When Death Tells A Story by Christine

Word count 1,633

I started this story, or at least had the idea for this story, when I saw the line that became the title on a poster in a London tube station.  

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If you happened upon the scene you would think you were looking into an exclusive men’s club.  Dark woods, deep leather chairs, the gleam of polished brass and silver, heavy drapes drawn against the night, candles flickering but not quite lighting the room. 

Clustered around the tables and sitting in the comfortable chairs were distinguished looking men, their formal attire counting them as the elite of their class.  But look closely, their eyes are cold and flat and empty.  These are not the leaders of business or barons of industry.  These are Death’s dark angels, banished from the heavens before time began.  These are the angels who come in the dark, in misery or in violence, in the depths of despair, to claim a soul. 

From a chair by the fireplace that flickers without warmth one of the members rises.  “Who has a story to tell tonight?”

A dark figure comes forward from a corner of the room.  “I have a story to tell.”

There are quiet murmurs of anticipation as the dark figures cease their conversations. 

“There is a soul I have craved for many years and now, when the night is dark, he will be mine.  I first took note when he was a child, barely a toddler.  It was not the child in whom I was interested, it was his mother.  She was unsettled, yearning for more in her life.  The child was the center of his father’s life, not hers.  I was,” the figure stopped, a smile that held no warmth gracing his lips, “interested when she took the child and left the man.  I came to realize she took the child only to hurt the father, she had no motherly instincts.  The child now held somewhat more interest for me.  What would he become, this child taken by a woman who loved only herself?”

“I visited them over the years.  She drank and whored her way through many small villages.  The men were rough with her,” now the voice held some pleasure, “and with the child.  I had not realized he was of mixed blood and was not welcomed by either of his parent’s kind.  There was no comfort in the world in which he lived, I watched him grow and learn anger, and hate, and revenge.” 

“I was there the night one of the men took the women’s life.  And I watched as the child took his revenge on the man.  I marked him then as my own, but to wait when the time was right.” 

 The figure poured a glass of dark liquid and drank and renewed his story.  His voice faster in anticipation.  “I watched as the boy grew.  And it is true I perhaps provided some direction and opportunities.  He began to make his living by the gun, for money, to stay alive, because of who he became.  I began to follow him, knowing the time soon would be right for me to take him.”  

“But it was disturbing to me, even though he was brought up in darkness and anger he,” the figure stopped, took a drink, sighing and shaking his head, “he valued what was right and would follow that path.”

“There were many times I stood as his shadow, waiting, knowing that this time he would be mine, but each time I would lose my hold on him.  The ‘dance’ as he calls it on a dusty street, a fight in a range war.”  There is a pause and he begins again, his voice hard with anger.  “A firing squad and each time he eludes me.  The father he’d been taken from so many years before found him and gave him a new path, perhaps a new life, but I ensured this new life was fraught with the old.  I would not lose this one so easily.”  

Some listeners murmured support as they too knew the disappointment of losing a coveted soul.

“I’ve grown less artful now in trying to claim him, illness and injury have joined violence as part of my arsenal.  But he still escaped my grasp.”  The dark figure looked up, now a note of triumph in his voice, “Until tonight.  Tonight he will be mine.  It was a small thing.  I barely took notice, but then I realized that the way he had injured his arm, he could not care for the injury – and he was far from home.  So I rode with him as he made his way to that home, and yes, the obstacles were of my making.  A bridge not there, a horse lamed.  He is resourceful, perhaps even more so as we battle.  He finds ways to overcome the barriers I place, but this time they are too daunting.”

The dark figure walks to the center of the room and turns to this peers.

 “So many other times I came for him, but always something stood in my way.  Kind villagers who took in a forlorn mestizo, wiser pistoleros who gave him advice, a father searching for his lost son.”  He chuckles, but there is no mirth in the tone.  “He has no idea how lost you are.  A brother who thinks he’s found a missing part of his soul.  But no one should want a soul as dark as the one I will take.”  

The dark figure returns the glass he’d held to the small table at his side.  He bows to the assemblage, “I will take my leave of you now, for it is time for me to claim that which I have wanted for so long. This night Johnny Madrid is mine.”

*******

The room appears as in your earlier visit, as it has looked from the beginning.  The wood gleams darkly; the sliver reflects the cold light.  Figures gather in dark conversation.  

From a chair by the fireplace that flickers without warmth one of the members rises.  “Who has a story to tell tonight?”

A dark figure comes forward from a corner of the room.  “I have a story to tell.”

There are quiet murmurs of anticipation as the dark figures cease their conversations. 

“I left you to claim Johnny Madrid as mine.  The night’s darkness was complete.  The clouds covered the stars, the moon’s sliver cast no light, and in the east, the dawn had not yet begun to steal the darkness.  They did not see me there in the room.  They sat at the bedside; despair was thick in the room.   The drama, the final scene was soon to unfold and I was there to watch and to enjoy the end.  The father’s pleas were heart-wrenching.  He pleaded with the one who was the doctor.”

“Murdoch, I’ve done what I can, but the infection is just too widespread.”  

“Sam?” Murdoch couldn’t bring himself to ask the question.

“I don’t think he’ll live the night Murdoch.”  Sam’s voice broke.  “It’s a miracle he made it home.”

“A miracle.”  Murdoch’s voice cracked with anger and grief. “I should be grateful that my son will die in my arms.”

“I would have preferred it other, that he die alone to leave his family in eternal grief, but I could not make it so.  I was content; he would be mine.”

The figure sips from a glass of dark liquid. 

“I reached out for Madrid and even as he was almost in my grasp, he rebelled.  This is one of the reasons I have always wanted him so much – even when there was no chance he would fight, surrender seemed not to be in his lexicon.  But this time, he was mine, no force that a father, a doctor, a brother, could gather would defeat me this time. I would have preferred something more dramatic for this one, a cataclysm of violence, rather than to take him in this small way.  But how he would come to be mine in the end, it would make no difference.  I reach out to take him, I had only to close my hand, but I stayed my grip.  His father talked and told him of the love he had for him.”   

“My gran used to sing this to me, and I sang it to you when you were my baby son. “  

“The father began to sing in a fashion.”

“Sleep my child and peace attend thee, all through the night.

Guardian angels God will send thee, all through the night.”

“Now it was time and I made to take him, but the father gathered the boy in his arms, still singing the same tune.”  

The figure seeks out a chair and sits, he draws a deep breath.  “I sensed a force I’d hoped never to encounter.  The angels the father had called, the guardian angels, now stood between me and the soul I sought.  Arrayed in front of me, I could not pass.”  

They spoke to me with one voice.

“You have coveted this one for all his years.  You should have learned he is not yours now or ever.  From his birth, his father called upon us to watch over him.   We do it now and it shall always be.  Go now and seek another, Johnny Lancer is not yours.”  

“The light was too great, I could not stand.  Johnny Madrid would not be mine that night or any other.”

The dark figure looks around the room at the others of his kind.  

“My story is over; there will be no more.”  He turns and walks away.

And in another room, a father sits, “Guardian angels God will send thee …”

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~end~
October 2009

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PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT
Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Christine directly.

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4 thoughts on “When Death Tells A Story by Christine

    1. Chris
      Thank you for commenting. We know Death has seemed to follow Johnny so I thought a small story from that perspective. Of a dark angel of death always defeated.

      Christine

      Like

  1. Interesting perspective on Johnny’s life. And I really thank you for sharing Murdoch’s love for his child, and for not letting Johnny die ❤

    Like

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