How do I put this lightly? Umm, let’s see, recently I’ve had a brush with death. I did not almost die, I’ve met Death. The personification of “The End” of everything. Yes, it exists, there are many beings that are basically beyond the human comprehension out there. I still have many questions myself but I digress.
Originally, I came across Death at the funeral of a distant relative by the name Michael U. Eriksson from the Midwest. I’ve met him once or twice as a kid and did not have much of a relationship with him but at the behest of my mother, I’ve taken the trip to his hometown, Maysburg to pay him my final respects.
If it weren’t for my mother, I would not have even have batted an eye in regards to Michael’s death, you see, for most of my life I’ve been a firm believer in the phrase “out from sight, out from the mind”. I wasn’t one to care about things and people out of my immediate vicinity. While most of my family are at least nominally Catholic, I am a firm atheist, on top, I’m a bio-engineer, so I’d like to believe that I had a rational and practical outlook on life. However, what I’ve recently encountered made me question my idea of my own self a little. I am a mentally healthy adult, but I swear, until I got to see people die up close and personal, I did not care for those whom I did not have any sort of emotional bond with, at all. I did not have those moments of sadness when I heard about children being murdered in Syria or what not. I simply did not care. Now I do because I know that each and every last thing in this universe has a sort of a… Umm… Meaning I guess, I don’t even know how to phrase myself, really. I mean, everything has got to mean something, when it’s just temporary, doesn’t it?
Anyways, back to Michael’s funeral, it was your average funeral; those close to the elderly man were genuinely saddened, some weeping while others were holding back tears, more distant relatives and acquaintances, myself included, were mostly keeping up an appearance of gloom. I’m certain some people, much like myself, had been just being polite by arriving at the occasion while not really giving two f***s. I caught up with some relatives, like my cousin, Mercedes. Nothing was really out of the ordinary until I noticed an elderly man standing at the edge of the graveyard. He was this skinny, sickly pale and frail looking old man dressed in a fine black tux. His bony fingers pressed slightly on his walking cane. The man came to notice me and stared at me for a couple of moments, his eyes seemed to be too big to fit in their sockets almost. The elderly man had this weird aura to him. Something about him just felt wrong. A cold chill ran down my spine as our eyes locked; I could see nothing in his gray eyes, nothing at all. It was as if I was staring at a mannequin, an eerily realistic, life-sized doll. The man just broke off his gaze, turned around and left the site.
Just as he left, I shrugged the encounter off and carried on with my charade of sadness over the passing of a person I’ve never cared about. I’ve spent the rest of the day after the end of the funerary processions hanging out with my relatives. I was so preoccupied with catching up with my family that I completely forgot about the creepy old man from earlier.
He was out of my mind until I got back home two days later. Once I reached my house, I saw a pale Plymouth Barracuda standing in my parking lot, one I had never seen before. I paid it little mind and proceeded to enter my apartment. Once inside, I was greeted by a dry and uninterested voice calling from my living room, “Hello Benjamin, it’s about time you’ve arrived home.”
I immediately tensed up, thinking someone had broken inside my apartment since I could not recognize the voice. Clenching my fists tightly I marched into my living room across the hall mustering the meanest frown I could.
The sight stunned me; perched against the window stood an elderly man in a neat black tux that was draped around his stick-figure-like body. It was the same man from the graveyard. He turned to me and those huge gray eyes of his locked with mine once again, making me feel uneasy again.
“These chicken nuggets are really good; you humans have a way with your food…” he said as he munched on a particularly greasy nugget. “Oh, where are my manners, Pale Horseman.” he continued while bowing his head slightly. He then kept on rambling to himself as I stood there dumbfounded, “Aham… This is really good, you know, I like your food so much that the Canaanites came to think of me as a sort of an old consuming deity they called Mot. They believed I could swallow the whole world whole if I wanted to. As a matter of a fact, I could, you know.”
I just stood there, not paying much attention to the old man’s dribble as he went on and on. Once the initial shock wore off, it was replaced by a renewed sense of anger, one mixed with disgust.
“Who… The… F**k… Do… You… Think… You… Are…?” I snapped at the old man. Without realizing, I was mere inches away from him and then, when he turned around to face me; it hit me, a kind of feeling of existential dread spread inside me like a raging flame. I was suddenly afraid for my own life.
The old man just rolled his eyes at me and uttered coldly, “Don’t you hate it when the bacteria try to get out of their petri dish and get all snarky?” As he was done speaking the whole apartment went wild; the lights all over had begun flicker on and off, doors bang and the electronic devices went ballistic.
