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Two Certainties in Life

Hannah Awbrey is a college student majoring in English and minoring in creative writing, and she hopes to one day become a high school teacher and part-time author. She was published in Stone Soup and TeenInk magazines as a child and teen, and her work will appear in this year's Spring volume of 3Elements Review. As a beginning writer and avid reader of Daily Science Fiction, she is very excited for her work to be published. When she's not writing, Hannah enjoys biking, unicycling, teaching herself the banjo, and going down to the river.

Death met my pretty sister on slick November roads. He was about to reap her gorgeous soul when he noticed her even more gorgeous body. So instead of taking her to heaven (or not) he took her out for drinks. "And we frolicked around Los Angeles for the next fourteen hours," she told me. "Can you believe that?" Somehow, I could.
Now Death comes to Christmas and sulks in the corner with his James Dean leather jacket and emaciated Timothee Chalamet face. And even though he never eats the meatballs our Italian grandmother makes (he's vegetarian, can you believe that?), she always says "Isn't he wonderful? And so handsome!"
When my car crashed in April all I got was a concussion. I'm just saying.
But it's not like I'm jealous or anything. Because the next April, I met my own love when Death invited us to his family Easter (he's Catholic, can you believe that?). Death's family were fuzzy shadows cast by trees. I wondered aloud what they might be named. "War? Famine? Plague?"
My sister said, "Shh! Don't be rude!" So I went over to the appetizers.
There was a real person there, or at least somebody who looked like one. Not a shadow or the abstract manifestation of an unfathomable idea but a real person, with glasses and a sensible haircut. He wore the ugliest tie I'd ever seen, which I decided to ignore as I went up to him and said, "Hi, who are you?" and also, "Can you please move? You're blocking the bean dip."
When he stepped aside, it was a strange weightless step, the kind Death takes towards my pretty sister. "I'm Death's brother," he said. He knew, like me, what it was like to be the less beautiful sibling.
I replied, "I'm Death's sister-in-law, more or less."
He straightened that ugly tie and said, "Did you get here okay? How were the roads?"
"The roads were excellent," I told him.
That made him smile. "That's what I thought."
He watched me put bean dip onto my plastic plate, and maybe he thought my fingers were nimble, good for pressing little calculator keys. He must have spotted something about me that was particularly economical, because he pushed his glasses up his nose again and said, "Do you wanna get out of here? Can I take you out for coffee?"
I did, and he could.
He was not cool like Death. He moonlighted as an accountant. He lived in a nice suburban home with a neatly trimmed lawn. He made yearly contributions to charity and had the receipts to prove it. But he had the same charm, the same all-encompassing eyes. He had a paler, weaker, smarter, businesslike certainty. Death's hands were cold, my sister always said. But when this guy took my hand, his fingers were smooth and hot. Just like paper fresh out of the copier.
They say that in this world, nothing is certain, least of all love. But try telling that to my pretty sister and her immortal love Death. Try telling that to me and my love Taxes, as we file jointly every year.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 7th, 2021

Author Comments

I was inspired to write this story after learning about the personification of Death in fiction. I think stories where Death falls in love with a mortal are very cool, but I feel like I wouldn't personally be a good romantic fit for Death. His more sensible and equally inevitable brother Taxes seemed more my style, so I wrote this very short story.

- Hannah Awbrey
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