Neither Melanie nor Dave wanted the evening to end, so they decided that it did not have to.
Dave realised what those skinny boys with acoustic guitars had been singing about all these years. The rain made London shine in the flat orange glare of the street lights and the city belonged only to them. As they walked along the bank of the Thames, Melanie slid her arm through Dave’s. her fingers searched for his and entwined themselves around them. They found an all night cafe where Dave revealed secrets he had never told anyone and she returned his trust by telling him hers.
Soon tiredness took hold and, hiding yawns from each other, they headed to the nearest underground station and the first train of the morning. Unsure of what to say, or how to say it, Melanie leaned forward and kissed Dave. She tasted of coffee, mints and hope. Pressing her body next to his, she was real and warm and alive.
“Call me,” she whispered then turned around and headed into the station. Dave watched her until she was past the ticket barriers. He decided to walk the quiet streets for a while. He splashed in the puddles and wondered if he would ever stop smiling. He didnt have to wonder too much longer.
“Nice weather for ducks,” said a voice behind him. Dave turned around to see Death stood on the pavement. “I could never figure out what you meat puppets meant by that. For a time I assumed that ducks were very romantic creatures and enjoy walking in the rain thinking about other ducks they had loved.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m guessing it all went well with Melanie. There’s no need to thank me.”
“Thank you for what?”
Death pulled the contract from his cloak. He looked at the last page, but Dave’s signature was no longer there.
“Oh bloody hell. Stupid linear time. Can’t causality take one for the team just once?” Death moaned, “Change of plan. Can I show you something?”
“If it’s quick.”
Death grabbed Dave by the wrist and it felt as if he were being poured like a cocktail from one point to another.
Suddenly they were stood in a dark bedroom. An old man was perched at the end of the bed while his body lie beneath the covers. Dave had never seen a dead body, other than his own, and he was surprised by how little it disturbed him.
“Hello, Michael,” Death said in a kind voice.
“I wondered when you’d get here,” the old man sighed.
“Sorry I’m a bit late. Traffic’s a nightmare.” The old man smiled then pointed a finger at Dave.
“Work experience,” Death answered.
Michael turned his attention back to the dark figure. “You know you’re a lot shorter in person?” he said.
“So I’ve been told,” said Death, glancing at Dave.
“What’s it like, then? Eternity?”
Death thought for a moment before answering.
“Long,” he finally said, “I’ve been watching a lot of Scooby Doo recently. Have you got any biscuits?”
“In the kitchen. The cupboard by the window.”
Death turned to Dave. “Make yourself useful”
Dave headed down the stairs into the kitchen. As he rummaged through the cupboards, Dave looked at the microwave meals and the soups and realised that Michael had lived and died alone. At that very moment, he could not think of anything sadder.
When Dave returned to the bedroom with the packet of biscuits, Death had settled into a chair with his feet up on the bed.
“I just can’t see where they got the money from,” Death said as he helped himself from the packet, “Ooh. Garibaldi. Lovely.”
“Example?” said Michael.
“In one episode, Scooby and the gang were investigating a haunted hotel. It turned out that the janitor, it’s always the janitor…”
“Or the theme park owner,” interjected Michael.
“Or, indeed, the theme park owner. Anyway, the janitor was pretending that the hotel was haunted to drive down its value so he could buy the place cheap. But the holographic and laser equipment he used must have cost thousands, hundreds of thousands even. He would’ve got the place at a rock bottom price. But he would’ve owed a huge whack on the military hardware. It was a completely false economy.”
“If it wasn’t for those meddling kids,” Dave said.
“And they always find a rational explanation for the supposedly supernatural events but nobody ever mentions the talking dog,” Death continued, “‘Hmmm. Egyptian exhibition possibly haunted by a Mummy? Let’s investigate!’ You’re having a conversation about this with a Great Dane and he is actively disagreeing with you! Deal with the issue at hand!”
“Do you think we could get on with this?” Michael asked. Dave felt that he was intruding on a very private moment and slipped quietly out of the room unnoticed.
“Yes. Of course. Sorry. Take my hand.”
Dave returned from the kitchen to find Death was turning the pages of a half read murder-mystery novel that had been sat on the bedside table. He flicked to the last page.
“I should’ve told him how it ended. There’s nothing worse than not knowing,” Death muttered. Dave pulled the duvet up to Michael’s chin as if he were simply in the deepest of sleeps.
“I phoned for an ambulance,” Dave said, “I didn’t know how long he’d be here otherwise”
“Thank you. I guess there’s nothing more for us to do” said Death. He grabbed Dave’s wrist and Dave’s being was sucked up and spat across the country.
When Dave opened his eyes, he saw that they were stood outside his flat. The rain had finally stopped and fingers of sunlight crawled over the dark glossy roofs.
“I’m not bad, or evil, Dave. Are you defined by your job? No. I’m here because you all need me,” Death sighed. He seemed tired. “But there are probably things you need to do. I’ll see you around.”
“Oh, you will. Eventually,” Death said as he disappeared into the ether.
Eventually. Dave understood. The soul was just too strong, too full of life, to be stopped. It had a momentum of its own and all death could do was deflect its path of travel. Sometimes you needed a companion for a journey. Nobody had to be alone.
His exhaustion forgotten, Dave knew what he had to do. He quickly showered, changed his clothes and quietly closed the flat’s door behind him so as to not wake Gary, who had fallen asleep on the couch again. Dave made his way beneath the waking city until he arrived at Paddington station.
“Where are you going?” the bored woman in the ticket office asked him.
“Stratford. Warwickshire. I’m going home,” Dave said with purpose.
“You can’t go home.”
“Well that’s your point of view.”
“No I mean there’s a signal failure just outside the station. You’ll need to take the Bakerloo to Marylebone and then change at Tring.”
“Oh, right. Thanks. I’ll do that then.”
To Be Continued…
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