Originally published on Reddit.
He sighs as a human would at the end of a long day. Fingers thin as razors, Death grasped the quill and struck off the last name-’Michael’-off his list. In front of him, Michael’s body lay motionless but at peace. In his last moments Michael had simply asked why he hadn’t gone first. Death had told the Archangel the same thing he told the mortals.
“Not your time.”
Now his list was complete. For the first time since Creation, Death closed his book and stowed it away. There was one final soul to collect, but he didn’t need to write it down. He knew whose it was. But again, it was not yet time to collect. He had some time left, so he strode around Heaven and checked for any signs of life amongst the angels, the plants and even the animals that ended up there. Satisfied that there were none he missed, he gripped his scythe…and strode into the elevator, to descend to the Sixth Level.
In the elevator, a voice from the speakers spoke softly. “Going down?”
Death answered, his voice a deathrattle. “Yes.”
“They’re all dead, you know.”
“Yes, I know.”
Death sighed. “Yes…yes Lord, I am.”
“There’s one soul left to collect. Do it, and you can finally rest.”
The elevator stopped, and Death stepped back out into the Seventh Floor. “Yes…yes Lord.”
Death gripped his scythe. Why was he hesitating? He had seen people die countless times. He had seen those executed by their governments, crying out for justice in an unjust country. He had seen those taken far too early, men and women who would have changed the world had he not been there. He had seen beheadings, hangings, exsanguination, suffocation, heart attacks, old age, botched surgeries, quartering, cut wrists, jugulars and crushed windpipes. He was no stranger to death, for he was Death.
And yet…this last soul would be trying.
God’s voice boomed down from His throne room, no longer pleasant but impatient. “It is time. Take the soul.”
Death closed his eyes, and whispered “Yes, Lord.”
He closed his eyes and fell to the floor kneeling. He wondered how the humans could do this — gather enough courage to do the unthinkable. How brave they were. He himself did not feel very brave.
“One quick stroke, that’s all,” he whispered, again and again, for eternity. “One quick stroke, that’s all. And it will end. One quick stroke and it’s over. One…quick…”
He gripped his scythe tightly and raised it to his own neck…but could not complete the cut. The blade stopped short just below his jaw.
Cut, he told himself, cut, don’t stop, cut cut cut cut…
With a howl he threw his scythe away, and collapsed, crying. He lay there for quite a while before realising a pair of bare feet before him.
“Get. Up.” the Voice boomed. He was obviously not pleased.
Death sat up, wiping the tears from his face. “Oh Lord, please forgive me, I can’t do it.”
“Why?” God’s question was purely Socratic. He knew all. Death answered anyway, keeping his gaze down.
“Death? Afraid? You weren’t afraid of Gaia when I sent you to create life. You weren’t afraid of Lucifer when he led his rebellion. You weren’t afraid of ME, when I told you to take my son. So why are you afraid now?”
“What happens next, Lord? What…what will happen to me?”
God stood silent. He picked Death’s scythe up from the floor, and held the blade to Death’s neck. “Judgment Day is here. If you can’t, then I will, if you want.”
“I…I can’t Lord. Forgive me for making you do this.” For the first time Death raised his head to look at God’s radiance. “Do you know what will happen to me?”
“Yes.” God raised the scythe.
“Will you tell me, before you take me?”
Moments later, God dropped the scythe, and walked back through Heaven alone, as it was when he first started.