"The world is full of willing people, some willing to work, some
willing to let them."
OBVIOUSLY INFLUENCED BY THE DEVIL
by Richard Karsmakers
"HMMM, THAT'S BETTER"
Mr. Smith grinned smugly to himself, opening and closing his
front door repeatedly, listening to the marrow-of-bones-slicing
sound of its hinges the same way an orchestra conductor would
listen to the triangle part of a musical piece. This was better.
More like, well, more like home.
"POTENT STUFF," he muttered, satisfied, looking with appraisal
at the Instant-O-Rust™ aerosol.
He had barely walked back in closed the door behind him - once
more admiring his own work when the whine of the hinges caused
the hall mirror to crack in two - when the doorbell rang.
"NOW WHO WOULD THAT BE?" he mused, click-clicking back to the
When he opened it he could once more not contain his
satisfaction at hearing the ghastly noise. The dog that had just
shitted on the "welcome" doormat had rather a different opinion
about the sound.
"Don't you recognize me?" the dog said, looking at him
expectantly. Mr. Smith had seen his share of weird things in his
former, if you could refer to it as such, job. An expectant-
looking dog wasn't one of them.
"NO, I DON'T BELIEVE I HAVE A TALKING WONDER DOG AMONG MY
ACQUAINTANCES," said Mr. Smith after some painfully silent
seconds had crawled by. "BELIEVE ME, I DON'T HAVE MANY FRIENDS SO
I'M RATHER CERTAIN," he added as an afterthought.
The dog chuckled in a barkish way. It went all liquid brown
stuff, then transformed itself into a word.
"GREAT?" Mr. Smith wondered.
"Yes," a mouth appearing in the top half of the "A" spoke, "I
should think it's pretty obvious."
Apparently it wasn't. More rather painfully silent seconds
ensued. The "A" muttered something under its breath, then went
all bubbly brown liquid again, transforming itself into a leech.
Mr. Smith still wore the by now familiar expression of
"I AM VERY SORRY," he apologized, "BUT NO."
The word melted to the ground in a puddle that looked almost
totally, but not quite, like diarrhoea. From it the form of a
stunningly beautiful girl erected itself, slowly. It had the
wrong colour initially, but after the proper curves and that sort
of thing had meticulously shaped themselves, that also changed
into a gorgeously tanned skin the kind of which one normally
finds draped around awesomely lovely females. Some of the more
private parts were covered by an alpine blue swimming suit that
seemed made almost large enough not quite to burst. Around her
body hung a banner that read "Miss Life".
She sighed. Obviously, the transformation had taken a lot of
Mr. Smith sighed, too. He felt himself trying to cope with a
feeling he had never had before. Due to his anatomy, or rather
the extreme lack of any of its soft bits, he found it difficult
to concentrate the feeling somewhere. He found himself grinding
his teeth, which was something he was good at.
"I THINK I WOULD HAVE REMEMBERED YOU," he said eventually,
"YOU'RE NOT...ER...THE SORT OF PERSON ONE WOULD TEND TO FORGET."
"I am Life," she revealed, her voice husky in the way no
ordinary stunningly awesome girl's voice could ever manage to be,
"known by all, remembered by few."
"AH," Mr. Smith said, "I SEE WE HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON."
She had breathtakingly magnificent collar bones. He liked that
in a girl. If only he would have had to reap the soul of a girl
like that once...things might have been different then. He might
have had a soulmate - even though he had no soul for her to mate
"Aren't you going to invite me in?" Life said, her voice soft
like the velvet skin on the inside of a virgin's thighs. It tore
Mr. Smith from his train of thoughts.
"ER...YES, OF COURSE," he stammered, "DO COME IN." He stepped
back to allow her in. Life had done a pretty good job on its, or
her, appearance. Even the soft scent of her long blonde hair left
the impression of pine forests when it brushed him by. Mr. Smith
caught himself thinking thoughts a man his age was no longer
supposed to think.
He closed the door, oblivious to any satisfaction the terrifying
cacophony of creaking hinges might have given him. He floated
behind her luscious form as it settled in a comfortable couch in
his living room. He saw her hand sprout a wine glass, that slowly
filled itself with a dark-red liquid.
