As promised, here’s chapter 2 of My Life As Death. You can read Chapter 1 here.
“Get me drunk.”
“Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Weed replied before the reality sunk in. “Oh, I’m sorry. Struck out?”
“Never even got up to bat.”
“What the hell?”
“She just introduced me to her living Ken doll, ‘Matt’.”
“Well don’t you worry,” Weed said, “I’ve got just what the doctor ordered.”
I have no idea where he got that skull shaped bottle but based on the green tint of the liqueur inside I knew exactly what it was.
“Absinthe?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied, “the real shit, 80% alcohol. I was going to save it for a celebratory drink when you guys hooked up, but this excuse is just as good.”
I took a second, trying to let my better judgment take the lead, but all it took was one brief thought of Shawna walking away with Matt and the grin on his face.
“Give me that,” I said, grabbing the bottle from his hand. There were plenty of cups around but I skipped the formalities, unscrewed the top and chugged straight from the bottle.
“Woah,” Weed said, grabbing the bottle back, “save some for me.”
As he took a turn, I could feel the alcohol course through my body, but that just meant I could still feel, and I didn’t want that.
“Follow me,” I said, heading over to the liquor table by the pool. I grabbed the half empty bottle of 151 rum, then dragged Weed to the garage. There was a couple making out in one of the corners but they didn’t pay any attention to us. Otherwise we were alone.
For several minutes we just sat there, each taking swigs from the bottles in our hands before Weed pulled out his stash. The silver bowl in his hand was his pride and joy and I knew he’d never go anywhere without it or a baggie of the good stuff. He packed a tight bowl, lighting it like the pro before handing it to me. I took several hits before passing it back to him, from there we took turns alternating between the bowl and the bottles. When we’d finally reached the proper level of intoxication the words started to flow.
“Well,” Weed started, “at least now you know.”
“And knowing is half the battle,” I replied, and though it sounded strangely profound to me, Weed laughed, hard.
“Are you quoting G.I. Joe?” he asked, then it was my turn to laugh; partially because he was laughing, partially because I realized he was right. My laughing caused him to laugh harder, which just fed into the vicious cycle of laughing, drinking and quoting ridiculous phrases from cartoons. It was just what I needed.
I had no idea what time it was when we finally realized we’d had too much to drink and smoke, but it was way too late. Neither of us could stand on our own so we helped each other through the house as one of Collective Souls’ hits echoed off the walls. I was so wasted, I couldn’t even name the song so I knew we needed to get out of there but before we could make it to the front door a perfectly petite girl stopped us.
“You’re Weed, right?” She asked, but Weed just stared. I don’t know if it was the alcohol, the smoke, or just the fact that he’d never been approached by such a hottie before, but he was worse than a deer in headlights.
“Yes, he is,” I replied as Weed tried to compose himself.
“Oh good,” she replied with a giant smile on her face. “I was hoping to meet you here.”
Weed turned to me with the most shit-eating grin on his face; sure she looked like a freshman but even still, who knew how old she really was? All we knew was she was old enough to be at the party and she wanted Weed.
“Go on man,” I said.
“Yeah, I replied, straightening myself up and doing my best impression of a sober person. It wasn’t fooling anyone but him.
“Thanks,” he said letting himself be dragged away. “I owe you.”
With Weed occupied, and Shawna gone there was really no reason for me to stick around so I stumbled out to my ‘77 Pontiac. The glowing numbers on the dash were only a blur, so I had no idea what time it really was, all I know is that it was late and I wanted to get home.
Somehow I maneuvered the oversized beast from its parking spot and I even managed to head in the right direction down state route 55, but as I made my way towards home my eyes struggled to stay open. I tried opening the window, but the cool air blowing against my face didn’t help in the slightest. I flipped on the radio before remembering that it hadn’t worked since I bought the car and sure enough, all I heard was static. As I reached for the power button on the radio I took my eyes off the road for just a second, but that was all it took.
