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Chapter 51 – Until You’re Dead

Part 6 – Impact Day

Liz, Four Months Before Impact Day

I stared at the young woman, unable to shake the feeling that something about her felt off, in a way I couldn’t quite explain. It was like she’d been superimposed over a scene in a movie, maybe? Nothing in the world reacted to her the way that it should.

She wasn’t paying attention to me. Rather, she stood over the body, unperturbed by the sight of it. As I watched, she nodded, and spoke.

“That’s right.” A pause, and then, “Don’t worry. It doesn’t hurt.” She had an accent, maybe British. It was strange to hear, like I was hearing it in my mind, not my ears.

She extended her left arm, and without warning, a massive scythe appeared in it, the kind you’d expect to see in the hands of a black-robed skeleton. She swung it, then it vanished again.

A scythe that size, swung at that speed, it should have displaced the air. I should have felt something, but… I didn’t. There was nothing.

“How did you get in here?” I asked, without intending to speak. She turned, slightly surprised. Not to see me, but to be acknowledged by me.

“Same way I get everywhere,” she said, tilting her head slightly. “You can see me?”

“Is that unusual?” I asked, though I didn’t really need to. The answer was implicit in the question.

“Not for the dead,” the woman replied.

I recalled the scythe, noticed again the way the world didn’t seem to acknowledge her presence at all. I felt like I was on the verge of understanding.

“Did I…” I tried to asked, but couldn’t form the words. “Am I…?”

“Nope,” she said breezily. I tried to relax, but relaxing seemed impossible with her around.

“You’re…” I searched for the name. “An angel?”

What else could she be?

“Reaper, actually,” she said, shrugging. “But yeah. I guess that counts? It’s all semantics, isn’t it?”

“You’re here for him,” I said gesturing to the body.

“Yeah, but he’ll keep. I’m more interested in you. Has this ever happened before?”

“I’ve never killed anyone before,” I said, not sure why I felt suddenly defensive.

“Hmm,” she mused, walking closer to me. There was curiosity in her impossibly silver eyes, eyes sparkling and changing like a grey ocean in the middle of a moonlit night. Why did I think that? “Well, this definitely isn’t normal.”

I found myself disappointed. ‘Not normal’ hardly felt like an answer. This woman, this impossible creature, this Reaper, should have been able to explain to her what was really happening.

“That’s it?” she asked, petulantly. “You don’t know what it means?”

The Reaper smiled, and took another step closer. “Let me get a closer look at you,” she said, as she stood close enough to me that I could have touched her, if I had the nerve. I didn’t.

“What are you—” I asked, but was cut off as her hand gently touched my skin. The feeling was strange, like being touched by a statue. Not that it felt like cold marble, more like the sensation of being touched by something that shouldn’t be able to move, to touch. A statue doesn’t touch you, you touch it.

Something within me responded. A chill, a weight, a hunger. Deep in my core. My soul? Was that what she touched?

For just a moment, the sensation overwhelmed me, became my entire world. There was no room, no Reaper, no time or space. There was only that feeling. That hunger. Then it passed, and the world returned, and the sensation slipped through the cracks of my memory.

“Well now, that’s interesting,” the Reaper said, taking a step back.

“What?”

“I can’t tell you,” she said. I bristled.

“Can’t tell me what?

“That’s all I can say until you’re dead,” she crooned. I wanted to hit her, but I had a strong instinct telling me that would be a bad idea.

“I don’t understand,” I said.

“Good.” She seemed pleased with herself. I hated it. “Let’s keep it that way. Now, if you’ll excuse me—”

“Can you help me?” I asked, taking myself by surprise almost as much as it surprised her.

“Uh…”

“My friend,” I said. “She’s trapped. I think they’re…” I couldn’t bring myself to say what I was worried they might be doing to her.

Would this strange help Charlie? She had no reason to, but she might have been the only one who could. Wendy was a non starter.

“What do I look like to you?” the Reaper asked. “I deal with the dead, nothing more.”

“She’s immortal,” I blurted out. Would that make a difference?

“…Dammit,” the Reaper said.

“Will you help her?”

“I should have known,” she said, suddenly angry. “This has Charlie written all over it.”

“You know her?” I asked, astonished. Not that it didn’t make sense. Rather, it seemed very likely that a harvester of the dead would know the identities of those they couldn’t harvest. Even still, it surprised her to know Charlie was as important as she seemed to believe herself to be.

“You could say that,” the Reaper said darkly.

“Please,” I begged, desperate.

“Nothing I can do, man. Sorry.”

“What do we do?” I asked, unsure if there was anything we could do. Everywhere we turned, we hit brick walls.

My world was unraveling around me. The existence of an immortal had shaken me, more so because it was someone I thought I knew intimately. A superhuman entity, lurking in the very same city. Now a Reaper? All of this impossibility, and no way to change the fate of my best friend, it seemed.

“I’d tell you to brace yourself, but…” She smirked. “Well, I’m not big on spoilers.”

“You know what’s going to happen?” I asked.

“Good luck, Liz,” she said, and vanished.

I slumped to the floor. None of this made sense. The world didn’t make sense. I felt powerless, for the first time in a very long time.

Absently, I pulled out the crucifix around my neck, rubbing my thumb against it. Once I became aware of myself doing this, I gripped it more tightly. Is that where I would find my answers, I wondered?

That’s all I can say until you’re dead, the Reaper had told me. What did that mean? What did death mean? For me, specifically?

I looked down at the body on the floor. A life, taken by me. Not an innocent one, but a life I had no right to take. No divine writ. Just a selfish, mortal desire.

I’d always told myself there was nothing immoral about assassinations. We were tools, weapons, not killers. The killers were those who ordered the death. But this, this wasn’t a hit. This was an act of desperation. Was it a sin, then? Would I be punished for it? Did I deserve punishment for it?

I would do it again. I was certain of that. If I’m to be judged on the weight of my actions, I will act with conviction. I owe that to the Lord, at least.

 

Next Week: This Is Some Real Conspiracy Theory Shit

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