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  1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Short Story Contest 21 Theme: Grim Reaper - Details & Entry Thread

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by Gannon, Mar 12, 2008.

    Short Story
    Contest 21
    Theme: Day in the Life of the Grim Reaper​




    Open to all, newbies and established members alike. Please post your entries in this thread. At the deadline I will collate all entries and put them forward for voting in a seperate thread. Sadly there are no prizes but honour on offer. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner.

    Theme: Day in the Life of the Grim Reaper
    (courtesy if member ValianceInEnd). Over to you.

    (Next time's contest will be themed "A Chase" due to the interest in the theme in the voting.)

    Suggested Length: 500 - 3000 words.
    Deadline for entries: March 26th 2008 17.00 (UK local)


    There is a ten percent leniency above and below the upper and lower word limits, respectively. Please try to stick within these limits. Any piece outside of the suggested limit will still be entered into the contest but flagged as such.

    Try to make your story complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece manner to decide its legitamacy for the contest.

    Please remember to give your piece a title and give its word count in brackets at the top of your story.

    Thanks and good luck.
     
  2. hannahem27
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    hannahem27 New Member

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    is okay if the story is from another story?
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't entirely understand your question - I'll give you a PM about it. Kind regards.
     
  4. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    This is the kind of story I've been waiting for! Two Grim reapers are recurring characters in all the fantasy stories I've never gotten around to writing.
     
  5. Keth Andril
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    Keth Andril Member

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    And This Was Death

    And this was death. The shadow that lurked around every corner. The fuse that burned within the heart of every living being. He was not the rider on the pale horse from revelations. He was not the Grim Reaper, the black hooded skeleton with a scythe that haunted the nightmares of children. He was not the angel of death, the slaughterer of every first born Egyptian. He was every bullet ever fired against a living creature. He was every axe swung against a tree. He was every virus, destroying the cells that were the basis of life. He was the plague. He was a tool, used as punishment, leverage, and even as a catalyst. He was the only truly omnipotent force in the world. More so than every god and every devil ever created by man, for they only existed where they were believed in. Everyone believed in death. Death was inevitable. Death was necessary. If nothing died, the world would fill up with organisms. Where would they go then? Wherever the organisms went, they would multiply and fill up their worlds until there were trillions of them drifting haphazardly through space. If he were to leave his duties unattended for just a day, or even an hour, the result would be catastrophic. He was Atlas, supporting the world. His many levels of consciousness moved swiftly throughout the world. His eyes pierced every molecule of everything. His ears heard families and lovers releasing their anguish in the form of tears. He smelled disease as it ate away at the living. He tasted saltwater as it filled the lungs of a ship’s crew. He felt the warmth of a firing gun. He felt the sensation of crushing a man’s throat with his bare hands. Many stops were made in the Middle East as the war raged on. More stops were made in Africa, where famine and drought were rampant. He pored through the streets of every city as the homeless froze and the thugs killed. He filled hospitals and nursing homes. He became the smoke that choked that family inside the burning house. He became the poisons that strangled the fish in every polluted river. He carried himself around the world an infinite number of times. And it was not just this world. Every planet found itself within his grip. Entire civilizations were demolished buy his presence. Many lives that can’t even be imagined by humans were snuffed out for no better reason than they had run out of time. And they would never be known, for death was final. There was no returning from the grave. There was no afterlife. There was only the long, slow, decay of death. He was feared by most, accepted by others, and celebrated by few. He became despair as a family watches their grandfather die without even remembering them. He became joy as psychopaths murdered everything in sight. He became genocide as the leaders of Cambodia slaughtered their subjects. He became tragedy as lava and ash smothered a city without warning. He became Jihad as portions of the world were removed by nuclear fission. He became the destroyer of worlds as stars exploded taking their solar systems with them. He became oblivion as black holes devoured everything in reach. And at the end of the day, a day in the life of death, he became Shiva as the universe collapsed in on itself. It was then, and only then, that he could finally rest.
     
  6. MacEviL
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    MacEviL Member

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    A Day in the Life of Death

    A Day in the Life of Death
    [799]​



    There are currently 107 deaths per second in the world. Too many for me to keep up with. At first it wasn’t too hard because there weren’t that many people in the world, but the world has grown. We’d all like them to be old and finished with life by the time we get there, but it’s usually not so. There are 9 others like me that I have enlisted so to speak; poor souls praying to delay my visit. I granted them a stay from their judgment for as long as they serve. It’s comical to see them, corpses, cloaked and disguised as the real mccoy. I give them each a sickle and all they have to do is remove the soul once the body has died. It’s a small price to pay to escape from the unknown which they fear so much. At first they are grateful. After time, however, it begins to weigh on them; the millions of souls they have to relieve of their earthly duties before their prime. A lot of things can kill a person: a car crash, cancer, an unfortunate scaffolding accident, and things you could never imagine. It all gets to be too much for them and so they accept their fate. I, however, cannot afford that luxury. Like I said, there are 9 others like me, but I was the first Grim Reaper.

    This morning there was an earthquake. Those are convenient for me because I can reap several souls all at once. But on the down side I know I’ll have some call backs; people under the rubble who didn’t die during the initial quake or people in the hospital who give up the fight. Still, it beats shifting miles and miles through the spatial void. I would rather travel the surface because I might catch a glimpse of the sun even if it is only for a second. It’s all about one’s preference. Some of them enjoy the void in its black nothingness; the feeling of it – it’s kind of like being underwater but without the sensation of being wet. But there’s no light, no sound. It’s just nothing and I personally can’t stand that.

    Just after about twelve o’clock my time, I see one of my reapers shifting towards me and I know what that means. It means they’re ready to retire. It always happens sooner or later. She was helping to cover the Africa deaths and had to reap the soul of a baby girl who’d been raped to death by some man trying to cure himself of the AIDS virus. I usually try to talk them out of it because it’s a pain for me to enlist someone else, but I didn’t say anything; I just reaped her soul and let her move on. But now I’ll have to be on the lookout for yet another qualified soul, and I hate talking to clients. Africa’s souls got a little behind after that, so I’ll have to go there tomorrow and help. Until then, those souls are just trapped in the bodies. If they’re lucky they won’t get buried or burned while they wait. Buried is very frustrating for the newly dead, but burned is a nightmare. The souls get improperly separated from the bodies and consequently linger on Earth. That’s why it’s very important to get to fires as quickly as possible so you can be there as soon as the body perishes. Otherwise you have specter or a phantom and those types of souls are usually disgruntled and are a general chore to deal with if you encounter one. But I digress.

    Working through the night is no different than the day. People are constantly dying. Grim Reapers don’t get to sleep, but then we don’t need to. We can talk to each other and sometimes we’ll converse with the dead but it’s generally frowned upon. It just makes the work environment more stressful if you’re listening to pleas and prayers all day. After all, you can’t bring them back to life – they’re dead. You’ll just be postponing their exit and prolonging their sorrow. It’s a pity really. The only enjoyment to be had in this assignment is a good conversation.

    I won’t tell you it’s all bad because it’s not. There are definitely some perks. I never get tired. I’ll never grow old or drown…or have in-laws. I’ll never be alive and therefore I’ll never have to die. I’ll admit I’ve often wondered what it might feel like to be alive, but I don’t think it would be worth the cost of death. Death. People refer to me as Death, but that’s not accurate. Death is what happens to them. I just clean up.

