Here’s your disclaimer nice and up front: I have no idea where this short story came from. I sat down at my computer about an hour and a half ago, needing to come up with something for your short story pleasure tonight and this is what happened. Let me know what you think!
The Family Trade
It started as a tickle, but soon turned into a full-blown itch. Like the kind of itch where you want to claw your skin off trying to get at it. By the time I decided I had to do something more about the infernal itching, I’d waited too late. The doctor told me I had a purplish-black mark on my back, just between my shoulder blades. He had no idea what it was but couldn’t even biopsy it. Every time he tried; things broke. A needle. A scrape. A punch tool. Even the scalpel broke. So, he sent me to the dermatologist, hoping that guy would know what to do.
Yeah. No luck there either. Same thing happened. That doctor couldn’t do a biopsy either and had no clue what the mark was. By that time, though, it had stopped itching and stopped spreading. The dermatologist said he’d send me to another dermatologist who specialized in weird skin things. I set up that appointment but never made it there.
The night after my dermatologist appointment, I had a visitor. A most unwelcome visitor at that. Death knocked on my door. Literally. He didn’t look much like the figure of Death I’d always imagined. No big black cloak or robe type thing. He didn’t carry a scythe taller than he was either. At least not when he showed up at my door. Instead, he wore black jeans, an old ‘80s band t-shirt, and black combat boots.
“Hey. I know this is kind of awkward. My name is Death. Can I come in?” His baritone voice carried over the noise of the traffic from the highway a block over.
“Um.” I frowned.
Death shook his head. “Don’t worry. I’m not here for you. At least not in the way you’re thinking.”
I blinked a couple times. “I guess.”
Death stepped past me with infinite care and waited for me to show him where to sit. He was polite for the specter everyone feared so much. I cleared junk off my love seat and flopped down in the recliner next to it. Death settled himself on the love seat, looking decidedly uncomfortable. He cleared his throat several times and fidgeted with his hands before sighing and looking up at me.
“I’m just going to come right out and say it since this is probably the most awkward conversation I’ve had in a long, long time. You’ve always wondered who your father is, right?”
I nodded, my heart in my throat.
Those two words landed like an atomic bomb in my living room. Just like that Death informed me he was my father. It was not the announcement I had expected. I’d figured he’d tell me he goofed and took my father to wherever my father belonged by accident. That my father should have been around, and Death felt guilty over the screw up. Not that he was my father.
“That mark on your back, it means you carry my blood.”
I opened my mouth several times to speak, but no words came out. Closing my eyes, I scrubbed my hands over my face and tried again. “How on earth are you my father? You’re dead, aren’t you?”
“Well, technically, no.” Death shrugged, his mouth twisting into a wry smile. “I’m neither alive nor dead. I’m outside that whole concept. And I figured that meant I had no ability to father children or interact in any other way with the mortal world.”
“Clearly you can if you’re my father!” My voice climbed the scale as I spoke despite my efforts to keep it steady. Something inside fought to get out, but I wasn’t sure what it was. A scream maybe? A panic attack?
“Look, I loved your mother. I should have left her alone, but she was so beautiful. And she didn’t fear me, not like most humans do. I couldn’t help myself.”
“So, you took her and abandon me?”
Death flinched at the venom in my words. “No. I don’t get to choose when it is someone’s time to come with me. I’m just the messenger sent to deliver someone to their assigned destination. The Supreme Being sent me to collect her. She is with the Supreme Being now.”
“Supreme Being? Like God?” My brow wrinkled as I tried to wrap my head around what Death was saying. Or even that I was sitting in my living room having a conversation with a being who existed outside the mortal world and yet was my father.
“Yes, kind of. The Supreme Being is whatever you need the Supreme Being to be. Male, female, androgynous, kind, condemning, whatever.” Death fiddled with the hem of his t-shirt as he tried to explain it.
“That’s why there’s so many religions and whatnot all claiming they’re right.”
Death grinned at me. “Exactly.”
“Where do I fit into this picture then? Am I even mortal?”
“Um.” Death glanced at me and then turned his attention to the floor in front of him.
“You don’t know, do you?” I leaned forward as I spoke.
Death shook his head.
I slumped, hanging my head in my hands. I wanted to laugh and cry and scream, all at once. Instead, I sat there.
“You want to come with me and find out? I mean, I can teach you what I do and you can try it out for a while.”
I looked up. The image of Death looking so hopeful sitting there on my beat-up couch made me laugh. Stopping it wasn’t an option.
“And what if I don’t like the job?”
“I’ll bring you right back here and now. No questions asked, and no strings attached.”
I sat back, stunned at what his words implied. “You can time travel?”
“Of course. Time is also a concept from the mortal world.”
I grinned. “Sweet. Sign me up.”
And that, my friends, is the story of how I got my job working with Death. It’s been over ten years since I followed him out of that rundown apartment and I’ve never looked back. The mark on my back developed into a beautiful pair of black tattoo wings. Death said I might even get real ones someday. He wasn’t completely sure since I’m an only child. Some people think it’s creepy that I am Death’s only child. Me? I think it’s cool.