A Final Song
As I stare at the drug-addled man sitting on the toilet, I can't help but feel disappointed. This is the last soul to collect? I thought to myself. And a supposed rock star, at that.
I sigh and knock my scythe against his head. He lifts his head, dazed and confused, until his vision finally focuses on me.
"Huh, I didn't know it's Halloween already."
Again with this? I sigh. "Actually, this isn't a costume. I'm the grim reaper; I'm here to send you to the afterlife."
I pause. This is the point where they would usually laugh. For children or gullible people, they would cry. For elders, they would nod understandably.
The rock star lets out a sigh of relief and say: "Finally, I've been trying to get in touch with you for forever!"
I blink. "Do you crave death?"
"Of course. Why do you think that I pumped myself with so many drugs everyday?"
Normally, I would shrug and bring the soul with me. Some people are just tired of life and voluntarily sought me. However, in front of me is the supposed "Rock Star of the Century," so I would be lying if I am not curious as to why he would crave death at the height of his career. Besides, this is my last soul, so I can take my time.
"Why do you crave death?"
"Because everyone everywhere expects me to be miserable." The rock star stares vacantly ahead. "How do you think I get these inspirations for my songs? There are days where I would just lie in the bed all days, feeling sad for no reason. Those are the days when these song ideas would just come to me. When I tried to get out of this loop, though, my fans and manager would criticize me, questioning why my quality has dropped. I've been stuck in this cycle for years now."
"Well, why did you become a rock star in the first place, if this is so bad?"
The rock star looks down. "It's for my sister." He whispers. "I used to play songs for her in the hospital all the time. Playing songs often rake in a lot of cash, so I turned it into a career. She's dead now, though."
Looking at the rock star, I realized that his face does resemble a girl I met years ago. Still, the faces in the afterlife are numerous, and the girl is likely lost by this point. Still, after all the misery I caused, maybe I can bring peace to someone, for once.
"Come on, let's go look for your sister." I replied gently, holding the rock star by his hand. "I'm sure she's missing you dearly."
"Are you sure about this?"
The head guard whispered in my ear again. It is clear that as I approach the execution chamber, everyone is getting increasingly agitated.
Murder. That was the excuse I conjured since the public ought not know my true intention. After all, the mere idea of entering and returning from the afterlife will lead many pious worshippers, conspiracy theorists, and defenders of nature to try and storm the facility.
I was tried in a closed court that only consisted of my fellow scientific colleagues as the jury. The ruling was predetermined: I will be executed by the Experience Machine, which will transport me to the afterlife for an indefinite period of time.
If I am lucky, I would return alive to tell the tale. If not, the machine will be scrapped, and my dead carcass cremated in memory of my sacrifice. While I was hoping that my colleagues could do the honor of sending me to the afterlife, I understand their sentiment of hoping to avoid blood on their hands. Hence, the legal killers of this world will assist me in starting my journey instead.
While my body becomes strapped to the machine, I thought back to my mother, who works as an explorer, and my father, who works as a scientist. Both of their work have tremendous impacts on my life, yet neither know that I am about to embark on an unprecedented journey. Guilt began to well up in me as I think back to them.
"Any last words?" The head guard jokingly asks.
"If I never come back, tell my parents that I am in a new world unbeknownst to any human alive."
"You're making this a lot harder than it needs to be." The head guard sighs before flipping the switch.
"So, what do you do for a living?"
"Oh, I'm an office worker. I just sit in a cubicle all day, look over spreadsheets to make sure there's no error, and pour the boss coffee whenever he demands it. What about you?"
"Oh, you know, the usual. I just sit in a lair all day, look over my spy cameras to make sure that my minions are not befriending the hero, and pour myself a cup of tea whenever I run out."
"That sounds... pretty boring, actually."
"Yeah, I know. I am the most feared villain in this part of the... what did you say?"
"I say that your job sounds like it sucks." The civilian takes a sip of his coffee. "Don't villains usually come up with intricate plans to rob a bank, or run an underground cartel, or order assassins on the hero, or anything cool like that?"
