He flips the cards around. “Now, pick one.”
I shrug, and grab randomly from his hand. “Wait. What the—?” This isn’t a normal card. I look back at him, but his face is slowly sinking back, falling unto itself like little grains of sand. The card shows… him, but it definitely looked normal before he flipped the cards around. I look down and recoil in horror. He has completely sifted down into sand, all of him but his eyes, which are following me around.
The scenery changes. I barely have time to register it before a gust of wind blows his grains straight back at my face. Sneezing and coughing, I walk around the field, attempting to locate where on earth I have gone. I pick up a flower, but as soon as I do this, my world is thrown upside down.
Now I stand on the ceiling of a house, upside down. Watching people watching television. “Wait a second.” They’re my parents! Without me. They are sitting in silence, only the TV breaking through. I try to signal to them, but no sound comes out of my mouth. And I don’t think they would be able to see me anyway.
“How does it look?” His breath is in my ear, his voice grating me down to my very bones. Nevertheless, I try to remain calm.
“W-What do you mean?” I ask, my voice wavering, cracking due to my fear.
“Life without you in the world.”
“Do you mean—?”
“You’ve been dead for six months. And I… am Death.”
I finally turn to look at him, and it’s the same magician. But, for some reason, his features look distorted. He’s shimmering in the lights of the living room. “Why are you doing this?”
“Oh, a number of reasons. Everyone has a clock, you see.” As he says this the room vanishes, to be replaced by some sort of throne room. But instead of chairs and tables around the room, there are just—
“Hourglasses.” So, this is what he meant by a clock. “Is this… everyone in the world?”
“Yes. All 7.6 billion of you. I know when all of you are going to die. For example, your classmate, Julie—”
“Don’t say it.”
“—is going to live a long and happy life, up ‘til the age of eighty-six.”
“Oh. Okay.” I wander around in awe, taking in the sheer size of the room that I have been taken to. “So, what was with that weird light show that scared the crap out of me?”
“It was a test.”
“Of course it was.” I shake my head, realising that I was insulting Death himself, and quickly shut up.
“To see whether you are pure. And I have to say, you seem to be. Most people would have asked how they died already.”
That probably would have been my next question. I hesitate, allowing Death to slip in and tell me, “You died in a car accident.” The world moves around us again, allowing me to see what is presumably the fatal accident.
But I don’t feel the same connection to the scene. Death waits for my reaction, but when I just watch with interest, he whisks us away to yet another scene.
“Where are we now?”
“I’ve made my evaluation.” Death fails to answer my question, which doesn’t escape my notice.
He grins. “Welcome to Hell.”