When You're Dead
Mark A Davis
"The thing about being dead," said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero. "The thing that you've really got to remember about being dead, is that you're not actually dead."
Grandpa Anarchy sat in a crowded room that was part dentist's office, part DMV. The walls were white. The carpeting was white. The ceiling wasn't visible, but light shone down -- the sort of painfully bright, cold white that came from flourescent lights. The chairs, however, were an odd shade of plastic teal.
Transparent people sat in these chairs -- ghosts waiting endlessly for their number to be called. Tables were piled high with out-of-date magazines -- Chariots of Fire Montly, Golden Harps Review, and Scenic Tours in the Elysium Fields. A PSA poster on the wall read: So Now You're Dead -- What Comes Next? Below was a lengthy description of your afterlife options, along with cartoonish illustrations.
Grandpa Anarchy and Spyro Gyros were likewise transparent. Grandpa wore his usual grey suit with the silver anarchy symbol over the left breast -- although the suit was marred by blood stains and a large wound in his chest. Spyro Gyros, meanwhile, was a young boy with dark, curly hair and a spandex suit with a swirling pattern and the image of a gyros sandwich on his chest. He appeared to be likewise badly injured.
"I think," said Grandpa, "that my first mistake was allowing the atomic molemen to flank me. That made it easy for Death Medal and Growly Monster to trap me while Kid Gloves kept you busy...."
"Grandpa," asked Spyro Gyros, "if we're dead then why are we in a dentist's office?"
"It's always like this," said Grandpa. "The way I see it, the afterlife is so amazing that your mind can't comprehend it. So you mentally replace it with something familiar -- a kind of hallucination of something your mind can handle...."
Spyro Gyros frowned. "A dentist's office? And we all see the same shared hallucination?"
Grandpa Anarchy shrugged. "I don't know, Kid. Maybe? Your guess is as good as mine. The point is, all of this is temporary."
Spyro Gyros frowned. "In what manner is it temporary?"
"I mean," said Grandpa, "we may be dead, but we're not dead dead. You see?"
"Grandpa," said Spyro Gyros, "Death Medal fired fifty rounds into your torso, drove an Eldritch Black Blade through your heart, and then decapitated you with it."
Grandpa glanced down at the massive, festering hole in his chest. His head, unconnected to his neck, began to pitch forward. He caught it with his hands and carefully balanced it atop his shoulders once again.
"You got me there," he replied. "Death Medal did a real number on me. It's funny, too -- Death Medal has always been one for forcing me to watch as he orchestrated his grand scheme to bring about Armageddon and end the universe. You know the type -- always craves an audience, always wants to explain his master plan, always wants you to appreciate how he's going to bring about Ragnarok. It's unlike him to kill me, first thing.
"But that was a pretty amazing magic sword, I'm not going to lie."
"The point is," said Spyro, "you're dead. You're very, very dead."
"Ah," said Grandpa, "that's where you're wrong. I've faced much worse than this."
"Death Medal set fire to your corpse!" Spyro Gyros exclaimed.
"Did he, now?" said Grandpa. "I must have missed that part, on account of being decapitated."
"Grandpa," said the sidekick, "we're dead! We fought the bad guy and we were beaten!"
"Well, sure," Grandpa replied, "but that was just round one."
"We've been murdered!" the sidekick said, hysteria creeping into his voice. "How many rounds do you think there's going to be?"
"As many as it takes for us to win," Grandpa replied firmly. "Good always triumphs over evil. Always."
An angel appeared before them. It was very tall -- perhaps nine feet -- and brilliant white. There were wings, and long white robes, but you could hardly look at the creature's face; it was like staring into the sun.
"Theodore Harold 'Paul' Smith, known as Grandpa Anarchy, and Lazaros Constantiniades, known as Spyro Gyros?" said the angel. "The Arbiter will see you now."
"You just wait, Kid," said Grandpa. "We'll be back fighting Death Medal in no time. You'll see."
The Arbiter of the Dead looked like the stereotypical angel of death -- skeleton in a black robe, with dark blue eyes as deep as the Mariana trench. There were wings the color of ash against a gray sky, and on the desk, a coffee cup depicting a cute kitten.
"Grandpa Anarchy," the Arbiter intoned. "According to our records, you have been resurrected twenty-seven times since last June, and three times already this week."
"I know," Grandpa replied. "It's hard to dodge impending death at my age. My reflexes ain't what they used to be."
"The problem," said the Arbiter, "is that you're not allotted another resurrection for at least a week."
"I'm not?" Grandpa asked in surprise.
"No," said the Arbiter. "Management is on a mission to reign in unwarranted resurrections. Seems the big boss came down on them like a ton of bricks, and now we've got quotas that we're not allowed to exceed. You know how it is."
"But it's the end of the universe if we don't get back and stop Death Medal!" Grandpa exclaimed.
The Arbiter held up a bony finger. "The end of one universe," it said. There are countless more where that came from." It sighed. "Even so, I don't want destruction of a universe on my record, so... I'll see what I can do. No promises, and it won't be a resurrection because I'm not allowed to do that for you until at least next Thursday, but...."
Torches burned on a barren mountaintop. Death Medal -- a man dressed like a Nazi S.S. officer with silver skull buttons and a chest covered in so many medals that it resembled scale armor, and also by the way his head was a burning skull -- held out a large magical tome with theatrical flourish. Beside him stood Miss Kid Gloves and Private Growly Monster, while a circle around these three was made up of Death Medal's storm troopers and his new atomic molemen shock troops.
"And now," he said, "with that annoying Grandpa Anarchy out of the way, we shall commence with the spell that will rain down destruction upon... well, everyone." There was a loud cheer, after which Death Medal called out, "Cue the music!"
Private Growly Monster pushed the button on a very large boom box and held it aloft. The first strains of Metallica's The Call of Ktulu began to play.
A burning skeletons appeared, along with Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick Spyro Gyros. The skeleton was nine feet tall, wore black armor etched with glowing runes, and had burning bone wings.
Death Medal dropped the tome. "Oh. My. Demons!" he breathed.
"Surprise, Brimstone Breath!" said the skeleton, in the voice of Grandpa Anarchy. "I'm your avenging angel, here to stop this ceremony and kick your ass all the way back to hell!" The creature glanced at its burning bone arm. "Wow, this is pretty cool," it added.
Death Medal appeared to be crying tears of joy -- which was quite the trick, seeing that his face was an unblinking burning skull. "It's more than cool," he exclaimed. "It's the most beautiful thing I've seen in ages! An avenging angel, here to fight me?"
"That's right," said the angel. "But let's make this quick. I'm on a temporary avenging angel visa and I've only got an hour to do this...."