"I hear you've retired," she said, her voice reminiscent of soft
winds brushing through summer meadows. Mr. Smith nodded his head.
"I also hear you've let some dim-wit mercenary annex hired gun
take over," she added, her voice rather too much like the sound
of dead insect legs brushing against fallen autumn leaves during
the onset of a gale. She sipped from her glass of wine.
"WELL," Mr. Smith said, "DEATH IS THE OTHER SIDE. HE'S SMART
NOW. INTELLIGENT. QUITE THE CONTRARY TO WHAT HE WAS BEFORE,
"...quite pacifist, too," Life finished, "Terence, which is
what he calls himself now, doesn't actually want to kill anyone
if he can possibly avoid it."
The expression of amazed flummoxedness on Mr. Smith's face
changed into the beginning of an embarrassed one.
"BUT...," he said, and thought better of it. You can talk about
life, but not with it. You can converse with the living, but not
with Life. It's like trying to speak with the dead.
He gathered courage and tried anyway.
"I'VE BEEN IN THE REAPING LINE OF WORK FOR TOO LONG," he said,
"I CAN'T FOR THE LIFE OF ME IMAGINE PEOPLE WANTING TO DO IT FOR
THAT LONG. NOT ON YOUR LIFE. I WANTED TO COME TO LIFE.
Life looked at him. It was an accusing stare infinitely worse
than that of a woman whose firstborn twins you've just run down
with a combine harvester. Good thing Mr. Smith had in his
previous occupation insisted on using scythes - he had never
heard of combine harvesters or any other newfangled agricultural
He wondered what Cronos, or Terence, or whatever name the man
had given himself, was doing now...
Terence sat in the central hall of his new abode. In the hearth,
a fire was flaming away happily. He had put up his feet and
simply sat, staring at some undefined point in space. Sometimes
his instinct would tell him someone's soul had to be reaped - he
would feel a peculiar absence of something which would each time
reach out, execute and return to base within a matter of
About half an hour ago he had had to reap a wizard's soul, which
had been dramatically different. Death has to turn up in person
for important deaths, or at least those deemed important by some
arcane law or other - cats, wizards and penguins. This particular
wizard, a wizened old man who seemed to have spent at least a
decade with one foot in the grave already, had not liked
Terence's looks. Too, hum, much ham on the, hum, bone, the old
mage had snorted accusingly, just before Terence had reluctantly
decapitated the man with an audible TWANG of his sharpest of
In the library, the German-built floating library filing system
had gone through the ever repetitive but apparently not at all
boring routine of removing a book, creating a new tome of history
and filling the hourglass with a specific amount of finest sand.
This specific old magician reincarnated as a witch, which says a
lot about the Germans' sense of humour.
Terence got up and walked to and fro, guilt-ridden. He knew he
had once truly relished the taste of death, that he had simply
loved killing people and any other sentient beings, preferably at
random. He remembered the adrenalin rush he had experienced
before pulling triggers, pushing buttons and flicking switches.
Now he just felt nauseated. He tried not to think of him having
to be Death for millenium after millenium, aeon after aeon.
Regular kills could be coped with. He had even learned not to
wake up anymore when it happened. But wizards...he had never
known there were so many blasted wizards around, nor that there
were such an enormous amount of cats, each with nine lives! And
penguins...he hadn't realised the hole in the ozone layer was
killing them in such large quantities. All these creatures found
it necessary to start pushing up daisies virtually all the time,
making it quite impossible to, say, take a day off.
He had considered going on strike, but had been afraid of the
consequences. 'No death' automatically meant 'too much life'.
Before you knew it, you had inanimate objects dancing in the
streets, trolleys terrorizing mankind. He'd read about it
somewhere, and hadn't liked it.
This Death business, which had seemed quite brilliant at start,
hadn't turned out for the better. And the worst thing was that he
couldn't get used to the expression in the people whose souls he
was about to reap.
He wandered into his bedroom. He had not yet gotten round to
examining former Death's wardrobe, so he absent-mindedly opened
It was hard not to be sucked in. It seemed like a black hole
compared to which other black holes looked like disco spotlights.
