Bane of DeathA woman whose presence prevents Death from taking a person. She also can pass on the ability to see Death to others if she touches another while in the presence of Death.
Back to Stories To Be
About the Story
"I'm not sure when I first met D." Alicia paused a moment and looked off at nothing, trying to pull some long lost memory back into existence. Before continuing she leaned forward, resting on her arms that were lying on her crossed legs. "But I'm certain there are things she's not telling me."
"She?" Martin asked. "Are you sure?"
Alicia gave him a 'you're strange' look, then slowly responded, "Yeah."
"D didn't look like a she to me," Martin replied with a shrug. "But you've known, ah, her, longer than I have."
Alicia frowned. "How could you think she was a man? There ARE noticeable differences."
Martin crossed his arms. "Well most women I know don't have five o'clock shadows."
Alicia blinked several times before responded. "Are you telling me D looks like a man to you?"
"That's what I just said, isn't it?"
"D," Alicia tried to clarify. "The person I introduced you to this morning."
"At the hospital."
"Yes," Martin replied again, starting to get impatient.
This time Martin frowned. "He wasn't a doctor, he was a maintenance worker."
Alicia eyed Martin, then spoke carefully. "Why is it again you wanted to know how I met D?"
Martin sighed. Slowly he stood up from the chair he had been in and took a look around. Alicia's home wasn't all that fancy, but more eclectic than Spartan. She used furniture to section off the one large room at the front of her apartment into distinct areas. The back of the couch she was sitting on served as the "wall" of the living room that claimed one side. A desk with shelves on it that rose almost as tall as he was designated a corner as the computer area. Some sort of table that was tall enough to need a bar stool in order to sit at it marked where the kitchen began. The walls were painted, clearly amateurishly, a soft cheery color. The few pictures that were put up around the place were not in frames, but simply taped right on to the walls. And each horizontal surface supported at least one trinket of some kind. A figurine, a decorative container, a candle, or some odd souvenir from far away.
A hallway led out of the great room. Martin assumed a bedroom and bath were back there. As he surveyed the location he was currently in, he didn't expect to find much different back there. Assuming he would even be allowed to see it.
(What am I expecting to find?) He wondered to himself. (An alter? Some weird crazy crap I'd probably not believe even if I did see it?) His gaze came back to rest on Alicia. She was all but tapping her foot waiting on an answer from him.
"Are you aware you are the only one who can see D?" Martin asked her.
Alicia looked at him like he was crazy. "Did I or did I not introduce you two?!"
Martin held up his hands and motioned for her to settle down. "Yes, yes," he replied. "What I mean is that no one can see D if you are not there to point him out."
"Fine, her," Martin acquiesced. "Look, D is...," he moved his hands slightly as if he could grab the word he was looking for out of the air. Finally he gave up. "You are... special," he settled on. "You have a gift. One I'm not sure you're aware of."
"You've said that before," Alicia pointed out.
"Yes." Martin paused a moment, trying to decide which direction to take the conversation in. "Okay." He sat back down and leaned towards her. "Do you know who D is? I mean really?"
Alicia pursed her lips. After a few seconds she nodded.
"And that is?" Martin prompted.
"Death," Alicia confirmed for him. He nodded that she was correct. Then she added, "At least, that's what she told me her name was. I call her D because it makes people uneasy when I address her as Death."
"Of course," he replied.
Alicia regarded him for a moment. "You really think D is Death, don't you?"
"Yes, I do."
"And you think she's a man."
Martin's face scrunched some to indicate he didn't quite believe that. He shook his head and explained, "I'm betting Death isn't a man or a woman. I saw D as a man. You saw D as a woman. My guess is Death doesn't actually have a gender. After all it's not actually a human either."
Disbelief started to cross Alicia's face. She uncrossed her legs, her feet finding positions on the floor for support as she moved to sit a bit nervously on the edge of the couch. "D might be a bit eccentric, and who wouldn't be if their parents had named them Death. But you, sir, are down right crazy."
Martin softened his voice. "Alicia. Death is a concept more than anything else. Okay maybe death is an action, or event more than anything else. But it's not some tangible thing." He watched for her reaction as he spoke. So far she was only partially soothed by his change of attitude, apparently remaining skeptical of what he might say next. So he said it. "Except to you."
Alicia gave him a dubious look. "Let me get this straight. Are you trying to say that I'm seeing a ghost of someone who died?"
"No. I'm saying your seeing a personification of... of...," he threw his hands up, "of death! The process that eventually causes life to cease. Think, Grim Reaper."
