There Is A Reaper – Intermediate Level

Doctors had given him just one month to live.
A month to wonder, what comes afterward?
There was one way to find out–ask a dead man!

The yellowish brown color of the liquor hid the poison it held, and I watched with a smile on my lips as he drank it. There was no feeling of sadness in my heart for him. He was a jackal in the jungle of life, and I… I was one of the carnivores. It is the lot of the jackals of life to be eaten by the carnivore.

Suddenly the pleased look on his face froze into a shocked stillness. I knew he was feeling the first effects of the terrible pain that was to come. He turned his head and looked at me, and I saw that he knew what I had done.

“You murderer!” he cried, and then his body bent in the middle and his voice caught deep in his throat.

For a short minute he sat still, his body made stiff by the pain that rode it, unable to move a muscle. I watched the suffering in his eyes build up with the step by step increase in pain, until it became so great that it filmed his eyes. I knew that, though he still looked directly at me with eyes wide open, he no longer saw me.

Then, as quickly as the stiffness had come, it went out of his body and his back moved slowly down the chair edge as he fell to the floor. He landed heavily with his head resting without movement against the seat of the chair. His right leg doubled up in a sudden movement, before he was still.

I knew the time had come. “Where are you?” I asked.

This moment had cost me sixty thousand dollars.

Three weeks ago the best doctors in the state had given me a month to live. And with seven million dollars in the bank I couldn’t buy a minute more.

I accepted the doctors’ decision calmly, without showing any outward emotion. But I had a plan. One which necessity had never forced me to use until now. Several years before I had read an article about the medicine men of a certain tribe of natives living in the jungles at the source of the Amazon River. They had discovered a process in which the juice of a certain bush – known only to them – could be used to poison a man. Anyone given this poison died, but for a few minutes after the life left his body the medicine men could still converse with him. The subject, though appearing to be and actually dead, answered the medicine men’s every question. This was their primitive, though reportedly effective method of seeing some of the things that lay in the world of death.

I had come up with the idea at the time I read the article, but I had never had the need to use it… until the doctors gave me a month to live. Then I spent my sixty thousand dollars, and three weeks later I held in my hands a small bottle of the poison.

The next step was to secure someone to give the poison to.

The man I chose was a nobody. A homeless, friendless person with no identity, picked up off the street. He had once been an educated man. But now he had no job and lived on the streets. When he died he’d never be missed. A perfect man for my experiment.

I’m a rich man because I have a system. The system is simple: I never make a move until I know exactly where that move will lead me. My field of operations is the stock market. I spend whatever money is necessary to secure the information I need before I take each step. I employ the best researchers and pay employees and persons in high position to give me any secret information I want about their company. Only when I am as certain as humanly possible that I cannot be wrong do I move. And the system never fails. Seven million dollars in the bank proves that.

Now, knowing that I could not live, I decided to make the system work for me one last time before I died. I’m a firm believer in the old saying that any situation can be beaten, given enough advanced knowledge of its coming – and, of course, what comes with it.

* * * * *

For a moment he did not answer and I began to fear that my experiment had failed. “Where are you?” I repeated, louder and sharper this time.

The small muscles about his eyes grew tighter while the rest of his face held its death look. Slowly, slowly, unnaturally – as though energized by some deeply thinking power – his lips and tongue moved. The words he spoke were clear. “I am in a… a… tunnel,” he said. “There is a little light, but there is nothing for me to see.” Blue lines showed through the flesh of his cheeks where the blood had once flowed.

He stopped speaking for a moment and I pushed him for an answer, “Go on.”

“I am alone,” he said. “The realities I knew no longer exist, and I am wet and cold. All about me is a sense of darkness and depression. It is a feeling so deep and real that I can almost touch it. The walls to either side of me seem to be formed, not of matter, but rather of the soundless cries of sadness of spirits I cannot see.

“I am waiting, waiting in the darkness for something which will come to me. That need to wait is an essential part of my new being and I have no thought of questioning it.” His voice died again.

“What are you waiting for?” I asked.

“I do not know,” he said, his voice empty of feeling as if he had lived through centuries of hopelessness. “I only know that I must wait. The force that makes me wait is greater than my strength to fight it.”

The sound of his voice changed slightly. “The tunnel about me is widening and now the walls are so far away that I can’t see them. The tunnel has become a plain, but the plain is as empty, as lonely and depressing as was the tunnel, and still I stand and wait. How long must this go on?”

He fell silent again. I was about to ask him another question, as I could not afford to let the time run out in long silences. Suddenly the muscles about his eyes tightened. In a way that was hardly noticeable, a new look replaced their hopeless depression. Now they expressed a black, bottomless terror. For a moment I stood amazed that so small a part of the face could express such horror.

“There is something coming toward me,” he said. “A beast of cruel, terrible wickedness! Beast is not a horrible enough term to describe it, but I know no words to tell of its form. It is a shadowy thing that can’t be touched, but very real. And it is coming closer! It has no eyes as I know them, but I feel that it can see me. Or rather that it is aware of me with a sense sharper than eyesight. It is very near now. Oh God, the evil, the hate – the capacity for awful, frightening destruction that is part of its very being! And still I cannot move!”

The terrified look in his eyes lessened slightly, and was replaced, immediately by its former deep, deep hopelessness. “I am no longer afraid,” he said.

“Why?” I asked. “Why?” I was impatient to learn all that I could before the end came.

“Because …” He was silent for a moment. “Because it holds no danger for me. Somehow I understand – I know – that it is also looking for that for which I wait.”

“What is it doing now?” I asked.

“It has stopped beside me and we stand together, looking across the lifeless, empty plain. Now a second awful beast, with the same controlled hatred about it, moves up and stands at my other side. We all three wait, myself with a dark fear of this terrible universe, the two beasts with a patient sense of coming violence.

“Bits of…” He stopped for a moment as if to think. “Of… I can call it only… thoughts and feelings… go out from the beasts like a burning stream and touch me. The hate, and the evil chill my body like an icy wind.

“Now there are more of the awful beasts behind me. We stand, waiting, waiting for that which will come. What it is I do not know.”

I could see the color of death moving slowly into the last corners of his lips. I knew that the end was not far away. Suddenly a black anger built up within me. “What are you waiting for?” I screamed, the pressure, and the importance of this moment forcing me to lose the iron self-control of which I have always been proud. I knew that the answer held the secret of what I must know. If I could learn that, my experiment would not be a failure. I could then make whatever preparations were necessary for my own death. I had to know that answer.

“Think! Think!” I asked. “What are you waiting for?”

“I do not know!” The empty look of hopelessness in his eyes, sightless as they met mine, chilled me with a coldness that I felt to the very heart of my being. “I do not know,” he repeated. “I … Yes, I do know!”

Suddenly his eyes cleared and I knew that for the first time, since the poison struck, he was seeing me, clearly. I sensed that this was the last moment before he left – for good. It had to be now!

“Tell me. I command you,” I cried. “What are you waiting for?”

Before he was gone he spoke softly, but in a way that showed he would not be happy until these last words came to pass.

“We are waiting,” he said, “for… YOU!”