Have you ever wanted to be famous? To have your name; your face plastered across billboards, magazines, and television screens worldwide? I, for one, have had this very exact prospect as a dream since as far back as I can remember. If you haven’t experienced this feeling, then you can stop lying to yourself. There is no exception. Whether you’re a middle class worker, a vagabond occupying a filthy street, or a world leader; everyone has felt the urge, the lust to be a star. And trust me, it’s one hell of a rush.
You can’t imagine the euphoria, the sheer bliss that comes with being as recognizable as the President of the United Sates. When entire flocks of civilians pile around you in some sort of idyllic and hypnotic trance, is just about the greatest feeling. I can’t express in words just how powerful I feel when a family approaches me with sad pleas of how I’m their final last resort in saving their child.
I’m not exaggerating one bit; being in control of an entire family’s future just feels damn good. But who has time for lowly peasants when presidents and celebrities require the services of the world’s greatest doctor? Oh, and the perks of being a superstar are in short, magnificent; absolutely and spectacularly wonderful. The drugs, all potent and of the highest caliber in the world, the girls, only the hottest supermodels and porn stars around. Life’s all good when your godfather is Death himself, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.
“Worry not, Mr. President, your daughter will make more than a full recovery.” I pulled back my custom made surgical latex gloves, and tossed them casually into the hospital’s waste bin. The presidential family rejoiced and wept in celebration of the operation’s success.
“Doctor Zahiir. You have my greatest thanks, and I will make sure you are paid whatever amount you desire. And if you require a different type of payment, then I can certainly make an exception.” Yet another world leader I could ask for “favors”.
“Of course, Mr. Obama.” I called for nurses to resuscitate his daughter, Sasha, and proceeded to clean myself up.
“Call me Barack, I insist.” I shook hands with the most powerful man in the world, and smiled brightly for everyone in the wing to see, including Obama’s family members and the media. Only the best for Hasan Zahiir. But what use was it when I was already (arguably) the most famous person in the world? The rest of my time at the hospital went by as a relative blur, between autographs, interviews, and false promises. Before I knew it, my entourage and I were out past the doors of the hospital, being bombarded by hungry reporters and desperate families.
“Please heal my daughter!”
“Mr. Zahiir how did the operation go?”
“My family is in need!”
“How did you get to be such a great doctor?”
The questions were always the same. As were my answers; willful ignorance of those crying out for help, for my help, was one of my many talents. My world-class limousine awaited me, along with a plethora of “parasites” as I liked to call them. In short, they were young and attractive women, all hoping to get even a slight taste of my wealth. These parasites seemed to follow me no matter what, so, eventually, one just gets used to it.
“You wouldn’t be happening to stay here in town would you?” My favorite pick of the parasites and I remained alone in the vehicle, save for the driver. She was a young thing, not possibly a day over eighteen. Two orbs the color of a pool of pure milk-chocolate stared up at me in an inquisitive manner.
“Of course dear, I even have a little cottage around here.” I stroked the girl’s obsidian and curly hair, and smiled. The driver pulled into an estate I had bought a few years ago, a quiet little house. A heavily decorated iron gate surrounded the whole area, almost like a shroud of some sort.
“A little cottage? More like a mansion!” The girl, whose name I still hadn’t bothered remembering, shouted in joy. How it pleased me when little people got excited over something I found rather ordinary. The rest of the evening was filled with mindless indulgence. Yet I have to say, it was a good night. I remember little, save for a bottle of scotch worth more than a third world country. The morning after wasn’t really what you’d call exceptional. First of all, I awoke with a distressing headache, which I attributed to the extremely expensive alcohol. Second, my companion was gone, along with one of my many credit cards. She could have the whole account for all I cared, since my only really big investment was in my offshore Swiss bank account.
“You’re just going to let her steal your fortune, then?” A familiar voice disrupted the morning’s silence.
“Even I must give a bit of charity now and then.” I got up from my bed, and faced my godfather, Death. Rummaging around for my clothes, I wondered, as always, how he got into my houses without me noticing.
“Is that so? A wise man once told me, ‘charity is the stairway to salvation for the rich’.” Death sat in one of my armchairs and proceeded to pour himself some of the million-dollar drink. One would think he’d look like a walking skeleton or specter of some sort, but my godfather looked like an average human. He had the appearance of a middle-aged man, with great hair and one of the greatest beards I had ever seen. His eyes were the only facets that gave away his supernatural existence. From afar they seemed to be perfectly normal, but when anyone made eye contact with him, they turned into small dark voids, seemingly sucking in light itself. As for why he was my godfather, and not one of my parents’ friends or relatives, it apparently had something to do with my dad making some sort of deal.
“It’s not like I need salvation when I have you,” I stated briefly, and called for a maid to tidy up the house.
“True as that may be, child, you must remember to never cross me again, as you have in the past.” His voice changed significantly, now deeper and quite a bit more intimidating.
“I have learned from my past mistakes, and am in no hurry to displease you, sir.” The word “sir” barely rolled off my tongue. I wasn’t used to answering to anybody except myself, but when your superior controls the flow of life itself, there’s not really any room to argue. My phone vibrated from somewhere on my bed, and I quickly reached for it.
