Run for your Death!
Robert had never been happier. Finally, after several years of hard work his life was exactly where he wanted it to be. In the morning he starts his new job and by the end of the year he’ll be set for life.
He stands in front of his wardrobe mirror admiring the new suit he’ll be wearing, totally absorbed in his own self worth, when all of a sudden, “Good morning,” came a voice behind him.
He turned to find a tall elderly gentleman dressed in tweed, sitting on the end of his bed, casually smoking an old fashioned pipe.
“Who the hell are you!? How did you get in here!?”
“Oh don’t worry about me; I’m simply here to deliver a message.”
“Get out or I’ll call the police!”
“Police? Don’t be ridiculous they won’t help you. Nobody will, but perhaps I can help you to help your self.”
“Who are you!?”
“I have many names, but usually people refer to me as the Grim Reaper.”
“I haven’t got time for this!” He went to grab the old man, but he wasn’t there.
“Exactly,” said the old man, leaning against the wardrobe, “you haven’t got time.”
“What? How? What?”
“You’ve only got until eleven thirty six tomorrow morning.”
“I’m going to die at half eleven tomorrow morning?”
“Thirty six, yes.”
“And how may I ask am I going to die?”
“You’re going to jump off peak cliff.”
“What the bloody hell for!?”
“Because the alternatives are fare more gruesome. You’d be far better off jumping from a great height.”
Robert laughed and the old man smiled. “Tell Brian I’m going to kill him!” said Robert.
“Brian? Do you think this is a prank?”
“Well of course it’s a bloody prank! You’re no more the Grim Reaper than my late Granddad!”
“So you’re not convinced?”
“No. I am NOT convinced!”
“I see. Would you rather, I looked like, this?”
Moments later Robert was as white as a ghost and frozen to the spot. The old man lent against the wardrobe with his arms folded sporting a smug grin. “I’d sit down if I were you,” he said. Robert slowly sat on the bed. “Why?” he asked, “but, why?”
“I know. I disagree with it myself. I tried to argue your case but they decided your time is up.”
“The powers that be. My employers.”
“Look, I don’t make the rules I simply collect the reapings. But there is a plus side to all of this.”
“You get to choose the manner of your death. Personally, I’d go with the cliff.”
“Why? What’s the alternative?”
“By tomorrow morning there’s going to be a series of potential disasters that for you will prove quite fatal.”
“Now lets see, two motor vehicle accidents, a gas explosion, a stabbing, the fall of a heavy object, and an electrocution to name a few. If you don’t take my advice, one of these alternatives will be your downfall.”
“Why is the cliff any better?”
“It’s a thousand foot sheer drop. With your nervous disposition you’ll be dead before you hit the rocks.”
“But why me? Why now? I’ve just,”
“Yes I know. A young hard working man; just got your life in order, a prosperous future ahead of you, terrible waste.”
“This isn’t happening. I’m asleep, I must be!”
“You’re not asleep.”
“Then I’m hallucinating!”
“Then, then, I, I must be,-”
“You’re wide awake and fully aware. This isn’t a dream. You’re going to die tomorrow morning and I strongly suggest you exit via the cliff.”
“But, I don’t want to die.”
“Nobody does, except for a small minority.”
“Isn’t there anything you can do for me?”
Robert sat dumbfounded. “Look on the bright side;” said the old man, “at least you’ve had prior warning. When the moment comes it won’t be quite so bad.”
“That isn’t helping.”
“Mmm, comfort was never my strong point. Anyway I must be off; I have several appointments at the hospital before visiting a pile up on the motorway. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I’LL STAY IN BED!”
“I beg your pardon?”
“All day! I’ll stay right here; therefore I cannot be involved in any accidents.”
“Of course! Why else would you take the trouble to warn me in advance?”
“Stay if you wish. It won’t change anything.”
“Why? What could possibly happen to me here?”
“Oh, you’d be unpleasantly surprised. Trust me on that.”
Robert was suddenly alone. The only sound was the frantic pounding of his heart thumping in time with the ticking of the clock on the wall. With every second that passed the time of his demise grew nearer. He thought about the list of deadly encounters that were supposed to happen by tomorrow, then realised a slight flaw in the old man’s plans. There aren’t any cliffs for hundreds of miles. The old man’s voice echoed through his mind, ‘you’re going to die tomorrow.’
“The hell I am!” he spat, and grabbed a suitcase.
An hour later he’s on his way to the train station. The old git didn’t mention trains! A trip to his uncle’s house out in the middle of nowhere should keep him safe; miles and miles of open flat land and not a cliff in sight. Of course his plans will need to be delayed and rearranged, plenty of time for that after cheating death in the morning.
By eleven thirty six he’ll be tucked up in bed watching the football on Sky Sports, then lunch with a pint to celebrate at the Kings Head, then back on the road to success. Perfect.
