For those who haven’t already read them, you can find links to the previous chapters here:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapters 10 and 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27 Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31
The vision started the same as last time, with Shawna sitting terrified on her bed as the yelling took place right outside her bedroom door. This time I didn’t jump as the man yelled at her to clean up the mess, I just continued to watch her do as he said, all the while she was shaking and glancing over her shoulder. When she was done, she looked at her mom, then up at him and was just about to say something when he screamed at her to go to bed. She opened her mouth once again, but the back of his hand slammed into her face before she could get a single word out.
“I told you to go to bed, so do it, unless you want to end up like her.”
I felt her pain, both the physical pain on her face, and the aching inside her as she left her mom laying on the floor. She curled up on her bed, and laid there trembling until she was out of tears.
The vision faded out to nothing then came back in with Shawna sitting up on the bed again. I thought it was just starting over because of the yelling coming from outside her bedroom door again, but then I noticed that Shawna wasn’t clutching a teddy bear any more. This time she had a silver revolver in her hands.
There was a loud slap and a scream that made Shawna slide off her bed, and head to the door as she continued to fumble with the gun that looked completely oversized in her tiny hands.
I could feel the terror racing through her as she opened the door and saw that man continue to hit her mother, even as she cowered on the floor with both arms trying to shield her face.
“Leave her alone,” Shawna said through trembling teeth. Her voice was so weak and I was sure the guy hadn’t heard her, but then he suddenly stopped swinging his fist and turned to look at Shawna.
“What’d you say?” He asked, spittle flying in Shawna’s direction as took a step towards her.
“Leave her alone,” Shawna said again, this time her voice sounding just a little more steady as she raised the pistol and pointed it towards him.
Fear flashed across his face, but it was quickly replaced by an evil grin.
“I thought you’d learned your lesson, but apparently not.”
Shawna didn’t even have a chance to react before he knocked the gun out her hands with one hand, and smacked her face with the other. The force knocked her to the floor.
“Like mother, like daughter,” he said standing over her.
Her eyes struggled to focus as she looked up at him.
“Are you really that stupid?” He asked, picking up the silver revolver. “If you’re going to threaten me with my own gun, you at least need to know how to use it.
He used his thumb to pull back the hammer, then pointed the gun at Shawna. She froze, staring over the barrel at the eyes of a madman.
“You’re more trouble than you’re worth,” he continued. “I told your mom we should have gotten rid of you already. There are plenty of people willing to pay top dollar for someone as young as you.”
“Get away from her,” Shawna’s mother growled as she tried to push herself up to a sitting position on the floor.
The man turned away from Shawna and moved to her mother, setting the gun on the floor as he kneeled to grab her face with both her hands.
I felt something change in Shawna, like a switch flipping, as the fear left her and was replaced by both anger and a sense of determination. She moved quicker than I would have thought possible, racing over to grab the gun before taking a couple steps back, safely out of his reach.
“I said, leave her alone.”
Shawna’s voice was no longer trembling and neither were her hands as she pointed the pistol once more at the man in front of her.
“Or what?” He asked, shoving her mother back to the ground, then standing back up to full height. Shawna didn’t say a word as the man took a step toward her while raising his hand, she just pulled the trigger.
The sound was defining and almost made me pull away from Shawna, but I managed to keep myself from jumping so I could finish seeing everything as it actually happened. The man glanced down for a second with a look of shock on his face. Then the look turned to anger as the blood started to stain his white t-shirt. He took one more step towards Shawna, but a second shot from her dropped him to the floor. Shawna didn’t even look at the body as she moved around him to help her mother get to her feet before they walked out the front door together.
The vision faded to black but I wasn’t sure what other images might start to show themselves so I took the opportunity to do what I had to do. I pictured Shawna’s death, exactly as she deserved, then pulled my hands away before another vision could start.
She let go of me and raised her head with a smile.
“I’m really glad you came,” she said.
“Me too,” I replied, “but I think I should go now.”
“You really don’t have to.”
“Unfortunately, I do,” I said. “But we’ll be together again soon.”
“Maybe we can do something tonight?”
“Absolutely,” I replied with a smile. “I’m sure we can come up with something to do.”
“Good,” she said, before leaning over and kissing my cheek.
I really couldn’t bring myself to look at her as I climbed out the window, but I turned around when I reached my car and saw her staring out the window at me, so I gave another smile and a little wave, then slid into the driver’s seat.
“What have I just done?” I asked myself.
The conversation with Lucifer was replaying in my mind, and even though I knew he was toying with me at the time I wasn’t prepared for his words to have such an affect on me. He brought up Ms. Reader, knowing that I justified that assignment by the fact that she had planned her husband’s death. Had Shawna done the same thing for the man she shot? When the second part of the vision started, she was on her bed with the gun in her hand. Wouldn’t that be considered premeditated?
