right words. The way her hands flit about like baby birds when she gets excited. Death then looks at the woman. A caramel curl hangs over one eye. He brushes the hair away, letting his cold hand linger near her warm skin.

A raindrop falls on the woman's cheek, slides slowly down to her chin, then disappears down her neck. More raindrops fall, slowly growing in size and speed. Death takes a last look at the couple, then turns and fades away.

The man and woman begin walking again, unaware they had ever stopped.

"Hurry, " the man says. "It's pouring."

"It's just rain," the woman laughs. "It won't kill you."

Lisa Lerma Weber doesn't like being cold but she loves sweaters and scarves and fires. Her words and photography have been published in print and online. Follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber.

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