Contest #130 shortlist ⭐️

28 comments

Fiction Suspense Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Content Warning: Car accident and Death


Two things in life remained certain- the inevitability of death and the peaceful falling of night.

Scott sat among the evergreen, listening to the stray cars pass on the highway as he looked up to the moon. It was the time of night when traffic was nearly nonexistent. A few long-haul semis and the occasional car humming by. Not the car he was waiting for though. Not yet.

He could feel it getting closer. A sort of soft buzz in his blood told him that the SUV neared, and with it, his assignments.

It wouldn’t be their fault. None of them had been drinking or irresponsible. They were just on their way home from a concert; all five still alert in the early hour and enjoying themselves. The crash was simply due to a truck driver, too tired to drive straight but kept going when he should have stopped hours ago.

He would survive. The five, he thought morosely, would all die when the truck throws their car from the road.

But until then, Scott sat waiting with the moon.

He used to dream of it when he’d been human. Of what it must be like to exist in such a serene state of quiet, being able to watch everything from above. So when he was given night assignments such as this, he did what he could to spare a few minutes and sit alone, looking up to the sky to calm himself before setting to work. It was for his benefit as much as the victim’s.

No one wanted an anxious reaper.

When the buzzing in his veins grew, he sighed and stood from his spot to walk down the small hill and wait by the side of the road. He could hear their laughter, listened to their happy voices singing along to the same band they’d just come from seeing. Not one of them was older than twenty-five.

He forced himself to bury his sour mood when he heard the trucker yawn again and take another large gulp of his energy drink. And had to stifle it once more when the man tipped his head back to catch the last drops and simultaneously floored the gas pedal. This was the job, he reminded himself. It wasn’t his place to judge or futilely attempt to change fate. He was simply the first guide souls received. A messenger meant to pass them along.

That incessant buzzing grew as the two neared the crash site. A part of him, the long-lost human empathy that had secured him his position as reaper so long ago, wanted to yell out. Wave his arms and scream.

But they wouldn’t see him. It wouldn’t have done any good.

Instead, Scott watched the wreck unfold impassively. He had witnessed far worse in his time and being greeted a tear-streaked face would just upset the souls.

He’d give the dying the respect of not averting his eyes. It was as much as he’d done for any soul in the past and he wouldn’t give these any less.

The semi pushed the smaller car passed him, through him technically, though he felt none of it. He knew the moment when, instead of hitting the brakes, the trucker panicked and stomped the gas again, and sent the car flying.

When moaning metal at last quieted and neither of the vehicles moved, he walked forward, reaching gently into the driver to pull her from the broken body. She was the only one to die on impact. The luckiest of the group.

And the youngest, he realized.

He waited for her to come to her senses, waited for the crying and bargaining to allow her to keep her life, but when her eyes wheeled around the scene with panic, eventually settling on him, she calmed.

“Why?”

She was so calm. Why was she so calm? They were normally so distraught upon realizing they’d just died, but she just looked at him with an easy, relaxed expression.

“Because it was your time,” he said simply.

“And my friends?”

“They’ll be along, too. They’re just going to take a little longer.” He hoped she couldn’t hear them gasping for breath. One friend in the back seat had a punctured lung, and he knew the poor guy had a while to go before passing.

She nodded, accepting it easier than he thought her capable. “It was such a nice night,” she said to herself, looking over her shoulder into the SUV as if considering. “At least we had fun before this,” she muttered softly.

Scott was at a loss for what to say. Sixty years reaping and for the first time, he was speechless. He’d taken children and not felt this hopeless. This girl, who had just gone through a horrific accident, been pulled from her body by a reaper and now stood next to her dying friends was looking on the bright side of her death.

“At least it was fun,” he agreed numbly. “Let’s get you on your way, honey.” Scott led her away from the flames- he knew the last of them would die when the car fully caught fire- and into her beyond.

Over the next few hours, he comforted the rest, consoled and soothed each as they passed over.

He wouldn’t spare a glance to the semi driver being corralled by EMTs. From the moment the man had wandered from his cab, Scott just knew the first thought was how to twist this to avoid the fault. He didn’t see how the man could as the semi was far from its own lane and had clearly pushed the kids off road. 

He went back to his hill when the humming in his body finally quieted and watched hues of pinks and purples and oranges reach their fingers across the lightening sky. She would stick with him- the girl who had been so peaceful at her end. And for that, he was grateful. In a way, she had given him hope.

So, he thought, perhaps three things remained certain- the inevitability of death, the falling of night, and the ever-hopeful rise of the sun.

January 21, 2022 22:19

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28 comments

K. Antonio
12:17 Jan 29, 2022

THIS WAS BEAUTIFUL. I love how the title and the story mingle. The narration, the character interactions, the suspense you draw on using a supernatural entity as the main character. The fact that the main character is a Reaper and had knowledge of certain events and how that was used as a tool in this piece was very clever. I adored the first sentence and from then on the story was very engaging, luring me to continue. The last line was beautiful, and gives the story a sort of "full-circle" feel. Honestly, just really good stuff.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:27 Jan 29, 2022

Totally agree, K. This was engaging from the first syllable. Lightning in a bottle. The reminds me a bit of the beginning of "The Book Thief," but done in a very postmodern way.

