Grim is Coming to Town
© By Gary L Morton
(Grim Reaper’s Christmas tale)
Reaper’s note: I’m not alive or dead or in the past or present. English is not my first language, so stay with me as I try to tell a human sort of tale.
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 near Christmas.
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 world wide 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 alley.
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 sky-scrapers 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 final revelation.
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 me.
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 got 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 spoke.
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 room.
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 job.
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. Nicholas too.
… 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 GOOD-NIGHT!
---The End ---