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Be Careful What You Wish For

by on October 17, 2018

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.

  1. I’m enjoying your universe of angels and superheroes. It’s fun to consider these unique challenges and situations. Looking forward to more.

  2. Interesting take on the deception theme!

  3. Great job making the reader infer the character’s job and role. Your characters are always so nonchalant about things. That works for supernatural figures. But in this case, I wanted the fake dead guy to not be so blase about seeing an angel. He’s a normal human as opposed to a cape, right? Maybe he talks a little about what he was expecting and how the narrator disappoints him? You mention it with “if you’re all” but I wanted more. It’s a super small criticism.

  4. Christine permalink

    Fantastic voice, as always, and this is a really great fully standalone story that plays into your universe. Your world-building is always top notch.

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