Harold chanced a glimpse behind him. Bad move. His eyes filled with terror, surely taking in the sight of me – sweat dripping from my brow, feet pounding the pavement with the force of an Olympic sprinter, and a deadly stare that must be reminiscent of the way a cheetah locks on to a gazelle. He bolted. Funny how quickly even the feeblest of creatures will move when they know it is Death chasing after them.
It wasn’t his fault, his life having to end this way. Harold Smith was just a means to an end. A means to avoiding my end. He might not have realized it, but Harold’s life was precious to me. Death chases everyone. You’ve just got to be quicker than Death. Harold was fast, but not faster than me. I’d had a lot more practice outrunning Death.
The watch face that was fused to my wrist and central nervous system illuminated as I ran. Fifteen minutes. I was cutting it close this time. Tick tick tick – I could hear it counting down in my head.
Harold was slowing. Endurance was key, and this gazelle couldn’t outdo the cheetah’s pace. It’s why I’d selected him. Harold was somewhere around 40 years old. He worked a desk job in a bank and had been single for quite some time, leaving him little reason to work on his physique. This was merely natural selection at work, and I was closing in for the kill.
Kill or be killed. Society was like that generations before the Death Clocks were implemented, and not much had really changed. Everyone does it, they just don’t talk about it. Too taboo. No one ever questions Eleanor Reynolds, the first female president, who will be having her 186th birthday next month.The Death Clocks were meant to be a solution to overpopulation. Limited lifespans. Each person was granted a “generous” lifespan that was predetermined when they were born. My Death Clock had been 30 years. Generous? Hardly. Not when there’s so much more you want to accomplish. I was now more than double that age and in peak physical condition from picking up spare years by whatever means necessary.
Lifespans only had a limit until someone happened to find a loophole. By killing a person, you could quite literally take their life. Or what would have been their potential life. You take what time they have left. Harold is going to save my life.
Closing in, I could hear him panting. His lungs couldn’t take the strain. Poor Harold, maybe you should have quit smoking years ago. He ducked into an alley, hoping to lose me. No such luck, Harold. My time was running out. Time to make my move.
I knew these streets better than the poor banker, and I knew before Harold did that he’d reached a dead end. He reached the brick wall and panicked, cowering in the darkness as he turned to face me.
He didn’t even have the chance to beg.
My knife was between his ribs, Harold’s eyes glazing over in a look of pure defeat. His watch began to pulsate.. I didn’t need to look at its face to know it was flashing zeros. A grin of pure satisfaction spread across my face. He’d been easier than the rest. I was getting better at this. And I would keep getting better.
Exiting the alley, Harold’s body slumped sideways in the shadows and the sticky blade concealed in my pocket, I triumphantly tapped the screen of my watch. The screen brightened. My lips thinned to a grimace. Three years. Harold had hardly been worth it. It wouldn’t be long, and I’d be back on the hunt once more. I’d escaped this time, but Death was just over my shoulder, hot on my heels.
A short one this time! This week has felt like it’s Life, not Death, giving chase – and I’m doing everything I can to keep up. Lots of major life decisions happening all at once for me. It’s both exciting and scary.
I knew immediately from the prompt what line I wanted to use, but it took until the very last moment of the deadline for a story to form. For this story, I was inspired by “Heavydirtysoul” by Twenty One Pilots.
“Death inspires me like a dog inspires a rabbit.”
Give it a listen. You won’t be disappointed.