The old man stared a hole through me and said, “I am Death, the one you call The Pale Horseman, the Eater of Worlds, the eventual Omega of everything that there was, is and ever will be! And you human? You are nothing but a small piece of single-celled life compared to me – know your place!” he did not raise his voice. No, he spoke calmly and rather quietly but the way he said those things made me feel as if he cast an ever-growing shadow over me, one so menacing that I could myself feel tremble in the face of his verbal barrage.
My masochistic facade fell apart in front of this frail old man, “P… P… P… lease… don’t hurt me… T.. ta…” I mumbled under my breath in the face of what felt like what could be the end of me. Whether this man was what he claimed to be or not, something about him felt lethal.
“I’m not here to hurt you, Benjamin, I am however here to use you to alleviate my boredom.” he cut me off.
The lights stopped flickering and the banging of doors subsided in the background as I was trying to process my predicament. As the thoughts were running through my mind, the old man placed the bucket of chicken nuggets on my coffee table and stared back at the window.
“You see, Benjamin, it has come to my attention that you carry yourself as if your empathy is selective as if your tribalism prevails over the basic functions of your mental faculties. I wish to show you that you are fooling only yourself.” He said.
“W.. what?” I stumbled
“I’ve got an offer for you, you spend a day with me, see what it’s like to be The Grim Reaper. I want you to see what it’s like to stare agony in the eyes. I want you to feel the power that I feel whenever I rid someone of their misery! I want to see what will be your reaction to that part the experience you call life.” He said as he turned to face me again.
Still shaken up by the whole ordeal, I did not know what to say at that moment, I was too scared to speak, I guess. Honestly, I had a hard time believing I was talking to the personification of death. Moreover, I found it awfully weird that this man came to me. All I could muster was a meek, “Wh… Why-y me…?”
The man approached my shriveled-up self and put his hand on my shoulder. A newfound sense of comfort flowed through me spreading from my shoulder outwards to the rest of my body. Something that made me feel like a babe in the presence of his mother.
“No reason really, you just seem like a man who wouldn’t mind being taught a thing or two.” Said the old man. He then took his hand off my shoulder and walked towards the hall that leads to the door while saying, “You don’t have to… However, if you do come with me, I promise to answer any questions you might have, and I’m sure you have a lot of them now.”
His tone turned sly as he said that, causing my curiosity to kick in, I thought about it for a moment.
“Unlike me, you don’t have all the time in the world, son, make up your mind quickly. Once I’m out of the door you’ve lost your chance to learn so much… And I know you like learning, that’s why you took up science.”
He was right, I was naturally curious, and something about the way he said those things made me feel drawn to him. He made me want to go out there and ask him questions, listen to him. His speech compelled me to come with him and so I did.
“I’ll come with you, Sir…” I said, with barely any confidence in my voice.
“Good, I knew you would, now be a sport and get me my chicken on your way out, I’ll be waiting in my trusty steed.” The old man called out to me in his typically aloof tone as he made his way out through my door.
I followed shyly behind Death’s steps.
Mere moments later I found myself slowly crawling inside Death’s pale Barracuda and placing the bucket of chicken nuggets on his dashboard. He was already seated stoically in the driver’s seat, waiting for me. Death ignited the car’s engine, and we set off to where ever he was planning to take me, I just sat there, accepting my fate in defeat.
The first few minutes were filled with a deafening silence as he did not speak and I could not bring myself to utter as much as a squeak. The pale emperor broke the silence out of the blue, saying, “You’re awfully quiet, Benjamin, something bothering you, son?”
I swallowed my own saliva and tried to sound as relaxed as I could, albeit clearly without success, “N-no, sir.” I responded in a shaky tone.
“Oh, ease up, boy, have a nugget! I am not going to hurt you, I told you so already if I wanted you dead – you’d be dust already.”
Before I could even process what had been said to me, Death shifted his stare towards me, his cold, deathly eyes stared at me, aloofly “Eat”, he demanded.
Clearly, not wishing to mess with the being that is the actual death, I quickly shoved my arm down the bucket of chicken nuggets shuffling around for a bit before picking a piece. I slowly retracted my arm from within the bucket and carefully placed it next to my face. Taking a small bite from the meaty bit in my hand.
The whole time, Death was staring at me, he wasn’t looking at the road and that made me feel even worse than before. In my mind, I was sure he’s going to crash into something, forgetting just how fragile my human body is. My gaze shifted between his face and the front windshield.
