Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-Two

Joe followed Mrs Crow through the door at the back and down the long corridor that seemed to grow darker the further we went. Mr Crow, the fat man, and the tall man all followed behind. Lola, who hadn’t wanted to enter the first time I’d entered the home, was now trotting beside Mrs Crow quite happily. Joe, although he loved Lola with all his heart, couldn’t help feeling a little bit betrayed.

Mrs Crow entered an open doorway at the end of the corridor. Joe followed but stopped still in the doorway frozen not by fear but by a strange sense of foreboding which he couldn’t quite explain.

There was a large oval oak table polished to within an inch of its life with a large skull etched into its surface. A long scythe ran along the back of it which reminded Joe of the table used in one of his favourite programs, Sons of Anarchy. There were thirteen chairs arranged around the table.

‘Hello,’ said Mrs Crow to the room. She turned to Joe and said, pointing to an old woman wearing an oxygen mask, ‘Joe, this is Febris.’

Febris nodded.

Joe said hello to the old woman who looked like she was only inches from dying.

‘Next to her is Limos.’

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

Limos looked up, said hi, then went back to playing with his belt over which his large belly hung. Joe could see his stomach poking out from under his Metallica t-shirt. Joe couldn’t tell you why but he really took a liking to Limos.

‘And this is Marcus.’

Marcus stood up, shook his blonde hair and held out a hand to Joe. Joe took his hand in his and shook it. Marcus’ handshake was loose and his hands were very soft.

‘Hello,’ said Joe.

‘And I’m Lucifer,’ said a husky voice.

‘Lucifer?’ asked Joe, turning to where the voice had come from. He was sure that somehow all of this was a big fat joke and that at some point someone was going to jump out at him and shout “Surprise! Got you!”

Lucifer, if that was who he was (and Joe doubted this very much), was huge, both in width and height and he had a great mane of orange hair with a bushy beard and moustache. When he took Joe’s hand in his, Joe thought he was going to crush his hand to dust.

‘Yes. Pleased to meet you. And you are..?’

‘The answer to our problems. Hopefully,’ said Mrs Crow. Joe also doubted this very much. At no point in his life had he ever been the answer to anyone’s problems.

‘Sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that,’ said Marcus taking his seat.

‘Come and sit down, Joe,’ said Mrs Crow pointing to the seat at the side of her.

Joe did as he was told.

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Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty-One

The home was full activity. Mr Crow was standing next to the tallest man Joe had ever seen. He was even taller than The Mountain in Games of Thrones, but, just like Azrail and Mr Crow, he was spindly, with long thin legs. He held a large leather briefcase in his right hand and a dark brown trilby in the other.

‘But Josiah,’ he said, ‘things can’t go on like this. Something has to be done. The law states -‘

‘I’ve sorted it,’ said Mrs Crow, sweeping through the room.

Mr Crow and the tall man turned as she spoke. Mr Crow looked rather relieved. The other man looked rather irked as if he didn’t really want whatever it was sorted.

‘Ah, Corvina,’ said the tall man, doffing his cap, ‘how good it is to see you.’

‘Oh, do get out of my way,’ snapped Mrs Crow, pushing past the man, ‘we’ve got a meeting to get started. Joe, come on.’

Joe was still stood in the doorway unsure whether he actually wanted to enter into the funeral home. It wasn’t like he was scared, or anything like that, but he felt that as soon as he crossed into the home his life would be changed for good. For better or worse. And he just wasn’t sure.

And then he heard Lola snarl. He was pushed out of the doorway as someone forced entry. He went flying, face first, on to the carpet.

‘Please, Corvina, tell me, he’s not…?’

Mrs Crow turned and yelled at Joe, ‘Get up then. We’ve got things to do.’

Joe scrambled to his feet, his face felt hot and anger was beginning to simmer in the pit of his stomach. He turned to see who’d knocked him over. In front of him stood the widest (and shortest) man he’d ever seen.

‘I’m not late, am I?’

‘Oh no, Mr Smith,’ said Mrs Crow, ‘it’s nice that you could join us. Now, if you’d let my assistant through.’

‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, looking at Joe. But Joe could tell he wasn’t sorry at all.

‘Shall we go through?’ asked Mrs Crow.

‘I’ve set up the conference room. Febris, Limos, and Marcus are already in there -‘

‘I bet that’s a great atmosphere. Lucifer here?’

Lucifer? Did he hear that right? Nah, thought Joe, it’s got to be some sort of joke.

‘Yes, and his secretary. We’re just waiting on the Boss.’

‘Okay. Let’s get this over with. Joe,’ said, Mrs Crow, ‘this way.’

Death’s Apprentice – Part Twenty

Just a short one today. It felt like a good place to stop because I’ve had an idea about what happens next and I think it needs to be in its own section.


Ten minutes after leaving his house, Joe was walking towards Crow’s Funeral Home with a tiny bag of belongings, his loyal dog and the clothes on his back.

He really hoped that Mrs Crow didn’t have another one of her turns. Not now. Not in front of everyone on the high street. That would be really embarrassing and well, awkward.

‘What changed?’ he asked, finally, hoping to keep her awake long enough to get her to the home. He wanted the job. He really did but going from a week’s trial to nothing? What was that all about? And what exactly did she mean about being desperate?

‘What do you mean?’ she replied, coming to a standstill in the middle of the very busy path. A guy with a crew cut and a large bulldog tattoo on his neck skidded to a halt to avoid bowling her over. He tutted before moving away.

‘Prick!’ she shouted, showing the middle finger to his back.

Joe felt strangely unwell. No, maybe not unwell, unnerved was probably a better description. The past two days had been rather surreal and he was beginning to wonder if he was, in fact, going a little crazy.

‘Well,’ he said, trying to gain his composure, ‘you said I needed to have a trial and now you’re just giving me the job? What’s changed? It’s not like I’ve done anything to impress you, is it?’

She stared him, eyes narrowed and shrugged. ‘Like I said, we’re desperate. Now, are you going to stand there whining like a little child, or, are you coming?’ She spun on her heels and raced off towards the home.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Nineteen

The Daily Herald

27th March 2017

Nation in Crisis – No deaths in 67 days

Experts are baffled by the lack of deaths in England over the past sixty-seven days. The phenomenon – which has no precedent and therefore has yet to be identified – began straight after the death of one Edith Shanks of Dursley, Staffordshire. She died at 11.59pm on the 19th January and there have been no deaths since; people who should have died, simply haven’t. Instead, they remain alive like living ghosts. This has prompted some to make comparisons with zombies.

Zombies have become popular in recent years due to television series such as The Walking Dead, and films such as World War Z. However, these living ghosts are not like the zombies of pop-culture since they don’t appear to eat human flesh.

There was a report two weeks ago of a man eating his own foot but this was quickly dismissed from being part of this new phenomenon by experts. It was later reported that the man in question had taken Spice, also known as The Zombie Drug.

However, this hasn’t stopped some people calling these living ghosts, Zombies or Eternalists. According to our resident television and film critique AND Zombie expert, Dan Brown, Eternalists are a particularly nasty type of zombie as they just won’t die, not even if you cut them up and destroy the brain.

These living ghosts might not be zombies, but, like the Eternalists, they seem to survive, even after being torn apart. Our Crime Reporter, Roger Galbraith, was at the Crown Court recently when the living corpse of Tom Harrington was able to give evidence to the court about the attack on him despite his head being completely separated from his body.

“This is a national emergency,” stated the Prime Minister, Boris Buchanan as he strode into number ten today. He is due to chair an emergency meeting of COBRA to determine what can be done about the dead that aren’t dead. We will keep you updated on developments as we get them.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Eighteen

‘Jesus!’ shouted his mother, clutching at her very ample bosom.

Mrs Crow bolted upright and as she did so, her false teeth that had been protruding from under her hairy grey lip, popped back in her mouth.

‘Jesus?’ she asked. ‘He won’t be able to help you, not after what you’ve done.’ She threw her head back and cackled.