    End​
     
  7. Charisma
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    Charisma Transposon Contributor

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    Death has never been more active (2,369 words)

    Kyle tapped the desk with his bony fingers. The class was almost over, but Mr. Antonio had difficulty facing that reality. He kept dragging his lesson, which was rather tiring and ambiguous because he seemed to jump from Murphy’s laws to his wife’s cooking after every few sentences, basically because he himself didn’t know what he was teaching. Half the class was passing notes; if not notes, then it was making paper airplanes and some were even aiming spitballs at the teacher, but none of them dared to launch one. Kyle realigned his femur and tibia, slightly sleepy. He then heard a faint whisper from behind which made his hair stand on ends.

    “Hey, Kyle, your father called.”

    Kyle almost dropped dead, his feet unconsciously working against gravity and his stomach churning and twisting unnecessarily. Acid gushed into his throat and he gulped it down, feeling scorching heartache spread throughout his body. However, the words he had just heard were shocking enough to provoke him to give a reply. In a minute, he had mustered enough courage and had prepared his audibility to make it sound natural.

    “What?! But he’s not around anymore.”
    “Exactly.”
    Kyle felt a nervous impulse burst out of its path, wanting to trudge past all obstacles and get a hold of Daniel. Daniel always felt the urge to make fun of Kyle’s father.

    Kyle’s father was a popular exorcist amongst the townspeople, who used to free people of all their miseries and anguishes. Anyone who would fall ill would refer to him, and he never failed, not in the least. Some people went as far as to declare him an image of Jesus, which he modestly rejected to accept as a title. Kyle was happy with his father’s miracles and somewhat ethereal experiences, but who knew that a man would visit his father one day, dressed in a frivolous yellow and orange overcoat with a blank interior, and would be the last person to ever see the miraculous exorcist.

    Kyle knew very little about his father’s death, other than the interpretation that his father could not exorcise the demon which inflicted the young man without some amount of sacrifice, and died in midst of the process. The person, however, was never to be seen again. Some even proposed to Kyle’s family it as a murder attempt, but the Roman Catholics could never accept such a suggestion.

    “He was lifted in the process of good – blessed is our little Timothy.”
    Kyle did find the usage of the word ‘little’ a bit pathetic, but he respected his grandmother’s ideologies. However, it had been more than a year now, and Kyle was on the road to recovery from his father’s death. But Daniel could not give in to the natural ability of resilience found in mankind. He could not let Kyle recover, mainly because Kyle’s father had put Daniel’s father out of business, who claimed to be a ghost-catcher.

    “What is it? A daemon’s boy feeling hurt?”
    Daniel ridiculed him once more, and this time Kyle blew up. His otherwise patient self could not conjure any endurance against Daniel’s insults. He picked up his geometry box and flung it towards Daniel, who gasped and made a reckless attempt to dodge the flying box. However, it thrashed his teeth, tearing his lips and inflaming his taste buds.

    “Kyle!”
    The first one to cry out was Lolita, followed by the other children in class. Mr. Antonio’s rhythm had been blocked and he took a while to react, unlike the children, who now had put up arid expressions. Kyle felt guilt pour into his eyes, and flow down as tears. Daniel simply lay on the seat, blood spurting out of his mouth.

    Thoughts splattered against Kyle’s head and he could barely contain his screams. The teacher finally proceeded and checked Daniel’s pulse. As he let go of his wrist, Mr. Antonio’s elegant Spanish vibe had evaporated from his face, paling it. He looked towards Kyle with a ghastly expression stretched across his face. Kyle immediately understood, but before his sixth sense could invoke feelings of unfading remorse in him, he caught sight of a man, dressed in a yellow and orange overcoat. Kyle captured the image of that man, comparing him with his father’s last client. There was no difference, it was the same clothing that man wore and his face, which Kyle had hardly seen, still had a luminous white color sheltering it.

    Kyle put aside his murder victim and ran out of class, at which no one had the courage to stop him. Everyone was too offended to react properly, but Mr. Antonio yelled for Kyle to come back. But Kyle had bigger issues at hand. He wanted to see that man, and ask him the truth behind his father’s death. Something which even the police hadn’t uncovered for quite a while now.

    Kyle took every step with care and caution, making sure that the man did not suspect him. He huffed and puffed as he made way through the hallway, out of the school building and into the playground. His trachea had swollen up while his chest curved inwards, biting his backbone. His eyes were red from the dust which had stung his eyes as he ran, while his wobbly knees started to tremble more than ever before.

    The man probably knew that Kyle was following him, but he did not give it much importance. Kyle had an advantage when the man slowed down, making way to the abandoned basement room. He crawled downstairs, peering through the cobwebs and stepping on the cracked staircase. Kyle finally had the man surrounded, and turned the lights on. Unfortunately, there was only one bulb which was functional in the room.

    “Good day, young man. I take it that you’re inspired by my dress sense?”
    Kyle gritted his teeth, spacing out his legs as he advanced towards him like a gangster. Kyle raised his skinny index finger, pointing towards the man.
    “You…you were the last person to see my father before he died.”

    It could’ve been a question, had Kyle forced in more confidence in his voice. The man nodded calmly, and raised his neck. Kyle couldn’t see his face through the black veil he wore, covering his hair and in turn, his expressions. Even so, the luminosity of his complexion was peeping through the veil.

    Kyle ignored the clownish apparel of the man and bombarded him with questions.
    “What happened to my father? Was your demon exorcised or not? If not, then how come you’re walking around so carelessly?”

    The man smiled to himself, and rubbed his right hand glove.
    “Tsk, tsk. It’s so difficult to keep up with modern man. Too much haste, too much crudeness to handle. How impudent of you to ask me such questions. Have you no respect?”
    Kyle stomped his right foot on the ground, trying to force the man to answer his questions.
    “I have the right to ask these questions.”
    “Fulfillment of duty is more elevated in the eyes of your Lord than claiming rights.”

    Kyle contemplated on the quotable remark for a few seconds, when the man started once more.
    “Well, I’ll answer them. After all, fulfilling one’s duty is the better half of social interaction. So, your father died.”
    The man stopped, observing the boy’s reaction. Since this was something he already knew, he only grew more impatient with the repetition.

    “I had no demon within me. And-“
    “What?! So you murdered him, didn’t you?”
    Kyle interrupted, his blood bubbling throughout his body, with the bloody bubbles popping in his eyes.
    “Such rush, such hurry. Anyhow, that is true. I murdered him.”

    Kyle was more taken aback by the calm and serene tone of the man, than his sinful act. The man seemed to handle death as such a natural matter, as if he had surpassed the agonizing reality such a long while ago.
    “And you have no remorse at all?”
    “No. Not at all.”
    “This is psychotic a statement. I just killed a boy accidentally, and I can feel the embers of the fierce fire of hell shrouding my feet. You did this, and got away with it, and still feel no remorse at all?”
    Kyle honestly declared the mishap, soon realizing that reminding himself of the horrifying incident did him no good. Kyle became even more despaired as he recalled the puddle of blood floating in Daniel’s mouth.

