You don’t need the God of Death, until you need them.
No matter what they tell you, the God of Death may assume many forms. It is a skill that comes with the power of the office. The God of Death can become a floating skull if they wanted, or even a bird, for llama’s sake. Do not let them bullshit you. -The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition
Alice woke up with a start. She was in a bedroom, but it wasn’t her bedroom. And judging from how comfortable the mattress was, this certainly wasn’t her bed.
“Where the fuck am I?” she shouted.
“Calm down, calm down. We’re at the Plaza hotel in San Myshuno. You should see the view from the balcony. It’s really quite spectacular,” Ben soothed.
Alice nearly leapt out of the bed. “The Plaza..San Myshuno…what? How the hell did I get to San Myshuno? Wait, why the hell am I in San Myshuno?”
“Well, I didn’t see how else we were going to get to auditions. Speaking of which, we should try some baking. We’ve secured access to a commercial kitchen, you know.”
“Ben. Cut the bullshit. I am freaked out. The last thing I remember was saving Ted Roswell from some cowplants that I created and then you told me to run!”
“Oh. Right. That. Do you remember anything else?”
“What? No. If I remembered anything else I wouldn’t be here freaking the fuck out. What is going on?”
“Well,” Ben said slowly, “You were out of commission, so I used the opportunity to secure us passage to San Myshuno so you can compete in the baking contest and win the prize.”
Ben explained it as if bring her bodily to San Myshuno against her wishes was no big deal.
“Ben we have been through this…” Alice trailed off as she looked around the room. It was incredibly fancy. Gilded furniture, fresh flowers on the fireplace, a suede ottoman…
“We can’t afford this place. How can we afford this place?”
“Oh, well your parents wanted to make sure you were safe and you never used your college fund so here we are,” Ben chuckled, “Now, where should we begin? Breads? Donuts?”
Alice’s mind was reeling. She got up slowly, but her body felt like it was back in prime condition. She looked around for her suitcase. She couldn’t be in San Myshuno. She couldn’t compete on this show. She just wanted to go home, back to StrangerVille, back to—
“Back to what? Nothing?” Ben’s voice was rough.
He softened it. “You were wasting away, Alice. That was no life you were living. You were just…existing.”
Hurt lanced through her, “I wasn’t just existing! It’s you. You’re the reason I’m stuck like this!”
And then she recalled their conversation. She was the God of Death. Or the almost God of Death. So that made her the monster, didn’t it?
“Alice, you are not a monster. There’s nothing wrong with you at all.”
“Are you kidding? Have you seen my life?” Alice cried. “Of course I’m a monster! Why would I want to go on baking show on international television to show the whole world?”
“Because you could be normal!” Ben stressed.
Alice stopped talking and sat down. She could be normal? That was the kind of news a girl needed to take a seat for. “What do you mean?”
“The prize is the Owl of Undoing, an object of nigh incomprehensible power. If you go after it…you will be…normal.”
Alice felt unmoored, like her whole life was trying to reorder itself in light of this new information. What would it be like to not feel like a complete and total freak?
Alice fretted and looked down at her hands. “You promise?”
“I swear it,” Ben replied solemnly.