Friday, November 25, 2011

Chapter Seventeen

Thomas’s main focus when he fled from the two apparent ambushes was to simply get as far away as he could as quickly as he could.  As a result, he ended up in a part of town he wasn’t particularly familiar with.  There weren’t too many people around, and it seemed safe enough, so he decided to pull over and try to regroup a bit before he drove any further.
There wasn’t, so far as he could tell, anyone he could call for support.  No one except this Eris character, and he wasn’t certain she was really the best person to rely on.  
He’d last visited his friends two months prior, and it hadn’t been a fun visit.  Everyone had been shocked to see him, then over just a few minutes grew extremely uncomfortable, and they all made excuses to leave as soon as they could.
At least he hadn’t had to pay for the pizza.
He tried visiting his parents, which was even worse, about a month ago.  His mother wept when she first saw him, and his father hugged him as though he hadn’t seen him for years.  But again, within minutes, they grew quiet, then seemed disturbed, and finally his father, quietly, asked him to leave.
Thomas felt desperately lonely.  He’d occasionally manage to have a conversation with a stranger, for a minute or two, but there wasn’t anyone he could turn to for real conversations, or real help.
He leaned back in his seat and sighed.  There had to be a way to connect with people.  Otherwise, what’s the point of living?  He could just stop hiding, pay Death a visit while she was working, and be done with the whole mess.
Which was actually starting to sound like a pretty good idea.
“Hey buddy, why are you looking so glum?” said a female voice in the car with him. 
He jumped slightly, then turned and saw Eris in the passenger seat again.
“Just kind of a crazy day.  Trying to process it all,” Thomas said.
“Great, wasn’t it?”
“Sorry, what? Great? Not really.  There’s apparently a couple of bikers after me.”
“Yeah!  It’s exciting as hell!  Never a dull moment when you’ve got a bunch of gods chasing after you!”
“Wait, what?  They’re gods? Oh, I’m so very, very fucked,” Thomas said.  He hadn’t signed up for this kind of fun.
“Yeah! Gods! Chasing you around and making a huge mess of things!  You couldn’t pay to have this much fun.”
“I guess it’s not really my kind of fun.  I think I might have gotten myself in way over my head.  I didn’t think I was going to be getting chased by gods for Pete’s sake,” Thomas said.  
He was starting to work himself in to a good panic about his situation.  There weren’t supposed to be consequences like this from avoiding death.  He was supposed to be having a good time being not dead.  That was it.  Instead, a couple of gods, biker gods at that, were apparently eager to get ahold of him.  He assumed that at this point, dying was probably the least of his concerns.
He could not die.  And that might be worse.
Eris lit a cigarette before she said anything.
“Well, what did you think was going to happen when you cheated Death?  I mean, she is rules and regulations all the way.  Seems pretty obvious to me that she’d be trying to catch you.  I’d suggest you embrace the chaos and enjoy yourself,” Eris said.
She looked over at him, and apparently didn’t like what she saw.
“OK, I see that look on your face.  That look says to me that you’re thinking it might be a great time to stop hiding from Death and just let her take you.  Well I’m having way too much fun to let something as insignificant as you muck it all up.  So you listen very closely to this.  You are going to avoid Death at all costs, or I’m going to arrange for your family and friends to have premature meetings with her.  Get it?”
Thomas swallowed, and felt as though his heart had dropped down through his feet and in to the ground, where it was immediately crushed in a cave in. 
“I am so fucked,” he said softly, to himself.
Eris took a drag from her cigarette and said, “Good, so we’re clear.  Now, I’ve got some other stuff to do, so you’re going to lay low until I decide what you’re going to do next.  I think there’s been enough excitement to keep Death jumping at shadows for a little while, so we shouldn’t even need to see her for a few days.”
She tossed her cigarette out the window, turned, and poked Thomas in the shoulder.  
“Don’t forget, you screw with me, your family is as good as dead.  See you later,” she said, and vanished.
Thomas had stopped working himself in to a panic, and instead leapt straight to full-bore freak out.
