The Unsure guide | Teen Ink

The Unsure guide

February 9, 2022
By Anonymous

Author's note:

This book was meant for me to explore my views of death as well as confronting a neutral religious opinion on life and I felt I out a lot of my agnostic beliefs into this book. 

The author's comments:

The main area of the beach was inspired by a real place called abalone cove in Palos Verdes California. ALso on a side note, I would like the author's name as Mr.Z as well as I would like to change the cover art if that is possible It gave me limited options.

Cloudy skies, it’s been like that often. My name is Alex Vasquez. I've been hiking for 15 years. I was 31  at the time. I had kinda distanced myself from hiking because it was extremely tiring and it wasn't really my thing but I wanted to do something so I decided I  was taking my mother there. She would always take me there when I was younger. Lately, she had been living alone by herself, but today I called her and had her come with me to the hike. My Mom Alinda Vasquez was 55 years old at the time, she was a very kind woman who lived far away in the forest. She had once been married to my dad Tyler Bryce, but we no longer speak about him. She had once lived in the city of LA but the stress of day-to-day life there had given her a heart attack. So she decided that a change of scenery might do her good so three months before all this she moved to the forest in Oregon. After a short drive to the spot, we finally got out of the car and started the hike.

My mom pointed at a hidden rock on the ground and said “remember when you tripped and fell on your ass there” she chuckled.

 Thinking about it now it’s pretty funny, “remember when you accidentally kicked that rock and it cracked your toenail”. I said.

She didn't say anything, she gave a very serious look until she burst out laughing, “yeah that hurt, I had to wait four months before my toe could heal”. They continued walking for a few minutes and reached the shore of the beach. Though that was what they came for they agreed to hike around the area first. They went up the hill towards the mountain in the cool weather.

“So how’s the forest?” I asked as we stared out to the ocean.

“It’s been nice, it’s a new change of scenery, I feel calmer.” she smiled at him “so how’s work?”

“I’ve only been there a couple of days and it’s so demanding” I had taken a job at the hospital handing out food to patients and staff.

“Any girls?”

“No, I’m too busy”

She looked at me with a long face. “You gotta do something you’ll feel a lot better when you have something that you can enjoy.” We continued hiking back to the shoreline, but then we saw something strange. There were two men sitting on some large rocks on the shoreline. The first man looked thin and frail, he was a very old man dressed very casually in some jeans and a gray shirt. He had a cane next to him, and the other man looked very young around my age in a suit and tie. The suit was extremely dark while his white shirt was extremely bright. It was so strange for Alex to see, he wanted to get a better look at the two so he and his mom walked a little bit closer to them. I wondered why the young man was dressed in a black suit. It was boiling today at the beach and everyone knows black clothes and heat don’t mix.  But the weird thing is he was completely unfazed by it, he didn’t sweat, and the clothes he was wearing didn’t track any dirt from the long hike from the parking lot to the shore. But the strangest thing I saw was that the two men were playing chess. The old man was playing the white pieces and the peculiar man in black was playing the black pieces. It seemed the two players were tied; they both had taken about five pawns each. I could tell, as a child, I learned chess through the internet, while I was no master  I knew my way around abroad. The old man looked so focused on the bored, scared almost as if everything depended on it. The white knight moves in a space closer towards the king until a black bishop comes out of nowhere and strikes it down. The old man had given a shocked look then got a little cocky. He moved his knight to get rid of a nearby queen, little did he know he felt for the man in black’s trap. Little did the old man know, he revealed a weakness. While moving his knight. He left his king exposed and a black bishop moved into position. The man in black said in a soft voice “checkmate” the old man got up threw the chessboard across the sand and began to weep in tears.  

 He put his hands on the old man’s shoulder “good luck”. The old man picked up his cane and headed for the steps back up to the entrance of the hike. My mom and I headed towards the man in black to help him pick up the chess pieces in the sand.

“Here let me help,'' my mother said to the man. As she put a few pieces in his hand. The man in black felt her hand for a brief moment, then out of nowhere he began to cry, he began to sob, while he quickly began to pick up more pieces and put them in his case. My mother looked confused and asked 

“Is everything okay,  what was that guy’s problem?”

“It’s nothing, I’m fine a-thank you” he then  wiped his tears, picked up his case, and walked off in another direction.”  


We decided to walk back up the stairs to the parking lot. Once we got away from the man with the chessboard, I turned to my mom and asked  “What the hell was that about?”

“No idea”  she shook her head. We walked back to the car and drove back home. It was almost sunset and we were getting closer back to my house. “You can drop me off at the house and I can get to my car, then I’ll drive back to the forest”. 

I turned to look at her “are you crazy, I don’t want you to drive in the dark, you can stay at the house” The house was originally my Grandparent’s then they gave it to my mom before they passed away but she didn’t want it so she gave it to me. It’s a nice place, two floors, and a garage, but lonely to just live in by myself. We drove for a few hours and got to my home. Grandpa would always park inside the house, but I felt like it would always be his place so I just parked outside like I always did. We put our stuff down in the hallway and made something to eat. We would always try to cook for each other so we came to a compromise and split up the workload. I made sandwiches, she made a lot of sides, hummus, carrots, tomatoes, and pitas. We sat down in the kitchen and enjoyed our food, hardly saying a word, but I felt having someone in my company felt very good, and I didn’t want to waste it, I barely get to talk to anyone outside of work so I decided to speak. “How’s the bakery”

“It’s doing fine, with the fall season going on  we got our hands on some pumpkins, and are making some new pastries, pies, and cakes with it.” My Mom runs a bakery a little outside the mountain area. It's a quaint little shop but extremely profitable it had always been her dream to own one. “Are you making any friends at that hospital?” 

“One or two, we’ll see. Maybe I will meet a lot of new people, only time will tell” For a while, I had very few friends. And now I have none, but it didn’t bother me too much even though I do things alone. I am still happy, but I didn’t want to worry my mother so I lied. We finished eating and washed our dishes. We both felt too tired from the hike, she set up her guest bed and I laid in my old bedroom my grandparents had for me when I was a kid, with a new bed of course. Like I always do I just stare at my ceiling for a few hours, thinking about life, love, loneliness. I think about my Grandparents. Where did they go, can they see me, why can’t I see them? Is there anything out there? I hate myself so much to think about stuff like that. But I think just having my mom In this house was enough for me to forget about that stuff, at least for one night. 

The author's comments:

Amy's character represents life, she is the most positive character in the book. The two characters don't fall in love. This is not a love story. But the two characters grow closer, with Amy trying to be there for Alex. 

I woke up around early 5 It was time for me to get to work. I showered, got dressed, and tried to sneak to the kitchen so I wouldn’t wake up my mom. I turned on the lights until I saw a small bag with a note next to it.

Had to leave for work too.  It was a great hike, I had a lot of fun. Good luck at work, enjoy the food.


She made lunch for me. It touched my heart. I took the food and got in my car. I drove to work and it didn't take long. There was no traffic at this hour. But there were always ambulance sirens passing by, no matter what someone always gets hurt every day. I arrived in front of the hospital 15 minutes early. I got to the cafeteria on time to pass out breakfast. I was given a food cart and a list of patients on each floor I was to give food to. It also mentioned the dietary restrictions of some of the patients. For example Mrs. Bronson, a 75-year-old woman who is diabetic, I am going to give her a  ham sandwich and a low sugar chocolate milk. And that was just one of the many diverse and vigorous meals I had to give out and make sure it was for the specific patient. It said on the patient log she’s on the seventh floor in room 325. I speed walk to the elevator and press the floor button. Though I’m new I like to make every place like a home for me so I saw that I was alone in the elevator. I did what I used to do as a kid. I would walk around the elevator and pretend I’m in space. If you walk around very slowly you could feel some of the anti-gravity and it would feel like you’re almost floating. The elevator door opened at what I believed to be floor two and there was a nurse who saw me in the floating pose. I'm a little shocked and I freeze in place, though it’s nothing bad it’s still a little embarrassing. Since I’m in a spacewalking pose I fall to the ground.  She smirks at me then enters the elevator. I get up and pretend as if nothing happened. I look at her and she is staring at the ground smiling, probably she smirked quietly. I blush, she could tell. I might as well tell her before she thinks I’m doing weird stuff.

