Thursday 1 November 2012

Read The Fine Print III

NOTE: I strongly suggest you read the first installment (click here) and the second installment (click here).
Also,HUGE thanks to Lo for all the art work he's done for this blog. Dude never ceases to amaze me! You can check out more of his art on his blog (click here). He did some great stuff for #inktober and the art in this post is one of his entries.
Now, without further delay,THE CONCLUSION OF READ THE FINE PRINT!...

When Bwalya emerged from the other end of the portal that Death had opened, he was relieved to see that he was not in the eerie wastelands of hell he had imagined. He had always thought hell was overrun with hideous, multi-headed, horned creatures that got their kicks from torturing poor souls and setting them on fire. He wasn't in hell, no, he was still on earth (‘but hell is ON Earth, isn't it? Or is that IN Earth?’),but something wasn't quite right. There was something off about his angle of perception. ‘This must be some kind of flipped out dimension. One of those where everything is upside down and there are spiraling and intertwining staircases everywhere.’ Bwalya looked around to observe this strange new part of the Earth, half expecting to see a labyrinth from a late 80s Tim Burton style movie. ‘Maybe BeetleJuice and Edward Scissorhands ARE real and they work with The Grim Reaper,’ he thought. But His eyes wandered further and saw some tall trees at a distance and he realised he was somewhere outdoors. What struck him as odd was that the trees’ leaves were at his shoulder level. That either meant he had mystically grown taller after stepping through that portal or he was- --
“Double-U Tee Eff!!” Bwalya shouted as he swooned on the ball off his heel and fell backwards. The vertigo had made him lose his balance and fall into Death’s cold and bony arms. He found himself looking into a skull embedded deep inside the blackness of a hooded cloak. That constant Grin on Death’s skinless face dashed any feelings of comfort or safety Bwalya may have had and had him on his feet again. The traffic below them zoomed past at high speed and had Bwalya’s stomach performing gymnastics. The two of them were above the Great East Road and hovering above a foot-bridge. A massive crowd had gathered around the foot-bridge and people had come from far and wide to observe some spectacle. Bwalya realised though, that these people were oblivious to their presence; that he and Death were not the spectacle.
Your first task lies below us,” said Death. “Here you will begin to exercise the duties of The Fourth Horseman and continue to do so until I return.”
“You ARE staying to show me how it’s done, aren't you?”
No!” replied Death as he pulled out an hour glass from his black cloak. “I am late enough for my sabbatical as it is. This is a fairly easy and oftentimes mundane task. All that you need do is wait for your quarry’s soul to sever its bodily tie, and then tuck it away into your eternal robes.”
“Eternal robes?” asked Bwalya.
Death tipped his bony scythe in Bwalya’s direction and its magical energies draped him in an overflowing deathly cloak similar to The Reaper’s own. Bwalya looked at this new mystic fabric in utter fascination. He then stretched his arm down to his waist, grabbed some of it and brought it around to cover his mouth with the inside of his elbow, his eyes peering above his forearm. He looked like a vampire shielding himself from the burning sun.
“I am DEATH!” he exclaimed, “Fear me!”.
I must go now,” said The Grim Reaper, “You must tend to my duties immediately. Here, use the scythe to bend the fabric of space and time so that you may get to your quarries in an instant.
Rest and relaxation here I come!

And with that, Death cut open a portal using only his skin deficient finger and faded through it. Bwalya paused for a moment in an effort to wrap his mind around the surreal events of the last half hour or so. He thought about whether he could just cut himself open a portal and escape to somewhere Death would never reach him. But he quickly dismissed these thoughts of fleeing, realising that if Death could open portals using just his finger, he could do a lot more with his fist.
“Well, here goes!”
Bwalya descended toward the foot-bridge drawn by an inexplicable force, he knew that was where the soon to be departed soul was to be found. The crowd that had gathered around the foot-bridge had been pulled by a young man threatening to jump and kill himself. Bwalya reached and then hovered in front of the man. This suicidal person had his arms stretched out behind him holding on to a rail as his upper body leaned outward looking down at the speeding traffic. Bwalya cleared his throat.
“BEHOLD MORTAL! I am Death! I cometh to collect your soul... eth!”
“Jeez!” The young man exclaimed as he almost lost his grip. He steadied himself and looked at Bwalya in amazement. Bwalya had spread his arms out, spreading his magical cloak with them, as if to allow this fragile man to bask in his glory before he left the land of the living.
“Are you the Grim Reaper?” he asked.
Bwalya nodded slowly for effect. “And you are, Michael Munana! I know this because I know many things!”
“Yes O’ mighty Death! Knower of many things! Take me away! Save me from this misery!” exclaimed Michael.
“Errm,...well, I don’t think that’s how it works.”
“What do you mean?”
“I think you must actually, you know, errm...die first.”
“Then I will leap! Leap into the afterlife and shed this mortal coil as Death himself embraces me!”
“No man, there will be no embracing here! Besides, I don’t think that fall will kill you. It’s not high enough” said Bwalya.
“Then you suggest I must climb higher?! Yes! That’s it! Climb higher towards the heavens, so that I may be closer to Paradise!”
“....Don’t you go to hell if you commit suicide though?”
Michael’s heavy thoughts manifested themselves in the knotting of his eyebrows. Bwalya observed his dismay and felt some sympathy crawling up from his belly.
“Why are you doing this though? Why jump off this bridge?”
“Because,” said Michael, “To live, is to suffer. And to survive, that is to find meaning in the suffering. I have found no meaning, I cannot survive... therefore I only suffer.”
“C’mon man, it can’t be that bad,” said Bwalya, “A wise man once told me, ‘A poor man grieved bitterly that he had no shoes; until he met a man who had no feet.’ No matter how bad you think you have it, someone probably has it worse.”
“No one’s existence is more miserable than mine.”
“Well mine will be. I’ve been duped into being Death’s replacement for the next one hundred years, how’s that for suffering?”
“Wow,” said Michael, “Is that penance for sins from your past life?”
“No. Long story. But my advice to you is to always read the fine print.”
“There will be no reading where I am going,” murmured Michael.
More of that sympathy crawled up from within Bwalya. Though he himself had been damned to almost an eternity of tedious soul collecting; he couldn’t help but feel for this poor misguided guy that had lost all zeal for life.
“C’mon man, you don’t need to do this. And like I said, you won’t die, worst case scenario you’ll hurt yourself really bad. Maybe if you land on your hea--...Look, you don’t need to do this.”
“YES I DO!” burst Michael. His shouting sent a murmur through the impromptu audience. Someone remarked that Michael was mad and was speaking to himself. “I need to do this because maybe then people will pay attention! Maybe then they will miss me!”
Bwalya looked at the crowd and noticed they were getting anxious; they wanted to see something happen. This gave Bwalya an idea.
“What, are you kidding? People do pay attention to you!”
“How do you know this?”
“I am Death, knower of many things, remember? Just look around you. All these people are here just for you! And even though most of them may be strangers, they still made the effort to leave whatever they were doing and came to see you. Technically, they do care.”
Michael knotted his eyebrows again. He looked around, possibly for the first time, at the people that had gathered there. Children had climbed and latched onto electric poles to get a better view of him. Vendors had halted sales of their various goods to observe what would become of his wretched soul. All this, was for him. He was finally given the attention he yearned so much. He was finally noticed....Finally.

