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Death Takes a Holiday
by David Schock
That night, the place to see and be seen for the five hundred wealthiest men and women in America was in the audience of the Radio Center Music Hall. They were not there to see the Easter show or the Christmas show or even the Rockets. They had paid one hundred thousand dollars a couple just for the privilege of sitting in the audience and the right to bid on the objects displayed up on the main stage. The guest auctioneer for this charity event was none other than the legendary man of steel himself, Superman. Seated to his left were representatives from the United Nations and, more specifically, the secretary in charge of UNICEF. Seated to his left was the almost equally famous princess Diana, better known to the world as Wonder Woman.
The auction so far was a great success. One of Superman's capes went for three million dollars from a Texas oilman. One million dollars was spent by a famous Hollywood actor for an actual rock that had been sitting on the surface of Mars less than twelve hours earlier. The high point of the evening thus far was the ten million-dollar bid made by Bill Gates for a genuine cape and cowl from the infamous Batman. Superman was handed a note from a page; after he read it, he gaveled for attention. When he got everyone's attention, he said, "I am happy to announce that so far this evening we have raised almost thirty six million dollars for UNICEF." After the applause died down, Superman continued. "Now, ladies and gentlemen, we come to the high point of the evening. I want you all to take out your check books and welcome my good friend Princess Diana, daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazon nation of Themyscira and better known to all around the world as Wonder Women." Everyone in the audience stood up and clapped as Diana moved to the podium carrying a long wooden box. As she passed Superman she gave him an angry glare for talking her into this, but one smile from her huge friend completely disarmed her. She never could stay mad at him for any length of time.
"Besides," she thought, "it is for a good cause. And the money raised here tonight will feed and educate the poorest of them around the world." As she stood at the podium she opened the box she had been carrying and said, "Ladies and gentleman this is the object you will be bidding on." She lifted the object and continued speaking. "Here in my hands is the sword of Alexander the Great. It has lain in the archive on Paradise Island for almost three thousand years. The opening bid is for five million dollars." The bidding quickly rose past ten million dollars. At fifteen a replanted oil sheik from the state of Florida dropped out. At twenty five million the owner of Caesar's Palace, who had dreams of displaying it in his lobby, folded. And at thirty five million the dreams of a Greek shipping tycoon returning home to Greece in triumph sank. They all tried and they all failed till there were only two left. Lex Luthor of Metropolis and playboy billion Bruce Wayne.
Higher and higher went the bidding. Thirty five million, forty million, forty two million dollars from Lex Luthor. Luthor was confident he expected the spoiled playboy would next bid right around forty five million dollars. Luthor then planned to jump the bid to an even fifty million dollars and drive the punk out. When Bruce Wayne jumped the bid to seventy five million dollars Superman thought Luthor was going to have a stroke there and then. His face turned red, spit dripped put of his mouth and Superman could hear his heart rate jump up seventy five beats per minute. He turned around and left the auditorium mumbling curses. Bruce looked up at both Superman and Diana smiled and winked at them both.
Wonder Woman leaned over and whispered in Clark's ear, "Was I seeing right? Did he really smile at us?"
"Has been known to happen," Clark said.
"Why do you think Luthor wanted the sword so badly?"
"More likely than not he hoped he could use it to shove it in my back!"
"And Bruce?" she asked. "He wanted to make sure Luthor never got his filthy hands on it." With the auction over Clark and Diana stayed around a few more minutes to be polite but began to look for an excuse to leave. It was then one of the theater's pages, a young girl of fifteen or sixteen, came up to them and said she was sent to take them in the director's private elevator to the roof were they both could leave and avoid the crowd gathered outside.
They followed the young girl into the elevator and the doors closed behind them. Superman looked down at their young guide and asked her if he had met her before. She looked up at him and said, "That is truly remarkable. Never has one of my clients been able to know me at a second meeting. Even as rare as a second meeting is, it still is impressive."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Superman.
"To most people I meet, I remind them of that child actress who played Roseanne's youngest daughter on her TV show."
"You are the spiting image of her." Superman said.
"Why thank you, Clark! I thought this image would look good on me."
"Clark?" asked Clark.
"Yeah, you know, Clark Kent, son of Martha and Jonathan Kent of Smallville, Kansas." She turned away from the shocked face of Superman and faced Wonder Woman and said, "I am really surprised at your mother, Diana. I know it was for a good cause, but I can't understand why your mother would let you sell your father's sword like that."
Diana stammered, "Fath-father? I didn't have a father."
"Are you trying to tell me you still believe that fairy tale your mother told you about the clay baby?" She began to laugh as she said, "Who do you think you are: Gumby?"
"Listen, young lady I don't know what's going on here."
"Yes you do, Superman!" she interrupted. "So why don't you use those famous peepers of yours on the outside of this car and tell your lady friend what you see so she can know what is going on also."
Clark looked outside as he was told to do. He was almost sure what he was going to see even before he looked. Diana asked him, "What did you see?"
"Everything is frozen," he said, "Everything and everybody, right down to the molecules."
