Finally I have some peace and quiet to devise a horrible story and maybe finish some of the almost done ones. Since I failed to publish a single book last year I have set myself a goal of eight for this year. It’s not as huge a task as it sounds: at least three are in final editing stage anyway. I just have to staple my arse to a chair and deal with them.
I was just putting in the last few staples when Death appeared. He stared at me then took a pair of eyebrows from inside his robe, held them over his eye sockets and raised them.
“This looks like a terribly inefficient way to commit suicide, Dume. I don’t think I’ve ever collected one who died from buttock stapling.” He put the eyebrows away. “Still, I have come to expect something out of the ordinary from you.”
“It’s not suicide. It’s the opposite.” I finished stapling and called up a list of files on my computer. “I have to write again. It’s been too long.”
“Ooo, am I in it?” Death leaned over my shoulder to stare at the screen. I expected to feel hot breath on my neck but of course, he doesn’t have any.
“I already did one with you in it,” I said. “It was a prequel to ‘Channelling’, one of the books I am determined to finish this year.”
“Oh the one with the tall monster. I remember that one. I think I played my part well, don’t you?”
I pressed my lips together for a moment. “It wasn’t a play, it was a story. I wrote it, you didn’t really have anything to do but read it.”
“Was I, or was I not, in it?” Death drew himself up to his full height, which is rather less than most people imagine, and banged the end of his scythe on the floor.
“Yes, you were.” I closed my eyes. It was obvious where this logic was going and I just resigned myself to go with it, or I’d never get rid of him.
“So it was me. And as I recall, I made the whole story happen.”
It can’t be easy to look smug with no flesh on your face but somehow, he did it.
“Yes, okay, you were brilliant, well done.” I kept my eyes on the screen and tried not to sound sarcastic.
“I think I did rather well. The story would have been nothing without me.”
“The story was about you.” I glared at the screen so hard I was afraid it might warp.
“That’s as it should be.” Death fell silent for a moment. “But it’s not why I called.”
It’s a good thing my chair swivels, otherwise my sudden turn would have been painful. “So what are you here for? Are you trying for Father again?”
“No, I was checking up on that strange assistant of yours. The dolphin-faced one. You don’t seem to have endangered his life recently. Are you going soft?”
I prodded myself all over. “Maybe a bit around the middle. So what is it with the past assistant thing?”
“I have an app that that tells me when the end is near. The one for your assistant kept going off and then it stopped. I thought I should check.”
“Oh,” I said. “He’s gone.”
“What!” Death took a step back. “How can he have gone without me knowing? This will mess up my monthly stats.”
“No, no,” I said, “he’s not dead. He’s gone to the library where his mind will no doubt be warped by dangerous words and ideas.”
“I’ve been there.” Death took a rather large and somewhat desiccated nose from his robe and wrinkled it in his bony fingers. “Not much for me to do in there.”
“You could read a book.”
“Nah, I’m in most of them.” Death puffed out his ribcage. “I’m pretty much a celebrity in the fiction world, you know.”
I closed my eyes and took a slow breath. “Yes, I know.”
“So Click is still available for collection. And you have a new assistant, I believe?”
“Elizabeth Blackthorn. Not so much an assistant as a babysitter. She’s the first one little Caligula hasn’t eaten.” I gritted my teeth. This wasn’t getting my writing done.
“She’s in no danger?” Death consulted his book. “No, she’s not due for collection.”
“Someone must be.” The words must have come out a bit on the harsh side because Death finally took the hint.
“Okay, I can see you’re busy. And I have souls to harvest. I’ll be on my way, Dume.”
“See you around,” I said.
“Oh, with that child of yours, I’m sure you will.” Death faded into the air.
I stared at the blank word processor page. Yes, Death would no doubt be back and hopeful but Caligula’s new babysitter has kept him pretty calm so far. He’s hardly tried to kill me at all. I poised my fingers over the keyboard, ready to type.
Death reappeared. “Did you say Blackthorn? Liz Blackthorn?”
I almost banged my head on the keyboard. I should have, it would have been the most typing I’d done that night. “Yes”.
Death took a dry tongue from his robes and ran it over his teeth. “See you soon,” he said. Then he vanished.
Maybe I should investigate this babysitter.