Author's Note: I'm not going to spend my time on a disclaimer. They suck.
There's this thing about time.
You never know how much of it you actually have. And this doesn't mean the age-old question of 'When am I going to die', or the very popular subject that women like to raise just before their unsuspecting men peacefully fall asleep: 'If you say you'll love me forever, how long is forever going to be?'. The problem's quite another one. Educated people like to say things like 'An hour is an hour', which only proves the fact that education doesn't necessarily mean intelligence. The amount of time you spend on a good book does not automatically equal the amount of time you spend in the lavatory after eating one of CMOT Dibbler's sausages, although your clock may tell you different. The ten minutes you wait in a queue are nothing compared to those you sit in front of the patrician. Children know that time races and creeps, sometimes both at once, depending on whether you like your classes or not.
There's this thing about time.
You never know when you're short of it.
Susan of Sto Helit was getting ready for a date. Although of course she wouldn't have called it that, she preferred 'meeting a good friend'. So the fact that she absolutely didn't know what to wear* and felt like a schoolgirl talking to the leader of the football team was sheer coincidence and could therefore be ignored. She was good at ignoring things, for school teachers it was a survival trait. There was only so much of 'Ooh! Oooh! I know it! snapsnap' one could take a day.
At the moment, she was doing her best to ignore a little figure all clad in black, a long skeletal nose visible under the robe's hood.
She went over to the mirror, adjusting some unruly strands of her blonde hair which shone white in the dancing flicker of the candlelight, while trying to hide the black one. Tonight, Death's granddaughter would be having her time off.
"He won't go away, you know," Quoth the raven said in a conversationally tone. "It's that way with rats."
Susan finally decided on a long silk robe. Perhaps a bit overdressed for just meeting a good friend, but she very well knew that it made her look a lot thinner than she actually was. And somehow, this seemed to be important tonight.
"It's urgent, he says," the raven was eyeing some marble marbles set in a glass bowl on a desk nearby.
"Go away!" Susan finally gave in. "And don't you touch those marbles, they're supposed to be decoration!"
"Look like eyeballs to me," Quoth answered. "And your grandfather is going to be angry if you don't come." It croaked** as Susan grabbed its neck and held it level to her eyes.
"I'm going to meet a friend tonight," she said. "Nobody invited you, I think."
"I'm just the interpreter." The raven struggled to free itself from her iron-hard grip.
"I don't need an interpreter, I can understand the Death of Rats, thank you", the young woman hissed.
"Anyway, time don't pass there, right? So you won't be away at all." Black feathers were tumbling through the warm air of the apartment.
Susan thought about this a moment. Then she released the bird, which hurried to get some distance between the blonde and itself.
"It's 'doesn't pass', mind you," she corrected absent-mindedly. "And I'm not going to stay long."
"Fine with me."
Death was sitting at his desk, a small cup of tea in front of him. He'd grown accustomed to the custom of teatime, although he didn't like biscuits.*** In the middle of his desk, a lifetimer was standing. He looked up from the large book he had been reading, as Susan approached him across the infinite carpet with long, determined steps.
GOOD TO SEE YOU, SUSAN. HOW ARE YOU DOING?
"Look, I'd love to do some small talk, but I'm busy this evening, so what do you want?" She reached the desk, not bothering to sit down in one of Death's 'visitor's chairs' that were, of course, as black as the rest of the furniture.
Death sighed. It sounded like a mountain crumbling.#
I'M NOT SURE IF IT IS RIGHT TO TELL YOU THIS, BUT I THOUGHT YOU HAD TO KNOW.
He turned the lifetimer, and Susan read the small letters imprinted on it. And looked at the sand. And swallowed.
The letters read Susan Sto Helit. The upper half of the glass was almost empty.
* although there was no uncertainty about the colour; all her dresses were black. Some of them even more so.
** Ravens usually do.
*** He didn't like the way the crumbs got stuck between his joints. It tickled.
# Only less tickly.
Susan has to make a hard decision: Follow the natural course of life or stand up against the laws of nature? And if she decides for the second option: how do you trick Death if you more or less learned your tricks from him?
Author's Note (again): Since people still seem to read this, I guess I'll have to update, huh? *grins sheepishly* Sorry, I really didn't think so many of you would like it. ^_^ This is the 'corrected' version of my first chapter, the second one is to be posted on Saturday. It's kinda hard to get into the style again, as some people also requested that the second chapter be a little longer.