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Rated: E · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2227708
Thrice Prompted Contest Entry - 1st Story
Prompt = Take a famous poem and rewrite it as a fantasy/sci-fi story
Word count = 832

No one knows where they came from, not really. It is known that there was a time when dying was quiet, maybe even peaceful on occasion.

Not now.

People these days lived in terror of dying. Not only dying, but being present when someone else died was just as horrific. The screams alone could drive one quite insane.

But you were not allowed to leave. If you happened to be in the vicinity of a death, whether it was someone you knew or just a stranger in queue at the grocery store, no matter, you were required to stay until the very last morsel had been consumed and the soul freed.

If you left prior to the bitter end, you would be cursed with the sounds of that particular death until your own demise. Needless to say, by the time it was your turn to die you had already lost your mind.

The creatures lived off of death or, to be more precise, they lived off the body that the dead left behind and the energy the process of dying released. And probably fear as well. Yeah, they seemed to really enjoy scaring the doomed prior to their demise.

The living could not hear them, the dead wished they couldn't.

When your time came you would first hear a whisper, soft, incoherent. A moment later your name sailed upon the wind. Only you could hear it, the knowledge of it's meaning striking terror into your heart.

Then, maybe, you would feel a raspy tongue on your cheek, testing, tasting, in preparation for the meal.

By now your heart has stopped from pure fright, but your soul is trapped inside the body, tethered until all has been consumed. Condemned to feel it all. Every rending, tearing, biting, chewing, breaking, snapping pain of it. Your screams to be heard by the living.

Then one day something different happened. A man, strong, confident, did not tremble from fear at the whisper of his name. He yelled at the creatures, defied them.

"You think you can scare me?! I have fought in two wars! I have seen the fear that hides in man's heart! The evil they hide from the world! You do not frighten me! I am a man of God! I have lived a virtuous and moral life! God owns my death, not you! You vile creatures are nothing in his sight! Nothing! I do not fear you! I do not fear death! If God feels it is my time then he shall strike me down! Not you!"

And God did strike him down and, the most important thing, he freed his soul at the same time. No screaming to wither the strength of those nearby. The horror of the creatures feast had been eliminated. They ate in silence, solemn, subdued.

Word spread quickly.

It did not matter the religion of the condemned, or lack there of. The defiance is what mattered.

Soon all were fighting back. Ranting and raving about good deeds, achievements, a good and upright life, anything to show courage when facing the monstrosities of death.

Then came another miraculous day, the monsters did not show for a meal. After some time spent waiting in uncertainty, the smell of the deceased becoming quite prevalent, a few drummed up the courage to bury him.

More and more this happened, cemeteries became popular once again.

It has been awhile now since one of those monsters has been seen. Fear no longer dominates the living.

Never forget, lest they return...
Do not go gentle into that good night!

Original Poem
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