Black Petals Issue #105, Autumn, 2023

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Cards Fiction by Gene Lass
Barfly: Fiction by Gene Lass
Case Study: Fiction by Martin Taulbut
Delivery: Fiction by David Kloepfer
Joy (noun): a source of delight: Fiction by Noah Levin
Master of Dream: Fiction by Ash Ibrahim
Nightshade: Fiction by Adam Vine
Red Popsicles: Fiction by Caitlyn Pace
Temporally Closed: Fiction by J. Elliott
The Mansion Dwellers: Fiction by Robb White
Time for a Change: Fiction by Lamont A. Turner
Bernie's Friends: Flash Fiction by Phil Temples
Death Visits the Sapling Trust: Flash Fiction by Paul Radcliffe
Monster: Flash Fiction by Zvi A. Sesling
Sleep: Flash Fiction by Kurt Hohmann
Welcome, Ghouls: Flash Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
Ode to Chateau Marmont: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Cadaver Dogs: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Phases of the Moon: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Darkest Octave: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Green Man Standing: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Day That Mary Went Away: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
The Northern Migration of Souls: Poem by Joseph V. Danoski
Gone West: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
If I Scream: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Witchery: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
Carry On: Poem by Simon MacCulloch
The Song of the Dead: Poem by Ben Huber

Paul Radcliffe: Death Visits the Sapling Trust

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Art by Cindy Rosmus 2023

Death Visits the Sapling Trust

Paul Radcliffe

 

  The door opened, and Death entered the room.  He apologised for being late.  He was wearing a lanyard with many colourful badges attached. One read Access All Areas.  He looked at the five people seated in a circle on wooden chairs. The door locked behind him, untouched. Death took his seat and looked around him.  He began to speak.  His tone was friendly, even apologetic.

     ‘Hello everyone. It would help if I explained my role.  I have been asked to say a few words here at Sapling Trust.  Saplings grow into something mighty.  A huge oak, a sweeping forest.  All from small beginnings.  As we know, the  trust was established for the counselling and guidance of those who life has treated poorly.  Diligence unrecognized.  Sacrifice disregarded. The great lost tribe of the unappreciated, five of which I see as I look around.  Strangers seen in every crowd who deserve so much better than life-blind to virtue and ignorant of that to which you feel entitled-has seen fit to grant you.  Mindful of this, I am here to perhaps clarify, and certainly emphasise, my enduring sympathy.  However, it is my duty to be honest and frank with you. I imagine all of you would want nothing less?’  The seated group nodded and some murmured quiet though heartfelt assent.

      Death continued.

     ‘Injustice is everywhere. There are dragons to be slain, but the sword remains sheathed.  It will remain so, and each of you, however entitled, will continue to have your perceived virtue disregarded….’  The lights in the room dimmed.

   ‘I am Death, and I have been many years in the role. And Death, may I say, doesn’t care what you’ve done.  I am coming for you, I am coming for all your friends, and for everyone you love. Each and every one of them.  

 I don’t care if you have pulled orphans from some smouldering wreck. I am indifferent to your sacrifices and your fevered clinging to what you—comically, if I may say—regard as your unrecognised virtue. Unrecognized, and so ignored.  You have come to this Emotional Support Group on the basis of your collective low self-esteem.  The simple truth is that your estimation of your self-esteem is entirely accurate and probably underestimated. You should have low self-esteem. You want to be told that you are better than you are, that you are special.  You are not. When I visit you, each one of you, in my other capacity,  rest assured I will remind you of this.’

 Death paused.  None of the group spoke. Some exchanged glances. Death continued.

      ‘Each and every one of you.’

The lights in the room glowed brighter. There was a metallic ring from the door as the lock slid open. Death stood up, an unprepossessing, bespectacled figure in a t shirt with a print of a painting by Magritte. The painting was  L’heureux donateur.  In English, The Happy Giver. As he gazed around at the faces, he gave a gentle reminder.

   ‘Next week your regular counsellor, Samantha, will be here.  She asks that you be punctual to save disturbing the ambience of the meeting.  I have enjoyed our meeting, however brief, though my preference-my quirk…’ Death smiled.  ‘My preference is for one on one. You all have appointments provisionally scheduled. I am afraid I cannot be more specific at this stage. But you will know soon enough.’

   Death opened the door. He paused before he left, and turned around. The scholarly, bespectacled face had vanished. In its place was a skull. A different voice sounded, hollow and a little amused.

             ‘Soon enough.’ The door closed quietly, and there was silence in the room.




Paul Radcliffe is based in New Zealand.  Had an aunt who lived in a haunted farmhouse in England. Haunted by a monk-yes, really-which explains a lot. Works in Emergency, susceptible to hypnosis by cats. The supernatural is at its most disturbing when it subtly overlaps the everyday and the boundaries blur. Has worked in various places that are unlikely to be confused with holiday destinations. Grew up in Liverpool but missed the Beatles, and always eager to add to a growing collection of pirate jokes.



Cindy Rosmus is a Jersey girl who looks like a Mob Wife & talks like Anybody’s from West Side Story. She works out 5-6 days a week, so needs no excuse to drink or do whatever the hell she wants She’s been published in the usual places, such as Shotgun Honey, Hardboiled, A Twist of Noir, Megazine, Beat to a Pulp, Out of the Gutter, Mysterical-E, and Twisted Sister. She is the editor/art director of the ezine, Yellow Mama. She’s a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights activist. She has recently been branching out into photo illustration, under the guidance and mentoring of Ann Marie Rhiel.

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