I have a... peculiar hobby. I mean, I guess you could call it a hobby, though it’s probably more of a habit of mine. Before I tell you what it is, let me tell you a bit about myself.
My name is Jackson. Don’t worry about a last name, you don’t need one. I’m not famous or anything, so a last name isn’t important. Anyways, I have always loved doing risky stunts. You know those stunts that can be dangerous, potentially life threatening? Yeah, those stunts. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always loved to put my life at risk just to get a cheap thrill out of it. It’s probably a pride thing, but either way, I just never could get enough of them. I was that kid who would throw caution to the wind and partake in the most idiotic and pointless stunts just to fuel my ego.
Now, of course I had my fair share of injuries as a child. Broken arms, broken legs, cracked ribs, chipped teeth, pretty much anything that could be broken without being directly life threatening, I broke it. I was the envy of all the kids at school. Everybody wanted to be cool and do the stunts that I did, but the adults just looked at me as being totally reckless. One teacher even went as far as to call me a complete and total idiot. I didn’t care what they thought. As long as I was happy, what they thought of me wasn’t a priority of mine. I mean, who cares what they thought anyways, right?
I digress; the point of me writing this is actually about something that happened to me on that hot summer day in July of 1999. I had been riding my bike in the street, pulling off unimpressive wheelies and bunny hops, when my foot got caught in the chain of my bike. I stumbled over, taking my bike with me in the process, only to lock eyes with an oncoming truck. I screamed, dreading what was about to happen, only to open my eyes to... nothing. No truck, no car, no anything. I was confused, as I was positive that I had just seen the front of a very large black truck. Not only that, but the street was suddenly lifeless. Not a single sign of human life could be seen in any direction of me. This was even more dumbfounding than the truck vanishing, as this street was one of the busiest in town, especially at this time of day.
I got my foot free from my bike chain, and stood up. A stinging pain jolted through my body as I applied pressure to my previously trapped ankle. It wasn’t broken, luckily, but it still hurt to walk on for days after the incident.
I looked around me, searching everywhere my eyes could reach for something, anything in the surrounding area. It still amazes me to this day, how everything just seemed to vanish completely. At first, I thought to myself, ‘Am I dead?’
My mind filled with fear at the thought that I had actually just been hit by a car, and that I was alone simply because I had died.
That thought was short lived however, and I could hear the sound of heavy footsteps coming from behind me. I turned and came face to face with what looked to be a man, about mid-thirties, approaching me. He was dressed in a fine black suit, and in his right hand he held a cane. The cane was all black as well, except for the raven atop it, which was a dark purple.
My first thought was that he had gone to church and had just gotten out, but I suddenly felt very stupid for thinking this, as it was Thursday, in the middle of the day. I questioned silently to myself as to why he was wearing an all-black suit in the middle of a hot summer day. It had to be at least 110 degrees outside, and yet, this man was dressed in all-black attire. The man looked young, no more than 33 at the most. His hair was neatly fixed to the side. That was when I noticed his smile. A row of perfectly white teeth flashed a devilish grin in my direction. His teeth seemed to shine from the light of the burning sun. His eyes, however, held no light in them.
They were, in a way, dead, devoid of all human life, or any life for that matter. They were frightening, despite the fact that they held nothing within them. They were simply black orbs. Lifeless, soulless, black orbs.
“You really shouldn’t be playing so dangerously like that young man. You could get quite hurt doing stunts like that.”
“Why shouldn’t I do stunts? It’s fun!”
Now, do understand I was only 10 at the time of this event, so the child in me prevailed in choosing the words that I would say to this man.
“Why shouldn’t you? Well my dear boy, there’s a very, very good reason as to why you shouldn’t be so reckless,” he said as his smile widened and his hand made a waving motion.
“You see my dear boy, every time that you do a stunt that dangerous; you’re playing a game of life and death. In addition to that, every time that you survive an encounter like what happened with the truck, you’re not only playing with Death itself, but you are mocking him. I want to show you something.”
The man snapped his bony fingers, and in an instant, we were no longer on my neighborhood street. We were in some sort of Victorian age hotel room. In it sat a man, or rather, several men, all gathered round a large oak table.
