Life in Passing

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Write a story involving a character who cannot return home.... view prompt

28 comments

Fiction Fantasy LGBTQ+

“Is that me?” The Latina woman whispered with a hand covering her mouth as she pointed at the splattered mess of blood and flesh on the cement that was once a cyclist crossing the street at a crosswalk. Vera was used to seeing souls freak out at the sights of their own gruesome corpses, but that didn’t make it any easier.


“I’m so terribly sorry,” Vera’s novice—Sam—croaked out. Vera recognized the face of sheer despair that was painted on their face. Sam being one of the newest recruits, facing their first violent death, Vera expected nothing less of a human reaction.


“This can’t be right, I’m only twenty five! My wedding is in three weeks, my fiancé and I just started the paperwork to adopt a child. Please tell me I’m dreaming!” The cyclist, Sarita, as the report stated, was sobbing on her knees, watching the world around her corpse continue to go. Vera kneeled next to her and placed a hand on her forearm. “What did I do to deserve this?”


“I understand that this is hard to see. No amount of time can truly prepare one for their passing,” Vera allowed Sarita to lean into her chest and cry, tears rolling down the fabric of Vera’s black feathered dress before falling onto the concrete and dissolving to nothing. “This is not a punishment, just the path of fate taking its course.”


“I don’t want to leave him like this,” Sarita continued to weep. Sam had seated next to her and tried to reassure her with a warm hand on her shoulder. Vera was glad to see her novice give into their empathetic response. “We were both so busy, I didn’t even give him a kiss this morning. He deserves a better goodbye than this!”


Vera raised a hand and summoned the phone from the corpse's body, a copy of the phone flying to her hand. She handed it to Sarita, a soft smile resting on her lips. “How about we make a better goodbye? You can leave him a short voicemail before we bring you to the sanctuary.”


“I thought it was forbidden for the dead to speak to the living! You could get in a lot of trouble for doing that!” Sam squealed, but Vera just sighed while Sarita punched in her fiancé's number.


“If Death has a problem with it, she can fire me. Trust me, once you have been doing this for as long as I have, the rules are not as strict as they teach them.” Sam gasped at Vera, but she expected it. The way that Sam learned it, what Vera was doing was grounds for immediate termination and forced transition to the beyond. The way the seniors spooked the new recruits was hilarious.


“Víctor, perdóname por la forma en que debo dejarte. Sabes que mi alma te amará por siempre. No puedo esperar el día en que nos reunamos, pero por favor, vive tu vida al máximo por los dos. Hasta que nos volvamos a encontrar, mi amor.” Sarita hung up and handed the phone back to Vera, and with a flick of her wrist, it was no more. “I don’t know how to thank you.”


“It’s my pleasure,” Vera offered her arm for Sarita to grab, Sam grabbing the other. Vera released her wings, feathers of a raven, black as the night sky, and Sam their tiny, still growing dragonfly wings. Together, they carried Sarita and started the journey back to the sanctuary.


“What happens to me now? Are you taking me to heaven?” Vera nodded at Sam, offering them the chance to take the lead, which they happily accepted.


“We are going to the sanctuary, which is a kind of in-between for the afterlife and the living. You get a choice between going to the beyond or staying in the sanctuary as a Reaper and work for Death!”


“Lady Death? I thought she was just a myth! What is she going to do to me?!” Vera could sense the panic in Sarita and Sam as they struggled to say something to calm Sarita.


“Lady Death is nothing like the stories you have been told. She doesn’t eat the souls of the dead to keep her body alive, that’s just a old folk tale to keep children from running around at night.” Vera remarked, chuckling to herself. “Trust me, I’m the oldest Reaper there is right now. I’ve seen Death scared by her own butterflies, she is not one to fear. You are in good hands, Sarita.”


“Become a Reaper, what does that mean? Must I stay a Reaper forever?” Sarita asked as they approached the edge of the sanctuary.


“You collect the souls of the ones who have passed away and bring them to the sanctuary so they can make their choice, just like we are right now.” Sam chimed in as they walked through the flowered gates, butterflies floating around the rainbow of flowers. “You only stay a Reaper as long as you wish, and when you want to retire, you can go to the beyond and rest.”


