Saturday, November 5, 2011

Chapter Four

Roughly six Naughty Gnostic souls were on the loose somewhere in the Los Angeles area.  It wouldn’t be too much work for Death to track them down, but it was going to be difficult to find the time while attending to other Deaths.  There was a good chance they’d be haunting for quite a while, since at this point if she found some extra time, Death was going to use it to eat.  
She hoped she’d be able to find them before too long, though.  Being isolated for eternity was probably the worst thing she could think of.
For now, however, she had other business to attend to.  William Tyler, 27, was going to crash his hang glider near Bend, Oregon.
At the Pine Mountain launch site, William was already waiting for the right winds to take off when Death arrived.  There were a few others waiting their turns behind him.
According to her notes, he was going to launch in three minutes and twenty seven seconds, glide roughly a mile, stall, fail to recover, and crash.  Death planned to wait for him to launch, and then meet him at his crash site.  She started her stop watch.
William stood near the edge of the launch, watching the plants move in the wind, looking for his opportunity to take off.  Three minutes and twenty seven seconds passed, and William had not taken off yet.  Death figured she’d perhaps started the watch early, and that William was going to take off any second.
After ten minutes had passed, the gliders waiting their turns started grumbling.
“Hey man, don’t be a launch potato,” one of them called to William.
When thirteen minutes had passed, one of the others said, “Shit or get off the pot man!  We’d all like to fly sometime today.”
Death saw William take a deep breath, and jump.  She moved in the blink of an eye to the predetermined crash location.  From there, she was able to see William’s glider, as it  fell more or less directly down the slope until it, and William, met the ground several thousand feet lower.  
“What the Hell?” Death said.  She double checked her notes, which informed her that William should have been dead in her current location a few minutes ago.  She hadn’t been so far off the mark for a very long time.  She’d have to figure out where she went wrong later, though.  For now, she needed to get over to where William’s soul would be before he decided it would be a great idea to wander off.
At the crash site, she found William looking uphill.  At the launch site, the other gliders were looking down and shouting indistinctly. He jumped slightly when he noticed her.
“Whoa, where did you come from?”
“Nasty fall, huh?” Death said. “What happened?”
William scratched the back of his neck and said “I don’t exactly know.  I guess I judged the thermals wrong.  I should have just gotten out of the way for those other guys and tried flying another day.”
“Well, if you take enough risks, you’ll probably get burned eventually.  I hope the rewards made the pitfalls worth it.”
William smiled, “They sure did. What happens now?”
Death held out her arm to him and said, “Now you walk with me a little further, and you move on.”
Moments after delivering William to the gateway, Death’s phone rang.  She pulled it out of her pocket, and read another text message alerting her to an unscheduled death.  It was in Los Angeles again.  
If Ares was killing more people already, she was going to have some very harsh words with him. She understood killing was kind of his thing, but his enthusiasm for his work was a bit frustrating when he wasn’t actually involved in a war.  Deaths on the battlefield were usually handled by a variety of other gods.  Good thing, too, because it would be nearly impossible to keep up with war dead by herself.  
Death arrived to discover the soul of a forty three year old dentist named Dr. Lawrence Soderholm standing next to a running Corvette.  His body was inside, looking strangely healthy. There was a vacuum cleaner hose running from the exhaust pipe into the window.  A suicide.  Suicides just pissed her off.
I guess I got my wish. Ares wasn’t involved, Death thought. 
“Nice Corvette, asshole,” Death said. 
“Um, thanks?” Dr. Soderholm said.
“So, I see you killed yourself.  How did that work out for you?”
“Fine, I guess.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.” He looked a bit confused.  Death had seen plenty of suicides.  They all looked confused, like they hadn’t gotten what they’d wished for, and weren’t sure whether or not they liked what they’d gotten instead.
“Did you think that I wasn’t going to do a good enough job for your death, you arrogant prick?”
Dr. Soderholm’s mouth dropped open and he went a bit pale.  “Huh?”
