My eyes fluttered open, the sweet sound of birds chirping outside my window. My vision focused, my bedroom around me became clear from the fuzziness of slumber. I smelled coffee, and sleepily rose from my bed, tossing my comforter aside and swinging my legs over, my feet softly kissing the cold hardwood floor. I rubbed my eyes and stretched my arms up over my head, then lazily stood up.
I shuffled to the kitchen, when to my surprise I stumbled upon a hooded figure. A black cloak and hood were shrouding this being, so from where I was standing, I couldn’t tell who it was. I stood in the doorway, still, silent and shocked.
“Don’t freak out.” The being spoke. It spoke with a deep, male voice. The figure began pouring coffee into a mug I had never seen before, then poured some into my favorite mug. He set the coffee pot back onto the burner, and turned with both mugs in hand.
“Here.” He spoke, and held out my mug for me to grab. I shakily accepted the mug, with nothing but sheer horror on my face. I tried to muster a smile, but it ended up looking more like someone who had been recently tortured. I sat down at the kitchen table, carefully watching the cloaked figure.
“Rough night?” He called out as he sat next to me. He looked like a normal guy, letting his hood down as he sat. He had medium chestnut hair, was an average height and honestly, looked rather skinny with little to no muscle mass.
“Rougher morning.” I eyed the being closely while I took my first sip of coffee. Immediately afterwards, I realized how stupid it was to be drinking something a stranger gave me. He could have poisoned it!
“That’s funny. Also, I didn’t.” My brows furrowed. Could he hear my thoughts?
“Yes.” He answered, stirring his coffee. I shook my head back and forth, hoping I was still dreaming. I stared at him again with less horror this time, and more fascination.
“I’m guessing you don’t know who I am?” He took a sip of the molten liquid in his black skull mug.
“Well, I’m assuming you would be the Grim Reaper?” I paused, looking around the kitchen. “I don’t see a scythe though.” The man smirked and chuckled.
“Grim Reaper is one of my many names. I like to go by Death, much less formal.” He took another sip. I mirrored his actions, and took a small gulp out of my mug, not saying anything.
“So, are you here to take me to the afterlife?” I shyly asked.
“Yes.” He bluntly stated. I looked down at my kitchen table, then at the windowsill to breathe in one last look at my house plants, then the entirety of my small, homey apartment.
“What about my family? My boyfriend?” I asked, immediately concerned with their feelings and how they would take the news. Death took a deep breath in, then let it out cupping his hot mug with both hands.
“Death is hard on everyone who is left behind. They will struggle for a while, but I can promise you eventually, they will be okay.” He flashed a small smile.
“How did I die?” I asked, curious how I was able to drink my coffee if I wasn’t alive.
“You haven’t died yet. I wanted to talk to you first before I took you. Something I’ve been doing for the past couple-hundred years. People seem to like it more than just waking up dead.” He shrugged. I laughed, not on purpose, but compulsively. Death eyed me from across the table.
“Can I know how I die?” I tried to regain the conversation. His eyes fell to the tabletop.
“That’s typically the higher up’s job. Right now I’ll tell you that you didn’t suffer.” He lifted the mug to his lips, “I could lose my job for that.” He mumbled. We were both quiet for a moment.
“Well, what now?” I lost interest in the coffee in front of me, what use was it now that I was about to die?
“Now, I’ll take you to the other side.” Death lifted his right hand, and a cloud of smoke began to form around his hand, and grew longer and more dense. In just a few seconds, his magnificent scythe formed, his hand grasping it from the air.
He stood up, and looked down at me. He held out his free, left hand to me waiting for my grasp. I took his hand, and he lifted his scythe above his head. I clenched my eyes shut, and braced to feel the full wrath of death himself. To my surprise, I didn’t feel pain.
If anything, I felt lighter, more free. It was sudden, all at once. I gently and cautiously opened my eyes, to see a wondrous tunnel of light and colors. Green, blue, purple, red, pink, yellow, were all swirling around myself and my guide.
Death was leading me, holding his scythe out straight, seeming to cut through the blackness of eternal sleep. I looked to the side, and still saw the wonderful tunnel of colors, but beyond the colors and light I saw something more sinister. I saw what can only be described as lost souls.
“Death?” I asked. He looked back at me. “I have a question.”
“I have an answer.” He replied. I forgot he could read my mind. “You’re right. They’re lost souls, beings that for one reason or another, I did not have the pleasure to meet.” I sensed sadness in his voice.
“So, what happens to them?” I asked, returning the sadness in my voice.
“They stay in the darkness.” He abruptly stated.
“Is that hell?” I poked.
“For some.” He returned, we continued on our way.
Eventually, we arrived at a beautiful place. There were the tallest mountains in the distance, the sun was shining, green grass and all kinds of flowers in bloom covered the lands. There was a lake, shimmering and dancing in the sunlight.
“Where are we? What is this place?” I felt like my questions were coming faster than I could control them. Death turned to me and smiled.
“On our way to your heaven.”
“I’m going to heaven? My heaven?” I grinned, tears filling my eyes.
