O Death


North of Georgia, deep in Smoky Appalachia, another fiddler plays for everything. He is slumped on the ground with his back to an old tree. Joshua has done this every August 10th for sixty years and he doesn’t know how many years he will be able to keep it up. Arthritis is steadily breaking and locking every muscle he has. This year, he is still able to play.

The music is pleasant and relaxed and one might think that the song itself is happy. If you knew the words you’d know better. Joshua doesn’t sing them anymore, cigarettes took his voice. Anyways, it’s really a duet despite common practice. The second voice enters the song right on cue. He comes from nowhere and is no one but the bringer of eternity. His voice is in the deepest possible register.

“I am Death, none can excel, I’ll open the door to Heaven or Hell.”

The music continues, Joshua pushing forward through great pain. He knows nothing is without a price but this purchase is getting more and more costly. The strain is almost too much for his wrists, heavy with callus after a life of music. It will be done today though, Joshua always finishes what he starts.

“The children prayed, the preacher preached, time and mercy is out of your reach. I’ll fix your feet so you can’t walk. I’ll fix your jaw so you can’t talk.”

The children have no mind for it and the preacher is preoccupied by other problems. Joshua could walk but just barely and his voice was his own damn fault. He does not disagree with the grim shade, it rarely helped matters.

“I’ll fix your eyes so you can’t see this very air, come and go with me.”

Joshua can’t help but smile, it was an eclipse and his own stupidity that took most of his sight. His army standard coke bottle glasses sit in their case in his blue windbreaker’s right pocket, next to his knife. He considered for a moment pulling the knife but thought better of it. If it was that easy everyone that ever was would be alive today.

“Leave the body, leave it cold to draw the flesh off the frame, the Earth and worm both have a claim.”

They would, as long as his kin respected his last wishes. The notion that his inanimate body would be forever, chilled him down to the bones. He always considered it a sick and offensive memento; a sin akin to wasting food which he thought more terrible than wrath.

“Oh the young, the rich and poor hunger like me you know. No wealth, no ruin, no silver or gold, nothing satisfies me but your soul.”

Twenty seconds later and Joshua relents. The song is done but Joshua wonders if he has the courage to do what comes next. He reaches into his left pocket and takes his voice into his hand.

“Fine Joshua, you’ll live for another year.”

Joshua takes his voice to his throat and talks very briefly.

“No, Toby.”

“Few can play so well as to charm me, fewer still have ever been as noble to give another their earned year. I will not touch the youngest of your youngest, not for at least a score of years.”

Soon, Joshua feels a tingling sensation in his shoulder and leaves with the grim specter guiding him. A body remains, Joshua hopes that his children have at least the courtesy to collect the violin.


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