A Bargain To Live For: Short Story
Prompt: Late one night you hear a knock at the door. You open it to see Death waiting. Death offers you a bargain…
Time: 2 hours
*This is a part of a series of short stories I’m writing, based off prompts, I time myself and share the unedited product for feedback. This and others are also apart of writing challenges that take place on the Writing Community Discord Server I host!*
(link: https://discord.gg/dn42aPM) discord.gg/dn42aPM
Title: A Bargain To Live For
Keys clatter as they land heavily in an ornamental ash tray, flung by uncaring hands. A door is kicked closed by booted feet, feet that tear a path through the medium sized apartment. The feet stop in a large back bedroom where the owner kicks off their shoes and undresses after their long hard day. Naked, the person walks into their bathroom and starts to run a cold bath. After the tub is only half full they leap in, adding epsom salts, lavender and eucalyptus essential oils, and vinegar to said tub. There they lay for twenty minutes before cleaning themselves off and getting out.
They dry off in front of the mirror, checking for new bruises, dry eyes, scratches, and their hair. Sighing they apply some cream on the scratches, shrug at the bruises, and put eye drops in their eyes. After redressing in some night clothes they grab a coke and a bottle of whiskey from their refrigerator in their small kitchen. Like an amateur bartender they mix the coke and jack lightly. Before leaving the kitchen with the night’s beverage they grab a bag of chips and some salsa plus left over chicken nuggets from the night before, made from the finest fast food can offer.
With this mighty meal in hand they plunk themselves on the sofa in the small living room, put down the food on their coffee table, and grab the remote to the TV. After thirty minutes of scrolling through the entertainment options of the services they pay for, and some they don’t, they settle on some cartoon that looks bright and colorful to numb their mind.
Eating the snacks and drinking through their jack and coke it takes no time at all for them to start to nod off. But before they can leave the waking world behind to a better place a sudden and intense stabbing pain strikes them. It throbs from their chest and slowly it becomes harder and harder to breathe.
Knock, knock, knock
Gripping their chest, biting their lip, trying desperately to breathe and not throw up, they turn their head as they hear a knocking at their door. Usually when this happens they’d silence their TV and wait for whoever it was to go away. But in this instance they think maybe the knocker could help them, or at least pray for their eternal soul as the case may be. So instead of grabbing their phone to dial nine one one like an intelligent person, they slowly drag themselves to the front door, which thanks to the size of the apartment; was three steps away.
Fumbling they grab the door knob and turn it. Eerily the door slowly opens out, showing only a bleak black darkness and rain. The person using their grip on the doorknob to hold themselves up thinks their dying and going crazy. But the moment lightning strikes, lighting up the entire street, a tall figure in robes and a hood can be seen, their visage almost smokey in appearance.
Seeing this startles the person holding the door and with a gasp they fall over, right onto their back, making the stabbing pain now feel like someone was pushing a great-sword through their chest.
The person in the robes quickly steps up to them, dripping from the rain and rubbing their chin they say: “Oh! Sorry! Didn’t mean to startle you like that!” Their voice sounding as if it had a cockney accent and a lighthearted tone to it.
But the person now on the floor didn’t really hear what they said, instead their eyes landed on the hand that came from the robe and their mouth opened to scream, instead however they started coughing frantically. It seemed that the hand the smokey visage had was somehow skeletal.
The skeletal intruder noticed rather quickly what the other person was looking at and realized why they were coughing the way they were. “Oh, one moment!” They snapped their fingers and the skeleton appendage became flesh and they pulled off their hood to reveal a normal looking face. “Is that better?”
The person on the floor nodded as they worked to get their coughing under control.
“Sorry for the fright dear, that was just what most humans expect me to look like so its how I appear.” The ex-skeleton apologies curtly and offers a hand to the other, to help them up.
They reluctantly accept the offered hand, and the moment they touch it they begin to feel immensely better, the pain disappearing as if by magic. And now that they can breathe they can speak again: It takes them a moment, the gears in their brain turning, but when they look up at what they assume is a man they finally reply.
“What the hell?!”
“Very eloquently put, my dear.” The man replies with what is assumed as sarcasm. But before answering the very important question however they turn and close the door, keeping the storm outside and all parties involved inside.
“I was...was dying! Man, I think I was freaking dying!” The younger of the two continues to yell. “And you were… a fucking skeleton! A skele-” Suddenly they stop, and you can hear the gears turning very loudly in their head again. With wide eyes they look back to the man, who is now suddenly much closer. “Did...did you come here to reap me?”
The older man nods solemnly. “Yes, unfortunately so. And you are correct, I am Death.”
The younger of the two’s eyes began to get glassy, but they swallow down the lump in their throat and refuse to cry. Instead with a hurt laugh and a shrug they reply: “Knew it was gonna happen eventually, kept telling everyone they were gonna out live me. Not like I could afford to see the doctor or anything.”
Death nods yet again. “It does seem as if your time is up.” He says in a strange manner, almost hinting at something with his tone.
“Seem?” They questioned with a tilt of their head.
