Chronicles of Death
by Alexis Riley
Name: Carl Michael Creech
Cause of death: collision at high speed
The tree had seen better days. The silver Ford Focus had veered right
off the road, judging by the tire skids, and disrupted what was likely
a hundred years of peace. He would give nature credit, though. The tree
was bent but still standing. It made it out more unscathed than the
car, which had crumpled upon impact. He had yet to hear sirens; nobody
was coming for this man yet. He’d usually blame the darkness of night
and the country road for such accidents if his notes didn’t include the
little snippet of the driver’s .14 blood alcohol level. Carl Creech’s
notes spoke of years of alcoholism, but it was normally liver failure
that caused the death of men like him. Dozens of empty glass bottles
toppled onto the road as he opened the door. Carl’s body was still in
the driver’s seat, and the airbag did employ. The speed of impact and
his lack of seatbelt simply nullified any help the airbag would’ve
given. He would never understand why so many people willfully shunned
such a lifesaving measure. Maybe the forceful collision would’ve made
it moot too. He’d never know.
He finally turned to the blubbering mess sitting off to the side. Carl had his hands over his face as he rocked back in forth.
“Come on. Get up.” He said, motioning the movement with his hand. “Up, up, up. We’re on a time limit.”
“You a cop?” Carl asked. “I didn’t hit nothin’.”
He glanced briefly at the car wrapped around the tree. “That’s not
entirely true, though, is it? Get up, please.” Carl stumbled to his
feet. “I won’t give you my usual drunk driving spiel because your
actions only killed you but know that you could have harmed innocent people.”
Carl looked at him with his mouth wide open. “What do you mean, ‘only killed me’?”
“You’re dead.” He pointed towards the car. “That lump covered in red is
you.” The drunk began to pace with his hands on his head, mumbling to
himself about how ‘this couldn’t be happening’. A sigh escaped him.
“Are you quite done?”
Carl stopped and ran a hand over his balding head. “You don’t look like you do in the movies.”
“No, I do not.” He agreed.
He learned far before Carl Creech’s existence that humans expected him
to look a certain way. The being they called “Death” was supposed to be
a skeleton in a black robe, hood up, with a large scythe. He preferred
to dress in such a way so that he was not the “man” of their fears.
Death was far less frightening if it wore jeans and a gray v-neck under
an unbuttoned blue flannel.
“All right, now that you’ve come to terms with your passing-”
“Hush. Do you see that path over there?” He pointed to the leaf-strewn
path with the single wooden park bench. Carl nodded. “That is where you
are to go. Once there, you will be picked up and taken to your final
destination. Before you leave, you are entitled to one final request.
You can and will ask one single thing of me with exceptions. I cannot
restore your life. I do not know where you are headed next. I will not
kill anyone so they can ‘join you in death’. I reserve the right to
deny any request that I find unreasonable. What is it that you want?”
Carl looked back to the car. “Help me clean up the bottles. Wife’ll kill me if she sees.”
“The tree beat her to it.” He said. Carl frowned. “Are you sure that is
what you want? You get but one request, and there are more ways to
learn of your intoxication than empty bottles.”
“So be it.” He held out his clipboard and pen. “Sign the dotted line, please.”
His clipboard was returned momentarily with Carl’s hideous signature
attached, and the spirit of the man was at the car before he was. He
summoned a large trash bag and tended to the ones on the street first
while Carl dug them out of his car. By the time they were done, the bag
was nearly half full. Humankind’s obsession with alcohol was certainly
a disturbing one.
“Can I wait for the ambulance?” Carl asked.
“Your request was garbage pickup.” He reminded him, snapping his finger
to dispose of the bag. “You are to go sit on the bench now. I wish you
the best of luck.”
He watched Carl go with a disapproving sigh. He had gotten all manner
of final requests, but the selfish ones always stuck with him. He was
not concerned about his wife finding the bottles for her benefit. He
was covering his own ass.
He had no more time to dwell on the tragedy of Carl Creech before his
clipboard gained a new entry. He stepped away from the scene of an
accident to the decrepit outside hallway of a studio apartment. The
smell of smoke was still fresh, and the door he stood before was the
only one that had not been thrown open by an escaping tenant.
