"I’ve always liked airports," I said brightly. The October wind grabbed my pink scarf and jerked the tassled ends of it against my face. I batted at the tassles. "All the bustle, people coming and going, endless possibilities."
Death didn’t reply, just stood on the tarmac of the runway, grinding his jaw and looking into the woods beyond. The smell of burning rubber and hair skudded in dark clouds that disappeared into the steely sky close above us.
"Well, obviously not for these people," I allowed. I gestured to the bodies and parts of bodies that Death stood in. What was left of the airplane smoked from somewhere over to our left. "Let’s not linger, pet. There are muffins inside the terminal. With walnuts."
Death stepped out of his current pile of bodies to kneel next to a three-generational pile of carnage, all blonde like me. I joined him and tweaked his ear. "Up, puppy. Angst looks so bad on you. Makes your features all peaked. Oh, cat!"
Picking his way around the bodies came the cat, holding his attaché case and looking distinguished as usual. The cat came to stand next to me and observed Death in a knowing way. "I thought I would find you here."
"You think?" Death said bleakly.
"Poor creature is not getting very much job satisfaction today," I explained to the cat, who had been playing with the tassles of my scarf. The cat immediately straightened and licked a paw instead. I looked at Death again. "Plane crashes always seemed so much quieter when you see them on television, don’t they, dear? And busier. Shouldn’t there be hoards of well-oiled young men striving manfully to put out this smoldering wreckage?"
"Oh, that I could’ve been on this flight," Death said. "Or at least rendered deaf by the sound of the impact."
"So dramatic," I told the cat, reaching down to pet him. "I think quiet heart attacks for the rest of the day will do him good. Although the bloody stuff is so much more interesting."
"And how are you holding up these days?" the cat inquired politely, in exchange for a gentle stroke behind the ears.
"Don’t pretend you’re interested," Death said, and kicked a piece of the fuselage across the runway. "It will only encourage her."
The cat raised one eyebrow. His tail made a question mark shape. "I hear that marriage rates are plummeting. And divorce climbing. Doesn’t reflect well on you, Love."
I selected a hot pink lipstick from my purse and applied it deftly. Wasn’t much sense being out in public without hot pink lipstick. "It’s not that I’m not doing my job, Aslan," I told him. "I’ve been inflicting romance left and right. It’s just that someone’s undoing all my work. Quite insensitive, I think."
"Quite," agreed the cat. "I see that your efforts closer to home have been in vain as well." He slid his eyes to Death, and then to me.
"I have no idea what you’re talking about," I said. I looked at Death, the wind fluffing his dark hair and chapping his normally pale cheeks, but he was staring out at the burning hulk.
"Quite," agreed the cat again. He picked up his attaché case, which he had set down to play with my scarf tassles. "Well, I’d best be going."
Death turned and crossed his arms tightly. "Why were you here in the first place?"
The cat stepped carefully over an arm on the pavement. "I wanted to see it for myself. This was to be my flight, if I hadn’t rescheduled. Thanks for the tip, Love."
A small storm brewed furiously in Death’s eyes for about fifteen seconds, and then he seemed to decide it wasn’t worth getting into. He said, "It’s too bloody quiet on this runway. I’m getting out of here. I suppose you’re coming with."
"Muffin time!" I said brilliantly, and took his arm. Together, the three of us made our way back across the tarmac to the looming gray terminal. The cat couldn’t reach the door handle, so I held the door open for him and Death.
Death stopped just inside the door, body stiff. Beside him, the cat’s tail puffed out and he clutched his case to his chest.
I slid in behind them, closing the October wind outside, and looked over Death’s shoulder, resting my chin on him.
"I didn’t do this," he said.
The floor was streaked with blood and there were bodies everywhere. Hundreds and hundreds of bodies; everyone in the terminal. Dead. The woman at the pretzel stand. The employees at security. Every passenger.
"Well, this is dire," I remarked. "I don’t remember where the muffins were, and there’s no one left alive to ask."
"Quite," the cat said again.
Death said, "I miss my Prozac."
I followed his gaze to the words smeared in blood across the soaring glass windows:
I think it’s time for us to meet.
— the real Death.
Author’s Note: Part IV of the Death series (I didn’t realize it was going to be a series, but I guess it is. Part I-III can be found by clicking on the "Death" tag to the left of the community).
image courtesy: Ko:(char *)hook