He became a ghastly thing, a morbid creature too obsessed with death to live. The roots of his madness grew when his parents died in a fire in their country home. His father was a lawyer charged with siphoning money from endless client companies. The death of Aaron McInulty and his wife cast the long shadow of death over their son’s life. Rather than fear that shadow the young man Niall revelled in it. He lived in the shadows of closed curtains in the great house left to him. Endless life insurance policies paid off to cancel the many debts of his father and add to his stolen fortune.
The heir Niall was not one to spend as he might the vast total of his inheritance. His only excesses were the oddities of following the reapers footsteps. Poisonous creatures in tanks aplenty; snakes, frogs, fish, tarantulas and spiders. He fuelled his pursuits with caffeine tablets and slept rarely so he said.
I met him through court order after another demonstration of madness. He was paler than I’d ever have pictured. Hidden in a deep coat he sat on my chair and stared past me through the wall and the world. In old photos he’d had blue eyes but by then obsession and lost sleep had decorated them with veins of red. He sat in silence for the entirety of our first ten sessions until the officer outside had been reassigned.
He spoke of his search for eternity. He knew there was more to the fire at his parent’s home than had been found. He was convinced they were alive. I had heard the rumours too, that they’d escaped and moved abroad with their fortune to begin a new life without their son. He half believed those rumours meaning he believed his parents lived but not so far away. I knew from his records that both bodies had been identified using D.N.A evidence. That they were dead was certain however little he wanted to admit it.
He had endless theories which he meant to try and had done to find himself on that seat before me. I saw in him a creature of unending determination. Much as I tried to dissuade him he came each time with a new tale of his mastery over death. He dosed himself with various poisons regularly. Resistance to lethal doses became one of his abilities. He came to me with scars having bled himself near to death. Out of great concern for his wellbeing I agreed to conduct future sessions at his home.
The house was worse than I had thought, dusty and damp. All of his books were on death, detritus, poisons, toxins and technologies to bring about or avoid death. He had notes everywhere on the distillation of death inducing solutions. He was a skilled carver and smith. His workshop held many curios on which we talked to deflect him from more dire thoughts. I worried for him, we’d grown close and more close than he’d ever had to a friend. His morose character repelled potential companions.
When I found him in the dust on the floor he was as pale as ever. Silent, unmoving. He had a note in his pocket that told me to bury him in the coffin he’d bought. He wanted to be buried with a bag already resting in the coffin. His oddments looked like metal flutes. The note warned me not to touch them. I wept for a while over his body before I had the clarity to call the police. Their diagnosis did not take long. Cyanide stained his lips and an empty bottle by him. I was cautioned not to leave the city until they had finished with their investigation but the clear assumption was a failed attempt to overcome the call of death sounded by the poison.
I was allowed to attend the funeral. I was there with my wife as the vicar said all he had to say. It had been two days when he was buried with his bag of things. It was us three only there, he had no others.
The rest of his story went unknown to me. His funeral was not his end. He told me what happened from there, down in the earth. He slept still as a corpse for three days. When he woke as requested he had the bag upon him and room to move his arms. A torch lit his chamber as he ate the rations to restore his strength. The poison he’d drunk was only in part cyanide, it’s odour set fourth quick assumptions to rush the investigation of his death. The main ingredient of the liquid was a paralytic toxin derived from puffer fish and rhododendron leaves. In his bag was food, light and his means to leave the grave. His pipes were hydraulic and extended with enough power to smash through the wood of the coffin. They brought the air down. The spike on the end pierced the wood and earth to free air above. Holes hidden by a twisting outer layer stopped the pipes from filling. As his strength returned he broke the wood where it was fractured by the pipes he used to breathe. Wiping the filth from himself in the cold air he donned his spare clothes and crawled through the graveyard terrifying some mourners who ran from him screaming. His chilled and chilling face smiled as it had not in years. He had conquered death for the first time. Not the last.
I came rushing here to his home when I heard. He’d torn the tape from his door and entered the house with a key kept in the bag. I found him, still smiling, eating dried food in his armchair. Victory was written across his face but I saw madness there too. He asked what I thought of his return and I scolded him out of shock, he only smiled wider.
In the land beyond the gates of death, he said, I roam a new world.