The Theme From M*A*S*H

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
cw: suicide, alcohol abuse

This is based on an idea I had for a story, which I wrote when I was a teenager, mixed with some explorations of suicidal ideation I experienced once I was a bit older, and then turns into a weird supernatural crime thriller because I didn't know how to finish it. Enjoy!

Submitted: February 14, 2019

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Submitted: February 14, 2019

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Suddenly I'm aware of a dark figure standing over me, its face obscured by a black hood, and its hands covered by black gloves. A scythe materialises in The Figure's hands, not drawn from anywhere, just appearing. And I'm thinking, how very fucking cliché.

The Figure raises its weapon. I want to protest, or tell him to get on with it, or make some comment about how ridiculous this feels. A hooded figure stabbing me with a scythe? Really? But I can't speak. My mouth opens but the words won't come out. Why?

I feel no pain as the blow is struck. The scythe goes through my body, but it may as well not have. There's no impact, no wound. After this false strike, figure extends his hand, and I know immediately that I must take it. He exerts a cold, dark and commanding demeanour, but paradoxically exudes warmth and happiness. I take his cold hand and follow, without question. We go up, through the ceiling, through the roof, as if nothing.

Our surroundings then began to shift rapidly. Suddenly, we were in a hospital. I see my mother in a hospital bed, much younger than I ever remembered her, and soon realise why. She's giving birth – to me. Is the figure taking me through my own life?

I see many things at once now, passing by at the speed of light but also slowly, and I somehow manage to take everything, or most of it in. Infancy, school, my first job, my other jobs, losing my virginity. There are other, more inconsequential things, too. That stupid argument I had in the pub about which was the best Radiohead album; a drunken dance from my teenage years; a ridiculously long conversation about the merits of the films of Hayao Miyazaki; a one-night stand. Everything. I see everything.

Then it comes to the end. The Figure speaks for the first time, in a muffled, accent-less voice: “You know what's next?”

I nod and fight back tears as I remember. I hadn't realised because it had gone by so quickly, but the last few weeks and months of my life hadn't been the best. Sacked from my all-too-menial job, after unfounded accusations led to disciplinary action. This forced me to confront the meaningless of my life, as I have all day and all night to think things over. What's it all for? Even if I hadn't been dismissed, this surely would've come sooner or later? Doesn't every office drone have this existential crisis? The difference is, I didn't handle it very well.

I quickly found myself unable to pay the rent, debt mounting up. I could still, somehow, find money for booze, though. I don't know if I had supportive friends, or enablers. One night, after one of those drunken dances, I came in my flat after one too many drinks.

Please...” I murmur as The Hooded Figure projects this into my mind. I notice things aren't going by quickly anymore, as they had during the rest of my life, but agonisingly slowly. Every second is a pain to behold. I'm there again, but I'm also watching myself from above. “No...”

I try to block it out, or close my eyes as it happens, but I already know it's useless – whatever is going on, this isn't being broadcast through any visual channel. I remember my drunken thoughts. Into the medicine cupboard, grabbing the first thing that came to me and shoving it down my throat, then tying a noose for safe measure. It's a fantasy I'd had for a while – before I got sacked, even. For years. What would it be like? The events immediately preceding it just moved things along for a bit.

After witnessing everything in graphic detail, I realise I'm viewing everything in real time. I'm looking down on my own body.

Who are you? What's happening?” I scream into the void, as if I didn't know.

Nearly done,” said The Hooded Figure, in its accent-less voice. There was a mournful tone in its voice.

I'm transported to my mother's house. She's looking older now, older than she looked the last time I seen her, when I was born. But still my mother. Usually strong, but noticeably upset. “Does she know already? How?”

The Figure shakes its head. What does it mean? What does any of this mean?

All at once, I'm transported from my mother's house to a church. The Hooded Figure is gone. Everyone is dressed in black. I walk down to a pew and take a seat. People seem to be aware of my presence, but I try and avoid talking to anyone. Despite this, a young woman spots me and mutters something about it being a shame. Reasonably young, didn't deserve to go, not that way. Then, she says something that makes my head turn and listen. “...robbing that place, but they didn't deserve to die.”

