A crippled veteran has five minutes to save his co-workers.
|“Five minutes,” the voice said. “You have five minutes to do the most good before I take your soul to Judgment.”
I lifted my head to look at the person who had talked to me, and put my good hand on the hole in my chest. That was when I saw the figure in the black robe, and he seemed familiar.
“You have four and three-quarters minutes,” he said. “Remember- I agreed to give you an extra five minutes.”
At that moment, I remembered when I last saw him. It was when I was serving in Iraq and the humvee I was taking a ride in had triggered an IED- I was the only survivor. Shrapnel from the blast was embedded in my body, and the doctors didn’t think I’d make it through the night. They doped me with so much morphine I was as high as a kite. That night, I saw him walking around, going from one person to another, occasionally touching them, and their monitors would flat-line afterwards. He was Death, and I believed he had come for me. He came by my bed, and I grabbed his cloak with my mangled right hand.
“Five minutes,” I said. “Just give me five minutes to do the most good I can.”
“And what can you do?” he asked. “What can you do in five minutes?”
“I can write a letter to my wife, and tell her I love her with all my heart.”
He chuckled at this. “You won’t need five minutes to write a letter,” he said. “Besides, it’s not yet your time. However, I will grant you your five minutes when it is.”
“Thank you,” I said, as I let go of him. However, he grabbed my hand and lower right leg.
“I will be taking these though,” he said, as he tore them off. Oddly though, I felt no pain.
“Just be sure to give them back when I need them again,” I said, as I drifted off into unconsciousness.
The next day, I woke up in the operating room- the doctors had removed my hand and lower leg. It was gangrene, they had told me- a bad infection, but they had caught it just in time. But I knew better- Death had taken them as a down-payment.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I was given a medical discharge from the military- basically; they’d help me with my medical issues, help pay for college, and see about getting me a job to support myself. I got the Purple Heart- didn’t need it though- I lost some of my closest friends in that explosion.
I went back to civilian life, and my wife of two years, and my year-old son. I went on to further my education- figuring out how to write left-handed clearly was a pain- and I got a diploma in mathematics. I became an accountant as a result. Office Halloween Parties were always easy for me- I’d dress up as a 17th century pirate- Captain Long John Hook, lesser-known cousin to both Captain Hook and Long John Silver.
Today, just shy of eight years after that day I survived Death, was now my last. A man who had been fired the previous week came into my office and shot me in the chest with a shotgun. Last thing I could recall was him firing a shot into José’s back- I mean, who just shoots an accountant and a janitor? A crazy person would be an appropriate answer.
“Four minutes, thirty seconds,” Death said as I stood up. Oddly enough, I felt no pain.
“So, today’s the day,” I said.
“Best give me back my hand and leg then.”
Death chuckled. “Done.”
I felt pain then, pain of muscles, tissues, bones, and more growing at a rapid rate. I held onto a chair as my growing foot burst through the stump of my leg, and broke my prosthesis, same with my hand. They were fully grown, and unblemished.
“They’ll do,” I said, when the pain subsided. “Now, where is he?”
“Upstairs, two floors,” Death said. “Specifically, your boss’s office.”
I ran to the stairs, and saw the death and destruction my former coworker had left in his wake- at least three others were dead, and more were seriously injured. Others were hiding under their desks, trying to stay out of sight. I saw a small two foot long fire axe by the stairs in a glass case- it had been a trophy of a sort for the floor from the boss- we’d saved a lot of money from being burned, as it were. Smashing my fist through the case, I pulled it out, and ran my finger over the blade- it was sharp enough for the job, as was the pick end.
“Three minutes,” Death said in my ear.
Holding onto the axe, I ran up two flights of stairs, and found myself looking down a long hallway, filled with offices, some of the doors having been shot through. Then I saw him- standing over the boss, with the muzzle opening planted firmly to his head.
“Robert!” I shouted.
My former coworker turned and saw me, his face in a state of shock. “I thought I killed you already,” he shouted as he raised the shotgun and fired.
The blast sent me into the wall, and I collapsed- still, I felt no pain. He turned back around and pointed the gun at my boss again.
“Robert,” I said, getting up, and still clutching onto the axe. “I’m not dead yet.”
“Impossible,” he said, as he turned towards me again, his face full of fear. “I shot you in the heart. How are you still alive?”
I didn’t bother wasting time- I charged him, and planted the pick end in his chest, and we both fell to the floor, him dead, and my energy finally spent.
Someone grabbed me and pulled me off of him, and I ended up looking into my boss’s face.
“Can I have tomorrow off sir?” I asked with a grin.
He took a look at my wounds. “Yeah,” he said, with a chuckle. “I’ll let you have tomorrow off.” He then stood up, and walked towards his ruined desk, pulled out a drawer, and got something out. “I reckon you deserve this more than me,” he said as he came back. He showed me the object- a bronze star.
“Didn’t know you served sir,” I said with a cough.
“No, but my son did during the first Gulf War- the bomber he was in got shot down, and he protected his crew until rescue arrived,” he said. “He didn’t make it though. I accepted it in his stead.”
He then knelt down, and pinned the medal on my shirt. “For Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.”
I chuckled. “Not my first one you know.”
“Is there anything I could do for you?” he asked. “Coffee and water is all I’ve got at the moment.”
“Could you write a letter for me?” I asked. “Call it my Last Will and Testament, if you would.”
“I want you to write it to my wife and children,” I said. “Tell them that I said that I truly enjoyed every moment I had with them, and that I’ll watch over them, and we’ll share those memories when we meet again.”
He got up, and went to some copier paper, took out a pen, and started writing.
As my vision began to grow fuzzy, I heard Death ask, “Are you ready?”
“Very well. Your five minutes was up anyways.”
“Thanks for the spare time,” I said, as I saw my late coworkers gather around me, along with my friends from the humvee explosion.
Death chuckled. “See you in the next Life.”