What Comes After

Death is a little red-head girl with a galaxy of orange freckles and eyes so green they whisper of heather-strewn fields, elysian meadows and eternal restfulness. They are the eyes of a liar.

At least, that’s the way Eddie Prince saw it. He knew the minute the girl entered his garage that she was Death. She floated in a withering blister of dismay. It swirled around her like interference colors on a soap bubble.

The girl stopped and cocked her head to the side. “Hi Eddie. Are you ready?”

“Now?” Eddie replied querulously. “I’ve been waiting for you over 50 years and this is how you’re gonna do it? Do you know who I am? I’m Eddie Fucking Prince! I usta be somebody! I don’t just keel over dead in a garage, you hear me? I got cred! The only way Eddie Prince goes out, is in a blaze of fuckin’ glory! Where the hell is my fuckin’ GLORY?!”

The little girl smiled adorably. “It doesn’t work that way, Eddie. You don’t get to decide when it’s your time or how it happens. And guess what? I don’t either. I’m just the messenger.”

“What if I don’t receive your message, huh? What if I refuse it, until I get a better one?”

“It doesn’t work that way, either, silly. Your time was up the second you became aware of me. I’m just here to make you aware of it and take you to the next stage.”

“To hell, you mean.” The words came out as a whisper.

The little girl showed no sign of having heard him. She simply continued to smile angelically. She raised her right hand and offered it to Eddie.

“Come walk with me, Eddie.”

He stared at the proffered hand, fear etched across his once-famous face. He reached for a handkerchief and made to mop his forehead, but there was no moisture to be found there. Eddie stared at the dry cloth.

“I lost my fuckin’ soul for this?!” Eddie suddenly wailed. “I had everything I ever dreamed of for twenty years, then lost everything! I’m fuckin’ 89-years-old and I live in a shithole! This is NOT what I signed up for! THIS is NOT the way I was supposed to go out.”

“Are you sure about that? Everybody’s time is preordained. Your choices have very little bearing on that fact.”

“I signed a fucking contract!”

The little girl took his hand and fell in beside him. She looked up at him. “You probably should have read the small print. Nobody ever does that.”

Eddie stopped, not even realizing he had been walking. The little girl took one step further, then stopped and turned to look at him questioningly.

“Why are you just now coming for me?” He said quietly. “Why weren’t you here when I was 38, like I was promised?”

“Oh, Eddie, you don’t have a grasp on any of this, do you?” The little girl sighed, then turned to face him. She still held his hand firmly in hers.

“Your soul was reaped 51 years ago and the contract was officially fulfilled. There wasn’t anything in there about what happens to the rest of you, afterwards.”

“What does that mean?” Eddie shouted. She acted as though she hadn’t heard him.

“It wasn’t always like that, of course, but there were so many of you trying to make deals that they decided to change the parameters, for efficiency’s sake. Now there’s never any question and I don’t have to deal with people trying to beg or haggle for more life. What’s done is done by the time I get here. I prefer it this way, to be honest.”

Eddie furrowed his brow, trying to make sense of the little girl’s words. “Wait… you’re telling me I haven’t had a soul for 51 years?”

“Uh huh. That’s why your remaining years have been so colorless and awful. Just because you lost your soul, doesn’t mean your life was over. You just became part of the walking dead until your time was officially up. Seems everybody sells their soul, these days, for one thing or another. Nobody wants to work for their 15 minutes of fame. I used to reap souls, but now my job is to gather up the husks for recycling.”

“But… but…I don’t understand.”

“Don’t even try, Eddie. Just be glad you’re not suffering like your soul is.”

The last of the bravado died behind Eddie Prince’s eyes and his muscles went slack with sorrow. He felt like he should cry, but there were no tears to shed. He shuffled alongside the little girl, with a sound like autumn leaves chittering across a windswept road. Nobody noticed his passing, and if they did, they didn’t care.


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