The shiver began at his navel and radiated out like a pebble tossed in a pond. Uneasy sensations swept through the boy’s torso, down his limbs to tingle his fingertips, rattle his teeth, curl his toes. Just when he thought there was nowhere else to go, the shiver shook the earth at his feet, shattering a rock as though crystal and dislodging several worms.
“Am I dead?” he asked no one in particular.
“No.” The voice came as even more of a shock than his shivering, which for now had departed.
“Then what?” he asked, undeterred.
“You are changing. You are… how does one put it politely, on the move.”
The boy hung his head as though ashamed, seeing his shiver had cracked open the ground, into which he descended. This was not a plummet by any means, rather, a falling leaf caught by a breeze.
He watched as the light of the sun he’d grown so used to shrank back into a pinprick star. This, too, soon vanished, leaving him all alone in a smothering darkness. Every sensation of movement had gone.
The boy imagined himself to have fallen asleep because he woke to a fog and his shivering having returned tenfold. His arms shook like a hummingbird’s wings. His head vibrated like a shaken cocktail mixer. A grey gloom pulsed around him as if to help, like the sponge packing around a box containing a priceless vase.
“All out of questions?” came the voice again. Definitely female, and smooth as velvet, it coerced the boy with uncomplicated kindnesses.
“Not a one? You are an unusual young man! Most of your kind are so flummoxed all they can do is ask questions. Most of which I cannot answer,” she added, as an afterthought.
The boy placed a hand on his tummy. He grimaced and chewed his lip.
“Sure?” The voice was almost in his ear. “It is my burden to explain the unexplainable.”
“Well, I suppose there’s one thing.”
“Anything, dear boy. You shall have an eternity to dwell upon the answer, as has all mankind. For no one, not one soul, enters the realm above or below without first passing through purgatory. You might as well ask something to tide you over until you’re judged.”
The boy felt a stale wind assail his nostrils, heard the smacking of lips. It sparked something he just had to know.
“Tell me, Death, if that is who you are, was it the kippers or the eggs?”
Thank you for reading
Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.