死亡天使

2018-06-12 17:06:38 英语学习2018年6期

By Roman A.Ranieri

The room was dimly lit, and on first glance, appeared to be empty. A few moments later, the padded chair behind the desk moved, and the man seated there reached for the telephone. He tapped the buttons without looking at them, then waited patiently for his call to be answered.

“Hello?” came the voice of an elderly woman.

“Mrs. Hannah Gelbman?” asked the man in a low, soothing tone.

“Yes, this is Hannah Gelbman. Who am I speaking to?”

“Its time to rest, Hannah. Youve lived a long, troubled life, overcoming countless hardships and disappointments. Its time for your suffering to end.”

“Who is this? What kind of stupid joke are you trying to play? I can have the police trace this call, you know that?”

“Please calm yourself, Hannah. I mean you no harm. I only wish to help you achieve peace. Havent you endured more than your fair share of suffering? Isnt it time for something better?”

“Who are you? Are you a member of some parasitic1 religious group? If youre looking for a donation, youre wasting both your time and my time, because Im not giving you a penny.”

“No. I dont represent any particular group. But all religions acknowledge me, and try their best to understand the cosmic logic of my work.”

“Who are you?” the old woman asked again, her voice betraying her uncertainty. She had no idea what this man wanted from her, but she sensed that she needed to know his purpose.

“I am the Angel of Death. Havent you recently prayed that I would come to release you from your suffering? Arent you so very tired of the constant pain of old age, and the indifference of your relatives? If not for the change in the programs you watch on television, would you even know what day it was?”

“This is really a cruel and sick-minded joke to play on an elderly person. Youre nothing but a filthy lunatic. Im not going to tolerate this nonsense any longer. Im going to hang up right this minute.”

“You are Hannah Gelbman. You have lived at 42 Forest Lane for the last forty-two years. You had two sisters; Abigail, who moved to Florida in 1953, then remained there until her death in 1969; and Esther, who lived on the street directly behind you before she was tragically killed in an automobile accident in 1971. You were married to Asher Gelbman for sixty-three years until a stroke took him in 1993. Shall I continue? How much will it take to convince you of my identity?”

“Yes, I guess so.”

“Fine. In a moment youll begin to feel a numbness in your left arm. Dont be alarmed. Im going to make this as painless as I can. Just relax and allow it to happen.”

“My arm is starting to tingle. What should I do?”

“Remain clam, Hannah. Think of the tingling simply as the beginning of your new existence. Let the feeling flow up your arm to your shoulder. Release yourself from the prison of your aged body. You dont need it any longer.”

“Im starting to feel a tightening in my chest,” said Hannah anxiously. “You said this wasnt going to hurt. Make it stop. Im in pain.”

“Its only a brief twinge3, Hannah. Let go. Your soul already knows the way. Just let go.”

“I—I cant breathe. Stop—stop the pain.”

He heard the thump4 of something falling to the floor, then silence. He listened patiently for several minutes, but there were no other sounds. He glanced down at the open notebook on the desk, and dialed a new number.

“Hello?” answered a young man.

“Your Aunt Hannah just died of a heart attack, Mr. Fine.”

“I understand. How did you know that she had a heart condition?”

“I endeavor to know everything about my clients, Mr. Fine. By noon tomorrow, you will place the balance of my fee in the same location as before.”

“Thats impossible. Ill need at least a week to get that much money without arousing suspicion.”

“The money will be paid by noon tomorrow as we agreed, or your heirs will be inheriting your estate by the end of the week.”

“Dont threaten me, Im not some sickly little old lady. You cant induce me to have a heart attack.”

“No, Mr. Fine. No heart attack. Your death doesnt need to appear natural. With you, I can be more creative.”

The man at the desk hung up. He wasnt concerned. He knew he would be paid. One way or another, he always got paid.

房間里灯光黯淡,初看上去仿佛空的一般。过了一会儿,桌子后面那张软垫椅动了动,随后坐在那里的那个人伸手去拿电话。他没看按键就拨了起来,然后耐心地等着对方接听。

“喂?”说话的是一位上了年纪的女人。

“是汉娜·吉尔布曼太太吗?”那人用低沉镇定的语调问。

“是,我是汉娜·吉尔布曼。你是哪位?”

“该休息了,汉娜。你过着一种漫长困窘的生活,要克服无数艰难和失望。你的苦日子该到头了。”

“你是谁?你在开什么愚蠢的玩笑?我可能会叫警察追查这个电话,你知道吗?”

“请镇静,汉娜。我无意伤害你。我只是想帮你获得安宁。你不是忍受不了你那份苦日子吗?难道还不是过好日子的时候吗?”

“你是谁?你是不是某个寄生宗教团体的成员?如果你是在找人捐助,那你既是在浪费我的时间,也是在浪费你的时间,因为我一个子儿也不会给你。”

“不。我不代表任何特定组织,但所有的宗教界人士都认识我,而且尽其所能来理解我工作的无限逻辑。”

“你是谁?”老妇人再次问道,声音里流露出了她的惴惴不安。她不晓得这个人想要从她这里得到什么,但她意识到自己需要知道他的意图。

“我是死亡天使。你近来没有祈祷我要来把你从苦难中解救出来吗?你不是厌倦透了一大把年纪不断带来的痛苦以及亲戚间的冷漠吗?如果不是因为你看电视节目的变换,你哪里会知道是星期几?”