It really didn’t matter, though. I did what I knew I had to do, I just wasn’t sure what would happen to me because of it. I had a good idea, but I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to live with those consequences. Completing the final assignment should have been a relief but instead I was almost panicking. I needed something to calm myself and I knew right where to find it.
It took no time to get from Shawna’s to Weed’s, but I had to shake him a couple times before he opened his eyes even the slightest bit.
“Damn,” he said, “It’s either really late or really early.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of both, but I need a little smoke to help calm my nerves.”
He sat up, rubbing both eyes.
“So does this mean that you’ve made up your mind.”
“More than that,” I replied, “I’ve already taken care of it.”
“What?” He yelled, loud enough to wake the dead. “And you didn’t even let me say goodbye?”
“Hey, chill. You know I wouldn’t do that to you.”
“So she’s still alive?”
“And if I go over there now, I can still stay goodbye.”
“I wouldn’t suggest doing that.”
“But you just said….”
“Just pull out a little of the good stuff, and I’ll explain.”
Weed gave me a funny look, then climbed out of bed. His smiley face boxers didn’t cover nearly enough for my liking, but thankfully he threw on a robe before fumbling through the monster box to find a fresh baggie and his favorite pipe. All the while I just found a comfortable spot on the couch, lit up a cigarette and tried to gather my thoughts.
“Here you go,” he said, finally getting the bowl packed and lit.
I took the silver pipe from him with a smile and enjoyed one giant drag before trying to explain anything.
“This whole thing has been a game to Lucifer,” I explained. “He likes to play games.”
“And his choice of words has always been very deliberate,” I continued. “He says things in such a way that you believe he’s saying one thing, but in reality he’s saying something completely different.”
“So you didn’t have to choose how five people die?”
“That’s exactly what I had to do.”
“But isn’t that what he said?”
“So then you had to choose how Shawna, being your final assignment, dies this morning.”
“So why did you stop me from going over there right now?” He asked, with a panicked look on his face.
“We’ll get to that.”
He stared at me blankly.
“It was all in what Lucifer said, and exactly how he said it.”
Weed just kept staring.
“Lucifer said ‘You seal the fate of the five people I assign you. You’ll be the one choosing exactly how and when they cross over.’ Those were the words he used when I made the deal.”
“And?” Weed asked as he took another drag.
“Think about it. When I asked him about having a little more time he said ‘If their fate isn’t sealed within 5 days of the assignment being issued, then the deal is off.’ He made sure to word it just like that.”
His blank stare intensified.
“And then this morning I went for a drive so I could have one more conversation with him, just to be sure. And do you know what he said?”
Weed shook his head no as he exhaled a large cloud of smoke.
“He said that the only thing I should really care about is making sure I’ve determined Shawna’s death by 8:00 am.”
“So she’ll be gone by eight?” He asked, swinging his head back and forth trying to find a clock.
“No,” I said, grabbing his head between both my hands. “Aren’t you listening to me?”
He nodded yes but I could see from the look in his eyes that he just wasn’t getting it so I decided to spell it out for him.
“Shawna came over a few hours ago and told me what she’d done.”
“It’s really not my place to tell you.”
“So you’re just going to leave me hanging.”
“It’s up to her to tell you, when she’s ready.”
“So we watched The Princess Bride,” I continued, “and I fell asleep.”
“How could you fall asleep during one of the best movies ever?”
“It had been a very long day, and after Shawna came over and told me everything, I finally knew what I was going to do. So it was kind of like a big weight had been lifted off my chest and I could finally relax. Besides, I’ve only seen the movie like a million times. I was probably quoting it in my sleep.”
“That would be funny to see.”
“Anyways, I woke up a while later, and Shawna had left. I pretty much knew what I was going to do about the Shawna, but I had to be sure, so I drove back to the field where I wrecked Pamela so I could talk to Lucifer, then I went over to Shawna’s after our little conversation.”
“Are you just trying to drag this out as long as possible, or are you going to get to the point and tell me what you did?”
“Patience, my friend.”
He just glared at me and as I took another puff.
“Shawna was still awake so we talked a little, then she hugged me and I used that opportunity to see exactly what she was guilty of.”
“But she’d already told you what she’d done.”
“As she remembered it, not necessarily exactly as it happened.”
“And what, exactly, did happen?”
“Nice try, but no.”
“It’s really not important to the story, so anyway,” I continued, “when the vision ended, I did what I had to do.”
I took a long drag from the bowl while Weed looked like he was about to jump out of his skin.
“Come on man,” he finally said, grabbing the pipe from my hands.
