LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger warning: the following story contains sensitive content including mental health issues, self harm, assisted suicide, and brief mentions of an eating disorder. Reader discretion is advised.


In my line of work, the buried ones stay silent, but they aren’t gone: the dearly departed remain in me.


My current client has reached the deadline of her days on earth; however, she doesn’t realize tonight’s her swan song. When she filled out her death interest form on my boss’s business page (the dark web site www.dieinmysleep.com), she checked “unsure” next to the question, “Would you consent to a team member’s administration of euthanasia?”

In the comment box she wrote, “I’m leaning towards yes, but I haven’t decided yet. How long can I think it over?”

I didn’t reply. During my decade serving Death, I’ve only missed one opportunity to collect, and that was because I mixed up Sarah T. Brown with Sarah G. Brown. Turns out G. Brown was a life-lover, so I had to forfeit the deal on account of mistaken identity. Unfortunately, T. Brown ended up offing herself hours later; my foolish error resulted in a missed opportunity for profit. The boss reamed me a new one and I had to settle for a day without pay. I would’ve preferred to preorder T. Brown’s soul—put it on layaway until I had done damage control for G. Brown’s sudden unwanted passing. If only there were enough elbow room in the rules for coercive consent…

Death can be laissez-faire in his approach to sealing the deal. You wouldn’t think so, given his reputation as a stone-cold killer, but he can display a surprising ambivalence. If a potential client fills out the form and checks “no” in response to the ready-to-die question, Death (and his subordinates, yours truly included) honors their decision, as stated in the website’s no-harm-no-foul guarantee. The “unsures,” however, are in for a fatally persuasive visit from Death’s delivery person.

On deck: the dancer.


She moved like Calypso, the soles of her bare feet barely brushing the stage floor as she lifted off, a crane taking flight, her sweeping nimble leap splitting the air before she landed weightlessly on poised arches. As the Nebraskan soloist completed a series of sensual arabesques, I clenched my quarter-full water bottle in awe. Fortunately, the lyrical dancer’s musical accompaniment, an electric string quartet, masked the exclamatory pops of plastic when my fingers indented the bottle’s ridged flesh. Lavinia. I tasted her name—plush, dulcet, complex—and quaffed a large quantity of water to wash away the acerbity of envy.

After Lavinia finished her recital to an ecstatic standing ovation, I headed for the lobby of Lincoln’s Lied Center for Performing Arts. Carefully I choose the perfect rose from the lobby’s pop-up flower stand. It was a sunset bloom, autumn-orange and red-tipped, subtly fragrant. More nuanced than classic red, more seductive than friendly yellow. A farewell flower.


As she approached the throng of admirers, Lavinia’s kohl-lined gaze fell on me. She didn’t smile. A jolt of attraction as uncommon as a Hunter’s Moon electrified my senses. I leaned into the frisson of energy. Chemistry: a rare occurrence on the clock. Bonus, I thought, grinning broadly.

“Not here,” Lavinia said sotto voce before I could introduce myself.

“Wait outside the south entrance. I’ll be finished in half an hour.”

“What gave me away?” I asked, genuinely curious.

Her jaw tightened. “Tunnel vision—you look like a woman on a mission.”

She melted into the crowd, leaving me to savor my intrigue.


Lincoln’s fall weather was as cool and dry as the cornfields, but the mildly sweet breeze held the threat of bitterness. Winter would be savage.

Clad in black leggings and a mauve three-quarter-sleeved turtleneck, Lavinia approached. She had a bouquet of goldenrods tucked under one arm; an Adidas duffel bag weighted down the opposite shoulder.

I offered her the rose I had purchased. “Do you like it?” When she didn’t answer, I mused, “You’ve grown weary of them. Same-old, same-old, yeah?”

She plucked the rose from my hand with the distaste reserved for accepting a used napkin. “I prefer chrysanthemums. They remind me of my mama’s garden.”

