Crash, bang, smack.

That's all I heard.

Crash, bang, smack.

All I still heard. Although, by that point, I was lying on the pavement, briefly aware of that. I think I was bleeding.

Crash, bang, smack.

Damn, it hurt to die. I tried to blink, but my eyes didn't open. Heck, none of me functioned. I just lay there, a lump. All of me cried out inside from the pain, but my mouth wouldn't move. And I knew I was dying.

Crash, bang, smack.

Oh, come on! How was this fair? I was fifteen years old! I didn't deserve this! About now, I could hear their voices in my ears, loud at first, screaming for help. Why bother? I thought. I'm dead. Enjoy it.

Crash, bang, smack.

The voices faded. I wanted them back more than anything- just to hear, to give myself one last second to say goodbye. A new sensation takes a hold of me. Silence.

Crash, bang, smack.

I don't know exactly when I die. My eyes are closed, and I just sort of…leave. And then I'm standing on the pavement ten feet away, watching a million people surround my body. Now that's scary. Some lady tried to give me CPR. The guy in the cab got out and called 9-1-1. An ambulance arrived a minute later, never out of reach in NYC. Which would have been good had it showed up a few minutes earlier.

Crash, bang, smack.

My final seconds replayed themselves in my mind. I saw the taxi, shoved the lady in front of me on the crosswalk out of my way, and then braced myself. Fuck. That was stupid. I should have jumped. No wonder so many noble people die- they're too stupid to save themselves. Not that I'm saying I was stupid. Wait. I take that back. I was pretty stupid, now that I think about it.

Crash, bang, smack.

At this point, I was still watching them frantically try to save me. Someone vaguely yelled something, but I was too engrossed in my own death scene to notice. It was like watching the end of a tragic movie. I was too shocked to cry, though. When you're watching yourself snuff it, the last thing you do is cry.

Crash, bang, smack.

Whomever was yelling was getting more insistent now. I waved my arm in their direction, wondering if they could see me. Probably not, I figured. Why wouldn't anyone have noticed me by now if they could see me? That same person yelled again.

Crash, bang, smack.

"Hey, kiddo!"

"What?!" I yelled loudly in response. I turned around angrily to face who it is.

When you see death for the first time, you freeze up. That's when you know you're really dead- when the Grim Reaper is staring you down. Although the Reaper didn't quite live up to my expectations.

She (yes, she!) was a tall, dark skinned woman, with pitch eyes and midnight hair, cut short and fluffy. A thick, heavy looking burgundy robe flowed down her shoulders, all the way to the floor, bisected in the center by a thick belt made from a golden strand of rope. In her left hand she held what scared me the most- the scythe. Easily seven feet tall- the woman was at least six- it loomed above me, ready to come down and make my head a lot less familiar with my shoulders.

And then she smiled. Oh, Jesus, that was creepy. She smiled, and she said, "Finally."

I didn't say a word. I was too scared to even breathe. My legs, I think, were shaking. If it weren't for the fear, I would remember it a lot better.

She picked up on it rather fast. "Kiddo, you're dead."

I looked over my shoulder at myself. "It's not fair," I said.

"Life's never fair," she said, as if reading it from a notecard.

"But you're death! You should be fair!" I shrieked. By this time, I started to cry. Now I was sure I was dead. I was sure I wouldn't get to say goodbye to my family, my friends, nothing.

She narrowed her dark eyes. "I am fair, kiddo. In death, everyone is equal. No matter how rich, poor, smart, stupid, pretty, ugly, young, old- you can't escape death."

"But that's not fair!"

"It doesn't have to be. All that matters is that you-are-dead." She pointed her fingers at me as she said those last few words. For the first time, I noticed that they were skeletonized. Gross me out. Each finger consisted of three joints, with gaps between the bones. Ew ew ew.

She retracted the finger, turning her hand once again into a fist. I winced slightly as she did so. All I knew was that I didn't want to be dead. I didn't want to have to kiss everything I'd known good-bye forever, and just pack up and leave. Hell, I had only gotten fifteen years down here; how was that fair?

The woman rolled up her sleeve, checking an expensive looking watch resting on her skeleton hand. She tapped it, and then looked back in my direction.

