In the Spotlight

“Why?” A young woman with a light brown ponytail asked.

“Huh?” Kate looked up. She was surprised to see someone, anyone, standing close enough to talk to her. Kate sat on a park bench wondering just how much more of life she could take. It was a cool, sunny Friday morning. It was objectively a beautiful day but Kate was too busy lamenting her problems to notice. She also didn’t notice that she spoke aloud.

“You said you wish you were never born,” the woman said. “Why is that?” Kate sighed. She didn’t want pity; but, at the same time, she felt like she really needed it. Maybe a kind word from a stranger would help her get back on a positive track.

“Because I feel like I don’t matter,” Kate lowered her eyes to stare at the cement path. “Never have, never will…,” she whined. Kate hoped for kindness. Or at the very least, a warm smile before the young woman moved on from the sad sack on the park bench. Instead, she got a hearty laugh in exchange for opening up. Not only that, the stranger decided Kate was entertaining enough to sit down next to her.

“You don’t!” the stranger said with glee after her initial outburst died down. Then, for some reason, she extended a hand at Kate. “I’m Elsa,” she said.

“Kate,” she tentatively shook Elsa’s hand. Sure, Elsa made fun of her; but, she was also the only person that seemed interested in having a conversation with Kate in the past year. And, Kate wasn’t a stranger to abusive relationships; assuming Elsa wanted a friend at all.

“Thanks for the pep talk,” Kate added. “I feel so much better.” Elsa continued to giggle.

“No, really,” Elsa said. Her giggles died down but she maintained a broad grin and amused, sparkling eyes. “You want me to prove it?” she asked. If Kate had not already been contemplating suicide, that question might have raised an eyebrow. Instead, she felt like she had nothing to lose.

“Sure,” she shrugged. “Show me how unimportant I am.”

“You got it,” Elsa snapped her fingers. Then, Kate blinked. She found herself in a hospital room. A younger version of her father held the hand of a younger, screaming, version of Kate’s mother.

“PUSH!” her father yelled, then, everyone froze and the room went quiet.

“This is the moment of your birth,” Elsa said. Kate stared at her unmoving parents, then looked at Elsa.

“How….who or what are you?” Kate asked. She was willing to accept that she may have gone crazy at the park. Or that maybe, she accomplished what she planned to do that day and this was just some version of her life flashing before her eyes. But, Elsa was there to talk to, so she asked her.

“That’s kind of an involved answer,” Elsa said. “For now, the easy explanation is, I’m Death.”

“Death, huh?” Kate couldn’t not believe her; she was standing in the past at the moment of her birth. “It’s about time. I’ve been hoping you’d show up,” Kate said, she almost smiled at her own joke.

“And, I did!” Elsa laughed.

“But, I wanted to never be born,” Kate said. “Killing me at birth just feels mean to my parents,” she said.

“I’m not killing you. I’m showing you why you don’t matter,” Elsa replied. She reached forward and grasped at nothing in the air. Kate didn’t see how it happened but the moment Elsa closed her hand she held a long pitch-black scythe. Then, she walked closer to Kate’s mother and placed the flat side of it on her mother’s stomach.

After a moment, Elsa flipped the scythe over and rested the other flat end on Kate’s mom. When she was satisfied, Elsa lifted the scythe and returned to Kate’s side. The room roared to life again as Kate’s mother continued her labor.

“And there you go, you’re never born. Let’s see how this turns out,” Elsa said. A dozen questions flooded Kate’s mind but she was distracted by a sudden blink. When she opened her eyes she was in her childhood room. It looked different, but she recognized the peeling wallpaper and stained brown carpet. She was surprised to see her 8-year-old self walk into the room. The little girl dropped a pile of clothes on the floor, then dashed out of the room again.

“You said I was never born…,” Kate said.

“And you weren’t,” Elsa replied. “She was, whoever she is.”

“That’s me!” Kate said.

“Oh, damn. I might’ve done something wrong. Are you sure that’s you? Were you this messy as a child?” Elsa asked. The clothes on the floor fit in well the decor of everything else being on the floor too.

“God no, I always kept things tidy,” Kate replied. Which was true. It was why she chose to go to the park that day; she did not want to leave a mess behind in her apartment.

“Then, it’s not you,” Elsa replied.

“But she looks just like me!”

“Really?” Elsa asked. She tried to sound surprised, but Kate got the impression she was putting on a show. “Let’s check again a bit later.” Kate blinked again. This time she opened her eyes to her own wedding.

