Core of the story is that at a semi-formal party hosted by an older woman, Death decides to attend, off-duty, in the form of an attractive young lady. Once party gets over initial reaction, they decide she is quite charming and are disappointed when she has to leave their company and resume her duties.

Death explains that someone must resume the role, though she can pass it to another person. After a moment of everyone thinking "not me!", The hostess steps forward and says that since she expected this would be her last party anyway, she likes the idea of departing in style and taking on a new role so the youngster can resume her interrupted life.

Happy ending for all concerned.

I know I saw it in the past year, though it may have been much older.

What brought it to mind is that it has resonances with Talis Kimberly's song Death Danced At My Party. I'd like to be able to point her to a copy since I think she'd be interested in seeing it.


1 Answer 1


You are probably recalling Peter Beagle's "Come, Lady Death". It originally appeared in Atlantic Monthly in 1963, and seems to be viewable in their archive. I have a copy in The Fantasy Worlds of Peter Beagle (Viking Press, 1978). It was adapted into an opera "The Midnight Angel" by David Carlson (libretto by Beagle).

A bit of the final conversation between [old]Death and [new]Death:

"I think, Lady Neville, that your heart is like a dry riverbed, like a seashell. You will be very content as Death, more so than I, for I was young when I became Death."


"You may not like it," Lady Neville said. She felt very calm, though she could hear her old heart pounding in her chest and feel it in the tips of her fingers. "You may not like it after a while," she said.

"Perhaps not." Death's smile was very close to her now. "I will not be as beautiful as I am, and perhaps people will not love me as much as they do now. But I will be human for a while, and at last I will die."

  • 2
    There is a question mark after "comic", so it seems the OP is not sure in exactly what form they encountered the story. Anyhow, Beagle's story has been adapted to other media so it may well exist as a comic or illustrated story. There's an Apple podcast; also a "Last Unicorn" visual novel series that I haven't seen but might contain this story as an added chapter or lagniape.
    – Ethan
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 21:05
  • 1
    Yes, the question mark is there precisely because I'm not certain. It might have been a comic/illustrated form, or I may have just visualized it so strongly that I'm remembering it that way. The quote is ringing a bell, so I'd call this quite likely. MANY thanks for the lead; I'll track that down.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 22:27
  • And thinking about the title: YES, I think that's it. Well done, @ethan!
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 15, 2022 at 22:29
  • The graphic novel adaptation of The Last Unicorn doesn't have any added stories, so if "Come, Lady Death" exists in comic form, that's not where. Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 8:50
  • Strange. I'm certain I've read the story. Glancing at the text now, that's not exactly as I'm remembering it. So apparently I did stumble across an adaptation... or dreamed one. Very odd.
    – keshlam
    Commented Dec 16, 2022 at 20:46

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