‘Is that what you meant to do?’ asked a familiar voice.
‘To which are you referring? Me robbing the bank or dying?’
‘Actually, both of those and murder,’ a dark figure stepped from the shadows.
‘Murder? Robin Williams is that you? What are you doing here and what’s with the scythe?’
‘Yes murder, I’m afraid so. The scythe? Her name is Miranda and yours?’
‘Martin, my name’s Martin.’
‘I’m Death, of course. It looks to me like you unintentionally killed someone, although it’s not my position to determine that. I’m simply here to take you to the chamber of fate.’
‘But you can’t be, you’re Robin Williams, you’ve not been dead long yourself and what’s this chamber?’
‘I know, but Death retired and someone needed to take over and to be honest, I’m bored. I’ve never played Death before, I’m enjoying it. You’ll see what it is soon enough. Come on, or we’ll be late for your fate, I’ll fill you in on what happened.’
They sauntered through a passageway which led through a wooden door, intricately carved with gold letters in what Martin guessed was Hebrew.
A frail, white haired, old man was perched at a desk filing sheets of paper into trays. He acknowledged them with a smile as they entered.
Martin surveyed his surroundings, which appeared to be a cave, the scent of lavender filled his nostrils.
‘Where are we?’ his voice wavered.
‘We are underneath Mount Hermon in Israel, the holiest of mountains,’ the old man informed him.
The clip-clopping of hoofed feet reverberated inside the chamber and another figure entered through the door into the dim light emitted by wall mounted candelabras.
‘Brother! I wondered when you would make an appearance.’
Martin gaped in disbelief at the old man then glanced at the towering, red-horned, beast.
‘B-b-brother? But you’re an old man and he’s the D-d-devil!’
Had Martin not already been dead, he would have died from shock at this moment.
The old man chuckled, nearly choked, then broke into a full-on belly laugh followed by a fit of coughing.
‘It’s Lucifer, if you please. Still smoking I see brother?’
‘What is this place? Who are you?’ queried Martin.
‘It’s a kind of purgatory, a waiting room if you like, where we decide your fate.’ Lucifer pointed a gruesome finger. ‘Up or down.’
‘So you are the Devil. What does that make him? God?’
‘Indeed young man. Now I believe you still haven’t answered Death’s question. Come on spill the beans, I need the toilet and my bladder isn’t what it used to be,’ said God.
‘What’s gonna happen to me?’ asked Martin.
‘That all depends on what you say next. It can’t get any worse? You’re already dead,’ answered Death.
‘Yeah, but surely heaven is much nicer than hell?’
‘A mere matter of opinion. I much prefer the warmth down there. Living above the clouds plays havoc with my arthritis.’ God shuffled his papers. ‘Now get on with it, my bladder is close to bursting.’
‘Well firstly, yes, I meant to rob the bank but for a good reason, and secondly, I didn’t mean to kill myself or anyone else,’ replied Martin.
‘And what is this reason you speak of?’ asked the Devil as he cleaned dirt from his dark, discoloured, dagger like claws.
‘To raise money.’
‘State the bloody obvious!’ Lucifer snorted. ‘For what exactly?’
‘An operation and treatment for my niece, Cassie.’
‘Oh,’ God responded gently, staring at the condemned man.
‘Treatment for what?’ asked Death.
Martin’s eyes welled up. ‘She has a rare and aggressive cancer.’
‘So in essence you were robbing the bank to do good for another?’ said God scratching his beard.
‘I’m not a bad person. I’ve never been in trouble for anything but it was my only option after fundraising landed short of the target,’ said Martin.
‘A final act of desperation, one that resulted in the death of yourself and another in order that you may save your niece. Quite honourable in some respects,’ answered God.
‘All for nothing now I am dead and stuck in this limbo. As for my niece, I dread to think what will happen to her now.’
‘Mmmmm.’ The Devil stroked his black goatee in deep thought. ‘How did you manage to botch the bank job and kill yourself and another?’
‘I took my Uncle’s shotgun from above his fireplace. It’s authentic looking but doesn’t fire live shells. I wouldn’t have used it if it was real. Anyway, Death told me the next part, it’s all a bit blank. After the cashier had filled my bag with notes I turned and tripped over one of the customers who I’d told to lie down. I flew a few feet and smashed my head on the corner of a desk, losing my grip on the shotgun it cracked a woman on the back of her skull and killed her.’
‘And so here you are,’ said Lucifer smiling.
‘Here I am,’ replied Martin with a deep gulp.’But where is that poor woman?’
‘She went straight upstairs, pure as snow that one,’ said Death.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever come across such an unusual case before. Have you brother?’ asked God.
