At the age of thirty, Daniel Lufto lived alone in a single bedroom apartment. In his first thirty years on Earth he had made very few lasting connections, and at this point, his existence had virtually no perceptible impact on anyone else. He was just another recurring face on the bus ride to work, a vaguely remembered customer in the local liquor store.
As a human being, Daniel existed on a strictly interim basis. His home was even on a month to month arrangement. On any day he and his meager belongings could be swept out and with that almost any trace of Daniel’s corporeal existence.
Daniel wasn’t so solitary by choice. He and the world around him could never find the proper way to engage each other. Daniel grew up, but he never developed into a fully fleshed out human being. He had no particular interests or hobbies, absolutely nothing could captivate him. It was as if he had been deprived an imagination and was incapable of any wonderment.
Daniel was capable of exchanging pleasantries. He could crack a joke or two about the news or the weather but once any interaction went beyond mere small talk, the absence of any depth to his character became eerily noticeable. Even those who found him initially charming were quickly put off by his vacant expression and hollow eyes.
The lonesome man did not lead a sorrowful life. Sorrow, this most grating and persistent of emotions was nowhere to be found on Daniel’s dwarfed emotional spectrum. He was patiently waiting for the approaching internal void to swallow him up, and that’s just what happened.
He awoke in his bed paralyzed under an inky blackness that was consuming the room. Everything disappeared, and he was free falling into nowhere. He waited for the sensation of falling to dull into nothingness but it persisted until Daniel felt like he was going to choke on his stomach.
That’s when a voice thundering from across the expanse of eternity spoke to Daniel.
“You are my newly anointed angel of death. You will unleash a plague,” the omnipotent voice declared.
“You are the womb cultivating and carrying my children of death. Go and cover the city with my children. That is your only purpose, your single reason for being, you are not a man but a phage in man’s clothing!” howled the celestial voice from the spiraling darkness.
Daniel was jolted awake by a spasmatic cough. He hacked and choked for a few agonizing moments before finally catching his breath.
He turned on the bedside lamp and was startled by the droplets of gleaming blood in the saliva he’d coughed onto his hands. Daniel started to panic. “I gotta call 911!”
He picked up his phone, but then the voice from the dream screamed inside his head tearing through his mind with explosive resonance.
“My angel of death the time draws near. It is futile to try and forsake your duties. You are the anointed, a living cataclysm, a cornerstone of Armageddon!” the voice said with triumph.
“Now go! Glory awaits my angel of death!” The hint of encouragement was disarming for Daniel.
“I am the angel of death,” he repeated with growing self-satisfaction.
For the first time in his life this awkward, empty, joyless man experienced the sublime happiness that comes with conviction, a sense of purpose, and unquestioned superiority. Daniel was no longer a man, he was a higher being called to action by what he assumed had to be the voice of God.
Despite his steadily deepening fatigue and horrible coughing bouts, Daniel went about fulfilling the wishes of his omnipotent master. He had a paycheck to deposit, so he figured his first stop could be the bank. Walking along with the scurrying morning commuters as Daniel coughed out invisible clouds of a disease more virulent than anything to ravage the human race in past epochs, he couldn’t help but feel emerging confidence. Confidence that came with knowing he was the most important person on that street, probably in the world. Any social station was beneath that of the angel of death.
He walked into the commuter bank with his head held high. Everyone he encountered that day would remember it in the sharpest detail. Over time these multiple accounts would blend and obscure, and there would be the legend of The Angel of Death, Patient zero, The man who unleashed a plague that devastated the entire world, Daniel Lufto!
He even made it a point to shake hands with the bank teller that day. Daniel was amused by the idea that after everyone knew he was patient zero, Alex Banks would look back at that handshake and remember that most crucial chance encounter in his life with the then-obscure Daniel Lufto.
Daniel spent the last week of his life playing hooky from work, strutting around town, coughing death into the air. On the fourth day when he started seeing people all around him having the same coughing fits he had, he felt the fantastic euphoria and immense relief of accomplishment.
By the 6th day, Daniel was no longer able to get himself out of bed, so he contented himself with watching his genocide play out on tv. He watched with delight as the cable news networks went into 24-hour loops showing the stacks bags filled with rotting human remains that were starting to appear around the city’s hospitals. A state of emergency was declared, and Daniel raised his arms in triumph and announced,“I did that to you! That was me!”
By the 9th day Daniel was slipping in and out of conciousness. He was counting down his last hours. He knew he wouldn’t live to see the next day’s sunrise. During an increasingly rare moment of clarity, the news cycle on the plague had grown so repetitive even armageddon was becoming tedious, and annoying. But Daniel did hear the floating news head make an announcement that breathed new and fleeting life into his body.
“We are going live to Chicago where patient zero has finally been identified!” the anchor shouted through her respirator.
A short Asian woman standing in front of a city hospital appeared on the screen.
“Thank you for joining us today Diane. Now I know our viewers are dying to know the name of patient zero.”
The field reporter nodded. “I have no intention of leaving anyone in suspense as to the identity of patient zero.” the field reporter replied firmly almost with hostility.
“City health officials have just released a name, it’s Alexander Banks from a suburb of Chicago who was hospitalized here just three days ago.”
Daniel was quaking. He couldn’t speak, a torrent of anger swelled in his stomach and crowded into his throat.
A picture of the grinning idiot bank teller appeared on the screen.
With his last ounce of strength, Daniel threw the remote at the TV. A substantial portion of the picture went black, but the fragmented images persisted. Frustration burned inside Daniel and tears welled in his eyes.
“I was supposed to be the angel of death,” he sobbed. Daniel went to his lonely death with the burden of a disappointment he had never known before. His cheeks burned with humiliation. He had a brush with the divine and infamy, but he was the only one who knew, the only one who could remember. Soon there wouldn’t even be that.
Nick’s work has appeared in a number of publications including Skive magazine, Sleepy Town Press, Third Flatiron Publishing, and the award-winning Crooked Cat Publishing in the United Kingdom. His stories are his attempt to address the sickness called the human condition. His work can found be at: http://www.dimenovelsfromoblivion.com/
Featured photograph by Daniel Orós