Before the weeds and critters overtook it, was the unspoken addendum. When she was still sober enough to tend a garden. As a by-the-book researcher, digging into the dirty secrets of the “unsures” was part of my job’s allure.

“I see you have one in your hair.” I reached out and fingered its hardy, showy bloom. “Tell me about the other flowers you wear.”

Ignoring my request, she said, “You’d do well with bear grass at your lapel.” She eyed my three-piece sienna suit. “Do you always dress like this?”

I raised an eyebrow. “Like what?”

“Masculine.” Lavinia twirled her fingers. “Alpha. You stand very stiffly.” She made her body go rigid, imitating me. “Like you’re waiting for someone to challenge you to a duel.”

“Ha!” I glanced around the third-full parking lot. “Where’s your ride?”

“I’ve found her.” She gave me a pointed look. “Haven’t I.”

It had never been this easy to convince an “unsure” to hear me out before. In my arsenal of persuasion, I had prepared lines of flattery, possible snippets of sonnets, and discreet compliments; this was the first time I had not needed them.


Like old friends, we strolled side by side down the dusky streets.

She pointed at the custom-designed, nitryl-lined, black butyl gloves I had donned before we had begun our late-night trek. “Why are you wearing those?”

“Why do you think?”

She stopped walking and leaned against a bus stop shelter, dark eyes roving over the adjacent buildings as if recommitting them to memory. “I knew an assisted-death technician would pay me a personal visit, but I expected someone different.” She squared her jaw and looked at me dead-on. Her eyes reflected the headlights of oncoming traffic. “Explain the process.”

I did my best imitation of flirtation. “What’s the rush? We could talk more about this over dinner.”

“Fat chance.” She clucked. “Do you seriously think I eat dinner?”

I snorted. “Sure—and then you purge it later.”

We faced off. Absentmindedly, she pointed her left foot and raised it halfway between the ground and her hip. “You’re not wrong.”

I clasped my gloved hands together. “The pain you feel…I can take it away.”

She scraped her nails against the top of the metal bench. It made a sound like kittens crying for milk. “What would you know about my pain?”

“You can't live with it.” I closely examined her. “You don't want to.”

Mulling this over, she admitted, “Maybe not.”

I patted my pants pocket, feeling the poison-filled vial’s slight bulge. “Persuasive assistance is my line of work.”

“You should leave.” Her lips formed a snarl.

“Lavinia.” I held out my hand. “I can make it easy. Easier than it would be if you went the old-fashioned way. The long route. Don’t you prefer shortcuts?”

“If I preferred shortcuts, would I be a world-class soloist?”

“I’m here because of your pervasive suicidal fantasies. You went so far as to fill out the form,” I reminded her.

The StarTran bus arrived.

When Lavinia didn’t hop on, the driver barked, “Last bus of the night.”

Frowning, she shook her head. “I’ll walk, thanks.” As he drove away, she jerked her head as if waking from sleep paralysis. “Why did I do that?”

“You’re undecided.” I pointed to the four-inch vertical scar on her inner wrist. It was barely visible under a thick layer of foundation, but I had sharp eyes. “Does it hurt?”

“Not as much as—” she stopped herself. “Don’t follow me home.”

With a slight smile, I reminded her, “Your house is ten miles away.”

She dropped the goldenrod bouquet and broke into a fast trot down the street, her duffel bag jouncing off her food-deprived side.

Dutifully I jogged after her, anticipating the moment she would crack.


Lavinia made it to 18th and E Street—a mile and a quarter from the bus stop—before collapsing against a lamppost, gazelle-thin legs trembling, knees knocking together, holding her elbows like she was desperate to keep her body from flying apart.

Gasping, she cried into the darkness, “I’m not ready!”

I showed my face. “Calm down. I’m not ready either.”

Wiping sweat off her damp brow, she grimaced. “I don’t think I can do it.”

“Want to watch your finale?” I stepped into the light, holding my cell phone out to her like a peace offering. “I shot the whole thing.”

Swallowing audibly, she said, “Are you tricking me?”

