I arrived at the party late. The people I was meant to be meeting were already there. I scanned the room trying to spot them. The bar looked like a graveyard. But everyone seemed to be in high spirits.
I ducked under a cobweb. Some of it stuck to the top of my hood. I tried to remove it and nearly stumbled over one of the polystyrene gravestones, which jutted out of the floor like shark teeth. Dry ice belched across the dance-floor. There was a rock song blaring out of the speakers:
“All our times have come. Here, but now they’re gone…”
How am I ever going to find them? I thought.
“No way, dude,” someone shouted. “This guy has the exact same outfit as you!”
“Man, I knew I should have gone as Heisenberg,” bellowed another voice.
I turned round to see who it was.
“Nice outfit, bro,” said the first man.
He was dressed entirely in white, with a black bowler hat and heavy eye makeup.
“Look how much better his scythe is than yours,” he said, turning to the other man; who was dressed in a dark hood and had his face painted white.
“Yeah, good effort, dude. That looks totally real,” the second man said, peeling at the tinfoil blade of his own scythe. “Bill and Ted, right?”
I wondered which was which, but then the first man offered his hand and said:
“I’m Alex. Get it?”
“Yes,” I said, even though I didn’t.
I shook his hand.
“Woah, you’re cold. You just arrived?”
“I’m Joel. What’s your name, bro?” asked the second man.
“I’m Death.” I said.
“Snap! Me too,” beamed Joel.
“We’re having Turbo Sangrias. It’s like a normal Sangria but with vodka,” Alex said, gesturing with a plastic bottle filled with dark red liquid.
“We invented it last summer in Pamplona, when we were doing the running of the bulls. You ever been?” Joel added.
“Many times,” I replied.
I couldn’t see the people I was originally supposed to be meeting, but spending the evening with these two seemed promising, so I decided to stick with them. We stood at the bar, Alex and Joel now wanting beer to follow their Sangria. Joel held out a twenty, trying to attract the attention of the barman.
“How many of these sexy little witches is this guy gonna serve before we get a look in?” he asked.
The answer was many.
In fact, the more Joel waggled the note, the less the barman seemed to notice him.
Some time later, we were sitting in a booth looking out at the dance-floor. A girl, who was dressed like she was part of a Mexican Day of the Dead parade, had caught Alex’s attention.
“D’you think she’s hot?” he asked.
“It doesn’t feel hot to me,” I replied truthfully.
I must have misheard him, over the music, because he started laughing.
“No, I mean is she hot?” He turned to Joel. “What do you think, Jo-el?”
“Can’t really tell, because of the makeup…but I want to find out,” he grinned, twirling his scythe between his legs.
I stood up to get a better look at the girl in question.
“Death is moving in,” hollered Alex. “Playa!”
I sat down again.
I watched my new friends lurch around the dance-floor for an hour or so, until the party had thinned out. Most of the women they’d tried to dance with had left with other people. Masked pairs bundled out of the door kissing and laughing. The words of the song caught my attention:
“Darkness falls across the land. The midnight hour is close at hand...”
I looked up at the clock mounted above the bar. It was already past midnight. It must be nearly time, I thought.
At the end of the song, the lights came up and everyone who still remained started booing.
Joel and Alex bounced back over to the booth, with their make-up running down their sweat drenched faces. Joel had jettisoned his robe some time earlier. It sat in a crumpled heap on the seat next to me.
“Where’s the party at, bro?” Alex slurred.
“Yeah, where you headed, Mr. D?”
“I’m coming with you.” I replied.
“Death, you’re a party dog.” Joel laughed.
Alex started to bark and howl.
They stumbled through the exit, out into the biting cold. Neither of them had coats - although Joel was wearing his cloak again - but they had brought their car.
It all became very clear to me then. How it was going to happen…
Alex had lost the coin toss (best of three) to see who’d drive on the way home. Joel lay in the back gently snoring, his scythe bent up against the roof of the car. I thought about how on the way to the party he must have sat in the front.
Where I was sitting now.
As we sped along, Alex seemed to be having trouble with his eye makeup.
“Where are we headed?” he yawned. “Let me know when you wanna stop.”
He blinked and rubbed his eyes.
“We’re nearly there,” I replied.