It was filled with dark robes, all of them identical.
Death hadn't merely been unfashionable - he'd been seriously
defashionable in quite an utter way. And the robes weren't just
black. They were the opposite of white light and then out the
There was only one source of light in the yawning recesses of
the enormous wardrobe. Well, it wasn't actually light as such, it
was just that the deepest black of the door at the back of the
cupboard was infinitely more like purest white than the rest of
It was little. The kind of door on which fits a little key.
Terence fumbled in his pockets. He found the keyring and touched
the small credit card that was attached to it. He took it out and
The small door opened with a sound that sent shivers down
Terence's every sensory nerve.
He had expected utter blackness beyond it.
He had been quite right. Except for the golden chariot with its
six flaming horses.
He stepped through.
"SO YOU MEAN HE'S NO GOOD AT...ER...THE JOB?" Mr. Smith asked.
The form of the prodigiously exquisite female had been replaced
by that of the talking wonder dog again. Life found it less
strenuous and, anyway, life's a bitch.
"Not yet," the dog answered, "But he will be soon."
"Good afternoon," a robed figure at the reigns said.
"Hi," a red, horned figure chimed in.
The horses didn't even as much as whinny. Probably, they were
too busy just being aflame.
"Hop in, dude," the horned little chap said, happily.
"Yes, do,"the robed person added, rather more formally.
Terence opened the chariot's door and entered. Its interior
turned out to be as golden as the outside.
Before he knew it, both the robed and the horned figures moved
the reigns, setting the chariot in motion. Quickly it gained
momentum. Shortly afterwards it seemed to be floating, or flying.
He glanced out of the window to see stars rushing by.
He picked up a leaflet captioned "Elizium Tours", published by a
company called 'Devilishly Divine Inc'. It had a picture of his
two coachmen on the cover. They were both smiling broadly - the
red one fumbling his barbed tail, the other his beard.
Terence had actually expected music. Bach, perhaps, or Chopin.
Possibly even a touch of Vangelis. He hadn't quite expected Joe
Satriani's "One Big Rush". After a while, just when the good
guitar bit started, the music faded away. A pre-recorded voice
"Welcome to 'Elizium Tours', brought to you by Devilishly Divine
Incorporated, the company that *nobody* deemed possible. We have
done all possible - and not just the *humanly* possible, ha ha -
to bring you a tour of which the memory will last you a
The voice remained unheard for a while, during which one of
those typical Wagnerian bits of music was played. When it once
more faded away another voice spoke.
"We are sure thou hast not yet experienced anything like this in
thy life. Now, thy death will start off with the most amazing
experience thinkable. Thou wilst visit the realm of hereafter,
Valhalla, Heaven ('Or hell!', another voice yelled frantically in
the background), the Great Plains, the Eternal Honeyjar, the
Realm of the Dead, the Dungeon Dimensions...Elizium..."
There was another while of silence. As if on cue, the first
couple of bars of Beethoven's Fifth were played. Then the voice
"Do fasten thy seatbelts, and please refrain from smoking."
A 'click' signalled the end of the pre-recorded message. Terence
discovered no seatbelts. Stars flashed by ever faster, until they
became nothing more than blurry lines.
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN?" Mr. Smith asked.
"Have you told him," the dog inquired, "about the small key?"
"YES. MOST DISTINCTLY. CRONOS WARCHILD WOULD NEVER DISOBEY ME."
He was absolutely certain about it. "I AM LIKE HIS SUPERIOR TO
HIM," he added with confidence.
"To Cronos Warchild you are, yes," the dog sneered derisively,
"but not to Terence."
Mr. Smith had a naturally pale complexion, partly accounted for
by the contrast of off-white bone on the darkest of blackest
robes. Nonetheless it became rapidly paler, at which even the dog
couldn't help but gaze in intense bewilderment.
"IF...IF...IF HE DOES THAT..." Mr. Smith stuttered.
"...even Death may die," the dog finished for him.
The journey didn't take long, but nobody could guess at the
distance the fiery chariot had covered, not even when taken
wildly. The stars were no longer visible and instead there was
something like fog - only much, much more intense, as if someone
had put a whole world of clouds in a can.
