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And They Called Him Death
He hovers over the median, taking in the gory sight with a look of glee upon his shadowy face. Three cars- a Honda Sinatra, a Ford Fusion, and a worn minivan with no visible make, year, or model- lay twisted on the highway. Above his head, lightning cracks. Rain begins to drip, then stream, onto the police officers and EMTs at the scene below. He feels nothing. Nothing, that is, but pleasure at having the best view of episode 3, 377 of his favorite show: “Accidents” Caused by Me. Pulling out a tub of theater popcorn and a bottle of hot sauce, he reclines on a wandering piece of thunder and watches the human world grieve.
As a young boy, he’d watched in awe as his father spent every waking moment wreaking havoc on the world above them. As a teen, he’d grown to hate the pit. “I’m tired of walking around in this hellhole, watching you have the time of your life!” He’d yelled to his father one day. As he knew he was getting older- and his son was getting restless- the boy’s father put him in charge of one of the biggest divisions of his business: Exterminating Human Lives. He gave his son full use of his powers and sent him off into the human world. No longer was he Junior, Son of Lucifer. He was Death. And he soon learned that almost everyone feared him.
He slides through the automatic doors of Reena McCormack Everglade Hospital before they open. Although he could jump and reach the fourth floor, he insists on taking the elevator. It’s his guilty pleasure. He’s dressed sharp as usual. A jet black tuxedo and shiny raven Jimmy Choo’s draw out the oily darkness of his toupee, at the same time highlighting the grey of his pointy cheekbones and beige undertones of the skin beneath his striking, ice water blue eyes. Once upon a time, he was brolic and rosy, not scrimpy and ashen as today. The air humans breathed obviously didn’t agree with his internal composition. Yet, the pallid look seemed fitting.
Before heading to Room 306, he flashes in and out of all the rooms on the floor, up and down the corridor. “This is what I live for,” he cackles to himself. With great satisfaction, he watches stray emotions skitter across tired faces. There’s sadness, exhaustion, despair… then when they catch a whiff of him- Death- outright fear makes their faces turn a ghoulish blue. Veins pop from their temples, and he whistles with giddiness. This is his run around the playground.
She’s a lovely old woman, he’s heard. Spreading joy and love everywhere. Her room, 306, is filled with huge bouquets, expensive cards, and colorful balloons. It’s rarely empty, but bursting with tiás that smell of Cajun and seasoned salt, and little ninãs and ninõs giggling and chanting in their native language. He didn’t put her here. Her heart attack was brought on by stress, or maybe poor dieting habits. Either way, it was time for her to take up space elsewhere. Though she did look quite peaceful there with graying strands framing her plump cheeks.
“She’s awake! Abuela’s awake!” One of the grandchildren cries as the old woman opens her eyes. They all crowd around her hospital bed, clamoring and exclaiming all at once. The old woman smiles, and Death chuckles to himself. Some would think it cruel, teasing them like you would a cat, waving tantalizing fish treats beneath their noses, then pulling them away at the last second. Others would think it sweet, giving them a chance to say goodbye. He didn’t know, really. He just knew it pleased him.
He reaches into his breast pocket and retrieves the End Device.
It takes a second to key in her social security number. Then, with a small smile, he flips the switch from ON to OFF. And, just like that, her heart stops beating. She doesn’t breathe anymore. He waits for the horror to appear in the eyes of those who first notice, then heads to the elevator, humming Pharrell’s “Happy.”
There is no cape for Death. Neither hero nor villain, he’s above such fashion choices. He makes his way downtown to where he’d spent the last few nights. Tonight should be the last, though. His work was nearly done. See, accidents were fun, natural deaths pleasant, but some deaths had to be worked for. It’s easy to kill someone. It’s harder to get them to kill themselves.
“Give it up, Ross.” He takes his seat behind Ross’s ear and begins his whispering game. “There’s nothing left for you to live for.”
Twenty-nine years old- he’s a boy, really. In a month, his apartment’s turned into a stable. Honestly, stables are better kept, but the smells are about the same. He’s been drinking too much, and it isn’t pretty. Eyes glazed over, he sits there with salty streams cruising down his face. He’s stopped showing up for work, stopped bathing, stopped everything. There’s no point now that that his girlfriend and daughter are gone. There’s no point because they are all he was living for.
“Just kill yourself,” Death whispers, as he had many times.
Ross lifts the gun to his head, tired of the fight. His finger’s on the trigger.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” The door opens, and she’s running to him at full speed. Mouth dropping, he tosses the gun and picks up his little girl, squeezing her into his chest.
“Cadence.” He can barely breathe; he’s sobbing. “Cadence, baby.”
“No!” Death howls in anger. He’d forgotten to keep track of external influences. A stupid mistake.
“We came home,” Ross’s girlfriend turns her face to him. She can hardly hold in her tears. “We need you.”
Death growls deep in his throat and flips his middle finger at the woman who had ruined all of his hard work. Sure, he had the End Device. He could take them all out. But this was a fight, and he wasn’t going to win by cheating. No, he wouldn’t cheat, but he’d be back for the next round. Believe that, he’d be back…
Port Pirie, ZZ