“That’s not my style,” I said. “I operate on honesty. Tell you what.” I set my phone down, careful not to make any sudden movements that would spook her. “It’s unlocked. I’ll stay over there”—I pointed to the entrance of Hazel Abel Park—“and you can look to your heart’s content.”

Crossing the empty street, I planted myself in front of a wrought-iron gate and stood sentinel. The area was as deserted as a wheat field after harvest. We were alone. As a gust of wind ruffled my close-cropped hair, I shivered in expectation of Lavinia’s artful demise.

She snatched my cell and pushed play. Face glowing, she devoured her screen twin’s every twist and turn. If she could have leapt into the phone, I’d have no doubt she’d disappear forever and join herself in a permanent pas de deux.

“Did you enjoy it?” I called when she set the phone on a short ledge.

She looked at her nails, ragged, bitten to the quick, likely the one parts of her (save her feet) that wasn’t outwardly pristine. “It’s downhill from here.”

“You’re only twenty-eight,” I said. “Some dancers keep going until their late thirties.”

“I hate the thought of dragging myself across the finish line.” She took a prancing step across the sidewalk line. The lightness in her step contrasted with her heavy tone. “It’s better to leave a legacy while you’re at the height of your career.”

The poplar trees swayed, animated by puffs of nighttime air, echoing Lavinia’s choreography.

Assuming the role of devil’s advocate, I countered, “If you’re at the height. Don’t you want to see if you can go higher?”

That’s the problem,” she retorted. “I’ll keep reaching. Even past my prime, I’ll strive for the plum roles. I won’t want to give up my star.”

Crossing the street, I took slow steps as if approaching an untamed horse. “You took it back to the start—your blink-and-miss-it hometown. Lincoln, Nebraska. The capital of corn.”

“I had dreams of dancing at the Lied when I was a little girl,” she defended. “Now I’ve come full circle.” Gazing wistfully at the sliver of silver moon in the Sharpie-black sky, she added, “I want a spotlight that won’t turn off.”

“In the afterlife, you mean.”

“Is there an afterlife?”

“I don’t know,” I told her honestly. “I’ve never been.”

We both chuckled.

“You must have theories,” she pressed. “Tell me.”

“I don’t kiss and tell.”

She scoffed. “Do you kiss at all?” In a tone lighter than the situation warranted, she teased, “You don’t look the type.”

I shrugged. “I give the eternal kiss. And I don’t have a type unless you count the ‘yeses.’”

With a rueful shake of her head, she said, “I suppose you can’t kiss me without ending me.”

Her naivety was almost endearing. “That would be against the rules.”

“So what? Doesn’t Death make the rules?”

“Yes, but I do his bidding.” I locked eyes with her. “What do you say, Lavinia? Are you ready to meet him?”

She bit her lip. “I don’t want my body mutilated.”

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. Trust me, no one will think you suffered.” That wasn’t true, but what she didn’t know wouldn’t kill her.

“Mama would—” Her mouth trembled as she interrupted herself. Balling her hands into fists, she said, “I can’t traumatize her.”

“Your mama doesn’t care about you as much as she cares about herself. I’ve done my research.” I held up a hand to protest her indignant retort. “She’s already scarred you beyond repair. Even with all the accolades, the consistently sold-out shows, the heaps of praise you’ve collected from strangers, you’d rather end your life than live with the truth: Mama doesn’t love you.” I gauged her reaction to the knife’s edge of my words.

She stormed towards me, kicking a stray pack of empty cigarettes out of the way. “What gives you the right?”

“I’m not wrong. Why wasn’t Mama in the audience? Is she holed up at Lincoln’s Motel Six, drinking her wasted guts out, wishing away the cirrhosis? She didn’t send you flowers or a congratulatory note. She didn’t even call you.”

Her face crumpled. I took the opportunity to put an arm around her while I reached into my pocket with my free hand, feeling for the vial.