Terence opened the chariot door and stepped out. The air was of
a totally different quality, though he couldn't quite put his
finger on it. There was a sign that appeared to float before him.
Please don't litter, it said, Don't urinate, spit or throw
anything down. Thank you.
"Don't forget your tour guides, dude," a voice suddenly called
from above. Terence turned around to look into the eyes of the
horny red coachman. He had his hand extended, palm up.
Terence fumbled in some pockets and eventually retrieved a
couple of thousand dollars in Monopoly money. The little red chap
took it greedily, gave his bearded colleague a good 100 bucks and
pocketed the rest, grinning inanely.
"Have fun, pal," the little man said, then cackled weirdly. The
chariot was turned around and began to disappear in the distance.
The bearded guy cast a last glance at Terence, a hint of sadness
in his eyes. Mere seconds later the chariot was just a small
fiery speck below, not much bigger than the stars until it
He was in heaven all right. Not just metaphorically speaking,
but quite literally. He stood on soft clouds that required some
getting used to in order for him to be able to walk. In the end
There was a large gate, built in Greek style. He approached it
uncertainly. Why had Death expressly forbidden the use of the
small key? Could his entering this mysterious Elizium perhaps
have some vile consequences? He didn't know. The unknown had
never attracted Cronos Warchild - but it most certainly exercised
a most powerful form of incitement on Terence. He brushed aside
any mental obstructions and entered the Domain.
He entered what seemed like an entirely different world,
contained in what might just as well be an entirely different
universe. He stood amid high grass that covered a hilltop. When
he looked down he saw a small village where thin, unstable
lines of smoke ascended from picturesque chimneys. There was a
forest beyond it, and more hills. Much further in the distance he
saw true mountains, their tops shrouded in clouds and snow. When
he looked behind him to where he had come from his heart froze
for an instant.
There was no gate, nor anything like it. There were another
small village or two, some more patches of trees, and a blue sea
in the far distance.
He had no idea where he had arrived.
"Wow," he gasped.
He also felt very different. This, so it turned out, was largely
due to the fact that his clothes had changed. He wore a
designer leopard-patterned loincloth of sorts. He also found his
body changed. It was broad and muscular, hairy where it ought to
be. Mysteriously, a hearing aid had attached itself to one of his
ears. Obviously, he had changed back to his old self. He didn't
know why - but, then again, he didn't know a lot for he was paid
to fight and not to think.
"Hmpf," he snorted.
Mr. Smith was cleaning up dog shit. He had preferred Life's
girl form much more - if not for the fact that it just happened
to be most aesthetically pleasing, at least she didn't shit and
wee-wee all over the place. He had just finished washing his
spectral hands when the doorbell rang again.
"WHO WILL IT BE THIS TIME?" he thought aloud as he once more
click-clicked to the door.
He opened it and looked out. He frowned at the sound of the
hinges - there wasn't any. He saw fresh grease on them. Or was it
There was nobody to be seen except for a cyclist passing by that
suddenly, subconsciously and for no apparent reason, found it
necessary to peddle faster.
"Hey!" a voice yelled.
Mr. Smith looked around once more, somewhat more intense this
time. His astral hearing told him someone had cried at the top of
his voice - still, it had been all but silence.
"Yo! Down here!" the voice insisted.
Mr. Smith looked down. He saw nothing except for a very small
goblin that was jumping up and down frenetically. He didn't
actually see it as such, for even Death has filters built in that
tell him not to believe his senses when seeing things that don't
exist. Tiny crying goblins were among them, right next to purple
elephants and friendly tax collectors.
There was a brief smell of ozone, a spell of smoke and a short
crash of thunder.
In front of Death stood a man that seemed older than the
universe itself. It seemed as if he could barely refrain
himself from fading away. He wore a pale blue robe that was
almost transparent insofar that you could just about see the
trees through it and him. A beard was slung across his shoulder
and still brushed the ground. On the man's hat sat a sundial,
around his wrists hung several watches. In one hand he held an
hourglass of an extraordinary quality even Death had never seen
before. Never, that is, except for one time - a very, very long
"FATHER?" Mr. Smith gasped, incredulously.
