It was the cold that woke me up. For a brief moment I thought that PIL was sharing my bed again and had stolen all the duvet like she used to. Wishful thinking on my part. I rolled over and saw the figure sitting on the sofa by the window. The figure appeared to be tall and slim and was wearing some kind of hooded shroud. I couldn’t see its face. There was a scythe lying across its lap.
“Are you Death?” I asked.
“I am” the figure replied
“Have you come for me?”
“I have”. Came the reply.
“Don’t say much do you mate?”
“Not much to say.” he replied. The voice was definitely male.
I sat up, as I had decided long ago that I would not face death lying down.
“Well, I’d sooner not go just yet if that’s ok with you.”
“Many people say that to me y’know. Not all, but a fair number. It rarely changes anything.”
“It’s just that I still have a great many things to do and see and achieve and being dead won’t help.”
“So what is it that is so important that I cannot take you now?” asked Death.
“There are quite a few things actually. I would really like to see my children grow up, graduate from University, marry and have kids themselves. It would be nice to see my grandchildren.”
“Is that it?”
“I also want to learn to sail and speak French.” I replied
“You mean you don’t want to cure cancer, stop pollution and save the environment?” came the slightly sarcastic reply.
“All fine ambitions” I answered, ” and stopping Mankind’s inhumanity towards Mankind would also be pretty good but I know my limitations. I am a simple man with simple ambitions.”
Death picked up his scythe and put it to one side. I started breathing again. I hadn’t realise I was holding my breathe.
“I have to take a soul. If not yours, then whose?” he said.
“Mate, if you’re saying that if you don’t take me you will take one of my kids or PIL, then take me now. There is no way you are taking any of them. I will fight you with everything I have to stop that happening.”
Death laughed for a second or two then stopped and appeared to be thinking.
“What about the dog? Dogs have souls.” he said after a few seconds.
“That’s not really fair on the dog is it?” I answered. “He’s done nothing wrong, he had an awful start to his life and he’s happy here. He may be as daft as a brush but no, take me if you have to take anyone.”
Death was quiet for a few minutes. I guess he was thinking again. Finally, he spoke again.
“We’ve met before.” he said. That was a bit unexpected.
“Er. I don’t think so bud. I’d remember something like meeting you.”
“No, no, no.” Death exclaimed. “What I mean is that I was taking someone and you were there. You wouldn’t have seen me but I saw you. Three times in fact.”
“Were you there when my parents died?” I asked.
“No.” he said. “That would have been one of my brothers. I have a great many brothers. I was there when your work colleague, Robbie died. The heart attack killed him before he hit the floor so your attempts at CPR were fruitless.”
“Thanks pal. That makes me feel so much better.”
“My pleasure. You really didn’t need to beat yourself up about that but I suppose you weren’t to know. I was also there for the man who got flung out of the car and lost the top of his head. You comforted him while he died.”
“I remember. It seemed to take ages for him to die but he didn’t appear to be in any pain. I was covered in blood and his brains when I finally got up.”
“You’re right. He wasn’t in pain but sometimes these things need to take their course. Did you go and see his wife?”
“I did.” I replied. “I left it a couple of days and then went to see her.”
“Why did you go?”
“He asked me to tell his wife that he loved her and that he was sorry. Seemed to me to be the least I could do. It wasn’t the best time of my life that’s for sure but if you can’t grant a dying mans wish, then what does that make you?”
“I see.” said Death.
“When was the third time?”
“I was there to take your friend when he got trapped in his canoe and drowned.”
“Yes. You and your friend tried to pull him out. You did a very dangerous thing. I nearly came away with three that time. So why did you and Omar place yourself in so much danger? Was it because he was a friend?”
“Jean-Claude was a very good friend. We only really saw him at races, but no, we would have done the same thing irrespective of who it was. It’s a dangerous sport and if someone is in the shit, you help. Omar and I always took that attitude and we hoped that if we were ever in trouble, someone would help us.”
Death stood up and picked up his scythe.
“Oh shit.” I thought. “Play for time.”
“Tell me something Death. Why do you wear that shroudy hoodie thing? Doesn’t it freak out the people you’ve come for? It’s freaking me out!”
“You’re right. It does and we recently tried wearing suits. Some of my brothers wore Armani. Others wore Boss. I went the Tom Ford route. I preferred the cut. Unfortunately, it confused the dying. They see a smiling face in an expensive suit and they think the Worlds greatest medic has arrived to save them.”
“Surely the scythe gives it away?” I asked.
“People see what they want to see. Besides, it was costing the Boss a fortune in dry cleaning bills. So we wear these. Easy to keep clean. Chuck ’em in the machine on a cool wash and ‘Hey Presto’. I’m going now. You have persuaded me to leave you until another time. Next time we meet, and it will be me, you will be coming with me.”
“Thank you. I hope I don’t see you anytime soon.” I said.
“I don’t know when it will be but I really do hope you learn to sail and speak French.”
I woke up at 7am as usual and staggered downstairs as usual. CJ was in the living room.
“Good morning sweetness”, I said. “Boy, did I have a weird dream last night.”
“Ewwww Dad. I really don’t want to know.”
“I’ve heard about THOSE dreams boys have.”
“What?” I said again.
” Yes. You dream about naked women and make a mess on the bed sheets.”
“What? What? It wasn’t that kind of dream. Where did you find out about this stuff anyway?”
“School. Sex education. Boys are disgusting.”
“Jesus girl. I really don’t want to be having this conversation. I haven’t had a cup of tea yet.”
“Well, you started it.”
“What? Ok, whatever. Where’s Mum?”
“She went to see Richard. Y’know, he lives round the corner.”
“I know where he lives sweetness. I take it she’s gone to wish him ‘Good luck’ in the marathon he and his wife are running in today?”
“No, Richards wife..”
“Yes. Elizabeth. She died suddenly in her sleep last night.”
More Dick soon.