 “Thank you,” he whispered to Bwalya. Bwalya smiled and felt that sympathy he had turn into a sense of achievement. Michael then leaned back and began to climb back over the railing of the foot-bridge. The smile painted on his face was quickly erased by a reality shattering slap that came from one of the members of his audience. The crowd descended upon him in typical angry mob fashion. Bwalya winced as they dispensed more reality shattering slaps and blows on Michael.
Even though they had beaten him unconscious and almost half to death; their crude message had literally hit home and Michael had new found appreciation for life.
Bwalya’s sense of achievement had almost faded, but he still felt good about himself. He smiled to himself as he brought up the scythe and swung it down to open a portal to his next job. His smile would have turned into roaring laughter had he not felt that Death was angry when he met him on the other end of his portal. Though Death’s face had no expression, his wrath permeated his every bony orifice and Bwalya had to hold his laughter. Death’s skeletal toes were safely secured in the thongs of colourful flip-flops. He wore khaki shorts that exposed his ashy white knee-caps and were covered at the buckle by a Hawaiian shirt decorated with palm trees. Its buttons were undone up to his sternum and a big floppy sun-hat covered his bold skull. He looked like someone had pulled a prank on the human skeleton in a highschool biology lab. Bwalya was dying inside.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?” bellowed The Grim Reaper.
“Uum, well... he wasn’t going to die from the fall anyway so I--“
YOU FOOL!! He wasn’t your quarry, the crowd was! After he hit the tar, a number of cars would have swerved at high speed to avoid him and and crashed into the foot-bridge and exploded or caused damage to it! The collateral damage would have been extensive! You just cost me countless souls!
“I’m sorry! I had no idea... I’ll make up for it! I promise.”
No! You know nothing of the balance that must be maintained!” replied Death, “Your contract is hereby terminated! I relieve you of the duties of The Fourth Horseman.”
Bwalya was shocked, “Just like that? I can go back?”
Yes. You may return to your mortal life. But mark my words; we have not seen the last of each other.”
Bwalya suddenly found himself in his bedroom sitting in the chair of his computer desk. He looked round to see if this too was another warped dimension. He touched the air where The Grim Reaper had opened a portal and squint his eyes to see if there was any trace of it. When he was sure he was home, he yanked his computer from its desk and took it outside where he smashed it to bits.

Langi and his friend sat on the low table in front of the T.V playing a violent video game. Bwalya sat on the couch a few feet away from them leafing through a magazine. He didn't like Langi’s friend very much, he was a sore loser and kept complaining when he or Langi beat him at the game.
“Let’s try a different game,” said Langi’s friend, “This one is sooo boring!”
Bwalya looked over the edge of his magazine and paid little mind when they removed the disk from Langi’s Playstation and inserted a new one. ‘Nothing will please this guy, he’s just a weak gamer.’ He continued to read an article on Chicken Shawarmas and their part in a global domination scheme some crazy guy had written.
“Aw man! Software upgrade agreements! Don’t read that!” complained Langi’s friend, “Just click on ‘I ACCEPT’!”
The television screen went blank and the Playstation console began to tremble and rattle as it started to scream open a portal.
Bwalya calmly got up, rolled his magazine and put it in his back pocket; and then casually walked home, whistling as he did so.

“BEHOLD MORTAL! I am Death! I cometh to collect your soul... eth!”-Artwork by Lo
Follow me on twitter @Benny_blow
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