Everything is dark.
It’s not warm, or cold.
It’s just dark.
So is this, what, the antechamber? Is this where he picks me up?
Hold on, someone else is here.
More than one person.
“Look at that. We both lost, Korkea.”
“Umbra! You traitor!”
“Oh, Bertie. I couldn’t betray you. I wasn’t on your side to begin with.”
I turn and see the sources of the voices.
Umbra, back in his regular fluffy body, is bickering with Bertrand.
And Number Two is here, as well, not saying anything, just watching them argue with a smile on his face. He’s back to his regular size.
WILL YOU TWO SHUT UP? AH, CAL. I’D SAY IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN, BUT UNDER THE CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES…
Then I turn to see the source of that voice, but I already know who it is.
Ah, I was wondering when they’d show up.
The Death of Humans and the Death of Fluffies arrive.
The Death of Humans glares at Umbra and Bertrand with burning red eyes. They both stop arguing.
GUESS WHERE YOU TWO ARE GOING.
Umbra goes back to Hell, and Bertrand goes with him.
Then the Death of Humans turns to Number Two, his eyes blue again.
YOU’RE GOING UP THERE, KLAUS OLDMAN.
I turn to Number Two as well.
“You’re an Oldman too?”
Death turns to me next, and I turn back to him.
YES. HE WAS THE ELDEST OF THE THREE OLDMAN BROTHERS. KLAUS HERE RAN AWAY FROM HOME AT A YOUNG AGE, AND WOUND UP A HOMELESS DRUNK.
“My family didn’t like to talk about me after that.”
“But he was working for Umbra. Why is Num-- why is Klaus going Up There?”
BECAUSE HE WASN’T SERVING UMBRA VOLUNTARILY. UMBRA DOMINATED HIS MIND AFTER ESCAPING THE INCINERATOR PIERRE HAD DROPPED UMBRA IN. HAD UMBRA NOT DONE THAT, AND I KNOW THIS, KLAUS WOULD HAVE REACHED AN EPIPHANY. HE WOULD HAVE STOPPED DRINKING. HE WOULD HAVE REUNITED WITH HIS FAMILY, AND HE WOULD HAVE PROVIDED SUPPORT WHEN CHRIS STARTED GOING THE SAME WAY.
“So pretty much everything that happened…”
IS ALL UMBRA’S FAULT. YES, CAL. THAT’S WHY HE’S BACK DOWN THERE, AND I UNDERSTAND HE’LL BE GETTING THE SAME TREATMENT CHRIS AND JAMES ARE GETTING.
Klaus smiles again.
We both turn to Klaus.
“I hated working for him. I hated being his pawn. He treated me like a pet. No, he treated me like a slave. And then he killed me. And even after that, he made me suffer. I hated being trapped in that monster, too. I couldn’t do anything to stop him.”
“I know the story. Pierre told me. Bertrand stole your corpse, and Umbra’s. He used them to make that thing. That Umbra Two. He trapped both your souls inside it.”
Yeah, I knew. I was playing dumb when Umbra showed up. But he didn’t fall for that trick twice.
JUST ONE OF THE MANY IRREDEEMABLE ACTS BERTRAND FAUCHEUSE COMMITTED IN HIS LIFE. KLAUS, YOU WERE A VICTIM OF BOTH OF THEIR CRIMES, NOT AN ACCOMPLICE.
“So… so that’s it?”
THAT’S IT, KLAUS. AND NOW IT’S YOUR TURN TO GO.
“One more thing, sir.”
Klaus turns to me.
“Calvin. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything I did under Umbra’s control.”
I give him a friendly pat on the back.
“It wasn’t your fault, dude. I forgive you. If you run into my grandpa Mika Up There, tell him I said hi. And that he’ll probably be seeing me again soon. You’ll know who he is, he’ll be the one with long blond hair, drinking and singing a certain song about a hedgehog.”
“…thank you, Calvin Korkea. Tell my family I said I’m sorry as well. Tell them that I never stopped loving them.”
“Well, I probably won’t get to tell them that. Not for a long time, and then you can tell them. See you later, Klaus Oldman.”
We both laugh, and then, when we’re done, the Death of Humans sends Klaus Oldman on his way Up There.
Then, the Death of Fluffies departs.
It’s just me and the Death of Humans now.
AND NOW, TO DEAL WITH YOU, CALVIN KORKEA.
I look up into his glowing blue eyes. Dude is tall.
“So, I don’t want to sound self-righteous, but I think I might be going Up There too.”
ARE YOU ABSOLUTELY SURE ABOUT THAT?
Aw, crap. Well, I should have known this was coming when I had all that premarital sex with Judy.
I shoulda put a ring on it, huh?
All that time I wasted on the couch smoking weed probably didn’t help, either.
“So I’m going Down There, then?”
I DIDN’T SAY THAT.
“But then where am I going? Am I being reincarnated? Or are there other afterlives? Because I’ve always wanted to see what Valhalla is like. Don’t tell me they won’t let me in. If crashing a giant ball of energy into a spaceship isn’t good enough, I don’t know what is.”
Death grins, and then, placing a bony hand on my shoulder, continues.
HERE’S THE THING, CAL. AZRAEL HAS BIG PLANS FOR YOU. AND UNFORTUNATELY, THOSE PLANS REQUIRE YOU BEING ALIVE.
“I just fucked up all of those plans, didn’t I?”
Death starts laughing, in his deep, dark voice.
Then, when he’s done, in his other hand, he holds up what looks like an hourglass. The frame is bronze, matching my hair. The sands, all in the bottom half, are blue, matching my eyes. And my name, Calvin Quinton Korkea, is engraved on it.
I know exactly what I’m looking at. Calvin, this is your life.
Or at least, it was.
Then the Death of Humans winks at me, and taps the hourglass with a bony finger.
I’m amazed, as the sand, my life, starts flowing back up.
I CAN ONLY DO THIS FOR YOU ONCE, CALVIN KORKEA. DON’T WASTE THIS.
“I won’t, sir.”
UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN. AND I HOPE IT’S NOT FOR A LONG TIME. BECAUSE HONESTLY, CAL: I LIKE YOU.
“Thank you, sir. I’ll make the most of this second chance.”
I KNOW YOU WILL, CAL. FAREWELL.
Then the Death of Humans disappears, and everything goes white.