He rubbed his hand on his forehead and ran it through his hair. His mouth was a catacomb, and he exhaled a noxious gas into the cabin of the Airstream. His arm ached. He rubbed his left armpit as he rolled his left shoulder and raised it above his head, causing him to grimace. The wound represented another dream waiting to haunt him at a later date.
He exhaled, more slowly this time. These were the tradeoffs. He ached always, racked with nightmares, but the tequila took the edge off. And being here meant that he wasn’t there, reporting for duty, punching in for a job that he could no longer bear.
He nudged the glowing box with his rattlesnake boot, before putting considerable effort into rising from the mattress. His movements caused the trailer to creek as much as his joints. His mortal shell, the skin he put on every time he dwelled upon the surface, could not stand much more traditional aging. Not without a return to Megiddo.
Screw it. Opening the latch to the icebox, he took out a beer. Blowing a cloud of dust from the mouth of the can, he pulled the tab. The sound of the carbon dioxide escaping brought an angry snort from outside the window where snot already plastered the glass. Death reached back into the sweltering icebox for another hot beer. He and ice had never gotten along.
Outside the trailer most of the dust had settled, the storm barely visible to the east. They were getting worse because of his presence, but man had started the apocalypse by themselves. It was typically the sort of thing that would have cheered him, if he’d been working. He gazed upward toward the sun. It was terrible and wonderful at the same time. So much explosive potential. Such a waste. Outlined against the orb, a scattering of vultures circled while waiting out the last of the black blizzard.
He wrapped his soured mind around the heavenly computations. It had been six years since he first came here. Six years. How could such a short span of time last so long? He’d forgotten what the passage of time felt like in a chronological progression, and there was no way to know his cumulative age. September 16, 1930 was when he first became Death. So he chose that exact moment to return for his walk about.
It was an act he thought not so much ironic as poetic. After another moment of wracking his brain he concluded he had been thirty five, give or take. That would make him, using a twisted logic, roughly forty one. But it was ridiculous. That was a different life, one he’d left for another he now longed to leave as well.
How had it ever seemed fresh? He crinkled his face and sniffed the scorched air. He couldn’t distinguish the smell of sulfur any longer. He twisted his boot back and forth in the barren dirt, pushed it down against the grit, until it smoked like a hot iron. Nothing.
He lifted it to take a look, but there hadn’t been anything there alive in the first place. Around the backside of the trailer, Blue stamped at the ground and snorted his discontent. Yeah, Yeah. Death took a draw off the beer in his right hand, blew the dust off the one in his left and sauntered around the trailer where he’d left his only companion before beginning his most recent bender.