Grim Visit

Grim Visit

A Story by Nathan Thompson
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Ok I know this is very pratchett-ie but I like Pratchett and I like Death (the guy in the black robe, not the actual end of life) hope you like it.

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       People decided, after a few minutes, that the man was very…brave. Yes…brave…that was it, it was a good thing to be, brave. That was the important thing, bravery.

     Absolutely no one said, “good riddance” or “he was an old twat” or even “ding-dong, the old b*****d’s dead”. Oh there were plenty of people thinking those things, not saying them, that would be disrespectful. Of course that had never stopped people saying them before he died. It was strange that. You’d have thought it would be more disrespectful to say these thing when he could hear about them himself, but now that he had gone somewhere that he couldn’t hear them, they kept their opinions to themselves.

     So as everyone usually does in these situations, everyone racked their brains (which didn’t take long, in fact had someone been standing near the old man’s neighbours as their brains were being racked, you probably would have heard the rattle) for something good to say about him. And in the end, someone had remembered that he had lost a finger while fighting in the war, so people had called him brave.

     “Well,” they had said, “he must have lost it doing something brave mustn’t he? Must’ve been shot off, or blown off!”

     So they nodded to each other, muttered something about, “yeah…gotta be brave, brave man he was.” Then went to have a drink for the poor brave old man.

     What some people wondered, and something they had no problem wondering out aloud to people, was who was going to get the old b*****d’s money? He must have had some, didn’t go anywhere did he?

     And another thing, what happened to that parrot he used to keep?

     “He definitely had one,” said his neighbour who had very thin walls and who couldn’t help hearing everything that happened at both his neighbours, especially when his wife held a glass against the wall and her ear to the glass. “Screamed it did, used to talk, I remember that” as if it had happened several decades ago “used to say things. It said “what’s up with you then?” and “what up with me then?” I think the old man had the parrot listening to music hall comedy a little too much, and it said it’s name all the time.”

     “What was it’s name then?” as people would invariably ask.

     “Stupid bugger I think he called it.” And people nodded again, nodding was a good response to things, it didn’t take much effort, it could mean a variety of things and was simple enough to pull off.

 

     THE PREVIOUS NIGHT

 

     “BUGGER!,” Stupid Bugger crowed, from his cage. The parrot was concerned, usually when he shouted, he heard his own name back from the old man on the settee. Usually along the lines of “shut up, you stupid bugger” but now there was just silence. The old man didn’t even move

     STUPID BUGGER!,” said the parrot again, and still there was silence, after a couple of seconds he said “what’s up with you then?” still the man didn’t move. The parrot stopped thinking about it and ruffled its feathers, it had got cold all of a sudden. He became aware that someone, or something else was in the room. It didn’t pay the visitor much attention, it was carrying a scythe, about 8 feet tall, wearing a big dark grey cloak and inside the cowl of the hood Stupid Bugger saw the being was somewhat lacking in the flesh part of flesh and bone. In fact it was all bone. Apart from that, there wasn’t anything else very interesting about the visitor. He wasn’t even wearing a colourful hat.

     The visitor stalked over to the old man, was good at stalking, he did a lot of it. Without pausing his stride, he walked to the man and gripped the scythe in two bony hands. With a quick swipe, he brought the scythe down, blade first, on the old man. The old man didn’t move, even though Stupid Bugger (which had again taken interest in the proceedings) thought that being attacked with a scythe would at least cause some movement, like coming apart.

     The stranger watched the old man for a couple of seconds. Then watched as the old man stepped up, turned round and looked down at the settee again, he was still sitting there.

     JAMES ALDER?

     “Aha,” said the man.

     AHA, agreed Death. The old man appeared to notice him for the first time.

     “So you’re here are you?” he asked.

     HERE AND EVERYWHERE, said Death, without a trace of irony, there was no voice. He sounded more like an echo, in your own head.

     “I’ve been waiting for you,” said the old man turning back to his body. There was a curious look in his eyes, almost as if he was waiting again to see if the wait was worth waiting for.

