Most people probably would have found it odd that my safe space was in a graveyard of all things. Well, if they could see me, that is. I had been drawn to this graveyard since my death, finding a strange sense of calm among the dead, it helped knowing I wasn’t alone. Being dead made it hard to make friends, being dead for thousands of years with no one to keep me company was only made bearable by the cold comfort provided by the people of the graves. Sitting against the headstone of someone I had never met, I fell into a lost memory of mine… The day I made the deal.
To me, it was a perfectly normal day, like the day before, and the day before that. How was I to know this would be the day I pleaded for my life. It was exactly 5:10 AM, I had already woken up, gotten dressed and was all ready for the day ahead of me. I made my way to work on foot. I owned a small bookstore called ‘ The Secret World Bookstore’ that I ran myself. I enjoyed books and the company they brought each reader, Books brought hope to a small, cruel reality. You see, my father passed away when I was 8, my mother turned to alcohol to avoid her reality without her husband, I had always enjoyed books but I needed them as an escape since the day Dad died. I shook my head, remembering my childhood as I walked the familiar route to my quiet store. As I approached the door I searched through my pockd to find the key, once found, I opened the door, breathing in the homely smell of wood and books. I turned on the light and got the store ready to open at 8:00 AM as it did every week day.
Before long, 12:00 PM arrived and I closed the store for lunch. It was while crossing the road that I noticed a truck’s horn, screaming at me. As I watched it grow closer, I was unable to move, a deer caught in the proverbial headlights situation, I prayed, though it wasn't to God. If I got through this alive, my soul was his to take when my time should come. Life around me seemed to slow, then suddenly I was pushed from the truck’s path by a stranger.
It was then that I was brought back to reality by the strange feeling of someone staring at me, though, I turned my head to the right, I saw bright, blowing red eyes staring at me from a distance. Letting out a deep sigh, I walked over to the dark, shadowy creature. Of course, he had sent one of his demons to deliver another name.
When someone dies, a reaper is charged with delivering souls to their eternal resting place. Since making my deal with the Devil my soul has been trapped in the human realm, as a reaper of the damned souls destined for Hell. The Devil will send a shadow demon with a card, the card will have the name, address and a description of the person whose soul I must take. Once I read the name on the card, I have until one hour after their time of death to take the soul, any time after that and the soul dies with the body. Every lost soul is another century in purgatory for me.
I take the card and the demon disappears. Flipping the card over, I read the name, address and description of my next victim.
Name: Alice Knights
Address: Elvers Rd, Christchurch
Time of Death: 5:00 PM
Appearance: 5ft 3", blue hair, blue/grey eyes, slim build.
Identifying Feature(s): Tattoo on her right wrist of a blue raindrop + Blue hair
I checked my phone…I had time. I walked the streets of Christchurch in the rain, it didn't annoy me as I had no feeling, though it was peaceful to hear the drops of rain as they came falling from the midnight sky, hitting the concrete.
"5 Elvers Rd, 5 Elvers Rd, 5 Elvers Rd.. Ah, got it! " I whispered to myself as I found the right house.
Inside the house the lights were on and the house was silent; not a good sign. I let myself in, knowing no human could see me. Once inside I looked around, taking in how Alice lived her life. As I looked around, it was clear to see she was a very creative, enthusiastic person. Drawings covered the stained oak coffee table in the lounge, a book open on the table to a page reading, in perfect cursive "Tattoo Ideas"
With many, many pictures stuck in and an open laptop beside the book, open to a program called Google Docs. The screen read "Untitled Writing Project # 2".
So I gathered she was a girl who enjoyed tattoos and writing. Yes, a very creative person indeed. As I walked through the house I noticed three personalized pet food bowls in the kitchen, each with its own name: Artemis, Loki and Persephone. An animal lover, bless her soul. She seemed like a lovely person. It's a shame she passed. I walked down a hallway that led to a bathroom, a toilet and finally, a bedroom.