    “But of course I am not guilty. Why should have I been?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Have you read the bible, young one?”
    “Yes.”
    “All of it?”
    The man placed such stress on the statement that Kyle had to confirm his claim with his own brain, being doubtful all of the sudden.
    “Yes…but I studied the New Testament more than the Old Testament.”
    “Fair enough. Have you read the Book of Matthew, chapter 7, verses 21-23?”
    Kyle was dumbfounded. Kyle didn’t even remember that part of the New Testament and what it was about – let alone knowing what those particular verses were about.
    “I don’t remember.”
    The man let out a sigh and said:
    “Very well. Jesus says: "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”

    Kyle listened hard, but he didn’t understand the purpose behind its recitation.
    “So? What are you trying to tell me?”
    “The modern man is such an ignorant fellow. He is devoted to making the best of his life, when he should work on making the best of his brain first.”
    The man said angrily, finally some heavy emotion briefed in his words. He stabilized himself immediately and moved closer to Kyle.
    “Your father used to eliminate demons and perform miracles in the name of Jesus, yes?”
    “Y-yes.”
    Kyle muttered, realizing what the man was getting at.
    “So he is a sinner, a man who shall carpet the fire of hell. It is odd, that people who do the most grievous of sins often become the most loved of men, and sometimes they are known for the good they never did. Same is the case with your father, and it is my way that I always pay a private visit to people with such faulty reputation as him. Despite my crowded schedule, it’s not impossible to give way to such a special man. I manage without haste, unlike man. Otherwise, I let men fall prey to disease, or increasingly, let them kill one another. They are more proficient in devising ways of butchery than I am.”

    Kyle’s delicate and oceanic eyes were eluded with tears, and he looked around the room, feeling that he had always followed the wrong principles of life.
    “And…and you killed him.”
    Kyle murmured, trying to join all the pieces of the puzzle together. There was simply too much information to jot down.
    “Have I not explained myself properly? Yes, I killed him.”
    The man seemed agitated, probably proud of his unique nature.
    “You…you’re a murderer!”
    Kyle said at first, at which the man coughed deliberately, sarcasm reflecting in his actions. Kyle ignored the cynical gesture and finished:
    “You had no right.”
    “But of course I did. Hadn’t your father read the bible? He should’ve restrained.”

    Kyle couldn’t stop the tears which streamed down his rosy cheeks and dripped on his military boots. He couldn’t open his eyes either, which were unable to visualize the man’s figure again, which reminded him of his father.
    “You shouldn’t have! I’ll…I’ll call the cops. Oh yes I will.”
    Kyle defensively cried out, turning away. The man immediately commanded:
    “Look…you can call the cops later. Right now, you should ask for Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. You have sinned by believing in these arts as acts of worship.”
    “Isn’t my murdering someone a bigger sin?”
    “You have already repented in your heart.”
    “How do you know?”
    Kyle exclaimed in surprise, unable to believe the man’s accuracy.
    “That is irrelevant. Don’t mingle in matters that are not related to your salvation. Now, pray for mercy, my boy.”
    “You’re...you’re just being stupid! You want to save yourself, that’s all.”
    The boy screamed, and finally turned away.

    “I have only fulfilled what He willed. Nothing more.”
    Kyle felt like he had confronted a psychopath. He turned around for the last time, shouting:
    “You have done what the devil willed! You had no right. You had no right.”
    “But of course. I am the only entity besides God who has this right.”
    “How come?”
    “Because-“
    The man began, removing his right hand glove and placing it on his shoulder.
    “I am the Grim Reaper.”

    The skeleton sucked in the youth and energy which once gushed through his face. The numbness spread to Kyle’s entire body as he confronted the illuminated face of the Grim Reaper, now unveiled.
    “This is the light.”
    Kyle realized and then his soul sunk into a slumber of static time. The Grim Reaper scratched his chin bone and remarked at the dead body:
    “Since you were the only son of your father, I thought I’d deliver the message to you and make you pray for your forgiveness. But man is unable to prioritize his duties to life correctly. Some put religion at the top but most put revenge and luxury at the top. Hence, they are always at loss.”

    He then summoned a parchment at which he tore away the name: “Kyle Shamrock, 2:34:12:01 pm” followed by the details of the location written in an unknown language.
    “Ten thousand, two hundred and forty-three done.”
    He said vainly to himself, and then his pride drained out.
    “Thirty-nine thousand, nine hundred and seventy-seven remaining.”

    The Grim Reaper sheltered himself in a cloud of mist, murmuring to himself:
    “Stupid man, stupid man. The more he kills, the more bills I have to pay for this teleportation spell.”
    With that the Grim Reaper left.
     
  8. Bella
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    Bella New Member

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    Promotions at Death, Inc. [1087 words]

    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Aneurysm ambling toward my desk with two cups of Starbuck’s coffee. God love him, he was always looking out for me. I leaned back in my chair and stretched my legs lazily under my desk.

    “Ahh, my savior,” I said, reaching for the cup. Aneurysm sat on the corner of my desk, facing me, and took a long swallow from his own cup.

    “These meetings are so boring,” he said, wiping the foam from his mouth. “We’ve gotta have something.”

    I nodded and scratched my arm. “That’s the truth. But it’s been awful waiting on this one. I think Death is announcing promotions today.”

    “No kidding?”

    “Well, that’s what I heard. You know how mysterious he can be.”

    “Well, if anyone is due, you are. I hope you get it,” Aneurysm said, and I could tell he meant it.

    “Thanks, man. I’ve been dropping some serious hints about becoming Head Trauma. I’m probably kidding myself, though.”

    Aneurysm gave a low whistle. “Head Trauma? Damn. That’s really---“

    “Hi, Aneurysm. Hi, Syphilis. What’s up, guys?” Dream Falling was suddenly next to the desk, grinning widely and clutching a clipboard to his chest.

    I resisted the urge to groan out loud and exchanged quick looks with Aneurysm. “Not much, Dream Falling. What’s up with you?”

    “Oh, you know, busy, busy. You on your way to the meeting? You’d better head that way before all the seats are taken. Plus, Obesity brought in some doughnuts. They’re delicious. I already had three. Well, see you there?” Dream Falling cocked his head quizzically.

    Aneurysm nodded. “You go ahead. We’ll be right there.”

    Dream Falling pushed thick glasses up his nose and shuffled off.

    Shaking his head, Aneurysm scoffed. “What a wannabe. God, he annoys me.”

    I nodded. “Yeah. I mean, what’s he busy with? Nobody ever hits the ground. He hasn’t completed a job yet!”

    “Total slacker.”

    I sighed and stood up, straightening my tie. “Ah, hell. Who am I to talk anyway? Back when I first graduated, I was ready to end the world. I was killing off Earthlies left and right. Important Earthlies, too! It’s been decades since I’ve really made a difference. I should just hang it up. Me and Dream Falling--we’re a pair.”

    “Nah, man. Don’t say that. You’ve just had a slump. Hell, medical advances have set everyone back. Even the big boys. You just need a change of scenery, is all.” Aneurysm looked down at his cup and shook his head. “Head Trauma. That would be kick ass. We could maybe even work together a little.”

    “Don’t jinx me, dude. I’m nervous enough as it is.”

    Hypothermia walked by and I took in her crisp white shirt and blue pencil skirt. She carried a portfolio in one hand and a thermal cup in the other. Aneurysm caught her eye and smiled. “Hey,” he said in a deep voice I didn’t recognize.

    She stopped and regarded him without smiling. “Hey yourself. How’s it going?”

    “Just fine. Headed to the meeting?”

    “I am. Do you want me to save you a seat?” She coyly brushed her white blonde hair from her eyes.

    “Sure, that would be good. Thanks.” I could tell Aneurysm was doing cartwheels inside.

    “Hey, Hypothermia,” I said eagerly.

    Her eyes scanned me for a millisecond. “Syphilis” She nodded and then turned away toward the conference room.

    “That’s another reason I have to get this!” I wailed when she was out of earshot. “Women hate me!”

    “They don’t hate you.”

    I narrowed my eyes at him.