Lola, who had, up until this point, been lying quietly across Mrs Crow’s lap, sat up and began to howl in accompaniment. It sounded like an orchestra from hell. Joe noticed that the hairs on the back of Lola’s neck were standing on end but there was no aggression in the dog as her tail was waving enthusiastically.

He looked over to his mother who looked like she was about to have a heart attack. Joe suddenly started feeling very cold. He remembered something from the night before, at the cemetery, when Mrs Crow seemed to simply step out of the darkness. Like Death. Death? Was he going mad, or what?

But what if? What if she was Death and she’d come for his mother? That wasn’t why she was here, was it?

Not that he loved his mother. He didn’t. But then, that feeling was reciprocal. He just didn’t want her dead.

Mrs Crow stopped laughing abruptly. She looked up at Joe and said, ‘Don’t be stupid,’ almost as if she was answering his unspoken question, ‘it’s not time. Yet. No, I’ve come for you.’ She pointed a long crooked finger at him.

‘Me?’ he said, taking a huge step away from her. He didn’t want to die. Not yet. Not even with his shitty life.

‘Of course, you! Who else would I be here for? No one else is trying to get a job with me, are they? And as you had a very late night last night…’ Her eyes snapped shut again, she flopped back onto the sofa, and she began to snore loudly. Again.

‘Are you sure you’re working for her?’ asked his mother. ‘Only she doesn’t look very -‘

‘What?’ screeched Mrs Crow, jerking awake again.

‘Er…nothing,’ said Joe’s mother taking in the murderous look on the old woman’s face. Joe was impressed; it was the first time he’d ever seen his mother short for words.

Lola jumped from Mrs Crow’s lap. The room darkened.

‘And,’ said Mrs Crow, suddenly appearing right in front of Joe’s mother, ‘it’s a live-in position, so he won’t paying you rent.’ She added, under her breath, ‘Or money for fags and booze or for your good-for-nothing boyfriend.’

‘What did you say?’

Mrs Crow placed her hands on her hips. The top of her head only just came to Joe’s mother’s chin. ‘I said, you won’t be stealing no more cash from Joe. He’s leaving. TODAY.’

‘How dare you -‘ She stopped. Her breath was escaping from her mouth in wisps. The room had turned to ice. And Joe’s mother seemed to shrink as Mrs Crow expanded and seemed to impossibly take up half of the room. The living room went as dark as the look on Mrs Crow’s face.

Mrs Crow towered over her.

‘Joe,’ she said, but never taking her eyes off his mother.

‘Yes?’

‘Get your things. You’re leaving.’

‘But…But what about the trial?’

‘No trial. I’m taking you out of here,’ said Mrs Crow, finally looking at him, ‘besides, we’re desperate.’

Death’s Apprentice – Part Seventeen

‘Joe, NOW, not next week!’

I better go down and face the music, he thought.

Joe grabbed some tracksuit bottoms, slipped a black t-shirt over his head and run his hands through his black hair to calm it down a bit. He breathed in deeply, exhaled slowly and prepared himself for the onslaught of Hurricane Mom. But what could he tell her about the mess? Although he was coming to the conclusion that most of what he thought was a dream, wasn’t a dream, he didn’t really know which bits were really real. Did he really put a dead body in someone else’s grave? And, if he did, he couldn’t really tell her he’d done that, could he? So, what did he say? What possible explanation could there be for making all this mess?

Let’s get it over with, he thought as he opened his door.

‘Lola, come on girl,’ he said, turning back to make sure she followed him downstairs. But she was missing.

Shit, shit, SHIT! Had they loosed her out in retaliation for all the mess? They better not have hurt her. They better not have…

He spun on his heels, shot out of his room and down the stairs. The door to the living room was open and he could see his mom through the gap. She was bent over, her large cardigan hanging off her shoulders. He could see she was looking over at the sofa, a gormless look on her face.

He entered the room, looked at his mom then followed her gaze. He took a sharp intake of breath as he caught sight of Mrs Crow asleep on the sofa, Lola lying across her lap.

