What if you were given the chance to go back in time and fix your mistakes or those of others? Would you take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity without a second thought? Or would you be a little more cautious (You could change the world)? What if it wouldn’t change anything at all?
Hi, I’m Death. It’s nice to meet you (Even though I've probably already met you, you just didn’t know). You may know me as The Grim Reaper, or La Muerte; it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s all the same. What do I look like? Well. I look like death, whatever that looks like to you. Everyone imagines death differently, so I look different for everyone. Even though there are many characters in this story, I feel that I have the rights to tell it. Without me, there would be no story, because it was my fault that Aaron died.
We start with the day Aaron died because of choking. It was terrible to lose such a young life, and Aaron would have gone on to do great things. (Okay, let me get something straight. Just because I am Death does not mean that I want these things to happen. Sure, sometimes I will go a little dark on someone if they deserve it, and of course, those are all the stories that you hear about me. Never the good stories. Like how I try to give second chances to those who deserve them, or died unfairly, because of another’s actions. I can’t give everyone a second chance because I do have a job I have to keep, and too many souls coming back might attract the attention of my employer. Then no one would get a second chance.) Aaron was eating out with some friends at a restaurant when he started choking on his chicken. No one noticed until it was nearly too late, and by the time they got the chicken dislodged, I had collected Aaron’s soul. He was gone. It was such a shame to lose someone as great as Aaron. He was a good student, especially in science, and the MVP on his soccer team. He was very involved in his community, and helped his mom. I also knew that Aaron would have an important future in science (Perks of being Death. I know the future of the souls I collect. It is not as awesome as it sounds). I hadn’t granted a second chance to anyone in several centuries, so I was sure this could slide. I would offer my services to two people: Aaron’s mother and his friend Elijah. Maybe I myself couldn't fix this, but I’m sure that Cecilia and Elijah could.
I decided to make my first appearance at the funeral home, during Aaron’s funeral. As I entered the room, I felt conversations go quiet around me. I couldn’t attract attention, so I made one girl across the room slip and fall on a dead flower, just loud enough to attract attention to her and not to me. I crossed the room to Aaron’s mother, Cecilia Turner.
“I am sorry for your loss,” I started. After millennia of approaching mortals to offer second chances, I have become an expert at making polite conversation.
Cecilia looked at me with red eyes. She blinked a few times before she spoke. When she did speak, it was full of loathing and anger. “Death? Get out of my son’s funeral!”
In my millennia of living, I have never been recognized and told to leave, especially so rudely. In fact, once I introduce myself, most people are terrified of me. I tried again. “Cecilia, I am here to propose a way to bring- OUCH!” Cecilia had started whacking me with a nearby purse, which I assumed was hers. Once again, in all my millennia, I have never been pounded with a purse. Cecilia Turner was making all kinds of historic firsts.
“Get out of here, Death! Grim Reaper! Whatever they call you! You have no business here!” She shouted.
I was about to tell her that I actually do have some very good business here, and that I could heal her grief, but I realized that her shouting and my being hit with a purse was attracting attention.
“Mrs. Turner! Are you okay?” said a masculine voice. Aaron’s friend, Elijah. He was there at the restaurant.
Before Cecilia could respond, I said, “It’s okay, I was just leaving.”
Like I expected, Cecilia looked like she didn’t think that it would be that easy. That was why, when I left the funeral home, I was expecting Cecilia and Elijah to follow to make sure I really left. I stopped when I reached the empty kitchen, opened and closed the back door to make them think I left. Then I locked it. I hid behind the door, and closed it when they came in. I hate trapping people in rooms; it makes me feel like the villain mortals think me to be. “Cecilia, Elijah, please. Hear me out. I have a way to bring Aaron back, but it requires your participation. I noticed Cecilia had brought her purse and winced. “And please, no more Whack-a-Death with the purse. You have a strong arm.”
Elijah looked at me. “Whack-a-Death? Bring Aaron back to life? What?”
Cecilia looked warily at me and the locked door to outside. She explained to Elijah, “This is Death. He looked surprised that I recognized him. Then I whacked Death to death with my purse when he wouldn’t leave. Now he is offering to bring Aaron back.”
Elijah looked at me, and then at Cecilia. “You hit Death with your purse?” He looked at me, terrified. “Couldn’t you kill her for that?”
I felt offended, but this was the usual reaction I get when I meet mortals. “No, Elijah, it is not her time, or yours, for that matter. Besides, it is not my job to kill, only to collect souls. My employer oversees death.”
Elijah didn’t look convinced.
Cecilia cut in and said, “You... can bring Aaron back? To life?”
I nodded slowly. “Yes, like he was before. No one will remember what happened, except for you two and me. I will send you both back in time two hours before the death. You will do anything you can to try to change the outcome. Keep in mind that this opportunity I am giving you may not be successful. You might make things worse. However, I will take whatever outcome is better and make that what happens for the history books. The other possibility will be erased from time.”
