Death Wears Brioni
You are dead. You got hit by a truck. Your corpse is at the morgue, going through an autopsy. It’s so heavily covered in scar tissue that the doctors cannot identify your face. It’s going to take at least a day for them to know that you died. Meanwhile, your loved ones sit happily in their homes, not a worry in their lives, not knowing that you are dead.
You are dead. But you wake up. In your home. In your room. In your bed.
There is a man. Standing beside your bed. He wears a two-piece suit. The standard black coat, red tie. His hands are behind his back. He looks down at you through black eyes. If not for the smile, he would look creepy.
You look at yourself. You are wearing a blue sweatshirt. And jeans. Exactly the clothes you were wearing in your dream.
You panic. Then you relax. Because you died in a dream. A very realistic dream. You start taking deep breaths. Then you look at the man.
“Who are you?” you ask.
“Death,” he replies. His voice has a British accent.
You think it is some sort of prank designed by your friends. So you grin at him. Play along. “Why, hello, Death, I am Kyle Keith.”
The man in the suit, or Death, leans towards you. “Look at my eyes.” You look at his eyes. You just can’t really help it.
There is a small landscape in his pupils. The landscape of a city. You recognize it. The tall building with the spire on top, you realize, it’s the Johnson Werner law firm. The squat red structure beside it. Your favorite fast food restaurant. You went there with your girlfriend just yesterday night.
The view zooms in. It focuses on the road. The road isn’t as busy as always. Because it’s Sunday. But there are a few vehicles. You look at some pedestrians in the footpath. Until you see…yourself.
You are crossing the street. You are looking at your phone while walking. You do not realize the big pickup truck speeding towards you.
The truck hits you.
You go flying over. You hit the windshield of a passing car. The people in the car scream. Your body slides down to the road. It lies limp. Blood gushes out of every possible part of your body. People start crowding around you. Some scream. Some put their hands on their mouths. Some just stare at you. Some put their hands on their children’s eyes so they can’t see you. You are…
“Dead,” says the man. He stands up straight again.
“What…,” you stammer. You can’t believe what you just saw. “Is some sort of joke? Some program? Because if it is, it worked damn well and I don’t like it.”
“I’ve heard a lot of people say this. But you can’t just ignore the truth, can you?” the man says. He still maintains that calm smiling face. You find it annoying.
“I’m not dead. I’m right here in my room! In my home! Who the hell are you!” you scream at him. You get up from your bed. Your room is exactly as you left it this morning. The wardrobe door is open, and you can see all the clothes inside. The room smells of that expensive cologne that your uncle gave you.
You run to the door. You open it. And you are greeted by…
Nothing. Nothing at all. Just darkness. Beyond the door, there is nothing but darkness. You say, “Hello?” but you don’t hear any replies. You don’t hear an echo either, which is strange, because the corridor out of your room is very narrow, so there is always an echo when you speak there. But there isn’t any echo. Because there isn’t anything except nothing.
You try walking into the darkness. But your head hits an invisible wall. You try touching the wall with your hands. And you feel it. You push it. Nothing happens. You shove your shoulder into the wall. Nothing. You kick it. Still nothing. You bang your head on it. Nothing again.
You go to the window. You open the shutters. There is darkness beyond. You try extending your arm out. There is that same invisible wall. You slap it, bang it.
“Leave it,” the man with the British accent calls. You turn to him. Then you run towards him and kick him. But you kick yourself. Because all the force of your kick goes towards yourself, and you go flying over to the invisible wall behind you. You hit it.
Yet you feel no pain.
The man walks over to you. He extends his arm towards you, to help you get up. “Accept it. You are dead.”
You get up by yourself. You have no intention of touching him. “Is this really how you reveal it to everyone?”
The man frowns. “Yes, how else should I?”
You lean back to the invisible wall. “I don’t know, give them a dream as a message? Most people would find it super holy.”
He smiles. “But you humans always depict Death as creepy and unexpected.” He has a sense of humor, you realize.
“Yes, you usually are a skeleton wearing hooded robes and a scythe in your hands,” you say, imagining the images of Death in the children’s books.
“And here was I thinking Brioni suits matched Death better,” said Death.
You stare at him. Every second that you look at him, you think, this cannot be Death. So he proved it again.
“Look at my eyes,” Death said.
“What, you going to show my dead body now?” you ask. You begin hating him.
“Yes. Look…at me,” he said. He steps towards you. You feel drawn to him. Like a metal to a magnet. You take a step towards him. And you look at his eyes.
