Story

When Death Comes To Call

She's Death and she has come at last. Without uttering a word, you offer her your hand, you don't understand if you did it willingly. You don't know if your body is under your control or hers.

You turn restlessly on your bed, the ends of the blanket abandon your feet and the cold stings you wide awake. The sweet autumn air has turned foul this night. You have been feeling the uneasiness creep up on you, but you dismiss it, because it seems nothing out of the ordinary. Uneasiness has become as routine to you as the bodies on the news. 

Your eyes fall on the shifting shadows on the ceiling, cast by the leaves outside your window; they seem to be dancing to the tunes of a song you can’t remember, but strangely can attach an emotion to. It reminds you of the time you were naive and young in college, and it reminds you of how on certain nights, you would sneak out of your PG room to go kiss a girl on the terrace. It’s been a while since you thought of her. 

The sound of a child crying keeps you from closing your eyes again. It’s your neighbour’s newborn and you curse them for bringing another soul into this damned world. You sit up; you think of lighting a cigarette and going for a walk. So, you grab a jacket and head out. The buildings in your neighbourhood share thin walls and the streets reek of piss and dead rats.

When you finally found a decent flat with a decent roommate, who on the first meeting asked you for a cigarette and your pronouns, you moved in without delay. You needed to escape and this offered the best hideout in the city. 

You walk with your head down and pick up your pace when you cut through a group of men, sitting on their bikes, smoking beedis. You can feel their eyes on you and a whisper runs through them. You hold your breath, you take the first turn you see and vanish from their sight. They don’t follow you, not tonight. 

You find a dark corner pressed between a tree and a closed shop, and you sit there waiting for the uneasiness to pass. A feral cat prowls around spilt garbage bags. You look up to the sky but the moon refuses to peek out from the shadows. You had named yourself Chand, hoping to be like the moon, never static. 

Your mother hated the name, much like everything else about yourself. You had taken a glass bowl and thrown it in her direction when she had screamed your dead name for the seventh time. It did not hit her, but you walked out that night. 

You sit there flooded with memories, with patience you only found once you left your mother’s house. You watch as a few cars speed by in a trance, and as the creatures of the night howl and screech louder, you feel yourself drift into sleep. 

When you jolt awake for the second time that night, your eyes hazily look around to find that the street lamps have gone dark and the crickets have stopped chirping. An eerie silence has filled the street, except for the sound of your own breathing. 

There’s a stench that grows stronger and the fog falls heavy. You cling your jacket closer to your body. You want to stand up and keep moving, back to your flat maybe. But something keeps you there, immobile. The garbage bags ruffle, and you instinctively look to your side to find the feral cat staring at you in phantom silence. There is a sense of foreboding in its copper eyes and you can’t seem to look away. It lets out a snarl. The uneasiness in your chest has now consumed your entire body, and you can’t tell if you’re dreaming. 

The cat shifts its gaze and you follow its blank eyes towards the street lamp directly in front of you, across the road. The thin black pole seemed to sweat under the cold night, possibly in fear of the slender, hooded figure leaning on it. You feel, for the first time that night, fear grips you by the neck. The hooded figure watches you stare at it and despite being black as night, you can tell that it’s grinning.

It starts walking towards you with such deliberate steps that you can hear the tapping of its foot against the concrete road. The tapping seeps into your chest and disrupts your rhythmic breathing until you let out a gasp. You can soon see that it’s a woman, with long fingers and a skeleton face. She draws out a scythe and you instantly know why she’s here.

She stands an inch away from you and traces the bends of your face with her long-clawed finger. You have forgotten if you’re breathing, you can’t remember if you want to. As she tilts her face, your gaze remains fixed on her hollow eyes, they seem to carry so much grief despite her grinning face. It unsettles you and at the same time, feels familiar. 

She leans in and tells you, “I’ve come at last.”

She doesn’t give you any explanation. But you understand what she’s saying. She’s Death and she has come at last. Without uttering a word, you offer her your hand, you don’t understand if you did it willingly. You don’t know if your body is under your control or hers.

She looks at you, picks up her scythe and in one swift motion, cuts it through the palm of your hand. You expect to be obliterated. You almost see a pool of blood forming under your feet, but the sting of the pain never reaches you.

But you still stand there, hand held out, breathing. You find a singular tear on your skin, and no blood. You watch Death already starting to walk away. This is the moment that scares you the most. To be at the step of death and be thrown back into the world of living. You call out, “Wait, come back!” 

She doesn’t stop, but her seething voice responds, “You have one day left.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Athira (she/they) is a writer, editor and photographer based in Delhi. Their work is a form of storytelling, exploring themes of queerness, dilemmas of the current human condition, and the force of transformation.
Read more by
Athira Raj

We hate spam as much as you. Enter your email address here.