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Live 'cause you're Dead
Who’d have thought?
I hate planes, the reason why is because they fly when it took billions of years for birds to be able to fly and it can be made of something that is hammered out and bolted together. I was staring out a window to try to forget where I was when my mom yelled at me to get my face out of the window.
“Mìng! You’ll get stuck to the window if you sit like that!”
“Yes Mom.” I politely said to her, we were going to visit my grandma on my mother’s side because she was very ill and mom wanted a chance to say goodbye. I really saw no point in going because I’ve never met her, but for some reason people seem to get better when I’m around and dad convinced me to go on this trip. I think that he wanted a reason to miss work. I always wonder if I was adopted, because unlike my mom who dyes her black hair red, and has brown eyes and is slightly tan, and my dad who has brown hair and green eyes and is slightly tan too, I have pale skin that never gets darker and silver hair and my eyes are an ice blue.
Anyway, we were flying to New York City to see my grandmother who mom thought was going to die any minute. We got to the airport after three hours on the plane, and judging on how much mom wanted me to pack in my suitcase we were going to stay for a while longer than a week. After missing eight taxis in a row, getting off on the wrong address three times, and walking five city blocks trying to find the right condominium complex we finally got there. The whole building smelled like a wet dog and we had to climb seven flights of stairs to get to the right floor because the elevator was broken. Once grandpa opened the door, he led us to grandma’s room. A boy who looked about sixteen like me stood next to her old Victorian style bed. He had jet-black hair that hung perfectly straight by his ears, he was wearing black jeans and a black shirt. I wouldn’t have noticed him if it weren’t for his pale arms and face that stood out in the dark room.
“Mìng, what are you staring at? There’s nobody there.” I pointed at the stranger.
“Dad, who’s that?”
“Your grandmother, the one we came to visit.”
“I know that, I mean the one standing at the head of the bed next to grandma.” His unwavering, piercing gaze was penetrating the depths of my brain.
“There’s no one there Mìng.”
“Dad, I can clearly see someone there.”
Dad ignored me; my mom was holding grandma’s hand and asking her how she felt. I walked over to the other side of the bed where the boy was standing; the air was colder there, much colder. Grandma looked over at me and her barely sunken eyes opened wide.
“It’s an angel standing next to death! How can that be?” I took her hand and the boy next to me winced. I thought he might be dead.
“Grandma, it’s your granddaughter. My name’s Mìng, I know we haven’t seen each other very much but it was nice to meet you.”
“What do you mean nice to meet you? You think I’m going to die just yet? George told me you were coming and I didn’t even get the chance to make you my delicious apple pie!” she kicked off the sheets and walked into the kitchen. I don’t believe it! This old lady who seemed minutes away from death had just vigorously gotten out of bed and was going to make us pie! She repeatedly pushed off my mom who wanted my grandma to get back in the bed and rest. That old woman had more energy than my two-year-old cousin who just learned how to walk, and pull hair really hard. My grandpa couldn’t believe it, dad couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it, but mom was the one who couldn’t believe it the most. The boy who had been standing in grandma’s room motioned for me to go outside.
“Dad, I’m going to take a walk.”
“Okay, just stay where the cops can see you.”
Once outside the door, he spoke in the most stoic voice I’ve ever heard.
“How did you do that?”
“Do what?” he pulled out a small black book from his back pocket and flipped way more pages than that book could possibly hold.
“Your grandmother was supposed to die eight minutes ago. Sarah Wallace, Thursday June 10 2010, 7:05:34 pm, age eighty-nine. Eight minutes, and now her name is missing from the list. What did you do?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Another thing, how is it you can see me in the first place?”
“What were you doing in my grandmother’s room anyway? How did you get in there? Who are you?”
“S?wáng; and I need to know your name before I can tell you anything else.”
“Mìng, now tell me the answers to all the questions I just asked you.”
“I told you, I’m death.”
I slowly backed away; death? I was talking to death?
“Y-you’re crazy! You’re not death! Death is just something that happens!”
“I merely take Línghún when their vessels are no longer able to support them. That is all I do.”
“You’re not death! You’re not death! Death is cold and cruel! You’re not death!”
“I am going to assume that is neither a compliment nor sarcasm.”
“Mìng! What is going on? Who else is out there?”
“Don’t bother telling him I’m here, he can’t see me.”
Now that he mentions it, when I pointed directly at Siwáng earlier dad said nobody was there. Does that mean that I was the only one who could see him?
“I coming out there, you alright Mìng?”
“I’m fine dad, just thinking out loud. I’m leaving now.”
“Be safe; remember why we let you take kendo.”
“Yeah dad, I’m going.”
Siwáng was badgering me the whole way down the stairs about how I had supposedly staved him off my grandmother and preventing him from doing his job. I was steaming mad by the time I got to the first floor of the building, he wasn’t whining or anything but he talked in a monotone stoic voice and it pissed me off. I walked down the street to a coffee shop I saw on the way to the condominium. I ordered a cappuccino and waited, while they prepared it Siwáng continued to ask me why I had pushed him off his job. I pulled out my phone and texted my replies to him. I didn’t really send it; I just did it because a crowded café is no place to look like you’re talking to yourself.
“How did you prevent me from doing my job?”
I told you I have no idea how it happened
“You did something, retrace your steps, and think back to when you saw me.”
All I did was hold her hand, and then you flinched as if I had kicked you in the shin.
“I already know that, but what did you do?”
You idiot Siwáng, I already said that I don’t know. What do you want? I’m not a genius.
“You know, Life went missing from the department of souls. I never met Life but it’s important that she return, I’m still doing my job but nothing has been interested in reproducing for a long time. I’m starting to suspect that you are the missing link.”
You have GOT to be kidding me.
“It’s the truth!”
Truth or not I still think you’re crazy. I’m not going with you anywhere.
“I’m talking about a mass worldwide extinction Mìng! If the department of souls doesn’t find Life soon, everything on earth could perish!”
But why me? I have no idea what you’re talking about and have never heard of the department of souls.
“Then I’ll just have to show you.”
Siwáng seized my wrist and dragged me outside. I never got my coffee. He took me to an abandoned building and pulled out a toothless key with a scythe blade on the handle.
“What are you doing Siwáng? Leave me alone!”
“No! Not until I have shown you the department of souls and presented you to God.”
“God? THE God? You are crazy!”
He put the key in the door and unlocked it.
“I’m not going anywhere near that!”
“Get in the building.”
“Don’t make me use force.”
I picked up a pipe that was lying on the ground.
“Don’t make me hurt you!”
“What do you plan on doing with that piece of garbage?”
“Keeping you away from me, freak!” I kept my stance, never attack first, that’s at least what my sensei told me.
“That’s it! I’m getting you through this door even if I have to maim you!”
Siwáng charged at me, I jumped over him and as I flipped, I hit him in the back of the head with the pipe. He fell to his knees clenching his nape. I didn’t hit him hard enough to break his neck, but I did hit hard enough to stall.
“Time to make tracks!” I hit the ground running, leaving the pipe behind. I was the second fastest person in track, I was sure I could out run him. Especially with a head start. I looked back to see if Siwáng was following me. He was, but he wasn’t running. He was riding something, is that a pole? Wait... there’s a blade on the back end! He’s riding a scythe! I must be nuts! I kept running, I jumped over cars and dived through alleys, but he eventually caught up to me. Grabbing me at the waist from behind, he sat me on the scythe. I would have jumped off, but it was going at least fifty miles an hour. He had left the door open and as he flew inside, I hit my head as the door slammed shut behind us. Everything whizzed by in a whirl of color that was rapidly going dark. I lost the fight to retain consciousness.