I still can’t say exactly what I saw when my focus returned to the road. The glowing red eyes and the antlers on top of its head made me think of a deer or a moose, but I swear it only had two legs and a face that was vaguely human-like. Whatever it was didn’t really matter though, what mattered was that it was standing in the middle of the road. I swerved to miss whatever it was but of course that caused my tires to slide in the gravel lining the side of the road, which sent me further off the pavement, over the drainage ditch and into a cornfield.
My chest bounced off the steering wheel and my face slammed into the windshield, sending a spider web of cracks across the entire thing as I continued to tumble around. I could feel the blood start flowing from my face as I was tossed around like a shoe in a dryer for what seemed like an eternity. The sound of glass shattering, and metal crunching filled the air but then, as suddenly as the chaos started, it stopped. There was no more tumbling, no movement at all. And there were no sounds, it was complete silence. For a moment I was content in the sudden peace, but then I realized there was no light, or at least none I could see.
“I’m blind!” I thought as I tried to reach up to my eyes, but I couldn’t move my arms. More than that, I couldn’t even feel my arms, or legs, or any other part of me.
“I’m paralyzed!” I wanted to scream, but the words wouldn’t leave my mouth.
“No,” a voice replied, “you’re not blind or paralyzed; you’re dead.”
The face that came into view was human, but more beautiful than a man should be. Matt might have had GQ model good looks, but this guy made him look like a dog. It was frightening.
“I can’t be dead,” I replied, “I’m right here.”
“And where is here?”
For a moment I didn’t understand the question, here was here. But it didn’t really matter where here was, did it? As long as I was here, I couldn’t be dead, right? It was as if he could read my mind, and with a look of pity in his eyes he just shook his head. That’s when I realized he was right.
“So is this Heaven or Hell?” I asked.
“But I have to go to one or the other, don’t I?”
“That’s what they say.”
“Do I get to choose?”
“No,” he replied with a chuckle, “And given the way you died…”
“But that’s not really me,” I protested, “you’ve got to understand that.”
“Driving drunk? And stoned?” he continued, “You’re just lucky you didn’t kill anyone besides yourself!”
There was an evil pleasure showing in his eyes as he said those words.
“I’m sorry,” I called out, both out of fear and regret, “but it was just one bad decision, a really, really stupid decision, but I’m much more than that one screw up.”
“One bad decision?” He asked, mocking me. “Your life has been a series of bad decisions. What about the poker games in the band room during school assemblies? Or getting high on the class trip to the planetarium? What about sneaking into the closet of the girl’s changing room at church camp?”
Images of those, and other less-than-wholesome events, flashed through my mind as the face just grinned. I knew he was right; I deserved any punishment that was about to come my way.
“But,” he continued, the anger softening, “it’s not like you actually killed anyone…besides yourself.”
His change in demeanor gave me the slightest glimmer of hope.
“I mean, the worst of your offenses would only be a misdemeanor in the eyes of the law…”
I couldn’t help but look up at him, and I swear I saw a hint of compassion in his eyes as he continued, but that might have just been wishful thinking on my part.
“Maybe we can come up with something.”
I could feel myself nodding before he even made the offer.
“You do seem like a good kid, and I wish I could just send you back, but that’s not how things work.”
My heart began to drop again.
“But it does seem we are a little short on reapers,” he continued. “So maybe we can find a way to help each other out.
“Reapers…” I asked, the word not really making sense. “like the Grim Reaper?”
He just smiled and nodded.
“Short on Reapers, plural, like there’s more than one grim reaper?”
“There are over 150,000 deaths per day worldwide, that’s nearly 2 per second. You think one Reaper could handle all those?”
“And with all those deaths we could use a few more Reapers,” he said. “So if you want to step up, and help us out, I can probably send you back to live out your life and all you’ll have to do is help a few poor souls cross over when their time is up.”
“From the land of the living.”
“You want me to kill people?”
“Look,” he said, putting his hand on my shoulder. His touch I could feel, and it was both cold and hot at the same time. I wanted to pull away but I still couldn’t move.
“When their time is up, it’s up,” he continued. “You’ll be the one choosing exactly how and when they cross over. You can make it as easy or as unpleasant as you like.”