“Well, you must have thought the death I had planned for you wasn’t going to be good enough.  So you decided the DIY route would be best.  Just to make sure you got good and dead.  And in your Corvette too.  Fancy.  You know your body shit all over in there, don’t you?”
“Yes, but... Wait. What are you talking about?”
Death stepped closer to Dr. Soderholm.  He could see her jaw twitching a little bit, and wondered if perhaps he’d made things much worse for himself. Whoever she was, she looked kind of dangerous.  Maybe that was a silly thing to worry about now that he was dead, but then, maybe it was exactly the right thing to be worried about.
“You, jack ass, I’m talking about you taking matters into your own hands and killing yourself.  Do you have any idea how insulting that is?  Do you know how much work I have to put in to make sure a person’s death is exactly right?  It took eons to get proficient at it, and here you are, a god damned amateur, doing my job for me.”
“So... you’re Death?”
“You tell me, Dr. Bigshot Bringer of Death.  What do you think, since you’re an obvious expert on these matters?”
“Um? Um!? You’re standing face to face with Death and the best you can come up with is ‘Um’? You know, if you want to do my job, the least you can do is be slightly knowledgable about it.”
“I didn’t mean to step on your toes.”
“No? Then you should have lived out your stupid little life until it was time for me to come get you. Do you know what you’re thrown away yet?”
“Well, kinda. I realized when I was slipping under that I could actually solve all of my problems...”
Death interrupted him, “Except for the problem of being unable to move after gassing yourself to death.  God, I hear that same stupid line every time.  You suicides all think you’re so fucking profound because you finally realized you’ve got free will, just in time to croak.”
She starting poking him in the chest. “You know what you gave up?  Pizza.  Any time you were hungry, you could just get yourself a fucking pizza.  Or a cheeseburger.”
Death looked him up and down.
“Or in your pathetic case, a salad. You threw away a world of potential.  What could have been so bad?”
“Well, work was unbearable and my wife...”
“You could have changed any of that, lived out the rest of your days being awesome, and I would have come to collect you at the end.  Which, by the way, would have had a lot more dignity that shitting yourself in your Corvette. Whatever.  You dumb shit. Let’s get you to the gateway.”
Death grabbed Dr. Soderholm by the ear and was about to bring him to the gateway when she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.  She turned to look, and saw one of the Naughty Gnostics that had snuck off the other night.  He was standing just outside the garage.
He looked like he wanted a favor. Death glowered at him.
“Hey, Mr. Sneakypants, did you discover being a ghost isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?”
He nodded.  “I tried to visit my family, but none of them could see me no matter what I did.  I managed to knock some stuff over and move some stuff around, but they just blamed the dog.”
“Do you know where the rest of your buddies are?”
“Not really.  I assume they’re doing what I did, but we ran off, and then we got split up, and then I couldn’t find any of them anywhere.  I went to all of their houses, and then the places we used to hang out, but I didn’t see them anywhere.  I’m so glad I saw you.  I was starting to freak out.”
Death rolled her eyes, “Yeah, I bet.  Did you think things were going to turn out awesome if you ran away from me?  I’m not a cop, you know.  People never realize I’m here to help you out. I’m on your side.” 
She looked at Dr. Soderholm briefly, then back at the Naughty Gnostic. 
“Well, most of the time I’m on your side.  Come on.”
Death held out a hand, and brought the two souls to the other side.
Death decided she could really go for a martini.  Several martinis, actually.  In fact, retiring to her couch with two bottles of gin and a jar of olives sounded like a fantastic way to spend an evening.  Getting someone to cover for her for a few days might not be the worst idea.  
She wondered how the next death was going to go wrong, or go weird.  So far that day, she’d collected a hang glider that didn’t, a suicide, and a biker ghost who’d had enough already.  Up next was probably going to be a not-very-good ninja done in early by an accident involving his pet monkey with a penchant for throwing stars and a fire hose, when he was supposed to just die of a run of the mill heart attack. 
Death cracked a grin at the thought. She was going to have to write that idea down for later.

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