Respite

 

When he was born, death held his nose with two fingers. Just for a moment, so that he would remember.

When he was ten, death returned. “What will you do with your life?” it asked.

“I want to experience things!” said the boy. “I want to travel the world and write a book.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death.

When he was twenty, death returned. “How is the book coming along?” it asked.

“Cool it!” said the young man. “It can't be that urgent.

For now my first concern is to have some fun while I'm still young. There'll be time enough for writing later on.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death.

When he was thirty, death returned. “Well,” it asked, “did you have your fun?”

“Well,” said the young man. “The fun was of a sort.”

“I got married, and that is no bed of roses, I can tell you. That put a temporary stop to my traveling plans.”

“But can't you go traveling with your wife?” asked death.

“Sure. That's our plan.

It just won't do as long as the kids are so young. But as soon as they get older, we're off.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death.

When he was forty, death returned. “So did you go traveling together?” it asked.

“Together? Oh, you mean the wife.

No, it wasn't really her cup of tea. But that doesn't matter.

I have met someone else in the meantime, You see. We met at a lecture with slides, and would you believe, she had also always wanted to travel.”

“So you are going with her instead,” said death.

“Yes, at one time or another.

My wife has no objections. We've talked divorce and all that. But we have decided to wait till the kids move out.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death.

When he was fifty, death returned. “So did you go?” it asked.

“No, I think she got tired of waiting.”

“She went on her own, then?”

“No,” said the man, “I don't think so. I believe she married an accountant.”

“You didn't get divorced then?”

“Yes, I got divorced. So now I'm on my own.”

“In that case you can easily go,” it said.

“It's not as simple as that. I have acquired quite a trusted position in the company.

I can't just split. But at one point I will probably take a sabbatical year.”

“I see,” said death. “But tell me, what is that under your left armpit?”

“Oh God!” shouted the man. “I didn't see that at all.

It looks like a tumour. It isn't dangerous, is it?”

“I'm afraid so,” said death. “You have one year left to live.”

“So what are we blabbering for? I'm off to the travel agency.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death. But to itself it said, “One year is too little for such a project. I will give him ten.”

When he was sixty, death returned. “How were your travels?” it asked.

“You were wrong,” the man laughed. “It was not malignant.”

“You didn't go, then?”

“No. That would have been a tad foolish now that I am about to retire on a pension. Just think, in a couple of years I can do whatever I choose. Then I will travel the world and write a book.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death.

When he was seventy, death returned. “Did you write the book?” it asked.

“Oh, come on!” said the man. “For a man my age it's too late for that kind of thing.

No, that ship has sailed. That's the way it is.

First there was wife and children, then the company. I never had a chance.”

“Perhaps you are right,” said death.

“Yes,” the man said. “But it really makes no difference. You see, I've stopped fearing you.

Shall I tell you why? Because I don't believe in you.”

“Did you ever?” death inquired.

“Well, I certainly don't any longer. If you existed, life would be meaningless!”

“That's funny,” death remarked. “I always felt I was the one who gave it meaning.”

“In my next incarnation,” said the man, “I will travel the world and write a book.”

“Yes, my friend,” said death, and closed his eyes.

 


 

This text is a story from the book "Skrækkens ABC" (ABC of Horror).
COPYRIGHT © Erwin Neutzsky-Wulff and Borgen Publishers, 1992
Translated by Robin Wildt Hansen.
All Rights Reserved
First published 1992 by Borgen Publishers.
This text may under no circumstances be resold or redistributed for compensation of any kind, in either printed, electronic, or any other forms, without prior written permission from Borgen Publishers.
For further information contact Borgens Forlag, Valbygaardsvej 33, DK-2500 Copenhagen Valby, Denmark, phone +45 46 36 21 00, fax +45 36 44 14 88