“The tea was really bad, eh?” the man from the cafe stepped up right next to Kazan, who was about to step on to the tracks. Startled, he stepped back on to the platform. He hadn't realised there was anyone else in the station.
“Yeah, it tasted pretty damn awful,” he said.
The next train whooshed into the station, stopping to drop off two people. The man didn't get in, neither did Kazan. He wasn't sure how he felt about not being able to step in front of the train, but either way, the moment had passed.
Even if the man had noticed what Kazan had almost done, he had chosen to ignore it. He continued talking.
“It had to be one of the worst teas I've ever had, and I've been around for a very long time,” he said. He didn't look more than forty. Kazan had seen the man in the cafe. He was taller than average, pale skinned and bald, with very kind eyes. He looked a little comical, if Kazan were to be honest. He looked like a kid who suddenly had a growth spurt, and wasn't quite used to being himself yet. He had been staring at Kazan intently, and looked away with embarrassment when they made eye contact.
“That tea was a crime against nature, that's what it was.”
Kazan was amused. The man was clearly passionate about his beverages.
“I'm Kazan,” he said, putting his hand forward. The man shook it, his hand was very cold. Almost icy.
“You may call me Thanatos.”
Kazan was sure he'd heard the name somewhere, but he couldn't quite put his finger on it.
“I'm going to need something good to drink to wash that foul taste from my mouth. I know a man who makes the most perfect tea in the world. Would you care to join?” Thanatos asked.
He had nowhere to go, so he said yes. Now, if one were to be entirely in hold of their sensibilities, they would perhaps not agree to a proposition like this from som
one they had just met in a strange circumstance, but then, Kazan was not entirely in hold of his sensibilities.
Another train came into the station and stopped, it seemed, just for them. It definitely wasn't a city transit train — its white exterior was devoid of the regular red stripes. Without a word, Kazan followed Thanatos into the empty train.
They reached their destination, wherever that was, quite fast. As Kazan followed him off the train, he was struck with the realisation that they had arrived somewhere very, very far away. He seemed to be in a different country, in a different climate. There was a downpour, and the train had dropped them off at another tiny, empty station. The downpour made it hard for him to clearly see anything, but he could tell the station only contained two platforms and a little room made of red bricks, and a small shop made entirely of straws. They were surrounded by miles and miles of green fields, and it was nothing like Kazan had ever seen. The day had gotten significantly stranger.
In the minute it took them to reach the wooden benches outside the shop, they were both completely drenched in the rain. It wasn't cold, however. There was a steaming kettle in front of the shopkeeper. His shop held an assortment of snacks and biscuits, and his face lit up as he saw them.
“Hello, Mr. R. Long time no see.”
Kazan was convinced he spoke a different language, yet he understood it.
“Hello, Yusuf. The usual, please. Make it two,” replied Thanatos.
“Mr. R?” asked Kazan.
“Oh, you know, it comes from Reaper. I like being called Thanatos though. Reaper doesn't work out because people keep thinking of me as the Grim Reaper, and I'm anything but grim. It's not very fitting.” said Thanatos.
Reaper. Thanatos. For the first time, Kazan registered the briefcase Reaper had been carrying all day. Of course. He didn't have a scythe, but a briefcase. Kazan was talking to Death himself.
“Hey look, I'm not here to take you. I would've done it a while ago if I were here for a work assignment. I mean, I kind of was, but that's beside the point,” Thanatos added hastily. Kazan wasn't so much shocked at the idea of dying as much as he was with the idea of sitting in the rain and waiting for tea with Death. He had a lot of questions.
“Why didn't you let me walk into the tracks?” Kazan asked.
“You looked like you could use someone to hang out with,” said Death.
“Really, you couldn't have just taken my soul?” he asked again.
Death sighed. “Alright, look. I'm going to try to explain this as best as I can, but this not concept human minds are meant to grasp completely.”
“I'm listening,” said Kazan.
The shopkeeper handed them their tea in tiny tea-cups made of glass. Kazan took a sip. Death hadn't lied. The tea was extraordinary. It would suck if he had died without knowing it.
“I was there because I heard a call from you. It was unscheduled. We receive a lot of calls like that, actually. Some calls should not be acted upon, and yours was one of them. We can't always tell though, so sometimes we make mistakes and that jeopardises things. Anyway, I just thought you needed a little reminder that this is not your time.”
Kazan wanted to ask more, but thought better of it. They sat in silence and finished their tea.
Once they were done, the same train that dropped them off reappeared. Kazan followed Death into the train without a word. The station they got off at was in the city where he lived, but Kazan had never known of its existence before. Death walked him out of the station, and clasped his hands in farewell.
“I believe you can find your way from here,” he said. Then he turned and went back into the station. Kazan had a suspicion that it wouldn't be here tomorrow, but he would.
Moneesha R Kalamder is a former celebrity Quidditch player. She is looking to live a quiet life in the Muggle world but struggling to find her place. You can talk to her about magic and other things at email@example.com