“I was doing a spacewalk” 

“In an elevator?” she says 

“Yes” I pause “it makes you feel like you’re floating,” I say proudly

“Guess I’ll give that a try one day” 

“I recommend it” I look at her. She looks my age, with very pretty black hair. Most people talk sh*t about my spacewalking, I’m glad she didn’t so I might as well keep this conversation going for as long as I can. “What’s your name”


“Alex” I look at her nametag and see a weird word, is that her job title. “What do you work as here”

“I’m a nurse,” she says

“That sounds cool, I pass out food to people” the elevator opens on floor 3. 

“That’s my stop, It was nice talking to you spaceman” she walks out into the hallway

“I guarantee you I’ll catch you doing the same thing in this elevator”

She smiles at me as the elevator door closes. I stand around again double checking my list of rooms I need to deliver food to. Until the elevator door opens. It’s that man at the beach, he’s really tall up close but skinny. He looks at me with a curious look, I don’t want to make It awkward so I might as well just speak to him.

“Hey aren’t you  that guy from the beach that other day”

“Yeah that’s me” he spoke in a very soft voice, his presence felt really cold, I mean the hospitals are cold already, but he was a different breed of cold. He was in the same-looking suit from the beach up close. It looked pretty nice but didn’t look very fancy, it didn’t look like it was from any brand I know of, must be something foreign?

“You hike there often?”

“For a very long time,” he paused as he checked his small wooden rectangular box.

“What’s that?”  I asked

“It’s my chessboard”

“Oh I remember that'' it was the same case like the one at the beach. It had beautiful craftsmanship, but the wood looked very old. “Are you here for any patient?”

“Not usually, I come here to play the game with some of the patients”

 The elevator stopped at floor 7, the door opened and the two of us walked out. He just walked away didn’t say anything, it was a crowded hallway, and he maneuvered through the wave of people coming in and out of rooms. Didn’t say excuse me or good morning, just zoomed past them. I’m looking for the right room. I need to get to 325. I check for the right room as I pass rooms 319, 320, 324, and then I get to room 325. Mrs. Bronson is laying in her bed watching TV. 

“Hello Alex,” she says energetically. 

“Good morning Mrs. Bronson” It’s now late 6 in the morning. I can see the sunrise through the curtains, even though I’ve only known Mrs. Bronson for a few days. She always wakes up early in the morning to see me and always leaves the blinds open. 

“What do you have for me today,” she asks

“I brought you a ham sandwich, a sugar-free chocolate milk along with a banana.” I take out the food and place it on the small table above the bed. 

“Happy Saturday Mrs. Bronson, the receptionist, told me yesterday your family is coming to see you today”. She grinned as she opened her container and took out her sandwich.

“That’s wonderful, I've been meaning to see my daughter and my grandkids,”  she said “Any plant you have for the rest of the weekend”

“Hmm, I don’t really know, probably just gonna stay at home maybe relax at a park or something”

“Sounds nice, but awfully lonely you must find someone to spend time with” wow she had to say that she was right but it’s hard to have the painfully obvious pointed out to you, I gotta get to serving my next person so I'm going to have to wrap this conversation up.

“I’ll figure something out later, enjoy your food, I’ll come by later to pick up the dishes see you” 

“Thank you Alex see you later” she waved at me as I left the room. I check my paper and it says Hector Treves room 314, I make a few turns across the floor and get to his room. I walk into the room, It’s a small child no older than 10 laying in his bed. His parents are in a chair next to him asleep, so I try to be quiet

“Morning” Hector whispers

“Hello good morning Hector, I brought you your breakfast,” I whisper.  I check his small file and take out his meal, a small bowl of cereal, with a cup of milk on the side, a banana, and a box of raisins. 

“Thank You, sir,” he says softly as he pours the carton of milk into the bowl.

I notice Hector has a small toy with him 

“What is that?” I ask

“It’s a puzzle sphere you put the pieces together to make the sphere my dad got it for me, I can’t get it right though”

I used to do puzzles in my elementary school, so I guess I should take a crack at it. I inspect the pieces with my eyes and notice the trick to the puzzle.

“See that yellow piece, that makes up the center, you have to use the other pieces and connect them around it”

“Ohh I get it he said, I’ll finish it later, thank you Mr–?”


“Thank you Mr. Vasquez” the young boy replied as he waved goodbye as I walked out of the room. It was fun doing that, it’s nice to just connect with patients sometimes. I check the list, I gotta deliver food to about 30 more people for breakfast then I get to go home. I walk down the hall, and I see the man in black again, he’s playing chess with a young girl on the hospital bed. The girl looked extremely focused on the game at hand, I quietly walked by so they wouldn’t notice me. I did a couple more rounds, and then I saw the man in black again playing chess this time with a man hooked up to a dialysis machine. The old man looked frightened like the old man at the beach. This is getting a little weird for me, I originally thought the man in black just came into the hospital to play with like one person, and now he's already played at least 2 different people, from different rooms, I checked the patient's profiles in records they aren’t related and they don’t look anything like the man in black so it’s weird he played with them specifically. I shrug it off. It's weird for me, but hey people like chess.  I then go back to a few of the rooms to pick up some of the dishes and trash.  I’m practically done with my work for the day, so I walk my cart back to the cafeteria, just as I’m in the elevator back to the lobby, I see across the hall  Hector the little boy from earlier in the hallway, hands over his eyes crying, the man in black putting his hand on his shoulder, telling him something, but what?. I was going to walk down the hallway to check on the kid, but the elevator door closed. This was getting extremely strange, but I had a very long day and wanted to go home. I returned the empty food cart and walked back to my car. I would find out what he said to that kid tomorrow, but I had to get home after a long period of slow traffic. I had finally got back home. I got into my house and sat at my house and checked my watch at 1:45 pm. Not a bad time to come home with opportunities to do a lot of things today, but first I’m going to knock out