Elijah said, “So, it will be Mrs. Turner, me, and you traveling in time to save Aaron.” He could soak information fast. A valuable trait in a time-traveler.
I shook my head. “Unfortunately, I will not be able to come with you. I must recollect the souls that went back to their bodies when time went back. I will be busy. So, what do you two say? Will you take a gamble for family?”
Cecilia and Elijah looked at each other and understanding passed through their eyes. Cecilia simply replied, “Yes!” and Elijah nodded.
“Great! I will meet you wherever you are exactly two hours after Aaron died, so at 10:11 PM tomorrow. Or today, take two. However you want to think about it. Don’t bother with a meeting place. I can find you wherever you are to discuss which outcome was better. Good luck!” I snapped my fingers, and the world started distorting and fading away to how it looked at 6:11 PM, 24 hours ago.
Cecilia found herself in her kitchen with their golden retriever, Jax. She felt there was something she was supposed to be doing. She glanced around her kitchen. Aaron was supposed to go with Elijah to- wait. That’s right! She was supposed to help Elijah keep Aaron from... dying. Cecilia realized that she was not sure exactly how to do this. She had to talk to Elijah.
“Mom? Um, Elijah's on the phone, and he was wondering if it was okay if he came here early. Do you mind?” Aaron Turner asked.
Cecilia spun around to face her son. She saw that the clock behind her read 6:13. Two minutes had passed, and she didn’t even know it. And Aaron was alive!
Jax walked over to stand by Aaron. "Mom? Elijah is wondering...”
Cecilia snapped back into reality. “Yes, he can. Sooner would be better!”
Aaron gave her an odd look but accepted it. “She said yes!” he shouted into the phone.
About half an hour later, the doorbell rang, and Elijah walked into the house, Aaron following him. Jax bounced between the boys, shaking dog fur everywhere.
“Good evening, Mrs. Turner. Have you had a good 24 hours?”
Aaron looked at Elijah. “Dude, you could have just asked her if she had a good day.”
“Just thought I'd make this time different,” Elijah said, emphasizing the word ‘time’.
Cecilia answered Elijah’s question. “It has been a very... interesting 24 hours. Very emotional, full of surprises.”
“Expecting the unexpected,” Elijah added. He now knew that Mrs. Turner remembered the deal with Death. They had to get a plan.
“Hey, Mom, since the dinner reservations aren’t until 7:30, can Elijah and I go downstairs and play my new video game until we have to leave?”
“Oh... sure. I’m going to start dinner, so I’ll call you up when we have to go.” Cecilia gave Elijah a look that he translated well: she expected him to come upstairs at some point so they could talk about a game plan.
“Come on, Aaron! You created a new video game, right? Revenge of the Zombie? I’m sure I can beat your high score!” Elijah said.
When Elijah got down there, he flopped on the Turner’s comfortable couch while Aaron fired up the game. Jax leapt onto the couch, and Elijah promptly pushed him off. "Aaron, I’ll be right back. I need a drink.” Elijah raced upstairs before Aaron could point out that he could have just gotten a Coke from the mini fridge that was already downstairs.
“Mrs. Turner! What should we do?”
“Elijah, you can just call me Cecilia. It will be much easier for the both of us,” Cecilia replied calmly.
“Oh, okay... Cecilia. How do you think we should do this?”
“If we don’t go to the restaurant, then he can’t choke on the chicken!”
“Yes, so I guess we will just eat here? What are we having tonight?”
“I was actually making chicken, but maybe that’s not the best idea. I can make spaghetti instead.”
“Hey, Elijah!” Aaron called from downstairs. “I got the game ready! Come on; I’ll show you how to play!”
As Elijah nodded and raced back downstairs, Cecilia glanced at the clock. She realized that Death might have given them 5 hours, but Aaron died a few hours into those 5. They had less time than they thought.
Yes, Cecilia. That is correct. Keen observation is another essential trait for a time-traveler. This was a mistake that many time-travelers make. They procrastinate saving the life because they think they still have several hours to think of something, when really, they don’t. I always come to these people within 24 hours of the death. I tell them they go back 24 hours, and I do send them back 24 hours. They think they have that much time. But they don’t. I usually give them 4-6 hours, the death occurring somewhere in the middle. However, that didn’t mean that they necessarily had that much time to correct the wrong.
If you couldn't tell, I (Death) took the opportunity to grab the reins and give you more information about what is happening from my perspective. Just because I was recollecting the souls didn’t mean I was completely oblivious to what was happening in the Turner household. Cecilia and Elijah are doing great, from what I can see. They have eliminated the biggest threat: the chicken (Okay. In all of my millennia, I have never had to utter that unfortunate sentence. When the chicken is the biggest threat, then that is when you know you have really seen everything).
