Appointment in Samarra
Here is a version of a story attributed to W.Somerset Maugham, although I suspect its origin goes back much further than the 1930's!
Long ago, there lived a merchant in Baghdad. Being low on supplies for his shop, he sent his servant to the marketplace with a list of things to get. When the servant reached the marketplace, he saw Death standing in the crowd giving him a menacing stare.
Terrified, the servant ran back to the shop and exclaimed, "Master, Master! I saw Death among the people in the marketplace and He gave me a threatening gesture! He's after me! Please, Master, give me your fastest steed and I will fly off to Samarra where he will never find me."
Convinced by the look of sheer terror in his servant's face, the merchant gave him his fastest horse and off the young boy raced to Samarra.
After some contemplation, the merchant became annoyed that he had lost his only servant and quickly strode to the marketplace where he, too, saw Death standing among the crowd. His anger outweighing his fear, the merchant walked right up to Death and asked, "Why did you give my servant a threatening gesture?"
And in a cold, raspy voice, Death replied, "That was not a threatening gesture, that was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see your servant here in Baghdad.
You see, I have an appointment with him tonight---in Samarra."
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