Looking back, Melvin first saw Death nearly 20 years ago as he sat by his nan watching her die. And so he spoke of Death frequently mainly of his fear that it was real. It was surprising then when he agreed to talk to Death after a bottle of wine with some friends after dinner.
They all sat together holding hands, calling out, Melvin offering to serve Death, and then laughed when nothing happened. Until a raging wind, so terrible, gripping and fierce whipped around the little house chastising them into silence.
Weeks passed before Melvin started to become suspicious that something wasn't right. First Mr McGregor passed on whilst mowing his lawn. Waving at Melvin he smiled, what would be his last smile, and keeled over onto his Flymo. Shocked Melvin stood there watching McGregor lie lifelessly on the grass as a shadow passed across the September sun, momentarily casting darkness all around. Two days later as he was leaving the local Spar, Melvin heard an almighty crash and saw Mrs Randhawa crushed by her till. As his pot noodle and toilet roll fell to the floor he knew this wasn't a coincidence.
After his friends started dropping like flies, choking on apples and getting run over by buses he decided enough was enough.
It wasn't long after he closeted himself away that the visits started. At first, they were just a tap tap tapping at the window, soft whispers in the air.Then he saw shadows at the edges of his vision, like pale images of the dead.
Melvin sat by the fire, his Beef and Tomato noodles growing cold and congealing as the morning edged towards dawn. At 2am the living room lights flickered and died plunging the room into darkness. Melvin checked the fuse box and reset the breaker before returning to his arm chair. It was then that he saw it, a sleek black cowl eating up all the light, bony appendages shrouded in shadows and lingering with malice.
Finally Death had come again and it sat calmly in the armchair, sickle lain across it's lap as a statement of intent. Dropping to his knees Melvin started to cry, tears rolling down his face, begging to be spared.
"Please, it's not my time! I'm only 30, please not yet. I'm too young to die." Melvin wailed.
Death laughed out loud a high pitched rattling noise that sounded like dice rolling inside it's bony chest, dry and humourless and strangely feminine.
"Die? Die? Why would I kill you? Your mine now remember. 'Death I will serve you.' When you spoke those words you pledged yourself to me, a verbal contract as such. There's a storm coming and reaping to be done. An apprentice is just what I need. Now be a sweetie and put the kettle on. The cold really gets into your bones at my age."