I’ve been toying with this story idea for sometime. I haven’t really tried to write fiction for a long time, but I felt inspired lately and thus…
Instead of trying to pound out an entire novel—which is what I thought I would do—I decided to write this book as a series of short stories (in a sense). So I give you the introduction to Death Wardens.
So you know how God and the Devil (he likes to be called Lucifer, by the way) sort out souls when people die, right? Okay. And we know what happens to the “good” souls and what happens to the “bad” souls. Another aside, you have to be pretty fucking bad to fall into Lucifer’s domain. So, cheating on your taxes, but being generally good, you’re fine. Cheating on your taxes and cheating millions of people out of their money, not so much. Even when it seems like a toss up, God and Lucifer have their ways of working things out. Fair? Let’s just say it is for arguments sake.
But there is one situation that had them stumped for a while. And by a while, we’re talking one bee’s wing flap, but hey…. So the situation comes down to suicides.
Both side agreed that suicide was a one way ticket to…yeah you know. But…
But what if the person was a truly good soul? What if something drove them to the edge of their ability to cope and so stricken with grief that they…
This was a problem.
All other things considered, that soul would have been God’s, but since they killed themselves, it’s Lucifer’s game. In spite of what you might think, Lucifer isn’t a bad guy. He likes rules just as much as God does. Fine, fine he’ll throw you a curve ball when you’re not looking, but that’s really only when you don’t quite think things through (or read the fine print on those sulfurous contracts). Anyway, God and Lucifer had an issue. They didn’t want Hell filled with good souls because something pushed them to the brink. It’s just … too Hellish. So they came up with a compromise, if the person in question died, but not by their own had or doing, then the soul would be judged on its own merits.
Great, now how do you pull that off?
That’s where I come in, I’m Bob. I’m a Death Warden.
It’s my job to find the people who have been pushed too far—and their number is up—and, well, take care of things. You see, I’m not a good person. Let’s get this out of the way right now. When I was alive, I killed people. Lots of people. A little special forces military career, a little freelancing later, and I chocked up a pretty fair tally of my own. And I won’t say that I was choosy with clients or targets either. I wasn’t. If the pay was right and my risk pretty low (or the pay even better when the risk wasn’t so low), I took the job. And when my time came, I did a double whammy. Yeah whammy is the word for it.
I jumped. Twenty stories straight down. On purpose.
After almost twenty years on the job, one dark night of the soul (helped along with a very nice single malt Scotch), and I figured enough was enough and…
I’m also not the first Death Warden. Nor am I the only one at any given time. Death Wardens are immortal, and we do have, let’s say special abilities, but being a Death Warden is like a second chance. It’s an opportunity to try to keep things balanced.
So, I take the big step and it was a doozy and I wake up and there’s Gabriel. Yes, the Archangel Gabriel. And he lays it out for me.
“Here’s how it is Bob. We both know you led a pretty sorry life and did some rather nasty things. However, that last bit of self-reflection, combined with the talents you acquired in life, brought you to our attention.”
Did I mention Gabriel is chain smoking this whole time?
Yeah, unfiltered cigarettes and we’re sitting in a room—probably conjured up from my subconscious—that looks like pretty much every secret government agency interrogation room you’ve ever seen on TV or the movies. Now, I’m not handcuffed or anything. I’m sitting in one of those standard government issued metal chairs, at a government issue table, and Gabriel is sitting across from me in another Government issue chair, but he’s chain smoking.
Gabriel continued, “So we’d like to offer you a deal. We want you to work for us. And by ‘us’ we mean God. And by ‘work’ we want you to kill people. Good people.”
You can probably imagine what was going through my head right then. I mean, why would God want to kill good people? Aren’t we always saying that there aren’t enough good people in the world? This is when the Faustian bargain of sorts is explained to me. I get a name, picture (there can’t be mistakes in this gambit), location, a date, and a time. A be there at this time at that place and make sure you get the job done.
Oh and there are a couple of other wrinkles to this. It can’t look or be attributed to suicide in any way and don’t get caught by the police—at least not too often.
There are “perks” to the whole plan.
Gabriel leans in, exhales a cloud of unfiltered smoke in my direction and spells out a few things for me. “The idea here, Bob, is that you’re kinda serving time. For God. You’re already dead, so you have all the time in the world, really. And you’re immortal while you’re in our ‘employ’,” Gabriel actually made the double-quote sign with his fingers. “so ‘dying’ again isn’t going to happen. Also the longer you do the job, the more likely that God will forgive you. Yeah, it’s a bit of a strange dichotomy, you kill people for God because He’s pissed at you (and royally), but by killing people for God you get on His good side.”
“Okay…” I reply. I mean, I’m still wondering if this hasn’t been a Scotch and other various chemical spawned dream.
“Look,” Gabriel leans in a little closer, “you’re heading straight to Hell at this point, but you know God, He sees things in people. He thinks you deserve another chance, so instead of torment, pain, and despair for eternity, He wants you to do Him a solid.”
Not for the first time, I’m wondering if Gabriel spends his time watching bad gangster movies or something, but I go with it.
“You’ll be well taken care of. You’ll have all the things you need to appear to lead a normal life to your living compatriots. And, of course, whatever tools you need to get the job done, within reason, you’ll have at your disposal.”
“Umm, okay, what about restrictions? Like can I still go out in the day time? Do I have to drink the blood of virgins or something?”
Gabriel leans back into his chair, shakes his head a bit, and laughs out loud.
“No, no, nothing strange like that. Now you must not kill the innocent, reveal who you are, or why you do what you do. And we figure you’ll probably have run ins with the law now and then, and we’ll take care of that.”
“That’s nice of you, kinda hard to save people if I’m on death row for murder—not that I shouldn’t be in the first place. So, where do I sign?”
“You already did. Welcome to being a Death Warden.”
And everything went black again.