“Want to know a secret?” I whispered in her ear. “Mama’s in Vegas with her new boyfriend, beefing up the slots. She didn’t come because you are not her home. If you say yes to me, you’ll go out on top. You’ll win.”

“You’re the one with the power,” she whispered back. “But I’m saying no.”

I flinched. Once the candidates gave their final answers, they couldn’t renege. I couldn’t take what wasn’t offered. I had to follow the script.

“Is that your final answer, Lavinia?”

Up close, I observed her lacquered lashes, the amethyst tint of her irises, and the feathering of tiny scars on her cheeks. In her file, it had said that when she was nine, her inebriated mother had thrown a shot glass at her head. It had shattered on the wall beside her, but not without harm—specks of broken glass had sprayed into her face and left her with a permanent reminder of Mama’s rageful addiction.

I brushed my nose against her cheek. “If you let me help you, you’ll never think about home again.”

Her flesh burned beneath my touch. “Promises, promises.”

“You’re in pain,” I murmured into the hollow of her scarred cheek. “Do you want me to kiss it better?”

She shuddered. “Yes.”

A loophole. Perfect. Uncapping the vial, I dipped my index finger into its opening. One tiny drop would suffice.

Whimpering like a child seeking comfort, she offered me her mouth. I softly crushed our lips together. When our tongues brushed; she quivered in my arms. I brought her hips flush with mine. She moaned into my mouth undulated against me: Calypso in the throes of lust.

Lifting my poison-coated digit to her tight bun, I removed a few bobby pins and massaged her scalp. The odorless neurotoxin infiltrated her skin.

I broke the kiss. “Brava.”

The chrysanthemum slipped from her hair. Seconds later, she went into convulsions.

“Lavinia.” I stroked her loosened locks as she fell under the spell of my grim embrace. “Mama can’t hurt you anymore.”

In the throes of death, she collapsed at my feet, taking her final bow. Before removing my gloves and fitting them onto her smaller hands, I positioned the poison vial between her fingers and closed her eyes.

“From now on, you’ll live through me.”


After stealing her first name, I added Lavinia’s Libra flair to my audition routine. Though I’d never reach the level of raw genius present in the souls I’d consumed, my mimicry was the next-best thing. A near-perfect copy of what once was. The years of rejection I’d faced as a dancer before becoming a euthanizer—the casting directors and choreographers called me “wooden” and “plain”—ceased to matter once I regained my competitive edge and rediscovered my purpose.

Naturally, Oklahoma’s just-appointed musical director, a Lied fledgling, cast me as the female soloist in his updated reimagining of the famed ballet dream sequence. (Even a euthanizer needs a day job.)

“You move like a zephyr, Lavinia,” he praised. “Like a goldenrod wafting in the breeze.”

Calypso has found her forever home.

September 23, 2022 17:31

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Yves. ♙
18:53 Oct 03, 2022

Yessss lesbian tension! It's been so hard to find stuff like this on Reedsy-- adult, complex writing with sexual tension between women. I love the little details of the work, the fashion, all the little descriptions you've thrown into such a small space. Amazing job on fitting a great answer to the prompt, an exciting narrative, and some very intriguing characters into the word count limit.


R. N. Jayne
21:16 Oct 05, 2022

I appreciate your kind remarks, yves.—I approached the prompt in my own way; overall I'm pleased with how the story turned out. :D


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18:33 Sep 23, 2022

Great flow and sense of mystery in this. I was dying to know what would happen until the very end. It feels like the MC, sort of a euthanizer vampire, (I'd like to learn more about her organization) captures the souls of those and they live through her which adds hope to the story which is nice to have. Good work and look forward to your future stories.


R. N. Jayne
18:51 Sep 23, 2022

Thank you, Scott! I appreciate your thoughts. It was my intention to make the MC somewhat ambiguous, but also shed a bit of light on her motives by the story's end; I'm happy to hear you found the surrealism intriguing. Perhaps I'll write a spin-off featuring this character that delves more into the motives of DieInMySleep... Cheers!


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