Thursday, January 28, 2010

02 Getting to know death

So my girlfriend and I are sharing an ice cream and coffee. One ice cream, one coffee. We share everything. Yes, it is totally pathetic. I love it.

We’re not sharing because she’s worried about calories and just wants a bite. Unlike a lot of women she never worries about her weight, figure, complexion, clothes or hair, or those in any combination.

Ever. I mean like the subject has never come up. Not once.

Now, I’m not slamming girls who worry about things like that. Women like to think they are doing the right thing for themselves and staying on top of their game, and when they do it with a passion it can become an art form. I do think that media and culture tend to make this harder than it needs to be but for the most part I’ll hazard that the girls manage to strike the right balance, and most seem to actually enjoy the challenge.

But my girl. No. She just does what she wants as much as she likes and this includes food, drink and sex. She wears what she can find on the discount rack or else nothing, as suits her. She’s really smart, funny in a dark sort of way, drop-dead gorgeous and can do it for five hours straight.

How does she manage it?

She’s death.


I’m still getting to know death.

There were some rules she established right off. For example, she does not have a name she is willing to share and does not like pet names.

She is death. Lowercase. Period. As she explained it she is death as a force, not as a thing. I only get to see her and hang out with her because I somehow forced her into the wrapper of a girl, and because she accepted that. Otherwise, she's not anyone or anything.

She never talks about herself. Likewise she has never asked me anything about myself and as far as I am aware knows nothing about me as a person. She does not know my name and has never asked, and never refers to me in any personal way.

The few times I tried to introduce that kind of small talk she would silently reach over and place a finger lightly on my lips.

That was all. It was enough.

Her touch kills. Her normal way of killing someone is to walk up to them and touch them lightly with a finger, and down they go. She can also kiss — that legendary kiss of death that Judas made famous is backed by literal fact — but she almost never does.

She kisses me, all the time. Death is the world's greatest kisser. Her lips are like sweet, soft, delicious little sticks of dynamite; she kisses me and my head explodes. Of course, one of these days she'll kiss me and I'll die. I figure that's just an occupational hazard of being death's consort. Definitely worth it.

The thing with names is actually important. Death and I are completely alone. We’re in the world, but not part of it. It took me a while to get the hang of that. As such, we always know who we are talking to. She is always talking to me. I am always talking to her. You don’t actually call someone by their name when the two of you are the only ones in earshot. Bet you never even thought about that.

Sometimes I wonder what it must have been like for her to be alone before. I mean, really alone. Or maybe I’m not her first, nor even her only. I hope there were others because I don’t see how even death could cope in a universe where nobody knows you exist except the moment when you kill them. That might start to suck after a few thousand years.

Maybe I'm just projecting, and she prefers being alone. Though I'm pretty sure she's enjoying our sex.

There is something else about being invisible. We are in public constantly. She has to kill people, implies being around people where people are. Since her touch is always lethal all the time this might become a problem. For example on a crowded sidewalk or in a dim lit restaurant. Here’s where things get spooky.

She and I are invisible, but we are not gone. In fact invisible might not be the right word, although it explains a lot. It’s like we’re visible but perfectly ignored. The way a lamp pole on the sidewalk isn’t technically invisible, but nobody sees it. Nobody consciously goes down the sidewalk seeing lamp poles in the way and saying to themselves, there is a lamp pole, ignore that.

But they go around lamp poles.

Death is like that. When we are walking people go around us. They go way around, just in case. I’ve seen people step into moving traffic to go around us, and when they do the cars stop for them without any honking or shouting or anything. Nobody notices any part of this. It’s like the entire surface of the planet moves four feet to either side just to give us plenty of room. People don’t look at us, they don’t comment on us, and they don’t notice they are not noticing.

They just avoid us like — well like death.

There are a very few exceptions to this. They are noteworthy when they happen, and I am always taken by surprise though death never is. The only time she was surprised was the time when I saw her.

Lucky me.


Back to ice cream and coffee.

“All those flavors, and you chose vanilla,” I say. “So what does that tell us about death?”

Quiet please. The great detective is at work.

Death looks up at me over the rim of the coffee cup. She takes a sip and says:

“Nothing whatsoever. I should hope.”

Not so fast, death.

“I think it means death does not take risks,” I reply with confidence.

Death is helpless in the grip of my mad inductive skillz.

Her eyes narrow ever so slightly and she puts the cup down. Taking the spoon from my hand she loads it up with vanilla ice cream, turns in her seat, looks around a moment and flipping the spoon launches the ice cream in an arc across the parlor. It lands with a splat square in the center of the table of a guy I would not want to cross swords with.

This is funny, until he closes the book he was reading and looks up directly at us.

Crap. What happened to invisible?

Too late now. I give him the don’t look at me pal helpless shrug. He angrily rips a bunch of towelettes out of the dispenser and cleans up the table and the front of his jacket.

Okay, we just learned two really important things here. The first is that invisibility is at best an imperfect defense, and the second is that death doesn’t flinch from making a point.

Whatever her point was. Because that was not death taking a risk, it was her tossing little me to the lions. Maybe the point was that she doesn’t like being shallowly evaluated by mortal punks.

Yes. That does sound just like death.

She puts more ice cream on the spoon and while eyeing me seductively lifts it to her lips and licks it with the tip of her tongue. Then she turns the spoon around and slips it into my mouth.

Note to self: Death is hot.

I will never be able to look at vanilla ice cream the same way.

Across the room the other guy has returned to reading his book as if nothing had happened.

There it is. That spooky.

I’m liking it so far but I’m not sure yet what it’s about, this living with death.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

01 Hello Death

I’ve always loved days like today. Brilliant blue sky, gentle fragrant winds. People moving around. It’s a perfect day but I won’t survive it.

