She stretched out lazily on the sand, feeling the heat soak through her bones as she took in the salty smell of the air around her. The waves lapped up against the beach, bringing with them shell creatures of all kinds and leaving behind remnants of what looked like a finished bubble bath. There was not a cloud in the sky – the blueness reflected off the sea, giving it the polished gleam of an extra large sapphire. Screams of joy and laughter permeated the slightly humid air as the beach slowly filled with its usual array of families, frolicking lovers and sun sea and surf bums.
Ah, this is life, she thought as she let out a huge yawn. Life. A slight chuckle escaped from her lips. What irony.
Still she was glad she had decided to take this holiday. Sure, there had been loud and angry protests from her colleagues. She remembered them screaming at her. Are you crazy?! You can’t just leave like that! Think of all the work that’s going to pile up when you’re gone! All that backlog! The system will go haywire! You have a job to do and you know none of us can do it! You’re the only who knows how to!
That lasted for a good hour or so.
Before she could even say fiddlesticks, they had returned with a long list of things they wanted her to get.
“They’re just a few souvenirs. Nothing too much.”
“I hear the coconuts this time of the year are really sweet and refreshing.”
“And native handicraft…”
“What about some palm trees? This place could do with some beautifying…”
So, here she was now. At some tropical beach, playing the role of a contented tourist. Sitting up, she scanned the vicinity, looking for things interesting. She soon spotted a makeshift bar not too far off. Remembering her colleagues’ requests, she wondered if they would have coconuts. Pulling herself up, she gathered her belongings – a black towel, a black beach bag and a pair of black slippers – and made her way towards it.
“Hi there.” A voice greeted her as she dropped her stuff on to the empty stool next to her. “What will you have?”
She looked up and found an over-tanned but handsomely sculptured Asian face grinning at her.
“Coconuts,” she answered without a thought.
He raised his brow, slightly amused by her reply. “Coconuts? I could make you a Malibu shake instead.”
She frowned. What an idiot, she thought. Typical of their species.
“I asked for coconuts. I didn’t ask you to shake the whole beach for it. Don’t you have any behind the bar?”
He laughed out loud. “Malibu’s a liquor that has coconut in it.”
Damn, she cursed under her breath. It was obvious the Lonely Planet Guide she had picked up didn’t do their research very well. There wasn’t anything in there that mentioned Malibu the liquor. Everything was about Malibu the beach. She decided that she would give the author a piece of her mind when they met.
“In that case, I’ll give it a try,” she continued, trying to sound as unperturbed as she could.
“Great!” He brought his hands together in a clap and started his routine behind the bar.
She watched, fascinated by his actions – the shaking and the flicking of the wrist as he twirled and tossed the little metal container in which he had poured the Malibu.
“So, your first time here?” he asked her as he emptied the contents out into a tall glass in front of her.
“I’m Alex. What’s your name?” He looked at her with amusement. He couldn’t help but feel she was rather weird yet strangely familiar. Where had he seen her before?
She hesitated a moment when he asked her name and nervously fingered the pendant around her neck. After all, she was travelling incognito, plus he’d probably freak out if she gave him her name.
She decided that was close enough to her real name.
“Dee?” Alex repeated the one syllable letter. “Well then, Dee, how are you finding Malibu so far? I assume you just got here?”
“Why do you assume that?” D asked. He had been wrong. She had been here for almost a week now.
Alex shrugged. “The fact that you’re still as pale as a Hainanese chicken.” Which was a total understatement. Her skin was so white, it was almost sickly looking.
D cocked her head slightly, not understanding the analogy Alex had just used.
“What’s a Hainanese chicken?”
“Weeeell,” Alex paused as he thought of an appropriate definition. “Chickens are those things with feathers that run about on two legs, going cluck cluck cluck, and a Hainanese is a native of Hainan and Hainan’s an island in China. So, a Hainanese chicken is a…oh, never mind. Forget I ever said that.”
D looked at him strangely. Alex quietly chided himself. It was a rare thing that he was reduced to a blabbering fool in front of the female species.
They chatted on for quite a while longer after that. But then somehow or other, their conversation took a turn towards a more serious note. Alex couldn’t exactly remember how they got on to the topic of immortality though. He guessed it started when the song, ‘Forever Young’ played over the radio.
“Do you really?” D had suddenly asked.
“Do I really what?” Alex frowned.
“Want to live forever.”
“But why? I have noticed that many long for immortality yet they have absolutely no clue what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.”
Alex couldn’t help but find D truly baffling. He had met a good many people in his line of work but never had he come across such an odd character in all his life. At times, she was like a child, asking an array of ridiculous questions. Then there were times when she sounded like a sage with the wisdom of the ages. There was just something fascinating about D he couldn’t quite put his finger on. He felt as though she was someone he ought to know yet at the same time, she also came across as someone whom he shouldn’t be too keen to know either. Alex recalled that last thought and decided it didn’t really make sense. Must be all that time spent under the sun – his brain was most definitely fried.
Before they realised it, that great big ball of fire had already begun to set, painting an orange-red hue across the sky. Downing the last few drops of her Malibu shake, D made a move to get up.
“You’re leaving already?” Alex asked, a little disheartened that she was going. “Will I see you again?”
“I’ll be leaving Malibu tomorrow but yes; we’ll see each other again. I’m sure of it,” D smiled at him as she once again fingered the pendant on her neck. “But it’ll be a long while before we cross each others paths once more.”
Alex frowned. What did she mean by that, he wondered as he watched her walk away.
Later that night…
Alex jumped out of bed in sudden realisation. He hastily rummaged through his drawers, turning them inside out; looking for the one item which could hold the answer to what had been nagging him all day since he saw D. He finally found it - his copy of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman.
With trembling fingers, he flipped opened a page of the comic. He felt his jaw slackened. The jet black hair, the ghastly white complexion, the fascination with black, the pendant – the ankh – around her neck. No wonder it had all looked so familiar. D was staring at him from the page of his comic book. Only, D wasn’t her name. Her name, her real name, was Death.
Alex sank back into his bed with an incredulous look upon his face. Who would believe him? Death on holiday?
[size=1]Disclaimer: Death belongs to Neil Gaiman. I just borrow borrow. Alex the bartender is but a figment of my imagination. So is this story. Any coincidence to persons, living or otherwise, is just that, a coincidence.
This story may not be reproduced or reposted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
© the blurealm 2003.