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The small park was a mass of colour; yellow, blue, red and purple flowers jostled together in the neat flower beds, their perfumes blending harmoniously with those of the nearby flowering shrubs. The sun shone down from a clear blue sky.

But soon the sky would cloud over, flowers would wither, leaves would fall, and the earth would appear barren and inhospitable. Then again, from their long sleep in the cold ground, those carefully, nurtured seeds would wake, new shoots would appear and flowers would spring forth once more.

It is the cycle of seasons. The cycle of life and death.

The park was, therefore, a fitting background for the two figures who walked there daily. They had done so for millennia, indifferent to the seasons or weather. Yet they were certainly not friends, nor even business colleagues, for what have Life and Death in common apart from their controlling interests in the souls of men.

Life Insurance office, bordering the park, had scarcely opened when Death with a flourish opened his premises the other side of the park in direct opposition. Death was CEO for a new rapidly expanding business, totally unscrupulous, greedy and power hungry as was his boss. Both had an insatiable desire to become a worldwide conglomerate. Company stock rose under Deaths shady dealings and the number of shareholders increased.

Life Insurance also grew, more slowly but steadily, as shrewd investors felt the smaller company was more reliable and secure. Life dogged the footsteps of Death as he strutted around the park and the two sparred regularly.

Death frequently complained to his senior henchmen. Famine, Disease, Pestilence and War, that they were not doing enough to further Deaths global ambitions to eliminate Life Insurance and take over its stock and shareholders.

It was not that Death was by any means a popular figure, although a few found him attractive and were influenced by his subtle and ingratiating lies. His publicity was powerful and he promised large dividends. But many feared his withering look, as his shadow cast a gloom over the park. People sensed something unsavoury about him and at close contact, he emanated unpleasant odours as that of a man unacquainted with deodorants!

Life was also consolidating his business – with integrity and honesty. Although many of his shareholders suffered greatly at the hands of Death, confidence in Life remained strong, growing by word of mouth, as people learnt of its promising dividends.

Death complained bitterly to his boss. “This life business is bugging me,” he remarked. “Life keeps popping up and interfering with what I am doing. We are even losing some shareholders.”

“Get rid of him then,” the boss replied. “You have a free hand, but make sure that you don’t bodge the job, or things might get worse.”

Death liked the idea. But, being a sneaky sort of fellow like his boss, he decided to con a few gullible shareholders into doing the work, promising them a hefty bonus. In his conceit, he formulated what he thought was the perfect plan. Life would be struck the fatal blow as he walked in the park.

Was ever murder so foul!
Was ever murder so fouled up!

Death smirked as, bursting with pride, he received his boss’s warm congratulations. They began to celebrate with a disgusting orgy of gluttony and drunkenness. But after three days, rumours began to reach them. Life had been seen in the park again.

“Impossible,” spluttered Death, as he hurried out to see for himself.

Life came towards him. “You fool,” he said scornfully. “Did you really think that you had the power to destroy Life so easily? Why, look at the plants coming to life all around you. Out of the death of a seed in the ground, life will always spring forth. It is the rule of nature.”

Death could only stand and glower as Life continued. “You will pay dearly for this. Your stock will never be the same again.”

It was true. As news spread around people began to doubt Death’s integrity, and their share values started to tumble. People came to view Life as a better investment. The company took over larger premises by the park.

Death watched this expansion from his office window and gnashed his teeth in rage. What should have been his greatest triumph had proved his greatest disaster. He was still smarting from the stinging comments from his boss.

“I’m still here anyway,” he blustered to Life, “My appointment book is always full.”

Life smiled, “That appointment you had, the pregnant women in the car crash-”

Death interrupted, “Such a pity.” he sneered, “But it was her time to go.”

Life continued, “but the baby was saved. It will live. Out of death comes life!”

Death was silent for a moment. Then, “every baby born starts on a journey to the grave,” he stated smugly.

“And then?” asked life
Death merely snorted.

Shares in Death fell even further. “Your company is losing fast,” taunted Life as they continued to spar. Death refused to admit defeat. But he began to study company accounts more closely and had to agree that Life’s stock was growing rapidly.

But Death was a gambler. He made his last desperate gamble.
The crash came very suddenly, Death’s company suffered it’s final loss and had to file for bankruptcy. His boss, devious as always, seemed to have disappeared, There were rumours. . .

The office was closed and Life and Death met for the last time.

“Now,” Said Life, “Your company is no more, you were my last enemy and henceforth Life Insurance becomes global.”

Death and his minions departed, leaving Life to take over the company premises, finding them not as salubrious as people had imagined; the miasma of Death penetrated its rooms. The building was cleaned and restored.

Outside in the park the sun shone, plants blossomed and without the shadow of Death hanging over it, once more became the paradise it was originally intended to be.

A Walk In The Park.
Author: Lydia Penn

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