Turning over in bed, I stare at the stream of light peeking through my blinds. Specks of dust floating in the air, never managing to make a landing. Just there. Floating.
“…Happy Birthday to you!” My parents held a small pink cake that could possibly only feed one person but it looked huge to me.
“Happy Birthday, Sweetie. I can’t believe you’re already five!” My mom bent down to hug me and coaxed me to blow out the candles. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
For the past few days now, I have been daydreaming about that day. Dreaming how my fifth birthday would have been different if I didn’t find out when I would die. Everyone finds out the day they die when they turn five and that’s just how things were. Why would our world ever want to know that information at such a young age? Kind of sadistic if you ask me.
Perhaps it was a way to get everyone to live their lives out fully. To do the things they would probably never do if they didn’t know when they would die. Counting down to make sure they achieved a well lived life before their last breath.
Me on the other hand, I could care less. Why would I push myself to do things I would never do, be spontaneous, live out a life that was clearly going to end eventually. And shortly, for me at least.
My parents kept their death day away from my knowledge. They weren’t like other parents. They wanted me to not have to think of a world where their only daughter didn’t have parents in it. Sometimes I wish they told me though. It would be better to prepare to lose someone you were close to, I guess.
The day after I turned eighteen, I lost my mom. At the funeral, I saw a black cat walk by. Apparently there’s an omen that if that happens, a family member of the deceased would die soon. I should have known it then, but I just thought it was a cute cat and followed it over to a bush, trying to pet it. My dad died a month later.
Maybe that’s why they didn’t want to tell me. They didn’t have the heart to tell their only daughter that she would be thrusted into the world alone as a newly made adult. They should have had another kid… or not have me at all.
I glance over at my alarm clock that used to belong to my parents on my nightstand. The red lines formed together to make numbers. Numbers that don’t matter to me.
Today is the day I’m going to die. At least I made it 12 hours so far. I’m not sure at what time I was going to die within the next 12.
I always thought of ways I would die. A car accident? Being hit by a car? Two cars hitting each other and then the bumper flying off and hitting me? You see some insane stories of how people died and it’s crazy how all of them just saw it coming.
My plan today was to stay home in my bed. Maybe something would fly through my window and just end it. Hopefully, quick.
I wash my hands and stare at myself in the mirror. My blonde hair brushes against my shoulders and sticks out in random places. I don’t bother to fix it. I guess I’m not going to die in the bathroom.
I wake up from my nap. Nice. Didn’t die in my sleep. What now?
I glance at the clock once more. I should do something other than lay here for the last two hours of my life. Maybe? Wait, am I going to die from choking on my dinner? That’s a sucky way to end it.
I enjoy a slice of leftover pizza for dinner and manage to get it all down without a scratch. I slip on the tile when putting my plate in the sink, but catch myself on the counter. I decide to take my socks off and leave them next to the fridge. I look up and point at my ceiling, “You almost had me there.”
I slowly walk back to my bedroom and plop myself onto the black comforter. What if I just close my eyes for the last few minutes? I don’t want to see it coming. I look one last time at the alarm clock on my nightstand. The red lines blinked showing a minute has passed again.
I close my eyes. Leave it to me to die literally at the last minute of my death day. Just sixty seconds to go…
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!
I don’t open my eyes. I heard the three knocks. Nothing more, nothing less. The “knocks of doom.” There’s this old superstition or something that if you hear three knocks at your door, and open it to find that no one is there, death is coming. Why do I need to open the door for death? Can’t he just come in if he wanted to?
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!
Again? Seriously? Doesn’t whoever is knocking know I’m supposed to be dying right now? Dead? I’m supposed to be dead.
I frantically sit up and look at the alarm clock. I graze my eyes over each red line.
Why am I not dead? There must be a mistake.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!
I stand up and rush to the door. I don’t bother to look through the peephole and swiftly pull the door open. Standing right in front of me is a young man. He looks close to my own age. I look him up and down.
He’s in all black, wearing black shoes, skinny jeans, a sweatshirt. His eyes are so dark that I can see my own reflection in them. The only thing that stood out in contrast is his skin, pale white to almost match his hair.
My eyebrows furrow as I take a step back, “Who are you?”
He breathes out a short laugh, the right side of his lips up-turning into a smirk, “I’m the Grim Reaper.”
I take another step back and he takes a step forward, placing himself into the foyer of my small apartment. I’m frozen in place. I’m supposed to be dead. Is he here to kill me?
He shuts the door behind him and pulls out what looks like a tablet. He lifts it towards his face, rolls his eyes, and uses his pointer finger to tap on the screen, “This dang thing. It never recognizes my face.”
