A Season for Everything


Annitta Roberts

I am tired. I call out to the abyss, but the only answer is my echo. No one cares that I am weary. Humanity fears and dreams about me, but does not pity me. Now, one waits for me and I must hurry through the dark and cold woods. If only I could stop for the briefest second in eternity and admire the cold stark beauty. I cannot for I am expected at the little house by the frozen river.

Moving in the night, I see a light in a frosted window. It beckons to me. It calls softly for me to hurry. I follow it as a child follows a kitten. However, there is no kitten and I am no child.

Around me, waves of snow lie haphazardly against trees and a large white drift rest lazily against the side of the trapper's cabin. No shadow is cast from a frozen moon and as I look to the heavens the stars themselves seem to drip with icicles, for the cold is fierce to living creatures this night. I try to ignore the sea of frozen tranquillity and float to the window and look inside.

Shadows play tag across hand-sewn logs. The flickering flames of oil lamps play out strange and wonderful scenes. Peculiar shapes move upon dusty shelves. To the left is an ancient barreled wood stove, glowing red, sending wisps of wood smoke through minute holes in its barrel. Oval braided rugs lie haplessly on the hardwood floor as if thrown and then forgotten. To the right is a small hewn table with crude legs. Two wooden chairs with no backs or arms rest crookedly at the bare table. In an old rocking chair next to the red glowing woodstove, sits an old man. He rocks in silence smoking a pipe. Light from sooty oil lamp drifts gently over the withered body. The old man looks to the window and knows I have arrived.

I enter the cabin and the strangest thing happens. I just know the cabin is inhabited with old smells. Pungent odors of wood and age and spices and apples. Smell of a love that once was, of Christmas trees, of faith, of good friends from long ago. Memories must abound in smells. I close my eyes, but the smells allude me. I can almost smell them. I open my eyes and see the old man staring at me.

"Hello, old man. My name is Death."

"Yes, I know who you are. What took you so long? I have been waiting for a very long time."

I look at the old man and feel pity. I have been doing that often. He is a good man who has lived a decent life and like me, is weary. Weary of life so he welcomes Death. He is very old yet I cannot detect any smell of decay. No disease has wasted the fragile body and his soul smells pure. He is happy to see me.

"Do you really seek Death?"

"Yes. I have prayed you to come. I never thought you would."

"May I sit? It has been a long journey this night."

I pull out one of the homemade rickety chairs. The seat had been worn down over many years and my bottom fitted quite nicely. I wish I could remove the shroud. I have always hated the shroud.

"Tell me old man, why do you want to die? You are not sick."

"I am an old lonely man who lives way out in the forest. I have no one. You, Death, came here many years ago and took my Mary from me and the babe she carried. You came back many times over the years and took my friends, one by one. I want to join my wife and unborn."

As I listened to the old man, I remembered his Mary and the unborn babe and how I came in the bleakest of nights and carried off their souls. I remembered his anguish and I could still smell the salt of his tears. Too many tears. I remembered his hatred.

"Old man I'm not going to take your soul. I am tired you see. I am tired of the wailing of motherless children and wifeless husbands. Tired of the tears. I carry within me smells of countless millenniums of heartbreak. Death is no more. I will no longer take a life."

I stand and go to the wood stove. I can not feel its heat just as I can not feel the cold. I turn and look at the old man in the creaking rocker and am surprised by his countenance. He is angered.

"What do you mean by this? How dare you make this decision? What right do you have to just suddenly stop being Death?" He shouts at me above the wailing arctic wind.

"You don't understand old man. No more Death. Live forever. No more children will die. No more will men fear me and children run in terror when they hear my name spoken. I give life to all as a gift. My Death will be the last Death."

The old man watches in silence as I pull my black shroud closer around me as if I had felt a chill. How can I make this good man understand? His anger is great.

Gliding to a wooden planked shelf, I notice a dried rose sitting proudly in a rusted tin can. Its leaves desiccated and wrinkled and fragile. A rose with no beauty but how I desire to touch it; after all, it is already dead.

I turn from the deadness and speak to the old man. I must make him understand. I stand there in the shadows, a shadow myself. A dismembered voice from a garment of blackness.

