A Chat With Death

At the end of a long weekend (and I mean that in terms of activity, interaction and thought – last weekend was Easter, and that’s a weekend on steroids), I found myself typing up some of those thoughts, sipping my umpteenth black coffee, when there was a knock at the door.

Knocks on my door always elicit a fight-or-flight response. This is not because I’m a shut-in recluse: I attend a CBD-located office building five days out of seven. I am not out of my comfort zone in the presence of others. But, and this is without exception, my social contacts are all aware of just how little I appreciate cold-calls. So if the door receives unexpected rapping, my brain starts to decipher the who’s and why’s without pause. And this evening, because of my ongoing effort to drink all the coffee I can brew (and I can brew a lot of coffee), I had the added benefit of see-through-time vision.

It’s a little known fact, (well, it USED to be) but everyone has a time-vision threshold. You will reach it in one of three common ways: drink way too much coffee, drink way too much alcohol, trigger a really really desperate fight-or-flight. Combine any two of those, and it triggers time-vision that much easier. And so with the rapping on the door at the midnight hour, my well-caffeinated system made the simple slip into hyper-vision, like an easily excited gearbox, and the music I had previously been enjoying became little more than a slow by rhythmic dirge. My brain just Inception’ed my ambient soundtrack.

I went to the door and answered it hesitantly. Unexpected callers in the middle of the night are NEVER bringing good news. And this could be no exception. I opened the door, to be greeted by a tall, sombre looking gentleman who I was pretty sure I recognised on sight.

“Leonard Nimoy. First-time greeter, long-time fan.” I said, my hand shooting out to shake his. I could spy lingering streaks of light behind him that were almost indefinitely the result of my altered vision. He grasped my hand in his cold, worn grip and shook it firmly. His brow creased.

“I…” He started. “Am not the man you think I am.” His eyebrows raising mid-sentence, as if to verify the honesty of the statement. I would never question Leonard Nimoy’s honesty. I gestured that he should enter, and took his coat and hat. Door closed, I gestured to the lounge and cheerfully went along with this admission.

“Ah – well then how should I address you, visitor to my house?” I smiled, showing that this was not facetious, but a genuine desire to show deference and go with his request. He settled back in his seat and with steepled fingers, he began.

“You may call me Leonard Nimoy – it’s not the first time I’ve been labelled such, and I’m quite sure it won’t be the last.” His eyebrows polygraphed along with his words. “I do appreciate the comparison, but in reality I’m a far more alien being. I am Death.” The eyebrows remained raised – he was telling the truth. Not wanting to portray my currently engaging panic, I raised my own eyebrows and took a breath.

“Well.” It’s true – when facing Death, your skills for improv are for naught.

I tried again. Nah. Outwardly calm, internally my brain was packing it’s bags and writing a hasty autobiography, but kept getting ages 5 and 8 mixed up. There was a bike involved at one point, and a Commodore 64 at another. Dammit. Death Nimoy could obviously tell the problem, and continued the discussion in lieu of my involvement.

“Now, Nicholas. I’m not calling on business. I’m merely in the area, and…I needed a person to…discuss more human matters with.” He said this with calm and sincerety. Why would I doubt Death? He was the ultimate be-all-and-end-all, his lies would be ridiculously transparent.

“So what, you were just in the neighbourhood, dealing Death and decided to go knocking?” He nodded, but then corrected me.

“I don’t do any of the hands on stuff – I’m upper-management, if you will.”

“Not even for the rich and famous?”

“Only if I’ve always wanted their autograph.”

I offered him some coffee, and pre-empted his order by suggesting long black, no sugar. He wrinkled his brow and corrected me again. It was like being in a really scary school situation.

“Latte, two sugars.” I nodded whilst looking down, the international understanding gesture for when you simply do not comprehend. So I asked him.

“Death isn’t all doom and gloom. It’s a necessary part of the world – it’s definitely change, but it’s not necessarily dark. If anything, being around to see all good things come to an end has given me the insight as to just how to make the most of the limited time before that point. You have to enjoy every sandwich, make the most of even the smallest, most mundane things – and definitely do not stress over them. The number of heart attacks because something wasn’t centered, or the wrong shade of heliotrope was used in an arrangement? Too many.

And I find coffee to be quite bitter without a small amount of milk and sugar.”  I returned with the drinks, and settled down to find out what it was that had Death going door-to-door.

“Your souls.” He said, sipping the drink and making a face of appreciation. The admission made me wonder where I was keeping my Death-fighting apparatus, before I realised how silly a concept that was.

“I thought you weren’t hands on…” I stammered, like a delicious apple pie realising it was in threat of being eaten by ravenous, fast-food conditioned teenagers, and suddenly trying to sell them on the health benefits of apples out of self-defence. Leonard Nimoy smiled.

“I’m not here to take them – I’m confused as to what you people do with them. Where do you keep your souls? I’ve been looking high and low; the rich, the poor; the reclusive, the gregarious…you all do different things with your lives, and you all have your beliefs and actions, but your souls…so many of you don’t seem to be in touch with them.” He looked me in the eye, and I suddenly realised he probably didn’t have to blink.

“Do you trade them for goods and/or services?” No, I said, of course we don’t. There’s no exchange rates for such a thing, and how would you decide what was a worthy trade? He chuckled at my flimsy attempt to rationalise such a concept against a tangible market.

“You have businesses, and entertainment making your decisions for you, and you happily go along with it. You acquiesce through apathy.” He seemed to like that alliteration. “What did you do with YOUR soul?” He asks, again not blinking.

I had no answer. As far as I was concerned, it was exactly where it should be. I haven’t given it away. It’s not stored safely in a box. There was no memory of elective surgery to have it sliced out and the resulting gaping hole filled with expanding foam, or some such medical wonder. Leonard Nimoy seemed to know I was thinking this. His expression and raised eyebrows said “I know what you are thinking – and you’re an odd boy.”

“I’m sorry Leonard Nimoy. I’m going to have to think on this one. It’s not an easy question to answer.” He leaned back, and let a wry smile cross his face. He drained his coffee cup, enjoying the sugary silt at the bottom.

“And with that, I will leave you for the evening.” He rose, shook my hand once more, leaving the indelible impression that regardless of having cradled a warm coffee-cup, his hand was infernally cooled. He smiled politely, and I fetched his hat and coat.

He stepped out the front door, into the slightly-lit carport that fronts my place, and turned back.

“I apologise for not having called ahead. You were just the first person to answer the door. Thanks for the coffee!” He walked off. Maybe he dissipated, maybe it was dark. He was Death.

I came back and settled down to write a re-cap of what happened. The vapour trails are now wearing off and the music is at normal speed.

I wonder if he’ll come back for the answer?

~ by nick on April 15, 2012.

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