I also haven’t seen anyone so motivated. I cannot tell you how many times I have sent someone back in time and they just spent the whole time crying whenever they saw the person they were supposed to be saving. But not Elijah and Cecilia. I appreciated that they set their grief aside to focus on what was more important in the moment: saving Aaron.
I had another reason to appreciate this. I made it so Aaron couldn’t be saved the first time. It was an accident. I misjudged how quickly he was dying, and I collected his soul before he was ready. A body cannot live without a soul, so Aaron wasn’t able to be saved. And if I tried to turn back the clock and try to collect his soul later, then it caused major problems with time. Like, start world wars that shouldn’t have started (amazing how much difference one person can make). This was my fault, and there is no way I could fix it. But maybe, Cecilia and Elijah’s determination and teamwork might correct my mistake.
Anyways, I have decided to jump in and tell you, dear reader, the exact time that Aaron died. That way you know exactly how much time Aaron, Cecilia, and Elijah have left. I collected Aaron’s soul at 8:11 PM. That's all I have to say; souls need collecting. Death out.
Cecilia turned off the stove and the video about how to save a choking person, and called downstairs, “Elijah, Aaron! Dinner!” Jax, hearing the word ‘dinner,’ started running around happily.
Aaron came up before Elijah and asked, “What about the restaurant?” He looked at the clock on their microwave. “7:50! Our reservations were for twenty minutes ago!”
Cecilia sent a look Elijah’s way. Elijah could read it very well: ‘I thought you would tell him about the plan change!’ Oops. He sent the same look back to her. Elijah started, “Um, well...”
“The restaurant accidentally overbooked, and we couldn’t get in,” Cecilia finished. “So now we can have a nice meal at home. Together. I’m sorry, boys, but we must make the best of a bad situation.”
Aaron looked at Elijah. “Oh. Well, what do you think, Elijah?”
“We could always go another day. I say we just hang out tonight.”
The three of them sat down at the table, Aaron between Elijah and his mother. Cecilia was nervous, and considered getting a knife to cut Aaron’s noodles smaller. Would that be too micromanaging?
Across the table, Elijah scooted closer to Aaron, just in case. He regretted not taking that first aid class two months ago. He watched carefully as Aaron started eating, and saw Cecilia doing the same. 8:05 PM. Not long now. He had noticed yesterday that Aaron was choking around 8:10.
Aaron looked up from his food and asked, “What? Why don’t you guys eat?”
Elijah muttered something about being tired and Cecilia suggested, “Why don’t you eat slower, Aaron?” Aaron shrugged as Elijah glanced at the clock again. 8:08 PM.
“I need a drink,” Elijah said.
Cecilia saw where Elijah was going with this and added, “Aaron, would you get me some water?” If he was not at the table eating, then how could he choke?
The boys walked into the kitchen, where Aaron offered to get all the drinks and Elijah could sit down. Unfortunately, Elijah was not willing to let Aaron out of his sight, not at 8:09. The clock flipped to 8:10, and Aaron was fine. Elijah exchanged a look with Cecilia. Aaron finished getting the water glasses and went back to the table.
The clock changed to 8:11, and Aaron started coughing. Both Elijah and Cecilia ran towards him. Elijah started pounding Aaron on the back while Cecilia asked Aaron if he was okay. Jax barked.
“Jeez, guys, I'm fine! I just choked on my water! I’m touched that you both care so much, but give me some space, please!” Cecilia looked at the clock and saw that it said 8:14. They had a few hours to keep Aaron alive. Maybe she could keep the boys in the basement and lock the mini fridge that was down there.
Elijah had the same idea, apparently, because he herded Aaron downstairs, saying that he couldn’t wait to finish the game since he would have to leave soon. Cecilia breathed a sigh of relief, then started crying silently so the boys wouldn't hear. They had done it! They saved her son! She made a mental note to take Elijah out for ice cream later with Aaron.
Well. It worked. When I went to go talk to Cecilia and Elijah afterwards to talk about which outcome was better, I saw Aaron inside washing dishes and Jax licking them when he thought Aaron wasn’t looking. His back was to the backyard. Cecilia and Elijah were waiting for me by the woods.
“I guess it’s kind of a no-brainer which outcome we will keep, right?” I asked to start the conversation.
“Yes! The second one!” Cecilia whispered. I noticed that her eyes were red.
“Thank you, Death, for giving us a chance to save my best friend. We both appreciate it.” Cecilia nodded.
I felt better. Maybe I wouldn’t be viewed as evil and not forgiving by everyone. “It was the least I could do. Thank you both for fixing my mistake. I will rewrite history with the second outcome, the one you two changed. Time will now flow normally. I will see you both when it is your time, which is a very long time, I can happily say.” With that, I walked into the woods, allowing myself to be swallowed by the night.