When you have no past and no future,
fear is not something that you spend much time dwelling upon.
One minute youre here, enjoying your day to day existence,
and the next; youre gone!
I suspect that when you awoke up this
morning and swung your legs from the warm comfort of your bed,
rubbing the sleep from your eyes and bending to put your socks
on, it never occurred to you that this might be the last day of
Why would it?
* * *
one noticed the large man sitting quietly at the bar. He was dressed
in blue jeans and a long sleeved shirt. He looked the same as
the rest of the bars patrons with his ball cap pulled low
over his eyes and his sleeves rolled halfway up his muscular forearms.
His boots were scuffed and worn, giving the appearance of having
done hard work. He sat alone, quietly nursing his beer.
now and then, he would casually glance at the clock above the
bar and check the time. He wasnt on any schedule to speak
of, as he had no paying job to hurry to. There was no wife and
kids waiting at home for him to arrive so they could sit down
and have supper together and discuss the happenings of their days.
He was alone most of the time and he liked it that way.
everything he didnt have in his life, there were two qualities
that he did possess that were the hallmark of his existence; he
was very watchful and extremely patient.
glanced at the clock again and noted the time, and then casually,
over his shoulder at the attractive woman in her middle forties
sitting at a table with another woman. They were both drinking
beer and from what he had observed already, was doing most of
the listening as the other woman talked incessantly.
woman he watched closely was dressed in a short plaid skirt and
a white blouse. Her hair was cut to her shoulders and was colored
a lighter shade of blond than she actually had been born with.
She kept it tied back in a short ponytail, out of her face and
she had blue eyes. He noticed that there was a small run in her
pantyhose just behind her right knee that she obviously didnt
know about or didnt care.
knew that her name was April Downing and that she had never been
married and didnt have any children. She was a senior stock
broker at a large investment firm located in the heart of the
city and that last year, had made well over a hundred grand after
turned his head back to the front, took a drink of his beer and
continued to watch her in the mirror behind the many liquor bottles
that lined the bar in front of him.
watched as her friend finally took a break in her marathon of
chat and excused herself to go to the ladies room.
lit a cigarette and drew the smoke deep into her lungs. He knew
that smoking was one of her vices that she had always tried to
stop but her will power, so forceful in her everyday work endeavors,
failed her miserably in this respect. She exhaled and tapped the
ash from her cigarette into the almost overflowing ashtray on
the table and waited for her friend to return.
man approached her table and leaning over towards her, said a
few words. He couldnt hear the conversation that ensued
but knew that she wasnt interested in anything he might
have to say. He saw her shake her head no, and discouraged, the
man returned to his seat at the bar, lit a cigarette and returned
to his drink.
saw her raise her hand and signal the waitress for their bill
and had paid the tab with her credit card as her friend returned
from the bathroom. They gathered their belongings, pushed the
chairs towards the table and together, walked out the door.
wasnt at the least concerned at her departure. He knew that
she lived in an upscale, suburban, gated community five miles
from where he now sat. He could find her at any time he wanted,
because she was a creature of habit. Her home was as familiar
to him as was the home of any one else in the world that he might
be called on to visit. He had an infallible, inborn sense about
these things, and could close his eyes and see everything that
he needed to see in order to accomplish his mission.
looked at the clock once again and finished the last of his beer,
tossed a few bills on the bar and stood to leave.
so soon, big guy? I was just going to ask you to buy me a drink.
turned his head and faced an ageing barfly that nature had not
been inclined to treat well. Her make-up had been smeared around
her face and she looked almost clownish, largely due to the fact
that she was sweating profusely and had used several napkins to
mop up the excess, but with little success.
looked at her and felt nothing. She was not his problem tonight
nor would she be for a short time. He removed the wad of cash
from his pocket and without saying a word, peeled off a twenty
dollar bill and tossed it in front of her, and then turned and
walked out the door.
* * *
Downing dropped off her friend and waited to see her safely in
her house and then continued to her own home. She drove home mindlessly,
her thoughts focused on the deal that she had in the making. If
she was able to bring it off, it would be the pinnacle of her
career with her firm and would secure her position there forever.
drove up to the gate to her community and stopped as the young
guard leaned out of his small window and inquired as to her destination.
