Death comes for us all.
The intricate design of Death’s web spares no one. It is the inevitable reality we all face someday, some sooner than others. But not all of us are unwary of our demise. Not all of us are fortunate enough to live in blissful ignorance, unaware of our own mortality. But once you are caught in the web, like a hapless fly watching as a spider descends upon it, you will see how finite life is. For as easy as life is granted, it can just as easily be taken away.
My roommates, Alex and Sam, were the best roommates a guy could ask for. We were always hanging out together and we were all here for the same reason: have fun and worry about the future another day. We all did fairly well in school but just did not have the desire to pursue careers after college. We didn’t want to become adults yet. There was still more fun to be had.
I was majoring in Medieval Literature, Alex was a History major, and Sam was an art major. I don’t know how we managed to do decent in our classes, considering we missed quite a bit of them. Frequent nights at the bar, at the strip club, and at other “fun” establishments meant that the next morning involved all three of us, indisposed and reeling from alcohol. Thank God for afternoon classes, right? We made some lousy decisions those days and when you frequently drink like we do, colossal mistakes are bound to occur.
“Brett, get your ass over here and consume this alcoholic beverage!” Alex taunted me. He was clearly inebriated by now and it was only nine o’clock.
“Maybe if you would buy something besides Natty Light I might be more inclined to join you,” I retorted. “So, when are we going to the party? We keep pre-gaming this hard we might as well invite people here and have our own.”
“In a minute! In minute!” Sam exclaimed, amidst a sea of slurs. “Let me finish this one and we can go.”
Being the only sober one in the group, I volunteered to drive. I knew that these drunken heathens would surely attempt to if given the chance. The party was only 4 miles away and we were excited to get our mingle on with the ladies and toss a few back, so I drove moderately above the speed limit in order to appease the loud children in the back who decided that getting them to the party safely was the least of their concerns. But it should have been.
In the midst of all the rampancy in the backseat, I failed to realize that the light was red. A car struck the right passenger side door, causing our vehicle to roll. Panic consumed me as the car tumbled and spiraled into chaos. The car landed right-side up, but was barely recognizable from the tumbles. My neck was on fire and I could tell I had fractured my arm. I removed my seatbelt and rolled onto the pavement, taking care to avoid the glass and shrapnel from the now decimated vehicle.
I could not see in the backseat from where I was lying and I feared the worst. Were my friends dead? If so, I was responsible for this. That was guilt that I could never live with. That is when I heard it; laughing. Laughing was coming from the backseat and both doors exploded open like ordnance from a howitzer.
“You can’t take us that easy! That all you got?” Alex was in an intoxicated stupor, spouting nonsense that you would not expect from a crash victim.
“You gotta do better than that, you little shit!” Sam joined in on the crusade, both of them yelling into the Heavens.
Foolish, how could they not be thankful they survived. Instead, trying to provoke the wraith of God. The alcohol had totally consumed them and turned them into walking Neanderthals. I called 911 and emergency crews arrived shortly after. Luckily, the man who hit me was also drunk so I felt less guilt for the mistake. Sam and Alex refused to be taken to the hospital even though Sam’s leg was badly bruised and his head was bleeding profusely. Alex seemed unaffected except for his dislocated shoulder. I had several fractures in my left arm and minor whiplash affected my neck. Considering how disastrous the crash was, we were damn lucky.
I sat in the hospital, angry at my buddies for their distracting behavior and also mad at myself for not taking control. How could I have been so careless? The irony; that the mature, sober individual was responsible. At least my roommates had a positive outlook on the situation. I still couldn’t believe the nonsense they foolishly spewed at the scene of the accident. But I was just glad we were all alive. I felt like we were given a second chance and I was grateful I still had my life, unlike my foolish friends.
It was an extensive and laborious three months until my arm was healed. I could not drive during this time so I hitched a ride with Alex to class every day, until one afternoon something bizarre happened.
“Brett, hurry up! I hate being late for class. Move your ass!” Sam always had to be as abrasive as possible when picking me up.
“I’m coming, you try doing anything timely and efficiently with a fractured arm,” I replied, hastily and out of breath.
“Yeah, yeah. So how is it feeling? You think it’s almost healed? I’m getting tired of chauffeuring your ass everywhere.” Alex said quite humorously.
“It’s getting better, it hurts much less than it used to but the doctor said not to force my recovery.” I said.
As I was replying, a look of dread consumed his normally collected demeanor. He pulled over, hyper-ventilating and staring into my rear view mirror. I have never seen him like this before and it gave me chills.
“Brett… look…look in your rear view mirror. Tell me I am hallucinating.” Alex said, shakily.
I looked in the mirror. “OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR,” I said.
