Death and all his Friends

Complex and varied are the myriad tales of the creature we call Death. Discover forthwith a collection of such tales - short stories and poems concerning both death and Death.

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2. An Untimely Demise

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The man slumped across the desk, a knife in his back. As blood seeped onto his latest paper, his soul floated out of his body, and looked around in confusion. He should, he supposed, get up from the extremely undignified position he was currently in. However it is harder than you might think to brace yourself against a solid floor, especially when your hands are sinking through it. Reality bent as a figure, swathed in black, stepped into the room and offered him a hand. He took the proffered hand and dusted himself off, all the while wondering quite how he had managed to fall through the chair.

He very almost screamed as he saw the prone form slumped over the desk, but a gloved hand clamped over his mouth and held it tight. Pushing back her hood, the intruder spoke:

"Hush. You'll wake him up. She indicated to her shoulder where a tiny figure was slung. "If I take off my hand will you scream?" The man thought for a second, then shook his head.

"Is it dead? She smiled,

"No. Just sleeping." She frowned, "Actually yeah, it is. But it's sleeping as well."

"Oh.  Am I dead?"

"Most definitely. That's your body." She pointed at the figure on the desk, then asked: "I could check if you like."

"No that's okay. Looking at dead me is proof enough." His voice was faint, and he stared his dead body.

"You probably don't want to look at it too long. Most go crazy if they do. I'm Maia by way. Your name is..." She looked carefully at the sticky note on her arm. "... Alex Westley. Correct?"
 "Um. Yeah. But I don't really understand-"
 "Perfect. I was sent to guide you up the Ninth Plane."

"But I still don't understand how I died."
 "Well. Judging by the knife in your back, I'd say it's pretty obvious."
 "Oh. Right."

"Where was I? Oh yeah..."
 Her thick black cloak rustled, shifted, and spread out, revealing itself not to be a cloak  but a pair of majestic wings.
 "Oh."
 "Yes," she replied, her voice reflecting her amusement. "Oh indeed. On with business then."

She crossed to the dead body slumped across the desk and wrenched out the knife. The man winced as the flesh crunched. "Oh crap. That wasn't supposed to happen." She muttered something under her breath and her brown eyes flashed white. There was a terrible cracking sound and a second blade, identical to the first, appeared handle first in the wound. She shrugged nonchalantly: "Good enough."
 "Why don't you just turn it round?"
 "You can try if you want. There are two knives. The material one, which stays here, and this one, which comes with us. We cannot touch the material one, and likewise the living cannot touch the immaterial one. Anyway,  take this one instead. It's shiny." She held out the blade, which did indeed shimmer on the dim light, handle first to the man.

Unwilling to touch the weapon that had killed him, he backed off quickly, stumbling through the table behind him.
 "I'd really rather not, if it's all the same to you. Simply looking at my dead body is disconcerting enough."
 "Just take the bloody knife."
 Reluctantly he reached out, grasped the leather handle and fought off a wave of nausea.
 "Okay. I think I might faint. Can dead people faint? This is really quite disturbing."
 "You're weirded out? I'm the one talking to a dead guy."
 "Thanks. Now what do I do with this?"

She rolled up her sleeve, removed the leather glove that covered her forearm, and offered him her arm.
 "Cut me."
 "What! Are you out of your mind?"
 "Yes. But that is completely irrelevant and entirely uncalled for. In answer to your unasked question, every time we bring a soul of the departed dead to the Ninth Plane, we ask one thing of them, one thing that will last an eternity - a scar from the blade that killed them."
 "What if they died of old age?"
 "Metaphorical scars count as well. Now are you going to do this or not? Because if you aren't off this plane in the next five minutes you're going to be stuck here permanently."
 "Fine."

He reached down to slice her arm and noticed something.
 "I don't see any scars."
 "Of course not. You only get scars when you bring someone back."
 A discontented mumble passed his lips, "Does that mean that I'm the first person you've brought back?"
 "Yes. Now get on and cut me."

With a small whimper of protest, he made a tiny nick on her arm, which she regarded with distaste.
 "Is that it?"
 "What would you prefer?"
 She grabbed his arm, still holding the knife, and sliced it down on her arm, creating a gushing wound.
 "That's better. Now, on with business." She took a long white bandage out of a concealed pocket and began to wrap it round her arm. Uncapping a Sharpie, she began crossing things out on her sticky note, muttering under her breath as she did so, "Introductions ... done ... knife ... done... scar... done ... Okay, looks like we're all set. Lets go."

 She held out her arm formally, offering it to Alex for the second time in ten minutes. Taking a deep breath, she stepped into the Ninth Plane, accompanied by the faint sound of rushing water.

Just as they left, a man swathed in grey entered the room and looked at both knives - the material one in the corpse's back, the other lying on the floor.
 "Sure," he shouted into thin air, "leave me to clean up after you. Bloody rookies."

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