“Death wasn’t a thing when I accepted the job. It’s not fair to trap someone in an eternal contract when they have no concept of what they’re being asked to do. The way I understood it was I was simply helping a soul pass from the mortal stage of their existence to the next. They got constructive feedback on their life choices, and it would help them be better people.
Reality? No. I have to comfort more than ten thousand children starving to death every day. That’s hard to do when you’re a skeleton in a black Jedi robe.
I got totally boned. Other eternal beings got to oversee stuff like love or lust. Eros is a total pervert, by the way.
I have to use time manipulation just to get the job done.” The skeletal immortal slouched on his bar stool and held up two fingers to the barman.
The bald man in jeans and a Journey t-shirt nodded. Using his telekinesis, the barman summoned two more shots of Scotch from the Isle of Islay. The whiskey wizard then slid them down the bar towards Death and the suit of armour.
“Can you quit the job?” Arnold tilted the blank space where mortals had heads.
“I don’t even know.” Skeletal hands closed around the whiskey glass and poured it into an ethereal throat. Tourists sometimes watched with fascination as the liquid entered a divine state and became invisible. None of it poured through the bones and splattered on the floor.
“Can you get drunk?”
“Not without a few more.” The Reaper held up four fingers to Jeremy the spirit summoner. Another nod. Four shots slid down the bar.
The Armour of Armour poured whiskey into the bucket inside his cuirass. The action itself didn’t get him drunk but being in the company of others who were helped him feel a buzz by association.
“Is it a good idea to drink and reap?”
“Who knows. I don’t want to do it anymore.” Death slouched and walked his fingers along the bar. “Know how many people I’ve taken from this bar?”
“Tell me,” said Arnold, sitting up on his stool. The edges of his armour ground together. He regretted sitting with the skeleton again. Every time he thought he would hear some cool stories. Nope. Always complaining.
“268 people in the last hundred years since it stopped being a butcher.”
“Who reaps all the animals?” Arnold asked.
“Good question,” said the Reaper, pointing a finger somewhere to the left of the suit of armour. He was drunk. Three more shots went down into invisible nowhere. A wallet appeared from somewhere in the robe. “You take card Jeremy?”
“Same as always, yes.” The barman walked over with a chip and pin machine.
Bony hands tried to shove the rectangle of plastic into the slot of the device held by Jeremy’s stubby fingers. On the eight hairy fingers were faded letters that read LOVE and KATE.
“Kate your wife?” Death asked in a dripping slur.
Jeremy took the card from the Reaper and slipped it into the device. “No. My ex.”
“Ouch. Want to know when she dies?”
“Yes,” said the man with a new glint in his eyes.
White digits pressed air next to the card reader. The skeleton dived sideways off the stool and landed on the floor.
“Where did you go?” Death asked the stained wood skirting board at the bottom of the bar.
“Got cash?” Jeremy took the card out of the device.
“Got milk?” Death giggled, holding his finger beneath the slits in his skull where a nose would be.
“I’ll get this one. I think he’s having a mid-life crisis.” Arnold passed Jeremy his card from inside his gauntlet.
“Midwife?” The reaper looked around. From his place on the floor all he could see were feet and stained wood.
“Tired? Death?” Arnold input his pin and got his card back from the barman.
“Yes. I’ll just have a little nap here.”
“He’s not sleeping in my bar. I close in three hours.” Jeremy’s voice was a growl. He leaned over the bar and looked down at the drunk immortal. “Hey. Get up. Go home.”
“I HATE MY JOB!” Everyone in the bar looked at the screaming embodiment of death. He tried to stand. Though the world was stationary for everyone else, for Death it was a ship on a stormy sea. As the boat tipped, he ran backwards into a table, knocking empty pint glasses to the floor. A party of teens just old enough to drink in Aberdeen cheered loudly.
“That’s enough, Arnold, get him out of here.” Jeremy yelled.
“I’ll come for all of you,” said the black robed skeleton. He was pointing at a window.
The suit of armour grabbed his friend and lifted him. A smartphone flashed as kids took a photo of the odd couple staggering out of the bar.
People shivered on the cold cobbles of Belmont Street outside a club that had been a church.
“I’m gonna kill all of them,” Death slurred, looking at Arnold.
“Not so loud,” hissed the suit of armour.
“I hate my job,” the Reaper told a rugby player looking teen in a pink polo shirt.
“Welcome to the club mate,” said the muscular young man.
Police in fluorescent greenish yellow jackets were talking to a girl who was shivering in a tight black dress and pink cowgirl boots.
“Isn’t it December?”
“Yes,” answered the suit of armour.
“Why aren’t they wearing jackets.”
“Because we’re in Scotland.”
“I’ll be seeing a lot of them later when they freeze to death.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the portal.”
“I’m gonna kill you tonight,” said the reaper, pointing to a man with scars and gold teeth.
“What the fuck did you just say?” The man with battle wounds and three signet rings swaggered over and puffed up his chest, looking down his chin.
“Nothing, he’s just drunk.”
“It’s not fuckin’ Halloween pal. What did you say?” The man wasn’t local, Glaswegian based on his accent.
“We’re just going. We don’t want trouble.”
“It’s no trouble. You’re going to get stabbed tonight, Patrick.”
“How the fuck do you know my name?” Patrick knocked Arnold aside and raised a closed fist to the Reaper’s face. The police left the shivering girl and ran down the cobbles towards them.
“Police.” Arnold tried to step between them. “Police are coming.”
“I don’t gee a fuck pal.” Patrick looked from the armour back to the reaper.
“Hey, split it up boys.” The officer was younger than any of them.
“All of you need to calm down.”
“Yes officer.” The Glaswegian man’s attitude changed completely. His accent wasn’t so gravelly. His violent posture relaxed. “I’ll get going.”
“Is there a problem here?” The second officer was older, silver stubble on his face.
“No problem. Right boys?” Patrick looked at Arnold and the Reaper.
“All of you should go home.”
“I don’t have a home,” said the skeleton.
“Goodnight lads.” Patrick started walking away.
“Wait. Are you?” The younger officer looked at Death.
“I’m the Grim Reaper. Mostly grim right now.”
“Can I get a photo with you?” asked the young officer.
“Sure.” The skeleton shrugged.
The officer pulled out his phone and turned it sideways. He smiled into the camera as the immortal ender of life gave a thumbs up.
“I don’t want to kill people anymore,” said Death as they turned a corner to the portal that would take them back to the Museum of Magical Items. “New Year’s resolution. No killing.”
“Coming from anyone else that would be a really creepy thing to say. From you it’s oddly sweet.” The reaper lurched forwards suddenly. Up came the whiskey, hitting a flowerpot by the side of the road. The flowers blackened and shrivelled. “Alright. Let’s get you to bed.”