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.”

Slow Day in the Afterlife

“Shouldn’t you be out reaping?” Isla asked Miller. The lean man with long stringy hair relaxed on a chaise looking out over the ocean. He was shirtless, showing off his silver scythe tattoo; it had the number 14 in red on the blade. He shrugged without looking up; his gaze was focused on his node.

“Dispatch says no jobs,” he said. “I thought you were nice enough to give me the day off.”

“Death doesn’t take days off,” Isla said. Miller looked up at her through mirrored sunglasses.

“It doesn’t?” he asked. “You might want to find out where all your clients are going then.” Isla shook her head and sighed. She let herself plop down on a lounger next to Miller’s.

“I know where they’re going. I just didn’t know it was this bad already,” she said. Isla wiggled her fingers and opened a small saucer-sized black portal in the air next to her. She reached in and pulled out a frosty beer. “Want one?” she asked Miller. He nodded.

“Where are they going?” Miller asked as he popped the top off his bottle.

“There’s a Zero named Dana Sharp,” Isla said. “Well, she was a Zero. Now she’s running her own afterlife, and it seems to be off to a good start.” Isla and Miller watched the waves and sinking sun for several minutes.

‘So…,” Miller broke the silence. “… the big guy’s okay with that?” Isla laughed.

“The big guy is bored. It’s why he lets Ballisea run amok, and I guess that wasn’t enough excitement. I guess I can’t blame him though, he’s seen and done it all already.”

“How old is he?” Miller asked. Isla shrugged.

“Older than we’ll ever know,” she said. “This isn’t his first multiverse.”

“What?” Miller sat up and turned around to face her. “You’re kidding, right?” Isla smiled but shook her head.

“We’re not even his first attempt at Uniques,” Isla leaned back on her lounger and relaxed. “The very first Unique Souls were conquerors; he called them the Conquistadors. A corona, sirena, corazon, diablito and calavera and they were all much stronger than the Conquerors we have now. They were so powerful the only thing he could do was seal them away.”

“So we’re going to just let Dana Sharp take all our souls?” Miller asked. Isla nodded.

“Nothing we could do anyway. It’s all up to the big guy. If he’s letting it happen, I’m okay with it too,” she said.

“I’m good with that too,” Miller nodded then settled back onto his seat. He watched the waves and took a sip of beer. 

Island of Death

“Wait, so you want me to become the next Death?” Miller asked Isla with wide eyes. The two of them sat on a sunny beach; Isla’s sea-green curls moved with the gentle breeze.

“I want you to become Death for me,” Isla said. “There is no next Death. It’s a job like any other; there are far too many universes for it to be a one-person job. How do you think Death works?” Miller turned and pulled his legs off the wicker chaise to plant them in the sand facing Isla.

“When somebody dies, Death reaps their soul and delivers it to Heaven or Hell,” Miller replied.

“Not quite,” Isla half-nodded. “When someone dies, Death delivers the soul to their caseworker…,” Isla pressed her hand against her navy blue blazer.  “…what I am. Due to the logistics involved, it’s encouraged for caseworkers to have their own Death on staff.”

“Why me?” Miller asked.

“I’m sure you can imagine there are specific requirements to fill the position. As a matter of fact, only Unique Soul #14, La Muerte is qualified,” she nodded at Miller. “You’re the first one I’ve met that I like.”

“Why?” Miller asked, then he quickly shook his head. “I mean, why only La Muerte? From what you told me about Unique Souls, they’re unbelievably powerful.” Isla nodded.

“They are. But, La Muerte is the only one that can control time. It’s funny, most people don’t realize how Death actually works. When someone dies, they’re trapped in the body until their soul is collected,” Isla smiled.

“They’re not alive exactly, but the soul can still control the body. Of course, without a living brain, a soul is limited to its primal instincts. And all souls want a brain to give it direction. This is where the idea of zombies comes from; it happens a lot. Sometimes weeks and months go by before they’re reaped. Death is woefully understaffed for infinite universes. But, when Death finally gets around to it; time is rewound for everyone back to the point of death. It seems instant, but almost never is.”

“Okay,” Miller nodded. He’d already decided to join, but still had another question. “You said something about a tattoo; that’ll make me Death for you?”

“The tattoo allows you to control your powers. It doesn’t make you Death exactly, but you can’t do the job if you can’t control your powers.”

“I’m guessing there’s not really any pay?” Miller asked. Isla shook her head.

“For what?” she asked. “Not only do you have access to food, water, and shelter; none of which you need really.  But, you also get to explore the multiverse; any alternate reality you can think of is out there.” Miller nodded again.

“Okay, I’m in. I’ll reap for you.”

Island Tutorial

Harry opened his eyes to brilliant sunlight. He heard the relaxing sound of waves lapping on the shore and felt a cool breeze glide across his face. He was laying down and sat up on a wicker chaise. He was still wearing a bloodied shirt with a bullet hole in it and a pair of blood-stained jeans. Another breeze whispered by and he let himself fall back on the creaking seat with a smile on his face.