“Yeah…I guess she does kind of look like you,” Elsa said while appraising the bride in all black.

“Black wedding dress? What’s wrong with her?” Kate asked. “I can’t believe Jeff married someone that would wear a black wedding dress.”

“You mean he’s not marrying you?” Elsa asked. Her voice carried a hint of smugness, but, Kate was okay with that. She started to feel like she was understanding Elsa’s lesson.

“So…, my parents had a baby. And that baby is going to marry Jeff no matter what? Whether or not my soul is in that baby?” Kate offered her guess. Elsa smiled, then Kate blinked. They were back at the park and Elsa’s scythe was gone.

“I wouldn’t say ‘no matter what’,” Elsa said once Kate got her bearings. “But for the most part, yeah. It’s not something I go around talking about, but I think it’ll help you. Time is kind of like TV show. Before you see it, the route to the end is already planned out. If someone doesn’t show up, they get replaced.”

“So, nothing I do matters?” Kate asked.

“Not really, no. Life goes on.”

“Then, what’s the point?”

“There isn’t one,” Elsa said with a large grin. “That’s why you get to make up your own.”

“But what if-,” Kate’s question was interrupted.

“What if what?” she asked. “I just proved that nothing matters. Actually, that’s wrong too, there is one thing that matters.”

“What?” Kate asked.

“YOU are here. You’re ON THE SHOW!” Elsa said. “It’s your chance to do whatever you want to do. Whether you do it or not, it doesn’t make a difference. So, you’ve got to decide if you’re going to try to enjoy being on stage or resent not knowing the routine, that no one cares about, until you’re out of time.”

Death & Experience


“What if I say, ‘no’?” Kyle asked. Elsa shrugged under her black cloak.

“You stay here until you change your mind,” Elsa replied. She gestured at the elegant bathroom around them. Kyle had a bad night. An overflowing toilet and a slippery floor guaranteed he’d never have a chance to propose to his girlfriend. It was the only reason they were in the upscale restaurant. He went to the restroom to find his nerve and never returned.

He managed to see his girlfriend for a moment during the initial commotion of someone finding his body. But, Death showed up shortly after and kept him from going after her. Now, paramedics were carrying his body out and he was left alone in the restroom with Elsa.

“As a ghost?” Kyle asked. Elsa half-shrugged and half-nodded.

“I guess, technically. Sure,” she said.

“I’m going to stay,” Kyle said decisively. Elsa nodded at him.

“‘Kay,” she said. “How long?”

“Uh..,” Kyle hadn’t expected Death to be so accommodating. But, he also didn’t expect her to be a young woman in her early 20s with a chestnut brown ponytail. She looked like a fresh-faced intern on her way to becoming a permanent employee. “…Forever?” he said. Elsa grinned at him and shook her head.

“Let’s start with a shorter timeframe first,” she said. “I’ll come to check on you in a year, sounds good?” she asked.

“And I can still say no then too, right?” Kyle asked. Elsa nodded.

“Sure, if you want.”

“Great! I’ll take the year!” Kyle blurted out. He immediately began wondering how to best haunt his girlfriend to let her know he was there.

“You got it,” Elsa replied. Then, Kyle blinked. The second he opened his eyes Death spoke up.

“Ready?” Elsa asked.

“But, you just gave me a year,” Kyle whined. Elsa nodded.

“Yeah, I did. Do you want another one?”

“It hasn’t even been 30 seconds!”

“No, it’s been a year,” Elsa nodded. “But, you blinked and missed it,” she grinned. “I can prove it,” she walked out of the restroom and encouraged Kyle to follow her. He hesitated for a moment, but his curiosity got the better of him.

He exited the bathroom expecting to find the staff cleaning up and the patrons gone after his accident. Instead, he found an empty, dusty dining room full of cobwebs.

“Congratulations,” Elsa said with a giggle. “Your accident ruined their reputation. They closed three months after you died and haven’t been able to sell the location.”

“But you said I could stay,” Kyle complained again.

“And you can; I have to make sure you don’t affect anything. The easiest way to do that is to time-lock you.”

“But, I don’t get to experience anything like that,” Kyle said. Elsa nodded.

“Well, that would be cheating. You’ve had your turn at experiencing life and now you have to get in line again if you want another turn. Just like everyone else. Other people want to enjoy life too, you know.”

“Wait… again? I get another life?” Elsa shook her head but smiled.

“Where do you think I’m supposed to take you?”

Sharp Challenge

“I never heard of it, but it’s listed,” Death nodded. Her words made Luke cheer internally. She’s going to play a game she’s never heard of? It couldn’t be going better for him.