You look at blood. Lots of it. And a body in the midst of the blood. It wears a blue full-sleeved shirt. But it has turned red because of blood. And it’s torn. It wears tight fit jeans. They were torn as well. You look at the face. It is squashed. The nose, the mouth, the eyes. It would look much better without a head.
You look away. Something feels strange in your stomach. You feel tears in your eyes. “Why are you showing me this?” you ask Death in a shook voice.
Death said, “To prepare you for the test.”
“What test?” This keeps getting weirder.
“You might say…the heaven and hell test,” said Death.
You picture Jesus looking at you from above. “What, some lighty angel is going to come here and test me?”
Death waved his hand. “Pfft, angels. Pathetic. There are no angels, no God, no Devil, no nothing.”
“You a big fan of Nietzsche?” you ask him.
“The guy was smart, to be honest. He passed the test.”
“What test?” you ask again. “Please explain.”
“So, let’s start at the very beginning,” Death said.
“Beginning of what?”
“If you’re thinking that you made a good Morgan Freeman reference, you are wrong.” you say. You curse your sense of humor.
“Freeman does it better.”
“I agree,” you say.
He motions to your bed. He sits. Gestures you to sit as well. You don’t.
“So, in the very beginning, as you know, there was nothing but God. Except there was no God. No angels. No Devil. No me. Nothing. Only humans. Humans evolved from apes. There were different species of humans. As you may know, the Homo sapiens, the Homo erectus, the Neanderthals, and the Cro-Magnons. The humans slowly dominated the planet. They made tools. Weapons. Spears, swords, sharp-edged stones, arrows. They hunted animals. Once they discovered they could make fire, they started becoming powerful. They started fending off big animals.
“Then religion came along. People started believing in a higher being. Some believed in one god, while others believed in multiple gods. People started making beliefs. Heaven and hell. Angels. Divine crosses. They started giving sacrifices to the gods. The Greek, the Roman. People went to pilgrimages to renounce their faith to God. They prayed to God. Their beliefs were so powerful that it made people fight wars about them.
“So, I was made. People’s beliefs about Heaven and Hell, God, angels, Jesus Christ, Mohammad, Buddha and other holy beings grew so powerful they were able to create things. Sure, you have heard that people get good luck when they clean the feet of holy statues. These…good lucks and fortunes, they are real. They are made by humans. The strong willpower of them. With enough willpower, you can make anything. So I was made from their beliefs as well.”
You gawk at him.
“But if people’s beliefs can create things, how can they not create God? Or the Devil? Or Heaven and Hell?” you ask.
“Because the world cannot create anything that is more powerful, superior than itself. Because the world itself is the most powerful thing,” says Death.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“A lot of people have said that.”
“But lots of people die every minute. How do you do it?” you ask. All the thoughts of your death have gone from your head.
“Because I am everywhere. I am here, I am in Earth, I am in New York, in London, in Rabat, in Kabul, in New Delhi, in Rangpur. I am everywhere,” he says. He has that smile on his face again.
“How are you everywhere?”
Death smiles. “Will. Enough willpower can do anything.”
“And how do you handle death?”
“I cause death, son. I kill people.”
“You kill people? You killed me? You were the one driving the truck?” you ask. You want to punch him in the face. Not really the first time.
“No, of course not. I don’t have a driver’s license, my friend. But yes, in other words, I killed you.”
“As, I said, willpower. The stronger your will, the easier you can make things. I am made from the beliefs of humans. A lot of willpower was used to create me. The same way, I use my willpower to be at multiple places. I willed the truck driver to be there at that place at that time, to run over you.”
“This is some bullshit,” you say, “but when do you decide when to kill people?”
“I don’t know. Anytime. I just pick a random person and make them die.”
“I want to get out of this bunkum.”
“Oh, you have to pass the test for that!” says Death. He gets up from the bed and claps his hands once. Then he grabs you by the shoulders. And looks at you.
You look at his eyes. Stare into those dark eyeballs.
The scene shows a room. A room you are very familiar with. The room of your fifteen-year old little sister. The room has purple walls, with tiny beads of light embedded in them. You realize, they are those luminous souvenirs from Japan your father brought for her. There are two picture frames in one of the walls. One of them is your sister. Her blond hair falls on her shoulders and she is smiling, through her green eyes and lips. Below reads “Diana Keith”. The other picture is you. Your hair does not stand straight. Below reads “Kyle Keith”.