I got at least a 20-minute nap before I decided to start my afternoon, I got off the downstairs couch and went upstairs to the kitchen to make a sandwich, nothing too fancy just a standard ham and cheese, I sit in the chair I've sat in for over 20 years, I finish my food and go downstairs and lay in the bed I've laid on for over 5. I don’t even know why I said to start my afternoon like I would accomplish anything, it’s a usual Thursday for me. I sat outside in my backyard for a while, looking at my Avocado tree, then my lemon tree, nothing exciting as usual. Go upstairs and look out the window and check my watch. It's 2:20. Time barely passes here. I feel lonely here, this home was made to house a family. My Grandpa knew exactly that when he got this place decades ago, now that he’s passed on I maintain this house exactly how he and my Grandmother did. Sweeping and mopping, repainting, repairing the wood, and tending the garden. They gave this place to my mother, but she already had plans to move out to the forest, so she had given it to me. Though it’s mine I still act like my grandparents are here. I don't go to the upstairs bedroom as it was their room, I don’t sleep there, I just sweep up and keep the place tidy, I don’t park in the garage because that is where my Grandpa parked his truck. I don’t sit on the seat at the end of the table because that is where he ate. I don't sit on the couch because that is where my Grandmother sat. I respect the house the way they did. I've never even invited anybody here, not because my Grandparents did that, that’s because there isn’t anybody to invite. I’ve never had many friends, I was an awkward child growing up, but I’m fine with that, peace and quiet, while I admit I do get lonely, I have so much time it’s just hard to figure out what to do with it. I check my watch at 2:40. I am not gonna spend my afternoon here, I put on my shorts and a thin shirt, and go out for a jog. I grew up in this area so I know where everything is. If you go a few blocks east you get to the pharmacy or the gas station a few blocks west you get to the library North, the bus stop that can take you anywhere. I am going south, no real goal in mind for me just to run on, for the fun of it. I run a couple of blocks down and get to a large park. I sit down at a bench that has a perfect view of the small pond. I looked up to the cloudy skies, again, but that didn’t stop me from having a good time.  I drink from my water bottle. I check my watch at 3:05. I see large groups of kids walking to and from the park, school must be out. I see parents playing with children on the playground but one parent and child caught my eye specifically. I saw a man about my age playing with his son on the swing. The kid looked no older than 5. It was beautiful, reminded me of my father. I used to have one when she split with my mother. It broke my heart. Over time he built a life of his own and started pushing me away until I said enough and left him. It made me full of pain and anger, the kind of pain that sinks in your stomach, the kind of anger that can only be expressed by squeezing your fist. A big reason I’m alone is that I’m scared to trust people, I tried to snap out of thinking like this and look at something else in the distance helped me, I saw a mother sitting on the grass with her son, reading a story to him, I was hit with a strange feeling, not of jealousy or envy, connection. I know exactly what it’s like to be that child, by the way seeing how that mother looks at her child is something you can’t fake. It's’s something that mother and her son share as well as the entire human species. It's a connection my mother and I share. My mother is a kind woman, understanding, patient, and supportive woman. She got me through school which I hated, she got me through college where she helped me find how to love things. She took me to that beautiful beach. That’s why I love her, someone who is there for you is someone you must always be there for, which I haven't. I should have gone with her to that forest, I should have been the one to call first on weekends. I should have spent more time with her. I wanted to get rid of those thoughts so I looked at my watch at 4:10, it’s getting late, better do my lap around the park and head back home. I get off the bench and run around the circular pond, and encounter the park benches, and then I have a cold feeling that sinks to the bottom of my stomach. And it magnified when I turned my head to look at what was in front of me when I passed by, it was the man in black. And yet again he was playing chess this time, an old woman late 60s at a small bench, the man in black sitting under a tree while the woman was sitting in the light. I shake my mind off and keep jogging, And then I see him again playing chess with a young child no older than 10. The strange man-made brief eye contact with me then immediately went back to his game at hand. What became a light jog for me turned into a full-on sprint. Even moving out of the bench area toward the exit I still see him. How could he move so quickly, getting to different people so fast?. The sinking feeling in my body felt heavier as I felt colder.  I’m racing towards the exit, seeing the man in black everywhere I turn. Is he stalking me? What does he want with me? What did he say to Hector earlier today? These thoughts race towards my head while I’m dealing with this sinking feeling, and a potential stalker. It all stops when I hear my phone ring in my pocket. I answer it, and I’m shocked at the news given to me, without any hesitation I cancel out every intruding thought in my head, hang up the phone, and race home so I can get to my house. I check my watch it’s 5:30. Traffic isn’t too bad. I'll get there. I have to.

As I’m running I ignore the road rules of waiting for cars, or stopping for anything, the only thought in my mind is to get to my car, I finally get to my house and hop in the car. I take the normal route, go down west, at this time traffic isn’t an issue. During all of this, I’m scared to my core. I do not know what's gonna happen. The sinking feeling creps back again while I’m driving like it’s gonna tear through my body. I'm focused on driving but the feeling is unbearable. After about 10 minutes of driving, I arrived at the hospital and ran into the hospital.

“My mother is undergoing some kind of surgery. Her name Is Alinda Vasquez. You need to let me see the head physician. I’m her son Alex Vasquez.”

“Hello, we picked up your mother at a cafe in the city and she collapsed, she suffered a heart attack. We brought her here and called you because your number was in her cell. She's currently in operation right now. She suffered a widowmaker heart attack, they won’t be done in a few hours.”

“Ok, I replied” that’s all I could say, I sat in the waiting room for a while, with the occasional ‘she’s in surgery we can’t tell you anything yet” no matter how much I wanted to scream at them I couldn’t I was sitting in a chair left with my own thoughts I kept coming back to the front desk even when I told them I worked here, they didn’t care so I sat back down and waited. Just like everybody else. The sinking feeling came back of being helpless, and scared. I feel guilty not being able to be there for her right now. Then I see Amy walk in from the entrance. Maybe she can help me, but in a rush, I ran up to her.


“Oh hey Alex how are you?” she asks

“Amy I need a favor, my mother suffered a heart attack, she’s currently in an operating room. You’re a nurse, could you find her room and see what’s going on? Her name is Alinda Vasquez” 

“I will, and don’t worry this is a good place. She's gonna be fine.”

That reassurance helped get rid of that sinking feeling, I felt a little less worried. After a few minutes, she came back to me.

“Alex I checked in her room, they are almost done with the heart surgery her vitals look stable, she looks fine, I’ll tend to her later and see how’s she’s doing but they will probably wrap up surgery in a bit”

“Are you here for Ms. Vasquez?”

“Yes,” I replied


“Ms. Bryce suffered a widowmaker heart attack, we performed a bypass grafting, it’s a way for her to restore blood flow through her body”  

“What does that mean,” I asked nervously “is she going to be ok”

“It’s too soon to tell now, but she’s in a stable condition, she’s asleep right now resting, you can go visit her but don’t overwhelm her. Her heart is still very fragile right now”.

I rush through the crowds of doctors and patients in the hall and see the room with my last name on it. I get into the room and see my mother, she's resting on her bed sleeping, there is a large tube running through her body. It scares me to see her like this, I don't wanna wake her so I tiptoe to a nearby chair in the room. I sat next to her Until I saw the man in black look in my doorway. I get up and say.

“What are you doing here!”  I think to myself, Is he stalking me? I realize I’m speaking too loud, so I check on my mom if she’s still asleep. I turn back to look at the doorway and he’s gone. I walk out into the hall and the man in black is nowhere in sight. The sudden unease creeps back inside me. I close the door and sit back in the chair next to my mother. I'm watching her and making sure she’s safe even though I feel like a child and my mother is keeping me safe from the monsters. I feel like that for the rest of the night.

“Alex” a voice calls out


“What” I woke up

“Good morning.” It’s Amy. She's holding a small plate of food in her hand. 

“Oh morning Amy how long have I been out,” I say disoriented trying to fully wake up

“Take a look outside it’s morning already,” another voice says I turn my head and it’s my mother.

“Mom!’ I yell as I turn to hug while I'm filled with tears of joy. “How are you feeling?”

“Still a little sore,” she says as she chuckles

“Oh sorry,” I say as I let go of the hug.

“Got you two some breakfast,” Amy said as she handed me a plate with a bagel and fruit on it to me and my mother.

“Thank You,” we both said as we ate the food

“Speaking of breakfast, the head of the Cafeteria called me earlier and said he wants you to work today, I insisted you shouldn’t and he kept pressing me about it. What do you want to do?”

“Tell him I can’t do it”

“It’s fine Alex, I’m feeling better after the operation, just sore.” There was no arguing with my mother so the best thing to do was respect her wishes. 