“Thank God for heaven,” he said with a happy sigh. He closed his eyes again. Now that he knew where he was he felt like he could truly relax. “I wonder when I’ll get to meet him.. or her.

“I’m going to start you guys at the beginning,” a woman’s voice said. At the same moment, a shadow blocked the light getting through Harry’s lids. “This is the first soul of a brand new batch,” the woman said. Harry opened his eyes again and found a group standing over him. Five people: two women and three men.

The woman that was speaking wore a navy blue business coat and a matching navy sarong wrapped around her waist. Her olive skin was accentuated by her sea-green hair. The large heavy curls looked like ocean waves. She sported a blue star tattoo on her left cheek. The other woman was the shortest of the crowd. She wore a bright yellow wet suit that looked like she just came out of the water. Her soaked, short, blonde hair pretty much confirmed it.

The three men also looked like they were swimming moments ago. All three were shirtless and in soaking trunks. All three had tattoos on their chests. The tallest, a broad-shouldered mountain of muscles, had a goldfish with the number 50 in blue ink. The second tallest, an athletic man with short dark hair, had a silver scythe inked on his chest. The silver blade showed the number 14 in red numbers. The third man did not seem to match the rest of the group. He was shirtless, bald, and flabby. The tattoo on his chest was a sagging blue musical note with the number 32. Harry sat up and turned to face the group. He dropped his legs off the chaise; the warm sand felt heavenly as he pushed his feet into it.

“Am I in heaven?” he asked. “I’m pretty sure I died,” The group chuckled politely, but Harry couldn’t help but feel he was the butt of an inside joke.

“It’s your first time,” the half-suited woman said with a smile. “It’s far too early to be thinking about heaven or hell.” She turned and address the group. “A newbie gets more time and the chance to ask questions. For the most part, they won’t remember anything, but it only makes our jobs easier if they do.” Harry did not enjoy the feeling of being talked about as if he wasn’t there. But, it did sound like he could ask questions.

“You mean I’m going to have another life?” The woman turned to him and nodded.

“Quite a few, depending on how far you want to go,” she replied.

“I want to go to heaven!” Harry said quickly. The woman smiled but shook her head.

“I’m sure once you start learning how things work you’ll set your sights a bit higher.”

“Higher than heaven?” Harry asked. “One of the other religions? Which one is right?”

“What’s your favorite color?” she asked suddenly.


“I like blue. Which one of us is right?” Harry narrowed his eyes and took a moment to process the lesson. Finally, he nodded and decided to approach it from a different angle.

“So what’s better than heaven?” he asked. She smiled.

“That’s what you get to decide. There is no one answer. Each life you go through is a step forward. After you take enough steps you can start thinking about where you’re going,” She turned to address the group. They listened intently and Harry imagined them to be trainees of some sort. “Each life gets them points, hell keeps track of those. They’re like experience points they can spend on different perks,” she glanced at Harry. “Sorry, you’re done now. I’ll see you next time. My name is Isla by the way, try to start remembering it,” she smiled. “Anyway,” she continued addressing the other four. “It’s supposed to be longer, but since we’re in training I can bend the rules a bit. They can use those points to build their afterlife if they don’t want to go the Unique route…” 

Harry tried to interrupt but the world went black. Then, he was born again.

Island Traffic

Johnny felt warmth spreading across his skin. His eyes were closed but the darkness behind them began to brighten; then, he heard the soothing sounds of crashing waves. A gentle breeze kissed the top of his bald head and convinced him to open his eyes.

He found he was laying down and sat up to look around. He was in a wicker chaise sitting on a bright sandy beach; but, if he didn’t know better he would swear he was upside down. The sky was a beautiful clear, sea-green color while the ocean looked like a glassy blue sky beneath it. The smell of cooking meat filled the air, then he heard voices. Johnny looked behind him and saw hut style bar about 50 feet away. There were four people, two women, and two men, that seemed to be having a good time. One of the men, the one that looked like a mountain, was tending a grill.

Curiosity and surprisingly, hunger got the best of Johnny and he decided to wander closer. The last thing he remembered holding his wife’s hand in bed. He was glad he got to say goodbye. He did not doubt for a second he was dead. He hoped heaven would be an island paradise but he expected more of a welcome.

“Hey! Who’re you!?” The shorter, blonde woman shouted when she noticed Johnny. He froze and the other three turned around to see what the woman was pointing at.

“Oh man, I totally forgot!” The taller woman yelled. She rushed across the sand toward Johnny; he noticed her sea-green curls matched the sky. Her outfit was as disjointed as the horizon. She wore a navy blue business jacket that looked completely professional from the waist up. Around her waist, she wore a navy blue sarong and she had bright golden flip-flops strapped to her feet. “Johnny, I need to apologize for forgetting our appointment,” she said as soon as she reached him. She hooked an arm into his and led him back to the group. “I’ll give you an extra perk on your next life to make up for it.”

“My n.. next life?” Johnny asked. He got the question out just as they reached the group.

“His NEXT life?” the blonde woman asked. “Do we get a next life too?”