    “Okay, that’s not the point. You’ll get it. Don’t worry.”

    “Let’s just go.” I picked up a notepad, a pen, and my coffee and followed Aneurysm into the immaculately decorated black and chrome room. Several people were already milling about and murmuring. I waved to Alcohol Poisoning, who lazily waved back and then hiccupped. In the corner, Electrocution and Drowning seemed to be in a heated debate over the conductivity of saltwater, while Crossfire was patting them both on the shoulder, saying “Ladies, ladies. You’re both right.”

    Aneurysm slid into the chair next to Hypothermia, and I sat down next to him. Dream Falling immediately grabbed the seat on my other side and pushed a doughnut in front of me.

    “I’m anxious to hear about promotions today, aren’t you?” he asked conspiratorially.

    “Uh, yeah, I guess.” I tried to act nonchalant.

    “I wonder if they’ll bump me up to something with more action,” he said.

    “Well, I hear there’s an opening after Black Plague retires,” I said with a half-smile.

    “Really?” his eyes lit up. “That would be great.”

    Geez, he was a moron. I turned away from him and listened to Aneurysm’s attempts at flirtation, until Death finally entered and took the head seat. Everyone fell into silence.

    “I have some exciting news today,” began Death. “I think you would all agree that we need a fresh approach, a new perspective. For some time now, I’ve had a consulting group working to develop new ways to die. Things that have not been slowed down by technology and education. It wasn’t easy, but they have come up with a brilliant idea.” He looked around the room, meeting everyone’s eye to convey the gravity of this discovery. “It’s brilliant,” he continued, “because it is something that Earthlies have contemplated as a means of death for years, but they have done nothing to prevent it!”

    Everyone looked at each other in confusion.

    “We will need a whole team on this to get it started, and I have thought long and hard about who should lead this effort. Syphilis,” he looked at me and everyone else spun their head in my direction. My heart started to pound. “You are a loyal, hard worker, and I know that you have been passed over for promotion many times. Thank you for being so patient.”

    “No problem, sir,” I croaked.

    “This will be a huge undertaking. Do you think you are up for it?”

    My thoughts were swirling. I could barely contain my excitement. “Of course, sir! I’ll do my best.”

    “Great. This new form of death will be…..”

    We all leaned forward expectantly.

    “Death by Chocolate.”

    There was a collective intake of breath and everyone sat back in their chairs to consider the ramifications of such an affliction. I glanced around at my colleagues and caught Hypothermia’s eye. The corners of her mouth upturned slightly and she winked.

    Sweet.
     
  9. Sa\/en
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    Sa\/en Member

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    The God of Death (702 words)

    Man, on the day of his death, falls down before the Angel of Death like a beast before the slaughterer.

    Ryan got onto his knees, his face ashen with fear. His body shuddered with each breath that flowed out his lungs. As he wiped the sweat from his forehead, a cold set of bony fingers touched his neck. He looked up and saw a dark figure in a black cloak; he stopped breathing.

    “Yes, mortal, you have died, and I am the Angel of Death.”

    “Death?” Ryan stuttered.

    “Yes. I am also known as the Fourth Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Grim Reaper, and Yamaraj. Most of your religions speak of me—I am the being that takes what god has given you. But I am as powerful as god, if not more so. I do not just deliver your soul to the kingdom of heaven or hell—I orchestrate your inevitable death as well. I am the destroyer of life.”

    Ryan’s body was ridged; only his quivering arms showed life. The Angel of Death held his scythe loosely in his hand, swinging it like a pendulum. Slowly, Ryan opened his mouth: “Am I going to hell?”

    “Ha! When I’m done with you, you'll beg me to send you to hell. Today, I will show you the true face of reality, and I can promise you this, mortal: your heart will ache when you see what I see; your soul will writhe when you see what I do. Come, enter my world, and let me break your soul forever…”

    Suddenly, everything went dark.

    ***

    As Ryan opened his eyes, he found himself standing before a horrific car accident. Gasoline spread across the road, leaking from a wrecked vehicle. Inside, two parents lay dead; in the back seat, a young girl screamed, mangled between the car’s door and roof. Death stood beside a car, holding his scythe above his head. And then, with such elegance, he brought it down onto the road. Sparks flew from the silver blade as it scraped across the tarmac. The gasoline burst into flames as the sparks landed on it, and the flames, like a fuse, came rushing towards the vehicle.

    “Look mortal! Look at what is about to happen to this child!”

    Fear welled up inside Ryan’s gut; he tried to close his eyes, but they remained fixed on the car. As much as he tried, he couldn’t look away—Death had taken control of his every movement, but left his mind intact, so he could witness every horrific second of the coming explosion.

    With that, the vehicle burst into flames. The girl’s scream grew into an earsplitting screech, a sound that, to a passing ear, resembled the cry of a dying animal. After several seconds, the screeching stopped. For a moment, everything went silent; for a moment, time seemed to halt, and suddenly, Death’s voice came to Ryan: “I lurk in your shadow and laugh when you cry. I have no age—I have no sympathy. I, the antithesis of god, marvel over all the carnage and pain in the world. But this is not over, mortal, oh no! You shall see plenty of deaths, deaths far more horrid than this!”

    And so, as Death had promised, Ryan found himself witnessing countless deaths; and, as Death had promised, his heart began to ache, and his soul began to writhe. Little by little, Ryan began to die inside.

    ***

    All in all, Ryan had seen one hundred and fifty thousand deaths. And, because of what he had witnessed, he lost all empathy; he lost all emotion. He had experienced a day in the life of the Death.

    When Ryan finally got control of his body, he felt nothing. Death stood before him, holding his scythe loosely in his hand, and said: “You no longer have a soul—I have killed it. What you have experienced is worse than a million years in hell. You have witnessed what most men dare not think. Now, you are dead, as dead as I."

    When pestilence rages in the town, walk not in the middle of the street, because the angel of death strides there.
     
  10. goldenmonkey
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    goldenmonkey New Member

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    Azrael (1,687 words)

    How do I define a day when I never sleep?
    How do I define a day when I’ve seen them in their millions, merging together in an inconceivable mess of events?
    How do I define a life when I have never lived?
    How do I define a life when all I ever see of lives is when they reach their unescapable end?
    These questions numb my mind, but a day in my life is what you want and I will endeavour to give it to you. I trust that you will forgive me if I slip past the end of a day and into a week or month or century. A day is such a hard thing to judge when your life is eternal and your mind is tired of existing, a very hard thing to judge indeed.
    I have many forms and many faces; I am a robed skeleton who carries a scythe, I am a long tunnel with a blinding light at its end, I am a smell, a feeling of dread, of peace, of hate, of love. I am all these things and I am none of them at all.
    I have many names, The Grim Reaper, The black kiss, Death. I answer to these and thousands of others. The followers of Islam call me Azrael; this is the name I prefer. This is the name that was given to me by my God.