Waiting in line to buy a ticket he’s growing impatient. The people before him are foreign and can hardly speak English, arguing with the ticket man. Time is passing. His train will soon be leaving. Another one thunders past causing the building to shake and dust is falling on his face. He brushes it away and looks up. Above the window roof was an old concrete statue. As the train passed he could see it moving slightly. ‘The fall of a heavy object,’ came the old man’s voice. “LOOK OUT!” he called, and dived out of the way.
His suitcase was flattened by the statue as it came crashing down; he just managed to get clear and ran out onto the platform. As the panic ensued he caught his breath and realised he’d need a new form of transport as no doubt the trains will be cancelled for the time being.
He ran to the nearest bus depot and hunted for a route that’ll take him as close to his uncle’s as possible. The only way to do it would be using several routes taking far too long to reach his destination in good time.
The only option left was a cab. ‘Two motor vehicle accidents,’ came the old man’s voice through his mind. Risky, but in theory, reaching his uncle’s would be quicker by car.
He hurried through the nearby streets to find a cab, and finally saw a free one pull up beside a pub. A woman was just about to open its door when he barged into the back and slammed the door behind him and commanded the driver to go. The driver was an elderly man a little hard of hearing, and eventually agreed to take him the long distance after throwing him a wad of cash.
The journey would take at least three hours and the driver needed fuel. They pulled up to a gas station just out of town and Robert went to use the bathroom while the driver filled up.
As the driver was waiting in line to pay, Robert joined the queue with a handful of snacks for the journey. The young man at the till was raising his voice at the assistant; then pulled out a long knife demanding cash from everyone. The driver, an ex-soldier, challenged the youth believing he was still able to tackle a man in a fight. Remembering what the reaper said, Robert dived behind a stall to hide, only to feel the cold steel of another blade held against his throat. He raised his hands and stood slowly, his assailant escorting him to the other crook, being wrestled by the cab driver.
They broke up, the crook threw his knife, the driver ducked, and the knife was now heading straight for Robert’s chest!
A moment later he was on the floor, and his captor was falling to his knees with the knife lodged in his throat. The driver launched himself on the other crook, and Robert scurried away, grabbed the keys the driver dropped in the fight, got in the cab, and sped off at high speed!
With a full tank and a racing heart he shot down the road like a bullet, narrowly avoiding a collision with a truck as he rejoined the carriageway.
His shirt felt damp, then realised his captor’s knife had cut into his skin as he dived out of the way. Luckily it wasn’t a deep cut.
Minutes later he was finally beginning to calm down. Night was falling as well as a thickening fog and ahead of him the traffic was slowing down. He tried to overtake as much as he could until forced to stop. ‘I’m off to a smash up on the motorway;’ came that voice again. This must be the smash he was talking about.
Robert tried to be patient as the jam went on for up to an hour. He’d be half way to his Uncle’s by now. Growing restless he got out of the cab and walked ahead to try and see the commotion through the fog. Many cars were beeping their horns and above them was the sound of a truck horn, blasting repeatedly. Behind him there came a mighty crash and several vehicles were ploughed past him by an articulated lorry that failed to see the traffic jam in time.
Among the carnage was his stolen cab, now small enough to fit into another car’s boot. Robert just stood there between two cars that missed the action, frozen with shock and disbelief. That must have been the first of the two motor accidents the old man mentioned.
Bewildered at his near miss with certain death he wondered with the frantic crowd towards the pile up. Through the fog he could see the truck was a tank carrying fuel and it had tipped onto its side leaking petrol from a split. Sensing what was about to happen he turned and fought his way back in the opposite direction. Moments later, an enormous fireball lit up the scene!
The force of the blast sent him flying into a nearby field beside the road. He landed on a stack of hay. He looked behind him at the inferno; then lay back down hyperventilating. Above him the sky was a series of thick black lines. An electric pylon was stood next to the haystack. The cables were stretched over the road, and the flames were just tall enough to reach them. ‘An electrocution.’
“You have got to be *&$%:~# kidding me!” he said, and rolled off the haystack just in the nick of time!
The cable was weakened by the heat and snapped away from its holding, falling directly where he was laid. The haystack was now a bonfire and poor old Robert was staggering as fast as he could away from the chaos.
A short while later he wakes up in an Ambulance, his neck cleaned and dressed. Only one paramedic is attending him as the staff is spread thinly.
The medic checks him over and leaves him to rest while he attends to other people. Robert lay back. There was no hope of reaching his Uncle’s now and thought of being in hospital was the safest place on Earth.
He chuckled to himself, confidant he’d beaten the Reaper at his own game, when a familiar voice caught his attention. “There you are,” it said.
“Brian? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Looking for you. We were going to pay you a visit but we saw you heading for the train station. You weren’t thinking of leaving were you?”
A chill ran through his body. “No, erm, it isn’t like that, wait.”
A big man got in, a large hairy fist and everything went black.
Many hours later he awoke, his head pounding; his jaw aching. He was sitting in an old wooden chair in a dingy room. Outside he could hear crashing waves and seagulls. As his vision came clear he was surrounded by a bunch of big blokes. Before him was his friend stood behind another man seated before him in a leather armchair. “Welcome back,” said the man.
