Guinefort - known as Guinn - finds herself responsible for the death of a child. Ready to do herself in as penance, she is offered a deal: Take over for Death, who is pining for an early retirement, and leave the world without risking the eternal damnation that follows suicide. Guinn agrees, believing her life is over; then, in carrying out her Deathly duties, she falls in love. With a human man. She can't touch him, or he'll die. Guinn has to figure out how to love him in a way that allows him to live. Meanwhile, it turns out he's the only human who can see her; and his relationship with Death will change his Life.
If the world’s population is approaching seven billion - that’s seven billion live souls - imagine how many have died. How many die in a month, a week, or a day. In a moment.
It can be exhausting. I’m ready to retire. Really. It’s earlier than I promised, and I’ll pay a penalty when I start withdrawing from my retirement account. But I’m ready.
Guinn shook her head. Checked her watch. Pinched the skin on her arm, hard. Counted the empty beer bottles lined up on her kitchen counter.
"Death? Is talking to me?" She said out loud. "About retirement accounts?"
Yes. Retirement accounts are serious in my business. But like I said, I don’t really mind losing a few dollars if it means I can retire now. I have plans, you know. Plans that include a beach, the sun, lots of books, most of them trash, and drinks with umbrellas in them.
"Umbrella drinks?" Guinn said. "Are you really Death?"
"Death doesn’t strike me as the type for umbrella drinks," Guinn said. "Death always seemed more… Jack Daniels. Or maybe even Grey Goose. But not umbrella drinks."
Said the woman who is planning to kill herself while drinking beer - what is that - Redhook?
"It was on sale," Guinn said defensively, although she had no idea why she felt defensive about her beer. "Who said I was planning to kill myself?"
I’m Death. I know things.
"I’m dreaming. I fell asleep after the -" Guinn checked the kitchen counter again - "after the sixth Redhook, and I’m dreaming."
You can’t fool Death. You shouldn’t even be able to see me, much less converse with me. There are only two ways that can happen, and one is to be very close to doing yourself in.
"With Redhook? That’d take more than I’ve got," Guinn snorted.
With Redhook to wash down the pills. But I notice you haven’t yet taken them. They’re still over there, behind the cookie jar.
Guinn blushed despite herself.
Why haven’t you taken them?
"If you’re Death and you know things, you should know that," Guinn replied.
I know. I’m only asking to see if you know.
"I’m waiting until…" Guinn paused. "Why am I explaining myself to a figure in a dream, a figment of my imagination? You are nothing but a bit of undigested beef, or a blot of mustard."
Dickens. Nice. But you can’t escape answering me. At least to yourself. Why haven’t you taken the pills?
"The better question," Guinn said, "is why I will take them. That girl. The one who choked to Death. Oh! You must know her?"
Didn’t I say how many souls die every moment? You expect me to remember that one?
"Yes, I do," Guinn said, "I really do. In fact, I demand it. Death should take careful note of every soul who passes on. It’s only right. Humans deserve that."
Humans, dogs, cats, burros. I do. I take careful note and remember them all. Don’t worry. I’ll remember you, too. That’s why it’s so exhausting. Impersonal soul collection would be a nice innovation. You’d have a lot less turnover in the position.