Deep inside I was begging to not be hit by any sort of object.
“Good, isn’t it?” He shifted his gaze towards the road as he asked me that.
“Yes sir, it is…”
“Oh, Benjamin, Ben, stop being so formal, first, and second, I know you did not thoroughly enjoy that nugget. What is it? You can tell me.” He inquired.
“I- it…. Lacks in spices, alright?”
“So, you like your food to be spicy?”
“You humans and your sadomasochistic tendencies,” he chuckled.
It completely caught me off guard the way he said that but he wasn’t wrong, the pleasure from eating spicy foods is a result of tissue getting damaged in our mouths and the brain’s release of hormonal painkillers to deal with the said damage.
“Wouldn’t you like to know where we’re going, Ben?” he asked me, but it was clear from the way he iterated those words that he did not really care.
“Where to?”, I asked, still somewhat unsure of the whole ordeal.
“California, there’s going to be a unique passing over there in a bit.”
“California? Isn’t that a little far?” I asked, genuinely intrigued.
“Ah yes, but you should not forget who’s driving you there, we’ll be there in no time, son.”
I just stared at the road ahead for a while, it seemed like we were driving on a vast and an endless road through a hilly countryside up north. I did not know this road, but I did not care enough to ask what kind of route that was.
After some pondering, I’ve decided to ask Death a few questions, mostly about the inner workings of the universe.
“How, how does all of this work? What happens after you know… we naff off?”
“Nothing really, I just come, kill whatever it is that is dying, and that’s it.”
“So, there’s like no heaven or hell or anything?” I asked, not breaking my gaze away from the road ahead of me.
“No. You have your lifespan in this reality and that’s it, it pretty much applies to anything in existence. Although there are some exceptions.”
“There is no God, boy, there is a myriad of beings, like me, that could be considered gods. There is no one god with a capital G that is in charge of everything. Abrahamic religions are the odd one out, and not just on this planet. They have a clock in them as well, and when their time runs out, they will all be snuffed, by me.”
“Oh… wow…” I was utterly speechless. There are more things out there, just like him, emphasis on the plural, the thought still blows my mind away.
“So how did you all come to be?” I asked.
“I don’t remember, child, I am old. Far older than this universe, I’ve seen a few hundred of them come and go, I ended most of them myself, this one is no exception. It is still in its toddler stage, there is still time.
“I digress, I was talking about more Earthly beings that are the exceed the exception to die when their time comes. One such example is the man your religions call Cain. He crossed some species, and they ended up tying his life to the fabric of this reality in response. He will die… when this universe collapses. Until then, he is just going to try to fail to kill himself, over and over, as he has been doing for the last seventy millennia.”
Death’s words sent a cold chill down my spine, there were multiple universes. There were biological species that are capable of meddling with the fabric of reality itself, and we were being proud of flying to the Moon, Christ! We are really nothing but microbes in a Petri dish.
I was awestruck.
I couldn’t utter a word.
He continued, “There is also Elizabeth Dietrichsditter, a 15th-century peasant girl who was burnt at the stake that someone opted to bring back from the dead and give her relative omnipotence and omnipresence.
“I never bothered asking who did it or why it’s not really any of my concern either. For as long as she wishes, she can exist. So, she’s somewhat out of my jurisdiction, for now.”
“I… I don’t… I don’t know what to…” I stumbled, I could hardly formulate words in the face of such information.
“Yes, I can’t fathom such things, but that’s what it is, I do suggest you try to turn off your anthropocentrism for as long as you are in my presence, contrary to your belief, you humans are nothing but an amusing dust spec.” Death said.
I swallowed my spit and lowered my head, trying to digest what I’ve been exposed to but before I could, Death called out, “We’re here!”
I looked up to find myself standing next to some Californian college; there was a large crowd of people standing in front of the car. It was somewhat hard to see through the sea of people in front of us.
Death stepped out of his car first, holding onto the bucket of chicken nuggets like it was his most prized possession in one hand while leaning the other on his cane. I stumbled behind him.
“So, did someone die here?” I asked, assuming I knew the answer to be positive.
“No, but someone is about to, he’s about to self-immolate to protest against what he perceives as Trump’s lack of care for this state,” Death casually said as he walked towards the crowd of spectators ahead.
His answer, it disturbed me greatly, someone had planned to burn themselves to death over Trump. I mean, I did vote for the man, but I was not a staunch supporter, nor was I really against him. This, however, felt like utter stupidity.
