I scream as Death had snuck up behind me. Again.

“I apologize for the surprise, but you seemed puzzled.”

My heart is racing in my chest. How often do I gotta deal with this?

“Of course I’m confused! I knocked on the door, but my daughter couldn’t see me!

Death merely smiles that oddly comforting smile of his.

“Of course she couldn’t. You’re a ghost.”

“I’m a ghost?”

He snaps his fingers, returning us to the room we were in before. The floral walls feel a lot less uplifting now.

“You don’t have a body, but you still have your emotions. And emotions are power. The possibility of reuniting with your family pushed them to a boiling point, temporarily enabling you to knock on the door.”

“So I get emotional and I can touch stuff?”

Death gives a less comforting smile, and begins pacing around the room.

“Mr. Rodriguez, you cannot be reunited with your family. Your life is over. What I just showed you is what you can look forward to if you refuse to move on. An eternity of being unable to hold your daughter. Never kissing your wife again. You would barely be there.”

I shake my head.

“What if that’s fine with me? What if I want to be with them no matter what?”

“Have you ever wondered how a haunted house is made? Over time, you’d lose your mind. You’d become pure anger and madness. The good news is you’d likely be able to touch your family again. The bad news is you’d likely kill them.”

It was said as a threat. I know he didn’t mean to, and was just explaining what would happen, but it came out as a threat. I would hurt them.

“Why do you care? I thought it wasn’t your job to worry about them.” I cross my arms. I consider going back to the chair, but I’m unsure if that’s wise. If I have to defend myself, I should be standing.

“My job is to reap spirits. If you start killing in your insanity, my job becomes more difficult. Besides, I know you don’t want to hurt anyone.”

I can’t deal with this. How are you supposed to deal with being dead? I need a plan. I need to figure out how to get back to my family.

I need to buy time.

“Fine. But only if you’ll grant me a favor.”

Death cocks his head at me. I think he expected me to be a harder sell.

“That depends on the favor.” He stands up and walks in front of me.

“Tell me my family’s future. Let me know they’re okay. If I get that, I am willing to pass on without any trouble.”

His face loses the bright luster he’s had since we met.

“I’m afraid I cannot. Fate is rather picky, and doesn’t like anyone seeing his work.”

“Bullshit! I’m dead. I can’t know? It’s not like I can do anything about it.”

He sighs and turns away from me, facing the door.

“I am sorry. With all my power, this is the one thing I cannot grant, even if I were willing.”

Is there anything I can do? My request was only half a stall. I think I might be okay if I know what happens to my family.

I look around the room wondering what else I can do, when a glint off the door catches my eye. The knob has a keyhole.

The door was locked earlier when I tried to open it, but there must be a key if it has a lock right?

“Mr. Rodriguez, I need you to choose, and I need you to choose correctly. You cannot remain.”

He’s still talking. Still not looking. I reach for the nearby vase.

This is the dumbest idea I’ve had since college.

I smash the vase on his head and he collapses on the ground.

I just knocked Death unconscious…

That was awesome!

I kneel down and start rifling through his pockets. I feel his coat and find what I’m looking for: an odd shaped lump. I reach in his inside jacket pocket and find a ring of keys. There’s a lot of them too. House key, locker key, car key. Death apparently owns a Cadillac. One was even twisted in on itself in an impossible shape, but I still intrinsically know it’s a key. Weird.

I start trying them all on the lock on the door. As I sift through key after key, I notice a weird sensation. The keys feel alive in my had. It’s not like they’re moving, but they feel wrong to hold. I can’t really explain.

“Ugh…” Death groans behind me.

Shit! He’s finally coming around. I have to hurry. I keep trying key after key until a little gold key unlocks the door. I open it and quickly go through, closing it shut on the other side. I pop the key in and lock it again.

My head thunks against the door, hoping there’s no way to follow me. I mean, he did teleport me home what’s to stop him from following me here? And what if he catches me?

“What am I worried about? What’s the worst that can happen? I’m already dead right?”

…Something feels wrong behind me. Oh god, he’s right behind me isn’t he? He used his death powers to just pop right behind me. Dammit.

I turn and look to find nothing.

Not just ‘Death isn’t here’, but nothing. There is nothing in this room. It’s not darkness, it’s not empty. It’s just nothing.

“Okay. What now?”