Little Reaper is doomed to bring the souls of the dead to their resting places.
| He stepped out in front of the small creature before him. His face seemed like a mask of worry and old age. His very bones, frayed and shuddering betrayed his ancientness. It was up to him to take the souls of the dead to the beyond, but not any longer. Now he had an apprentice. Though still quite young, and new to the ways of the Reaper’s he had a lot of talent, and a way with people. That is if his big heart didn’t get in the way.
“Master Grim Reaper. You called.” The small boy of a Reaper said carefully, eyeing his master threw empty sockets. It was odd of him to call him out so late. The old man seemed especially wary tonight. He looked up at his familiar face, cracked and faded as it was, still held that grim determination.
The Grim Reaper smiled. Sadness loomed on the horizon for this little Reaper as it always would. It was a destiny he fought hard against with no avail. This destiny as undesirable as it may be, could not be fought off. "It is time for your first Reaping." The old Reaper said quietly. Little Reapers face grew pale against the dim light. His shoulders slumped and he looked down. "Yes my master" was all he said as he sighed heavily.
He looked up at his kind mentor, and friend, who had always helped him. He looked as though he would turn to dust at any moment. He knew it would not be helped, he had to learn before it was too late. “Who?” he asked quietly. Who would he steal away from their family now? Who’s life would he abruptly end? He shuddered at the thought.
“A girl named Emily. She is 15 years old.” He said concerned as he looked at the small creature’s face. Little Reaper sighed miserably before he whimpered “She’s just a little girl.” A little girl with a life. Family. Friends. His face crumpled at the thought of what he was about to do.
The old Reaper sighed. “Death is not a bad thing. It just is. As the wind blows, as the river runs, people will die. We take them to a better place in which they can rest. Many people blame us for the inevitable. Remember, life is much sadder when it has no end.”
Little Reaper thought on this but still retained his grief. He knew this of course. It still didn’t make it any better. Each life he took, was better off yes, but the accusing looks, the pain filled eyes. He would give anything to stop his own life if it could save theirs. He had watched his mentor take them away. Their screams still haunted his dreams. He stared at the grime encrusted brick floor in sadness.
“Where?” he asked simply though his voice shook and a single black tear came from where his eye was supposed to be. The old one shook his head sadly but answered all the same. It was best to get the first one over with. “She lives in the United States. She will die from blood-loss. She was stuck in the middle of gun-fire, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. She lives in New York. The rest you can find out yourself.”
He took out his scythe looking at its cool metallic surface as he went into the human world. The reflection showed a face filled with ancient grief, a weariness so thick it made the face somewhat deformed. He looked away from his mirrored image to take stock of his surroundings.
He froze time. The humans did not know the many times this had happened. So many times that time was indecipherable for the Reaper’s. The would never know how hard they tried. How they where doomed to take the grieving humans away from their precious world.
He looked onto the frozen roads of New York, grime filled and piled high with human hatred. A single butterfly remained suspended in the air, hanging, as though from an invisible string. It stretched it long orange wings to the utmost length. The world, though defiled with misfortune, was filled with a delicate beauty that even the ugliest human had. It was life. He did not have this, though he yearned for it so.
He was a monster. Created from misfortune and grief he did a job so repulsive to things living that they were filled with an ancient hatred of him. The very things he saved ran from him in fear. Even animals fled from him. He was alone.
He hurried threw the smog filled streets seeping with frozen rats and repulsive items (and people) spilling from oversized trash barrels. He knew he did not need to hurry, though he would. It was best to get this thing over with.
As he turned the corner he saw the scene that was destined to kill the little girl. An ambulance was speeding up the street, just a little too late. The girl, Emily, lay on the ground, eyes closed, in a puddle of blood. He mother was crying beside her and holding her hand. The robber was in police custody and they where about to drive away. The little girls soul stood before her unmoving body with and her mother’s face with unwavering eyes. She turned to look at Little Reaper as he stepped into the street. He smiled gently, though his face was filled with pain.
To his immense surprise she smiled back. “Are you here to take me to heaven?” she asked threw pale lips. He looked at the girl, her face, drawn in concern, but not in fear.
“Yes” he answered looking at the girl with a sudden feeling so intense he gripped at his unbeating heart. He did not realize it was love, for he did not believe in such folly. “Or a place very much like it. Aren’t you afraid girl?” he asked sure that her answer would only sadden him further.
She smiled a tentative smile. “ Yes, I am, but I dare say if I wasn’t, well then I wouldn’t have been human. The thing is I am ready for this. It is a good place, this…umm heaven right?”
He nodded slowly, perplexed. “It is a place of rest and peace.”