In my mind at that point, I thought whoever that idiot might be, they deserved to die.
The crowd grew louder and louder with each passing moment, screaming obscenities about the president and other politicians, blaming the Pentagon for this person’s upcoming death. I found that somewhat irritating, but I opted to maintain an appearance of someone who was not bothered by the ruckus.
“So, you can read my mind, but you thought this might change my mind about anything, a moron self-imploding?” I asked Death somewhat boldly.
“No, I just thought you might appreciate the future nominee for a Darwin Award, with your scientific background.” He retorted with a clear tone of sarcasm in his speech.
I chuckled in response, “Touche”.
“I always win! I think we’ve already established that.” He said.
I wanted to respond, finally finding the confidence to speak to him without the fear of turning me into a pile of dry red paint on the ground but I did not after I came to notice the crowd around had gotten eerily silent.
One of the students was pouring gasoline over a young man seated in the center of the crowd formed a circle. The realization was finally dawning upon them; their friend was going to kill himself in a fit of what he considered being a poetic justice sort of thing. Suddenly their vigor faded away.
They were about to see the face of death up close and personal.
So was I, but I came prepared in a way.
The seated man pulled out a lighter from his pocket, lit it and dropped it on the puddle of gasoline around him.
A collective gasp echoed throughout the whole area.
Moments later, screams of agony rang throughout the whole place.
The smell of burning flash hit me in the face, making me wince in disgust, it’s not that bad, but definitely does not smell like a burning chicken, there is something unpleasant about it.
I could hear people crying and begging for someone to put him out, most of them were people who were all for him setting himself ablaze mere moments earlier. All of this was just a big game for them until push came to shove and that’s when reality struck them.
You have only one life, one health, you aren’t eternal, so is it really worth risking over b******t?
I covered my face with my shirt to avoid inhaling the smoke and watched as Death made his way towards the rolling human shaped fireball on the concrete floor. No one else seemed to notice the elderly man making his way towards the fire.
They were all just consumed by grief and disbelief, they did not know what to do. I couldn’t see any firemen or policemen in the vicinity as it was probably some spur-of-the-moment thing.
These idiots were too preoccupied with crying to do anything to try to save their friend.
By the time Death made his way back to me with a large pleased grin on his face, firefighters were called to the scene, as the young man was put out it was obvious, he was already a goner. He had stopped moving some time ago.
There was nothing but a pile of putrid carbon lying on the ground left.
Death offered me another chicken nugget, insisting that they taste better when heated.
I took a nugget out of his bucket and asked as I chewed away, “They didn’t see you go towards that kid, how’s that?”
“They cannot see me unless I choose to, they cannot see you now either… we are between this world and the operating room. That’s also why it took us just an hour to get from Seattle to here by car.” He answered, with a mouth full of chicken.
“The kid could see me though, as a red Goat man though…” Death continued.
“D**k move” I uttered without noticing.
“Pardon?” he asked in response
“Oh… I mean… with all due respect, sir…”
“Hah, aren’t you a cheeky one, Benjamin? Well, it’s time we get serious here, although I do see you had some empathy for the kid, not wanting him to see a monster in his final moments. I also know you did not take kindly to the people’s lack of action, even though you yourself did not budge.”
He was right, I did not do anything either, but I don’t know why, I was just too busy looking at the people around me and punching them in their faces in my own mind, perhaps somewhere inside, I knew I’m just a spectator.
Or maybe, I was just as stricken with fear as they were.
When we were back on this road between the worlds Death had told me about earlier, with that same beautiful hilly countryside that seemed to be endless. I looked at his old, seemingly frail form for a moment before asking him something that just happened to cross my mind.
“Could you stop the fires in California?”
“I can, but won’t.”
I wasn’t even surprised by that sort of response anymore, seeing a man who burned himself to death earlier that day just served as a proof to me that I had an iron skin when it came to strangers. I asked him why anyway, simply out of curiosity.
“It’s not part of my job, Benjamin, I do not clean messes left by humans. The last time I’ve interfered with your affairs, I’ve given you the Black Sea… and now you have deluge myths. You see, even if this whole planet burns to a crisp, I wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s just another rock to me. Even if it is an amusing one, there are more like it as I already told you.”
He did tell me that there were many more intelligent lives forms out there, but it was still somewhat both delighting and shocking to know that the definitive answer to the question; whether we are alone is an astounding yes.
“There are sextillions out there, Benjamin.”
