The Three Fates
Jamieson Wolf Villeneuve
Smoke twirled above his head. From far away, it seemed as if he had a white halo, not quite whole, not quite solid; as if he had some goodness in the world left to do to earn its solidity. Alex watched the mans every movement, vaguely aware that he could hear music playing. Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Alex hummed along with the tune, almost positive that he was the only one hearing it.
The man stood above Alex, the smoke flowing around his head, so that it looked as if the mans shadow was on fire, or perhaps growing whippet thin tentacles to reach out further into the night with. The mans black suit was crusted with age and dried blood. Alex was sure that nothing but blood could have made a stain so dark on black clothing. So dark, that the stain still looked wet. Alex shivered.
"I know you're here," the man in black said. "Why are you hiding? What's there to hide from Alexander?" There was the sound of footsteps and then...silence. Alex risked carefully peeking out of his hiding place (inside a garbage dumpster filled with syringes and human waste) and saw the man with his back to him, the mans flat black hair floating wispily below his shoulders. "The others will not be so kind to you Alex," the man called out. "You know that. Why do you fight it?" Silence again. All that could be heard was the sound of mist hitting the city streets, a cat howling its nightly howl. Everything seemed so normal. Too bad it wasn't.
Alex had fled the hospital three days ago. He remembered the moment clearly, even if everything after it was a blur. Terminal, they had said. Only days left to live. He had known that death was at his door, he could feel it and had chosen not to throw in the towel right then, thank you very much. Was there something wrong with not wanting to die? Apparently there was.
Leaving the hospital in his gown and cheap plastic slippers, Alex ran for his life. Literally. He figured that all he had to do was get to his car and drive away. Except the Dark Man was there, smoking a cigarette, its ember red in the darkness of the parking lot.
"Hey Alexander," the man said. "Let's you and me take a little ride."
"Who are you?" Alex asked.
"I am your future."
"What makes you say that?"
"Because it's true. And why would I lie? I am your future, Alex; make no mistake."
Alex shivered a little at the implied threat and decided to weigh his options. Back in the hospital he would live out a boring existence until his body gave out in about three days. If he went with the Dark Man, it certainly would be an adventure. And perhaps the perfect way to top off running away from death? He didn't think so, but he figured, what the hell, he was dying anyway.
"Where are we going?" Alex asked.
"Ah, so many questions. I am your future, Alex, so would it not seem reasonable that we are going to head towards it?"
"I don't want to die."
"But that is the natural way of things, the cycle must end Alex. You're seventy six years old; how much longer can you run if you decide to cheat us from what is ours?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"No, but you will. If you decide to run. Take a drive with me, Alex. I will explain everything and if you still decide to run, then we will let bygones be bygones and we will see who will win and who will not. Let's think of it as a little game."
"What's the stakes?" Alex was tired and wanted simply to return home, pack some bags and flee the country. If he was going to die, he wanted it to be somewhere bright, sunny. Not stuck in the wasteland of winter.
"Your life." The Dark Man said.
Alex didn't even think about it. "You're on. Get in. I'm driving."
They got in the car. Doors slammed. "Where did you want to go?"
"Doesn't matter," the Dark Man said. "Let's go somewhere with scenery. Do you mind if I play some music?" Without waiting for a response, the Dark Man took out a CD from his coat pocket and slid it into the CD player of the cars stereo. The opening notes of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue flowed over the speakers.
"This is my favourite piece by Gershwin." Alex said.
"Mine too. See, we have something in common. Now I talk. Are you willing to listen?"
"Good, because I don't like repeating myself, and what I am about to say will change your life."
"I'm already going to die, I don't have a life."
"Ah, but you do. One we want very much."
"Shut up and I'll start at the beginning, alright?"
"Good boy." The Dark Man smiled. "It's really very simple. Do you believe in mythology?"
"The old kind. The ancient kind. Would you like me to tell you a story, Alex? I think it would make things easier. Ready?"
"Time and time before, before Greece, before Rome, there was only life. Each life was born with the right to choose, the right to live. But each life was born with what you would today call Guardian Angels. I don't believe in such silly crap, Alex, but there you go, that's what brainwashing over centuries will do, give you terms like Guardian Angels, or even worse, significant other." The Dark Man visibly shivered. "There would be three angels. One for the life's past, so it would not forget where it came from." The Dark Man held up a finger and a blue flame erupted at his finger tip. "One for its present, so it would always have a guide for it's day to day business." He held up another finger, this time glowing a lighter blue, almost white colour. "And third? One for its future, for everyone needs an oracle." The third finger, the one closest to his pinkie finger, glowed a black darker than night. The Dark Man entwined his fingers together until the flames flowed together, glowing a dark and sickly purple.
"This is you," the Dark Man said, wiggling his fingers. "This is us." He said, while the flames grew brighter and then vanished.
