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A Nocturnal Visitor!

A Short Story by Mike Nagel
(with thanks to Mr Woody Allen for the last line)

I wasn’t sure what had woken me so suddenly but when I opened my eyes to check the time on the clock-radio-alarm thingy beside the bed I saw what it must have been. He was sitting on the edge of my bed looking at me. A thin figure, wearing what appeared to be a long, black, hooded cloak of some kind. He had a laptop computer perched on his knee and in the gloom I could just see that there was a name embossed in gold letters on the black lid of the machine. Mr G REAP... was all that I could make out.

Now, living alone for the past twenty years has meant that I have become entirely unaccustomed to waking up to find people sitting on the edge of my bed, especially so in the middle of the night. Nevertheless, not wishing to appear offensive, I made an effort to make my unexpected visitor feel at ease. “Well, hello,” I said, in as friendly a tone as I could muster in these unusual circumstances in the wee small hours of the morning, “Can I help you, at all?”

Mr G. Reap looked at me from the depths of his high, pointed black hood. “Yes," he said, "I need to confirm that I’m in the right place and, most importantly, that I’ve got the right person. I wonder if I could just ask you a few questions?”

“Yes, of course. Perhaps it would be better if I put the light on?”

Mr G. Reap started visibly at this suggestion. “Oh no,” he said quickly, “that won’t be necessary. I prefer working in the dark... it suits my mood best.”

I had already stretched my arm out towards the bedside lamp and now he reached forward and took hold of my wrist to prevent me from reaching the light switch. I remember noticing that his fingers were unusually hard, one might almost say bony, and that there was no warmth in them at all.

Suddenly I realised who my visitor must be. I challenged him immediately. “I take it you’re here about my change of energy supplier?” I said.

“Well,” said Mr G Reap, “that’s an odd way of putting it but, yes, I suppose your supply of energy is an issue for me.”

“So, when will the change take place?” I asked. “I’m really quite anxious to get it all over and done with as soon as possible.”

"Yes, yes, I understand that and I usually manage to get my clients moved over quite rapidly and efficiently but I really do need to do a few checks first.” He pressed a key on the laptop and continued, “Now then, what is your full name?” I told him. “And your date of birth?” I told him that as well. A few more keys on the laptop were pressed. “Yes, you seem to be the right person. I’ll just carry on, shall I? Do you have any final questions about anything?”

I thought for a moment. “Yes, I do actually. What about the cooling off period? How long will that be?”

“Cooling off period? Oh it’s quite quick really. Shouldn’t be more than an hour or two.”

“An hour or two! That seems unusually quick. I thought it would be at least fourteen days.”

“Erm... Fourteen days...? Oh no, two hours will be quite sufficient.”

I was taken aback by his presumptiousness. “Two hours will certainly not be sufficient,” I cried. “This is a big change for me, you know. I have rights in this situation and I’m sure that I’m entitled to a fourteen day cooling off period!”

“Not at all,” he insisted. “I’ve been doing this job for many years and I’ve never ever come across any body that needed longer than a two hour cooling off period. Never.”

“Well,” I said, “in that case I think we’ll need to put the whole thing on hold while I think about it for a while longer.”

“Put it on hold...?" he spluttered. "Put it on hold...? We can’t do that! The arrangements have been in place for a very long time. They can’t be changed now!”

I was astonished by his attitude and I told him so. “Now, look here! I understand that you have a job to do but I think you really need to remember who the customer is in this situation. To say that the arrangements have been in place ‘for a very long time’ when I only originally enquired a couple of days ago, is nonsense. I want more time. MORE TIME! Do you understand me? I refuse to take the matter any further tonight. You’ll just have to come back later in the week.”

I could see that he was struggling to come to terms with my outburst. I got the impression that he was used to people giving in to him without any fuss. He stood up, clutching the laptop in one hand. For the first time I could make out his full name on the lid and as soon as I saw it my heart stopped for a moment and then started to beat twice as fast as normal.

“This is most irregular,” Mr G Reaper said, in a peeved sort of voice, “I need to go and get further instructions. I shall return tomorrow night when, hopefully, you will feel able to co-operate fully and everything can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.”

He turned towards the door and suddenly he had disappeared. I lay there for a while, still upset by the whole experience and my mind reeling from the discovery of his true identity. In the morning, as soon as I was up and about, I phoned my local travel-agent and arranged a hotel room in the Highlands for that night, and a rail ticket to get me there.

You see, it’s not that I’m afraid of dying, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

Copyright © Mike Nagel 2005

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