“So when are you going to decide?”
“Shut up.” I whispered shakily.
“If you don’t we will.”
“I said shut up!” It came out louder than I meant but it worked. The creeper twins stopped undermining my already fragile nerves.
The night was warm and welcoming despite how close Fall was. People milled about, soaking it up, oblivious to my presence. It was a perk of the reaper gig; so long as I wore the get-up, I was invisible to the world. The fabric fit just right to give me unrestrained movement while still being molded to my scrawny frame. It made me want to beef up a little. You know, be one of those cool, muscly, athletic types that made girls stare.
I gripped the handle of my scythe. It was another reason I wanted to beef up. The thing wasn’t heavy but it took a little out of me to lug it around. “Why do I need this?” I looked over my shoulder. The twins perched themselves on the top rail of the park’s fence; their legs lazily swinging from side to side. A shudder crept down my spine. I could spend a lifetime with them and never get over how creepy they were. “Hey? This thing, why do I need it?”
The boy looked up from their bare feet first and it dawned on me that I didn’t know their names. I always thought of them as boy, girl, or twins. “You don’t.” The kid said with a sly smile.
“But we like it on you.” The girl giggled, making me regret asking. No laugh should echo so grimly.
“It’s a prop.” I grumbled.
My grip slackened till the wood teetered in the crooks of my fingers. A month ago I was a normal eighteen year old trying not to get suspended before I graduated. I had no long or short term goals. To be honest, I really had nothing, not so much as a slight purpose. I glanced at the scythe again. Maybe that was why I held onto it. A part of me knew it was rouse but I ignored it the same way I ignored my instincts.
“Have you decided?” They asked in unioson, jarring me from my thoughts.
I stopped staring at the metal glinting under the street lights with a nod. I had a purpose. It wasn’t what the norm would consider the best purpose, but it was mine.
The twins didn’t rush me as I crossed the playground. They doubted my resolve; it was there in their dead eyes and hushed whispers and I couldn’t knock them for it. I fought reaping every time a call interrupted my day. They’d show up, drag me there, and wait. I’d cave, they’d laugh, and the deed would twist my stomach this way and that days after it was done. Fate set the expiration date but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel like I was the one killing them.
Absently, I balled my fist.This is my purpose. This is my atonement. This is my life….The words echoed on as I stole a breath, raised my blade, and swung it. It passed through the woman like a phantom. No blood, no cut, no sign that I was ever there save for the way she fell over.
Pauline Clarke. Forty-two, two boys, married twice, divorced twice, and terminal colon cancer.
The details flitted through the forefront of his mind before her head could hit the ground. Her hair fell slowly, landing around her as her youngest frantically tried to wake her. Knowing she was doomed left a heavier weight than walking away blindly would have. The family had to have known too.
I forced myself to look at the boy again. No amount of preparation would have helped him. His mom was dead. He wasn’t alone, I knew that thanks to the detailed report I got, but he sure believed it in that moment. Snot and tears were everywhere.
Glancing back, I saw I was alone too. The twins abandoned me yet again. Fine, I thought as I flipped back my hood. I set down my weapon of death behind me in case my idiotic idea worked. The kid would freak out enough from the sight of me alone. He didn’t need to see the scythe.
I closed my eyes on a deep inhale and breathed out slowly. Let him see me this once, I plead to whoever was in charge before opening my eyes and reaching out to touch the kid’s shoulders.
“Hey? What’s your dad’s number?” The kid picked up his head. Peter, my memory supplied. “Well Peter. Give me a number.”
Peter blinked a few times in between his snotty sniffles and hiccups. So maybe he didn’t hear or see me. I went with my instincts on the whole scythe thing – usually I just touched people and they crossed over – but this time, my instincts were off. Very, very off.
I was already half way across the playground when I felt the tug at my jeans. My eyes widened when I realized who it was. Peter could still see me. I looked over at the scene around his mom and frowned. They’d think he was nuts for talking to the air.
“You killed my mom.” His little fists trembled along with his body. “Bring her back!” He exploded.
Stumbling back, I raised my free hand to try and shush him. Then I remembered one key part of the gig, only he could see me. His yelling drew attention over to us but I was in the clear. All they’d see was some distraught munchkin yelling at nothing.
That didn’t stop Peter from yelling it repeatedly. He screamed it when a woman hurried comfort him. He screamed it when a cop tried to get him to talk. He screamed and screamed. They didn’t fully understand it but I did. He screamed it at my back and it stuck with me.
When I fell face first into my pillows, I heard that kid’s agonizing desperation. I sympathized with him; I lost my mom young too. That was why I tried to help. I heaved a sigh and rolled over. Helping made things worse. I was meant to reap the expired life; nothing else mattered.
“You learned your lesson.” The twin giggles seared my already aching soul. I ruined a kid’s life and they thought it was a training session! “Next time you’ll leave the living.”
I sat up to give them an earful but the still emptiness of my room was all that met me. It was a game to them. Me, life, death, all of it. As I fell back to try and sleep, I made a promise to myself. I would never lose myself or respect for the human life. Reaper or not, I’d appreciate both the lives I had to take and the ones death left behind.