Name: Mitchell Ryan O’Harris
Cause of death: smoke inhalation
The state of the hallway was nothing compared to the inside of the
apartment. Clothes scattered about, pizza boxes, soda cans, potato chip
bags, burger wrappers, a sink full of dishes, and the dead body of
Mitchell O’Harris. The boy was sitting in a chair in front of his
still-on TV, the screen frozen on a screen that announced that he had
been disconnected from whatever game he had been playing, his
controller still in his hand. The apparent cause of the fire seemed to
be his burnt dinner on the stove, likely forgotten about in favor of
his video game while the glass object at his side being the probable
reason for his hunger.
The spirit of the boy was standing in front of his own body waving his
hand before his lowered head like it would wake him up. He looked up at
his sudden entrance.
“That’s me.” He said.
“This is a dream?”
“It is not. I regret to inform you that you are now deceased. The cause
of death is smoke inhalation. You burnt your noodles.” He skimmed his
notes. “I see here that you removed the batteries from your smoke
detector to, ironically enough, play Halo.”
“Oh, yeah.” He had the sense to be embarrassed. “I’m pretty good though.”
“My notes say that you are not.” He said, much to the boy’s clear disappointment.
He scratched nervously at his neck, a common quirk of his. “You’re, uh, Death, then?”
“Of sorts. I was not the one to strike you down. Think of me as your
guide to your next life.” He explained. “Now that you are aware of your
situation, you may make your request. You are entitled to one and only
one,” he held up his index finger. “final request. There are
exceptions. I cannot bring you back to life, I cannot tell you where
your spirit is headed, I cannot kill anyone for you, and you can’t take
anything with you. I see you eyeing that phone of yours. I reserve the
right to deny any other request. What is it that you wish?”
Mitchell thought for a moment. “I don’t know.”
He sighed. “You look like the type of person that could use his
browsing history deleted. A common request the last decade or so. My
notes say you have a non-password protected laptop?” He asked, doubling
checking to make sure that he hadn’t misread.
“I use incognito mode because I’m not a pleb.”
“Ah, yes. My notes also claim that you use internet words as parts of
normal speech. People around you hated it.” He said. “Another common
request is to send word to your loved ones noting that you are all
“My, uh, family and I don’t really talk.” Mitchell said, looking down like the thought bothered him.
His notes did mention that he was low-contact with each of his parents
and older sister. He had been close with his grandfather, whose
inheritance ensured that he was able to afford his dump of an apartment
without having to worry about having a more lucrative job than the one
that had him bagging groceries three days a week. Reading over the rest
of his file made it seem like this case was likely to be a difficult
one. Mitchell did not check any of the boxes for the “safety” requests.
“Perhaps there is somewhere you wish to travel? Somewhere you never got
a chance to go in life? I cannot take you outside of the atmosphere,
“Can I request more requests?”
“I am not a genie, and no. You can’t.”
“Well, there goes that.” Mitchell said. “I don’t know. I don’t really need anything.”
“Well, this is not an uncommon occurrence. You have time yet to think
of something.” He said. He glanced at his clipboard as another page
replaced Mitchell’s at the top. He sighed. “However, you cannot wait
here to think of it. I have another case. Come, perhaps they will give
you an idea.”
He motioned for him to follow, and he was personally glad to get out of
that literal fire hazard of an apartment. The door to Mitchell’s studio
opened to the busy hallway of a hospital.
Mitchell looked around. “How...in the hell?” He asked. “We were just in my room.”
“Transport between sites is seamless.”
He shook his head. “This is not a game. Death sites are linked like the
rooms of your house. Think of your apartment as the kitchen and this
site as the living room.”
“Cool.” He said. “I have so many questions.”
“And yet I simply don’t have the time. “He hesitated as his hand
gripped the doorknob. “This may be hard for you. You may wait here if
“I wanna come.”
