Review: “Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” by Helen Marshall

4 of 5 stars.

This allegorical vignette adeptly avoids the pitfall of easy mockery to explore “intrigue with Death”, “courting Death”, “wedding Death”, and more.

Sorority girl, Carissa, attends a Sigma Rho party despite having dated many Sigma Rho guys, however, she is immediately smitten by Death in their midst. Others fear him, or are annoyed that he’s there.

“Have we met?” asks Carissa . . .

“I don’t come out to these things very much . . . . People make me nervous,” Death answers. “I’m only here for work.” He laughs at this, and his laughter is not what she expects it to be. It is cool and soft. It has the texture of velvet. It is intelligent laughter, and Carissa feels charmed by it, by its simplicity, its brevity, the way it sounds nothing like church gates yawning, the way it doesn’t smack of eternity.

A respectful week after a fellow sorority sister dies at the party, Carissa and Death have their first date. Another diner approaches their table, interrupting their dinner.

“It’s you, isn’t it?” The man is sweating. Damp patches have blossomed at his armpits.

“Yes,” says Death.

“I bet you don’t remember, but you were there when my wife died.” The man pauses. “I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you so much. She was in such pain.”

The relationship develops with Carissa noting that Death “is a gentle lover . . . sweet and attentive and polite.” They marry and live “happily ever after.” However, that is not final in a relationship with death.

When Death dies it is very sudden.

Neither of them planned for this, and so Carissa is caught off-guard when she hears the news. She thought they would have more time. She thought she would die first, and Death would be there for it, to help her through.

The tale is made more complex by the relationship of Carissa and Death’s brother and both to Carissa’s BFF Marelaine both before and after Death’s death. Death is nothing if not a definer and changer of relationships. This tale does not disappoint.

“Death and the Girl from Pi Delta Zeta” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Lackington’s, Issue 1, Winter 2014.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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