My bones creaked as I stretched my legs. I was too tall for the couch I was laying on and my feet dangled over the edge of the arm rest. They were bare and, like the rest of me, milky white. I often wondered if I should invest in a pair of shoes or something. I mean, I didn’t really need them but I did look pretty silly with nothing on my feet. Maybe a pair of high tops.
“How long have you felt like this?” The Doctor asked. I could never remember his name so I just called him “The Doctor.” He was a skinny man with blond hair and a strong jawline. He looked nothing like a psychiatrist. Disappointing.
I’d completely lost my train of thought.
“Five minutes, maybe?” I asked. “Wait, we were talking about shoes, right?”
“Sorry,” I said. “Sometimes I confuse the conversation I’m having in my head with the one I’m having out loud.” I paused for a moment to reflect on that. “Does that mean I’m crazy?”
“Well, that depends on what the conversations in your head are about.”
“Shoes,” I said.
“OK, good.” I followed the mental breadcrumbs back to what he’d asked me. “I guess I’ve felt…off my entire life. But it’s only been lately that I’ve really felt disconnected from everyone else.”
That was an appropriate answer, right? It must have been because he made a noise that was meant to convince me he was concerned.
His pen scratched against the pad in his lap. One quick look into his mind told me he was shading the doodles he’d been drawing of voluptuous women with big eyes and…antlers? What the fuck?
“Do you want to know what I think?” he asked.
“No. I’m just paying you to use your tiny couch.” I shifted my position to try and find some kind of comfort on the leather torture device.
“I think you feel like an outsider because you are one.”
“I feel like you’re purposely distancing yourself from everyone around you. When was the last time you initiated a conversation? When was the last time you actually tried to make a friend?”
He had a point. But I had my reasons.
“Bad things happen,” I said. “It’s like…” I stared at my long, boney fingers intertwined on my stomach. The whiteness of my skin was amplified by the dark robe they rested on. “It’s like anyone who comes in contact with me dies.”
“Like Death, Death. The Grim Reaper. The Ferryman.”
I chuckled. “Are you going somewhere with this?”
He rested his chin on his hand and glared at me. “Well,” he said. “Don’t you think that might have something to do with it?”
I looked up at my scythe resting against the wall. The blade glowed and the handle was made from the spine of a species that was long since extinct. I sighed.
“I wasn’t being literal, Doc.”
“Yes, you were.”
“Yes, I was,” I admitted.
I pushed myself up into a seated position with a groan.
“You know, I lost that Ferryman gig,” I said.
“Well the whole thing wasn’t very efficient. One guy, one tiny little boat. Do you have any idea how many people die every day?”
“I don’t know. I don’t count. It’s a lot.”
“Hmm…” He scratched on his pad again.
“They use an actual ferry now. Holds like, I dunno, a hundred thousand souls or something. Doesn’t even have a captain. It uses some kind of computerized navigation system.” I shook my head. “No respect for the old school.”
“You’re old school?”
“So old school.”
Again with the pen. It was really starting to annoy me. Especially considering that I knew he wasn’t writing anything down. With a wave of my hand, the pad flew off of his lap and hit the wall across the room. He looked surprised for a brief second before giving me an annoyed look. I glared back at him until he sighed and clicked his pen.
“Well,” he said. “Have you tried not killing everyone you meet?”
“I haven’t killed you,” I said. “Yet.” I could hear him shift in his seat and I grinned. “I don’t really have much of a choice. I have this list.” I pointed my thumb at the giant book laying on the floor. It was six inches thick, weighed 40 pounds, and was made from the skin of Satan himself. Or so I’d been told. “If you’re on the list, you have to die. That’s all there is to it.”
“I get that,” he said. “But why not find someone who isn’t on the list?”
“Everyone’s on the list,” I said. “Well, almost everyone.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want anything to do with those guys.”
“Well, why not find someone who’s lower down on this list? Someone who’s got a few years left.”
The skinny little pervert was onto something. Maybe I could find a friend. Someone to talk to, to…well, I wasn’t really sure what I’d do if I did have one. Sit on a bench and feed ducks? Is that a thing?
“It looks like we’re out of time,” The Doctor said.
“You’re out of time.”
I jumped up from the couch and snatched my scythe from the wall. I pulled my hood up over my head and pointed the blade directly at him. Its glow intensified and the lights in the room dimmed, casting long shadows throughout the office.
The Doctor slowly stood up and backed away. He looked at me with fear in his eyes. The same terror I’d seen countless times from those I’d taken.
“No,” he said. “Please. Not yet. My family.”
I lowered my scythe and laughed. “I’m just fucking with you.” The room was bright again and the blade of my scythe returned to its usual glow. The Doctor struggled to regain his composure but he was sweating like a nun in a cucumber field.
I grabbed my book from the floor and held it under my arm. I hated carrying that thing. It was the bane of my existence. My Marley’s chains. Cursed to carry it for all of eternity.
“You know,” The Doctor spoke with a shaky voice as he wiped the sweat from his face. He slowly sank back into his chair. “I mean no disrespect but you aren’t going to make many friends looking like that.”
I looked in the small mirror on the wall. My hood buried my face in shadows but you could still make out my features. I was skeleton thin with a layer of white skin pulled tightly over my bones. My eyes were as black as coal. I had no nose, no lips, and was completely bald from head to toe. I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Looks are only skin deep, Doc,” I said. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you not to judge a book by its cover?”
He only stared at me with a raised eyebrow.
He was probably right. If I wanted to fit in, I needed to at least look the part. I glanced at my reflection again and closed my eyes. My entire body tingled and I could feel my robe loosening. When I opened my eyes, the mirror revealed a young man in his early twenties. I had short, brown hair, fair skin, full lips, and a nose. By human standards, I wasn’t bad looking.
I looked back at the Doc. “Better?” I asked.
He nodded, his jaw hanging open. I probably shouldn’t have transformed right in front of him like that. He’d gotten used to me over the last few weeks but he was still a little squeamish.
I turned the handle and opened the office door. It didn’t open to the world of the living. It was rare for me to enter that world when it wasn’t part of the job. I usually travelled through the spirit world. It kept me hidden and it was a Hell of a lot faster.
The Doctor had left his chair again and was bending over to pick up his notebook.
“All right, Doc,” I said. “I’ll see you soon.” He paused for a second before straightening his back. Everyone hated when I said that.
I stepped out of the office and into the darkness with a smile on my face. Today, I was going to make a friend.