Breaking Even

A Short Story by Kaiser Einrich

Chapter $

My Fate Is Left To A Coin

The sound of all that responsibility scared me to death, figuratively speaking.

It went against my better judgment quite a bit, but I decided to opt for the coin, much to the Reaper's own surprise. It seemed to me like the last time the entity was surprised (save for just a few minutes ago, of course) was probably…oh…never, so I felt rather asininely proud of myself for catching it off guard of my own volition.

"You're serious?" It asked me, something like shock coloring its hollow voice. "I just gave you an offer that anyone would have to be completely off their rocker to refuse, and you're going with chance? I don't know whether to call you brave or downright stupid. Oh well, it's your eternity."

"Glad I managed to surprise you on my own." I prodded at its pride a little, feeling a bit smug that it couldn't do anything to harm me at this point (beyond me being dead already), or at least that's what I was confident in thinking.

"Oh shut up. Right, let's get cracking." It almost sounded disappointed, like it wanted me to choose the first option. Eh, not my problem anymore. I was about to have my fate decided by a piece of common currency, so I figured I had nothing left to worry about. Well, nothing other than the fact that I could be banished to deepest layer of Hell if the coin fell the wrong way, of course. That was rather worrying, all things considered. "You ready to have the rest of your eternity decided by spare change?" It asked as it pulled an aged-looking golden coin from its robe pocket. Do robes have pockets? Oh well, not the point. Was that humor I heard? Did I detect some sort of mirth in its empty voice?

"Yes, yes, I get it. This is a stupid choice. Just one more to add to the list. Can you please flip the darn thing, already? The suspense is killing me." I had to throw that joke out there, I just had to. The opportunity was perfect.

"Ha. Ha. Ha. Like I haven't heard that one before." It deadpanned. Positioning the gold coin over its bony thumb, it gave it flick into the air with a loud ting. That was the sound of my fate being decided. I was all set for it to come down into the Reaper's hand and show the final decision, but the coin remained hovering in air, flipping end over end.

Okay, I'm confused again.

"Uh…why isn't it coming down, exactly?" I asked, pointing up at the coin, wondering why my fate was not being decided as fast as I expected it to. Did gravity function in the afterlife? Was I gonna have to wait until the Reaper wanted it to fall to hear the verdict? It was messing with me, wasn't it? This was the for the suspense joke, I just knew it.

"Simple. I want to explain a few things here, just so I don't have to see you again on the off chance that you screw something up. If the coin lands on heads, you get to choose your fate, within limited restrictions. You can choose to come back to life, after which you'll go back to your normal life, just as if you had never died, but don't think you can't die again. This stroke of luck might be able to bring you back to life, but it can't and won't make you immortal. We can't just hand out something like that. You can continue to exist as a free soul. No one but extra-existential—that means 'beyond existence', just so we're clear—beings like myself, people or things capable of doing so, or divine entities will be able to see and/or interact with you. There are things that will still be able to harm and/or destroy you, but you will never be collected or claimed by another Reaper or power with the jurisdiction to do so. Kind of like having a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free stamp. Hope you can find something to entertain yourself, `cause that sounds rather boring. You can choose to simply pass on to whatever afterlife you may believe in. You cannot, however, try to choose something pretentious like 'Oh, I want to become a god' or some nonsense like that. We can't do that sort of thing. If you ascend to godhood somewhere down the line as a free soul, more power to you, but you can't ask for that. I think that about covers it. The rest is really common sense. Of course, that's assuming you get heads. Tails is simple. I flip the coin again. Heads means you get to go to your perceived belief of Heaven and tails means you get to go to your perceived belief of Hell. Understand?" It explained everything to me professionally, making sure to hit all the important details. Boy, it really didn't want to see me again, did it?

"But…I'm an Atheist. How does that weigh into the Tails option?" I asked, thinking that this might affect the outcome. If not, it might at least throw it for a loop again. That would be a feat.

"Well, in that case, I hope you know how to limbo." It said, after which there was a moment of awkward silence between the two of us. "…get it? Limbo? See what I did there?"

I didn't get it.

"Oh, come on. That was gold. You're not the only one allowed to tell jokes, you know." It snarked at me, apparently bringing back that dry sense of humor I had detected earlier in this encounter.

It took me a minute after I thought about it. "Oh! I get it now. Ha-ha, I should've thought of that. Nice one, Reaper, nice one. Now, about the coin?"

"Hm? Oh, right, that." It turned its hooded face upward in the coin's direction before moving it back down to look at me. "Well, I've got one more thing to tell you before this happens. This is your last chance to change your mind and go with Plan A. After hearing what I've said, do you still want to leave the rest of your existence up to a piece of gold?"

Huh, maybe it really did want me to choose the first option and become an initiate Reaper. Maybe I should go with that then? I wonder how long I have to—

"Ten seconds and the coin comes down." The Reaper interrupted my thoughts. Of course, there was always a catch with things like this.

I had ten seconds to decide before my fate was officially decided by something the Reaper was probably going to use to buy a soda.

What to do?

If I choose to let the coin fall and abide by its judgment, go to Chapter &.

If I choose to take the opportunity to become an initiate Reaper, go to Chapter Q.

The story's gone Choose Your Own Adventure style! Whoo! I know I said that whether or not I made more chapters was up to viewer reviewing and such, and that was just it. I got practically no reviews, to my chagrin, and didn't pursue the story any further until college gave me a sterling opportunity to do so in the form of entertaining homework. Perish the thought. So you'll be seeing a "What to do?" section at the bottom of every chapter if multiple options are available to choose from. If not, you'll just see a note directing you to what chapter to go to next. Some chapters will be short! Some chapters will be long! Be wary of your choices! As some choices lead to a perhaps-too-soon end to the story, while other choices get you farther and farther along. That's how Choose Your Own Adventure stories go. You can thank R.L. Stine for the idea. I loved those CYOA Goosebumps books.

Or you can be lazy and just read chapter to chapter for hilarity's sake; but don't be. It's less fun that way.

So, read and review, constructive criticism, praise, whatever. Just remember that I'll only use flames to make delicious campfire snacks. Thanks for continuing to read.

- Kaiser Einrich