(From a dream I had after eating a bag of pistachios after nine o’clock …)
My wife and I still live, alone and happy, in the same big two story house we raised our three children in. It’s really too big for just the two of us, and at some point, when we’re further into our later years, we’ll downsize and move into something smaller. People shrink as they age, as they diminish, making things like houses and cars seem even bigger and more imposing. But for now, our home is the same house we’ve occupied for the past 34 years.
The two of us were asleep in our bed in the master bedroom on the far side of the upper level, when I was awakened by our dog, a Gordon setter named Max, thirteen years old but still fit and vital. It was just a single distant yelp, probably directed at a squirrel or one of the great horned owls that have taken up residency in the hollowed-out cedar tree in our side yard. I was surprised I could even hear Max, given that it was just a single yelp from the other end of the lower level of the house. But then I could smell the presence of another, my long-time nemesis, through the furnace vents, and I knew it was him, that he’d transformed himself into a vapor and that within a minute or so he’d be in our room, standing over our bed, ready to take us.
I quickly shook my wife by her shoulders. “Deb,” I said, low enough so only she could hear me. “Wake up.”
“Arfglub,” she murmured, still sleeping.
“Deb,” I said, “he’s here.”
“Oh, shit,” she said, ripping the blankets off of her and getting out of bed on her side at the same time I got out on mine. We both kicked into gear and quickly and quietly executed what we’d been practicing for the past four weeks, since the last time. We both grabbed the stuffed pillows we kept stashed under the bed and used them to replace us in bed, pulling the blankets over them. Then we ducked into the bathroom that was attached to the master bedroom. I turned off the overhead light we always used as a night light so I could find my way without stumbling over anything on my way to one of my several nightly trips to relieve myself, and we hid in the walk-in shower stall, behind the tiled walls, still in our night clothes, me in my boxer briefs and a t-shirt, Deb in her panties and t-shirt.
Sure enough, about only thirty seconds after getting in the shower, we heard the door of our bedroom creak open, and we could hear the soft shuffle of his feet across our hardwood floor. Then we could hear him, from the side of our bed, reciting some poem, I couldn’t understand it because it was all in Latin, over what he thought was the form of our sleeping beings. Then, the poem apparently over, he started laughing that diabolical laugh of his. I wanted to see this so I crept behind the half-opened bathroom door and through the crack between the hinges, I watched as his torch ignited. In the light from the torch, I could see him clearly, his face wrinkled and green, with dark cavities where his eyes were supposed to be, his black robe over his head and falling to the floor. A long and wrinkled arm reached out from under his robe, and I could see his bony fingers reach down and grab the corner of the blankets. Grinning that maniacal grin of his, he pulled back the blankets to reveal nothing but the inert and lifeless pillows.
He gasped, making an audible hissing sound, and clenched his bony fingers into a green fist. “Curse you, Gourdoux!” he said, shaking his fist down towards the pillows.
I couldn’t help but laugh from my vantage point behind the bathroom wall. He spun and turned towards me, hissing loudly.
“So, Gourdoux,” he said, “you have outwitted me again. I must pay you my dues.”
“Never mind that,” I said, unable to control the laughter erupting from deep down inside of me. “For something as scary as Death is supposed to be, you are just ridiculous. Oh, and by the way, just a friendly fashion tip: lose the robe. They haven’t worn those since the Spanish Inquisition.”
“Ah, enjoy yourself, Gourdoux. For well you know, you may have won this round, but I most certainly will triumph when the match is over.”
“That’s what you think,” I said, adding as I reached into my boxer briefs and pulled out my Smith and Wesson. “It seems that you’re forgetting, Wisconsin is now a Castle state.”
“A gun!” he gasped. “I thought you were just happy to see me.”
“I am,” I said. “I’m happy to see you dead. Now I lay you down to sleep.” I raised the sites of my .45 and fired three times.
There, by my bedside, Death lay in a pool of green blood.
I cracked open a pistachio as I dialed the police on my cell phone.