This is a Sufi tale that has been reincarnated in many tongues, with variations in its size and color and ornamentation, but in essence it remains the same. It is a story about a man a mere servant, who is walking through the market one day, say it is in Jerusalem, when he feels an odd, needling presence watching him from a far. He turns and finds that he sees Death staring directly at him. Even more frightening is the way in which the gaze of Death bores straight through him.
Frenzied, he rushes in a panic from the market to his master. He beseeches, "Please please, my lord send me to Egypt on the very next boat. Today, as soon as it is humanly possible!" His master is a kind man and recognizing the faithfulness of this servant to him over many years, he grants him his wish.
So the man is quickly transported from Jerusalem to Egypt, and the next morning, he is happily walking down the ship's gangplank, relieved. No sooner that he has made his way from the wharf, the morning crowd seems to melt away and as he looks before him- there he sees Death once again, approaching with his steady gaze locked upon the face of the man. Resigned, he steps forward to meet Death directly.
"I concede, Death. You have found me. But I must ask, why were you staring at me so terribly yesterday?" and Death answered "I was looking at you because I had been instructed to collect your soul today in Egypt, and I was astonished and wondered why we were in Israel instead."
(artwork by the awesome John Dyer Baizley, who is also the bassist/vocalist for the crushingly beautiful band, Baroness, who had a severe near-encounter with Death this past summer.)