That number alone shook me to my core, it’s an unimaginable number of things, just think about it for a second. A one with twenty-one zeros, more than one of those. The universe’s age is only in the billions.
Holy s**t was the only thing I could come up with after hearing such a number. It’s simply too vast for the human mind to even grasp. And he, Death, he had seen it all, he had the power over all of that.
“Well Benjamin,” he said, “I have a question for you,”
“Hm”, I was still trying to fathom the things he had just told me, forget about suicide by fire, the number planets with creatures on them… That is the real shocking thing I’ve come to learn up to this point of that day.
“What do you think is worse, to die alone and lonely or to die from rabies?” he asked me in his typical aloof tone
“Uhh… I don’t… I don’t know. I’d like to assume that of Rabies because it’s far quicker but the pain of the furious and the dumb stages must be horrendous, I really have no idea…”
“Well, we are going to see a man who’s buried his whole family and is now dying from rabies in Alaska.” Death said.
“Oh wow!” That one did sting a little, I must admit, the notion of having to die alone in the frigid North, after you’ve lost it all, from such a terrible disease. It had been a while since I’ve felt like this… since the death of my own grandfather in fact. He died when I was really young so I did not get to understand the whole thing properly and thus, wasn’t really devastated by his passing. It did hurt, and it hurt like a mother f****r, but not as much as my parents or grandmother.
“Is that all it takes to change your mind, Man of rationale?” Death joked, probably noticing my apparent discomfort.
“I’m not sure…” I answered, once again meekly.
I really wasn’t sure of how to react.
“That’s good, that’s better than outright not caring, my boy, you were made to care. Yes, to compete, but also to care and co-exist.”
“Made? By whom” I immediately jumped, after assuming that there was no God out there to create us that sentence made me feel a little confused.
Death smirked, “by nature, my boy, your tongue is quite limited, you know.”
“I see…” I answered before looking out of my window again.
I felt myself dozing off in the sight of the beautiful nature around me, it all seemed so surreal as if there was a deliberate contrast between the ultimate destroyer with his utter darkness and the world around him that was filled with beauty and light.
I fell asleep in Death’s car.
I have later woken up my Death tapping on my shoulder with his cane. He beckoned me to follow him into the lone shack that stood not far from where he had parked his pale Barracuda.
I groggily made my way after the slowly pacing Death as he shoved the shack’s door open with the tip of his cane.
Before I had entered, I saw a kennel standing next to the shack.
It was a neatly done wooden handmade kennel; I assumed the dying man owned a dog, stepping inside I was about to ask Death about the dog but when my foot stepped inside the hut a vile smell seemed to punch me straight in the face.
“F*****g Hell!” I screamed out covering my face with my shirt, the smell of s**t and rotten food products kept on penetrating through the cloth and made its way straight to my nostrils.
I looked around for a moment to see Death sitting on a wooden stool next to a man lying on the floor.
The man looked like a complete mess.
He appeared as he had taken a beating and did not take a shower for a couple of weeks. His whole face was swollen and sickly, his face was covered with snot and drool as is common in the later stages of rabies.
I got closer to the man and the smell of s**t hit me harder, he had soiled himself, probably more than once. That’s when I noticed the flies swarming above his prone form. The man was nearly paralyzed completely.
One of his eyes was swollen shut while the other gave off a stare of something less than human, it wasn’t directed at anything, it was just aimed at the space behind me. It was glossy and widened.
The man began wheezing.
“Listen to the melody of his agonal breathing, Benjamin,” Death said as he rose from the stool and stood over the dying man. “Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Right,” I said with my shirt covered mouth. “Can you make this quick, this whole place isn’t really appealing to me, you know…” I continued.
“Do not rush the dying, child!” Death retorted while his gaze was fixated on the dying man.
“I’ll be outside then, this is too disgusting for my sensory devices, my liege” I sarcastically remarked and then stormed my way out of the shark, taking in a breath of fresh air.
I felt like of bad for the man that he had to die alone, from rabies, covered in his s**t but, It’s not like I’d cry over him. Well, technically I would, due to the odor emitted from his carcass. I did not know the man, and while his circumstances were a tragic case, I did not see myself wailing up over that.
“Christ!” I yelled out as Death came out of the shack. He was pacing slowly towards me as I made my way towards his car.
Once we were both inside the car, Death looked at me and said, “I can tell something is shifting inside of you. We are getting there, my boy! Shame you did not stick around to see him go.
“I came up to him in the form of his deceased dog and led him into the light.
