Death comes biting, gnawing, raking. Death comes sweeping, flying, forsaking. And then Death comes slinking, stealing and sneaking. Around the back door, silently in the sultry grey of a spring evening, not a flower or fly disturbed, hardly even the figure now before him aware of his lurking presence. But he is there. Sitting quietly, in a corner away from the fire’s light, watching William slowly roll a cigarette, slowly decant a slip of whiskey, slowly walk to the door to take in the evening air. And what an evening to die, what a place for a last breath.
William reached into his pocket for a lighter, sitting back in the worn chair by the front door. The thin evening light wrote shadows on the white wall behind him. A tempered breeze coming off the river rustled the lilac on its way to the fields, sending up the sweet scent of his childhood, and adulthood, and now old age. All alone at the family cottage.
Death watched him, as he took the first drag and settled into the chair. Watched him as he looked out over the lawn and down the small path to the river. He stood behind him. He could see the river through William’s eyes, could feel that it was more than water and rocks and fish. Death had a moment in the last minutes of a man, to see the world like he never could. To feel the pain sitting in the reeds where William’s little cousin had drowned all those years ago, to feel the torment in William’s mind as he looked out over the trees, just catching a glimpse of a rooftop in the distance, the dark slates of love lost, of what might have been.
And Death could taste now the sweet whiskey as it took its slow and languid path down William’s throat. He could feel the heat of the dram and the warm embrace it gave to every cell. Death pulled away. He never wanted to know how it felt to die. What a heart attack or a brain haemorrhage truly was to the human body. He preferred to watch on as the body convulsed and slumped. The cigarette slipped from between fingers. He preferred to look again at the reeds and wonder, how it was that sticks in the mud could hold so much.
About the author
Claire Loader was born in New Zealand and spent several years in China before moving to County Galway, Ireland, where she now lives with her family. With a passion for writing and photography, she blogs at www.allthefallingstones.com and is currently writing a memoir. Her work has appeared in Dodging the Rain.