You see a lot of strange things when you’re the anthropomorphic personification of death. That probably seems obvious now that I say it. On the other hand, I am rarely surprised by the things I see. This time, I was surprised by something that really isn’t that strange. After all, it’s not strange that someone doesn’t die. When they are supposed to die and don’t, that’s surprising.
It had been a relatively slow morning with entire seconds passing between deaths, so I arrived a few moments early for this particular death. It was a human male in in his late twenties. He would be hit in a crosswalk by a car running a red light. A rather mundane death. However, when I arrived, he just stared at me. Right at me.
People don’t see me until after their death. At least no one had before now.
“Who are you?”
I ignored his question. After all, he would soon be dead, and we could talk then.
But he didn’t walk into the street, and the car that was to hit him sped by harmlessly. This wasn’t supposed to happen.
“Seriously. Who are you?”
I pointed to my head. “Skull? Who do you think I am?” This was very wrong.
“Some sort of street performer?”
“Really? I am Death, come to escort your soul to the afterlife.”
“No hooded robe? No scythe? Admittedly, the skull is pretty convincing, but the rest of your costume could use some work.”
I had ditched the robe and scythe over a century ago. It might seem odd, but I just wanted a change. Now I wore a black button-down shirt with a black suit coat and an ankle length black skirt. I tried a tie for a little while, but it felt like it was choking me. The scythe was always annoying to carry around.
“This is not a costume. I am Death, and you need to come with me.”
“So I’m dead?”
“Well, no,” I admitted. “But you are supposed to be.”
“I’m supposed to be?”
“Yes. You were scheduled to die a minute or two ago. So if you wouldn’t mind . . .”
“How was I supposed to die?”
“I can’t tell you that.” That was a lie, but I wasn’t sure what would happen if I did tell him.
“I’m not going to just drop dead because you ask me to.”
This was completely unprecedented, and there was no guidance for this situation. After all, I was my own supervisor, and there was no one I could ask for advice.
While I had been wondering what to do, I noticed he had begun to leave. “Wait!” I called after him.
He turned back to me. “Are you going to kill me?”
“I’m Death, not Murder.”
“As you can tell, I’m not dead. Aren’t there other souls you need to pick up?”
“I have been taking care of them. As an anthropomorphic personification, I can be wherever I need to be. Even multiple places at once.”
“Doesn’t that get confusing?”
“Not really. I’m not limited to human perception.”
“If you say so. I have to get going.”
“Okay.” As he began to moving again, I stayed right behind him.
“Why are you following me?”
“I have to escort you to the afterlife, so I’ll be here until you die.” Again, I was making all of this up. I had no idea what I was supposed to do.
“Can’t you just come back when I actually die?”
“I don’t know when that will be, and I don’t want to miss it. Just go about your life and ignore me.”
“Ignore the skeleton following me around?”
“There is no reason to be insulting. I am not a skeleton, and I am trying to fulfill my responsibilities.”
He let out an exasperated sigh and started walking once more. I’m still waiting.