“Where am I?” he groaned.
“I’m very disappointed in you Robert. You’ve let me down.”
“No, you don’t understand, I was,”
Robert recognised the voice and forced his eyes to focus. The man sitting before him was someone he knew quite well, or so he thought. “Uncle! But, how, what?”
“This morning was going to be your big chance to prove yourself. But it seems you had plans of your own.”
“You’re the boss!!?”
“You always were a big disappointment Robert, like your mother always said. She’d be so ashamed of you now.”
“No, you don’t understand, I wasn’t bailing I was, I was.”
“I was, I was,” he couldn’t tell them he’d had a visit from the Reaper himself and desperately tried to think of something.
His Uncle nodded to the big man behind Robert. “No! Wait! I can explain!”
The big man had the defibrillator from the ambulance attached to a car battery. He was about to put it to the sides of Robert’s head when he caused the chair to fall back, knocking the man off balance. He fell in such a way as to electrocute himself.
The other men pulled out knives and stood ready. “Please,” he begged, “there’s no need for this!”
Robert wasn’t much of a fighter but he was good at getting out of the way. As the men went for him they ended up stabbing each other.
“Oh for Christ's sake!” shouted his Uncle, then pulled out a gun and tried to shoot him. Again Robert dodged and weaved then threw himself out the nearest window. He landed on the body of a man they killed earlier. Instead of panicking he quickly looked at the dead mans watch, 11:29am, and ran like mad.
Behind him he heard two cars roaring after him so he ran as fast as he was able, not knowing where he was or where he was going.
The cars weaved across his path trying to run him down; his Uncle took the odd pot shot from his window missing every time.
Robert stopped by a large rock to catch his breath. His friend took the opportunity to try and crush him against it. Robert dived; his friend panicked and hit the rock head on with a loud crash.
Now his Uncle, the boss, was heading straight for him. He ran, and ran, and ran. He dived over a line of small bushes hoping to dodge another attempt on his life, and found himself falling.
“Excellent choice,” said the old man, casually falling beside him as though he was lying down, gently puffing on his pipe.
“Yes, yes, yes I get that a lot.”
“DO SOMETHING! SAVE ME!”
“Sorry, it isn’t part of my job description. Don’t worry; it’ll all be over in a moment.”
“WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME!?”
“You brought this on yourself.”
“Life is full of choices and you live according to the consequences.”
“WHY THE HELL WOULD I CHOOSE THIS!?”
“Do you really believe your cut out to be a gangster? You couldn’t fight your way from a paper bag.”
“LOOK I’M SORRY! I’VE LEARNED MY LESSON! I’LL CHANGE MY WAYS!”
“YES! YES! PLEASE!!”
“Look, I can’t save lives but I can grant last wishes.”
“GRANT ME THIS! PLEASE!”
“It doesn’t quite work like that I’m afraid. You see, you’re here because of someone else’s last wish.”
“Please! I swear I’ll change my ways! There must be something you can do!”
“Mmm, well, mmm, no, not really.”
“You are such a complete and utter… shouldn’t I have landed by now?”
“Yes about a minute ago.”
“Then why haven’t I?”
“We’re having such a lovely chat I thought I’d prolong the moment.”
“You’re unbelievable! How can you live with yourself?”
“I don’t live at all.”
“Look, please, I swear I will turn my life around! Just give me one more chance!”
“Are you a man of your word?”
“Yes! Yes I am! I AM!”
“I’m not convinced.”
“I swear on my mother’s grave!”
“Your mother’s grave? That’s a shame. Very well I’ll take it up with head office.”
The old man vanished. The sharp pointy rocks were getting closer very fast. He screamed and screamed, then landed with such force that his bed fell to bits and his bedside table went flying across the room.
He looked around as he caught his breath. No rocks, no waves, just his room. “What the! How!… I’M ALIVE!” He laughed like a madman and jumped on the remains of his bed.
“Only so long as you keep your word,” said the old man, leaning against the wardrobe, puffing on his pipe. Robert nearly jumped out of his skin.
“I’ve spoken to the powers that be,” said the old man, “they have plans for you.”
“Yes. You stay on the straight and narrow and good things will be waiting for you.”
“You mean this wasn’t all just a,”
“Dream? Good heavens no!” The old man hinted at the tall mirror on the front of the wardrobe. Robert was a mess. The radio turned itself on tuned into a news programme describing the catastrophe on the motorway the night before. Robert fell flat on his arse with the realisation it was all real.
“So, we’re agreed?” asked the old man.
“Yes,” said Robert.
“Splendid. Right, I’ll be off, and If I were you I’d get cleaned up and pay a visit to your mother this afternoon.”
The old man smiled. “Remember what I said about last wishes? I’ll see you again in a few years time, unless of course you go back on your word. Cheerio.”
Robert spent the afternoon with his mother while his Uncle and friends were arrested during an armed bank robbery that went horrible wrong.
But at least as his mother breathed her final breath, her dying wish came true.