“Hello Dume,” came the timbrous tones from behind me.
I was busy in my laboratory, noting my discovery that social workers do indeed have hearts albeit very small ones, and preparing to test the hardness of the one I had most recently acquired.
“Hello Death.” I turned but he wasn’t there.
From behind, once again, came “Hello Dume.”
My shoulders slumped. Death in a playful mood was not something I wanted to deal with at that moment. He reappeared in my line of sight at the end of a blurred streak of movement.
“Pretty fast, eh?” He jutted his jawbone. “You wouldn’t call that two miles an hour, now would you?”
“No,” I said. “I would refer to it as something more in line with your initial assessment. Pretty fast.”
He produced a newspaper. I wish he would stop reading those things but he likes to tick off the obituaries and check he hasn’t missed anyone.
“Look at this. Your scientists reckon that people moving at three miles per hour can outrun me. Ha! Tell that to all those four-minute-mile runners I’ve reaped.”
I read the article and had to agree the conclusions were ridiculous. “It doesn’t look as though they were being serious.”
“Well I’m being serious. I can move incredibly fast, faster than anyone or anything except on Christmas Eve. Santa is the only thing in the universe faster than me and he can only do it one night a year. Then he has to rest for a year. If he didn’t smoke, drink and eat so much he might be able to do it twice.”
“He is quite nimble, that’s true.” Which is why I still don’t have his head on my trophy wall. Still, it’s nearly time to try again.
Death levelled his eyeless gaze at my laboratory bench. “Who do you have there?”
“A social worker who kindly called in to make sure Caligula was properly fed. He has been, now.”
“I see. Obituary published?”
“Unlikely,” I said. “This one’s fresh.”
“So she might still be hanging about? I’ll just take a quick look around the place, if you don’t mind.” He took his soul bag from his belt.
“Certainly. The place could do with clearing out. There’s a particularly irritating one called Banquo who has taken to showing up at feasts. I’d be pleased to be rid of him.”
“Sorry,” said Death, “that one’s untouchable. I can clear up the rest. Any sign of your father these days?”
“Not for ages.”
“Hm. Well, off I go. Watch my dust, Dume.” He shot through the wall.
I returned my attention to the experiment. I thought it best to start with the diamond-edged cutter although I doubted it would get through a social worker’s heart. It never has before.