I remember the day of my heart attack very well. I was working from home on account of the utterly miserable weather, sitting at the kitchen table half-heartedly plugging away at the budget spreadsheet on my laptop. It was sudden: one moment I was working, the next I was lying on the floor with no heartbeat.

But the story doesn’t end there. I thought I’d fallen off my chair so I tried to get up. That’s when I noticed my body wasn’t coming with the rest of me. My first thought was, “that’s strange.” You were probably hoping for something more witty; so was I.

The sound of the front door opening and closing was weird and echoey, like a badly done dream sequence on a TV show. Two pairs of hard-soled shoes made castanet sounds on the floor.

They came into the room while was getting my bearings. It was the Grim Reaper. I’d seen enough horror movies to know that black cloak, skeletal visage and scythe anywhere. What I didn’t expect was the other one. It was a head shorter and didn’t have a scythe, but otherwise looked like a carbon copy of the first one. Also, as much as a featureless skeleton could, it looked bored.

The one with the scythe spoke. “Now child, this is a human in the moment of death. This man has about seventeen heartbeats left.”


“Whatever? Where did you learn to talk like that? You’re supposed to be admiring the grand majesty and futility of life!”

“Yeah, sure. Grand majesty. Just reap him so we can go.”

“That’s not how it’s done. We have to wait for the last heartbeat. And in any case, remember what the Guidance Counsellor said: I can’t show you actual death on school time.”

“Then why are we even doing this?”

I raised my spectral hand. “Uh, excuse me…”

Death turned his head to look at me. “What is it, mortal?”

“Am I dead?”

“Yes. Well, technically no, not for a few more seconds. Your heart’s got a few beats left before it fully stops.”

“Would it help to say I don’t want to die?”

“No, but feel free. Now if you don’t mind, I have to discuss something with my offspring here.”

Death turned back to the other skeleton.

“We are doing this because it will somehow help your adolescent mind understand how the workplace operates. So pay attention while I reap this man’s soul; there’s a technique to it.”

“But if he can’t actually die while I’m here, how are you going to reap his soul?”

If death had any skin I’m sure he would have furrowed his brow. He let out a long exhausted growl. Then he swung the blunt end of his scythe and knocked me down, back into my body. As my physical eyes opened I heard him grumbling.

“Bah! This is why I hate ‘Bring Your Child to Work Day.’”