Dinner Party

    Everyone was invited to the party. The town of Grimmelsville was a teeny little place – so small, in fact, that it was not to be found on any map. What was the cause for this social gathering? As it turns out, there was a new person in the neighborhood. He was a rather peculiar person; he was a quiet, withdrawn gentleman from somewhere in France. His name was Parrain LaMort, and when he moved to Grimmelsville, the news spread like wildfire. Nobody could remember the last time anyone had ever moved to their little village.
    Everyone knew that their new neighbor was extremely quiet and always kept his distance from others, so needless to say they were a bit taken aback when LaMort sent out invitations. They were all requested to join him in his home for dinner and socializing. The invitation explained that the man would like to get to know the people of the small community, and so they accepted.

    That Friday evening, the first guest arrived at Parrain’s home. The house, resting on a hill overlooking the village, was a rather large place that had been around for as long as anyone could remember. Nobody had lived there for ages, but it had a lot of character and was in good condition. The gentleman greeted each guest at the door, and invited them to go in. The first to show was a young woman who introduced herself simply as “Miss Brill.” She was wearing an attractive necklace, as well as an old but elegant fur coat. She said little as she made her way in.

    The next guest to arrive was a man who did not name himself at all. He looked very cold, as though he had hypothermia or the chills. He mumbled something about an “old-timer” as he made his way inside. More guests showed up, including, among others, a man by the name of Gregory Samson and also a couple of people dressed in what appeared to be some sixteenth-century-style clothes.

    Later on in the party, as other guests arrived late, most people had gathered around the table and were eating. At one point, the woman in the old-fashioned outfit seemed disturbed by her companion who was being noisy and seemed to be starting to get himself drunk. She said politely but firmly, “My forehead is as though untamed animals are striking their claws against it. If you please, would you be so kind as to speak softly, so that I may recover with haste?”
The man turned around to face her and mumbled semi-coherently, “How’s that, Desdemona?” Flustered, she suddenly raised her voice and shouted, “It means 'I have a headache, so SHUT UP!'” Moments later she muttered to herself, “If Othello were feeling well, I wouldn’t have to take this jerk with me…” Parrain smiled, but said nothing. He seemed to enjoy just listening to the conversation.

    Amongst the various people who were arriving late, one man showed up who was from the outskirts of the neighborhood. Everyone knew him. “Hi, Ed!” one man shouted. It was actually Edgar – Edgar Allan Poe. He came with his pet raven perched on one shoulder. He greeted everyone and then started to talk about his most recent story he had written. Parrain greeted Poe in a soft voice and stroked the raven’s back with one finger. He said in an almost completely inaudible voice, “Life is so short, is it not, black one?”

    One woman by the name of Jennifer had also come with her pets – pet tigers. They were tame, of course; she had cared for them since they were young. By nature the tigers were docile, but they seemed restless and started growling at Poe’s raven. Growing a bit tired anyway, Jennifer said goodbye to the other partygoers and departed. The tigers, once out in the cool autumn air, pranced around in the green grass. Jennifer was trying to keep them steady on their leashes, but was having difficulty getting them to calm down.

    Back inside, Gregory Samson was not paying attention to much of anything. Even LaMort noticed it. “You’re quiet, friend,” he said with a hint of concern in his voice. Samson commented, “You wouldn’t know him, but I have a friend named Franz … I think you’d like him. He’s writing a book, The Transformation, I think it’s called. He won’t say much, except it’s about a man who leads a troubled life.” Scratching his chin, Parrain said, “Everyone deals with stress or anxiety in their own way…”

    The blind man, who had introduced himself but whose name Parrain could not pronounce, was carefully making his way from the dining table into the next room, eventually sitting down in an overstuffed, old sofa. He had an aura of wisdom and experience to him. He said, “I may be blind to the physical world, but I sense danger in this place.” The others looked at him for a moment, then shrugged and went back to their chitchat. Parrain pondered this for a moment, but again he said nothing.

    All of a sudden, and without warning, a loud, howling wind outside began to blow. All of the guests moved to the large window in the living room adjacent to the dining room and looked outside. The sky was filled with clouds of an almost otherworldly color. The clouds were an intense indigo, and they moved at an incredible speed. Parrain LaMort was watching as well, not with fear like the others, but with awe, as though the vividly-colored scene before him was wonderful to behold. Lightning flashed and thunder struck; a window somewhere upstairs shattered to the ground. The house shook to its very foundation, and the Frenchman began to cackle in a deep, throaty voice the others had not heard him use before. “All of you!” he shouted. “All of you are ignorant! Had you known what my name meant, you would not have come.”

    The crowd of people stared, fearful. What had happened to the shy, quiet Parrain they had known? “I am not inherently evil,” he told them. “But I have my duty to do, and your town has reached its time. Parrain LaMort is French – for Godfather Death. All of you, in this small village, have defied me and tried to trick Death by hiding. Do you think it is coincidence that I moved here? Nobody is immortal.”
    The people knew that what the strange man spoke was the truth. They were a group of people who were superstitious, and feared death, so they fled to a remote and distant land, hoping that Death would not find them. Godfather Death continued, “All of you, heed my words. Death is natural and should be accepted. But you have defied me and tried to stop the inevitable. Now, your time has come.” The people fled the building, but they knew that it would only be a matter of time before they had to face the truth: they had been exposed. Death knew. He did not come deliberately to kill them, but because it was past their time. They should have already passed. And he had his orders.

    Suddenly he realized that the raven had not left. It flew over to him and landed on one arm. He stroked the bird with one bony finger. He spoke to the bird: “My black beauty, you know the truth. These people are past their time. When I come for them, they will breathe one last time; and after that, their life shall be ---”
Quoth the raven, “…Nevermore!”