Short story I wrote for my school's literary magazine. I like it, and I hope you will too.

THEDA

I met Theda on a crisp, spring day when the wind could bite my skin despite the layers of warmth I'd piled on. The dark morning swallowed the stars and mocked my shivers. Impatiently, I looked up and down the street for the bus. My sleeves were stuffed into my pockets to keep the wind out. As long as my hands stayed warm, I figured I would be alright. I looked once more down the street.

That's when it happened.

I was the deer in the headlights almost literally. The truck must have been speeding and lost control when it swerved into me. I didn't even think that there was a driver inside, just that it was one inhuman machine. It swept me along until I was pinned against the fence.

The actual accident was too fast to actually have registered in my memory. I only remember sinking into unbearable pain so terrible that I couldn't cry or react. Somewhere in the distance, I heard shouts and yelling and my vision became hazy. However, only one thing I could see was perfectly clear. A dark-haired woman knelt at my side.

"What a terrible accident," she said in a soft, deep voice. "The possibility of your survival is minimal. Are you willing to accept that?"

"Who are you?" I choked out.

"Me? No one ever asks that. My name is Theda. Now, take my hand and come with me."

A warmth passed through me and erased all my pain. I took her outstretched hand and stood up, free of the wreckage. "How – this can't be possible," I mumbled.

"It isn't." She started to run down the street, and I stumbled behind her. The wind never cut or bit us despite our speed. Then, the world disappeared for an instant, replaced by some foreign landscape. I couldn't see far at all because of a strange fog that covered my eyes. What I could see was a place of prosperity and happiness. The city I saw burst with activity. "Welcome to your Afterlife."

I was confused. "What? Theda, I can't be dead."

"No, not yet, but you will be. Do you want to explore for a bit?" She seemed so nonchalant about the entire event, like my death wasn't such a big deal.

The city seemed so wonderful, a place where I would love to be, but the thought of death terrified me. How could something be so awful, yet so wonderful at the same time? How many people would I leave behind? What about everything I hadn't finished? My songs, my projects, my homework.

I shook my head. "I'm not ready to die. I want to go back."

"Haven't heard that one before," she said sarcastically. "I suppose you'd like to play a game of chess as well?"

"Not really, but if you insist – "

"Have you ever played Backgammon? I haven't. Let's play."

She had a mischievous sparkle in her eyes. Before I knew it, she had the Backgammon board out and she was ready to play. Lucky for me, I knew a thing or two about this game.

I knew her dice were loaded. I knew she was cheating with every move. But she simply smiled in a pleasant way. So I kept going. Then suddenly, I won. She had been cheating to lose.

She stood up and shook my hand, but that sparkle was still there. "Wonderful. Good job. Now let's see who's going to replace you."

"Replace me?"

"Yes, you can't just come in here and waltz out. Equivalent exchange." She pulled a notebook out of nowhere. "Let's see, let's see. Hm, there's a nice little girl just born yesterday, prematurely. Very low chance of survival. It's too bad her parents were so desperate for a child, only to have her taken away so soon."

"I can't do that. I can't just make her die. Is there anything else?"

She flipped a page. "There's this truck driver who just slammed into someone. They're just barely hanging on to life. I could take him instead of his victim, but then who would take care of his children?"

"I don't want revenge. That would be cruel."

"Well, I know a very nice gentleman who's waiting for a heart transplant. He's been waiting for quite a while, perhaps too long. It would be too bad if we take him today. He might have just been about to receive a new heart and a new life."

"Well then, let him have it."

"If that suits you." She flipped through several pages, clearly enjoying herself. "I have a beautiful, talented musician just on the brink of suicide. You really should hear her songs. They're absolutely heartbreaking. Maybe I could push her just a bit further, but then she may never get the chance to feel happy again. You know how depressing death can be."

"No. I can't do that either. Is there no one else?"

She closed her book and leaned so close to me and whispered in my ear. "There are billions out there, ready for death. I could take any one of them, but you would never be satisfied. Every person that dies leaves something behind. It really isn't fair. But death cheats – I cheat – every single day. So tell me, do you really want to go back at the cost of another life?"

"What would happen if I did?"

"You'd die, that's for sure. Your time is finished. You could spend your entire life avoiding my traps, but that really isn't the point of living, is it."

I shook my head. "Alright Theda, I think you've made your point."

She smiled so warmly, and the world disappeared again. I was back at the scene of the accident. Some paramedics tried to pry me out of the wreckage, but even they knew it was too late. I simply relaxed, and exhaled for the last time.