The Death of Death

“Have you noticed nobody has died in a long while?”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”

“It is. We’re at war. We should be killing them and they should be killing us. How do we know who’s winning?”

“It is weird no one is dying.”

“It’s like bullets are just bouncing off guys. It’s making the enemy cocky. Look how that guy is just strolling across no man’s land like he doesn’t have a care in the world, like a walk in the park. I’m going to shoot him just to teach the son of a bitch a lesson.”

Private Clayton Cartwright took aim through his rifle’s scope and saw the crosshairs match up with the enemy’s chest. He pulled the trigger. The enemy soldier fell down in a fit of giggles. Apparently the bullet had really tickled him.

“Did you see that?” Pvt. Cartwright asked his trench mate, Reggie.

“What the hell?”

“This is freaking me out. I’m going out there to kill that guy, I don’t care.”

“Careful!” Reggie called as Pvt. Cartwright crawled up and over the trench, stepping foot on an oddly peaceful no man’s land. He carried his rifle and bayonet to the enemy soldier who remained on his back, looking up at the clouds. Clayton reached the soldier wearing a grey uniform in contrast to the private’s own brown uniform. Private Cartwright’s bayonet cut through the grey of the cloth, but failed to pierce the soldier’s skin, blunted as though it struck stone.

“What are you doing?” The enemy looked up at his aggressor.

“I’m trying to kill you.”

“Well, would you stop? You’re ruining the uniform.”

“Why won’t you die?” Pvt. Cartwright whimpered more than questioned.

The enemy, Corporal Helmut Schmitt laughed, shielding his eyes with his hands to see the private better. “Didn’t your side hear? Death is dead.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Death died.”

“Death died? What? Are you speaking English?”

“Do you speak German?”

“No.”

“So, this must be English and I’m telling you Death- Mr. Death, the Grim Reaper, the guy with the scythe is no more. Kaput.”

“How?”

“Murder.”

“Somebody murdered death?”

“I did. Though, I wouldn’t call it murder.”

“You just did.”

“I saw the bastard creeping through no man’s land and I took my best shot and I got him right between the eyes. In my eyes I see it as the killing of an enemy combatant, but both our governments are calling it murder.”

“You killed death?” Pvt. Cartwright couldn’t believe the conversation he was having.

“I did, though, my lawyer says I should admit nothing, but, I’m proud to say it and I’d do it again. The governments are just mad they’re not getting their war, but, I know no judge is going to find me guilty of killing death. It was self defense. You Americans have the right to bear arms and use them in self defense.”

“I’m Canadian.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok. If you killed Death, why are we still here?”

“They’re counting soldiers on both sides to find out the winner. They haven’t counted me. I gotta get- haven’t you heard this?”

“News to me.”

“Your side should lose just on poor communication skills. I shot death yesterday. Haven’t you noticed we stopped shooting at you the last couple days?”

“We thought you were just being nice.”

“Being nice? In a war?”

“Or you were faking you were out of bullets to lure us into no man’s land.”

“No, there’s no need. You can’t die, I can’t die, war’s over, they just gotta count the survivors and the winner will win on a technical knockout. So, go back and tell your men to stop shooting at us, you’re messing up our shit. I was all set to have a nice cup of tea when one of your bombs dropped and blew up the kettle and stove.”

“Sorry about that.”

“My grandma sent me that tea.”

“Sorry.”

“You say sorry a lot. You are Canadian. Stop apologizing and stop shooting us.”

“Ok.”

And that brought an end to the war, but, did not bring an end to all wars in general. Nations would still wage war with each other, however, they could no longer wage it on the blood of soldiers working for less than minimum wage; now wars were even costlier, fought in auction houses and on line with the highest bidder winning the war.

People never got used to living forever, pessimism prohibited people to completely feel at ease in their immortality. Though, after a few thousand years without a single death recorded, there were noticeable signs that people were loosing up on little things like morals and ethics. All religions went bankrupt; charities were seen as lost causes; marriage contracts came with more clauses and expiry dates; and friendship came at a premium.

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12 thoughts on “The Death of Death

  1. Neville DeAngelou

    Love the concept …. love. love. love it. Not sure about all in the last paragraph … but I love it so much, I’m going to spend some time reflecting on it. Glad I ran into your post.

    Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Thank you for running into me. I hope next time is more than a hit and run, but, I do appreciate the comment. If it makes you feel any better, I am not sure about the last paragraph, either.

      Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      I am a huge fan of Catch 22. It is one of my favorite books. Why do you ask? I’d be flattered if it is because this reminded you of the great Heller’s work, but, I’d be surprised if this did, cause, Catch 22 is awesome and this short story is merely ok.

      Reply
  2. adurnablue

    I happen to like the last paragraph, it really does reflect what the human race could come to if death died. A bit alarming and hoped against, but still expected.

    Reply
  3. granbee

    This is hysterically hilarious and prodoundly sad all at the same time! I suppose that is the Peter Fulton definition of irony, right? Peter, you are getting WAY too good at this holding up all our human foibles under a very bright light while laughing your derriere off at us. You’re Canadian: aren’t you going to say you are sorry?

    Reply
  4. reader

    My task is not to compare Heller´s and your games with words. I love this book – Catch 22 – with its morbid,but unbeatable logic,so sofisticated in its cruelty. I have never read of such indisputable and irrefutable thesis ( was Einstein the first with his theory of Relativity,or Yossarian..? ) Yes,your story reminded me the story of Yoss,maybe because we still have to “fight” against contemporaryˇ”Catch 22″,that still elevates the absurdity of the standard and relegates common sense. As people have already chosen the way,Heller´s book is insurmountable.

    Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Maybe I was channeling a bit of Catch 22 as I wrote this, though it was not deliberate. Still, it’s highly possible, because I agree with what you wrote. And, Catch 22 may be the funniest book I’ve ever read, so, I hold it up as the bar I’m trying to jump my fingers over. Thank you for the comment!

      Reply
  5. Louise Jaques

    Not only is your story a bit “Catch-22,” it’s also very “Slaughterhouse-5.” Seems you have a predilection for novels with numbers in the title! In all seriousness though, this reminded me of Vonnegut’s story of Billy Pilgrim, searching for a place in time/space, though he wasn’t overly concerned about existing. Loved this Peter!

    Reply
    1. cottonbombs Post author

      Louise! If I’m getting compared to two of my favorites (Heller and Vonnegut) I am alright with exposing myself like a sneeze I caught on my sleeve.

      Reply

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