“Alright, but if anything happens, call me please”

“Alright, good luck at work”

“I love you mom”

“I love you, Alex

My mom nodded in agreement as I kissed her on the forehead. I then walked towards Amy at the doorway and met her in the hallway. 

“Thank you, I mean it, you didn’t have to do what you did, I’m grateful and you helped get rid of a lot of anxiety I had yesterday,” I said

“Don’t mention it, Spaceman” she grinned as she walked away. I take a spare uniform I found in a bin, and make my way to the cafeteria and get my cart. I clock in my shift and begin serving breakfast. I go to the usual stops giving out wide arrays of food to patients. I’m trying to stay calm but the growing anxiety for my mom increases. I take my mind off of these thoughts by just handing out breakfast as quickly as possible, I check my list I don’t see any of my usuals until, I spot a familiar name in room 325 I rush over there and walk into the room, I see Amy taking her blood, and Mrs. Bronson with the window open again revealing the cloudy sky. 

“Good morning Ms.Bronson how are you doing today”

“Why hello Alex, I’m doing fine, ohh have you met Amy she takes care of me”

“Why yes, I have,” I said as I smiled at Amy.  She smiled back. I walked up to Ms. Bronson and placed her lunch, I took off the lid and it revealed some scrambled eggs and a small amount of fruit salad.

“Thank you, Alex,” Ms. Bronson smiled at me.

“How are you doing” 

“Fine It’s just a lot, how are you doing, you were still working, when I was asleep you must have pulled an all-nighter?”

“Yeah, It’s alright, I’m more of a night person anyway, I enjoy helping patients”

“That’s good” We then stare at Ms. Bronson, looking at the two of us smiling.

“Oh don’t mind me continue” we all chuckled, then Amy notices the vial of blood in her hand.

“Oh shi- I have got to take this vile to get tested, I have to go sorry”

“Yeah, that's probably for the best, I have got to go deliver to some people” I stop and check my list of “12 different patients” I chuckle then go back to my cart. 

“Bye Ms. Bronson,” Me and Amy say at the same time. I’ve never tried actually asking this question but there’s a first time for everything so I might as well take a shot.

“It was nice talking to you.” I take a small pause “could I get your number, so we could talk later?”

“Sure” she smiled as I gave her my phone, she typed in the number and handed the phone back. “It was nice talking to you and calling you later”.

“Yeah!” “Talk to you later” I waved at her goodbye, and pushed the food cart down the hall. Though I didn’t show it, I was smiling, that had been the best moment that happened to me in a while. I didn’t even think it would work, but I’m glad that it did. I kept on pushing with this happy feeling, to help get my day done. I was done with all of my work until I saw him, the man in black, sitting outside with a child, then he stared at me with his cold eyes. I stopped to check some of the patients' files. I investigated a couple of the patient's death went to see. All of their underlying health conditions are getting worse like they are going to die. Why is he stalking them?  I don’t know what came over me, I don’t know if he has a problem with me or stalking me, or just being creepy, but I have to say something.

I walk outside towards the small grass area in front of the hospital. It's kind of like a park but smaller. There are a lot of people there, friends, families couples, this is area is meant to relieve stress, but I still felt on edge with the sinking feeling coming back. The skies are still cloudy, I still don’t know why I’m doing this. This guy probably isn’t stalking me the more I think about it as I’m walking towards him, but I have to know why he’s so strange. He’s wearing the exact same clothes he wore when I met him at the beach when I saw him in the hospital, and yesterday when he was standing in the door frame of my mother’s room. I’m approaching behind him, I have no idea how I’m gonna start this. Then he raises his hand in the air and says “I’m going to finish this game first then we can talk, I know you had a long day” Without a beat of hesitation I turn the other way around, the child the man in black was playing with didn’t even lift his head up, he completely dis acknowledged my presence. I sit back down, and just watch their game from afar. It looked like the kid was winning the game, but the two had a long way to go before a victory could be decided I was already feeling tired from that shift I just did, so he was right about that, I took a nap on the grass, didn’t feel awkward about it I saw a lot of people were doing the same thing. 

“Alex” a soft voice spoke

“Huh” I yelled out, as I opened my eyes, I could tell I was out for a while looking up at the sky. It looked like a late afternoon. I felt disoriented from that nap. I couldn't see what was in front of me, I rub my eyes to get a better look and I see him, the man in black.

“I am finished with my game, what have you sought me out for?” he said in a soft but firm voice. Seeing him up close made me feel even more intimidated. I stand up and look around, everybody from earlier is gone, it’s just me and him. I hold my ground, there’s no point in beating around the bush so I’ll just say what I need to say.


“You, why are you following me? You stalking me” I ask

“No, why do you think that”

“I don’t know, maybe because I see you at the beach once, then again at the hospital, then again with some patients, then that same day I see you at the park with a bunch of random people, that’s strange!” I begin raising my voice, I’ve never acted like this, so unprofessional.

“It’s not strange I’m doing my duties”

“So your duty is to stalk me that's weird”

“Seeing people is my duty “


“What do you mean! You definitely don’t work here, what duty do you have with those patients, why did you Make Hector cry!” I don't even know why that slipped out, but it's something I need him to answer. The man In black looked agitated about to burst, but he still looked like he was trying to keep a calm tone.

“Alex you’re looking for something to take your frustrations out on, you need to go be with your mot-” he hesitated to finish his sentence, but I could tell what he was about to say.

“ So you have been stalking me. How do you know about my mother!”

“As I said earlier Alex I’m not stalking her, I went to see her" He pauses until he opens his mouth and speaks his next set of words slowly yet soft "to discuss her life”

“What do you mean by her life?” What could he mean by that? Why would he say that? The man in black looked more unsure, looking like he wanted to walk away. But he looked me straight in the eye with a neutral look. He enters a pause just staring at me. I might as well break the suspense.


“Who are you?”

“I am Death”


“I help souls pass on” 

“I don’t believe this it makes no sense prove it” I can’t believe this guy that’s a load of sh*t

“Your mother suffered a widowmaker heart attack, Mr. Tylerson in room 215 had an aneurysm yesterday, Ms. Roles is battling with a brain tumor. Might I go on” I knew all those names from my breakfast drop-offs from the morning those were their exact conditions?

“H-ho-how did you know that?” I’m trying to process this information. But I’m captured in disbelief.

“Very few can see me, that’s why no one notices me in the hospital except the patients and you,” he says. I begin to feel a chill in my spine, this is getting scary for me. 

“What about the chess game”

“That is a way for people to win extra time”

“Extra time for what”

“For their life.” He then takes a pause and looks to the ground like he’s ashamed like a child who admits he’s done something wrong, then looks back to my eyes “if they win they get more time if they lose than I get their time”  then it hits me, why he was near my mother. Then, all of a sudden I grab him by his shirt and ask,

“Tell me she’s fine, tell me she is going to make it. Is she going to be fine!”

The man in black suddenly takes my hand off of him with ease. 

“I have said too much, go see your mother Alex” he then pushes me on the floor. The sinking feeling returns to my body and I feel like I’m drowning, in an ocean of fear, confusion, and anger. The sky around looks even darker, besides our voices, the entire area is quiet Death then walks back to his seat across the grass and sits down just looking at me. I feel terrified, I have to get out of here, I then rush out of the hospital. I don't even think about it, I just kept running, trying to outrun the sinking feeling and death. Not realizing the mistake I was about to make. 

