Down in the underworld lives a strange character by the name of Dubious Death. On Earth we know him by only one name, the grim reaper. Personally, he prefers to be called Dubious or Doob as his friends call him. His job consists of showing up when someone’s going to die and to handle it from there. How he does it is actually less spectacular than one would think. He simply knocks them lightly on the head with a wooden stick and they drop dead. That’s it. After that, he has to do loads of paperwork describing the session, filing away papers upon papers. It’s actually quite mundane. Dubious has always been amazing at his job; he’d been doing it for over six thousand years now, so he considers himself an expert. Being the grim reaper you’d think he wears a heavy, long black cloak that is tattered and dirty but actually Dubious wears a checkered plaid sweater vest of green and white triangles, blue jeans, and comfortable moccasins with fluffed insides and black wide rimmed glasses. His bright white skeleton head shines like a newly cleansed tooth and his boney arms and legs protrude from his sweater vest like giant cue tips. His home mimics his attire. Inside what appears to be a cold, dark cave, exists a small colorful hut on a patch of bright green grass puffing smoke out of its chimney. In the living room there are large red couches and yellow walls with white lining around them. An old television stands cheerfully in the corner. In the other corner is a cage where Dubious’s pet worm, Spool, lives. The kitchen is the best room in the house though, because in Dubious’s pantry are thousands of cereal boxes. Dubious loves every single flavor of cereal. He’s almost sure he’s tried every single kind. His favorite to date is peanut butter and chocolate oats with honey on top.
It was a Tuesday morning and a particularly gloomy one at that. Dubious was running late. He checked his watch frantically as he rushed to the Skele-Station. He pushed his way past a giant purple bat wearing a suit and snuck between two snowy white ghouls, shivering as he did. Finally he made it to the bottom of the first escalator. He put his suitcase in his left hand so he could take out his phone and call his boss as the escalator moved up. The phone rang and he picked up.
Before Dubious could say anything, his boss began to yell at him. “You’re late Dubious!”
“I know….,” he said exhaustingly.
“Don’t test me Dubious. You know that my patience is wearing thin lately,” his boss coughed with a sick heave.
“Yes, yes sir, right away sir.”
Dubious’s boss was very out of shape and had an appointment at the doctor that afternoon. Dubious rushed up the escalator in a hurry, darting his way through the strangest of people. He could see the light coming from above. The escalator ran up to the opening of a grave. Dubious stepped out, brushing dust off his jeans. It was an awfully rainy day. Doob loved rainy days because most people stayed inside on rainy days. Therefore, for the most part, they were safe from the dangers of the outside world; which meant less paperwork that he had to do. He walked begrudgingly to the center of the graveyard where there was a paved circle surrounded by flat strands of wheat. Dubious got up on the platform and walked towards the middle of it. He looked down at his watch, waiting. It beeped a few times, flashing on and off. Then all of a sudden the word, Denmark, appeared on the watch’s screen. Dubious took a deep breath, and then turned a notch on the watch three times. He disappeared.
Dubious flew through a wild tunnel that looked like a florescent rainbow made from billions of small light bulbs. He spiraled around the funnel until he finally fell through a small black hole at the end of it and landed face first into a cobbled street, his green vest now covered in grimy mud. A car stopped in the middle of the road right before it hit him. Dubious ran out of the street and into a back alley.
“Moron!” screamed the driver.
Dubious looked up at some small hills in the distance as he shivered from the cold. He checked his watch, it was ticking very slowly. As he walked a little to the left it ticked slower. Then he went to the right and it started to tick faster. This is how he knew which direction his client would be in. He walked westward onto the sidewalk as the ticking grew louder. He was passing some relatively small, gray, brick houses; each about the size of his hut. Suddenly the ticking stopped and there was a loud ringing of a bell emulating from the watch. Dubious looked to his left. This was the house. He opened the gate and walked through, his muddied vest flowing in the breeze.
Dubious knocked on the door with his carved wooden stick. Each knock made a fairly loud echo throughout the quiet town. Dubious turned his neck left and right a few times just to check if anyone was watching. As he was looking into the street he heard the door open from behind him. He turned around to meet his client face to face, but saw nothing. No one was there. Then he heard a small sneeze come from the floor. He looked down to find a little girl blowing her nose. The girl was wearing light blue pajamas.
She coughed as she asked, “Are you the doctor?”
“Um…..,” Dubious struggled to come up with an answer, he was very confused. “Yes,” he lied.
“What’s wrong with your face?” she asked.
“Oh um… I had this carnival accident a few years back,” said Dubious, lying again.
She led him into her living room and angrily pointed at a couch for him to sit at. Dubious lifted his boney finger to say something when all too quickly, she left the room, shuffling her feet loudly as she walked. Dubious sat tapping his fingers on the table, peering over at a magazine. The rain outside began to settle, the water droplets tapping on the window like a slow and steady heartbeat. The girl returned, now holding a strange bowl with a spoon in it. She handed it to him and gestured for him to eat it. Dubious looked down into the murky gray water filled with what appeared to be old, gray cereal. Dubious was certain that he had eaten every cereal ever made and yet as he looked down into this bowl he was astounded by the tiny gray circles. She saw he wasn’t eating it and began to get upset so he took a large spoon full.
He opened his mouth to speak. “Um… little girl, is there…?” He looked around the house, “Someone else here with you, an older person perhaps?”
“Nope,” she answered.
