Hellish Bouquet

“I’m in Hell,” Grover said when his eyes opened again. His voice was weak and frail, but that was okay; there was no one in the hospital room to hear him. Despite using his ability to respawn all his life, he hoped there would be a final rest if he died naturally. He was surprised the first time it happened and concerned the second.

He debated calling a nurse in so that he wouldn’t die alone, but there was no point. Each time he breathed his last, he woke up again three hours earlier; it was 1 a.m. again. Grover sighed and watched the second hand move on the clock. There was nothing else to do. He’d already watched all the shows on every channel at least twice. He was too weak to support his phone and try and surf the web. This was the longest three hours of his life, and if this kept up these three hours would last longer than his life so far.

He jumped slightly, as much as his frail frame could move, when his door suddenly opened without a knock. The nurses always knocked. Grover was surprised to see a well-dressed man enter his room. He appeared to be an older gentleman, though not as old as Grover, wearing a green suit. He sported with a neatly trimmed white beard and neatly parted white hair.

As he neared the bed, Grover noticed the sudden scent of peppermint fill the room. The man smiled and Grover caught sight of a tattoo his right cheek; the number 37.

“Who… are…,” Grover tried to ask, but the man reached his bed before he could finish his question.

“Shhhh, I’ll tell you who I am and why I’m here. Don’t strain yourself,” he said calmly. Not having much choice, and enjoying the pleasant minty scent in the air, Grover gave the man a weak nod.

“First, some credibility,” the man winked his right eye; Grover realized it wasn’t normal. It appeared to be a glass eye painted to look like the Earth, but somehow it was spinning slowly. “I know you haven’t been able to die. Anytime you do, you wake up again sometime earlier,” he gave a slight shrug. “Maybe minutes, maybe days.” Grover’s eyes opened wide. No one ever knew what made him a great hero, but this stranger explained it perfectly.

“Now that I have your attention,” The man grabbed the chair and sat in it facing Grover. “My name is Peppermint,” he said.

Of course it is,” Grover thought. He nodded at the man to conserve his strength.

“As much as I enjoy giving, ‘the talk‘,” he said with a chuckle. “I do have other appointments. So, I’ll be brief and you can learn the details later. You have the ability to control time itself. Unfortunately, you don’t have control of that ability yet. As a result, you’ve been subconsciously creating ‘save points’ at various intervals. When you die, you revert to your latest one. Makes sense so far?” Peppermint asked.

Grover nodded. Over the years he occasionally wondered how much control he had over his ability to respawn. Peppermint’s explanation answered a lot of those questions.

“I can teach you how to control it; in exchange, I’d like you to come work for me.”

Grover used all his saved strength to chuckle. He laughed with a wheezing, ragged sound that barely reached Peppermint’s ears.

“You’re wondering what kind of job an old man like you can do, right?” Peppermint asked. Grover nodded. “Think about it. You can control time, you don’t have to stay old if you don’t want to. You can make yourself as young as you like.”

Grover’s mind raced. He was ready to take Peppermint’s offer then and there. However, being a hero taught him to be wary of offers that seem too good to be true; it took him several deaths to finally learn that lesson.

“..Where..,” Grover managed to whisper. “…What?”

“Good man,” Peppermint smiled. “Those are important questions. I’ll answer the ‘What’ first, if you don’t mind. I want to create a new, peaceful society. Somewhere we can be ourselves and help each other. A society with a focus on the well-being of the community as a whole. You’ll have all your basic necessities tended to. Shelter, food and water, and I don’t mean a shack with food bowls. You’ll have a proper home in a proper city with grocers and convenience stores and coffee shops. Though, don’t expect the coffee to be free,” Peppermint smiled.

“As for the, ‘Where’…,” He thought for a moment. “I’d like to make a deal with you. You can accept my offer on a trial basis, if you want out, you’re free to go. However, I mentioned that I’d only teach you how to control your abilities if you worked for me. So, if you choose not to work for me your ‘out’ is right back here. On this bed. Living the last day of your life every day.”

Grover didn’t like that he sidestepped the question, but it still seemed he had absolutely nothing to lose. In the worst-case scenario, he’d continue living his life three hours at a time.

“..Why?”  Grover asked. Peppermint smiled and stood from the chair; Grover guessed the meeting was almost over one way or another.

“Let’s just say my base of operations has a certain… stigma to it. I would hate for you to miss out on this opportunity just because of ridiculous social conventions. If you agree, we’ll go and have a look around. You can return to your deathbed any time you like.” Peppermint held out a hand to Grover.

Gover did not debate anymore; he managed to raise his hand and drop it on Peppermint’s open palm. The moment their hands touched, Grover felt a sharp pain on his palm.

He used all his strength to pull away from it. Grover had more strength and moved faster than he had in decades, he whacked himself in the face.

“DAMNIT THAT HURT!” he yelled. Peppermint smiled and Grover realized his throat didn’t hurt. He looked down at his hands and saw young, taught, tan skin; he wiggled his fingers, then threw the covers off. His legs looked like they did in his 20s; he jumped off the bed and raced to the mirror. A young, dark-haired man with bright, coffee-brown eyes stared back at him. His palm still itched slightly, he looked down and saw the number 14 scarred into his hand. Grover was ready to do anything Peppermint asked, he strode out of the bathroom as proud and confident as he was in his hero days.  “I’m ready,” he said.

“Wonderful,” Peppermint said. He nodded at the air next to him, and a shimmering, watery, green portal opened. Grover didn’t waste any time and walked toward it. As he stepped through, Peppermint patted him on the back and followed. “You’re going to love it in Hell.”

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