Death Walks Among Us
by Georgepat
forum: Death Walks Among Us
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Death Walks Among Us


           When you have no past and no future, fear is not something that you spend much time dwelling upon. One minute you’re here, enjoying your day to day existence, and the next; you’re 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 your life.

           Why would it?

* * *

           No 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 bar’s 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.

           Every now and then, he would casually glance at the clock above the bar and check the time. He wasn’t 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.

           For everything he didn’t 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.

           He 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.

           The 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 didn’t know about or didn’t care.

           He knew that her name was April Downing and that she had never been married and didn’t 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 taxes.

           He 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.

           He watched as her friend finally took a break in her marathon of chat and excused herself to go to the ladies room.

           April 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.

           A man approached her table and leaning over towards her, said a few words. He couldn’t hear the conversation that ensued but knew that she wasn’t 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.

           He 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.

           He wasn’t 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.

           He looked at the clock once again and finished the last of his beer, tossed a few bills on the bar and stood to leave.

           “Leaving so soon, big guy? I was just going to ask you to buy me a drink.”

           He 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.

           He 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.

* * *

           April 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.

           She 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.

           Parking 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.

           She placed the day’s 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.

           In 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.

           The 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.

           Her 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 for bed.

           She 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.

           “Yes, who’s there?” she called through the door.

           “April, you don’t know me personally, but we have business to discuss,” he said, “may I come in and speak with you?”

           “I’m not in the habit of opening my door to complete strangers, sir,” she said haughtily, “and I don’t see tonight as being an exception.”

           “April, I asked you to open your door to me simply out of courtesy. I really don’t need the door open if I want to enter your home.”

           “Are you threatening to break into here? I’m going to call security if you don’t leave immediately.”

           “No, you won’t call security and I’m not threatening to break in. I’m simply asking you to open your door to me.”

           As 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.

           “Turn around, April.”

           She 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.

           “How did you do that?” she asked.

           “I come and go as I please,” he said, shrugging his shoulders slightly.

           “Please don’t hurt me,” she begged, her fear finally showing, “I’ll give you money or…or anything. Please take whatever you want and leave, but please don’t hurt me.”

           “As interesting as that proposal sounds, I’m going to have to take a pass on that,” he said, as he smiled slightly.

           “If not my money or…me, what …what is it that you want?” she asked.

           “You misunderstand me, I do want you,” he explained causally, removing his cap and rubbing his hair, “I’m here to collect… your soul.”

           “What the hell are you talking about; you want to collect my soul?” She screamed, “Are you some kind of a fucking nutcase or something?”

           He 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.

           “Let’s 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 wasn’t your fault at all; your father had a hard time keeping his zipper closed.

           “Your 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.

           “After graduation, you moved here and applied for the job that you presently hold. You are respected and admired for your work ethics and you’re…”

           “Ok, ok, that’s my life in a nutshell,” she stated, holding up her hand and stopping him, “but how do you know all of that?”

           “It’s my job to know,” he replied, as he replaced the notebook into his back pocket and laced his fingers together behind him, “and it’s very close to the time for us to go.”

           She 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.

           “Go where? I’m not going anywhere with you.”

           “April, you really don’t have a choice in this. You see, I’m on a schedule of sorts. I do have some leeway as to the when and where, but that’s all I have. I’m sorry, but I’ve chosen that this will take place here, and very soon, now.”

           “What will take place?” she asked pleading for an answer.

           “I’ve done this job for a very long time now,” he sighed, “and I’m still amazed at the fact that with the inevitable fact of death staring the living in the face, they can’t or won’t accept it and come with me peaceably.”

           “Death, what do you mean death?”

           “See what I mean, April,” he slowly shook his head, “you refuse to grasp the inevitable and follow me.”

           “But your not…, 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.”

           “What you think I am or what I’m not, is of no concern to me, April. I have a schedule to meet and you’re starting to try my…”

           “Wait, don’t say another word,” she beseeched, “prove it to me. Prove to me that you’re who you say you are. Prove to me that you’re really Death.”

           “I want you to understand something, and understand it well,” he hissed, “I don’t usually do these kinds of these antics, but just this once, in your case, I’ll make an exception.”

           His 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.

           “Are you sure you want me to do this?”

           “Prove it!” she stated defiantly, “if you think you can.”

           Without 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.

           “But you don’t even look like Death,” she moaned, “you look like what I said you were; a fucking nutcase.”

           “Pray 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.

           “Shit, I don’t know,” she said, “what all the cartoons I’ve ever seen show, I guess. The big guy in the black hooded robe standing there with that big long blade over his shoulder.”