Dubious was confused. “So you’re all alone here.”
He scratched his head. “Do you have any parents, grandparents?”
“Yeah but they’re all out of town.”
Dubious looked at the girl and then down at his watch. He tapped it a few times to see if it was malfunctioning but it appeared to be perfectly fine. He looked up at the girl again as she blew her nose. “This can’t be,” he thought to himself.
“So are you going to give me some medicine or something?”
“Well… what’s wrong with you?”
“I have a cold.”
Dubious was struck with the terrible idea that this little girl could possibly be the client he was supposed to meet. “And you’re sure all you have is a cold?”
“Yep.” She blew her nose again.
Dubious tapped his chin, which made a clicking noise. He looked down into the cereal and thought of when he was a kid (a skeleton kid) and had a bowl of cereal for the first time. Then all of a sudden, he became furious and hit the bowl of cereal off the coffee table. The girl screamed for a second.
“I’m getting too old for this,” said Dubious as he stood up.
“Too old for what?” the little girl asked.
Dubious didn’t even answer her. He just waved his wooden staff over her, curing her cold, and marched out of the house. Slamming the door loudly behind him and screaming at the sky, “Do you think this is some kind of joke?!”
Dubious stomped down the cobbled street; he didn’t know where he was going. Then he stopped suddenly, huffing and puffing. With an angry toss he threw his suitcase into a nearby mud puddle and then kicked the case with all of his might.
“I quit,” he said out loud. “I’m done. I’m retiring today, that’s it!” He turned the notch on his watch back three times disappearing into the crazy rainbow tunnel again and then landed back onto the gray circular platform. He ran to the tombstones which lead down to the Skele-Station. He was determined to finally give his boss a piece of his mind.
His phone went off; Dubious picked it up “Hello?”
“Yes, hi, is this Dubious Death?”
“Well… I am sad to report that your boss has recently passed away.”
“What! How did he die?”
“He choked on a meatball sub, poor man. But… I’m calling you to tell you that technically, you’re the boss now.”
The man kept talking but Dubious didn’t hear him. He closed his phone. Dubious’s eyes widened as he exclaimed, “It’s time for things to change!” Dubious went into the office the next day with a gigantic grin on his face. He went up to the podium and began to speak.
“I am here to announce that now I’m the boss that things are gonna change around here. I have decided after much consideration that I, Dubious Death, will no longer go around ending other people’s lives.”
Everyone in the room gasped.
“Instead I am going to only save people. No longer will I be known as the grim reaper. Now the humans will know me as the happy reaper!” he said, bursting with excitement.
Everyone else in the boardroom remained quiet, afraid of what was to come. Over the next few years Dubious implemented his new system of life. He went around saving people everywhere he went. Every second of his life was devoted to it. More years went by and not a single person on the planet ever died. As time continued to rip forward, the workload piled on. This was taking a severe toll on Dubious. His previously bright white face was now grayish in complexion. He sat on a moldy log in the middle of a forest, having just saved two old people from falling into a river while on vacation. His watch beeped, he moaned. It read, Denmark. He turned the notch three times and off he went. Following the loud ticking he found himself at a hospital. Dubious walked through the halls until he arrived at a small hospital room which was poorly painted in a drowned out baby blue color.
The sickly person sat in a bed behind a curtain divider. Doob could hear them breathing heavily. He grabbed the edge of the curtain and pushed it aside. He was shocked at what he saw. It was the little girl, the one who started it all. Except now she was at least one hundred and eighty four years old. She struggled to move her neck to look at him. He could tell that she remembered him by the look in her eyes. Dubious held up the wooden staff, ready to wave it over her. She suddenly put her hands up and pushed it away. Dubious was confused. With a trembling finger, she pointed at a small television in the top left hand corner of the room.
A newscaster was talking, “Scientists have confirmed that the current epidemic on our hands is one that is irreversible.”
“Irreversible?” repeated Dubious, “I doubt that. What epidemic could there be now?”
The newswoman continued, “The world is just not big enough for all of these people.”
“What?” responded Dubious.
Next the news showed a video of millions of people standing shoulder to shoulder in each country around the world crying out. “People from all over the world are working round’ the clock to find the reason behind this age dilemma.”
The once little girl leaned upward and whispered into Dubious’s ear. “I am in pain and there is nothing you can do with all your power that can help me. I am too old. I have lived too long, much longer than I should ever have. You have given me a truly luminous life. I appreciate what you did for me a long time ago, I ask you now to please give me peace. I’m one hundred and eighty six years old. It’s time for the new people who are being born to have some room to grow.”
Dubious got a strange look on his face, and then he looked at her as she blew her nose. He began to smile, remembering her as a child when she did the same exact thing. He lifted the wooden stick. “Are you sure madam?” he asked.
“More than anything.”
And just like that she was gone without another word. Dubious lifted a cloth over her and shut the curtains behind him. His shoulders shook with the cold air of death. He then walked down the hall to the baby wing of the hospital. He looked into the window and saw the desperate parents trying to think of ways of fitting their children into the already crowded world. At that moment, with a clank of his staff on the ground, Dubious set the world back to the way it was supposed to be. Later that afternoon he went back to the graveyard, down the escalator, through the crowded Skele-Station, across the cave, and all the way back to his small house. He set his cane down, fed Spool some lunch, sat on his couch for the first time in many years, put his feet up, looked out the window and said to himself, “Oh what a luminous life I live.”