Death In All Of Us

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story that takes place in the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is about a deep existential debate between a physician who is trying his best to save lives during the crisis, and Death itself who visited his hospital to claim someone he is trying to save.

Death in All of Us


Life is hard and it is sometimes broken. But by the end of everything, most of us would choose life over death. My name is Dr. Loreno, a physician stationed here in New York City. And as a doctor, I consider myself an Agent of Life. An agent indeed in these dark times of the COVID-19 outbreak. 


I have seen a lot of tragedy in this crisis we are having. I have lost a great many number of patients as we try to fight this pandemic. I can remember the first few months as we blindly fought the war with what we had. No vaccines yet, no cure or equipment to magically fix everything. We were using every knowledge, medicine and treatment available, hoping one or many can help save lives. We seldom take a seat to rest as we need to keep mobile. Everything we did to keep everyone alive. As you can see, we frontliners were exhausted, out of our wits, and out of our minds. 


Sometimes I personally want to lay down and give up. With hard work we can save some but we’d still lost many and it made the victory bitter. Knowing a beloved grandfather, a young little girl with dreams, or a pregnant woman, died in my care made me hate myself. Like I said, I have been through a lot in this pandemic. Death was still a huge part of the work and that I can attest. But one day, I never knew I would be staring at it literally face-to-face.


It was in the middle of May, one of the strongest Corona has ever been in this country. There was this 7-year-old boy who got struck with the damn virus. We managed to get him into quarantine and secure him in our hospital. We did everything to keep him alive at that time, but the virus proved stronger. He was rushed into the emergency room as he started having difficulty breathing. His pneumonia was flaring up and we needed to pump water out of his lungs. We did everything before he suffered an extremely painful death.


As we laid him down and tried to get his vitals stable, I looked outside and saw this tall pale man wearing a suit and white penny loafers. He was staring at the emergency room as if he was anxious about what was happening. Normally we don’t allow parents or anybody here, but this guy somehow got this close. And he wasn’t wearing any face masks, shields or even a protective suit. He distracted me at first but I focused on my work. It was a crazy sight and I hoped the nurses would get him out of here.


All of our efforts became in vain when the boy slipped into a coma. As we tried to think of what to do next, I couldn’t help leaving the room to weep. Times like these are where I question life itself for its injustice and unfairness. Was there really a God who lets young children die? Is this what the world really is? A place filled with pain, suffering and death?


“Take a load off doctor, it won’t be long anymore,” a voice called as I stood in the hallway. When I turned to my left, there was the man I saw before, sitting on a bench a few rooms from the emergency room. 


“You shouldn’t be here,” I said back, hopeless and depressed. “Nothing but death is in here.”


“Jeez,” the man said. “I know a lot of you guys hate me. But telling people to stay away because of me is just harsh.”


Harsh? Him? I walked over towards him and sat down on the same bench. When I looked at him again, there he was with that disrespectful scummy grin. What he said, the fact that he was here unprotected, and nurses who walked by seemed to not notice him, made me question who this man was. It seems I have gone mad in this pandemic. My mind had finally broke.


“You know who I am?” the man asked.


“I don’t know but I have my thoughts,” I replied. “You make me think you’re the fucking Reaper himself.”


Death smiled at me once again and said, “Well, it’s a pleasure.”


Even as he smiled, I gave him nothing but a look of utter contempt. As a doctor and an Agent of Life, he was my immortal enemy. And I know as we looked at each other, that he too knows just how much I hated him. “What are you doing here?” I asked.


“I am Death,” he said. “I am always here to escort, guide and ferry those to their next great adventure.”


“You don’t look like Death.”


“I can change my look if you want. I can appear as a hooded skeleton with a scythe, a dark angel with a sword, or maybe a cute little goth girl if that’s your thing.” 


“You have no place here. Fuck off.”


“Why the hate, doctor? You may think I’m the opposite of life but I am actually a part of it. I will be meeting everyone eventually. Even you. So you should respect me if you know what’s good for you.”


“Part of life? You are a part of life the same way a piece of dogshit on the sidewalk is. Listen to me, Death. You won’t be taking that boy away easily. He is stronger than he looks. And you underestimate the will and the persistence of those who are helping him.”


