Wednesday, February 24, 2010

05 Everywhere Death

I’m walking with my girlfriend near the beach. We’re holding hands and talking, enjoying the sights and making plans for the evening. A sea of people parts around us without seeing us and we pass through them, invisible. It’s just as well they give us a wide berth; one touch from this girl will kill you.

Cute as a button, smart and funny. A bit morbid at times. Casually lethal.

She’s death.

I’ve been thinking.

Yeah yeah bad idea. Whatever.

“You kill one-hundred people a minute. Right?” I ask her.

“About that.”

“And there’s other animals that need to die.”


“All over the world.”

“Yes and you are wondering how I manage it.”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

Weak sauce. She reaches up and pinches my cheek for it.

Note to self: Death is ruthless.

“I’m not here,” she says. “At least not all of me. It’s hard to explain in words. Most of me is away. I can’t even say at any moment what all is being done in my name.”

“But the part of you that is here now —” I begin, not quite forming a question.

“— Is the part that thinks,” she finishes for me. “There is just this one of me who actually knows even though all parts of me are the same. I wish I could explain it clearly.” She pauses a moment then continues. “Imagine that most killing is mindless work. It is not, but just say it is. Then imagine that some killings require acknowledgement — a witness of sorts— and then this part of me must be there for there is only the one who knows.”

I’m about to ask what kind of killings those would be when I decide not to go there.

We walk on a ways and she says, “In fact I must be somewhere else just now. I shouldn’t be long, but you never know. Will you wait for me?”

What kind of question is that?


It’s a beautiful day. People are walking around in couples or alone, others are strewn across the sand on blankets. Children running.

I feel like I was just talking to someone. It was a girl but I didn’t get her name. She was really nice. Or maybe creepy. Though creepy can be nice too if packaged well.

This girl had the best packaging ever. I turn and look around wondering where she’s gone. Then I remember.

It was death.

My chin drops to my chest and I rub at my eyes with a hand. I’d nearly forgotten her. Death had been away five seconds and I’d forgotten.

I wonder if this is going to happen very often.

Looking around I notice a bench. There is an old woman sitting on one end feeding bread crumbs to a mob of pigeons that has collected around her feet. I walk over and sit down. She looks to be 90 and is very thin with wispy white hair pinned up under a small straw hat.

“Nice day,” I offer.

She doesn’t notice me. Maybe she’s deaf.

I people-watch, feeling invisible and wondering suddenly if in fact I am.

Death sits down next to me on the far end of the bench and gathers up my arm in hers.

“Miss me much?” she asks. She had been gone less than three minutes.

“I was heartbroken,” I lie artfully. “Don’t ever do that again.”

She beams up at me radiantly. What a beauty.

The lady down the bench is now looking over at us.

Death looks up at me quizzically, then leans over and peers around me at the woman and politely asks her, “Is it time?”

The old woman appears momentarily confused. But then she sits back and considers the question before smiling softly and saying in a tired but steady voice, “Yes child, I feel it is time.”

Death as a child. Sure, why not.

Death releases my arm and gets up from the bench. She walks around to kneel before the old woman, who looks on death with serene acceptance. Death then rises up slowly and without touching the woman in any other way, kisses her on the cheek.

The old body slumps into itself as the scaffolding of a long life leaves it behind. Death catches the dead woman’s body easily then turns in place and lays it down beside the bench among the pigeons and bread crumbs, cradling the wizened old head in one hand until it rests on the ground.

Death is beautiful. I had no idea.

Death straightens and steps around the corpse of the old woman, and then indicates that I should join her. We walk away and its as if a curtain rises behind us. People nearby suddenly notice the dead woman and rush to her side. They gently prod her and try to coax a response but by now she is far away.

We are away too, walking arm-in-arm down the sidewalk, splitting the crowd before us the way a ship parts the sea. Death does not look back.

“She could see you,” I observe.

“She needed me.”

