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.
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About the Story
A week later things were returning to normal for most people, but not all.
The family that had been in the original car that was hit was still frequenting the hospital to visit the father, Doug. He had undergone some intense surgery after the accident and would be in the hospital for a little longer. The mother, Natalie, had been released two days ago into the care of her own mother, while Natalie's sister took care of the children. And Alicia knew all this because she visited Doug every day for a few hours, just to be sure.
The news on the driver of the four by four had been that he had actually died before the crash. The autopsy showed the man had died of a heart attack, and not impact nor any of the other trauma the accident caused his body. The coroner believed the man had the heart attack while driving and died at the wheel. With a heavy foot and good alignment, the truck barreled straight through the red light. Which explained why the driver made no attempt to slow down or avoid the collision. The odd circumstances surrounding the cause of the accident turned what would normally have been given fifteen seconds of coverage on the ten and eleven o'clock news, and a whole lot of curses from commuters at the intersection having been shut down for hours, into a blurb on the front page of the paper story.
Alicia herself was recovering, but it would be weeks before the cast came off her arm. Perhaps it was better to say she was adjusting. And she was certainly learning as well, learning how to do with her left hand and arm ordinary things she normally didn't give a second thought to, such as eating with a spoon.
She had been given two days off work right after the accident because the hospital had held her for observation for one, and then another so she could adjust to her medication at home. Which really meant so she could lay conked out from the pain killers on her bed in peace. She then had filled out the paid time off form for a week off and gave it to Martin to turn in to Susan. Everyone at the office assumed it was due to her injuries from the accident, they had even sent flowers and get well soon cards. Alicia assumed Susan suspected it was something more, and in truth the request was due to both the accident and to wrestling with the recent revelations about her life, but Alicia trusted no one else at the office knew about the latter.
Martin visited Alicia every day. She could see in his eyes that he felt somewhat responsible for her. Whether because he had been driving, or because he was the one to have opened her eyes to what she could do, she didn't know. She didn't ask either. She was just glad to have someone to talk to, and to drive her to the hospital for her daily visits.
Ever so often she spotted D at the hospital, wearing that same almost creepy serial killer outfit. Neither D nor Alicia made any efforts to talk, or even be near each other. Alicia wanted Doug and his family out before she confronted D. Alicia also spent a little extra time each visit walking around the hospital on the routes she usually took when there volunteering. According to Martin's company, somehow she was helping people when she worked here even though she wasn't seeing patients. So she figured doing as much the same as she was allowed should still work, at least some, and whatever she missed she should be making up for by walking around every day instead of twice a week.
Today, however, Alicia and Martin were practically greeted at the door by D. Alicia reflexively moved closer to Martin. At first he didn't see what had caused her to crowd him as if wanting protection, but he had a good idea. He put his hand on her shoulder. Sure enough he saw D sitting just up ahead, watching Alicia. He - D - seem to be waiting for her. He was wearing the same maintenance uniform Martin had seen him in the first time they'd met and when Martin had seen him on the sidewalk right before the accident.
"D," Alicia said with reservation as they approached.
"Alicia," D replied flatly.
The two faced each other in silence. Martin looked back and forth between them, wondering who would give in first. Finally he decided to be the one. "Are you here for a reason, or just to hold Alicia up?" he asked D pointedly.
D turned a look to him that made him feel as if he was an insignificant thing that had just become a nuisance. For a brief moment he wondered what D was going to do. This time he moved closer to Alicia for protection.
Alicia had jumped slightly at the thought that D was holding her up, theoretically so that she would not make it in time to save someone. She started on her way towards Doug's room. D stood and started to move with her.
"Is there something I can do for you?" Alicia asked D.
"Yes, actually," D replied casually. "You can leave."
D continued with a wave of his or her hand, depending on whose perspective it was, "But of course you won't. So I thought I would put your mind at ease."
Alicia turned a curious eye towards D, Martin a suspicious one.
"As of last night Doug Stonewall has moved down on my list," D informed Alicia. "It will be many years before I come for him again," D assured her.
The corners of Alicia's mouth twitched upwards. An almost triumphant expression crossed her face.
