(Grim Reaper tells a
She perished in a catastrophe
at one of the Moon-Belt Space Stations. A final freak explosion reduced her
remains to radioactive spores of frozen blood.
I showed to collect, finding
space an infinitely cold horror. Foolish flesh-and-blood pioneers think they
can endure outer space, but I prefer it naked, radioactive, and untamed.
Rescuing her vitals in my own style of black hole, I returned and scattered
the ashes over December’s northern sky.
In the upper gloom, fire then
ice formed a cocoon that kept me secure, and I managed to land wearing a
mane of fused snowflakes. I shivered and shook them off. My eyes glossed
over with cold tears and at first I saw nothing but charcoal outlines.
Raising my head to the sky, I viewed dark streaks brushed into a canvass of
dull mercury, and though it was 4:30 in the afternoon, it was so dark it
seemed like night had fallen.
Usually I arrive in random
city locations as a way to kill boredom. This time I’d picked a forgotten
semi industrial zone near Toronto’s waterfront. A spot so dull and destitute
it made even the strong feel wretched.
There wasn’t a soul on the
narrow street. Snow powder sifted down on a lot filled with frozen mud crust
and rusty machinery. I could see Christmas decorations and signs on a new
condo & shops tower two blocks away. The rush of distant traffic drifted to
my ears, and I gathered that this was one of those tiny pockets of nowhere
that exist in every city. The area apparently owned by a stray black cat
scampering north to a fence at the end of the lot.
I decided to follow him into
the city, but paused to choose my mode of travel. One of the good things
about my line of work is having the power to do anything, if it’s required
to insure death and the maintenance of the supernatural status quo.
Unfortunately, I lack imagination and in modern times, I’ve often turned to
comic books and movies for inspiration. It would be possible to … leap into
town like the Incredible Hulk … or slide in like the Ice Man … how about
adding some sizzle and scorch to those huge corporate ads as the Flaming
Torch. Then there’s plain old Superman or Bizarro … or maybe plain old me.
… and that became my
decision. Go in on foot and mask myself with the usual cloak of shadows.
There really wasn’t a reason to hurry, and I often go for a reflective walk
Exhaling a gust of wind, I
tumbled the yellow-painted machinery aside and crossed on a curled lip of
frozen mud. A section of the fence slammed into a concrete wall; I went
through and around to a wide avenue. Traffic raced in a smoggy underpass. I
strolled past a handful of homeless people resting by a fire burning on
cement shelves under the steel beams. Rancid odors filled my nose as I
reflected on misery. Around the world people perished like flies and my
minions didn’t have a sack of black magic big enough to sweep things clean.
Global economics and war
favored the extinction of all but the rich celebrity and consumer classes.
Even devils lost in this game … innocent bodies piling to mountains, leading
to an overcrowded heaven and a hell populated by corporate CEOs, investors,
warmongers, terrorists and the guests of celebrity talk shows. Oil, greed,
meanness and spite had polluted the environment and were the basis of the
contemporary Christmas spirit. As the Grim Reaper and CEO of Death
Incorporated I’ve always viewed myself as a nice guy compared to some of
them … and of course they all fall into my clutches in the end. Squashing
some of the big fish has always been the most enjoyable part of my job.
The scene and my mood began
to brighten in the commercial core, beginning with the sparkle and flash of
lights in an open area of decorated outdoor trees. A scatter of signs and
ads on a street of malls spilled blurred designer neon through swirling
snow. The ads spread like tattooed skin, blemishing nearly every open area
of public space.
If the denizens of this city
were a product of their environment, they were all on sale … but in spite of
that they hurried by looking somewhat dazed and frustrated. Many of them
were out shopping for presents, and I began to wonder – what to give? There
are no letters asking for gifts from me, but every Christmas I give a gift
of some kind to the locals … wherever I happen to be.