“Is that why I can see you?”

“I’m still not sure why you can see me. You do not need me.”

I think I might need her, but not like that.

“Is that why we came on this walk?” I pursue.

“You want to go somewhere else?”

“That’s not what I meant. I like being with you wherever you need to take us. But it seems you handle some things personally and others you don’t. Did we have to be here for someone? For her?”

Death is silent a moment before she says, “Perhaps.”

There’s something death is not telling me.

“It was necessary, that’s all,” she continues suddenly. “I am summoned. I go. I kill and then I go somewhere else.”

“Your choosing seems random,” I say though I immediately regret it. I’ve just accused death of being arbitrary and capricious.

“I’ve already told you it is random,” death reminds me just as I’m about to launch into an apology. “And yet it isn’t. It is — necessary. I am summoned and I must answer the call.”

As simple as being summoned? Perhaps it is. But by whom? And if we were not here for that old woman, then for what reason? And why is it so hard to discuss all this?

She squeezes my hand in hers. “I am not accustomed to explaining these things. And your language does not contain the right words though other cultures can speak of it. I think it is something you have to long endure before you can understand it. Those few cultures that knew endurance before time understood the purpose of death.”

I’m not sure why she’s necessary, but death knows and she’s not telling me. Perhaps I’m not ready. Probably I’ll understand eventually, before I am gone, why death is necessary. It’s all somewhat confusing now but it’s also very exciting.

Learning a new language from living with death.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

04 Fun with Death

I’m with my girlfriend. It’s late and we’re walking down a sidewalk. Not far up a young man is swiftly caroming towards us on a skateboard. It’s a little steep for that sort of thing and I pull her to one side to let him pass.

She’s watching him intently.

Suddenly he misses a cue and goes airborne, his board spinning into the street and himself hurtling wide-eyed directly towards us.

I can tell he sees her.

Sorry, pal.

He piles into my girl’s arms, and dies. I reach to catch her and keep her from toppling over but it’s just an instinct. She would be fine.

She’s embracing this corpse when she glances over at me and says, “We’re over. I found another.”

“He won’t be much use,” I observe, unthreatened.

“He’s male,” she says. “Limited his usefulness from the start.”

I have a laugh. She smiles up at me and then lays the corpse at the base of a lamp pole.

She’s really smart, drop-dead gorgeous and has kisses to die for.

She’s death. 


Death is funny. But it’s subtle humor and you have to be paying attention.

For example.

We’re in an expensive part of town window shopping. Stopping in front of a display window we watch a woman inside model a skimpy bikini.

Except it isn’t a woman, it’s a robotic manikin. The robot is flawlessly female. I’m privately wondering at the level of anatomical detail.

Death looks up at me side-long, then looks back at the display case.

“I’m going to have to start killing these things if they get any more real,” Death says, leaning forward to peer at it.

The manikin looks down at death and smiles emptily as if to say all your boyfriend are belong to us.

“How do you kill a robot?” I ask.

This should be interesting. Death favors me with another glance, then looks back at the robot. She crosses her arms and after a significant pause says:


“Wait. You’re going to beat them to death?”

“Not I. You are. That’s why I’m keeping you around.”

“But you’re death. Isn’t this supposed to be your thing?”

“Forget that business with the scythe,” she says, “Death doesn’t work with hand tools.”

Aaaand — thank you everyone for coming tonight, you’ve been a great audience.

Maybe you had to be there.


A lot of her humor is physical. It usually starts with a glance that says Hey watch this.

There was a time once we were at a county faire standing at the ring toss. Hit a peg and you win a scrawny goldfish in a tiny plastic tank.

Most of the fish were pretty sad looking. I can’t imagine they had a very good life either before or after they were won.

I noticed death looking at the fish and scowling. She glanced up at me and bumped me with her elbow.

Hey watch this. 

She leaned forward and blew out over the bowls, then straightened.

I looked away for some reason and she elbowed me again.

