Left, Right or Straight

He turned back for a last glimpse of his home. It was a cold night.

His home would be in mourning tomorrow. He imagined the chaos when they found out what he had done. 

Crossing the village boundaries, he turned at the curve ahead. The crossroads loomed large. 

Which way should I go? Left, right or straight?

“Left,” it whispered in his ears. 

Terrified, he turned. There was no one.

Hesitant, he forged ahead. The water of the lake glistened in the moonlight. As he stepped closer, the voice murmured, “Brr! It’s cold. Imagine the chill!”

Shit! He could imagine the icy water seeping into his bones and hurting like hell. No way will I die a painful death like that by drowning!

Turning back to the crossroads, he stared at the straight path. That’s better!

The dense forest loomed ahead. A wolf’s howl made him jump. The voice whispered, “Their fangs will rip your flesh to shreds.”

Oh no! That sounds horrific. My family won’t even find me.

He almost ran back to the crossroads. The third path was a dead end, right at the edge of a rock cliff. The voice spoke up louder, “Jump. It’ll be over in an instant.”

An image of his body splattered on the jagged rocks below; spilling blood and guts made him shudder. I am not dying that way!

“So, how do you propose to die?” the voice asked, exasperated this time.

“Huh! Who’s that? And what’s it with you anyways?” he asked, straining his eyes in the darkness.

“I’m DEATH. Waiting to whisk your soul away. You do want to die, right? Although it isn’t your time yet.” 

“Of course! You’ll take me to Heaven?” he asked, curious about his fate.

“What makes you think that I’ll drop you to those pearly gates? Suicide only warrants HELL,” Death replied contemptuously.

“He..Hell?”

That’s way worse, he thought.

“Yes, vats of oil over raging fires, stones, nails, ferocious dogs with sharp teeth, burning souls, all wait to welcome you. They are always looking for a new entrant in their midst,” Death laughed.

“But why? Wh…what have I done?” he asked, clearly anguished at the thought.

“Nothing. But let’s be real. You’re a COWARD to be dying now,” Death added pragmatically.

“Damn! I don’t really want to die. But the creditors come knocking on my door each day, asking for their money. Death’s easier,” he cried.

“Hah, never!” Death muttered, loud enough to be heard.

He thought about all that he left behind. His aged mom, wife and two children who would be at the mercy of the creditors. I’ve been so selfish. Really foolish!

“Yet…,” he paused before continuing, “If it’s going to wipe out whatever I had worked for and make me burn in hell, I don’t want to go. Thank you, my friend. Ha-ha-ha. Look at the irony…Death saving life!” laughing like a crazed man, he retraced his steps. 

As the silhouette of his home slid into view, he smiled.

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