Prettier Than You’d Think

Death sat in the shadows, and waited. She felt very stereotypical, as if she were playing by the rules. She hated conforming. But it was a hot day, and underneath the trees on the damp earth was the coolest place she could sit. As much as she didn’t like being as expected, she also didn’t think it was very attractive to see Death sweating profusely from her upper lip. So she waited, and watched.

A mother and child walked on the sidewalk in front of her. The mother didn’t look at her, because while one hand was holding onto the child tightly, the other was holding a cellphone almost as tightly and she was talking into it earnestly. It sounded like the producer was willing to change the shoot to February, but only if they could make sure that there would be a minimum of rainy days. Death snorted. So this woman thought she could control the weather? Ridiculous. The child, now, the child looked brighter than its mother. Death wasn’t sure if the little puffy thing with curly black hair was a boy or a girl, but either way, the child was looking straight at her with curiosity. Death considered anyone who was smart enough to look her in the eyes to be intelligent.

Death was a little bit of a snob. She couldn’t, of course, discriminate, not really, but she much preferred needing to deal with smart people who didn’t grovel, beg, whine or bribe her. Not that any of it would work, of course,  but that didn’t matter – so many people tried it anyway. Death had relented buy once in her time, and it had ended horribly. She’d received an official warning for it and everything, and she could’ve been sacked, but she managed to explain the circumstances (the bosses were such suckers for true love stories) and got pardoned. She couldn’t afford another mistake, though, which was why she was waiting in this spot well ahead of time.

Technically, her name was Death, Agent #900,345. But nobody needed to know that there were so many of them around – each person received the true and only Death, as far as they were concerned. So Death waited for her man, wondering what he would look like and whether he would be one she’d like.

A man walked in front of her now. He carried a briefcase, and his glasses were just geeky enough to be considered fashionable. He was in his late twenties, with light brown hair that was streaked back with some sort of hair product. He had a roundish face, stubble-free and still boyish, and his lanky frame made his for-the-office clothing seem just a little big on him. Death sniffed, once, and could tell he was the one. As he fell onto the sidewalk, suddenly, without ceremony, grace or aplomb, Death rose to meet him.

He stood there, looking down at himself. “What happened?” he asked as she neared him. And then, “You’re prettier than I thought you’d be.”

“You’ve been thinking about me? I’m flattered,” Death smiled at him and took his arm. She led him a little way away, and together they watched as people rushed towards his body, tried to revive him, pinched and moved and pushed him this way and that, screamed and called 911. Time seemed to speed forwards, and he was pronounced dead, his cellphone and ID found, and the medics called the first numbers there.

“They won’t find anyone real there, you know,” the dead man said.

“Oh?” Death asked.

“Yeah, I was kind of a corporate spy. My work cellphone had lots of fake people on it, in case the bosses got suspicious of me. My real phone’s at home.”

“Cool. Never had a corporate spy before,” Death said. She turned him so he faced her. “So.”

“So… what now?” the dead man asked.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you find out?” she answered. She gave him a slight shove in the chest. He looked at her, smiled, and laughed.

“You’re really much prettier than I thought you’d be,” the dead man said, before his image, still shadowing his body, disappeared.

Death spoke to the empty air where he’d been. “You’re not so bad looking yourself,” she said, and then looked at her schedule. Time to move on to the next one.

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9 thoughts on “Prettier Than You’d Think

  1. Whoa! Fascinating! Very original… I like the thought of there being more than one Death out there.
    I had to go back and re-read the part where the guy died because it wasn’t very clear that he’d fallen or experienced something that would cause his death.
    So will Death ever see that Corporate spy again? =)

  2. I thought this was very original as well. It’s a tricky thing to personify death, as many people have done it, and have done it well. You, however, manage to still make it very interesting to read, as you don’t rely on the stereotypical “oh, I bet you didn’t expect death to be like this” approach to carry your story (thought that element is naturally there).

    I also like how you made the dead fellow not have a big scene with realizing he was gone. I think it could drag on a bit too long if you went into that. Good eye on that one!

    I would consider (again, just a suggestion), checking out the last two paragraphs. I think I understand what you’re going for, but the image of death (or one of many deaths, I suppose) being lonely and trying to connect to nothing is a bit well worn. I think given your pacing and skill as a writer that you could easily carry the same feeling while using a more strongly written ending.

    Again – a joy to come across this, keep up the good work.

  3. Lua says:

    I love the personification! Very original and this was my favorite line, “She couldn’t, of course, discriminate, not really, but she much preferred needing to deal with smart people who didn’t grovel, beg, whine or bribe her.”

  4. What a very interesting concept! I really like the agent idea and the fact that the target had a double life (interesting because in the end he does’t get to keep either of them) and him flattering her. You could totally twist it/expand if she runs into him wandering again or sees him at headquarters and became friends/lovers … but I may leap ahead of myself sometimes. lol I really liked it 🙂

  5. Oooh, I liked this piece (and your writing style)! I would love to hear more details about the spy, since he ends up being the focus of that vixen, “death.”

  6. I agree with the others, this was interesting! I like how you decided to make Death a girl. I only saw one typo, and a few things could have been a bit stronger, but I really liked where it was going.

    Probably one of my favorite series of books is by Piers Anthony. He wrote a series called Incarnations of Immortality. Each book represented a different Incarnation, and one of the Incarnations was Death. Loved it!

    Keep on writing, you’ve got talent! 🙂

  7. unabridgedgirl says:

    Oooo, very interesting, Ems. And I love the casual sort of conversation between Death and the guy. It sucked me in from the beginning.

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