“这真是对一个上年纪的人开的残酷而又病态的玩笑。你只不过是卑劣的疯子。我再也无法忍受这种胡言乱语了。现在我就挂断电话。”

“你是汉娜·吉尔布曼。你过去的42年曾住在森林巷42号。你有两个妹妹。阿比盖尔1953年移居佛罗里达州,然后住在那里,直到1969年去世;伊莎1971年在车祸中不幸死去,此前她就住在你正后面的那条街上。你嫁给阿舍尔·吉尔布曼63年,直到1993年一场中风要了他的命。还要我继续讲下去吗?要多长时间才能使你相信我的身份呢?”

停顿了好一阵子,汉娜才答道:“你刚才讲的每件事在各种政府记录中都备了案:出生证明、税单、结婚证以及死亡证明。一个地道的骗子完全可以轻而易举地找出那些东西。”

“你的思想真敏锐,汉娜。我发现岁月并没有使你的头脑变得迟钝,但你丈夫的情妇萨伦·戴尔怎么样呢?你对整件事都守口如瓶,不是吗?你甚至对你的妹妹们都从来没有提过,不是吗?我一个素不相识的人怎么会知道她的事呢?”

“如果这样一件事曾发生过,我想戴尔小姐可能会被收买说出几个细节。”

电话上传来了咯咯的笑声:“我不怪你怀疑我。差不多我打给的每个人一开始都怀疑,直至他们意识到我正在给他们提供两件他们非常想要的东西:摆脱痛苦,永远安息。”

“够了,”汉娜生气地说。“你是在白费口舌。死亡天使为什么还需要用电话?你为什么不现在就出现在我的起居室?”

“为什么不用电话?它可是最普通的通信工具,不是吗?另外,我想要你在我来到你身边时欢迎我。我不想在突然凭空出现在你面前时把你给吓死。我的目的是让你舒服,而不是痛苦。”

“你是疯子,满口胡言。我要挂了。”

“别惹我生气,汉娜。如果你挂断,至少10年内我不会再给你打电话。你真的愿意忍受这种生活这么长时间吗?想一想年老带来的不可避免的痛苦,不仅是在身体上,而且在感情上,还有在智力上。继续活下去有什么用?你不是已经完成了几乎所有对你真正重要的事情吗?”

“你想要我做什么?”她轻声问道。

“你是坐在舒适的椅子上吗?”

“是。”

“那就放松,听我说。我将引导你到一个快乐安静的世界。向后靠近垫子,闭上眼睛。让身体放松。你极需要休息。在整个生命中,你已经做了要你做的每件事情。你已经赢得了转而为自己考虑考虑的权利。”

“我害怕,”汉娜说,她的声音几乎是在耳语,“我会发生什么事?”

“镇静。一切都会好的。从现在起几分钟后,你就会跟你丈夫和妹妹们在一个更好的世界团聚。你听我说话时,尽力使你的思绪漂流在一阵凉爽柔和的微风上。你可以做到,能不能,汉娜?”

“能,我想能。”

“很好。过一会儿,你会开始感到左臂麻木,不用怕。我会尽可能使其没有痛苦。只要放松,跟着感觉走。”

“我的胳膊开始刺痛。我该怎么办?”

“保持冷静,汉娜。把这种刺痛看成是你新生命的开始。让那感觉流向你的胳膊和肩膀。将你自己从衰老身体的禁锢中解放出来。你再也不需要它了。”

“我开始感到胸部发紧,”汉娜忧心忡忡地说,“你说过这不会疼的。让它停下来。我很疼。”

“这仅仅是短暂的痛苦,汉娜。放松。你的灵魂已经知道怎么办了。请放松。”

“我──我无法呼吸。停止──停止这痛苦吧。”

他听见什么东西砰的一声落在了地板上,随后是一片沉寂。他耐心地听了几分钟,但没有别的声响。他低头扫了一眼桌子上打开的笔记本,然后拨了一个新号码。

“喂?”一个年轻男人答道。

“你的姨妈汉娜刚刚心脏病发作死了,凡恩先生。”

“我明白。你是怎么知道她有心脏病的?”

“我总是竭力了解我的顾客的方方面面,凡恩先生。明天中午,像以往一样,你还把我的费用结款放在老地方。”

“那不可能。我至少需要一周才能不引起任何怀疑地弄到那一大笔钱。”

“务必按照我们的约定在明天中午前支付那笔钱,否则你的继承人将会在本周末继承你的房产。”

“别威胁我。我可不是病恹恹的小老太太。你是不可能诱发我心脏病发作的。”

“是,凡恩先生。没有心脏病。你的死不需要显得那样自然。对你,我的手段可能更有创意。”

桌边那人挂了电话。他不用担心。他知道他会收到付款的。不管怎样,他总能收到付款。

1. parasitic: 寄生的。parasitic religious group指靠他人施舍或供給的宗教团体。

2. out of thin air: 凭空(出现或消失),无中生有地。

3. twinge: 刺痛。

4. thump: 重击声。