One Day You Will Die
Death has been banished to the mortal plane of Earth and he is not having a good time. Well, what did he expect when he insulted the all-powerful goddess, Danu? Not only has his horse been replaced with a limo, but his whiskey is now orange juice and his long-dead heart has been beating for the first time in millennia—all thanks to a woman with a sunny smile and a past best forgotten.
But Death does remember, and slowly he learns that reaping souls isn’t the chore it has become. There is more to these humans than he ever thought possible.
Then, when he’s called to harvest Sophia’s soul, he has to deny his entire nature.
What happens when Death wants to live?
© 2020 by Charmaine Ross
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published in Australia
First Published 2020
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
The walking dead were everywhere.
On the sidewalks. Between buildings. In their cars. Endless streams of slowly dying bodies that would one day call for him to expire them. Their souls would cry for release, and it was only he who could separate them from those bodies. Death. Once feared, they would reach out to him as a blessing.
It was strange that throughout their lives, these humans would do anything and everything they could to try and cheat death. To deny the inevitable. Even animals knew that Lord Riordan, commonly known as Death on the earthly plane, would not be cheated and they would accept their fate.
They were either too stupid or too ignorant to gracefully accept their end. They believed in the afterlife, if their various religions were anything to go by, yet they still dug in their heels when it came time for their souls to be freed. As though this world was something to cling to. Even if they had no religion, they still fought. Either way—belief or no belief, fighting or acceptance—it didn’t change the facts.
Each and every living thing on this hells-damned world was going to die and it was up to him to end it for them. Would his job ever end? By the look of the world’s seven and a half billion souls, it seemed he would be employed until Danu decided to end time. And that wasn’t likely. She loved these humans, and for the life of him, he didn’t see why.
The world was busier. Dirtier. Crowded. There was crime, murder, rape, theft, drugs, and prostitution. The dirty list went on. People lived on top of each other in tall buildings that were never quiet. They scrambled to do a day’s allotted pointless tasks, to get paid in pointless currency, so they could live pointless lives.
Really, they should thank him for ending it all.
He couldn’t think of anything worse than being stuck here. Judging by the look of the dreary buildings outside, he was in Brooklyn, New York. What a wonderful place for Death to be in. He knew it well. More souls passed through his hands here than many other places on Earth.
The movement of the car was a smooth rumble beneath his body. On either side, dreary brown-brick buildings passed by in a blur of nondescript fences, graffitied concrete, sad trees, and a never-ending stream of cars, trucks, and other emission-belching vehicles. And of course, there were people everywhere.
Fantastic. Thank you, Danu—you evil witch.
If she was trying to send him a message, it was a lousy one. He already knew life was pointless, and being here only made it more excruciating. There were far more pleasant places on Earth to wait out your time before he had to come. Waikiki was one of them, for example. The nightlife of Las Vegas could also be deemed a fleeting joy that might highlight an otherwise meaningless existence. But the delights of Brooklyn he had to question.
If this was punishment, it was piss poor. It ultimately mattered not where on this godforsaken rock people lived—they still died. Maybe by putting him here smack-dab in the middle of Brooklyn, she wanted to remind him of the work he had to do. Two and a half million people were a lot of souls to harvest. It would take time, but time he had. He was immortal. Death incarnate. It mattered not where he was.
If Danu expected an apology from him for merely stating the truth—that the human race was pointless—she could damn well wait for it. Maybe he could have a bit of time off. Let people live a few days more. What would it matter? There were plenty of bars in Brooklyn where he could while away the time. Danu would eventually come find him.
She had to.
If he didn’t do his job, the world would become too overcrowded, and soon there wouldn’t be standing room for all the people the way they bred. A population explosion like he’d never seen in all of his long, long existence.
How many souls had he harvested since the first humans walked the Earth? Billions. Trillions.
He could do with a few days off and he knew the exact place he wanted to go. He didn’t know what had happened to his horse, but Hades would return to him. He always did. They were inseparable. In the meantime, this limo would do. “Driver, take me to The Black Rabbit.”
Maybe he would start his enforced holiday now. He poured two fingers of whiskey into the crystal tumbler he found right by his side. He stretched out his legs and let the alcohol roll down his throat, welcoming the burn.
At least Danu had provided him with a certain amount of luxury during her little hissy fit. He chuckled to himself. All he had to do was wait until the souls lined up and Danu was forced to come and apologize. In the meantime, he was going to enjoy himself. He was due a little vacation in his long, eternal, insufferable existence.
His clothes had been replaced along with his horse, it seemed. Instead of his old comfortable cloak, he wore worn rugged blue jeans that stretched tight over his thighs. A little uncomfortably snug in the groin area, but they would do. Thick-soled black boots covered his feet, more suited to a motorcycle than a limo, but they were comfortable. His white T-shirt was cool, and the leather jacket smelled of grease and old leather. Pity he didn’t have the bike to go with the gear.
He was impressed by Danu’s dressing skills, but a little pissed that she’d chosen to dress him differently at all. The cloak freed his balls and the scythe helped separate the soul from the body. Dramatic, but practical. Especially when they tried to run. Now he only had his hands to use.
He frowned when the limo turned in a different direction than The Black Rabbit.
“You’re going the wrong way.”
He knocked on the opaque screen that divided the cab and the back. It slid down to reveal an empty driving seat behind the wheel. Death cursed. So that’s the way it’s going to be.
He sighed, downed the rest of the whiskey, and pushed his large upper body through the divider just as the limo pulled up and stopped, engine idling, outside of a shop of some sort. He struggled in the cramped space for a moment, before the too-familiar urge infused his body. The one that would only become more insistent and overwhelming the more he resisted.
It seemed he wasn’t going to get any time off. So, it was going to be like this.
He’d harvest the soul and then be on his merry way to the bar. The back door opened and he was propelled from where he’d wedged himself inside the limo to land face down on the sidewalk. He sighed, stood, and brushed himself off.
The overwhelming urge to go into the shop had him climbing the steps, hand on the door, and the next thing he knew he was in the middle of a crammed store filled with old vintage clothing, paraphernalia stuffed in every nook and cranny, and a beautiful woman dressed in a long colorful dress beamed up at him with a smile that dried the words from his mouth and stole the thoughts from his mind.
And then his heart. His dead heart. The heart that hadn’t beat for millennia. The heart that hadn’t felt a damn thing gave one big, kick-ass, painful, lurching thump.