INTERVIEW WITH THE REAPER

Written and illustrated by Marilyn Armstrong

My fame as a blogger has spread beyond the realm of the living into the nether regions as I went searching for a character to interview. Death popped right up and volunteered. I wasn’t sure he was entirely fictional but eventually decided most people don’t believe he’s real, so he qualifies.

As we approach All Hallows Eve …

He has been hanging around too much in recent years and lately, I see his shadow in the shadows.

When you initially meet Death, he seems a quiet, retiring fellow. The kind of guy you’d wouldn’t pick out of a crowd. He walks silently accompanied only by a faint rustling, like fabric ruffled by a breeze. You notice his nearness when folks disappear. Permanently. Like in a bad science fiction movie, characters vanish.

I suppose it goes with the territory, but I have a few questions for the old buzzard.  Speaking of old,  Death does not look old. He doesn’t seem to have an age and it’s difficult to remember his face. He could be forty or a thousand. His voice sounds like a whisper yet I had no trouble hearing every word. I didn’t know a stage whisper could be so loud.


ME: I know you ultimately “get” everyone. It seems you’ve been gnawing away at my crowd. Is this a Karmic thing? Have we been particularly wicked?

DEATH: Not really. You’re a hard-living crowd, but not bad in the sense of righteous or unrighteous. Everyone gets a limited amount of hard living. A lot of your friends used up their portion early.

ME: So partying causes an early demise?

DEATH: Not partying. Living hard. That includes working hard, worrying, not resting properly. Wears out your spirit, not just your bones. Of course, there is also a DNA component. Some of you are heartier than others. Some humans have bodies and souls that are able to accept more abuse. Of course, the opposite is also true. Some people aren’t resilient. They move on early.

ME: Abuse? What do you mean by “abuse?”

DEATH: Drugs, booze. Insufficient sleep. Stress. Danger. Never taking the time to step back, breathe, and understand what’s happened to you. Everything is part of the equation especially since you are the equation.

ME: I don’t suppose you’d let me in on how you calculate life and death?

DEATH: {Looks amused}

ME: Moving right along, is there anything we can do to score a few extra points with you? On a positive note, I mean.

DEATH: I’m tough but fair. Like a good coach.

ME: I never played on a team.

DEATH: Let us not bandy words. You get my drift. They use that line on every cop show on television. I know you watch TV. I’ve come round and sat with you on many an evening.

ME: {I shiver} Maybe we watch too much TV.

DEATH: Television is great. It extends your life. I’m a big fan! {Death chuckles which sends a chill down my spine} Unless I’m under special orders, I never take anyone who’s watching a good show or a playoff game. Have I mentioned how much I loved Law & Order? That was a great show. I was upset when it ended. I related to it.

ME: How’s that?

DEATH: Catching bad guys, making judgments. Deciding whether to lock them up forever or hand them to me. Well, I can tell you, we don’t “do” locking up where I come from. I always take them out of the game.

ME: So there’s no Hell?

DEATH: Did I say that?

ME: Never mind. Why so many good people? Young people? Even little children and babies?

DEATH: I have a degree of discretion, but if the Boss says “that one,” there’s no further discussion. He’s got his agenda and I follow orders. Age, sex, ethnicity, color. Sexual orientation. I don’t care nor do I discriminate. You are all my customers and get equal service.

{This made me uncomfortable. I shifted in my seat. Death noticed, of course. I could see the twinkle in his pale eyes. He found my discomfort amusing.}

DEATH: We met before. Yes, I remember. You were young the first time. A teenager. But I was told you could choose to stay or go. You stayed. Not many people get to choose. Before you ask, I have no idea why. Again, I was just following orders. Then … what, fifteen years ago? You were already in my court, but someone in the boss’s office told me to push you back to the other side. How did that work out for you?

ME: Obviously it worked. I’m here.

DEATH: I congratulate you. You are one of the few I’ve brushed against twice who’s still on this side.

At that point, I decided I should end the interview. Beads of sweat were breaking out along the back of my neck. I didn’t like the way my interviewee was looking at me. I felt like a bag of potatoes in a supermarket.