“Yes, It’s just over those hills.” He pointed out into the distance.
“We can get there in an instant, time doesn’t exist here. I’d like to utilize this time for us, for you, to ask questions and be comfortable so I can move on.”
“I can ask you anything?” I prodded.
“Absolutely.” He returned. I thought for a moment, as we began to slowly walk toward my eternity.
“So, how does all this work? Heaven and hell?” I asked. Death nodded his head yes.
“Everyone creates their afterlife- their heaven or hell- based on what you have done in your life, whether or not you have led your life with kindness and love, or hate and fury.” He started. I was confused, and it must have showed on my face, because he continued.
“Anger and fury are human emotions, don’t get it wrong, it’s okay to feel angry, but leading your life with anger is another thing. How you treat people is really what makes or breaks your afterlife.”
“I understand.” I thought about my next question. “What about the purpose of life?” I finally asked him.
“Everyone’s purpose is different. Some are born to change the world, some are born to change a life. Others are born to teach lessons, while there are people born to create chaos.”
“Create chaos?” I wanted clarification.
“What I mean is, there is no darkness without light. There is no good without bad. While most people are born to do good, there are those who are born for darker purposes. That doesn’t always mean those people are destined for a dark afterlife. There are souls born for darker purposes that change their ways and in that, change the way the world works. Likewise, souls born for good don’t always end up in an afterlife as magnificent as this.” Death motioned to the hills and flowers blooming in my afterlife.
“You must have led a very loving and kind life.” He finished, and I blushed; if that was still possible in this form.
“I’ve loved a lot in my lifetime.” My eyes turned downward, tracing my footsteps, barely making a print in the grass.
“There’s something I want to talk to you about.” Death interjected. “I don’t expect an answer right now, but I want you to think about it.” I stayed silent.
“You have a soul that is very rare, indeed. You share the same type of soul I carry. From the same cloud of stardust. There are very few in existence, more rare than humanity in all of the galaxies.” He held my interest. “I have been guiding souls to their afterlives for over five hundred years. As you might imagine, a soul gets tired. I was taken young, as you were, I felt cheated in a way. Cheated out of the years and adventures that lie ahead of me. When I met Death to take me to my afterlife, I expressed my feelings, and he took pity on me.” Death laughed.
“Really, I think he was ready to go to his afterlife and happy to shed the cloak and scythe.” Death paused. “I carry some of the same traditions as the last Reaper held, like this talk for example.” He smiled down at me. I stayed silent, I didn’t really know what to say.
“I would like to offer the cloak and scythe to you.” Death finally stated.
“Me?!” I exclaimed. “How do you know I’ll be a good Reaper?” I asked, suddenly anxious of this unprecedented job interview. Death looked up and around him, breathing in deeply.
“Because, just look at this place. I haven't smelled violets in hundreds of years. You,” He paused, “have managed to make this whole valley smell like… Heaven.” He chuckled lightly. “I know you’ll treat the souls you meet with the same love and kindness you treated everyone in your life with. Heavens like these are.. Extremely rare.”
“How can I be sure this is what I’m supposed to be doing? I haven't even seen my heaven yet.” I looked towards the hills, which
was supposed to be home to my paradise. We stopped walking.
“That’s why I want you to think about it.” Death reminded me.
“Did you ever see your heaven?” I asked.
“No.” Death shook his head, looking at the ground. “I hope it’s a fraction of how beautiful it is here.” He looked up at the sky, then at me. I could see longing in his brown eyes. I knew he wanted to rest, he had earned it. If this wasn’t meant for me, then why would it have crossed my path? I knew Death was still listening to my thoughts, as he smiled with my realization.
“Has there ever been a female Reaper?” I was curious, all the folklore from earth suggested otherwise.
“There was, a very long time ago. Much before my time. She did many great and wonderful things. She helped a lot of people.”
“One more question.” I paused. “What is the scythe for? Specifically? Most humans think that’s how you harvest your souls.”
“No!” He exclaimed. “The scythe is for protection. Crossing between the physical world and the spiritual world is dangerous. There are all types of spirits and souls who have ill intentions, who want a chance at life, and at someone else's heaven once they’ve discovered the hell they must endure.” I thought about all Death had to say, and met his gaze after a few moments of reflection.
“I’ll do it.” I told him. “I’ll be the next Reaper.” Tears of joy started to flood his eyes, as relief washed over him. His scythe was suspended in midair, as he began to shed the dark, black cloak. He handed it to me, and the scythe followed suit. I draped the cloak of death around my shoulders, and took the scythe in hand.
One spring morning, an older woman arose from her bed to the smell of her favorite tea. She stretched up toward the sky and let out a big yawn. She sleepily made her way out of bed, and pulled the comforter up over the pillow she just arose from. She grabbed her house coat from the hook hanging over her bedroom door. Pulling the house coat over her shoulders, she made her way down the hall, following the smell of tea, when to her surprise, she stumbled upon a hooded figure in her kitchen. She stood still out of shock, as the hooded figure began pouring tea into a black mug the woman had never seen before, and some into the woman’s favorite mug.
“Don’t freak out.” I said.