Death’s New Helper – Part One (2060 words)
Death is a congenial sort of fellow and always approached his job with gracious humor. Most people did not realize that Death is also responsible for making sure those animals that are called to pass come and help those who have been surprised by a car or some other tragedy found their way.
The reason no one ever sees Death is because he moves in his own time. His time is so fast that we mortal souls would only feel a light breath of a touch even if he meandered into the room gave us a great hug and meandered out.
The only time to catch a glimpse of Death is when he sleeps and he only sleeps maybe once every year or so. This usually happens for only a few of our hours and is timed for when the season and time is light.
Death realized he needed help. In a big way. There had always been outbreaks of disease, even if thousands died, Death had it well in hand. He often looked forward to the occasional outbreak to keep him busy. But as the populations grew and needed more food meaning more animals and humans needed Death.
Now the great plagues of Europe had harried Death’s calm composure. His jovial nature was knocked for a loop with the hundreds of thousands that died in such a short period of time. He missed his nap in 1342. He was cranky for a long time. Between the crusades and the regular cycles of the plague by 1666 he was frazzled. The fire in London had done him in.
Finally with no warning and no time to find a make shift place to lay his head Death fell into a deep sleep. Not just for a few of our human hours but a whole day. Death was that tired.
Well it just so happen that he had fallen asleep in a filthy alleyway behind a pub in Southwark. He had finished with the last of the London Fire casualties the fire was down to a smolder and well on the way to being put out.
Death was not the only dead beat to have fallen asleep in that alleyway behind the pub so no one paid attention to the unusual cloaked man among the other drunks. There were a few.
No one paid attention except a little rat called Oblivia. Oblivia was not your everyday rat. She was a thinker and dreamer. Oblivia was making her way to some cousin’s place on the south side of the Thames. Her whole family was supposed to be with her but as they were escaping the fire, a wall came down and caught most of them. It was only her and her older brother.
Her mother had told everyone where they were headed and to keep going no matter what happened. She had kept going for days. Just her brother Simon and her. That was until her brother Simon had met up with some of the rats from the old neighborhood and they had told him of the rich picking over somewhere. Oblivia couldn’t remember what they had said. She was deliriously tired and had been traveling nonstop for three days. She begged Simon to come with her. ‘It is what momma said. She said our cousins would take care of us.’
Simon refused and told her she should come with him. She looked at the other rats he was planning to leave with. “No,” she said. I owe it to momma it was her dying wish that we be safe with our cousins.”
This meeting happened just a short ways from where Death had fallen asleep. Her brother left with his friends and she meandered down the alley looking for a warm place to sleep. She wondered why she hadn’t been one of her family caught under the burning wall. Why did she have to be left alone in the world?
She stumbled along asking herself all these ‘what if’ questions when she saw Deaths cloak. It was the blackest shade of black she had ever seen. No one will see me if I go under that. She thought and crawled under Death’s cloak and fell asleep. She was a very tired rat.
That evening a few hours after Oblivia had fallen asleep under Deaths cloak, he woke with a start. A group of lads had come down the alley and were kicking the sleeping drunks. The one who chose to give Death the boot would never kick anything again. Death grabbed the young man’s leg as hit foot made contact and lifted him into a new time.
You see if Death grabs you, you move at his speed until he lets you go. The frightened boy dangling upside down could see all his friends as if they were frozen in time.
“Please Mr. I am sorry. Please put me down.” He begged.
Death pondered the request. Then walked around the far end of the road and beyond. “I will set you down with a chance to start fresh. Do not let me see you with those boys again. Someday you might be old and sleeping anywhere you can. Think about that.” Death whispered his final words and dropped the lad two miles from where the alley was.
Death had some catching up to do but it was not much and as he made his way out to a nearby farm he felt a stirring under his cloak. This was different. On very few occasions when he only had time for a nap. Five minutes in our time – more than a few hours in his. He would pick an attic or a barn to nap in. He had on occasion picked up the odd spider and once a mouse.
His cloak stirred again. He felt something moving along the sleeve of his cloak and shortly a small head popped out from the bottom of his sleeve. It turned to look at him.
“Oh my, I am sorry.” squeaked Oblivia. “I thought this garment was empty when I climbed in.” She said. “I should have paid better attention but I was so tired from traveling for two days to escape the fire.” She was so nervous that Death would stomp on her or something she just kept rambling on. “My family and I were running away from the fire through the underground storage rooms beneath the burning building when a burning wall fell and killed everyone but my brother and I.”