    Which day is it that you wish to hear of? How about one of the first, the very sixth to be exact. A day I look back on with dread, if only I knew then what I know now.
    You’ve read the bible, and if you haven’t you’ve heard the story. God created all that exists in seven days. It was the sixth day he decided to create man, in his own image to rule the earth. He called his three archangels, Gabriel, Michael and myself before him.
    “Descend to the earth,” He told us, “ And bring me back a handful of the earth, I will use the best sample to create man, in my image and the one of you who brings me the greatest piece of earth will be worshipped by man as a helper in creation.”
    Never second guessing our lord, we descended.
    We scattered to points across the earth, searching for the dirt that would most please God. At last I cam to a beach with pure white sand, the sun reflected from it to create a dazzling display across the water that lapped upon the shore. I took a handful of this sand and ascended eager to show my lord what I had gathered for him.
    God looked at the handfuls of his creation that we had gathered for him, to my delight he chose mine and breathed life into it to create Adam, the first man. All was well, for a while.
    Eventually, the serpent tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, who in turn tempted Adam. They were cast out of E den for all eternity.
    God called me before him in the Garden of Eden, beneath the forbidden tree of knowledge.
    “Azrael, you brought me the sand to create man, the sand proved impure and now man may not live forever in Eden.”
    “Yes, lord.” I couldn’t hide my disappointment from him; I had tried to please him yet had ultimately failed.
    “Man must now die and leave earth after his life has been lived. You helped me give man life, Azrael, and now you must help me to take it away.”

    So here I am, still standing in that very garden, below that very tree. It has been millennia since that sixth day and yet I think it over all the time. If only it was Gabrielle who had found that glorious beach, would I not now be with my God in heaven instead of tracing the earth and ripping souls away from the people they love.
    I doubt that the sixth was the day you had in mind when you asked me that inane question; “Can you explain to me a day in your life?” Am I correct? Yes? I thought as much.
    You want the nitty gritty of death itself, a morbid fascination underlies your question. I understand, it is a question I am often asked by people in your situation and I will answer it, to the best of my ability.
    I will define a “day” as what I have come to call a reap, the taking of a soul.

    I sit below the forbidden tree in a seat carved of fallen branches from the very same tree. I sit here and mull my creation over in my head; I feel the full spectrum of emotion. I am pleased that God chose me for such an important task as being the angel of death. I am angry that God has forsaken me to such a dreary existence. My thought process is broken by a leaf falling from the tree; I watch it rise slightly on the breeze as it descends down to my hand.
    Each of the leaves on the forbidden tree represents a human life, when it is time for someone to die; their leaf falls from the tree and lands in my hand. Printed on the leaf in a gold cursive is the name of the person who must die. Sometimes I try plucking the leaf from the tree, to see if I can control death. I cannot, the leaf comes free and I go and I reap, but the soul is restored and so is the leaf. The people remember though, they call this a near death experience. I like to do it; it’s a source of fun.
    This particular leaf that has fallen into my hand has the name, Gordon Henry printed in that golden cursive that is made by the hand of God himself. I cannot explain what happens next, not fully. It feels like a vibration runs up my arm and a wave of nausea runs over me. I transform. Each person has there own perception of what death is going to be like, for example if you believe in the Grim Reaper, I’ll come to you as him. As it turns out, Gordon is a fan of the Reaper.

    I descend to earth.
    I stand by the side of the street and I see Gordon walking briskly out of a coffee shop, an overweight man in his fifties, he has a cola bottle in one hand and a mobile phone in the other. I know instantly who he is, he is magnetised to his leaf, which I still hold in my right hand. He can not yet sense my presence.
    He can not sense the presence of anything around him, it seems. He steps onto the street, into the path of an oncoming bus.
    He senses me now. As the bus strikes him, he looks me in the eye and I float over to him as he lies in the street.
    “Gordon Henry, your time has come.” I tell him in the most melodramatic voice I can muster, I’ve had a lot of experience and I’m quite convincing as the scary death angel.
    I reach my hand out and touch his forehead.

    We ascend to the garden.
    I have changed form, I am me again. I look human, slight muscular build, dark hair and piercing blue eyes. I wear not a cloak but black jeans, black shoes and a tight fitting black T-shirt. This form seems to frighten Gordon worse than the Reaper.
    I take him by the hand and lead him through Eden, where man can only return after death and I take him to the pool of reflection.
    Gordon stares into the pool and his entire life is played back to him, from birth to death. Every event, every sin, every heroic act. Do you see how I can not measure a day? This replay happens for every soul I reap. It takes but seconds and it takes a persons entire lifetime, it is not measurable.
    The reflection is not a judgement, as you may believe it to be, it is a reflection on what you have done, a preparation for the second life.
    Gordon watches his life he laughs and he cries and when it is done he looks at me.
    “I’m dead.” He says flatly. It is not a question, and he says it without fear. It is just a fact.
    Wordlessly I take him to the sword, it is still burning and it will be for eternity.
    “Go through here and meet your God.” I tell him.
    “Can I ask you a question?” Gordon asks, and here it comes, a question about the death, about a day in my life. I can feel it, because they all ask me the same question in different words.

    And so I’ve answered your question, Gordon. That was a day in my life and now you must go and meet God, he’s quite nice. I think you will like him. But before you go, can I ask you a question? How much longer must I do this? When can I finally rest and sit with my God again?
    The bible says that when the apocalypse comes, when man kind is finally done with earth that I will no longer have a purpose, because there will be no more death.
    It says that I will be cast into a lake of fire; this is second death, from which I cannot return. So go to your God and I’ll continue to do what I do.
    One day I’ll be able to embrace the final day in my life, when that apocalypse comes. Man may dread that final day, but I anticipate it; there will be no more reaping and no more explaining what I do.
    That final day in the life of death will be quite interesting, because who will reap my soul? I can’t wait to ask him a question, “Can you tell me about a day in your life?”
     
  11. Ari Mar
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    Ari Mar Member

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    The Reaper

    He stands alone on the corner of Second and Keyser, listening to the way the wind whistles its eerie tune through the barely-open window of the house across the street. He is dressed in a black hoodie and dark jeans. The hood is pulled down over his eyes against the wind. But it is an illusion. After all, what is the wind to him but something to make house shutters flap and the tree branches shake off their leaves? He reaches down into the hand-warmer of his hoodie and pulls out a faded photograph. He gazes at it for a moment. A girl smiles up at him. Her hair is blonde, and falls across her left eye in perfect ringlets. She leans over a guitar and laughs as her fingers form an awkward chord. What chord is that? The man thinks it might be G. He had played guitar once, long ago, when he was still Sam. Now he barely remembers. But what does it matter? Music? Laughter? Just meaningless terms. All that mattered was balance. It has been such since that trusting fool Eve had swallowed truth, making truth, and evil, reality.

    He gazes at the house across the street. He sees movement inside the upstairs window, and wonders if it is Sarah, the girl he is here to meet.

    Have you no heart? Sam inquires inside his head.

    No, replies the man, I have no heart. You know that, my friend. Then he thinks to himself, what a ridiculous question. Sam hears, but is silent.

    The man takes his first steps to the house across the street. Darkness has already fallen, and the wind is fierce, but he moves with ease. The gravel beneath his feet remains silent as he moves towards the house, quickly and smoothly. Before he reaches the door, a light, cold mist begins to fall. He smiles grimly. He has always preferred this kind of weather. It seems so much more appropriate for what he does.

    He trudges on to the door, which is green and has the number 247 plated in gold, flourishing letters over the top. He reaches out and takes hold of the handle, half expecting it to be locked. But this is mostly Sam’s thought, not his own. His former self would have expected it to be locked, sure. His former self had lived in a world where people locked their front doors at night, to keep themselves and their belongings from harm. But he is not quite part of that world anymore, and has yet to walk through a door that is locked against him.

    The door swings wide, and he steps through, closing it behind him. The people upstairs do not hear. To them, the door never opened. He finds himself standing in a wide hallway with doors branching off either side. About halfway down a stairwell descends from the second floor and enters the hall from the left.

