There Is A Reaper – Pre-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 strong drink 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 one of the weak in the jungle of life, and I… I was one of the strong. It is the way of the jungle for the weak to be eaten by the strong.

Suddenly the pleased look on his face changed to a look of shock. 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 he found it hard to speak clearly.

For a short minute he sat completely still, unable to move a muscle because of the great pain that rode through his body. 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 stillness had come, it went out of his body. His back moved slowly down in the chair as he fell to the floor. He landed heavily with his head resting without movement against the seat of the chair. His right leg came 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 how I felt about it. But I had a plan. One which I had never needed to use until now. Several years before I had read about the medicine men of a certain group of indians living deep inside the Amazon jungle. They had found a way to use the juice of a certain bush – known only to them – 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 talk with him. The person, though appearing to be and actually dead, answered the medicine men’s every question. This was their way 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 about the poison, but I had never had the need to use it. That is 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 it.

The next step was to find 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 do anything until I know what the result will be. My business is the stock market. I spend whatever money is necessary to get the information I need before I take each step. I employ the best researchers and pay employees and persons in high places to give me whatever 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, as you can see from the seven million dollars I have in the bank.

Now, knowing that I could not go on living, I decided to make the system work for me one last time before I died. I’m a strong believer in the old saying that you can win out against any difficulty, as long as you know early enough that it is coming and, of course, what comes with it.

* * * * *

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

His eyes opened 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 skin on both sides of his face where the blood had once flowed.

He stopped speaking for a moment and I asked him for more. “Go on,” I told him.

“I am alone,” he said. “The world I knew no longer exists, and I am wet and cold. All about me is a feeling of darkness and sadness. It is so deep and real that I can almost touch it. The walls to either side of me are not made of matter. They are made from the soundless cries 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 necessary 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 hundreds of years of hopelessness. “I only know that I must wait. The force that makes me wait is greater than my power to fight it.”

The sound of his voice changed a little. “The tunnel about me is widening and now the walls are so far away that I can’t see them. The tunnel has changed into a large, flat area of open land. But this place is as empty and sad to be in as was the tunnel. I still stand and wait. How long must this go on?”

He stopped talking again. I was about to ask him another question, as I did not want the time run out. Suddenly his eyes began to open wide. Little by little, they changed from showing great sadness to a look of black, bottomless fear. For a moment I could say nothing, shocked that so small a part of the face could communicate such horror.

“There is something coming toward me,” he said. “A beast of cruel, terrible evil! Beast is not a strong enough word to describe it, but I know no other way to tell of its form. It is like a dark cloud that can’t be touched, but is very real. And it is coming closer! It has no eyes as I know them, but I feel that it can see me. It has a sense that shows it where I am much more clearly than a set of eyes. It is very near now. Oh God, the hate that it has inside it! The need, that is part of its very being, to hurt and cause as much pain as possible! And still I cannot move!”

The look of fear in his eyes lessened a little, and I saw again deep, deep hopelessness. “I am no longer frightened by the beast,” he said.

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

“Because …” He said nothing for a moment. “Because it holds no danger for me. Somehow I understand – I know – that it is also looking for the thing that I am waiting for.”

“What is it doing now?” I asked.

“It has stopped beside me and we stand together, looking across the lifeless, empty land. Now a second awful beast, with the same controlled hatred about it, moves up and stands at my other side. We all three wait. I wait, with a dark fear of what might be coming next. The two beasts stand quietly next to me, seeming to sense some kind 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 make my body turn cold like an icy wind.

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

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 inside me. “What are you waiting for?” I shouted, the pressure, and the importance of this moment forcing me to lose my self-control. I knew that the answer to this question would tell me 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 filled me with a coldness that I felt to the very heart of my being. “I do not know,” he said again. “I … Yes, I do know!”

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

“Tell me,” I said in a strong voice. “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!”