“But I’d still be killing them,” I replied. “I…I can’t do that, not to some innocent stranger.”
“Oh, you poor naive boy,” he said with a grin, “no one is innocent.”
“I can’t just kill someone.”
“Really? What if they were truly evil?”
“What do you mean?”
He leaned back and crossed his arms looking thoughtful and innocent.
“What if they were murderers? Rapists? Childmolesters? Could you do it then?”
The question sent a chill through me as I actually considered it. I mean, I didn’t like the thought of killing someone in general. But getting rid of a child molester? How could I feel bad about that?
“So what if I could send you back, and the only ones you would have to deal with are the worst of the worst; the childmolesters, rapists and killers? You get your life back and get to do some good for the world?”
I didn’t like the fact that I was actually considering it, but maybe he was right. I could get a second chance at life and the opportunity to do a little good with it.
“How could I be sure?” I asked. “Sure that they’re who you say they are?”
“That’s one of the benefits of being a reaper, you can see exactly what they’re guilty of, everything. You’d be like a superhero, ridding the world of the bad guys.”
His offer was tempting. I liked the idea of doing some good, but I wasn’t sure I could actually kill someone.
“The choice is yours,” he continued, “but it’s a choice you’re going to have to make quickly. Do you want to go with me or do you want to go back to your friends? Back to your mom?”
I suddenly felt an intense heat surround me before images of Weed, Shawna, and my mom flashed through my mind. He said I had a choice, but there really wasn’t one. I already knew my answer. I wasn’t sure how well I could do killing anybody but I knew for a fact that I wasn’t done living my life.
“So how does this whole thing work?”
“That’s what I wanted to hear,” he said, the smile on his face was both perfect and terrifying. “It’s really quite simple; I’ll let you know who to send to me, and you choose how you want to do it.”
“But I don’t own a gun, or an ax, or really any weapons…”
His laugh was even more terrifying than his smile.
“You’re a reaper,” he explained, “you are the weapon. Haven’t you heard of ‘the touch of death’? It’s that simple.”
“I don’t get it.”
“All you have to do is touch them while picturing how they’re going to go.”
“And when I touch them I’ll know they deserve it?”
“When you touch them you can see exactly what they’re guilty of. But remember, you can’t un-see the things they’ve done.”
His last statement had an ominous sound but really, how bad could it be? I touch the bad guy, see that they’ve killed someone, and then picture them having a heart attack or getting hit by a bus. Simple enough. I get to finish living out the life I’m supposed to and I get to do some good.
“So what, exactly, is the deal you’re offering?”
“You seal the fate of the five people I assign you to, and you get to live out the rest of your life free and clear, like this never happened.”
“And if I don’t want to “reap” one of the people you assign me to?”
“Then our deal is off and your time on earth will be up.”
“What if I just need a little extra time to do it?”
“I’ve got all the time in the world, but you don’t. If their fate isn’t sealed within 5 days of the assignment being issued, then the deal is off.”
“So…Are you a reaper?”
He just chuckled and said, “No, boy, you know who I am.”
The way he said it sent chills through me, and he was right, somehow I did know exactly who he was. It made me second guess whether I really wanted to take the deal, but I couldn’t see where I actually had a choice. I wasn’t ready to just give up on a life I’d barely begin to live, just because of one mistake. And my mom would be devastated. With her in mind, I knew exactly what I had to do.
“So what now, Lucifer?”
“There’s just a little paperwork and then you can go home.”
I didn’t even see the parchment appear, it was just suddenly there in his hands.
“Of course you can read over the whole thing before you sign, if you’d like,” he said.
“No,” I replied, “That might only make me change my mind.”
“Then just sign here.”
Suddenly I realized I could feel my arm again, and as I looked down I saw my hand; or more importantly, my index finger. I reached forward and used the blood on the tip of it to sign my name.
“I’m glad we can help each other out,” he said.
His face disappeared, leaving me in total darkness as the last word faded away. I decided that really was a good thing; I was tired. So tired.