I looked back just in time to see the goldfish rolling over dead in their bowls in a moving wave as a gust of potent death washed over them.

The people went on tossing their rings, hoping for a win.

I cracked up.

Death turned toward me and leaned her forehead against my shoulder, and I could tell she was laughing softly to herself.

We went to ride the Ferris wheel.

Come on. You’ve got to admit, that was funny.

I wonder sometimes if she’s funny for my benefit. As if to show that it’s not so bad.

Mind you, death doesn’t make fun of dead things, and she doesn’t make light of killing. This is important work and she approaches it with the honesty and gravity it deserves. Even the goldfish joke was not about the dead fish. Death had freed the fish from suffering and set up the people for disappointment. It was death, it was justice, and yet it was funny.

It was at that same county faire that death pulled one of her more spectacular stunts.

There were races scheduled at the speedway, and death took me to the pits to see the cars. Small-time racing is dangerous work but seldom fatal. The short oval tracks won’t allow much speed.

But there was going to be a fatality tonight.

As the track manager announced that the drivers should take their positions, I noticed that death was no longer at my side. I looked around and found her in a helmet and goggles jumping through a door into the passenger side of one of the stock cars.

And the race was on!

I went down to the track side to watch, laughing until my sides were fit to split.

The cars went around and around. Each time death’s car came around I cheered and she would give me a thumbs-up or a victory sign.

The lunatic.

Toward the end of the race came the fated accident. The car crossed up slightly, hit a guard rail made of old tires and then freakishly flew into the air. It did a flip and landed upside down, rocking slightly on its roof.

Like a complete idiot I flew out onto the track in a panic. But I hadn’t gone but a few paces when a pull at my arm spun me around.

It was death, of course.

I held her with relief and we laughed a moment together, and then turned and left the track while the emergency crews ran out to the accident.

His loved ones will wonder if he suffered at all. I know for a fact he did not. That’s why death was in the car, rather than in the pits. That was really thoughtful of her.

But it was also funny as hell.

Killing is not funny, and dying is no picnic. But death herself is light-hearted and intelligent.

Fun times — after a fashion — living with death.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

03 My Goddess Death

My girlfriend and I are lazing around, back in bed after a refreshing hotel buffet breakfast. It’s raining outside and while snuggling under an umbrella has it’s pleasant moments, we seem to have agreed that we’ll sit this one out.

I grabbed a copy of the New York Times on the way up. From just the front page I learn that while we ate dinner the prior evening a gunman killed six at a mall in Los Angeles. Later while we slept someone else bombed the French embassy in Indonesia, killing 17 and mostly school children. Sickening.

Don’t people have anything else better to do than this? Where are the women in these men’s lives? For they are mostly men. Have they no families? Have they no pleasures? I sense they’ve thrown off the feminine in their lives and then they kill. Little do they know they summon nature’s most potent female to the scene of their desolate madness.

Explains why my girl was gone from bed for a while in the night.

What is the connection you ask?

She’s death.

“Did you know. There was once a Native American tribe in what is now western Canada who had 17 different words for death.”

Death has cataloged everything there is to know about dying, including the vast and dense anthropology of death cults and rituals. I get the feeling she has promoted a lot of it herself as a way to relieve the tedium of the ages. That, and she’s a little twisted.

“I did not know this,” I reply absently while reading the newspaper in bed. “They sound like your kind of people though.”

“Oh they were.”

I look up. “Wait, you said were. Past tense. What happened?”

“They are all dead now,” she replies. Our eyes meet and she smiles.

Note to self: Death abuses her groupies.

She has suggested in the past that them as yearn for power over death eventually summon her, but only to their sorrow. Fortunately I love death for her body. Well that and her mind and soul, of course. Never for her power. Though being able to skip on bar tabs is pretty sweet.

Since she’s brought up the subject on her own it’s fair game.

“So tell us death, how do you feel about being worshiped?”