"Yes, son," the most ancient man said, his breath almost failing
to pronounce the words, like an infant failing to blow out a
"FATHER, IS THAT REALLY YOU?" Mr. Smith repeated, still not
capable of believing it was really his progenitor - Time.
The man nodded. A tear welled up in an eye but remained
invisible - naturally transparent liquids excreted by almost see-
through people generally tend not to be all too detectable.
"FATHER!" Mr. Smith cried, and embraced Time as tenderly as is
possible when you're basically a bunch of bones held together by
a robe as dark as a black hole with broken headlights.
Time nodded, glancing at a couple of wristwatches nervously. He
ticked on one of them and cursed below his breath.
"I have little time, son," the old man sighed, "for the time
being I've been able to take some time off to take time by the
"UH?" Mr. Smith frowned.
"I've come to give a timely warning, son," the ancient man
breathed, "I hope I'm in time, that it's not yet too late."
"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, DAD?"
Time winced. "Father, son, father," the vintage figure panted,
"Let's not get too colloquial at this time, we've got to keep up
appearances. For the time being, at least. We've done so since
time out of mind."
"WHAT ABOUT IT, FATHER?"
"The new Death, son," Time puffed, "isn't doing well. He's got
little time left."
"THE SMALL DOOR?"
"They already brought him to Elizium."
There was a silence as heavy as a planet.
"THERE GOES MY DREAM, FATHER," Mr. Smith said, "GOODBYE,
FLORIDA. GOODBYE, CONDO."
"Death should not go there. Duty calls for you."
Time glanced at a watch, then at another.
"Oh heavens, the time!" Time exclaimed, voice filled with panic,
"Have to fly. Sort things out, will you?"
"CERTAINLY, FATHER," Mr. Smith said solemnly, "WE WOULDN'T WANT
THEM TO TAKE OVER, WOULD WE?"
Time nodded, then started to fade away.
A muted curse drifted across the borders of time and space.
A fresh wind entered Terence's nostrils. He hated it. He'd
rather smell diesel fumes or toxic waste any day. The sun played
tricks on his hair, like black flames of shadow moving in the
breeze. He hated the sun. He'd much as rather have fog, dark
clouds and the kind of drizzle that soaks the very marrow of your
bones. There were cute little birds sitting on tree branches
singing positively lovely evening serenades. He hated bloody
birds singing bloody evening serenades. He'd prefer the sound of
soiled steam engines or the cacophony of a blood-stained massacre
any time. There were brightly coloured flowers along the path on
which he stood. He hated bright colours. He got off on drab grey,
and there was no shade he loved more than the mixture of colon
contents and gastric acids. He kicked some off them. Petals flew
So this was Elizium. The Hereafter. It was even worse than what
mythology had made of it. He had a familiar sensation in his
guts, the kind of feeling that told him to find something and eat
it, even if it wasn't particularly edible. A squirrel just
happened to fit the bill. A hand flashed, followed by the sound
of a tiny neck breaking.
He jumped to alertness when he heard the sound of someone
whistling a tune, somewhere behind him. It came closer. From
behind a copse appeared a rather effeminate chap holding an
apple. He appeared not to notice Terence and came closer. Just
when Terence was about to do something rather aggressive, the
chap held sideways the arm with the apple and put the back of his
free hand against his own forehead.
"To be or not to be..." he cried, "that is the question!"
Terence looked at the man, dumbfounded.
"To be or not to be..." the other now repeated, "that is the
Dumbfoundness was still omnipotently present on Terence's face.
The people of Elizium were some severely weird dudes.
"It's not even a question," Terence remarked, matter-of-fact.
The man looked at him in horror, utterly shocked.
"I'm Bill Tremblepike Junior, the famous playwright," he said
proudly, "and whom might you be?"
"Terence," Terence said. He felt his name lacked something. Yes,
it lacked ambi ants. He didn't quite know how to add it, though,
so that's what he left it at.
The man took a snuffbox from within one of his ruffled sleeves.
He opened the little shiny thing and took from it some white
powder. He held it under his nose and sniffed.