I sat in an empty parking lot near the hospital. I shouldn’t have left Mom there, she’s probably worried I’m not there, but I’m scared of what I have just learned, is death an actual person? How does that work? I feel like a child, afraid of the monster lurking in the dark. The sky was still extremely cloudy but it wasn’t cold. The sinking feeling is gone, but I feel so hollow like my stomach was scooped out. Why did I even believe that guy anyway, anyone could know the patient's status by picking up their file. But no one besides the patients at the hospital seems to notice him except me. Then it hit me when I was at the beach, the old man who played death looked upon him in fear and terror, I couldn’t know why he was so afraid then,  but now I know the entity whom I had entered in his presence. Death only plays the chess game to the people who are dying, that’s a sick joke. What kind of person would dangle that kind of chance that might exist in someone's face. What kind of man does that? What kind of God would allow that? I was never really religious so I can’t even contemplate the idea of a higher power, not that I’m not open to a possibility, but if there is one, why send a man in a suit to do your business for you?. He looks scary, he leaves an imprint on his environment that makes you feel cold and empty. Maybe because that’s what death is I guess, and if what he’s saying is true, then I’d see it like him. But maybe, if there is a higher power, from most of what I’ve heard, God punishes the non-believers, is this my punishment? Putting my mother through a heart attack. Am I being punished? Should I have prayed more, should I have been thankful and noticed the blessings I’ve had around me. Or am I overthinking? Again. And death, a higher, this whole chess game is just me trying to personify my guilt. And this isn’t real. Most people wouldn’t like that though but I’d sleep better knowing I’m a victim to my own imaginations. I gotta snap out of this, I need to go see my mom, she needs support if she’s gonna get better. I stand up and get out of my self-loathing, and walk towards the hospital. After some running, I get to the entrance and reach the check-in counter. Then I see Amy walking towards me, why does she have her head down?  She looks sad, she raises her head with a depressed look,  then she tells me why. I didn’t know how to react, I felt like I wanted to scream,  felt like I wanted to cry so many emotions came at me I couldn’t process them. I then turned away, got to my car, and went home.

What I remember here is in a blur, they said the clog In my Mom’s artery they thought they had fixed earlier had actually gone upstream to her lungs and that killed her. I couldn’t really focus on the how, because I was focusing on the only important thing, she’s not here. After I got the news the hospital allowed me to take some time off so I’m just sitting in my empty home. My Mom’s will turned over her 50% ownership of the bakery to me and the rest to her employees, I really don’t know what to do with that, her nice cabin in the mountains goes over to me along with her car, so that’s about it and finally it has some extra money for me as well as to pay for her cremation. For days I couldn’t really think, eat or sleep. I wasn’t curled in a ball crying or screaming out in anger, I was just sitting there in a quiet house. I’m laying on the floor staring at the ceiling. Why am I the only one left, my grandparents are dead, my father is dead, and now my mother. Why am I made to walk the earth and not them, they deserved their own time. I wish she was here so much, we would have eaten at that table, played a game in this living room, tended the garden outside. It makes me feel depressed, but I can't think of anything else. Until I hear the doorbell ring. I open the garage and see Amy. Seeing her takes some weight off my mind.

“Hey Alex”

“Amy” I try to form a smile in front of her.

“May I come in?” she asks. That catches me off guard, I’ve never had company before.

“Ohh-uh sure, welcome” We sat in the garage, looking outside onto the street in front of my house. We both took a seat on some chairs lying around in the Garage.

“You have a beautiful home”

“Thank you It’s my Grandparent’s”

“It’s very nice” she pauses to take a look around with her eyes “cozy”. She proceeded to take a deep breath and look at me in my eyes “how are you holding up”. What should I do? lie? Tell the truth to her? I have never vented my emotions to someone before, but she’s asking so I might as well speak.

“I uhh I don’t know”. I take a small gulp “umm, I don’t know If I should cry, be angry, I don’t know what to do”. I say, and that was the truth.

“I lost my parents too, I was lost, no real sense of direction, but eventually you have to learn that though they aren’t in the front seat with you, they are watching you take the ride of life from afar. Watching you, hit bumps, see nice views, go through incredible distances and experiences. And they know it’s not goodbye forever, they know one day you’ll make a stop and they’ll be able to catch up to you. And then you’ll both be able to hop back on the journey together. But they want to see you get some mileage first before you just make camp. If you know what I mean.” I took a deep breath out, I felt a little better, but I haven’t felt better in a while, so I don’t know if this is actually gonna help.

“Also um” she paused as she took an envelope out of her purse “when the hospital was going through her belongings, she had left a letter she wrote it’s for you” she proceeded to hand it to me the envelope says to Alex I can tell that’s her handwriting. “No one has read it, it’s meant solely for you”

“Th- tha-thank you Amy,” I say as my eyes begin to water

“No problem Alex, I know it’s hard, but you can’t go through it alone.” We both stood up from our seats. Amy reached in for a hug and patted my back.

“It’s going to be alright” she whispered. As she waved goodbye and walked back outside towards her car. She opened the driver's door, sat inside, and waved to me, as she drove away. I closed the garage and walked back into my room. Placed the letter on a table and just stared at it, I wasn’t ready to open it. It felt too painful to read. Was she angry I wasn’t there for her? I’m angry at myself. 

I wonder if she's watching? What would she think about how I’m spending my life? Would she be proud? Probably not. Disappointed? Probably.  Then a question that would haunt me from here on out popped into my mind. Where did she go? Is it a good place? Did she even go anywhere? Of course, these are questions nobody can answer. But there is one. He’ll know.

There was no real way to find him, or know where he was exactly. So I just walked around, he seems to roam around places near the hospital, the beach is less than a mile away, my house isn’t too far from it, the park too. I decided to head to the park by the hospital. It was a very green area, with large trees, a beautiful landscape. The shade of the trees made me forget about the cloudy skies for a little bit. There is a very slim chance for him to be here. So I would just wait a little while and if he’s not here, I will keep looking. How would I ask him the question that has plagued the thoughts of the world’s most intelligent minds? I was feeling tired, so I went by one of the large trees and laid down. The large roots that grew out of the ground formed a ring that looked at the time a perfect place to rest my head. I hadn’t slept in days, but the nature around me felt so welcoming. I can see why my mother loved hiking, the welcoming of nature, mother earth giving you a hug. I don’t know how long I was out, but It was the best sleep I had ever had in days. I awoke, by the noise of a crow flying across the cloudy skies. I sat up and rested my head on the tree, and that is when I saw him. Death, he looked at me. Like he was inspecting me. The only sound around us was the wind and the blowing of the leaves. Until he spoke and it felt like everything around us went silent.

“Why have you sought me out?”

“Umm,” I say, I stand up from the ground, brush some of the dirt off my pants. And say

“I’ve come for you to reveal your secret”

“What secret?”

“Where did she go?”  It felt like the comfort of the forest was only temporary and I was now putting that weight back onto my mind and body. Death looked at me, looking as if he was about to tell me one answer until he looked like he changed his mind, so he gave me another.

“That I cannot say,” he replied.  At that moment, I was filled with anger, he knows, he must know, I looked at him in disbelief. So I told him this.

“Why not?” I ask as I squeeze my fist to contain the anger that I have been bottling up

“I cannot tell anyone neither you or the people I play the game with, to anyone”

“You hold the chance of more life and dangle it in front of people, that’s sick, and then when they die, you do nothing,  and you don’t even have the decency to say where they go.” Death turned his back to me with his head down, acting like a child who was upset.

“Turn back around! You can’t just give this burdened mind thought of closure! I’ve lost my mother, because of you! You forced her to play a game with you for her own life, something that is hers, and that you have the audacity to force her to gamble with it just like  you make everyone else at that hospital what kind of man does that!” I digressed, I took a deep breath, and spoke with a more stable voice, but didn’t compromise my firm tone.

