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Death Treats the Company

A madame gets whisked away for her final destination. It's neither good nor bad, just everything she deserves. CHOSEN WORDS: HELL, SCALE, FEATHER

By Karina ThyraPublished about a year ago Updated about a year ago 21 min read
3

I. The So-Called Queen and The Angel of Death

AN ANGEL OF DEATH, COMMONLY KNOWN AS A REAPER, was having a grand time culling souls and transporting them where they had to be. The last on this reaper’s list was a woman, a politician.

The Angels of Death have culled many of those breeds lately. This had given them a great deal of pleasure to morph into a loved one, then morph back to a rather ghastly half-human form. They would do this once they were sure that the soul would not run away.

Now, this breather (for she was still breathing), is having a rather difficult time processing that she could see her body and the many weeping people beside it. Were they planning on removing her plug? She wondered how much of an ingrate these people were.

It is now time, the Angel of Death thought. Moments later, the reaper transfigured into her late husband, who was also a politician in his lifetime.

As the husband, the Angel of Death tapped the woman’s shoulder. When the woman turned around, he smiled that reserved, but loving and charming smile. “It’s time to go now”, he said, reaching out his slender, brown hand for the woman.

“Husband?” the woman said, quite surprised to see that her husband came to fetch her. He had only been buried recently, after a few decades of being placed in a refrigerated coffin.

She did not expect him to be the one to get her, neither did she want him to.

By Frederic Köberl on Unsplash

The woman had many ambitious plans: she wanted the country to flourish, but in her vision, it would be like Ancient Rome. She would not merely be Mater Patriae, but also wield more power than Caesar. Her late husband’s plans were similar to this but they didn't have the imperial flair she desired. Now she had the opportunity, but something happened. At present, she laid in a hospital bed with her children planning to have her life support removed.

Her deceased husband was an intelligent, cunning, and ambitious young man with such virility and charisma that despite his humble features, he could woo anyone and they would be at his mercy. Except for her, however, she had him under her spell. She herself was intelligent, cunning, and ambitious. On top of it all, she was a Beauty Queen. In spite of her old age, she still considered herself fit to be a Queen and refused to retire. She would be better than Elizabeth, she thought to herself.

Had she not tripped, oh, she swears someone had orchestrated that, for she could wear high heels and still walk in a straight line even if you blindfolded her - doctors and other specialists would never have diagnosed her with bone cancer.

The thing with some types of cancer is they can remain undetected. Then, something happens, like in this human's case. She tripped, and world-renowned doctors discovered her cancer. Despite their expertise, she has gradually deteriorated ever since. World-class my foot! The woman thought. She would fight her husband again for power, she had lived this long! Who knows, she could repossess her body.

She had been wandering for days as the life support was keeping her body alive, but now that the husband came to take her with him, she knows that these could very well be her last moments on Earth. During her wandering period, she had become more skilled in astral traveling. At one point in her life, she practiced meditation, hoping she could project herself into the astral realm and look into the contents of her husband's vault. She ultimately uncovered some secrets through her own craftiness, thereby extending their family's reign for at least two more decades. She was highly enjoying being in the limelight. people finally treated her with awe and respect as they would a monarch. If they did not, she could say ‘Off with your head!’ and it shall happen to those who dare defy her.

By Maria Oswalt on Unsplash

But she did not just require someone’s head to be cut off. That would be too swift and easy. Make them suffer and experience true pain. That is how it would be if they abused their queen’s hospitality, grace, and generosity. She is the type to know all her subjects’ names, tastes in food, clothing, and the culture of their people. She could provide anything in exchange for loyalty and allegiance. Even those activists and journalists—she could compensate them all if they would like. However, they would always want her to beg for it. A bag of cash in one’s hands or even more in a bank account is a clear enough message. Anything that exceeds the luxury and comfort she could provide is practically demanding her to beg. A Queen. Does. Not. Beg. And she does not negotiate with commoners, either; you would have to be an exceptional neophyte for her to even consider letting you live after you attempt to undermine her.

