Troll in the Playground
Re: Writer's Haven
Death in a Coffee Shop
Parts Seven & Eight“Cory!” Larissa called from the couch.
“Yeah?” I asked as I stepped out of the kitchen. She was standing in front of the painting we had admired the first evening she came to visit, Big D’s latest prose tragedy in her hands. I walked over and stood beside her.
“I can see it! I can see it! There’s a rocky beach with crashing waves,” she explained, “There’s a large spire of rock shooting straight up from the water towards the sky like Devil’s Tower at sea. There are trees and all kinds of plants growing on top of it. It’s all painted in shades of black like everything is late at night when there’s no moon or stars. I can’t believe it, is this a real place?”
I didn’t know, but I showed her some of the other paintings I had stored away. Buildings, trees, lakes, marshes; she saw them all and was shocked by the details. “It’s like he's training our eyes to see in complete darkness,” she said, gazing at the landscapes in awe.
That night she didn’t leave my apartment.
“I take it that your sabbatical’s over.”
Big D nodded, seeming especially grim.
It was Thursday again and I was sitting in the coffee shop with Death for what I had decided would be the last time. There was no iced mocha in my hands and some skinny, red-haired boy was waiting tables.
“I guess I should have expected it,” I said, “I’ve read enough to know how it happens: just like that.”
“I never completely stopped working, it would have been hell coming back with it all piling up.”
An image of stacked corpses, like in holocaust pictures, invaded my mind.
“Anyway,” I said, brushing the thought away, “I can’t keep up this partnership. It’s personal, now.”
Death nodded his skull. “I expected this.”
Larissa had not awakened after spending the night at my apartment. Death had taken her in her sleep, for reasons unknown to me. I didn’t want to read what words he would write about her. I told myself that I probably shouldn’t be angry with him but I was furious anyway, and hurt. After reading all of his stories I knew that the scythe had to be a heavy burden to bear. But it was his duty, I knew. “I want out, you’ll have find someone else.” I stood and started to leave.
“Actually, I have a proposition for you. Maybe you’ll find it interesting.”
I turned and looked at him, puzzled.
“You are aware that I have become somewhat listless, perhaps unreliable or sporadic, in my duties.”
“When mortals die it’s obvious that they cross over to a different place, you know that. Sometimes I can visit them. That’s how I learned to write and to paint.”
"Yeah, so?" I was still pissed, but curious, too.
“In reality, Cory, your time was up months ago. You see, I first visited you a few days before I was supposed to reap you. Do you remember when you could first see the images in my paintings?”
"Yes, look..." I started.
“You were supposed to die that day. Instead, I broke the rules and recruited you as my representative. Larissa was to be taken the day before she stayed in your apartment. That is why she could see the images in my paintings. I altered circumstances for you. Twice. Your time was up but you continued on because I allowed you to. The only reason either of you could see the images in my paintings was because you were already, technically, dead. You simply hadn’t left your bodies yet.”
Completely at a loss, I gaped, trying to put my feelings into words; trying to figure out just how I felt. "Why are you telling me this?"
"I thought you should know," he replied. “If I hadn’t done what I did, the two of you would never have met."
I glanced at the scythe, resting against the wall. I could only come up with one question. “How was she supposed to go?”
“Car accident,” he said casually. “All of her relatives are out of town and, like you, she didn’t have much in the way of friends. She would have died alone, with only busy hospital orderlies nearby. Instead, she passed on painlessly in her sleep without so much as a nightmare. And all the while you were there, holding her in your sleep.”
Death giveth, and Death taketh way. I sat back down and stared at the table. "So, what now, then?"
“Now that you know how things could have gone, perhaps my offer will be more interesting to you. I have grown tired of the scythe, so I am offering you the job. It has occurred before, you see. A single soul can’t handle the burden of being the reaper for all of eternity. I myself am not even among the first hundred. I think you are more than qualified to be my replacement. You take over the job and I gain another chance at life until my time’s up. Meanwhile, you are free to visit Larissa, or any other amongst the deceased. That’s one of the perks.”
“How will I find her? How do I know who to take, when to do it, and where they are?”
“The scythe imparts the knowledge upon its owner,” he said, “It’s actually fairly simple, most deaths occur without you needing to be there. Just show up for the ones the scythe tells you; keep the ball rolling.”
“How long do I have to do it?”
“Until you get tired of it and find an appropriate replacement. After that, you can live again for a while, even though you should have died weeks ago. It’s part of the bargain – probably meant to re-humanize you or something. Eventually, though, you’ll die and pass on to the next world, too. I’ll be there by then, and so will Larissa.”
I felt like a toy played with and cast away, but I nodded anyway. Now that I understood the nature of Death’s game it’d be hard to continue life as usual. And I could see Larissa again. Even at the cost of my life, it was a bargain Death offered.
“So, what do I do?” I asked.
He held out the scythe to me and I grasped it. I felt the smooth, worn wood of the handle for a split-second before I felt the quick, searing pain of my flesh being torn from my bones and transplanted onto him. And then I felt absolutely nothing - the sensuality of nada.
“Ah, to be human again!” Big D/Cory said, smiling with what used to be my lips. He sucked down the remainder of his cafe latte and made a face. “You know, I’ve never been able to taste these. I don’t think coffee's for me.”
I shrugged a skeletal shoulder, uninteresed.
"Well, I hope I don't see you for a while," he said with what used to be my voice.
"Yes, have a nice life, Cory." I said, heading for the door. After I met with Larissa there was much work to be done and I'd have to freshen up on my writing skills: I had a story in mind that was simply dying to be told.
Last edited by ghost_warlock : 10-04-2008 at 12:14 AM.