“Hello?” I answered. On the other end of the line was a guy speaking in heavy Arabic.
“Doctor Zahiir? My name is Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. I am in dire need of your services.” His King’s English wasn’t the best, but I could still understand it.
“What service do you require exactly?” To have the King of Saudi Arabia on my side sounded pretty interesting to me.
“It is my daughter, for she has fallen ill with the most deadly of sicknesses.” The man was clearly distressed, and as such would be an easy target.
“Very well, Mr. Abdullah. Give me an address and I will be there as soon as possible.” I looked over at Death, who was giving me an enigmatic look.
“Looks like there’s no rest for the wicked.” He smirked and waved his hand at me, before vanishing out of sight.
“Heart rate still rising! Do something for Christ’s sake!” My scalpel was violently shaking in my hands, adorned with the purest of bloods. What was I doing here? Where did all this blood come from? Did I do it? Did I cause this angel to spill her crimson ichor? Yes, it was me who cut her open, but why? These thoughts swirled through my brain in a maddening frenzy, a flurry of self-inflicted anguish. Her heart rate was pushing 200, as my team and I struggled to stitch her back up.
“205! 210!” The nurse beside me was screaming frantically, as if the louder she was, the more likely it was the girl would make it. I knew I had to disobey Him once more, anything to save this girl from her doom. I took a glance behind me and saw Death, looking at me in a most serious way. Then time stopped. Literally. Every drop of blood falling to the floor now stood still, like frozen scarlet rain.
“Don’t do it kid.” His voice was full of what may have been regret, or disappointment. He wore a look of shame, and perhaps a bit of sorrow.
“Please. Just this once, and I won’t ask for anything again, I swear. Let me take this girl as my wife, and we’ll live far away, in poverty for all I care!” The situation was drastic, and Death knew it. With my statement, his disappointed looks sank even further. “You know, I think I’ve stopped caring!” I reached for Death’s instrument, a needle and thread, and began to sew the girl’s life back together. The supernatural tool pulled every single drop of blood lost back into her, and got rid of anything that could have possibly harmed her. Time started to flow again.
“Heart rate dropping steadily. It looks like she’ll make it.” My operating team celebrated, and called Abdullah into the room. Even while under anesthetics and in a hospital bed, she was still the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my short existence.
“Though it breaks my heart, I am a man of my word, Doctor.” King Abdullah walked over to me, sporting an untamed beard and a lavish suit. “You have my permission to marry my daughter.” He shook my hand, and embraced me like a father.
“I will treasure her like heaven itself.” We stepped out of the room to allow the girl to be wheeled out to a more comfortable environment. Yet, when I turned to look at my future father-in-law, I realized I was alone, and not in a hospital anymore. The room I was in was like a warehouse, larger than my eyes could distinguish. And there were lightbulbs. Lightbulbs of every shape, size, and color lined the floor and the wall behind me. Some were dim, some were flickering, and some were as bright as the sun itself.
“This is the room of existence, as I like to call it.”
“Godfather, where am I?” I asked earnestly.
“I already told you, this is the room of existence. What it is, is a whole different story. Each lightbulb is a life, Hassan. When a light is extinguished, so is the life behind it.” He crouched down, and poked one of the lights, causing it to flicker.
“I don’t understand. Why would you bring me here?” Fear swelled deep within me as I looked at the only family I had ever had. He was a complete stranger.
“This is little Marie Gutierrez, age seven, and future president of Canada.” Her lightbulb was one of the brightest, far outshining any of the nearby lights. “The brighter the light, the longer the life, do you understand?” he asked gravely.
“Yes, I understand.” I nodded, still extremely confused. He motioned for me to follow him, and so I did.
“Take a look at this light. This light belongs to Hadjara Abdilazīz, President Abdullah’s daughter.” The light, if you could call it that, was dimmed to a weak glow, only a step away from being completely out. “Because of your actions, here is what happened.” Her light bulb immediately started growing brighter and brighter. Like the crack of a whip, or the sound of gunfire, the bulb exploded. The little shards of glass and shrapnel seemed to disappear, leaving no trace behind of the bulb. “When someone avoids their time, they surpass death, and as such, become immortal.” He gave me a final look of sheer bitterness and betrayal, before turning around. “Take a look at this bulb.” My feet moved autonomously as I stared at the light. It was one of the brighter ones, not as bright as a child’s, but luminescent in its own extraordinary way.
“Please. I’m your godchild! Can’t you make an exception for once? If you take me back, you can disown me and never help me again! I just want to live!” Panic arose deep within me as tears of fear swelled in my eyes.
“You know I can’t allow it. You know the balance of the universe. You know how life works. Everything is just a cycle that has to be repeated. To break the cycle would mean the end of it all. Even myself.” That’s when I saw it. My godfather was no longer the middle-aged man I had known all my life. He had changed. He wasn’t like a skeleton or a ghoul of some sort, but rather a… thing. Possibly the saddest creature I had ever seen. Not a demon, or an angel, but rather something in between. And then he spoke with his true voice. It chilled me to the bone, and made me want to break out in tears, except I was already crying.
“This light belongs to a boy named Hasan Zahiir, a boy who has been fought over by God and the Devil.” He grasped the lightbulb with both hands, and turned it to the left.