“Where did she go?” He still had his back turned to me, so I guess I’ll have to hammer it in so he can realize the pain he has caused me. “Where did she go! Heaven? Hell? What if it’s nothing? If that were so then you are cruel to not tell the ones you challenge, where they will go. You are cruel for not even telling them in the first place.   What force on this cold planet would let you send them off while not even paying attention to where you throw them into” I paused to wipe the tears from my face, I couldn’t believe the words coming out of me, but I must keep talking.  “You know how haunted everyone is to not know what happens, and to fuel the thought that there might be nothing it’s agonizing, I’m In pain. Why did you take her, she was such an amazing person, she never hurt anyone, she made mistakes, but she showed a young boy that there is some beauty in this world and how to add to it.  I took one final deep breath, straightened my posture, and opened my clenched fists to release the tension.

“I’ll ask again, Where did she go”

“I DON’T KNOW!” Death screamed at me as he turned around to face me with tears in his eyes. Those words rocked me to my core, I was in disbelief, looking at this entity before me. He looked defeated, depressed, worn out, he sat on the dirt ground, and now he looked up at me.

“How can you not know! You of all people should know.” I replied 

“I’ve never known, I don’t even know where I’m from, or what I am, I don’t even think I was born, I’m just a shell, an apparition that has been given a task that he doesn’t  know who or what  gave it.”

“Then It doesn’t make you cruel,” I said, Death then looked at me like I was showing some kind of pity or forgiveness till I said “That makes you a coward, you can’t even tell them you don’t know, I pity you, just like I pity myself, we are both cowards, who couldn’t face the reality of how we can’t control anything. I’m not angry at you,  because I see you in me”

Death looked upon me and began to weep, his wails echoed across the empty park, the sound of the wind stopped, so did everything else, as if the earth had to take a  halt to listen to this man's own sorrow.  I couldn’t take any of this information in any way, my legs felt weak, as I sat back down by the tree roots. I hoped he was lying, I hoped he was concealing his truth to me. Death stood up from the tree and was about to walk away.

“Wait” I beg. He turns to me with a saddened look

“Tell me there is something.” I pause and look at him defeated and dried out “Please if there’s nothing, what was the point?  Reveal to me your secret”

“I have no secrets” 

“So you know nothing?”

“I am Unknowing” Death says to me as he stands up from the tree branch and walks away. Leaving me to wallow in my own thoughts with the sound of the trees coming back again and looking up at the sky for something. Only to see cloudy skies.

A few days passed after my conversation by the tree. I was completely destroyed, I was not thinking straight in any way, people came to check in on me, I must admit it felt somewhat nice to be comforted, but it didn’t really help. I stopped going out to run, I only went out for groceries. Never really saw the world outside. Just stayed a spectator by my window, watching cars pass by. I would often just be hit with grief at any moment when I’m making my bed when I tend to my trees, or even when I’m eating a sandwich. I would stop what I was doing, lay down on the ground and cry, cry for hours, until I stopped, not because I felt better, but because my body was completely dried out. I often thought about killing myself whenever I saw a knife, a bottle of detergent, or even a long towel. I thought of the quickest way to do it. The only thing that stopped me was not my desire to live but the thought that what was on the other side could just be nothingness, not a warm light welcoming me or a fiery pit punishing me, but nothing. I should have been there for her, not even before she died, but when I was a child, I should have seen the suffering she hid from everyone. I love her so much, she was always there for me, she pushed me to be the best person I could be.  I heard the doorbell ring, I opened the curtain by my window, and I saw Amy outside. I walk downstairs and open the garage and see her. I walk up to her and try to form a smile.

“Umm Hey Amy”

“Hi Alex”

“It’s good to see you” 

“May I come in”

“Yeah definitely” I closed the garage, and we walked inside my house to the backyard.

“You’re house looks bigger every time I see it”


“Alex if you feel I’m intruding, it’s ok If you still need time right now, I can go if-” I cut her off before she finished that sentence

“Please, stay it means a lot for you to come over here”

“I  was jogging a  few days ago and saw you  at the park”

“Really?” I ask. I didn’t see anyone that day, especially her. I hope she didn’t hear my conversation.

“I umm-saw you talking to a man in a nice suit by a tree, you guys looked like you two were talking for hours, I saw a lot of yelling. I couldn't really hear you two, but umm, I saw you crying. Before and after you talked to him.  Even when he left you curled into a ball and cried. The only reason I didn't say anything till now was that I felt it was none of my business, but I had to see if you were ok.”

“I don’t remember that part at all” I tried as much as I could to forget that day but I can’t stop thinking about it.


“Why were you two arguing?” She asked curiously but concerned. There was absolutely no way I could be able to explain what he had told me that day, but I don’t want to lie to her, my mother taught me to never lie to people who care for me. So I’m going to have to summarize.”

“umm–I needed him to answer a question” I pause as I stare down at the floor not trying to look to the sky to be disappointed again. “I wanted him to tell me–” I took a deep breath to relive the second-worst day of my life, “ to tell me where she went” 

“Where who went?” she asked

“Where my mother went–I wanted him to tell me what happened after death” I replied just saying that out loud sounds dumber than it actually was, I expected her to laugh or to look at me like I was crazy. But she didn’t look at me like that. She looked at me seriously, not concerned but empathetically.

“Why did you think that he actually would have the answer”

“I don’t really know but he felt like someone who would, but he didn’t” I spoke. I was broken that day but at least I know I broke him.

“Why  would you want  an answer”

“Isn't that obvious? '' I looked at her slightly annoyed. Can she not tell why I did this, she was the one who gave me the news.

“I have my own reasons to ask that question, but I know other people might have different perspectives” She grinned at me “I want to know why you want that question answered.

“ I wanted to know if she was in a good place,”I said as I was holding back my watery eyes.  “I wanted to know if her life meant something in the end that she reaped the rewards,” I answered as I cried. And put my hands over my eyes

“Alex,” Amy said to me as she had her hand on my cheek “I work at a hospital as a nurse, I often work with people who are old or people who are young, and they tell me the same thing. I wish my life meant something. So I ask them what did they do in their life. And I kid you not Alex they all told me amazing accomplishments they had made but didn’t realize it, they thought just because they’re scared of what happens next that means they didn’t do anything. After talking to each and every one of them they agreed with me and they said to themselves huh I guess mine did matter. I also spoke to your mother briefly she talked a lot about you, she also told me she use to work a stressful job but then put together enough cash to start a bakery and after that, she had more than enough money to live life wherever she wanted, so she chose to live in the forest and go on countless adventures there as well as provide for her beautiful son. So I think Alex. her life meant something.”

“Huh” I paused as I let out a tear and smiled with joy. “It did”

“But Alex, as you said, reap the rewards, I don’t think it really mattered to her what came next, she cared more about you. She asked me how you were doing, she wanted you to live your life, to be able to go out into the world and not just help it, but to enjoy it, that is what she wanted you to do. If you want her to reap the rewards, you have to be able to live your life, not just for her, but for yourself”

“I don’t know exactly how to do that,” I slowly replied.

‘I can’t tell you that part you need to figure it out yourself”

“thankyou–thankyou so much” I stood up and so did she and she gave me a hug. 

“It’s going to be alright Alex”

She walked away out of the garage. How do I do that though, that would be a question I would ponder for the rest of my life. I turned around to go back into my garage and then I heard a soft voice.

“Alex” I turned around and there he was Death looking upon me with a neutral look.

“Meet me tomorrow at the Beach”. He walked away. I ran inside my house and closed my garage, and double-checked all my locks. 

