Daniel was a great prankster. He carried out truly artisanal mischief. When Daniel pranked you, you felt like you were participating in a wonderful piece of performance art. You did want to kill him, but you felt like your getting covered in jam or mistakenly spending 3 days in police custody actually meant something.
Daniel had a strict set of principles around what made a truly masterful prank. A well-executed prank was a virtuous act, with inherent goodness and worth. Daniel used to say that the ultimate prankster was he who pulled a prank that he wasn’t around to see the punchline for. He went on about these principles a lot; we laughed a lot and paid little attention.
And then Daniel died.
He had known that he was going to die for the last 6 months. He hadn’t told anyone.
We were shocked. We missed him. We wanted to say goodbye. We wanted him to say goodbye to us. He must have left us a prank somewhere, one that he knew he would not live to see the punchline for. We tore open every strange parcel that arrived for us. We pored over the words in between the words between the lines of every email sent to us. We wondered whether every newspaper article we read was somehow planted by Daniel before he died.
We rooted through his possessions, his papers and his hard drive. We wondered if our sofa had always been this close to the wall.
Eventually we concluded that this prankless death must have been the biggest prank of all. We imagined Daniel looking down on us, laughing at our frantic paranoia. Later we re-concluded that Daniel was dying, and didn’t have the time to indulge us with some kind of trivial post-mortem idiocy. What kind of dickhead screws with their heartbroken friends from beyond the grave anyway. We adjusted to life without Daniel.
3 years after Daniel’s death, his parents moved house. As the movers were packing Daniel’s old desk away, one of the movers stepped on a dusty USB pen drive that had accidentally slipped down the back. It was labeled “Important Evidence”. The mover threw the mangled drive into the trash.