Like everything else that had happened in the last twenty-four hours or so, Joe wasn’t quite sure if what was happening at that moment was real or not. He considered all the things he’d been through; meeting Mr and Mrs Crow, the trial for the job which included burying a dead body at midnight with a man, called Azrail, who looked like a skeleton, finding out Mrs Crow was Death (well for England anyway) and that her sister had stolen her scythe so she couldn’t collect the souls of the dead anymore. Oh, and he’d met a man called Lucifer.
No. At some point, hopefully not too far in the future, the prank would stop, the prankster would be revealed and everything could go back to normal.
Whatever normal was.
Because, right at this second, he was feeling like it all needed to stop. It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t funny in the beginning and now, now it was even less funny.
His heart was pounding against his ribcage. His legs were jelly and he was sweating. Yep, this was as far from funny as you could get.
Joe was scared. Really scared. More than he’d ever been scared in his life. Even when he’d taken a beating from his stepdad.
What could be even scarier than taking a beating from your stepdad?
Standing at the door to the underworld knowing you’re about to go through it.
‘Are you sure this is the only way?’ asked Joe, turning to face Mrs Crow.
‘Yes. You’ll be fine. Just remember not to upset Cerberus because you don’t want your face ripped off do you?’
‘No. But -‘
‘Don’t worry about it Joe,’ said Mrs Crow, with a patronising pat to his shoulder, ‘you’re good with dogs. It will be fine. Cerberus will be fine -‘
‘And if he isn’t?’
‘Well, you’ll have your face ripped off then, won’t you? Take this,’ she said, holding out an A5 book to Joe.
‘It’s the Book of the Dead. Hopefully, it will help you to navigate the underworld -‘
‘Well, no one’s ever used it so I don’t know how useful it will be. But at least it’s a start, isn’t it? It’s something.’
‘So you know what you’ve got to do?’
Joe nodded. ‘Yep. Find your sister and get the scythe back.’
‘There’s a good boy. Go on then, off you go. Any last words? Anything you want me to tell your mother if the worst happens?’
Joe sighed. ‘No.’
‘Go on then, no time like the present.’
Joe grasped the cold brass knob on the door. The door to the underworld. The cheap pine door that stood between him and the underworld. The unremarkable door that hung in the funeral home of Mr and Mrs Crow, Hight Street, Bloxwich.
He turned the knob and began to push the door open.