A chill ran through her spine like lightning bolting across an obsidian sky. He stood rigid before her, his hard face-less head stuck in a perpetual toothy grin. The hollow eye sockets, black as the robes draped over his skeleton, bore down on Jennifer. Tapping the base of his scythe against the blank expanse that created the floor, roof, and walls, Death dragged out each syllable.
“Your time has come.”
“I don’t want to go!”
Jennifer spun on her heals, as if to run, only to see Death standing behind her. Even if he’d let her flee, there would be no place to go for the world was but a blank sheet, lacking color, lacking warmth, and, most of all, lacking life – much like the monotone voice of the grim reaper.
“Do not be afraid of death.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Jennifer retorted.
“Life is misery,” Death replied.
The white expanse blew away and was replaced with baby-blue walls covered in posters of puppies and kittens accompanied with dull words of encouragement. A frail, beak-nosed woman scraped chalk across a green board oblivious to the giggling students behind her. Death and Jennifer stood in the back, watching as a young Jenny slumped low in her seat, the seam of her pants growing darker and damper as the laughter grew louder. Fingers flew up, guiding the squinting, mocking eyes of her classmates as a helpless Jenny wet herself.
Closing her eyes, Jennifer cursed death and once more they returned to the empty world. Death’s scythe hung in the air like the hook of a question mark.
“That same year,” Jennifer blinked back the tears and snapped defiantly towards Death, “Jim Bevin kissed me on Easter Sunday – I’d pee my pants ten times over to relive that moment.”
“What happened to Jim Bevin?”
Jennifer scowled but it had little effect on the skeleton. Striking the floor with his scythe, walls shot up around them. Rainbow beams of light filtered in through sheets of stained glass and painted the black-clothed congregation. A line of trembling men and women shuffled out of the pews, approached the front where a framed picture of a smiling adolescent watched in silence. Death and Jennifer stood just inside the double doors and, staring down the aisle, could see teenaged-Jenny. Her shoulders shuddered and legs wobbled as she approached the image of Jim Bevin. It seemed as though she might collapse into the pool of tears at her feet but a firm hand clasped her shoulder and guided her back to the pews.
“Mike…” Jennifer muttered as Death swatted the air with his scythe and yanked them back into the bleak oblivion, “…if Jim Bevin hadn’t died, I would’ve never met Mike.”
This time, the reaper did not respond. Shaking his pale skull, Death raised his weapon and the whiteness, once more, threatened to disappear. A scream echoed into existence, punctuated by the sound of breaking glass. The smell of bourbon had begun to sting Jennifer’s nostrils even before the skeleton’s spell was complete. She could feel the same fear she had felt, only moments before meeting Death, as Mike’s voice interrupted Jenny’s scream.
“DON’T YOU RUN FROM ME!”
Jennifer and Death stood in the doorway of the kitchen.
Sweat-soaked curls clung to Mike’s flushed, unshaven face. His wife beater was stained with Maker’s Mark and cigar ash. With wide, glossy eyes, Mike watched his woman – Jenny – from across the kitchen table. Both stood. Mike’s palms were flat on the table, his shoulders were hunched, and his bottom lip hung beneath his teeth. Jenny was a deer in headlights, half-heartedly holding a butter knife as one might hold a candle.
“I’m sorry, baby, insurance will cover the dam-”
“Damn you! That was my father’s car!”
Mark flung himself over the table and slammed Jenny against the fridge, his hands flying towards her throat. There was no attempt to defend. The butter knife fell to her feet.
“Stop! No more!”
Jennifer reached out and grabbed the stem of the scythe out of Death’s hands. The sounds, the smells, and the color died as the blank world hesitated then dove into yet another memory. Far from the chaos of the family kitchen, Jennifer had taken them to a hospital. They stood bedside, where a younger Jenny lay, cradling a rosy infant.
“You can’t change it,” Jennifer whispered, as if not to wake the baby, “and there’s no need to change it. You see, I loved my life and that is why I fear death. Bad things happen, but the spoiled don’t respect the good. Mike may have been horrible to me-”
Death scoffed at the understatement.
“-but at least he gave me three beautiful, intelligent children. No one and no thing could ever make me as happy as my kids made me. You see, Death, it’s a choice. Either love life or covet death, but still all good things must come to an end…”
She released the scythe and white began to bleach the world around them. Closing her eyes, Jennifer sighed and a bitter-sweet smile took hold of her lips.
Death raised the scythe high above her head and swung with quiet precision.