"You make it sound so easy." The villain shakes his head. "Do you think my lair cleans by itself? Every day, my idiotic minions would do all kinds of things with trash besides throwing them away. They would fold classified documents into origami and throw them across the room, take pot shots at the waste basket, or write secret love notes to pass them around."
"You know, that sounds like exactly what happens in my office." The civilian goes to the coffee machine, which has a huge block of rubble crashed into it. "Too bad that everyone is dead now. I really can't believe that you ordered an attack on this building, caught the hero by his neck, only for the hero's friend to revive through the power of friendship, erupting another explosion that ripples through the building, makes you drop the hero into safety, while you yourself gets trapped under a rubble alongside me."
"Oh, shut up! You're just a plain office worker. You wouldn't...sniff...know what it's like." The villain is on the verge of tears. "Do you know how much time I spent making this plan? Months! For the last 6 months, I have been taking intel on your company. I know that this place is only used for buying and reselling bamboos, which the hero is weak to; I know that the hero passes by this place every 4 weeks because he needs to visit his family; I even know that your name is Jeff because I memorized everyone's name and face. And now, 6 months of work, all for naught...sniff..."
"Jeez, you're pathetic." Jeff, the office worker, takes another sip. "It sounds to me that you're a bit of a perfectionist, as well. Who would ever waste this much time to get something right. You're a villain! You ought to have fun in your job. If it fails, that's fine! Just as long as you have fun in the process!"
"But...sniff...if my plan fails, then my minions would hate me..."
"Idiot! Your minions already hate you for making them your minions!" Jeff shakes his head. "In fact, everyone in the world probably hates you right now."
"Then... what do you suggest?"
"Do what I do: whenever I get to my cubicle, I purposely make the spot as messy as possible to upset the next worker. Whenever I check my spreadsheet, I would purposely make some right values wrong so the next checker would have something to do. Whenever I pour coffee to my boss, I would mix milk with the coffee, even though my boss is lactose intolerant!"
"Jesus... You're fucking evil!"
"Says who?" Jeff takes a sip but stops. He looks at the villain, and the villain takes a look back.
"You know, my office could always use a perfectionist." Jeff says. "Absolutely nobody cares about the job, so error appears everywhere in the paperwork. If you work there, I'm sure you would get to the top in no time."
"Not a bad offer. I could also use a substitute in my lair. My minions are saying that I am only putting on a farce on how ruthless I am. Recently, some of them have gotten so bold that they are taking breaks without my approval."
"I actually don't have a family anymore. They all died from your last attack. Once our company's building is rebuilt, no one will notice if I am gone."
"I actually do have a loving, caring family, but they have been upset recently that I've turned to the dark side and refused to contact me anymore."
"Wait!" I shouted. "If you cut my finger, my hand is going to be bleeding! How are you going to be able to escape if everyone takes notice of it?"
The two gentlemen's smiles turn into confused frowns. They glance at the third man holding me by my neck, yet the shrug of his shoulders shows that he is confused by my statement as well.
"What do you mean by bleeding?" One of them asks.
The absurdity of this question was so striking that I actually stop struggling for a bit. How do they not know what bleeding meant? Surely, at some point in their lives, they must have tripped over a rock or got a paper cut and see fresh blood pouring out of their wounds.
While one part of me is dismissing his question as irrelevant, another part of me can't help but ask: "Did your parents not taught you what blood is?"
"Our parents? We had not meet them in a long time. The last time we heard from them was that the boss had a surprise for them. They never came back." The man holding me answers. "Since then, we were too young to work in any of the 'adult' jobs, so we had to beg on the street and exercise until we are big and strong. Just recently, the boss allows us to come after you as our first task. He says that you have the choice to take one of your fingers, and if you don't choose, we can chop off two."
While I am tempted to ponder the implications behind the lack of education, the absence of parental figures, or any inherent traits that hinder the intelligential growth, the logical part of my brain convinces me that I take advantage of this situation.
"Well, if your boss only says to take my finger, you don't necessarily need to use that device there, right?" I gesture at the modified cigar cutter. "In fact, I can hand you my finger myself, if you wish."
"Really?" The two men in front of me (and I assume the one behind me as well) widen their eyes. "Please do; we actually don't know how to use this device."
"Gladly, but you will have to unhand me first."
