Fantasy Drama Fiction

A cool breeze caresses my skin. It’s the same familiar, never-ending breeze I’ve felt since I can remember. It flows as gently and steadily as the starlit waters of the canal I endlessly navigate. 

“Did you know over 150,000 people die every day,” I ask aloud rhetorically, dipping my oar in the dark water to disrupt reflected pinpricks of light. 

“That’s more than 6,000 deaths per hour.”


“Over 100 people breathing their last breath per minute.” 


“And all of you end up here in the end.”


“To be fair, there are nearly the same number of new lives flickering into existence,” I admit, glancing at a waterfall of shapeless, glowing auras spilling from an adjacent canal and flowing towards the earth below. My hand raises in greeting at the Soul Guide atop the fall, who returns my acknowledgement. 

“But, life isn’t my line of work,” I murmur before turning my eyes back to my own waterway suspended in space. 

I specialize in death.

Well, the dead, to be more accurate. My infamous, dark-hooded colleague is more involved in the act of dying. 

His work fuels the constant breeze flowing through my canal, suspended in the stars. This eternal whisper, not a force of nature, but born from the last breaths of the dying, carries with it the essence of departing souls. 

I glance down to see a shapeless, glowing aura float calmly alongside my modest boat. 

“Let’s see where you’re headed, shall we?”

Watery ridges of starlight ripple out from the glowing figure - this one is pale, robin’s egg blue with midnight edges, I notice - as I dip my fingers below the surface. 

Per usual, as soon as I make contact, a vivid cacophony of memories floods my vision along with a certainty about where they belong. 

“Ahhh, a science-lover,” I muse. “Looks like you were working on some questionable testing, but with pure intentions. And your hands are clean of death’s stain. Enjoy the afterlife. Farewell, scientist.” 

I dip my wide, arched oar into the water and gently guide the aura into the mouth of a canal off-shoot, as I’ve done a million times - as I’ll do a million times more. 

Behind me, a spattering of auras glowing different hues continues drifting towards me: towards their end. 

However, it’s in this moment I notice an unusual sound that makes the hairs on my arms raise. 

Most souls enter my canal with a gentle sigh, sometimes a choked exhale or gasp, and every once in a while a scream.

But this sound? This is different. It’s as if the entire 150,000 people I ferry each day are screaming together, all at once. A cacophony of a thousand voices merges into one overpowering roar, a tumult that drowns out all other sounds, leaving only the raw energy of panic and fear. 

Heart racing, my knuckles turn white as fingers tighten around my oar. 

In the distance, where a handful of souls typically flows at a time, the canal entrance is blazing furiously with a mass of hundreds, maybe thousands, of auras flooding through all at once. 

And every one of them is screaming. 

Swifter than death, I grip a thick coil of rope and begin thrusting my boat’s halyard with the full weight of my body behind each pull. 

“You may be busy today, Death.” 


“But, this isn’t my first war or natural disaster.”


“I’m prepared for the floods whenever you send them.” 


Two billowing sails release down each side of my vessel until the wooden foot of each is submerged, creating a cocoon that glides on both sides of my boat. Long ago, I created this fail-safe for Death’s busier days. 

The collective, wailing screams crescendo as the deluge draws closer. 

Gone is the familiar, gentle breeze, replaced by an angry gale of death howls.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” I whisper to them, widening my stance and gripping my trusty oar. Hair whipping in the wind, I face the wall of glowing auras spilling forward. 

Then, with unforgiving force, the torrent hits. 

Piercing screams surround me at an unbearable volume. The gale of last breath has become a chaotic tempest, surging into the sails and wrenching tears from my eyes. My oar expertly scoops auras that have amassed in the protective cocoon of the sails. With inhuman speed, I sort each one, sending them down side-chutes to their deserved afterlife and more souls surge into the empty spaces. 

100 sorted. 

500 sorted. 

1,000 sorted. 

This is not my first time sorting through one of Death’s mass casualties. 