Alicia stood abruptly, taking up a very standoff-ish pose. "The Grim Reaper!? You're telling me, what? That D is an ominous skeletal creature wearing some sort of doctor disguise? That's insane! I've seen her. She IS a human. She talks, and walks, and everything! She can touch me, I can touch her. And it's not a cold touch," she said the last sentence with sarcasm.
"I'm telling you that-"
"Get out," she ordered him, pointing firmly towards her front door.
"Alicia please," he implored. "All I want-"
She hurried over to the door, taking the long way around so as not to get within arms reach of him, and opened it. "Get the hell out."
"Okay. Okay." He was careful not to get too close to her as he gathered his things to do as she told him. "But would you at least consider what I'm saying as a possibility? Ask D yourself, see what he-," he shook his head at himself, "she says."
"You're insane," Alicia informed him as if trying to explain something obvious to someone who was clueless. "You need to get out of my house. And you need to get help."
He walked calmly to the door, but did not step through. "Think back. Every time you've seen D, what was going on around you two?"
Alicia started to close the door on him. He planted his foot sideways against the base of the door to hold it open. "When you realize I'm telling you the truth, you're going to have a lot of questions," he told her matter-of-factly as he pulled a small stiff piece of paper out of his pocket. He held it up in front of her face so she could see it was a business card. "Call me." When she didn't take it from him he turned and put it on the closest horizontal surface. Then he left.
She quickly closed the door behind him and exhaled her relief that he was gone.
"Yeah, questions," she said to herself. "Like if Death really was a person, why would anyone in their right mind want to meet him?" She picked up the business card to find out what Martin did for a living. She expected something like Private Investigator or Funeral Home Attendant, but wouldn't have been surprised if it had said Psychic or Insane Asylum. It said Accountant. She read it twice to be sure. Then tossed it aside with a dismissive shake of her head.
That night when she was falling asleep she couldn't help but think about D, and what Martin had said. Of course he was crazy, but that didn't keep her weary mind from entertaining all sorts of scenarios. What if he was right? What if he was trying to set D up for something? What if he just needed a friend? What if he was a dangerous wacko? What if she had misunderstood him? Why her? How had they met again? No not her and Martin, her and D....
No sooner had she slipped off to dream land, did her first memory of D surface. It was fractured by time and exaggerated by her emotions. She had no idea how old she was, but it had to have been before her family had moved when she was five because when she looked out a window she saw the family's old apartment building across the street. The one she only knew from pictures in her Mom's photo albums.
At first she was scared. The window was open, and she could hear screaming. Despite seeing snow outside on the ground, she felt hot, and she knew that wasn't right. Suddenly a blanket covered her, a pair of arms wrapped around her tight, and she was off the floor. It was her mother, telling her everything was okay and not to be scared and other such motherly comforts. She felt like her mother was flying they moved so fast. But it was Mommy, so she knew she was safe. Then the blanket was hastily discarded. Another window was opened, and in a blur of motion somehow her mother had gotten both of them out through it. Alicia knew she was outside because the cold hit her quick and hard.
The next thing she knew she and her mother were on the sidewalk in front of their own building, standing in the middle of a lot of people. Sirens were as loud as the screams had been earlier. Lights were flashing, and water was spraying through hoses from the hydrants nearby. From here she could see the building across the street was on fire.
And in the middle of it all, where firemen were laying down the people they were carrying out, were a handful of people with symbols on their coats that matched the symbol on the ambulances parked nearby. Except for one of them. The one had on a simple white coat that looked very much like the one the family doctor wore. In her dream Alicia knew it was D. She hadn't known at the time, but now she recognized D as the doctor amongst the paramedics.
Her dreams spiraled into various revisions of the fire, replaying over and over. Each time the dream started in confusion and ended with her seeing D. When she finally woke up in the morning, her first instinct was to get a glass of water. After she was done with that, she called her mother.
"Mom, when I was young, before we moved to the house, was there a fire in the building across the street? I had these really weird dreams last night. And I have this vague feeling they were real."
"Oh my yes," her mother's voice confirmed, heavy with the memory. "I can't believe you remember that! You were barely three years old. We had been visiting a neighbor's, Mrs. Bennet's. You remember her? The fire had started two floors down and we got trapped with Mrs. Bennet in her apartment. Eventually I knew we couldn't wait for the fire department to bring us a ladder, we had to make it to the fire escape ourselves. So I..."
At breakfast Alicia's cereal disappeared slower than usual. Her mind was wandering through her past. Where else did she remember seeing D? Before knowing which hospital D worked at, that was. And when had they actually first met? Not at the fire. Alicia wasn't even sure D had seen her then, having been so busy with patients and all.
