“I can’t believe you just shot me.” Isla scoffed in amazement. Wide eyed, she stared down at the small, gaping hole in her hip. It spurted blood and looked fleshy around the wound, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt. Just like he promised.
“I can.” The raven-colour haired man in front of her lowered the gun. A wicked grin licked his lips and the knowing twinkle danced around in his black orbs. For a second his coal-coloured irises seemed to split to mimic a man and a woman, dancing lovingly together in the moonlight in each eye. The man twirled the woman around and pulled her back into his chest, before the lovers melted back into the shape of a normal pupil. Isla shivered as she smiled weakly up at Death.
“And why couldn’t we just do a trust fall again?”
“I already told you.” Death sighed, proceeding closer, “I need something a little less mortal to see whether I can trust you.”
“And a trust fall over nails wouldn’t have worked?” She tried again with another sheepish smile.
“No.” he said sternly. Isla didn’t press further and instead picked up her own gun from the table next to her. It was cold and foreign in her small fingers. She had never held a weapon before, nor had she ever wanted to. But when Death tells you to do something, you do it.
“And now I just shoot you back?” She raised a concerned eyebrow.
Nothing about this interview seemed normal. She was used to awkward niceties, sweaty palms and shuffling in the seat, opposite someone in a smart suit who believed they were better than her just because they inherited Daddy’s company. Not waking up one morning to a misty bedroom, heat licking your skin and the Devil leaning over you, morbidly grinning, as Death stood next to him with a displeased frown. And definitely not waking up to the Devil saying, “Yes, this one will do. She will be your new pet.”
“Yes.” Death spat, bringing her back into the present time. It was a one-word answer. Stern and final.
Shaking, Isla lifted the gun and held it up towards the sinfully handsome man in front of her. He no longer wore a smile on his blood-tinted lips. His eyes seemed to swirl with fire as he looked back on a trembling Isla. He dared her to do it. Her finger jumped to the trigger. Afraid she might change her mind if she waited any longer, she pulled it.
“For God’s sake, you didn’t turn the safety switch off.” Death growled, pacing back towards her. His shoe splashed in the pool of her blood as he snatched the weapon from her fingers. Isla’s jaw dropped and she stumbled backwards, a little dazed. She knew that she was in the presence of Death himself, but she didn’t like to taunt the Lord’s name around. What if he could hear them?
“Hang on a second.” She squeaked defensively, “How was I supposed to know that? There isn’t really an instruction manual with this thing!”
“Do you humans really know nothing?”
“I actually know a lot.” Isla pointed out unhelpfully.
Curiously, Death twisted around to get a better look at her. She was small in stature, round faced and doe eyed. Locks of blonde fell around her face and down her back, and she still wore her pyjamas. Even though he gave her the option to get dressed before he returned to Hell with her, she shrugged him off, put on her duck-themed slippers and waltzed out the door.
It shocked him.
He wasn’t used to humans being this calm and cocky. Normally, they’d be on their knees, snot dribbling from their red noses, puffy and blotchy faces, and tears creating puddles at the floor. Not this human. It was as if this was another normal day in the office for her.
This was why his father chose her to be his new pet. Something to distract himself with, to stop his eternal mourning. She could handle this life. But Death himself believed she was insane, rather than perfect, and would make her jump through fiery hoops disguised as ‘team building exercises’ so that she would run away screaming. Hopefully then his father would realise that he was better off alone.
Hell didn’t need another prisoner.
“Here.” Death snapped. He cocked the gun, flicked the safety button off and fired three times into his office door. The bullets whizzed past her body and sunk into the victimised furniture. Then the seemingly normal, red door suddenly grew teeth as it chomped down on the bullets, gulped them down and then returned back to being a normal scarlet door. Isla jumped in fright. Death smiled; finally, something that scared her enough to send her on her way.
“That was…” Her bottom lip trembled, “Awesome!”
She jumped up and down in excitement and snatched the weapon from his fingers. Death hung his head almost in defeat and watched silently as she fired another two rounds into the door. It howled in approval, scoffing down the little metal bullets for breakfast.
“What about the wall?” She said to no one in particular as she twisted around, aiming the gun.