     YES, said Death, he liked the Waiters. He put mortals into three categories, the Lookers, the Waiters and the Runners. The Lookers were the ones who couldn’t wait for his visit, they were the daredevils who said they only felt alive when they were looking Death in the face despite claiming time and again that they didn’t want to die, and then there were the ones who just didn’t even bother pretending. The Lookers, didn’t talk much, they were usually too busy thinking about their lives and where they went wrong rather then thinking of their deaths. The Runners were the ones who did everything and anything to avoid him, medicines, exercise, selling your soul to the devil for eternal life[1] and some even sought out the fountain of youth, although he had to admit, that particular last resort had dwindled in resent centuries. He asked himself why they bothered; they knew he would end up meeting them eventually. And why did they think that it was a bad thing, he was even insulted slightly. They didn’t talk much either, they shouted a lot, some pleaded, some begged, some threatened him, though what they thought they could threaten an eight-foot tall, scythe armed, skeleton with was beyond him. Only the Waiters really dealt with him with any sense of dignity, plus they were often nice to talk to, the old ladies generally told him he was looking thin and to get some meat on his bones.

     The old man was still looking at his shell. “So what happens now?” he asked inclining his head back to Death.

     WE WAIT, answer Death.

     “Wait? How long?”

     AS LONG AS IT TAKES, said Death simply.

     “Until what? What’s going to happen?”

     Death had long ago stopped trying to tell mortals what really happened, at first, he had but before he had finished, the thing that they had waited for had already happened, and they never looked as if they were grasping it, so he had shortened it over they millennium. You are going on a journey, used to be a good one, but he found that started them asking about what kind of journey and if they would need their passports. Seeing your family again was another tricky one, many of the people he saw had family they didn’t really want to see. Grudges, he discovered were pretty powerful things. Therefore, he had shortened it to, YOU’LL FADE, DON’T WORRY, IT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE.

     Alders nodded. Death felt satisfied, it never failed.

     “What do we do until then?” Death shrugged

     GENERALLY WE TALK UNTIL IT HAPPENS

     “What about?” Death hesitated, he wasn’t really sure. He enjoyed these talks with people, he seldom had anyone to talk to, but the subject was usually started by the other person.

     THE WEATHER? Death suggested, HOW ABOUT THE LOCAL SPORT TEAM? Death looked at the bird that had long since lost interest again and was ruffling its feathers in annoyance of the cold. ANIMALS? I KNOW QUITE A BIT ABOUT ANIMALS.

     “Animals? Hah, can’t stand animals,” said Alder waving his spectral hand at the bird in the cage. “Especially that bloody bird, eats like there’s no tomorrow, squawks the house down, and craps all over the place when it’s out of it’s cage, and it’s a b*****d to put back in its cage. And when you try to feed the thing it always tries to take a bite out of my fingers” Alder waves his hand at Death to show him the scars that the bird had left on his fingers over the year, of course there was no scars, and something about his own hand seemed to fascinate him. Death was confused.

     IF YOU DO NOT ENJOY OWNING THE PARROT, WHY DO YOU KEEP IT?

     “What? Oh the bird,” said Alder who was still looking at his hand in wonder, “I just keep him for the company really, at least it’s another voice in the place, hey my finger has grown back,” Alder waved the digit in front of Death’s face.

     IS THAT GESTURE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE AN INSULT? asked Death

     “What? Oh sorry” said Alder taking his hand from in front of Death and looking at his own finger again, “it’s just I lost this finger during the war and it’s back again,”

     IT NEVER REALLY LEFT, said Death

     “Never left? Course it bloody left, I remember, I was working in the kitchens, chopping up meat, and I was a bit too clumsy with the cleaver. Well, you know how it is you’re young…” he had remembered to whom he was talking, and knew without doubt that Death had no idea how it is “…well I was young and a bit enthusiastic to be helping the cook. Always wanted to be a chef you see. Anyway I was cutting this meat, and something caught my eye, so I looked up, felt a pain then I looked down and saw I had cut right through my finger.”

     COULD THEY HAVE NOT STICHED IT BACK ON? asked Death curiously.