It’s always an original gift
idea … but this year a worldwide recession and the usual mass death had
guillotined my imagination and giving mood. Nothing seemed right. I felt
more like killing myself and escaping my dirty job. I scratched my throbbing
head … hum … what better gift than to finish myself? It would be original,
and I’d leave the world devoid of death … or at least technically so. People
would still get sick, bodies would fail, but the soul would remain to
animate the rotting corpse. It would be ghostly and ghastly immortality, and
eternal grief. People would appreciate me, and my past services.
I knew better than to finish
myself in a shabby way. It would have to be dramatic. Stopping I searched my
empty skull for ideas … and I found none … but I did notice a huge tower and
settled on jumping to my death. The CN Tower would be fitting as one of the
tallest in the world. I was in town to clean up after a brainwashed American
CIA operative posing as a terrorist suicide-bombed a dance club inside a
mall … so maybe I could jump there and steal the show with my own death.
And that was the deal. Leap
from the tower and descend to the mall. Annihilate myself by crashing
through the skylight, upstaging the creep before his bomb detonated. “A
great idea,” I thought, cracking my knuckles as I turned down a snow blown
I took the elevator up to the
tower restaurant, finding the dining area packed with business types. With
me, people usually see what they want to see so I didn’t look out of place …
though I did feel out of place.
My last meal was a quiet one
with much more wine than food. I never did eat much, which is probably why
I’m a bag of bones. The friendly chatter and laughter around me failed to
cheer me. I knew that booze was doing the talking. Purposely emptying my
mind, I gazed at a pleasant smear of window decorations, frost and city
lights. I didn’t want to think or remember. My mental buzz faded, but I
remained irritated by a faint odor of death emanating from a few drunken
hockey fans at a table nearby.
When the time was right I
strolled to the window, raised my arms and used fake lightning … blasting
out a circular section. High winds and snow swept in and tore up the tables,
and I had to put it all in reverse to get blown out.
An inspirational current of
air took me, and I felt some satisfaction in detecting a chain of heart
attacks hitting the panicked patrons of the restaurant.
Canyons of colored lights
tilted drunkenly below. My coat billowed with wind and flurries and I yelled
in celebration, sending out a noisy blast that briefly stopped hearts for
blocks on the ground.
A fast stream of wind teased
and iced my hair. I used it and my coat as a slow sail, guiding me over the
tops of the skyscrapers toward the location fate and death had marked.
Snow swirled into twisted
fingers that clutched at the bright tumble of buildings. The thrust of
nature seemed to be to hang on … when I had let go.
In a moment of illusion, the
entire city took form as a jeweled Christmas decoration, then it trembled
and shattered to bones.
The building I approached
rose as a random asteroid, a central glass cone shining like crystal among
the surrounding towers. I was close enough to see a flow of shoppers
swelling to crowds at the revolving doors below. My feelings, like theirs,
seemed part of an artificial dream … like maybe I’d wake up and realize I’d
been made of wood all along … yet I still sailed on blindly toward that
For a long moment, the whole
universe felt wonderfully counterfeit … then genuine realization hit me.
“Yikes! I forgot about the
part where your life passes before you!”
I choked on a flurried gust
as a mightier force took me. A black wave crested in to blind the light.
Everybody and that’s every person that had died opened a damp coffin in my
memory … bursting forth as an explosion of corpses from a foul graveyard
world. Ghostly pale, blue and bruised and battered, spitting out rainbows of
tears, pus, venom, blood and vomit as their gaping mouths sought to torment
Ghastly legions they trampled
and stained my heart and soul. Their vengeful spirits sought gods and devils
to devour. An ocean of skulls swam in my brain, making my thoughts waters of
pain and loss. So many of them had found some pathetic little reason to live
… some poisonous little thread to cling to … and they wanted to hang on and
pull themselves back through me.
Hunger stood behind their
dreams. It was all they’d ever had … and if they returned, they’d clamp jaws
of death from pole to pole.
Their faces rose by the
thousands in hideous fireworks … vivid and gut wrenching … John Kennedy shot
by his double … Elvis choking on pizza … Hitler eaten by lions in Africa …
John Lennon trying to fend off Paul’s knife . . . it overwhelmed me and I
blacked out … then I awoke and found myself still falling in the dark.
