Congratulations to Gavin Wilson, whose story is now on the shortlist for the Strictly Writing Award.
There is only one more month left of the competition, so if you haven't entered yet, give it a go! Details of how to submit your story are available here.
A LITTLE BIT OF SOUL
It is a winter month but I don’t feel the cold that whistles through the house sending dust spiralling in darting, dancing gusts as I stand looking down at the woman lying in her bed. Her eyes are closed now, the faint traces of a lingering smile on her face. Whether this is due to a last happy dream or the beginnings of rigor mortis I wouldn’t know: I would love to say the former.
Cause of death hypothermia. The poor old girl had lived on her own since her husband passed, with no kids to come and visit. Her guilty pleasure had been the odd game of bingo but after her hip had gone the random weekly draw had drawn to a close when she couldn’t get around as much. Only the weekly visits from her friends at the church had carried on to give her something to look forward to.
As I turn to leave I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror: the raven black I think looks good on me, stylish perhaps in a Presbyterian way, but the collar is always too tight, a reminder perhaps of my servitude. I glance back at the old lady. She at least has gone to a better place now. The prayer for the dead has been said, her immortal soul has left its mortal body. Case closed.
Next job, so soon; ah well, no rest for the wicked. A young driver has stolen a car and I give chase. He’s driving like a maniac swerving in and out of the traffic; at any point he could lose control. I always wonder why some people do this, what thrills they get from driving this quickly.
It happens fast; the front tire blows and the car slides sideways briefly before it flips. A cacophony of tormented metal and glass spins and rolls in balletic carnage before it ends on its roof, golden sparks shooting out across the road like a firework as the steel grinds across the asphalt leaving a bloody smear behind it.
Mercifully quick…. one easy job; death by driving!
I’ve been watching this one for a while now, but I have time. The man in the smart suit has spent some time looking out over the city, clinging to the tall chimney, tears streaming down his cheeks; for what reason I don’t know.
He’s stepped closer to the edge, looking down. From this height the fall would certainly kill him.
I understand the desire to end, but why this way?
I approach him and he turns around still crying. I have no words for him, nothing that will take away his pain or make him feel better.
He jumps. Maybe he will land in a friendly place.
It’s morning now for some people, but what does it matter? I enter a grocery store: the shop keeper is being held up by a masked man holding him at gun point. I stop and watch but no one notices me, intent on their own predicaments and petty crimes.
“Where is the safe?” The masked man yells.
The shop keeper stays quiet.
“I will blow your head off old man.”
The shop keeper goes for the bat under the counter.
The masked man dashes past me and I walk around to the other side of the counter.
A pool of blood is flowing in viscous finality across the floor, the old shop keeper left staring blankly up at the ceiling with his one remaining eye.
There is little I can do other than watch and wait as he takes his final breath.
Murder: it happens and always will.
I need a break but it doesn’t seem like I’m going to get one anytime soon. I sit in the chair looking at the old woman lying in the hospital bed. Her husband sits beside her holding her hand.
Bashed over the head because she wouldn’t hand over her purse; it only had a picture of her dead son and a small amount of money. Was it really worth holding on to it? To her, it was.
The heart monitor flat-lines and her husband looks up in disbelief. She can’t be dying; it was just a bash on the head. Medical staff rush into the room and they try their hardest to resuscitate her but to no avail.
In the quiet and lonely aftermath I walk to the side of her bed. Her soul eyes open and she smiles at me. It's not often that happens: I place my hand on her hers and smile back.
“I always wondered,” she says, the ghosts of her words whispering into my ears. “You look a little different to how I thought you would.”
“Are you ready to go?” I ask.
As she nods, I sever her soul from its mortal cage and stopping only to brush a kiss across the cheek of her grief exhausted husband, she rises to the glow above her.
Another day: another death. The prayer for the dead has been said, the soul has left the body. Rest in peace.
When will it be my turn to rest?
I am different now, so different from the being I used to be. I have been known by so many different names. Gone is the scythe and flowing cloak, the gloom and skeletal form.
The mirror never lies. A man to those of you who see: dressed in raven black. Tie, suit, shoes, shirt: although the collar of the shirt is always too tight for some reason. Tall, distinguished and calm, the silver scissors that sever secreted in a jacket pocket. No scythe to terrorise with apocalyptic dread.
Only when the fires fall from the sky and the dead rise will I truly know an end. That will not happen yet, so I continue endlessly. While you believe, I endure. I long for the sanctity of death; an end, but that cannot happen while you are all still here believing and dreaming of your sad little ends. Your sad demises mean little to me.
One day I will know rest, but until then I will be there at every cessation of life. If you see me, you will know me.
For I am Death.
It will be my pleasure to meet you.