Strange Tales: Gum, Graffiti and Mr Death

The alarm rang a fourth time, the snooze had gone on long enough and Harry forced himself out of bed, submissive to the whims of duties call. His room was tidy, as he had left it the night before and as he pulled the heavy cream curtains back the sun was revealed in all its glory, shining upon the high-rise buildings that dwarfed his own multi-story home.

“Good morning Harold” Mr Death said from the sofa where he sat, shadowed and hidden with the days newspaper, the front cover quite obviously held so he Harry could read it

4 killed in Underground Railroad disaster

“Your handy work Mr Death” Harry asked nicely as he began to dress himself for the day ahead.

“Is it ever not my handy work Harry?” Mr Death asked as if a grin was creeping across his face, only Harry could never see his face, masked by cloak and darkness. Shaking his head harry continued to get changed, pulling on his matching socks on ready for his freshly polished shoes. Pondering the fate of those poor people all the while, Harry wondered what his own journey to work would be like, he had never truly felt comfortable on those tube coffins as it was.

“May I have a read of my new paper” he asked politely, sitting down at the breakfast table some time later, a plate of banana bread and a cup of instant coffee already waiting. Mr Death chuckled in a hollow distant kind of way, when he spoke, there was no mouth to see move only the strange ghostly sounds.

“Of course Harold” Mr Death said slowly as the newspaper gently hovered and stopped within his soft grasp, Mr death brought his skeletal fingers together as he appeared to eye Harry. This was Mr Deaths favourite part of the day, the morning rituals rightly followed before a good of dose of medicine provided by any good news outlet. “Did you see, there was a girl who passed away during her holiday to the Caribbean, the local authorities say natural causes…”

Harry moved his eyes to the story, below the title: free spirit cut down in paradise sat a picture of the young girl, early twenties, short blonde hair and a brilliant smile. His heart was well and truly heavy as he laid the newspaper down, saving the crosswords for later, once dinner was eaten and his day almost over. With a great sigh he pushed himself up and after collecting his things, left his lonely apartment with a feeling of great relief.

He had known the company of Mr Death for most of his adult life, first noticing his lingering form as a teenager when he had first realised his own mortality during a trip to the super market with his mother. Since then his forlorn companion had been a regular presence, never missing the mornings headlines and always there when any big decision needing making. Although Harry had soon realised he appeared to be the only one who could see and speak to Mr Death, He could clearly see he played a large role in the lives of those around him.

Mr Death never really explained his role but from what Harry could figure out it was to annoy him by never calling him Harry, to point out everything that could go wrong before it did and quite frankly to ensure fear continued its unrelenting control of his life. You see Mr Death is the reason so many of us are trapped, imprisoned by our own over active minds, why we are very experienced at numbing suffering with impulse indulgence and lack any real experience of self-control. He is that sinking feeling we get when what we would like to do is punted out of the way and replaced by what we fear could go wrong.

“I am quite important in ways you don’t understand Harry.” Mr Death said from beside him as the bus trundled along, Harry hadn’t noticed him follow. Looking around the old bus, its seats long worn and the floors littered with gum and graffiti his eyes came to rest with an old sickly looking fellow who was wheezing heavily from further back. Then he understood the reason Mr Death was on the bus and sure enough as he returned to look at his ethereal companion he could tell without eyes that Mr Death was starring, fixated upon the wheezing man.

“We have had this chat before Mr Death.” he said, remembering his more rebellious self who would question far more, who had that spark of fight, of revolution close to his heart. “You are the dark that allows the light to be, the ying to the yang, the end to the beginning and so on and so forth”.

“You seem doubtful Harold.” He said, the strange voice growing cold, “have I not rescued you from so many perilous journeys, dangerous decisions and helped you maintain some order in your life?”

Harry stayed silent, very aware of Mr Deaths icy presence as he tried to gather himself, remembering that he was safe, he had a job, a place to sleep and food on his table. All of these thing she knew he ought to be greatful for, after all if he had followed the love of his life to that foreign land, taken that job he had always wanted or travelled as so many had, then maybe he had now would be gone. Looking around the grim bus travelling the grey roads surrounded by dim light, and sad people he felt a welling of sadness from within and before he could stop it a tear ran down his cheek.

“Don’t you understand?” he said in a breaking tone, “all that you do to make us fear you, to put us under control and to convince us we must avoid you at all costs is destroying the very nature of living itself. Look around me, I have what I am told to be greatful for, I should by all accounts be happy and fulfilled yet I feel empty and dead, what madness are we born into…”

“I will not tolorate your bad manners and spoilt behaviour.” Mr Death said as the bus stopped and the wheezing man made his way up the isle towards the door, seeing this the spectre of the void stood and started to follow his prey. “Simply because you can see me Harold, does not mean you are special, we all have our duty and life is about getting that duty done, I am here to ensure you still to that target…”

Mr Deaths cloak flowed behind him as he creeped alongside the bus with the sickly man, looking up at the window to where Harold sat watching.

“you are here to promise one more day of safety, of being alive if we stay afraid, you are lie we choose to believe” Harold said to himself, resolved to make a change.


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