Appointment with Death

📅 Published on May 4, 2022

“Appointment with Death”

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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Aldous Woolfe was a man of means.  He was a doer and never procrastinated at anything.  If he was supposed to do something, you could depend on him to do it.  He prized his job as an accountant.  He always loved numbers because numbers do not lie.  One could say he was married to his job and had little time for friends, relatives or nonsense.  He was focused, mainly serious and had little to no sense of humor.  He lived by logic more than common sense and what you saw is what you got.

On this busy day in the office, which happened to be at the end of the month, Aldous was busy creating the company’s financial reports for the quarter.  His focus was undeterred, and he was mindful of every detail. Everyone understood that he was “in the zone” and would not want to be disturbed under any circumstance.  The fact that he alone was in charge of the analysis of company profits, equity and cash flow made him an invaluable member of staff.  Aldous held degrees in accounting, business studies, economics and even management, but he had no real desire to go into the upper tier because in that echelon of hierarchy, if one ever fell from grace, it was a long way to fall and unrecoverable.  So, he preferred being valued as lower staff, and it did not dent his ego in the least.

Buried in paperwork and Xero computer software, his eyes seemed to be saccades as he scoured the data with monocular vision.  He stopped, abruptly feeling the stroke of a cold zephyr on the nape of his neck.  Losing focus, he broke away from his concentration to feel the back of his head and neck, and he strained to look around to see if someone was behind him or if a window had been carelessly left open by the cleaning crew the night before.  All seemed secure, and there was nowhere that this rogue draft could have come from except the air vents.  Not wanting to pursue the matter, he refocused on his calculations, charts and graphs.  A knock came at his door.  “Mr. Woolfe, there is someone here to see you,” the young female intern interrupted.  The look on Aldous’s face was priceless.  It was one of dismay, and “How dare you?” stamped across his frown.  “What?” He tried to interpret the sentence.

“A man is out front in the lobby asking for you,” the intern timidly informed him.

“Asking for me?”  Peculiar.  “I am very busy.  If this is not a matter of life or death, I have things to do and can’t be distracted right now.  Can you find out who he might be?  What does he want?  And if this has nothing to do with accounting, then why did he come during office hours?” Aldous turned his head from the intern as if she was no longer standing there, and he went about his calculations, putting the matter out of his head.

A short time later, the intern returned.  She reluctantly knocked on his door again and, with a stall and hesitation in her tone, interrupted Aldous and his work for the second time.

“What is it now?  Can’t you see I have a deadline?  Time is of the essence!”  He was almost flamboyant in his delivery, not meaning to be comical; however, the intern did find humor in his response and suppressed a giggle.

“The man is still waiting in the lobby.”  She looked down at a notepad which she held in the palm of her hand. “His name is Letifer Mortem, and he claims he has an appointment with you, but he can wait,” she read straight from the pad without making eye contact.

“I have never heard of such a man, and as far as an appointment, I have none,” Aldous quacked.  He went into his email calendar and checked today’s date.  “He is terribly mistaken.  Tell him to go away; I cannot be bothered,” Aldous frustratedly ordered.

The intern simply obliged and left his presence.

Aldous was in the heart of the balance sheet when again an icy brush grazed the scruff of his neck. This time it was so cold that he practically jumped from his chair.  He grabbed the back of his neck and rubbed it feverishly, now thinking that he had sat so long hunched over his computer, glued to the screen, that the nerves in the back of his neck had become inflamed and aggravated.  ‘Yes, that had to be it.’  He convinced himself that he needed to sit up taller and stretch his spinal cord.  He had read all of the safety notices the company had released on posture at the work station, and he felt embarrassed that he was obviously not following them.  He repositioned his body in the chair and sat erect, unnaturally tall, feeling a strain on his back under his shoulder blades.  This posture did not feel good, it strained his neck awkwardly, but knowing this was best for his neck and spine according to company recommendations, he followed the guidelines.

‘Now that’s better,’ he convinced himself, hoping for no more interruptions.  This report was vital, and he was being pushed to produce it and ready a presentation by the end of the working day.  He only needed to prepare it so the higher-ups could take a draft home and know what was in the presentation for tomorrow’s delivery.

A voice cut through his spine like a knife to the bone.  It was that rude intern again who obviously had dementia. “That gentlemen, Letifer Mortem is strongly insisting that he has an appointment with you.  He said he could not leave until he gathered you.”

“Could not leave or would not leave?  What does he mean, ‘gather me?’  Is he a foreigner?” Aldous turned hot in the face and was visibly incensed.  These interruptions were inexcusable!

“I am unsure of his ethnicity, but the word he used was ‘could not.’”

