Contest #34 winner 🏆

Who Speaks to Death

Submitted for Contest #34 in response to: Write a story told entirely through text messages or emails.... view prompt

Hey

Hello, who is this?

an old friend.

I’m sorry, I’m still not sure who you are.

I’m afraid I’ve lost touch with rather a lot 

of old friends.

Do you have the right number?

This is George McGregor.

i know

And you are?

dont worry, youll remember me.


Could I get a hint, by any chance?

sure

u never saw me in person

I’m sorry, I’m very confused. Are you quite sure

that you don’t have the wrong number?

yes

i dont make that kind if mistakes

*of

In that case, would you mind giving me

a bit more to go on?

For instance, what’s your name?

i have a lot of names

which one do u want?

One that I would know.

sorry, that doesnt narrow it down much

ur going to have to be more specific

Well, how about where I met you?

u first met me when ur mother died

then we were good friends during the war,

even if u didnt know it at the time

All my friends from the war died.

And I don't believe any of their ghosts

would have grammar that bad.

No offence.

none taken

gotta keep up with the times

anyway, im not a gohst

*ghost

Who are you, then?

You say I know you from the war,

but I’m quite sure I don’t.

What regiment were you in?

none

Were you in the medical corps?

Or staff?

i was everywhere

I don’t see how that’s possible.

If this is a prank, I assure you I do not appreciate it,

and I will be blocking your number in future.

no, this isnt a prank

Well if it is not, then would you mind telling me

who, exactly, you are??

im not very good at exact

but this might help

every soldier knew me

on every side of every war

Ah.

Yes, that does make things clearer.

i thought it might

do u understand now?

I believe I do.

But how do I know it’s you?

ur mother died in her bed at 9pm on 

the 15th of may, 1938. Ur wife died during 

the london blitz, sometime around midnight, 

sept 22nd 1943.

believe me?

Yes, I do.

Why are you texting me?

Is it my time yet?

If so, why not tell me in person?

no, ur fine

i wont come for u for a few

years yet

I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

its a lonely line of work

i wanted someone to talk to

i thought u might get it

If that’s all, then yes, I do.

i can go if u like

No, it’s all right.

Out of interest, why me, specifically?

dunno

u were there

i was bored

thought it was worth a try

I see.

If you don’t mind me asking, how 

old are you?

too old for a job like this

it never ends

no holidays, no breaks

hell, i dont even get medical coverage

benefits are crap too

I can imagine that it gets rather taxing.

However, benefits?

I didn’t think that your particular sort

of employment would have those.

yeah, well

modern age and all that

i think i technically fit the requirements of

like 3 different unions

kinda ironic, when its the capitalist machine

thats always given me the most work

Really? Not war?

war is the busiest time of all

basically rush hour

capitalism takes them slowly, but its

constant

ppl die of starvation every day

lack of medical care, alcoholism,

dumb things like that

Sickness, too, I would assume?

yeah, but that tends to take the rich along

with the poor.

like, its always worse for them, cause they 

cant afford medicine and stuff like that, but 

hey, at least its a bit more equal

u cant pay off sickness

Would I be right in inferring that

 you are, in fact, a socialist?

almost

ive always thought of myself of more of

a humanist

ironic

im not even human

What are you, then?

Pardon my curiosity, but one doesn't 

get to talk to you every day.

nah its fine

idek what i am tho

its kinda confusing

I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure what

“idek” means…

oh sorry

i dont even know

i guess im sorta… made of ur ideas?

like, humanitys concepts of me?

that doesnt make much sense, sorry

No, I think I understand what you mean.

You are a personification of our  

ideas of you.

yeah pretty much

tho im not really a person, so

im not sure about personification

Well, it’s the basic idea.

yep.

i guess thats why i have so many names

1 from every culture, pretty much

Are some more accurate than others?

ya for sure

the whole grim reaper business for example

its just silly.

for one thing, i dont carry a sickle

Which, would you say, fits the best?

Not sure about fits the best, but there’s this one

book called the golden compass

i like me in that one.

the author’s phillip pullman, if ur curious

I’ve read it; it’s quite good.

