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Be Careful What You Wish For

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I don’t normally attend funerals. You’d think I would, in my line of work. Some of my associates do. Rachel goes all the time. Sometimes she even makes herself visible and pretends to be one of the mourners. Last time she forgot to turn off her halo and startled the entire congregation. Rachel’s forgetful like that.

Anyway, it’s not like there’s a requirement to go. Michael has always left it up to us. I would go, I really would, only…I just don’t like people. They’re too complicated, too mixed up with emotions and whatnot. Also I live in a town with superheroes, and that makes it even worse. You think civilian humans have issues, you should try dealing with capes.

At any rate, my job is easy; I show up, give the guy the “I’m sorry you’re dead now” speech, and send him up or down, depending. I don’t have to do small talk or sort out relationships. I process and send off to the afterlife, that’s all. Easy.

But today, I have a problem. My guy’s not dead.

I missed getting to him at the moment he expired; there was a big cape-fight on my way, and I got called in to assist. By the time Titanium Walrus’s last seal-bot was destroyed, my guy had already been wrapped up and cremated. No worries, I thought; souls tend to hang around for a while. So I show up at the funeral, ready to do my bit.

Only he’s not there. I peek in the urn; there’s not an echo of a soul. I look closer, and realize all that’s in there is dirt. So where’s my guy?

I shoot a glance around the church. No one seems to have any idea that the deceased isn’t actually demised. They all look appropriately somber. I have no idea where to go now. I can’t just wing back up and say, “Sorry, Archangel Michael, sir, I lost a dead guy.” You don’t lose souls like car keys. So I have to find him.

I decide to go back to where he was supposed to have died. I get as far as the parking lot. He’s right there, sitting inside a rented Volvo, big as life. He’s got some kind of flimsy disguise, dark sunglasses, different color hair. But I know it’s him. You can’t fool an angel like that.

I wait till he gets out of the car. Then I give my left wing a flick and appear. “Hey, you’re supposed to be dead!”

“Faked it,” he says coolly. “Always wanted to do that.”

“How?” I demand.

“Bit of chemicals, bit of dirt, bit of this, bit of the other,” he says. “In this town, it’s not that hard.”

“Granted. Next question. Why?”

He shrugs. “I’m poker buddies with Captain Midnight. He says he’s been to the afterlife twenty-three times by now. I was curious what would happen.”

“You were curious.”

“Yeah. But now, if you’re all, I figure I’ll just wait till my time’s up normally. See you around.” He turns to go.

“The thing is,” I say, and the light around me dims just a bit. “I’m supposed to retrieve a dead guy. I’m not going without one.”

It turned out that his time was a lot sooner than he thought.

It happens.

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Incoming

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“Why did you scream like that?” Constance asked.

Tabitha was still shaking. “I wasn’t expecting it. I got used to the usual alarm, you know. Hey, halo’s blinking, somebody died. But I hadn’t heard that one before.”

Constance patted her wing sympathetically. “Yeah. It’s rough when you have the duty and a Code One goes down. I still remember last time. All those poor dinosaurs. Never had a chance.”

Tabitha sniffed. “I’ve only had the duty for a couple months. I don’t know if I can handle this.”

“Good news is, you won’t be alone,” Constance said. “I talked to Raph. They’re calling in all the teams. They might even pull from Search and Rescue. Do you know when the thing’s supposed to hit?”

“Yeah,” Tabitha said glumly. “Next Tuesday. Somewhere in western Canada, apparently.”

Constance winced. “Yipes. Tough luck. That’ll mean winter for a couple years, at least. Won’t be anything bigger than a ladybug that gets through.”

“Maybe the humans will stop it?” Tabitha said hopefully. “They’ve got those, what do you call them, new-cue-ler things now?”

“Nuclear,” Constance corrected. “Yeah, sure. They’ll throw some bombs at it, maybe that’ll work. Kinda doubt it. Anyway, you’ll be up if it doesn’t work. They’ll probably have you take the first wave of adult souls, since you’re new. Adults are easier.  Kids are rough. You have to try and explain to them….”

Tabitha fell silent. Finally she ventured a question. “Can’t we…you know…stop it?”

Constance shrugged. “Not our call.”  Her halo chirped, and she raised her wings. “Well, see you Tuesday.”

Tabitha watched her soar away in light. “Maybe,” she said quietly to herself, “It should be.”