That’s because I’m with this perfect girl. She’s smart and funny and absolutely gorgeous.

Here’s the problem.

She’s death.


I met her this morning while walking in the park. Death arrived as this really cute girl, a comfortable arm-full of chocolate-skinned female with one eye blue and the other green, and fine chestnut hair. As if every human female archetype had been rolled into one.

She was following me around just keeping her distance which is sort of cool; being openly stalked by a cute girl until I become interested, which I figured was her intent. Some girls are shy like that.

However this girl was just waiting for the proper moment to kill me.

I turned around finally and I’m standing there smiling at her as she walks up and she’s going to touch me and then she says Oh you can see me. What do I look like? And without knowing at the time that she’s death I tell her she’s drop-dead gorgeous and can I buy her a soda or something and she eyes me up and down before she smiles and says yes.

Death apparently has a highly refined sense of irony.

You are wondering how I know she is death. It’s like this. We had just made a date and we’re walking up the sidewalk out of the park — she about arm’s length distant because she’s already said she can’t touch me without killing me — and I’m saying yeah right you’re death then prove it when she blows lightly into a tree overhead and all these insects, spiders and birds literally fall dead to the sidewalk at our feet.

It was the most horrific thing I’d ever witnessed.

And then she looked at me and said that she really did need to kill me before too long but as long as she was visible she was good for a cup of coffee, if I was still interested.

So coffee it was.


Now we’re seated at a small table under an umbrella at an outside cafe. Nobody is paying us any attention.

I can’t take my eyes off of death.

“I don’t get it,” she says, picking up her cup. “You shouldn’t be able to see me.”

I’m really nervous, being this close to death. But I manage to sound casual.

“Yeah? Then people have been seriously missing out because you are really beautiful.”

She smiles at me sweetly and takes a sip.

“I mean,” I continue. “Death is supposed to be a skeletal dude with a sword —”

“Scythe,” she corrects me.

“Scythe. How did they get that so wrong?”

She shrugs. “Those as can see me at all give me the shape they think I ought to have. The grim reaper was only one such projection. It just happened to make its way into the popular press.”

“So I made you gorgeous?”

She leans forward, eyes glittering. “So it seems. Very curious. You have an uncommon outlook on death, soon-to-be-dead-guy.”

I manage to ignore that last part. “So you don’t know my name? Aren’t I written into some book of souls or something?”

“I don’t, and you might be or not, I’ve no idea. I just kill things.”

She says it like it’s nothing.

“I see, so you go around randomly killing people?”

“Death is supposed to be a random thing,” she says with a faint smile. “Or would you rather I place personals ads?”

She leans back and thinks for a moment then says, “Death seeks M/F S/M for STR. Age not important. Must be alive.”

She giggles and looks over at me for a reaction.

It figures that death would have a warped sense of humor.

I keep reminding myself she’s going to kill me, too.

“Wait. Aren’t you supposed to be — out working or something?”

Maybe she’ll forget I was on her list.

“You mean I should be killing things.”

“I don’t want to mess up your schedule or anything.”

“Not to worry,” she says while looking closely at a dessert menu. “Death is everywhere. How else can I kill 100 people a minute? And that’s just the people. If you will excuse me a moment —”

She gets up suddenly and walks out onto the sidewalk.

My heart skips a beat. Is she really leaving?

And if so then why am I disappointed?

She waits there a moment and then touches a guy as he walks past. He walks another few yards, clutches at his chest and falls down dead.

She returns to our table and sits down across from me.

I’m happy and terrified at the same time. Beautiful women can do that to a guy.

“Where were we?” she says.

“A tiramisu, perhaps?” I offer, hoping to distract her.

She laces her hands together under her chin and regards me a moment before smiling thinly and saying:

“I should be going.”

And so, my time is up.

Out of habit I pull out my wallet to settle the bill, but she shakes her head and says, “We were never here.”


We walk until we come to a secluded place in the park.

“It’s time,” she says, and reaches to touch me.

“Wait!” I cry. “Um — can I make a last request?”


“Could you — maybe kiss me?”

Death smiles. “I was hoping you would ask that.”

I lay down on the grass and she kneels and without preamble lightly kisses me.

The kiss of death. It is the most amazing kiss. Ever. Seriously electric.

We part and I open my eyes. She’s looking down at me and says, “That’s odd. Let me try that again.”

She sits on top of me, takes my face in her hands, and kisses me hard. For a long time.

We separate breathlessly and I’m looking up at her still.

She smiles and with her eyes shining says, “Let’s walk some more.”


It’s long after dark. Death and I are holding hands, walking and talking. She’s been telling me what she knows about dying. Which is a lot. And oddly, we’ve spent a lot of time making out.

At this point I am completely intoxicate by her.

What a day.

“How about we get a room?” she offers, and squeezes my hand.

What a woman.


She’s keeping me alive for some reason. Maybe death needs someone to talk to. Maybe she likes that I made her attractive. Probably I’ll never know.

What matters is I get to be with her.

I know the score; one of these days she’ll grow tired of me and then the next kiss will be the last.

Until then I’ll be happy.

Each day as they come, living with death.

About the Author

We have come a long way in understanding the physical world. But we have a long way yet to go understanding life, living, and death.

I live in California, in the Bay Area, with my wife and our two children.

I have another work of fiction titled "Darkatana: A Black Tale" that is still in preparation. A massive undertaking that explores predation, murder, love, angels, duty, family and what it means to be human. Death is woven into nearly every part of it. Perhaps that was part of the reason I wrote "Living with Death". DABT does not exist in any published form. Perhaps someday it will.