In a sarcastic, deliberate, heightened tenor and with hand gestures as if to indicate that the intern was not doing her job properly, he asked, “Can you please find out what this is concerning?  The subject matter?  What does this issue of such great importance fall under?  Get to the gist of his purpose and make sure it is clear.”

The intern twisted and turned as ballet dancers would do in Swan Lake and disappeared down the hallway.

By this juncture of the afternoon, Aldous could be seen and heard mumbling to himself.  He was showing signs of distress.  His irritation had been stoked to exasperation.  Feeling molested by these soul-destroying obtrusions, he soldiered on with his analysis.  He was growing parched and realized that he had not taken a break all day.  His dedication was not always healthy, but he was known for working from early mornings into the night.  On several occasions, he had to be reminded that he had missed lunch or that working hours had ended.

Aldous was not the sort of man to leave loose ends, and because of that allegiance to the company and personal commitment to excellence, he was driven quintessentially to impeccability in every aspect of his job.  He always brought a thermos of strong coffee to work, and – although it was a good one, keeping his coffee hot throughout the morning – by this time of the afternoon, he assumed the coffee would be lukewarm.  He indulged anyway to find it pleasantly hot, and the aroma of the Brazilian brew was exactly what he had needed.  Regrettably, his mind was jumping frames from his work, which was vitally important, to this mystery man whom he assumed was still waiting for him.  He thought to himself, ‘I do not have time for this nonsense.  If that idiot wants to sit out there hell-bent on meeting me, it will just have to be after work.  There is nothing he could possibly be here for that is more important than my end of the fiscal year report.  Such a dastardly thing to do to a man at work; come unannounced, bother him every minute upon the minute, and this at the busiest time of the year.  How impudent!  Such discourteous behavior should not be rewarded!  This audacious fellow with his ill-mannered behavior will have to carry on with his cheeky enigma until I am finished and good and ready to entertain him.’

Several minutes passed by, and Aldous assumed he was rid of the man, the intrusions and the interference with his work.  This was not to be.  A different intern appeared in his doorway.  It seemed the female intern had become thusly intimidated by Mr. Woolfe and that she was too frightened to return with any more messages or news from the stranger, Letifer Mortem, who had come to call and who was patiently waiting in the lobby.

“Sir, I have a note from the man wanting to see you,” said the young, dark-haired male intern.

“What?  What happened to the girl?  You know the other one?” asked Aldous, looking perplexed as ever.

“She went home sick,” was the answer as the young man reached out to hand Aldous the note, but Aldous did not take it from him.

“Leave it on the corner of my desk and please, unless this building is burning to the ground, please do not come back!”  With a thoughtless lack of concern for the new messenger person, Aldous sounded angry and vulgar with deliberate intent.

The messenger left the note and departed the room without a valediction.

Aldous looked at the note with his arthropod-gifted eye as he studied the computer screen at the same time. Then both eyes went to the folded note.  ‘Should I open it now?  Should I even care what it says?  Because if he is a salesman and has tormented me all day over something I would never have considered buying, I swear!’

Aldous came short of swearing.  He picked it up, fumbled almost nervously to open it – which was his normal manner – and read the message, “Memento Vivere.”

“Memento Vivere?”  Aldous, who knew no Latin, repeated the words slowly out loud.  “Memento Vivere?  Now what the devil does that mean?  Judas Priest, why a cryptic message?”  Aldous immediately went to the Internet, and there he found the definition of this abstract phrase.  He read it with his lips, but no sound came from his mouth.

“Know that your time is short in the grand scheme.”

This got his attention.  He perked up, and in his mathematical mind, he went through a hundred scenarios as to what this could possibly mean.  Then a light came on inside his head, and he thought he had the answer.  ‘Selling funeral insurance, I bet.  This joker is an insurance salesman.  Piece of crap!’  Aldous pushed an extension on his phone to ring the intern station.  He wasn’t sure who answered, if it was the same male intern who had brought him the note or not.

Fuming now, Aldous ordered the intern to retrieve a business card from the man waiting for him in the lobby and to bring it to him immediately.

He assumed once he did this, the man would realize that he had been found out and hopefully remove himself from the premises.  No one in their right mind would want to entertain an insurance agent during work hours. Grumbling to himself, he called the man a “coffin-making buffoon.”

Aldous muttered the words “jackleg, undertaker agent!” and went back to work.  He was now under the gun to complete his work by the end of the working day.  However, he had enough accomplished, even with the moments of interruption, that he managed to pull together a satisfactory presentation for the next day.  He had already made up his mind to stay later so he could put it all together in a neat package for the higher-ups to review.  He would hand them a more thorough and extensive report first thing in the morning.  He did not have plans for the evening, so he committed himself to remain late. He would probably order pizza for dinner to be delivered to the office; then, he would have the luxury of the alone time he needed to wrap everything up nicely for everyone and would be out of the office by 8 pm.

