Chapter 1

As the doors to the elevator opened, Walter made his way down the hallway towards his apartment. "Time to update the resume again," he muttered to himself. Yes, Walter was suffering from that age old employment situation. If things got "tight" in a company, rather than consolidate or jettison one or two of the top-heavy fat cats with the bloated paychecks, the "guys in the middle" were the first to go.

Walter was not too worried, however. He figured that he had a varied enough work history that he would quickly find something. And, he did have some funds stashed away in the bank, so it's not like he would starve.

It was a Thursday afternoon, so Walter decided to just take a break and wait until Monday to start his quest for new employment. Really, what company would really even think of looking at his qualifications on a Friday? With the weekend drawing near, and too many things to do, like go water-skiing at the ice-caps, or tour the canals, the last thing anyone was interested in was another fellow looking for work in the city known as Anocras (formerly "Mars Colony Site #5).

Resting his palm on the scan-plate, his door slid open. Stepping inside, it took a few moments for him to notice the dark figure seated on the sofa. "Hey! Who the hell are you?" Suddenly, Walter was on his guard. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a burglar, or someone who had stupidity on his mind. The figure stood, and turned...

"Ah! I see you are home early! That is good."

Walter was a little put off by the fact that the figure was wearing a black robe, and where the face was supposed to have been, there was nothing but a skull within the hood. The figure glanced down at the com-pad it was holding in boney hands and sighed.

"Years ago, these things were called 'television'. One would think that by now, the quality of the content would've improved. It's still crap." The figure tossed it on the coffee table.

"Yeah, yeah," Walter snarled. "Ross and Rachael wake up in New Las Vegas, married after a drunken night at the casino. Again, who the hell are you, and how did you get in here?" Walter was starting to think this might be a joke his brother had set up. After all, there weren't many people who had their handprint scanned for the door.

"I am Death," the figure answered. "I have come to collect you."

Walter couldn't help it. Now he KNEW this was some sort of a gag. "No shit! Really?" He started laughing. "This is great! With who knows how many transports being lost between the planets, wars between systems, and our scientific minds trying to cure the latest space-plague, DEATH HIMSELF comes to collect ... ME???" Making his way towards the figure, he shook his head. "Come on, tell me. Who put you up to this?"

"Seriously," the dark robed figure replied. "I am Death."

"Bullshit," Walter chuckled. "You ain't Death, and you know it. And besides, there's no reason for you to be here. I'm in good health, feel fine, and even though I got canned at work today, I have no intention of killing myself. So come on, spill it. Who are you, really?"

The figure sighed, and Walter could see his shoulders slump slightly under the robe. "Okay, I'm not DEATH, but one of his assistants. We call ourselves 'D-A's'. At one time, my name was Frank. Ever since Humanity started expanding out into space, because Earth was no longer able to contain everyone, and the population went up beyond expectations, well, the Big Guy had to hire help."

Walter decided to play along, figuring this was being recorded for future laughs. "Well, if there are openings right now, I'm sort of between careers. I would imagine you guys have a hell of a benefits package." Making his way towards the kitchen, he called out; "You want a beer?"

"I'm fine," Death/Frank answered. "There REALLY should have been something covering this in the training manual," he muttered.

"You still haven't answered my question," Walter returned into the living room, and took a long pull on his beer. "Why me? Why now?"

Death/Frank gave the impression of "rolling his eyes". At least that's what would've happened if there had BEEN eyes in the empty sockets. "Do you mind if I sit? This may take a while to explain." Walter nodded. "Okay, so what do you know about cryogenics?"

"That's when people got themselves frozen, just before they died, so they could be cured, some time in the future. Right? So far as I know, nobody has seriously thought about it for close to three hundred years."

Death/Frank nodded. "Correct. And do recall your history lessons about the 'Great Panic of 2012'?"

Walter paused a moment. That had taken place nearly five hundred years ago. "That's when people thought the world would end, because some ancient calendar stopped?"

"Exactly. Nobody realized that the reason the Mayans stopped when they did was simply because they ran out of room on the rock they were carving the calendar on." THAT brought a chuckle from within the folds of the robe. "Bunch of idiots. Boy, were we busy!"

Walter took another pull on his beer. "So, this affects me, how?"

Death/Frank leaned back on the sofa, and shook his head. "Well, you see, a lot of people got all crazy as 2012 was coming to an end. Lots of riots, religious zealots, and more insanity then one might realize. Time has done a lot to gloss over that point in history. Some folks thought that cryogenics was a possible answer. Just get their selves frozen, and ride out the situation."

Walter stared at his guest silently.

"Anyway, back on Earth, there are a bunch of kids who need to do a sixth grade science fair project." Death/Frank paused, choosing his next words with great care.

"I hate to have to say this Walter, but those kids are going to succeed. Your soul is going to be repossessed by a previous body."

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Story tagged with:
Science Fiction / Humor /