Terence had seen this before, of course, back when he was still
alive and had to try and find his livelihood (and, often, his
American Express Traveller's Cheques) in the slums of many
metropolises around the universe. People who sniffed white
powder were weaklings who could resist anything but temptation,
people who were too futile to cope with reality and instead chose
to flee from it in some sort of self-styled hell - chop your
breakfast on a mirror, that sort of thing.
Obviously the white powder had gotten to the effeminate chap's
head already: He walked past Terence, nose up, completely
ignoring him, rambling on about his father's supposed death,
guilt, and his mother.
The real world, as far as Terence was concerned, had certainly
become a better place the moment this guy had started his final
voyage. If Elizium was full of fruitcakes like this he was in for
He decided to walk to one of the villages where he reckoned the
smoke that arose from the chimneys, in some delicate way of its
own, resembled belches of industrial fumes - provided you would
let your imagination run away with them.
The streets were empty, as if it was a ghost town. There was a
sound of people, however, that came from behind a door that stood
ajar. The word "Inn" was written above it. Terence could already
imagine feeling at home here. Any place that had an inn couldn't
possibly be too bad.
He was about to have his opinions drastically revised.
He walked in. The sound of people drinking and talking stopped
quite instantly. It wasn't that they disliked strangers - as a
matter of fact they tended to like them a lot as they usually
brought exciting tales from distant Elizian corners. This
particular stranger, however, wore a sufficient amount of nothing
to be considered rude even to the weirdest and most ill-dressed
They looked him over disapprovingly. Suddenly, he felt rather
uncomfortable. He looked down at his designer leopard-patterned
loincloth. The sound of people drinking and talking filled the
The gathering of townfolk was colourful to say the least.
Cronos' mind hadn't yet taken over fully, so Terence recognized
Marilyn Monroe, Freddie Mercury, Napoleon Bonaparte, Vincent van
Gogh and Eve. He felt slightly relieved when he saw Adam's girl,
for she wore only a maple leaf before her nether parts, her hair
doing a good job at covering various other bits that needed
"Gee," Terence said, "is Elvis here, too?"
All sounds ceased again, and the people looked at him
disapprovingly again. It seemed to be a thing they liked doing a
"Of course not," Terence muttered to himself, "he was abducted
The girl in whom he had recognized Marilyn Monroe now came up to
him. From nowhere in particular, a draft tore at her white dress,
throwing it up a bit and displaying a lot of leg.
"Oops," she giggled, "poo-poo-pee-doo."
She walked past him, carrying with her the odour of too much
"Wait Mary!" the Napoleon clone said, "I don't want you to be my
Waterloo!" The man rushed past Terence, out of the inn and after
"Mary's just taking advantage of Nappy O'Lion," the girl wearing
nothing but hair and a maple leaf remarked, "I guess it's a habit
that doesn't just stop when you die."
"Would you mind speaking up, dear," the Van Gogh lookalike said,
"my hearing isn't quite what it used to be before I had my mental
"Sure, Von Gogem," the First of Women sniggered.
"Thanks Ms. Ning," the half-deaf, totally dead artist said, "And
to return the favour I'd like you to pose for a painting I'm
doing at the moment."
Ms. Ning blushed, flattered, and asked, "What's it called?"
Von Gogem thought for a while. He looked at Terence, then said,
"The Four Potato Eaters of the Apocalypse."
"Funny name," the Freddie Mercury imitation whispered to someone
who sat nearby, "I wonder did he ssink of it himsself?"
Von Gogem looked sharply at the singer. If he set his mind to
it, the artist heard much more than what most people thought he
"Would you mind stepping outside, Mr. Silver?" the ageing
The singer looked at the other with an air of arrogance,
stroking his ridiculous moustache, then said, "Ssure. Why not.
Who wantss to live forever?"
Before he knew it, Terence was quite alone. Obviously, most
people found it more interesting to witness a good fist fight
rather than gaze at the loincloth that was, to put it midly,
showing rather a lot of what were definitely genitals of the
proportions he had missed when checking himself over earlier that
More confident of himself, he walked outside to see how the
fight was going down.
