A Stain to Embrace


The god of death has gifted the human race with a gift; or is it a curse?

I always knew how I was going to die. It was written on my skin from the day I was born. No, that wasn’t an attempt at poetry; it is quite literally inked on my skin, a sort of tattoo, if you will. It’s called a stain. The stain is the prediction of our deaths clearly etched onto our skin.

It’s a part of our religion. It’s taught that the stain was a gift given to human kind by the god of death, so that when the time came to leave this world, we would go in peace and not in fear. The stain is an image of a skull and crossbones.

Children are born with the stain and are taught to meditate until they got that moment called the epiphany, when the god of death finally revealed the way of death, their fate. This usually happened by the time a child is eight or nine. You would look at your stain and see your fate, but the rest of the world would only see the generic skull and crossbones; the secret meaning visible only to you. Most people got old age, or cardiovascular diseases. The unlikely few got accidents, no one envied them.

On very rare occasions, people’s stains changed their fates. After all the way that you died wasn’t written in stone. Sometimes your decisions, big or small, may dramatically alter your death. We’re taught to always be on the lookout for a second epiphany; if our decisions had changed fate of the stain. But then again, this was a very rare case.

Mostly, when fates changed, it was foreseeable and obvious. Morbidly obese women found out that instead of dying of old age; they were going to die of high cholesterol. Soldiers upon joining the army would have their fates changed to explosions or gunshot wounds, smoking addicts got a change to lung cancer. These are logical and easy to predict.

However there were some legends passed around among people. The most infamous one was of people living on an island reporting a second epiphany. The entire population on the island got their second epiphany at the same time. They tried to send out radio signals for help but it was too late… it was a volcanic eruption. They all died that very day, an entire city wiped out.

This story used to terrify me, until I heard the even worse story about my own father and how he died; I was two years old when it happened. My mother doesn’t like to talk about it, and only told me the story once.

 My father had his second epiphany when he decided to part his hair differently one morning; he changed his fate from dying of heart failure to being murdered.

Just because he parted his hair a different way that morning, he immediately felt his fate shift to something sinister.

What was the connection? What kind of significance did that meagre action have to change his fate? No one knew.

After hearing this, I started to be afraid of every little thing I did. Because who knew, something small and inconsequential might just have the effect of bringing my death in some gruesome manner. What made my terror even worse was that there were no “third epiphanies”. If your fate ever changed, it changed only once; never again.

My father had been so scared that after his second epiphany, he immediately entered a witness protection program to keep him safe from being murdered. He was locked in a center and never went out. He was protected by a squadron of police at all times.

Unfortunately for him, one of the police officers happened to be a psychopath; they found my father’s mangled body in the morning, the reports said his corpse was unrecognizable.

It just went to show, once the god of death changed his mind there was no convincing him to change it ever again. 

But human beings have always struggled with accepting their fates, especially when faced with a sticky end. So there were programs for people with severe fates, support groups and meditation sessions in an attempt to force an epiphany and change their fates to something mild. People with fates of all horrible sorts would gather in an attempt to bring about another epiphany. But there have been no reported cases of success.  

There is only one way known to man that will truly change your fate. Taking matters into your own hands, suicide. In fact, most reports of suicide are by people who were so frightened of their fates that they opted to tap out early.

There’s a kid in our neighbourhood who killed himself. His suicide note was: Better to overdose on sleeping pills than to be blown up by terrorists.

His parents were a mess, the whole time they had thought his fate was old age; so either he’d been lying to them for years, or he’d had a second epiphany and hadn’t told them about it. My mother took this to heart and she came to my room crying and asking me if I were lying about my fate.

“Mom!” I had rolled my eyes at her.

She was inconsolable; I had to hug her, reassure her and swear that my fate was truly old age and that I would tell her if anything changed.

“Our family has been favoured by the god of death. The stain of old age is a gift above others. We shouldn’t take it for granted. We should never test the god’s good grace by purposefully putting ourselves in danger.” My mother said holding my face in her hands, making me promise again and again that I wouldn’t do anything to endanger myself and change my stain.

That was life, every aspect of our lives connected with the stain.

The stain was a gaping chasm in our livelihoods, dictating our every move. I’ve always secretly thought that the religious leaders were kidding themselves by saying that it was a gift from the god of death.