           “That long blade, it’s called a scythe and the guy in the long, black robe was my great, great grandfather. He dressed that way because, well…, at the time, that’s 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.”

           “Changed how?”

           “If I dressed that way today I’d 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…, job.

           “Right now, my job is to collect your soul and then move on to the next name on my list.”

           “Wait, please,” she begged, “have you ever been persuaded to overlook someone? To let them live a little longer?”

           He 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.

           “I’m 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.”

           “What can I do to prove to you that I want to live?” She pleaded.

           “April, 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.”

           “And the other?” she asked quietly.

           “The 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 don’t want to talk about it.”

           “What did she have to offer?” she asked her voice soft and gentle, “who did she save?”

           He 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.

           “Tell 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?”

           “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 you.

           “I was sent to collect the soul of a young woman, just barley out of her teens. She was so beautiful and full of life’s promises for her. She didn’t 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.

           “I explained to her that I had come for her soul and that I was sorry I had to be the one to do this.”

           “You told her you were sorry?”

           “Like I said,” he answered, slightly annoyed, “I was young then and hadn’t done this but a few times before meeting her.

           “She 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.”

           “So you gave her a little extra life for a piece of her young ass?”

           “Not exactly,” he said, “she was in the fertile time of the month and what she gave me nine months later, was my son.”

           “Your son?” She asked incredulity.

           “Yes, but she didn’t live long enough to see him,” he replied, “she had her fatal aneurysm on the operating table almost immediately after giving birth to him.”

           “You were there too, weren’t you? You took her soul after she gave you your son.”

           “Yes, 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.”

           “If I’m to be, taken tonight, how am I supposed to die?” She asked, as she walked to a chair and sat down.

           “Do you really want to know that, April? Is it that important to you?”

           “Yes, I want to know. It’s my death isn’t it?”

           “You’re scheduled to have a fatal myocardial infarction.”

           “A heart attack? You’re fucking kidding me, right? I’m 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 can’t be going to have a heart attack.”

           “I’m sorry April, but you will and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

           “Yes, 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.”

           “How would you go about that, April? I’m not that young man I just told you about anymore?”

           “I could offer myself to you, like she did.” She said, as she removed her robe and dropped it to the floor.

           “Yes, you could do that, but it won’t make any difference to me or you at this point.”

           “Why not? She asked her voice quivering as she realized that he wouldn’t be swayed by her pleas.

           “April, I wish that you’d try and see this from my point of view. I didn’t pick you at random to fill my quota tonight. You’re on my list and I’ll 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.”

           She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.

           “That’s it, then?” She said flatly, “there’s no chance you’ll overlook me for a while?”

           He 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.

           “No chance, April. I’m sorry.”

           “So, when does it happen?” She asked.

           “When does what happen?”

           “My death, of course.”

           “Oh, that,” he said, as he looked directly at her, a slight smile on his face, “It’s already happened.”

           “What do you mean it’s already happened?” She asked, bewildered.

           “April, the moment I entered your home, you died. You suffered a heart attack.”

           She 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.

           “I don’t believe you!” She cried, “I’m still here, aren’t I?”

           “Follow me to your bedroom. I want to show you something.”

           As they reached her bedroom door, he stood aside and pointed to the woman’s body lying on the floor.

           “Oh my God!” she exclaimed, as she looked from the body to him, “that’s me lying there.”

           “No, it’s not you,” he said and placed his hand on her shoulder, “that’s just your body. You’re right here with me and have been all evening since I entered your house.”

           “I’m really dead?” She asked again.

           “Very much so, April.” He answered, nodding his head.

           “What happens now?”

           “I’m sorry April, but I don’t have the answer to that.” He said. “My job is to collect your soul and I’ve done that. What happens to you now is completely out of my hands.”

           They walked back to the living room and she started to pick up her robe and then stopped.

           “Should I even bother to get dressed?”

           “That option is up to you,” he said, “when we leave here no one will be able to see either of us.”

           “You mean that I’m not only dead but invisible too?”

           “Yes, to the living the dead are unseen.”

           “But what about you? She asked. “I saw you at the bar.”

           “Why do you insist on making this transition so difficult, April?” He replied. “I’m Death, that’s true enough, but I’m not dead.”

           “But you just said that no one would be able to see either of us.”

           “Yes, and that’s true. You see, April, only the dead or the soon to be dead can see me. To every one else, I’m simply not there.”

           She contemplated this statement for a moment and then began to put her robe on.

           “Well, at least I tried to cheat you, didn’t I?” She laughed.

           “Yes you did, April.” Death answered, “You sure did.”

           She 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 next world.



copyright 2005 Georgepat.


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