Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Grim Reaper > Death Inc. > Page 7

The readers chose ending B) She gets up and drags herself away from the bed.

  Madison did her best to drag herself as far away from the bed as possible. The hand had tightened its grip around her ankle, and she could feel its nails seeping through her flesh as it attempted to draw her under the bed. The light was so powerful it was hard to see anything at all. Not to mention, her room was a total mess. She brushed aside t-shirts, nail polish, discarded pizza, magazines and underwear, looking for something to hold on to. Finally, she managed to grip on to something. It was a chair leg. Clutching it with all her strength, she instinctively hurled it at the hand. It let out an awful screech before loosening its grip. This gave her a chance to release her ankle from its clutch. Free, she scattered towards the end of the room under the desk. It was blood red, all spindly and bony with sharp fingertips like that of a witch. The hand reached out, as though it were pleading for help, then suddenly sunk its nails into the ground. It began to haul itself forward, as though it were trying to bring up weight coming from the light. An arm peered from the glow, followed by a second hand and arm. Eventually a head emerged. Only then did Madison realize, with horror, what she’d done. She hid under the desk, attempting to conceal herself from the disaster. This may well have been the most dangerous mistake anyone had ever made.

  The head rose until its full body was in view. The creature stood in the room, and did something horribly peculiar. It duplicated. Two of the same stepped from behind it…or were they really two of the same? They were skinless, yet no muscle was showing. Instead, their bodies were covered in a thin layer of dripping red tissue that bled onto the carpet. She recognized them. They were the sisters she had met on the day of her death. She had found herself wandering in the Underworld when they offered her a free ticket to earth in exchange for her name. She backed into her cover as far as possible, balled up like a fetus in the desk corner. They seemed not to notice her and walked towards the door. For a fleeting moment, Madison feared for her parent’s lives, imagining herself orphaned or living with her Aunt. She then heard the door slam, and was only partially relieved to know that they had left the house. The feeling of relief was brief, however, as she saw the light get brighter and more creatures began crawling out of it; some unidentifiable, others comically notorious. A whole army full of zombies, vampires, werewolves, demons and various undead species hoarded towards the door and out the house, apparently following the three sisters. Talk about a monster under the bed. The neighborhood must have woken up as well, for she could make out screams from all corners. When the last creature, a lanky skeleton, clumsily rushed after the others the light shut off abruptly. She wriggled from under her hiding spot and looked around the room. Trails of blood, icor and slime mixed with the casual mess of clothes and household items. The air smelled of cigarette ashes and moldy basements.

“Worst. Night. Ever.” She grumbled. She needed to find an elevator pronto and get to the Reaper’s office. He’d know what to do. The closest one she knew of was at the Walmart, and that was ten minutes away. Currently, ten minutes felt like an entire lifetime. Well, there weren’t very many options. After pausing for a brief glimpse into her parent’s bedroom to reassure herself that they were still sleeping like rocks, she ran down the stairs, nearly tripping on the last step. She came to a halt at the doorstep. Suburbia was in total chaos. For the first time in their lives, inhabitants of the area were facing an inexplicable phenomenon before their very own eyes. This was not television, it was real. The undead had left her main street by now, but traces of blood and slime indicated they had indeed been there. The trail continued on as far as the eye could see, past the endless myriad of copycat houses. Madison did not know what their motives were, only that they had to be stopped before someone got hurt. People stood outside looking stranded in their bathrobes, pajamas, and even underwear. One particular woman in a pink bathrobe, her wet hair rapped in a teal blue towel and facial mask still on, paced her garden like a trapped animal. The cops had shown up as well, and seemed busy controlling a rather large man ranting on about redemption as his dog attacked the officer, barking over the racket. Madison came to her senses and quit looking around. She  hopped into her car and sped past the police, ignoring a “Hey! Speed limit! Get back here Miss!”. Although she was scared, she felt there was no time for fear. She had to fix this. The Walmart was closed at this hour, but the elevators probably still functioned. Without coming to a halt, she crashed into the glass windows. A piercing sound echoed in the empty store. That’s right, the damn siren. She’d have to make it quick. Navigating through the aisles, a wave of hope filled her as she finally reached the elevators. She swiped her Underworld card into the slit between the doors, happy to hear the familiar creaking sound it always made. Everything was going to be okay.

