“Quite the sight, I agree,” remarked a hollow voice which seemed to circle and eddy the listener.
“What an explosion man! Look at the flames!” remarked the man excitedly. He was stood up in the cockpit of the expensive speedboat as orange flames surrounded him. The yellow and orange of the flames was fixed, frozen, creating a tableau of different shades of orange and yellow. Ochre, pumpkin, tangerine, amber, carrot and lemon were entwined, bleeding into one another, a wall of suspended flame which surrounded the gawping man in its midst. The man pushed his hand towards the wall of flames. His action was not tentative but performed by someone who leapt and never looked. His hand dipped into the flaming morass, but he gave no cry of pain, no scream of agony but instead retrieved his hand and stared at it wide-eyed and impressed.
“Check that out!” he declared as he lifted his unscathed hand up and examined it for injury, “I am flame-resistant. That is so awesome, I am like something from the Fantastic Four! Hey man, did I do this? Can I do it again?” he asked fizzing with excitement as he gesticulated at the flames.
“Yes and no,” came the answer.
It was then that the man suddenly realised that he was actually having a conversation with someone rather than talking to himself. He turned and saw the tall, dark figure stood beside him. The figure was lean and imposing, a midnight black hooded cloak hid what lay within.
“Sheeeyitttt, who are you?” asked the man. His question was neither aggressive nor fearful, but rather one of excited curiosity, akin to a child trying to fathom out how a particularly impressive magic trick had been performed.
“My name is Death.”
“Death as in, The Death?”
“The one and the same,” came the level reply.
“How fucking cool is this? Great to meet you Mr Death, let’s have it up top!” exclaimed the man as he raised his hand for a high five.
Death obliged him and a black shrouded arm lifted, and a skeletal hand appeared from the sleeve and slapped against the expectant palm of the man.
“Pleasure to meet you Mr Jack Goff,” replied Death cordially.
“So, wait, let’s back it up, re-re-rewind,” said Jack and he made a decent impression of a rewinding sound, ” you said I did this? Come on man, you have so got to tell me how that happened so I can do it again!”
“I am afraid it is, quite literally, a once in a lifetime occurrence.”
“Noooooo, come on man, I created flames! Look at this shit man, it is unreal and get this, I cannot even fucking feel the heat of this bad boy, watch this Deathmeister!” Jack plunged his right arm into the flames once again and extracted it. His expression was as if he had just discovered this “superpower” for the first time.
There was a noise akin to two huge boulders slowly rolling over rocks as Death rolled his eyes at Jack´s Labrador enthusiasm.
“Jack, Jack, calm down, let me explain,” said Death motioning with his hand for Jack to settle down.
“No, Mr Death, come on, you HAVE to tell me how I did it. I want to do it again; Jack is Jacked for this. Woo huh!”
“You made the engine explode because you tampered with it in order to win the race, another day of cheating and duplicity, ” said Death. His response was loud, a sonic boom of explanation which slammed into Jack and made him widen his eyes in surprise.
“Awesome voice dude!” he complimented. “Can you teach me how to do that?”
“So, wait, all of this is because my engine exploded?”
“And it exploded because I made some last-minute additions before the race?”
“So, I am not like Jonny Storm or something out of Marvel Avengers?” asked Jack.
“Bummer,” replied Jack and he suddenly look dejected. The dejection lasted a millisecond before he announced, “Still, hell of an explosion dontcha think?” He stood grinning and he folded his arms and nodded to himself, looking over his handiwork.
“Yes, quite the ka-boom,” agreed Death.
“Ahh, now I get it!” said Jack smiling with realisation.
“Hallelujah!” said Death.
“You said I did this, and I cannot do it again and I cannot do it again because my boat is totally trashed by this explosion, yeah?”
“Well,” remarked Death, “You are not wrong, but you are not entirely right either.”
“Help me out here Death Dude, throw me a bone,” requested Jack.
“This is your last act on the earth, Jack, you see as usual you ignored the rules, rode roughshod over regulations, dismissed protocols and did whatever you wanted.”
“Hey, what can I say, Jack does not hold back!”
