Friday, September 30, 2011

Who's At Death's Door

This is NOT my Friday Flash, but it is the prequel to it. I wrote this a few months ago for a contest on It won..YAY! So read this and then go on to the next post for Death's continuing story and his struggle with living with his mama.

Who's At Death's Door?
By Lisa McCourt Hollar

"Death, someone's here to see you."

Death, AKA Grim, looked up from the game he was playing and gave his mother a puzzled look as she entered his basement domain. " Me ? No one comes to see me. I go to them. That's how this works , I'm Death ."

Rolling her eyes, his mother replied, "Nevertheless, there's a man up there looking for you. Some kind of a reporter or something. He said he was sent to interview you."

"Hmmm, a reporter? That would be a pretty big coup, landing an interview with Death." Grim said, stroking his chin. "And he has guts; I have to respect that, although it could set a bad precedence. If I talk to him, next thing I know, everyone's going to want to come over and hang out with Death."

"I don't think you need to worry about that. Most people don't enjoy the smell of brimstone and, uh, dirty socks." She raised her eyebrows as she pulled a pair of smelly, stiff socks out from under a pile of trash.

"My lucky socks! I've been looking for those!" Grim snatched them out of his mother's hand and sat down on his couch, to put them on. He kicked off his sandals and scratched at his dry feet.

"I guess you didn't think to look under the box of moldy pizza." Grim's mother picked up a jar of dried fruit, then wrinkled her nose in disgust, her stomach turning as she realized that what she had first mistaken to be grapes, were actually dried up eyeballs that her son had preserved for some reason. She dropped the jar back where she had found it.

"This guy, he's not touched in the head is he? He does understand that he should be running from me, not knocking on my door?" Grim was looking at his foot, trying to pick something out from between his toes. He glanced up at his mother as he asked her this and scratched his head with the same finger he'd been digging between his toes with.

"He didn't knock on your door, he knocked on mine."

"Oh for Pete's sake, mom, for the last time, I pay you rent. That makes it my door too!" Grim was tired of the same old argument. He knew he should have tried to find a place of his own, but once you told a potential landlord that you were Death, they didn't exactly jump for joy at the prospect of renting to you.

" You pay me rent ? A few heads and lost souls every month is not rent. And the neighbors are talking. Apparently severed heads on the lawn is only approved for Halloween. Halloween's over with. What am I supposed to do with them now?"

"I don't know, boil them? Invite the cannibals down the road over for dinner. I think the one with the bone in his nose has a thing for you." Grim wiggled his eyebrows playfully at his mother. Spying the jar of eyeballs she had discarded, Grim picked it up, took the lid off and popped an eye into his mouth.

"Yeah, he has a thing for me, Death's mom." She shook her head in disbelief. "No one wants to touch me, for fear you will touch them."

"That's right; blame me and not the mess of snakes growing out of your head, not to mention that stony stare of yours." Grim gave his mother a cold look. "You know, you have your own reputation, you don't need mine to hold you back."

"Your father never complained."

"How could he? You turned him to stone!"

Medusa gave her son a stony glare, but it didn't work on him. "Look, I'm sending him down. Throw something on, unless you want it known that Death sits around playing Dungeons and Dragons in his underwear."

"These were a gift from Aphrodite." Grim said the name of the Greek goddess slowly, enjoying the feel of it on his tongue.

"Well, that explains the hearts, although I would have figured her for a briefs kind of a girl."

"Just hand me my cloak. Have you seen my scythe? I know it's around here somewhere. I might as well try to make a good first impression." Grim paused for a moment, reflecting on the irony of what he had just said. "You know, I've never had to worry about that before. My first impression is usually my last. Oh, there it is!" Grim, pointed to his scythe, in the corner, by the door. "Grab it for me while I pull on my lucky socks."

"I've asked you to stop putting this by the steps. One of these days it's going to fall when I come down and cut my head off."

"I could never be that lucky. Okay, I'm ready. Send him down.”

"I'm already here Mr. Death and your mother misunderstood, I am not a reporter, I'm from personnel. I'm here for your performance review. I'm afraid we have a few concerns."

Both Grim and his mother jumped as a cloud of fog rolled into the room, the voice emanating from within the mist.

"KHRONOS, old friend," Grim said, sounding anything but pleased, “what are you doing on this side of the underworld?"

"As I said, I am here for your performance review."

"Didn't I tell you to wait upstairs?" Medusa said, giving the man one of her looks. Who did he think he was, traipsing all the way through her house? She jumped back in surprise as he slithered, snakelike out of the fog and pushed his hood back off his head, or rather heads, since he had three. The first two had been hidden beneath the hood.

"Time waits for no one Madame. It would do your son good to learn that rule"

Medusa nodding, couldn't take her eyes off the lions head and was a bit fearful of what the bull head would do, if she got too near.