The intern had returned with something in his hand.  It was not a business card.  It was in fact, another piece of paper.  This time Aldous snatched it from the young intern’s hand as if he was taking a speeding ticket from a police officer.

It was another note with a handwritten Latin phrase, “Mors pacificae, mea est anima tua.”

“Wait here,” he ordered the intern who had already begun his escape.  He stopped in his tracks.

Aldous went to the Internet again and searched the Latin phrases.  He again read the definitions aloud. “Death is peaceful.  Mine is yours.”

Aldous took great offense at this joke.  There was nothing funny about it at all.  It was unprofessional.  What sort of insurance agent would go to the macabre to sell insurance?  ‘Well, here is some Latin for you, you feign!’ Aldous searched up a phrase in Latin from the Internet and wrote “as infernum” on a slip of paper and added a smiley face beneath it.  “That will give him my answer!  Go to hell!”  Aldous handed the note to the intern and chuckled for the first time today.  “Fire with fire, I say, boy,” he added audibly as the intern exited to deliver the message to Letifer Mortem.

The last couple of hours passed by without further discontinuance of his work.  When 5 pm rolled around, the staff exited the building leaving Aldous alone in his tranquil serenity to make love to numbers and romance the data.  ‘What a relief to be alone and free and capable of making the report flawless in every degree.  First things first, I must order food.’  He knew what he wanted.  Pizza was his go-to comfort food and food to think by.  Even when pizza became cold, it was still delicious to him.  He practically salivated thinking about that wonderful tomato paste and the extra cheese he would have added to it.  He was by no means a vegetarian; as a matter of fact, he never met a vegan he respected, yet it was the vegetarian pizzas he found most favorable.  “The last meal of the day,” he amused himself by singing it to the tune of Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.

A cold chill slapped him in the nape of the neck like a frozen hand, and the room became glacial.  Immediately he thought, ‘those dummies turned on the air conditioning instead of turning on the heat when they left.’  But then a voice was heard.  A baritone, guttural voice that rumbled when it spoke, emphasizing each syllable like the sound of hard water over rocks.

“Now will you see me, Aldous Woolfe?”

Aldous spun around, surprised, frightened, and trembling.  There stood a tall, thin man in a black suit, with a black tie, with coal-black hair and piercing black eyes which showed no light of pupils.

Aldous fought for the courage to respond.  “What are you doing here?  Everyone has left for the day,” Aldous stated the obvious.  He knew right away who this man was staring him dead in the eye. It was Letifer Mortem.

“I am not buying any insurance.  I thought I made that clear with my last note.”  Aldous was feeling a bit more confident than when he received the initial fright.

Letifer Mortem spoke again with the same commanding voice which rattled Aldous’ eardrums.  “I have not waited for you all day because I have something to sell you.  I am giving you something.  We have an appointment, Mr. Woolfe.  That appointment is now. Mors certa, hora incerta.”

“Wait, you are not an insurance salesman?” Aldous still could not wrap his mind around what he was being told.

“Stop with the Latin.  Who speaks Latin?  What do you want?” Aldous demanded to know.

“I am testificans adducit mortem.  I have come for you and have been patient in waiting for you.  Not everyone receives such privilege to prepare for such a momentous event,” Letifer Mortem drew closer to Aldous, and Aldous slowly backed up.

“Are you here to kill me?  I will fight you.”  Aldous, who was no fighter, postured himself awkwardly in some free-style defensive pose, hoping to intimidate this would-be murderer.

“I kill no one Mr. Woolfe.  I escort the living through the veil.  I am, in fact, a protector, a custodian of souls.  I safeguard a peaceful transition of energy and light.”

“I am not going anywhere with you, lunatic.  You hang out here all day waiting for everyone to leave, and then you come in like some ghoul!  You are a maniac!  I am not interested in what you are selling!  Take your snake oil somewhere else!” Aldous was steaming with rage.

“I must insist that you do not make this unpleasant.  You must make an appearance to other, higher worlds.  Veni pacem.  Come with peace, Mr. Woolfe.”  Letifer Mortem welcomed him, holding out his hand.

“You are leaving, Mr. Mortem, and I am going to order a pizza.  Then I am going to eat it and prepare the rest of my report for presentation,” Aldous said with certainty.

Letifer Mortem stood motionless as if he was thinking.  “I know leaving before one has properly prepared is regrettable.  Some leave of their own accord, at peace.  Some leave unexpectantly but manage to walk through the veil of their own accord.  Please, Mr. Woolfe, do not be the one that must be pushed; it is a long fall into the vastness, and the unknown is very black.”

