The sun had just begun to set when Alison stepped into her house, three grocery bags hanging from each hand. She carried them into the kitchen and set them down on the counter.
It had been a week since Emily’s funeral. It had been more than a week since she had gotten a call for a new job. It was like that, unfortunately. She’d have one good week, then one horrible week and they ended up averaging out into two okay weeks.
Grasping at items from the bags, she steadily went to work at putting everything away. She glanced down at the box of macaroni and cheese in her hand, thinking she could eat it for dinner with the frozen chicken nuggets she had bought.
She was broke and with no new customers in sight, the situation felt disappointing. All the money she had made the last couple of weeks had gone to past due credit card bills, a load of late fees, and her mortgage, which had been the only bill she managed to keep up on that year. She wanted fun money. Since business had been pretty steady that month, she had been planning to make that week’s work her ‘extra’ money that she was going to buy a new television with. Since she hadn’t gotten any calls, that meant no extra money and no new TV. Any jobs she got now would have to go to the next month of unrelenting bills.
After the groceries were put away, she headed upstairs toward her bedroom. With no customers, there was nothing to do but lie around watching TV until someone finally decided to call.
She stepped into the room, dropping her purse on the floor beside her. A part of her contemplated inviting Greg over to keep her company while the other part of her wanted a quiet night alone to think. Her hand moved to the light switch, flipping it on. Nothing happened. She furrowed her brows, flipping the switch up and down again a few times. Damn. Time for a new light bulb. She doubted she had any left in the hall closet. The last one had been used to replace the kitchen light a week earlier.
Wouldn’t hurt to check anyway. Another trip back to the store would give her something to do, at least. She turned to leave the room.
To her surprise, the door to her bedroom slammed shut in front of her. Her head cocked to the side, staring at the closed door. That was odd. Normally, spirits weren’t able to do things like this without her spotting them first. How sneaky. She wondered how the spirit had managed to get away with such a mediocre poltergeist scare.
“Greg?” she called. “Is that you?”
No, of course it wasn’t. He was immature but he wasn’t that immature. She wrapped her hand around the doorknob, turning it. She pulled. The door didn’t open again. Grunting, she pulled harder, using both hands this time.
“Hey!” she yelled. “Stop it. I mean it. Who’s out there?”
Had a spirit followed her home or what? What the hell was this person’s problem, anyway?
She twisted the knob back and forth in her hand, struggling fiercely to get the door open again. Her hands yanked as hard as they could. “I’m not fucking around with you!” she snapped. “Open this fucking door! Open it! I’m serious!”
She stopped. Her breath had started coming out faster, not because she was tired, but from something else. There was sweat on her forehead. The hairs on the back of her neck began to stand on end. Letting out a staggering breath, she slowly turned around.
Her eyes widened as they fell on a familiar figure dressed in black. Death stood before her, disguised in his human form. He stood tall, his body positioned at the other end of the bedroom with his back to the wall. His head remained bald, his thin face and body completely void of any amount of hair.
She screamed, crushing her eyes shut. She screamed as loud as she could. When she opened her eyes, he was standing in front of her, bending down only inches from her face and staring at her intensely.
“Scared,” he said. His voice echoed off the walls. It didn’t come from his throat. His lips moved but the voice didn’t leave his mouth. It came from all directions. It surrounded her. “She’s scared of me. Why is she so scared?”
“Get away from me,” she shrieked. She took a step back. What the hell did this thing want from her? Why did it keep coming back?
“She’s still scared… even now.”
“What do you want?” Alison stammered. “What do what with me?”
“You’re a messenger. You connect the living and the dead. She’s a messenger though she’s scared. She’s our messenger to spread the word of Life and Death. Life and Death.”
“I don’t understand what that means.”
Death took a step closer. He bent down further, scooping her face into his large hands. They were like ice. She had never felt anything so cold. She tried to pull away but he held firmly. “When the Blessed die, the world will end. The unnatural is becoming natural.”
“But what does that mean? What do you want me to do about it?”
“You’re a messenger that connects the living to the dead.”
“Stop saying that!” Alison cried. “I don’t get it. I don’t get any of this.”
He pulled away. His hands lifted in front of him. When she looked again, a familiar-looking knife was in his hand. Was that it? Was he going to kill her with it? “Emily was Blessed,” he said. “The Soulless killed her because she was Blessed.”
“The Soulless. They kill the Blessed.” He reached for her hand, grasping it tightly in his cold grip. Carefully, he pushed the knife into her palm, wrapping her fingers around it. “Her death was no suicide. The Soulless kill the Blessed. You are the messenger that connects the living to the dead. Pass the message. When the Blessed die, the world will end. Hell will rise and everyone will die. You must hurry. Don’t be frightened. She’s frightened still. She must not be scared.”
The figure of Death began to fade from in front of her, slowly dissolving into the quiet air.
Alison gaped at him. The knife he had handed to her trembled uncontrollably between her fingers.
“Hell will rise and everything will die,” he said. “Hurry. Her death was no suicide. You must hurry.”
He was gone.
Alison felt her legs give from beneath her. She took in shaky breath of air, wiping a hand over the cold place on her face where he had touched her. Her eyes fell to the knife in her other hand. She realized why it looked so familiar. It was the same knife Emily had given her. The athame, as she had called it.
What the hell was she supposed to do with it? Shaking her head, she climbed up unsteadily to her feet. Maybe she could bring it over to Marissa’s and see what she thought about it. Even Greg might be able to give her some insight into what Death had meant when he said those things to her.
She turned to the purse sitting on the carpet beside her. Bending down, she tucked the athame inside. It was too late to go today. She’d talk to Marissa tomorrow about it.
Once she had put the knife away, she made her way over to her bed and sat down on the mattress. She looked at her hands in front of her, realizing she was still shaking. Death had appeared before her again. Why? Why did he keep calling her a messenger? She didn’t get it. He never explained any further than that. All he ever said to do was pass the message? What message? Who the hell was she supposed to pass it to anyway?
Blessed. He had used that word again too. He had claimed that Emily had been Blessed, saying that the Soulless had killed her. He had said that her death had been no suicide.
But what did that mean? What did any of that mean? Saying Emily was Blessed was worthless if Alison didn’t know what a Blessed person was. What did he expect her to do about it if she didn’t know anything?
She’d talk to Greg about it later. He’d be excited to hear more about the Blessed. Somehow, his death was connected to the word. It was the only thing she knew about his past, that he was connected to this whole thing in one way or another.
Lying back on her bed, she decided she wouldn’t talk to him about it today. She wasn’t ready to do that just yet.