In one of the men’s hand, was a Colt pistol. The men were drunk, so it was hard to understand what they were babbling about through their slurred speech, but I did pick up something about a game they called, “Cheating Death”.
In all reality, it was Russian roulette, but this game had a bit of a twist to it. Instead of just having one turn with the pistol, each man had two. Meaning that you were not only mocking death, but in a way, you were cheating him. Thus the name, “Cheating Death”.
One of the men, who was particularly drunk, shouted out to the Heavens, “I don’t fear you! I’ll never fear you! May all praise me, he who cheated Death!”
The man was clearly confident in his ability to survive the game, but overconfidence is a very dangerous quality for humans to have. The man died on the first shot.
Suddenly, we were back in my neighborhood, but it was night time. The street was dark, lighted only by whatever lights the people on the block had on their porches. I stared into the inky blackness of the still and silent night, only to find the man, now shrouded in darkness, his features covered by night. No matter how much I focused my eyes, I could no longer make out the man’s face. With each step I took towards him, he got further and further away.
Just before he vanished from my sight, I heard his voice echo on the very wind itself:
“Don’t cheat Death, or Death will cheat you.”
His voice was now low and menacing. He spoke as if he was foreshadowing some traumatic event or some fulfillment of some ancient prophecy. Of course, in the mind of a 10 year old, none of this seemed too odd. I was beginning to think that it had really all just happened, when I woke up drenched in a cold sweat from the intense experience.
The next day, I was riding my bike on my street, when I got my foot caught in the spokes of my back wheel, after unsuccessfully attempting a wheelie. I stumbled into the street, and came face to face with a truck heading straight for me. The truck stopped mere inches from my face. The man helped me up, and offered me a smile before getting into his car and driving away. Just as he did, he turned to me and revealed his black, soulless eyes.
“You should be careful doing stuff like that out here. You’re cheating death with that kind of recklessness.”
You’re probably going to hate me for telling you this, but that too, was just a dream.
About five years after the dreams, I was once again at my usual antics with my dangerous stunts. I still don’t know what compelled me to have the idea I thought of next, but somehow, the idea that I could make a game out of the stunts I was pulling popped into my head. At that point, I had completely forgotten about my dreams from before. I called the game, “Cheating Death”.
The objective of the game was to pull off a dangerous stunt and while doing so, mocking “Death” as you went about doing your stunt. Nobody joined me, but several came to watch. All of them cheering and yelling things like, “Nothing can stop him, not even Death!”
One day, April 13th, 2004 to be precise, I happened to glance out to my adoring audience of fans, only to find that something was... off about one of the people.
One boy, who was positioned at the far back of the crowd of people, was looking at me with a look that I can only describe as sympathetic, like he felt pity for me for some bizarre reason. I ignored him, and heard the crowd of people yelling, “Jackson cheated Death! He beat Death!”
Well, overconfidence is a very dangerous thing to have, and just as I believed the statement in my head, I lost my balance and crashed to the ground in defeat.
I broke three bones that day, and the doctors say that it was a miracle of God that I am still alive. I have to agree. Needless to say, I quit my stunt career thereafter.
It’s now 2015 and I currently can no longer walk. My legs mysteriously stopped working last year and had to be amputated. Last month, the doctors informed me that I had cancer. They gave me three months to live at the most. Well, a month has gone by, and the doctors tending to me came into my room last night. They told me they had some bad news.
“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the treatment hasn’t helped slow the cancer. In fact, it sped it up somehow. I’m sorry to tell you this, but you have less than a week to live.”
As they walked out of my room, I saw one of the doctors turn to me and look me dead in the eyes. His eyes—they were soulless, black orbs.
At about midnight, I was awakened by the sound of heavy footsteps outside of my room. I heard the door open and close. I didn’t need to wonder what would happen next.
I never did see his face, but even as the tall, mangled shadow crept towards my hospital bed, I understood who it was. He whispered three little words in my ear before I flat lined:
“Nobody cheats Death.”
Cheating Death is not impossible, but it does come at a heavy price. It is a risky game, and it can only yield failure or worse. I recommend you don’t go trying to cheat Death, but there are some among you who will still attempt this. I assure you it’s futile, because nobody cheats Death.
Nobody... cheats... me.