“Where is your brother now?” Asked Death. Before she could continue.
“We met up with some of the young male rats from the old neighborhood and they convinced him to join them.” She replied shaking her head slowly. “So I carried on alone. I was looking for our cousins in Southwark but was so tired I saw your coat and climbed in. Oh Please forgive me for disturbing you.”
“You have no family.” He asked. There was a smidgeon of hope in his question.
“No Sir.” Oblivia said fighting back a running nose.
“No one to miss you.” Death asked. He thought she might do just fine.
“I am afraid not. I am sure I will be fine. I have myself to keep me company. But I will tell you a secret if it wasn’t for me to keep myself company I would just want to parish. Everyone needs a bit of family.” She hoped that made sense to this strange cloaked man.
“Now what to do with you?” Death said.
“Well if you just put me down I shall be on my way to my cousins.” Oblivia replied.
Death stopped walking and looked around. Oblivia looked around too from her spot looking out from his left sleeve.
“We are a few more miles away from Southwark where we napped now, I am afraid. And I am behind on my schedule so there is no chance of heading back.” Death headed off toward a farm. “Come with me on my next couple jobs and then we can have a chat.”
“A chat about what?” Oblivia asked nervously. She wasn’t sure if she was in danger but the thought was still crossing her mind.
“Well I have a proposition for you but first I must help a pig and several cows who are about to pass forward. Come with me and see what you think of my methods.”
“Pass forward?” She repeated confused.
“Die.” Responded Death.
“Oh Kay, sounds interesting.” Oblivia had heard stories of someone or something who helped those of her species when they die but always thought it would have been more like a rat.
She sat quietly and watched as Death approached those animals which he knew were passing and one that was already dead and touched each lightly, setting free their souls. The cows mooed and trotted away not looking back. The pig lingered and fretted by its now alive but empty shell.
Death left the pig standing and walked away. “What did you think of my job?” Death asked.
“Why do you let them free before they die?” Oblivia asked instead of answering the question. “What if something happened and they ending up living. How can they live without their spark?”
“You ask a lot of questions.” Death replied. “It is not a nice experience to be trapped in a dead body waiting for release let alone experiencing death itself most of the time, so I do the right thing. I let them go. I am never wrong about releasing their soul or as you call it spark.”
Oblivia wanted to ask the what if you are wrong question but sometimes it is not wise to force an answer when it was already answered. “Why did the pig not run away?” she asked instead.
“I will answer this last one and then you will answer the question I asked you.” Death said sharply.
Oblivia had been watching the road and thinking about what she had just seen. She turned her head around the edge of his sleeve and nodded.
“Pigs are made that way. They are stubborn and refuse to believe they should be released. It will stand and watch itself die and then be gutted and probably even see itself hung before it gathers enough sense to know it is no longer controlled by the slab of meat hanging from the hook and leave.”
“Oh my.” Replied Oblivia. “That is stubborn.” She had more questions but had promised to answer Death’s first.
They walked along in silence a few steps. Oblivia thought and Death waited. She thought about his reference to being let out early versus having to experience it all. She considered the faces on the cows as they plundered away happily free of restraint. She has found her answer when Death, with his job that never ceases, released a little mouse as they walked by. Its little hind section had been crushed by the cart wheel. Still alive Death bent down and stroked it.
A mean feat in itself because the cart had only just ran over it and had only moved an inch or two passed it. Death had to maneuver himself under the cart to reach him. The little mouse squeaked his joy ran around in a couple circles in front of them both and disappeared into the hedgerows.
“I think your style is commendable. Your job is truly not easy and you deserve much more praise and respect than is given you.” Oblivia said smiling. “I hope when it is my time I will see you there.”
“I was hoping you would not be put off by my style or my job.” Death rarely received praise so ignored it. Hold on a moment and I will share with you my proposition.” Death lifted his arm where Oblivia rested in the sleeve against his chest. Covered her with his other arm and did a couple turns in a pirouette.
Oblivia thought for sure her end was coming sooner than she thought when Death stopped opened his arms and bent down so Oblivia could step onto the ground. “
Sorry about having to cover you I was not sure if you would fall as we travelled.” He said as she stepped out.