“There’s some fine print you should know about though,” Death said. Luke shook his head.

“Nah, I’m a three-time Dungeon Master Champion,” he said. It was a flat lie; he didn’t even know if that was an award someone could win. But Death was already unfamiliar with the game. And she was not what Luke expected at all. She wore the cloak and bore the scythe; but, other than that she looked like someone’s college-aged sister. Her light brown hair was put up in a comfortable ponytail. Luke hoped he could unnerve her enough to get away with making up his own rules.

“Okay,” she shrugged at him. “The first hurdle we have is you need a team. We can’t start anything without a full group.”

“Oh, yeah. Of course!” Luke said with mock authority. “That’s always the way it is in the tournaments. I guess I’ll just keep living while you find someone else to join.”

“Oh no, wait,” Death said. She tapped on her glass node. “Here’s a solo version. I need to tell you again; there are probably some differences compared to the game you’re used to. Are you sure you’re skipping the fine print?” Luke almost felt the need to check, but he wanted to maintain his knowledgeable appearance.

“Okay,” Death nodded. She pressed a button on her node and the scene of Luke’s accident disappeared. His smoking, flipped car was replaced by a medium-sized round table with various weapons laid out. A dark, dank, stone cell replaced the empty twilight highway.

“Choose your class,” Death said. Luke approached the table and saw magical staves, glowing shields, and shining swords. Bows, knives, horns, bells, every thing Luke could think of to use as a weapon was available to choose from. He found a sword and shield that were obviously a set. He slipped the shield onto his left arm and hoisted the sword with his right to get used to their weight.

“Bunker Knight” a mysterious male voice filled the room while the rest of the weapons from the table disappeared.

“Good choice,” Death said. She handed Luke a node. “This will teach you how to use your starter skills. Good luck,” she said with a polite wave.

“Wait. Good luck? What about me?” Luke asked. Death spread her arms to gesture at the stone cell.

“Dungeon,” she said. Then, the cell started to shake from the force of a distant roar. “Dragon,” Death said. “Good luck winning your life back.”

Sharp Reaper

“I’m sorry, how do you know me?” Elsa asked the rotund stranger. It was her first day on this Earth and she hadn’t met anyone yet. She stopped into the cafe to sit down and find some leads on a place to stay. She sat down with her coffee two minutes before a blonde man with a white blazer hanging off his shoulders approached.  He called her name with a smile as if he knew her. The skull tattooed on his forehead seemed to be grinning at her too. She spotted the number 42 on the skull and realized he was a Unique Soul too. But as far as she knew; he wasn’t one of the ones that could see she was one too. Her number was covered up.

“Mundo told me about you,” he sat down without an invitation.

Which Mundo?” She asked. She’d only ever met one Mundo but that was a long time ago. The round man smiled and shook his head.

“It kind of defeats the point of them all changing their name to Mundo if you’re going to start keeping track,” he said. You’ve met a Mundo at some point. A Mundo told me about you,” he shrugged. “Might be the same one, might not be; it doesn’t matter. I’m not even looking for you specifically. I need a Muerte,” he said. “My name’s Chase.”

“What do you need a Muerte for?” Elsa asked. She was interested already. She came to a new Earth hoping to find something to distract her and help her heal from heartache; even if it was her own decision to leave.

“I need a soul reaper position filled. And Muertes are the only ones that are qualified. Interested?”

“I don’t want to kill anyone…,” Elsa said. She realized she had an opportunity to get a closer look at how the universe works. She did not doubt what he was offering for a second. She didn’t want to kill anyone; and, she hoped Chase noticed that was her only objection. Chase smiled and shook his head.

“You don’t have to. The universe is pretty automatic in most aspects. Reapers aren’t sinister forces plotting out intricate deaths. You’re janitors. People die when they’re going to die. Your job is to pick up their soul and drop it off at their caseworker. In your case: me.”

“If people die when they’re going to die… what does the universe need us for? Don’t get me wrong, I am very interested in the job. But I’m trying to learn more about it first,” Elsa said. She didn’t want to risk putting off Chase with too many questions.

“That’s good! Ask me all the questions you like. As I said, you’re the cleanup crew. A person consists of two parts, body and soul, working together. When the body dies, a reaper escorts the soul to its caseworker so that it can move on to another life in a new body,” Chase said. He took in a deeper breath in preparation for a long explanation.

