“Oh, great,” said Death, “you’re not supposed to be here yet.” Death drew out his clipboard and flipped through the pages, thoroughly annoyed.
“I’m not?” asked Daniel, “That’s great! Oh man, what a relief!”
“No, it’s really not,” Death replied as he roughly tore a sheet away.
“But…it means I’m not dead,” Daniel said, confused. “I get to go back…right?”
Death chuckled, though he wasn’t really amused. “Do you recall your last moments?” he asked as he scribbled upon the piece of paper using a phalange bone with bright red blood on the tip.
“I mean, I think so,” ventured Daniel. “It was kinda crazy…like, some screaming and…I was in my car, right?”
“Mm-hm,” Death confirmed, nodding beneath his hood. He handed the paper to Daniel, who took it, timidly.
“What’s this?” Daniel inquired, scanning the page. At the top it read “Voluntary Forfeiture of Life Privileges.” The rest of the form was populated with his information, written in bright red.
“Well, see, here’s the thing,” said Death, scratching his skull through the thick cover, “your body is…well, it’s kind of a mess right now. I could put you back in it, but you’ve kind of been proclaimed dead for a couple hours. You know what kind of havoc that would wreak? Your cold, dead, mushed up body springing back to life?”
“I mean, that’s not really my fault, though,” Daniel protested. “I wasn’t supposed to die, was I? How has it been hours? Shouldn’t it have just happened?”
“Look, man, I’m doin’ this by myself,” sighed Death. “Sometimes it takes a few minutes to get to you. Sometimes it takes longer. The question is: do you wanna freak out your family, doctors, everyone? Not only that but you’ll be baffling science for…well, forever, really. And you’ll be messing with religion and with… I mean, it’s just- just a terrible idea to go back.”
“But I like my life,” Daniel said, sadly. “And it’s your fault.”
“I mean, your body died. That’s why I’m here. Some stupid clerical mix-up must have put you in that position. Not that I’m passing the buck here, but give me a break, huh?”
“Give you a break?” Daniel, asked, growing heated. “It was my life! And it’s over because of some- some- some clerical error?!”
“Hey, Daniel, buddy, it’s not that bad. The afterlife is all right, you know? No more worrying about bills or whether the girl is going to swipe right or left. No bosses, no flat tires, no hangovers. It’s got its upsides, is what I’m saying.”
Daniel looked at the hooded figure, his eyes pleading. He then looked at the sheet of paper in his hands. He may not have been alive, but he was still…something. Maybe it was better that he didn’t have the worries of life following him around anymore. Maybe the next stage of existence held something truly exciting for him. Maybe he was in store for a grand adventure.
Daniel took a breath and held out his hand. Death handed him the bone pen and Daniel signed at the bottom. He handed them back to Death, who tucked them into his sleeve.
“You’re doing the right thing, here,” Death reassured him. Death then gestured with his arm and Daniel walked through a doorway that manifested in front of them.
He opened it to see a swirling inferno, monstrous beings dancing around a pit of bodies, writhing in agony. They somehow were howling and screaming while they simultaneously gasped for breath. In the distance, a massive monster with a crown of flame oversaw the sprawling hellscape. It raised a hand and beckoned Daniel with his finger, a smile creeping over its grotesque visage.
Daniel turned to Death, terrified and confused.
“But you said no more worries!” Daniel protested.
“And you don’t have to, anymore,” Death shrugged. “No more worries about the police finding the bodies, either.” He then pressed the base of his sickle against Daniel’s chest and gave the slightest nudge. Daniel plummeted backward, screaming the entire way.
Death gave a relieved sigh. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”
He then pulled out his long list and crossed off yet another dick who suffered a “clerical error.”