Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rough Draft--A Deathly Compromise Prologue/Chapter 1

I hate Jell-O.

With the fiery passion of a thousand hells, I hate it. It's not quite dry, not quite wet, and goes down your throat like a cold worm. Actually, I've had my fair share of worms in past centuries, and they tasted quite pleasant compared to Jell-O. I can smell the syrupy concentrate from a mile away; its sickening sweetness stuck in my nose. Suffice to say that being around the concoction all the time makes my day pretty stressful.

But not as stressful as Mrs. Williams.
I'm looking at her across from the hospital bed, from the guest chair in the corner. I'm laying back, my black Chucks propped up on the edge of the bed, giving her an annoyed glare. She's giving it back to me, tenfold. Her breathing becomes labored every few minutes, but she tries to stay as relaxed as possible. I cock my eyebrow and crack my knuckles. Her eyelids close half way in a menacing manner, and I notice her hand beginning to clutch the trigger for the morphine drip. I sit up. "Don't you fucking dare," I tell her.

She coughs and I see a small smile creep in the corner of her lips.
"I swear to Hades, Millie, if you press that damn button..." She presses it. Of course she fucking would. I throw my hands up in exasperation. "I hope you enjoy that morphine, like really enjoy it, down to your toes." I stand up and grab my sunglasses off of the counter. "I'm tired of this wishy washy shit, Milly. This is my 26th time being in here with you and frankly, I'm getting tired of it. You either want to die or you don't. Next time you call on me, you better be ready." I put on my wayfarer sunglasses and grab my jacket off of the chair back. I subtly hear a whisper coming from her lips.

"You're horrid," she tells me with whatever voice she has left.

"And you're kind of a bitch. Leaving all your money to your lover, but leave your dog to your son? That's low, even for me."

I walk out of the room into the hospital hallway. I hear the hustle and bustle of nurses passing, the beeping of heart monitors, visitors laughing and crying, nervous feet shuffling in the waiting room. The rain is really coming down outside; the drops pounding on the room, and thunder clapping, static hitting the hairs on the back of my neck. I grab a cup of coffee from the waiting room as I go towards a window. I haven't needed the necessities of food or drink for quite some time, but I enjoy some good sustenance every now and then. It keeps things interesting. However, whoever made the coffee today should be flogged because it is just piss poor, even for me. I hear a baby cry in the waiting room down the hallway and I curse under my breath. Seriously? Important rule of thumb: Unless it's coming out of your uterus or it's sick, don't bring a baby in a hospital. And never on a plane if you can spare it. They can sense me, and it drives me absolutely bonkers. I cringe at the high pitch scream and leave the cup of coffee on the window sill. Luckily, a call for me comes and it interrupts the wailing. Mr. Flock in the next ward...hmm...didn't think it would be today. A girl's work is never done.

I walk into his room, and he looks at me skeptically. He looks at me up and down, still in pretty good shape of someone of his age. "You?" he asks, surprised like most people. Obviously, he's seen me out and about.

"Yeah, what'd you expect?"

"Well, white?"

"Sorry to disappoint, Flock. Darker hues are more my ammo. You ready?"

"You're not going to talk me through this?" He coughs.

"If you just had to deal with Milly Williams, you wouldn't want to talk to anyone...ever again. Trust me on this."

"What's with the glasses?"

"It's the fluorescents. Make me all sallow looking." I wave my hand in a carefree manner, but take off the glasses nonetheless. "Satisfied?"

"Better. At least you're fairly attractive."

With a slight curtsy, I quip, "I aim to please."

He gives me a smile, but furrows his eyebrows in obvious pain. "So how does this work?" he asks, all humor aside.

"Well, I touch you and you pretty much fall asleep. You a Christian?"


"Phew, makes things easier. Okay, well...It all kind of feels like a dream. Whatever heaven you want, it'll be planned out for you. It's pretty fucking wonderful." I pause with concern. "You didn't kill anyone did you?"


"Alright cool, then yes, it'll be pretty great. You're gonna have a blast. Do you have any family coming?"

"I didn't have any children. All the others have passed."

"Well they'll meet you there, then."

"Oh god, I hope the hell not."

"Alright then, boss. Now, I'm going to touch your hand, okay? It'll be quick, painless. Just concentrate on something you something?"

"My dog, Bart."

I cock an eyebrow at him, teasingly. "Whatever floats your boat, man."

