Dressed in a long black cloak, scythe held low, she wondered how it was that people didn’t recognize her. Apart from the scythe, she looked just like the fan pictures of her- and more like the less-than-favorable ones. Maybe people just saw what they wanted to see.
Death took the long way home. It was raining, but the rain would soon turn to sleet. She turned her collar up against the cold.
Death still had 78 years on her contract. She’d been doing this for over a dozen years already. When her contract was up, she would be re-born, given a second chance at life.
When she died, she was only nineteen- still just a child in many ways. She was a teenager when her life was snuffed out, and now she had a job- a career without growth opportunities.
She opened the door to her building and climbed the narrow stairs to her flat. She was death incarnate and she still couldn’t afford to live alone. Her roommate was a pleasant fellow.
Her mother would freak out if she knew that she was living with a man. It would hardly matter that he was gay, he still had a penis.
He was laying on the couch when she came in. He was breathing hard and reaching for something in front of him- his inhaler.
Death ran to him and handed it to him. He dropped it instantly; his hand wouldn’t close around it. She held it out to him and pushed down on the trigger.
She pulled out her phone and dialed an ambulance.
There was a knock at the door. She looked at him and saw fear in his eyes. He was begging her not to go. The knock became more insistent.
“I’ll be right back,” she promised.
She could have screamed when she opened the door. Death was standing there; the Death that was on duty now. She wanted to slam the door in her face.
Instead, she led her inside. Death crouched down as the other Death raised her scythe.
“I’m scared,” he whispered. “What will happen to me?”
She took a breath. “Death is like this, it’s like stepping into a warm bath and falling asleep. It’s peaceful.”
He nodded, and the other Death reaped him. She gave an irreverent salute to Death as she made her way out of the flat.
Death sank down onto the sofa and held her head in her hands. Her cheeks were wet as the snow began to fall.
Hawthorne walked around the empty mall aimlessly. He wasn’t supposed to be there. No one was.
The shops had long since been abandoned; a few of them boasted bits and bobs still littering the scant shelves. It reminded him of an old pop song lyric, “just to prove that we were here…”
He shook his head and his sleeping bag when he found the right spot. This was so not worth twenty bucks.
But, a dare was a dare. Hawthorne had to prove his manhood, or whatever.
Gibby was full of bad ideas- this being chief among them. Last month, he dared another friend to surf a moving car down a residential street. Luka was fine, but he wet his pants when Gibby stopped suddenly before she got to the stop sign.
Gibby was the queen of the burnouts and loadies. She had the best shit, and she was willing to share, provided you did what she dared you to. If you didn’t, no one would talk to you.
Hawthorne snuggled down into his sleeping bag and thought of Gibby and her haunting amber eyes. He imagined her cock-sure grin when she picked him up in the morning. She may even hug him.
After twenty minutes, he gave up on sleeping. There was too much nothing going on in here. He usually fell asleep to the ambient sounds of his mom’s apartment- the soft voices of the neighbors coming through the walls, the flick of his mom’s lighter as she smoked, the blare of the tv.
It was soothing to him, but here in the old mall, there was nothing.
Hawthorne sighed and got up. He left his sleeping bag where it was. He was near the exit that Gibby was picking him up at in the morning. He’d grab it on his way out.
Most of the security gates were down and locked in the empty stores. He tried each one as he passed, hoping for an open store. There wasn’t much to take, but that would make it all the sweeter when he found something.
Gibby would hug him for sure when she saw he was brave enough to swipe something while he was in here.
He didn’t hear the second set of footsteps following him up the dead escalator. He didn’t even think to look behind him when he got to the second floor.
His pursuer followed, quiet as death and twice as quick. When Hawthorne got to the old music store, the would-be stalker grabbed him around the waist.
A grim smile split the follower’s face as he held Hawthorne tight. Wings unfurled from his back and soon they were flying out of the hole in the skylight. Hawthorne screamed the whole way up.
And, the whole way down when the creature dropped him. He only stopped screaming when he hit the tiled first floor.
Red eyes and black wings took off into the cool night.
Hawthorne twitched on the floor. He didn’t realize he had been bitten by the creature. The bite was probably the only reason he was still alive. His back crunched and shifted against his will and he screamed out again.
