It was 10 o’clock on a Friday night, and Izzy continued to toil away. Paperwork. Over one billion years of progress from little microscopic cells running around to more and more paperwork. And then he knew if the new guys that Gabe and Raph were sending by his way worked out, all of this paperwork would be for naught.
Izzy’s real name wasn’t Izzy. It was Iz’rail but no one really called him that. And he had a very important job. It kept him up nights. It kept him at the office at all hours. It meant that he literally had not taken a vacation since Edward III was in office, and the temp killed almost all of Europe. His job was that important - no one else in the world could do his job.
The intercom buzzed next to him.
“Yes?” he said wearily.
“Sir your 10:05’s are here,” came the cheerful and helpful voice of Carol, the receptionist.
Izzy watched as two men nervously inched their way into his tiny office. They didn’t look much like heroes. One was so thin and gangly that it looked like a stiff breeze might send him flying to the merry old land of Oz. He assumed this was Mars, who’s adventuring had been limited to whatever was currently on TV. The other one was unkempt. Just... there was no other word for it, unkempt. Kaplan. Obviously the guy who had a nervous breakdown or moral epiphany or whatever he wanted to call it. Both of them held a look of terror on their faces. Most of the time he didn’t see this look until he spoke.
“So... I suppose Gabriel and Raphel already told you who I am.”
Both men nodded nervously.
“Stop it. Just. Stop it,” Izzy said, “I’m the Angel of Death. I’m supposed to help you, not watch you cower in fear. You’re heroes. Act like it.”
Iz’rail wasn’t always the Angel of Death. He even hated that title, he was more like the Middle Manager of Death. He’d get a mystic vision of who was going to die, then he’d send one of his many, many minions out to collect their souls, catalogue their final thoughts for the archives, then send them on their way to get judged by whatever it was they wanted judging them. Death was very accommodating. He didn’t even want this gig, he was just in the bathroom at the bar when the other Angels were talking about it, and just got stuck with it. He wasn’t bad at it, it was mostly pushing around paperwork, processing the occasional demon/human deal, and ensuring that everyone came to the afterlife as calmly as possible. Unless you talked on a cell phone during a movie. Then there were special instructions not to be kind as your soul was collected.
It was Kaplan that finally spoke up, “Um.... Mr... Death, sir?”
“Izzy. Just... call me Izzy,” he hated the nickname, but it was given to him in the early first century when he had to collect the boss’ kid from Earth. He wanted to introduce the Angel of Death to all his buddies, but didn’t want him to come across as “too scary.”
Mars straightened up a little bit, “Actually, I have to admit that you’re not exactly what I expected...”
“What, black cloak? Long scythe? Bony fingers?” Izzy said. It was true. He didn’t look like people expected. He was currently wearing a short sleeved button up shirt with a clip on tie, glasses to big for his face, and a pair of khaki’s he most likely picked up at Target during a sale. It also looked like he hadn’t taken a break in years.
“Yeah. We thought you’d be a little more menacing. Even that chick up front was kind of... chipper? Wouldn’t you say that’s the word for it?” Kaplan said to Mars.
“Yeah. Way too chipper.”
“I instituted casual Friday once,” he held up his index finger, “once! and some guy took it too far, and he just had to be the guy who showed up to Charles Dickens, and now all of the sudden if I don’t dress up like it’s Halloween, then you don’t take death to seriously.”
Mars leaned over to Kaplan, “I wish Evie wasn’t too freaked out to stay in the car. She would have loved this.”
Izzy reached on his desk, picked up a huge file folder, and flung it at Mars. “Do you even know what I do here? That’s the list of people that are slated to die in the next fifteen minutes, and I have to organize who’s going out, not sitting here gabbing like a couple of schoolgirls about your office crush!”
Kaplan raised an eyebrow. Mars just looked confused. Izzy looked back at his paperwork.
“Wait. Sorry, that’s not supposed to happen until next week when she wears a new dress that reminds you of something you saw on Star Trek and gets you all hot and bothered. Try to act surprised when it happens. If you live that long.”
Being the Angel of Death, Izzy had access to all the information. At any given moment he could see who was going to die, how they were going to die, and pretty much any variation of the future that he wanted to see. Of course, nothing in the future was set in stone until it actually happened. He was still having to pay for that one time the Patriots won. They just wanted it more, but even he couldn’t see that the Red Coats would take that hard of a beating against them, and that they’d form an entire new nation? That was very surprising. He had originally seen the American Colonies under British rule until at least 1999, when aggressive Canadian Forces finally took over the planet. He really called that one wrong.