"Christ, where is he? I told him, two thirty, and it's now quarter till and he's still not here. Great, just great." She waved her free arm in desperation. The scythe, less menacing now that I knew I was dead, swayed dramatically, reinforcing this woman's supernatural power.

My stomach was sick, so I turned away from my own death and focused on the woman. "My name's Mandy," I said, perhaps too cheerfully, and held out my hand. "Mandy Hoff."

She looked at me with obvious loathing. Eventually, however, I won out, because she shook my hand. The bones felt awkward on my cold skin, really. "Ryell," she replied.

"So are you, like, the Grim Reaper?" I said, staring blankly at the scythe. Its sinister curve caught my gaze, and didn't seem to let go.

"One of them," Ryell answered, staring off into the distance. She sighed, looking around for a second, and then sat down on a bus stop bench. Actually, it was the one I had gotten off at a few minutes before I died.

"One of them?" I questioned, sitting next to her. It felt kind of weird, sitting next to death. But then again, it would have been odder if it had felt normal, now wouldn't it?

She sniffed, watching the traffic. "Yeah, 'one of 'em'." A pause. "What aren't you like, grieving, or something? Shouldn't you be sad, child?"

"Because I died?" I asked, dumbfounded, my voice cracking. "I don't think it's truly hit me yet. Give it some time."

Ryell nodded, twirling the scythe. A silence fell between us, me sitting there and contemplating my own demise, Ryell thinking about god knows what. Already I felt alone. And I'd only been dead fifteen minutes, tops. The more I sat there, the worse it got.

After a few moments, someone tapped Ryell on the shoulder. She jumped, annoyed and startled, and then looked over her shoulder. Behind her was a man, in his mid-twenties, and I have to admit, the prettiest (not hottest) guy I'd ever seen. He was well-dressed, too, in a black suit with a light purple blouse. To me, he had to be gay. Or at least, really really metro.

"You're twenty minutes late!" Ryell shrieked, batting away Mr. Prettyboy's hand. He looked slightly offended, before cracking a wry playboy-style smile.

"I'm sorry, it's just that I was at Von Maur and I saw the most beautiful boy, and I had to have him right then."

Ok, definitely gay. No straight guy shops at Von Maur, plus the boy comment had just sealed the deal. I wouldn't have honestly minded eternity so much if he was straight. Damn.

"God, you are so irresponsible, Lucifer!" Ryell snarled, her eyes narrow. She stood up off the bench and towered over him.

"I'm sorry," he repeated. About now he caught sight of me, sidestepping Ryell with her scythe and moving over to me. I sheepishly looked up at him. I don't fare well in front of attractive men, in case you haven't noticed.

"Hi," I squeaked. That was, if my voice worked.

"So this is her?" he said, clearly ignoring me. Oh well. It wasn't the first time a good-looking boy had ignored me. "She's kind of a scrawny little thing, don't you think?" He grabbed my upper arm, looking me over.

"Well, she's yours, Lucifer. That's the one you picked," irritated Ryell spat. "And now I'm late. Thanks, pal. You owe me big, you hear that? I own you!"

"Yes, yes, whatever," Lucifer said, waving her away. He was still focused on me, and now looked me in the eye.

"Hi," I said again, flatly. This time, I was sure my voice worked. He gave me a contemplative look in response.

"I'm Lucifer," he said, "sine we were never properly introduced. And you are?"

"Mandy Hoff," I stated, rushed. "Now, Lucifer, as in, the angel in hell?"

He tilted his head, his reddish, brownish hair shifting with it. "Must everyone bring that up? And you've read 'The Divine Comedy'?"

"'The Inferno,' actually," I corrected.

He shook his head once. "Yes, I'm 'that' Lucifer. God let me out on good behavior."

"Oh." I bit my lip, and glanced at the pavement. "Now what? Where's Ryell?"

"She had a bus crash in Berlin to attend to. I took my afternoon off to help you, dearie." He held out his hand, which I noticed for the first time held a pair of black leather gloves. He wasn't wearing them, and his long, thin fingers looked as pale as mine. Apparently, that was our only common ground- a hatred of sunlight. Oh, and the fact that we were both dead, I guess.

I got up from my perch on the bench, not taking Lucifer's hand. My mom had always told me not to go with strangers, and I wondered if that rule still applied now that I was dead.