The man holding me gladly obliges, and he moves in front to stand alongside his comrades. For a moment, I consider if I should run for it. Still, this situation has became somewhat amusing. Hence, I decided to stay and amuse the three stooges.
"I shall now take off my pinkie finger."
While showing them my right hand, I use my left hand to cover my pinkie and pretend to pull on it. In reality, by flexing my pinkie, I hid it behind my index finger. Upon pulling my left hand away, my pinkie appears to be gone from their perspective.
"Wow! You did it!" The three dunces in front of me were as shocked as when apes first discover the miracle of fire, and they talk excitedly among themselves.
"Well, gentlemen." I place both hands into my pockets. "It appears that I have fulfilled your conditions. In that case, I bid you farewell."
"Wait!" One of the simpleton calls out. "We still need your finger as proof to our boss."
I froze, realizing that the jig might be up. Although I consider fleeing again, my hands frantically search my pocket for any substitute. Alas, I only have a cigar in my pocket, but mayhaps...no...surely it's not possible...
"Sure. Here is my finger." I pull out my cigar.
"What happened to it?"
"Well, when a piece of the body falls off, it decomposes and looks like this."
"Oh." To my shock, they actually accept this outlandish explanation.
"Still, my finger is precious to me, and I will need to exact a price on it."
"Seriously? Ah man... All right, what is the price?"
I thought to myself. I could demand cold, hard cash, but I have another idea.
"Each of you need to give me your address."
"Oh, that's it? That's easy." The three buffoons immediately set to writing. "Just don't call the cops on us. Boss says that what we do need to be kept secret from the police."
They handed me their slips of paper, and I handed them the cigar. As I walk away, I look over each of their addresses. Having paid for my membership in the Organ Harvesting ring using the money their boss lended me, maybe I'll call my organization to pay these three a visit.
The War for the Moon
As the sun set below the horizon, the enormous beast Alklha flew across the sky searching for a new treat. He was tired of trying to consume the sun, which scorched the inside of his mouth whenever he did so. Instead, Alklha hoped to feast on a different treat, not something so hot and enormous like the sun, but also not something too dim and miniscule like the stars.
Fortunately for Alklha, he didn't have to look for long. Soon, a pleasant sphere of light rose over the east, whose light casted gentle rays that mesmerized Alklha. Alklha flew up to the moon and took a bite off of it. It is the perfect balance between the sun and the moon, making it just the right feast. Over the course of the next several months, Alklha ate away at the moon until there is nothing left.
The night after, vampires emerged from their slumbers in search of fresh human blood. However, without the moon light, the vampires' powers greatly diminished, and they could not see in the dark. The vampires tried negotiating with Alklha to no avail. Of course, the vampires could still turn into enormous bats, but mere bats could not hope to beat the might of Alklha.
Thus, the vampires sought the aid of the werewolves, who had been hollering and panicking ever since the full moon started to diminish. In their bat forms, the vampires snatched the werewolves by their shoulders, flew high in the sky, and threw them at Alklha, where the werewolves tore into the giant beast and forced him to regurgitate the moon. The battle lasted for several months.
Finally, the moon was back to the sky. Still, legend said that Alklha, bittered about the loss of his meal, would return on the days of the full moon to try and devour it. On those days, humans should take heed not to look at the sky, as they might witness something so terrifying and incomprehensible, that their minds would snap and descend into insanity.
In the midst of his endless walk to find someone, anyone that is alive, the being collapse, feeling a strange sense of exhaustion for the first time. He has traveled far and wide across land, sea, sky, space, and time. Now, the world is barren of all life, and the being can feel something rising out of his body.
Is this...death? The being thought.
The being thought back to the first life-form he met, too microscopic to even comprehend its own existence. He thought about the next life-form that fascinated him: a group of creatures that not only give him various names, but even worship him. Finally, the being thought about all the senseless slaughter that lead each life-form to a weakened state, where he gets to the last members of the race before they leave.
Their souls would transcend across boundaries and enter the afterlife. The being thought. But, what about us, what happens to us after we die, when no one is left to remember us anymore.
Pondering that question, the being slowly loses all thoughts. And thus, even Death has met his end, and the world falls into complete silence.