"So are you Death or are you Michael?" she asked me.
"...I'm both." I answered, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, which it was.
"But that doesn't make sense."
"Well you don't ask 'Are you Doctor or are you Steve?' You just know that he is Dr Steve." She still looked at me with blank eyes. "A doctor named Steve."
"Yeah I get that. But what name is Michael for Death?"
"Well I don't know! My mother didn't look at me when I was born and say 'Oh he looks like a Death. We should name him Death.' What kind of sick mother would name their son Death?!" I was bitter and frustrated and I knew she didn't deserve that, but I was in a bad mood. What am I talking about? I'm always in a bad mood, but she wasn't making it any easier for me.
"Sorry, I was just asking. I'm Shelly." She extended her hand out to me, which I plainly ignored, continuing on my travels.
"Shelly the Shadow. Well that sounds about right." I sighed. As I had noted earlier, she was a supernatural being, unfortunately paired with the personality of a very annoying human. She was a shadow creature. I didn't come by them very often in my travels as they are pretty hard to spot. But then again once you did get attached to one they were very hard to shake off. They were creatures that were made of primarily gases and light, and they attached themselves to the shadow of a living, moving being, feeding off their life. They detached themselves of that being when that being was dead. They usually go on through life completely undetected by the humans. But since I was not human, she had more of a problem than just being able to be seen.
"Whatever, I think it's a pretty name. I reminds me of the beach. I was attached to this really cute diver before you. That's where I came up with the name, because he used to collect shells." Her very long, personal but pointless story was beginning to ebb away at my patience.
"So how long does it usually take for your kind to die off when they don't have a life source?" Blunt, rude, well that was how I liked it. To the point. I didn't particularly care for her. She was getting on my nerves. Both of us knew quite well she wasn't going to live being attached to me; me being a lifeless creature, and we both knew that she was stuck with me until one of us died. I could see on her face that this had shocked her as much as I had hoped.
"Uh...about a month." she said in a small voice. I kind of felt bad at how simply she had answered me, just giving me another fact about her life that I didn't really care about. A pang of guilt rang inside my chest. But I held it back, ignoring her sudden quietness. 31 days. That was too long away. 31 long days having to work with this thing attached to my back. Like a leech. A dying leech. But still, I didn't like my work being interrupted.
There was a cottage ahead of us, down at the end of the meadow. As I got closer I realised that it wasn't much of a cottage, but really a farm shed, filled with hay and cow stalls for milking. There was work equipment and a tractor and the door was battered and large enough to fit anything through it. Above the stalls was another room, which you could get to by a ladder near the entrance. It looked like the living quarters of the man hanging in the corner of the work room. I took in all that was in the room - the rotting hay bundle that a calf was chewing away at, the picture in its frame of a woman and child sitting on the writing desk, the dirty working clothes thrown away on the floor.
Shelly on the other hand couldn't take her eyes off the man hanging from the noose.
"For someone who feeds off people's life, you don't seem to be taking death to easily."
"I've never seen anyone kill themselves before." she said to me, a little nervous.
The dead man looked at us with cold eyes wide open, skin pale and sickly. His mouth was ajar and facing downwards in a bored expression.
"A little help here?" the dead man asked us. I smiled to myself at seeing Shelly jump so obviously. She was so shocked, I could see that she was ready to jump out of her skin...if she had any skin to jump out of.
"He...he just spoke to us! Isn't he dead?" She clung to my sleeve, digging into my arm. I shrugged her off, my amusement suddenly gone.
"The dead aren't dead until I take their soul away. Everyone except me can't see that their soul is still in their body. But now it seems that you can also see that by default." Shelly still looked confused and scared, but I couldn't delay the process any longer.
"Hello Mr Evans." I said, addressing the man. Shelly giggled suddenly, but I didn't see any humour in the matter.
"How's it hanging." She said between bouts of laughter. The man stayed expressionless but gave her the finger. She stopped laughing and frowned at the man, obviously taken aback by his gesture. "What's got you so grumpy."
"Are you Death?" asked the man, ignoring Shelly.
"Yes." I didn't like when they asked questions, but it was better than when they were begging me for mercy or something like that. I couldn't take their souls easily unless they accepted the situation.
"You don't look like Death." he said, looking me up and down.
"That's what I said!" said Shelly, excitedly.
"Shut up." I whispered to her.