The Man Turned His Head and Died

This is my most recent writing exercise with my brother. The challenge was to write a very short story starting with the sentence, “The man turned his head and died.”

The man turned his head and died. With one sickening snap of his neck his life force left his body, taken, ripped. The shock of it jarred his soul out of his body and left it languishing in mid air. He had never before been faced with his own mortality and while he balked at its fragility he clung to it with white-knuckle-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff force. Yet, it slipped away as easily as silk over skin. He moved to reach out for his body, to claw his way back in, but found he no longer had hands or arms or any means of control. Energy. A warm, sizzling, amorphous pocket of energy, drifting at the mercy of the Universe, was all he was now.

Below him, his body grew cold, the heat draining, the blood pooling. Already his skin looked the color of snow and his face unrecognizable. Crouched beside his stone-still form, she stroked his face, silent tears glistening like dew on her cheeks. Although he could no longer physically feel her hand, the memory was potent enough to draw up the sensations of her cool, gentle fingertips stroking his skin. Her scent saturated his mind, light and floral with a hint of herbs, basil sometimes or cloves. Her long, black hair, like a fine woven wool, soft and luxurious, tickling his cheeks and neck. Her long, lean body hot against his in the fresh morning chill.

Suddenly, something shifted in him, a tugging from behind. The Universe was ready to take him. He was overwhelmed by terrifying uncertainty. What comes next? Is this the end? His soul had no choice but to go, to be taken away to the Unknown. He looked once more down on his vacant body and his strong-handed woman. The last thing he felt was the bitter aftertaste of her betrayal.

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