- - -

  The place was vacant. Or, at least heading for vacancy. Everywhere around her the Grim Reaper’s minions, plague doctors, hustled back and forth carrying packages, apparently cleaning out the place. It almost looked as though Death Inc. were going out of business. Could death go out of business? The main floor, complete with gate like office cubicles and wooden desks, was buzzing with Plague Doctors placing stacks upon stacks of paper into boxes, dismantling frames including every single “Minion of the Month” -a series of headshots that extended to the end of the football field size room- and packing up supplies. It seemed earth was not the only one with problems. A nearby pot fell as a short stubby minion attempted to carry a Venus Flytrap three times its size. As Madison bent over to help it clean up the bits and pieces, she heard a recognizable voice from afar.

“Yeah well you tell Jerry to be over here in fifteen minutes! I don’t care if he’s in the Bahamas, tell him to get here now or he’s fired! F-I-R-E-D comprendo?” There was a click as the Grim Reaper hung up. With all the confusion, she’d nearly forgotten why she was there. She ran towards the Reaper who was standing in the middle of the room, now texting furiously.

“YOU.” He said as he looked up from his iPhone 5. “This is all your fault! He began walking briskly towards her, scythe in hand. There are few things scarier than the Grim Reaper walking angrily towards you. Madison stood frozen, both frightened and confused.

“What’ I do?” she asked guiltily, grimacing as his hooded figure bent dangerously close to her. She knew that whatever was going on had something to do with her. The sisters she had met clearly had something in mind, but she’d trusted them. Plus, this was not the first time she was getting in trouble with death.

He removed a small roll of parchment from his cloak and read rapidly:

“We hereby decree you, the Grim Reaper, death god #077 to be in violation of  the Law of the Deceased passage 0.336, line 13: “Life and death must not coexist, reunite or coordinate in any way or form except under the case of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) wherein the soul may only retain a partial or fragmented memory of the experience.” We therefore sentence you to community service on earth for an indefinite period of time. The majority of godly powers and/or privileges in your possession are to be replaced with basic human functionalities.
This includes, but is not limited to:

- Simultaneous existence within space and time/ you will follow a linear time pattern.
- Teleportation/ you will be constricted to other means of transportation.
- Right of passage to the Underworld/ you will be momentarily banned entrance to the Underworld in any way, shape or form.

Death Inc. and all of it contents are to be evacuated. Please sign and fill all forms attached to this message.

Sincere salutations,

The Celestial Council

At the very bottom, in small, narrow print read:

Connect with us on Facebook! Cross here to subscribe to our newsparchment.

“Do you have the slightest idea what you’ve caused? You-” he paused mid sentence to chastise a small group of minions. “No no no, don’t mix bills with names! And what are those? Taxes? File those in the trash!” He stuffed the parchment angrily back in his cloak. Turning back to face Madison, the black void in his hood, where a face would normally be, seemed to pierce through her soul.

“You bridged the gap between life and death!”

“Oh,” the situation was even worse when you spelled it out. Her stomach tied itself into a pretzel not. She was still a little confused. “But, how did I manage to do that? And why are all those undead things walking the earth?”

“Those three sisters who forged you a ticket, they’re boo hags you idiot, witches who steal people’s skin to look human. Really hard to catch, I’ll explain later. Anyway, you broke the gap between life and death so now all the undead creatures of the Underworld are roaming the earth. I don’t mean ghosts by the way, they’re deceased. We’re talking undead. That means dangerous stuff. The living and undead cannot mix. That ticket they gave you has something to do with this mess.”

“Maybe it’s a key.”


“Like, you know, some sort of key. The guy I gave it to – you know, when I died and woke up in the room with a bunch of other dead people. The guy who was standing at the door taking tickets from certain people and letting them back on earth- he just looked at mine and then gave it right back to me. It’s funny, he kept everyone else’s ticket. So, that got me thinking, maybe this is some kind of key. Maybe when I went from the Afterlife to the uh…Presentlife, I opened something. But, like, that’s a stupid hypothesis.”

