Happy New Year, Betty White and all of you other unfortunates who have escaped my clutches in 2018. I still have my eye on you... It's time for my annual missive to the world of the Living from the Land of the Dead. I am using my usual scribe ... I almost got him this time, but somehow he managed to slip the knot again. Crafty fellow. He's learned that avoiding Death is a team effort. And that is the topic of today's conversation to lead you into the year of your Lord 2019, the 4717th year in the Chinese calendar, 1440th year of the Hijrah, by the Hebrew calender it is 5779. However, you measure the flow of time, the one thing you all must remember, even the ever-escaping Betty White, is that every day is unique. Each day, no matter what calendar you use will only appear once. Yes, we can discuss the nature of circular time or the idea that time is a construct and that technically, it doesn't exist at all but such singing and dancing is mortal sophistry, an exercise in bringing order to a Universe ever-beyond your understanding. In the end, you are mortal. Your days are limited. Your weeks can be counted (5,200 weeks would make you about 99.7 years of age). This means 520 Weeks 9.9726 Years 9 Years, 11 Months, 2 Weeks, 6 Days, 3 Hours, 53 Minutes and 20 Seconds For many of you, like it or not, if you haven't been living your life properly with regular and focused exercise - and let's face it, if you work in an office anywhere in the so-called developed world, you aren't getting such exercise, not at the level you need it, unless you are very, very dedicated. (And if you are, bravo, my actuarians ARE keeping track...) Coupled with a good diet - composed of a nice blend of plants, a strictly regimented amount of meat, beans, carbs and as little sugar as your diet will allow, along with the occasional niceties of a bit of wine, or your recreational drug of choice... And followed by a manageable amount of stress - where you have a life of quality work-life balance, time for personal introspection, cultural and psychological release, as well as benign and sexually gratifying Human interaction You are only hastening my Final Visit to you. Most of you aren't doing anything of the sort. Most of you have bought into my advertising campaigns: "You have to die from something." This one was really popular in the sixties. Modern youngsters tell me, "YOLO" as they engage in completely irresponsible behaviors, sucking down nicotine-laced gases at concentrations that would make the earlier smoking generations seem like light-weights. I love Science. You guys just keep inventing new ways to kill yourselves. We almost don't have to do anything anymore. It's kind of embarrassing. Which brings me to my point: You guys aren't even trying anymore. You're supposed to be resisting Death not inviting it! Let me explain... The other Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a disgrace. "Plague" sits around all day watching FOX News, yelling about how Trump is the best president ever and how Mexicans are destroying America and foreigners are bringing down the quality of life for first world nations everywhere. Whenever I mention to him that most of those "First World Nations" got their wealth by murdering the inhabitants of those nations whose lands they are complaining about, he just shouts back "Fake News" and swims away in his pool of Doritos. He eventually returns and takes some solace in the state of the environment because there are so many new plagues no one is sure where one starts and another ends. The high point of his day is to watch strong men promise to deregulate the very services which have made him weak for generations, all for the sake of money. Then he turns on the TV and the cycle begins anew. "Famine" is absolutely miserable most days. Yes, people are still starving to death at comparable rates, but nothing like the projections say they WILL be. All she does is stare at a bunch of PowerPoint slides produced by a host of scientists of all types and capacities and try to predict which kind of famine will start first. She has been the least busy of us for decades, and is the most eager to get back to doing something besides fretting over her declining numbers. I assure her, famine is about to be back in style very soon thanks to ocean depletion and the other effects of climate change, of which Humanity seems very unwilling to do anything about. This settles her and she returns to watching videos of crops withering and fishermen pulling up empty nets. That and the Food Network. Since she doesn't eat, the Food Network is her idea of pornography; something obscene which shouldn't happen but she can't stop watching... Then there's War. Bloated and disgusting, War doesn't even leave the House anymore. His capacious bulk spreads across our flat, enormous, greasy with the feckless waste of Human spending. His eyes are glazed over, all three thousand of them, such is the continued spectacle of perpetual war on Earth. I remember when he was fit, trim and got out to participate in the bloodshed, his red sword, flashing in the morning light. He was an amazing