“The thing is,” said Death personably as he unshackled Belinda’s soul and took it by the hand, “you can’t miss your appointment with me, it’s just not possible”.
“But I wasn’t ready.” Belinda’s soul watched her earthly form recede as she and Death moved through the darkness. “I’m only 48.”
“It’s not for you to decide whether you're ready or not.” Death smiled gently. “I only come when the time is right. The time and the place are all on my calendar.”
An endless silence reigned.
“So what’s all this talk about a ‘brush with Death’, then?” Belinda’s soul was taking on the all-too-familiar pout that her body wore when her husband denied her another pair of shoes.
Death glanced at her. “Don’t sulk, it’s not becoming of a freshly harvested soul.”
“Harvested! HARVESTED! I’m not a fucking carrot!”
“No, you're a soul and need to behave in the manner becoming of one, preferably a good one.” Death sighed, and gave her a tired look. “Sometimes it’s hard for souls like you, that don’t realise their time for harvesting has arrived; but you’ll get used to it“.
“Answer my question then.”
“Well, quite often it happens when there is an accident. I could be there to collect other souls and, when I’m really busy, I have been known to accidentally touch an unripe soul’s body. It chills the body, and the soul shrinks back, afraid. The body gets a very weird sensation and the soul communicates the closeness of my presence – which it shouldn’t, I hasten to add.”
“You should be more careful.”
“I’m somewhat busy.” Death emerged from the darkness onto a harbour wall. A gaggle of people milled about the stony beach. A dog sat quietly to one side, salt starting to form a crust on his golden fur.
“This isn’t going to be pleasant, is it?” Belinda’s soul asked. Death shook his head. “Where are we?”
Death moved towards the people before answering. The dog stiffened, and a low growl crawled from its throat. Death stroked its head, “Not today, boy, not today.” The dog threw out a long howl that made the gathered people shiver. As they turned to look at the dog Death took advantage of the gap in the bodies and slid through, Belinda’s soul still held in his left hand. A paramedic was working hard at CPR as his colleague consulted his watch. “Clovelly,” Death answered.
Belinda’s soul contorted in agony, an angry mass writhing against the grip of Death.
“That’s 40 minutes now, Mike. I think we have to call it.”
“He’s so young, so young,” the paramedic stopped, straightened his back and reached for the blanket to cover the child’s face.
“You bastard, you absolute bastard. How could you?” Death ignored Belinda’s soul and bent to release the boy’s. “It's not by my hand you all die, I just collect the souls”. The boy’s soul rose to him, “Hello young man.”
Belinda’s soul resumed its normal shape. “It’s not possible. How could we die so close to each other? How could I die first?”
“You didn’t, he did, ten minutes ago. I bent the rules a little so you could be there to collect him, reassure him. You knew already, that’s why you stopped the heart in your host body. It’s no good denying it, I know all there is to know about deaths.”
Belinda’s soul took the young boy’s to it and held it close, “OK, Death, where now?”
“I don’t give you your final destination, that is the will of a being greater than I.”
“Call it what you will, it’s not my decision.” Death took the souls into the darkness.
“Mum? Are we dead?” The young soul quivered and shrank.
“Souls have no end,” said Death gently, “your earthly shell is no more, that is all. This is where I leave you.” Death receded leaving the two souls in front of a large door.
“What’s on the other side?” the young soul asked. “I don’t want to stay here, I don’t like the dark.”
Together the souls reached for the door as it swung open before them. “I’m sure it will be fine,” the older soul replied and they stepped through.