The Night I Saw The Reaper – Part 2

The first taste of sweet, musky whiskey burned the back of my throat as I took a sip. The heat that spread out through my chest was matched by that slowly climbing up my legs from the fire.
After voicing a very satisfied sigh of appreciation for the peaty taste of the malt, I turned to my companion in the opposite chair.
“You know, if there’s anything finer than a good glass of whiskey after a journey like that, I’ve yet to find it. Have you come far?”
The old man turned to me slowly and it took a second or two for his eyes to focus.
“No, not far lad. I live locally. I have done these past seventy three years. I was born in the hospital in Salisbury and I’ve lived in this village ever since.”
“Wow” I replied, “that long in this one place? You must have seen a lot of changes in that time. What’s the name of this place anyway? I didn’t get to see much of it what with the storm and everything.”
“Nomansland” said the old man.
“Really? Nomansland? That’s awesome” I replied with a smile. “My name is Peter, by the way” and with that, I leaned forward and held out my hand to shake. As the old man raised his hand to grasp mine, I noticed a slight shake along his arm, as though the effort of raising it was taxing.
“Call me Bill” he said.
“Nice to meet you Bill” I responded.

We sat for a while, Bill contemplating the fire and lost in his own world. I tried to imagine the thoughts going through his mind – what images were being played on his internal cinema screen? What lost lanes of memory were his feet leading him down?
I heard a noise behind me, and turning, I saw the man and woman who were sat at the table as I arrived were leaving. I glanced toward the bar, and the barman was nowhere to be seen. Out in the back room, I assumed, or maybe gone to make sure my room was prepared. As I turned back towards the fire, the old man – Bill – started to talk.

“I’ve been a bad man you know. I’ve done some terrible, terrible things. I’ve reveled in the evil in men’s hearts, I’ve taken pleasure in destroying that which is beautiful, and I’ve never regretted a single thing. Until tonight. Tonight I wish I could go back and right those wrongs. Hell, I wish I could go back and relive my life. If I had known then, what I now know, about what waits for me out there tonight, I would have been a different man.”

I looked at him and I wasn’t too sure what to say. He had spoken quietly, and his eyes had not left the fire, so I was unsure if he was addressing me or just speaking aloud. I couldn’t help but glance at the pub door, and then turn back to him and say “What do you mean? What does wait for you?”
“My end. My doom. My death.” Bill replied.
“What? What do you mean your death?” I said.
“I’ve been told. Tonight, when I leave here, because of my past misdeeds, my life will be forfeit.”
I couldn’t quite get my head round this. Was someone going to kill him? Who’d told him this? I wanted to think of him as some sort of crank, brain muddled by too many drinks, but the way he spoke to me it was clear he was utterly convinced of what he was telling me. I tried to be bluff and dismiss his worries.
“Nonsense” I said, “who told you such a thing? Unless someone is planning on doing the job themselves, how can they know when you’re going to die?”
With those words he slowly turned his head toward me and said “He’s told me he’s coming for me. He told me himself. Thirty three years ago, when I committed what is probably the most wicked act in my wretched life, he came to me and told me that tonight would be the end of me, and he would see to it personally.”
I was getting quite freaked out now, because although the words he was saying sounded like a joke, or the build up to some punchline, I could see from the faint gleam of sweat on his brow and the minute shakes wracking his body he was genuinely scared – maybe even petrified. Despite the warmth of both the drink in my hands and the fire in front of me, I started to feel a chill, starting at my neck, covering my shoulders and slipping it’s way down my spine.
I leaned forward in my chair again, my eyes locked on his, feeling the breath in my lungs retreating as though they didn’t want me to ask the question – but ask I must. I had to know.
“Who? Who would see to it personally, Bill?”

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