She nonchalantly showed her pass as a resident and after signing
in; he waved her through, and then returned to watching the reality
show on TV that she had interrupted.
the car in her driveway, she gathered her purse and briefcase,
stepped out and shut the door. She remembered to press the lock
button on her remote as she picked up her mail and then unlocked
her front door and entered the house.
placed the days mail and her keys on a small table that
stood next to the wall and continued to the telephone, checking
the machine for messages. Finding none, she walked into her bedroom,
turned on the TV to CNN and began to undress.
bra and panties, she entered the bathroom and turned on the shower.
As she waited for the water to warm, she finished taking off her
underwear and admired herself briefly in the mirror before drawing
the shower curtain back and stepping in.
hot water felt good on her tired muscles as it fell from the pulsing
showerhead and massaged her skin. She picked up the sponge that
she used and squirted lavender soap onto it and then rubbed it
briskly to create lather. The fragrance of lavender soon filled
the shower and she smiled to herself as she washed her body.
shower finished, she stepped out and reached for a large fluffy
towel and dried herself. Still nude, she entered her bedroom and
slipped on a pair of fresh panties and her silk nightgown. Had
she happen to look towards her window, she would have seen the
large man from the bar standing outside, watching her as she dressed
pulled down the covers and was in the process of getting into
bed when the door bell chimed its melodic tune of welcome. She
glanced at the clock on her bedside table and noting the time,
wondered who would be visiting at this hour. She picked up her
robe from the end of the bed and pulled it around her as she walked
to the front door.
whos there? she called through the door.
you dont know me personally, but we have business to discuss,
he said, may I come in and speak with you?
not in the habit of opening my door to complete strangers, sir,
she said haughtily, and I dont see tonight as being
I asked you to open your door to me simply out of courtesy. I
really dont need the door open if I want to enter your home.
you threatening to break into here? Im going to call security
if you dont leave immediately.
you wont call security and Im not threatening to break
in. Im simply asking you to open your door to me.
she turned her back to the door and started towards the phone,
she felt a sudden, cold gust of air strike her back and she was
unable to move.
did as she was bid and her eyes widened in shock as she saw that
a large man with a ball cap was standing inside her home and that
her front door was still closed and locked. Her fear was momentarily
replaced with her natural inquisitiveness.
did you do that? she asked.
come and go as I please, he said, shrugging his shoulders
dont hurt me, she begged, her fear finally showing,
Ill give you money or
or anything. Please take
whatever you want and leave, but please dont hurt me.
interesting as that proposal sounds, Im going to have to
take a pass on that, he said, as he smiled slightly.
not my money or
what is it that you want?
misunderstand me, I do want you, he explained causally,
removing his cap and rubbing his hair, Im here to
the hell are you talking about; you want to collect my soul?
She screamed, Are you some kind of a fucking nutcase or
casually reached behind him into the back pocket of his jeans
and removed a well worn black leather notebook and flipped to
the last page.
see, April Downing, born October 7, 1960, at seven in the morning
in St. Mays Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Your parents were
Robert and Susan Downing and for the first twelve years of your
life, you lived comfortably with both your parents. In 1972, they
divorced and you have always blamed yourself for their break-up.
By the way, it wasnt your fault at all; your father had
a hard time keeping his zipper closed.
mother remarried one year later to a man named Henry Williams.
They remained married until that very unfortunate auto accident
that claimed both of their lives in 1980. You were a sophomore
at Eastern Emery University, at the time, majoring in Business
Administration when the accident occurred.
graduation, you moved here and applied for the job that you presently
hold. You are respected and admired for your work ethics and youre
ok, thats my life in a nutshell, she stated, holding
up her hand and stopping him, but how do you know all of
my job to know, he replied, as he replaced the notebook
into his back pocket and laced his fingers together behind him,
and its very close to the time for us to go.
crossed her arms in front of her chest defiantly and shifted her
weight on her feet in the standard fight or flee stance that he
had so often encountered.
where? Im not going anywhere with you.
you really dont have a choice in this. You see, Im
on a schedule of sorts. I do have some leeway as to the when and
where, but thats all I have. Im sorry, but Ive
chosen that this will take place here, and very soon, now.
will take place? she asked pleading for an answer.
done this job for a very long time now, he sighed, and
Im still amazed at the fact that with the inevitable fact
of death staring the living in the face, they cant or wont
accept it and come with me peaceably.
what do you mean death?
what I mean, April, he slowly shook his head, you
refuse to grasp the inevitable and follow me.