I opened the door to find her lying in bed, she looked horrible, beautiful and in pain in death, nothing like the pictures of her around the house. Her body lay curled in a fetal position… her death wasn't peaceful. I checked her right wrist for her identifying feature, and of course, on her wrist was a small blue raindrop, that paired with her blue hair was enough to identify her as my victim. I let out a sigh, I always hated this.. she seemed like a lovely person, someone would have loved to meet while I was alive. It was with a heavy heart that I looked into her lifeless blue grey eyes and saw the last hour of her life flash before my own emerald green eyes.
"Artemis, Loki, Persephone! Come here girls! Dinner's ready, she shook a bag of cat biscuits in front of her to call them out. Not long after that appeared two cats and a dog who all came rushing for their food barking and meowing in eager anticipation. Alice smiled as she watched her pets eat, they always made her happy.
She checked her phone to see a text from Claire Harris, from her old high school. She remembered the way Claire had treated her in high school and grimaced then sighed, she knew she should at least give Claire a chance and read the message.
Hey Alice, It's Claire Harris, I know we haven't spoken since high school. I saw you today at Countdown buying cat food and I thought I'd just say hi, is it okay if I come over? I can bring snacks, if you'd like, do you still live at the same place?
She typed a reply and pressed send, quickly cleaning up the house a little. Here's to second chances, right?
Hey Claire, yeah sure you can come visit. It would be lovely to see you again. I live at the same address so just come around whenever. See you soon
A while later a woman who I'm guessing is Claire, shows up with club sandwiches and a bottle of expensive looking Rosè.
The two share a sandwich and a drink and caught up on each other's lives. At 3:00 PM Claire says she has to go pick up her girl from school. They wave goodbye and Claire walks down the street and around the corner. Alice heads to her room, sat on her bed and pets her cats while writing on her phone new ideas for a story
Within only moments of writing, her vision went fuzzy and she had trouble writing, then she had a sick stomach and knew something was wrong. Seconds later she was screaming in pain, she doubled over in bed, curling herself into a fetal position for what felt like forever, crying and screaming for help that never came. It was only 8 minutes before she passed away.
I felt a tear run down my cheek. She was poisoned, this lovely girl went through so much torture and pain. Blinking away the tear, I closed her eyelids and touched her chest where her heart was, saying the words.
"You've lived through so much, though now your time has come"
Alice's soul left her body easily, though this was to be expected, I had been doing this for many years. Her see-through body appeared next to me, a look of shock shown on her face.
"Who- who are you? Why are you in my house?" Alice stammered, the shock clear in her voice.
I looked at her sorrowfully as she looked at her lifeless body on the bed.
"Am I…" she didn't finish her sentence because her eyes welled up in tears and she saw her pets come through the door and lay at her body's side on the bed.
"You are… and I'm sorry, you seemed like a wonderful person, I don't know how someone so lovely ends up where your soul is going"
"What? What do you mean?" She asked, still a little shaken, though more curious now and a lot more anxious.
"Here, just follow me and I'll explain on the way. I'm a reaper, I am technically dead but due to the life I lead and a deal I made I was unable to go to Heaven or Hell, therefore I was left taking souls from the recently deceased and taking them to Hell, someone else does the Heaven souls"
I walked her to the abandoned graveyard where the portal lay beneath the gravestone of one Jane Deen.
"Is Hell as bad as they say?" She asked, curiously, taking this better than expected. I mean, the girl was going to HELL.. or so we thought.
"I wouldn't know, sorry. Though don't think too much about it, that could only make it worse for you. Would you mind please putting your right hand on the top of Jane Deen's headstone. I'll be with you all the way down"
She did as asked, only, the stone didn't turn black and there was no midnight black smoke.
"What's going on?" She asked, now more anxious than anything, her hands shaking.
A mix of shock and confusion filled my voice as I spoke. This had only happened twice before in all of history, one of them was me.
"You're- you're…Not going to Hell, Alice"
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