“Anything I can help you find?” Asked the boy in the red shirt. On the eve of his twentieth birthday, he walked the aisles with an air of authority; as would an elderly librarian, who knows the exact location of every book. His attitude was mixed with a suppressed annoyance with being here. Red shirt he wore slightly faded, worn down with the too few years of wear the boy had. Nondescript except for a pin on his chest that read
-need anything, I can help. Ask for John-
The other man seemed to ignore the question, instead focusing on the shelves. Eyes searching, on the lookout for something specific. The man appeared in his late forties, wearing a pristine black suit. Once black hair now streaked with grey. The boy, with the youthful impatience of being ignored turned to walk away.
“John, is it?” Said the man with the ashen hair. The boy stopped midstep, and turned towards the speaker, responding, “That’s me, how can I help you?” The man turned towards John and looked him in the eyes. An intense gaze, it gave John the feeling his soul was being weighed. A faint familiarity oozed from the man. They had met before, intuition telling John. A sudden desire to run away came over him. Through sheer force of will, and a desire to keep his job, kept him planted on the floor.
“I’m looking for Nothing.” Said the man, watching John’s reaction. Struggling to be held back, frustration growing with his wasted time, John snapped “we don’t sell nothing here. Just food, and other things. There is a sale going on, right now.”
For the first time, the man mouth curled up in a smile. Never reaching his eyes, staring daggers at John. The man’s gaze a scythe, ready to cut and reap what was in his sight.
“If you aren’t buying anything, I will have to ask you to leave.” The man was told. Seeing him tense, John added “…Sir.”
“It’s your birthday tomorrow, is it not? Growing up so fast. I remember when you were a baby taking your first steps. And when you were a child of twelve, wishing yourself to become an adult.” The man whispered to John. Shock at hearing this, John studied the man further, certain he recognized him from somewhere…
“Do I know you, sir?” Asking the man. The question growing in his head, until there was room for nothing else.
“Not very intimately, I assure you. Though we have met several times. You were too young to recall. So it is always like that.”
I came to see you again, on the night before your big day. Growing into a man now. How proud I am you’ve made it all this way.”
John, unable to make sense of what he is being told stands there mutely. Confusion colouring his face. Drowning in the confusion, John finds a life raft to take him ashore. “Who are you?”
The man savors the question, knowing it was coming. Always asking the same things.
“I am no one you know, though you know me quite well. I go by many names. The reaper, the man in black, the pale white horseman. You can call me Death.”
The life boat John hoped would be his salvation has capsized in a storm. Drowning again, his confusion now worse than before. Unsure how to respond, he decides to make things easier, he would simply play along.
“What do you want? Are you here to kill me?” Asking the man.
Letting out a laugh that sounds hollow, Death reaches out to John. Stopping short of touching him, his fingers linger over a shoulder wearing red.
“Here to kill you? After a manner of speaking, I suppose. Not the end of your life entirely. I told you already. I am looking for nothing. Tomorrow you turn twenty, a man now in full. I am here to end the boy, kill the teenager. That room for the man might grow. Your teenage years are behind you. Say good bye, you will never see them again.
Tonight, your birthday present is a taste of death. This wasn’t my first visit. I wouldn’t dream of revealing how many more times we will meet before the final end. When you wake-up tomorrow, you won’t remember a thing; but tonight you will die and be reborn.
What time do you finish work?”
John, completely mesmerized and spellbound by the strong pull of Death answers without thinking “Midnight.”
Death gives the boy a wink, and strolls down the aisle “I suppose I will see you then.”