Out of all of your names, though, 

what would be your favourite?

Personally?

um

i dunno

no ones ever asked me before

and tbh most of them are wayyyy off

“Tbh”?

to be honest

Ah.

i guess...

idk

my favourite would prob be smth like

“the beginning”

it sounds so much less hopeless than 

the rest of my names

I see.

That makes sense.

This is entirely non sequitur, but have

you read The Book Thief?

You are, allegedly, the narrator.

huh

nope, i havent

thanks for the recommendation.

Do let me know how accurate it is,

if and when you do read it.

i will

do u mind if i text again?

sometimes,,,, its hard to do my job

w/out someone to talk to.

Of course.

Anytime.

Though I may not reply very quickly

if you text late at night.

haha, that’s fine

thank u

its been a while since i could talk 

to someone

i scare most ppl

When one has lived as long as I have,

you become much less intimidating.

heh

good point

One last question, if you don’t mind.

In human terms, are you male or female?

technically neither

but out of the 2, who but a woman

could bear all the grief of the world

and keep doing her job?

Of course.

Thank you.


no, thank u

for the chat and the 

book recommendation

ill check it out

Do. I found it quite enjoyable.

i will

bye

Goodbye, Death.



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113 likes 77 comments

15:38 Apr 03, 2020

The magic of this piece was how it captured the authenticity of a text based conversation. Death, unfortunately, doesn't sound like a woman at all. It was poetic to say...but I imagined a bored college guy eating Cheetos who thinks he's really clever.

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03:40 Apr 06, 2020

Personally, I don't find feedback such as "this doesn't sound male/female" very helpful, unless the topic is specific to an experience the other sex is physically incapable of having. You will find examples in both current culture and classic literature of males/females writing in a style that folks will deem "not female" or "not male." This is a limiting and somewhat silly frame of mind that creates cookie cutter characters. The fact that this story was written by a woman in her own real-life texting style should express the weakness of tha... read more

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15:44 Apr 03, 2020

Agree with Death not sounding like a women. The whole time I was reading I kept wonder, this kind of seems like a collage kid is pranking him, but also its obviously not a prank.

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16:30 Apr 03, 2020

Yeah.... I even refer to Death as a he. That's pretty bad of me, but he does text like my one friend, so....

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17:01 Apr 03, 2020

As soon as I read "Every soldier knew me" I was like, AH HA! Death. And I was right! This was a great story. Well done.

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18:28 Apr 03, 2020

Good job! I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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22:45 Apr 22, 2020

Yes, such a good buildup and reveal! My thought process was about the same as everyone else here, which is what a successful author is attempting to achieve, fabulous job. Also, congrats on winning with your first story, that's probably really exciting!

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13:13 Apr 04, 2020

Congratulations on your win, it was a very enjoyable read, and don't worry about what anyone else says about it. You met the criteria perfectly - to tell a story only in text messages. The tone and language therefore completely suited the prompt. It was believable and supernatural at the same time.

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16:28 Apr 03, 2020

"technically neither but out of the 2, who but a woman could bear all the grief of the world and keep doing her job?" Ha. So true. On a more serious note, thanks for giving Death a friend. He is probably very lonely. He does have the souls he harvests, but most of them are probably either terrified out of their wits or may not even know they died, like those football players in Beetlejuice.

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Wait, in the story, isn't Death a woman? Just a bit confused because you referred to her as a man in the second part of your comment.

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23:01 Apr 08, 2020

Yeah... Death is technically neither, and I really need to mind my pronouns better, but this personification of Death texts like one of my male friends, so I instinctively refer to Death as a he.

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23:01 Apr 08, 2020

Sorry for the confusion.

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No problem, thanks for clarifying.

