"Alright, let's stop. Time of death, 12:38 PM." That was the last thing I heard the doctor say before I arrived in limbo.
Limbo is, or was, I suppose, a very simple and calm place. It was made entirely out of bleach white smoke, swirling and jumping from wall to wall, from rock hard floor to neverending ceiling. I turned around a few times, confused, afraid, even excited in some ways.
After four or five turns, he appeared, just like that. The fact that he popped up two feet from me didn't help fend off a nervous breakdown.
"Jesus!" I exclaimed when my eyes locked with his pitch black ones. I fell onto the ground and tried to crawl away, but I hit an invisible wall. He looked at me curiously.
"Jesus?" he repeated, then smiled. "Oh no, not yet. Well, that is if you qualify for that place anyway." I did my best to keep my cool. I was a cop, after all, and even in the middle of the firefight that took my life a few hours prior, I remained perfectly calm, and especially didn't want to let my guard down now.
"Who-who are you?" I asked, trying to control my breathing. Like it or not, I was scared for my life; or lack of it, really.
"I'm best known by your species as Death. But you can call me Mr. Death, if you wish." The adrenaline was starting to wear down, and considering I was laying on my death bed for two hours and defibrillators on my chest for the last five minutes, I can honestly say that I wasn't really surprised at the time. My worst fear, as a matter of fact, was that my atheism didn't pay off.
"You're..death?" I inquire. He looked pretty snazzy for someone whose job is to work with the newly deceased; jet black shoes, trousers, jacket and tie, along with a shirt as white as my surroundings; all perfectly polished and iron. His face was terribly pale, but not in a way that frightened me. His hair was neatly groomed and gelled. He looks down at his suit and nods.
"Ah, yes," he sighed. "Most of the humans in your time typically know me by my Grim Reaper appearance; skeleton with a cloak and scythe. You see, I appear as whatever my client's culture is. It's supposed to help with the initial meeting."
"Yeah, sure," I mumbled. There's a brief pause. "So, uh, I'm dead?"
"Well, not quite," Death explained. "There's a procedure we have to go through."
"What procedure?" I ask. He points up. On the apparent ceiling of Limbo, random images of my life are played in fast motion, from my marriage, to my graduation from high school, to the time I first fought a bully in kindergarten. I could see them not only on the ceiling, but in my mind, both images playing simultaneously.
"As you can see, I have complete access to everything," Death said. "This is what declined clients call 'life flashing before their eyes.' Funny how you humans use your words."
"Declined?" I asked. I was still watching the images. They started to go more into detail. I saw my whole 7th birthday party, when I got my SNES. Then my 13th party, when I got my Nintendo 64. Then there is a montage of me playing all the old classics on all the old systems.
"Yes, a rare few of my clients are able to convince me that...oh," Death stops. He's watching the images intently. "This is truly fascinating."
"What? None of your clients were gamers?" I asked.
"Oh, of course, lots of them. But you...you're different. You've been playing all your life and have given every game, every match, every press of a button, all you've got. You're not obsessed, you're immersed."
"Yeah, it really screwed with my college plans. I wanted to be a video game programmer."
"Oh, don't beat yourself up over it. I've had numerous clients that have had similar hopes that never came about."
"Thanks, really reassuring." The two of us stood there and watched me get my first nuke in Call of Duty for a few minutes.
"Very well, I will give you a chance," Death said suddenly. I looked at him, quizzical.
"What?" I asked.
"I don't usually do this, but I suppose you deserve to live again. I don't like taking gun shot victims anyway; too much paperwork, you see."
"I get to live again?"
"That depends if you pass."
"You love videogames, yes?" I nodded. "More than anything else you could possibly love, with the exception of friends and family?" I nodded again. "Here's my offer: You challenge me to any game, on any console, with any game mode available on the game. If I win, the procedure continues as usual. If you win, I'll revive you."
"Wait, hold on," I said. "You're challenging me to a video game over my, uh, soul?"
"I'm old, but I like to stay with the times," Death said. "Do you accept, or should we continue the procedure?" I didn't have to think long about what game I wanted to play.
"Perfect Dark, Nintendo 64, G5 Building, Combat game mode, Maian weapons only," I decide. Death smiled.
"How many kills?" he asked.
"One." His smile grew wider.
"Interesting decision," he said. "Shall we begin?" he motioned behind me, and I turned around.
There it was, my old gaming station: My old Panasonic CRT television, smaller than a tv today, but three times as heavy, on top of a light brown cabinet that belongs in the 19th century. My old Nintendo 64 sits cockide on top of the tv, Perfect Dark already inserted. One transparent purple and one solid black controller sit on the cushions of an ugly green couch. I remember how I was jealous of my brother for getting the cool purple controller.
"How do you do that?" I asked as we sat down. I got the purple controller. It even had cheeto dust stuck in the cracks, and the left joystick was loose, which my brother always complained about.
"This is my office," Death said. "Would you want to be uncomfortable in your work environment?"
"I suppose not," I said. The power light turns red, and the tv displays the game, settings for the match already selected.
"Will you do the honors?" Death asked. I took a deep breath, and pressed the A button. I spawn in a location I know all too well.
"Where's your screen?" I asked as I began to look for the right weapon.
"I modified the game so we can only see our individual screens," Death said. I find the weapon I was looking for, and immediately pick it up. "I believe it would make the match more fair."
"How kind of you," I said. It took me a few seconds to remember the controls, but I didn't need very long.
"I hope you realize that, since I'm not human, I do need have the limitations of your species, so be warned that my abilities might seem a little-" I fire, Death's character drops dead, the screen switches to the game over screen. Death sat there, stunned.
"Well, that was easy," I said, carefully laying the controller down. I looked over, and Death's face as even more pale.
"You…" he stutters. "How...did…"
"The Farsight XR-20," I explained. "Automatic lock on ability, can see through walls, can shoot through walls, one shot one kill. I'm actually pretty lucky I spawned near where it dropped, or else the match might've continued for a few more seconds." Death dropped the controller and stood up, fists clenched.
"Best two out of three," he challenged.
"That wasn't the deal," I said, also standing up. Butterflies were eating out my stomach as a smile overtook my face.
"No one has ever cheated me like that before," Death growls.
"Well, that's what you get for trying to beat me in my childhood." Death's frown slowly turned into a snicker.
"A deal's a deal," he said. "I'll look forward to meeting you again."
"Likewise," I replied. Death snapped his fingers in front of my face, my vision turned white, and next thing I knew I was staring at a very startled nurse.
"What the-" he said. I sat up and looked around. I was in the morgue. The nurse ran out, and later came back with a doctor, who looked equally surprised.
"How long was I out?" I asked him.
"You…" he says. "You were dead for an hour and a half."
"I guess not," I said as I climbed out of my body bag.
"Well, how do you feel?" the doctor asked.
"I feel like I need to look for my old N64."