“I’m Death. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
I looked up and there he was. Pretty well as you’d expect. Black clothing. On the scrawny side. Big scythe, which he was swishing around in a meaningful manner.
My manners kicked in.
“Please sit down, Mr Death. The kettle has just boiled.”
I indicated the second chair across the small table from my crumpets.
“Er, I don’t think you understand, Mr. Grundey. I’m here to collect your immortal soul.”
“Yes, yes, old chap”, I nodded. “But this is a really nice Margaret’s Hope. Second Flush, you know. And will only take a moment”
Death started to shake his head. “It’s quite against the rules, Mr Grundey. I have to collect your soul and … Margaret’s Hope, you say? SFTGFOP1, by any chance?”
“That’s the one”, I agreed, pouring the water into the kettle. “And to be honest, you look a little peaky. I’m sure you could use a nice cuppa. Refresh you for the day ahead.”
I set out another cup. “Go on, I won’t tell”.
“Well you can’t tell, can you, Mr Grundy? You’ll be dead.”
He guffawed good-naturedly and scrunched himself into the offered chair. I moved the crumpets to the middle of the table.
“So, a long shift today? ” I asked him conversationally.
“Well, there’s always plenty of work, said Death. “My father always said if I didn’t follow him into the family business. then the only other option was tax accounting, if you want certainty.”
Well, we both laughed. I suspect he didn’t get to laugh much. And my thought was, seeing as he was a six-foot skeleton with a scythe wanting to remove my soul, I’d best just keep him smiling.
I placed his cup in front of him, correctly surmising that an immortal legend and god-like figure would not want to be messing about with milk and/or sugar in a fine Darjeeling.
“So,” I ventured, “Is is too late for me to get one of those pictures in my attic? You know, the ones that age instead of me.”
We both laughed and then blew on our tea. His breath made a sound like a faraway train.
“Sorry, Mr Grundey. It doesn’t work like that. You have a moment in which to die, and yours approaches.”
I offered him the plate of crumpets, and he took one. I took the other and we both tucked in with gusto.
“Will I suffer?” I asked. “And is there.. you know, an afterlife? I’m not a religious man, you know?”
“Religion is neither here nor there. Mr Grundy. All the Gods left a while ago. They subcontracted out the afterlife to an outsourcing firm from the fourth dimension.”
“Really, what’s it like?”
“Well, the contractors were pretty lazy, so they just got the recently deceased William Morris to put up some wallpaper, and throw a few billion scatter cushions around. Later, they added some TV’s which are all tuned to ESPN.”
“Sorry?”. I paused in the midst of my last bite of crumpet. “So the afterlife is just one big hall, everybody who ever lived, William Morris wallpaper and sports TV?”
“And scatter cushions, Mr Grundey. They certainly liven the place up.”
“So’, I asked with a trembling tone. “Will I suffer?”
“Only for a few minutes, Mr Grundy. As long as it takes to choke to death on your second crumpet.”
“Would that be the crumpet you just ate, Mr Death?”, I asked.
Death looked down at the crumbs. “Ahhhh, damn it.”
“What does this mean, Mr Death?”
“It means, Mr Grundey, that you will never die”.
“Well, that’s certainly good news.” My brain was reeling. “Can’t wait to tell the great-great-great-grandkids”.
“That won’t be possible, Mr Grundy. You are now immortal… and there is only one job in the cosmos for an immortal.”
I felt the flesh shrink from my body as my clothes shimmered and changed into a black cloak. A scythe materialised in my hand, and a door appeared in the middle of my living room.
My campanion gestured toward it.
“Oh, well”, I sighed. “You win some, you lose some”.
He stood to one side.
“After you, Mr Death”