“Well,” Death starts, and with a quick and smooth movement pulls out a file folder from seemingly no where, and openly studies it’s inner contents as he continues. “I believe your death is unfair and unjust, as many others as of late have been.” He leads, and the younger waits on bated breath for him to continue.
“Skyler Eden, twenty six years old, sheltered life before leaving home, grew up with and continued to have many health issues. Most simple issues, some not so, but all continued to get worse as doctor after doctor didn’t take them seriously due to your age, and when you were very young and seemingly over weight they blamed it all on that. After leaving home and getting a part time job, with nearly full time hours, said job nearly working you to death, and yet offering you no benefits: Because of that, now that your at the age a doctor might take theses symptoms more seriously you can no longer afford to see one.” Death read very seriously from the manila folder the files that laid within. After reading from it there was a pregnant pause, the silence near deafening, before he looked down at Skyler and continued.
“Your not the first and surely won’t be the last that an unfair system causes your death. However I’m here to offer you a bargain.” Death finally explains his personal appearance.
Skyler knew she wasn’t special, even had close friends going through something similar, but for some reason Death was there to speak to her. She was incredibly surprised, but mostly intrigued. As coolly as possible she crossed her arms and leaned closer. “I’m listening.”
Death cleared his throat. “Because of the way things are death tolls have dramatically increased. And while some years ago I could handle it on my own, even I am having difficulty keeping up. Due to this other creatures interested in the souls of the dead have been stealing them away before I can reap them. So now I’m forced to change the way things are done if I want to keep souls safe.” Death explains, trying to paint a picture for Skyler, one that seems very dark. “What I’m getting at is; I need help. I need others, people like you who even in life had strong senses and a good heart, to help me reap souls and protect them.” He paused, letting the dramatic tension wind up. “In exchange for your help I can make you immortal, almost like myself; a reaper.”
Skyler lets that settle in her mind, thinks it out, and in a matter of seconds has an answer. “Deal.”
“Well that was quick.” Death says with raised brows and suspicion. “Don’t want to think it over?”
“Hey look pal, I either die right here and most likely go to Hell for being gay, or I become a reaper. What do you think I’m gonna do? Say no?” Skyler says with a tone of annoyance.
“Well,” Death taps a finger to his lip and shrugs. “When you put it like that.”
“Yeah, not like I have a lot I’m giving up, huh?”
“I suppose.” He says agreeing. “Do keep in mind you’re not going to come back to life and continue where you left off. I’m keeping your soul in your body but binding it to it eternally. There will be immense changes. No more gender, no more needing to eat or sleep, you’ll be capable of much more than before, you’ll most likely end up fighting demons to protect and reap souls, and reaping souls too so you’ll be breaking the bad news to once living peoples that their dead, oh and no more sex drive!” Death expands and relatively quickly, like a medicine commercial listing off side effects.
Skyler tilts their head at him again and gives Death an unimpressed look. “I’m going to reply to all that in the order you said it, just so were on the same level here: I understand that and that’s okay, my family has my will. Not super happy about immortality but I will literally live with it. I’m pretty happy to hear about no more gender honestly, I will miss eating and sleeping but that’s fine, and HELL YEAH fighting demons sounds awesome, I worked retail and sales floors so that’s not gonna be that big a leap, and yeah we’ll see about that!” They say, in the same manner and speed as Death, but with the occasional bit of sarcasm and yelling thrown in.
Death just blinks. “I hope I haven’t made a mistake.” He whispers in a dead pan manner.
Skyler hears him and grins. “Too late, the deal’s been struck!” They yell cheekily.
Death sighs. “Yes, I suppose so. I feel a normal human being would be more upset by this.”
“Dude, I’ve been working fast food, retail, part time minimum wage hell for years! I was in pain and slowly dying because rich doctors didn’t care about me. I left my family cause they drove me crazy! And I love my friends but their lives were fine before me, it’ll be fine after. But now I can see the world like I always wanted, send some assholes to hell, and fight demons to protect good souls and make sure they make it to the good place! Why on earth would I be upset by this?” They reply with skepticism.
Death raises a finger but then nods. “Fair point.”
“That’s what I thought!”
“Do keep in mind though you’ll be protecting all souls from demons, even the ‘assholes’.” Death counters.
“Uh hu, sure I am.” Skyler’s words oozed sarcasm.
Death sighed heavily again. “I suppose we should get started.” Death then opens the door behind him, but beyond it this time is not the rain, but a place beyond earth and beyond the mortal realm, and it was oddly purple looking. Even as the two left the realm of the living you could still hear their voices echoing in the apartment through the open door.
“Hey by the way, how are people gonna know I’m dead if I don’t leave my body behind?”
“I’ll be putting a copy of your body down later.”
“Cool, cool, so what kinda powers am I gonna have? Do I get a scythe like you? Can I have a sword instead? Do I get a uniform? I’m not gonna be skeletal am I? Cause like I don’t love how I look but if I had to choose I’d rather not be a spooky scary skeleton.”
Death groans into the void of the other worldly, and then finally the door behind them closes with a slam.
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