The streets were empty. It seemed like some kind of dream where
you follow someone around a corner or outside a room and suddenly
that someone turned out no longer to be there. The same kind of
dream where you try to walk home but just find yourself walking
the wrong way, the sort of dream where you try to run away
from something but don't quite manage to increase your speed
beyond that of a leisure stroll.
At the instant the thought had finished, an old man came around
the corner. He sat in a wheelchair and looked remarkably much
like Marlon Brando. The man stopped his wheelchair just before
Terence and looked up.
"I'm Don Quattro Stagioni," he said, his voice as hoarse as
rasped limestone and as polluted with an Italian accent as that
of your average pizza parlour boss.
"Well, er...I'm Terence," Terence said. Again he felt something
lacking, so he added, "The famous playwright."
The Don fumbled his chin with one hand. His other hand fumbled
with something below the blanket that covered his lap and legs.
"You're not dead," the Don said, puzzled, "but you're not
exactly alive either."
Other people were arriving on the scene now. He saw someone
looking like Einstein, a French woman carrying her head and Bill
Tremblepike as well. The latter looked rather spaced out. There
were other people that looked as if they had been rather famous
when they'd been alive, but Cronos' old brain was taking over too
much to enable Terence to tie them to any names. There was a guy
dressed in khaki colours with a ridiculous toothbrush moustache
and lank black hair. Another man had the same sort of moustache
but was dressed in black and a bowler hat instead. His shoes
seemed too large, too.
The Don craned back his neck to whisper with someone who had
appeared behind him. It was a rather fat, squat man smoking a
thick cigar. Terence couldn't make out what they were talking
about, but he did hear words like 'terminate', 'Death', 'threat'
A tiny voice in the back of his mind, probably part of his
mercenary instincts that were taking over again, told him that
these people might not want to be friends. At least not until he
was actually dead.
The blanket was lifted from Don Quattro Stagioni's lap. It
revealed one of those gangster-type of machine guns.
"Obviously," Terence said, feeling his grip on the situation
slipping away like an eel in a bucket of nose excreta, "you're
not happy to see me."
This would have been the ideal spot to terminate the story, or
at least this particular cluster of paragraphs. As it happens,
however, something happened at that precise instant. Something
that does not warrant an empty line to be included, even.
This was what happened.
There was a sudden gust of wind. They all looked around as if
drawn by a supernatural force - which was probably not all too
far from the truth. On the protruding, darkly silhouetted crest
of a hill sky stood an even darker figure. A robe flapped around
him in the wind, in his hands he held an agricultural tool
usually associated with departing - in the metaphorical sense of
"Wow. Drama," someone whispered below his breath.
Just to emphasize things, the wind increased sufficiently to
transform the gently flapping of the black robe into something
Shivers went down a whole lot of spines.
"Any moment now there'll be a..."
There was a crack of lightning. It was soundless. By the time
all eyes had grown used to the darkness again, the robed figure
had disappeared from the hillcrest.
Death had never visited Elizium. Not the real Death, at least.
He just gave people a complimentary one-way ticket, sponsored by
Devilishly Divine Inc. He had decided today would have to be an
exception. Either this, or they would take over.
Elizians had no natural affection towards Death. They had even
considerably less of an affection towards the concept of the
Reaper actually being in town. All of them had met him once, and
none of them cared to have the occasion repeated.
As if nature had held her breath all the time, enthralled, she
now suddenly decided to unleash the sound of thunder that had
belonged to the flash of lightning. It would definitely not
suffice merely to tell it was pretty damn loud. It was the sound
of dinosaur herds trampling off, frightened by continents
crashing into each other and mountains erupting quite
spontaneously, the sky filled with a squadron of post-speed-of-
sound jets that had decided quite conveniently to break the sound
barrier at a location somewhere right between your ears.
The silence that ensued was just as intense as that which it
followed. No bird dared utter a sound, no wolves dared even to
howl. The wind had died. Grass lay limp, trees stood leafless.
Around Terence lay a couple of people, clutching their ears,
"TERENCE," a voice like dried bones in Sahara sand whispered
close to Terence's ear. There was no reaction. Terence stood as
immovable as a Sodomic pillar of salt. Mr. Smith laid a bony hand
on Terence's shoulder.
