CONSTRUCTION AHEAD the sign read, or it would if it were the right way up. Rain ran up his face, CONSTRUCTION AHEAD it read, if he were the right way up. Perspective was a funny thing he thought as he took in his immediate surroundings. Drenched and sore, upside down in a bush at the bottom of a steep embankment in the dark. There were worse places he could end up, like the merrily burning remains of his car with its bright and cheerful flames. Yes, certainly worse places.
A small gaggle of people peered down at him from the top of the rise, it was nice to have an audience he supposed.
“Are you OK?” a voice asked.
“I’ve most certainly been better my good woman,” he called back happily, best to meet these situations with a positive face, “I can’t recall when however.”
“Would you like some help?” she asked. He shifted to his right, then his left before trying to swing his legs over his head but was unable to right himself. His body complained viciously at the effort.
“Songs of your selfless nature shall be sung in celebration,” he smiled.
“I hardly think that necessary, stay put I’m on my way down.”
“Not a problem,” he grinned, his good mood growing despite his grim situation, “any immediate plans for travel are burning quite happily and casting a rosy glow from the corpse of my car over there.”
“Well that silver tongue of yours hasn’t been damaged has it,” she snorted.
“Given my current lapse in memory anything is possible,” he muttered to himself. the woman seemed familiar with him but he had no memory of her, her voice or why he was arse over tit in a bush at the side of the road. The woman walked towards him, the fire casting her features into moving shadows. Thin with dark wispy hair. She was really quite pretty in a pale sort of way. “I do appreciate this greatly,” he said, offering his hand to her. She cocked her head to the side in a curious manner, not unlike a curious animal.
“You offer your hand freely?” she asked in a voice like silk. Something worried in the dark of his mind but all he could think was that it was a stupid question to ask a body upside down in a bush in the pouring down rain.
“Unless you get your jollies off watching me wriggle like a tortoise on its back, yes!” The dark haired woman said nothing but took his hand in hers, delicate and pale. Her grip was so cold he almost recoiled, but it was as iron and with strength he didn’t think possible for her slight frame she plucked him from his prickly prison and toppled him onto the dirt below.
“No, no need to be gentle love,” he groaned as he tried to dust himself off. Lights were dancing at the top of the rise and into the woods beyond. Emergency crews were making their way down to them. “No need fellas,” he waved them off. “Just a mite bruised, a bit soggy, though you might want to do something about that jolly little blaze over there,” he gestured offhandedly to the burning car. Much to his surprise they jogged right on by, completely ignoring him and his knight in shining armour.
“Am I in a specsavers ad?”
“Don’t look back,” she said quietly, her grip firm on his wrist, leading him away from the embankment and into the woods. A feeling of unease settled in the pit of his stomach and the giddy energy fell away from him. He began to turn, the grip on his wrist became vice like and painful. “Don’t” she muttered. He could not believe the nerve of this tiny woman. He twisted his body to get a good look at the scene behind him, it was a truly bizarre one. The emergency crews were collecting a body from the bush, his bush, his prickly upside down prison.
He stopped walking, she didn’t pull at him or urge him on but neither did she let him go. In the movies this would be the surreal moment where he questioned everything he though he knew, that it was impossible. But he knew.
“That’s me,” he said flatly, his stomach turning to lead.
“Yes.” He turned to the woman in black.
“And you are?”
“Death,” she replied simply, a half smile on her pale face. He tried to draw his arm away but it was locked in her small hand.
“Dead,” he repeated numbly
“Nothing gets past you does it,” she smiled, it was terrible, “well, you’re not all dead, you gave yourself over. Willingly. You are mine, and I have a task for you.” Her tone left no doubt he would do as she asked, she would not be denied.
“Oh!” he yelled pulling his hand away and sitting down in the mud. She folded her hands neatly in front of her and watched as a mother enduring a tantrum. “I give you my hand to get me out of a bush and now I’m your bloody lackey, is that it?!”
“Yes,” she said as if speaking to a young child, “and you were being such a good sport up until now.” She crouched low putting her face inches from his, she smelled faintly of brine. “You are going to do a job for me, and then, if you do it properly, you will be rewarded,” she flashed that terrible smile again. All hope went out of him, this is a dream, it had to be a dream, a very bad dream. She hadn’t moved. Move forward his dad had always said, if your moving forward your not dead.
“What’s the job then boss,” he asked with as much bravado as he could muster whilst being mostly dead and sat in the dirt.
“You are going to kill a God for me,” she answered sweetly tapping him on the nose with a cold finger.
“Well…” he gaped “Bugger me!”