Death Comes to the CEO

By David Galef

“I’d like to get back to you on this,” said the CEO to Death, who had walked into his office unannounced. The CEO had spent the last three years at Valu-Con climbing back from bankruptcy, but regained ground is shaky. He was already in his early seventies, having reached that half-life where all he could hope for was to feel half-decent for half the day. His life was punctuated by pills. On his desk was a list of Things to Don’t.

Death said nothing, but slid his scythe into the umbrella stand. He perched on the Lorell couch.

The CEO reached for his cell phone, but the signal was dead. He cleared his throat. “I may not be too young to die, but I’ve got meetings all through next week.” He winced, his sciatica flaring up again.

Death yawned not too politely, stony teeth opening onto a cave of infinite darkness.

Death is a great waster of data, thought the CEO, resisting a sympathetic yawn. Think of asset liability management, Boulwarism, capital expenditure.

The air inside the room flickered. A sound like really loud mysticism came from inside the walls. Maybe Death was trying to scare him to death.

Death was now staring him in the face.

The CEO recalled the maxim “Everything is negotiable.” He approached the seated figure. Dizziness crowded his vision, but he persevered. “You know, you don’t have to do this.”

Death looked away, as if pretending not to have heard.

“I’m sure we can reach an agreement.”

Death cocked his skull, as if to ask what the CEO had in mind.

“How about an incurable disease, something like a five-year plan? I can work with that.” What a word, disease, as if ease were humanity’s natural state.

Death cocked his skull in the other direction, as if to ask, What’s in it for me? He rose and reached for his scythe.

The CEO thought hard. What does Death want? A willing maiden? The CEO knew a procurement agency. Better PR? Social media could handle that. A day off? Maybe he could take Death for a round of golf at Cypress Point.

Death smiled, a rictus like a badly sutured wound, and the CEO realized he had been talking out loud. Death leaned toward the CEO and whispered into his ear.

The CEO blanched and swallowed hard, but nodded.

Details from the merger and acquisitions document are available at www.death&co.com.

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David Galef

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