Comeback

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If you wanted to set your life on fire, there wasn’t a better combination. You’ve been assigned to Search and Rescue ever since you became an angel, and you’ve been pretty darn good at it. Just last month you saved three puppies and a lizard from a burning building. Your tally of successful saves ranks in the triple digits. Michael himself gave you a terse “Good job” after the puppy rescue, and he never does that. You figured you would be with Search and Rescue forever.

But everything changes. Some scientist lets loose a cloud of radioactive vapor, a mysterious amulet grants a kid magical powers, some guy falls into a vat of toxic waste. Next thing you know, there’s capes running around everywhere. When you have people who can move dump trucks with their mind, Search and Rescue suddenly isn’t so relevant.

That leaves the other assignment. The one you’re on now. The one you specifically requested not to receive when you first won your wings. But there’s a need for it, and so you’ve been assigned. Even in a world with superheroes, people still die. They may die in unique and interesting ways now (you’ll never forget that poor man overwhelmed by the horde of genetically engineered ferrets with laser eyes), but they still die, all the same. When they do, someone’s got to take them on to the afterlife. That’s you.

So, tonight, you have the duty. Your halo blinks, informing you that you have an assignment. You show up on scene, prepared to give the usual “Sorry you’re dead now” speech. This varies only slightly in content, depending on whether your subject is going up or down. Tonight, though, is different. Tonight, to your shock, it’s not one of the civilians that you’re called upon to escort. It’s a cape.

You’re a little surprised, actually. You’d heard that Captain Midnight was nigh-invulnerable. Apparently his invulnerability didn’t extend to the Kaboominator. As you glide down to the expiring Captain’s side, you note that this isn’t the first Kaboominator-related death in the city lately, and wonder if you should ask Michael about it. Maybe you could give a little nudge to the good guys to stop it?

As you approach, Captain Midnight’s soul detaches itself from his body, seamlessly as a square of toilet paper coming off a roll. It looks unusual to you. Usually souls are glowy-bright or inky-black, but this one looks muddled and grey. You sigh, realizing that the Captain’s eternal destination might take a minute to sort out.

“Hi there,” you begin. “I’m Tabitha. I’ll be your angel of death this evening-”

“Hang on,” the Captain’s soul says. “I’m dead?”

“Yes, sir,” you say. This isn’t the first time you’ve had to explain this. People who’ve just died tend to have a little trouble adjusting. “I realize this may be new for you, and I’m happy to provide any assistance necessary-”

“Yeah, no thanks. I’ve been here before,” the soul growls.

“I’m sorry?”

The soul says something you can’t quite make out then; you think maybe it’s Latin. To your astonishment, the soul disappears. Next thing you know, the body on the ground is sitting up, blinking, and wiping the ash off its shoulder. “Right,” Captain Midnight says. “What’d I miss?”

“You’re alive!” you exclaim, rather obviously.

“Yeah,” Captain Midnight says. “It’s kinda my thing. I’ve resurrected, oh, seventeen times now. Kaboominator this time, was it? I’ll have to do something about that.”

“But…but….” you stammer. “You died!”

“Yeah,” says the Captain. “Nice to meet you. Don’t think I’ve met you before. The last death angel I met was a guy. Scott, I think he said his name was.”

“You….you can’t come back once you’ve died!” you manage, still at a loss.

Captain Midnight gives his cape a dramatic flourish. “Can.”

He soars away into the night, leaving you bewildered. You do make a note that you need to have serious words with Scott. If people can resurrect themselves now, a heads-up would’ve been nice.

A Grave Offense

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It was a dark and stormy night, which befitted the troubled soul of Captain Midnight, for he had sworn his eldritch powers to maintain order in this tempestuous demopolis, and yet – and yet  – Thomas Corcoran (age six) had not returned his library book promptly.

After the Caper

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The light clicked on, startling him badly. He whirled. There she stood, framed in the glow from the hallway. She looked tired. “Okay. Where’d you put it?”

“Put what?” he said, rather lamely.

“You know what,” she said. “Jupiter. Great big planet, big red dot. Where’d you put it?”

“Honestly, Min, I don’t know what you’re-”

“Oh, yes, you do,” she shot back, and now she sounded angry rather than tired. “I checked, okay? I’ve got friends at NASA who’ll still speak to me. They’re flipping out because they lost a freakin’ planet. One of them told me they picked up some sort of funny radiation. You don’t think I know what that means? I helped you build the Shrink-O-Mater, genius. I know it runs on terseron particles.”