"Not really, Clark," the little girl answered. "What you are seeing in an illusion, time is moving as normal as ever. It is we in here who are existing between moments in time. How else do you think I can service all my clients if I wasn't able to perform this little trick."
"Trick?" asked Diana.
"For someone with the wisdom of Athena, you're a little slow on the uptake, princess. Your big friend knows who I am, Diana. But then, he does have the advantage over you of total recall."
"Leave her alone," Superman said, "If you're looking for a client, I'm your man. Leave Diana out of this."
"Wonderful! Even now you're trying to steal someone away from me. Over the past ten years you must have stolen millions of people away from me. And here you are trying to grab Diana away from me again." Turning to Diana she said, "Need a hint? All right. The first time I met Superman here was on a dirty Metropolis street in the arms of Lois Lane. We made our meeting, Wonder Woman, while you were lying in a nice clean hospital bed after that demon jerk Neron tore your soul almost in half."
"Death," Diana answered, "you're trying to tell me you're Death?"
"Give the lady a cigar!" Death said, smiling.
Superman moved between Diana and Death and stood there blocking her path. "No!" Diana shouted and tried pushing him away from herself. Failing that, she reached for her lasso in order to compel him to move.
"Relax, heroes, I didn't come for either of you today."
Diana asked, "If you are the manifestation of Death what do you want from us?"
"I have a need to meet and talk with someone in a non-professional level. And who better to talk with than the two people who walked away from my cold embrace? If it seems confusing," the young girl said, "think of that old movie and call the time we are spending together Death takes a Holiday."
"Just what are we going to be doing while you take your holiday?" asked Superman.
"Talk of the past, present and future especially the future. Do you know someday, Diana, you will come across the writings of a Roman historian who wrote long after the fact. He writes of the time your mother and three hundred of her best warriors rode boldly into the camp of Alexander the Great just after he conquered the Persian Empire. She jumped off her horse, walked up to him and said, 'Since you are the greatest man to walk the Earth, and I am the strongest woman, we should have a child the envy of Mt. Olympus itself!' Well, your mother got her wish and you came along the greatest specimen of human kind to walk the planet. Or you were, till your large friend here showed up."
"You expect me to believe that story?" Diana said.
"You will," answered Death, "and it will cause trouble between you and your mother. It will also make you closer together. What about you, Clark, interested in the future?"
"No," he said.
"Very well. The past. After all the millions of lives you pulled out of my grasp, what was it like when you threw those three monsters into my waiting arms? How many people did they kill Clark, on that other Earth? Five billion? I was forced to visit them long before their time. Even I was saddened at the work I did that day. But when I got hold of those three monsters that was sweet and for that I thank you. I owe you much, Clark. Perhaps there is a little something I can do for you? Maybe when it's time for me to visit your parents " Diana saw Clark's face turn white. The young girl saw his distress and said, "Don't worry they have many good years left, but when I do pay them my visit it will be as an old and trusted friend."
"I only wish I could say the same thing when it is time for me to visit Lois," said the girl who would be Death. "It will be when her life is taken from her no, more like stolen from her that I will come to her not as a warm trusting friend to end pain but as some mad screaming maniac."
"No!" shouted Clark, as he seized her in his crushing embrace. But he held nothing and the only thing he felt was the bone numbing cold of oblivion. Diana fell to her knees and held her friend's weeping face to her bosom, stroking his hair, rocking him back and forth, trying to comfort her friend from the death of his beloved.
"You witch!" spat Diana, "Is that why you're here? To torture us? To torment a brave and good man, the best hope for mankind. If you must have someone, take me. Let him keep his Lois, his one comfort in life."
"I am not Neron, "she answered Diana, "My name is not Satan. You cannot make deals with Death. Even if I wished to, I would not know how." For only the second time in her life Diana began to weep. She felt Clark's pain and she cared about him so much she knew his feelings of loss and she cried. The girl who would be Death spoke out. "There is compensation. There are the children. There will be three, two girls and a boy. All of them will become bright shining stars in the heavens. But your daughter, Lois, will be something very special. By the way, Diana, why did you name your first daughter after your husband's dead first wife? Yes, you two will be the founders of a great family that brings peace, love and understanding to the world." Diana was ashamed. For the first time in her life, all the things she had been searching for all the years of her life could come to her but only at the expense of her best friend.
"Our time together is almost over," said Death. "You will remember nothing of this except in your dreams or as dark and faded memories as these events unfold in the future."
The doors opened and three people got out: two friends talking to each other and the third member of their group standing next to them unseen. "Remember," Clark said, "Dinner, seven p.m. Friday for dinner and you will stay the weekend."
"I promise," said Diana.
"Good!" said Clark, "Either you come or Lois will have me sleeping in the guest room."
With that the two friends laughed and took to the sky, going their separate way. And standing there all alone, a young girl trapped in her duty not allowed to change, not allowed to show mercy, in the end only allowed to cry.
Death: Sara Gilbert
All characters are DC Comics
This column is © 1999 David Schock
Artwork is © 1999 by Bob Riley