II

The suns had fully set, shrouding the barren desert landscape in sweeping darkness. The only illumination emanated from a weak light that glowed dimly from within the homestead, bathing the surrounding sand in a faint yet eerie luminescence.

"The human whose name is written in this notebook shall die," Luke repeated to himself softly, examining the item he held in his hands. "What is this thing?" he wondered aloud, his mind racing. Could it be some kind of joke? Whatever it was, it was extremely morbid.

A startlingly thunderous gust of wind from above abruptly called Luke's attention away from the mysterious artifact and to the night sky, where he observed an impossible sight that caused his jaw to drop in utter disbelief.

Descending like an enormous and demented mynock out of the darkness was a twisted and terrifying form unlike anything Luke had ever seen. Looking like it had crawled out of one of Dathomir's deepest and darkest caves, the thing swooped down menacingly on flapping hawkbat wings as it emerged from the black of night.

Frozen with fear, Luke stood paralyzed as the gruesome creature approached, its hideous features growing less and less obscure as it drew nearer. Its colorless visage was a sickly white, complete with a crooked maw lined with serrated teeth and two striking yellow eyes that blazed fervently as Tatooine's twin suns.

His eyes wide with fright, Luke felt his knees begin to tremble uncontrollably as the horrific phantom arrived before him, its mouth contorted into a wide, toothy grin. Fighting to regain control over his own body, Luke shakily staggered back on unsteady feet.

The monstrosity was garbed entirely in black, which accentuated the contrastingly stark pallor of its ghostly face, fixed in an almost psychotic expression. The thing's lanky, elongated arms dangled loosely like willowy vines at its sides, ending in clawed digits adorned with rings. But what disturbed Luke even more than its sinuous appendages and razor-sharp claws was its head, which appeared to be stitched to its torso, as though the decapitated head of one creature had simply been sewn onto the body of another.

Luke, after suddenly feeling himself hit the sand, found that he was clambering back on his hands and feet in a desperate attempt to escape this horrible abomination. His heart was pounding so loudly that he could barely hear himself think, much less come up a coherent explanation as to what this creature could be. Was it an alien race from some uncharted world, deep within the Unknown Regions?

He'd never seen, or even heard tales of, such a horrific monster existing anywhere in the galaxy.

This isn't happening, he told himself. It has to be a dream.

To Luke's astonishment, the thing did not continue to advance, but instead merely hovered ominously in place, completely unmoving save for its gnarled wings which were batting consistently behind it. The creature bared its pointed teeth as its yellow eyes gazed at him maniacally, sending a chill down Luke's spine.

No, he thought frenziedly, a nightmare!

"W-what do you want?" he stammered, finally finding his voice.

The creature hissed, its tone a deep, sonorous rasp, "I'm the one who dropped that notebook."

"Take it!" Luke cried fearfully from where he cowered on the ground, looking up at the thing in sheer horror. "Take it, I don't want it!"

The monster's twisted, psychotic grin appeared to widen even more. "I'm afraid I can't do that," it croaked. "From the moment I dropped it, you became the notebook's owner, Luke Skywalker."

"What?" Luke sputtered. "How do you know my name?"

"I can see it," the creature replied evenly. "As well as the remaining time you have to live."

Speechless and eyes wide, Luke tried to swallow but his attempt was impeded by a dry lump that had developed in his throat. "W-what are you?" he finally said weakly, fumbling over his words.

"You can call me Ryuk," said the creature. "I'm a Shinigami, or God of Death. And I see you're the being who found my Death Note."

"A g-god of death?" Luke quickly glanced at the book he still clutched in his sweaty, shaking hands. "Death Note?" he repeated in bemusement, mind racing as he scrutinized the little notebook.

"Luke!" he heard his aunt's voice ring from inside.

"Sorry Aunt Beru!" Luke called back. "I'm coming right now!"

Struggling to climb to his feet, Luke frantically regarded the hideous Shinigami, his face set in an expression of complete helplessness. How am I going to explain this to Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen? he thought desperately.

"Go ahead kid," Ryuk said, as though the other was able to read his mind. "She can't see me. Not unless she touches the Death Note." He gestured toward the notebook, pointing with a dagger-like talon.

Luke took an uneasy gulp and tentatively paced toward the entrance to the homestead, beyond which he could already see his aunt and uncle seated at the dinner table waiting for him. A bead of perspiration streaked his face like a rivulet as Luke slowly stepped into the kitchen. Fighting an anxious struggle to conceal his nerves, he was dismayed to realize that the Shinigami was following closely behind him, though he dared not look back.

"Luke!" his aunt cried in out horror the moment she saw him.

Oh, no! Luke thought immediately, feeling his stomach begin to churn. She sees him!

To his amazement, however, his aunt's eyes seemed to be locked intently on him, rather than paying any mind to the gruesome figure that glided like a menacing shadow in his wake. Luke suddenly heard Ryuk begin to laugh, an unnervingly throaty and maniacal chortle.

"Are you all right?" Aunt Beru said, concern evident in her gentle voice. "You look like you've just seen a ghost!"

Luke couldn't believe what was happening.

"Oh, she's good," Ryuk uttered between his devilish cackling. "She almost nailed that."

Stifling a gasp, Luke marveled in disbelief whether his eyes and ears were deceiving him. The creature just spoke! It spoke in its distinctly raspy growl of a voice and his aunt and uncle seemed completely oblivious, as if they hadn't heard anything at all!

"Yeah, I'm fine," he said hesitantly, trying to calm himself and appear casual.

"Well, sit down," Luke's uncle said, eyeing him peculiarly. He motioned toward a chair. "Your chokie's getting cold."

Luke took a nervous breath. "Actually, I don't have much of an appetite tonight, Uncle Owen."

"Oh," Owen said flatly. "Well how about –"

"You know, I think I'm going to head back to the garage for a bit," Luke said abruptly.

Ryuk observed this entire exchange with unmistakable amusement, his twisted lips fashioned into a wild grin that revealed his razor-sharp teeth.

"Are you sure everything is okay, Luke?" Beru said worriedly. "You're acting so strange."

"It's nothing, Aunt Beru," Luke lied reassuringly as he started toward the door, Ryuk floating silently behind him. "Don't worry about it. I'll be in the garage if you need me."

"So long," the Shinigami said to Luke's aunt and uncle as he followed him out of the kitchen, although he knew his words would not be audible to them.

"Don't forget to prepare those new droids for tomorrow," Owen said, but Luke was already out the door. "In the morning I want them on the south ridge working on those condensers."

"Got it, Uncle Owen!" Luke called back.

"Kids these days," he heard his uncle say as Luke stepped into the darkened garage.