An eerie buzz woke Chronos out of a light doze. The sitcom on TV had been a re-run and he'd fallen asleep in the middle of it.
"Dude, your hourglass just turned blue," Death said between peanut tosses.
"What?" That snapped him awake. The noise grew louder as the sand turned a deeper color. An emergency at the infirmary. He brushed stray peanuts off his lap and stood.
"I'll come with you," Death said and shut the TV off. "I already know who dies in this episode."
A harried nurse at the Immortal Hospital ushered them into the surgical bay. Eros stood inside, his face redder than Lucien's horns and contorted in pain.
"This is all your fault, you blooming clock!"
Chronos took a step back. The cherub's normal countenance looked more like an evil gnome at the moment.
"If you paid attention you'd already bloody well know."
Eros turned purple as he gasped for breath after his outburst. The doctor plunged a needle into the little guy's arm and he stopped hyperventilating. A moment later a smile took over his face but the angry words still spewed.
"I shot an arrow at two of my clients and turned to leave when your infernal timekeeping sputtered again. The arrow backtracked and hit me instead, you stupid timepiece."
Death's jaw dropped in a laugh, which he smothered with his metacarpus.
"You won't find it funny, you bag of rotten bones, when deaths are reversed."
The doctor intervened before a fight broke out.
"I need to perform the surgery now, gentlemen. If you'd climb up on the table, Eros, we'll have you fixed in no time."
Eros turned his back on Death and Chronos in a huff, his hospital gown pitching open as if caught in a gust of wind. They walked out the door, dissolving into fits of laughter when they reached the hallway. Chronos wiped tears from his eyes as he struggled to speak.
"I never knew that one of his arrows could embed itself so deeply."
"Me either. It's a good thing he has such chubby cheeks." Death howled until a stern-looking nurse bore down on them.
"We'd better go see what he's blathering about." Chronos shifted them to the mortal plane.
They landed on a busy sidewalk, gaping at the people walking backwards, unraveling their earlier movements.
"That's disgusting." Death watched a man depositing bites of donut out of his mouth, the soggy crumbs re-solidifying into his hand.
"My hourglass isn't registering this." Chronos tapped the sand, its flow normal even when he shook it.
"I think I see why. Look over there." Death pointed to a still figure standing across the street.
"Lucien." Chronos marched through the traffic, Death just a step behind him. Concentrating on the pedestrians, Evil didn't notice them until Chronos tapped him on the shoulder.
"Oh, good morning. Fascinating, isn't it?"
"Not really. Do you mind telling me what you're doing?"
"Sorry. I was going to fix it as soon as I find who I'm looking for."
"Lucien, you can't screw up time this way. That's my job."
"I know and I really am sorry. Just another minute, please? I'm looking for an escapee. Then I'll reverse it, I swear."
Death gazed at Lucien with interest. "How could someone escape?"
Fire sparked from Lucien's eyes. "With help from Branthos."
"Your demon bartender?" Death shook his skull. "Pity. He mixed perfect drinks."
"Thirty seconds, Lucien." Chronos tapped the hourglass.
"There they are." Time slowed to a stop as Branthos and a pretty woman rounded the corner, their hurried strides frozen in place. Lucien grabbed both by the collar, a satisfied grin poking around the cigar he chomped on. A flaming hole opened in the sidewalk just as time resumed its normal course. Passersby screamed in panic as they tried to avoid the pit. Lucien dusted his hands off as he walked back over.
"Couldn't you have waited to reset time until after you'd closed the pit?" Chronos grumbled. He watched the small knot of hysteria move down the street, running into the path of traffic. Horns blared and tires screeched.
Lucien shrugged. "You're so persnickety. Besides, Death looked bored. I just gave him something to do."
Evil smiled as they both turned to watch Death jump into the melee. He put his arm around Chronos.
"That's what friends are for, right?"
©2010 Laura Eno