Death wasn’t thinking clearly — God, if there had ever been a time for prayer. He slammed his fist into the Airstream. Maybe it was the tequila, of which he had only half a case left. The best damn tequila ever distilled, not that anyone would ever know, seeing how he had stolen almost the entire batch. But that didn’t explain the lack of thrill he’d felt out in the field, the showing up late for assignments, the half-hearted beheadings. Hell, he couldn’t even remember the last time he gave his scythe a proper cleaning. He rested his forehead on the hot tin siding. Why couldn’t he enjoy his labor?
There was always Blue. Blue had been with him for hundreds of mortal years, longer than he had ridden any other horse. They’d had some good times together, hadn’t they? He wasn’t overly fond of his coworkers, but they weren’t horrible. From there his mind wandered back to his mentor, the best Famine ever to judge the wanting. Shaking due to anger and confusion, he decided to go for a ride to clear his head.
As he tugged at Blue’s reigns and raised his left boot, a greasy, leather saddle materialized on the beast’s back beginning with the stirrups and cresting with the horn. It was a Western style circa 1860’s, one of Death’s favorites. Gripping the horn and shifting his weight evenly into the stirrups brought back good Indian war memories, lots of senseless death. After months of shlepping about on two feet, it felt good to be in the saddle.
He brought Blue to a trot and then a lope. For a wraith beast, Blue was the smoothest ride this side of Megiddo. They continued on like that for the length of the dirt road until it connected with Farm to Market 1061. Fresh power lines had been installed along the east side of the road all the way into Amarillo, and they scarred the countryside like stitches on a wound. He hadn’t known what he was looking for until he rode toward it.
A call box was mounted on a nearby pole. He moved without thought or hesitation, picked up the phone and dialed 2-1-1 on the rotary before the operator connected. He’d just started to spin the dial for the third 6 when Blue reeled away from the phone causing Death to drop the receiver and look up.
An errant Model T struck the pole two down from theirs with force sufficient enough to collapse the hood and bury the pole into the bumper. The windshield shattered from the impact and a passenger flailed halfway through the opening before snagging on the jagged edges. Death was intrigued.
After the dust settled the only sounds were a hissing from the front tires and a gentle moan from the driver’s seat. A first-hand witness and stalwart believer in acts of God, Death could not dismiss this curious event as coincidence or even fate. Six years of atrophy intensified the moment and his desperation drenched it with meaning. A tinny voice coming from the receiver he had dropped interrupted him.
“Operator. Can I assist you? Hello?”
He picked it up. “Sorry. I’ve changed my mind.”