I’m still standing there frozen as he taps on the tablet. I force myself to say something, “What are you doing here?”
He rubs the back of his head, “This has never happened to me before. You’re supposed to be dead, right? Here,” he turns his tablet to show me, “you were supposed to die at 11:55pm from slipping and hitting your head.”
I think back to myself in the kitchen when I caught myself. There’s no way I was supposed to die then. My breath comes out shaky, “Are you here to kill me?”
He scrunches his eyebrows together, “Kill you? Why does everyone assume that the Grim Reaper is always the bad guy? I’m just here to do my job and help you guys get where you need to go. I have never killed anyone!”
“So you’re not a hitman with the government?”
He blinks, “No?”
“You’re actually Death?”
He looks side to side before looking back at me, “Yes?”
I rub the palms of my hands over my eyes. This can’t be real. When I open my eyes, he’s still standing there in front of me. Am I dead and just hallucinating this or? They never really tell you what happens when you die. I close my eyes and breathe in.
He taps my shoulder, “Listen, I don’t know what’s going on and how you’re able to see me, but you’re supposed to be dead. Why aren’t you dead?”
“How am I supposed to know?!” I turn and walk towards my kitchen. Starting to pace, “You can’t be Death. Death isn’t a human. You just die and that’s it.”
Death follows me into the kitchen and hoists himself up onto the counter, “Well, I’m not human if that’s what you’re thinking. I’m Death.” He says this matter-of-factly like it’s supposed to answer all my questions.
A laugh escapes my mouth, “I don’t believe this. Just get out of my house and let me continue living in peace.”
“How are you supposed to continue living when the government knows you’re supposed to be dead?”
I jab my pointer finger into his chest, “So you do work with the government.”
“No? I have my own agenda. I’m just stating the obvious,” he grabs my finger and places it back at my side.
I lean back against the counter next to him and bring a hand to my forehead, “You’re right. What am I going to do? I’ll really be dead if someone finds out I’m still alive.”
Death pulls himself off the counter, landing with a thud, “Hmm… I have a business proposal.”
“A proposal? What could I possibly have to even offer you?”
“So you’re supposed to be dead, right? I need help with some stuff, and you need help to get out of this mess you somehow managed to put yourself in.”
“Okay? So you want me to be your assistant? ‘Death’s Assistant’?” I put my fingers up to make air quotes.
“Yeah! And obviously, you have no one around like family or friends that will actually care that you died. You could just disappear no problem. The government would just need records that you died somehow and that’s that.”
“Ouch!” I press a hand to my heart, “I know I’m a literal loser with no one but you didn’t have to put it like that.”
Death shrugs, “Just stating the obvious. I already saw you were going to be lonely once I took your parents. It’s sad really.”
I feel my heart lurch when he mentions my parents, “I doubt that you understand.”
“Does it matter now?” He rubs the back of his head again. I guess this is a habit of his. This time it leaves some of his hair sticking up. “You know this job is hard too. I’m lonely. I take people to the afterlife and I’m just here cleaning up the pieces. With you, I could have someone on my side for once. Do you want the offer or not?”
He placed both his hands on my shoulders. I could tell he was starting to get desperate. Just how lonely was Death?
He pleads, “Please, just be my assistant. I know you’re just a human… are you though? You should have died?… Either way, I might have to pull some strings. I really could use a friend.”
I stare right back into his black eyes. His white eyelashes are just long enough to be visible. What am I doing? I’ve wasted my life on Earth doing nothing and lost the only two people I cared about. I didn’t let myself have a chance to let anyone else in because I thought it was pointless. But with Death, things could be different…
Maybe there could be more to me after Death. I should just do it. I’m supposed to be dead anyway. This is possibly the craziest thing I have ever done.
“Okay, I’ll help.” I half smile.
He smiles back and puts out his right hand for me to shake. I hesitate for a second, but then firmly grip it, moving my hand up and down.
Relieved, he says, “Alright! We have an agreement. Get changed and let’s go then. People are going to think it’s weird if you greet them while in your pajamas. We can figure out the rest later.”
I look down at my fluffy pajama pants and run to my room to quickly change. I pat my hair down and rush back out to the kitchen.
Yeah, Death is still here. His head pokes out from over the fridge door. What is he doing?
“Let’s do this,” he holds out his arm. I link my arm with his and follow him out of my front door. I’m not sure how long I will follow him for, but I hope it will be worth a lifetime.
It feels like I’m floating. I’m no longer grounded with the weight of my death and all those around me. I’ll make sure I never manage to make a landing. I am here. Floating.
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