"You believe him?" Martin asked Alicia.
Alicia nodded without reservation. "Don't ask why. I just feel that I can."
"Okay," Martin said with a shrug. If D's word was good enough for Alicia, it was good enough for him. She'd known D longer, and was the one with the connection.
"Alicia," D said to bring the attention of the two off each other. "Walk with me."
D started off down the hall. Martin and Alicia exchanged glances, then followed. D stopped by the elevators. Alicia, out of years of habit of walking with D, pushed the elevator up button. When the doors opened, the trio stepped on. Alicia moved to the floor buttons and pressed the standard one for the intensive care floor. After she'd done so, she realized things were different this time and that might not be where they were going. She looked at D a bit sheepishly. "Where to?"
"That will do," D replied.
Martin watched the interaction between the two with interest, keeping his hand on Alicia's arm so he could in fact continue to see D.
As the elevator rose, D started to speak. "Alicia, there is something I wish to understand. As much as I appreciate you staying away from me for the most part now, I know your present state of mind is only going to lead us to confrontation whenever you decide you do wish to approach me. I would rather not go through that."
"And just what state of mind do you think I am in, at present?" Alicia asked with a touch of defiance.
"You think I am a killer," D replied matter-of-factly.
"Of course," Alicia replied. "That's because you are!"
D's head shook. "No, I am not. And that is what I wish you to understand."
Alicia turned on D in anger. "Are you telling me that you didn't cause that accident last week? That you didn't make that man die so that his truck would crash and give you others to kill?"
D replied calmly, "I did not cause it."
"Liar," Alicia accused. "I saw you on the sidewalk before it happened." She motioned to Martin. "We both did."
"I was there," D confirmed with a nod.
"Because you-" Alicia started to speak with force.
"Because he died!" D corrected her loudly, so that his or her voice was heard over Alicia's.
Alicia was confused into silence for a moment.
D's voice returned to its normal level. "I was there before the accident because a man died before the accident," she explained to Alicia. "I stayed because Doug Stonewall was dying, he wasn't supposed to make it until the ambulances arrived."
The elevator reached the designated floor and opened its doors. Martin and D stepped out. Alicia followed somewhat slowly, partially lost in thought.
D began talking again as the trio walked down the hall. "Have you considered yet why you can always find me around here, in the intensive care ward? It's because people are always dying in here." She motioned towards a window as they passed by. "Estelle Grady. She'll die two nights from now."
Both Martin and Alicia watched the frail looking woman hooked up to a dozen monitors and medication lines as they traveled past the window. Then they looked at each other.
"Matthew Worth," D continued, indicating a closed door. "Three hours."
Alicia's face started to drain of color. "D, don't do this," she half-pleaded.
D stopped in front of another window, and looked in. A teenage boy was lying in partial traction, with a visible scar from recent surgery on his chest. "Alex Bensen," D labeled him. Tears started to well in Alicia's eyes. "He lives for sixty more years," D said.
Alicia blinked away the tears, looking at D in shock. "Huh?"
D turned to face Alicia. "I told you, I am not a killer. I am Death."
Martin nodded as he started to understand. "There's a difference. To kill is to cause death. Death simply is the end of life."
Alicia looked back and forth between the two for several seconds. "Okay," she finally said.
"I did not cause that accident," D repeated. Then her voice took a serious turn. "But someone did."
When Alicia turned back to face D only, she noticed D didn't seem quite as menacing. The way D stood, the shade of her clothing, even the features of her face seemed a little less intimidating and mean. "Did you change?" Alicia asked.
D tilted her head slightly. "I don't know. Did you change me?"
Alicia shook off the eeriness by shaking her head. "Never mind," she mumbled.
Martin looked at Alicia out of the corners of his eyes. D hadn't appeared to change to him. "You okay?" he asked Alicia.
"Yeah," she answered quickly, looking to D and not him.
"Do you have any questions?" D asked, almost a bit too innocently for Alicia's liking.
"Plenty!" She announced. "Starting with... why are you being so helpful?"