“Wait a minute…” he started pacing the floor amongst the disorder. “Hold the telegraph! You’re probably right. The only way to obtain a ticket out of the afterlife is if there was a mistake or your physical body is clinically dead. Your soul can then go join your body, back with the living. You are technically not allowed to resuscitate. So, if they gave you a “false ticket”, that turned out to be a key… You must have unlocked the barrier separating life and death. That doesn’t completely help our situation, unless… That means they were planning this from the beginning. Were they moving in unison, as a huge group?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

 “Maybe we could locate them, and lure all the undead back into the Underworld at once! Then I might be able to stay and have everything back to normal.”

“Not a bad idea, but how are we going to do this alone?” she began, only to have him hastily grab her arm and pull her into the elevator.

“I know just who we need.”

- - -

“Say what?” Lucifer nearly spat out the Hot Pocket he was munching on. “Dude, this is almost worst than the time I fell from Heaven.”

“I know, I know. Imagine me, the Grim Reaper, expelled from the Underworld!” he gestured wildly as he spoke.

“Yeah that sucks man. But, you’re not solo in your sadness. It’s happened to other death gods too. Remember Hades?” a dark look cast over his face.

“Uh, yeah that was weird,” he shivered, recalling the tragedy his ancient Greek friend had undergone during his exile on earth, forced to live in tourist resorts in Crete during the entire 20th century.

“What happened to Hades?” Madison asked. She’d paid enough attention in history class to know that he was the ancient Greek god of the Underworld. Also, she liked Disney movies.

“Let’s just say he endured every fad of the decade, from the Charleston to neon leg warmers. But, he’s been around way longer than me anyway! He’s got time to lose!”

“And I’m older than your mother,” stated the devil.

“Which is why I seek your guidance oh great magnificent Lucifer. You who is grand-”

“Here it goes again,” he sighed, rolling his eyes.

“You, the great prince of darkness. Your unholiness.-”

“Just say it already.”

“I need your help.”


“Oh come on Luce! I really need this favor. You sin like no other-”

“Earth to Grim! I’m like you, I don’t work on flattery,” he barked through gritted teeth, growing increasingly exasperated.

“Well, let’s see…I can’t bribe you if I don’t have anything to offer BECAUSE THEY’RE TAKING ALL OF MY STUFF AWAY!”

“I could risk getting banished from the Underworld too. Besides I’ve been pretty low on offerings these days, so I won’t have much to live off of if I’m homeless.”

“I will offer you five souls if you help me.”

“Try ten.”


“Six and one possession.”

“Okay, fine,” he huffed, before muttering under his breath: “The things you do for souls.”

Reminded of his goal, he formed a brief plan of action. “Anyway, here’s the thing…” He explained his strategy to find the undead and bring them back where they belonged.

“Alright. There might be something I can do, but it’ll be a little…flamboyant.”

“Now we’re talking! Thanks man! Meet you in a half hour or so, I’ll call you when we’re ready.”

With that, the Reaper and his assistant plunked into the Death coach and rode off on their search.

  Back in Madison’s district, inhabitants were surprised to find a large black coach pulled by two identically colored horses zooming down the road. They had just begun processing the previous events, when the vehicle came gallivanting right under their noses. It was a very strange night. As they followed the path, the young teenager looked out the window to see her parents speaking to the police officer. They must have noticed her disappearance.

“Seems like it goes a long way,” the Reaper said from the driver’s seat. They drove past houses, a small town, until finally they reached a cornfield where the trail seemed to stop. The silence was overbearing as they sat and listened for a minute. You could hear the warm summer breeze rustling against the stalks.

“Where are they?” she asked.

“Shh!” he silenced her. She then noticed a faint sound from afar. Listening closer, she realized it was music. The Reaper motioned for her to leave the coach and they set out for the source.

“Over there!” spotted the Death God. Green and blue lights glowed in the distance. They crouched down in the corn, approaching slowly and discreetly. In the middle of the field was a congregation of undead creatures. The scene was impressive. There were thousands of them, all gathered in the same area, dancing, drinking and having some sort of festival sized party. It looked like Halloween night in Hell. As they grew closer, they saw a band of ghouls performing a demented cover of “The Monster Mash”. The music blared, mist covered the ground and lights illuminated the party with a sci-fi glow. Madison craned her neck, trying to see as much as possible. Unfortunately, a young ghoul, that looked shockingly similar to Frankenstein’s bride with a side cut, spotted her. With a stunned expression, eyes bulging and mouth open wide, she then turned towards the Reaper.

