Pathosis had watched the old woman for weeks before finally introducing herself.

There were people, oh so many people, and they were all so vibrant and full of life that it was all Pathosis could do to avoid letting the joy overwhelm her. She who had been alone for so long was finally among those she could know.

“Why do you do it?” Pathosis asked. She had been invited to the old woman’s home, met her family, and lingered there new before returning to the bustle of stalls and scents.

The old woman coughed and wheezed. “Do what?” she asked.

“You go out there every day, but you are miserable,” said Pathosis. “In here, with me, you are less afraid and less tired even as you ebb away. Why do it, then?”

“I asked my mother that, many years ago,” the old woman said. She folded her hands, well-worn from a lifetime of toil. “Would you like to know what she told me?”

“I am a part of you, now, and you are a part of me,” Pathosis said. “I would very much like to know.”

“Mother told me that there are two things that you cannot change in life. There are always those who have more than you, and always those who depend on you. You can do nothing about the former, and if you do nothing about the latter, people will suffer. Your duty is clear.”

“Duty…” Pathosis found the word had an odd taste, for she knew very little of it. Everything she had ever done was for herself, to fulfill a need most primal and base. “What about yourself? You were not on your mother’s list?”

“The self can change,” the old woman said, weary. “And it is not important. Selfishness brings suffering.”

“Yet you suffer now,” Pathosis said, gently. “Do you not?”

“The self is not important,” the old woman repeated. “I have done the best that I can for those who depend on me.”

Those were her last thoughts; the breath left her in a dry rattle, leaving only Pathosis in the room.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!