“So someone stole Jupiter,” he said defensively. “Why do you assume it’s me? Plenty of supervillains out there. The Red Mushroom, Crudmuffin, the Rogue Jaywalker-”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Like that guy could steal a planet. Anyway, none of them have a fully functional Shrink-O-Mater, which, funny thing, isn’t in the vault downstairs. I checked, I said.”

He knew the game was up. “Fine,” he said. “Yeah. I stole Jupiter. Shrunk it, stashed it.”

“Where exactly?”

His eyes flickered towards the crib. She looked that way too. Then she looked back at him. “What…” she said slowly. “What did you put in that diaper?”

“Well…”

“Tell me you didn’t put the King of Planets in our baby’s diaper.”

He shrugged. “There’s plenty of room in there. We just went up a size in Pampers, remember?”

“But…” she asked plaintively. “Why? The hell, why?”

“Seemed like a good place for it?”

There was a long silence. “Okay,” she said. “You’re going to put Jupiter back. Now, before the Great Red Spot becomes the Great Brown Spot. You’re going to put the Shrink-O-Mater back downstairs. And in the morning, you and I are going to have a talk.”

“Yes, dear,” he said, reaching for the diaper. Next time, he decided, he would swipe Saturn. Min liked rings, he knew. She’d swiped more than a few in her day. And Saturn, he decided, would be a perfect “I’m sorry I stole a planet” present.

Wishes

by

“I wish for the Seven Seas, please.”

The request was straightforward, spoken clearly. So many people made their wishes in a burst of excitement or wild desires, and often came to grief due to improperly enunciated syllables. Hassan had gotten no end of fun out of the poor man who wished for an unending celebration and accidentally dropped the “R”.  Despite the well-enunciated nature of this request, however, Hassan still felt the need to clarify.

“You wish to see the Seven Seas, you mean? I could arrange a tour…”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I want them. The actual Seven Seas. Mediterranean, Caspian, Red, Adriatic, the whole bit. I want them all.”

Hassan blinked. “Ah. You do know that the Seven Seas are…well….big. It’s a great deal of water.”

“I’m aware,” she said coolly. “I assume that you can include some sort of magic pitcher or box or some such thing that can contain the Seven Seas inside until I want them. It should be implied as part of the successful granting of the wish.”

“You’ve studied,” Hassan sighed.  He always had less fun when the wish-casters knew what they were about. “Very well. You’ll have them in an appropriately magical container.”

“Fine,” she said. “Can you get the lights for me?”

“The what?”

“I want the Northern Lights too. Or southern. I don’t care which. I want the sky lights.”

Hassan looked perplexed. “That’s actually two wishes, you know. Wouldn’t you rather wait a bit until you’ve had the first one?”

“No,” she said. “I want them now. I’ll let you know about the third one. Incidentally, where are you on the killing-people thing? I’ve heard some genies don’t.”

“Oh, I will,” Hassan said. “I have no problem with that. Who do you want done?”

“Death,” Merope said.

Hassan burst out laughing.

Merope. it turned out, wasn’t joking at all.

Note: this story follows on from Bad Ideas

Bad Ideas

by

“I’m sorry, you did what?”

“I chained up you know who.”

“I’m sorry, Sis, you’ll have to be more specific. There’s way too many people with unspeakable names nowadays. There’s this Dryad I know, real stuck up, and she’s going on and on about how no one can say her name now because it’s too magical and mysterious and I’m like, girl, it’s not all that and a box of ambrosia, Iknow what her real name is-”

“Thanatos, okay? I chained up Thanatos.”

“….”

“Yeah. That’s why I got to roll this rock.”

“Well. That was stupid.”

“Thanks for the encouragement, ‘rope.”

“Well, what did you think? The guy’s Death, Sis. You can’t just go picking on Death.:”

“Well, I did. Thus the rock.”

“So, what, you have to roll the rock to the top of this hill?”

“That’s what they told me.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Yeah. I got a bad feeling though.”

“Okay, look, I’ll help. It’s just a stupid rock, how hard can it be?”

“Thanks, ‘rope.””

“Just promise me you won’t do anything else stupid like picking on You Know Who, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I promise. You don’t got any of that ambrosia around, do you?”

“Sorry, but it’s not on the menu. Elektra took the last of it.”

“Oh. Ah, well. It’s just I wanted a snack. Rolling this rock and all…”

“I’ll check with Elektra. Maybe there’s some left.”

“Thanks again, ‘rope. You’re the best.”

“You too, Sis. You too.”

Myna Chang

Dinosaurs. Robots. Kung Fu.

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