Muscles burning and heart pounding, I narrow my focus to the task at-hand. With expert precision, I whip my oar to scoop a soul, weigh it and release it to the correct afterlife. 


I don’t get distracted by the fact that most of these souls contain memories of quiet, non-violent, civilian lives. 


My movements don’t falter at the sheer panic and horror reflected in each soul’s last moment. 


I refuse to feel fear as I realize that the fiery chaos which sent them my way is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s too much destruction to be a natural disaster. Too sudden to be a plague or famine. And although I see Death’s hallmark signature, this has the mark of man’s making, too. My mind tallies the 10,000th soul. 

But, there’s no time to consider further as the air vibrates with high-pitched wails of terror, each scream slicing through the atmosphere like a jagged blade.

My movements remain fluid, but panic begins rising in my chest as I watch the flood of souls continue to surge forward with no respite. 

To my horror, I glimpse a soul tumble from the top of the oncoming wave and pitch over the edge of the canal, free-falling through stars to the earth below. More souls follow, spilling over the edges and plummeting back to the terrestrial sphere. 

“Nooo!” I cry out, righteous anger surging through my veins. Those lost souls will be trapped haunting the earth, seeking a vengeance and a closure that they may never find. 

A fresh rush of adrenaline surges like ice through my veins, my movements intensifying with renewed vigor. 

In my peripheral, I see more lost souls spilling from my overwhelmed canal. Tears burn my eyes. This much death at once is not natural, not meant to be. 

But, all I can do is scoop, weigh and release. 

For what feels like an eternity, I repeat these steps through burning lungs and sweat-drenched movements. I focus on the glowing auras I’m able to guide to their final ending, not the ones slipping away. My count has surpassed 50,000 as the souls continue flooding in. 




The symphony of screams begins fading to an intense outcry and the gale-force winds reduce to a strong zephyr. After I’ve sorted another 1,000 souls, the outcry becomes a mild hum and the wind a steady draft. When I’ve sorted 500 more, the last breath has returned to a gentle, whispering breeze. 

It’s finally over. 

My breath is still heavy as the memory of bright souls tumbling over the canal replays in my mind. 

“I know Death’s reasons, but how could humans be a part of this,” I murmur aloud. 

“To take part in such unnatural destruction of your own kind…is your species even worthy of an afterlife?” 

My eyes drift across the stars to collide with my Soul Gide counterpart. Her face is stricken with pity and shock. Slowly, she raises a fist to her heart and dips her head in a respectful nod my way. 

I nod mutely, too depleted to raise a hand back. 

Her vivid new souls continue trickling towards earth, unaware of the catastrophe which just extinguished so many lives before them. 

Will one of these new blazes of life be involved the next unspeakable act against humanity? Will one of them be a victim? Or will they all sigh into my canal to a peaceful end? 

My gaze follows their descent until it collides with the green and blue orb below, still rotating, still there. 

“I’m so sorry,” I whisper mournfully to all the souls I wasn’t fast enough to save. 

“You were not meant to be sent back to this world, but I pray that you find your way back to me one day so you can finally rest.” 

A single tear glides down my cheek and falls over the edge of starlit waters, slowly fading out of sight. 

Overcome by exhaustion, I collapse with a thud against the wooden mast and close my eyes. 

A cool breeze caresses my skin. It’s the same familiar, never-ending breeze I’ve felt since I can remember. And right now, I’ve never been more grateful for its gentle touch. 

March 06, 2024 18:02

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Karla S. Bryant
05:54 Mar 09, 2024

This is incredible, Brianna! You created such a suspenseful, deep story from a simple prompt. At one point, I felt like my eyes couldn’t read fast enough because I was so anxious for the next sentence. Excellent!


15:52 Mar 09, 2024

Thank you, Karla! I’m so glad to hear that the pacing and moments of urgency came through.


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Alexis Araneta
12:19 Mar 07, 2024

Brianna, this was amazing. Such a creative take on the prompt. I love how vivid the imagery is. Great flow. Lovely job !


17:59 Mar 07, 2024

Thank you, Stella I appreciate the positive feedback! :)


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