Paul sat in his favorite evening chair, lazily watching a movie. He was proud of himself and the work he had accomplished. All the shutters were down, and the doors were covered with plywood. He had done everything he could to arm against the coming storm and he knew it. Besides, it was only going to be a category one hurricane, maybe two at the worst. Plus it was told to make landfall north of him. All Paul expected was some wind, rain, and a little flooding that would quickly wash away.
It was poetic defiance that prompted Paul to play Steven King’s “Storm of the Century”. He had thought of putting on “Twister”, or “The perfect storm”, but they didn’t seem to fit well. “Storm of the Century” pitted a small town against a strong blizzard as the subplot. That was close enough for Paul. Paul wasn’t being reckless about the upcoming storm, either. He would periodically walk into the front room to get an update on the weather from the other TV. After a few jaunts from room to room, the weather finally caught his attention. The storm was closer now.
Paul had turned off the movie and his bravado as he focused on the scene being played out on the news. It was an incredible sight. The ocean now engulfed what had been a vast area of beachfront property. The water was now slapping the edifice of the hotel towers. Each crash grew stronger with each consecutive wave. As the news switched to a different camera. Two palm trees were caught in the torrential winds. Their trunks bowed to and fro as if some giant, deranged, invisible cheerleader was shaking them.
All the while Paul could hear the weatherman announce the strength and direction of the storm. It had grown stronger, and was now a category four hurricane. Worst of all, it was headed right at him! Paul didn’t need to hear the Anchorman’s advice not to leave, he knew instinctively that it was too late. The shelters were open, but odds of getting to one were slim and none. Besides, Even if he was able to get to one, all the shelters in the county were only rated for a category three hurricane. No place was truly safe.
Suddenly the screen lost its picture. All that was shone was static and snow. Paul realized he was on his own now. With a strange calmness, Paul turned off the set, walked into the garage with a flashlight and turned off every breaker individually before cutting the main. There in the dark stillness of the house, Paul could hear the storm outside. The winds howled stronger than he had expected. He walked from room to room, trying to peak out from the edges of the plywood surrounding the windows with no avail. He then moved to the front door to try and peek out the spy hole. The wind licked at his ankles from beneath the door. He tried to see what was happening, but the lens was too dirty to reveal the drama being played just beyond the inch of wood. In that moment, in the darkness, Paul felt completely alone. As he headed towards the bathroom for safety, a thunk was heard at the front door.
“It must be a fallen branch or debris being blown onto the door.” He thought.
The noise came again, this time harder. A distinct rapping on the door. Paul couldn’t believe it. Someone was actually knocking on his door!
“What the hell!?!” Paul thought as he grasped the handle.
As the door opened Paul threw up his arms to defend himself. A bolt of lightning crashed right behind the person standing at the threshold. As Paul’s eyes adjusted from their unexpected assault, he realized that a man was standing patiently before him. The stranger wore a black trench coat and a wide brimmed hat to ward off the wind and rain. Paul thought it was strange that the hat had not been blow away from the fierce winds that tore down branches and tossed litter like confetti, but the thought took a back seat to his overriding sense of preservation.
“Get in here before you get killed!” Paul barked to the stranger as he yanked him in. Paul slammed the door shut behind the man and locked it tight.
“Thank you for your hospitality.” Replied the man with a strange sense of calm that didn’t fit the situation. “It’s quite blustery out there, you know.”
“Damn straight it’s blustery out there!” Snorted Paul. “That’s the beginnings of a cat. Four hurricane barreling right at us! Don’t you know this? What in the hell would you be out in such weather?”
“I was invited here.” explained the man with a polite smile as he took off his hat and coat.
Paul looked hard at the man and would’ve sworn that he had never met him before, and yet something about him seemed familiar. Paul couldn’t put his finger on it. He looked neither young nor old. His face was rather plain with no distinguishing marks, yet his skin was a unique complexion. It seemed a mix of black, or white or middle east with a dash of Native Indian thrown in for fun. He was not really that tall, either, maybe 5’9” at best. His charcoal colored casual wear didn’t help.
Finally, Paul gave up the challenge and asked him. “Do I know you?”
The man again smiled politely, and said. “We’ve seen each other in many places through the years, but we have never properly met; until now.”
Paul was on edge with the storm plowing its way towards him and was in no mood for such dancing. “Where!?!” Paul demanded.
The stranger’s shoulders slumped as he let out a sigh. “I guess it’s always going to be this way with you people.”
He took off his glasses to reveal soft coal colored eyes and said, “I was there when your grandfather was in the nursing home that September day. I was there with you and your Dad after your cousin’s high school graduation party. I was there when you held your dog in your arms for the last time in June. And I was there besides your Mother for seven hours while she lay in intensive care six years ago.”
Paul stepped back, incredulous. He couldn’t believe that this man knew his past so well. He was scared and outraged at the same time.
“How do you know all this? Paul demanded. “Who are you?”
“I am death.” Came the reply as the winds moaned outside.