A torrent came down at a forty-five degree slant, beating against the side of a canary yellow, suburban house like a mallet on a drum. The aforementioned torrent came from a sky that could hardly be seen now behind the blanket of iron colored clouds that formed there over the past few weeks. The time was noon, but the town looked like it was dusk. Light had taken on a brown shade, almost like a sepia snapshot of someone’s childhood town. The streets were empty, and everything, with the sole exception of the rain, was motionless. If it was not for the silhouettes of two people sitting at a kitchen table behind a set of drawn, yellow curtains in our canary abode, it would give most people the impression of a ghost town.
The silhouettes belong to a man and a woman. The house belongs to the man, and the man goes by the name of Marcel. The woman, however, is someone we all know, not personally most likely, but through a friend, or a relative. She is usually an acquaintance removed by one degree, and the vast majority of people are happy for this buffer because the woman is generally an unpleasant visitor. Honestly, I do not know if the term “woman” fits Marcel’s guest, not because she was exceedingly rude or shrewish, quite on the contrary, she was a perfect lady. It was her profession that drew her gender label and pleasantness into question. The “woman” had a very distinct look about her, the kind of thing that is not just easily remembered, but burned into one’s memory. She was pale, with waist-length straight, red hair parted down the middle. She was skinny, but not too skinny, and had a very thin face. Her right eye was gray, while her left was green. The way she dressed was in no way usual, but it was anything but memorable at the same time. Dressed simply in a long, black gown, she looked elegant, but not like anything special.
At this point, your narrator is tired of beating around the bush, hinting at something most competent readers could have pulled from the writing above long ago. You see Marcel is seventy-eight years old, and is currently bartering with Death for his life. He was meant to live longer, but had the fortune, whether good or bad, to live until the end of everything. Let me make completely clear that when the word “everything” is used here, it literally means everything; light, space, matter, and so on, and at the moment, Death, having nearly completed her rounds, is bartering with one of the few people left on the mortal plain in the Western hemisphere. He will die, there is no doubt there; what he and Death are bartering for is what happens to the parts on him that are left over after his death.
“Seriously? You realize you’re not the first person to think they should be the exception to rule tonight?” said Death, quickly becoming visibly agitated at Marcel’s protests. After all, she was just trying to do her job. She did not even get paid for it. Bringing people to the other side was simply what she did. There was never a question about it; she was never a little wraith who had aspirations to become death incarnate – no she was born into it, and had never been any too happy about that fact.
For one, there had always been her preferred gender. She was always portrayed as masculine, when she preferred to appear feminine. She had no gender in the strictest sense, but she had a gender identity, and it was female through and through. Then there was the nearly universal hatred of her and what she did, as if it was her choice, or even something she remotely enjoyed doing.
Some might say that being able to finalize the deaths of all the people she hated (And she did hate them, oh did she ever hate people.) would make the job at least a little enjoyable, but this just was not the case. You see, most people just simply stopped existing, there were some that didn’t, but what happened to them is indescribable in the English language. So there is no feeling of satisfaction from revenge in delivering souls from the living plane. It just ends up being another injustice. The lack of fairness in her unlife stopped being a matter an uncountable number of years ago. Now she went about her work because it was what she did.
“I told ya already, I’ll go with you if you can beat me in a game of War!” Marcel repeated for the umpteenth time. He really did not mind dying so much, now that the idea had had time to sink in, but he was not going to just let her take him; he needed a story for all of his friends and family when he got to the other side.
Marcel was not a staunch believer in much of anything. In fact, in his earlier days he spent some of the less mentionable times of his life convincing people to question their faith in return for payment from an atheist outreach group, and then would turn around and try to convert people to certain religions for copious amounts of money from whichever one he was working for at the time. Of course, that was only during peace time. During war years, Marcel spent much of his time as a “gun for hire”. He was not especially good and what he did, but his rates were reasonable, and he followed orders. The old man switched allegiances a total of six times during the conflict in Vietnam, and was came away with a small fortune. When he became too old to fight for pay, he became a lobbyist for nearly every special interest group and industry imaginable. Several times over the years he lobbied for Big Tobacco and on other occasions for the American Lung Association. He nearly every year, at some point, he would lobby for the NRA, and then for any of a myriad of ant-gun groups. Whoever would pay him more would get his full backing, and unlike soldiering, he was a stellar lobbyist.
The argument continued for another three-odd hours, going back and forth. Each contender giving up the slightest bit of ground, only to take it back again almost immediately. Marcel reached for the cards several times, thinking he had won, only to be struck down by a stalwart refusal on the part of Death. Having argued and vied for a soul or two in her years, Death though she knew what she was doing, but Marcel was one of the rare individuals that was so completely irreverent toward anything or anyone else that not even Death herself could issue him orders. Marcel was a paragon of individuality and, in a far less noble light, stubbornness.
As the argument came to a close, Death finally folded to the septuagenarian and said “… Fine. Deal the cards. I don’t see the point in any of this, but you’re taking up for too much of my time as it is.”
“See, you could’ve just saved yourself a whole lotta time if you’da just played a game of War with me, you coulda been out of here ages ago.”
So Marcel did just that and, in all of his pride and glory from wearing down Death herself with in argument, dealt the cards. In a matter of seconds each player had a stack of 26 cards in front of them, and almost, as if to signal the beginning of the match, lightning crashed outside the kitchen window, catching a house across the street on fire for a brief moment before the before the veritable falling sky squelched it.
The match began with Marcel drawing an eight, and Death drawing a three, he draws a four, she gets a two, he pulls a King, and she draws a Jack, and so on. The cards kept flying almost directly into Marcel’s deck. After awhile, it seemed as if the cards knew where to go instinctively. Had the game been an actual war, Death would have her work cut out for her. The bodies were piling up left and right, and the people were getting war weary. The game only ended up lasting about five minutes; there were no actual “wars” in this game of War. There was only Death sitting, in her pea green folding chair at the spool-shaped breakfast table losing cards as fast as the rain was coming down outside.
“Alright, well, you’d better keep up your end of the bargain, there, Lady Death.” were Marcel’s first words of victory.
“I never agreed to anything… But thank you for a much needed change of pace.” replied Death with a triumphant smirk.
“Wha’d you mean!?” Yelled Marcel, getting visibly worried.
“I have a job to do, but it was enjoyable playing along with you. It’s really been ages, and I needed this fun little distraction after a day of extinction.” She said, beaming with happiness at a job nearly done. With that, she reached over tapping Marcel on the shoulder and chuckling until his ancient cranium knocked on wood. The specter moved from her seat glided across the room and disappeared into the dim kitchen lighting. Another job finished, a world cleaned out.
© Copyright 2016 Jack Flagberry. All rights reserved.