D nodded in understanding. "Because, ideally, the more you know, the less conflict we will have to go through."
"Okay then," Alicia said as she thought about that, and what she wanted to ask next.
"I have a question," Martin piped up with.
D slowly turned to look at Martin. He said nothing, but his face gave off the impression he was going to say something, so Martin waited. Finally D did speak. "I have all the time in the world. You don't. So perhaps you should ask your question now."
"Oh, sorry," Martin automatically replied with out of common courtesy. Then mentally scowled at himself for apologizing for nothing. "What I'd like to know," he immediately moved on to, "is does Alicia's gift have a purpose? Besides the obvious. As in, was she given it for a specific reason?"
"As far as I know," D started to answer, then slowly walked around Martin while watching him the entire way, causing a creepy feeling that made the hairs on Martin's neck and arms to stand on end. D's head then turned to look at Alicia. "Only to be the bane of my existence."
Alicia looked D straight in the eye. "Do you know how far my powers go?" she asked.
D smiled. "Yes."
Alicia frowned at the smile, it was not one of joy but one of 'I know something you don't know!'
"Will you tell me?" Alicia asked.
"No," D replied simply.
Alicia scowled at D, then looked questioningly to Martin. He shrugged.
Alicia turned back to D. "Okay... how about this. Do you remember the first time we met?"
D nodded. "Yes. But I doubt you do."
"Oh?" Alicia replied. "I remember the fire when I was three, but we didn't actually meet then. We didn't meet until the amusement park."
"We met before then," D corrected her. She gestured towards Alicia with her hand. "But ask your question."
Alicia pondered for a moment. "I wanted to ask, when I called to you to help the man I was with, I understand now why you didn't do anything. But why did you say to me that you couldn't help him?"
D held out her arms. "Because I couldn't. You were right next to him."
"You mean you couldn't help him die," Alicia stated.
"Death is not always a bad thing," D informed her. "Sometimes it is a help."
Alicia's brows furrowed. "I couldn't conceive of how!"
Even Martin was frowning. "Death may be a natural thing, when not helped along. But I have to agree with Alicia."
"No one asked you," D told Martin with an edged tone.
"You don't like me, do you?" Martin asked.
"It is not a matter of like or dislike," D replied.
"Then what is your problem with me?"
"You should not be able to see me," D informed him, but not as the answer to his question. "We should not be able to have this conversation."
"That's the problem?" Martin asked, his voice full of doubt.
To Alicia, D fell silent and just stared at Martin for several moments as if trying to stare him down.
To Martin, D was suddenly looming over him. In the blink of an eye the up until this point maintenance worker image had been replaced with the image of the first mad father he had ever dealt with as a teenage boy taking a girl out on a date, except it was D's face and not that father's. "My problem with you," D said in a deep growl that sent chills up Martin's spine, "is that I do not know what you are going to fill her head with."
"I- I- I'm not-" Martin stammered.
"I expect you are the reason she became aware of what she does to me," D continued in a lowered volume, forcing Martin to strain to hear what was being said. "And it is clear she has become attached to you for it."
Martin shook his head rapidly. "No sir," he contradicted, part of his mind thinking he was back talking to that girl's father, all of him feeling like it as he started to sweat. "I mean, yes sir!" he quickly corrected himself. "But, we won't be doing anything because of that."
"You had better not," D warned. "For your own sake."
The moment D turned back toward Alicia, the scene around Martin returned to normal. Except that D retained the clothing that father had worn. Martin took his hand off Alicia's shoulder and shrunk a couple steps away from her.
Alicia saw Martin the whole time he and D stared intently at each other. She saw his fear and that he appeared to be talking to D. But she hadn't heard a word Martin nor D had said. When D turned back to her and Martin backed off, it was clear who had one the contest of wills.
"What was that?" Alicia demanded to know.
"That was me getting him to stop interfering," D informed her. "Now we can continue our conversation."
Alicia watched Martin for a moment. He had his hands in his pockets, and was looking down as he shuffled his feet. "Martin?"
"Yeah, what?" he asked, looking around quickly to make sure no one else was there but him and her.
