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The Man of Death
“In my long, hard…and well, very long life I’ve died ten times, and counting.”
I stared long and hard into the eyes of the madman before me. His eyes were the cloudy green of a murky pond, turned green by the algae lying just beneath the surface. Yet still, as I looked into the dull, broken eyes of the lunatic before me I quickly realized that there was a barracuda beneath those muddy waters.
I wanted to look at the rest of the man before me, but the eyes transfixed me, and even if I had been able to tear my eyes away from his, then the darkness would have obscured the rest of my view.
This time the man spoke in a tone that sent shivers down my spine, and convinced me that if I didn’t respond then my life was forfeit, “hey, I’m talking to you! So anyway, what’s your name?”
“I’m not sure what my name is, come to think of it, I don’t even know where we are.”
After I responded I saw something that I hope I will never see again, the smile of the Man of Death. His smile is a large, malicious smile that gleams in the darkness, seeming to appear in midair. The teeth were immaculate, except for one slight difference…his teeth were each sharpened to needle like points.
In an unnaturally quiet voice the teeth parted as the man spoke. “Well then, you’re in the right place aren’t you? Don’t you know that this is the place where men with no name come to die?”
At that moment I realized with terrifying certainty that if I stayed in the darkness then I would surely die. So with a yell I tore my gaze from the hypnotic eyes and ran with all my might, feeling the uncomfortable squelch of some kind of slime beneath my feet with each desperate footstep.
I ran blindly in the darkness, the echo of my voice chasing me, while my thoughts crashed around inside my head. How did I get here, who am I. Then with sudden clarity I saw letters floating in front of me. There were nine letters, two Es, two Ns, a U, a D, two Rs, and a T. The letters danced before me like ghosts in the darkness, and as I saw them I realized with an odd certainty that those letters must have been my name. Yet still I knew that if I couldn’t rearrange the letters into my name then I would die in this…this sewer with no name.
I can’t tell you why it would have been bad for me to have died in there with no name, rather than in the light with the knowledge of what my name was, yet still, I feel that a man should die with dignity, and with the sun beaming down on his face. If a man dies with the sun on his face then he feels hope and comfort, but if a man dies in the dark without a name then he can feel that he will fade away in the black, forgotten forever.
That was the last thought that went through my mind before I crashed into a wall. In daylight it might have looked comical, a fully grown man running face first into a brick wall.
For a moment I blacked out, and I fell to the floor, but as I hit the ground I felt the murky water hit my face, and I instantly struggled back, above the surface of the water, pathetically, scrambling on all fours to escape from the murky green eyes that I felt staring at my back.
As I struggled on all fours, feeling with slime covered hands to touch the walls, and maybe feel my way out of the sewer, I heard the voice again.
“You’re running away, but have you ever thought why to yourself? You have no name, you’re here in the sewer with nothing, absolutely nothing. So tell me, could death be worse? As I’ve said, I’ve died ten times, and I know that death isn’t as bad as you may imagine.”
I wanted to open my mouth in protest, but I managed to keep it closed, mostly due to my fear for my own life. That fear was truly dominant as I heard the ominous squelch of footsteps, drawing nearer, and nearer to me.
In desperation I laid prone in the filth, squeezing my eyes shut so that their light would not betray my position. As I lay there with the certainty that I would die in that dark sewer the footsteps calmly approached until the man could not have been more than a car’s length from my stiff body.
“I do believe that you are very near right now. I think that you should know that as I near you, you near the end of your life.”
I shook with fear as the ominous words echoed off of the walls, but as the footsteps receded my heart slowed and very slowly I opened my eyes, glancing along the tunnel in either direction as far as I could see. Once I was sure that the monster stalking me was not nearby I slowly got to my feet, and as I placed my feet carefully, one in front of the other, I crept along feeling the wall, desperately trying to breathe quietly so that my breath would not lead to my death.
As I slowly moved with my arms outstretched on either side to feel the walls thoughts flew through my head. What is my name? Who is after me? How do I get out of here? What is death? What is death? What is death? The question that kept going through my head over, and over was, what is death? The most important thing that I realized there, in that dark, disgusting tunnel was that death matters more than I had thought before. In that moment I knew that I did not regret the fun that I had had, but I did regret that every chance that I had had to consider my demise, I had blocked out the thought of what might lay beyond, because I was terrified of death. That was what truly scared me. Not of the dark, not of the monster in the tunnels, not of death itself, but the thought within my head that when I died that there was nowhere for me to go, that I would cease to exist. I had that terrible fear that no matter what happened, I was alone.
As the thoughts filled my head with worries, and my mind with terror I saw something odd in front of me. It appeared to be some sort of door, because all I could see was a rectangular outline of light.
