For the second week of this don’t-finish-the-story flash fiction project, Chuck Wendig’s got us doing the middle section, based on the first 500 words someone else wrote. I picked this story up from JD Stoffel, The Reaper’s Eschaton. My part picks up after the — below. I didn’t want to stop!
“Reap, you have to wake up.”
Charlotte, the Senior Reaping Manager, shook Reap’s shoulder, jostling her blanket of cobwebs aside.
“Ugh,” said Reap with a crackling yawn. “What time is it?”
“2014 CE,” said Charlotte. She shoved a black cloak into Reap’s grasp. Reap opened her mouth to argue, but Charlotte cut her off. “I know you wanted to sleep six more years, but we have a situation.”
“Not Xanaxes,” Reap groaned, sliding the cloak over bony shoulders.
“Xanaxes,” Charlotte confirmed. “Started the apocalypse, like I told you he would.”
Reap did some quick math, accepting a sheaf of pages. “Sixty-three years ahead of schedule. Idiot.”
“There’s your best candidate. Now move!”
Brushing aside the compulsion to come down on Charlotte for bossing around her boss, Reaper swung her scythe. The blade hummed through the air and through the fabric of reality at just the angle necessary.
A tear opened and Reap passed through.
She stood in a city park.
Her reaping staff was in evidence. They stood by, waiting for buildings to fall, meteorites to strike, the ground to swallow people whole.
“Ronald, uh,” Reap called aloud, then squinted at the pages. “Ronald Passitelli?” She botched the pronunciation, but it got the attention of a passing low-level reaper.
A glance at his identification aura gave his name. Jim said, “You looking for Ron?” Reap nodded. “Oh, thank God. He’s over by the fountain. Electrocution in about five, so watch out.”
“Thanks, Jim,” said Reap. “Just handle that load.” She pointed at the collection of souls trailing behind the junior reaper. “I’ve got Ron.”
With a relieved sigh, Jim swiped his scythe to reach the Below. Reap paid him no mind, focusing on the now-identified Ron.
Ronald Passitelli stood ankle deep in the large basin of the fountain. A bland young man in a dress shirt and khakis, now soaked, he reached out toward a child. The child took refuge from the hell raining down from the sky in the bulky fountain sculpture.
“C’mon,” said Ron. “It isn’t safe.”
“Where’s my mommy?” cried the child.
“I don’t know,” Ron admitted. “Let’s find her together.” He made another grab but the child dodged around the fountain.”
“Ronald,” Reap boomed in a voice only moderately intimidating. She did not want to blow the man’s simple mind.
Ron looked at her, able to see Reap now that she had spoken to him, and gaped. “Oh, no,” he said, knees quivering a bit. “I’m not ready!”
Reap rolled her eyes, an impressive feat with empty eye sockets. Humans gave her a lot of practice. “I don’t want to reap you.”
“But you’re the Grim-”
“Yes, but we haven’t the time. Some ancient schlub of a god no one remembers named Xanaxes kicked off the apocalypse early, and you’re the only one who can stop it.”
Ron gaped again when the child in the fountain screeched, “I am not a schlub!”
“Oh, great,” Reap muttered. Xanaxes had found the chosen one first. “Ron, run!”
Of course, he didn’t.
Xanaxes wailed, so Ron turned his vacant expression on the fake toddler instead.
“Oh, come on.” All these humans ever did was gawp at things. Reap whipped the sleeve of her cloak around her bony hand and tugged on the back of Ron’s shirt to pull him out of the fountain.
Xanaxes sploshed through the water and wrapped two chubby arms around the man’s legs. “No! I got him fair and square!”
It took just a flick of the scythe’s handle against Xanaxes’ curly dark head for the god’s body to slacken and drop back into the fountain. Reap tightened her grip on Ron’s shirt and lifted him clear.
“Look, like I said, we haven’t much time. You’re Chosen, it’s an honor, blah blah. Close your mouth before you choke on brimstone.”
Ron did, but not before asking, “What am I chosen for?”
You would think that you’re the only one who can stop it covered all the bases. You couldn’t assume anything with humans, though.
“For saving me from a literal eternity of paperwork. Let’s go.”
There were rules upon rules for how Reap was allowed to act while Above. Even during emergencies, she was authorized to interact only with the humans on her lists. She wasn’t supposed to scare the birds who went out of their way to shit on her cloak–no matter how rude they were about it. She definitely wasn’t allowed to use the scythe for anything but traveling, not even dealing with recalcitrant toddler gods. But in for a penny…
Ron dropped to the ground like a sack of meat. Reap slashed at the air beside him.
“Abs, turn off the heat. Live one coming through!” she called, before twisting the scythe to open the seam to the pit enough to let Ron drop through.
Her aim wasn’t the greatest. They slipped into the next world a few inches off an ash-strewn floor. It crunched lightly under Ron’s body.
Abaddon stood a few feet away with his hand still on the shut-off valve. His chitinous skin gleamed. His black eyes did, too. His wings, his robe, the army of locusts screeching behind him. In fact, everything down here gleamed, like it was all covered in a thin film of oil, which it probably was.
He pointed at Ron, who had progressed not just to consciousness but to looking around in terror. “Chosen?”
“Yep. Ron … something.”
Abs grinned. He always loved these things. “So, what do you need?”
Reap blew a stray flake of ash off her sleeve. “You guys doing the brimstone for this Xanaxes creep?”
“No, we’re still on the Icelandic contract. It’s probably Lucy.”
“It’s the same pit, though, right? Can’t he just sacrifice himself here, save us a few minutes? We’re up to my skull with souls to process already.”
Ron made a squalling noise. “Wait, sacrifice?”
Abs laughed his horrible deafening chitter and looked fondly at Ron. “They really don’t remember anything, do they?”