Some of her children had inherited this trait. It was unknown if it came from the husband or her.

AS IN LIFE, SO IT SHALL BE IN HALF-LIFE, she will revive herself because she is a strong-willed woman; a force of force. She willed herself in such a position to gain momentum, and then she launched herself towards her body.

She did it.

She was inside her body.

Slowly, the woman tried to wiggle her fingers, then her hands, but nothing happened. She tried to feel inside her body. She was vaguely aware of the husband’s amused stare. She had been doing this for the last ten days. In the face of adversity, she attempted it again with all her might. Unfortunately, like all her previous attempts, her spectral self in a solid body felt like an ill-fitting Filipiniana; snug, but not a flattering fit.

The figure of her husband approached her.

“It’s futile. Let’s go now. Your time in this world is over”, he said calmly. “Come with me to the other side.” He did not flash a smile, but his eyes were pleading, like the ones the real husband would do when he begs for the wife to lose an argument.

“NO!” She spat. “YOUR time in the world is over, dear husband!

"Do you see this body? I still have life support. Unlike in your heyday, all the best doctors and specialists and all the best technology of the 21st century are at my disposal!”

The Angel of Death is an extremely patient being. They have been in this world for as long as there was life. The reapers have witnessed everything and have come to terms with the fact that some humans can be very Zen about the whole dying thing, and have accepted that material things in the world are nothing compared to what lies ahead. Then, there are people like this woman: very stubborn and will heckle even with a reaper just to live again.

It is imperative for reapers to be very patient with the dead, for they do not always know that they are dead. They may get thoroughly confused if the Angels of Death do not broach the subject gently.

This woman was already deceased. She was merely in the reaper’s sandbox, so the latter could undertake the course of action for her.

TYPICALLY, this reaper possesses incredible patience. However, today, of all days, the Angel of Death does not have all day to waste. Their Boss (Death), is treating everyone out for dinner in Chicago to eat deep dish pizzas and other savory human food. Death, one of the horsepeople, the integral horseperson at that, absolutely enjoys the peculiar human food and occasionally treats the reapers when they cull certain troublesome people.

Like today.

Many of this particular Angel’s colleagues have reaped some of the world’s most cruel and hated personalities. It brings the reapers great amusement when more than half of the mourners at these people’s wakes and funerals are actually pleased that another poor excuse of a human has bit the dust.

Death shall reward those who have reaped these cumbersome souls in their respective jurisdictions with their choice foods in a favored pizza place.

By Manvi Mathur on Unsplash

The reapers could also eat whatever they want, whenever they want, but it is rare that the boss would spend actual human currency on them. And it was always nice to be enlightened by the wisdom of someone who is as old as life itself.

THE ANGEL OF DEATH glanced at the wall clock of the hospital. From there, the reaper could see all the other reapers already flocking to the intended restaurant after a long day’s work. Only ten more reapers, well eleven, if this one is to be counted.

“Alright, playtime is over.”

“Yes. Leave now, I do not want to spend eternity with you,” the woman said scathingly. She huffed and puffed and stomped across the other side of the large room.

“Woman, you are dead,” said the reaper coolly. “Your family -,” gestured the reaper to the crying adults in the room, “- is now ‘mourning’ you as we speak. Your enemies and more than half of this nation you deceived are throwing parties in honor of your death.” The Angel of Death was very tempted to add, I would have been partying as well if you’re not being so difficult.

Instead, the Angel of Death snapped its fingers.

The woman never looked at her husband since stomping towards the other side of the room. Therefore, she did not witness him transform into a half-human, half rather disconcerting skeletal figure. She heard what she thought was her husband snap his fingers. In an instant, the woman and the reaper were outside the congested streets of the national capital. They were traveling at such a speed that only a few of the historical landmarks – Fort Santiago, Bagumbayan (where the national hero was killed), the Heroes’ Cemetery, and the historic avenue named after man-of-letters Epifanio de los Santos – registered in the woman’s consciousness.

