Fiction Fragment Friday
This story is a sequel to Gigi but I did not intend it to be the entire story. while it can stand alone as a flash fiction it is a piece that lives up to the name Fiction Fragment because I wrote it as the opening scene of a much larger story. I have not written the larger story yet, but I do intend to. Since it can stand on it’s own as a sequel though I decided to share it with you today. Partially because the story I was writing for today was not coming out like I wanted it to.
As the rain poured down around us, I stood on the sidewalk holding a sobbing teenage girl in my arms. Her name was Candice and behind us on the street they were loading her dead body into an ambulance. Fifteen minutes ago she had died in a car wreck and it was my job to make sure she accepted that reality and moved on to whatever comes next for her. For some people that acceptance comes easy, but when they die too young, like Candice it tends to be a difficult assignment. I don’t just mean the complexities of being successful either. These are the assignments that take a serious mental toll on me as a reaper.
“There, there Candice. I know this sucks, but you have an adventure ahead of you. If you just look forward, you get to find out what comes next.” I patted her back trying in vain to comfort her.
“I don’t want an adventure. I want to go to prom with Jeremy.” The words came out between sobs and the ugly kind of crying. Despite how broken I had no problem understanding her words. By that point I had heard enough crying speeches that translating them was second nature. That realization was not a happy one.
Glancing across the street I saw my trainee Steven talking to Jeremy. The two teens couldn’t see each other, or a reaper not assigned to them. This is to help us try to keep their focus and prevent distractions while we work. I could tell that my trainee was struggling because Jeremy was waving his hands and pointing in an angry manor. I wanted to trust Steven, but failure meant a twisted angry spirit loose on the world forever denied access to what comes next. I couldn’t allow that.
In that moment I made an executive decision. With my hand on the back of Candice’s head I shifted reality around us. “Hey, hey, it’s OK let it all out. There’s someone waiting for you across the street and I bet you don’t want him to see you like this.” It took a moment for my words to sink in, but when they did she pulled back to look across the street.
“Jeremy,” she gasped and pulled away from me. In a moment she was across the street and in his arms. The two hugged like they were grasping life preservers in the middle of the ocean.
“Sorry I didn’t warn you kid,” I said to Steven. “Spur of the moment decision.”
“I wish you would knock it off with that kid stuff. Right now I look about twenty years older than you.”
“That my young padawan is because you’re still too new to have mastered controlling your external representation of internal self. Thus kid.” I smiled at him, letting his frustration slide right off me. It wasn’t really aimed at me anyway. It was the situation. Young ones are always difficult, and this was his first.
“I died before you were ever born. Also why do you keep calling me that?”
I keep forgetting that Steven has never seen Star Wars or any other movie for that matter. He died two hundred years ago, but only managed closure and a return to sanity recently. That is where reapers come from. We are all spirits that didn’t get that needed closure until it was too late. In my case I was a poltergeist for a couple years, but Steven spent those two hundred years being the source of nightmares and urban legends.
“How much of that time do you remember?” My tone was far more serious now.
“Too much,” he said as he let out an involuntary shudder. “It’s not all clear, but bits and pieces are way too clear. Mostly I remember the way I felt. So much anger.” This is why we are so dedicated to our jobs. We know what it is like when a reaper fails because when we died one failed us. Most spirits never come back from that, but the few that do have an opportunity to do some good.
I turned back to the teenagers, “OK kids now that you two love birds are together again you ready to see what comes next?” I would never say so out loud, but I’m a bit jealous of them. I don’t know what comes next and I never will because it has been forever denied me. “All you got to do is just let go. This world is your past and it’s time to face your future.” I don’t tell them that they will do so together because I don’t actually know if that is the case. I can’t be sure if they are going to the same place or if once you cross over you remember anything of this world. I could give them pointless platitudes, but I don’t like lying. My job would probably be a lot easier if I was willing to.
Jeremy looked over at me for the first time. “What does come next?”
“I can’t tell you that. You just have to let go of whatever thoughts are keeping you here and find out for yourself.” He didn’t need to know that I didn’t have the answers. I find it best to sound confident and in charge. Showing any kind of doubt just lets the insecurity inside them linger and you can’t allow that. I twist reality around us again to make the world fade from their vision. It’s easier to let go of something you aren’t still looking at. “Are you ready to find out?”
Candice turned her head against his chest to look at me. With a very soft voice she said, “yes.” Jeremy just held her and nodded. That was good enough for me. With a gentle nudge I helped them untether from the world they had known and watched as they vanished from any reality that I had access to.
One last task left I turned to Steven. “That was a rough one. How you holding up?”
“They were so young. Had so much left to experience.”
“Yeah, those are some of the most difficult. Let’s head home for now. Think about the assignment some and I’ll come by for a debrief a bit later.” It was in that moment it first really sunk in that my assignment wasn’t just Candice. I had to look out for Steven and keep him on the right track as well. In the early days of returned sanity, it is still so easy to backslide. Perhaps I had a few things to think about as well. With that revelation I shifted reality around us to return to the space between life and death that we call home.