This week’s #writephoto prompt is
The small utterly black boat moved at an even pace across the water, leaving no wake and making no sound. Nothing, had anyone been watching or, indeed capable of seeing it indicated how it moved; no oars, or sails or motor.
The figure in the prow leant forward slightly as if bracing for the impact as the boat neared the shore of the little island but there was no impact, just an imperceptible lifting of the boat as it ran easily up the shingle. The figure’s head swung left and right and left again, stopping as if surprised. It lifted the edge of its black cloak and peered at something before turning through ninety degrees and staring at the edge of the lake, just where the wood met the grass. It may be the figure sighed, not that any sound emerged. Slowly but evenly the boat reversed back off the island, made a smooth noiseless arc and headed for a small inlet to the left of the wood.
Once again the boat lifted up onto the land and stopped. This time the figure stepped out of the boat and leant back inside, bending to collect a long scythe. If Death could be irritated, then this was the occasion.
Twenty feet away and laying prone, a blond man of about thirty seemed to be staring at the sky, lost in his thoughts. Death moved with his customary silent yet swift gait, reaching the man’s side. Once again Death checked under his cloak, a bony finger tapping irritably at something before he pulled out a large gold fob watch on a chunky gold chain. He flipped open the cover. Its one hand stood out black on black moving slowly but inexorably toward the top. Just before it touched the small gold circle he shut the cover and lifted up his arms.
‘THOMAS PRICKTINGLE, I AM DEATH, COME TO END YOUR MORTAL LIFE AND SEND YOU…’
The man had sat up as soon as Death began speaking, rubbing his eyes. ‘Oh, come ON!’
Death stopped and looked at the man’s face. He was used to all manner of emotions but this mix of tired disbelief, anger and incredulity was new. Whatever. ‘SEND YOU TO YOUR…’
The man had stood and moved in so close that Death could feel his breath. ‘You. Cannot. Be . Serious?’
For once Death hesitated, bending back slightly. ‘HAVE WE MET?’
‘You bet your bony buttocks we’ve met. Last Tuesday in Angelica’s, then Saturday at Mum’s sixtieth…’
‘OH. WAS THAT YOU AS WELL? I…’ he fumbled with the edge of his cloak and tapped. Something suggestive of a frown seemed to emanate from the inside of his hood. He tried again, making an odd clicking sound. He reached out his scythe towards the man. ‘WOULD YOU…?’
The man took the scythe, leaning as far away from its super fine and unfeasibly sharp blade as he could.
Death used both hands to tap furiously.
The man blinked. ‘Is that… an IPad?’
Death swung his hood slowly. ‘I’M TOLD IT IS A TABLET. LIKE MOSES.’
‘Moses? He a real guy?’
‘OH YES. BIT AWKWARD THAT ONE. DIDN’T WANT TO GO. WE WERE QUITE SURPRISED, GIVEN WHAT HAD BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT HIM. HE TOLD US HE WAS GOING TO DO A MOAN AND TELL BOOK WHEN HE GOT THE CHANCE, HOW HE’D TRIED TO GET THE BOSS TO DROP THE WHOLE COMMANDMENTS VIBE AND GO WITH A MORE INCLUSIVE LABEL. AND HE THOUGHT TEN WAS A BIT SHORT CHANGING SO…’
‘I’m not really interested.’
‘OH. LOOK, IT SAYS HERE I’M TO END THE MORTAL EXISTENCE OF THOMAS PRICKTINGLE AT FOUR TWENTY-THREE ON…’
‘That’s your problem. I’m not Thomas Pricktingle.’
Death tapped his tablet. ‘IT TOLD ME WHERE TO FIND YOU.’ He paused and looked back at the island. ‘WELL, SORT OF. WITHIN A THINGY. MARGIN FOR WOTSIT.’
‘It’s not me, though.’
‘AND YOU’RE SURE?’
‘I can see how this happened… keeps happening. I was christened Thomas, but…’
‘That too. But I changed my name.’
‘THAT STILL MEANS YOU’RE THOMAS PRICKTINGLE.’
‘No it doesn’t. I did it all legal like. Deed poll. Registered it too. You’ll no longer find a Thomas Pricktingle. He’s no more.’
‘EXCEPT HERE.’ Death tapped his tablet.
‘What is that?’
‘THIS?’ Death held up the tablet in two bony fingers. ‘IT’S A BLOODY NIGHTMARE, THAT’S WHAT IT IS. WE’VE BEEN TOLD TO MOVE ALL OUR RECORDS TO DIGITAL.’
‘Oh. Very modern.’
‘MAYBE, BUT PARCHMENT HAS SERVED US WELL ENOUGH FOR MILLENNIA. AND IT’S NOT BEEN AN EASY TRANSITION.’
‘You don’t say.’
The man bristled. ‘You we’re about to end my existence. I’d call that…’
Death swung his hood, his eyeless face looking anything other than pleased. ‘IT WOULDN’T WORK. I’D SWING THE SCYTHE BUT IT WOULD DO NOTHING. THEN I’D HAVE TO CALL OUT THE SLEEP TEAM TO WIPE YOUR MEMORY AND…’
‘Sleep team? You have a special team?’
Death’s head wobbled from side to side. ‘WE’VE HAD THE ODD MISSTRANSCRIPTION BEFORE. BUT VERY RARE. NOW…’ He threw his arms wide, billowing his cloak. Several bats hurried away, terrified. ‘I’LL TELL CONTROL ABOUT THE NAME CHANGE. I HOPE YOU’LL UNDERSTAND THAT WE CAN’T ISSUE AN OFFICIAL APOLOGY. NO POINT REALLY, GIVEN YOU’LL NOT REMEMBER.’
‘No, sure.’ The man shuffled his feet. ‘Though you didn’t wipe my memory.’
Death, who had begun to return to the boat, stopped, his finger poised over the tablet. ‘SORRY’
‘That’s three times you’ve got it wrong and I still remember it.’
Death’s shoulders slumped. The man was right. Each time he’d booked a memory wipe but apparently it had yet to happen. He looked at the screen, looked at the man. ‘WHAT’S YOU’RE NEW NAME?’
‘Er, Thomas Pringle.’
Death checked his tablet, shrugged and swung his scythe. Thomas Pringle goggled at him before his body slumped back to the ground and his spirit began to float away. In a soft disembodied voice, Thomas said, horror in his tone, ‘I’m Thomas Pringle.’
Death nodded after him. ‘I’D SAY THAT’S NEAR ENOUGH.’ He climbed into the boat and, with a certain flourish put a tick by the name on the screen.
By his feet an impenetrably black cat yawned and looked up at Death. ‘You told him you couldn’t terminate the wrong person.’
Death moved to the prow and waited while the boat pulled away from the shore. He glanced at the cat. ‘I LIED. DEAL WITH IT.’