ME: Time to wrap this up.

DEATH: {Grinning} You think, probie?

ME: I just wanted to ask you a couple of quick questions about some of your movie roles.

DEATH: “The Seventh Seal (1957)” — Ingmar Bergman’s black & white classic — is by far my favorite. I think I should have gotten a nomination at least. After that — John Huston’s 1969 “A Walk with Love and Death” was pretty good.

ME: Do you have favorite periods in history?

DEATH: You can’t beat the 14th century. I was King of Earth! I ruled. All good things come to an end, I suppose, but not to worry. My time will come again sooner than you think. From the way you humans are messing around with Earth, not to mention breeding viruses in labs? Wow, what could go wrong with that, eh? I’d say it’ll be my time again soon.

I also want to mention war. I love war. That humans make war is how I know you love me. Sending off your best and brightest to die in the mud — stabbed, shot, mutilated, mowed down. Blown up. Shattered. It’s a love poem to Death. And you’re at it again — Russia and the Ukraine. You humans may fear me, but you are also in love with me.

ME: Well. That’s about all the time we have for today. Let’s get together again real soon.

DEATH: {Smiling} I think the next time we meet will be the final time.


He gathered up his black robes and slid from the room, dark as a shadow, soundlessly.

Death is patient

{Fade to black}

And wouldn’t you know it? Almost exactly two years after this interview, COVID-19 spread throughout the world, from nation to nation, across the mountains and seas. That guy Death is a crafty fellow. I bet he already knew what was coming and wouldn’t tell me. I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s got another one waiting … in the wings, so to speak.



Categories: #Sketchbook, Death and Dying, Holidays, illustration, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel

Tags: , , , ,

12 replies

  1. I think I had a brush with this fellow last night. At least the nurse on duty here told me so. Seemed normal to me but then they brought me back. Just sleeping, but I woke up to a room full of medics and my favorite nurse was holding my hand and crying. Not a bad way to go actually. Kinda wish they had left me to it. I’m tired!

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    • I have been there, although I was awake and I knew, in a very distant way what was happening. Those brushes with death are unlike any other experience. I suppose eventually, it won’t be a brush and it will be the end. But so far, not yet. Hang on in there. I know you’re tired. Me too. These days, just getting out of bed and getting moving is hard.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So true, and so very difficult lately, Marilyn.

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        • I know. And as the weather gets colder, it’s so hard to get the body to just move. I do it, but it takes me a couple of hours between waking up and getting up. Getting old really isn’t for the weak of spirit.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I found a counted cross stitch pattern a few years ago that had an old lady in a red track suit with a caption that said “Old age isn’t for sissies”, Made it for my mom on her 75th birthday and she was not amused. Now I can see why. Takes three or four tries just to get out of bed and on my feet now, but then I’ll be 80 in December so mom was still a kid when I gave her that. My dad thought it was great though! I think it was his laughter that made her give it away.

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  2. Excellent post Marilyn.

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  3. Ah he likes the notoriety. I commented on how much work went into this..and how brave you were approaching death before it was absolutely necessary.

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  4. Darn.. it erased my comment! Bet Death did that!!!!

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  5. Lots of work put in on this one, Marilyn. Yer so brave!!!

    Like

    • Actually, it DIDN’T erase your comment. Sometimes — these days pretty often — comments either lag behind or you get an error message, but the message does post. It’s getting worse every day and WordPress never really FIXES anything.

      Thank you. I needed a picture of death and it crossed my mind that I was either going to draw it myself, or steal someone else’s picture — which didn’t appeal to me, so I drew it. I was waiting for a bit of inspiration. I did a few drawings early in the month, but they were sort of “meh.” Not inspired. This one worked out pretty well. The hard part is coming up with enough shades of black and grey — and mixing them with ink. There’ almost more ink in this than pencil and there’s some crayon too (the white hands are from a white grease pencil).

      I’m good as long as I don’t have to draw an actual FACE. I’m hopeless at faces and not great at hands and feet, either.

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