"Mother, this is Khronos, the god of time."

"Pleased to meet you," she stammered, backing towards the door that led out of the basement. "If you'll excuse me, I have something I need to get done. Then, she turned and fled up the stairs and away from the three headed god as fast as she could.

"What is this about a performance review? In all my years working for The Fates, I've never had any complaints."

"Well they aren't too happy with you now. It seems you've been cutting some corners." Khronos pulled out a file as he spoke and fixed all six of his eyes on Grim.

"I've never cut corners!" Grim protested.

"Really? Well how do you explain Elvis?"

"Elvis?" Grim scratched his head. "You mean that rock singer?"

"The King of Rock and Roll . You took him before his time."

"So I made a mistake! It was pretty hazy in there from all the smoke. That dude could party hard!"

"That dude was taking a dump in the bathroom and you fell on him!"

"I was woozy. It could happen to anyone. Besides, you guys fixed it. You sent him back."

"After he was already declared dead! We couldn't fix that. Now we have Elvis sightings all over the place. It's almost a repeat of the last time you took someone prematurely. Thousands of people shouting Hallelujah and declaring victory over death!"

"Jesus ? Now that wasn't my fault. That was between Hades and the Big Guy up there. And besides, no one told me He was HIS Son ! That might have helped in the decision making, but usually, when you hang someone on a cross, they die !"

"Which is why we didn't talk to you about it then. You were new to the job; your scythe was almost too big for you to hold. And besides, J did say He forgave you for it, so who were we to criticize?"

"He is rather big on that forgiveness." Death said, feeling a little warm at the memory.

"But there are the other incidents."

"What other incidents ?"

"Atropos has complained that there are times she snips the thread and you have neglected to take the person's soul. Do you know what kind of chaos that creates?"

"Okay, so we have a few Zombies running around up there. That girl needs to slow down. She's snipping faster than I can work."

"Perhaps if you'd quit playing with your joystick." Khronos suggested.

Grim appeared shocked, sputtering for a moment before it dawned on him what the god had meant. "Oh, my games...well even Death needs to have some fun every now and then."

"Not while there are zombies walking around. They eat brains. Did you know that?"

"You ate your children," Grim scoffed, popping a few eyeballs into his mouth. "What do you care about a few brains?"

"That wasn't me !" Khronos said, feeling more than a little irritated at this moron. "That was Chronos with a C. Why does everyone get us confused? You wouldn't believe what I had to go through to clear my credit up!" Khronos took a deep breath, calming himself before continuing, trying to get back on topic. "There is an order to things. Atropos cuts the yarn, you take the soul. That's how it is done. If you can't do the job, I'm sure we can find someone else that will.

"Fine, I'll be a little more careful, but Atropos could give me a little more warning too. And it wouldn't hurt Lachesis either to lengthen some of the yarn a bit. Do you know what it does to my reputation, every time I have to take a child? They blame me, not those three witches!"

"That's would be Pestilence you would need to talk to, not Lachesis. She can only work with what she is given."

"Of course ," Grim said, crossing his arms and giving Khronos a suspicious stare. "Stands to reason you would defend your wife's daughters. Anyway, why are you the one giving me my review? Isn't that a bit beneath a god?"

"Orders from The Big G," Khronos said, sounding put out. "Cutting corners and stuff. Gold roads aren't cheap and all those mansions He's building...well, long story short, anyone with a lower case is expendable. He has Zeus cleaning toilets in his spare time."

"That I would love to see," Grim said, chuckling at the idea of the big Olympian god scrubbing the porcelain god.

"Not if you don't want a lightning bolt up your ass. Hera laughed at him and she still can't sit down, which makes it difficult to do her job at the DMV."

Khronos picked up his clip board and stood. Pulling his cloak on he said, "I trust I won't have to come back for another review. This was just a verbal warning. The next step will not be so pleasant."

"I promise to do a better job." Death said, rolling his eyes. "No more zombies walking around eating brains and no more premature deaths. I promise."

Khronos sighed. He wished he could believe Grim, he hated this end of Tartarus and had no desire to come back. However, he had heard rumors that there were a few vampires running around unchecked. Once The Big Guy got wind of that, there'd be hell to pay. He wondered though who they could get to replace Grim, if it came to that. There weren't many willing to live in Tartarus, and for the pay being offered, they were lucky they'd found anyone to do the job.

"Okay, well keep your nose clean for six months and this will roll off your record... that's a rolling six months . Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go deliver a warning to Zeus. He's been cutting corners and not cleaning under the rim. The Big Guy hates dirt, which is surprising, considering He created it."

"Well you know what they say," Grim said, opening the door for Khronos, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness."
Copyright© 2011 Lisa McCourt Hollar. All rights reserved.

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