I'm interested now. I don't know why, but the mention of a robbery that was followed with a death sparks something else. I've seen everything, but yet, I haven't. Then the woman says, “The police never found the accomplice. They're not ruling out death for that either but they never found a body. Who knows where they are...”

I feel a sharp twang in my forehead. I don't know how – I'm supposed to be fucking dead. But I guess that means I'm remembering.

Charlie. How could I forget? Had I blocked it all from memory? It's been two years, and for the first time I remember. I didn't go to the funeral. Had to get away. I blame myself. I'm living all this again.

We're lovers. Me and Charlie. We're living a pretty normal life up until this point. But it's all so boring. We decide to do something a little bit adventurous, and a big bit illegal. We've no idea what we're doing – Charlie knows some people, from when we were at school. Dodgy characters, but they give us some pointers, and a number to phone if shit goes pear-shaped. And oh boy, does it go pear-shaped. The police are coming after us, and we crash the getaway car. Charlie's dead. Died on impact. I need a hospital, but I know I need to get away. I phone the number. They stitch me up, give me a new identity. It isn't cheap, of course, and I'm thanking myself they didn't just kill me. Savings are emptied. An agreed amount is taken from me every month. I move to a different town. It's my fault Charlie's dead – it was my idea, Charlie just did all the work. I wonder about Charlie's past. How did Charlie know these people? It doesn't matter now.

t before this was The Hooded Figure showing me my own funeral, in its own sick, twisted version of It's A Wonderful Life. In a way, I suppose it was. But not in the way I had thought.

I turn to the woman. She speaks, but it's not the voice I'd heard before. It's the calm, accent-less voice of The Figure, “You have unfinished business.”

How's that?” I ask, “Charlie's dead. Thanks for helping me un-repress that memory, but surely this is more reason for me to move on.”

For the first time, there is something approaching humour in The Figure's voice as it speaks, “You do realise who you're speaking with, don't you?”

It's been obvious since near the start of our interaction: The Figure is some kind of Angel of Death, in a cliché grim reaper form, for some reason. But it dawns on me what The Figure means now. “Charlie's alive. You were cheated.”

The Figure nods. “Charlie wasn't ready to go. You must make your peace to pass on, you and Charlie both.”

I think for a moment, consider refusing Death's offer, but quickly realise that would be stupid. I don't know what comes after this – when I die for real, I don't want disobeying the very essence of the afterlife to be weighing on my scales.

What will happen after I find Charlie?” I ask. I'm thinking, finding Charlie will give me at least a semblance of purpose, but after that, where will my life be?

Without a pause, The Figure booms, “That's for you to decide. But your body will be restored to its living state after this conversation, if that's what you're getting at.”

I nod knowingly. I'm being given a second chance, as long as I comply and send Charlie to die, again. I'm not sure I'll make it through the rest of life afterwards, but that's something to worry about after Charlie's been found.

Seeing that I've thought it over, The Figure asks if I'm ready and I wordlessly convey that the answer is yes. There's a flash, and everything turns white. I'm not aware of being in a body, or any vessel, I'm just floating in the whiteness. Colours flash around me for a while, and eventually, white turns to black, progressing through every colour that has ever existed as it does – some I can't even begin to describe in human terms.

Suddenly, I'm retching, and there's an aroma of vomit surrounding me. I gasp for air. “Fuck fuck fuck,” I mumble as I stumble up to my feet and make a half-arsed attempt at running towards the toilet, where I throw up again. The pills come out this time. I untie the snapped rope around my neck, with some difficulty.

Being honest with myself, I'm fucking overjoyed that I'm not dead. I'd had a weird fever dream in my blacked out state, but I can't remember a lot of the details. I'm just happy to be here. I've been given a second chance, a new lease on life. I've cheated Death. But then I hear a knock on the door, which for some reason jogs my memory properly. Oh fuck. Charlie.


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