Alicia was so distracted by her mental meanderings she lost track of time. When she finally did look at the clock, it told her she had one minute before she was supposed to be at work. Swearing to herself, she dropped her spoon into the bowl and started a mad dash around her apartment for shoes, a coat, her keys, and the phone. Then a quick call to her job to let them know she was on her way, and she hurried out the door.
When she turned around to lock the door, she found an envelope taped to it with her name written on the front. Curious, she pulled it off and opened it. Inside was a note. From Martin. She grumbled slightly, having no desire to think about him at the moment, and wondering why she had let him know where she lived. (Oh right,) she reminded herself. (Because we met at church, and church boys are supposed to be nice boys. At least that's what Mom always said.) She went to shove the note into her purse, with the intention to maybe read it later, only to find her purse wasn't there! With an annoyed roll of her eyes she opened her door. Back inside she threw Martin's note on the coffee table, quickly sought out her purse, and headed out for work again.
The first half of the day dragged for Alicia. It didn't help that her morning was booked solid with meetings, where she had little to keep her mind focused and active. Eventually her thoughts drifted to Martin's note. Now she wished she had it. (If for nothing else, just to have something intelligent to read!) she thought. (Then again, after last night, who knows if that note actually says anything intelligent.) She shifted in her chair, not particularly wanting to dwell on Martin but no longer being able to put aside the memories his accusation of D had brought forth, the same that had made her late for work. (At least I missed an hour of meetings,) she realized as the bright side.
For the next hour all Alicia could think about was the first time she had gone to the hospital. At fifteen she'd had a growing stomach ache for two days, which had culminated with a bout of nausea and a high fever. Nothing her mother had tried worked, neither medicines or drawing the fever to her feet or other old wives' tricks. After she hadn't eaten for the next day, and then threw up the two spoonfuls her mother had forced down her throat, her parents took her to the emergency room. Two hours later she had been admitted with an appendicitis, and assurances that there was nothing to worry about because eight out of every 100 people had an appendicitis and since her appendix hadn't ruptured yet everything was routine. As she had been wheeled through the hospital on a stretcher to the surgery room, with her parents following behind asking all sorts of questions, she saw a doctor she thought she recognized. She had called out, and sure enough D turned to face her. D had frowned deeply, Alicia remembered that vividly because it had scared her. She had thought it meant she was worse off then she had been told. She had tried to get D to come tell her what was going on, but the nurses moving her had pushed her back down on the stretcher and kept on moving. So she turned to look back at her parents, and told them to ask the doctor over there. They had looked, but did not seem to see D. When she turned back to look, D was indeed gone. She had heard one of the nurses tell her parents that it was just the medications kicking in. She had pretty much no memory after that until the moment she woke up in recovery.
At lunch Alicia tried to duck out before anyone could ask her where she was going. If the elevator hadn't taken so long to arrive, she would have made it. But one of her bosses managed to catch her just before it arrived.
"Alicia!" she called.
Begrudgingly Alicia turned around, fixing a placid look on her face for her boss' sake. "Yes Susan?" Susan was the kind of manager who looked out for her employees. The kind who wanted to keep those who worked for her as happy as possible because she knew then they would work better and be more likely to do extra things she asked for. But make no mistake, Susan was not a dream manager, she asked for a lot. And right now Alicia did not want to have to deal with the professional prodding into her personal life.
"I just wanted to make sure you're alright. You seemed distant this morning," Susan said with a genuine concerned tone.
The elevator chime sounded.
"I'm fine," Alicia replied neutrally. "Just didn't sleep well last night," she added, to give some truth to her reply.
"I see," Susan responded with a nod. "Is there anything I can do for you?" she offered.
"No, thank you," Alicia answered with a small smile to indicate she had everything under control.
The elevator doors opened. Alicia turned towards them.
"Are you headed out for lunch?" Susan asked.
"Yes," Alicia said as she walked into the elevator. She turned around and pressed the first floor button as Susan continued.
"When will you be back?"
Alicia sighed slightly. "After I get some answers," she replied.
The doors started to close as a partially confused look crossed Susan's face. Alicia looked down as the elevator descended, her mood reflecting Susan's look. As she walked to her car, and even as she drove, she tried to figure out what exactly the questions where that she wanted to ask.