I walk closer to him, and smile, genuinely. Despite the prerequisite, it's fulfilling to see someone pass so they no longer have to live in pain. I reach my hand out to him, and with just a light touch, I see his memories. Some sad, some happy; a life mostly filled with empty smiles and regrets. And lots of women. Whoa. The later the life, the faster the flashes, in one fast forward motion, until it all fades to a white flash, then darkness. The darkness was soothing, an eerie calm down in the pit of my stomach, like a hot chocolate on a winter night. His monitor drones down to its long, low pitched tone, and I disappear before his nurse comes in. I put the glasses back on and stuff my hands in my pockets. I pull out my mp3 player and slide the ear buds in my ears. I have some Beach Boys to listen to. It's only 9:00AM, and I'm not happy about my first passing. Why is it always the semi-cool ones that go first and the damn annoying ones that last forever? This era is kind of shitty.

I'm Death, by the way. Everyone calls me Dee. Well, those who see me anyway. I like desserts, classic pop, and rainy nights. I also like awesome car accidents and cataclysmic events. But I hate Jell-O. I really regret not being available to kill the bastard who invented it.
I first transferred to this particular hospital in Seattle about 30 years ago. The rain's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, and while most days are actually quite beautiful, I prefer the rain. It keep people in, keeps them safe; leaves less work for me to do than the routine hospital patient. There are only so many rain induced car crashes I can deal with on a daily basis. Come on, keep things interesting for me.
I chose my body a couple of centuries ago. It's been pretty sustainable. She was some rebellious daughter that was arranged into a Spanish marriage and hung herself the night before the wedding. I can commend a woman for sticking to her guns. Every new body I choose comes with certain memories...I see hers from time to time, not to mention her nature and urges, but we're pretty alike so I've come to see this thing as home for a few more years. Also, I think I look pretty decent. Black hair, light eyes, cream skin...can't really beat it; chalk one up to the Spaniards.
There's a half moon shaped lounge that I'm laying out in, feet up, reading a Better Homes and Garden magazine. This thing is absolutely terrible. How do women read this stuff? All these ugly flower arrangements and gross salads? And since when did making salads become as complicated as making a normal entree? I throw the magazine across the couch, missing the table on purpose.
"Dee, for the love of God..."
My head turns and my eyes peer over the top of my sunglasses. Not a lot of people can visibly see me, let alone call me by name, but The Duke is one of those exceptions. I give him a smile. "What's up, Gramps?" I pick up another magazine.
"I know you're some unearthly being and whatnot, but can you at least behave yourself? Some of the nurses get spooked."
"'s a slow afternoon. They need something to do."
"No, that's what my job is for, and right now, you're making it harder."
The Duke, aka Vincent Jacobs, was one of the hospital janitors. He was tall, African American, in his late 60's and was diagnosed with a terminal illness several years ago. That doesn't stop him--he works his normal hours amidst others who work half ass--and has comes to terms with his illness and death, hence being able to see me. He's not afraid of me, and I admire that. When I get his call, it'll be a bittersweet day. I never call him by his name. He reminds me so much of Marion himself when I met with him in California, that I had to bestow that upon Vincent. He doesn't believe me most days, but he goes along with it. I abide to his request, and go pick up the magazine. "How you doing today?"
"Well, I'm not dead yet."
"Me and you...we're gonna have fun when you're ready."
"You gonna take me on a hot date?"
"You better believe it, buddy."
He laughs under his breath as he empties a trash can near me. I watch him closely. He has a couple of more wrinkles now than he did a few weeks ago. He sweats more easily. I can smell his blood...he's been indulging in desserts lately which has risen his glucose but keeps him happy. He senses me inspecting him. "You keep your vulture eyes off me, Reaper. I'm not your lunch." I ignore the insult.
"Fine, just lay off those snack cakes. You've packed on a couple." I hit my stomach for emphasis and he lightly smacks my arm with a rag. "Hang in there, Duke. It's going to be a good day, at least for you."
"You may want to stay away from the cancer ward, then."
I let out a load moan. "Don't even tell me. Jones?"
"In all his splendor."
"Fuck." I straighten the sunglasses on my face, and jump over the corner seat, slipping The Duke a high five on the way out.
