The buzz of newness wore off more quickly than he’d hoped. The urge he’d felt earlier to break out of his rut had melted along with the setting sun, and the confidence that had compelled his unconventional actions lagged. Sheesh. I’m Death, for God’s sake. What the hell was I thinking?
He finished half a bottle of tequila as he sat in front of the Airstream in his lawn chair. A scorpion tried to scuttle from the hot dirt up into the black, rubber pool. The water level had lowered to a puddle, but the moisture, like a siren’s song, brought him blindly forward. The scorpion’s feet must have started to crumble even before he reached the pool, but he was halfway up the side of the first tube before his insides cooked. He shivered slightly and ended with a pop. Instinct wasn’t something that could be fooled now was it?
But couldn’t it just as well be habit? And habits needed to be broken sometimes. He hadn’t always been Death. What had he been before? He was too drunk or too far removed from his past to remember. Or perhaps it was simply impossible to figure who you had been when you had no idea of what you were.
Habit. He wasn’t sure which idea was more depressing. Had he adjusted to his new life as Death so easily? Was he that impressionable? He tried to stand without using quite enough force to straighten his legs completely. He hovered momentarily above the seat of the chair before falling backwards. He skewed the chair while trying to catch the arm and it folded under his weight. He landed flat catching the wooden arm in the small of his back.
“Dammit!” Luckily he hadn’t sloshed any of the precious liquor out. He rolled over and managed to stand, careful to keep the bottle righted the entire time. He kicked the chair with a grunt, mounted the two steps into the trailer and stood in the doorway looking back over the flat plains of the Texas panhandle.
“Could I have brought down the sickle all those millions of times just cause of habit? A dadgum habit?” He looked at the bottle in his hand. Maybe instinct would be better. There were worst things to be, after all, than Death. He stepped inside the trailer and slammed the door.
He finished what was left of the bottle without opening his eyes. His brain hurt. He wanted nothing more than to forget. Startling him, his hip began to buzz. He yanked the black box from his belt. It took him two times through the message to focus his eyes.
“Enough is enough. Straighten yourself out, or we will. ~ Conquest”
He threw the box against the far wall and fell back on his mattress. The tiny device came to a rest against the bottom of the door. Its pallid green glow faded. He closed his eyes to sleep — even this evening’s stuporous funckur insufficient to stop his dreaming. But this evening, rather than dreaming of his past, he dreamt of someone else’s future.