Various shops and eateries
showed under the glass sky-roof below. I looked about for the destined spot
– a crowded dance club – aimed for it, and spun head-over-heels in the wind
as I collided with three levels of steel and glass.
The impact was merciless. A
thousand razor edges sheared my flesh. Wind followed to explode the entire
roof behind me, and like the crest of a deadly wave I rode a pounding
drumbeat down to the dancers on the floor … hitting them as a stinging rain
of blood and needles.
A tremendous mood of rest
followed. I felt lifeless, empty, and free at last. Peaceful clouds drifted
down a vast sky, and there wasn’t any pain or excitement. Then it ended with
the clouds darkening and forming a divine frown.
I woke in the dance club,
finding myself on the bar counter … or at least my head was there. The rest
of my body had gone AWOL. Most of the people had exited. About twenty
remained and they were spattered with blood and working to carry out a few
that were wounded. My past power of death seemed converted to a weaker form
that created a lot of work for plastic surgeons. I didn’t see any casualties
other than myself.
Three burly club security
guys scoured the floor, overturning tables in a search for buried victims.
One table remained erect and it had a bloody torso on it. They greeted it
with frightened stares and backed off. A severed arm and leg appeared when
some other gruesome rubble was cleared.
A redheaded man with double
earrings in each lobe approached the bar. His eyes widened to pools of black
when he saw me. He was about to say something to the others. Then I scowled
and his words caught in his throat. Dust helped him choke more as he turned
and hurried to the door.
Sirens from approaching
rescue vehicles grew louder. The security men went out to meet them, leaving
me alone to contemplate my future as a severed head. I viewed it as a
crippling disability to say the least. Bad enough that if I didn’t die from
it I’d be forced to live on as a revolting wretch that people pitied.
Pulling the plug on me
would’ve been the best thing, but the higher powers never were open-minded
about euthanasia … and that unfortunate fact got highlighted a moment later
with new movement in the room. My right arm was climbing to me and my torso
was coming to life. I felt a tenuous connection to it and faint pain that
got much worse when it oozed off the table.
It slid to me, leaving a wake
of glass and blood. Other body parts and torn bits of flesh and hair
followed. So it meant I was getting it all together again in spiritual
healing that hurt like hell … or at least my body was giving it a try before
being rudely interrupted.
Police burst in … a half
dozen of them … the two men in the lead armed with rifles. They saw me and
the team leader spoke to the others.
“What is that thing? Is it
alive or dead?”
“Better shoot it to make
sure,” said a black cop on the right.
“Go ahead, it won’t make any
difference,” I said, spinning my head completely around on my neck as I
Then he aimed the weapon and
was about to shoot, but didn’t get the shot off because the side service
elevator suddenly opened and the scheduled suicide bomber stepped into the
The gun’s aim swung to him. A
look of surprise painted his face. “Shit, I forgot about him,” I thought,
remembering that he’d been destined to kill nearly everyone in the club, and
would have done so had I not interfered. But what the heck, eh ... the
reaper is only inhuman and sometimes personal problems get in the way of the
A finger tightened on the
trigger. A hand went to a button on a belt … then the whole place went up in
flames … and I was back on the job. But this time I used my powers and let
the rest of the suckers die.
So out on the shadowy street
they saw something coming out of the billowing smoke … and they described
the explosion like this
… Away from the fire they
flew in a flash … and the shout was … on Dasher! Dancer! Now Prancer and
Vixen! … on Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
… to the top of the scrapers
… the top of the night … as loose snow before the wild hurricane flies …
when it meets with a demon and mounts to the skies
… so up to the stars,
lifeless monsters they flew, with the sleigh full of skulls, and dead St.
… He dressed all in doom,
from his horns to his hooves … and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes
and soot … a bundle of souls he’d flung on his back, and he looked like
Satan opening his pack
... his cheeks were like
webbing, his nose like a bone … and from his sleigh, to his team rose a cold
whistle, away they all flew like the barbs of a thistle … and we heard him
exclaim, ere he shot out of sight … HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A
---The End ---