Note: Written for the Review Game's January Writing Challenge Contest. Check out the other entries and vote for your favorite from January 8th -14th. The title is based on the trope Genre Savvy from the TvTropes website, and despite my subtitle, I'm still alive. Think of this as more of a hypothesis of how I suspect I'll die. Which is rather pathetic, really.
A (Fictional) Account of the Author's Untimely Death
The day started off so nicely.
She woke to the sound of rain on the windowpane, which she always loved to hear. She petted a cat on the walk to work, a black cat like the one she had growing up. She went to work with a smile on her face, pleased to see that no one was there yet to bother her before she got settled at her desk.
And then the elevator got stuck.
She was alone, of course. No one else in the building, no one to notice she was trapped. All alone in the small space with a flickering light and crackly lounge music.
"Typical," she muttered, and pulled out her cell phone to text her boss to let him know what was happening. It probably wouldn't do much more than shave a few minutes off her imprisonment, but at least she'd have something to do while she waited.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw a shadow on the reflective walls of the elevator. She startled, then laughed at her silliness and went back to her texting. The light flickered out, and she glowered up at it. Resigned to a wait in the dark, she lounged on the floor and napped until the elevator clanked into motion and she went back to business as usual.
At lunch, she ate alone on a bench next to the building. A black lab-mix came over and stared hungrily at her until she gave it part of her sandwich. It didn't appreciate her tofurkey and ran away without giving her and the proffered sandwich more than a cursory sniff.
As she was heading inside, a loud crash sounded beside her and she jumped in surprise. Surprise turned to sadness as she saw a dead bird lying on the ground. She knelt beside it and stroked the poor creature, then examined the window it had just collided with.
There was a bird-shaped smudge on the glass; despite her sadness for the dead bird, it amused her a little to see the outline right there on the window. A dark movement on the glass made her turn to see who was approaching, but she found no one there. Rolling her eyes at her own jumpiness, she went back to work.
She finished all work early and left by 3:00. The sun was shining, and despite the damp pavement and slight chill of autumn, she thought it was a good day. She hummed as she strolled down the sidewalk.
Her toe caught on a cracked slab of concrete and she stumbled a little. That annoyed her for a moment, but gave her a brief glimpse over her shoulder.
As before, she caught the quick flash of shadow before it darted through a fence. She stared at it. Shock held her feet in place for a second.
And then she crossed her arms and glared at the spot where the shadow had been.
"Really?" she asked it, a half-question even she wasn't sure how to articulate.
The mournful sound of wind whistling through the fence slats was her only response. It didn't make her any happier.
Frowning now, she sighed and walked further down the road, checking over her shoulder every once in a while. Sure enough, the shadow lingered just long enough to be seen lurking rather theatrically a few steps behind, and then it would vanish.
The fourth time this happened, she put her foot down.
"Would you stop it already?" she yelled. Her words echoed on a mercifully abandoned street. A crow on a nearby lamppost was the only living thing around to hear her yell at shadows. She took its responding caw as invitation to continue.
"It's the middle of the day, in direct sunlight. I can see you, okay? Would you stop with all this shifty bullshit and just tell me what the hell you want?"
The shadow materialized from the pavement looking a touch embarrassed, or as embarrassed as a dark blob of doom could look. She sensed it felt a little silly, anyway, and that was good enough for her.
Its black cloudy tendrils waved slowly and she sensed it meant, "I'm your imminent death."
She stared at it. Panic reared its head for a fraction of a second, quickly suppressed by resignation. That, in turn, was replaced by annoyance.
"You're the best the universe could send for me? Flying ball of shadow that's not even subtle about haunting me?"
Its tendrils wiggled again and she sensed it meant, "Sorry. Normally people don't notice me. I thought I was doing well."
She raised an eyebrow at it. "Big dark shadow blob in broad daylight?"
It oozed towards her and she sensed it meant, "Yeah, admittedly not my best moment. But like I said, most people don't notice these things. They're too distracted by the other omens to be weirded out by little old me."
"Other omens?" She started walking; she didn't bother to check if it was following, because she knew it would be. "There were others?"
Its cold tendrils touched her shoulder and she sensed it meant, "The rain, the abandoned building, the broken elevator, the black cat and black dog, the birds... Any of these ringing a bell?"
She snorted. "Wow, you really need to branch out. Those things are all so over-used. I mean, credit where it's due, the thought crossed my mind that my life was suddenly becoming some cheesy horror movie, but that's the thing. It's all so cliché now that I just ignored it."
It whispered in tongues and she sensed it meant, "It's so hard these days trying to scare people to death. You have no idea how difficult my job became after horror movies became so popular. The old ways just aren't valid anymore."
"I understand," she said, and felt kind of bad for the shadow death thing. "I'm sorry I wasn't more afraid. Maybe it's just a me thing. I'm just jaded toward all things supernatural. I bet the next person you scare will be truly terrified."
It lingered beside her and she sensed it meant, "Oh, you're so sweet. Really, you've been so nice about all this. I'm not used to that. I wish I wasn't here for your death. I bet we could've been the best of friends."
"I know!" she said. "That would've been so cool. I could've given you tips, maybe. And we could've practiced on my friends!"
It darted in front of her and she sensed it meant, "I would've enjoyed that. I'm really glad we met. And I'm really happy that at least it will be quick for you."
She smiled at it. "Oh, that's good. Will it-"
She didn't see the bus that hit her, not until after she was dead. Her ghost lingered long enough to wave at the shadowy death hovering over her battered corpse and then she left for the afterlife.
The shadow oozed a goodbye and dissipated on the wind, off to find its next target.