“No shit, but did you see it?” Alex was frantic.
“No, I didn’t see anything. You feeling ok? You sure something didn’t happen to you in the accident. What did you even see?” I was curious to know what spooked him.
Alex swallowed hard and began to speak.
“I saw me. I was just standing there. Then suddenly, my neck slowly started to slit. Just as the blood started to seep out of my neck, a dark, shaded figure placed its hand on my shoulder.”
He stopped there, refusing to speak anymore. I didn’t believe him. I mean, how could I? He was just in an auto accident and claimed to have no injuries. Something had to be wrong.
It had been a week since that bizarre event and my arm had finally improved to the point I could drive. I was in my car driving to class when I got a phone call. It was Alex.
“It…happened again. I saw it again, bro. But this time it was closer. I saw my face closer this time. I could see every detail. But the blood, man. There was more blood this time. It came out faster and I could feel something breathing on my neck.” Alex was stuttering and began hyperventilating.
“Calm down, Alex. Just calm down for a second. I think you should go to the doctor and have them re-examine you from the accident,” I said, assuredly.
Click. He hung up on me. I decided to head home and see if Sam was there. Maybe he could make some sense out of this. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
When I got home, Sam was sitting in the living room. He turned towards me immediately and I could tell something was seriously wrong. Sweat poured down his face and he was staring at me with an unwavering gaze that pierced through me. The gaze of terror a man feels as he watches an iron maiden close around him, unable to resist.
“I have seen it, Brett. I have seen it, too. In my rear view mirror. I have seen it every day since the first time I saw it. It is all I see now.” Sam’s voice was shaky and tormented.
“Seen what? Alex said the same thing. Did you see yourself?” I said. I tried to remain calm, as Sam seemed like he would snap at any second.
“I saw… I saw a slit appear on both of my wrists, going vertical. There were tears running down my face as I watched the blood seep out and pool around my feet. Every time I see it in my mirror, the next time it appears closer and closer. Today, it was so close I could see a shade of a figure standing behind me, something I had not noticed before. It has to end, Brett. I can’t stand living anymore.”
I laughed aloud, breaking this repulsive façade.
“You’re right, Sam. It has to end. But it didn’t have to be this way. Who are you to defy Death? When one evades Him, he is grateful. But you… you spit on His name and openly provoked Him. Did you not think that there were consequences for your actions? No matter, the mirror was your harbinger… and I am His arbiter.”
Sam didn’t move as his wrists began to open up, a tempest of blood cascading to the ground. His eyes said betrayal. But it was he who betrayed. He who would dare beguile his savior. A dark shadow enveloped him as his soul was siphoned from his body, I could hear bone breaking and limbs snapping. He slumped to the ground, hollow and lifeless. I disposed of the body, in preparation for the next harvest. Alex would be home soon.
I heard the rattle of keys as Alex struggled to open the door. He greeted me in a panic.
“Brett, thank God you are here. Every day I see myself die, but now something is following me. Everywhere I go, it tries to envelop me. You have to help me,” Alex said, struggling to connect his words.
“Oh, I will. I will help you. I will end this nightmare for you once and for all,” I said, maintaining a ghastly grin.
Alex’s neck began to open up, little by little.
“You…these visions…it was you…” He struggled to talk, gasping as the blood trickled out like sap sliding down a tree.
“…Why…?” He whispered, at this point unable to speak.
“I have always been fascinated with medieval art, literature, and culture. It wasn’t until I read about the Black Plague did I start to realize the connection. It wasn’t just a plague, it was a reckoning; a mass harvest of sinners. It cannot be a coincidence that nearly all cultures refer to Death as an entity or being, don’t you agree? I believe that He holds our lives by a thread and can cut it whenever He sees fit. When we survived that accident, we were given a second chance. But you took it for granted – no, you AND Sam took it for granted. And because of your arrogance, I was chosen to execute His will.” I could feel His will coursing through my veins.
“Sam…what did you do to him…?” Alex was hanging on by a thread. One that would soon be snapped.
“His sins have been punished. Now it is your turn. Close your eyes and welcome oblivion.”
Alex’s throat tore open completely, revealing a torrent of blood that saturated the room in crimson glory. His eyes glared at me with regret and hopelessness as he approached his grand finale. I basked in the blood, smearing it across my body as Alex’s soul was extracted by the darkness, leaving only a desolate husk.
Death comes for us all.
But sometimes it isn’t our time to go. Sometimes He shows mercy and spares our life. But know this: be grateful for this opportunity. Cherish your life and know that He has deemed you worthy. But this blessing isn’t guaranteed. For as easy is life granted, it can just as easily be taken away.