“Damn,” Death muttered to himself when he finally arrived at the Ocean Vista Hotel. There was a long line at the reception desk, and he was in no mood to wait after his long flight from New York to Miami. He walked up to a bellman who was standing in the lobby.
“Pardon me,” Death said to the bellman. “I have a reservation, and I wish to go to my room immediately.”
“I’m afraid you’ll need to wait in line at the reception desk, sir,” the bellman replied, “unless you’re one of our hotel’s platinum members, in which case the concierge can check you in immediately.”
“I am one of your platinum members,” Death lied.
“Then come right this way, sir,” said the bellman. The bellman led Death to the concierge’s desk. “This gentleman is one of our platinum members,” the bellman told the concierge, who looked up from some papers he’d been glancing at and gave Death a broad smile.
“Always a pleasure to meet one of our esteemed platinum guests,” the concierge said.
“I wish to go to my room immediately,” Death said.
“Certainly, sir,” the concierge replied. “May I ask the last name of your reservation?”
“I am Death.”
“Alright, sir. And the first name?”
“No first name.”
“I see,” said the concierge. “Very well, then. Let me just check our reservation system. Yes, here we are. Last name: Death. Single room. Ocean view. Non-smoking. But, hmm, I’m very sorry. I’m afraid I don’t see you registered as being one of our platinum members.”
“There must be an error,” said Death.
“Well, then,” the concierge said. “If it’s not too much trouble, might I just ask to see your platinum member’s card?”
Death stared at the concierge and began to consider the myriad possibilities of how the man’s life might suddenly be ended at that moment. He seemed young for a heart attack, although Death had actually induced them in people even younger. But, no, he thought. I’m on holiday. Damn. Besides, officially, I’m only supposed to fulfill people’s deaths, not initiate them. Not that I haven’t picked off a few assholes on my own when the boss wasn’t looking. They say he sees everything. Ha-ha. Not quite!
“I’m afraid I don’t have my platinum card with me,” Death told the concierge.
“Oh, dear,” the concierge said. “Well, that is a complication. If you wish, I can try contacting our membership department and ask them to confirm your platinum status.” At that moment, the concierge suddenly felt a strange stinging sensation in his chest.
Death regained his composure. “Never mind,” he told the concierge. Then he went to join the queue at the reception desk. After a few minutes of standing in line, Death felt someone’s finger tapping him on his shoulder. He turned around and came face to face with an obese couple standing behind him in the line. The man of the couple turned to the woman he was with and grinned at her.
“See?” he said to her. “I told you it was a guy.” Then the man said to Death, “Sorry to bother you, pal, but my wife was sure you were one of them Muslim women, what with that long black costume of yours covering you from head to toe and all. I told her, ‘That ain’t no burka. It’s more like that costume the Emperor wears in ‘Stars Wars’.’ Are you here for one of them fan conventions?”
Death said nothing. He simply smiled as he pictured the plaque inside the obese man’s carotid arteries suddenly cutting off the flow of blood to his brain.
“Hey, and what’s that thing you’re holding?” the man asked Death. “Is that one of them whatchamacallits…a sickle?”
“It’s a scythe,” Death replied, as he imagined how easily he could use it to separate the man’s swollen head from his enormous body.
“Whoa!” the man said. “I ain’t seen one of them since the summer I spent on my grandfather’s farm. Are you part of the lawn maintenance crew here? If so, you’re doing a great job. That grass outside looks terrific. Must get hot working outside, though, especially in that crazy getup you’re wearing.”
Again, Death merely smiled.
The next day, in the wake of the catastrophe, astrophysicists interviewed on television estimated the odds of an asteroid impacting Miami’s Ocean Vista Hotel as having been in the range of more than a billion to one.