, Death! she cried, your just a fucking
nut trying to scare the shit out of me and doing a damn good job
of it too.
you think I am or what Im not, is of no concern to me, April.
I have a schedule to meet and youre starting to try my
dont say another word, she beseeched, prove
it to me. Prove to me that youre who you say you are. Prove
to me that youre really Death.
want you to understand something, and understand it well,
he hissed, I dont usually do these kinds of these
antics, but just this once, in your case, Ill make an exception.
eyes glanced around the room and settled on a large Spider Plant
hanging from the ceiling in front of her large picture window.
Its tendrils were at least six feet long and the foliage was lush
and green. He approached it and looked over his shoulder at her.
you sure you want me to do this?
it! she stated defiantly, if you think you can.
looking at the plant, he placed his finger lightly on one of the
leaves. His eyes bored into hers as he strove to prove his point.
The plant began to wither and turn dark under his hand. The tendrils
turned brown and broke off, falling on the floor with a slight
crackling sound. In a matter of seconds, the once lush plant had
been reduced to nothing but dry potting soil in a hanging basket.
you dont even look like Death, she moaned, you
look like what I said you were; a fucking nutcase.
tell, April, what in your opinion, does Death look like?
he asked with a slight smile on his face, as he returned to his
position in front of the door.
I dont know, she said, what all the cartoons
Ive ever seen show, I guess. The big guy in the black hooded
robe standing there with that big long blade over his shoulder.
long blade, its called a scythe and the guy in the long,
black robe was my great, great grandfather. He dressed that way
, at the time, thats the way people thought
of him, so he dressed that way and it worked. But that was a long
time ago and things have changed now.
I dressed that way today Id stick out like a sore thumb.
By being dressed the way I am right now, I find that it allows
me plenty of anonymity to perform my
now, my job is to collect your soul and then move on to the next
name on my list.
please, she begged, have you ever been persuaded to
overlook someone? To let them live a little longer?
looked at her closely and saw the pain of unfinished business
and unrequited desire in her blue eyes. Her hands were clasped
in front of her so tightly that her knuckles had turned white.
not going to lie to you, April, he said looking her in the
eyes, I have twice turned my head for a short while and
forgot about them, allowing them to live a few months or years
longer. He said, adjusting the cap on his head, but
in the end, I took them anyway and when I did, there was no warning.
can I do to prove to you that I want to live? She pleaded.
listen to me. One of the two times I turned my head was with a
man names Jonas Salk. He was the scientist involved with the virus
study that isolated the vaccine for Polio. He was scheduled for
pick-up two years before his discovery came out. By not taking
him when it was his time, millions of lives were saved.
the other? she asked quietly.
other time, was with a woman much like yourself. She was a very
beautiful woman. She was
, he stopped talking and looked
at the floor between his feet and then back into her face, I
dont want to talk about it.
did she have to offer? she asked her voice soft and gentle,
who did she save?
stood there, suddenly confused. This was never supposed to happen
to him. He was above all that. His thoughts were racing between
the past and the present, attempting to explain what should never
be explained. He saw the questioning look in her eyes and he understood
immediately that she had somehow managed to by pass all of the
defenses that he had so carefully laid and that now, he was vulnerable.
me, she said stepping closer to him, but feeling the heat
emanating from his body, stepped back again, who did you
let live and who was saved because of it?
was a very long time ago and I was
younger. I had just been
entrusted with this task by my father and to be truthful, was
still in awe of the enormous power that I held. You have no conception
of what the power of life and death can do when its thrust upon
was sent to collect the soul of a young woman, just barley out
of her teens. She was so beautiful and full of lifes promises
for her. She didnt know it of course, but she had been scheduled
to have a fatal brain aneurysm later in the day. I watched her
for several hours, as I did you tonight, prior to making my appearance.
explained to her that I had come for her soul and that I was sorry
I had to be the one to do this.
told her you were sorry?
