Lachesis, by David R. Schulze
“What do you regret about your life?” A tall thin man sat behind a paltry wooden desk, and stared with charcoal grey eyes at Mark. Everything about him was clean, pressed, precise. His diction was smooth, his words effective, his presence haunting. In his current surroundings he seemed very out of place. His sharp tailored suit contrasted the copious stains on the frayed carpet. His clean manicured hands stood out against the wearing of the chairs and the splintering of the wood on the desk. His posture gave him the air of an aristocrat, one not suited to sit in a dilapidated office building on the lower East side, just a few blocks from docks known for their nefarious nature.
These disparities did nothing to calm Mark, it just increased the misgivings he had been having about this whole thing. He wrung his wrinkled hands together and looked at the thin man.
The lamp in the corner flickered, momentarily removing the ill yellow light from the room. Mark jumped. The thin man remained motionless as he waited for Mark’s response.
“Well.” Mark began with a tired voice indicative of his years of smoking. “At a certain point in a man’s life he gets to thinking.” He took a long rattly breath. “And he starts to look back at his life and wonder what he could have done differently. You begin to look at the choices you made and if they were the right ones, maybe you could have done things better. Maybe you could have been an astronaut.” Mark smiled thinking of his boyhood dream. One he had long since given up on to join the ranks of middle America, pushing papers, answering calls, filling out forms.
“One day you realize you messed up. That you were too scared to live the life you wanted. You were too damn afraid to go after your dreams. But then you look down at your tired hands and up at the wrinkles in your face and the grey in your hair and realize that those chances are gone. You’ll never be what you wanted to be. You’ll die and in the end you won’t matter. Nothing will be better for you having existed.”
The thin man said nothing as he watched the old man.
“And that is what I realized. I realized that I did nothing. I did nothing with my intelligence, I did nothing with my talents, I let them waste away behind stacks of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be temporary.” Mark laughed to himself. “It’s always supposed to be temporary. But temporary becomes one year, then two, then before you know it I’m sitting in front of you wondering where my life went. Wondering what I did wrong.”
Mark paused waiting for the thin man to speak. The silence hung tense in the air. The thin man did not move, he waited. When the weight of the air became palpable Mark spoke. “That’s when I heard about you and what your company can offer. Something I thought was impossible. Something I thought was resigned to Twilight Zone episodes and science fiction, but I had friends who had friends and I figured what else do I have to lose. My wife’s divorced me years ago, my kids have their own lives and never see me. Most of my real friends are dead and now I’m just waiting for the scythe to find it’s way to my room. But then there was you. You don’t know what I’ve given up just for this meeting.”
“I do.” The thin man crossed his elongated fingers on the desk. “But you must give up far more in order to proceed.”
“I will. I just want that second chance, one more shot to make my mark. One more go.”
“Many people want that, but most come to terms with their lives near the end and they meet death with dignity. Death is a quiet reserved peace Mr. Allen. Do you want to rob yourself of this peace?”
“Yes. I want a do over. I want to be young again, I want to run, I want to sing, I want to sleep with beautiful women, I want to drink, and I want to dance. I want to take life by balls and do it right this time. And you can give this to me?”
“I can, but it comes at a price.”
“I will give you anything.”
“I know.” He paused. “You will give me all of your innea.”
“What is that?”
“It is nothing that matters to you here.”
“Is it my soul?”
“Not exactly. Think about it more as spiritual currency. Something which means very little to you in this place, especially if you get a redo.” The thin man smiled.
Mark furrowed his brow. He’d thought about this, he figured he would be doing a deal with the devil or he’d be paying a lot of money, but he didn’t know what innea was and up until 30 seconds ago didn’t know he even had any.
Mark looked up at the thin man. “Are you the devil?”
The thin man’s smile widened from ear to ear. “Only that I were. No he’s more into the whole temptation thing. I just give people what they ask for, nothing more. If you decline my offer then you will never see me again. If you accept the same will be true. He’s far more invasive, that is if he even exists at all.” The thin man’s eyes sparkled.
“Who are you?”
“I will tell you, but only after our work is done. In the moments before your life starts anew you will know who I am.”
Mark looked down at this hands. The skin on them was paper thin and he could see every vein between brown spots. They hurt and had for years, so long he’d forgotten what it was like not to hurt. He closed his eyes. “Yes. Everything you want you can have.” He let out a breath. “Do I have to sign something?”
“Oh no, no, not at all. Verbal agreements have been solid for eons. All this silly paper matters in this place, but not where it counts. Your word is your bond Mr. Allen.”
“What do I do now?”
“Nothing.” The thin man stood up and from his jacket sleeve pulled a golden ruler. “You won’t feel this Mr. Allen, but it will seem odd.” He stepped around the desk and placed a cold hand upon his forehead and the other at the base of his head. Then slowly he pulled out a shining string from the base of Mark’s skull. The string was long with a small bead near the end.
“Well it looks like you came in at just the right time.”
“What is that?” Mark looked at the thing with concern.
“You wanted to know who I am Mr. Allen. I am Lachesis, I am the one who measures. What I hold in my hands is your life. Your thread of existence. A small little component to the whole tapestry that makes up this wonderful world of ours. My brother Clotho spins them and my brother Atropos cuts them. I measure them.”
“Like the fates from children’s stories.”
“Yes rather a lot like the fates.”
“But I thought they were fiction and women for that matter.”
“Well I assure you we’re are not fiction, and your kind tend to picture us in whatever gender they find best suits the time period. What I am going to do is remeasure your life. You will start as a baby once more and you will remember nothing of this life, nothing of your children, nothing of your wife, nothing of me or of my brothers. Only at the very end of life when you join the throngs of the dead will you remember your deal with me. And at that moment you aren’t going to like me. But that won’t matter, see I’ve been saving up. I’m planning on buying something very nice, something even more powerful than this.” He held up the ruler.
“What can be more powerful than measuring life?”
“Oh not many things Mr. Allen, not many things. But it’s not in the measurement of life that the power lies, but in what is done with that tiny thread. Few men get the chance you are about to have, spend your time well for once it is spent there will be no more. Without your innea you will have no currency to enter the afterlife. This second shot is your afterlife. You will be heavy once more with the weight of existence, but then there will be no more.”
Mark felt a shift in perception as the room started to rock back and forth, he felt as if he was between waking and asleep as the reality of what he just did was coming clear to him. As he ebbed out of this life he longed to undo the deal. “But I…, I want …”
But Mr. Allen was no longer there, nor was the thin man. The room was quiet again, with only a small flicker of dull yellow light to fill her.
David R. Schulze is a native South Texas writer, comedian, and scientist. David also enjoys river dancing even though he cannot dance in the slightest and couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. Davidrschulze.com
Posted on May 6, 2015, in Contest, Issue 16: Shinigami Stories—Reaping the Harvest of Souls and tagged contest, death, death reaper, e-zine, grim reaper, horror, shinigami, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.