Hearing my insults made Death look away. I had a feeling that what I did made sure I was screwed but I didn’t care about myself at that time. I only cared for that boy whom this monster wanted to take away.


“Do you know why I exist?” Death asked. “Why mortals need to be mortals in the first place? Life is meaningless without me. A world where everyone is living happily is a dull world, you see. Everything needs to end in order for us to appreciate it. Life needs to die so we can cherish its memories and accomplishments. That is the meaning of Death. I give purpose to everyone.”


“That is the biggest load of shit I have ever heard,” I jested. “I know rationalizations and justifications are the idiot’s last weapons but this is golden. Listen here, Death. Don’t give me that bullshit about purpose! I have seen children die before they even have any memories or purpose because of you! This is why we fear you, loathe you, and hate you! You don’t give purpose to life. You destroy our purpose before we even have it!”


“Tough words coming from a mere human being. Since the beginning of time I have been hated upon so what you say won’t get to me. You are nothing the same way everyone in this world here is. And you’ll be begging for me once you know how shitty your life is.”


“My life is already a piece of crap. As a doctor, I care only for the lives of other people.”


After our little banter, everything kind of went silent for a minute. Death had lost his smile and he just stared at the wall, having had enough debating. I was also tired too. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I have seen people, patients and doctors, giving up on times like these. Where everything seems to be hopeless and in vain. I have seen people giving up eating because their throat burned. Others forgo getting up because their legs couldn’t support them anymore. And others who gave up fighting because the virus and the world keeps stacking it up against them. 


The kid may be alive today, but I don’t know if he’s fighting or drawing near to his end. It won’t be long before everything goes dark and he is carried far away from us. Here I am sitting near Death and my patient is almost gone. Here I am onwards to my next big fuck up. I wanted to save that boy because I am tired of losing people. I am tired of failing, especially the young ones. If the boy is indeed fighting for his life, not yet giving up even in his meek age, then I shouldn’t too. I am a doctor and I am here to save lives. Please let this one be a success. There’s gotta be something I could do.


“Forget about the boy,” I pleaded. “Take me instead.”


“Why?” replied Death. “I didn’t come here for you. You’re healthy and he’s not.”


“Spare him, please. He’s just a kid. If you really do say who you think you are, then you have to do this.”


“You think you’re the first mortal I’ve met who asked the same thing? For millennia, I have met people who also did what you are doing. Wanting to make bargains, hoping to cheat me from my job.”


“I have to try talking to you. I am a doctor. You are the sole thing that I always fight.”


“You’re not at war with me. You’re at war with the virus. If the world does survive this pandemic, I will still be here.”


“That’s the point. You said so that for many many years, people have tried to fight you. Why? Because you are the thing that many of us fear the most. Are you tired of being like this? This work where nothing but hatred comes to you? Don’t you want to at least for once, be appreciated for sparing one’s life?”


“Those are some nice thoughtful words, but what makes you think that helping you is going to make me happy? I have taken away so many people, so what’s saving a boy would make any difference?”


“I will appreciate it to the bottom of my soul if you do this. Please. At least, for once in your existence, you have somebody who wouldn’t fear you or hate you. This is a great and noble thing you will be doing. If you do this, you’ll have someone who will appreciate what you have done.”


Everything then went into silence again. Death didn’t answer me, and he just went back to waiting. I also took a rest after my verbal sparring, hoping for the best. I never really knew what he thought of my bargain, since when I looked at him again, he was gone. The emergency room called me back to finish squeezing the last fluid from the boy. 


He didn’t die that day, and to my eternal gratitude, he woke up from his coma two days later. He would eventually have a healthy recovery from the COVID-19.


Since then, I have had a more positive look at my work. In the following months, the world had discovered new ways to help people recover. It won’t be long before a vaccine will be trialled and released to the public. It was quite the experience and I have Death to thank for it all. It was something that I would never forget and be forever thankful. Everyday whenever we pray before going to work, I give Death a silent thanks for what he did. He was right, for he really is someone capable of giving purpose.


Submitted: January 04, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Joanna Kane Larius. All rights reserved.

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