figure he and his steed, extolling men to waste their lives on one petty ideal or another; patriotism, honor, loyalty or some such vacuous thing. Now, he just watches as drones drop thousands of bombs, day after day, lives extinguished without warning, without meaning, without notice by the bulk of the world. History vaporized, cultures decimated, lives forever altered by people who never even met one another, shared a meal, talked about anything meaningful, men who never considered the others on the other side of the table as anything other than annoying, inconvenient statistics, stones in their way, on their path to progress. War is the worst of us now. At one time, he could pretend he did something meaningful, now, he knows he is the least of us, providing nothing, proving nothing, returning the world to nothing. So why do I bother to tell you about my troubles? Because it is so easy to think only you as Humans have anything to struggle about. We have been trying to eliminate you as a species for almost two million years! Can you imagine OUR frustration? Just when we think we have it all figured out, you pull some Mary Sue-style bullshit and we are back to wondering what happened? There was that time in Africa when your entire species was almost gone, starving to death, famine all around you, war destroyed your cohesiveness, disease claimed the few of you who were left. And what do you do? You migrate out of Africa! And all we could do was watch. And you survived. You survived Ice Ages. You survived new famines. You survived smallpox. We were very proud of smallpox, thank you very much. It was one of the best killers of your kind to ever exist. Then there was my personal favorite, the Black Plague. But somehow you manage to get your acts together and despite the wars that followed, for another five hundred years, you thrived. Then we reorganized. We tried the Spanish Flu and World War One. This was going to be our best work ever. But somehow, you came through, fractious, angry, disaffected but defiant. World War II was our crowning jewel. You discovered the power of the atom. We sat in awe as Fat Man and Little Boy showed you what you could really do when you put your minds to killing each other. Like a cool splash of radioactive water, almost as a whole you got your act together and war became surgical. Perpetual, but surgical. All the wars after that, Cold or hot, were never ever able to bring you to the brink again. You talked big but you knew you would never push the button because somewhere, somehow, someone would refuse to destroy the world just because someone else said they should. Until now. Now, the Horsemen are roused. Plague is awake and aware. He notices your antibiotic stores are waning and their effectiveness does as well. He sees your inability to provide healthcare as the precursor to the spread of new scourges rising from the permafrost or breeding right inside of hospitals themselves, ready to strike and spread flesh eating and antibiotic resistant diseases to any unfortunate enough to spend any time in hospitals they can ill afford. Plague visits major airports and wanders about knowing when the day comes, when it's time for a pandemic of the likes we have not seen in many Human generations, it shall start and spread there. It's the happiest I have seen him in ages. Famine watches the Food Network and the Weather Channel every day, watching as temperatures rise and storms destroy islands, coastlines and government bankrolls. She knows as the storms intensify, it will grow harder to produce crops and migrations will tax places forced to take in environmental immigrants who will have no choice but to move. She sees starvation nipping at the edges of even the worlds greatest giants. She notices the price of food inching up while the size of the containers get smaller, thinner and the food less satisfying. She can scarcely contain herself. War? The less said about the corpulent bloated more disgusting member of our quartet, the better. You people won't stop feeding him, so his encroachment into ever aspect of your lives is inevitable. Me? I am going to read a book. Because once you are all gone, whatever libraries you have won't have much tending going on. Since the only thing you have ever produced that has meant anything to the Universe at large will be found in those remaining libraries, I figure I have about thirty years to read everything left before one of the others figures out how to convince you to kill yourselves completely. Then I will have another thirty years before the remaining books turn to dust and like you, disappear into history. This is all based on your decisions. We don't have anything to do with this process. We are the effects of your unconscious decision-making. We are not the masters of your fate, we are cosmic witnesses to it. Choose better. Or don't. Either way, I have a lot of reading to get finished. Sincerely, THE GRIM REAPER. P.S.: Betty White, maybe this year we can have our little get-together... I'll be right there when you need me. I promise. P.P.S: Thaddeus, I missed you last year. Maybe next time.