“He was happy in his final moments, Benjamin, it was almost heartwarming…”
“Right… I was going to ask you about the dog, but you’ve given me the answer, anyway.” I retorted, “Why was he alone and dealing with rabies anyway,” I proceeded to ask.
Death ran his face over his delicate chin and then said, “His wife, she was infertile and died from cancer, I remember being in this shack not too long ago. I was expecting him to die from rabies for a while now. He contracted it years ago while hunting. It was dormant for decades.”
When Death had said he was in the shack before it struck something and I proceeded to ask, “You say you were here before, how does this work with you? I mean deaths occur all the time, so how are you here and everywhere else… Or… How does this work?”
Death smiled, “I am everywhere at once, I don’t really have a physical form or limitations, I am infinite. Don’t mistake me for a matter, I am beyond that, I am a force.”
“You are learning.”
“I’m not sure I’m ready for this course, sir.”
“Oh, you are, all of you are, it’s something that matures you! That’s what I do! I age things and I kill them!”
Death ignited his car and pressed on the gas pedal, saying, “I’m kind of hungry again, I know this nice place in Anchorage where they serve really great Hamburgers. Let’s have a lunch break, Ben.”
And so, we’ve made our way towards Anchorage, however, we never got to reach the diner in that Death loved so much, as you see, as it is common in life, s**t goes sideways whenever you least want it to.
It all started with Death taking a road in the world of the living rather than that dimension through which we previously had driven. That meant it would take us about three hours to get to Anchorage, three hours with Death in a tight space seemed unpleasant regardless of what I’ve been through up to this point.
For a while I had been sitting quietly in the passenger’s seat, pondering about the death of the lonely old man and how sad it was to be him in his final death, just how painful it must’ve been for him to be there alone, after losing just about everything having to deal with a terrible disease only to die eventually truly all alone.
Death must’ve noticed this as he said, Benjamin, you’re eerily quiet.”
“Yeah, just thinking.”
“About the old man?”
“Hah” he chuckled, “So, you do care after all?” he inquired.
“Suppose I do,” I answered
“Good, my work here is done then, after we eat, I’ll take you back home, son.” Death added nonchalantly.
“Do you even enjoy that food you constantly stuff down your throat?” I asked somewhat angrily.
“Indeed, I do, boy.”
“I’m sorry… It’s just… the way that old man died… it’s so horrible… I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. It’s way too awful to go out like that…” I said, meekly.
I know, it comes off a little cheesy and anticlimactic, but that was indeed how I’ve learned to accept the fact that if you can care about people – you should. It’s part of our hard-wiring as humans, it’s good for us to accept these feelings. Loneliness is probably the worst enemy humans can have, and that is something I’ve come to accept recently. Being a man of science and logic, my whole life really made me shut off my feelings whenever I could. Everything had to be mathematical, but it’s not like that, sometimes you have to let your gut take charge; or else, you’ll die alone. Miserable and broken.
“For social creatures like yourself, it is. For solitary ones, it’s not. C’est la vie,” noted Death in response to my confession.
“That is true.”
“Do you… Do you ever fear that time when everything dies, Death?” I asked him as I sank into my seat as if out of fear of crossing a line.
“No, because that means I’ll probably disappear as well eventually, boy, for as long as quantum mechanics work, I exist and once they stop, if they ever stop; I assume I’ll cease to exist as well since there will be nothing to be formed by their laws and thus there will be nothing that can die.” He retorted with a cheerful tone, almost uncharacteristic of him.
“Is that Death yearning to die?” I shot at him.
“Low blow, son, low blow.” He joked in response, refusing to answer my question directly, I’ll take it as a positive answer.
We were driving on a straight road for the longest time and noticed a bus driving behind us, looking back from time to time I could see the bus driver throwing his arms in the air. He was motioning for us to drive faster even though we were driving at a decent speed. I guess you have to press the pedal to the metal on the highway around these parts of the States so people would not lose their s**t at you for wasting their time or something.
I can only assume but it feels like the driver had lost his patience with us and began blowing his horn to make us go faster or something, but Death paid him no mind, opting to call him as he phrased it a “rude little nematode”.
The bus driving wouldn’t stop blowing his horn until we reached a curve on which Death decided to slow down the Barracuda enough to create the space necessary for the bus to pass us and the bus driver drove past us screaming something from the window. I didn’t even get what he was trying to say.
Death pressed down on the pedal once more and we just drove in silence for a few moments as the skies above became darker with storm clouds decorating the heavens. Flashes of lightning and thunderclaps echoed in the sky as we drove.
