To Matt's ears, the sound of gunfire is akin to the triumph blasts of the orchestra of heaven.

No, perhaps I am not being fair. I shall say that to my ears, listening through Matt's, the sound of gunfire was akin…etc. You probably caught that the first time. You're hardly dull, despite the act. You can keep up with me, can't you?

A curious thing happens to the body after death. I had already experienced it once, of course. I know that you have, too, a hundred times more than I, but it would please me to relate the experience anyway.

The heart stops. The blood in the body suddenly has nothing pushing it around, and so soon, it stops, too. The brain, starved of blood, begins to shut off. Pieces of it close down and turn inwards, and little by little, that remarkable spark that transforms us from sacks of meat to veritably existing dwindles and dies. The body, in that moment, begins to decay. The process will not be seen for some time yet, I know, but it is in that moment that the actual state of being changes, I think. As I have experienced, anyway.

I am boring you, I apologise. But I appreciate your patience. You know, I think, how much I enjoy learning new things, and it has been some years now indeed.

So our theoretical body, it has died. The heart and brain and blood have stilled, and now there is only one thing left to be accounted for: the soul. I was not, in life, a religious man, but it would be wrong to deny the fact that there was an intangible something that set us all apart. We had our own motivations, likes, passions, strengths. Our unique fears, weaknesses and breaking points. There must have been something there, something incredible, that a mere decaying of meat cannot contain. I am right, and I know it, else I would not be here, having this conversation with you.

Yes, I suppose I am monologing more than I am conversing. But you are responding, are you not? Therefore, in the literal definition…

I never promised not to get smart with you. I know better than that. I would never be able to restrain myself.

But, ah, yes, the curious thing. It is the departure of the – for lack of a better term – soul. No, rather, it is the moments when it does not depart. I think out of all my life, and all my death, that time saw me more frightened than I have ever been. For the first part of death – and I have come now to believe the time is different for everyone, but the fact remains, it is the first part – the soul remains.

The body dies, and stills, the tongue grows heavy, the flesh freezes, the blood pools. The soul stays. You are awake in a castle of flesh. A prison of bones.

In those times you do not know if it will end, or if this is eternity now. You do not even know if you will sleep.

You don't. But you do leave.

It comes eventually, slowly, and it starts like pins and needles in the extremities you no longer have. You can feel yourself – your soul, your self in the most literal sense – being peeled apart. It's a painless sensation, but there is the strangest feeling of losing yourself. You are falling apart.

Then all of a sudden, you have come loose. Your soul is cut away from the only thing that tethered it to any plane, and all out of nowhere, there is nothing. You do not stand and see your body, you do not drift into white light. It is simply that you are, in one moment, and in the next, you are not. When you open your eyes, you are somewhere else.

For me, and for, I think, anyone like me, it is the waiting room at the surgery.

That is the whole next phase, of course, and is not part of the curious thing that happens to the body after death.

Where was I, to begin with? Oh yes, yes, the sound of gunfire in Matt's ears.

My ears.

I was possessing him by this stage, naturally.

Yes, alright, I know possessing is a strong word. I know that ghosts don't exist in the manner my race conceived them. Allow me my moments, will you not? I lived a very strict life of logic, and it was all pulled apart at the end, so I shall dally in my superstition and melodrama if I wish.

Thank you. If you keep interrupting, I shall never reach my point, and you shall be forced to listen to me all day. I know you get bored, but truly, there must be limits to even your capacity for the human ego's habit of endless nattering.

Matt's death, then. I had been lurking within him for a while – I'd say a year or so – nudging him in the right direction when I had to, trying to fill time. It's a lonely afterlife, really. My part is. This part. The waiting room. I was crouched inside him, behind his soul so it wouldn't see me, muttering to him whenever he started going wrong. And by going wrong, I meant going too far away from Mello. Mello is a loose cannon – was a loose cannon? – and as smart as he was, I knew he needed someone beside him to temper him, ground him. I was not wrong. He came through in the end, didn't he? They both did. My favourites. I pick well.

I am glad that they got on, though. It would have been a shame to go through all that trouble finding Matt just to find Mello didn't like him, and I had to look for someone else.

I think too far ahead, sometimes. It hurts being inside my head. There's so very much that needs to be thought about.