‘What the..?’

His mom shrugged. Her cream cardy fell off her shoulder revealing a rough looking tattoo of a bleeding heart. Joe hadn’t got anything against tattoos – having one was on his to-do list – he just had a problem with ones that looked like they’d been done by a six-year-old child.

‘Okay,’ he said, as his brain tried to process what was going on, ‘how long she been here?’

‘Never mind that. Why is a strange woman asleep on my sofa?’

‘Erm…’ Joe scratched his head. Why was Mrs Crow asleep on the sofa?

‘You know her? Please tell me you know her?’

‘Yes, I -‘

‘Well? Who is she?’

‘Mom, this is Mrs Crow.’

‘Mrs Crow?’

‘Yeah, she’s giving me a trial on a job -‘

‘What Job? How much? You know I’ll be needing rent. Water, electricity, gas,’ she said, counting them on her fat fingers, ‘and food. And food for that rat of a dog. That does not come cheap you know. And -‘

His mom jumped in the air as Mrs Crow gave a loud snort.

Death’s Apprentice – Part Sixteen

Joe’s body was tired. Very tired and it felt like stone. He didn’t want to move from his comfy bed. It was warm and soft and like a little bit of heaven. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to face the day. He felt like he’d only just gone to bed, like he’d been up all night.

That was one hell of a dream, he thought to himself as he rolled over and pulled the duvet in around him so that he resembled a giant caterpillar. Almost. He could feel the cold air on his feet that were sticking out of the bottom of the duvet, so he pulled his legs up to his chest. That was what tended to happen when a seventeen-year-old was forced to use the duvet of a small child. It still had the same cover on from when he was seven. Paw Patrol. Yes. Paw Patrol. It might have been pushing it for a cool seven-year-old to have a Paw Patrol cover, but at seventeen years old?  Yep, that was truly pathetic. As you can imagine, no friends had ever visited his room or his house.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t asked for a new duvet and cover. He had. The duvet itself was that old. It smelled that old as well. Joe didn’t really want to think about all the bugs nestling in it. He had tried to wash it once but it had dried funny and had become all lumpy.

It was better than his bed though. Actually, Joe hadn’t technically got a bed, just a single mattress on the floor that his shit-head stepdad had saved from a skip. It was, at least, a full-size single, although Joe didn’t like to think too much about where it had come from. He also didn’t like to think too hard about the stains, in various shades of brown, that covered it or the little holes that were peppered over its surface.

Joe decided at that moment that the first thing he would buy with his first pay packet – if he got the job, of course – would be a new mattress. The bed he’d have to save up for, along with a place of his own. A place of safety for Lola. A place of safety.

But then, his heart dropped into his stomach – like the body in his dreams had dropped into the open grave – as he realised that he couldn’t buy a mattress because, if he bought a mattress his shit-head stepdad would know that he had enough money from his job to buy things like that and that would mean trouble. He knew he’d have to pay rent, of course, and he knew they’d bleed him dry for that but if shit-head knew he was bringing in enough money to buy a mattress, shit-head wouldn’t like it. Shit-head wouldn’t want him buying mattresses because shit-head would expect ALL the money for himself. And if Joe didn’t give it to him? Shit-head would attack Lola. Again. And if that didn’t work – it would because Lola was Joe’s life – he’d take it anyway. However, he could. By whatever means.

Joe sighed loudly. The new mattress would have to wait. For now, at least.

‘Joe Bones!’ It was his mother screeching from the bottom of the stairs.

Joe bolted upright in bed. What had he done now?

‘Get your arse down ‘ere NOW!’

He sighed again. Today was going to be a bad one, he could feel it in his bones. And, it had only just started. He swung his legs off the mattress and looked over to the door.

‘What the…?’ There was a pile of muddy clothes on the floor and a pool of dirt on the bare floorboards around his normally clean trainers.

It seemed he had some explaining to do. It also seemed that his dream of burying a dead body in the middle of the night, the coach and horses and Azrail and Mrs Crow, might not have been a dream after all.