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The look on Horace’s face is priceless. Jaw dropped, slowly lowering the oversized hood that gravity keeps firmly in place. Even the flowing robes come to a dead stop when he walks out of his office, thick stone door refusing to slam shut.

“What have you done?”

Even though he doesn’t drink I hand him a glass of wine. His bony fingers wrap around the delicate stem and he leans into the liquid, regardless of the fact he can’t smell. With the glass still in hand, his eyes take in what I call the lobby of the Dark Plane. Red and white lights twinkle along the ceiling and on the door hangs a wreath made of imitation pine. A large red and gold gingham bow adorns the top of the wreath and I hung a few red, blue, and gold bulbs on it as well.

“I’ve decorated for Christmas, of course.”

Next to my boss’s door is a seven foot tree, decked out with Doctor Who figures, blue and silver bulbs, and a T.A.R.D.I.S for a topper. A twelve foot long scarf, set with multi-colored stripes and tassels wraps around in place of garland. Horace’s eyes roam the tree and then the walls. One wall has a bust of Santa. A cardboard chimney painted red and white holds a life-size Santa.

“It is…festive.”

“Festive? That’s it?”

His bony feet clack against the stone floor. His jaw clicks, the overhead light
catching his bare head. Almost as an afterthought, he pulls his hood up, once again the imposing figure of Death.

“Yes. We have never been particularly festive on the Dark Plane. Please explain.”

Now my jaw has dropped open. “Never?” He shakes his head. “Holy shit dude.”

For a second his mouth moves as if to remind me there’s nothing holy about poop, but then he reconsiders. Doing another full circle, he takes in the flying paper reindeer I taped to the wall near his secretary’s office and the lighted deer standing in fake snow I set up near the entrance to the Dark Plane. As Deathers come and go they can see most of the décor, right down to the Merry Christmas sign hanging over the Planes entrance.

“Has it occurred to you that not everyone will appreciate your efforts?”

“No.”

“You may not realize that Deathers are from all faiths, beliefs, and walks of life. Has it not occurred to you that not everyone celebrates Christmas?”

“No.”

Okay, that’s a lie. But he’s not seeing everything, then, because I created walls devoted to other holidays, too. Honestly, I took a poll and Deathers agreed that the Christmas stuff was kosher. Those of other faiths agreed to help decorate parts of the Plane for their holiday and we made sure everything was visible for everyone. But if he hasn’t noticed that yet…

“I did notice. I suspected you were not that close-minded, despite—”

My sparkly purple robes catch the twinkling white lights outlining the office doors of both Horace and his secretary. One hip juts out and my foot taps on the floor, arms crossed, an angry huff escaping my lips.

“Despite what?” I grind out.

“Moving along.”

“Oh no, no, no. Despite what??”

If he could swallow, Horace would’ve gulped by now. Those empty sockets, with their little purple-blue flame, avoid my own gaze. It may be that my gaze could disassemble him one joint at a time, it’s so angry.

“Well. You are from a, shall we say, quite Christian, conservative area of Iowa.
Perhaps a place not well known for diversity. Therefore, you may not have thought about other faiths. I apologize. It was an insensitive comment. You are of course, quite other worldly.”

For a few awkward seconds, he stares at me until I accept his version of an apology. As the evening begins and Deathers start flowing in for work, I gesture to his glass. Raising mine I propose a toast.

“To Christmas in the Afterlife.”

He raises his own but of course doesn’t drink. I polish mine off quickly, head rushing. Horace retreats to his office while his secretary bustles about, handing out assignment lists. Every step she takes she jingles, thanks to the bells on her green and red Santa hat and the tree on her sweater. I suppose I should let him know about the ugly sweater contest coming up tomorrow night. Maybe I could get him into a sweater.

4 Comments

  1. Eee! I like it! The line that first sealed my appreciation was “We have never been particularly festive on the Dark Plane.” I enjoy Horace as Death, and the interplay with the protagonist. I would definitely read more, but am also satisfied with this. A great little scene and community conveyed in effectively two characters–though Horace’s secretary intrigues me.

  2. Ahahahahaha. I don’t think he’ll wear a sweater. Great tale, Kel. 🙂


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