Chambered in ballpoint

How to talk to death.

This is a prequel to the Badland and does not make much sense without previously reading that story.


 

Death taps its finger impatiently on the table, staring coldly into your eyes. You called her here, a disjointed code sent in red slashes along your wrist. She came, as you expected, but you stayed her hand, kept yourself on that tightrope between alive and dead, a pinky dipped in the realm of the underworld, just so you might talk to the reaper herself.

She hasn’t spoken yet, but neither have you. What would you say to her, afterall? Do you start with formality? A hi or hello?

“You’re… Death?” A stupid question, an obvious answer, but something to break the ice.

Yes. The voice trailed for eons and yet cut short of her ears. Somehow you knew death had said that, yet could not hear her voice.

“Then… Can you help me?” There is a shiver in your voice as it travels across the wet tiles of your bathroom, out of the door and across the table in your bedroom to her skull.

I would think it… Unlikely. Whispers of its words make their way to your mind, but they do not come from her. It is as if she had translators, tiny beings floating around your head translating her thoughts to yours.

“It’s about your sister… In the Badland. I want to save my grandma from her.” Death seems taken aback, though she made no obvious gesture to suggest this. Again, it is simply as if you are made to understand her, without any effort to do so.

You want to take a person away… from suffering? Child. This is not something you should consider doing. It is weird to feel concern from a creature entirely focused on removing your very existence from earth. Yet, you don’t dislike the comfort it brings.

“I am. I did this to bring you hear only so I might ask this of you.” You gesture to the red bathroom, your red wrists.

And if I say no?

“At least I tried.”

And why… The syllable rumbled through you, like the bass at a gig. …should I say yes?

To get back at your sister?” You don’t really have a plan further than this, you’ve already pushed your luck to the edge thus far.

I will take you to the Badland – as a reward for your foolish courage, nothing more. You will make your way through to your grandma personally, then – you, and your grandma, will die. Do you understand?

“I do.”

Good.

The red on your wrist froze over in an icy blue flash, and you rise to your feet, never once taking your eyes off death. She approaches you, gliding inches off the floor, only seeming to tower further and further over your head, looming like the shadow of a great spire. Her boney fingers rest on your shoulders, and you feel your entire being tugged into the ground, sinking into nothing. You close your eyes as the air is crushed out of your lungs, and when you reopen them, all you see are waves crashing against the cliffs. The boney hand shoves you over the edge, and you fall down, down into the crashing waves and wet black rocks.

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