A Touch of Death

"See you tomorrow, Charon,"

"Yeah, …okay,"

The youth waved goodbye to his friends and began to trudge slowly home. His trench coat whipped around behind him. He pulled up the collar to shield himself against the wind and rain.

He shoved his gloved hands into his pockets and groaned. It was as if a grim spectre hung over him. Actually this wasn't far from the truth.

He reached his home an hour later, thoroughly weather-beaten. He opened the front door and was greeted with the smell of tea from the kitchen. His mother craned her neck out of the kitchen.

"Is that you, Charon?"

"Yes, mother" he replied, as he peeled off his wet coat and hung it on the hook. He slippedhis shoes off and poured what seemed like a litre of rainwater out of them. Typical weather in Cambridge.

He walked up the stairs to his room in the attic and shut the door. He flopped onto his bed and relaxed. Aaahh…

"Tea will be ready in about five minutes, dear." His mother shouted up the stairs after him. Imagining what culinary delights his mother had made that day, Charon slipped out of his school uniform and into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt. He walked back down the stairs and sat down at the dinner table, as he awaited the food. Shortly afterwards, Charon was joined by his father at the table as they eagerly anticipated the food.

His mother brought in a large pan full to the brim with steaming pasta. The meal started and everyone tucked in. after a few bites of pasta, Charon's mother spoke up.

"Your uncle had a scare today in hospital, Charon," her mother said gravely. Charon and his father stopped eating and looked up. "You know he hasn't being very well recently? Well, today he suffered an aortic aneurysm. If the doctors hadn't been studying him closely, he would have died! Luckily, they acted quickly and performed surgery on him this afternoon. They've told me he'll make a full recovery."

"Hmm, so Fred stuck two fingers up at Death…" Charon's father joked dourly.

"Death? The skinny guy with a scythe? Please! He was made up to scare medieval peasants." Charon exclaimed. This seemed to break the tension in the room.

"No, no, no, I've seen him," Charon's father said. Charon looked at him quizzically. "He cuts the hedges at No. 42."

With this, the family erupted in laughter, relieved that Uncle Fred was still alive and kicking. Little did Charon know that Death was very real, or would be in a few hours.

If x equals 3, then y must equal 4.5 and the answer is 18. Done.

Charon put his pen down and breathed a sigh of relief. The homework was finished, at least for tonight. He glanced at his watch in the semi-darkness. It read half past eleven. Urgh, better go to sleep now.

As Charon tidied away his books, the light dimmed. On the shadow that was his bed, another shadow began to form. First, a small stick. That matured into a tall wooden staff. Next, a curved blade grew out of the pole. Soon a scythe was lying on Charon's bed.

Charon turned around. Apart from the darkness, the room had grown cold. Clouds of steam formed on Charon's breath. He looked down at the thresher on his bed, wondering where it had come from.

Charon bent down and picked up the scythe and examined it. Halfway up the wood, engraved in spidery lettering was his name; Charon Maurice.

Suddenly the reaper took on a mind of it's own. It thrashed about in Charon's hands. it broke free from his grasp and attacked the bedroom door, the blade sticking several inches into the wood.

As Charon was about to try and remove the scythe from his door, he realized something even stranger was happening. A piece of paper had materialized on his door, held in place by the thresher. It looked old, as old as time itself.

Spreading out from the blade of the reaper, words arranged themselves on the manuscript in the same spidery writing he had seen on the pole.

Yanking the metal out of his door, Charon released the scroll and read it.

Charon Maurice,

You have been chosen by the high authority to wield the power of life and death. This is no laughing matter. You shall wield your scythe and people will fall away. draw on this power wisely and you will be justly rewarded, but misuse this power and despair for all eternity. You are a Reaper of souls.

Charon read the letter over and over; this had to be a joke. As he had said at dinner, Death wasn't real. He looked back at his name on the scythe. Where it had been, a new word had replaced it, Death.

It was morning. Charon didn't even remember going to sleep. He was still dressed in last night's clothes. He felt something in his hand; it was a fountain pen.

Odd. Charon didn't own a fountain pen, yet there was one lying in his palm. He looked closely at it. The events of last night came flooding back to him as he saw Death written in spidery writing on the shaft.

He was Death…yeah right. He shoved the pen into his bag and shoved the grim thoughts to the back of his mind. Charon got dressed for school and went downstairs for breakfast.

He wolfed down the cereal and the grapefruit his mother has prepared for him. He pulled on his coat and was about to leave for school.

"Charon, dear, wait," his mother called after him, "Because it's getting cold now, I bought you a nice pair of gloves." Mother handed Charon a pair of sleek black gloves.

"Thanks, Mother." Charon replied as he shoved the gloves in his coat pocket. It wasn't that cold yet.

Charon set off for school.

Mr Newtown was a friendly man and a good teacher. He taught at Charon's school. He insisted on shaking hands with everyone he met, including the pupils.

He stopped and stuck out his hand when Charon passed him in the corridor. Because the physics teacher was one of his favourite teachers, Charon returned the gesture. Charon shook Newtown's hand. He smiled at Charon but it suddenly changed to a grimace. He took back his hand and clutched his chest, breathing heavily. Within seconds, he had dropped to the floor, dead.

Charon just stood there shaking. The man had right in front of him. Frantically, he reached for the gloves in his pocket and slipped them on, just in case. Charon ran down the hall to find someone, anyone to call for an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, they said the teacher had died of a quintuple heart attack.

Charon had only shook the man's hand and he had died. Mr Newtown was in his prime; there was nothing wrong with him. He shouldn't have died because of a handshake, but he did.

Reservedly, Charon had to face up to the truth. Mr Newtown had died because of him. He, Charon Maurice, was Death…