Gibby pulled her mom’s car into the parking and parked in front of a defunct department store. She honked her horn and lit a joint. Fifteen minutes came and went before she cut the engine and exited the vehicle.
Hawthorne was probably going to jump out and scare her. She knew it, she just knew it. Well, she’d let him scare her.
Then, she’d tell everyone how she found him sucking his thumb and still asleep when she went to pick him up. It was her word against his, and who would they believe?
Gibby tripped over Hawthorne’s sleeping bag as she made her way through the abandoned mall. Yeah, he was going to pop out at her. She rolled her eyes and steeled her nerves.
“Come out, wherever you are!” She called. She picked her way all over the first floor, winding and trying to pull up the security gates as she passed the stores. They were all locked tight against her prying.
She wandered aimlessly, hopping up on a kiosk just to see if it would hold her up. It did; she had a slight frame. When she had exhausted the first floor, she started to climb up a dead escalator to the second floor.
Like her erstwhile friend, she didn’t hear the footsteps behind her. When her pursuer grabbed her, though, she spun around in its clutches and sprayed mace all over the front of her attacker.
The creature, she didn’t know what else to call it, screamed and grabbed her tighter. It raked its teeth along her neck, getting the mace residue in the wound. It was her turn to scream.
Wings unfurled from the creature’s back and it carried her up and up into the early morning light before dropping her.
Hawthorne smiled as he listened to her screams until they stopped with a thud. He blinked his red eyes against the dawn and swooped back inside the mall.
Tell me where it hurts. Tell me every little pain that haunts you and makes you weak.
Loving you isn’t the rotten work you make it out to be. To drown in the ecstasy of your notice is all I long for. Let me die in your arms.
Tell me in no uncertain terms who did this to you. I will make them sorry they ever touched a hair on your precious head. I will make them hurt.
Tell me where it hurts. Tell me when and where and who injured you.
The act of loving you doesn’t end at your rough and broken edges. I want to hold you tight and squeeze all my love into you so that it glues your parts back together and you are whole again.
Tell me you love me, too, so I can die in peace. I want to rest eternally in the bosom of kindness and reconciliation.
Tell me I’m not the one who did this to you; I couldn’t bear it if I had. I would rather fall on poignard than hurt you. I would rather call to the old gods and the new and draw down their notice than be the reason your smile falters.
I want my love to be as gentle as a lamb, as fierce as a lion, and as all-encompassing as the sea. I want to gather you up into my arms and never let you go.
I started a YouTube channel! I am getting ready to post my welcome video and have some ideas for the coming months. The channel will focus on book reviews and crafting- two of my dearest loves- and will also feature updates to my writing and go over my process. I hope to see you there!
I stare down at the papers strewn across my writing desk, waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve agreed to be a pen-pal to a person half a world away that I’ve never met, and I haven’t the foggiest idea what to say.
Should I write about my day? How interesting could that be? I get up, I go to work, I come home and go to bed. That’s it.
I could write about my family, but I live alone and don’t have a particularly close family. I could always write about my goldfish. His name is Blub-blubs. He mostly just floats there.
Maybe I could go into my hobbies. I stream old tv shows from the 90s. I don’t sew or craft or even have the energy to do much else.
I hear the mail truck rumble down the street and decide to walk down to pick up the bills. I wave to Fred as he pulls up to the next mailbox. He waves back.
There’s a letter from my pen-pal. My fingers tremble as I open the letter right there on the lawn.
His name is John Smith; he lives in Germany but he’s from England. He gets up and goes to work, then goes home and watches old tv shows from the 80s. He has a beta fish named Bubbles and doesn’t talk to his family much since he moved away.
I run back to my desk and write a letter back. I ask him about moving outside his country; I’ve always wanted to do that. I ask about his job and what shows he watches.
I sat down to work on the current draft of my novel this evening to find my youngest cat sleeping on the stack of papers containing all of my notes and revision. He weighs about 16 pounds. If it were either of my other two cats (also both around 16 pounds because they are all Texas-sized), I would just shift him to get it out. However, this cat is just over a year old and still loves to bite.
As my mother likes to say, “Tomorrow is also a day.”