You scowl at numbers on your digital watch, taking a shortcut. You had just finished work at the library, where the head librarian wouldn’t let you leave until you’d finished sorting the books and putting them in their respective places on the shelves. As a result, you’re late for dinner with your boyfriend, which is the reason why you took the shortcut.
You walk as briskly as possible, trying to keep close to the lampposts in the spacious park. The wind blows viciously, making the trees creak and moan, which may or may not have scared the shit out of you just now. You wrap your cardigan tighter around yourself, huddling into it for warmth. God, you chose the wrong day to come home late from work.
To the right of the pathway, you hear something that sounds exactly like a scream, but you dismissed it as a creepy tree noise and spur your feet on to walk faster, nearly breaking into a jog. The scream comes again and this time, you dive into the bushes that are conveniently located on the side of the pathway. But without thinking, you had just dived to the bushes on the right, where you got a sickeningly good view of the person who was screaming.
It was a woman, older than you were, clutching her abdomen in pain. She is already covered in blood – her own blood – but her assailant keeps stabbing her mercilessly through her chest with a long, jagged knife. The masked attacker does not stop until the woman’s white sweater is fully crimson, stained by her own blood. You can hear the attacker breathe in and out heavily, no doubt winded after the physical exertion. Sometime during this process, your hand has flown to your mouth and now, your other hand rummages through your bag, searching for your phone. Just as you were about to punch in the emergency number, your phone rings, the Super Mario theme song ringing out at full volume. It’s your boyfriend calling, no doubt wondering where the hell you are. Your shaky fingers are hastily trying to press the ‘Dismiss’ button, but you’re too late. The attacker has found you.
He – you can tell that the attacker is a ‘he’ from the ridiculous amount of men’s cologne he’s wearing – grabs you by your wrist, prompting you to drop your phone in the bushes and drags you out into the grassy area, right next to the bloody woman. Before he can do anything, you wrestle yourself out of his grip and try to make a run for it. You kick off your heels before getting any further and head towards the pathway, hoping that there would be someone to help you.
“Help!” you shriek at the top of your lungs once your feet hit the pavement. You wave your arms around helplessly, but there is no one in your sight. Not a single soul.
Except for the man, of course. The one with the long, jagged knife. What, he couldn’t use a pocket knife or something that doesn’t look like it comes straight out of a horror film? He’s standing in front of you after cutting through the bushes, obviously outrunning you. But he isn’t holding the knife anymore, he’s holding a gun. You freeze on the spot and back up towards a lamppost slowly.
“Please, don’t do it,” you plead earnestly, you fingers clutching onto the hard metal pole of the lamppost. “I’ll give you anything you want. I’ll give you everything. What do you want? Money? M-”
“Shut up,” the assailant growls in a gruff voice. You could tell that it wasn’t his real voice. It sounded more like a Batman impersonation, to be honest. Batman would be disappointed.
“What do you want?” you ask again, desperate for a way out. “You want me to not tell the police? I can do that.”
“They’ll find out anyway,” he snarls. His gun-holding hand is shaking, as if he’s never held a gun before.
That was all you could say before you saw him pull the trigger, a loud bang resonating from the gun. Your body jerks backwards and a searing pain arises from somewhere around your stomach. Looking down, blood is spilling out of your abdomen. It isn’t spurting out crazily like you see in the movies, but it’s still nauseating. You bring a hand to your stomach and pull away. It’s instantaneously coated in the crimson coloured liquid. Your legs collapse under you, your back supported by the lamppost. The man takes his mask off and – he isn’t even a man.
He’s just a boy of about 14 or 15.
God, he’s just a boy.
The fear in his eyes is palpable. He clearly didn’t plan for another person to witness the hideous crime he was committing. The fear in his big, doe-like brown eyes is palpable and you can’t help but feel sorry for him, although he had just stabbed a woman multiple times to death.
“I-I-I’m sorry,” he mumbles in his normal voice – which is way higher than his previous Batman impersonation – and backs away, stumbling as he picks up an expensive-looking cream-coloured handbag, no doubt belonging to the lady he had just murdered. He looks back at you and runs for his life, leaving you to bleed out underneath the light shining from the lamppost.
Well, this sucks.
Your eyes flutter open and you’re greeted by the sight of a…gate? The gate is located at the exact same place as the exit of the park you had died at. Looking around, it would seem that you are still in the park. Although everything is surrounded by mist, it still looks exactly like the park. A hooded figure stands in the middle of the gate, clothed in a black robe. Huh. Creepy.
“Hello?” you call out, shakily getting up to your feet. You distinctly remember dying on the sidewalk and there had been no gates. “Who’s there?”
“Hello, (Y/N),” greets the cloaked figure in a woman’s voice. Creepier.
“Who the hell are you, how do you know my name and, more importantly, where the hell am I? Why am I still here? I thought I died!” You walk towards the black iron gate tentatively.
“I am Death.”
“Isn’t that what Smaug said in ‘The Hobbit’ movies?” Your feet keep moving slowly, bringing you to the woman. “First the kid with the frankly horrid Batman impersonation and now a cloaked lady quoting Smaug? Come on. I just died, for goodness’ sake.”
“My dear, I am Lady Death. I am also known as the Grim Reaper by the mortals.”
“Well, shit,” you groan, rubbing the back of your neck. “So I am dead. And you weren’t quoting a dragon.”
“That is correct.”
