My Name Is Death. This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

May 11, 2011
Tonight was the night.

I had held it off for so long... just watching the old woman paint. Tears falling onto her hand as it graced upon the canvas. She was in such pain. Her life was withering away right from under her, and she felt it. She knew it was coming. She was alone and weary, and perhaps I was only putting her through more torment by letting her go on, but she was such an interesting character. Her long silver hair always perfectly braided down her back. Her striking green eyes had become weary and dull with age. They always had a hint of pain in them... and yet I let her live, until tonight.


The old woman slowly and cautiously made her way up the spiraling stairwell. I watched her attentively.

This is your chance, make her fall.

But I did not make her fall; I wanted her to finish what she had been waiting so long for. I didn't make exceptions when it came to my job. No matter how much they pleaded me not to come, I always did. It didn't matter how much they cried or screamed, I always came. Unfinished business? Unheard of. But this old woman, she needed to finish. Every passing day her excitement grew more and more. Until today, when she was so unearthly calm I knew it was now.

I watched her steadily walk up the stairs. Her dress swaying slightly with every passing movement. She reached the top and took a breath. She seldom came to the attic; it was too hard on her weakening knees. After she regained some needed strength she pushed the door open, her rings clinking on the dark wood. The warm air enveloped her and twisted her lips into a smile.

The small attic was lined with bookshelves filled with thousands of books. Chests and suitcases lined the floor, carrying her supplies. A large reading chair filled the far corner, and a small window flooded in the umber light. Near it was a large wood table covered with acrylics, brushes, and palettes. A table easel sat on it, an empty canvas staring at her.

The woman shuffled over to the table and quickly started assorting her colors. She was very certain about her routine, she washed her brushes in a porcelain bowl, she made sure everything she needed was in place, and began to paint the scene out her window.

The harvest moon added an amber gloom to the clouds. The fluorescent streetlights flickered on the street, presenting the hydrangeas in the yard a soft orange. The boulevard looked like a sepia photograph, and the old woman had waited for this moon. This moon was her life. And it would be the end of her life.

Her hand was an instrument. Beautifully and gracefully it stroked across the canvas. An assortment of browns, oranges, ocres, and umbers lay next to her. A thousand colors danced across the dimly lit canvas. Her heart was thundering, she only had a few precious hours until her beloved moon was gone. A few precious minutes until she was gone.

The clock screamed 2:37; she had less than half an hour to finish. She had little time, her lips thinned and she tried to focus, but she could feel me breathing over her shoulder. She knew I had stalked her, and I had given her fair warning that this was the night. Perspiration beaded down her brow as she drew the street below her. Her fingers flew to paint the movement of the night. Different hues represented the wind, a bird flew across the sky and she quickly painted it.

The clock vexed her, ticking and ticking, threatening her. 2:42; she made her final stroke, a masterpiece. She always had such skill, and her art softened me… perhaps why I let her live so long. She walked across the small room, grabbing a sketchbook and a pen on the way. She started writing vigorously, something I had not seen before done in the last moments of life. I saw cries, screams, pleads of mercy, but never have I seen such the audacity to be so calm.

She sat with perfect suavity, just sat and wrote in her sketch pad. She ripped out the page, tore it into three, and started again, laying the previous next to her. I drifted towards her, she stiffened, but continued to write. Lay next to her, were three notes, carefully ripped and folded. I looked over her shoulder. The top of the page read ADAM… I knew this was her son.

I had given her too much time, she was writing to loved ones! The clock taunted her and I, it read 2:59. She lay the supplies down next to her, and closed her eyes. She knew I couldn’t do anything to the notes, only to her. I would never know what was said in them. Seconds passed, I stared at her. She sat in her chair, smiling. Her life was complete, her life was content. I had never ended someone this way… 40 seconds.

Her upturned lips haunted me, I couldn’t kill her happy. The time moved quickly, so quickly I didn’t have time to decide. The clock finally struck 3 o’clock. The bells chimed, it sang to both of us. The old woman opened her eyes, surprised she could. She searched around the room, she couldn’t feel me approaching, waiting to clutch her life. She couldn’t sense me, because I was no longer there.

My name is death, and I have lost my mastery.

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