“Well, hello there.”
“Who the fuck are you? It´s not Halloween yet, you twat,” replied the figure lying in bed, propped up on two dirty, stained pillows.
“Goodness me, two swear words in two sentences. Not like you at all. I would have expected a volley of profanity from that ill-governed mouth,” declared the figure stood at the foot of the bed, draped in black, the face hidden within a cowl.
“What? Speak fucking English!” rasped the occupant of the bed, his words coming between ragged gasps as he fought for air.
A noise like air escaping from a tomb that had been breached after five thousand years of being sealed tight, came from the motionless hooded figure. It was a sigh.
“Of course. I forget who I am addressing. I shall try again. Only two swear words? I expected way more from you. You really must be rather unwell if that is all you can say.” There was a low rumbling sound, like thunder rolling across a distant plain. The figure was laughing.
“Who are you?” demanded the occupant, “Why is it so dark in my room? What’s going on?”
The figure moved forward, emerging partially from the shadows so the single light, which shone dimly from above the bed, fell upon the shimmering black material which covered the figure. Two cold azure pinpoints of light could be seen within the hood, but there was no visible face, no discernible features, just another kind of darkness.
“I am Death,” remarked the figure.
“Yeah, yeah, is this your idea of joke Mary?” asked the occupant.
“Oh, this is no joking matter, Jerry Lowe,” remarked Death.
“How do you know my name? Where´s Mary? Is this you Butch, quit fucking around you prick, where´s Mary?” demanded Jerry, the occupant of the bed, aggressively. He tried to move but found he could not.
“Mary is there,” answered Death and another light flicked on casting a pool of light around a late middle-aged woman who was sat in an armchair to one side of the room. Her head was back, mouth open as she snored away, although there came no sound from her. She was oblivious to Death and Jerry´s conversation.
“Mary! Mary! Wake up woman! There’s some clown in the bedroom, get him out, Mary!” cried Jerry. The voice which once had boomed and ordered, was now weak, small and ineffective.
“She cannot hear you, Jerry. Nobody can,” explained Death.
“What the fuck are you on about? Think you can scare me with this stupid costume? Its shit. Death? Where´s the mask from that film then? Fuck off out of my room.”
The hood moved from side to side.
“Silence,” ordered Death with the resonance of a thunderclap.
Jerry´s mouth continued to flap, opening and shutting but no sound came out. His eyes widened in confusion and fear, but he still tried to speak and he tried to move from the bed but he could not get up, as if some weight was pinning him down, keeping him under the unclean duvet.
“Time for you to listen Jerry, although I know you are not very good at doing that. Poor old Mary over there has had nearly a lifetime of trying to help you and you have never listened to her, save when she says something that you want to hear, such as what she has made for dinner and asking you how many cans of beer you want her to pick up. Tragic really. Look at her, a kind woman but a misguided one, who has remained doggedly loyal to you, not that you every appreciated her doing so. You expected it. She has kept a vigil in that battered armchair, sitting by you, waiting on you hand and foot as you have coughed and spluttered. She has begged you to let her call an ambulance but you threatened to beat her if she did. “This is my home and no fucker is taking me out of it. Besides, I don’t trust doctors, quacks the lot of them” you snarled at her when she wanted to get help for you. For you. Still, at least she will get some peace and quiet now, deserves it, after fifty years of being tethered to you,” explained Death.
Jerry had stopped doing an impression of a goldfish although he continued to try to climb from the bed. His head turned weakly from side to side as he wriggled under the bedclothes.
“She was the only one who has stayed. Your children have not bothered. Your elder son, Jack, well, chip off the old block so all he is interested in, is whether there will be any money in it for him once his old man has popped his clogs. The other two, they have had enough of you. Deep down, they will be glad when you have gone. Sick of your bullying, tired of your nastiness, they only came because their mother, Mary begged them. They did it for her not for you. Look around Jerry, this is your bedroom, in your trailer and who is here? You, Mary and now me. Where are your friends, few in number though they are? Not here now and only one has bothered to drop by and even then it was only because he wanted to use your chainsaw. They prefer to stay away. Ever asked yourself why that is? I won’t ask about the colleagues, you have never really worked, well only if you consider thieving to be an occupation. Where are the grand children come to bring a smile to those lips? I see no flowers, no cards from well wishers. Has the pastor visited? Of course not, you shun religion and its network. Your brother? Not a chance. You have not spoken in a decade. You are dying and have been dying for weeks, you have been told that, Jerry, Your life of vice, the cigarettes, the alcohol, the cheap, nasty fast food have taken their toll, especially the cigarettes. You lie there wheezing unable to even afford oxygen for the tank that now lies empty,” remarked Death indicating towards the metal canister propped by the side of the bed. The oxygen mask dangled redundant from it.
This litany of absences and failures prompted Jerry to react and he squirmed, eyes narrowing, irritation and annoyance flared in them, the mouth twisted and gaped.
“You may as well stop that as well. You cannot get out of that bed, you see you are in the Never Moment now.”
At the mention of this Jerry ceased his ineffectual squirming and frowned, incomprehension flooded his prematurely-aged face.
The noise of air escaping a tomb sounded again in the otherwise silent room.
“You won’t understand, a school dropout like you who thinks intelligent people need to be shown the might of the fist, but I will explain anyway, after all, others will benefit from this. This is the Never Moment. You are neither alive nor dead, but you will soon be dead because I am here and I have come for you. You are in-between the world of the living and the world of the dead. You are on your death bed. Out there,” Death raised a hidden arm so that the black cloth moved, “time has stopped. Mary sleeps on unaware that you are now about to die. She will wake up and find you, Jerry Lowe, dead. Expired. Gone. Deceased.”