“What is in the beyond?”


“Nobody knows, not even Death herself. As far as we know, it’s the final resting place. You won’t know what it holds until you make the choice to move on.” Vera answered as the trio reached the house of the undecided. “This is where we part ways. Here you will be given the choice and some time to consider it.”


“I’ve already decided,” Sarita stated, wearing a confident smile, a refreshing change from the despair that held her lips mere minutes ago. “I want to be a Reaper, I want to help people feel the way you made me feel.” Vera nodded, and Sam beamed.


“Very well, We shall see you soon then.” They parted ways, Vera leading her novice back to the assignment HQ.


“How do you do this so well? Not get all sad when seeing tragic accidents like that?” Sam asked, flapping their tiny wings as hard as they could to keep up with Vera.


“It’s not about not getting sad, but understanding what that sadness means. You cannot let it control your reaction to a souls passing. They have to leave everything behind, and in that moment, you are their only support.” Vera gave a tired smile as they entered to grab what felt like her millionth assigned soul. “Worry not, Sam. Everyone has a path, all you need is to follow your own.”


Translation: “Victor, forgive me for the way I have to leave you. You know that my soul will love you forever. I can’t wait for the day we meet, but please live your life to the fullest for the both of us. Until we meet again, my love.”


June 13, 2021 19:27

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28 comments

Michael Martin
12:27 Jun 21, 2021

I'm a huge fan of exploring different angles for commonly accepted this; your take on death is refreshing, interesting, and heartwarming. This makes reapers feel almost like grief counselors after a tragic event (which doesn't result in death, obviously), trying to help people through the intense emotions they're experiencing. I wish this was longer, so you could fully explore Sarita's stages of grief - obviously given the format, it's tough, but it would have been nice to see her struggles to accept reality and the full scope of her grief...

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Lynn Penny
15:07 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you! I hope to expand this concept one day so there is hope of more! I would love to expand on the stages of grief and healing, but honestly I struggle with writing it. Knowing my attention span and the weekly deadline, nothing would get done.

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Felicity Neeley
12:50 Jun 18, 2021

I love the you present death and her reapers as beings of comfort rather than fear, thank you for sharing this with us :)

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Lynn Penny
14:42 Jun 18, 2021

Thank you for reading!

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Studio Q Test
14:36 Jun 29, 2021

wow this story is really nice! I would love to read more stories from you. I am a big fan of you now! I've read some of your stories. they're really nice ❤❤

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Lynn Penny
20:50 Jun 29, 2021

Aww, thank you so much! Comments like these keep me motivated to write.

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Bob Faszczewski
15:07 Jun 24, 2021

A very mysterious story, but somewhat hard to follow. I'd like to see some introductory material as to who they are and where they are and some explanation about how Sarita would up in her situation and who the person she is concerned about is and his relation to her.

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Lynn Penny
18:06 Jun 24, 2021

Thank you for reading! I've always been bad with an introduction so I have a habit of starting more in the middle and establishing the story in context. Basically, Sarita was biking (a cyclist) and was hit by a car at the crosswalk and is now a soul. Victor is her fiance as stated in her early dialogue and she wanted to give him a better goodbye. Vera and Sam are the reapers who bring souls from earth to the sanctuary where souls go to choose between being a reaper or going to the beyond for eternal rest.

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Anoushka Sharma
16:12 Jun 23, 2021

This was an incredibly sanguine take on death, Lynn. "Sam chimed in as they walked through the flowered gates, butterflies floating around the rainbow of flowers." Felt refreshing to see the afterlife being presented as a beautiful and felicitous place. I loved the element of mystery that you created by obscurely explaining what lies 'beyond'. This story was all about making choices and moving on, which suitably justified the title. I was really looking forward to meeting Lady Death, would love to see how you expand the concept. Great stor...

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Lynn Penny
19:37 Jun 23, 2021

Thank you! I always wondered about the passing of life and even if one does try to describe it, there will always be elements that no one can truly explain.