“Ahem, evidently,” confirmed Death, ” so with your usual flagrant disregard for any kind of order, you sought to overpower your engine, against the rules of the race and this is the result. Your speedboat has exploded, and you are about to die.”
“Yes, you need to understand Jack that this is your Never Moment. You are caught between being alive and being dead. That is why the flames do not burn you, that is why you are not being ripped apart by the explosion, that is why you can put your arm into the flames and feel nothing. Time has been frozen, the world beyond has halted, as you and I stand here exchanging high fives.”
Jack paused as if weighing the import of what had just been disclosed to him. He gave a slow nod.
“So, this is where we play chess, yes?”
“Sorry?” asked Death.
“You know, you and I play a game, so I get to stay alive, that’s how it goes isn’t it?”
“Oh, I understand,” there then came a noise not unlike a tsunami as it heads towards a waiting shore as Death laughed, “You are going to choose Battleship or Twister aren’t you? You are thinking of Bill and Ted´s Bogus Journey,” replied Death.
“No, Ingmar Bergman´s Seventh Seal, where the knight plays chess with death to save his friends, awesome film,” replied Jack.
“Oh er, yes, that one,” answered Death, “no, sorry, no chess playing.”
“Shame, I am immense when it comes the to the game of chess, none of my friends have ever beaten me,” explained Jack.
“That is because they let you win,” added Death.
“Sure, they do, what are you like Death, always giving it a bit of needle eh? I like that, keeps a man on his toes.”
“If you insist.”
“Okay, so no chess, do I get to make a speech, you know like Hamlet to Fellatio.”
“Duh! Come on Death aren’t you meant to know, like everything, I am schooling you here, not that I mind, you seem a pretty chill kind of dude, you can come and join me and the girls on my yacht next weekend. It is called Hi Jack, because that is what everybody says when they see me, I know everybody around here. I have a few bars on the pier and I dabble with some property development you know, put some money in a couple of tech start-ups, not entirely sure what they do, something to do with apps, I like to help out you know. I have the dough, so I help others to make some bread,” rattled on Jack, “so, I was thinking that I get to make a speech, you know like the Prince of Denmark keeps doing, that Hamlet guy, to his best bro, Fellatio.”
“It is Horatio,” explained Death.
“Are you sure Death, The Prof, that’s what I call one of my crew because he is always reading, told me that Hamlet is always saying deep things, seriously deep things to his main man, Fellatio who is a bit of a sucker because he never really gets to say much himself because Hamlet is always giving it the big one about his dead dad and how his mum is doing the nasty with his dad’s brother, not that I think there is anything wrong with that, I mean I have done a few sister combos in my time, you know where I am coming from, don’t you Death, you know how it goes?”
“Evidently not,” remarked Death.
“Sure, you do. You see, my view is life is for living. If you are not living, then well you might as well be dead, and I do some serious living. Got a penthouse on the beachfront at Pacific View when I was just 22, I have the cars, the jet ski, I got my pilot´s licence when I was 24, should have been a year earlier but there were some complications with my instructor, she wasn’t meant to fall in love with me, but what can you do eh Death? The chicks just dig the Jackster!”
“Yes, I understand you have been successful in your short life, Jack,” admitted Death.
“Thanks man, I just love it all, people, they are just so, so energising. They are what I live for. I love everybody, usually the ladies but hey even a dude once in a while, I mean, anything to keep the party going. You know where I am coming from Death, I can tell you get me. We are like brothers in arms, riding out here on the ocean, afraid of nothing, champions, pioneers, forging our destiny!”
“Is this the speech?” asked Death.
“This, no, I am just giving you some background.”
The sound of rolling boulders ground through the air.
“I do not mean to be rude but I do have other matters to be about Jack and riveting as it is getting acquainted with you as we stand on the blazing deck of your exploding speedboat, perhaps you might turn your attention to issuing some profound declarations about how you have lived your life. Time to sum it all up young man because this is the end.”
“How do you mean?” asked Jack in a puzzled but good-natured way.
“Well, what do you have to say to that long line, and it is a long line of women you string along?”
