He sighs, looking up at the house. It’s been a long night of work, and he’s pretty worn out. Generally speaking, people don’t like it when he shows up, even if they know he’s coming soon. Greeting Death Himself is considered by many to be a less-than-joyous occasion. “I’m really not a bad guy,” he thinks. “I only do what needs to be done.” He hopes she’ll understand, and not hold this against him.
He walks up and opens the front door, remembering the first time someone asked him how he managed to get into their locked house. “I used a skeleton key,” he said, and has been using that line for centuries. Most people do not laugh, although he thinks they should because that’s a pretty solid crack, especially from Death. But, generally speaking, people aren’t usually laughing as they’re about to die. Not even if he makes a joke first.
The house smells like a mix of fresh laundry and years of delicious baking. It’s clear she’s had people to come in and help take care of the place, even as her health deteriorated. And, oddly enough, he notices that his natural aroma of dust and incense blends well with the scents around him. He feels like he’s at home.
Climbing the stairs to her bedroom, he notes the pictures on the wall: a faded, old wedding photograph; family photos; recent pictures of grandchildren in a digital frame at the top of the landing. Good. It’s always nice to find that the human has led a happy, full life.
He opens the bedroom door, and is surprised to see her awake in her bed, alone, calmly reading a Life magazine. The scent of vanilla washes over him.
“There you are! I’ve been waiting for you! Let’s get this over with.”
For once, Azrael is taken aback. She’s… fine with him being here? That can’t be right. She is 90; maybe she just can’t see him properly.
“You know who I am?”
“Yes, you are the Angel of Death, and I am ready to go.”
He walks up to her, slowly, and kneels beside the bed. He takes her hand.
“Are you sure that you’re okay? I am only here to help.”
“I know that,” she says. “I am in great pain. The cancer is everywhere, and my body is finished. I consider this a mercy, and I am thankful you are here.” She brings her other hand over to grip his with both of her small, frail hands.
“Okay. If you’re ready, let’s save you from your pain.”
“Wait. I have one question for you, please. I promise it’s important.”
He nods. “Of course. Ask me anything.”
She smiles. “Did you use a skeleton key to get in?”
Scent notes: An ancient, ethereal library lit by gaslight and glowing incense, frankincense and bay laurel, the simple cotton winding sheet of the dearly departed, swirls of vanilla and coal dust