“Death wasn’t a thing when I accepted the job. It’s not fair to trap someone in an eternal contract when they have no concept of what they’re being asked to do. The way I understood it was I was simply helping a soul pass from the mortal stage of their existence to the next. They got constructive feedback on their life choices, and it would help them be better people.
Reality? No. I have to comfort more than ten thousand children starving to death every day. That’s hard to do when you’re a skeleton in a black Jedi robe.
I got totally boned. Other eternal beings got to oversee stuff like love or lust. Eros is a total pervert, by the way.
I have to use time manipulation just to get the job done.” The skeletal immortal slouched on his bar stool and held up two fingers to the barman.
The bald man in jeans and a Journey t-shirt nodded. Using his telekinesis, the barman summoned two more shots of Scotch from the Isle of Islay. The whiskey wizard then slid them down the bar towards Death and the suit of armour.
“Can you quit the job?” Arnold tilted the blank space where mortals had heads.
“I don’t even know.” Skeletal hands closed around the whiskey glass and poured it into an ethereal throat. Tourists sometimes watched with fascination as the liquid entered a divine state and became invisible. None of it poured through the bones and splattered on the floor.
“Can you get drunk?”
“Not without a few more.” The Reaper held up four fingers to Jeremy the spirit summoner. Another nod. Four shots slid down the bar.
The Armour of Armour poured whiskey into the bucket inside his cuirass. The action itself didn’t get him drunk but being in the company of others who were helped him feel a buzz by association.
“Is it a good idea to drink and reap?”
“Who knows. I don’t want to do it anymore.” Death slouched and walked his fingers along the bar. “Know how many people I’ve taken from this bar?”
“Tell me,” said Arnold, sitting up on his stool. The edges of his armour ground together. He regretted sitting with the skeleton again. Every time he thought he would hear some cool stories. Nope. Always complaining.
“268 people in the last hundred years since it stopped being a butcher.”
“Who reaps all the animals?” Arnold asked.
“Good question,” said the Reaper, pointing a finger somewhere to the left of the suit of armour. He was drunk. Three more shots went down into invisible nowhere. A wallet appeared from somewhere in the robe. “You take card Jeremy?”
“Same as always, yes.” The barman walked over with a chip and pin machine.
Bony hands tried to shove the rectangle of plastic into the slot of the device held by Jeremy’s stubby fingers. On the eight hairy fingers were faded letters that read LOVE and KATE.
“Kate your wife?” Death asked in a dripping slur.
Jeremy took the card from the Reaper and slipped it into the device. “No. My ex.”
“Ouch. Want to know when she dies?”
“Yes,” said the man with a new glint in his eyes.
White digits pressed air next to the card reader. The skeleton dived sideways off the stool and landed on the floor.
“Where did you go?” Death asked the stained wood skirting board at the bottom of the bar.
“Got cash?” Jeremy took the card out of the device.
“Got milk?” Death giggled, holding his finger beneath the slits in his skull where a nose would be.
“I’ll get this one. I think he’s having a mid-life crisis.” Arnold passed Jeremy his card from inside his gauntlet.
“Midwife?” The reaper looked around. From his place on the floor all he could see were feet and stained wood.
“Tired? Death?” Arnold input his pin and got his card back from the barman.
“Yes. I’ll just have a little nap here.”
“He’s not sleeping in my bar. I close in three hours.” Jeremy’s voice was a growl. He leaned over the bar and looked down at the drunk immortal. “Hey. Get up. Go home.”
“I HATE MY JOB!” Everyone in the bar looked at the screaming embodiment of death. He tried to stand. Though the world was stationary for everyone else, for Death it was a ship on a stormy sea. As the boat tipped, he ran backwards into a table, knocking empty pint glasses to the floor. A party of teens just old enough to drink in Aberdeen cheered loudly.
“That’s enough, Arnold, get him out of here.” Jeremy yelled.
“I’ll come for all of you,” said the black robed skeleton. He was pointing at a window.
The suit of armour grabbed his friend and lifted him. A smartphone flashed as kids took a photo of the odd couple staggering out of the bar.
People shivered on the cold cobbles of Belmont Street outside a club that had been a church.
“I’m gonna kill all of them,” Death slurred, looking at Arnold.
