A Modern Death by Kieran Meyer

Death strode through the dark hospital corridor, never getting a second glance from the staff. It was so often a hospital these days. Hundreds of years ago Death could walk where he pleased, take what he wanted to when he wanted it. War zones were always terrific for that, especially in this modern day and age. Sometimes he would happen upon an accident. For the most part, however, he could only take his toll when Medicine, Faith, and Hope had given up on those they were protecting. Guardian angels, they call them. What a load of shit.

Death wore a black hooded jacket over a white t-shirt and jeans. In his pocket he gripped a straight-razor. The scythe and cloak were a little too conspicuous. The razor still did the trick to inspire fear and wonder in those on the way out. No one ever wants to die. A shame; the afterlife isn’t so bad as what the Greeks made it. I can give them whatever they feel they deserve.

Room 211 was on the right side of the hallway.  Death was drawn to its utter emptiness. He slowly opened the door. On the bed lay an elderly man, tubes and wires coming out of his arms and torso. There were constant beepings and pings coming from the machines. A younger woman sat in the chair next to him, asleep. Death pulled the razor out of his pocket and strode toward the bed, eyes fixed squarely on the dying man.

“Mmmmm…hello?”

Death paused, centimeters away from his goal. He glanced up at the woman stirring in the chair next to the bed. She blinked a couple of times, then looked up at Death. She blinked again. “What time is it?”

Death didn’t blink. This wasn’t the first time he had interacted with those still swimming in life. This woman, though. Something’s different about her.

The woman stared, still blinking sleep from her eyes. She couldn’t have been older than 40. “I don’t understand. Who are you? Are you a doctor?”

“Not exactly.” Life is scarce here, yet I only feel one who is ready.

Then who are you, and…oh my god, is that a knife?” The woman was wide awake now. “Are you here for him?”

Death turned his eyes back to the dying man. “Yes.”

The woman reached out and grabbed Death’s arm. “Take me instead.”

“No.”

“Please,” the woman pleaded.

Death looked towards her. That’s why the room feels so empty. He stood up straight and closed his razor with both hands. “Why?” he said, directing his attention to her.

“What?” She let go of his arm, shocked.

“I’m only here for this man.” He gestured towards the bed. “Why-”

“My father.”

“Sorry?”

“He’s my father.”

“…right. Your father.” It’s been a while since I played this game. “Tell me why I should take you.”

The woman took a deep breath, then let out a heavy sigh. “My mother poisoned me and my siblings against my father when I was young, and only in the past few years did I reach out to him. We were horrible to him.” She wiped a tear away, gazing at the man in the bed. “He’s a kind, caring man, and it took me too many years to see that. I should go, not him, I- I- oh, god…” she sobbed.

Death reached across the bed, tilted her head up, and looked the woman straight in the eyes, studying her. A chill visibly went down her spine.

“I know who you are now.” The woman smiled forlornly, grabbing his hand. “Why won’t you take me?”

Death took a deep breath and sighed. “Ordinarily I wouldn’t hesitate, but…tell me your name.” The woman told him. Death opened his razor and stared at the blade. Ah. He closed the blade. “Sit.”

The woman sat back down, and Death  strode towards her. “Believe me, your time will come.” He reached into his pocket and, covering her face with his hand, sprinkled sand over her. “But not today.”  Her head fell gently onto her shoulder. “You still have much, much more to accomplish. Only then…”

Death turned back to the man in the bed. He opened the razor and set it gently against the man’s throat, placing the other hand on his shoulder. Death leaned in close and whispered gently “I release you from this world. What do you wish to do next?”

The man barely croaked out “I…I get to choose?”

“Of course. You’ve made plenty of choices in this life. Why should the next life be any different?”

The dying man glanced over to the woman asleep in the chair next to him. “Is there any way I could look out for my family?”

A guardian angel, then. “Of course. Now go.” Death closed the man’s eyes, and his razor grew warm from the last of the man’s life ebbing out of him. The machines began to cry out urgently.

Death walked  quickly to the door, glancing back at the woman asleep in the chair. Your children still need you, but one day…

As doctors and nurses rushed into the room, he pulled his hood up and disappeared through the emergency exit at the end of the hall, anonymous as always.

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