Worked to Death

Worked to Death

A Story by Sacha Davison

Based on Aesop's 'The Old Man & Death'


Act 1

               On a brisk and dull afternoon, when timid Autumn’s fingers gently graced the shoulder of a dawning Winter, a screen of gray clouds intercepted the Sun’s embrace of the forested landscape. An old man hobbled his way down the avenue, cane barely supporting the unbalanced weight of the broken labourer. It was as bleak a day as any; detached drones making their commute. The walled perimeter of the property gave the only detectable glimpse of colour for miles. It was a disgusting colour. Fermented avocados and pea soup would blend quite well to match its waxy coat. Reminding most of the workers of the nasty mucus that they expelled daily from their aching chests - compliments of the horrible fumes of the melting plastic. Two thirds of a lifetime, wired into the old mans mind, all spent resenting this hell.

To this very day, the idea is difficult to believe, but Cornelius N. Bin had spent forty-five years of existence in this dreary, simple town. Being the tenth child out of a roost that held nineteen spawns, one may infer that Mr. Bin had many individuals in his life. Cornelius, however, had been ostracized by peers, siblings �" even his own parents �" for reasons that no soul had ever pondered, ‘nor realized. As such, he never had much opportunity to learn simple communication skills, or even how to sequence the first ten numeric symbols. His lack of intelligence and angular physique left scant potential for him to progress at all in the exponentially expanding social and fiscal rankings. Fifteen was the age that he chose to leave the education system and work as a bundle-thrower at the local plastic recycling plant; each day aging him as if it were three, forevermore.

Bundle-throwing is a simple concept. Workers receive heavy cubes of compressed shreds of plastic at a pace Lucille Ball would appreciate. Upon reception of these sad, multi-coloured chunks, Cornelius had the job of placing them into a container, which would then be placed in the furnace. It was a mundane task -  and for all Cornelius knew the repetitive assignment was completely pointless. Breaks were seldom, and raises were non-existent. The fumes of the melting plastic fogged the air of the nearly airtight, child-sized compartment in which this humble man had spent the past thirty years pacing, bending and twisting. It was not a career. Roasting heat swallowed one’s very being like a desert sandstorm to an oasis. This was something no man, woman, child or demonic monster should ever experience, let alone attempt to tolerate. Truly, these poor slaves felt the endless agony and humiliation of Sisyphus, ten-fold. 

Thundering barks hacked out of the chest and throat of Cornelius. Typically, this would happen for about five consecutive minutes, sometimes longer, two or three times each day he spent trapped in his cell. For most, this combined with the hellish conditions would make for a numb mind. In the case of the gray and weathered drone, the middle-aged man who resembled a stereotypical retirement home resident, there was no mind to numb. His brain had never operated at a capacity that allowed him the benefit of critical thinking. The coughing had never been something to upset him, but after his last heave-ho sent him into this voluminous concert of the lungs darkest corners, something different happened. When Cornelius N. Bin caught sight of the thick, dark coloured blood coating his hand and wrist, it sent him into an absolute panic. Thoughts of regret, anguish and pain were accompanied by a surging hatred for the work conditions that caused this hysteria. An echoing, bitter cry exploded from this formerly meek individual. He was at his limit and fed up with these plastic cubes and blistering heat. With all his might, the old man begged for Death to free him from this life, no longer did he possess the will to bear it.

Act 2

The climate made a drastic transition from a sweltering oven, into the sharp iciness of an Arctic tundra. In lieu of the orange-red glow, that usually provided the dim lighting which guided Cornelius’ hands from bundle to bin, the room was simply gray. It was as if someone had turn the man’s vision into a noire-film. No longer could the humming and clanging of a factory be heard, only a chilling white-noise; gradually intensifying. Flowing blood, barely crawling through the veins of the battered worker, was the only other audio sensation to tease his inner ear. He felt the lightly applied pressure of a million frigid hands, clawing at every morsel of him �" their fingernails lifting each miniscule hair individually. One thousand moths danced with his heart and gullet, as Mr. Bin was flashed into petrification. Then, the silence was broken.

King of Terrors, Reaper of Souls. Many titles have been assigned by men to the very antithesis of their fragile mortality. Timeless and without form, Death sweeps the universe. Existence being revoked from any life form at the sole discretion of its eternal force. Many have tragically failed to be, by questioning whether there even is a “not-to-be”. No manifestation is exempt from Death’s ultimatum; those living, must die. To insult that which purges energy and rots matter, is an evident shortcut to reach ones’ end. To the dismay of Cornelius, Death will never hesitate to liberate the tortured soul from the human husk.

Death’s voice is analogous to what one might expect a choir of angels to sound like, if that choir had been set ablaze and were crying out in absolute horror. Chalkboards and nails cover their ears and wince at a single note. The chill that the Reaper’s presence filled the room with paled in comparison to the gelid chords of its call. The old man felt excruciating pain surging through his skull, worsening each time a syllable carved its way into his skull. Unbearable razors rattled inside his cranium. There was a clear message that demanded an answer. Death hatefully interrogated, demanding why the old man had beckoned the Void. Seemingly, the call of Cornelius had been received. The longer he took to process its inquisition, the more violent the agony became. It became blatant that the end was nigh.

Act 3

Cornelius N. Bin found himself bound in time, unable to move freely. The evil presence that enveloped him was beyond powerful. Were he able to move, Bin would have likely stayed in the exact place, but instead he would be cowering in fear. To the ferocious lion, Death, he was but an enfant gazelle; injured and stranded from the herd. His inclination to the void had vanished. The man was now longing to throw himself down upon his knees and beg for forgiveness. His employment hadn’t been fruitful, or even safe. It had aged him horribly, to the point where he was often mistaken for a much older person. With all its pitfalls, Cornelius would still rather serve a thousand lifetimes in this hell of steel and concrete, than one more moment in the presence of this primordial nightmare.

Sweating profusely from the complexity and abnormality of the situation, the old man began to panic. Surging through his mind were forty-five years of regrets and sorrows. Once, Cornelius had been told that life would flash before his eyes upon meeting death. This was an outright lie. Every second that the memories that flooded his psyche felt like an eternity had passed. Such raw and intense emotions, the nostalgia of dead memories being brought to life and the heartbreak of a million bad decisions were ravaging his soul to an unimaginable degree. The worst experience of the poor man’s life would be a welcome vacation from this suffering. Desperation began festering within the man, as he scrambled for the plea that would deliver him from this incessant torture.

 At that moment of terror, a helpful memory was triggered in the brain of Cornelius. An old acquaintance, one of Scottish descent, had once shared with Bin his family motto. Sapienter, si sincere. The Scotsman had told him it meant ‘wisely, if sincerely’. An adoption of this motto, was exactly what the old factory worker required to inspire what would be the boldest action in his short life. Death would have his answer. Mustering up as much courage as he had left, Cornelius responded to the essence that longed to shroud him in its eternal darkness.

“Please, sir!” his voice shaking, with the confidence and demeanor of a baby possum.

“Would you kindly pass me that next bundle of plastic.”


© 2017 Sacha Davison

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Author's Note

Sacha Davison
This was part of a Storytelling assignment. It required 3 acts based off a classic story.

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Added on October 30, 2017
Last Updated on October 30, 2017
Tags: aesop, fable, death, college


Sacha Davison
Sacha Davison


A collection of content, largely unedited, that I have created over the years. Most pieces currently posted are from my teenage years, but I will be posting more examples of my work, in the near futur.. more..


A Chapter by Sacha Davison