The Voice of Death – Elementary Level

ONCE upon a time there lived a man whose one wish was to be rich. He thought about it day and night, and at last his wish came true. He became very rich.

Before becoming rich the man did not spend a lot of time worrying about death. ‘After all,’ he said to himself whenever the thought came to his mind, ‘I have very little to lose.’

Now, being rich, he had a lot to lose. He felt that it would be a terrible thing to die and leave all that he owned behind. So he made up his mind to set out to see if he could find a land where there was no death.

He got ready for his journey, said goodbye to his wife, and started out. Whenever he came to a new country, the first thing he did was to ask if people died in that land. When he heard that they did, he set out again for the next country.

At last he reached a country where he was told that the people did not even know the meaning of the word death. Our traveller was very happy when he heard this.

‘But surely there must be great numbers of people in your land, if no one ever dies?’ he asked.

‘No,’ the people answered, ‘there are not great numbers. You see, from time to time a voice is heard calling first one and then another. Whoever hears that voice gets up and goes away, and never comes back.’

‘And do they see the person who calls them,’ the man asked, ‘or do they only hear his voice?’

‘They both see and hear him,’ was the answer.

The man could not believe that people would be stupid enough to follow such a voice. ‘They must know,’ he thought, ‘that if they go they will never be seen again. Wherever it is that this voice leads them, they must certainly die there.’

He made up his mind to go back to his own country and bring his wife and family to live in this strange country. For he had decided that they would be able to live happily there forever. All they had to do was make sure that they did not follow the voice when any of them heard it calling.

After he had moved into his new home and got everything in order about him, he called his wife and family together. He told them about the voice which they might hear calling them one day. He then explained that, unless they wanted to die, they must never listen this voice, no matter how loudly it called.

For some years everything went well with them, and they lived happily in their new home. But one day, while they were all sitting together around the table, his wife suddenly stood up. ‘I am coming! I am coming!’ she called out in a loud voice.

As she began to look round the room for her coat, her husband jumped up and held her strongly by the arms. ‘Don’t you remember what I told you?’ he said angrily. ‘Stay where you are unless you wish to die.’

‘But can’t you hear that voice calling me?’ she answered. ‘I am only going to see why I am wanted. I shall come back soon.’

She fought and pulled to get away to follow the voice, but her husband would not let her go. He then had all the doors of the house shut and locked. ‘Very well, dear husband,’ she said when she saw this. ‘I shall do what as wish and stay where I am.’

Her husband believed what she said, and that she had got over her need to follow the voice. But a few minutes later she made a sudden rush for one of the doors, opened it, and ran out. Her husband followed and caught her by the coat. He begged her not to go, for if she did she would certainly never return. At first she said nothing, as if she had finally agreed to stay at home. Then she let her arms fall backwards and suddenly ran forward. As she did so she pulled her arms out of the coat, leaving it in her husband’s hands.

The poor man seemed turned to stone as he watched her run away as fast as she could. ‘I am coming! I am coming!’ she called at the top of her voice.

When she was gone he went quietly back into his house. ‘I can’t help her if she is so mad as to wish to die,’ he said. ‘I told her long ago not to listen to that voice, however loudly it might call.’

Days and weeks and months and years passed, and the man and the rest of his family lived happily. But one day the man was at the barber’s shop for his weekly shave. The barber had just put soap on his face, when he suddenly stood up from the chair.

‘I won’t come, do you hear? I won’t come!’ he called out in a loud voice.

The barber and the other people in the shop looked at him in surprise.

‘I tell you, once and for all, I won’t come. So go away!’ he cried. ‘Go away, I tell you, or I will make it bad for you. You may call as much as you like but you will never get me to come.’

He sounded so angry that you might have thought that there was someone standing at the door saying bad things to him. But none of the other people in the room could see anyone there.

At last he jumped up and took the razor out of the barber’s hand. ‘Give me that razor,’ he cried, ‘and I’ll teach him not to come and take people away in future.’

And with that he rushed out of the shop as if he were running after some one whom the others could not see. The barber, who did not want to lose his razor, ran after the man. They both ran until they were far from the town. Then, all of a sudden, the man fell head first into a great hole in the ground and was never was seen again. He, like the others, had been made to follow the voice that called him, even though it was against his will.

The barber went home, happy and thankful that did not also fall into that terrible hole which never seemed to fill. He described what had happened, and people all over the country talked about it. They thought they now knew what had happened to those who had followed the voice and never come back must. Until then they had never really thought about it.

Soon many people went out from the town to the place where the barber said that he had seen the hole. But they found nothing. There was no sign of a hole anywhere. As far as the eye could see were flat green fields which looked as if they had been there since the beginning of the world.

And from that time on the people of the country began to die normally, just like in other countries the world over.