“Not so loud,” hissed the suit of armour.
“I hate my job,” the Reaper told a rugby player looking teen in a pink polo shirt.
“Welcome to the club mate,” said the muscular young man.
Police in fluorescent greenish yellow jackets were talking to a girl who was shivering in a tight black dress and pink cowgirl boots.
“Isn’t it December?”
“Yes,” answered the suit of armour.
“Why aren’t they wearing jackets.”
“Because we’re in Scotland.”
“I’ll be seeing a lot of them later when they freeze to death.”
“Where are we going?”
“To the portal.”
“I’m gonna kill you tonight,” said the reaper, pointing to a man with scars and gold teeth.
“What the fuck did you just say?” The man with battle wounds and three signet rings swaggered over and puffed up his chest, looking down his chin.
“Nothing, he’s just drunk.”
“It’s not fuckin’ Halloween pal. What did you say?” The man wasn’t local, Glaswegian based on his accent.
“We’re just going. We don’t want trouble.”
“It’s no trouble. You’re going to get stabbed tonight, Patrick.”
“How the fuck do you know my name?” Patrick knocked Arnold aside and raised a closed fist to the Reaper’s face. The police left the shivering girl and ran down the cobbles towards them.
“Police.” Arnold tried to step between them. “Police are coming.”
“I don’t gee a fuck pal.” Patrick looked from the armour back to the reaper.
“Hey, split it up boys.” The officer was younger than any of them.
“All of you need to calm down.”
“Yes officer.” The Glaswegian man’s attitude changed completely. His accent wasn’t so gravelly. His violent posture relaxed. “I’ll get going.”
“Is there a problem here?” The second officer was older, silver stubble on his face.
“No problem. Right boys?” Patrick looked at Arnold and the Reaper.
“All of you should go home.”
“I don’t have a home,” said the skeleton.
“Goodnight lads.” Patrick started walking away.
“Wait. Are you?” The younger officer looked at Death.
“I’m the Grim Reaper. Mostly grim right now.”
“Can I get a photo with you?” asked the young officer.
“Sure.” The skeleton shrugged.
The officer pulled out his phone and turned it sideways. He smiled into the camera as the immortal ender of life gave a thumbs up.
“I don’t want to kill people anymore,” said Death as they turned a corner to the portal that would take them back to the Museum of Magical Items. “New Year’s resolution. No killing.”
“Coming from anyone else that would be a really creepy thing to say. From you it’s oddly sweet.” The reaper lurched forwards suddenly. Up came the whiskey, hitting a flowerpot by the side of the road. The flowers blackened and shrivelled. “Alright. Let’s get you to bed.”
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Humorous take on the prompt, I always assumed the Grim Reaper liked his job.
He isn’t called Grim for nothing. I think you’d have to be very cold to like taking away starving children and murder victims because it’s not just bad people that die. More often it’s good people trying to clean up the mess left by psychopaths. I would hope no one is into that. I might be wrong. Even if they were I hope it would get boring after thousands of years. They would be the only fictional being in need of time manipulation more than Santa.
I agree, I always imagined the reaper as some sort of supernatural sociopath, totally detached from human suffering. Giving him a human dimension makes the story.
I was imagining that he was just someone at the dawn of time who didn’t read the job description very well and got stuck with it.
That's true. He never really gets promoted to anything else. Harvesting souls for eternity, who is the demigod psychologist that gets to listen to that for an hour every week?
Psyche; goddess of the soul?
// I always assumed the Grim Reaper liked his job // Same here. I always thought of the Grim Reaper as a psychopath who's enthusiastic about showing up for his job. I think its a fair assumption given his scythe and dark robe and overall goth look. But then appearances can be deceiving. Underneath all that shock goth, there might be a soft mushy guy who doesn't want to do this death stuff anymore. I think this is a clever and funny interpretation of the Grim Reaper going through a Mid-Life crisis, getting drunk at a bar, wondering where hi...
I feel like the robe is the uniform. Cooler than some uniforms but it would get depressing on its own even without the taking lives. I’m imagining even the skull is part of a uniform, him as a metaphysical being with no form of its own like the angels from Supernatural who have to possess someone human.