The scene zooms into the bed. A person is sleeping below the blankets. No doubt your sister. It zooms below the blankets. Yes, it is your sister. Diana. Her eyes are closed. She is sleeping.
There is a knife in her chest.
You take a step back. You hit the invisible wall again. “W-what…how…Diana…no,” you stammer.
Death stands straight. You attack him. You try to punch him, but he grabs hold of your arm. Then he does something. He forces your palm open. He takes something from his suit pocket.
It’s a gun.
He forces it into your palm.
“What? Why?” you ask. The gun is heavy in your hands. Death shoves you backwards. You hit the invisible wall yet again.
“Shoot,” he said. He snapped his fingers.
And standing beside him is Diana Keith.
She stares at you. Then she bursts into tears. She runs towards you and hugs you. She buries her head in your shoulder. She is sobbing.
She is pulled back from you. You look at Death. He holds Diana by her collar. Her face is red with tears. She tries to say something but Death clamps a hand on her mouth.
“Let go of her!” you bellow at him.
“Shoot her,” he says. You stare at him. “Shoot her,” he says again.
“No,” you say.
“Shoot. Her,” he says.
He takes Diana’s hand and snaps it. Diana screams. You gasp. You aim the gun. Your hands are shaking. But you know you won’t miss your target. You shoot the gun at Death.
There is a deafening blast. The bullet hits Death’s chest. But it merely just tears a hole in his suit. You see no blood. Death grins. “Nice try.”
Diana screams and struggles. The sight of her struggling against Death makes you want to kill Death. So you shoot him again. And again. Death just smiles.
You hesitate. You don’t know what to do. You know if you shoot him nothing will happen. So you scream at him. “Let her go!”
Death breaks her other arm.
You shoot him again.
Now he puts his arms around Diana’s neck. He does a lock. Diana fights to breathe. She tries elbowing Death in the chest. But she can’t.
He is choking your sister to death.
“Wait!” you shout at him. He relaxes his grip. Diana starts taking heavy struggled breaths. You look at her. She looks at you. But those aren’t your baby sister’s eyes. They are the eyes of nothing. Diana’s eyes would always be full of something. Happiness, sadness, hollowness, anything, something. Whatever the situation. But the eyes you are looking at are empty. No emotion in them. Despite the physical movements, the eyes had nothing in them.
You say something to Diana. “Diana.”
She starts taking slow normal breaths. She looks at you and says, “Kyle.”
You start tapping the ground with your foot. In a rhythm. In Morse code. Diana and you had learnt Morse code when you were learning to walk. You two knew them like you knew your names. You say, “Vatican horses” in Morse code. You expect Diana to do the same thing with her foot. It is like a silent message.
Diana just stares.
You say Vatican horses in Morse code again.
She stares blankly.
You make up your mind. You walk up to Diana. And you punch her. In the face. Her face whips sideward.
You look at her eyes. For one second, just for one second, they aren’t green. They turn to black. After the second passes, they turn back to green. She looks at you. She closes her eyes and sobs.
She is not your sister.
You aim the gun at her. And shoot her.
The bullet pierces a hole in her forehead. Her body goes limp and Death lets go of her body. She falls. Blood pools around her head.
You look at Death. “Enough willpower can create anything,” you say, praying that you made the right choice by shooting her.
Death smiles. He snaps his fingers. The body at his feet disappears. “Look at my eyes.”
You look at them. The scene shows Diana’s room once again. Diana is sitting on her bed. A phone is in her head. She constantly dials a number. But the line doesn’t pick up. She dials it again. When it still doesn’t work, she frowns. She drops her phone on the bed and slumps backward. Puts her hands on her head. Goes to sleep.
“Is this some trick too?” you say.
“No, it’s not. You pass.”
“That’s the test? I have to kill someone I love?” you ask. You drop the gun at your feet.
“Yes. For you. You have to face your greatest fear.” said Death.
You try to make a joke. “Guess I’m Batman now.”
Death laughed. It was dry. “You may go now.” He pointed at the open door.
You look behind you. The door is open. You can see the thin corridor and the stairs leading down to the hallway. The darkness has vanished. You can hear the streets outside.
“I’m free to go? What happens to my body?” you ask.
“I’ll take care of it,” says Death. “Probably replace the body with another.”
You stand there. Then you walk over to Death. Extend your arm. He shakes it. You two nod at each other. Like two businessmen closing a deal.
You walk out of the room. Breathe in the fresh air.
You look back to your room. The man is not there anymore. Nor are your memories of him.
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