    It is to the stair that he goes, walking at a slow, comfortable pace, and pulling the hood from his head as he does so. He appears, on the surface, at least, like a typical man in his late thirties. He has short, black hair that is tinged with the slightest hint of grey around the temples. His eyes are flinty grey, and his nose is sharp, coming down from angular eyebrows.

    But his eyes…his eyes are emotionless. Happiness, sadness, longing, fear, amusement. The man hasn’t felt these things in many, many years. Sam had felt these things, and look where it had gotten him. Shot down in the doorway of a convenience store because he was too scared to run. Sam still feels these things, but they are conveniently locked away inside the man’s mind, as Sam himself is locked away in the man’s mind.

    He walks up the stairs and finds himself in another hallway, dimly lit and filled on either side with more doors. His eyes come to rest upon a door at the end on the left, one with light spilling from the other side and across the hallway. From the room behind this door comes the sound of laughter. He walks to the door and opens it, gazing through. The room is brightly lit, with a large bed in the middle and a desk off to the side. On the bed sit a man and a woman. They do not notice him standing in the doorway.

    Why? Says Sam, anguished. Why?

    Necessity, is all the man gives Sam in the way of reply, and steps into the room. The man on the bed looks to be about thirty, and is laughing happily. The strange man in the doorway recognizes the woman immediately. She is exactly as the photograph depicted her. He walks over to the bed and looks down on her. She is beautiful, that much is certain. But the concept of beautiful is lost on the man, and only Sam takes note.

    “Hello, Sarah.” Says the man out loud. Neither Sarah nor her husband hear, and they continue talking and laughing.

    The man stands not three feet from them, and gazes upon the woman. No, Sam is saying, no, you can’t.

    The man barely notices. It has been this way for a long time, and it is easy to ignore Sam by now.

    The people on the bed are speaking, but it’s hard for the man to understand them. It seems to him that they speak from another world, which, in fact, they might have been. And then the woman stands up.

    Sam can feel it now; his protest is getting louder and more frantic. Must it be this way every time, Sam? The man thinks.

    No! Sam is shouting now, No! She’s happy! Look, they’re happy!

    What is ‘happy’, anyway, Sam? She will be happy where she is going. He will be happy eventually. It is necessary.

    And with that, he walks out into the hallway and stands by the stairwell. A few moments later the girl walks out, gathering her robe around her. She walks towards the man by the stairwell, her eyes passing over him like he’s not there at all. Which, of course, I’m not, the man thinks.

    She is close now, a couple of yards away. The man is soon to be one step closer to achieving balance, which is all that matters.

    Don’t! Sam screams, Don’t, she doesn’t deserve—!

    The good must die with the evil, Sam, the man says, and reaches out. He seizes the woman, Sarah, by the arm, and jerks it, hurling her forward. She hurtles, headfirst, down the stairwell, and the man distinctly hears her neck snap as she tumbles down. She lands at the bottom, splayed out unnaturally on the floor. Sam screams, no longer with words, but just long, sharp, howls that echo in the man’s head.

    The man in the bedroom flies out, looking panicked. He runs to the stair and down it, and then he stops, seeing the woman lying on the floor. He stands still for a moment, trembling, and then leaps down the stairs, four at a time, and kneels by the woman to check her pulse.

    His fingers lay across the woman’s neck for a moment, and then he hurls himself down across her body, sobbing. This time the man on the stairwell hears perfectly. Of all of their words, it is the words of pain, of terror, that he understands best.

    “No!” Sarah's husband screams, “No! No! No! Please…please…”

    The man at the top of the stairwell walks down, passing the sobbing man at the bottom. He begins to walk down the hall, Sam’s screams still echoing in his head.

    Peace, Sam. He says calmly, She had to die sometime, you know that. Sam continues to scream, and for a brief moment, as the man turns and surveys his work, he thinks of Sam, as always, and maybe, however briefly, understands that Sam is, indeed, himself. Then the thought is gone. Sam’s screams finally begin to fade.

    He turns and steps out the door, but when it closes behind him, he is no longer on windy, rainy Second Street. He is standing on a sunny gravel driveway that leads to an elaborately built house, a brick one that possesses kind of a nineteenth-century air. He looks and sees an old man and woman sitting on the porch in a wooden swing. He does not know the woman, but the man? He knows him very well.

    “Hello, Joseph,” he says, and makes his way towards the house.
     
  12. Luminous
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    Luminous Member

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    Gray Haze
    [695]


    The sky’s black pounded into her confidence. Her intuition screamed for her to flee, flee or curl herself in so tight in hopes at the illusion of invisibility. An afternoon out on the town with some close girlfriends followed by a night spent with an overly passionate romance novel and a warm shower was what she planned, but alcohol and the wrong crowd never can escape temptation. She found it ironic that she was the only one who didn’t drink, yet she was the one standing uneasily on the curb, scared and without a lift. Right now, she had to focus on getting a ride home; she would deal with her ‘friends’ later.

    As the minutes passed by, the night only got darker and the only thing allowing for any awareness of your surroundings were harsh rays of neon. Maybe if I just walked it would ease my tension, she thought to herself. If I could just keep my feet moving…so she did; she wandered down the sidewalk, slowly becoming comfortable with her surroundings, and began to admire some of the cities sights. Finally feeling in her element, she felt her heart’s pounding relax and a small smile come across her face. With one step outside of her caution, a dark figure’s arms wrapped around her, one hand attempting to hold her steady, the other smothering her mouth to shut out her shouts.

    He was a muscular man with rough skin and a wicked look that could reach into you and rip your future hopes and safety blanket off you, leaving you completely vulnerable, completely helpless. His grin chilled her, but her complete terror made her feel numb. She kicked at the body dragging her into the alley behind them, but the effort was useless. As her energy depleted, so did any hope that she could get out of this unharmed.

    The man flung her back first into the wall of the building to the closest side. Reflexes vibrated her throat and let out a small screech on impact, now aching from the small beating her body was taking. Her body was able to move more freely after one of his arms dropped to his side pocket, and she contemplated making a final stand, but her nerves weren’t fast enough to compete with his swiftness. As soon as the hand pushing her stomach farther into the steel dropped, it was back up again, aiming a cold handgun right into the side of her head. Even though she couldn’t make out most of his muttering, she knew his intentions and the choice in front of her; it was give yourself to him, or give your life to the gun. Right then, she made her decision. She froze dead cold, resembling a statue from a distance until you got close enough to see her uncontrollable shaking. Her eyes closed and her mind wandered to vivid memories throughout her time, and with one tear rolling down her cheek, she smiled.

    The shot was heard throughout the city.

    ---

    A rugged man was arrested four years later within five miles of the assault. The girl’s corpse found years earlier in the dumpster occupying the alley showed no form of real struggle or sexual assault. The shot into the side of her skull was clean, and police later concluded it to be an accidental firing, something wrong in the gun’s mechanism. Her eulogy was beautiful, and her momentary smile still lied plastered on her face as it would forever.

    The man was found guilty of kidnapping a young woman years before. For over a year, the woman was tortured, and when they finally found her corpse, her face was mutilated and tests proved obvious and multiple sexual assaults by the same man. It was a fate worse than death, most agreed.

    ---

    Death wandered back into the shadows he came. It was an appointment, he regretted, that he was unable to keep, but it was also a mistake that he would not allow to be repeated. His feet stepped forward, one after the other, as he followed the gray haze between the void of darkness and virtuous light on either side of him until he was out of sight.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A Day In The Death (906 words)

    He had a feeling in his bones that this would be one of those days. There were no fiery letters in the sky, nor whispers from the hollow dark; but a degree of prescience was part of the job description.