"Arrrrrre you alright?" Alicia asked.
"Oh yeah, fine!" he said in that way men do when they want to make it seem like nothing is wrong.
She nodded slowly, not believing him, but not pushing the issue. "Okay." She returned her attention to D. "So you say we met before then. When did we first meet?"
"At your birth," D told her.
"My... birth?" Alicia echoed, not at all expecting that to have been the answer.
"Yes," D confirmed. "Your birth. Have you been told anything about it?"
"Sure," Alicia replied with a wave of her hand. "Long labor, big head. All the typical stuff mothers say to guilt their children."
D's head shook slowly. "It was a long and hard labor for her. I was there at your birth, because she was supposed to have died then."
Alicia was beyond stunned. She stood wide eyed, mouth open, attempting to form words but failing.
"I see we're not going to be able to talk any more right now," D commented aloud. She put a hand on Alicia's shoulder. "Go home. Hug your mother. I'll be here when you're ready with more questions." And with that, D walked off down the hall.
Alicia turned to Martin. "Uh...."
Martin nodded. "Yeah."
"I'd like to go home now," Alicia finally managed to say.
"Oh, okay," Martin replied. "You ah," he pointed over his shoulder with a thumb, "you don't want to go visit Doug first?"
Alicia looked off and blinked once before her memory kicked back in. "Oh right. Yeah," she looked directly at Martin. "Yes. Let's go see Doug. Then I'll go visit Mom."
Martin raised an eyebrow. "Your mom?"
Alicia smiled. "Apparently, she was the first person I ever saved."
"Ah," he replied. "Nice."
"Come on," Alicia said as she started towards the elevators.
In Doug's room Alicia and Martin found the whole family gathered around Doug. Natalie was humming and packing up Doug's things. The older child ran up to Alicia with a huge grin. "Daddy is coming home tonight!"
"So I heard," Alicia replied with a smile. She looked over to Doug. "I came to wish you well."
Natalie walked over to her husband and put her arm around his shoulders. "Thank you," she said to Alicia. "You've been so nice to us." She looked down at her husband. "It's been such a help to Doug to have a friend here for him."
"You don't know the half of it," Martin mumbled under his breath. Alicia jabbed her elbow into his ribs to quiet him.
"It's been my pleasure," Alicia told them. "I'm just glad to see you get better and be heading home," she said to Doug.
"Thank you," Doug replied. "I'm glad to be going home!" He took his wife's hand. "You know, at first, I didn't think I was going to pull through."
"Hush!" Natalie admonished him. "I won't hear such things. You did, and that's what matters."
Alicia smirked at the couple. "We'll be going now."
"Thank you again," Doug said, "for everything."
"You're welcome," Alicia replied.
As she and Martin headed towards the door, another voice called to her. "Alicia?"
The voice belonged to Doug's roommate Maria. She was a sweet but lonely elderly woman. She was a widow, and the rest of her family was spread out across the country, none of them living nearby. Her eldest daughter had flown in when Maria first entered the hospital, but the daughter had to leave a few days later to get back to her job so she wouldn't loose it. Alicia didn't know why Maria was in the hospital, but she had been there starting the same day as Doug. Every time Alicia visited Doug, Maria would call to her as she left.
Alicia walked over to Maria's bed. "Hello Maria,"she said with patience.
"Alicia," Maria repeated, this time with concern. She reached out for Alicia. "You're still going to come visit me, right? After Doug leaves?"
Alicia exhaled softly. "I'll come see you after each of my shifts," she promised.
"Does that mean everyday?" Maria asked.
"Twice a week," Alicia told her.
"No. No. Every day," Maria pleaded. "You have to come every day."
Alicia gently pulled Maria's hand off her. "I'm not sure I can."
"But you have to!" Maria insisted with fear in her voice.
Alicia turned a concerned expression to Martin. "Why?" she asked Maria.
"Because every day they say to each other that I'm not going to make it. I can hear it in the doctors' voices. But every day you come visit, and make me feel safe enough to fall sleep. And every morning I wake up." She grabbed Alicia's arm again. "Please."
