Of Life and Death

It was a bloody mess. There were no other words for it.

An oil tanker had jack-knifed on the bridge late last night, early this morning. Though the spill was minimal compared to its capacity, there was a spill. The bridge was temporarily closed and oh how the morning commuters loved that while a clean-up crew did its best. Still, they are only human and they were not in control of the weather, when they gave the all clear and opened the bridge again.

Several cloudbursts opened up over the city within a forty-five-minute period earlier that afternoon and a drunk driver spun out of control on slick patch of oil and rain. It caused a vicious domino effect that resulted in too many vehicles playing a deadly game of bumper cars before it was over. Emergency services from various neighborhoods were on the scene, sirens closed in from the distance with the promise of more arriving.

Ignoring the police blockade He drove directly onto the bridge and parked. He stepped out of the gleaming pale vehicle and stretched to His full height, His posture very erect as He walked away as the vehicle door slowly swung down and closed. His fair complexion and long limbs belied the strength of the nicely toned body beneath the black suit, shirt and shoes He wore. Though simply calling it a black suit was slovenly; it did not do it justice at all.  It was not simply black. A friend had once joked with Him that it was darker than midnight in hell and dubbed it hereafter. There was a certain something about it, the subtle sheen, the way it fit His form, yet it moved with His casual stride in an elegance that radiated bespoke. His dress shirt was open from the top two buttons that exposed a hint of collar-bone and chest and the expanse of His long neck. He wore an equally black fedora on his dark curls, tilted roguishly over piercing mercurial eyes, a patrician nose and full cupid bow lips. His leather shoes were near soundless, as soundless as the ever-present gleaming black walking stick with silver ferrule and skull head handle he carried.

No one noticed Him, as with a single determination, He stepped out into the middle of the tableau before Him and glanced around. His luminous eyes took in everything.

There was screaming and crying all around.

Two cars had flipped over. Three cars were on fire, a fourth was dangerously close to its own conflagration. A delivery car for Gladiola Florist crashed, flipped on its roof and landed on the roof of another vehicle that had slammed into a guard rail. The angle and weight of the car had it teetering dangerously on the sheer edge of the rail. Terror completely immured the young female driver unable to stop its slow, yet inevitable slide into the murky waters of the river below. He heard babies, children and adults crying and screaming alike. There was at least one body thrown from its vehicle in a tattered, mangled twist of bone, muscle, blood and clothing before Him. There several other vehicles in various states of damage. Those that could move on their own, slowly did, as their respective drivers settled and thanked their lucky stars.

He looked at the dust, gas, oil, carnage around Him and smiled; seventeen vehicles, thirty-nine lives.

Oh, it was a bloody mess, indeed!

With a small amused shake of His head He tapped the walking stick to the pavement.

And.

Time.

Stopped.

A quick tip of His tongue ran across his inner bottom lip. A rich baritone chuckle escaped from deep in His throat as a familiar excitement thrummed through Him.

Let’s dance.”

He grabbed the mangled body before Him first. Male, thirty-two, head chef at a restaurant, had not worn a seat belt, was thrown through the windshield and then struck by a SUV that crushed his torso, yet left him conscious. He had been a decent, if reckless, man in this life; there was no need to let him suffer that much pain.

The young female driver is the first to notice Him. Nineteen years of age, university student, late for class after making a delivery, the car was a present from her father, she had her hair recently cut at the salon. She smiled as her panic abated when He curved his hand from where He stands, yet caressed her face and eased her fear. He snatched claim of her before the car free-felled into the water.

A six-month old infant, shaken badly in the car seat from the impact, and his twenty-six-year-old mother, ribs broken that punctured her lungs in two places were next. The howls of the now childless twenty-eight-year-old widower, sat with them, his face frozen in the pain that will be his life for a long while.

An elderly couple was next. She, eighty-three, heart failure. He seventy-six, aneurysm.

Why you saucy little minx! Married a man seven years your junior. Oh, that had to be quite the tongue-wagging back in the day. I bet you were something!

They have shared fifty-seven years of married life together. In a blink of His eyes neither will know a day apart from the other.

A forty-one-year-old female was going into Insulin shock. He shook His head.

No, not this time. Next time you’re mine.

Even as He thought the words, He could see paramedics, currently frozen in time, were on their way.

He moved about the scene, laying claim to those whose time had come, noting those He sensed were close to His calling. He was moving on to another calling when a scene off to the side got His attention.

A man on the ground, tall, twenty-seven, athletic body – runner, his face frozen in a contorted scream. That was not what caught His attention. It was the man kneeling by his side. Mid-thirties, average height, solid form, blond hair streaked with silver, former military, doctor, his bloodied hands pressed on the athletic man’s abdomen.  An abdomen that was splayed to the world. There was a grim, but absolute determination on the doctor’s face.

