When I saw the next person Herr Bauer came to, I gleefully thought to myself that the man was extraordinarily unlucky that day. There, swaggering towards him, his scaly skin as red as ever was the Devil. His face was set in a permanent sadistic smirk that made his nose, chin and wit seem sharper than ever. Like God, he too was completely bald, although the similarities ended there. As if the bloodlike hue of his skin was not enough to single him out as the symbol of immorality, wicked horns protruded from his forehead. They were as menacingly curved as his flexing fingers and as pale as his eyes, which were not quite white, but sufficiently close to it to make it seem like he had no iris' in his eyes at all.
Herr Bauer and the Devil continued walking until they were facing each other. The Devil bowed, deep and extravagantly, mocking the man before him with his cruel sarcasm. The peasant had never been bowed to before. As the Devil straightened himself, his smile widened.
"If you will take me as your child's godfather, I will give him an abundance of gold and all the joys of the world as well." He sounded as pompous as God, yet with a cruel edge that God could never achieve.
The man seemed taken aback by the offer, yet kept his tone steady and measured as he asked the same question as he had asked God.
"Who are you?"
"I am the Devil" announced the crimson being, clearly offended that the man had not recognised him.
"Then I do not wish to have you for a godfather. You deceive mankind and lead them astray." He walked off. I was somewhat disgruntled by his refusal to accept the Devil. After all, seeing a child raised by the most legendary nonconformist that had ever existed would have provided considerable entertainment. It seemed I would be deprived of the fun of watching that drama unfold, but an idea slowly seeped into my mind, like an invasive fog.
Surely I, who had watched this family for so long, who distained the ways of both God and the Devil could be a suitable godfather for this thirteenth child? I think that I probably was suitable, in Herr Bauer's opinion, although my plan twisted and curled until I realised that in truth, Herr Bauer could not choose a less suited godfather if he wanted to. His refusal of the Devil's offer had deprived me of fun, and so I would make my own game. Mortals are mere playthings to Death. And so it was that Herr Bauer's luck shrunk. Perhaps though, it was better for I, Death, stepped onto the road ahead of him.
I did not walk towards the man as the others had done, but I waited on the roadside whilst he made his way towards me. I have no need to hurry. It is men that need to go as fast as they can, because they do not know the height of their candles. I do not care. I have no candle, for I am immortal. Eventually, Herr Bauer reached me, and I inclined my head slightly as a sign of honest respect. No fancy bowing from me. He returned my greeting, noticing my crippled, shrunken legs.
When the world was created, I was given the gift of metamorphosis. However, as a cruel jest, our mighty, merciful creator did not give me the power to make myself appear healthy or beautiful. In my younger years, I was livid at my hideous curse, but as the years trickled by, I cared little for my looks. Only those who had fallen into the neverending chasm of dispair or the most twisted of beings could love Death.
But Herr Bauer was as emancipated as I was, although not from some incomplete holy gift, but from hard work and bad food. He would care little for my hollowed cheeks, my withered arms, stooped back or claw like hands. On the outside, we were as brothers.
"Take me as your child's godfather." I said in a soft voice that made the human strain to hear me.
"Who are you?" The man asked, his voice weary with hopelessness.
"I am Death, who makes everyone equal." I replied, giving him the answer he had both hoped for, and dreaded.
I could see his mind working over what I had just told him, his thought running like string in deft, but tired fingers. Then he spoke, his voice as quiet as my own, yet with an air of triumph.
"You are the right one. You take away the rich as well as the poor, without distinction. You shall be my child's godfather."
I was hardly surprised by his answer. I have spend thousands of years watching the humans, making it possible to predict their every move. I smiled, hoping that the man would not mistake my happiness for an evil smirk, although considering my plans for his newborn child, perhaps a smirk would be expected.
"I will make your child rich and famous." I allowed the smile to slide from my face as I tried to remain serious. It was happening, my game had started. "He who has me for a friend cannot fail."
I went to the baptism. I arrived on time. I held the child. And then I returned to my candles, and waited.