They were above and now below where the crowded city trains are; people were passing through them and if these people felt a sudden and breezy chill, they would be grateful for it; the humidity made them feel like their own sweat was melting them.

You must wonder why the woman was quiet throughout the ordeal. The reason she was quiet is this:

No sooner had she opened her eyes and mouth to speak when she heard the reaper snap its fingers, then she saw the ghastly, inhuman face of the Angel of Death. She would faint if she was still breathing, but even if she still breathed, she would not because Filipinos do not faint. Thus, she was stunned into silence.

II. The Angel of Death Honors a Last Wish

WHEN PEOPLE ARE ON THEIR DEATHBEDS, they usually have their final dying wishes. Never mind what is on their testaments; the whole immediate family has to be present as a religious authority does the Last Rites for the dying person. The woman was not awake when this was happening, and her ghostly self was not present either. She had been roaming the world’s fashion districts at such speed only those untethered to a human body could do. Since she was not awake, she could not have offered her last words, her dying wish. She could have done those things while she was awake, days after her diagnosis. However, she had an iron will. She did not want to let cancer beat her as it did her canary-clad rival.

Our acquaintance believed herself to be a queen, a strategist, and a warrior. Had she not outlived most of her adversaries? Had she not successfully reinstated her family’s political dynasty? Even her late husband could not do that. He planted the seeds; she made them grow, cultivated them, and made her legacy. It was never the old man who deserved the credit; it was hers alone.

So what did she want for the last time? Well, she wanted to see her life, and she wanted her deathly companion to tell her what they think. She had finally taken a good look at the reaper. She refused to call the reaper “The Angel (Of Death)” despite the reaper’s introduction and found she could not refer to the reaper as neither he nor she, because its features were so ambiguous it could pass as both. Although the woman was disconcerted by what she sees, her mind has finally registered that it is possible for something to be both human and another thing at once. The reaper’s face was like that; both a beautifully ambiguous human face and a skeleton, although now in its natural form, the reaper is all these and wholly spectral.

THE WOMAN wanted the two of them to witness and relive her life and legacy - she did not want to see herself back at the hospital, so we omit her death—and, at her request, we call her queen. This is her last moment on Earth, and we should at least grant that little privilege.

Thus, the Angel of Death and the so-called queen went on traversing what humans define as ‘spacetime’, reviewing a stream of memories that surrounded them, and it became more like a river as they went on. The so-called queen was marveling at it, telling the bored Angel of Death the story behind the events, as if the reaper could not see how the life reel unfolds.

“And this is the part where I met that man you impersonated earlier. He was never quite the looker. But look at me then. I was good-looking enough for the both of us.” She also said something about how very lucky their grandchildren were because they took after her instead of him.

The woman kept on blabbering the details of her life, practically praising the results of her ingenuity.

“Self-praise is no praise,” the Angel of Death said.

“I have to give myself credit since you are not exactly honoring my wish.”

“You asked me to tell you what I think regarding your life reels”, the Angel of Death said nonchalantly.

The woman looked stern rather than offended. She did not work hard until her dying day just to be disrespected by a lowly creature. In her book, humans have always been the best creations, which was why a certain angel got envious and ultimately fell from grace. A human presence and will can be difficult to banish, unlike those of the occult. It may take just a few items from her well-stocked pantry to drive them out.

“I noticed that you were in a bit of a rush,” she finally said. “Would you like me to make this more unbearable for you?”

“Listen, lady. You will not do well to threaten an Angel of Death. I could send you off, just like that,” the reaper said, with a snap of fingers. “You are lucky I even honored you with the last wish.”

“Oh, but I am not threatening you or anything,” the woman said in a voice that implied she was most definitely threatening the unlucky creature.

