--R. A. Wilson
Death to a Degree
By R. A. Wilson
Death has always fascinated me. As a young lad, I once saw a homeless man that had frozen to death on the streets. He sat there, propped up against a wall, and people were walking by dropping money in a cup placed at his feet. The adults paid him no heed; only I seemed to notice he did not move. I watched him intensively, pleading him to move, if even an inch—a twitch would do—but there was nothing. I crept close to him, ever so slowly, until I was face to face with death; not Death himself, mind you. His eyelids were open, his eyes staring. There was so much loneliness, sadness, in his eyes. No smile cracked his lips. There was nothing there, no grand message, only emptiness. I’ve heard death is the great equalizer, but nothing seemed equal about this. Who was this man? What dreams had he had, and what caused them to fail, as surely they must have? Many don’t deserve to live, and many that die do, so what is equal about this? Is it that death comes for everyone? Ha, he never seems to come at the right time.
Then again, when I died, I wasn’t squashed.
Death comes and goes among us, but most don’t realize how literally close to Death they have been. Those of us that notice him are those that supposedly die. The first time I saw him was during a pouring rain. I was looking down the barrel of a gun held by the man I thought was my father. I pleaded with him, asking him why, what had I done, but he only said he was my father no longer.
They say your life flashes before your eyes seconds before you die, and it kind of does. You think of all that has happened in your time, and you remember things that had been hidden to you. I remembered it all. This man indeed wasn’t my father, but an agent set against my real father. It makes sense now. That man was always detached. Never once did he show any great concern for me, but he did make sure I was well cared for, so I owe him for that. I remembered my real father in this moment and knew that he was a powerful man; some would say he was a cruel man, one that had a lot of enemies. I had been kidnapped when I was only a year old and placed in this other man’s care. I was with him for years, seeing him as my father, until the day he was ordered to kill me. I was supposed to be used as leverage against my real father, but they killed him (I wonder how) and so had no more use with me.
The man I had though to be my father pulled the trigger, scattering part of my skull over the sodden ground. Before Death comes for your soul, you remain in your body, watching all that happens around you, but you are unable to move or speak. You can only observe all that happens, and I watched my false father walk away, leaving me behind without even looking back. There was no emotion for him, only the death of one that may be able to stand up against his boss eventually. But more than just being able to observe, there was pain. It was more than I thought I could endure, but there was no way to alleviate it. I could only endure it.
It was after my false father was gone that I actually met Death. This black shadow detached itself from the rain, drifting over my limp body that worked no more. A skeletal hand reached forward and entered my chest as if it were intangible. I felt it grasp my soul as it began to draw me from my body like one would a poison. The discomfort was immense, and the pain was much worse than that of being dead. I pleaded with this creature, begging to let me live and let the pain subside back to what it was before. It only laughed and said I was already dead and could live no more.
I asked for a chance to exact revenge for the wrongs done to me, but it seemed as if it did not hear me, and I was loosing consciousness as Death continued to draw me from my body. I said all I could think of, which was to accuse Death itself, saying that it does not create equality but destroys the chance. I was amazed when I felt it stop. Feeling bold, I told Death that to take me now would be to leave my body to the carrion, but if given the chance, I would create the equality attributed to Death. I pleaded it to let me go forth and bring the one responsible for my demise with me. I would take his life and then give mine back with his. I heard Death’s raspy voice then, and it still haunts me to this day. It said that I was to become the equalizer, to share Death’s own sentence. At that time, I did not know what he meant, but it seemed of little consequence.
Though I could not see it, I sensed the creature smile, and then it vanished altogether as if it never was. My soul released, I drifted back into my body. I was alone, still laying in the rain and mud, dead, but my soul was as of yet mine. It is very difficult to train your body to move once you are dead, as your soul is only a prisoner, not a companion. It took a great force of will to just make my finger twitch; and to breath again, that was a miracle. I lay there for a long time, how long I do not know, but many many suns rose and set before I could even sit up, but from there it went quickly. Somehow I managed to merge my soul back into my dead body, and I rose again, though the decay had already set in.
The merger was not complete, and I think it impossible to do so. As I took my first step, I noticed that my spirit moved before my body. I saw a ghostly image of myself take the step before my leg followed. I would move, and my body would follow slightly after. It was a haunting thing to witness, especially knowing that it was me, and I began to wonder if I had asked for something horrendously evil. Death comes for all, but when has he left one such as I? Perhaps there is a reason why it has not before. I feel that I asked for a cursed existence, but at least I could look for the one that ordered my life forfeit, and for that I was grateful. I could endure the pain of death for that.
That’s why I am here, and why you are tied to that chair. Why do you still struggle like that? It is all over for you, I just want you to know what’s coming. I’ve already killed the man that posed as my father, but not before he told me who you were. It has been some years since then, and all my pain is entirely your fault. Now you will meet Death by the same gun that I met Death with.
Do you see it now? Do you see your life, your mistakes, loves, pain, and happiness all over again? What is it like for you? Do you see me in there? Do you regret anything that you have done to me, or was my life mostly inconsequential to you? For me it was not.
Why do you beg for life? You will die sometime, sooner or later, and I would rather it be by my hand. You will die now.
Such an odd sensation, isn’t it? There you lay on the ground, your chair toppled over, and your brain in a puddle behind your broken skull. You can’t respond anymore, but you can still hear me, I know.
There it is! Death comes for us both now, and I think I am ready for what lies beyond.
Isn’t the pain excruciating, being drawn from your broken body? I will be drawn out now too, and together we will face what comes next, both as assailants and victims of each other.
Wait! Death, why do you turn to leave? Aren’t I to go now? I am ready. What do you mean all is not equal as I promised? I have killed my killers, and now I shall go with them.
There is inequality left? Surely you jest, Death, for how am I supposed to make everyone equal?
Am I supposed to wander in this decaying flesh for all eternity? As you do?
Shall I never find rest? Am I to be cursed like you?