How do you want to die?
Everyone has to go through it, but for the right price, you could choose how, when, and where.
Travis is one of the world's most well-known Deathwriters, a very rare group of individuals with the unique ability to bring about death through the medium of the written word. A personalized death written on one's behalf usually comes with a kingly price tag, but after a close personal encounter with death, Travis begins to question the entire system.
DEATHWRITER - Chapter 6
"Amber? Amber? Where are you?" I run up the stairs, but I can't find her anywhere. "Amber?"
The door downstairs shuts, and I hear the keys drop on the counter. "Travis?"
I hurry back down the stairs and find Amber standing there holding her work bag.
She took about a month off following everything, but she couldn't just sit still. Never has been able to. So, she's been back for a few weeks now. She's a mechanical engineer—definitely the other half of the brain—meaning that whenever she gets upset or stressed, working it out usually means tinkering with something or getting her hands greasy. I've never seen the draw, personally, but it gets her going like nothing else.
And right now, it's the only thing getting her out of bed in the morning.
"Hey, I saw you come in right before me. What were you up to?" she asks as we migrate to the kitchen.
"We've got lots of savings, right?"
She nods uncertainly. "Yeah? What's up?"
I bite my lip, trying to calculate everything in my mind. "If I had to estimate, we could cover government fees for like, what, five, ten people a month?"
"I've got a friend from college, Austin Holt, remember? He works for the Department of Defense as a developer now. I wonder if I could get him to do some pro-bono on the side? Maybe he could get a few of his buddies, too! And I could register a non-profit—"
"Travis, what are you talking about?" Amber interrupts, placing her hand on my arm.
"I want to do something. I want to help children that come from families that can't afford a Deathwriter."
"That's every family," Amber points out.
I nod, but remain firm. "I know. But I mean, I'd just start in our neighborhood. There's plenty of good I could do here."
"What, you mean like deathwrite?" she supposes with one eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, exactly! I've done nothing but write for rich snobs all my life, catering to all those millionaires who probably don’t even need me in the first place, what with the kind of healthcare and lifestyle they can afford. This is a chance for me to actually do some real good for a change."
Amber folds her arms, and I'm unsure whether I should justify myself further, or give her time to think. It's a lot I've just dropped on her all at once.
"Okay," she finally says, humoring me. "So, what would you call this non-profit?"
I pause. I haven't thought through any of the details. It all just popped into my head right there in the park, so I rushed home to tell Amber.
Then, it comes to me, and I know it couldn't be anything else. "How about June Everlasting?" I suggest.
Amber smiles—something she hasn't done in more than a month now—and I know I've struck gold.
"I like that."
Every day at 6:02pm, I get up from my desk, pack up my bag, head down to the garage, and take the 405 down to Hawthorne—a grueling and aggravating task, alleviated only by the latest audiobook. Anywhere from thirty-five to forty minutes later, depending on the day, I arrive on 120th Street, the main thoroughfare on the north side of the city, fully agitated and ready to fight the next person that decides to ignore common sense traffic rules.
And that’s usually when I see a kid along the side of the road, early high-school age at the most, cleaning up the trash and overgrown weeds that have dominated the sidewalks, packing them in large plastic bags stacked all the way down the street. He has a bucket for donations and a poster with his crowdfunding handle on it, but besides that, he doesn’t appear to be affiliated with any organization or program. And every day I simply smile and pass him by.
Today, however, that’s going to change.
I pull over to the side of the road and roll down my window. The kid pauses and looks up from a claw full of empty chip bags. I lean forward and take off my sunglasses. “Hey, how’s it going? How are you?”
“Never better, man!” the kid answers with an infectious grin. He drops down to a crouch and points at me. “Hey, I know you! You’re the guy.”
I chuckle and nod. “Yeah, that’s me.”
“Hey, write me a nice death, yeah?”
The kid laughs and stares at me, clearly unsure if I’m being serious or not. When I show no sign of playing along, he puts his claw aside and comes closer. “Wait, really?”
“I mean, I was kidding. It’s not like I can pay you.”
I pull out my business card and hand it to him. “On me.”