“Michael, can I have my pen back?” the lady politely asked, her hand outstretched. Her pointed, polished nails blood-red against her pale skin.
The room paused. The air-con was cool in here and, if you really listened, you could hear it breathing through the hidden ceiling fans like some ethereal vent from another, cooler dimension. A darker, less human dimension. Outside a car hooted and inside there was crypt-like silence.
“Sure, sure,” Michael said, sighing, “I think we are done here. Anything else I need to sign?”
The lady’s lips lifted upwards and she flashed her teeth in the poor semblance of a smile. It was more like what the prey of a vampire might see in the last moments of its life. The air-con quietly breathed more chill into the crypt-like chamber and he held his breath, knowing full well what was coming next.
“No, Michael. Nothing else. The divorce is now full and final. Congratulations.”
“Buddy, I think you’ve had enough,” the gruff, grizzled barman grunted at him and waved him away.
Michael shook his head. The bar’s eerie light was spinning as he tried to place himself again. It was under a bridge and damp here. Or humid? A fan was whirling above like some torture device while the sulfur from the filthy toilets lingered in his nostrils.
All he wanted was the whiskey on the back shelf but there was a troll between him and it.
He flashed another note and the barman shrugged, grabbed the bottle and poured him another drink. His stubby, grubby fingers clinging to the bottle like it was too small and otherworldly for him to understand. The sulfur in the air was overwhelming, perhaps it was coming from the troll?
“Sure, OK, buddy, but this is your last one and then I’m gonna call you a cab and you’re gonna go home to your wife.”
Michael snorted at this and then giggled at snorting.
He had forgotten to take off the ring. Her ring. In all of this nightmare, he had not looked down at his hands and taken off the damn ring.
He pulled it off, clattering against his bony finger, and offered it to the barman who shook his head. He turned away and stomped to the other side of the bar where a couple witches were cackling and loudly drinking.
“Of course,” he mumbled to himself, “Trolls don’t like silver. No silver. Not gooooo–”
And that was the last thing he remembered that night under the bridge in the troll’s dingy bar.
“…must’ve snuck in last night with his old keys…trying to make a statement? Or was it anger? Probably both. All I know, is…” the voice drifted in and out of Michael’s consciousness, “…you know how it was when you were young too?”
The speaker paused and Michael turned to the voice. Light immediately flooded into his skull and the world rushed in!
He sat up promptly and groaned.
“Hey, Michael, you up? About time,” said the speaker behind him and he turned to see Death; an overbearing skull towering in endless black robes and surveying his room. His mom was lurking in the back, shaking her head as mom’s do when their children are in distress.
“I’m dead, aren’t I?” he mumbled, trying to rise.
Death laughed like a thousand graves moaning, “Yes, my boy, you are dead. Have you learned your lesson?”
Michael sighed and nodded his head.
Death sat down on his bed, his bones creaking like a thousand crypt door at midnight, “We are not like everyone else. They don’t always accept us amidst them. If it helps, I can tell you when she dies?”
“Dear, don’t do that! That won’t solve anything,” Michael’s mom and Death’s wife piped up, her Valkyrie accent strong as ever, “Just let the boy be. At least, he can’t feel the hangover. Probably drank the mortals out of alcohol.”
And it was true. Michael felt fine. A normal mortal would have been dead but, then again, Michael already was.
“It was all just so-so-so…” he struggled to find the word, “Disappointing. It was just disappointing, Dad.”
Death smiled but, then again, skulls only ever do that. Michael smiled back, his skulls taking after his father’s. They looked sadly at each other, unchanging immortals in an ever-changing world.
“There will be other mortals, other times and other chances at love,” Death said, patting his son’s leg, which sounded like a thousand skeletons dancing, “I waited a long time to find your mother but I did find her and we are very, very happy now. And, look, your mother gave me you, so you see, things do have a way of working out.”
Michael nodded and rose from his bed, or, at least, tried to. He topoled onto the floor quite confused. The bottom of his leg was simply not there!
“Don’t worry, my love,” his mother cooed, retrieving his fibula from where it lay atop a smashed, torn up framed-picture of his ex-wife, her glowing, life-filled lips contrasting to his bleached, white skull, “Let your Dad help you pop the leg back on and then come down for breakfast.”
Michael nodded and sighed, “Thanks, Dad. Mom. I really love both of you. You don’t mind if I crash here for a while? She also got the house…”
Death’s skull grinned, sadly, and he patted his boy. Eternity was plenty of time to learn the pain of loss. He knew that all too well. But, eternity was a long time, and his boy would get over it.