Name: Isabella Marie Oliver
Cause of death: leukemia
Children’s drawings hung on the wall while the tables and bed were
flooded with all manners of stuffed toys, balloons, and flowers. In the
bed laid a young girl, bald, and surrounded by the sobbing parents. The
spirit of the child stood beside her mother with a hand on her knee.
“Isabella?” He asked.
The girl looked up. “Who’re you?”
“I’m your guide. I’m here to take you away whenever you’re ready.”
The child turned to her parents and rested her head on her mother’s
shoulder for just a moment before kissing her on the cheek. She then
stood on her toes to kiss the father as well before approaching him.
He knelt down to be at the girl’s level. “Before we go, you get to make one wish. Kind of like a genie, only you just get one.”
She looked back to her parents. “Can you make my mommy and daddy feel better?”
“I can’t make them feel a certain way, but I can tell them that you’re
okay. Sometimes knowing that their loved one is okay helps people feel
“Okay. I want that.”
“Good choice. Would you like to tell them in a dream? You can say whatever you want.”
He held his clipboard and pen out for her. “I heard that you are great
at writing your name. Can you show me right there on the line?”
She gave a nod and took the pen, inspecting it. “Purple is my favorite color.”
“I know.” He flipped to the next page of his clipboard. “Okay, this is
a script for your dream. You get to pick where they will be in the
dream and what you want to say. Both of your parents will see it, but
they won’t remember details.”
“They’ll be confused if they have the same dream. They’ll remember that
you were there. That’s the important thing. Take your time now.” He got
to his feet while he wrote, and he went to Mitchell, who was standing
in the doorway with his arms crossed looking broody. “I told you that
it would be hard.”
“I wanted to be an oncologist when I was in high school. Help kids like
her.” He said quietly. “I even got into Cornell. Kids like her are
dying because I dropped out…”
“Kids like her are dying because they are getting cancer, not because there aren’t doctors trying to save them.”
Mitchell’s sigh didn’t stem from agreement. Isabella took quite some
time writing what was hopefully the perfect dream, and she handed it
over with a smile.
“Thank you. Now do you see that bench over there?” The hospital room
faded into the park with the bench, its path leading right to her bed.
“You will sit on it, and someone else will take you onward, okay?”
“Will I see my grandma?”
“I don’t know, but I hope so.”
Isabella ran quickly back to her parents to give them one more kiss
before sitting down on the bench, fading away with the park once she
did. He gave a sigh and motioned for Mitchell to follow him away from
the depression that still lingered. The doorway led them back to the
hospital corridor, where they would await his next case. Hospitals were
ripe with fresh spirits.
“You told me you weren’t a genie.”
“You aren’t seven.” He said. “Your notes say that you use humor to deflect in difficult situations.”
Mitchell sighed. “Kids are always hard?” He asked.
“Are their requests always so wholesome?”
“Yes. Most requests involve their families or pets. Some simply want to
play with their toys one last time. I helped one finish his Lego
Mitchell gave an amused chuckle. “You’ve said some requests are more common than others. Top three. Go.”
“Hers was perhaps the most common. I am the cause of a lot of dream
sequences. I send a lot of cardinals. Another is looking after their
pets. I am able to send an anonymous word if they die while being the
pet’s only caretaker. I can see to it that pet spirits are guided to
their own once the pet passes. That one needs to be brought to my
attention prior to the pet passing. If a pet dies after the owner has
made an alternative request, there is no guarantee they will be
“All dogs go to Heaven.” Mitchell said.
“I wouldn’t know. I don’t deal with animal deaths.”
“Hmm. So what’s the third?”
“To go back. I cannot honor that one.” He explained.
Mitchell nodded. “I get it.” He said. “You don’t deal with animals, so there are others?”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course there are others. The world is home to
billions of lifeforms. One person tending to all of them is impossible.
I am charged with guiding a small sector of this country, everyone
school-aged and older.”
“’Forty-thousand men and women everyday’.”
“Blue-Oyster Cult lyrics are not an accurate source for statistical information.” He said.
Mitchell gave an odd bounce. “You’ve heard the song!”
“No. I’ve been quoted the song tens of thousands of times since it was recorded. Is hearing it once more your request?”
