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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Death · #2261428
Like I said, Death wangles a holiday. Winner of Weekly SCREAMS!!! 11.05.21.
Death Takes a Vacation

“But Boss, I’ve never had a vacation. You know how long I’ve worked for you, never a day off sick and not a word of complaint. I’ve been faithful to the job and you know it. Is it my fault if Death has never had a vacation before? And that’s hardly an argument to prevent me having one. I must have nearly a thousand days’ leave accrued to me by now. Don’t make me take it to the union.”

Hades sat up behind his desk, suddenly alert. “Union? What union? Since when does Death have a union?”

Death shrugged, his shoulder bones creaking in the unaccustomed position. “Well, it was worth a try. But I could form one if you push me to it.”

“Hah,” said Hades, obviously unconvinced. “And who would be members, apart from yourself?”

“There’s that fat old Greek guy, Thanatos, for one,” returned Death. “He’s afraid of me and will do anything I tell him. Pluto would probably join, even though he’s still smarting after being kicked out of the Planets Club. And Anubis, he’s always up for anything that promises some fun. Mitch Landecuddly…”

“Mictlantecuhtli,” corrected Hades. “You were always hopeless at Aztec names.”

“But he loves a bit of trouble. He’d join like a shot. And, talking of trouble, there’s no better pot stirrer than Kali. How about if I ask her, then?”

Hades’ mouth had fallen open at mention of the last name. “Kali? You wouldn’t, would you?”

“Try me,” said Death.

Hades raised his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright, I’ll work something out. But who can I get to take over while you’re gone?”

“Thanatos is the official sub. Let him do it.”

“I dunno. It’s been over two thousand years since he last did the job. I’m not sure he could cope, now that he’s so out of condition. And old. He’s a shadow of his former self.”

"He’ll get back into the swing of it, I’m sure,” said Death, grinning at his intended double meaning. “And, who knows? It could be the making of him, giving him something to do again.”

Hades’ expression dropped in doubt. “Don’t see it myself. But I’ll think about it. How long would you want?”

“Oh, a couple of weeks ought to crack it. I’m not greedy.”

“Only two weeks? Shit, I thought you’d be expecting a century at least.”

Death laughed. “Fat chance of that. Look who I’m having to negotiate with.”


So it was that Death arrived, heavily disguised in short-sleeved and colourful shirt, Bermuda shorts and flip flops, all surmounted with an enormously-brimmed sombrero, on a beach on a tiny Greek island. In all his service, he had only visited the island on a few thousand occasions before and so figured that it was about as strange to death as one could get these days. It was a break from the daily round he needed and a break was what he intended to get.

The irony of a sun bather only a few feet from him suffering a heart attack was not lost on him, therefore. For a moment, he felt an urge to get up and greet the poor guy’s spirit but then he remembered about the vacation and subsided to watch while someone else, presumably Thanatos, attended to the matter.

Nothing happened. The minutes ticked by while Death waited and the shadowy spirit hovered above the man’s body, obviously undecided where to go and what to do. Others began to notice and gathered round to discuss what they could do to help. Someone produced a cell phone and dialled for the emergency services. Another claimed to know CPR and set to on the fellow’s chest to the accompaniment of much encouragement from the growing crowd.

So many people had joined the group that Death could no longer see what was happening. He rose and moved away, still watching and waiting for the arrival of Thanatos. The spirit managed to escape from the crowd and hovered on the outskirts, unnoticed, and still undecided what to do with itself.

And still there was no sign of Thanatos.

When the police arrived, closely followed by an ambulance, the crowd moved away and paramedics began to work on the body. When it was covered over and taken away, Death finally took pity on the spirit. He moved closer to it and spoke.

“Sorry about the delay but there’s obviously some mix up at headquarters. I’m supposed to be on vacation but I can help you out, if you’d like.”

The spirit seemed surprised to be seen after so long going unnoticed. “Who are you?” it asked.

Death took off his sombrero so that his domed skull shone white in the sunlight. “They call me Death. But, as I said, I’m on holiday and someone else is supposed to lead you to the judgement hall. This kind of thing is normally attended to very quickly and I can’t imagine what’s keeping my substitute.”

It seemed the spirit was still unconvinced. “Where are the robes and scythe then?” he asked.

“I’m on vacation,” explained Death. “Don’t want to be recognised. Now, d’you want me to help you out or what?”

“What happens if I don’t go with you?”

“You’ll just hang about this beach for eternity. Might get some fame as the ghost of the haunted beach, I suppose, but there’s no real future in it. I’m doing you a favour by making this offer to help you out.”

Finally the spirit surrendered. “Okay, I guess I don’t really have a choice. What do we do now?”

“First thing is, we get off this beach. Then I’ll have a quick word with headquarters and send you off. What’s your name, by the way? They're going to want to know that.”

“George. George Panoukis.”


