21 deaths: Day 0

The day before the day Martin S. Dillinger died was a glorious day. The day before he died, Martin S. Dillinger woke up and smelled the fresh morning air, filled with that humid rain smell he liked so much. He wished he could stay in bed just a little longer, just like he had wanted for every school day since he was 7 years old, but he knew he had to get to school on time. He got up from the bed like he always did, one foot at a time, with a smile on his face. He walked over to his bathroom and saw himself in the mirror. It was same old Martin as always. He was only slightly different to the Martin S. Dillinger who had looked at himself in the mirror the day before, but very different to the one who would look at it the next day.

 He took off his clothes and turned on the hot water in the shower. Then he threw his clothes to the laundry bin, like an all-star basketball player would do, and gloated in the satisfaction of scoring in his imagination. He enjoyed the warm temperature of the water as he rinsed the shampoo from his short, blonde hair. He watched the foam disappear through that metallic thing in the floor of the shower, and wondered why he couldn’t remember its name. He got out of the shower, only to realize he still had foam in his right arm, so naturally he got back in and rinsed himself again.

After drying himself, he walked over to the closet and quickly chose a t-shirt that reflected his mood that day. The winner was an old black shirt with a big, white 42 printed in the middle. He felt proud of that shirt, because it had appeared in his life like most precious things do, spontaneously and unannounced. He put on some beige colored pants and his usual brown, comfortable shoes. He molded his hair into his usual hair-do, and stared at it in the mirror. He grabbed his favorite after shave and rubbed it all over his face. He felt wrong; putting on after shave without actually shaving, but this was just one of the weird thoughts that coursed its way through his brain every day. The day before it he had felt guilty about using body wash instead of soap, since he had both. He felt the soap would feel unwanted and lonely.

Martin was the kind of person who always thought about others before thinking about himself. That includes non-living things like the soap, or his pillows. Martin thought it was unfair if he slept only on top of one of the pillows. After all, the pillows were there making an effort to make him comfortable. Before every action, Martin considered the effect it may have had on the people surrounding him. This, his mother told him, was not always the best way to go around life, but Martin didn’t care. He liked making a difference by not thinking about himself all the time.

He went over to the other room, where his mother was watching an early morning TV show, the one where the blonde woman talks about how a bear escaped into the suburbs the day before. He kissed his mother before leaving for school. His mother, as always, asked if he had had breakfast yet. Martin said yes, which is curious because he had actually not had breakfast that particular morning. He went back to his room to grab his car keys and headed downstairs and into the kitchen. There he looked for something fast to eat before driving to school. After not finding anything, he grabbed his backpack and got out of the house.

Martin got in his ’91 Spirit that his parents had gotten him for his birthday almost a year ago when he turned 18. It was still the same car that had been in his parking space the day before, and definitely the same car that would be there the day after. The smell of old plastic and oil made him remember long car trips during vacation. He turned the key in the ignition and started the car. The car made a low humming noise like sending the message “Monday? Not again” but started anyway.

The streets were lively with people and cars, which can be defined with the word “traffic”. It took Martin 20 minutes to get past the third traffic light, mostly due to an accident in the right lane. He was nervous of being late, as always, but he still had more than enough time to get to school. His car had no CD player, so he popped in one of his father’s old tapes and let the sounds from old guitars take his soul away. That’s actually what Martin thought as he listened to that tape, and I could not have phrased it better.

He got to school with fifteen minutes to spare, so he went to the cafeteria to grab something to eat before math class. He bought a pack of donuts and started munching away while he walked to the classroom. He found it hard to eat while climbing the stairs leading to the second floor, so he stopped eating for exactly ten seconds before resuming his munch-munchery. Martin thought the only bad thing about donuts, was the inevitable fact that if you kept eating, they would run out eventually. Then again, he thought that was also the only good thing about fish sticks. Fish sticks, I’ll have you know, are the food that Martin hates the most, as he considers them to be the chicken nugget’s ugly cousin. Therefore, Martin had no consideration to what the fish sticks thought when he preferred to eat nuggets instead.

Martin got to the classroom just in time to hear the teacher’s lecture about how quadratic equations were probably the best thing in the world, except maybe toast.  He tried to pay attention to class while his table-mate went on about his recent visit to a far away town where he had gone for Winter break. Martin nodded and aha’ed throughout the conversation never really caring about what his temporary friend had done with his life the last holiday. This was more or less the way that Martin went through the rest of the classes of that day, except literature.

Literature was Martin’s favorite class. He listened attentively to the teacher as she ranted on about the meaning of Sartre’s writing, the poetry of Shakespeare and the hidden codes of Lemony Snicket. He avidly took notes about metaphors and synecdoche. He raised his hand to answer every single time the teacher asked a question, but was only prompted to speak twice. He did not look at his watch at all throughout the hour and a half that the class lasted, and finally when the time was over, he walked over to the teacher to discuss the topic of the day. Eventually the conversation veered to the draft of the book that Martin had handed over to the teacher the week before. She complimented him on his writing style and said he had a bright future as a writer. He felt glad that the teacher had liked it and asked for advice, which the teacher kindly gave to him for free. Martin loved free stuff.