“It’s Death!” she yelled. The music muffled her voice, but those in her proximity heard, and the word got out fast. Two seconds later there was an upheaval, the undead stampeding furiously towards the two.

“Get ready to fight,” said the Reaper as they were almost submerged. 

"Get ready to fight!"

He instinctively brandished his scythe, cutting and knocking over whatever got close to them, making sure not to kill anyone. Madison kicked and punched whatever made it her way, taking out as many as possible. They found themselves in the middle of a mob as the creatures lunged forward to attack.

“What exactly was your plan-” began Madison as she drop kicked a half man, half sea creature, “for when we got here?”

“Precisely this!” he shouted over the racket, casually swinging his scythe, swiping out five mummies at once, “Now if I could just get my phone…” He rummaged in his cloak, one hand using a small furry monster as a bowling pin to knock over a colony of vampires before finally retrieving his cell. He dialed the number.

“Now?” he heard his friend’s voice inquire as he put the phone to his ear.


  At that very instant, the ground below began to shake. No sooner had Madison had time to head-but a werewolf into unconsciousness than most of the creatures began to back off. The ground heated and the smell of burnt firewood filled the air. A crack began to form in the middle of the crowd, releasing a red flare. As it got bigger, all made sure to back up onto the ledge, some failing to do so and falling into the pit. Others tried to run away, but a ring of fire drew itself around the crowd.

“Come with me, and you’ll see a world of pure imagination!” a sing songy voice rose loudly from inside the pit. It continued humming as its originator floated gently up to make an appearance. Lucifer hovered happily above his fiery pit of doom.

“It’s time children. Follow me in Hell.”

The undead, frightened, searched for an escape, but to no avail. The Devil resorted to better measures by spurting out fire from the ground, causing some to burn on the spot. Realizing that it was better to spend an eternity trapped at home, rather than being burned to death, they gradually began to jump into the pit. Less than a hundred or so had dropped when the pit unexpectedly closed up, Lucifer floating above what had once been a portal to his world.

“What?” he whined.  Out of nowhere the sky opened and three figures descended, accompanied by a holy chant.

“Aw no, it’s those douche waffle angels,” he stopped floating and descended smoothly to the ground.

“Hello Michael, Gabriel, Israfil,” grumbled the Grim Reaper. “We’re kind of busy right now.”

  Two of the angels touched the ground lightly, as if verifying its solidity, then landed with a small “plop”. There was a loud thump as the third landed heavily, one foot crushing Lucifer’s head against the dirt floor.

“Ouch! Seriously Michael! That hurts!”

“Say uncle,” Michael said with a smug smile on his chubby porcelain face. His curly blonde hair shone in the moonlight.

“Never,” growled his captive. The angel dug his foot further into the devil’s face.

As they bantered back and forth, Madison noticed that their surroundings had gotten awfully quiet. She looked around to see that the ring of fire had disappeared and the creatures had taken advantage of the distraction to make a run for it. A huge circle of burnt corn was all that remained of the barrier, and the undead had become fleeting specks in the distance. The Grim Reaper had apparently noticed a long time ago, for he was being detained by the two other godly messengers, thrashing wildly and throwing various insults at them. He’d lost his only chance. The undead were spreading out, causing trouble, and he’d have to bring them back to the Underworld gradually instead of as a whole. Yet, he’d almost had them. When at last Lucifer was released and the Reaper mildly calmed down, the three angels gathered forth, Gabriel standing, arms crossed, in the middle.

“You better tell me what’s going right now, or I will cut off your wings and mount them on my wall!” shouted the death god. Gabriel rolled his eyes, ignoring him, and retrieved a clipboard from his pocket.