She had read a great amount of literature during her lifetime. This includes even the most obscure writings on the occult. She had varied interests in literature, and she was sure that everything she has ever read would be of great use to her one day. Today might very well be that day.

They had just witnessed her family’s massive acquisition of first-edition books on practically every subject under the sun. Although many do not know it about her, she was quite the bookworm.

Now, the Angel of Death is a very acute observer of peoples. The reaper did not want to be detained for longer than necessary. This woman acted like a queen; she feels entitled to the role, so the Angel of Death decided to humor her by comparing her to various femme fatales that they have culled through the millennia.

By Steffen Gundermann on Unsplash

In antiquity, one of this reaper’s favorites was Cleopatra. This revelation delighted the former First Lady. To have the same reaper as Cleopatra herself! Imagine what she could brag to all her high-society friends when she meets them in the afterlife:

“… But were you escorted by Cleopatra’s reaper, whom she mistook as the god Osiris? Yes… the Cleopatra, mistress of Julius Caesar and Marc Antony! Her reaper compared the Egyptian to me!”

The Angel of Death could practically see the hamster wheel run faster in the deceased woman’s mind. She had a knowing smile; a smile that meant there must be a silver lining in her death after all.

“Tell me more,” said the wretched old lady.

I did not hate Cleopatra as much as I hate you right now, is what the Angel of Death would have said, but saying this aloud would cause trouble. Reapers are not supposed to harbor grudges on humans, no matter how wretched they may be. Their reward or punishment comes after the reapers grant the human’s last wish within reason.

“Well, Cleopatra, she was highly educated… royalty…”

The woman looked at the Angel of Death expectantly; the expression in her eyes almost said that the reaper’s descriptive words are not enough to compare Cleopatra’s greatness and hers. Worrying about the delay this woman could cause, the Angel of Death continued to talk about Cleopatra’s exploits, and her many lovers and admirers. The reaper coyly added that perhaps the First Lady had her fair share of those too before she had more children with her own Marc Antony.

THEY were now passing through the memories of the so-called queen as a young wife of the President. When she was young, she was beautiful. If Cleopatra had been alive in that decade, Ptolemy’s descendant and the dictator’s wife would have been great friends. However, as great friends in these high-society circles go, both would be civil and speak highly of each other even when amongst their most intimate friends; but they would slander the other when in bed with their lovers.

The Angel of Death ended the story with Arsinoë's demise. She was Cleopatra’s half-sister, whom the latter had ordered to be killed in the footsteps of the temple of Artemis.

This was no surprise for the deceased, for she had read about it. She mouthed an ‘oooh’ to express how juicy the ensuing scandal Arsinoë's death must have caused; almost as if to say she wishes she had been there to witness it; either as a shocked Roman or Cleopatra’s trusted and ever-encouraging servant, we shall never know for sure. But if you know this lady’s character well enough, you can pick a guess, and she would most likely agree with whatever you say.

As they went on, the Angel of Death became more impatient but did very well to hide it. Apparently, if you were a very narcissistic person and a politician on top of that, you will have so many treasured memories – and everything – even those one would not consider ‘best’, will be of such importance to you. The Angel of Death had experienced this plenty of times in the past. However, few of them wanted such memory lane recollection, and they did not live for as long as this woman had.

Well, there was one, someone at least more politically able than this deceased, and did not hide under pretenses, and it was Julia Maesa.

The Angel of Death began telling another story. The so-called queen listened amusedly as she watched her life unfold. They had passed the memory where the young woman was birthing another spawn.

Julia Maesa was not as beautiful as the deceased with us. She really had stern features. A vulture is not what she looked like, but she acted like one, so we will not blame you for referring to her as such. However, like our deceased acquaintance, Maesa too was deified. They pushed her significant contributions to Roman history front and center, but they glossed her crimes over, like what they will do now to the politician on the reaper’s right.