     “No, when I saw right through, I don’t mean along the width, I mean the length-ways, really nasty it was, hurt like hell. Blood everywhere, had to have it cut off. It wasn’t any use anymore, anyway.” Alder was still looking at it, when he chuckled unexpectedly, “I passed out when I first looked at it. Well I was young, never seen a cut off body part before, especially my own” he chuckled again “the funny thing is, anyone round hear will say I did it fighting, hah, only weapon I picked up during the war was a cooking knife, I weren’t bad at it either. Everyone likes a good cook, especially when you’ve being shot at for a living and you finally get home, to a good meal.” He was looking solemn now. “Should’ve been fighting really. Oh everyone said I had done me part well, but when all of your mates are the ones carrying the guns, you know you’re the one that landed the cushy job and if they were lucky enough to come back at all they were more often then not, missing a piece here, or a piece there. More then my missing piece that’s for sure, and many is time that I wasn’t setting a plate for a mate. Some poor sod that had gone further then where a good meal could help him.” Alder turned his eyes away from his hand and back at Death, “still nothin I can do about that now, is there?

     NO

     Alder sighed and looked up as if remembering something “so what do you mean that it never left, look at the hand on me body, you’ll see it ain’t there no more”

     DID YOU NOT STILL FEEL IT SOMETIMES? asked Death.

     “Oh yeah, when it was cold sometimes, but Doctors have a word for it, don’t they? Someone told me once…that was it, phantom pain, something about my brain thinking it’s still there or something”

     CORRECT, said Death, YOUR MIND THINKS ITS STILL THERE. HOW IMPORTANT DO YOU THINK YOUR MIND IS RIGHT NOW?

     “Pretty, important then?”

     YES

      Alder was looking at his hand again, and could have sworn it looked a bit fainter, “is this it?”

     YES, said Death, IT IS TIME

     “So what do I do now?” said Alder, his voice sounding fainter.

     I HAVE NO IDEA, YOU ARE GOING SOMEWHERE I HAVE NEVER BEEN, MAYBE YOU’LL GET INSTRUCTIONS WHEN YOU GET THERE.

     Maybe? Just maybe?”

     LIKE I SAID, I HAVE NEVER BEEN, I’M SURE YOU WILL FIGURE IT OUT THOUGH.

     Alder vanished, Death looked where he had been standing, and sighed, a motion that produced a strange note between his teeth.

     “What’s up with you then?” Death turned to look at Stupid Bugger, the parrot was giving him a curious look. Death knew what was up with him. It was the same thing that had probably made Alder so unhappy.

     LONELINESS, he said to the bird, I AM ALONE WITH NO ONE TO TALK TO FOR VERY LONG.

     “What’s up with me then?” Death thought for a second, yes, he thought, why not?

     Lifting the latch on the cage he, allowed the bird to step on his finger, then perched it onto his shoulder.

     LET US GO MY FEATHERED FRIEND, TO THE FURTHEST DEPTHS OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE HIGHEST MOUNTAINS. THOUGH THE MEANEST STREETS AND THE MOST MAGNIFICENT PALACES.

     “BUGGER!” said Stupid Bugger, he meant it as well, but then he thought, what the hell, there might be nice food, and this shoulder seems comfortable to perch on, but I might need to get some extra clothing from somewhere.

     Then with a snap of his fingers, Death vanished, along with Stupid Bugger.

 

The End



[1] Which was pointless really, why would the devil give eternal life in exchange for a soul? He’d never get his hands on it if he did, plus from the moment you decide to make a deal with the devil, he has your soul anyway and doesn’t feel the need to give you anything for it.


© 2010 Nathan Thompson



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I liked this. It held my interest from beginning to end. I love the finger thing. Mostly I like it because the funny thing is that happened to my Dad. He cut off the top of one of his fingers while chopping meat, he was an officer's chef in the navy, and a chef in army too. I like that death found himself a friend, everyone needs someone, even death.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


great write.. it reminds me of my poem death calls.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

OH, a happy ending!!! Lovely. I enjoyed this story, you kept me interested throughout. Love that Death found a friend, everybody needs someone!! Good write!!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Very good. Liked the way that the finger links the prologue and the body of the story.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I loved how you used Death as a person, or a thing that you can talk to and ask questions to. I loved this piece and to tell the truth I liked the parrot too! : )

Aerica

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on February 10, 2008
Last Updated on June 9, 2010
Tags: Death, Parrot, Grim Reaper, old, loneliness, dead, died, passed on, passed
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Nathan Thompson
Nathan Thompson

Manchester, United Kingdom



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Well, hi there all...erm...I'm Nathan, I'm 26 and I live in Manchester, England (for the people who consider England too small a country to know where it is, it's that weird shaped one just above Fra.. more..

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