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11:50 Apr 05, 2020

I really liked the conversation style. It made me curious and entertained. Wasn't boring at all. Death sounds like a bored dude to me. But I know few gals who sound that way too

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18:06 Apr 04, 2020

I loved the succinct flow that texting provided as a vehicle. This contains so many levels of entertainment for a reader. The first , of course, is the guilty pleasure of eavesdropping on a private conversation. Then the mystery of identity and slow reveal. A comedic note or two with misspellings and corrections. We all know that 'if' appears in lieu of 'of' in many of our texts.(Almost all of mine!) Death feels compelled to rectify that error. I think that gives her a character depth. Well done and congrats!!!

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06:47 Apr 04, 2020

A very unique and interesting concept! Loved the references to The Book Thief as that is one of my favourite novels! I agree with others that Death didn't seem like a woman just through this text exchange alone, but hey, that might just be my stereotypical thinking! But I did really like the poetic line of "out of the 2, who but a woman could bear all the grief of the world and keep doing her job?"

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17:11 Apr 03, 2020

Good story, Congrats on your win!

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15:33 Apr 03, 2020

Great concept. Totally enjoyable. One missed opportunity for question to death: What happens after? Would work, even if the answer is idk.

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16:52 Apr 10, 2020

How old is the person talking to Death? If their wife died in 1943, that makes them somewhere around 100 years-old.

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12:42 Apr 07, 2020

Wow. I loved how unique this was! And I loved how, in the end, you said that Death was a woman. Although I didn't really picture a woman while reading through the texts...honestly, the picture in my head was of a bored middle-aged working man trying to figure technology out :P But I'm also a sucker for stories that break gender stereotypes, so I loved this...

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03:57 Apr 06, 2020

Interesting concept! I kind of wish the "Death is bored, so starts texting random people" were pushed further here, because that to me is the most intriguing point. Would have loved to see Death make a quip about this guy being the first to really respond/carry on that long (because honestly, with how cagey Death is at the start, I bet most people would just get frustrated and block her). I think it's a shame to put "Death" right in the title. It robs the reveal at the end of all impact. Something more along "A Random Encounter" or "Text... read more

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08:40 Apr 12, 2020

I agree about the title. Maybe even name it after one of the lines that Death uses. The title didn't ruin it for me, but it would have been nice to have a more heightened element of surprise. I guess I can see people's point about Death not "sounding" like a woman, but I, personally, appreciated the fact that you flipped the typical Western concept of Death as male. I think the grim reaper is usually depicted as male. I also agree with Emily regarding the socialism vs. capitalism vs. humanism portion just in that it felt out of place, ... read more

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17:32 Apr 05, 2020

Oh my God that was so amazing. I totally think you deserve your win and congrats. What a great read, so well done! That made my day :)

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13:35 Apr 04, 2020

Wow, very nice I really liked it. I like how you put it in text form super creative!

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10:17 Apr 04, 2020

Interesting! This allows you to look upon this topic in a new perspective.

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21:29 Apr 03, 2020

this story is so good, it really gives me a new perspective on death. I think it was really good. Speaking as a middle grade student I know if this was a book that all of my friends would read it. It might even get assigned as a school project! I was wondering if you could share a tip with a young writer like me? you know to help me write better.

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19:44 Apr 18, 2020

I'm so glad you liked it! I'm a student too so I don't know how valuable any tips would be, given that I don't have a whole lot of experience myself, but one thing I've found is that people will tell you to "write what you know". Don't. "What you know" is most likely the same routine of school, home, extracurriculars. Write what you want to read. JRR Tolkein and C S Lewis only created the worlds they did (Lord of the Rings and Narnia, respectively) because they were the worlds the authors wanted to read about. I hope that's helpful!

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That's the first thing I would ask Death too: have you read The Book Thief?

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16:11 Apr 03, 2020

Beautiful! Really well written and I liked how this wasn't the only conversation they planned on having but it was still an interesting and complete story. I also liked how Death knew more texting acronyms than the older man, Death is keeping up with the times. Also, thanks for the book recommendations in there! ;)

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15:41 Apr 03, 2020

Such an interesting concept! I think it fits perfectly to the prompt of texting with someone. I honestly love every part of this story, the concept, the accurate texting language and the characters (could've added an auto character message in there!).

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21:02 May 06, 2020

BEAUTIFUL! I loved this story!

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