Friday, January 12, 2018

Not a Herald, Just a Boy

[Note: It's been quite a while since I last posted a story here, so I've decided to let this one slip from the slush-pile parade, to reside here forever.]

            My comforter suddenly felt very heavy at my feet. I turned over. By the age of eighty you have gotten used to such nighttime oddities.
            A chill sprung up on the back of my neck. I tugged my blanket up over it. The cold came again, penetrating straight to the bone. My body went rigid.
            “Wake up, and face your end.” It was a young voice, but gurgled, as if spoken through a mouthful of water.
            I burrowed into my pillow. Nighttime oddities.
            “Don’t be afraid,” said the voice. I felt a hand on my back. It was warm, in stark contrast to the frigid breath pouring down on me.
            I reached up for my spectacles. The moon let a thin pool of light in through my window, just enough to see the silhouette. Despite the darkness, the form owning that awful voice was distinct. Its cloak was black, so black it glowed. Its face was chalky. And familiar.
            The Grim Reaper smiled. He held no weapon, so far as I could see. But his sea-green eyes sent terror into my heart. “Hello, Grandpa.”
            “Thomas.” I shut my eyes and begged for this dream to end.
            “Put your hand on my chest. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you. I just want you to feel something.”
            His breathing did not cease. I placed my shaking hand out to touch his ribs. Then the bone fell away. My hand went damp.
            “I was so excited to finally go fishing with you grandpa. My parents were worried at first. What made this time different, that you finally gave in to my pleading? They were only a little surprised when they received the news that I had drowned. An accident, of course.”
            “Wake up. Wake up now,” I muttered.
            “I gave you a year grandpa. To atone. To feel a single shred of guilt.” I felt his hand on my chest.
            “You are the Reaper, Thomas? Herald of the Dead?”
            “I am your Reaper, grandpa. Not a herald, just a boy.”
            My chest softened. I fought to breath. But it did no good. My lungs were sandbags full of the water.