Deathly Expectations

“Huh,” Wilbur tilted his head at the black-robed figure. Her hood was down, exposing her lean, tan face and light brown ponytail. The obsidian scythe affixed to her back gave her the vibe of a soccer mom that hadn’t grown out of her “goth phase” yet. Wilbur had been staring at his truck that was currently wrapped around a thick oak tree. The moment he noticed himself still in the truck, also wrapped around the tree, she appeared. “I didn’t expect Death to be a woman.”

“You also expected to get home safely after all that drinking,” she smirked. “Obviously you need to work on managing your expectations in your next life,” she turned and walked away from the crash. After several steps, she paused, then looked at Wilbur. “C’mon, dummy,” she said.

“Where?” he asked, but didn’t move. Death sighed, then shrugged.

“It’s not like you’re the only person that just died. Stay if you want, I’ll get you later,” she resumed walking away.

“I… I can stay!?”

“Until I’m done collecting the others, sure,” she gave a dismissive wave over her shoulder.

“TAKE YOUR TIME!” Wilbur yelled as his mind raced to come up with a plan to stay alive. Then, he blinked. 

When he opened his eyes again, Death was standing before him with a young, dark-haired girl and a silver-haired old man by her side. The strangers looked surprisingly happy for being dead. Despite coming out of nowhere, the trio seemed to be chatting jovially between them. The old man held a chocolate ice cream cone that he licked between conversations; the young girl was snacking on popcorn.

“Ready to go?” Death asked.

“Whoa,” Wilbur chuckled. “Carnival accident?” Death tilted her head for a moment, then old man laughed. Death noticed their snacks, then smiled, but shook her head.

“Nah, he came along for the ride to collect her.”

“You didn’t want to enjoy things one last time?” the girl asked with a sad, almost pitying tone.

“I can do that!?” Wilbur asked with wide eyes.

“You could’ve. But you wanted to wait here until the end, and now it’s time to go.”

“You didn’t say anything about that!” he whined. Death shrugged.

“You didn’t ask. You asked me if you could stay and I said, ‘until I’m done collecting the others’. I meant to come back for you before the party, but you told me to take my time. So, I did.”

“You weren’t even gone for two seconds!” Wilbur whined. The old man laughed harder, then took a long lick of ice cream.

“It took me a few days to get both of them. The party lasted about a week after that,” Death smiled. “Ready to go?” she asked.

“No, I want what they got. I want to enjoy things one last time.” Death shook her head subtly, she was about to deny him until the girl spoke up.

“Please, Elsa?” the girl asked. “He looks so sad.”

“He is,” Death replied. She turned her attention to her, but tilted her head at the tree and truck fusion. “That tree almost died the same way you did, because of Wilbur. Do you think he deserves to enjoy life any more?”

The girl narrowed her eyes at Wilbur. He was surprised to learn he could still feel his cheeks grow hot, despite being dead.

“Yes,” she said. “Everyone deserves to get one last taste of life before the next one.” Death looked at her in surprise.

“Really?” she asked the girl.

“Yes!” the girl gave a firm nod and walked toward Wilbur with the popcorn box extended.

“You see?” Wilbur chuckled. “Out of the mouths of babes,” he said. He stood up straighter and puffed his chest confidently at Death. The girl stopped in front of him and held up the box of popcorn. “Popcorn’s a good start, how ’bout some pizza?” he reached down to grab some kernels.

Before he reached the popcorn he felt a sharp, agonizing thwack on his shin. He yelped and hunched over while lifting his leg to try and ease the ache.

“Pain is a pretty major part of life,” the girl giggled. Wilbur hopped on one leg while anger coursed through him. His mind was spinning to give her his best insults, but a cold, chocolatey plop landed on his forehead. The sudden cold on his head was accompanied by the old man’s wheezing laugh. The surprise derailed his train of thought, and he sighed.

“So, ready?” Death asked again. Wilbur nodded; the movement was enough for the chocolate ball to plop to the ground.

“Yeah,” he grumbled. “I hope I’m better at managing my expectations in my next life.”

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