By the time she got to the hospital she had some idea of what information she was looking for. Some small part of her, for whatever reason, had conceded that perhaps Martin could possibly be right. An even smaller part was scared what he had said was true. And Alicia figured she could only be scared of it if on some level she believed it. But what she didn't yet know was how she was going to go about asking for the information she wanted. It wasn't so easy to walk up to someone and simply ask them if they were the Angel of Death. What if you were wrong? Which of course you would be. But... what if you were right? What happened next?
Alicia quickly looked around the emergency room area where people were taken after being admitted, as sometimes D was called down to help there. No one bothered her as she popped in and then out. Even though as a volunteer this wasn't her department, they had seen her around enough by now to not question her anymore. Which was good because this time she wasn't here volunteering, and so didn't have her badge on her. On not finding D, she went out to the elevators to head up to the intensive care ward. That was where D usually worked.
It didn't take more than a minute of walking around to find D. Typically it didn't take Alicia long to find her, wether or not she was looking for D. But today it was faster than normal. And today D looked decidedly not happy.
D was walking purposefully right towards Alicia. Almost as if she had been looking for Alicia, and not the other way around. Before Alicia could say hi, D spoke. Which was uncommon for her. For the most part D was a quiet one, preferring to simply respond when spoken to.
"Why aren't you at work?" D asked with annoyance.
Alicia was surprised by the force behind D's words. For a brief moment she thought D was taller and bigger than normal. She shook off the uneasy feeling that was causing her vision to distort. "I came to see you."
D's shoulders slumped. "So... you're not leaving soon?"
"Well, I was hoping we could talk a little?" Alicia asked. D looked doubtful. "It's just that," Alicia began, but then couldn't think where to go with that start and so switched topics. "Do you remember that guy I introduced to you yesterday? Martin?"
"I suppose so," D said with a non-committal shrug.
"Yeah, well, he said some things. About you. And while I know he's completely crazy, I guess I just need to hear it from you too." She gave D an imploring look. "Do you have some time now? I only have an hour for lunch, and it takes twenty minutes to get from there to here."
"If you're not going anywhere, then yes, I have time," D answered as if it was a given fact. She turned and motioned for Alicia to follow her.
Relieved she would soon be free of her irrational side, and would get to tell Martin off proper like, Alicia hurried up to D's side. They looked around for a few minutes until they found an empty private room.
Alicia closed the door and took a seat. D crossed her arms and leaned back against a wall. Neither said anything for several seconds.
D finally broke the silence with, "You came to me."
Alicia took a deep breath. "Yes. Okay. So here's the deal. Martin said...," she trailed off before coming right to the point, shifting her head to look slightly away from D as she shifted the direction of her statement also. "Well he said that I have this ability." She paused again, trying to think of the best way to describe what he had said. "Martin seems to think that only I can see you, unless-"
"He's right," D interrupted.
Caught off guard, Alicia's mouth hung open while her mind spun trying to figure out what that really meant. Finally she clasped her hands in her lap and let a calm wash over her as she realized she had no control over what was about to happen other than she would face it bravely.
"Then he's also right that you are, Death. The Death," Alicia stated.
Several more seconds passed in silence. This time Alicia was first to speak up. Not that she particularly wanted to, but her nerves were going to get the better of her if something didn't happen.
"Can I see you," she started to ask slowly, "because I am going to die soon?"
D shook her head. "If only things were that simple."
Alicia didn't know what to make of that statement. To her it almost sounded like D was disappointed that she wasn't dying.
D pushed herself off the wall and moved half the distance towards Alicia. "I knew someday you would find out your rationalizations were wrong, and would learn the truth. Today's as good a day as any." She took a few more steps, putting her hand on Alicia's shoulder when she was close enough. The two looked into each other's eyes. "Alicia. You, are my curse."
Momentarily Alicia felt creeped out. She slide out from under D's hand, stood up and moved to the opposite wall. She stared at the wall, trying to find some way to make sense of... anything. Finally she turned around. "Your curse?" She shook her head in disbelief. "I don't understand. You're Death. If anything, wouldn't you be my curse?"
D shrugged. "I suppose that depends on your perspective. The best I can figure, you have to be a curse on me." She gestured her hands up into the air. "I can't get anything done when you're around."
Alicia started rocking slightly. "This is incredible. Unbelievable. I don't, I don't know what to do. Think. Say."
"Stop rambling," D told her, "and listen. You're confused."
"Hush. Sit," D ordered her, pointing back at the chair, "before you fall over." Alicia did as she was told.
"I expect you are as confused now as I was the first time I came across this," D said. "It's very unnatural." She paused a moment to regard Alicia. "And you're now thinking that because I am physical to you that you will bring death to others."
Alicia looked slightly scared. "You can read my mind?"
