The righteous man laid on his deathbed, but he feared not. Whether he was to live or to die, he knew that it was all part of God’s plan, and he knew that he had no place to question the will of The Divine. He knew that if he were to die, then his wife, a believer less devout than he, would curse him in her grief. Curse him for not giving her a chance to say goodbye, or even one last “I told you so”. From the start, she was against his missionary work; it was too dangerous, she said. Considering the foreign illness now ravaging his body, it would seem that she was right. But even so, he had no regrets. If he had a second chance to choose between his own life and doing God’s work, he’d choose the latter without hesitation, just as he had months prior. He would rather die in the service of The Lord than live knowing that he wasn’t devoting himself fully to his beliefs.
Or so he thought. Until one midnight when he started to smell smoke as he laid awake from the pain. At first, he thought it was a fire, and feared, not for his own life, but for the lives of his fellow patients. But then he recognized its scent, one he’d prayed he’d never smell again. “Whoever’s smoking, please stop,” he shouted weakly, “for the health of yourself and your fellow patients!” “Shhhhhhh, quiet down,” a nasal voice responded, far closer than he expected. He cried out in surprise. “The nurses cannot see or hear me. If they hear you hollering about an impeccably well-dressed skeleton, they’ll send you to the loony bin.” When the man looked to his right, he was too afraid to make a noise. A skeletal figure dressed in a black coat and top hat loomed over him, with a cigar in his mouth, a glass of rum in his hand, and plugs in his nose. “I do apologize for the smell,” the skeleton continued, “I’ve been wearing these damn nose plugs so long I tend to forget. Though they do come in handy. For instance… well, let’s just say that my nose isn’t the only orifice that I have plugs for.” The righteous man sat dumbfounded while the mysterious intruder laughed bawdily. Finally he mustered the courage to ask, “Must you be so vulgar? I’d prefer if we could speak civilly.” The skeleton just laughed like he’d heard the funniest thing in the world.“M-may I ask what is so funny?” the ill man asked. The stranger managed to regain his composure. “Would you ask a fish to stop swimming? A bird to stop flying? A whore to stop fuckin’?” “Well, to the last one, I probably would, yes,” The righteous man said. Ignoring him, the mysterious man continued, “Then why the hell would you ask Baron Samedi to stop being vulgar? It’s practically my job. And let me tell you: business is good. Even better than that special kind of orgasm you can only get when-” “I’ve heard quite enough!” the righteous man said, “you would mock the religion of the locals by pretending to be one of their Loa and putting on this… profane display?” “Well, sure!” Baron Samedi replied, “I’ll mock just about anyone for just about anything. Except the missus. Except when she finds me in bed with a mortal and punishes me by forcing me to do that one thing that even I think is a bit weird. Christ, stop asking about my wild sex life. Just know that it is so bombastic as to be literally unfathomable to a mortal.” He considered pointing out that he hadn’t asked, but figured it would be a waste of his time.
Without warning, Baron Samedi (or the man claiming to be him) snapped his bony fingers, and an EKG filled the room with a steady beep. “Wh-what is that? What are you doing?” “Sounds like you’re dying,” The Baron said, “You must be pretty scared. Your heart’s gotta be pounding, with all that adrenaline and shit. Unless…” The man looked over to the EKG screen, and saw that it was flatlined. He put his own finger to his neck to find his pulse. He couldn’t. But he didn’t feel any different. “Am… am I dying?” “Sorta,” Baron Samedi said, “but there’s no need to worry. You can’t die without my permission, which you don’t have. I’m just stopping your heart until you believe me.” “Y-you’re insane!” the man said. “How long will it take to convince you?” Samedi continued, “Do you know how long a human can live without their heart beating? I do. Don’t worry, it has nothing to do with my outrageously kinky sex this time. Although…” “Stop!” the man pleaded, “I can’t take any more. Restart my heart, and I’ll believe you. Otherwise, you are nothing more than a murderer.” True to his word, Baron Samedi snapped his fingers once more, and the man’s heart beat anew. “Surely you are a devil,” he said, “a demon sent to test my faith. Your words will find no purchase in my heart. Begone, foul spirit!” “You know what I hear right now?” Baron Samedi asked, “I hear a coward. A little bitch. Someone who acts all high and mighty, but isn’t even brave enough let his faith be tested. You can’t redeem Jesus points for resisting temptation if you aren’t tempted in the first place.” “Then speak your piece,” the man conceded. “Excellent,” Samedi said, “you see, I take pity on you. You’ve been alive for so long, but you’ve never really lived. You’ve been so busy working for God or whatever. And I get that, I do that to, and it’s not a bad gig. But you’re so obsessed that you haven’t had time for the important things. Smoking, drinking, partying, fucking. And whatever you do with your wife doesn’t count. That shit’s so vanilla, Baskin Robin’s named a flavor of Ice Cream after it.” “Do you have a point?” the man asked, trying desperately to escape the mental image of copulation flavored ice cream.
“I’m here to offer you this shot of rum. And with it, a shot at immortality,” Baron Samedi said. “I don’t follow,” the righteous man said. “Well, if you don’t drink that rum, it’s over. You die, and go to whatever afterlife awaits you, if any. But if you drink the rum… you live,” Baron Samedi explained. “For how long?” the man asked, trying not to sound interested. “Well, that’s all up to you, isn’t it? Take this shot, and you’ll stay alive for as long as you’re living,” Baron Samedi said. “Isn’t that kind of redundant?” the ill man asked. “No, not at all!” the Loa said, “Your problem is that you think that ‘living’ and ‘being alive’ are the same thing.” “Well… they are, aren’t they?” the man asked. “Of course not!” Baron Samedi replied, “Just look at me. I’m not alive, but let me tell you something.” He puffed his cigar for dramatic effect. “I’m really fuckin’ good at living.” “And how is it that you live? Is it the vulgarity? The substance abuse? Or perhaps it’s the heinous sexual activity?” “Try D: All of the above!” Baron Samedi said, “And that’s not the only D I recommend you try, if you know what I’m saying.” “Absolutely not!” the man insisted, “I have a duty to-” Baron Samedi cut him off. “If you’re about to pull that ‘doing God’s work’ crap, stop right now. Unless God’s work is getting eaten by worms six feet under, refusing won’t get you anywhere with that.” “B-but I am an honest man. A family man,” he said, desperate for a reason to refuse. “Is that why you’d deny your wife the chance to see you one last time? To hear your voice, to hold you in her arms, to get that good dick?” Baron Samedi asked. He thought he had made peace with never seeing his family again, but his doubts resurfaced. He suddenly became very aware of how weak he felt: of the agonizing pain in his stomach, of the singed tobacco burning his nostrils, of the unbearable weight on his chest. Thinking he was suffering from a heart attack, he clutched his hand to his chest. He found that the weight pressing down on him was a real, physical object: the crucifix he always wore. How could he forget? As he held it in his hands, it gave him strength.
“No,” he said, “My faith in Christ is me, and I am my faith in Christ. To abandon that would be no different from death; It would be the rebirth of some different, abhorrent man in my own flesh. And so, I reject your offer, once and for all. By the power of Christ, I compel you to leave this place!” With the last of his strength, he held up his cross, trying to ward Baron Samedi away. But he was unfazed. “Easy there, tiger,” Baron Samedi said, “I may have lost this little game, but it’s still my job to make sure your death goes smoothly. But, before that happens, I have just one last question for you: Does your wife like her rum white, or spiced?”