Long Way Down
(a grim reaper tale)
© By Gary Morton (2,100 words)


    New Year's Eve a long way back, I think. Yeah, that's it. I remember the trees blazing with lights - and the explosion.

    The story starts in Toronto at the city hall square, just after sunset. I was sitting on a stone bench by the skating rink, killing the boredom by sipping whiskey from an ancient silver flask. Children skated clumsily by - a blur of colors and innocent voices in my mind. I knew a black event was about to occur, and it began with a grim-faced and disgraced politician named Howard S. emerging over at the big oak front doors. The guy had decided to kill himself with industrial dynamite and my job was to collect him.

    Howard didn't hesitate; he stopped and started snapping his cheap plastic lighter. It worked but he couldn't get at the twined fuses. I studied him with interest then the action got blocked because a giant cop noticed my liquor flask and stepped from the dazzle of Christmas lights to hassle me.

    “Can't drink at this costume party, Mr. Reaper,” he said, holding out his lumpy hand for the flask. “It’ll be a night in jail for you, for your own safety.”

    “Say, officer - see that guy over there,” I said as I buried the booze in my cloak. “He's got a big knife hidden in his coat.”

    The cop frowned and looked. He saw chubby Howard S. behaving suspiciously, toying with something large inside his winter trench coat, and decided to forget me and walk over and check.

    He got there just as the dynamite went off - it was the two of them in that part of the square and it looked quite spectacular … the whole thing hitting me in drunken slow motion. The bodies flying apart like cork flares of blood, bone and torn cloth; a cooked torso shooting over the city Peace Garden. A lot of flesh vanished in the flash fire, but the politician's false teeth and his bloody jawbone landed near the skating rink among a crowd of horrified parents.

    Panic followed - I decided to avoid the fleeing crowd by walking through the area of the explosion, and was just stepping on the blast-cracked concrete when the yelling started. Damn booze, I’d forgotten to make myself invisible and now a bunch of uniformed guards and cops were running toward me - guns drawn, with the idea that I was the terrorist who’d just struck. I don't suppose being and looking like the Grim Reaper helped me much.

    But it did help in that I cast a long shadow, and as they ran into it they died … the bodies of the first two cops thumping to the cold cement just beneath the band shell.

    Glock muzzles flashed and hot bullets dug into me - and enough was enough. I vanished into shifting smoke and shadows and stepped from the veil at the side of a skyscraper a block away. Shaking off the lead, I noticed I was on an empty street beside a hotel Christmas display and a newspaper box. And as I started to walk away the headline caught my eye - Fourth Grim Reaper Mutilation Killing.

    Melting the box open, I grabbed a copy and read the article. The story meant I would stay in town. A sort of copyright thing - I don't allow others to impersonate me in the death business. It could cause confusion.

    “Hum,” I wondered where to find this guy. But I couldn't think as the Christmas lights on the hotel were blinding me. Flashing bulbs created an animation of Santa waving, and sent waves of pain into my brain. I popped on shades of darkness and all went comfortably gray.

    Best way to trace a man is from his point of death - and this guy had one, but it was murky and unsettled. Perhaps it was as yet undecided as to who would get to him first and kill him. Trying a different angle, I switched my view to see all people in the city dressed in Reaper costume. Turned out there were two hundred of them and the effect of it nearly knocked me over.

    “Son of a Bitch!” I raised a fist, forgetting that I still had my deadly silver-knuckled gloves on. A stray bolt flew from them and struck a man emerging on the marbled steps of a nearby building. He had no chance to scream. Cooked, he fell to the cement.

    Walking over I noticed the building sign said it was the Supreme Court, and as I tossed the man's spirit into the black velvet of a temporary holding pit, I gathered that he was a judge. His body looked like a rather large and burned roast, the blood still bubbling up. Gazing at him, it saddened me that my mistake was much like many of his rulings - arbitrary and deadly. Now the poor chap would just have to wait in the holding pits with the rest.

    Deciding it would be better to think things out over a drink; I turned back and went over to the hotel. Sirens were screaming over near the square, the hotel bar seemed safe, but as I got through the first set of doors, I found myself confronted by a bouncer and an armed task force cop.

    The cop raised a Remington rifle - “Don't even think of moving.”

    “Drop dead,” I replied, and they both did and I stepped over them and found my way to the bar.

    The dark paneling oozed dampness and smoke, the lights flickered. Invisible, I drifted in the visions of my shades, studying the various people in Reaper costume. My target finally came into view in a house in the north part of the city. He was a muscular guy grinning at his mirror. I would've passed him over but a telltale woman's scalp hanging from a nail on his closet gave him away.

