Flash Friday 14/11/2014: Knocking On Death’s Door
When the door opened, James launched straight into his sales spiel.
“Hello, hello, it’s good to see you,” James said, per the script. “Y’know, I just need one more sale of double glazing to meet my quota, but nobody else in the town wants some. But you, sir or madam may just be my lucky break, for I am selling only the finest windows mankind has to–oh god, you’re…”
“Yes?” the grim reaper said.
The grim reaper frowned. “Yes, I am. I thought every human knew about me by this point.”
“Yeah, but…you’re the grim freakin’ reaper. Living in a cottage on the hill overlooking the town.”
“I know.” The grim reaper patted the doorframe. “Lovely little thing, isn’t it?”
“But I thought you lived in the afterlife, or something.”
“Oh, no no no. That place is built for humans, not spirits such as myself. It’s like asking a rabbit owner to live in the hutch. Besides, it gets awful satellite reception.”
“But…how come nobody has come down here before?”
“I don’t know — probably has something to do with the sign that reads ‘HERE LIVES DEATH’ at the bottom of the path. You did read the sign, right?”
“Uh.” James rubbed the back of his head. “To be honest, I was more focused on seeing another chance of making quota, than seeing who was living there.”
“Well, nevermind. Now that you’re here — my first visitor, I might add — do you want to come in for some tea?”
“Sure,” James said with a shrug. “Why not?”
James followed Death into the cottage. He had mental images of a dark, brooding interior with gravestones, hourglasses, and an arrangement of scythes. What he saw instead was a warm, cozy cottage, paintings of scenic routes and lakes hanging from the wall, a grandfather clock ticking to itself in the humble kitchen.
“So.” Death opened up the cupboards, revealing a wide arrangement of teas. “What do you fancy? Death cap? Rat poison? Hydrochloric acid?”
“Uh.” James shrank into the doorframe. “Those all sound…deadly.”
“What? Oh, right, yes. The mortal thing. When you’re immortal like me, your tastes get a bit…eclectic from the norm. I trust you want something like an Earl Grey?”
“That will do.”
“Alright. Personally, I hate the stuff. Doesn’t even make you feel ill.”
Death poured out two mugs — Earl Grey for James, and a cup of cyanide for himself, reminiscing on the ‘lovely burning sensation’ it gave. James double-checked with Death before drinking from his mug.
James eventually found himself, sitting in the lounge of Death himself. There was a magazine rack — mainly filled with news about daredevils and stuntmen, a few of which were marked as ‘to-do’ — a clock, and some photographs of various pets that Death had kept over the years.
“So, uh…” James said, putting the empty mug on the counter.”
“Hmm?” Death looked over his own.
“I mean, I discovered the grim reaper’s home and all, so I really can’t leave without asking this, but, uh…I take it you have all your deaths pre-planned, right?”
“Of course. Everyone has a slot and a schedule. Of course, the workload has increased to the point where I need to offload the work elsewhere, but I do my part as well. Did you know that there’s about a hundred deaths every minute? I’d never have a holiday.”
“So, you write all the planned deaths down, right? In some sort of book, or something. Book of Death, Necronomicon, Scroll of Shadows…”
“Post-It Notes, actually.”
“Right, right. So, that means, somewhere, you have the documented description of…well, my death.”
Death laughed a hollow laugh. “Ah, yes. See, this is where we have to agree to disagree. If I told you what your death would be and when, it would be like telling you about a surprise birthday party planned for you. Why, the surprise is the best bit! You might be crossing the road, and then–!” Death punched an open palm. “Surprise! It’s all over. See how much fun it is?”
James adjusted his collar, eyeing the door. “To be honest, sir, it sounds downright horrifying.”
“Oh, come off of it. Everyone’s always so scared about their deaths, and then when they finally have it, they all come begging to me for another go. I’m sure you’ll love it. Are you heading off?”
“Yeah, it’s getting late. But…” James sighed. “I still didn’t meet my quota for sales.”
“I’m not entirely sure how I can help you. After all, the damp and the cold don’t affect someone who’s already dead. The windows would be smashed wide open and I wouldn’t care.”
“But I’ll tell you what you would care about, though — if a bird flew through the broken window and decided to have a bath in your special tea.”
Death froze on bringing the cup to his lips, then looked down at it as if something dead was in it. He then stared at James with realisation. “How much do the windows go for?”
James managed to finally meet the quota with replacing the windows in Death’s house, although advised Death not to actually be in the house when they came to install them. Death thanked James for visiting, and told James to let him know should he have a rodent infestation in his house. That sort of thing was his speciality, Death claimed.
With goodbyes said (with a bone-chilling ‘see you soon’ added by Death, leaving James to wonder if he was joking or not), James once again found himself walking down the front path of the grim reaper’s house. At least, at the bar tonight, he could make a valid claim that he had a brush with death. He’d probably omit the part where he had some tea with it, too.