Monday, 22 December 2008
Come again tomorrow....
There was once a man, who when still young was visited by Death. You can imagine how terrified he was. Being young he still wanted to live and frantic for an idea he recalled Sheherazade and as Death grinned and began to beckon him away to the Land of Shades, he said,
"There was once a man some time ago who argued with a witch."
Death seemed puzzled and paused, then said, "Go on."
"Well, it was like this as I recall. This man did not believe in magic. He thought that respectability was all and magic was distinctly disreputable," the young man said.
"Very foolish," Death remarked.
"Well quite. Well he might have gone on in this way, but he moved house to the suburbs. As everyone knows, the suburbs only seem respectable, but nobody knows what goes on behind the closed doors and lace curtains. This man, Larkham his name was, he thought that the suburbs were a den of respectability unlike the city from which he had moved. He did not know that his neighbours baked hashish brownies and made ahem, naughty underwear for certain ladies. He did not know that the apparently sweet old ladies across the street in the big old house were a coven of witches either. He really did think that they were a group of charming old ladies who were close friends. Despite growing up in the city he'd had a somewhat cloistered upbringing," the young man continued, somewhat relieved that Death had sat himself down and leaned his scythe against the wall.
Indeed, Death sat back in the armchair and appeared to be listening, tho' it was difficult to tell from looking at the old skull of him.
"Now something one of the old ladies loved to do was use her magic to make filigree work. She did not just use silver and gold, but any kind of wire would do. She made small animal figures for the children, who used them to trade at school for all kinds of things. She made garden ornaments for the neighbours and sold them. Larkham, having seen one thought they would be quite something in his garden. He asked the old lady for a figure of a respectable man, and she made one and brought it over. It was not too expensive, Larkham thought and he paid up. But as he was praising her work, he asked her how she did it. When she said she used magic, Larkham giggled. The old lady was not amused. She had gone to a lot of trouble to make the spell work and did not care to have him giggle at it. He wagged his finger and said that he understood that she wanted to keep her methods secret. She told him that she did not care who knew that she used magic, but magic had been used to do it.
Larkham got cross then. He told her that there was no such thing as magic and that only little children believed in such nonsense. Well you can imagine the witch was somewhat cross herself and warned him that she would make a wire man of him if he did not apologise at once. Larkham harrumphed and refused to apologise for simply stating what any respectable person knew - that magic was just superstitious nonsense. At that, the witch glowered at him and spoke a word or nine. Suddenly, Larkham felt very peculiar and found himself turning into filigree of the most dull metal. The witch stuck him in the garden with her other creation and birds would perch on him. She left him like that for ten years and then in a good mood one day, she turned him back to himself. So terrified was he that he left the suburbs and returned to the city, where I heard little of him afterwards."
Death laughed and stood up reaching for his scythe and the young man suddenly said,
"But I haven't finished!"
"Nobody ever has," Death remarked.
"No, no, I mean the story," the young man answered quickly, fingering his collar nervously.
"When Larkham was made of metal, a crow settled on his shoulder once and told him a tale. Such a tale it was... well, but I'm tired and it's been a long day," he said.
"But the crow's tale, what was it?" Death asked him.
"Oh I could tell you, but I'm so very tired. Why don't you come again tomorrow and I'll tell you then," the young man replied.
Death frowned, but he did love a tale and these days so few people ever told tales, they just wrote them down. He sighed and answered,
"Well alright, but tomorrow when the tale's done you'll have to come along with me. It may not seem fair, but you know, life and death are neither fair or unfair, they just happen. So you have a good night's sleep and I'll see you tomorrow."
Then off the old Reaper went, his scythe in his hand and his hood over his bony head, puzzling over what on earth the crow's tale could possibly be about. The young man breathed a sigh of relief at his reprieve and wondered what to tell Death the next day. What could he possibly tell Death?