The Voice of Death
Here is a Rumanian folk story that has been translated in many languages, and has become popular to readers in different parts of the world.
Long, long ago there lived a man whose only wish was for the good things of life. Giving all his time to this one idea he soon became very rich indeed, and could buy anything he wanted.
Now, however, he began to be afraid. For he said:
'It's all very well to have everything I want. But supposing I were to die? Then I should have to leave it all behind, and I wouldn't be able to enjoy it any more.'
So he set out through the world in search of a land where nobody died. For a long time he was unable to find such a place, but at last he came to a country where the very word 'death' was unknown.
'Nobody ever dies here,' he was told.
'Then your country must get fuller and fuller,' said the man.
'Oh no,' was the answer. 'You see, from time to time a voice is heard calling first one and then another; and whoever hears the voice follows it, and never comes back again.'
'Well, if you're stupid enough to follow this voice,' said the man, 'that's your own concern.'
And he went home, packed up all his treasures, and moved with his family to the land where nobody died.
But first of all he instructed his wife and children that if ever any of them heard a voice calling they were to pay no attention to it- and certainly not to follow it.
They lived happily for many years in their new home, until one evening as they were sitting round the table at dinner, his wife suddenly jumped up and cried:
'All right! I'm coming! I'm coming!”
Her husband caught hold of her firmly and reproached her, saying: 'Surely you remember what I told you? Stay where you are, unless you wish to die!'
'But don't you hear that voice calling me?' she asked.
'I only want to go and see what it is calling me for. I'll come back as soon as I know.' She struggled to escape from her husband; but he held her firmly and told the children to lock and bar all the doors and windows. 'Very well, dear husband,' she said. 'I shall obey you and stay here.'
But suddenly, just before the last door was closed, she bent forward, slipped out of her fur-lined robe, and dashed out into the night, leaving nothing but the robe in her husband's hands.
'I am coming! I am coming!' they heard her voice calling in the distance. Then there was silence, and she was never seen or heard of again.
'Well,' said her husband, 'if she was foolish enough to wish to die, there's nothing I can do about it.' And he married a new wife and went on enjoying himself.
But not long afterwards, as he was sitting in the barber's shop to be shaved, and the barber had just lathered his chin, set down the sputter brush and taken up a big razor, he suddenly shouted out:
'I won't come, do you hear? I just won't come!'
The barber and the other customers in the shop listened in amazement. But again the man shouted, shaking his first towards the door:
'I tell you once and for all that I am not going to follow you. So go away at once!'
A moment later he jumped up in a fearful rage.
'How dare you go on calling me?' he shouted. 'Well, if you won't go away when I tell you, I shall have to make you!'
Then he snatched the razor out of the barber's hand, and rushed out of the shop with the lather still on his face, crying: 'I'll teach you to let people alone in future!'
The barber was determined not to lose his razor, so he followed the man, who ran through the town at top speed, out at the other side, across country for several miles- and fell head 0first down a tremendous precipice, and was never seen again. So in spite of what he had said he had followed the Voice just as all the others had done.
When the barder told the other people of the town what he had seen, they all set out to explore the plain at the bottom of the precipice to see if there was any sign of all those who had followed by Voice for so many years: but there was not a trace.
From that time on however, the people of the country followed the Voice no more, but died quietly in their beds like ordinary mortals all over the world.
(R) thedailystar.net 2006