Uncharacteristically death appears to consider the question seriously, lacing her hands behind her head on the pillow and staring up at the ceiling over the bed. I put my paper down and look over at her. She is completely naked. The sheets are tangled around her bare legs and her smooth, rich chocolate skin still shines faintly from the exertions of recent love-making.

Death is beautiful, I marvel for about the dozenth time today.

“I approve, generally,” she says suddenly, interrupting my lustful thoughts. “There was an interesting cult to Kalima in the south of India who considered death a potent aphrodisiac. They deployed all manner of death-defying rituals to turn themselves on. Only some of which involved any actual killing. I was amused, as I recall.”

Then she’s smiling over at me like a maniac, blue and green eyes glittering with consuming insanity. Though the green eye is looking more insane than the blue one.

“Oh no you don’t!” I warn her, rolling up a section of the newspaper. “None of your unholy sacrifices for me, witch!”

She flips over and pounces on me like a cat. I bat at her with the newspaper and she snarls and spits in mock ferocity, by degrees forcing me down onto the mattress.

After a short battle she wins. The wise do not struggle unnecessarily with death.

The sacrifices turn out to be kinda fun, actually. I wasn’t too worried. We’ve recently reached that well-worn, comfortable point in a relationship where death and I can be open and honest with each other, expressing our needs without fear of the other being judgmental. It’s a beautiful thing.

“Worship me!” death commands from where she lay again panting amid a tangle of sheets.

I feel like I'm already doing my best, so I ignore her.

“Not there!” she says hauling me up by the hair to lay next her.

I comb back my hair with my fingers. “Aren’t I allowed to worship the goddess as I feel compelled?”

“No you are not”, she says imperiously, then hitting me with a pillow. “Worship me properly.”

Okay, so this is sounding serious. I prop myself up on an elbow and look down at her. Her chestnut hair lays strewn over the knotted up pillows. Eyes blue and green blaze up at me hotly and just under the soft female exterior that I can barely manage to tear my attention from, the dark will of an immortal smolders.

I think about my situation only a moment. A part of me fears death of course, I’m not stupid. But the greater part of me trusts her. Death may take me, if that is her will. I accept her will because I have absolute faith that she will do exactly what she has to, neither more nor less. I can only hope she will respect what I was after she is done killing me. To ensure this, she will have to take me as a man and not as a fawning fear-slave.

“No,” I say down at her.

She swims up to her knees, her hair falling wildly neglected about her face. She looks suddenly insane and murderous.

“Worship me, mortal,” she commands dangerously. “Fear me or I will surely kill you.”

“You will kill me eventually anyway,” I retort calmly. “I’m not going to massage your ego on the way out the door.”

“— much,” I hastily add.

Her eyes are laughing. This could go either way.

Death crawls across the covers towards me, places her small hands on both sides of my head, and drags me slowly to her lips. She is really strong and her pull is as if she were bolted to the floor and not sitting sideways on the bed. I suddenly realize she’s been holding back all this time.

I have no idea what death is up to. Is this her at rough play? Or is she in a full raging psychotic episode? Or is she instead establishing another kind of limit between us? And if so, what does death know about relationship that a mortal woman cannot? Could be lots.

Or could be nothing at all. Maybe death wings it right along with the best of them.

Our mouths meet and she closes her eyes and kisses me softly, our lips just brushing. I’m busy wondering what the real kiss of death must feel like when she suddenly releases me and then falls away backwards like her tether had been cut, to lay on her back bouncing among the sheets, just a woman again.

And she’s laughing, convulsed with delight. I smile over at her, my heart pounding loudly in my head, wondering what the last 90 seconds were really about.

“You pass,” she says at last, breathless.


Behold death. Crazy at times, gentle and serene at others. Just a little insecure. Demanding, furious and destructive, and then summoning down all earthly pleasures with her ringing female laughter.

Strange that all I know of woman I would learn here. Laughing and playing and living with death.