I couldn’t sleep that night either, why did he come to see me? Was he there for me? I got out of bed with zero hours of sleep around 6 in the morning.  I made breakfast and did my morning chores. Should I see him? I broke him. What if he wants some revenge? I pondered that thought for a while till I snapped out of it, and realized I have something to do today as well. I hopped in my car and headed to the crematorium. It was about 12 in the afternoon, I came at the exact time it was going to be ready. I entered the establishment, and they gave me the urn. It was small, in a very nice wooden urn. It’s from Mexico given to my mother by her mother. I went back into my car and was about to drive home until I looked at the urn sitting in the passenger's seat.

“How about one last trip to the beach Mom” It would be about an hour-long drive, more than enough time to savor and take in the scenery. Even though I’m scared and sad, I still feel kinda joyful. Seeing the coastline, coming up. Brings back memories, good ones, bad ones, funny ones, sad ones. I open the window in the car, to feel that wind, and smell that ocean. The big blue, I see it on my right-hand side. I feel at home. I get into the parking lot. Take out the Urn and begin my hike down to the beach shore. As I’m hiking downhill a lot of the plants around me are beautiful yellow flowers. Tall trees grow from the side of the mountains on the cove. I walk down and reach where the mountain dirt meets the sand of the beach of the west. I take off my shoes and place them on the ground, I wouldn’t hurt my feet on the soft sand. I wanted to welcome nature and let nature welcome me in. I hear the sound of the ocean meeting the shore, the seagulls calling out, and the wind blowing through the trees until it slowly gets quieter and quieter. Until I hear nothing around me. Then I see him, Death sitting on a rock staring across the ocean. It looked as if he hadn’t noticed me. I wanted to get this over so I just had to say something.

“Death” I call out, he turns to look at me with a smile.

“Alex…How are you?”

“Fine,” I say while looking at the ground I hug my mother’s Urn in my hand trying to find comfort in this frightening confrontation.

“Is that who I think it is?” Death asks, looking nervous.


“Hello Alinda,” he says, acting as if she was here, but those words gave me no comfort knowing his true nature.

“Please sit down,” Death says as he sits down on a stone and holds his hand out towards another placed in front of it” I look at him scared, my body is shivering, and he can see it in my eyes I frightened”

“I mean no harm Alex, but we have things to discuss” I slowly proceeded towards the stone, putting one foot in front of the other inching towards my seat until I finally sat down. Once I sit down and stare at his face to face, I then notice something, the stone between us has a chessboard placed upon it. I immediately lose my edge, and the sinking feeling comes back. I can't think I can’t feel my existence feels like it’s going black.

“Am I gonna” I keep gasping for air trying to form words “ar-ar-are you here to-. I don’t want to die”

“This isn’t for you Alex” Death says while staring deep into my soul “this is for me”

“What?” air returns to my lungs, I can think, I can feel again. I touch some of the sand on the ground to remind myself I have senses, I feel alive again.

“Alex, you told me that it was a vile thing for me not to know what awaits at the other side while forcing people to play a game that gambles on that chance. You were right. I have always thought that for as long as I’ve existed. I’ve lived a very long time Alex,  and I’ve seen some very terrible things. I may not look It but I am always tired and depressed. What I’ve seen and what I’ve done to people I can never forget. A long time ago I had met a man who thought similarly the same way as you about how he wanted a guarantee and if there is nothing after, what happens now doesn't matter at all. I was complicated back then, I shrugged his words off, but over time I took them straight to heart, and trust me I had a lot of time to think it over. But Alex, the reason I brought you here Is that I have lived for far too long. I've seen the worst this world has to offer, I’ve caused too much pain, and I need to see what’s on the other side. I need to know where they’ve gone” He pauses as he looks towards the ocean waves” for my sake.”

“But how could I help you?” I asked, why does he want me here?

“Whenever I play the chess game, win or lose I play with my time If I win I take someone’s years if I lose I give years, my years. I want to die, so for however long it takes, we will play chess, till I feel I am going to die, and in return, I will give all of that time to you Alex” Those words shook me, the thought of living that long, how could I do that, it was way too much for me to understand, to live forever.

“But why? Why me?”

“I knew Alex when your mother helped pick up the chess pieces that day she touched my hands, and from that moment I knew her time was ending”

“Why, Why didn’t you say anything” I felt angry, and I burst into tears hearing him

“I don’t know maybe it was some rules I followed, that I’ve stuck with, I don’t really know maybe it was my own self-righteousness that I thought I had. But when I touched her hand I also saw her life, I felt her pain, her anger, her sorrow, her sadness, but I also saw her hopes, her dreams, her joy and I saw you.” He paused and chuckled while he was whipping his watery eyes “A lot of you Alex. Now she’s not here anymore, like so many others. When I went to see her in the hospital she refused to play, not many do that, she accepted her fate and didn’t compromise for a way out, which I respected. These times are hard Alex. The people of this time are in such pain that I contribute to.” He stopped talking, took a deep breath, picked up a pile of sand, and let it fall out of his hands. He looked up at me calm and focused. 


 “The only  thing to make this right is for me to die, but I want to do something right, and the only real way I see it is to give Alinda’s son a gift.”  He then took my hand and placed something in it.

I opened my fist and saw a bright white King chess piece.

“So what do you say?” Death asked me, smiling. I stood up and looked at the cloudy skies again, I put my hands in my pocket and turned to Death disappointed. 

“If you hate living forever so much, why would I want to?”

“Because I was bound to a task I didn’t ask for, but you have a clean slate where you can do anything as well as if you wanted you could share it.”

“What could I do?”

“Enjoy the beach,” he says.” Do something amazing”. I didn’t really think about it, I just took a deep breath, sat back down, and placed the king on the empty space. And the game began. I don’t really know how long these matches lasted, but it felt more like a dream where I didn't know what was happening or what I was really doing, time felt non-existent but every now and then I felt like I was waking up from a deep sleep.

“I go to this beach every day.” a voice said to me in the dark void of my sleep, I was out of it, but I could tell it was death speaking to me. “ I've walked around everywhere around this place, you see those mountains, the erosion is causing it to slowly fall apart, It eventually makes those large piles of sand on the ground.”

“It must suck to lose your mountain,” I said, I still barely knew what I was doing, I felt I couldn’t realize much, I couldn’t even see death, all I could visualize was that mountain across the cove with the large pile of sand. 

“Not really, it took a while but one day I went to the other side of that mountain, looking for something new, and I saw a cave, the ocean crashing on the side along with the mountain breaking up had hollowed the inside. Took forever but when it formed it was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. What I’m trying to get at Alex is that throughout my life I’ve seen a lot of bad, but I saw some very beautiful things. No matter how long it took, it was always worth it”. I kept on visualizing the beach and the mountain, I saw myself walking in shallow water barefoot, feeling the soft sand walking in the small cave, and sitting on a rock. I hear the sound of the ocean around me. I lay down on the smooth rock. Until I hear a voice.

“Alex” I woke up sitting on the stone on the beach. I look down at the chessboard, and see my white pawn and bishop, cornering the king in a checkmate.

“You won. Again. Congratulations” Death said. I looked up to see his reaction but what I saw was not what I expected. From the first time I had seen him, he had a nice suit, well-done hair, and clean clothes. He now looked pale, sweaty,  thin, his clothes were covered in sand, his tie was unloosened and his hair was messed up. 

“How do you feel?” I am concerned and bewildered at the sight of death. He takes a deep breath and for the first time, I see him make a genuine smile.

“Ready” Death tried to get up from the stone, but struggled and fell down to the sand from his weak body. I ran towards him and held him.