"No, not at all. But I've known you all your life. I understand how your mind works."
"Oh," was all Alicia could think to say in response to the explanation.
"As I said, this is my curse, not yours," D continued with her original statement. "You will not cause others to die. Quite the opposite in fact."
Alicia looked up at D with a touch of comprehension. "I will cause other people to live?" she asked hesitantly.
D sighed. "Yes."
Alicia's brows furrowed. "You're upset about that?" she said with confusion.
"You make it impossible for me to do my job!" D declared.
"Your job?" Alicia replied incredibly. Her eyes widened slightly as she took in D's whole appearance. "Wait a minute." She stood as her mind finally stopped rejecting what was being said and things started to take on some form of sense. "You're not actually a doctor," she stated as she pointed at the uniform and coat D was wearing. "You don't work here to save lives, you work here to take them!"
D stood patiently, waiting for Alicia to get through everything she needed to and then calm down.
"That's why people give me strange looks around here! It's not because of your name. It's because they don't see you! They think I'm talking to myself!" Alicia put her hands to her head. "Oh! Oh my God! You.... I...." Not being able to find any more words in her vocabulary at that moment, she threw her hands up and yelled. Then she grabbed her purse and headed for the door.
"Alicia, wait," D said, following right behind her.
Alicia turned on D. "No. No way will I wait. You KILL people. I'm going to, to.... I don't know what I'm going to do, but you can bet you won't like it!" She looked down at her hand on the door knob, then back up at D as another thought occurred to her. "You never open a door," she said to D. And with a triumphant look she closed the door in D's face.
She barely was two steps away when she saw D walk through the closed door. Her eyes went wide. "OH MY GOD!" she yelled, not realizing, or even caring at that moment, that there were other people around. She turned and ran for the elevators.
Alicia was repeatedly pressing the elevator button when D caught up with her.
"You," Alicia warned, holding up a slightly shaking finger towards D. "You stay away from me."
D tilted her head slightly. "Gladly."
The door to an elevator opened at that moment. Without a thought, Alicia stepped on to it. "Good," she said as she pushed the Door Close button.
She left the hospital by the shortest route she knew. By the time she reached her car she was shaking from head to toe. She got in, but didn't start it. Instead she just sat in the driver's seat trying to pull herself together.
"Someone," she commented to herself, "someone tried to warn me." She hugged herself as she tried to figure out why she thought that. "Martin," she eventually said as memories of yesterday started to resurface. "Yes, Martin! I need to call him!" She pulled her purse onto her lap and rummaged through it. Not finding what she wanted fast enough, she dumped the contents of her purse onto the passenger seat and sifted through them that way. Only then did she remember his business card was back in her apartment somewhere on the floor. So that is where she decided to go.
Work was long forgotten to Alicia. She needed... help. And the only person she had any clue might be able to help, and who wouldn't laugh in her face or think she'd gone nuts, was the one she'd already called insane and thrown out of her life. "Oh please forgive me," she pleaded to no one as she rushed into her home and searched for the business card. It was easily found. Then it was a hunt for the phone she had absentmindedly discarded that morning on her way out the door. Once found she fumbled with the phone trying to dial. "Please, please, please, please, please," she mumbled to herself as the phone rang.
"Martin! It's Alicia! Please forgive me. You were right! About D, you were right. So many things make so much more sense now. I don't-"
"Alicia! Alicia, calm down!" Martin said loud enough to be hear over her. "It's okay. I understand you're scared. But you're not in any danger. Why-"
"How do you know?" Alicia challenged.
"Because, think about it. You've seen D for years. If you were in any danger from her it would have happened by now."
Alicia exhaled and nodded though it couldn't see her.
"Now why don't-"
"What about people at the hospital?" Alicia interrupted again.
Martin was silent for a moment. "I don't know," he finally confessed. "Alicia, listen. Why don't we meet tonight? You can tell me what happened and we can figure out where to go from here."
"Okay," Alicia agreed. "Yes, okay, that's good. Uh, where?"
"What would make you feel most comfortable?"
"I don't know."
"Alright, how about the church?" Martin suggested. "There's a class tonight so it'll be open. We can use one of the other rooms."
"Yeah, that'd be good."
"Eight o'clock?" Martin asked.
"Can we make it six?" Alicia responded. "I'm not sure how long I can sit on this."
"Sure," Martin replied with understanding in his voice. "Don't stress yourself. Okay? Things are going to be alright."
"Okay," Alicia agreed, though only half convinced. "Thank you."
"See you soon," Martin said before they both hung up.