// I’m imagining even the skull is part of a uniform // Makes sense. A more abstract interpretation. I like it. I also had a story on the Grim Reaper on this same prompt. But that came from a different angle, and was long/verbose. I think this story was simple, well laid-out and brilliant. Makes for pleasant whimsical funny reading.
Thank you for the compliment.
This is great, Graham. I love the personality you've given the Grim Reaper; he's usually depicted as a dark, looming, silent thing and this is so much better. And the fact that he bitches about (more or less) the same thing we all bitch about makes him oddly sympathetic - even lovable. I almost feel like this could be a sitcom. Cheers, Hannah.
Thank you. That put a little smile on my face reading your comment. I don’t think anyone could love the same job forever, especially something like that.
LOL! When the police officer asked to take a selfie with the Grim Reaper, I chuckled. Very funny. And, I loved the play on words throughout your story. Very fun read!
Thank you Francis. I really enjoyed writing this and I’m thinking about continuing the story. I’m reading the Douglas Adams series that started with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which is amazing absurdist comedy and quite inspiring.
Graham, I really liked reading this story. It was humorous yet it also made me feel compassion for the reaper stuck in a job he hates that is certainly completely depressing. I loved how you compared Death’s drunken episode in the bar to a ship on a stormy sea. I felt like I was pulled right into the scene. Great writing! This story was seriously such a creative idea. Very original and unique. Nice to read it over my morning coffee!
That was a fun story and interesting perspective. It would make sense for death to be like that.
Thank you. How’s your writing going? I’m working on another one about Danielle, Lupita and Carl.
It hasn't been going anywhere for a while because I was too busy, but I have an idea that I think I can work into the new prompt and am excited to start. I look forward to the next part of your story.
I don’t like that this week’s prompts all involve tea. It should be a really easy thing to work into a story but it’s quite restrictive.
I could see that the one about gossip (spilling the tea) might work for your story since there has been some mention of rumor spreading etc. But I'm not sure. Sometimes when they're too specific it's hard. Interestingly i've read some stories lately that mention tea in creative ways. Like I read a book where the main character dies and the reaper brings him to this tea house that's like a place to go to prepare for the transition for death. Some weeks don't work as well for me as others so I understand. As someone who loves and drinks almos...
Tea wasn’t available in Europe until the 16th century so I would want to address that in my story if it came up.
This reminds me of helping a drunk friend in Greece where we left a bar that wouldn't stop playing Garth Brooks. I love the part where the kids are taking pics and he says: "I'm gonna kill all of them." So many good lines. I'm a fan man. Love it. Keep em coming.
Thank you. Yeah because people would take that as a threat but it’s just an inevitability.
Okay, I like this one.
Thank you, Kendall.
Paragraph Five: Scotch doesn't need to be (and I believe should not be) capitalized here. Paragraph Ten: "Armour of Arnold"? Or is Armour of armour a saying I'm unaware of or am I misreading something? "spirit summoner" ... I read that and was like 'damn. I'm sort of writing about reapers and summoners this week'... And then I reread and got the meaning. Love it Fun little slice in the day of a life... Or unlife or whatever. Thanks for writing
Thank you for reading. I like to capitalise it mostly as a petty act of patriotism as someone from Scotland, where my parents live on an island known mainly for exporting whiskey. When I say Scotch I mean whiskey from Scotland, not just whiskey, because if it’s only Greek-style yogurt from somewhere else and sparkling wine when it’s not from the region of France known as Champagne, then we can be persnickety with the best, or possibly the worse of them. Armour of Armour was a reference to that character in another one of my stories called t...
All very fair. Someone I’m rather close to is a big fan of single malts and I was just making sure everything was above board here. And thanks for clarifying. I’ll give it a read
I can wholeheartedly, and also must for the sake of my parents financial well-being, recommend Islay Whiskeys. Also one of the best places in the world to do multiple distillery tours in a single day because it’s a tiny island with almost ten distilleries, I should know the number but they keep resurrecting old ones.
I like this series, very lighthearted even though yhis is about the reaper.
I think it would be a tough, depressing job. Best to make light of it.
I think it would be a tough, depressing job. Best to make light of it.
If you liked this and you want to read more then use this link. https://blog.reedsy.com/short-story/x8d34o/