An unexpected meeting in Morocco.
|Wrapping the white robe around herself, Śmierć stepped out onto the busy streets of Erfoud. Her white, satin-gloved hand reached out to gently touch the embroidered silk exhibited in a large booth before passing on to inspect a silver and gold headdress. Laughter swirled in the wind so that she found herself constantly walking into the joyous noise.
“Welcome!” a woman dressed in a harmoniously colored and leather beckoned Śmierć towards her booth. The woman plucked a plump Medjool from one of the many wooden boxes at her table.
“You are a visitor to our Festival of Dates, yes?” the woman grinned, pressing the sweet fruit into Śmierć’s hand. “It is well known that the date brings hza saeidaan. That is, good luck.”
Śmierć hid her smile under her white hood as she accepted the gift. She brought the Medjool to her mouth and nibbled off a bite, relishing the creamy, caramel taste.
“Many thanks to you, Fatima. Perhaps this good luck will favor me in finding an old friend of mine.”
The woman’s smile slipped into a frown. She leaned forward to peer into Śmierć’s veiled face, but the darkness kept her identity hidden.
“Wait a minute. How…how do you know my name?” Fatima asked. “Have we met before?”
“No,” Śmierć admitted. “This is our first meeting. But don’t worry, it won’t be our last. I will visit you again one day. Tonight, I am here to meet with a cousin of yours.” Śmierć cocked her head, allowing Fatima to see her face. The woman’s eyes widened in shock.
“Omar!” Fatima sucked in a breath. Her hand fluttered to her chest and she stepped back as if to flee. Śmierć shook her head and breathed in the woman’s fear before turning away and gliding into the crowd of merrymakers.
A small band of musicians played along the side of the road. Śmierć paused and swayed to the sound of the , , and . She was particularly impressed with the skills of Jamal and how he played the resting vertically on his knees. Glancing at the sky, Śmierć sighed. While she would love to stay and dance with abandon under the moon, she had an appointment to keep.
Passing several red buildings, Śmierć followed a group of people that chattered excitedly about the upcoming dromedary races.
“Last year my son, Malik won the camel races,” a man was boasting. Śmierć recognized his face and tapped her chin thoughtfully. He was on her appointment list for the next year, when the pomegranates blossomed, she remembered.
“Very good!” a woman giggled. “But this year my brother, Ahmed, is certain to win. He has been practicing with his best camel for many days!”
Śmierć sighed and hurried past the woman. It would be many, many years before they were scheduled to meet face-to-face. A row of camels, tied to posts until they were ready to run for their masters, stopped Śmierć in her tracks. Closing her eyes she sniffed, trying to locate the scent of Omar over the overwhelming stench of the beasts. As one of the racers, she knew she would find him in the area. The wind blew from the southwest and she caught an earthy odor. Her eyes flashed open and she turned to her left.
Omar stood half-hidden next to his camel. He was placing a brightly colored saddle over the dromedary’s hump. Śmierć practically floated to his side, unnoticed until she place a hand on his shoulder. At her touch, Omar shivered.
“We meet at last,” Śmierć said, her voice as smooth as honey. Omar frowned and pulled away from her grasp.
“Have we met?”
“No,” Śmierć felt a smile tug at her lips. “But I know you. In fact, I’ve been waiting for you for several months now. Your time is up, Omar. It’s time to come with me.” Slowly, she removed her satin glove and held out a skeletal hand.
“Wh—what?” Omar’s voice rode on a wave of fear. His camel shuffled in place, sensing the anxiety of his master.
“Oh come now, Omar. You’re an intelligent fellow, you must know who I am.”
Omar’s Adam’s Apple bobbed. “You…you’re almawt, death, aren’t you?”
Śmierć felt a wave of pleasure. This moment of recognition was always thrilling. “Yes, I am. My appointment with you was for exactly eight of the clock tonight. The hour strikes and it is time to go, my friend.”
Omar narrowed his eyes. The long sleeves of his Djellaba hid his hands as he crossed his arms across his broad chest. “You are mistaken, Śmierć. For it is nine in the evening, not eight. It seems we have missed our appointment. You will have to come back another time. Perhaps in another twenty or thirty years, yes?”
Śmierć frowned. “Do you think I’m playing games, Omar? I follow the time of man closely and it is clearly eight —“
“Ah,” Omar interrupted with a laugh. His eyes, once filled with fear, sparkled with delight. “I see the mistake. You see, Morocco has decided not to follow the time change this year. Instead of falling back one hour, we have allowed our clocks to continue on course.”
A fit of rage blossomed in Śmierć’s hollow chest. “But it’s your time to—“
“Apparently not,” Omar grunted. He waved an indifferent hand. “I think it is time for you to leave. I have a camel race to win.”
Śmierć watched in disbelief as Omar clicked at his camel. The beast lowered itself to the ground and Omar slid onto the saddle. With another click of the tongue, the animal was up on four legs and bounding across the sand. Śmierć pouted, wondering how she would explain this failure to The Boss, and pointed a bony finger at Omar. “You’ve escaped for now but I’ll be back. Nobody escapes death for long.”
Turning on her heel, she marched back to the festivities, her long white robe fluttering behind her.
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