Challenge #02539-F349: Death Came Knocking

It seemed to him, he was born under a curse. He could always tell, with just a touch, how and when someone was going to die. Out of fear, his mother and step-father had sent him to live with a relative, the relative sent him to an orphanage, and the orphanage, as soon as he was big enough, sent him to live alone in one of the out-buildings, though they at least made sure he didn't starve. He had no friends, and, it seemed to him, no future. Then, as midnight rolled around on his 16th year, a stranger entered the small shack outside the orphanage and settled on the bed. He wore a dark , hooded, cloak which hid the face, and a scythe was held in a gloved hand. The hood was thrown back to show a skeletal head. The scythe was set aside and the stranger reached into his robes to draw out a carefully wrapped gift. A surprisingly deep, and unusually kind voice then spoke to him. "Happy Birthday my son, I've missed you." -- Anon Guest

Once Upon A Time... A child was born like no other known. His differences didn't make themselves known until he was about four, when he started talking in ways that others could understand. Whenever he touched someone, he would say what he knew, and what he knew was a passage of time.

"Fifty years," the boy would say. Or, "Three days." It was when the child said, "One hour," and the person in question dropped dead that hysteria spread like a plague. Some blamed the boy for the deaths. Some feared his touch from that day onwards. His mother wanted to keep him away from the world, and keep him safe... but on the night of that decision, her son announced, "Two days," when she kissed her cheek.

That night, she and her husband packed him up for a distant orphanage. When she kissed him goodbye, he said, "Seventy years," and she wept. The orphanage didn't take long to discover his gift, either. For a time, they used him in the hospice, to find out which children would thrive and which would perish, but that was the year that he learned what a self-fulfilling prophecy was. There were infants they had already chosen to neglect, and he just re-enforced their bias.

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