A Very Reluctant Reaper
Today, I was at a motel. I leaned my scythe against the wall and I looked down at my leather-bound ledger to double-check I was at the right room. 12B. That was correct. I stood outside the door and took a deep breath and wished for a cigarette. I still missed them after all these years but it was hard to smoke without lips or lungs. I shook my head and put up my black hood. I floated through the room. Just from the sight, I knew I was lucky I couldn’t smell the place. Body on the bed with black hair, some band shirt, tight jeans, and no socks. There was the blackened spoon that had fallen onto the ground. Needle still in the arm. The body was resting on that floral bedspread the shitty motels had and it had absorbed most of the bodily fluids. By the looks of it, the body had been there for quite some time. She, however, was sitting at the edge of the bed and was staring at me. Her arms crossed. I braced myself for what was coming.
“I’ve been here for DAYS,” she shouted, “Where the hell have you been?”
I held up my hands, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. We’ve been a little backed up.”
“Backed up? I’ve been stuck in a motel room with my dead body. Do you have any idea what this is like?” All too well.
“Hey, hey, hey,” I said, her frown growing in intensity, “I’m here now. You have a problem with the time? Take it up with management. Us reapers can only be at so many places at once. The organization was made when there was a lot less of us on the blue and green.”
She shook her head, “So, now what? Do I have to stay here longer?” “You go to the white light. Get processed. You’ve seen the movies.”
“Do I go to Hell?”
“Not my job. Sorry, I’m just a delivery boy of souls.”
“Job? This is your job?”
Aw shit, I wasn’t supposed to say that part. They talk about the pearly gates, that marble staircase in the sky, and St. Peter checking whether you go up or you go down. They fail to mention that St. Peter has a big clipboard that has your afterlife occupation designation. That’s the real hell. Well, depending on how you did. I did rather poorly on my exit exams.
“Yeah,” I leaned against the wall, “Nobody tells you but you still have to work when you’re dead. How good you did determines the job you get.”
“How’d you get yours?”
“I was pretty bad at most things Christians are supposed to do. I jerked off too much, I drank too much, I got rich (the news anchors always forget to tell you that’s a no-no), and I didn’t really believe in God. So… he decided to teach me a lesson. For eternity. That’s how I got the black clothes,” and I brushed my black sleeves and twisted my scythe so the light reflected off of the metal.
“And they still give you a scythe? Really?”
I looked at it and felt self-conscious. I rocked on my heels.
“Don’t you think you look a little ridiculous for the time?” She continued, looking me up
and down. My clothes felt extra baggy that day. Bones will do that. I guess God doesn’t want us naked even in Death.
“I don’t make these decisions, okay? You ready to come?”
She looked behind her at her dead body. White, cold, and staring at the ceiling. “I can’t believe I died.”
“Yes, you can,” I yawned, “Heroin users aren’t known for their longevity.”
She shook her head, “I was going to get sober soon.”
“I know, dear. At least you won’t have to suffer anymore,” Unless she goes to Hell but I was trying to be a team player. The workshops teach us that.
“Okay,” she looked up at me in my eye sockets, “Before I go, can I feel the breeze one last time?” And she motioned to the window.
I was late already. I had picked up an extra shift for another reaper. But I’ve always been a softy. So, I went over to the window and slid it open. The breeze of the day filled the room. She inhaled deep into her nonexistent lungs. She looked at peace. She wasn’t upset. She understood which is more than I can say for most. I’ve learned plenty of those who dance on the edge of death are less resistant when this time comes. They knew this was a possibility. After a few minutes of the wind blowing through her hair, she stood up and brushed off her jeans. She brushed her hair back and straightened her back.
“What’s it like?”
“You’ll see,” I nodded.
She made a brave face and I waved the scythe. I could do it with my hands but it was always more dramatic with my scythe. A hole was cut into the room. White light beamed out of it. It was the size of her and brighter than anything she had ever seen. She stared at it. Entranced at the reality of it. I stepped to the side. She looked at me one last time before she walked through it. As her body disappeared from this world, the hole closed behind her. I was in the room by myself. I took out my ledger and crossed the name off the list with a pencil. I looked at who was next. A stockbroker. He had been holed up in a condo trying to fight off death for a few months. I groaned. Stockbrokers were always the worst. Not as bad as tech giants but still bad. I had to travel all the way to Chicago. Not my jurisdiction usually but that reaper was on vacation and I had volunteered to help out. A job is a job and you always want to look good for the boss.