By then, it was lunch time. I can smell the nurses' lunches heating up in the microwave and another pot of coffee brewing in the nearby waiting room. It's still raining but I could sense the sun wanting to peek out through the cloudy barriers. Somewhere nearby, a visitor has opened a window in a room and I can smell the Pacific air. I'm pretty sure a homeless guy has just pissed in the street below as well. I have headphones tightly in my ears and walk towards surgery. Surely someone wouldn't survive there. I hear the bustle of someone coming down the hall on a gurney. Just from looking at her as she passes by, I can tell what's wrong. I can hear broken bones grinding against each other, a collapsed lung struggling to breathe. I can smell the iron taste of O negative on my tongue. She's trying to say something, but clots of blood just form at the back of her throat. The nurses are rushing while I trail behind casually. I have 4 minutes until I help her depart, according to the call. They finally reach the operating room, and pull away the sheet. The girl's abdomen is ripped open, glass shards speckling the site like sprinkles on a cake. I suddenly feel really nauseated. I cover my mouth. "Seriously?!"
I retch in the hazardous waste disposal bin in the corner. Like, really barf beyond belief. I see traces of yesterday's red velvet cupcake amongst used needles and bloody surgical gloves. Awesome. I wipe my mouth and look over at the table again. Suck it up, Dee.
I glance at the clock. The girl is beginning to flat line, and while the surgeon is trying his best to put Humpty back together, the others are trying to resuscitate. I still have two minutes, but this shit needs to be over with. I walk over, take a deep breath, and grasp the girl's hand. The memories flash, then the darkness. The flat line continues until the surgeon calls it. I could get in trouble, but I honestly don't give a shit. That girl didn't have an angel hovering over me, telling me to back off, and that thing was just too vile to deal with for a prolonged period. I did the girl a favor. I walk out of the surgery room feeling like I need an inhaler. My glasses, hanging crooked on my head, slip off and fall to the floor. I go to grab them, but my fingers are met by another's. "Dee, fancy seeing you here."
Ugh, his voice is like nails on a chalkboard. He's a seemingly attractive, okay gorgeous, male. Tall, blond, muscular, the whole bit. My host's body longs for him, which is sickening. This girl needs better taste. He wears a casual linen suit, like some sort of lost Beatles member, and he's glowing with that smile that I want to cut off his face. "I'm here every day, dickhead."
He tsks-tsks me. "Woke up on the wrong side of the ethereal space?" He stuffs his hands in his pockets and casually follows me. Why must he always do this? He's like that little dog that nips at your heels when you're just innocently trying to check the mail, and you want to secretly see him get crushed by the garbage truck. Twice.
"I've only had two passings today. I'm just a little aggravated."
"Hmm, I guess life has taken its fair share today. I've had 6 savings."
I mocked his braggart statement. "Then you have plenty of other people to bother."
"I like to check on friends from time to time."
I stop in my tracks, my shoes letting out a loud squeak on the tile. I face him, angrily, and I can feel the smoke of every underworld rise in my chest. "Listen, Jones. I am not your friend. As much as I appreciate your contribution to this world, I'd much rather appreciate you from faaaaar away. Got it?"
He smiles and bows his head as if he was in a yoga class. "I shall leave you be, innocent Reaper." I grab his linen suit. My fingers clutching the material cause it to start burning it immediately to ash. At that moment, despite my tall stature, I feel myself grow up to his height, then towering over him. I can feel flakes of ash chipping off of my face.
"That's an insult, Miracle. If you can't appreciate another by their true form, then you have no business being on this plane of existence. I am Death. My reapers do my bidding, but I am here on my own behalf. Don't forget that." I let go of his jacket arm and watch the material return back to its smooth, untouched state.
"I meant no degradation, Dee. I sincerely apologize." While his face and slight smile reeked of sarcasm, his eyes were genuine. Mine were filled with fire. I really did detest this guy.
"Get out of my face, Jones. You know where to find me if you need me." I shrink back to my original form, and turn my back to him.
"Dee," he called before I could completely walk off. "I really would like for us to be friends. We've had countless centuries to fight...we are in the same cause despite the manner in which it happens, can't we at least agree on that?"
"Jones," I pause to think. Yes, we've known each other since...well...the beginning of time, but the fact that he was so....perfect made me absolutely sick. And yes, we were in the same cause--to relieve those of pain. But little did he know that while he thought he was practically a god, I had the real power. I let people leave this forsaken place for their utopia. Or hell, sometimes. That's all in their head, though. I just give them the ticket to ride. Everything else was karma, baby. I wipe my sunglasses on my shirt and place them back on my face. I smile and give him a casual military salute. "I'd rather suck a nut."