I was waiting for Matt to die. I suppose that was my second, secret purpose in manipulating him towards Mello again. To be perfectly fair, they needed each other, and it worked out well, and I could have just as easily sat inside Mello and waited for him to die, so it is not like I picked Matt out for death. It was much more convenient, though. Mello's soul would have made an odd bedfellow for mine. Matt is much more passive and watchful; it was a much more enjoyable ride.

Besides, if I had lurked in Mello, I couldn't have been ready when I got here, could I? I was pressed enough as it was. I thought he'd have lasted at least a longer after Matt went. I don't know what I'd have done if Matt went first.

Because that's the way, isn't it? You get one shot through the back door, one chance to find your way. And if everything isn't in place, if everything isn't ready, you get lost in the land of the dead. I was lucky. I found Beyond, and he – in his ramblings – gave me the insights I needed. I sought the world beyond the darkness, I found my way down, and I did what I needed to in order to remain there – I found a body and I nestled deep inside it. And it worked. Unsurprisingly. I have had only a few ideas ever turn sour on me.

I am brilliant. Don't get sarcastic with me, or I shan't involve you in any of the fun. No, I will simply find someone else.

I will, you know.

Matt took me where I needed to be, and I learnt what I needed about Mello. I had everything planned and set up for when it happened – his death, I mean. I was relying on a lot of things here – his natural resistance, for one, to the hands of fate; his temper; his unpredictability. It is a favourite ploy of mine, you know, predicting unpredictability. I have gotten really quite good at it.

Matt died, and I arrived. He gave me the route to the waiting room that I so badly needed, if I was ever to achieve my ends. And you know me, friend. I am not one for leaving business unfinished. I am pleased to find that not even the grave can stop me. Not even the rules of death stand a chance against I.

Come now, come now. Look at what I have achieved. Look at what I have prepared. Look at how Mello struggles, even know, with Beyond. Look at how I have staged this. Look at what I have done in life, and now, in death! I am permitted a little hubris. I have earned it.

It is a shame, though, I suppose, that the waiting room only opens for one soul per death. Matt was brave, and he had perhaps deserved better than the path I set him on.

Soft? No, I'm not getting soft. Oh, well, perhaps a little. I was very fond of him. I am allowing Mello the chance to save him, am I not? Yes, yes, mock me for my sins.

It was a good idea of yours, I think. I am not above offering credit where it is due. I did not know about the trade that He would offer, and I am pleased you told me. I was not sure what to do with Matt, not at all, until you came along.

You do love to meddle, don't you?

I know. We all have our vices.

He loves him, you know. Mello, I mean. He loves Matt, you can see it. This is a terrible journey for anyone to make, and he is so rash I thought he might be overwhelmed at the start of it. But he is driven by something, can you see? To come this far it must be love.

Don't insult me. You know I'm powered by something a lot more potent, and a lot less friendly.

Yes. Best served as cold as the grave, perhaps, har har, pardon the pun.

Oh, oh, hang on, I think Beyond is getting nasty. I think I had better go down and sort it out.

Yes, I'll see you soon, yes. I'll come and collect you. Keep quiet, of course. You can gloat to him about all our designs later, if you absolutely must, but don't ruin things so early. Be a good sport, or you'll miss out on the fun.

So here it all lies. Matt is traded to the Shinigami King, for Mello's indiscretion, and He is promised another soul if Mello fails in collecting him. That's two Death Notes, and one for me, as a prize for service. Mello shall have a fair chance, of course. He has always had the option of a fair chance.

The road will open for me when he emerges from this darkness, and I shall take it. It's a short walk then, you said, though I expect you are lying and it will take me hours. No, of course I don't trust you. I'm only sure you won't tell Mello because then it'll mean you won't get to see the final bout.

I never cease to be amazed by your capacity to avoid boredom in such a dreary place.

You are the closest thing I have had to a friend, Ryuk. You are my best friend, in fact.

Ha ha ha, yes, I know. It's precisely what I said to him. That's sort of the joke.

I'll see you in a while, then. I'd better go collar Beyond before he makes a mess.

You're right, that is overdramatic. Mello can probably handle himself a while longer. But still.

I pick my successors well, don't I? Three of them, here and there, and each one a prize.

No, I really had better go. Else there'll be L to pay.

Yes. Yes, it did sound like 'hell'.

That's sort of the joke.