“I’ll have you know this report is the most important thing in my life at the moment, and your presence is preventing me from completing it.  Now, if you would kindly leave so I can have this prepared by morning?” Aldous’ voice quivered as the realization of his grim predicament sank in.

“My dear Mr. Woolfe, you will not be here tomorrow.  You are leaving because I cannot leave without you, and you cannot prevent me from leaving.  From now on, where I go, you will follow.”

Aldous attempted to leave by the door, but in a display of phantasmagoria violence, the door slammed shut. Aldous froze in his steps at the unbelievable bang of the door.  He knew better than to try the door knob. Turning toward Letifer Mortem and understanding that this was a dire situation, he pleaded, “Not now.  I am not even 50.  I have so much to do.  Can’t I have longer?”

“Longer?  Longer for what, Mr. Woolfe?  You have no friends, no family, no dreams, no desires outside of this office, and if you were honest with yourself, you would admit with all certainty, that you are miserable.  Your diet is unhealthy, your hours of sleep are poor.  You dream of numbers, and your nightmares are some of the blackest I have ever known.  You have taken a life that was given to you and mired it in the mundane, the earthly, and the carnal days of your life have found no happiness.  You have never known love because you were never given love, and this love that has escaped you was partially your own misfortune.  You are being given a gift Mr. Woolfe.” Letifer Mortem approached and sat nearer to him.

Aldous lowered his head because it was all true.  As a matter of fact, he knew he had never been happy. He was the man, Bernardo Soares, from Fernando Pessoa’s The Book of Disquiet. Whereas in Pessoa’s sad tale his character ignored life by losing himself in literature, Aldous ignored life by losing himself in numbers.  He now understood that his entire life had been met with internal pain.  He could never escape it.

It haunted him in the night and sat beside him in sunlight like some old tired friend on a park bench who only moans about the cares of life.  He had never appreciated living.  If he were to be challenged to define living, he would be unable to find the words.  His life was everything he failed to be, just like Bernardo Soares.  How could he have squandered life and traded happiness for an office, consumed by numbers?!  Now he saw it.  He did not spit out the numbers; they were spitting him out with every calculation.  And numbers do not lie, so his entire life, everything that was making him non-existent was the truth trying to be told.  Life had indeed found him, but he had not been ready, so his was an existence in the shadow of everything successful.  His work made others, and while he was building their ivory towers, he worked in the digital dust and the suffering labor of software.  He saw now that physically he had never worked a hard day in his life…except the day his kitchen sink sprung a leak underneath the cabinet, and he spent 8 hours repairing it while following instructions from a video on the Internet.  His laborious life was stacking moduli stacks when fine moduli spaces did not exist.  But who ever used algebra anyways?

“You see, Mr. Woolfe, life carries on without you.  Nothing will change in your absence.  There will be no butterfly effect of your non-existence.  You, however, cannot carry on because you have no life.  You have spent your days preparing to exist and never did.  You are simply being called home.  It is not so much ‘unseen, unheard and unknown’ as it is being known by the one who is creator of all things.  Now, won’t you join me in departing with dignity?”

Aldous was perplexed, yet his reasoning seemed to help him come to terms as his eyes welled with tears.  These were tears he had never known.  The capitulating sorrow was not loss or even pity; these were tears of release. These were the inward yearnings and achings of a man who had just woken up.  He was being born again.  He had no impulse to bargain.  “Is it painful?” Aldous asked, looking up with swollen eyes of misty red.

“Paradise is never painful, Mr. Woolfe.”

“How does it happen?” Aldous asked with trepidation as his voice cracked.

“Like I said earlier, you can step through the veil on your own or I can guide you in.  Everyone is different.  Are you ready?”

“I think I’d like to go it on my own.  What should I expect?”

“Because I am merely a chaperone, I have never experienced it.  But I am told it is peace, rest and not a place or a time but rather an existence beyond that which man can think or imagine.  No mortal restrictions.  No fleshly ills.  No uncertainties, for the price has been paid in blood.  There is no more blood to spill, no more tears, no more death.  This step is a new identity, where what you were designed to be is realized and fulfilled, and all former things with the negativity and bad memories are no longer remembered.  No deadlines.  Life for the first time.

Aldous Woolfe’s body was found the next morning by his team.  He was slumped over his desk, his head gently laying against the keys of his laptop.  His face was serene, as if he was having the most wonderful dream, but he was no longer breathing.  Those that found him were emotionally moved by finding him.  Also found was his completed presentation of the annual report, which, when produced annually thereafter, would be known as The Aldous Woolfe Report.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dale Thompson

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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