“Are you a blacksmith?” The voice from behind was all very sudden that John even flinched. Besides, he did not hear the door to the workshop open and someone went inside.
“Do you ever knock?” he replied rudely, slightly angry at himself and at the nimble client.
“Knock? Hmm… Never.” the voice answered.
John grabbed a rag from the table and, wiping his weary hands, slowly turned around, replaying in his head the rebuke that he was about to give out in the face of this stranger. But the words still remained somewhere in his head, because a very unusual client was standing in front of him.
“Could you straighten my scythe?” the guest asked in a male, slightly hoarse voice.
“Is that all, right? The end?” throwing a rag somewhere in the corner, the blacksmith sighed.
“It’s not over yet, but much worse than before,” Death answered.
“Makes sense,” agreed John. “Can’t argue with that. What do I need to do now?”
“Straighten the scythe,” Death repeated patiently.
“And then sharpen, if possible.”
John glanced at the scythe. Indeed, there were a few chipping marks on the blade, and the blade itself had already begun to wave.
“That’s clear,” he nodded. “But what should I do? Pray or get my stuff? I’m just for the first time, so to say…”
“Ahhh… That’s what you mean,” Death’s shoulders shook in soundless laughter. “No, I’m not after you. I just need to fix my scythe. Can you?”
“So, I’m not dead?” imperceptibly groping himself, asked the blacksmith.
“You know better. How are you feeling?”
“Is there nausea, dizziness, pain?”
“N-n-no,” the blacksmith said uncertainly, listening to his inner feelings.
“In that case, you have nothing to worry about,” Death replied and held out the scythe.
John took it in his immediately stiff hands and began to look at it from various angles. It would just take a half-hour, but when he realized that someone would wait behind his back until the task was finished, the time automatically increased by at least a few hours.
Teetering on his rubbery legs, the blacksmith went to the anvil and took a hammer in his hands.
“You… Have a seat. You won’t stand there, will you?!” putting all his hospitality and goodwill into his voice, John suggested.
Death sat on the seat with his back to the wall and nodded. The work’s completion was near. The blacksmith held the sharpener in his hand after he had as much as possible straightened the blade and then turned to face his visitor.
“You don’t mind me saying, but I just can’t believe that I’m holding in my hands an object which so many lives were ruined with! No weapon in the world can match it. This is truly incredible.”
Death became anxious as he watched the inside of the workshop from a bench in a relaxing position. Slowly, the hood’s dark oval rotated to face the blacksmith.
“What did you say?” he said quietly.
“I said I couldn’t believe that I was holding a weapon that…”
“Weapon? You said weapon?”
“Maybe I didn’t put it that way, just…”
John did not have time to finish. Death, jumping up with a lightning movement from its place, in a moment was right in front of the blacksmith. The edges of the hood quivered slightly.
“How many people you think I have killed?” he hissed through his teeth.
“I… I don’t know,” John mumbled, dropping his eyes to the floor.
“Tell me!” Death grabbed his chin and lifted his head up, “how many?!”
“I… I don’t know…”
“How many?!” he shouted right in the blacksmith’s face.
“How do I know how many there were?” The blacksmith squeaked in a miserable voice, trying to look away.
Death lowered his chin and remained silent for a brief moment. He sat back down on the bench, slumped down, and let out a long sigh.
“So, you don’t know how many there were?” he said quietly and, without waiting for an answer, continued, “What if I tell you that I’ve never, do you hear? Never killed a single person. What do you say to that?”
“But… But what about…”