Before passing through the veil to whatever world lies beyond life, most people can hear the whispers of the dead. For the old and for the younger soon to perish, the barriers between life and the next world already begin to crumble months before their departure.
Death–who did not always appear as a cloaked wraith as much of folklore and imagination would suppose–visited the soon-to-be-diseased precisely one month before their demise. It was merely a courtesy call to inform them, whether or not they believed Death or not. A courtesy call so that they might get their affairs in better order. If it was amusing, sometimes Death would informed those not long for the world of what the cause of their death would be and then give a chilling hair-raising chuckle (it was fortunate indeed that mortals were deaf to the noises of Death for most of their life) as the hapless mortal strove to evade Death.
Such was the case of one Alberto Smith: a crotchety eighty-two year old man with arthritis. Precisely on March 13, 1999, Death paid him a visit while he sat in his moldy leather armchair, slurping oolong tea.
“Hello, Alberto Smith,” Death whispered down Alberto Smith’s back. His breath embodied the essence of Death: cold and still.
“Demon! Evil spirit! Hallucination!” the man shouted wildly waving his arms about. “Be gone! I am but an innocent old man enjoying oolong tea.”
“I can never be gone, so long as Earth is broken,” Death replied. “You would be wise to listen, Alberto Smith. Heed my warning. On April 13, 1999 you will die of food poisoning.”
“I-I’m dreaming, hallucinating,” the man stuttered.
“Dismiss me as you well,” Death said, his ancient voice echoing and grating like stone against metal. “That will not stop me from coming for you when the time has come.”
With that, Death vanished to pay another person a visit who was doomed to perish in a car crash.
Alberto Smith chuckled. Death pay him a visit indeed! He proceeded to finish his oolong tea with a relish until the cup was drained. Laughing off the encounter, Alberto Smith continued with his life of equally grouchy cats and soap operas.
April 6—prior a week to the 13th—arrived. The old man had nearly forgotten his hallucination when he began to hear voices. His father, his mother, his younger brother, and his deceased fiancee all dead. The codger trembled and beads of sweat formed on his forehead. It was not happening. If he thought so, it would be true.
But the voices continued to haunt Alberto Smith up to April 13, 1999. The voices drove old Smith mad and he stopped eating. The only nourishment he consumed was oolong tea and a tea biscuit.
Knowing that the threat of Death was real, Alberto Smith fasted on the day of his death. No food or drink passed his lips in his waking hours.
Feeling immensely pleased that he had managed to evade Death, Alberto Smith took a long bath before turning in. As Alberto Smith tossed and turned, Death, furious with the impertinent mortal, sent the man a dream. In the dream, Alberto Smith rose from his bed, famished. He prepared a glass of oolong tea and drank. Unknown to him, the leaves, which originated from the time of the bubonic plague—for Death was not bound by time—had been infected with a deathly bacteria.
In his dream-like sleep walker trance, Alberto Smith drank the infected tea. The bacteria took effect quickly. He fell and the mutant bacteria (spurred by a bovine-poultry origins) took effect.
For ten minutes, he labored under chills and fever before the mahogany spots appeared like splotches of paint. Like spilled water, the cyanosis spread over Alberto Smith’s face as he gasped for breath. Within an hour, as eleven fifty-nine passed, he died.
Death smiled. Let that be a lesson that none can evade Death.