Death has been binge-watching a show on Netflix.
‘It’s called How to Catch a Killer,’ he explains.
‘I thought I might pick up some handy tips!’
I express surprise, having thought that
Death was beyond judgement
and was simply there to do a job.
‘And also,’ I say, ‘surely you know who all the killers are,
what with being present at every murder?’
There’s a bit of a silence,
belonging in the ‘awkward’ section of the Venn diagram.
‘Y-y-y-e-e-e-e-e-s….’ says Death,
as if trying to frame a suitable response.
This is unusual; Death is normally far more direct
in his communications.
He sighs a heavy sigh.
‘Okay. Look, it was an attempt at a joke.
Really, I just wanted to see how incompetent the police were.
Unsurprisingly, if you’re interested.’
I ask him how he found the show.
‘It was quite interesting, up to a point.
I mean, I already knew who the killers were, obviously.
But man – some of the procedures!
All that burden of proof, for a start.
Some people just look like killers, right?’
I explain that you can’t just lock someone up,
‘because they look guilty.’
‘Why not?’ asks Death.
‘If you look into a man’s soul,
you can see the full burden of his sins.
The eyes being windows to the soul,
all you have to do is look into a man’s eyes
to see if he’s guilty or not.
Et voila! Case closed.’
I put it to Death that he could become an expert witness
in cases of murder.
‘No, you see, that wouldn’t work because…
Oh, shit. That’s a joke, right?
Like, “Hey, Death! they should put you in charge
of the Cold Cases Unit.
You’d have a one hundred percent clear-up rate
and the unit could be disbanded in a matter of hours”
‘Actually, that’s not a bad idea,’ I say.
‘Really?’ says Death, excitedly.
‘Do you think… Oh, no, wait.
You’re taking the piss again, aren’t you?’
I apologise for my teasing.
And then it occurs to me
that maybe the Netflix cry for help was Death trying to find an escape:
an escape from the nature of his job;
an escape from being the ultimate and timeless
expert witness to all of the carnage,
bloodshed, war, psychosis, barbarity,
injustice, and unfairness; the ugliness;
the relentless horror of the end of existence
which has too often accompanied his appointed task.
‘You’re suffering from a very human predicament,’ I suggest.
‘You feel trapped in an endless cycle.
You have to do a job in order to justify your existence,
but you have started to doubt the job you have,
and your ability to do it until retirement.
You feel that there is no escape,
and like many people experiencing despair,
you’re trying to divert your gaze,
if only for a few, brief moments,
by watching sensationalist TV
with questionable production values.
Only problem is, you’ve unconsciously chosen a show
which is related to the cause of your angst,
like a doctor watching Casualty;
or a teacher watching ‘Big School’;
or a dentist watching ‘Question Time’,
which, admittedly, isn’t a show but more of a shower of shit,’
I put it to Death that he watch something
completely unrelated to his occupation,
or his general mode of existence,
and leave him to it.
Half an hour later,
I walk into the room to see
Death’s Netflix page on the screen.
Continue watching for Death, it reads,
and I see ‘Friends’, the red line indicating
that he’s a few minutes into episode 1.
A text appears on my phone.
‘Guess what?’ it starts. ‘I got my mojo back!
Thanks! D xx’