“The soul is an amazing energy source. When a person is alive they have a living brain and can access that energy intelligently. If that energy is left behind in a corpse, it can still animate the body. But without any intelligence, it runs wild. That’s why you’ll find the idea of zombies on pretty much any Earth you go to.”

“Whoa. But.. people die every day.. all over the world. How am I supposed to get to them all?” Elsa asked.

“And this brings us to why only Muertes are fit for the job. You’re going to need to manipulate time, obviously. And actually, the sooner you’re ready for this job, the better. Even with your help adjusting time, we’re already behind schedule.”

“Uh… no offense, but how does that happen? Did someone quit suddenly? I’d like to think the universe is run by a competent being,” Elsa said.

“You’re right,” Chase smiled. “I think the same way; which is actually why we’re behind schedule.”

“You think the universe should be competently run.,, so you let deaths mount up?” Elsa asked. Chase shook his head.

“No. I think the universe should be competently run, so I joined someone who can do the job. I should tell you you’re going to be busy at first; but, I think it’s worth it. We’re starting a brand new afterlife. I’m the first case worker, you’re the first Reaper. We even have our own Lucifer!” Elsa stared at chase with wide eyes.

“We didn’t look for a Muerte sooner because Ms. Sharp needed to make sure the souls she claimed were hers. No one else is claiming them, so now we need you to clean up about a month’s worth of zombies.”

“I’ll do it!” Elsa jumped at the opportunity. Chase smiled.

“Great. Can you start right away?” he asked. At his question, an obsidian scythe fell out of the air and landed next to Elsa. “This’ll boost your control over time; you’ll need it.”

Lunch with Death

Death sat at the counter and pulled her hood down to reveal a light-brown ponytail. She let her obsidian scythe fall forward, the blade sliced through reality and made a small black gash that it fell into. The hole disappeared once the scythe was gone.

Mundo abandoned her cleaning the moment death walked in. She greeted the regular customer with a mug of hot chocolate by the time she sat down.

“Rough shift?” Mundo asked. Death nodded and gave an exhausted, frayed chuckle.

“There was a bus on its way to a Christian retreat; it took a shortcut off a cliff. A whole bus load of, ‘This isn’t the pearly gates!’ ‘Where’s God?’ and ‘Are you an angel?’.” Death rolled her caramel eyes and blew on the cocoa, then took a small slurp. Mundo giggled.

“Well, what’s for lunch today?” Mundo asked. Death looked up and into the kitchen but did not see anyone else.

“You’re cooking?” she asked. Mundo nodded.

“Nice!” Death smiled. “Surprise me,” she said. Mundo nodded and disappeared into the kitchen while Death enjoyed the quiet restaurant. Five minutes later Mundo walked out with two slices of steaming pizza on a plate.

“When did you start serving pizza?” Death asked. She pulled the pate closer and hoped Mundo did not think she was complaining. Mundo giggled.

“Leftovers from dinner earlier; surprise!” Death laughed and picked up a slice.

“Looks like it’s gonna be one of those nights,” Mundo said. She nodded at the entrance behind Death, then turned around to prepare a cup of coffee.

A black-hooded figure walked in the door holding a scythe. It walked up to the counter and pulled his hood down. Loose, stringy black hair obscured most of his stubbled-face.

“Elsa, Mundo,” he nodded at the two women and released his scythe. It fell forward and disappeared into its own hole exactly like Elsa’s did.

“Miller,” Elsa nodded back then continued eating.

“How’s it going?” Mundo asked as she set his coffee down.

“Still tiring,” Miller sighed. “I didn’t know we could get this exhausted.”

“I know!” Elsa joined in. “You know how your shift ends right after it starts? By the time I’m done I can’t even fast forward the eight hours of my shift. On the plus side, it’s like an extra eight hours of sleep, which I totally need.”

“Yeah, it’s kind of weird having 32 hour days now,” Miller agreed. “I have more time, but I’m also much more tired. It’s not really a gain if the extra time is spent sleeping.  Isla said it’s supposed to get easier,” he added. Elsa nodded.

“Yeah, Chase said the same thing but I’m not seeing it yet.”

“What’s for lunch, Miller,” Mundo asked. He cast his eyes at Elsa halfway through her second slice.

“You serve pizza now?” he asked. Mundo smiled.

“Just for tonight. I’ll get you a couple of slices,” she disappeared into the kitchen while Elsa and Miller chatted about work some more. He got a laugh at her expense when she relayed her troubles with the bus.