Ten minutes later, Death was sitting in the bar of his hotel, having consigned George to the usual delivery service after advising HQ of his forthcoming arrival. He’d yelled a bit about the failure of anyone to pick up the spirit but, as the mail clerk said, it wasn’t any fault of his and he had no idea what had caused the problem.

He swirled his drink round in his glass, wondering what was happening back at work to cause even one spirit to be overlooked. This had never happened in all the millenia that he’d held the post. Still, it wasn’t his problem now. The whole point of a vacation was to get away from the constant grind of work.

Two Greek fellows down at the other end of the bar suddenly started shouting at each other. One smashed a bottle against the bar and threatened the other with it. The other produced a knife and they started circling each other, looking for an opening. They were both very drunk and it was more a matter of staggering than a true dance of death, but the weapons were sharp and jagged enough to be dangerous. They waved them in each other’s faces, clearly ready to use them.

Then the bottle guy backed up against a bar stool and began to fall over. Mr Knife saw his chance and blundered forward. They fell together, writhing and jabbing at each other, while other customers began to close in, whether to break up the fight or to participate, Death could not tell. A woman screamed and things went silent.

As the crowd began to thin, with people backing away, it became apparent that both men were lying still, one in a pool of blood that had issued from a gaping gap in his neck, the other with the knife still protruding from his chest. They were either dead or dying and Death began to wonder about his choice of a vacation spot. Three deaths in one day must surely be more than the island had ever seen before.

Two spirits rose from the carnage and hovered near the ceiling, staring down at their lifeless bodies below. Whatever the fight had been about, it seemed not to matter now for they paid no attention to each other.

Death rose from his seat and approached the spirits. Someone should have been present by now to lead the dead to their reward and Death was not about to waste time with this pair. It was becoming clear that the arrangements made to cover him during his vacation had gone wrong and he would have to deal with things until he could get back and sort it out.

The two spirits were named Theo and Nico. They proved quite amenable to Death’s offer of assistance and followed him meekly from the room. The fight had exhausted their energies for the moment.

After another shouting match with the mail clerk, Death merely venting his irritation at the turn of events and the clerk protesting that it wasn’t his fault, Theo and Nico departed on their trip to judgement. Death went up to his room to think.

As he sat on the bed, skull in bony hands, the noise of screeching tyres drifted in through the window. A bang followed, then silence. Death did not even lift his gaze from the carpet to inspect this latest disaster. It was beginning to filter through that this was more than usually happened on this isolated island of peace and paradise. It had to be something to do with himself.

Death had come to the tiny island of Mikos, that was at last abundantly clear. He must have been dreaming, to think that he could get away from himself, even if just for a week or two. If his vacation was going to be a constant round of the same old marshalling of the deceased, there was very little point to the exercise. He might as well be back in the job and getting his rightful respect and bonuses as usual. And he wouldn’t have to dress in these ridiculous clothes.

His mind made up, Death tore off his shirt and shorts, retrieved his robes from the closet and removed his scythe from its hidden compartment in the suitcase. He kept the flip flops on, not having brought any other footwear with him. Without bothering to take his remaining belongings, and forgetting that he intended to take the towels with him on leaving, Death vacated the room, swept past the desk without paying, collected the three lost spirits from the road accident on the corner, and departed for Headquarters. Death had departed Mikos.


There was chaos in Hades’ office when Death returned. A crowd of protesting administrators were standing around the desk, waving pieces of paper in the air and all shouting their problems at the hunched over Boss, who had his hands over his ears as he attempted to deaden the noise around him.

Death made his entrance and coughed to gain attention. They all turned to see that Death had returned. In joyful exultation, they mobbed him with welcome, apparently relieved at his return. It seemed that he had been sorely missed while away.

When the commotion had died down and all administrators left to settle to their usual tasks, Death turned to the Boss. “What the hell was that all about?” he asked.

“It’s that bloody Thanatos. Half an hour after you left, he flitted off to Indonesia to see about some tsunami or other and he hasn’t been seen since. God knows what he’s done with all the casualties because they haven’t been seen here. I’ve had to send out replacement operatives with no experience to cover all the other disasters and it’s resulted in a complete pile up, with nothing arriving for ages and then everyone turning up at once. You saw for yourself the revolt among the pen pushers that caused. I’m going crazy trying to sort out the mess.”

He paused for breath and then added, “Please say you’re back for good. If you don’t return, I’m going to resign and find myself a nice quiet home in the Maldives.”

“Oh, I’m back,” replied Death. “You see, I’ve discovered that I’m good at this job. I like the perks and the bonuses, I like being ever present and I like all the powers I get. And, most of all, I like the dramatic robes and my faithful old scythe. Tell you what, Hades, if I ever mention vacations again, you can tell me to go to hell.”

Word count: 2,073
For Weekly SCREAMS!!! 11.05.21
Prompt: Death goes on vacation... but work always seems to follow.
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