Apprehensively I approached the light, and with a peculiar combination of fear and wonder I touched the rectangle to discover that it was indeed a door, with a knob. Gently, so as to not disturb the lunatic that stalked me in the dark I attempted to turn the knob, only to find that the door was locked. Before feeling in my pockets for something to pick the lock I glanced over my shoulder into the darkness behind me.
After rummaging through my pockets for a few seconds, that felt like hours I found a hard, blue toothpick in my back pocket, next to a wallet. Seconds after my hand scraped against the edge of my wallet, my brain finally comprehended the significance of my wallet. With hurried and nervous movements I brought out my wallet, and maneuvered it into the light, shining from somewhere behind the door, when without warning, the lunatic’s voice echoed across the sewer.
“Someone is scrapping at my door, someone is trying to get in, the scraper will scrape no more, when I kill him again.”
The sudden echoing sound of the voice, followed by the sound of hurried footsteps drawing nearer and nearer, caused my hands to momentarily grow numb, and I dropped the wallet into the water that flowed freely below me.
I don’t know who I was talking to, but for some reason I shouted up to the ceiling, “why must I die nameless and in the dark? Can’t I at least be given the knowledge of who my killer is, and who I am?”
In sudden desperation I reached into the water, extending my arm so that I could touch the bottom, without my head going under. My hand moved about frantically, but I found no wallet, and I knew that the steps drawing nearer and nearer did symbolize that my death was coming closer and closer, so withdrew my hand, and jammed the toothpick into the lock.
I tried to wiggle the toothpick around, but nothing happened. The footsteps came nearer and nearer. I pushed the toothpick in further, but nothing happened. The footsteps came nearer and nearer. I didn’t stop attempting to pick the lock until the toothpick snapped in my hands.
I turned around, accepting that I would die, but just hoping that the light from behind the door would shine upon my attacker’s face, just so that I would die knowing, when I realized there was one more chance at escape. I had noticed that the water below me flowed freely, and that while searching for my wallet I had established that it was just under an arm’s length deep. I reasoned that the door must straddle the water, because it would not flow freely if the door was too low, and more importantly the water was deep, so with only slight hesitation I dove into the water.
My head was fully under when I felt something grab my ankle, and yank me back out of the water. With a cry of fright I turned around to see those glassy green eyes, and those vicious pointy teeth, but this time there was something unfamiliar about the madman, there was a knife in his right hand, poised to stab down upon my feet.
With another yell that echoed down the endless tunnel I tor my right foot away from the man, just long enough to kick him where I knew his chest must be. For a moment the eyes seemed to disappear as the man fell backwards, but I did not wait to see those eyes again. I dove into the water as if the devil himself were chasing me, for after all, indirectly, he was.
With any strength that I had in my worn out body I pulled myself under that door, fighting against the tide, clawing at the rocks to keep myself from being pulled back to the man pursuing me. When my entire body had made it past the door I burst to the surface, scrambling to get to the surface, and as I did I vomited, spewing out waste as my stomach churned.
Once my stomach had finally settled I switched my gaze from the filth below me to the walls that surrounded me. Slowly my vision cleared until I was able to make out all that surrounded me. I looked around, but I was confused. What is all this stuff? It looks like wallpaper on the walls, but odd wall paper…some kind of multicolored wall paper that seems to be glossed. No, that’s not what’s on the walls, I must get closer, to examine the walls.
Hesitantly I took a step towards the wall, and then another so that I could make out what was on the wall. They were pictures, pictures of people. Their lives, their friends, their family all posted on the wall, and organized into with a red marker that had been used to write names on each picture.
As fear gripped my heart I turned around, surveying the entire room to see that these horrifying pictures covered everything. I might have fainted right there if something hadn’t drawn my attention. That something was a picture, a picture with me in the picture, sitting at a diner, smiling and eating a sandwich. I stared at the picture and read the words Ted Runner. Yes, Ted Runner, that was my name, it had to be, the name fit the letters that I had envisioned earlier.
At that very moment I was sure that I knew my name, but the truth was that I didn’t know myself. There was this little voice in my head asking questions. Where are your shoelaces Ted? Where are they? Explain that to me.
I jerked my head to look quickly down at my shoes, to see that they were missing their shoelaces. With a look of wonder on my face I felt my shoes before responding aloud. “The maniac must have cut them off while I was struggling with him.”
Are you sure about that? Are you sure that you held the wallet in your hand? You felt around under the water, but you didn’t find your wallet. Explain that to me.
I didn’t know who I was angry at, but I yelled back angrily, “I’m not crazy! I’m not crazy! I’m not…”
I would have yelled more and more loudly, but I was suddenly cut off by a berserk pounding on the door, the Man of Death was breaking down the door.