We were on the outskirts of Anchorage when we reached a Junction on Glenn Highway just outside of the city itself. Death suddenly stopped the Barracuda and said, “Sit back and enjoy the show.”
Before I could react, I saw the bus in front of us get hit by a full trailer. The public transporter was flipped over, making a few rounds all over the junction. I could almost see people flailing about inside the vehicle as it was turning in ways it shouldn’t.
Worst of all, I saw how the Truck driver was smashed into a tomato-beef mash inside his own cabin by the force of the impact. His lower body was completely destroyed, thank whatever I couldn’t see that part of him. But I did see his upper half get bisected by the seatbelt as half of his torso flew straight through his windshield.
“Holy s**t!” I exclaimed as I unbuttoned my own seatbelt and ran outside of the car. I need to help the people surged through my body. Something dormant was snapped awake within me. I went into science to help people but I’ve forgotten about that… I didn’t do what I do simply to put cash in my pocket.
And then, it all came back and hit me like a truck straight in my face.
Before long, I found myself running towards the bus, screaming for people to make a sound, screaming at other drivers in the scene to come and help me, and call the authorities.
It all happened so quickly.
Almost as if it had happened in a movie.
Bodies were thrown out of the bus, some were bent in shapes I could never even imagine the human body going, others were dumped on their heads and necks. Blood filled my eyes and agonized screaming bombarded my ears. There were people alive.
Someone I could save.
A girl, she was lying on the ground, convulsing, I ran up to her and begged her to stay with me. When I was a foot away; I saw she was riddled in glass her arms were cut open, her face was decorated with large shards jutting out of her flesh. A particularly large chunk was sticking out of her eye.
She wasn’t screaming, she was wheezing.
Her good eye was turned into the back of her head, she was in shock, dying.
That’s when I noticed the worst wound that she sustained, a glass shard was stuck in her neck. Blood was spraying from beneath it, forming a small fountain. I pressed on the wound as hard as I could and begged her to stay with me, I begged her to cling onto her life, I told her everything will be fine… I wanted everything to be fine, but deep down inside, I had no idea if it would ever be.
Moments later, she went limp.
I screamed out in anger.
“They’re all beyond saving, Benjamin,” a familiar voice called from behind me, Death was standing behind me. Lightning struck the ground in the distance, illuminating his face, it seemed almost skeletal in appearance. His true visage. I gave him a look and my blood began boiling with rage, not thinking twice I lunged at him grabbing him by his collar.
“It’s all of your f*****g fault, you son of a b***h!” I screamed in his face as the world around me began growing darker as if everything around us started withering away.
He didn’t move and didn’t even utter a sound.
“You got pissed at that f*****g driver and decided to kill him, huh, you petty, bitter old f**k?” I screamed at him.
“Aren’t you a cheeky little amoeba, Benjamin?” Death retorted sarcastically, still unmoving.
His sarcasm drove me even angrier, and I cocked one of my hands back, closing it into a fist, “This amoeba is about to make your life as much of a hell as it can, m**********r!” I retorted before punching him in the face.
His face went slightly sideways from the blow, but he remained largely unfazed, I was about to land a second strike but he simply slapped me away. With enough force to knock me a few feet away.
“F*****g…” I hissed as I was making my way back to my feet.
Death was already on top of me, he placed his cane on top of my head and said, “Do not overstep your boundaries, hairless chimp.”
“F**k you!” I spat in his face in defiance.
That’s when a lightning had struck the ground close to the two of us, revealing a massive shadow forming out of Death’s thin frame. The shadow looked like it had a three-faced head, with each head sporting three massive horns. It also had six feathery wings and a sea of tentacles sprawling out of its back whirling and twitching in the space in a macabre dance.
“What a brave little dust spec you are, Benjamin Edmund Ackerman.” Death remarked as he wiped my spit off his face.
I swept his cane from the top of my head and lunged at him again, but he in turn, simply stopped me in my place with his cane.
“I did not kill these people… the reckless driving of these men behind the steering wheels did. I was merely trying to test your resolve. Child, you have clearly passed the test. It’s been a while since someone from this planet stood up to me like that, the last one was some despot in Sumer.” Death told me, as a wide smile formed on his face and the shadowy monstrosity behind him dispersed into nothingness.
“Wha?” I fell down to my knees, the adrenaline rush was starting to subside and a sort of anguish came in place of my anger. I could feel the tears forming down my cheeks as I stared up to Death who was perched over me, extending his hand towards me.