Maesa was a name vaguely familiar to the deceased woman. It would not be surprising, though, as two decades of control over a relatively uneventful period in Roman history isn't a very memorable passage in the books. Plus, Maesa was not the traditional kind of beautiful.

We have to say that the Syrian noblewoman and the Filipina strongwoman beside the Angel of Death may have a lot in common. Not in charisma, for the former had to try but still wouldn't hold a candle to the Filipina's. For the latter, charm comes naturally, and when she looks at anyone, it seems she wears rose-tinted glasses, seeing only the most obvious attribute in a person and using it as a basis for flattery.

What they do have in common are the following: overflowing self-confidence, intellect, ruthlessness, common sense, and a generous dose of Machiavellianism—although the term was yet uncoined in Julia Maesa's time.

Both of them believed that what they did was necessary for the greater good, even if it meant eliminating members of their own kin. The sacrifice, the taint to one's soul, was for the greater good. But what is the greater good? It is them. Hence, the old adage rightly states that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Similarly, the road to power is paved with the heads of people who simply will not keep to themselves for their own sake.

As the two passed through other memories that the Angel of Death had no care for, the bored reaper continued the story of Julia Maesa, omitting unnecessary parts such as the murders of her own blood, and coyly adding that she was not as beautiful as Cleopatra or "you, in your youth, and now."

Most people, especially the old ones, when they die, get to transform back into their prime. But this lady, well into her mid-90s, remained old and rotund. Years of perfectly styled beauty queen beehive hair, large chunky jewelry, and somewhat heavy gowns did not take a toll on the woman's physique, but her awful deeds did. This age was her prime. She revived a self-proclaimed golden age, just like Maesa, reinstating her family's political dynasty on the throne of nearly immeasurable power over millions of people.

"But like Maesa, you died at the height of your career, just when you thought everything was finally going well."

The woman suddenly looked sullen, and the Angel of Death thought they had finally struck her hubris. However, their words apparently triggered a memory, and they were now passing through the events that led to the revolution and her family's subsequent exile. She hated that memory, but it strengthened her resolve. The Angel of Death noticed that her expression, once maudlin and resembling humility, had reverted to vacancy. She watched the memories from the aforementioned historic avenue blankly and then turned to the reaper.

"You know what's funny?" she began. "These people can be so merciful that they become short-sighted! Look at the French in their revolution – they demanded the heads of the nobility!"

The Angel of Death was about to interject, but the woman promptly beat them to it. "No, listen! Listen!" she insisted. "I am thankful that this little revolution was a failure! See, I have successfully reintegrated my family back into society. There was nothing to forgive because we committed no crimes!"

She continued, "The short-sightedness of these people is a defect I don't have because I'm in the highest echelon! I know I am the goddess Malaon in human form. A seer once hinted at that. You will see!"

Despite her belief that she was the reincarnation of a goddess, in all of Creation, reapers are one of those you will meet and cannot charm. It does not matter whether you are Cicero, Bonaparte, Shakespeare, a lesser god, or even this woman who claims to use beauty to foster peace and prosperity.

No.

Because reapers know where you belong, the moment they read your name on their lists.

And where this lady belonged, it was somewhere she deserved to be. It is not ours to decide where it is, but the Heavens’. People can escape the laws of their own making and even usurp the oldest ones if they please, but the laws of the Heavens are uncompromising.

The two had just witnessed a young version of the so-called queen paying respect to the Chinese Chairman. She smiled suddenly, fondly remembering the memory. She had talked about the Chairman’s fondness for her a great deal during her lifetime.

“You know,” she said, looking at the reaper, her doe eyes smiling with her mouth. “I ended the Cold War.”

III. When the Reaper decided Enough is Enough is Enough

STORYTIME WAS OVER.

The deceased woman demanded an explanation. What was her legacy-? She asks. She had tried talking to the reaper to help her out of her current predicament, but it did not work. She had vainly tried staying for much longer, but one could only delay the inevitable for so long.