“Sorry,” Mars eked out, not wanting to further offend the living embodiment of most people’s worst fears.
“Don’t worry about it. I lost my temper. So you guys are the ones who are going to save the world, huh?” Izzy sat down on his desk and started digging through the piles of paper. He motioned for the two of them to sit, which they reluctantly did.
“That’s us!” Kaplan said, thankful he didn’t piss off the Angel of Death. Izzy shot him a look.
“Well, it’s exposition time, kids,” he held up five pieces of paper, “Do you know what these are?”
They both shook their heads, despite recognizing their names on two of them.
“This is what we call the Death Paperwork,” Izzy said, closing his eyes for a second. Why did the Angels get the cool PR department, and he didn’t?
“Death Paperwork?” Mars asked.
“This is the paperwork that I fill out when I realize that someone is going to die. Because the future isn’t set in stone... for instance, we decide we aren’t going hit on the girlfriend of the former MMA Champion,” he looked over at Kaplan who just shrugged, “then I get to file it away until your next stupid decision.
In this case, I have five pieces of paper. One for David Mars, David Kaplan, Tyler Tyson, Elizabeth Amy Whatever you’re currently calling her, and Evangaline McCarthy. Sound accurate?”
“So we’re dead?” Mars asked.
“Technically, everyone is dead once Nicolas Cage raises that demon and arranges his army of the dead. Because you’re going to go try to stop him, you’re the first five on the list.”
Kaplan turned to Mars, “Dude, I just realized that we’re like in a a buddy cop movie, and this guy is the Captain who’s tired of our antics.”
“Are you sure your name is actually David Kaplan?” Izzy asked, “because seriously, I’m going to just start stamping all these names ‘official’ and sending out people to reap their souls in advance. It seems like less time.”
Kaplan turned and got serious.
“Thank you,” Izzy continued, “Now, I know you’re bringing your friends along. That’s fine. Have them sign these liability waivers and keep them on their bodies.”
“Liability wavers?” Mars asked, taking the paper.
“Yes. In the event that one of our reapers can’t get to their souls for a little while because of volume or other Demon related attacks.”
Mars and Kaplan shot each other a glance.
“Now, let’s talk additional help,” Izzy opened the drawer next to him. Mars and Kaplan peered over the desk, excitedly awaiting some kind of sword or mystical weapon. He reappeared with a piece of paper. He threw it down in front of them.
“Here you go.”
“What’s this?” Mars said, hoping it wasn’t another liability waiver.
“It’s the most important weapon of all, Mr. Mars. It’s information. It’s information both of your idiot predecessors failed to look at. It talks about the ritual. It tells the history of why Nicolas Cage summoned a demon to Earth. It even talks about the cute blonde you’re going to meet who doesn’t need saving, she wants to be sacrificed to a demon to be Nicolas Cage’s lifelong companion in world domination.”
“So... no mystical swords or anything like that?” Kaplan said, “can we bring our own from home?”
Izzy contemplated it for a second, “You do whatever you need to do. Listen, I’m very busy, and you have a demon to stop. The important stuff is right on the sheet, the location of the ritual which has to take place on a full moon on the sacred location in about two weeks. So you’ve got two weeks to get there and stop everything bad from happening. The back has the full backstory, so you guys can read it on your road trip.”
“Road trip?” Kaplan asked.
“Yes the Sacred Location is in New Orleans. I’m not here to tell you how to do your jobs, but you should probably stop him there,” Izzy looked back to some paperwork.
Mars and Kaplan stood up and started to leave. Kaplan turned around.
“Yo, Angel of Death, so I had this girlfriend in college that I was ready to propose to, and she cheated on me with my best friend, and I was wondering...”
“She’s not slated to die for another 30 years if you’re successful in your mission,” Izzy said. Then he looked up, “but if you are successful in stopping Nicolas Cage from taking over the world, then yes, I’ll send one of my reapers in the black cloak costume. Perpetuate the stereotype.”
Kaplan smiled, then turned back around. Mars slapped him on the shoulder, then turned around himself.
“Um.. Angel, sir... is there any way we could have any more help?”
Izzy sighed. “Grab a cat on the way out.”