Death had pretty much given up on eating any time soon.  She’d also given up on her schedule.  She brought her notes with her, but the chances of things going even remotely by her plans were slim.  Currently, her method of operation was to hang out where ever she cared to, until her phone beeped to alert her to a new Death.
This strategy drove her up the wall, but was better than following her detailed plans only to have the guest of honor fail to show up, and then have her phone beep to tell her someone was actually dying somewhere on the other side of the world.
All the same, she brought her notes with her, just to evaluate how badly things had gone wrong.  So far, she was at one in four for deaths going more or less according to plan.  Her phone would ring, she’d arrive, check the notes, and improvise as necessary.  She hoped things wouldn’t get too much more chaotic before they found Thomas and restored the order she’d worked so hard to create.  Each death required a significant amount of planning, and she hated seeing all that work going to waste.  Painstakingly orchestrating a series of events leading up to a perfect end to a person’s life, only to see them get hit by a bus or something stupid like that, really didn’t do much for her sense of pride in her work.
Her phone beeped.  She looked at the display and saw Claude Litteman, 24, head injury.
Well, she thought, this promises to be a good time.  Head injuries weren’t especially interesting, most times.  Usually it was a slam, bang, done kind of deal.  Or, she’d arrive just in time for someone who’d been in a coma for a good while to finally give up the ghost.  Either way, they weren’t especially engrossing, and she really, really wanted to be distracted by work  for a little bit.
She arrived to find Claude setting up a table saw.  It was apparent that Claude wasn’t an expert on table saws.  The blade was dirty, the fence was crooked, and it was safe to assume the blade was dull.
Claude turned the saw on, all the same, and then lined up his piece of stock against the fence.  He began feeding the wood in to the saw, and even Death could tell it didn’t sound quite right.  Claude pressed on.
Before he could even tell what had happened, the tablesaw kicked the piece of wood back at him.  The shock of being hit by a piece of high velocity wood threw Claude off balance, and he toppled over backwards, where his head met a metal fuel can.  
“So, is someone going to turn that off?” Claude’s ghost asked Death.  He gestured towards the still-running saw.
“I imagine someone will shut it off around the same time someone notices you’re dead,” Death said.  She held out her hand.  “Would you come with me?”
Claude held up one finger, and said, “Wait.  What, exactly, just happened to me?”
“You got hit by a flying piece of wood, fell over backwards, hit your head on a can of gasoline and apparently scrambled your brains well enough to kill you.  A pretty straightforward death, I’d say.”
“Straightforward?  I’m too young for this though.  I was supposed to live to be eighty and die having sex with someone much younger.”
Death rolled her eyes.  She understood that death came as a shock sometimes, but didn’t really care to hang around and discuss it when she could be out tracking down Thomas before he caused some serious trouble.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you that you aren’t going to die that way.  You’re already dead from a head injury.  Now, would you take my hand?”
“I guess,” Claude said.  “But I think this totally sucks.”
Every one is a critic, Death thought. “Take my hand,” she said.  
Claude took her hand, and they stepped out of this world.
After she had brought Claude to the gateway, Death had a bit of time to sit and think.  What she thought was, At least that one was relatively simple.  I didn’t have to chase him down, throw a cement truck at him, or anything.  I gotta stay focused on the positive.  If I’m lucky, the next one will also go smoothly.
She wondered how long it would be until Thomas showed up at another Death and gave her a smug smile, or left another present for her on her motorcycle.  With any luck at all, he would get over-confident and get close enough for her to grab.  Then it would just be a matter of waiting for everything he’d inadvertently screwed up to correct itself.  Really, it would probably only take a few weeks for most of the deaths to get back with the program.  There’d still be a bit of clean up here and there, but nothing that a hundred years or so wouldn’t clear up.
Her phone beeped at her.  Time for another death.  She sighed, and whisked herself on to the next client.

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