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Alun Williams
16:01 Jun 23, 2021

Interesting take on the death/spirit/soul story. I enjoyed the dialogue between the characters. Refreshing story.

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Lynn Penny
19:31 Jun 23, 2021

Thank you!

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Insha Ali
10:18 Jun 21, 2021

I appreciate the way you depicted death, it certainly dispels fear of death seeing it accompanied by such peaceful and calming beings!

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Lynn Penny
15:02 Jun 21, 2021

Thank you! It’s an experience every has, so might as well make it a good one.

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Rohit Mukundan
06:38 Jun 20, 2021

That was an interesting take on the afterlife. I kinda wanted to meet Lady Death. On a (unimportant) side note, when Sarita says, "forgive me for the way I have to leave you." I wonder if the last message might come across as a suicide note? She died in an accident didn't she?

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Lynn Penny
13:20 Jun 20, 2021

Lady Death is actually in my two stories ‘The hands of death’ and ‘the first winter’ if you want to read a bit about her. I was thinking about it, and if you could say goodbye after dying, it would probably sound like a suicide note just due to the clash with preplanned fate and fatality.

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Babika Goel
16:11 Jun 19, 2021

The prompt is well used. Liked the concept and the simplicity of the narration.

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Lynn Penny
21:28 Jun 19, 2021

Thank you!

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Fplldg Wakdwwdg
06:48 Jun 14, 2021

Quite a tricky approach to the prompt. Adding the translation at the very end was an excellent idea. It looks like She's going to choose "beyond" But, gurllllll I really wanted to see more of her >∆< The short description of the reaper/ shinigami was as catchy and cool as you always present your readers. But I couldn't understand how it is categorized as an LGBT+ tho.. Anyways, AWESOME stuff!

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Lynn Penny
16:33 Jun 14, 2021

Thanks! Gonna be honest, this had a totally different ending planned that was more direct about the prompt, but as I was writing things took a different turn. The LGBTQ part comes in Sam, I took a try at writing a non-binary character. I always try a include LGBTQ characters in my work without making it the entire plot, I just want a future where being LGBTQ isn’t the main feature, just as common as straight/cis characters.

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Fplldg Wakdwwdg
00:28 Jun 15, 2021

Ohh, sorry! I didn't notice the pronoun. I can be pretty dumb at times ☹️ Then again, I'd still say you don't need to label it as LGBTQ, as the story isn't based on it. Like you just said, you want a society where we all can become alike, and being someone from the LGBTQ community is nothing special but normal like being straight. (Imagine labeling a story as straight only because the characters are straight lol! Won't it feel a bit offensive?) If you fear the homophobic idiots to spam the comment section, worry not, we'll roast them🔥🔥

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Lynn Penny
01:10 Jun 15, 2021

That’s a good point, I’ll consider that for be the time. I just get so excited, especially since it’s pride month.

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Fplldg Wakdwwdg
03:27 Jun 15, 2021

🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈

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Githinji Muthee
22:12 Jun 13, 2021

Aaaaw. I am glad you drew it for me. How you talk about the after life. I love it. It is sensational. Penny.

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Lynn Penny
02:32 Jun 14, 2021

Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

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Tinu Baby
05:23 Jun 25, 2021

It was wonderful!!

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Natania Kurien
17:36 Jun 17, 2021

That was such a great story and such an interesting take on the prompt! I love the characters you created, especially Vera. The plot was so original and I really enjoyed that the story was mostly dialogue - I think it gave me a really full picture of the characters. I was drawn in from the very first line and honestly felt so happy when Vera let Sarita leave her fiance a voicemail oh my gosh. On a very very tiny note, you used she/her pronouns for Sam in the line "Vera released her wings, feathers of a raven, black as the night sky, and Sam...

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Lynn Penny
19:03 Jun 17, 2021

Thank you! I'm glad that you enjoyed the concept. I have been thinking about this concept for a while, I've just been struggling to create a plot for a larger project. And no, that was just me messing up the pronouns. I've been trying to work with more non-binary characters and for some reason, I have quite the bias towards female characters. Thanks for letting me know so I can fix it!

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