tender embrace

Flash Fiction

This week, another redo. I promise to bring you something fresh next week.

But first, I’d like to revisit one of my favorite short stories. It’s simple and quick, with a nice little reveal at the end. I like the punchiness of it.

I made only minor edits to the original. Enjoy.

tender embrace

“You’re mucking it all up,” he said.

“That’s a point of view,” she replied.

“No, that’s a fact.”

She sighed. “I forget how difficult it is for your kind to distinguish perception from reality.”

“Perception is reality,” he said.

“Thank you for making my point.”

He opened his mouth to speak and then thought better of it. After a moment’s reflection, he wagged his index finger and said, “None of that. None of your riddling. I’ll not allow you to turn this into a war of words.”

She smiled benevolently at him. “What sort of war would you prefer, sir?”

He blustered, his hands forming fists and his cheeks turning red. Along the left side of his forehead, just above the eyebrow, the thick thread of a single vein could be seen. It looked ready to burst.

He held a book in his right hand. Reflexively, he lifted it and began to sift through its pages.

“That trinket will do you no good here, sir,” she said casually.

“Trinket? Why, this is–”

“I know full well what it is. I don’t come to your home and insult your intelligence. I’ll thank you to show me the same courtesy.”

“No,” he said. “You merely come to my home and kill people.”

It can be so difficult to explain to a human, she thought. “I don’t kill.”

He hefted the book before his face with two hands as though its weight required a double grip. “I said in the cutting off of my days,” he read, “I shall go to the gates of the grave: I am deprived of the residue of my years.”

She made a small gesture and the book lifted out of his hands. He stared at it, awed and terrified. She made a second gesture and the book closed on its own and floated to her.

“What makes you think I’m the one who deprives you?” she asked.

His eyes remained transfixed on the book.

“This,” she said looking down at it. Her fingertips ran along the leather spine. “Yes, this is sacred. This is truth. This is so much more and so much less than your kind understands. What it says about me most of all. Sir, answer me, why do you blame me? Why seek me out? Why try to stop me from performing my duty?”

“You are the enemy of man,” he said. “You must be stopped.”

She smiled at him again, not unkindly. “Let me ask you a question. You say you sought me out?”

“Yes.”

“To stop me?”

“Yes.”

“Under what circumstances would I meet with a man, face-to-face?”

He recoiled in shock. “No . . .”

She moved forward and placed a hand on his shoulder. Looking gently into his eyes, she said, “Yes, my dear, sweet, noble man. Yes. It is already done, else you would not be here.”

And then Death wrapped her arms around him and held him tight in her tender embrace.

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