A Painless Death
Here’s a short story I wrote for Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge – Week 56, inspired by the picture on the right there.
A shadow crossed the cave mouth. Wolf raised his immense head and eyed the newcomer. A boy, draped in the red cloak of a supplicant. Wolf gave a low growl, and the boy stepped forward. Wolf nodded his permission for him to speak.
“I am looking for a painless death, Uncle Wolf,” he said, eyes downcast, looking at the sandy ground.
“Ain’t no such thing, sweet boy,” said Wolf, his voice deeper than summer thunder. “All death causes pain, even if that pain ain’t your own. How would your ma feel?”
“She died bringing me into this world.”
“Your friends then?”
“My knife is my friend.”
“Well, then, me? It always hurts me when one of my subjects dies. What of my pain?”
The boy looked him in the eye, a brave move. “If the pain is not my own, then I do not care.”
Wolf smiled at the temerity of the lad. “Well, now, there’s a selfish point of view.”
“You say that as though selfishness is a bad thing.”
“Oh, I make no judgements, sweet boy,” Wolf said. “I ain’t a creature worthy to set his self above others. If those same others choose to lift me above ‘em, who am I to argue? But don’t ignore what I’m saying here – death is pain. That’s its … what’s the word, now … essence.”
“Pain is my friend.”
“That’s told plain by the scars that criss-cross your arms. But you’ve named two friends, now. Knife and pain are …” Wolf’s low rumble quietened as the boy’s grey eyes glared angrily at him. It would be a pity to waste such furious passion. The boy’s rage, if harnessed in the correct way, had the capability to do great good. Of course, such refinement would take time. Wolf sighed, a sound like a dying hurricane.
“Yes, you’re right,” he said. “Metaphorical friends don’t figure. Tell me then, why do you now seek oblivion, rather than, as you have before, the exquisite release of slicing your own flesh?”
“There’s no point.”
“To any of it. To existence. Or at least, if there is a point, it is to gain pleasure from the things we do, for as long as we breathe the air.”
“And now you gain no pleasure? Not even from cutting yourself?”
“None. I enjoy nothing. I do not laugh. I do not smile.”
“Does the warm sunshine not make you glad?”
“No. And before you ask, a spring breeze is nothing to me, nor the laughter of girls. All the world is empty and dying.”
“Then, sweet boy, I pity you. And … I grant you your pain-free end.”
The boy smiled, and bowed his head to await a killing blow from Uncle Wolf’s massive paw.
“My decision pleases you?” The boy nodded. “Then you can still feel pleasure. Yes, I grant you a painless death … when you are ninety-seven years old.”