“Woah!” He jumped in, snatching the weapon away from her. She didn’t need to see what the walls could do. Yet.
“Calm down, Belle Starr.”
“Who?” She frowned.
“What? You don’t know who Belle Starr is? The Bandit Queen? I had her in actually just last week. One of the finest shooters humankind has ever…” He trailed off, “Never mind, you wouldn’t get it.”
Isla pouted at her gun secured in his tight grip, despaired that her new toy was taken away so soon. She changed the subject, growing bored of his history lesson.
“What’s next on the list?” She sulked, crossing her arms together.
“You get to meet Rex.”
“Rex?” She scoffed, “I have to meet someone? That’s the next team building exercise?”
Death cocked an eyebrow and grinned knowingly. If this didn’t send her running for the hills, he didn’t know what would.
Suddenly, the office around them dissipated into tiny little pixels, flickering out of focus. When the room around them re-appeared, Isla found herself in the grandest living room with dripping gold and wealth. But this wasn’t what she was focused on.
“What the heck is that!” She screamed, bounding backwards, behind Death.
“My Dog. Rex.”
“Dogs don’t have eight legs and three heads!”
This snarling beast reared all three of its ugly heads towards her, and it made her blood chill even more. A disgusting trail of saliva pooled out of each mouth, creating oceans on the wooden floor. When it flashed its huge canines, Isla was sure she was going to pass out.
“Oh my Gosh, get rid of it!”
“No.” Death said calmly, taking a step away to reveal her again. The beast was chained by his neck with a studded collar, but Death knew this was all for show. If his dog wanted to escape and eat Isla, he would do it within a heartbeat. There was nothing anybody could do to stop him. Death almost wished that Rex would do this exact thing. “Sorry, Father.” He would tell the Devil later, “I just got there a little too late. Sigh. No pet for me.”
“He doesn’t bite.” Death told Isla sarcastically. She glared up at her mentor’s dry humour and forced her limbs to stop shaking. By the time her head and her body finally caught up with one another, she felt a little braver to peer back at the snarling beast.
“G-Good boy…” She whispered. Acknowledging that the dog wasn’t growling or snapping its jaws, Isla took one step closer. From the other side of the room, Death stiffened. He didn’t know whether she was stupid or mad in actually advancing towards the dog. Not even he, himself, would do that.
Isla took another step closer, shaking as she held out her hand.
“That’s a good Rex. Good Rexy. Stay there…”
The dog glared down at her tiny hand reaching out for him and bared his teeth but didn’t charge at her just yet. Then the middle-headed dog dipped his head instinctively and the other two quickly joined in. Between shaky breaths, Isla pet the dog. It was just like a German shepherds warm and soft fur, just three times the size.
Growing a little more comfortable, Isla used both her hands to pet each head in turn. Pride stirred in her stomach.
Death was speechless. He was too ready to pick up the scattered remains of his mentee. He didn’t actually think she would be brave enough to meet his dog.
“I’m doing it, Mr Death!” Isla called out to him. He shook his head in disbelief. His father really knew how to pick them.
“Well done.” He responded dryly.
“Now what? Have I earned your trust yet?”
Bitterly, he watched as she slowly backed away from the three headed demon, retreating back into safety. He hadn’t thought she would willingly fire a bullet into Death, nor stroke a demon. What else could he throw at this little miracle?
“You haven’t got anything.” She noted the scowl across his pale face. Then she shrugged.
“Normally, team building exercises are things like a yoga camp, or perhaps a water park. Oh, I know!” She perked up excitedly, “You can climb really high climbing wall and I will hold the rope that stops you plummeting to your de…”
Her face fell.
“Oh yeah. I don’t think that will work... You’re right. It is hard trying to think of team building exercises down in Hell.”
This actually brought a scoff to his lips. If not bright, she was a little bit funny.
An unusual feeling flooded his stomach as he took in his little pet who smiled ignorantly up at him. Her eyes flicked down towards her gun in his hands. She licked his lips and thought about all the chaos she could create with only five minutes and that gun.
Death frowned. For the first time in his eternal life, he found himself agreeing with his father: Perhaps it would be fun to have some company down in Hell.