She let out a shuddering breath and smiled thankfully. “Oh, thank you so much.” She whispered. “My only grief is for my mother here.” She gestured to her mother’s tear stained face. “Will you watch over her for me? Please?”
He sighed. He knew such promises where futile, everyone would die eventually. It was out of his control. She saw his expression and her face crumpled. “No, I see…” She whispered. He saw her pain and for a second a sudden agony rippled threw him. He did not know why, but it hurt him to see her unhappy.
“I will make sure she does not come to harm before her death time. That is all I can do.”
She looked up into his face a smile on her face, filled to the brim with gratitude. Sudden happiness flared in his otherwise empty chest.
“Are you afraid of me, Emily?” He asked his eyes ancient in their sadness.
She smiled at the poor creature. “I’m not, should I be?”
He looked deeply into the other’s eyes. “I don’t think so, though many of your kind fears me. I am new to this, but I have watched. Why do you trust me?”
She shrugged asking herself the very same question. “I guess it would be your face. It shows an innocence, a deep sadness that I recognize. Though you are not human, and may never have been human, you are more human than any person I have ever met.”
He took her hand in his cold bone fingers. “Are you in a hurry for the after life? I want to learn more about you, Emily.”
She grasped it and they walked forward and away from the scene of her death. “And I want to hear about you. I am not in a hurry.” They walked threw the streets slowly. With each step a feeling increased that neither recognized for neither had ever felt it before. Love. It grew, there, steadily, at first a small seed but it was sprouting.
They walked onward threw the once lovely streets, now ravaged by the steady abuse of the residents. No one talked for awhile, but soon Emily began to talk, hesitantly at first, but became stronger towards the end. “I have always been an outcast to the people around me. The only person who I ever truly could talk to freely was my father. He died just this year leaving me with my mother. She loves me and I love her but we just don’t connect. She is my stepmother. My real mother, well, I never really met her, and I really don’t want to. She abandoned me. I have never truly been happy in this turmoil filled life of mine. Death will be a relief I think. Its not that I didn’t try to enjoy life, I did, and managed it some of the time, but I didn’t stay alive for me. I only stayed for my mother.”
They continued to walk awhile. He pondered her words. In his life he had been different, but now in his afterlife they where the same. He only continued because he had to, and even if he didn’t he had a duty to the dead, but he would rather be dead. Truly dead, not in this post-dead form. Minutes ticked by as the frozen world passed by them.
“I was once human.” He whispered breaking the silence that was not uncomfortable in the least. “I was a boy, who among many things enjoyed comforting people. I was told that I was a joy. I loved human life. It was cut off way to early for me. Than the Grim Reaper took me in. He did not take me to my place of rest. He needed a successor, for his bones are frail and he will dissipate soon. That is when we crumble away, and become one with the universe. It is different, for we cannot rest. We simply are.”
She looked at him sadly. She realized how much his grief really made her miserable. His future was bleak at best. “How long do you live?”
His smile vanished as he walked steadily forward. “ Lets just say that the Grim Reaper showed up when the first life forms appeared. It will be a very long ‘life’-if you could call it that-of loneliness.”
She looked into his face. It held a desire to be with someone, always. “Can you come with me to my resting place?” She asked eagerly. The new love clearly shone on her face. This made his grief all the more heavier, for he knew he could not go there. “It is not a place I can go. I would, if I could.” His face showed the desire. “But I was doomed to a fate of eternal un-rest. It cannot be undone.”
“What if I stay with you. I..I...wish to be with you always. I love you” She looked into his face with a certainty no one could deny. It did not matter how short a time they had spent together. It was as true as true can be. The short time could not diminish this fact. Love at first sight was true, only when the other returned this love.
“I will not doom you to that fate. Ever. Emily, you have given me the sweetest gift I could ever get, moments, I will cherish forever. Good bye Emily. I will always love you.”
And she knew then, the pain it would cause him to see her suffer in the life he had. And though she would be unhappy in her rest, she would go, for him, for her family. She kissed his skull as he opened up the portal for her rest. She stepped threw calling behind her; “I will always love you.”
And she would, as he would. A love that even the afterlife could not break. He carried many souls to their resting places, none even comparing to his first. She had taught him many things in the few hours they had spent together, and those few hours he cherished the most. And even in old age when he chose his own follower, he remembered her tender words. He joined the universe, knowing his one and only love, was happy, as was he.
A poem for the Reaper:
The reaper sought
to end the pain
with something he could not
ever truly gain
the lonely creature
whose happiness had fled
was meant to kill her
but fell in love instead,
and though he knew
that death would come
what was he to do
but silence the numb
and try in vain
in hopeless despair
to stop the ebbing pain
they both now shared
she died in peace,
eyes shut tight,
but his pain will never cease,
in his endless dreary night.
note: I wrote the poem before the book.