"So am I going to, like, move on or something?" I asked as he started walking through the crowd.

"'Or something,' yes." He waited for me to catch up with him. My awkward steps shifted me forward as I meandered through the thick New York crowd. I was used to people, really, except for now. As I looked up at each one, I was met with alien, foreign gazes, the ones of people who didn't know of the outside world beyond them.

Slogging through the provincial, apathetic mass, I clung to the sight of Lucifer. Ryell, the closest thing I had to a friend in death, had vanished, leaving me with this charismatic person. My brain and vision began to swim as I mulled over what death really was. I felt I was drowning in it, in whatever it was- the silence covering me, burying me, shoveling pile after pile of dirt on me now that I was six feet under.

All those little euphemisms came back to me in a flood. They were so cute, so innocent- nothing like what they described. Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Taking a dirt nap. Sleeping with the fishes. Six feet under. Gone to a better place. Worm food. Can't we just say I died? Or does the sugar coating help the grieving process. I'd love to know- it's killing me.

"Lucifer!" I yelled, desperate for human contact. He balked, freezing up, and stopped for me. "Lucifer," I continued, "they can't see me, can they?" He didn't answer, so I tugged on his black sportcoat sleeve.

He was looking at his shoes, dark blue eyes focused on the pavement, or what lay beyond it; I don't know for sure. When he looked back up at me, his eyes flashed with extreme pity for a moment, and then his seemingly usual narcissism took over.

"Mandy, right?" he asked, not expecting an answer. And it was just as well, because I didn't intend on giving him one. "How do you feel about lunch?"

"I just died and you want to know what's for lunch? How much of a jerk are you? I know Ryell didn't like you, but I assumed that was just her-"

"Well, you didn't seem that upset about it," he said, clearly agitated and annoyed. "And it's not like you were really living, now were you?"

And then it hit me. Like a fucking wall, and I had just gone headfirst sixty miles an hour on a bicycle, straight into it. I was that big, ugly bug that went splat on your windshield and made a nasty stain that no matter how hard you tried to get out with windshield wipers, only spread out and looked more gross. And boy, this was the furthest thing from pretty. This was…this was…this was almost too gross for words.

I sank down on a park bench, unsure of where I was, even if I was. All of me felt sick now, woozy and lightheaded. Vague feelings of tears streaked down my face. Oh, Christ, I was dead. Dead as a bloody fucking doornail. Dead as one of those frogs you dissect in high school. Dead as those people you see at wakes, the ones who your parents tell you are sleeping. But you know they're really dead, its just at six years old you don't quite know what dead means.

I used to think that death was just a cease of consciousness. A lack of function, a heartbeat, breathing, brain activity. Like being in a coma, I guess. But now I knew what being dead was, and the more I was dead, the less I thought I was right.

So I was sitting there, on a bench in the middle of the Big Apple, sobbing, and dead for give or take a half hour. Oh joy. Words cannot express my enthusiasm. I was so thrilled I just might…die.

Lucifer sat down next to me; I saw him in my peripheral vision. He looked concerned, the word "sorry" stamped in bold letters on his face. He had probably seen so many people die over the years that he was used to this, but still- it couldn't be real sympathy. Lucifer seemed to be the kind of guy who was an excellent actor, a playboy who could con any unsuspecting girl or boy into doing what he wanted. Suddenly, I missed all of my family, my friends, my dog, my teachers- even the lady who had walked too slow on the crosswalk. After a couple of minutes of strange quietness, he put his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close to him.

"I sobbed into his chest for a good five minutes, and then, when all I could do was make awkward choking sounds (a sure sign I was out of tears) I just sat there, his arms around me, fluffing up my short hair while he waited. He didn't seem to really be bothered by the fact that I had just messed up his meticulously neat appearance, and I could already tell Lucifer was going to be anal retentive about his looks. Besides, I had no intention of moving right away. I had never really been this close, this dependant, on someone, honestly, and it seemed weird that the first guy I cried to happened to be a banished angel.

"I'm sorry," I said, sniffling, ready to break the silence and move on. "I'm not normally like this."

He stood up one final piece of my hair, and then smoothed it back down. "It's okay," he said softly, a look of guilt briefly crossing his face.

I sat up straight, gently pulling away from him. "I'm ready for lunch now. Is your offer still available?"