    Unfolding himself from the comfort of his cold, dank crypt, he wrapped himself in one of his identical hooded black cloaks, and selected a scythe from the stand next to the entrance. He paused, and exchanged the scythe for one indistinguishable from the first. Then he swung the marble doors silently open and glided out into the crisp morning air.

    The Reaper stretched one bony arm skyward, and a scroll materialized in his grasp. He unrolled it and read a dozen or so names scrawled in dark red script. it was not a long list, by any means, and yet he could not shake off a sense of foreboding.

    He slid silently out of the graveyard into the city streets. Early morning commuters bustled by, somehow managing to step around him even though they showed no sign they even noticed him – which they did not, with one exception.

    A large woman in her thirties, puffing and red-faced, paused at the crosswalk and pressed the button for the crossing signal. She leaned against the signal post, wheezing heavily, and looked straight at the Reaper. The color drained from her face, and she crumpled to the sidewalk and lay still. The Reaper consulted the scroll, and the name Mildred Stevenson faded to grey and blew away into the breeze. Cardiac cases were always the easiest, especially when combined with emphysema.

    By noontime, the list had shrunk to three names. The next one was Louis McLeary, age 67. The feeling of dread the Reaper had felt all day peaked sharply. This one would be trouble!

    The Reaper drifted toward the First Federal Bank downtown, guided by the sense that always pointed the way to the next soul to cross over. Gliding smoothly into the lobby, he spotted Louis standing in line for the next teller. His dark blue coverall’s were spotted with engine grease, and he held a dirty denim cap in the same hand as a smudged check.

    As the Reaper watched, a short, nervous man wearing oversized sunglasses produced a revolver from his jacket before he could point it, the guard by the door shouted, “Freeze!” Louis jumped at the sound and dropped his cap. As he bent to pick it up, the robber fired the gun, and the bullet passed through the space where Louis had been standing. At the same instant, the guard fired two shots at the gunman, who fell to the floor screaming. The teller at the window looked down in surprise at the crimson rose blossoming in her chest, then crumpled behind the counter.

    The Reaper looked at the scroll. The name of the gunman, William Kazinsky, turned grey and whirled away in a dusty cloud. But a new name, Lynne Bartholomew, appeared in black with a red border – Untimely Demise.

    When the Reaper looked up, Louis McLeary was staring at him with his jaw hanging like the door of an open letterbox. In an instant, he was scrambling toward the door, the cap and the check lying forgotten on the bank floor. The Reaper followed.

    Louis looked back with terror in his eyes, and darted across the street. Horns blared and tires squealed, With a resounding crash, a crosstown bus slammed into a fuel truck, and a fireball erupted. Six more black scrawls appeared on the Reaper’s list, followed seconds later by a seventh and eighth. Louis darted through an alley, and headed toward an elementary school.

    “Wait!” the Reaper called in dismay. This would not do at all! The adult Untimelies were bad enough, but should the same thing happen at a school! Louis stopped and turned at the sound of the echoing sepulchral voice, terror lighting his eyes. Before he could turn and resume his flight, the Reaper called out again, “I’ll make a deal with you.”

    Louis stood his ground, trembling. “What kind of deal?”

    The Reaper glided up to him. “You’ve already upset the Balance today. Before it gets any worse, I’m prepared to let you go.”

    Louis looked suspiciously at the tall shrouded figure before him. “What’s the catch?”
    “You have to leave this town, and abandon your name. No one must know you have outlived your time.” The Reaper waited, as Louis considered.

    “I suppose that’s fair. I really don’t want to die.”

    The Reaper leaned forward. “This is only a respite. Next time we meet, you will have to cross over.”

    Louis nodded slowly. “Thank you. I suppose we have to shake on it, huh?” He looked nervous. “By the way, you don’t really cut people down with that thing, do you?” Louis pointed a shaking finger at the crooked scythe.

    The Reaper laughed with a sound like pebbles sliding down a windy slope. He lifted the scythe behind him and ran the tip up and down his spine. “It gets those hard to reach places.”

    Louis chuckled in relief, and took the Reaper’s bony hand in his own. He shook it vigorously, and the Reaper rattled all over like castanets. “We have a deal, then. My friends call me Lucky.”

    Of course they do, the Reaper thought wryly, as he turned and slid off to deal with the final appointment of the day.
     
  14. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    The Grey Clouds [2200 words]

    Woot, I finally followed through on a Story Contest!



    Two figures stood in the plains of Eden, beneath the branches of the great trees. They were arguing, as often happens when two people get together. The two in question were brothers, both pale as the winter snow. The elder was red headed, with a temper to match, angry amber eyes, and could be heard shouting across the meadow. The younger was raven black, pale steel blue eyes almost tearing up. A thin scar was almost imperceptible on his right cheek.

    The two of them were twins, Fraternal though they were. And this was an argument they had had many times before. The stood beneath the tree, both dressed in faded grey-black cloaks, the elder practically roaring and the younger cringing, giving a frustrated yell when he could manage to fit one in.

    It was an argument that had started with a simple question. Or maybe not so simple a question, only one that sounds simple:

    “Why” the younger asked.

    It was a question that never failed to set his brother on edge. It plagued him only occasionally, but only occasionally.

    “Why is it that we have to do this, Samael?” The younger asked. “Why is it us?”

    Samael had just sighed, “because, Azrael, it just is.”

    “Why though? And why is it only certain ones? Do you know how many people on this planet die?” Azrael questioned.

    “A lot. Let's leave it at that.” Samael replied, “Actually, I'd have to say all of them, eventually.” He added with a smile.

    “Well don't you at least wonder where they go?”

    “Uh... No.”

    Azrael groaned. “How can you not wonder?”

    “Because I don't need to wonder. I know where all of my guys go. And it ain't pretty.” Samael gave another vicious smirk. “And they all deserved it.”

    Azrael sighed. “Not everyone is a murderer or a rapist, Brother. And those who aren't I have to deal with.” He couldn't help but close his eyes, “Little children who've died of illness, the poor and the destitute, every now and then a soldier. A soldier who fought for country and begs, pleads with me for answers. And I can't give them answers because I don't know them myself.”

    “hmp... Most of the time they just try to fight it.” Samael said dismissively.

    “Yeah, that just makes it easier for you though, doesn't it? When they're trying to kill you? Hatred is so much easier to feel then their fear. And for you even when they do feel the fear it's still a hate. Try working with sadness and loss, feeling all those emotions.”

    “Yeah, let's see you work with the killers, the rapists, the dregs of society. Just the other day I found myself in the lair of one of the most vicious psychopaths there are. He kidnapped young girls and had his way with them, ****ed them until they couldn't stand up” Samael's voice was harsh, angry. Full of venom. “And when he couldn't **** them anymore he'd cut them. He'd make them... Look at me damnit!” He screamed as Azrael shuddered and turned away, “He cut them because he liked seeing them bleed so much. And then he'd **** them again. Maybe he'd get tired of cutting and toss in a good old fashioned beating, just to spice things up. Just to spice up his life he'd cause these girls so much pain... So much... fear. His place made an abattoir look like a church. It was filthy and disgusting.” Samael paused for a moment. Looked away for a moment. His eyes misted over a bit, but only for a fleeting moment. When he resumed his voice was lower and more reserved. “He kept two of them at a time. He'd make the one watch will he tortured and raped the other.”

    Samael's brother turned away again, and started walking off.

    “Come...” Samael started, “come on, I'm sorry, okay?”