“Cool. Wait, no. Not cool. What about my family? My friends?” You can feel tears gathering in your eyes and you angrily wipe them away before they can spill. “Why did you let me die? Why didn’t you let me say goodbye?”
“Now that brings us to your current situation. You were a mere victim of circumstance – a person who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“What about that – that other lady who died? What about her?”
Death simply shrugs. “It was time for her to go.”
“God. Since when did you get to decide who dies and who doesn’t?” You’re angry at how suddenly you were taken away from your life. Who wouldn’t be?
“I am going to assume that was a rhetorical question,” she answers coolly. You get close enough and she swivels around to face you. Her face – to your surprise – is beautiful. She looks just like a human, or, as she calls them, ‘mortals’. This just got creepier. You expected the embodiment of Death to look more or less like a skeleton. But Death looking like a very good-looking human being? Never. Death could totally be a model, you think. “I haven’t finished.”
“Um…wow. Uh…your face…not to be rude or anything by pointing it out-”
“Yes, I am quite aware of my appearance. I find it easier to deal with mortals without looking like a skeleton. They find that form to be rather…frightening. I can’t blame them. Now, since you were a mere victim of circumstance,” she continues, clearing her throat. “I will give you another chance at life.”
It took a while for her words to be processed by you. “Wait, you’ll bring me back to life?”
“Sweet!” you squeal. “So, when will I get back down there? Wait, do I say ‘down there’ or…‘up there’? Where am I, exactly? I’m not in, like, hell, am I?”
Death chuckles and weaves her hands around in fluid, graceful, hypnotising movements. You can feel your eyelids getting heavier and heavier until they flutter shut.
“Have a safe journey, my dear.”
What the fuck? God, what is that noise? Why is everything so loud? Why does it smell like-
Your eyes spring open and you find yourself in a pen with four other puppies that are yipping and barking playfully, their little tails wagging with joy. How did I get here? You think, yawning and sitting up. Your tail wags absentmindedly as your tongue hangs out of y-
You look at your behind and your behind stands as well and as you try to study the tail that is sticking out from your bum, you end up chasing it. It’s fluffy and golden and you’re pretty sure that humans don’t have tails of any kind. Which can only mean one thing.
You’re a puppy. A golden retriever, maybe?
Death. She won’t let you say goodbye, but she’ll gladly turn you into a dog. What a bitch.
The bell above the door jingles and you and the other puppies run to the edge of the pen, resting your front paws – yes, paws – on the edge of it. In comes a tall, muscular blond man whose attention is immediately drawn to you, the only golden retriever who is waiting by the edge of the pen. He looks familiar, like you’ve seen him before. You know, when you were human. The man resembles a non-bearded Chris Evans, which means that he’s a fine-looking specimen of a man.
Whoa. You’re a puppy checking out a hot, human guy. It can’t get any weirder than this.
The other puppies are yipping joyfully, excited. You, for some reason, can’t bring yourself to join them. How do I bark? Do I just say ‘woof’? you think, still confused. The visitor converses with the staff and one of them picks you up and hands you to him. You’re taken by surprise when you feel how warm the man is and you cuddle into his arms, sighing inwardly in content. His left boob sure is soft. The man keeps making cooing noises as he scratches a spot behind your left ear, continuing his conversation with one of the shopkeepers. For a man his size, he’s a big softie. You tilt your head back so you can look at his face and then it hit you.
Tall. Muscular. Blond. Baby blue eyes. Big softie. Chris Evans lookalike.
You’re currently in the arms of Steve Rogers. Otherwise known as Captain America, of course. Last time you checked, Captain America wasn’t real. So how is he real now? Did fictional characters magically come to life after you had died, or something?
You’re freaking out inside, but, of course, Steve can’t see that. You find it weird that you can still think like a human when you’re stuck in the body of a puppy.
He finishes his conversation and takes you to the front of the shop, where the shopkeeper puts together some sort of ‘starter pack’ care kit for you. Steve is adopting you. Steve. Rogers. Is. Adopting. You. Now this moment is when you start barking happily in his arms, prompting Steve to laugh. He scratches the spot behind your ear again and thanks the shopkeeper before heading out with you.
“Let’s get you home, buddy,” he chuckles. “Boy, Thor’s gonna have a field day with you. I hope Bucky’s okay with you. I mean, I kinda bought you for him to keep him company and all that since he doesn’t like interacting with us that much. He’s still recovering and he’s doing well, he really is, but I think he gets lonely in the tower. And I secretly hope that you’ll be able to infiltrate Natasha’s heart and make her melt and coo all over you, so don’t disappoint me,” Steve finishes with a cute little laugh.
This is too much for your tiny, fragile heart.
“So, we’re your family now. I’m gonna have to keep you away from Tony, or else he’d make you your own Iron Man suit. Bruce is okay. He likes dogs. I think. Clint has Lucky, so you won’t be alone when you’re sick of being around us humans all day. Vision…I don’t know anything ‘bout that guy. All I know is that he’s not allergic to dogs because he’s an android. The twins should be okay with you. Don’t make Wanda angry, though. She’ll blast you out of the tower if you do.”
You’re living in a universe where Marvel characters are real. Steve keeps rambling on and on about life in the Avengers Tower and Tony’s little shenanigans in a rather fond tone as you’re experiencing a small existential crisis. Is it even possible for a dog to have an existential crisis? Guess so. Seeing the Avengers Tower looming over the streets of the ever-bustling city a few blocks away, Steve beams at you happily, ruffling your little head once more.
“Let’s go home.”