Alicia looked down on Maria, then back up to Martin with a question on her face. He nodded to indicate he would keep driving her.
"Okay," she finally said. She took Maria's hand off her again, placing it gently on Maria's stomach. "I'll visit everyday."
Maria sighed in relief. "Thank you. My daughter, she said she can come back this weekend," Maria started saying as she relaxed in her bed. "And she'll be bringing my grandchildren." Maria's voice trailed off as she rambled herself to sleep.
Alicia stood by Maria's bed, looking down on her.
Soon Martin came over and took her by the shoulders. "Come on," he said quietly.
On the drive home Martin rubbed his side where Alicia had hit him with her elbow as if it were still in pain, and glanced over at her. "So, we're not telling anyone I take it?"
Alicia half smiled at his mock pain. "That wasn't my reason for poking you."
"That's what you call a poke? Yikes!" He laughed. Which made Alicia smile a little more.
"Okay, fine. That wasn't my reason for smacking you with my arm," she corrected her statement with emphasis. "Better?"
Martin smiled. "Yes."
Alicia shook her head slightly at him, then shifted in her seat to gaze out her window. "Natalie and the kids didn't need to know how close they came to losing Doug."
"Yeah, I guess you're right," Martin admitted. "Natalie wouldn't have wanted to know."
"Nope," Alicia agreed. "But... since you brought it up." She paused, then sighed.
"What?" Martin prompted.
"Maybe we shouldn't be telling anyone about me," she said in a way that indicated she wasn't sure if she wanted to keep things a secret.
"Why?" Martin wondered aloud.
"Well, honestly, because of Maria," Alicia answered. "I mean, if I a helping her, that's great. And I do want to. But, well, there are a lot of people in that hospital...."
"Alicia, you aren't required to help everyone," Martin told her.
"I know. But it almost seems unfair. I have the ability to save them all, don't I?"
"Theoretically," Martin answered as best he could.
She turned her eyes to the sky. "Then shouldn't I?" Martin didn't answer. She dropped her head and closed her eyes in shame. "I feel so selfish."
"For what?" Martin asked with attitude in his voice.
"Because. I don't want to live at the hospital."
"And you shouldn't," Martin informed her.
"But that's where D is. All the time. If I am going to stop her, that's where I need to be," Alicia explained.
Martin diverted his attention from her as they approached the intersection of the accident. He slowed down, carefully making his way through. Several more moments passed in silence.
Finally Martin cut the tension. "You still have your own life to live," he said. "You can't let your gift run your life, or ruin it. Think about it this way. Before you found out, you went around acting like every other normal person. Yet you were helping people along the way without even realizing it. Well, now you know. That means you can actively help people now, maybe even go out of your way for others. But, you still have to keep your day job. And the things that make you happy."
Alicia nodded slowly.
"You're right," Martin added. "We shouldn't be telling people. The last thing you need is people mobbing you at the hospital every time you go to help someone."
"Just what I need," Alicia said, rolling her eyes. "I bet D would love that."
"Oh yeah. They'd probably keep you from getting in his way! Very much counterproductive." He chuckled slightly. "So, no telling anyone then?"
"Well," Alicia hesitated with thought. "I think I am going to tell my parents."
Martin gave her an 'oh really' look. "Oh yeah?" he asked to match it.
"They are my parents after all," she replied. "I can't just keep something this important from them."
Martin bobbed his head. "Of course not."
At Alicia's apartment building Martin pulled into the parking lot to let her out. She closed the door behind her, then immediately turned around and motioned for him to open the window.
"Forget something?" he asked.
"No," she said, then smiled. "I just want to thank you. You know, for driving me all over, and making sure I'm okay, and everything."
He smiled back. "No problem. Besides, this is a rental, so it doesn't really matter how many miles I put on it!"
She chuckled slightly. "I suppose not. Well, thanks again."
"You're welcome," he replied sincerely. "See you tomorrow."