    Taking a moment, I read his mind, and found that his New Year was to be celebrated with a killing. Since I've never really liked big parties, I decided to join him. To profile him, I would say he was handsome, a solid build, and he had all those friendly and traditional qualities of the psychopath that American publishers enjoy. After his death, he would live on in books titled either Grim or Reaper. But let's keep in mind that I am Grim Reaper, and I don't write for American publishers. So in spite of his heroic charm, I can say that to me he was just a nuisance and in need of punishment.


    His lair wasn't in his home. It was located in a dead portion of sewer beneath an abandoned silo on the waterfront. I chose to get there at 11:30, fifteen minutes ahead of him.

    Looking around I found his base choice of atmosphere good, but his taste in detail effeminate. A small altar of rose marble was used for animal sacrifice. Daggers were decorated with grinning imps. He even had a miniature chainsaw with a pearl handle. The place smelled pretty, herbs and dead flowers everywhere. He kept the corpses somewhere else.

    The chainsaw was a nice little weapon - I tried a few sample slashes with it then kept it and toyed with it as I waited on a stool behind a black linen curtain off from the altar.

    A minute later, the killer showed with an unconscious blond victim in tow. I listened as he tossed her down on a straw mat and undressed her. She came to and screamed as he was arranging his knives and humming a sort of rap tune to himself.

    This disturbed him and he turned to her and threw a dagger into the wall beside her. His golden curls fell foppishly in his face as he put on a nasty grimace. “Scream and scream, my lady. Because soon your head will be gone.”

    And he was correct in that statement - in reading his mind I had noted that he was a very dull serial killer who first cut the victim's head off with a chainsaw. Sort of like a butcher, he preferred to work with dead meat.


    His pre-death ritual was long and boring. The decisive moment came when he decided to seize his chainsaw and discovered that it wasn't there on its stand.

    A ghastly look got stamped on his cold-carved face as he realized that someone had been there, defiling his lair. He began to look around suspiciously, and then he walked over and pulled the curtain open.

    His jaw dropped.

    “Looking for this?” I said as I raised the chainsaw.

    He countered by backing off and raising two daggers - I pulled the cord and tossed the buzzing weapon. Dropping the blades, he caught the handle, nearly chopping his balls off as he tried to balance the saw, then his angry eyes widened as he stared at me.

    “What's your game?” he said. “And how did you find me?”

    “My game is death. If I found you, guess that means you're dead.”

    The captive lady heard this and whimpered and cried.

    But he didn't - he just restarted the chainsaw and charged.

    A crude killer, he moved in with force to thrust the saw through my chest. Blood gushed from the wound and I went back against the wall, groaning before releasing a death wheeze and rattle. Then I slid to the floor and the animal kept cutting, staring into my open but dead eyes.

    Tossing the gore-soaked saw aside, he put his hand right into the bleeding hole in my chest. “I'm going to eat your heart,” he said, hot saliva spraying my face. But you don't seem to have ... a heart.”

    My eyes ignited. “Grim Reaper has no heart,” I said, black pupils sucking him in, and then he was falling as he flew back and crashed into the altar.

    I rose, chainsaw in hand. “Now, let's see if you have a heart. Cause if you do you’re a fake Grim Reaper.”

    He shook. He stuttered. “You really are the Reaper.” Then he grinned. “So this is a warning, right. You can't kill me and you can't save her. I know the rules. The Grim Reaper collects people who are already dead. You can't play God.”

    Pausing, I popped the cork off a slim silver flask and took a swallow. “Theologically and morally you are correct. But who said you had to die?”

    “What?” he said.

    “This,” I replied as I threw the chainsaw. It buzzed into him and stayed humming as I stepped over. Throwing down my shades, I froze him in a wave of darkness. Then I grabbed the saw and cut him open. Violet organs and tubes spilled out and hung. I removed his heart and put it in his open hand.

    Turning away, I lifted my shades and smiled at the lovely blond lady. “Later,” I said, and she vanished and reappeared somewhere in the dark city night.

    Spinning around, I roused him and said. “There you are - theologically and morally correct. You are alive. You feel no pain and you no longer have a heart. Unless you count the one you are holding in your hand.”

    “Duh, duh,” he said, horror on his face as he looked down at his gutted chest and the heart in his hand. “I can't live like this.”

    “Ah, I see. You can't live without a heart like the Reaper. Then die, you fake!”

    Silver in the abyss. The scythe swung and he fell in darkness. “And hold onto your heart,” he heard me say. “Cause it's a hell of a long way down.”

    And down echoes with him, in the pit … forever.

    Then I resolved to be theologically correct in the future.

    “I won't kill people anymore,” I said to myself as I leapt up and out. “Time to hang up my lightning gloves.”

    Only I forgot to dematerialize into the night and I knocked down the sewer wall and about half of the concrete silo. About ten policemen were out there, preparing to raid the place. The debris came down and crushed them all.

    New Year's resolutions never did work for me - It’s a cruel world isn't it? Life itself is long way down. Better to be dead in the first place.

    . . . . . . . . . . .