Death and the Doctor (Writing Prompt)

The link from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/WritingPrompts/comments/68xdw5/wp_you_are_the_worlds_most_successful_doctor_upon/

On a dull afternoon and with little fanfare, he slipped away.

Dying met few of his expectations. In many ways, its simplicity made life itself and the fear of losing it a disappointment. Only a handful of memories flipped by in random order and of nothing particular: washing the car with the children on a Sunday, the one baseball game attended that went into extra innings when most of the stadium had trickled out to the parking lot in disappointment, snow in early May.

All of these passed by like billboard advertisements on a forgettable highway.

When he came to the place of consciousness, he did as we all do; he smiled. Not a joyous smile over a life lived or one of having avoided terrible damnation, but the smile one gives after being reminded of a struggle experienced, endured, and concluded.

“Hello, Bill,” Death said.

“Hello. I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Are you?”

Bill gazed. The dream of reality still dripped from his mind like water falling from fingers pulled from a fresh stream. “I guess so. I don’t know. Should I be?”

Death smiled, seeing Bill’s expression. “You’re still coming to. Give yourself a moment.”

Bill exhaled with relaxation and bathed in the warm glow of existence. “When do I have to go back?”

“There’s no set rule,” Death said. “Take as much time as you like. You’ll soon jump back in again. You always do.”

“I don’t feel like you normally meet with me in transition,” said Bill. “I was right the first time. This is surprising. Why are you here?”

Death extended his arms and allowed himself a slow spin in the beauty of being, a fleeting bit of freedom away from continual duty. “Your most recent life resulted in your achieving tremendous stature in your profession. Can you still remember?”

“Yes,” Bill said. “I was a surgeon.”

“You were indeed, one of the best.”

Bill smiled larger as the stream of life temporarily overflowed its banks and refreshed his memory. “It was wonderful,” said Bill. “Those looks of gratitude. I remember those the most.”

“As you should,” said Death, “as you should. You earned them, one and all. Tremendous work, Bill. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you.”

“And I want to thank you,” continued Death.

“Oh?”

“Of course.” Death paused, knowing the fate of the world below, and relished the warmth around him for one moment more. “Your hand postponed my own from coming down. So often my character is misjudged. I find no pleasure in seeing despair in those eyes, but no one wants to admit to my having sympathy.”

“Wasn’t there a song about that?”

“I think the context was a little different,” said Death with a scoff.

“Why didn’t you visit me?” Bill asked. “After all I had heard during that life, in that line of work, they convinced me of your existence, despite my upbringing. When you never appeared, I wondered if perhaps you were mad.”

Death paused, knowing his own time was up. Those in pain now called. “I couldn’t bear it. When things are ugly, I despise removing beauty.”

Bill felt the twinge of sadness in his friend and felt it in himself too. “I know. I forgive you.”

“I must go now, but again, I thank you. Have you decided on your next life?”

“I have,” said Bill.

“What will it be?” asked Death.

“I’ll be a composer. A musician of some kind.” Bill smiled, seeing the memories of his future life already falling into the hands of destiny. “I’ll make music in a time where it will be forever preserved. It will be beautiful, and it will last well beyond my lifetime. It’ll be a beauty that can stay.”

Death smiled with sincerity. “It’s wonderful music, Bill. Truly. I’ll visit you this time.”

Bill filled with the warmth of being. “Yes, I know. I look forward to it.”

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