I ran and ran and ran.

Why? Because I didn't want to die. It wasn't that I was too young; I just didn't want to experience the excruciating pain of death. I had heard that it was painful. Of course, that was only from witnesses. All the dead people were dead. Right?

Anyway, back to running. I would love to say that I was running from an adorable little pink unicorn that wanted to be my friend, but that would be a lie, like saying death isn't painful.

Oh, and when I said death, I meant Death, as in the proper noun.

Yeah, that's right—I was running from Death.

Bright green grass spread out before me as I burst from the woods. It would've been kind of endearing—with the rolling grassy hills and grazing cows and little firetruck-red barn in the distance—had it not been for the crunch and crack of trees behind me.

Did Death have to kill everything? Because seriously, it seemed to be literally sucking the Life out of the trees. Wait—Death was actually doing just that.

Just keep running, I ordered myself, and don't look back. But it was so hard not to look back, just to see how far behind Death was. Just to see if I still had a chance.

Looking back, though, was fatal. I'd catch a glimpse of the midnight shadowy figure, and then my eyes would be lured to Death's—eyes I would never want to meet—and bam! I'd be frozen, still as a statue, and Death would get me.

And by get me, I meant kill me.

Like that stupid, overweight tabby cat.

Of course, that stupid, overweight tabby cat had saved my life by warning me when Death was nearing, so I guess I should thank the thing that had died unknowingly for—or maybe because of—me. But, still—I really didn't want to end up like it.

You know, turning into ash and then being sucked into the vortex more commonly known as Death's stomach.

It wasn't pretty.

I leapt over a barbed wire fence, digging in my backpack for anything I could spare. Panting, I yanked out a small, prickly object: Charles's—my best friend's—lucky blue comb; every other bristle was broken and a part of it had completely snapped off from my running, but it would have to do. Twisting my body just a bit, I threw the comb at Death. Then I turned back and sprinted off. Now, most people would wonder if I was right in the head, but the comb had a reason—a good reason at that.

There was a grunt behind me, like Death was confused, and then there was that terrible sucking sound.

Turns out, that comb really was lucky. It saved me thirty seconds; those thirty seconds were vital.

I burst into the firetruck-red barn. At the end, about thirty feet away, there was an empty stable, and I dove into it, hiding behind a stack of smelly, wet hay. My heart about stopped as there was another explosion through the doors—this one literally blowing them off their hinges—and the vortex beginning to squelch, searching for Life, not even a second later. The horses and pigs went berserk, banging against the doors in an attempt to escape inevitable death and crying in vain.

Then there was only the sucking sound, Death stealing the Life from all of the farm animals. Nothing survived, except for me, who was still not-so-safely hidden underneath a pile of hay in the back of the bright red barn.

The sound stopped, and my heart began to race, because Death, though undeniably idiotic, was looking for me.

Because I had escaped it a year before, when I had resisted and stayed in the Land Above, the Land of the Living, the Land Where I Was Not Supposed to Be.

I was supposed to be dead, but I was not.

And Death didn't like that. Not one bit.


I died a little something like this: my neighbor was playing with a gun in the backyard next door, a bang, blood pouring from my shoulder, sirens of an ambulance, blood drip, drip, dripping into me, and then the beep, beep, beep, beep, beep coming to a halt. Because the doctors failed at keeping me alive. Not that I held a grudge, because, in the end, I was alive, right?

Well, that was all I remembered; the rest was a blur that rushed past my delirious mind.

Except for the part where I was actually dead—or, more precisely, when Death came to get me.

I was standing, watching my body and the crowd of people sobbing over it, when a shadowy figure, on the small side, with a strange lean build, burst through the window—this was Death, coming for me; I didn't want to die, though, so I ran. I ran and ran and ran.

As I ran—literally, for my Life—farther and farther away from Death, my mind had seemed to clear, and the next thing I knew I was running in my neighborhood about a week later. It, of course, didn't dawn on me that I should have kept hidden; I simply ran and exploded into my old house, but it was empty.

I had wanted to say that I was alive, that I was fine and wanted to return to my family, but no one was home.

And then Charles, searching for my hidden chemistry textbook so that he could return it, walked in behind me. His comb dropped from his hand, mouth dropping along with it. We had talked after the initial shock, and my heart almost burst from the sheer joy filling me. Charles understood—I was here, so I wanted to say my proper goodbyes and then I would leave if I absolutely had to. Preferably not, though.

But that didn't happen, because Death did not appreciate me running out on it. Right after Charles and I had finally calmed down—because coming back from the dead tended to create some excitement—Death slid in the house through the shadows. I looked away from it, though I had no idea why, but Charles didn't follow my example.

He looked directly at Death.

Nothing happened at first; it was like the calm before a storm. But then there was a low chuckle, smooth and sinister. "So you live for this. Well, boy, if I can't have you, I'll take him."

I watched the whole scene by the shadows, too numb to try anything.

The horrifying vortex expanded out from Death's mouth, sucking the Life out of everything it neared, which included Charles, my best friend, the same guy who had watched as I died. Now I was watching him die—the irony in that didn't even enter my mind until much, much later. I thought I screamed after the twisting shrunk away, but I didn't know; the only thing that comprehended in my brain was that I had tried to punch Death, and that when I neared the shadows of its skin, my body shook, trembled, and slowly lost its substance.

I jumped back and looked up, just a bit, and saw a sinister smile on Death's face. My body solidified a bit as I hastily stepped back. "What—?" My fist shook, but I tucked it into my body to restrain myself from blindly attacking again.

"Now, you don't wish to anger me, do you?" The sharp teeth in its mouth glistened like gold. Then the teeth were gone, twisting counter-clockwise as the vortex began once again.

Stupefied, terrified, completely and utterly unable to do anything, I stood, watching as the vortex twisted faster and faster, began snaking out, reached out to pull me into its darkness. Shadows enveloped me, blinded me. Move! my brain screamed at me, but I couldn't. I couldn't. I was stuck staring at stupid Death for the last few seconds of my life.

But then—and I still had trouble believing this—light shot through the darkness. "Death has lost control," a harsh voice whispered softly in my ear. "You have angered Death. Run. Find the other."

Feeling I hadn't realized I had lost rushed to my body, and suddenly my legs were moving, arms pumping as I raced away from Death.

The last thing I saw was a shadow—Death—writhing as if in pain.

The last thing I heard was a promise followed by a blood-curdling howl.