It’s no gift, it’s a plague.

Ignorance is bliss; and by giving us this new awareness, the god of death stole our bliss away, just to watch us cower waiting for inevitable our end. The god of death is a sadist.

Although I would never state this out loud, my mother was a devoted follower of the faith and would be utterly scandalized my ideals. When I was a kid, she used to tell me that the god of death would kiss each and every one of us when we were still in our mothers’ womb and the place that he kissed us would be the place we have our stain when we were born. Each stain a kiss from god himself. She stopped telling me that story after I told her that Bobby from school had his stain on his left butt cheek.  

The stain might be anywhere on someone’s body. For most people, it’s usually found on the palm of their hands. My stain was particularly unique in the fact that it was a connecting tattoo; positioned so that it only makes the full image of the skull and crossbones when I put my hands together as though in prayer. It’s ironic, considering that I had sworn off prayer a long time ago.

So far, I’ve only met one other person whose stain is also a connecting tattoo like mine. I knew her in high school; she had it on each knee; her stain would connect when she sat with her legs closed. I remember she had somewhat of a reputation for being promiscuous at school, and we used to laugh at her, saying that the god of death gave her a stain that’s seen with closed legs so that she would stop spreading them to every guy she met. We used to laugh at our own stupid jokes, then the girl died a few days into our senior year, suicide… no one was laughing anymore.

I’m not proud to say that I was quite a difficult teenager. After graduating high school I got mixed up with the wrong crowd and I went down a dark path of drugs and crime. When I was nineteen, I got arrested for armed robbery, served a sentence of thirteen years.

My mother died while I was still in prison; not of old age, she was still in her forties. Her stain had changed. She was anxious and alone, and she died of high blood pressure.

I found it cruel that it was I who was doing the drugs, committing the crimes, endangering my life in more ways than one, and yet my actions hadn’t affected me, the sinner; but had instead changed the stain of my mother, the saint.  

Her death made me want to live a life that would have made her proud.

I’m happy to say that I have managed to make an honest living. I work as a counselor in a rehabilitation center. At nights I volunteer at a helpline for people whose stains have changed drastically into something terrible. I listen, I comfort, I encourage, and I like to think I help the people come to terms with their fate. My way of making it up to my mother.

I was sitting at my desk at my volunteer job. There were no incoming calls at the moment but I still left my earpiece in. I was making small talk with a fellow volunteer while we both waited for a call to come through.

“Heard there’s a new volunteer coming in today.” He said. “I saw her leaving the interview last week, and let me tell you…” he leaned in, “she’s the hottest piece of ass. I mean, I love my wife, but it don’t hurt to see someone whose tits are still perky, ya know?” He winked at me.

At his words, I ducked back into my cubicle, pretending I had an incoming call. He’s disgusting. At first, I was puzzled as to how a sleazy character such as himself could ever do this thankless volunteer work. Then he confided in me that his fate was suicide and that listening to all the miserable callers with fates far worse than his gives him hope and makes him want to live another day; keeping his suicide at bay. I couldn’t decide if that move was incredibly selfish or pure genius on his part.

It was then that I heard her voice.

“Excuse me?”

I turned around and laid eyes on most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen; her incredibly striking features left me dumbstruck.

“I’m new here… just wanted to introduce myself.” 

I couldn’t help but smile at her; I jumped to my feet and extended my hand for a handshake.

“Hello, welcome to-”

She took my hand and the moment our hands touched I felt a burst of electric going through my stain. I wrenched my hand from her grasp like I’d been burned, clasping my hands together in a gesture of prayer to stare at my stain.

The skull and crossbones sat looking up at me, same as always, but the fate behind the stain had changed forever. There was no longer the soothing whisper of old age behind it.

It was my second epiphany.

I immediately looked up from my stain to stare at her… my end, my fate.

 My beautiful murderer.

Some would say that my family is cursed. My fate and the fates of both my parents had changed for the worse. Something that was supposed to be one in a million had occurred three times in one family... but how?

By this point, I’ve stopped questioning it.

It’s been four years since my second epiphany. I’ve grown used to my fate by now. Except I don’t call her my fate anymore, I call her my wife. Because if you can’t change your fate, then why not embrace it? Literally.

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