“Johnny, my name is Isla,” the blue-haired woman said. She smiled and shook his hand. “I’m your caseworker for the afterlife. We’ve met several times already but it takes quite a few before you start remembering me.” Isla gestured at the shorter woman.  “This is Lisa, ” the blonde crossed her arms and glared at Johnny. “…and that’s her brother Lionel,” Isla pointed at the burly man at the grill. He lifted his hand and waved backward at Johnny without turning around. “The shirtless gentleman with the fresh ink is Miller.” Miller was a lean man with six-pack abs and sheet of plastic glued to his chest. It was protecting a tattoo of a silver scythe. A 14 was inked in red numbers on the blade.

“So… am I in heaven?” Johnny asked.

“Oh god, no. Why? Did you want to go to heaven already?” Isla asked with wide eyes. Then she gave her head a firm shake. “You wouldn’t remember. Hold on.” She lifted her hand and wiggled her fingers at the air. A black hole opened next to her. Before Johnny could grasp what was going on she rushed into the hole. He turned to see everyone else’s reaction but none of them seemed impressed. Within a few seconds, Isla walked out of the hole again holding a manila folder. The portal closed behind her.

“Phew,” Isla smiled. “All good, you’re on the right path.”

“What’s going on?” Lisa asked. “If he’s dead, are we? He’s on the right path, but not to Heaven? What other paths are there?”

“I’m not in heaven… but I am dead, right? Where am I?” Johnny added more questions. Isla sighed.

“I don’t have time to answer all that,” she pointed at Johnny. “Your window here is limited, and it’s almost up. Everyone listen, no interruptions.”

“But-” Lisa’s interruption was halted by her brother’s giant hand covering her mouth; and, almost her entire face.

“Thank you,” Isla said. “Now, most of what you…, “she pointed at Lisa. “… and you…,” she turned to point at Johnny. “…think you know about life is wrong.” Lionel cleared his throat politely. “oh right, and you too I guess or whatever,” Isla added. “The truth is-“

“Isla?” A deep voice sounded from behind her; everyone turned. A tall man with a golden mane of curls flowing down his shoulders and a matching golden beard was striding across the sand toward them. “My name is Regal…,” is the last thing Johnny heard. His vision went black and the world fell silent. Then he was born again.

Island Tourism

Miller strolled through the sunny park with a smile on his face. Despite the weather always being bright and clear, Miller’s moods changed from day to day. Something was in the air that day and he decided he didn’t want to spend any of it in a jail cell. Not that he had any problems being put in jail. He’d been in every available cell in the city several times. Often enough, in fact, that he could predict his cell by when and where he committed crimes.

“‘Morning,” he smiled at a jogger and she returned the smile as she passed. She was a shapely middle-aged brunette woman that Miller had killed once; only once. On his first attempt, he discovered she was a skilled martial artist. After that, it became a matter of pride to him. Several painful attempts, including some of his own deaths, later he finally managed to catch her by surprise. He decided not to bother her again. As Miller continued to walk through the park a flash of blue-green appeared in his peripheral vision. It felt odd to him and he looked toward the color. He saw three new people standing by one of the concrete picnic tables nearby.

What are they doing there?” he wondered. “And who are they?” Not only had he never seen them in the park before, but he’d also never laid eyes on any of them anywhere in the city. It was two women and a man. The taller of the two women wore a navy blue suit coat with a matching navy sarong around her waist. She had bright sea-green hair; the same color that drew Miller’s attention. The burly man towered above both women. Miller changed course to meander in their direction. He approached from behind the shorter, blonde woman; she was talking to the other woman.

“So you brought us to the park?” Miller heard the blonde say; she sounded like she was patronizing the green-haired woman about something. The taller woman shook her head.

“I’ve brought you to a park in another universe,” she stressed the important part. Miller instantly believed the strange woman, it was the only explanation he could think of for them being there. He slowed his pace to catch more of their conversation. He was surprised when the blonde suddenly turned around and looked at him.

“You! Are you from another universe?” she asked him. Miller thought about it for a second; his eyes flitted to the green-haired woman, then black to the blonde. He shook his head.

“No, you are,” he smiled.

“Ohh, I like you,” the green-haired woman said. “Come closer,” she waved him to join their group. “That’s Lisa,” she pointed at the blonde. “Her brother Lionel,” she pointed at the tall, burly man in a tight t-shirt. “And my name is Isla,” She extended her hand.

“Miller,” Miller shook her hand and introduced himself. He noticed her eyes flash with golden stars for a split second, then her smile grew wider.

“Do you know what you can do?” Isla asked him. He started to panic.

Oh no, does she know what I’ve done? No, she couldn’t. I haven’t killed anyone today. Then what?” he wondered. He tilted his head at her while his mind struggled to determine what she meant. “Does she mean the time loop? How does she know about that? Wait she said…” Miller’s eyes went wide.

“You mean I’m controlling it?!!” he asked, then realized there was still room for vagueness. “I’ve been stuck in a time loop …are you saying I can control it?” Isla nodded.

“If you’d like to learn how to use your power I can show you.” Miller nodded.

“I want to learn.”

“Great,” Isla smiled then wiggled her hand at the air. She opened a tall black portal beside them. “First thing to do is get you a tattoo.”