The cigarette hung from his fingers of bone inches over the glass table top. The smoke wisped into where ever smoke wisps too, just kind of up and gone. The hooded figure attached to the cigarette was slumped over slightly. His attire consisted of nothing but a single robe which hung slackly over his skeletal frame. The robe was old and a colorless gray. A heavy sigh was heard from inside the deep black hole where a rosy face should have been.
“Ok,” said a voice out of the left most darken corner in the room. “Let’s start from the beginning.”
The hooded figure sighed again, “How many times are we going to go over this?”
“As many times as it takes for me to get a story I believe.”
The hand holding the cigarette raised from the table and disappeared into the nothingness of the face hole. Smoke billowed out, looking like some starless part of the galaxy that was on fire.
The voice from the corner spoke again, “Start from the beginning.”
“Of course,” said the robe with a smile. You couldn’t see his smile, but you sure could hear the smile. It was a blood curdling smile. A smile that many, many, people saw as the last thing they ever saw. A smile that stopped the blood flowing in ones veins. “I was making my rounds…”
“On what date was this?”
“It was on December 12th, 12:38 am to be precise. I was assigned a Mr. Robert Hupert as my next collection. Mr. Hupert lived in the suburbs in a single story house. Nice lawn, well taken care of…I remember that. Anyway, easy stuff. I entered through the south wall and landed in the kitchen. It was a small kitchen. I was surprised as to how small it was…I don’t know why…you know, just compared to what the outside of the house looked like. Anyway, I was thirsty so I helped myself to a glass of water from the built in water dispenser in the door of the refrigerator. As with just about everyone’s refrigerator in the world, pictures of what I assumed where the Grand-kids hung with those cheap fruit shaped magnets. A little boy was featured in one photograph, and a little girl in the other. The rest of the photos had them both in it, playing, laughing, hugging…it could have been any house in the world really…”
The Robbed Hood paused.
“Go on,” prodded the corner.
“Right. So I had a job to do and about seven others on my list for that evening. I admit I was in a hurry, but I’m pretty good at what I do. I have been doing it forever…literally forever. ”
Hood sneezed and a spider shot out from the black hole of his face, hit the table on it’s side. It recovered awkwardly and quickly, and then scampered away.
“Sorry,” he said and wiped his hole with the back of his cigarette holding sleeve. “So I head into Hupert’s bedroom where I expect him to be sleeping with one of those CPAP machines attached to his face. I see a lot of CPAP machines anymore.”
“We don’t need to know that stuff, just stick to the relevant facts.”
“Hupert wasn’t asleep. He was awake.”
“He could see me,” said Hood. “He was looking right at me. I knew he could see me. His face was flush of color and he was shaking. He also pointed at me. His mouth was open and moving, but no sound was coming out. This is a look I’m only used to seeing when the collected are in their last seconds of life. I like to look into their eyes as the last bit of their soul leaves their bodies. The eyes lose their shine slowly, like a fading star until…pop…nothing. The eyes, after they lose their soul mind you, remind me of rocks you find in a river bed; dull, lifeless, flatten, hard…but regardless…Hupert could definitely see me.
‘What do you want?’ Hupert asked me.
‘I’m here to collect you,’ I responded. ‘How can you see me?’
‘What do you mean?’ Hupert asked.
‘How can you see me?’ I asked again. ‘Normally you can’t see me until you are toting that fine line between this life and the next.’
‘I don’t understand what you just said, but why are you dressed like the Grim Reaper?’
‘Because,’ I said matter-of-factly, which is how I always talk. ‘I am the Grim Reaper.’
Hupert started to whimper, then he started to cry.
‘Why? Why me?’ he said.
It’s what they all say. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that question…
(I don’t know what I would do with it. I have no need for money. It would just be a big pile of nickels, I guess.)
‘Because, you have been ordered to be collected. I am never told why. I just collect.’
‘No, I’m way too young! I’m only 47! There has to be a mistake!’
If I had a quarter for every time I heard that this has to be a mistake…
(Again…just a big pile of wasted quarters.)
Hupert suddenly jumped out the window and ran down the street. I was stunned. That has never happened to me before. I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there for a moment. Then I headed back into the kitchen, got a beer and a slice of turkey from the fridge, and left.”
“You just left?” asked the corner in shock.
“Yeah,” replied the Reaper. “I just left.”
Some papers rustled from the darken unseen corner. “Do you know in the billion years we have been doing this, we have never had someone scheduled for collection just run away?! Not one! We have always collected! Our record, until now, has been 100% collected! What the hell where you thinking?!”
The Reaper sighed.
“I wasn’t,” he replied. “I was still in shock… he could see me.”
“Some special people can see you, like Mediums, Clairvoyants, Bakers, Priests…”
“I don’t know why, but yes, bakers,” boomed the corner as more papers were shuffled. “You’re fired.”
The Grim Reaper didn’t say anything. He had never been fired before, but of course this had been his one and only job ever.
“What about the quota?” asked the Grim Reaper.
The man from the darken corner stepped out of the shadows. He was wearing a white robe and had a long beard. In one hand he held a stack of official looking papers, in the other he stroked his beard. “We will just have to have a run on of ‘natural disasters’, the Midwest is due for a tornado, Japan needs another tsunami soon anyway. We will figure it out until we hire a suitable replacement. Not your concern.”
“Just don’t get Eligos. I hate that guy.”
“Not your concern.”
The Grim Reaper got up and grabbed his sickle…
“Leave the sickle,” said the Other.
The Grim Reaper got up, leaving his sickle, and walked out the door. Maybe he would go visit the tropics for awhile, have a vacation before deciding what to do with the rest of his eternity…maybe he would check out that restaurant on the fourth level of Hell that’s been getting all the rave reviews…
Maybe he would just seek out Hupert and kill him.
Do the job right.
Get his position back.
Maybe he would buy a puppy instead.
So many possibilities…
The Grim Reaper sighed to himself.
To be continued?