After he got out of the classroom, his cell phone rang. He picked up the phone to hear his girlfriend’s voice on the other side of the invisible line. Eliza was Martin’s third girlfriend, and he loved her. He loved the way she talked, the way she walked, and the way she kissed. He particularly liked her kisses, which were full of feeling and love. Martin thought the only bad thing about kisses, was the inevitable fact that he would have to stop them to do homework or go to sleep. “You have to have balance” he thought. After setting a meeting place, Martin went to find Eliza in a local park, where they sat on a bench and talked about the day while enjoying a sandwich Eliza had prepared for the both of them. It was apparently made with meat bathed in fat, and this made Martin worry about his health. This, he would find out later, was a completely rational, and not at all paranoid preoccupation.

They kissed periodically, almost measuring the time between each kiss, and although this was not done voluntarily, it did seem like a long time between each one. When it got late, Martin drove Eliza to her house and kissed her good night. He drove back to his house, and he could already tell he was missing her. He got into his house to find his parents sitting over the dinner table talking about politics and such. He kissed both of them and sat to talk. He went over to the fridge, which had a lot more food variety than in the morning, and made himself dinner. He discussed the events of the day with his parents and finally kissed them good night before heading up to his room. There, he powered up his computer and proceeded to go through homework carefully analyzing every subject and paying equal attention to everything. He brushed his teeth and changed into his pajamas. He fixed his pillows, and after turning off the light, he went to sleep.

That was the last day Martin S. Dillinger would feel normal.

The next day started rather normally, that is almost the same as the previous one. Martin woke up and smelled the fresh morning air. He did not, however, feel like staying in bed much longer. He felt active and energetic, so he got up from the bed with a jump and looked at himself in the mirror. It was not the same Martin as always, but he didn’t notice and kept on with his routine.

He took a shower, chose a t-shirt with a bowl of petunias painted on it, and got inside his car. This day, school started later than usual, so Martin decided he would go to a local café and have a nice breakfast. This decision, as voluntary as it sounds, was actually not made by him. It was forced upon him by forces of nature which refused to give their opinion by the time this book was written. Martin was never one for coffee, so he ordered a cup of hot chocolate and proceeded to read the morning newspaper. This, however, was his decision. It was in this lapse of time, between ordering the chocolate and actually getting the chocolate, that Martin met Death.

Death, contrary to popular belief, is not a tall skinny guy in a black hood holding a scythe. Death is not a black crow and, most definitely, Death is not a walking skull. Death, instead, presented itself (or himself for that matter) to Martin in the form of a short 18 year old, black haired teenager, ironically wearing a “Grateful Dead” t-shirt and white sneakers. This is partly why no one ever cared much for what he did. Death had the face of someone who has not slept in about a week, but he had lively eyes that jumped from the man standing in the table in front of Martin, to his watch, to the man again and finally to Martin. He was wearing jeans, and had his hands inside his pockets.

Death walked over to Martin and sat across him. It took Martin a second to release himself from the newspaper and eye Death attentively. Death made the same, without releasing himself from any newspaper of course. Martin wondered why a total stranger would sit with him with so many other free tables around him, and after not finding a definite answer; he decided to wait until the other person said something. This did not happen. After approximately 10 seconds of eyeing, Martin spoke.

“Can I help you?”He asked Death.

“As a matter of fact, I think you can, Martin S. Dillinger”Death Said.

“Yeah, that’s me. And who am I talking to?”

“Death” Death said.

Death, contrary to popular belief, is not a liar. He is not working for the devil(we think) and he does not personally take the souls of everyone who dies. He also does not trick anyone into dying or selling their soul. He prefers to chill out playing videogames during the afternoon and having a nice hot breakfast in the morning. He has a day-job working in a record store that helps pay the bills of his small apartment,  he enjoys walking on the beach at night, and he knows very little of human relations. He enjoys reading magazines about the latest developments in technology, and is proud of his very decent sound system, in which he often listens to Grateful Dead records. He likes Japanese manga and makes sure to never miss an issue of his favorite comic book: “Deadpool”.

Martin, as every sane human being would have done, laughed away Death’s last statement.

“Oh my, you’re death” He said confidently “And to what do I owe this pleasure Mr. Death?”

“Oh please no formalities” said Death “Irom Otnemem at your service, you can call me Irom”

“Is that foreign?”

“It’s ancient Demonic” He said this with a face that showed such seriousness, that Martin felt bad to retort some kind of sarcastic comment, so instead he said:

“Oh, that’s curious; I could have sworn it was Greek or Latin”

“It may certainly seem like it” said Irom, distracting himself with his cellphone “Latin is actually derived from ancient demonic”

“Is that so?” said Martin, with an obvious look of incredulity.