An explanation was one last attempt. Maybe she could distract this appalling creature and run away. Perhaps, she thinks, she will just haunt Malacañang, her old offices, or the Cultural Center. There are so many iconic and beautiful places, and she could take her pick.

She kept babbling, but this battle is unlike the Cold War she claims to have helped end. At last, the reaper spoke in a booming voice.

“Have you not read your Scriptures? Everything you’ve toiled for in life is meaningless in death.”

She nodded wearily in mock agreement.

“You have failed to love anyone but yourself - even that is meaningless in the end. The sole reason you will show superficial concern for someone is when they will be of use to you. You are like that to everyone. Even your own children. You merely claim to love them because they are an extension of you.” The woman had the audacity to look offended. Her expression became grim, and her large doe eyes narrowed almost into slits. The reaper ignored it.

“Your so-called precious ones! Once you see anyone acts autonomously… free from any of your goading and influence... you are the first one to deliver a crushing blow!”

A debacle ensued.

The Angel of Death compared her to all the other queens and kings they have had the pleasure to bring over to the other side. And like her with the wounded pride, they still have that smug ego that the reapers would have loved to punch off of their arrogant faces.

The woman’s ears burned. She did not like the odious comparison to these people. She surpassed them all; she is sublime, and therefore, incomparable.

“The world does not revolve around you, no matter how much you think it does. In the overall insignificance of all of you in this vast Creation, you are just slightly less insignificant,” the Angel Death said, gesturing bony fingers to point just how minuscule and unimportant she was relative to the vast expanse of reality, more so, to the stars in all the universes. “You are just a minuscule part of the infinitesimal ripple across the universe.”

She was about to retort something, but the reaper waved her to be silent. Until they ultimately reached another dimension where The Scale was located, the Angel of Death did not enable her to speak.

The Angel of Death had given this woman a chance for repentance, the sole reason reapers even bother humoring the last wishes (within reason) of the deceased; they wanted to know the humanity of the person they accompany over to the other side. It was better than an awkward silence throughout the ordeal. This Angel of Death pretended to succumb to the woman’s ostentatious charm, thinking there would be substance to it—but there was none. Such airs can hypnotize only humans.

THEY HAVE ARRIVED AT THE SCALE. The woman had read of this in one of her books. She hoped. She fully believes her heart will be lighter than the feather.

The weighing took only a moment.

A deciding moment.

Kind of like when she had agreed on a whirlwind romance with the man who became her husband for the next three decades of her life; when she had decided on matters that defined the nation; when she had been plotted against by the tiny woman with a perpetual fly on her face; when she discovered she suffered from cancer, and when she died.

These moments took a second, minute, or perhaps longer… like hours or days. Despite that, one would not expect it to come so fast, no matter how long one has prepared for it. Therefore, it was the moment.

TWO DOORS suddenly appeared in front of her, and the reaper enabled her to talk again. These doors reminded her of how she had dealt with people during her life. There is no choice. There was never one; the choice was already made without her knowledge, and she was only being given the illusion of it.

The realization overwhelmed her, and for the first time in her entire life (and now death), she screamed in agony. Her eyes reflected the pain and resentment that has ruptured thousands and thousands of people during and after the family’s tyranny.

The Angel of Death would remember it forever.

By Simon Berger on Unsplash

THE ELEVEN OTHER REAPERS shuddered in their seats, vividly witnessing everything in their telepathic links. It was justice served.

Death, at the head of the table, merely cocked an amused smirk as she sliced the pizza on her plate.

Short StorySatireMysteryHistoricalFableAdventureFantasy
3

About the Creator

Karina Thyra

Fangirl of sorts.

Twitter: @ArianaGsparks

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  • Kenny Penn23 days ago

    Another Karma themed story, I loved it. She got exactly what she deserved, and man did I ever laugh at the pizza party thing.

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