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

4th Horseman: part 7

Death wasn’t thinking clearly — God, if there had ever been a time for prayer. He slammed his fist into the Airstream. Maybe it was the tequila, of which he had only half a case left. The best damn tequila ever distilled, not that anyone would ever know, seeing how he had stolen almost the entire batch. But that didn’t explain the lack of thrill he’d felt out in the field, the showing up late for assignments, the half-hearted beheadings. Hell, he couldn’t even remember the last time he gave his scythe a proper cleaning. He rested his forehead on the hot tin siding. Why couldn’t he enjoy his labor?

There was always Blue. Blue had been with him for hundreds of mortal years, longer than he had ridden any other horse. They’d had some good times together, hadn’t they? He wasn’t overly fond of his coworkers, but they weren’t horrible. From there his mind wandered back to his mentor, the best Famine ever to judge the wanting. Shaking due to anger and confusion, he decided to go for a ride to clear his head.

As he tugged at Blue’s reigns and raised his left boot, a greasy, leather saddle materialized on the beast’s back beginning with the stirrups and cresting with the horn. It was a Western style circa 1860’s, one of Death’s favorites. Gripping the horn and shifting his weight evenly into the stirrups brought back good Indian war memories, lots of senseless death. After months of shlepping about on two feet, it felt good to be in the saddle.

He brought Blue to a trot and then a lope. For a wraith beast, Blue was the smoothest ride this side of Megiddo. They continued on like that for the length of the dirt road until it connected with Farm to Market 1061. Fresh power lines had been installed along the east side of the road all the way into Amarillo, and they scarred the countryside like stitches on a wound. He hadn’t known what he was looking for until he rode toward it.

A call box was mounted on a nearby pole. He moved without thought or hesitation, picked up the phone and dialed 2-1-1 on the rotary before the operator connected. He’d just started to spin the dial for the third 6 when Blue reeled away from the phone causing Death to drop the receiver and look up.

An errant Model T struck the pole two down from theirs with force sufficient enough to collapse the hood and bury the pole into the bumper. The windshield shattered from the impact and a passenger flailed halfway through the opening before snagging on the jagged edges. Death was intrigued.

After the dust settled the only sounds were a hissing from the front tires and a gentle moan from the driver’s seat. A first-hand witness and stalwart believer in acts of God, Death could not dismiss this curious event as coincidence or even fate. Six years of atrophy intensified the moment and his desperation drenched it with meaning. A tinny voice coming from the receiver he had dropped interrupted him.

“Operator. Can I assist you? Hello?”

He picked it up. “Sorry. I’ve changed my mind.”

Part 8

4th Horseman: part 6

He awoke from his nap to the sound of rasping metal, and rubbed his bleary eyes with the palms of his hands until the buzzard raking his talons on the Airstream came into focus. He’d grown rather fond of the bird, and was glad to see him back after a week long absence. Plus, three made a party.  Blue snorted in agreement and pawed at the ground.

Death reflected on the dream he’d just had. It puzzled him. Before, he had never been able to remember his specific prayers. Famine had mentioned their answering, so Death took his word for it. But now he recalled the moment, preparing to cook in prison for lifting cigarettes, when he confessed anything would be better than this. In hindsight, he believed to die would have been better. How could he have known a life as Death to be an option?

A dust devil formed beside him and kicked grit into his face, causing him to stand. Shaking the dirt off and stretching his legs, he felt he should do something special. His lethargy finally started to rub him, and he knew it couldn’t last much longer.

He retreated into the trailer and clanged around before returning to the midday sun with a pencil and a spiral notebook. Blue and the buzzard watched curiously as Death pushed his chair back from the pool and sat with the notebook in his lap. He dabbed the pencil on the end of his tongue and started to write.

The Day Death Died

He wondered if the alliteration was too much, but decided to continue.

Like the taste of blood and metal

Warm and cold together, I once embraced

The life of Death —

Scythe in humming hand

Vibrating the invisible pitch of the Universe,

I, the only force able to silence it.

As he started warming to his subject, he felt the tension in his soul unravel.

But folding through time and space,

Trembling through sulfur rifts like a newborn

Sloughing from the womb,

Soon becomes the hollow life of a wraith:

(Did he like that hard rhyme with “space”?)

Tedious errands, repetition,

And failure. How could death make a mistake?

Born up by all eternity,

Each stroke of the scythe spoke Finality

Certainty, Truth. Not for me.

A lying slip, a false stroke

And Famine falls prematurely

He couldn’t stop the errant rhyming as the words poured from his pencil onto the paper.

And no mortal years of service can erase

The fecund yet foul mistake.

Now a piss-poor form of Death I am,

Floundering in the dust of Adam

Yearning for the day to come

When death could finally die.

Dropping his pencil into the dirt beside his chair, he stared at the words he had written. He read them out loud to Blue, his voice croaking with the use. Was this how he really felt? He tore the page from the notebook, crumpling it in his fist, and bit down hard on his knuckle. Kicking his chair over he swore loudly and chucked the paper into the pool. The buzzard startled from his roost and flapped away.

Part 7