“I made sure I had a good grip on her, then I pictured her really old, laying in bed surrounded by a room full of family. She closed her eyes, took one last breath, and died with a smile on her face.”
Weed’s jaw dropped, then his mouth began to move like a fish out of water as he struggled to ask a coherent question.
“Lucifer said I had five days to choose how each assignment was going to die; he didn’t say they had to be dead at the end of those five days.”
I could see my words finally sink in as the grin spread across his face.
“So, she’s not going to die.”
“Well, eventually, but not for a very, very long time.”
“And you lived up to your end of the deal, so I’m not going to lose you either?”
“Not today, at least.”
He jumped off his bed and started jamming out an air guitar solo,while flashing a bit too much of himself my way.
“You want to tighten the belt on your robe before you hang out completely?” I asked.
He grinned a little bigger, then flopped back down onto his bed. I took the opportunity to light up a cigarette as he went back to the bowl.
“So you beat Lucifer at his own game,” he said through a cloud of smoke. “How are you not dancing on the rooftop right now?”
“Because I really don’t think I did.”
“She’s alive, you’re alive, and you held up your end of the deal. It’s done! What the hell more do you want?”
“Think about it for a minute,” I said. “I’m sure Lucifer has been doing this for a very long time.”
“And I’m not exactly a Rhodes scholar.”
“Maybe not, but…”
“And Lucifer practically spoon fed me this solution.”
“Well, it’s not like he could lie, I mean a deal’s a deal, right?”
“Exactly. He could have worded our deal any way he wanted that night, and I would have agreed, so why make sure there was this loophole?”
Weed looked like he was about to have an aneurysm trying to think of an answer, so I kept going.
“There’s only one reason,” I said. “ Because this is what he wanted me to do.”
“But why? I mean, you not only didn’t have to kill the girl of your dreams, you got to ensure that she lives a long, long life. And you held up your end of the deal, so you’re done.”
“What do you mean?”
“When I made the deal with him, Lucifer told me that I’d remain a reaper until my last assignment has crossed over.”
“Wait,” he said with a look of shock in his eyes. “So you’re going to stay a reaper until Shawna dies.”
“I think so.”
“And all the stuff about touching people and seeing what they’ve done?”
“I think I’m stuck with that too.”
“There’s one way to find out,” he said as he held out his arm.
I thought about it for a second, a little scared of what I might see, but decided it was worth the risk to know if my theory was right.
I braced myself, then reached out and grabbed his wrist.
The vision came quickly, but I pulled my hand away as soon as I saw he was lusting after Angela Lansbury in a french maid uniform handcuffed to the headboard.
“What the hell man?” I yelled.
“What can I say,” he replied with a devilish grin, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
“Please tell me that was a dream.”
“One of the best I’ve ever had,” he said with a grin.
I just shook my head, trying to clear the vision.
“You knew what I was going to see, didn’t you.”
“I fell asleep watching Murder She Wrote, and that always gives me some messed up dreams. Just be glad that’s all it was.”
He was right, I should be thankful he hadn’t fallen asleep watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show. That could’ve been really awkward.
“So you’re still a reaper?” He asked.
“I guess so.”
“But what does that mean? Like, can you still kill people if you want?”
“I really don’t know,” I replied. “I mean, I held up my end of the deal so I shouldn’t have to kill anyone else, which is a good thing, but I don’t think I’ll be getting handsy with any hot chicks any time soon.”
“That’s seriously harsh.”
He took a long drag, then stared at me with one eyebrow raised, just like spock.
“And you knew that when you decided to, you know, do what you did?”
“I was pretty sure about it.”
“And you still went through with it, for her?”
“It was the only thing I could do. I mean, I thought about pulling a Romeo and Juliet by not choosing how she’d go. I’d forfeit my second chance and some other Reaper would send her on. I figured we might end up together that way, but that was pretty much the most selfish thing I could have done. She doesn’t deserve to go this early, and you don’t deserve to lose two friends at once.”
I could have sworn I saw his eyes get a little wet just before he turned away to grab the baggie and pack the bowl again.
“Well, we’re all still here so I’m still going to consider it a victory for the good guys,” he said, raising the bowl before sparking it up again.
“Hear, hear,” I cried before grabbing the silver pipe from his hands and taking a giant toke.
After that we just passed it back and forth while we discussed how much easier life had been before we got interested in girls, though neither of us could remember much from that time.
At some point Weed tried to turn on an episode of Murder She Wrote, but I beat him with a pillow until he shut off the TV and put on a little Pink Floyd. I knew it had to be pretty close to daybreak by that point, and I’d thought about staying up to watch the dawning of a brand new day but we were both out before the sun began to rise.