"You're my guardian angel?"
"We're more like your Fates, actually. We decide how your life will go."
"I thought I was born with free choice."
"You were, as long as we thought it was the right choice."
"What happened to you? Why aren't you the Gods you once were?"
The Dark Man smiled. "Ah, humanity happened, Alex. Humanity."
There was silence in the car as they drove. Finally, Alex spoke. "So where does this leave me?"
The Dark man grinned. "Here it is, blunt and to the point Alex. You were supposed to die in that hospital. By leaving, you're upsetting the cycle. By leaving, we have to come after you. Dying isn't really that bad, you know. It's like a long sleep. Sleeping, in its own way, is like a little death. Perfectly harmless."
"Which one are you?"
"Isn't that obvious?" A smile. A flash of teeth.
"I prefer 'Future' but yes, Death is essentially the same thing, for don't we all die?"
"So what's the situation?"
"My, my. A little impatient to live the life you've wasted away, aren't you? It's simple. Come with me and die peacefully like you were supposed to, go to the Summerlands, the Beyond, whatever the fuck you want to call it and that's that. Decide to run...and we hunt you down until we kill you. It's that simple really, pretty cut and dried." The Dark Man smiled again. "We must maintain the cycle."
There was a pause. "I choose to live." Alex said, and jumped out of the car.
He ran blindly. He realized that he wouldn't be able to get too far in a hospital gown and slippers and grabbed some ill fitting clothes off of a backyard clothes line.
Alex felt as if he had run forever; he ran down alleyways, back roads, dirt paths. He had no idea where he was going, he let his feet lead for him. They seemed to know where they needed to go, and they had never led him wrong. He fled blindly, hoping to find some salvation at the end of his journey.
He didn't eat; he didn't have time for that. His mind was focused solely on his escape from the Gods. He knew he would have no power against Gods, especially seeing as he was a mere mortal.
And now here it was, three days later. And here he was hiding behind a dumpster. The music, Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue, seemed to get louder. He heard a noise behind him.
Standing beside The Dark Man were two women. One had pale skin and long white hair. The other had had spiky hair dyed black and white. He knew they were the missing two of the threesome: Past and Present.
Each of them held a pair of cutting shears, silver in the moonlight. Each of them held onto a long golden strand that seemed to have been made of light. He knew it was his lifeline, his life, that they held in his hands.
He stared at them as they advanced towards him, a deer caught in the headlights.
A sound was in the air. Electricity seemed to hum, as though it knew an important decision was going to be made. Alex counted to ten. It was something his mother had told him years ago. When you're unsure of a situation or need to clear your head, count to ten. It usually worked to calm his nerves and put things into perspective. Though today, all he could hear in place of the measured breathing that usually went along with one of his countdowns was a voice that said runrunrunrunrunrunrun! His mind screamed at him to pick up his feet and make a getaway.
He looked one more time at the gold rope that the Three Fates held in their hands and, without thinking, snatched it and ran. He could feel the soles of his feet hitting the pavement and his body was jarred by the sudden activity, muscles tight from staying in one place for too long.
The rope burnt his hand where he had touched it, smoke rising from his skin. He heard footsteps running behind him, the Three Fates no doubt trying to catch up to him. Without thinking he shoved the gold rope into his mouth and swallowed it whole. The footsteps behind him stopped.
Alex could feel a glow begin in his stomach. A gold glow began to form on his skin, like fairy dust in the evening. He turned and looked at his three pursuers.
They stood motionless, waiting to see what would happen.
"You ate your life," Death said. "You ate your life."
"What happens now?" Alex asked.
"We do not know." Present replied.
"This has not happened before." Past said.
The earth around Alex began to crumble. It bucked and swelled as if it would break apart at the slightest touch. The Three Fates, perhaps sensing what was to come, moved back and Alex did the same. He didn't want to anger whatever came out of the ground, lest he find himself in more trouble.
Alex knew he had altered something. By swallowing what he knew to be his life, his life line, he had altered something. Had changed some part of the cycle. He remembered Death's comment a few days ago: "You were supposed to die in that hospital. By leaving, you're upsetting the cycle." He couldn't begin to imagine how he had upset the cycle this time.
With a resolution that boarded on fear, Alex stood with the Three Fates, awaiting what he knew to be his destiny.
Jamieson Wolf Villeneuve makes his home in Ottawa Ontario Canada. He has had his work published in a variety of magazines including Mytholog, Clean Sheets Erotica Magazine, The House of Pain, and The Dark Krypt. He has also had his work published in "Susan Sarandon: A True Maverick and Fantasies: A Collection of the Worlds Greatest Short Stories."
You can find him at his web site - Jamieson Wolf Villeneuve: an online portfolio.
Published by permission of the author.