"Oh," Terence said, looking around, "I thought it would be you."
He turned a knob behind his ear.
"That was quite a noise, it was," he chuckled, "good thing I had
my hearing aid turned down."
Mr. Smith nodded, then looked levelly.
"THAT'S NOT WHAT I CAME HERE FOR," he said.
"NOT QUITE, NO."
There was a tiny 'clunk' of a coin dropping. Terence fumbled in
his pockets, only to find nothing.
"IS THIS WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR?" Mr. Smith asked. He had
always loved rhetorics. Two spectral fingers held a small credit
card before Terence's nose, the rest of the key ring and other
credits card bungling below it. He had always loved picking
Terence stared at the limp grass, at a loss for words. He
experienced a most nauseating feeling he couldn't remember ever
having felt before. It was guilt.
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO USE IT."
"YOU DID ANYWAY."
"YOU HAVE DISOBEYED ME, TERENCE. NOBODY HAS DONE THAT BEFORE AND
DIED TO TELL ABOUT IT."
"Yes, but, you see..."
Terence shut up. It was a wise thing to do. Mr. Smith stared at
him. Terence had never thought two empty eye sockets could
inflict so much wrath.
"YOU HAVE ENTERED ELIZIUM. YOU'VE NEARLY CAUSED DEATH TO DIE. I
HOPE YOU REALIZE WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES WILL BE."
"YOU WILL NO LONGER BE DEATH."
"YOU WILL NO LONGER BE...IMMORTAL."
There was a pause, in which Terence tried to think. What with
Cronos' brain having devolved to its old self again, this was
"So I will...er...die, basically?" he asked.
"NO," Mr. Smith muttered, "I'M NOT ONE WHO CARRIES A GRUDGE."
"I've noticed that," Terence said, "you seem rather keen on your
Mr. Smith ground his teeth. It was something he was good at. He
had missed it, really. Grinding teeth came with the Death job. He
had missed the reaping business. Maybe things had turned out for
the better anyway.
It seemed as if Mr. Smith, no, Death, thought long and hard
"BACK TO EARTH THOU SHALT GO," Death intoned.
Terence looked up.
Death clicked his heels twice. There was a short period of time
that seemed to extend itself across a long one. Terence thought
he heard an angry, devilish voice yelling, "Told you it wouldn't
work, dude!". Another voice replied, softly, "Eye guess that's
what humans call My will."
After that, more sounds came. There was the sound of flames and
horses, followed by thunder that rolled across the sky. There was
the sound of wings beating the air fervently, of insect legs
touching jar edges. He closed his eyes when the colours came, but
it was of no avail - they seemed to penetrate his eyelids as if
they were as transparent as the robes of Time. At first there was
a bright yellow colour, then thick, red fluid dripped across
everything. Then the whole thing faded away into utter blackness.
When Terence opened his eyes he heard the echo wearing off of
spectral heels clicking. He though he could hear a horse,
whinnying in the distance.
"YOU'RE BACK," Death said, "WE ARE BACK."
"I see," Terence said.
He sat on the ground, holding a shiny samurai sword in his
hands. There weren't any blood stains on it. Death loomed over
him in what any other person would no doubt have considered a
pretty threatening way.
"BACK IN TIME, TOO," Death said, pride in his voice for having
succeeded in bending the fabric of space and time
sufficiently without his dad appearing to have noticed.
"You mean I didn't kill myself?"
Death slowly shook his head.
"NOT YET," he said.
"Gee," Terence said, somewhat aghast, "er...well...thanks."
"I GUESS WE COULD CALL IT QUITS NOW."
"Yeah," Terence said. Cronos' mind was taking over. Every bit
that had been Terence was now slowly taking off.
"GOOD LUCK," Death said. Grinning, he added, "HAPPY HUNTING."
A spark lit in Cronos' eyes. Or perhaps it was the setting sun
gleaming off his hearing aid - it was hard to tell.
There was a brief lapse of silence.
"No, not Terence," the mercenary annex hired gun said, "Cronos,
if you don't mind."
He walked off into the sunset. A poor lonesome mercenary far
away from home.
THIS IS NOT THE END. IT'S JUST THE BEGINNING.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.