When Alicia got into her apartment, she turned on the lights, dropped her keys and purse by the door, and sighed. "This place is a dump," she commented to no one as she looked around. Usually her place only passable for clean. As in she managed to keep it picked up most of the time, but real cleaning happened about once a month at best. With a broken right arm, and being right handed, she had found it nigh impossible to keep her place even low clutter. The thought of hiring a maid service crossed her mind, but she knew she couldn't afford it. "Oh well," she said, and sighed again. "Let's see what's for dinner."
There was practically nothing in her refrigerator. She hadn't been to the grocery store since the accident. She frowned at the empty space for a moment, then opened the freezer. Two frozen dinners sat encrusted with ice crystals, signifying they'd been in there for quite a long while. "You'll have to do," she said as she pulled one out and looked at it.
Minutes later the microwave dinged, and Alicia had a nice hot mediocre meal ready for eating. She sat down in front of the tv with it. But as soon as she was done eating she turned off the tv, it wasn't at all what she wanted to do.
She moped around her apartment for a little while, collecting clothes and picking up other miscellaneous items, but not at all interesting in doing that either. Finally she flopped down on her couch.
"Why am I so depressed?" she asked noone. She sighed heavily. "Do I miss work?" She shook her head. "No, not really," she grumbled. She rolled her head to one side. Soon she was picking at the loose strings on her couch. Once she'd had enough of that, she sat up and looked around.
"Am I lonely?" she wondered. She shrugged to herself. "I don't think so." She looked around more, and soon her gaze landed on her phone. "Oh! I was going to call Mom," she reminded herself. "I should go visit her and Dad this weekend."
She walked over and picked up the phone. But as she started dialing, she thought of someone else. She pressed the phone's hook down, let go, then started a new number.
"Hello?" a voice on the other side answered after a couple rings.
"Tracy? It's Alicia."
"Alicia!" Tracy replied, the joy evident in her voice. Just the sound of it made Alicia feel better. "It's been almost a week! How are you? How's your arm?" Tracy asked.
"Oh I'm fine. My arm's pretty much the same. Sorry I didn't call a few days ago."
"Oh that's okay. It's not like I called you either. Things around here have been SO busy!"
"Yeah," Alicia nodded. "I know how it's gets for you." She paused a moment. "I miss you."
"I miss you too, sweetheart," Tracy replied. "Are we still on for this weekend?"
Alicia cringed inwardly. So much for Mom and Dad. "Of course," she replied.
"You sound a little down," Tracy said with concern. "You sure you're okay?"
"Oh I'm fine," Alicia told her.
"You said that already," Tracy retorted. "Come on, you can tell me."
Alicia sighed slowly. "Ah. It's just that this place is a mess 'cause I can't clean it properly. I'm all out of clean clothes. And I have almost no food in the house, not that I can cook now either. I guess I'm just feeling a little annoyed at feeling a little helpless."
"Well that's understandable," Tracy assured her. After a moment she said, "Tell you what. I'll take off work a little early tomorrow and come out to see you. We can go shopping, get a good meal in you, and take care of the house work, okay?"
"You don't have to that," Alicia said with sincerity.
"I know I don't," Tracy replied with matching tone. "But I want to. Besides, it's an excuse to get to see you sooner!"
Alicia smiled at her best friend's ability to make her feel important. "Sounds good," she said, the smile carrying to her voice. "I can't wait."
"Good," Tracy said, "What kind of ice cream do you want me to bring?"
It was tradition for the two of them to start off a shopping excursion with ice cream, the reasoning was so they wouldn't loose steam part of the way through. "Um, how about Strawberry this time," Alicia suggested.
"Oh that's easy," Tracy replied. "Come on, give me a challenge!"
"What can I say, I'm in the mood for fruit," Alicia replied with a shrug.
"That's fine," Tracy replied with a laugh. "Well, I have to go now. But I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay. See you tomorrow," Alicia echoed.
"Bye," they said together, and hung up.
Alicia called Martin next, but his voice mail answered. So she simply left a message saying not to come tomorrow, that her best friend Tracy was coming over so she'd have Tracy take her to the hospital. Then she called her mother.
"Hi Mom," Alicia answered.
"Hi sweetheart, what's up?" her mother replied happily.
"Not much. I just wanted to say I love you."