Life, Death And Other Characters

A while ago some of you kindly read a short story and gave me some great comments. It will feature in my latest book of short fiction, to be released soon under the above title. It’s a mixture of genres and styles, but there will be a number with the character of DEATH, one of my favourites. So, it’s now cover choosing time and I’d love your feedback.

Before we get there, I thought I’d share one of those stories…

And Death Becomes You

‘Ah, Death. Come in, come in. Sit, sit.’ Satan shuffled some papers and shushed the carvings on his desk, which were beginning to howl in the presence of the terminal scythe. ‘Perhaps you’d pop your little doofee in the umbrella stand. Just for now?’

Death reluctantly propped his scythe up and sat.

‘Now, before we begin, you don’t mind if my lad sits in, do you? He’s on a week’s work experience and I said he could watch a couple of meetings.’ He nodded at a bowl of spawn, which sneered lethargically.

Death nodded his assent.

‘Marvellous. I won’t beat around the bush. We’re planning a few changes.

‘CHANGES?’

Satan winced. ‘That’s the first. Can you speak in lower case?’

‘BUT I’VE ALWAYS -’

‘Yes, I know, but here’s the thing. We need to move with the times. Meet our customers’ expectations.’

‘CUS… customers?’

‘Clients. Partners. We carried out a survey.’

‘What?’

‘More a user-interface-facilitated focus group. And the clear message was we need to work on our delivery.’

‘You are talking about those about to die?’

‘We like to think of it, in Hereafter 2.0, as transitioning from one state – life – to the next – death. After all, that’s what we’re here – you specifically, Death – to provide. That moment of transition.’

‘They just die.’

‘They did but, see, they’re looking at a better death experience. They spend their whole lives celebrating important moments: birth, birthdays, weddings, academic successes, you name it and then, poof, one of the real biggies and there’s nothing. No pomp. They’re after making it an event.’

‘If you saw their faces, you’d know it was a pretty big deal.’

‘But you must admit it lacks a certain something, a bit of pizzazz.  You appear, a quick swipe of the old hand axe -’

‘The Grim Reaper’s Scythe…’

‘Yes, that’s another thing. We’re dropping the “grim”. Doesn’t give the right impression. Sort of too unequivocal.’

‘They’re going straight to purgatory.’

‘They were…’

‘Were?’

‘Yes, purgatory’s being relaunched. We took soundings and the consensus was, as death was the start of the next phase – the beginning of non-existence – we should think of the antechamber more as a crèche for the recently departed. We provisionally called it hugatory, given the plans for a series of enveloping experiences, but someone pointed out it sounded like a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, which is worse than hell, so we’re continuing to work on a title. If you have any ideas?’

‘What about me? How’s this going to impact my work?’

‘Ah, yes, right. Well, we’re still working out the details, but we’re about to launch a Prepare Your End app where people can be notified of their impending doom.’

‘You’ll tell them?’

‘So many have a shrewd idea, what with medical improvements and right to die planning and cryogenics. And they’ll be able to ask for a bit of leeway.’

Death sighed. ‘I still get to…’ He made a twirling motion with his hands, mimicking the swish of his scythe.  

‘Yes, but there’s a couple of changes we thought about here. You see, your appearance is, well, it’s not conducive to a calm progression across. So, we had this idea for a hat.’

‘A HAT?’

‘Lower case, please. Yes, well, more a hat-come-mask. We got the idea from this book.’ Satan reached below his desk and extracted a large wizard’s hat. ‘One of the other suggestions was we give people a steer on where they’re going. It’s a bit old school to just take their breath away, as it were, and then pop them into torment for what appears to be eternity before they find out their eventual destination. So, we thought – here, just pop it on,’ Death reluctantly pulled the felt concoction over his shiny pate, ‘we thought you could give them a bit of guidance. We’re calling it the Sorting Hat. You intone “Heaven” or “Hell” or “Valhalla” or wherever, so they can check out the services and facilities while they’re in holding. And they don’t see your face either which, frankly, must be a good thing. So? What do you think?’

‘I resign.’

‘You do? You sure? I mean, we did wonder and we’ll probably just outsource the in-death services for now. Uber Death is one possibility or Deliveroo for the Deceased another. But what about you? What will you do?

‘Oh, I’ll get by. The corporate speaking circuit has always appealed. Our goals are much the same after all. And I’ve done the odd DED Talk already.’

‘Well, let’s see, shall we? Keep in touch, eh?’

‘Thanks. Yes. I can’t say it’s been fun. Can I keep the hat?’

And these are the options…

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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40 Responses to Life, Death And Other Characters

  1. Ruth says:

    I prefer the middle cover, Geoff, with the white writing placed on the black robe – I think it looks a much more balanced design with the figure being placed further up the page and it packs more of a punch for me – but I can’t seem to work your poll thing on my laptop this morning, sorry… Oh, and I really enjoyed your story! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I go for the third option; but have to observe that Death in a hoodie doesn’t leave much scope for Life or Other Characters

    Liked by 1 person

  3. willowdot21 says:

    Great story Geoff and you know how much I love the character Death ! I think the books a great idea ! I have voted as well 💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    I like the third one, Geoff. Good luck with the book – it’s bound to be your usual – creative, inventive and funny!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. As it is Local Election polling day today, and my son in law, who lectures in politics, advocates “Vote Early, Vote often” I did, and I could, so I’m sorry to say I have messed up your numbers. However, I’m pleased to say you are now a County Councillor. Middle one for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Middle for me too Geoff. Love the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved this, Geoff. Any one of the covers will work. I voted for number three

    Liked by 1 person

  8. JT Twissel says:

    OMG – bureaucracy in hell or perhaps that’s an oxymoron? I like the second cover best but may I make a suggestion? The letters seem a little too close – maybe space them. I would also distinguish “other characters” somehow … a shade of grey perhaps. It is the most intriguing part of your title.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mick Canning says:

    Excellent, Geoff. Looking forward to my…hang on…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Erika says:

    Another book on the way, awesome! I am glad I made it to another one after 7 years 😂

    Liked by 2 people

  11. V.M.Sang says:

    Maybe it’s me, but I couldn’t spot the difference between 1and 3!
    Anyway, love the story, and I just voted

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’d go for the second cover, Geoff. I like how the writing stands out much more when it’s white on a black background, unlike the poll buttons on your poll. I can’t see any writing on them.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. For some reason, I couldn’t cast my vote so, for what it’s worth, I prefer the middle one.
    Enjoyed the story, and looking forward to publication of the full collection

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Widdershins says:

    My vote’s for #2. 🙂 … great story … love the sorting hat. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Chel Owens says:

    I prefer the first; but, why did you also murder the Oxford Comma?

    Liked by 1 person

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