Mundo returned from the kitchen and put a couple of steaming slices in front of Miller. As she did, a black scythe fell out of the air and landed propped up against the counter next to Elsa.

“Back to it I guess,” she sighed as she stood from the stool. “Thanks for lunch Mundo, you’ve got the best café.” Elsa grabbed her scythe and headed for the door. Mundo waved from behind the counter.

“You say that every time. Bye Elsa, see you tomorrow.”

Death & Spiders

“Have a good shift!” Betty stood by the sink putting the finishing touches on two cups of hot chocolate. She waved from the kitchen as Elsa stepped out the door, black cloak and scythe in hand.

“Thanks, see you in a bit,” Elsa replied and shut the door behind her. Betty blinked. Then, the apartment door opened again to admit a noticeably wearier Elsa. The ponytail she left with was gone; her hair was down to just past her shoulders. She wore the cloak and the long handle of the scythe dragged on the ground as she gripped it high on the hilt close to the obsidian blade.

“How long?” Betty asked and walked out of the kitchen holding both mugs. Elsa dropped the scythe. It sliced a thin, pitch-black gash in the air as it fell, then disappeared into its own portal. She collapsed on their couch and eagerly accepted the mug from Betty.

“I don’t even know,” Elsa blew on the chocolate to cool it down while she replied. “It could have been a month,” she shrugged. “It could’ve been a century.” She blew on the drink again. Betty giggled to herself as she sat down next to Elsa.

“Must’ve been a hell of a shift, you’re not even cooling it down with time,” she said, then took a big gulp of steaming hot chocolate. Elsa sighed and nodded.

“Chase said it gets easier to keep track; I hope he’s right,” Elsa blew on the mug one last time, then took a soft, slurpy sip. She closed her eyes and breathed a warmer, happier sigh. “Why is mine never this good?” Elsa asked, then slurped another sip.

“Secret ingredient,” Betty winked. Elsa rolled her eyes.

“You already know I’m Death, no fair keeping secrets,” she said.

“You didn’t have to tell me,” Betty playfully stuck her tongue out at Elsa. “I never would’ve noticed if you didn’t.”

“That’s why I told you,” Elsa sighed. She used her thumb to point at the front door behind them. “In and out just now; but that first week was miserable. I had to hide out in the library for eight hours to convince you I was at work,” she blew on the mug again.

“I don’t have the energy to cool down a cup of chocolate by a few minutes, much less fast forward another eight hours on top of my shift. Although…,” Elsa nodded. “…it was easier to tell you once I saw your tattoo.” Elsa held her left hand up showing the number 14 scarred into it to clarify which tattoo she meant.

Betty’s body was decorated with several tattoos that were all hidden under her clothes. Elsa asked her about it once and Betty explained that she liked to surprise anyone that got to see them. The specific tattoo that Elsa referred to was a spiny orbweaver spider inked on the outside of Betty’s right breast. It had the number 33 in black on its back.

“I hoped that after a whole year rooming together, you could trust me enough to give me your chocolatey secret,” Elsa sighed. Then, she stuck her tongue out at Betty to hint that it was a joke. Luckily, Betty laughed.

“If I tell you, you’re going to stop drinking it. Do you really want to give up something this delicious?” Betty took another gulp.

“Why would I stop drinking it?” Elsa asked. “It’s not like you’re putting spiders in it, or something,” she giggled. After a moment she realized she was giggling alone. Betty held an amused, “I’m not telling” look on her face.

“Right?” she asked for confirmation, then lowered the mug down to her lap when the answer didn’t come right away.

Well…,” Betty said. “…kind of?” she asked her answer.

“What do you mean, ‘kind of’? Are there spider bits in this hot chocolate or not?” Elsa wasn’t all that upset; she liked the drink enough to accept some unexpected extras. A as long as they were minimal.Fortunately, Betty noticed that Elsa wasn’t upset.

“When I learned I could summon spiders from other universes, I spent a lot of time trying to find different types. One day I was really hungry when I was practicing, and I kept thinking about snacks instead of spiders. Then,… this happened.” As she spoke a small, glossy, chocolate brown spider crawled out of her ear. It crawled onto her face, then toward her lips, and into her mouth. She started chewing on it with a smile.

“I found chocolate spiders.”

Elsa narrowed her eyes at Betty while she processed the situation. She glanced down at the mug in her lap, then back to Betty.

“How much?’ Elsa asked. Betty shrugged.

“Not counting the milk and cinnamon… all of it.” Elsa sighed.

“Yeah, okay,” she lifted the mug up and blew on it some more. 

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.”