“No.” Mitchell said. “What if I don’t think of one?”
“Oh, that’s not so bad. You had me thinkin’ I’d explode or something.”
“No, I meant nothing would happen. You sacrifice your spirit’s chance to move on.”
“So I’d be, like, a ghost?” Mitchell asked.
He shook his head. “No. Ghosts are...complicated. Your spirit would expire. You would cease to exist.”
Mitchell’s eyes were wide. “Oh. That’s...worse.” He said. “You’ve had it happen before?”
He had fewer than one hundred spirits expire since the beginning of
time. He remembered each one of them. “Yes. I do not want that fate to
befall you. Please think hard on your request.” He saw that a new page
had found its way to his clipboard. “Come.”
Their destination was a single floor below, a place where his presence
was perhaps more depressing than usual. The medical procedures
practiced on that floor were the exact opposite of his job, but he
unfortunately found himself there quite often. Mitchell gave a few
girlish squeals as they walked by the window separating them from rows
of newborns. He looked back at the boy with slight amusement, and
Mitchell gave some tiny waves to the infants as if they could see him.
“We’re...not here for a baby, are we?” He asked, the thought just now hitting him.
“No. I am not assigned to infant deaths.”
The hospital room was occupied by a single man, sitting on the foot of
the bed and rocking his newborn back and forth between his sobs. The
child was unaware of the pain that surrounded it. The body of the woman
had been removed from her husband’s sight immediately, but her spirit
lingered beside him, looking at her baby with what was somehow both a
smile and a frown.
Name: Rebecca Angela Connington
Cause of death: complications regarding childbirth
“Rebecca?” He asked. The woman glanced at him only briefly before
lowering her head with a quiet sigh. From his side, Mitchell bit at his
lip in discomfort before wandering over to stare out the window. “Does
she have a name yet?”
Her frown-smile became just a smile. “Erin, after my mother.”
“I’m sure she’ll be honored, and I’m sure she’s in good hands.”
“I offer you a single request, anything you wish. There are exceptions,
but your file doesn’t lead me to believe that you will ask anything
unreasonable.” He said.
She gently rubbed her finger across the newborn’s cheek. “I’ve always
liked rainbows. Every year on her birthday, I want her to see one. A
real one. I want her to know it’s from me.”
Mitchell looked back at him curiously. “Done. Sign here, please.” He
held out his clipboard and pen. Rebecca signed quickly and drew a quick
rainbow over the C’s.
“Do I have to leave now?”
He gave a soft sigh. “I can give you a few minutes, but only a few.”
“Thank you.” She smiled. She rested her head on her crying husband’s
shoulder and stayed like that until three minutes had passed.
“Come now.” He said. Rebecca hesitated but stood. “Your next stop is
that bench right over there,” he pointed towards the park bench that
had replaced the back half of the hospital room. “Someone else will be
He watched Rebecca go with a sigh before turning for a moment to the
husband, who had entered the hospital awaiting a miracle and would be
leaving with a tragedy. He motioned for Mitchell to follow, and the
doorway they entered in led them to a neutral field, where he typically
awaited new cases.
“That...sucked.” Mitchell said. “Like, a lot.”
“It happens more often than you would think, even in what you call a ‘first world country’.”
“I didn’t think you were going to give her those extra minutes.”
“I wasn’t. It’s at our discretion, but I typically don’t allow it. The
longer they linger, the more they want to return, the longer they want
to remain in what you call ‘limbo’. They cannot waste away looking upon
their loved ones, trapped between worlds. It’s easier for me to deny
them outright than to peel them away. It’s easier for them too, in the
long run.” He said as his clipboard gained another file. “Come on.”
The neutral field turned into a small home belonging to an elderly man
and his cat, the home having once been rather full back when his wife
was still alive and before their five children left the nest. Mitchell
said, “aw” as he wandered up to the many picture frames hanging on
their walls. The boy smiled at each picture along the way until they
got to the bedroom. George laid peacefully in his bed, and if he had
been in any other line of work, he’d think the man was simply asleep.
The cat had been lying on its master’s legs when he entered the room,
but it gave a yowl before retreating under the bed.