I said, he answered, slightly annoyed, I was young
then and hadnt done this but a few times before meeting
begged me to let her live and that if I did she would give me
something very special. She began to remove her clothes and I
stood there without stopping her. Her breasts were simply beautiful
to behold and when she offered them to me, I was overcome with
lust and took her on the spot.
you gave her a little extra life for a piece of her young ass?
exactly, he said, she was in the fertile time of the
month and what she gave me nine months later, was my son.
son? She asked incredulity.
but she didnt live long enough to see him, he replied,
she had her fatal aneurysm on the operating table almost
immediately after giving birth to him.
were there too, werent you? You took her soul after she
gave you your son.
I was there. I had offered her those conditions and she gladly
accepted them. She had nine more months that she would have had
and she lived each day after my visit to its fullest and never
regretted her decision.
Im to be, taken tonight, how am I supposed to die?
She asked, as she walked to a chair and sat down.
you really want to know that, April? Is it that important to you?
I want to know. Its my death isnt it?
scheduled to have a fatal myocardial infarction.
heart attack? Youre fucking kidding me, right? Im
in great shape. She stood and smoothed her hands down the
sides of her body, I work out at the gym twice a week and
run three miles every morning rain or shine. I cant be going
to have a heart attack.
sorry April, but you will and theres nothing I can do about
there is something you can do about it, she said sitting
again and crossing her legs slowly, allowing her robe to part
and giving him a long look at her legs, suppose I was able
to convince you somehow, to let me live a little longer.
would you go about that, April? Im not that young man I
just told you about anymore?
could offer myself to you, like she did. She said, as she
removed her robe and dropped it to the floor.
you could do that, but it wont make any difference to me
or you at this point.
not? She asked her voice quivering as she realized that he wouldnt
be swayed by her pleas.
I wish that youd try and see this from my point of view.
I didnt pick you at random to fill my quota tonight. Youre
on my list and Ill take you with me when I leave. Whether
you come with me willingly or I have to resort to other means,
you will come with me.
took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
it, then? She said flatly, theres no chance
youll overlook me for a while?
looked at her for a minute, knowing how she felt but unable to
do anything about it. He removed his cap and ran his fingers through
his hair and then slowly shook his head.
chance, April. Im sorry.
when does it happen? She asked.
does what happen?
death, of course.
that, he said, as he looked directly at her, a slight smile
on his face, Its already happened.
do you mean its already happened? She asked, bewildered.
the moment I entered your home, you died. You suffered a heart
leaped off the chair and stood in front of him with her hands
on her hips. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was drawn into a
tight, straight line across her face.
dont believe you! She cried, Im still
here, arent I?
me to your bedroom. I want to show you something.
they reached her bedroom door, he stood aside and pointed to the
womans body lying on the floor.
my God! she exclaimed, as she looked from the body to him,
thats me lying there.
its not you, he said and placed his hand on her shoulder,
thats just your body. Youre right here with
me and have been all evening since I entered your house.
really dead? She asked again.
much so, April. He answered, nodding his head.
sorry April, but I dont have the answer to that. He
said. My job is to collect your soul and Ive done
that. What happens to you now is completely out of my hands.
walked back to the living room and she started to pick up her
robe and then stopped.
I even bother to get dressed?
option is up to you, he said, when we leave here no
one will be able to see either of us.
mean that Im not only dead but invisible too?
to the living the dead are unseen.
what about you? She asked. I saw you at the bar.
do you insist on making this transition so difficult, April?
He replied. Im Death, thats true enough, but
Im not dead.
you just said that no one would be able to see either of us.
and thats true. You see, April, only the dead or the soon
to be dead can see me. To every one else, Im simply not
contemplated this statement for a moment and then began to put
her robe on.
at least I tried to cheat you, didnt I? She laughed.
you did, April. Death answered, You sure did.
finished putting her robe on and ran her hand through her hair.
She stood next to him and held her head high as he took her hand
in his and together they walked through the door and into the