Jerry stared ahead. His eyes showed nothing. Emptiness prevailed.
“This Never Moment could be over in a heartbeat or it might go on for a million more, that is down to me and how long I keep you here. You see it is in this Never Moment that you are made aware that this is the end, that you are about to die so if there is anything you would like to say, something you would like to declare, any thoughts, any burning declarations of great import that you would like to be made known, well, now is your chance. With the knowledge that you are about to shuffle off this mortal….sorry, forgetting who you are for a moment, ahem, with the knowledge that you are about to die, this is the Last Chance Saloon. You will not stop the inevitable but, well, it seems the right thing to do to let you say what you need to say in the full knowledge that this is the end. I am a very good listener you know. I have had some fascinating Never Moments. Quite the surprise from certain people you know. So, seeing as how you appear to have settled down a bit, let me unmute you and you can say your bit.”
Death then nodded.
“I told you to fuck off out of my room whoever the fuck you are and for another…” Jerry immediately launched into a heated tirade towards death which was cut short as Death muted him once again.
“You are dumber than even I realised. Very well, I will explain it one last time and then it is over to you and I suppose I shall have to endure the delinquencies that will come spilling from your ugly mouth.”
Death nodded again, unmuting Jerry.
“..and I will kick seven shades of shite out of you if you don’t take that bastard costume off and show me who you really are. Well, show me you wanker!” he spat and then wheezed, coughed as his head bobbed up and down.
Death said nothing.
“I’m not dying, it´s not my time,” commented Jerry. There was resistance in his eyes but his tone betrayed him. The first sensations of fear began to manifest as the ultimate threat to his control made its presence felt. Not that Jerry knew that that was what was happening. He just knew that it wasn’t his time. Surely? He sought to shake off the nagging fear and gave a laugh, half amusement, half contempt.
“Its a good get-up, I will give you that,” he commented, “where’d you get it from?” he asked.
Death did not reply.
Where'd you get it from? “he asked again.
“I am not here to answer questions, this is your last chance to say what you have to say,” reiterated Death.
“Oh fuck that shit, what is this, death bed confessions? I’ve nothing to confess to.”
“Really?” queried Death.
“Well, I’ve had my feuds, sure I have, but only because I have had to. Some people just like to annoy me, you know?” he wheezed and made as if to say something else and then seemed as if the effort was too much and let the thought evaporate.
Death let the silence hang. Jerry stared ahead into the darkness that was Death. He seemed to wrestle with something but whatever it was, it was beyond him.
“Make yourself useful, whoever you are, bring me something to drink,” he ordered, “I´ve a right fucking thirst here.”
Death did not move.
“Get me a drink, fuck me, you tell me I am dying and you won’t even get me a drink,” snapped Jerry, “go fuck yourself then, I´ll get myself a fucking drink, what is wrong with this bed?” Again he sought to rise but found he could not do so.
“Have you not something you would like to say to Mary?” coaxed Death.
Jerry twisted his head as if aware for the first time that Mary was present.
“Huh? Mary? Yeah, oh yeah, Mary, be a doll and get me a drink, fucking mouth like Ghandhi´s flip flop.”
The sound of air escaping the airtight tomb came once again.
“Mary? Mary!” demanded Jerry before he started to cough once again.
“She cannot hear you,” explained Death with infinite patience.
“Not surprised, the lazy cow has nodded off, wake her up will you, Christ what do I have to do to get a drink? My wife is asleep and you Mr Death man, you are just as useless,” chided Jerry.
“So, last chance Jerry, business is brisk at the moment, plenty of other punters with Never Moments ahead, time to speak or forever hold your peace. And it really is forever, there’s no afterlife for the likes of you,” commented Death.
“Quit your jibber jabber and pass me something to fucking drink you clown,” hissed Jerry.
“Anything to say to the children you beat?”
“Brats needed discipline.”
“Anything to say to your long gone parents?”
“Thanks for nothing.”
“What about the lads in the bar?”
“Yeah, those turds can get me a drink oh and a cig, come on, just do it will you?”
“So? No remorse for the people you have hurt, the lives you’ve marred, the decent people you have repeatedly tormented and stolen from? Any choice words of contrition for your monumental failings as a father? Any warm recollections for Mary and her unstinting dedication to the absolute tragedy of your marriage?”
“Quit with the dictionary words Mr Big Brain, fuck me, you’d give an aspirin a headache the way you go on,” retorted Jerry before another paroxysm of coughing took him.
Death said nothing more.
“Thank fuck for that, thought you would never stop, where´s me drink? Mary? Come on woman, wake up!”
Jerry peered into the darkness again, his head lifted and he strained. He gave a snort of contempt as he saw nothing at all.
“This is just a prank. Old Jerry is built to last, I am not going to die,” he said defiantly.
“Oh yes you are. It is enough,” answered Death.
Death brought forth his scythe from the shadows and it cut through the air above Jerry´s bed. A death rattle rose from the chest and he then slumped back into the bed, eyes closed, life extinguished.
Death had now departed. The Never Moment had concluded. The low lights of the trailer returned. In the distance a dog barked and then fell silent.
Mary slept on.
Jerry Lowe the Lower Lesser Narcissist lay dead.