An unexpected visitor

The old man was a bit surprised when he saw the tall, hooded figure standing in the doorway, but being a polite, kindly soul he invited him in. He bustled about the lounge, preparing it for the unexpected guest.

'Would you like some tea?' he asked. The being pondered the question. He wasn't expecting to stay long, but after a hard days work he needed a rest and a nice cup of tea would be wonderful. He nodded his assent, whereupon the jovial man asked delightedly whether he would like some biscuits to go with that. The figure spoke in a firm voice 'Yes, please'. The man beamed at him.

'Please, sit down while I put the kettle on. What was your name again?'

The figure sighed. Nothing now remained but self-confession.

'Death. I've come to harvest your soul'

The man didn't register what he said. He laboured in the kitchen making the tea and preparing the biscuits in a nice symmetrical pattern. Death felt a little guilty about accepting tea and biscuits from this kind old man just before he reaped, so to speak, his soul. But there was no avoiding it now, and the man seemed to enjoy having visitors.

The pensioner came in, placed the tea and biscuits onto the table, and smiled at Death.

'I'm sorry. I didn't catch your name.'

Death leaned forward. 'You are Mr. Patrick Alfred Smith of 22 Codger's Lane are you not?'

'Yes that's me…..why, has something happened?' The old man's face was creased with worry.

'Listen to me very carefully Mr. Smith. I am Death,' he sipped his tea 'and I have come to kill you'.

The man jumped up. He was dazed and confused. 'Okay, who put you up to this? Who made you come to an old man's house and frighten the life out of him? Who could be so heartless?!'

Death stood up. He was used to this. 'Mr. Smith I was not sent here by any mortal, but by the powers that be. You are, or are about to be, dead. You cannot avoid it. You cannot do anything to persuade me not to kill you. Soon your soul will be wiped from the earth! Please remain calm.'

The man stood frozen to the spot. 'You're….really Death?'

'Yes' said Death, pleased that he'd got the point so soon.

'And you have come to take my immortal soul?'

'Ten out of ten.'

The man was white with shock. After a pause he asked in a small voice 'Couldn't you take my television instead?'

Death sighed. 'I do not take bribes' he said firmly 'I am afraid that you will die and there is no alternative. Your time is up.'

The old man was shrinking away 'No, it can't be…..' He pulled out a handy handgun that he kept in a drawer as a memorial to his army days. He loaded it. 'Don't move a muscle. I'll shoot……I really will!'

'Don't be stupid, you can't kill Death. If you could I'd have to visit myself and that would be really confusing. And I don't technically have muscles. Our image consultant suggested the skeleton in a black robe look for the job.' He revealed his face to the old man, who screamed. 'As if the concept of impending doom isn't frightening enough. Just put the gun down. You may want to sit down by the way; your death is quite violent.'

'Is that a threat?' demanded the old man, his grip on the gun shaking.

'It is a fact.' said Death, and he finished his tea with a gulp.

'That was good tea, thank you Patrick.' he got up and stretched. He looked at his watch. 'Ah it is nearly time.'

'Don't you dare!

'Don't worry everything will soon be over. And I won't be the one who kills you.'

'Oh yeah? Who will?'

'Him.' said Death pointing over the man's shoulder.

The man whirled around, his heart thumping madly against his ribcage, pleading to be let out. But there was no-one there.

'Got you!' laughed Death gleefully 'Gets them every time'

'Oh this is a joke! You go around murdering people and play practical jokes on them while they wait to meet their maker?!'

'A perk of the job. Anyway technically this isn't murder. No-one can die without me being there to supervise and complete the soul harvesting, I'm performing a public service.

'Public service my foot!'

'Funny you should mention your foot. I'd take a look at it if I were you.'

Patrick looked down. There was a rather large spider on it. As he watched it, it climbed a little further upwards. He looked fearfully up at Death.

'Escaped from the zoo transportation van that broke down here a while ago. Don't you remember? You gave the men some Custard Creams while they waited for the pickup truck.'

Patrick nodded, afraid to speak.

'Highly poisonous of course.' Death watched the old man's face dispassionately.

Patrick, terrified but determined, slowly lowered his gun downwards. They weren't going to have him easily. He still wanted to remain alive for a little while longer. He lowered his gun downwards until he judged that the spider was in the firing line. He strengthened his resolve, and fired one shot.

Bits of arachnid flew everywhere. His aim had been true, or true enough. But there was a problem. This problem was that the bullet had shattered the spider and proceeded into his leg. Blood erupted from the hole. His legs and nerve failed him and so did his heart as he slowly sank to the floor and then a few seconds later expired.

Death reached into his cloak and drew out his scythe. He raised it and with a swish he severed the bonds between Patrick's soul and his body. The soul filtered out onto the floor. Death picked it up, tossed it unceremoniously into a sack that had mysteriously appeared along with a checklist, upon which Death crossed out the name of Patrick Albert Smith, picked up the sack and vanished through a door between immortal and mortal plains, the garbage man of the mortal realm disappeared from 22 Codgers Lane and left the body and fragments of spider behind to be discovered ten minutes later by his best friend who was calling to play their weekly game of chess.

Not the ideal way to discover that your best friend is dead, as you can imagine.