He walked away to another scene that caught His eye. A woman, twenty-eight, average built, a nurse in the midst of falling away from the open door driver side of a car. The result of a shove from a meaty hand of the muscular built, forty-nine-year-old male driver, his grey eyes radiated hate that seemed to block out that pain he had to be feeling with the jagged shrapnel that protruded through the windshield into his chest.

Eyes narrowed He unfreezes just that scene.

The nurse hit the ground hard, then got up, and being professional attempted to get the man to see reason, but was cut off from speaking.

“Shut up you stupid bitch. I don’t want you touching me!” It was not as vicious as it could have been when only one lung functioned properly as he went into a diatribe of racist insults until the pain grasped him full on and he starts screaming.

Walk away, go help someone worthy of your kindness.

The nurse walked away to help a woman trapped in her car. Thirty-one, heavy-set, barista by day, student by night, mother of twins. The driver side door pushed in, in a way that was painful enough to render her unconscious.

No, not her; she is mine.

He took her. The nurse saw the moment she went from unconscious to gone, shook her head sadly and went to help someone else.

He looks at the man in the car, the screaming has become whimpering. The whimpering stops as He is noticed. And like the woman who spotted Him earlier, he knows it’s his time. Where she greeted Him in understanding, this one is terrified.

A life lived wrong, will do that to some.

The man belongs to Him, but He does not like ugly. And unlike the first man, He will not take this one yet, He will let him suffer in pain for a while more.

He returns to the scene with the doctor and unfreezes it.

“I promise you, it looks worse than it is.” The doctor keeps pressure on the wound, lashing material tightly around the man’s abdomen, essentially keeping his guts inside his body. “You are not dying today! You’re not!”

The doctor lifts his head looking around and for the briefest moment He is rooted to the spot with the impression of being seen as the doctor’s fathomless blue eyes appeared to look right at Him as he attempts to get the attention of paramedics. Unlike the good doctor, the athlete does see Him and starts babbling. It’s the fear and begging and galimatias of many when they see Him and know. By now He has heard it all in the final moments. He half shrugs, very much as the doctor is doing his job; He’s merely performing His. He sweeps His walking stick over the scene.

The athlete goes into cardiac arrest, becoming non-responsive.

“NO!” The doctor yells, his battlefield training kicking into high gear, applying countermeasures. “I’ve got you. Do you hear me? You’re not dying. I would fight Death himself if I have to. You are not dying on me!”

A sly twinkle appeared in His eyes at the impudence of the statement. Why is He so beguiled by this man, this doctor?

The irony of this literal fight between life and Death is not lost on Him as He watches the doctor, fascinated by his tenacity to keep his patient alive at all costs.

He remembers the other lives in the balance and collects them, including the racist, so he can return to the doctor, now working with paramedics who finally arrived by his side. The athlete is His to take, but for some reason He does not want to disappoint this doctor who has fought so hard.

He sweeps His walking stick over the athlete again whose heart immediately settles. His wounds are still what they are, he will have a harsh recovery, but no, he will not die from them.

He taps His walking stick to the ground once more and all time reasserts itself.

He’ll have to balance this with another life, but this life is His gift to the doctor. The immense relief in the doctor’s face evident, his smile genuine and warm as his patient comes around.

Oh, I will have to come visit with you again Doctor.

But works calls and He must heed. He walks to the pale car that opens to accept Him and drives away to the next site.

<>==========<>

MindLoveMisery’s Menagerie: Wordle-161
Insulin, Posture, Shake, Suffer, Cloudburst, Immure, Hereafter, Slovenly, Radiate, Gladiola, Restaurant, Galimatias
Use at least ten of the twelve words in a story or poem.

The Sunday Whirl: 305
Drunk, Snatch, Sheer, Single, Tattered, Lash, Rooted, Dust, Curve, Sly, Spun, Blink
Use at least ten of the twelve words in a story or poem.

Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie: Tale Weaver # 126 – Death
Write a story about death – from Death’s point of view.

3 thoughts on “Of Life and Death

  1. This is a fantastic piece of writing. I was engaged throughout and I like how you described the dress and appearance of Death. Excellent contribution to this week’s Tale Weaver and thanks so much for sharing it with us.

    • Thanks Michael. Turning the pale horse to a pale Lamborghini was easy. I had fun with the idea of how he’d look in a modern interpretation, but still be Death.

  2. Wow! As Michael noted, a most excellent story – and it was captivating – not because of the carnage, but from the perspective of death – and how it all unfolded. And you did a wonderful job with the wordle too – it really worked throughout this piece so well – had to wonder where the words were – so most excellent weaving.

    thanks for playing the wordle this week 🙂

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