“I’m going to talk, so no one interrupt,” he flipped his hair back and took a deep breath, “We have an important message to deliver from the Celestial Council. Dear Grim Reaper, it has come to our attention that you are in violation of the Law of the Deceased passage 0.336, line 13: “Life and death must not coexist, reunite or coordinate in any way or form except under the case of NDEs yada yada yada… and are therefore to be penalized. The time is now. It is precisely midnight, and you have been stripped of your godly powers. Not only that, but it seems that you’ve let the undead roam freely, and have been asked to kindly bring them back to the Underworld.”

“But, I had them! And you-”

“Oh my God! I said no one interrupt!” he enunciated, appalled. “I was getting to that part. You are by law forbidden to use demonic forces to meet your own ends, hence why we crashed your party. You’re being penalized again by having to fetch the undead and bring them back where they belong. Anyway, Lucifer, you are in violation of like, a billion laws which I’m not going to go through, and this is the straw just before the last one so I’d watch my tush if I were you. Last, but not least, you got like, some sort of helper and there’s this obscure law that says you can’t really do that. But, if you take her on as an apprentice they’ll let it pass. So, that’s about it really.”

“Well gee. That’s it? I mean, it’s not as if my entire eternity isn’t ruined!” the Reaper yelled sarcastically, still furious.

“FYI, it’s for an indefinite period of time,” Israfil said fixing his turban, “No one guaranteed a full eternity.”

“Besides, the Celestial Council is like, waaaaaay more powerful than you,” Michael chimed in, “So there’s not much you can do about it except sweat it out.”

The Celestial Council was indeed made up of only supreme gods such as Chukwu, Ra, God and Zeus among others.

“Fine. But you’ll see. You will see,” he hissed.

“Oh I definitely see it. That is one tattered looking cloak,” Gabriel laughed as they cracked up in unison.

“I take it I’m not in trouble,” Lucifer said timidly.

“No, but you’re blacklisted,” Gabriel said, briefly flipping through the pages on his clipboard. There was a faint electronic ring, and he retrieved a beeper from his pocket. “Well, it was nice talking to you children, but we have a holy appointment somewhere. God bless!”

A spotlight, located high beyond view, promptly illuminated the three followed by some rather dramatic Gregorian chants. They flew into the air, ascending towards the opening sky.

“Have fun being human,” Michael snickered just before entering the heavens. The sky sealed up just as quickly as it had opened, taking the chants, light and celestial beings with it.

“Those brats,” The Reaper grumbled while Lucifer and Madison stood idly by him.

“So what?” she asked.

“Well,” he said, feeling he’d have to come to terms with his impending doom sooner or later, “Guess I should find a house.”

“You can crash with- on no wait that’s right,” Lucifer instantly remembered his friend had been denied entry to the Underworld.

“You’ll come visit me man.” Sadness started easing up on him.

“Sure thing.” Lucifer tucked his hands in his pockets and stared at the sky. They stood in silence for a minute.

“I better go now,” he said, opening a small pit in the ground, “See you around. Watch out for human viruses, they’re a real killer.”

They both chuckled at his atrocious pun. He gave the Reaper an army salute, then turned to Madison with an encouraging smile and sunk into Hell.

“So, looks like I’m somebody’s apprentice,” she said, trying to lighten the mood.

“More like somebody who’s about to fetch me a latte!” She grinned, glad to hear he was back to his usual cynical self again.

“So what do you eat around here anyway?” he added as they walked out of the field. The death coach had been taken away from him along with his other possessions.

“Burger King, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A. We also cook you know.”

“And how do I get a house?”

She chuckled at his newfound ignorance. As they walked back to suburbia, she animatedly explained the details of human civilization. For the first time, the Grim Reaper found himself confronted with the inner workings of living societies. He figured he better make himself comfortable. He’d be here for a while. It was best to look at it as one long business trip. Yeah, one really long bizarre business trip. His job now was to deal with the living, dead and undead. He was in for a real ride. Still, maybe it was worth it. Maybe it was better to spend an eternity of excitement than one doing the same old mundane tasks. Or, at least, part of an eternity. In a way, he’d gotten what he deserved. He had tried to avoid work, and now it was coming back on him tenfold. And, somehow he didn’t entirely regret it, but looked forward to this new life…or death. Striding towards the plastic houses of suburbia, the locals twisting their faces in confusion and incredulity, he realized he might just have a good time here. Death had finally started living.


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