4th Horseman: part 9

The buzz of newness wore off more quickly than he’d hoped. The urge he’d felt earlier to break out of his rut had melted along with the setting sun, and the confidence that had compelled his unconventional actions lagged. Sheesh. I’m Death, for God’s sake. What the hell was I thinking?

He finished half a bottle of tequila as he sat in front of the Airstream in his lawn chair. A scorpion tried to scuttle from the hot dirt up into the black, rubber pool. The water level had lowered to a puddle, but the moisture, like a siren’s song, brought him blindly forward. The scorpion’s feet must have started to crumble even before he reached the pool, but he was halfway up the side of the first tube before his insides cooked. He shivered slightly and ended with a pop. Instinct wasn’t something that could be fooled now was it?

But couldn’t it just as well be habit? And habits needed to be broken sometimes. He hadn’t always been Death. What had he been before? He was too drunk or too far removed from his past to remember. Or perhaps it was simply impossible to figure who you had been when you had no idea of what you were.

Habit. He wasn’t sure which idea was more depressing. Had he adjusted to his new life as Death so easily? Was he that impressionable? He tried to stand without using quite enough force to straighten his legs completely. He hovered momentarily above the seat of the chair before falling backwards. He skewed the chair while trying to catch the arm and it folded under his weight. He landed flat catching the wooden arm in the small of his back.

“Dammit!”  Luckily he hadn’t sloshed any of the precious liquor out. He rolled over and managed to stand, careful to keep the bottle righted the entire time. He kicked the chair with a grunt, mounted the two steps into the trailer and stood in the doorway looking back over the flat plains of the Texas panhandle.

“Could I have brought down the sickle all those millions of times just cause of habit? A dadgum habit?” He looked at the bottle in his hand. Maybe instinct would be better. There were worst things to be, after all, than Death. He stepped inside the trailer and slammed the door.

He finished what was left of the bottle without opening his eyes. His brain hurt. He wanted nothing more than to forget. Startling him, his hip began to buzz. He yanked the black box from his belt. It took him two times through the message to focus his eyes.

“Enough is enough. Straighten yourself out, or we will. ~ Conquest”

He threw the box against the far wall and fell back on his mattress. The tiny device came to a rest against the bottom of the door. Its pallid green glow faded. He closed his eyes to sleep — even this evening’s stuporous funckur insufficient to stop his dreaming. But this evening, rather than dreaming of his past, he dreamt of someone else’s future.

Part 10 

4th Horseman: part 8

He walked Blue slowly toward the Model T. Behind the wheel a youngster of no more than 16 sat bleeding from the head with what appeared a broken arm and most likely collarbone. Death listened intently to the boy’s ragged, short breaths accentuated by a gurgling. Crushed behind the steering wheel he had broken some ribs, probably causing internal bleeding. Too bad.

The passenger had already bled out a third of his total supply. Death had tingled with the familiar sensation before he’d gotten within thirty yards. Then he was struck with an odd idea. What if I help this boy? Wasn’t that what he had been thinking all along? He knew what it was like to take life, but what was it like to save it? This could be what he’d been looking for, but it was a big decision. He tilted his head back and focused on nothing in particular, took a deep breath.

The buzzard beat his wings against the air as he slowed himself to land on top of the pole above the accident. He squawked. Blue snorted. “Well those are your opinions.” Death looked back down at the boy slumped in his seat. He was a doer, not a thinker, just like this boy. Sometimes that got you pinched. Sometimes it got you dead. Other times. Well other times God rewarded the bold, didn’t he? Maybe this was one of those times. “Your lucky day, boy.” But then again, how could it be luck?

He jumped out of the saddle, feeling the customary disorientation of a cowboy regaining his legs. “Maybe this is my day too.  We’ll just have to see, won’t we?” And he went about what he knew he had to do.

“Get me the Sheriff.” Death spoke calmly to the operator as she patched him through. “Yes, there’s been an auto accident on FM 1061 just north of mile marker 162. One passenger is dead, but I think the other might make it. Hurry.” He hung up the receiver while the Sheriff was asking a question on the other end.

He’d stopped the internal bleeding. It was an odd sensation, using his abilities for such a cause. But it hadn’t been that difficult once he wrapped his mind around it. The boy lay on the ground beside the car moaning and moving slightly. He would make it. Death looked up at the buzzard still perched atop the pole.

“You can have that one there. He’s all yours. Just leave this one for another day.”

Death shook the reigns and Blue, still cross with him for intervening in such a manner, snorted before slowly turning back down the dirt road. No sooner had they turned when the buzzard fluttered down from his perch to land on the buckled hood of the car. Death flicked his wrist in a circular motion, and a dust devil kicked up behind them. It meandered back and forth across the road, following the pair all the way back to the trailer, just in case the Sheriff decided to look for tracks.

Part 9