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Kimberly Close
16:00 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you! That really means a lot!!

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Deidra Lovegren
08:33 Jan 29, 2022

I loved this. Great pacing, great characterization—Scott needs a sequel! The ending and beginning tied together artfully—and the middle was strong and wistfully engaging. Well done 😃

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Kimberly Close
16:04 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you!! :) I would absolutely delve more in to Scott if I have a chance! Hoping I find one soon!

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Deidra Lovegren
16:15 Feb 04, 2022

Congratulations 🎊🎈🎉 So pleased this shortlisted!! I was rooting for it from the start. I look forward to reading more from you. Yay!

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Kate Winchester
14:10 Jan 31, 2022

I really loved this. I like how you portray the reaper as someone who is caring and not scary. Also, the descriptions in your story are really great!

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Russell Norman
11:22 Jan 31, 2022

Deidra pointed me at this story and rightly so. Very powerful imagery. Awesome story. Loved it.

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Deidra Lovegren
16:16 Feb 04, 2022

I know, right? Great stuff.

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Jamie Gregory
13:18 Feb 06, 2022

Congrats on being shortlisted! I really enjoyed this story. As others have said, I loved the sensitive reaper as the main character. When I read this line the first time, “She would stick with him- the girl who had been so peaceful at her end.” I thought you were saying that the girl was going to tag along with the reaper almost like an apprentice which could be interesting. After reading it a second time though I think you meant that she made a lasting impression on the reaper which I also love because it adds to the caring nature of the ...

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Kimberly Close
15:03 Feb 06, 2022

Thank you!! :) I'll admit, I did have some trouble with that line and believe it or not, "She would stick with him" was the least literal I could make it sound at the time. It did bug me quite a bit, but other phrases that explained it better just didn't fit the way this did (i.e. her actions would stay with him, she has taught him a lesson). I like to think Scott retained most of his humanity despite becoming a Reaper, but there would be some things about the job that would force him to turn those emotions off.

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23:55 Feb 04, 2022

That last sentence was wonderful. So deep!

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Catherine Craig
23:33 Feb 03, 2022

I love this! So good. You showed a beautiful vulnerability in a character that would traditionally be seen as quite macabre. Really well done!

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Kimberly Close
16:01 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you so much!! :)

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Amanda Lieser
23:04 Feb 03, 2022

Hi Kimberly! Oh my gosh I’m so glad I got this piece in the critique circle. I really loved how you started this piece and then circled it back at the end. This was such an interesting take on a deep subject. I also really enjoyed the way you created an entire story that made me want to discuss it with friends and family in such a short piece. I loved this piece and I look forward to reading your feedback on my piece. Thank you for writing it!

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Anna Nonymous
18:37 Feb 01, 2022

Loved this, Kimberly! The opening and closing lines were just great. I love that the reaper has a name - Scott, and I also love that you went so literal with this. It would have been really easy to metaphorically dance around this title. Some favorite lines: "No one wanted an anxious reaper", "He’d give the dying the respect of not averting his eyes", and "[...]reaching gently into the driver to pull her from the broken body". I hope you have a future prompt that allows you to explore Scott the Reaper more fully - you give us a bitty littl...

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Anna Nonymous
21:46 Feb 01, 2022

Just read this a second time. Wow. I think you've got a winner here.

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Anna Nonymous
15:36 Feb 04, 2022

Yessssss! Congratulations! So well-deserved!

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Kimberly Close
15:59 Feb 04, 2022

Thank you!! :) Sorry, I haven't been on much this week so I haven't really delved into my comment section, but I truly appreciated your comment as it was one of the ones that made me start to like this piece more! I was nervous about posting it as it's on the shorter side (made me wonder if it was even worth putting it up here) but I'm so glad I did now!

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Anna Nonymous
16:23 Feb 04, 2022

I was SO excited to see this piece in the shortlist. And you are a stronger person than me, posting and walking away lol. Self-control AND talent. Winning combination!

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19:20 Apr 19, 2022

Your moo

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Titana Boa
06:08 Apr 18, 2022

Such a wonderful and twisting plot. Great Story!

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Susannah Meghans
04:38 Mar 16, 2022

Amazing emotion!!!

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19:09 Mar 10, 2022

This story is wonderful. I don't know how to describe it. Love it. Would read again.

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Allie Erickson
02:06 Feb 08, 2022

What an amazing read! The tone of this story is superb. Even though a tragedy unfolds, reading from Scott’s perspective creates the perfect blend of sadness and calm, punctuated by an air of inevitability. I love that even a reaper has something to learn. And I also love that his name is Scott. I am excited to read more from you!

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Dustin Gillham
20:19 Feb 06, 2022

A gorgeous gem of writing!

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13:57 Feb 05, 2022

This was a beautiful story. I was completely engrossed. A sad and sensitive reaper who can still learn lessons from humanity…excellent writing! Congratulations!

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Kimberly Close
15:04 Feb 06, 2022

Thank you!! :)

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