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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2218288
Bradley makes a deal to avoid Death. Winner of SCREAMS!!! 4/06/2020.
Life Eternal

The dentist’s waiting room was a strange place to see someone dressed in a hooded monk’s habit, thought Brad. It was true, however, that even monks must get tooth problems sometimes. And Brad was not aware of any order of monks that produced fully qualified dentists; ergo, a monk with a painful tooth would have to visit a lay dentist.

Brad pretended to be looking at the pictures in a magazine as he surreptitiously studied the hooded figure. He couldn’t see a face inside the hood and the white habit revealed nothing of the form that wore it. That was unusual - the white habit. Although he was no expert on monkish orders, Brad had never heard of one that specified white habits.

There was no one else in the waiting room. It was nearing the end of the day and Brad had been alone in there for a while before he noticed the white monk sitting in a corner. Why hadn’t he seen the monk enter?

This was becoming a bit weird. Brad looked at the clock on the opposite wall. The hands indicated 5:49. Only ten minutes or so until closing time. The previous customer must be having complications to slow things up. And Brad had been waiting over half an hour now. He shifted in the seat, wondering whether he should give it up and reschedule with the receptionist. At least he’d be able to get away from the strange monk guy.

He glanced at the monk and found that the hood had moved so that the monk could watch him. The face was still hidden in shadow but Brad caught a slight flash of light as the monk turned away again. Was the guy wearing glasses that reflected the overhead light? Brad decided that he was working himself into a nervous state. Best to speak to the man and get over these silly thoughts.

“What time is your appointment, pal?” he asked.

The hood turned slowly to face him. Again there was a flash as something within the hood caught the light. “I have no appointment,” came the answer. “In fact, I don’t need an appointment.” The voice was flat and without stress or accent, the words spoken without apparent feeling.

“Then why hang around here?” asked Brad. “Most people will do anything to avoid going to the dentist.”

“It makes no difference to me,” replied the monk. “All places are the same. It’s the people that matter.”

Now that makes some sense, thought Brad. “Is that part of your faith?” he asked.

“I have no need of faith.” The white-robed figure stood and walked over to stand in front of him.

Brad sat back, disconcerted at this unusual behaviour. What the hell was this guy up to, he wondered.

The figure continued to speak. “It is time I introduced myself. I have come for you, Bradley Greeson, and you will have to follow me. You have some knowledge of my brother, Death, but of me you know nothing. I am one who plucks the occasional client from my brother’s clutches to offer them something different. My name is Life but it’s the surname that really matters for our purposes. My brother and I are the Eternal boys, forever at odds in the affairs of humanity.”

The voice paused but Brad was unable to respond, his mouth hanging open and his eyes wide, staring at the figure looming over him. Life extended his hand in offer of assistance. The hand was silver, as perfectly formed as any human hand but polished to a chrome-like reflectivity so that it seemed an expertly crafted prosthesis.

“Come,” he said, “We have to be gone when my brother arrives.”

Brad found himself rising from his seated position, the magazine slipping from his fingers, to stand before the figure. At this distance, Brad could see that Life’s face was featureless, a smooth, oval shape, silvered as the hand and as reflective. A distorted reflection of Brad’s face stared back at him, as though Life had assumed Brad’s persona.

The figure turned and strode to the door. Brad somehow found his voice and protested. “But, what about my appointment?”

Life stopped and pointed at the clock. “What time is it, Brad?”

To Brad’s amazement, the clock still showed the time as 5:49. “A cheap trick but useful,” said Life. “Now hurry. Supernatural time still marches on and Death is close.”

Brad moved quickly to follow the figure as it left the room.

They met no one as they walked quickly to the exit of the building and the street outside was devoid of people. It was as though Life had cleared the world of humanity so that the two of them could talk alone. He led the way across the street and entered a small park that occupied the block opposite to the dentistry building. Brad trotted to keep pace with the figure’s long strides.

Finding a bench unsullied by pigeon droppings, Life sat down and gestured for Brad to do the same. For a moment they both looked out on the park, enjoying the evening breeze as the shadows lengthened and the heat of the day dissipated with the westering sun. Then Life turned to Brad.

“Well, I’m sure you have the gist of the deal already. It’s a choice, if I may put it this way, between life and death. You can go with my brother - and I’m sure you have plenty of thoughts about what happens next down that road - or you can choose life and live forever. A pretty easy decision, I’d have thought.”

“Just a mo,” said Brad. “When you say Life Eternal…”

“No need to be formal,” interrupted Life. “Just call me Life.”

“I meant eternal life,” explained Brad. “Let’s call it immortality. If I choose that, where exactly do I do the life thing? Will I just carry on in this world or will I have to move to the Elysian Fields or something like that?”

“Oh, you’ll live here. Just carry on as though nothing had changed. You can even make your dentist’s appointment if you want to. And any number of appointments afterwards. Life is what you make of it, after all.”

Brad was cheered by this information. “But what if I get run over by a bus?” he asked.

“Well, you might get a scar or two,” said Life with a shrug of the shoulders. “Nothing too disfiguring. You might cause a bit of a sensation if you keep emerging from life-threatening situations but they’ll get over it. They always do.”

“Doesn’t seem to be a downside then,” mused Brad. “Where do I sign?”

Life reached inside his habit, producing an official-looking scroll with a great seal in red wax and a ribbon down the side. “On the dotted line, boyo,” he said.

Brad reached for the scroll but, even as he did so, his signature appeared in the correct place. Beneath it, Life’s monicker appeared as the witness. The scroll was rolled up and secreted back in the habit. Life resumed in his featureless voice.

“That’s all done then. Welcome to immortality, Brad.” The two shook hands and Life stood up.

“Right I must be going,” he said. “You can go back to the dentist, if you want. Death must have moved on to his next customer by now..”

“Will he know that you’ve rescued me?” asked Brad.

“Oh yes, I left my calling card on the waiting room table for him. Any last questions?”

“What if I decide I want out after all? Will I ever see you again and is there a way I can call you up or something?”

Life made a sound like a snort. “No chance of that,” he answered. “Once the deal’s done, that’s it. A deal is a deal, you know.”

Brad was looking a bit worried now. “And what about aging? Is that the same deal as for accidents? Will I stay this age forever?”

This time Life laughed openly. “Not a chance, sonny boy. Nothing in the contract about halting the aging process. You are going to get older than you can imagine, Brad. Hell, some of my clients look even worse than my brother does. Skeletal ain’t got nothing on them.”

The future gaped before Brad like an abyss without light. Almost in a whisper, he asked, “And pain? Will there be pain?”

“Oh, you betcha,” giggled Life. “You are gonna feel so old, Bradley boy, and the aches and pains will shrivel your soul every day You really ought to read contracts before you sign ‘em, you know.”

He turned and walked away as Brad fell sideways on to the bench, face in his hands.

Word Count: 1,456
Written for SCREAMS!!! April 6, 2020
Prompt: Someone related to the Grim Reaper

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