“What? The Harem? Oh, they love it, a weekend with Jack is well worth sharing. Plenty of Jack to go around if you know what I mean?” Jack winked at Death and looked down to his crotch.
“What about your crew then?”
“Super cool dudes, great people, I always attach the best of people.”
“What about your family Jack, you do not see much of them. They worry about you; they have always been concerned that you would end up in something like this. The motorbike crashes, the tombstoning off the cliffs, BASE jumping and such like. They know you are an adrenaline junkie, but they wanted you to slow down and take responsibility for once.”
“There’s plenty of time for that when I am snowy haired, and I have moved to Florida!” grinned Jack.
“No Jack, there isn’t, this is it. As soon as you have finished, no, that cannot be the case you will go on like the Duracell Bunny if I let you, no, shortly I am going to conclude this Never Moment and then you will die and you will not be Hi Jack but Blown Sky High Jack, do you understand?”
“Awesome! Up, up and away! Man of steel! It´s okay Death, keep a tight hold of me and we will just land in the ocean and that sexy cape thing you have going on there will get a bit of singe but nothing that a dry clean and a bit of invisible stitching cannot solve, I will hook you up with Marcellus, he is the man when it comes to tailoring.”
“No, you are going to die, Jack. It is the end, your demise, the final curtain.”
Jack made to speak again and then stopped. A look of horror suddenly came across his face.
“The end?” he asked, his voice dropping.
“The end, ” confirmed Death.
“No more Jack?”
“No more Jack.”
“Jack is not coming back?”
“No, you do not qualify for resurrection.”
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” he declared slamming his left fist into his right palm.
Death nodded at Jack finally grasping that his mortality was about to come to an explosive end.
“I have forgotten to set my box to record the ball game, can you do me a solid Death and slip over there and do it for me, the address is…”
“Enough!” declared Death his voice like a thunderclap of finality.
Jack stopped his instructions and looked taken aback.
“That is immense man, show me again,” he enthused.
“Do you ever shut up?” asked Death, “No, no, don’t tell me, I know. I need to be heading to someone else now, Jack, he is an Upper Lesser Type B, a big hitter, so can we wind things up?”
“An Upper Lesser whater?” quizzed Jack.
“Nothing, nothing, any final words, any reflections on your life, anything you would like me to pass on to someone special, any anecdotes, short ones though, which you care to share about the world, for me? Any regrets about what has passed and what has not come to pass by your, admittedly pretty full, life being cut short so early? Are you not upset that you are not going to be able to do the girls, the parties, the holidays, the sports, the shopping, the cars anymore?”
“Hey Death, I have packed so much in, I have loved every minute of it. It has been a blast!”
“But what about finding some depth, some meaning to your life as opposed to all this skin-deep hedonism?”
“Is that a moisturiser? Is it any good, I cannot tell, you have been keeping the Real Death under wraps in that black kimono shit you stylish fucker!” laughed Jack.
“Oh, for the love of a sharpened scythe,” muttered Death.
“Right. This is it. The Never Moment is about to end. Final chance. Time to lay it all bare, no, no that!” growled Death as Jack went to yank his shorts down.
“Just ribbing you Death, don’t want to make you feel all small seeing Big Jack down there,” grinned Jack with his million megawatt smile.
“You have sixty heartbeats Jack, make use of them.”
“So, I am about to get blown apart by all this?” asked Jack. His face was serious now. He swept an arm at the wall of churning flame.
“Yes, totally consumed by the flames, an instantaneous death.”
“I see,” commented Jack appearing pensive for the first time in the conversation.
“What will it be?” asked Death.
“Do your thing Death, just you know, not the face yeah?” remarked Jack as he circled his admittedly handsome face with his finger.
“Very well, not the face,” agreed Death.
“Hoo haaa!” bellowed Jack, “go for it Death!!”
Death brought forth his adamantine, glittering scythe and as he pulled his arm back to make the executing move to extinguish the life of Jack Goff, he saw Jack stand straight, salute him, smile and say,
“Hasta La Vista, baby!”
Death swung the scythe and the air roared with the violence of the explosion as Jack Goff, the Upper Lesser Type A Narcissist died.