"Old man, listen. I was created to take souls, to guide mortals away from life. God did not see fit in His Wisdom allow me to see as you can. I see no color, everything is gray. I have never seen the red of a rose, or the colors of a rainbow. I do not even leave so much as a footprint behind in a pile of floor dust"

"Then Death, how do you find us?" He asks in his old man voice full of anger.

"I have the ability to smell the souls of mankind. The soul lets me know when it is time for its host to die and then Death pays a visit. Oh cursed, I have never smelt the fragrance of a flower or a new mown field after a rainstorm. I can only smell good or evil in a soul. Old man how can you welcome such a creature that takes you from the wonders of this world? I whirl, the long folds of the death wrap swish across the worn wooden floor, and glide to the frosted window. Outside, the cold moon shines its frosty light upon the landscape. If I had a soul, it would be like the moon. I turn and gaze upon the mortal in the chair.

The old man looks at me in puzzlement and ponders before answering. His voice no longer full of anger.

"No, you need to understand. I want to die. My soul has called to you to come and release me from this terrible burden of always wanting to be with my Mary. You can't leave me here." A note of pleading creeps into his voice.

I listen as the old man continues.

"Do you really think people would praise you for no more death? Old people, who suffer with diseases that bend the body, people with wasting diseases, and are they supposed to keep suffering for eternity? Death, you are a savior to many." His voice becomes stronger as he asks, " Are you God that you can make such a decision?"

I look away from him and glide around the room. Am I trying to usurp God? Would people suffer for eternity if there were no Death? No! There will be no more death. The old man whispers.

"I forgive you."

I spin and face the old man; the folds of my shroud kick up years of dust.

"You forgive me?"

"Yes, for taking my Mary and the babe from me. I did not understand that God had needed them more than me and that you too are part of God's plan. I had hated you. I no longer hate you."

Forgiveness? How could this be?

I go back to the old wooden shelf with its dead rose. As I stand there looking at the lonely flower, I thought I saw the faded rose as it once was - dripping with cool morning dew, a deep red blush to its petals - with a drift of the sweetest odor I have ever known. I am transfixed. How hauntingly beautiful. Then the illusion fades and nothing is left but the shriveled dried brown rose. I understand. The old man was right. There is a season for everything.

"Come old man, touch my hand. I will take you home to your Mary and the babe awaits you."

I reach out and the old man touches my hand. As he stands, I throw off my shroud. I at least owe this much to him. Let him look upon the true face of Death. I thought I heard God moan but the look of wonder on the old man's face as I spread my wings distracted me.

"You are an angel! Not what I had expected. Oh, thank you for this." He cries.

"Yes, old man, the Angel of Death."

My wings cocoon around us as I step into the Light

God, of course, forgave me after scolding me for several centuries while the minor Deaths roamed the world. I was never to let another living mortal see me in My Natural State before Death took them. I was to wear the black shroud, my face buried beneath the hood. However, the strangest part is that He did not say I had to remove the faded rose stuck in it.


Author Bio

BA in Journalism from University of Anchorage, Alaska in 1990 - but, was considered to old to become a journalist at the only two local papers in Anchorage.

Projected BA in English Literature (one class only left to take) Fall of 2000. Have a short story collection at the Homer Library titled "Welcome To My World" and was one selected by the Friend's of the Library to be sent to Houston to be profesionally bound. It was part of what is called "the Top Drawer Collection" where local writers submit fiction, non-fiction, slice of life, manuscripts, and even self-published books to be in public view.

Am an active member in "The Invisible Ink". A writer's group that has been around for over 15 years, though I am new to the group. We gave readings of our work to the public at the Pier One Theatre in Homer during the tourist season and was asked to return by popular demand. We are going to make the reading a yearly event. You wouldn't believe how long it took for the writer's group to get me involved or to even read any of my material.

I am 52 years old and the grandmother of ten. I have been writing, forming stories I should say, since I was a small child growing up a farm. I was too busy working to feed five children, but now, have the opportunity to actually devote a few hours each day to it.

I am basically shy when it comes to my work. I never feel that what I write is any good and thus do not let others read it. My writer's group has been very good for me in making me bring forth my work.




Copyright © 1999 Annitta Roberts. All rights reserved. Published by permission of the author.
This page last updated 1-22-99.

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