‘This is Peter Greaves. He is a thirty four year old male. Peter came off his motorbike while rounding a corner at speed.’
‘Hey, I wasn’t going that fast!’ It was at this point that I noticed something was missing. As the red shirted paramedic droned on to the hospital team I realised no words had left my lips. A thin sliver of cold touched my stomach and then I heard a faint tearing noise.
‘Not the t-shirt!’
The sound continued for a second longer ending with a loud snip. The voices, clamouring above me felt distant, muted.
‘Heart rate’s slowing.’ said a female voice above my head.
‘What’s going on?’ I wanted to cry but nothing came out.
‘I hope I’m not too late.’ said a heavy voice. ‘Its one thing doing my job but it gets to be a real pain when people don’t die on time. It’s even worse when they’re religious fanatics. Why do you lot put up with them? I would have thought you would have learned by now.’
‘Who are you?’ I said as the beeping faded into the background.
‘Where are my manners? I’m Death.’
As the lights from the accident and emergency room faded they were replaced by a bare room with a bulb hanging from the ceiling.
‘You can get off the table, Peter, no need to lay there. This is the spiritual world, no physical constraints here.’
I sat up and looked around. I was expecting to see a figure dressed in a large black hooded gown holding a scythe in one hand. ‘You’re Death?’ I asked, slightly bemused.
‘Aren’t you supposed-‘
‘The scythe and gown?’ asked Death looking down at his business suit. ‘That’s formal wear. You know, the sort of thing you have to wear when tradition takes precedent.’
‘And the face?’ I waved at mine in case he couldn’t comprehend my meaning.
‘The skull had a tendency to frighten people. I put this on so I could talk to my customers. Like it?’
I could not believe what I was seeing. Death, the one being that we were all scared of was concerned about his appearance. Perhaps he had a point though, all he had to do was to show people the way to the afterlife. Sure it must have been busy but if they didn’t want to talk it would get boring, quickly.
‘Its acceptable.’ I said trying my best not to hurt his feelings. His face wasn’t hideous but could hardly be described as perfect. ‘It needs refining.’
‘Oh?’ said Death, suddenly interested.
‘Well, perhaps you could, umm-‘ This was not going to be easy. How do you tell Death that his face looked like a bad patchwork? There were no stitches to be seen but his nose and ears were a different colour to the rest. What if he got upset and killed me there and then? I didn’t want to die.
‘Take a look at the nose and ears, only they’re a bit, off-colour.’ I said, helpfully.
His face fell. Not literally but the effect was nearly the same. ‘Look, its not really that important. I mean, who’s going to notice?’ I said as he turned away.
‘Its not just for the customers, you know. I do it for the women.’
‘But they’re dead.’
‘Not the humans, idiot, the females of my breed. You didn’t think I was the only one, did you?’
‘Well nobody’s mentioned there’s more than one.’
‘Right, of course not. When you pay a visit you only get to see one of us, its the law.’ he said, turning back again.
‘So its my time then?’ I asked, looking at the floor.
‘Oh no, you’re just having a near-me experience.’
‘What’s the difference?’
‘Longer stay, full access to beyond the realm facilities, your own unique identity number-‘
‘What do I get right now?’ I asked, intrigued.
‘A visitors pass which most usually waste by sitting in the foyer waiting to go back.’
‘Oh, sounds boring. Can I have a look around?’
Death looked at his watch and said ‘No time, you’ll be going back any second now.’
His timing was impeccable as the walls began to fade, replaced by a hospital theatre. Blue gowned and masked people moved in slow-motion around my body as it lay on the table. Deep within me I could feel a tugging, drawing me back to my physical self.
‘One last question before I go; do psychics really talk to the dead?’
‘In the beginning they did but they haven’t done for millennia. The current bunch are a load of charlatans trying to fleece money off you.’
I barely caught the last words as he vanished.
‘Heart rate’s back to normal.’ said a nurse.
‘Welcome back, we thought we’d lost you.’ one of the doctors answered, rhetorically.
‘Takes more than a motorbike accident to kill me.’ I tried to reply.
‘Don’t be so sure on that.’ said the heavy voice.