Fiction Fragment Friday
What is a story? As I was writing this week’s Fiction Fragment Friday I found myself asking that question. This work did not feel like a story. It was certainly fiction and qualified for posting, but was it a story? It felt like world building and not actually telling a narrative. I felt like a story required something to actually happen.
Is exposition or description a story? I still don’t know the answer to that, but many flash fiction works tend to fall into the category of being something new and unique. I have written flash fiction as an advertising campaign, terms of service, a product manual, and other such formats that do not seem like actual stories. They build a world more than tell of events.
I think this work does classify as a story even though it is really more of a prologue to what could be a larger story. It certainly does not feel like a complete story. In the end it doesn’t really matter if it is a story or not. All that matters is whether you enjoy what you have read. With that in mine I present Gigi.
Death hates murderers and especially those that take the life of a child. I was surprised to discover this because I had assumed that she would appreciate anything that ended a life. What I didn’t understand was that she believed in the natural flow of a life. A life cut short has not experienced its full potential. It seems like a contradiction to me, but she is far more complex than I would have ever imagined. Apparently, a life given fighting for something a person truly believes in is a fulfillment of potential unequaled by any other.
The living embodiment of the concept of Death is not actually a woman. She takes a form comfortable to the person interacting with her and in my case, it just happens to be 22-year-old goth girl I had a crush on in college. There is something truly disconcerting to feel the immense power radiating off someone wearing a “got blood?” t-shirt, barbed-wire necklace, and black jeans. From what I understand if there were more than one of her reapers in training interacting with her, we would all see and hear something customized to ourselves. It actually hurts my head to think too hard about it.
I could tell this job was not going to be pleasant with her arrival. The ground shook as a bolt of lightning struck it burning a ten-foot radius. We were not in reality, but a place between this world and the next. It felt real to me though and I recoiled on instinct. She was angry and barely holding that anger in. I logically knew that she would never lash out at me for something I had no part in, but fear seldom listens to logic. I recoiled from her out of a sense of self preservation. From the look on her face, I can tell that annoyance at me has now been added on top of the seething rage she was already feeling.
“Get up dumb-ass.” I did mention that her form personality was created from my memories, didn’t I? Her message always come through clear but filtered through my own awareness. Like I said it gives me a headache to think about it.
“Sorry Gigi, you just startled me.” When she had first recruited me, I decided I needed a name other than Death to call her so I came up with Gigi. It was a play on the letters g and g which were short for Goth Girl. I still felt weird reducing a being with such power to that level of a nickname, but she didn’t seem to have any issue with it at all. I suppose self-consciousness goes out the window when you are a force of reality.
“You’re the best trainee I’ve got. Probably says more about the talent pool than it does you, but it’s time to graduate anyway. Don’t fuck it up.” My phone dinged and I knew the information would be waiting in an e-mail. She turned to walk away and was just gone. I was used to quick conversations, but this was abrupt even for her.
I opened my phone to read the e-mail. I should probably mention that I know the phone isn’t real. Every interaction goes through the filter of what my mind can handle. I’m not ready to have information just flow into me so instead I have a phone and e-mail. Other trainees get file folders, books, or whatever they are more comfortable with. I can’t call anyone with it or e-mail anyone except Gigi. From what I understand when I “graduate” to a full reaper I will be able to though. I will be able to interact with the other reapers. I winced as I read the details.
My job is simple yet incredibly difficult. When people die, they need to move onto the afterlife, reincarnation, or whatever comes next. I don’t actually have those answers yet. The important part though is that to do so they need to let go of the life that just ended. They have to acknowledge that they have died and that their journey now goes forward instead of back. That is harder to do for some than others and especially difficult for people who die tragically or who have a lot of unfinished business. It is the reapers job to be there when they die and ensure that they move on.
Reapers are not always successful. You know all those stories of demonic possession, poltergeist, and general weirdness. Most of them are fake, but the ones that are real probably started with a reaper failing. If we can’t successfully get the spirit to move on quickly, they become twisted and angry. It is a horrible existence where you are trying desperately for closure that will likely never come. If it does somehow come, you have already been changed too much to move on. That is where reapers come from.
Every single reaper is a spirit that refused to move on, but somehow managed to return to sanity. I suspect there is another force of nature out there helping that to occur but have no proof of such. We all know what it means to fail because someone failed us, and we don’t want anyone else to go through what we did. That is why reapers are so dedicated to their job. Whatever comes next is denied to us, so we need a purpose here.
I looked down at my final test and felt tears in my eyes. It was a young one. I have been told they are the hardest to convince. They have nothing but loose ends and often are not formed enough to even understand what has happened. They are often raw and undefined enough that if we do fail, they don’t even get the option of becoming a reaper. I have not done one solo yet and I am terrified of failing.
It is then that I realize that I know the name. This is my nephew, and I’m the only one standing between him and a nightmarish eternity. The fear slowly fades away into determination. I will not fail him I think as I turn and walk through the tunnel of light that will lead me back into reality. It was time to go to work.