“Alex, I need you to do something for me” death talked very slowly while breathing very hard.

“Anything, wha-wha do you need,” I ask because he looks like he’s going to die but I try to stay calm, this is what he wants.

“I want you to bury that chessboard and never let it see the light of day”  

“Ok,” I say as I rush towards the board, place all of the pieces back into the box, begin digging up some sand around me and make a hole and place the board inside. While I’m throwing the sand back into the hole I turn around to check that Death is not dead yet, I see him laying down on the sand unbothered by it getting all over his hair and his body. I finished burying the box and went over to him. 

“Ok now what”

“I can barely move my body, I need you to carry me and lay me down by the shore.” I proceeded to pick him up and carry him in my arms, he felt really light like I was carrying a  child. 

“Lay me right there,” He said while he was pointing his finger at a spot where the tide would come in.

“You're gonna eventually submerge and get carried out to see,” I said bewildered and concerned.

“I’ve never felt the ocean” He looks up at me tired but happy “please”. I placed him on the ground. I look at him. He's still smiling while looking very exhausted like a child about to take a nap. “Take off my shoes please, I want to feel the sand” I took them off and moved his feet in the sand. He then proceeded to spread his arms out and touch the sand. 


“Alex,” he says softly


“I’ve never touched the ocean because I’ve spent my entire life being a spectator. You have been given something everyone would beg for, do not waste it becoming a spectator, don’t ponder what happens next, realize what you can do now”

“I will”

“Thank you, Alex, now I can rest.” He closed his eyes, slowed down his breathing, and turned his head to the side. It happened so fast like he just went to take a nap,  he took the weight of his life off his body. I took my Mother’s urn and put on my shoes and hiked back up. I didn’t turn back around, because the answer I was looking for doesn’t matter to me anymore. I went to another mountain and sat down on a bench facing the ocean, I placed the urn next to me, took out the letter my mom wrote and opened it.

“Let’s see what you wrote for me,” I said as I smiled.

“ Dear  Alex, knowing you, you probably have a million things going around in your head right now. And I want to start this by saying I love you. You changed my life for the better, I know I made many mistakes, and I hope I made up for them. I knew my heart was giving out, but I didn't want to die going in and out of hospitals. I wanted to live my life. To be honest I didn’t think I’d live this long. I'm glad I made it this far through to this beautiful world, and to see you grow up into the man you became.” I begin breaking into tears, unable to read most of the letter.

“Alex I want you to live your life, I know finding a purpose is hard, but eventually it finds you, I only showed you small parts of it, but this world is a lot bigger than you think with such amazing things, I want you to discover all of them. Not for me, but for yourself. I love you.” I took a deep breath and picked up the Urn and went to the edge of the cliff. I opened the urn and began throwing the ashes over the mountain. Once I was finished I looked up into the cloudy skies and felt the winds that carried the ashes away towards the sea.  

The author's comments:

This is the closing of the book where Alex gets a much-needed clarity in his life. (Ps. all the indents I had earlier were changed when pasting on this site so could the editor try to put the indents on where they are needed, please.

I went back to work feeling a lot better, but It’s hard feeling so lost, I have no idea about what I’m gonna do with my life. I got the cart and did my usual rounds, I passed by rooms and gave them food. Now I’m on my pickup route where I take the dishes. I went to the final room on my list in room  325 and saw a familiar face.

“Hello Mrs. Bronson,” I said genuinely happy

“Good morning Alex, how are you?” I tried to ignore that question and just took out the food and placed it on the table.

“Small fruit bowl with a sugar-free yogurt”


“Oh Alex, the doctors tell me that I can leave soon, I just wanted to say I’m going to miss you”

“I’m going to miss you too” I reply and that was the truth she was a very nice lady

“Alex, you don’t look happy when you come here”

“What are you talking about, I love coming to visit you in the mornings”

“Not that” she smiles “when you're in this place why aren’t you happy”

“It’s not that I hate this place it’s just I had a lot of people telling me to live my life and do something, I just don’t know exactly how to do that”

“My grandkids think the same way as you do. I say two things. 1st find something you really want to do, what do you want to do Alex?”

I take a deep breath, and try to imagine everything I want to do, until it all comes flooding towards me. 

“ I want to hike more, I want to cook, I want to learn how to make computers, I want to rock climb, I want to win a marathon,  I want to jump out of a plane, I want to garden, I want to surf, and I want to live my life!”

“Then do it!” she smiled at me knowing she put me in a better mood. “Now second thing, realize you still have time” If she knew how right she was about that part. “You’re young, you have your whole life ahead of you and you have so much you can do” I nodded my head. This is a new beginning for me. 

“But also Alex I’m going to tell you a third thing, what is also good about living your life, is to share it with someone”.

“I’ve never really thought about that part, who would I share it with?” I asked oblivious to the thing I was mostly clueless about.

“We both know who I’m thinking, I’m not saying you have to do everything with her, but a lot of the things you described she likes to do, I’m sure if you asked her she could help you do them”

“She loves to Hike Alex”

“Ohh I get it now” I grin and then go to give Mrs. Bronson a hug. Thank you so much” 

“You’re welcome kiddo,” Mrs. Bronson says. I then walk out of the room and towards the elevator. I get inside the elevator, feeling anxious, excited, confused, but joyful. More joyful than I’ve ever felt in a long time. I hope she’s still here, maybe if I catch her in the lobby I-. My thoughts were intruded on by the opening of the elevator.

“Hey Alex,” Amy says, the person who I have been so anxious to see.


“Hey Amy,” I say with a huge grin on my face.

“You look happy”

“Thanks umm I’ve been meaning to talk to you, I umm I thought a lot about what you said about living, life. I now realize I couldn’t do that by just being cooped up in that house. There are so many things I realized I wanted to do, and I plan on doing them.

“I’m glad to hear that,” she said, smiling at me. The elevator door opened “there’s my stop see you later”

“Wait” I anxiously yell. “I would like to do them with you. A mutual friend of ours told me you like to hike.”

“She keeps telling me about you, I should have realized she’d talked about me to you,” she said blushing.

“I'm down to hike, Maybe we can go tomorrow. I'm off that day and I know a great place. Is that good with your schedule” she says 

“Don’t even have a schedule, I’m down to see you tomorrow see you then” I wave as she walks out of the elevator into the hallway.

“See you then spaceman,” she says as she smiles at me while the elevator closes.

I’m so happy right now I can’t even describe it. This is the greatest day of my life, I put the cart back in the cafeteria, my shift is now officially over.

“Mr. Vasquez!” a young voice calls out to me. I turn around and see Hector. I rush over to him. 

“Hector,” I say with excitement. “How are you”

“I’m fine the doctors said I can go home now” 

“That’s great,” I say as I can feel my watery eyes

“What’s wrong?” Hector asks in a concerned tone.

“Nothing,” I say as I wipe my tears, I thought he was dead I’m glad he’s alright. “What did he say to you?”

“The man in black told me about my grandpa who was also here”

“I’m sorry to hear that”

“Where did he go?” Hector asks in a curious tone.

“No one knows Hector,” I pause as I see Hector with his head down sniffing. “ but I can tell you it’s a more beautiful place with him there”

He lifts his chin up and smiles. 

“Thank you, Mr. Vasquez”

“Go out there and do amazing things Hector”

“You too Mr.V,” Hector says as he runs outside to meet his parents.


 I walk outside excited, for what’s to come now. The experiences I’ll have, and the new life I will make. I looked up and saw something for the first time in a long time, clear skies. It wasn’t a guarantee but it was all I needed to know everything will be alright.


      The End 

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