    “Why do you always do this?!” Azrael demanded, “I don't need to hear these things!” And with that he ran off.


    He found himself in the forests outside a village in Kerai. He was at the base of a tall cherry tree, muttering angrily. He was fighting back tears, but not doing a very good job at it. In desperation he kicked at a root. It helped relieve some of his anger, but only because his mind was now on the pain. He dropped to the ground and cradled his bare foot. He finally broke down and started sobbing. Not because of his brother's words, but because of his uncaring attitude.

    Azrael had always been curious about why they had to do what they did. The two of them were the Angels of Death. The Shinikami. The Grey Clouds, The Timekeepers, Last of the Firstborn. They only knew that it was their duty. They didn't even know how they knew it was their duty. They were to escort the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Upon seeing the souls of the dead they would know what to do. Azrael's duty was, presumably, to send the pure to their final rest. Samael's was to send the tarnished to the Abyss. Why though? Why only the few? Surely there were more mortals who where good? Azrael also wasn't so naive as to believe there were so few worthy of the Abyss either. They'd even spoken with the dead and not gotten the feeling that they belonged elsewhere. So much that surrounded them was a mystery. Azrael wanted that mystery solved. Samael didn't.

    After what could have been somewhere between hours and moments, Azrael could hear a faint sound over the babbling of a nearby spring. He strolled through the undergrowth and the sound became clearer. It was someone crying. Finally he spied a little darrow girl, her face buried in the crook of her arm. Azrael tried to walk up to her quietly, not wanting to startle her. He stepped on a twig.

    She sniffled and quickly wiped her face on her haori, the overlarge open-front shirt tied at the waist that they wore in this part of the world. She turned around. Her dark skin showed bruises, and her almond eyes were red. Her hair was mussed and her clothing was torn. Other than the haori she was wearing nothing, no hairpins or painted nails, she carried no lacquered dagger with colourful trinkets hanging from it. Her feet were even bare. “I'm not... I wasn't crying.” she lied.

    “Don't be afraid...” He said. Then wished he hadn't, that's the kind of
    thing that would make someone more afraid. Why worry about someone being afraid if you weren't going to scare them regardless? “I'm sorry, I just... what's wrong?” He asked.

    “Nothing...” The little girl snapped.

    “Your bloody lip says otherwise.” Azrael said pointedly, offering a
    handkerchief.

    The young girl hesitated. Then took the cloth and went to the stream to wash her face. She returned and bowed slightly, presenting the damp rag.

    “Keep it.” he said, and she tucked it away with a muttered 'thank you'. “Please, tell me who you are and why you are in the woods crying.” Azrael asked, it wasn't often that he met someone who wasn't... between realms, and whenever he did he tried to help as best he could. He sat down and motioned for her to do the same.

    She was quiet at first. She was studying him. Then, after a few moments silence, “My name is Norai Akime.” she told him, sitting beside him in the shade of a tree.

    “And why are you so troubled, Akime-tal?”

    “Aren't you a foreigner? Why should you care?” She meant was genuinely interested, but the question came out sounding wrong, She bowed her head and held up a hand perpendicular to the ground. “I apologize for my rudeness. I mean no disrespect.”

    “please, no need to be so formal.” Azrael said with a smile, his fraternal argument long out of mind. “It's true, I guess you could say I'm a foreigner, but, I guess you could say I'd like to help.”

    “Oh... but, it's my problem, I wouldn't want to be a burden to you.” she said, looking away. It wasn't right to involve someone else. That was what she had been taught.

    “Then, talk with me and let your troubles stay elsewhere, is this not a compromise?” He suggested.

    “And what would you suggest we talk about?” the young girl wondered.

    “This country recently had a festival, did it not?” Azrael asked. “I've never been able to attend a festival, not in all my long years.”

    “All your 'long years'? You speak as if you are an old man.” Akime told him, “You don't look ten years older than I am.”

    “Ah, but I only look ten years older. I'm really much much older.” The angel told her.

    “And how old are you then, foreigner-tal?” the girl wondered.

    Azrael thought for a moment. “I can't quite recall. I stopped counting after a while.”

    “What about your parents? Can you remember them?” she asked.

    He almost subconsciously traced the scar on his face. He'd received it when he'd needed to be torn from his dying mother. That was how they became what they were, he and his twin, or at least, that's what Azrael thought. By killing their mother in childbirth they'd caused the first human deaths of the world. “I never knew my mother.” he said quietly. “What about your parents?” He asked, turning the question on her.

    “They died when I was little. I never knew them either.” So it wasn't the parents who had beaten her.

    “Were you taken in by anyone?”

    “Not really. I lived in an orphanage until I was eight, and then I ran away.” She was quiet as well, it must have been a painful topic for her. “But I don't need anyone.”

    “Surely you must need someone?” Azrael assured her.

    “No.” she said firmly, “no one.”

    “Does no one care for you either?” He wondered.

    “No one even knows I exist.” Akime said, hugging her legs to her chest.

    “I know.” He said.

    “No one else does.”

    Azrael tentatively reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, she flinched, and he pulled away.

    “I... I'm sorry.” she said, looking away, “It's fine.”

    He slowly reached out again, and this time she didn't flinch. After a moment she allowed herself to relax. She moved closer and rested her head on him. She felt calm and comfortable.

    After a long time of silence, Azrael spoke up softly. “I who is it that hurt you and made you cry?” he asked her.

    She shifted uncomfortably. “It was... it was no one.” She finally got up and walked away. “I... I have to get going now.” she told him. “the nights are harder if you don't prepare for them.”

    Azrael gently reached out a hand to stop her, but she brushed it off. “Akime-tal, wait...” he said, “I'm sorry.”

    She hesitated, but didn't turn around. “I'll talk to you again tomorrow.” And with that she was gone.


    The next day Azrael found himself back in the forest, waiting for Akime. As he walked through the trees he could see her laying beneath a tree. When he saw her he started to cry.

    “That delinquent got to me again.” she said, “But, I'm okay.” She rose to her feet, unsteadily. “You don't need to cry, it's not like it happened to you. And really, I'm fine. I've never felt better in my life. Heh, you shoulda seen the other guy.”

    “Akime, what would you do if a friend was going to go somewhere where you couldn't go?” Azrael asked.

    “What kind of question is that?” she wondered, a faint smile on her broken lip. Welts played across her ash colored skin. “Are all the people where you come from so weird?” She stopped smiling when Azrael didn't. “Well what kind of a place? A good place, bad, what?”

    “Presumably a good place.” he said, fighting back tears. “Maybe the best.”

    “Well then why would you want to hold them back.”

    “I'm sorry brother.” came a voice from behind him. Azrael turned around to see Samael.

    “What are you doing her?” He wondered

    “Sometimes they fight back. Sometimes it's all they can do, but sometimes it's all that matters.” He gave Azrael a soft pat on the back vanished into the woods.

    Akime was starting to understand. “ You never told me who you were...” she said.

    Azrael was quiet. “My name is Azrael Firstborn.”

    “Shinikami-sate!” she cursed in a hushed, almost religious whisper.

    Azrael nodded. He could feel her sorrow as he could feel his cloak. At times like this it seemed burdened by the weight of the world was tugging at the cloak. In a way it was. Norai Akime's world hung around his shoulders, all she was and all she could have been. Her life faded away. A young girl cast out and looked upon as little less than vermin. A young girl who'd never see another sunrise or birthday. A girl mourned by none.

    Perhaps, save one. She nodded solemnly and accepted her fate.
     
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