The Reaper’s Son (Extract From a Work in Progress)

Greetings fellow humans. This is the opening to a young adult book I have been working on. About death, death and its inevitability, that’s what the young people are into these days. I joke I joke. But it is about death and Grim Reapers and stuff. Give it a read and let me know if it seems like a good idea, otherwise I’m just wasting my time.

Here we go…

***

It was entirely fitting for it to be raining. Millie Hatcher always liked it when it rained. It made her job feel dramatic. Of course it was going to be dramatic for some people, one person in particular, but she had done it so many times that for her, it had become somewhat mundane. The rain helped make it… well it just seemed right.

She took one last glance at her list. She had committed the name to memory already, but there was little else to do for the moment. Henry Bantershot. A very colonial sounding name, Bantershot. She wished he had a moustache. A name like Bantershot deserved a moustache, a big bushy one, curled at the edges. Underneath his name, which was written in archaic curly lettering, there was a detailed picture of his decidedly unmoustached face. It was a plump thing, rosy cheeked, with round sparkling eyes peeking out from behind a pair of outdated looking glasses. His greying hair (a little long for a man of his age) was slicked back revealing a profound forehead. He had an authoritative looking mouth, with protruding lips and a little mushroom of a nose.

She rolled up the scroll and tucked it inside her pocket as a yellow car rolled by, kicking up a fine spray, making that lazy ‘Shwwwarr,’ noise they did. Traditionally speaking, Jessie should have been with her, but as it was raining she had defiantly refused. Millie glanced at her watch. Time to get to work.

She dashed recklessly across the road, not looking either way, flat shoes slapping on the damp tarmac. She hopped up the next curb just as a bus pulled up, spitting out a number of ragged looking students. It being eight thirty in the morning, they did not look pleased. They blinked through the drizzle with vacant eyes, scratching at their fuzzy heads. They paid her no attention as they passed, entering the university campus. It was a new, modern looking building, all red brick and fancy glass. The fact was, if Millie had wanted to, she could have marched right up to the zombified horde and slap each and every one of them in the face, and they still wouldn’t have noticed her. It had taken her years to get used to The Cloak’s many powers, even longer to get used to her own minor abilities. Although, it was only a cloak by name. She habitually brushed her hands down the breast of her suit jacket. It had been tailor made, in a way. It fitted her perfectly, hugging her thickly built form.

Not a single drop of water clung to it, but most importantly, whilst she was on the job, it rendered her invisible. Well not quite invisible, everyone could see her, she always felt sure of that. The Cloak simply convinced them that they didn’t. As the students entered the campus, Bantershot strolled out. He seemed like a man who could adequately be described as jolly. His ruddy face was decorated with a pleasant smile as he nodded at the early comers.

‘That’s what  I like to see, eager to learn!’ he half bellowed, to a chorus of half-hearted grunts. He walked in a way that required desperate swings of his arms, and made him look as though he was bouncing. He was no doubt about to cross the road to visit the nearby coffee chain for his morning brew. Millie sighed cynically. Had he just had a cup of instant, or a filter coffee from the cafeteria, he might have lived another day. She strolled casually into his path and reached out a hand. She brushed her pink fingers across his cheek and closed her eyes.

It only took an instant.

Millie used to believe in fate. She used to believe moments were set. She used to believe that death was preordained and a person’s time was their time. However, it was far more complex than that. There was no fate, Millie had learned, there was just luck. Death can occur to anyone at any time. It was all about The List. That was the one constant. That was the only thing that came close to Millie’s fate. Once a name appeared on The List, there was no changing it.

The trick was avoiding getting your name on the list for as long as possible. Henry could have avoided it by getting his coffee elsewhere, or at the very least waiting for the bus to pull away first, or maybe if it wasn’t raining.  Too late now, it was done.

He bounced off the curb, fixated on the red banner of the coffee shop. At the same time, an impatient driver hurrying down the road, pulled into the other lane to bypass the bus. There was a loud screech as breaks were applied. The tires squealed against the road. There was a hefty thunk as Henry Bantershot hit the bonnet and rolled over the windscreen.

Millie didn’t know if he was quite dead when he hit the ground, but he definitely was when she arrived by his side. There were shouts and screams. People came running out of the coffee shop, the bus driver got out his bus, some people just stared dumbfounded. For a brief moment chaos ensued. Millie heard the sound of someone calling for an ambulance. She was vaguely aware of the impatient driver standing nearby, head clasped in his hands, groaning in terror.

A thin pool of blood was being watered down by the steady rain around Bantershot’s head. It is often said that the bodies of the dead look peaceful, that they resemble a sleeping person. This is only ever the case if the person in question has the good fortune to die peacefully in their sleep. Millie reached down into Bantershot’s chest, through his tweed suit and damp shirt, and pulled out his soul.

He stood there looking at her for some time with a bemused look on his now translucent, blue-grey face. He gave off a pale glow, as though he were radioactive, which the soul may well be, Millie didn’t know. He met her eyes and smiled politely.

‘Can I help you?’ he said.

‘Nope,’ Millie replied, ‘unfortunately, you’re in no position to help anyone.’

‘What’s that now?’ He asked still confused, he licked his lips. This would have been out of habit than anything else, his lips couldn’t have been dry, but if they were, Millie doubted licking them would help. Not with an incorporeal tongue anyway.

‘You know, they should really put speed cameras down this road. That car almost hit me, did you see it?’ He asked shaking his head.

‘I saw… and it did hit you.’ Millie responded casually. This was a common occurrence. Very few people were ever immediately aware of their demise. The fact that they seem to continue to walk and talk gives them a false impression.

‘I err… what’s that now?’ he asked politely, though his voice faltered a little. He cast his eyes down to the crumpled heap that was once him. Then, he turned about to look at the car that just minutes ago he had been killed by. Then he looked to his despairing, accidental murderer. Then he looked back a Millie.

‘I rather think this is going to be a particularly bad day.’ He said.

‘We all have them.’ Millie agreed.

***

Just a short little prologue thing. Also, if you are a fan of surrealism and stupidity you might find this Kindle text interesting.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tiny-Compendium-Ridiculousness-Hubert-Watergipridget-ebook/dp/B00NX63R1W

It’s not written by me, no not at all, I wouldn’t stoop to such shameless self advertisement. it’s a collection of highly absurd short stories. Here is a brief description.

This 20,000 word collection is an experiment in absurdity. Watergipridget, though a real person, is only real in an entirely fictional sense. These stories are NOT intended to be read to children, they are simply what happens when an unemployed man takes a joke (which wasn’t particularly funny to begin with) far beyond what is reasonably acceptable. If you choose to download this text, please take them in the whimsical manner intended.