“Indeed” said Irom.

“Understood” said Martin to change the subject “So, how can I help you Irom?”

“Well you see, Martin, today is your DOD”

“Man, my DOD” Martin was making his best effort to keep the conversation going, even though he thought everything this guy said was utter nonsense and was sure that his name was actually not Irom Otnemem, but Fred Roxas from the other math class. “And what exactly is a DOD?”

“Day of Death of course” Irom said balancing a spoon between his fingers “Today is the day you die”

Martin thought this was in bad taste. Appearing before someone claiming to be death was one thing, but actually threatening (at least that’s what it sounded like in Martin’s head) someone to kill them was something else entirely. This made Martin change his tone to something more menacing in an attempt to scare the other guy away. This, of course, did not work.

“Listen dude” he said “I’d love to continue your little game, but you seem to be getting a little worked up, so why don’t you just leave me alone to drink my chocolate”

Irom let out a loud laugh and stared at Martin for a couple of seconds, in which the expression in Martin’s face did not change in the least.

“Oh, you seriously don’t believe me” Irom said with a surprised look in his face “Ok, well how about this, you see this man behind me working in his laptop?”

“What? Are you going to kill him or something?” Martin said, now looking slightly entertained.

“Yep” Irom said, and with that the man collapsed on top of his laptop, ironically falling on top of the letter D, so that the screen of the man’s computer now looked like this:

This quarter profits have tripled in comparison with last quarter in which we did not reach the estimated goadddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd

And so on.

Martin coughed.

Martin coughed again.

Martin started to choke.

Irom grabbed the cup of hot chocolate, which the waitress had hurriedly left in the table before running to see what was wrong with the man on the laptop, and gave it to Martin to drink. The hotness of the chocolate cured the inflammation in Martin’s throat and he started breathing normally again, but he never took his eyes off the dead man. Martin thought he looked like an older man, but he was really not that old. Maybe 53.

“Byron Page, age 53, married with two children, both girls, dies the 24th of January after working on his final sales report. He collapses on his laptop at exactly 8:35 at the café ‘Le chat’ due to a heart attack.” Irom read off his hand. “I don’t usually supervise deaths personally, but I felt you wouldn’t believe me if I didn’t do something. Feel free to check his ID or to wait until they determine the cause of death to take me seriously.”

When Martin was 8, one of his cousins had tricked him into thinking he had mental powers by appearing to bend a lollipop stick. Martin begged him to teach him how to do it for three hours before his cousin accepted the fact that he had bent the stick beforehand. It just appeared like he had mental powers because he turned it very slowly. He said there was some optical illusion stuff going on. This was actually a blatant lie, and several years later Leroy Dillinger would be captured by the government to be used as a psychic weapon for the army. However, this is not his story.  The death of Byron Page, successfully predicted by Irom, caused in Martin the same effect as that lollipop stick all those years ago.

“Ok” Martin said finally after assuring himself that he was not choking or coughing anymore “so let me get this straight. You’re death?”

“Right” said Irom.

“And today is the day I die” Said Martin with his freshly acquired confidence.

“Yes, today is your DOD” Said Irom.

“So, if you do not handle deaths personally, what do you want with me, Death?” said Martin, who was apparently keeping track of the conversation very carefully.

“IROM” said Death, in a very menacing tone.

“Sure, sorry man. What do you want with me Irom?”

“Well Martin, I heard you are a writer” Irom said taking a sip from Martin’s chocolate cup “Are you a writer, Martin?”

“I sometimes jot some words down, yes” Martin said. He was nervous, but was also doing his best to appear calm “I am working on a book actually”

“Excellent” Irom said “You will stop writing that book at once”

“Well yeah, I will” Martin said, surprised “After all I’m going to die today aren’t I?”

“Not quite, Martin, not quite” said Irom, now observing the waitress bending over to pick up the change an old man had dropped accidentally “In a way, you are already dead, with me appearing in front of you and everything. However, I will not ‘kill’ you yet”

With the word “Kill” Irom made quotes with his fingers. This often means that the word can be taken to various meanings. In this case, Irom was right, because Martin was very much dead since 8:35 that morning, when he had died of a heart attack caused by a sudden clogging in his veins, but death had decided to let his body function for a while.

“I want you to write a book for me, Martin, can you do that?” Irom spoke with the attitude and experience of a wise man, even though he looked like Fred Roxas from the other math class.

“You want me to write you a book?  What kind of book?” Martin asked.

“It will be a book about death. It will be a book about hope and despair, joy and sadness, but especially death. You will write one chapter each day, and on the last day, when you embed the last period on the last page, you shall die. ” Irom said “It will be 21 chapters long and it shall be titled ’21 deaths’”

Martin coughed.


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