Name: George Phillip Brown III
Cause of death: old age
The elderly man’s spirit sat on the foot of the bed. “Oh, Buttercup. Come on out.” He said, bending over to peek under the bed.
“Mr. Brown?” He said. The man looked up at his voice. “I believe I’m who you’re waiting for.”
Phillip Brown got to his feet. “So you are. Where do I trade in my robe for some angel wings?” He asked with a smile.
He returned the smile. “You will have to speak to someone else about
that, I’m afraid. You are entitled to one final request. Is there
anything you have in mind?”
“Oh, I don’t know. My daughter, Sherry, will be here tomorrow, and
she’ll take of ‘ol Buttercup for me.” He said with a pondering
expression. “Actually, my wife passed a few years ago. Would you be
able to tell me if she got along okay?”
The wife, Carol, had died a few years prior after a nasty fall broke
her hip. She went into the hospital and simply never left. Her final
request was to send a cardinal to her husband and children.
“That is all you request?”
“Would you mind signing on the line, please?” He handed over the
clipboard and pen. Phillip signed quickly. “I remember Carol. The
transition was quite easy for her.”
Phillip smiled. “Ah, good. Suppose I’m ready then.” He said. “I didn’t know there were two Deaths.”
He looked to Mitchell. “Oh, no. This is just Mitchell. He’s...working on his request.”
“No harm in that. Listen to your heart, young man.” He poked Mitchell in the chest.
“He is trying. Your next stop, Mr. Brown, is that bench right over
there.” He pointed to the park that had manifested as part of the
The elderly man gave a nod and walked without aid to the bench, a
fantastic feat considering that he had been wheelchair bound for the
last fifteen years. Mitchell watched him go with an expression that was
both admiration and slight concern.
“He’ll see his wife again?” He asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you like what you do?”
He gave the boy’s odd question a look that matched. “I have no opinion.”
“Sure you do. You have to.”
He shrugged. “I do. I enjoy assisting humanity and aiding them in what
is regarded as the most frightening thing they experience. Humans fear
death so remarkably. It is meaningful to me to ease that fear and to
help them come to terms with their fate. I learn a great deal about
humanity and its individuals when they make their requests. There are
some people who I will never forget.”
Mitchell thought about his words for a moment. “But it’s hard too, right? Like with Isabella and Rebecca.”
“Yes. Some humans die in horrific ways. You have been lucky enough to
only see some of them. You did not see the murder victims, the abuse
victims, the starvation cases, the suicides. You did not see anyone who
begged to go back, who cried because they feel as though something has
been taken from them and they want it back.” He said. “Those cases are
hard. I try my best to ensure that they are at peace when they sit on
that bench. I try to honor their requests, even though theirs are
generally more heartbreaking than most. You have not been tested until
you tell a suicide victim that they cannot take their choice back.”
“But you still help them.”
“Yes, I still guide them.”
Mitchell took a deep sigh. “I know what I want.”
“I want to be whatever you are.”
He frowned. “I don’t think that’s-”
“No, listen. I was supposed to be a doctor. I was supposed to help
people, but I fucked it all up. That’s all I did. Ever. My whole life.
I was a complete waste of space. I accomplished nothing. Let me fix it
now. Let me help people like I was supposed to.”
He sighed and ran a hand over his hair. “You cannot take this back.”
“I won’t want to.”
“This is completely unorthodox.” He said. “You will never know where
you would have gone. You will never be reunited with family or friends.
You will never know another fate. This will be your existence until the
end of time.”
“I don’t care- I mean, I do care. I wouldn’t say it if I
didn’t care. That doesn’t bother me. Mr. Brown told me to follow my
heart. This is what my heart is telling me to do.” He placed his hand
flat against his chest. “C’mon.”
He gave a slow exhale. “Sign here, please.”
© 2020 Alexis Riley
Bio: I am a fourth-year college student currently studying
psychology, but writing is my passion, so I wrote this for my fiction
writing class. I am from Dayton, Ohio and have been interested in
writing since elementary school. My go-to topic is fiction with a focus
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