‘There have been many. How do you not remember? Your brain is addled brother. Robyn Hode in particular stands out. Remember him? He robbed the rich and gave to the poor.’
‘Oh yes. I remember him. Rather camp fellow, loved to wear tights.’ God laughed then broke into another coughing fit.
‘That’s him,’ replied the Devil as he walked to his brother and proceeded to pat him rather hard on the back.
‘But didn’t he die of an illness?’ asked Martin. He thought he remembered something from school.
‘No, myths I’m afraid. I should know, I was there when he died. He held up a stagecoach and was trampled to death. His lover Friar Tuck was saved when Robyn unselfishly pushed him out of the horse’s path and into the undergrowth,’ chipped in Death.
‘Friar Tuck? His lover? That’s absurd,’ said Martin.
‘All true I swear,’ replied Death.
‘But what of Maid Marion?’
‘His sister, used as a cover. Back in those days’ certain sexual preferences were frowned upon. He was a hero to the people, they wouldn’t have liked that.’
‘Anyway, you are Robin Williams. You weren’t even born never mind dead then.’
‘True, but since taking over the role I have acquired all of Death’s memories. I am Death.’
‘Well I preferred you as Mrs Doubtfire,’ said Martin.
Death tittered as he walked to the door to leave. ‘Duty calls,’ he said, and left the three together.
‘Enough of this, we need to make a swift decision, and I’m desperate to go now, my dentures will be floating soon,’ said God.
‘Let’s retire to the conference room and discuss how to resolve this,’ said Lucifer as he helped his brother from his chair.
‘You. Young man. What’s your name?’ asked God.
‘Martin, my name’s Martin.’
‘Martin, have a seat and browse a magazine while we confer.’
‘Right you are,’ replied Martin.
‘So brother your thoughts?’
‘He seems a decent chap, not the sort to be corrupted by spending the rest of his afterlife in the company you keep.’
‘Yes, but a death and a bank robbery are serious offences,’ said Lucifer.
‘An accidental death. Not pre-meditated.’
‘But the bank job was, therefore, he must be accountable for his actions and all events thereafter.’
Suddenly there is a knock at the door, it opens and a timid dwarfish woman enters. ‘Almighty Father, forgive the intrusion but I have an important message.’ She curtsies and God listens and smiles.
‘What is it?’ asks Lucifer.
‘Martin is the 108th billion person to die and potentially the 20th billion to enter my kingdom. A milestone and a very special one.’
‘Why so special brother?’
This person will be reincarnated as a great leader or someone of equally important stature.’
‘And you think Martin is worthy?’
‘Yes, yes I do.’
‘Let’s go and tell him the good news,’ said Lucifer.
God and Lucifer entered the room with excitement. Martin stood up, a puzzled expression was etched on his face.
‘We have reached a decision,’ said God.
‘Am I doomed to hell?’
‘Wrong again,” said Lucifer.
‘Oh, stuck here then. That’s as bad.’
‘You shall return to Earth, to be reborn.’ God produced a hessian bag. ‘Inside here are birthstones, choosing one will reveal who you will become, and your destiny.’
Death entered the room followed by a petite, pretty young girl.
‘Cassie!’ What are you doing here? Oh this means you’re -.’
‘It’s ok, Uncle Martin. I’m free from pain, free from suffering. Thank you for trying to help. Death has told me everything,’ said Cassie as she and Martin held each other and cried.
‘Sorry to appear heartless and break up this reunion but time is of the essence,’ said God.
‘How does this work?’ asked Martin.
‘You pick a stone, read it, and as the last word is read you will be transported by ancient magic into your mother’s womb.’
‘And that’s it?’
‘Yes. You will remember nothing of this or your past life.’ God shook the bag. ‘Dig deep.’
Anxiously Martin looked to Cassie. ‘Will you do the honours?’
Cassie nodded and delved into the bag. She rummaged around before producing a stone that was as grey as the atmosphere they found themselves in.
Cassie took a breath and looked at them one by one.
‘Thomas Stewart- medical scientist- cure for cancer.’
Cassie’s tears flowed as Martin managed a farewell as he dissipated to his new life.
‘Come on Cassie,’ said God cheerfully. ‘There’s a bunch of people upstairs waiting to meet you. Well, Martin couldn’t save you but in years to come he’ll save the lives of millions.’
Cassie smiled, bursting with pride, thinking about all that Martin could and would achieve.
She gripped God’s hand and slowly they ascended the stairway through the clouds that led to the pearly gates.
She thought it best not to mention the trickle of warm urine that she was standing in as she climbed each stair.
‘Is that what you meant to do?’ asked a familiar voice.