“You are a man who is willing to risk anything for what is important to him, even if it means to risk your own very existence, and for that I commend you.” He said to me as I grabbed his arm. He pulled me up as he spoke, “now-now, we don’t have time for sentiments, your friend, Matthew he is in a bit of a pickle… He is about to hang himself…”
My eyes widened as I heard that, “What?” I barked in surprise.
“Come with me, if you want him to survive.”
“Sh…” I didn’t even time to curse away before the world around me suddenly went completely black before turning to the scenery of my neighborhood. Death and I were standing on Matt’s front yard.
“The leftmost door on the second floor, that’s where he’s at…”
“Go!”, Death commanded menacingly.
“But the door…”
I ran inside the house, screaming Matt’s name over and over, hoping I’m not late but nothing came, I didn’t even notice the perpetual darkness inside the house. I’ve been inside that building enough times to know the layout by heart and so I didn’t even bother to turn on the lights as I made my way upstairs and onto the second floor.
I ran as fast as I could through the hallway to the leftmost room. Matt’s parents’ old bedroom.
I tried moving the doorknob, but it was locked, I began banging on the door, screaming for him to open up but nothing came back. A minute passed and nothing came.
“Gotta break in… Just, don’t die on me, you f**k!” I hissed under my breath as I began tackling the door.
Four times – and the door flew open, but I heard something pop in my arm; sharp pain made me scream and clutch at my arm as I looked around the room.
It was so dark I couldn’t see anything.
I fumbled around for the light switch.
The lights came on, blinding me for a moment and then, I saw it; Matt’s limp body hanging from a noose tied to the ceiling, softly swinging around.
“No!” I screamed as I jumped on top of him, quickly looking for a pulse.
Luckily, there was still something, he had a heartbeat.
“Don’t die, bud, don’t you die on me!” I spoke to his unconscious body as I fumbled around with the noose around his neck. At first, I had a hard time untying it because I was so stressed out by the whole ordeal but after some trial and error, I managed to free his neck. He dropped into my eyes, body still limp, no reactions.
I laid him on the floor and began performing CPR on him, the pumping motion made my arm hurt like hell, but I didn’t stop, I couldn’t stop. I heard something cracking in his chest and then he gasped for air as a terrible wheezing sound escaped from his mouth.
He was alive.
I grabbed my phone and dialed 9-1-1, detailing the situation.
Soon enough, medics were swarming his house.
One of them noticed me clutching at my arm and after a short examination on the spot, it was determined I dislocated my shoulder. He popped it back in place, and I must say that it’s really unpleasant.
I didn’t care though, I got to save the life of my friend.
Death was waiting for me just outside of Matt’s property, he held something in his hand, a sort of cage in place of his cane.
“I knew you’d make it, my child”, he said as his gray, cold, over-sized eyes met mine while I was making my way out of the property.
“I had no other choice,” I said.
“You could just turn a blind eye and carry on with your life.” He remarked in response.
“Nah, that wouldn’t be right,” I answered.
“Well, if that’s the way you’re headed, I’ll be seeing you far after you make it to the century mark, Benjamin, it’s a shame, I like you.” Death said.
“What do you mean?” I asked, bewildered.
“You could make it to a very old age, by human standards, of course. You could have a big and loving family, but that’s going to require a lot of hard work. One thing you’ve to remember is that the future is not set in stone. It’s just an infinite number of possibilities.” Death said, lecturing me once more.
I smiled, and he handed me the cage, “Something to remember me by, his name is Athanasius.”
I took the cage and the creature inside cawed at me. It was a Crow. “Ironic you called it that.”
Death did not respond, he just walked away before stopping and glancing me dead in the eye once again, his huge gray eyes stare a hole through me, “One more thing, my boy, that thing; the one that broke your friend’s mind, is a very dangerous thing.
“Be careful out there.”
I have no idea what he meant by that but turns out Matt suffered from a schizophrenic fit after some emotional breakdown just before Halloween. Nobody knew he had schizophrenia, he seemed as healthy as they come.
On a better note, Veronica really took to Athanasius when I brought him home, I had to lie to her and tell her a friend from abroad gave it to me as a gift, I mean, I couldn’t tell her I was hanging out with the actual Grim Reaper, she’d call me nuts, even though she herself used to believe in what she calls the old gods, I wonder what would she say if I told her that she’s the closest anyone has been to the truth in that regard in this part of the world in a while.