No one has a terribly accurate picture of what happens after you die. I mean, seriously, it’s not like there’s a place to leave reviews or rate the experience.
I’d heard the various theories before: reincarnation, nothingness, heaven or hell. I subscribed to the heaven or hell idea myself, but to each their own.
That being said, I had never thought about what exactly you saw right after… well, you know. The big D.
What I did not expect was to find myself standing outside my crushed car, looking at my destroyed body behind the wheel and the Grim Reaper looking back at me from the other side of the car.
“Seriously? The whole hooded black cloak and scythe shtick?”
To my surprise, the Grim Reaper leaned the scythe against the fender of my car and threw back its hood.
Adding to my mounting disbelief, there was a quite normal woman’s head atop the cloaked form.
“I was expecting a skull.”
In my defense, I had just died. Apparently my sense of humor had gone into overdrive trying to compete with my mouth to see who could be the driest. I licked my lips and tried to swallow.
Anything for a little saliva. While I tried to moisten both my mouth and my sense of humor, the Reaper smiled at me.
“Actually, there are a number of us who serve as reapers. And no, none of us are skeletons."
With that, her cloak seemed to contract and melt into a stylish outfit, though every piece was still just as black.
Mouth agape, I was now face to face with a pretty woman with honey blond hair.
I will admit, the fitted black blouse, black slacks and black heels were a huge improvement in the looks department. Also in the not-make-people-who-see-you-piss-themselves department.
“Let’s walk and talk” she suggested. I opened my mouth. “You can call me Nicole,” she said, beating me to the punch. I closed my mouth.
Taking up her scythe, it too seemed to ripple and melt, just as her cloak had.
A heartbeat later Nicole was holding a small black pistol, which she slipped into the waistband of her slacks and covered with the tail of her blouse.
She started down the shoulder of the road, and lacking any other options, I fell into step beside her.
“When people die, most go straight through to heaven or hell. But there are a few… specialized positions available in between here and there.
One of those jobs is orchestrating deaths when the time is right. Reaping.”
“That’s where you guys, I mean, the Reapers come in?” She nodded. “Like Heaven’s hitmen?” I winced as soon as that one left my mouth, but to my surprise Nicole actually smirked a little.
“Something like that. Basically, one of us will be assigned to a person as their time approaches. Sometimes the situation dictates that we strike without warning.
Other times it happens without us being involved, and we just pull the soul away from the body. Your car accident for example; the impact broke your neck.
I just pulled your soul out of your body.”
We walked a few paces while I processed this. “So what was the deal with your cloak and your scythe?” I asked, curious. She nodded approvingly.
“I’m glad that you’re taking this so well. The scythe and cloak are both our badge of office and our tools.
In their natural form they appear just as you saw them, but we can change them into whatever we like.
The cloak will appear to others as any type of clothing I wish, and the scythe will both appear and function like any weapon I want as well.”
This intrigued me. “So the scythe could be a gun, obviously, but it could be a sword? Or a bow and arrow? Or a plastic bag to suffocate people?”
She gave me another smirk. “Yes, yes, and I suppose. I’ll admit I’ve never seen a Reaper suffocate someone with a scythe-bag.”
“And the cloak, I could change it into a suit and tie or into a Hawaiian shirt and shorts?”
Her smirk turned wistful. “It can be any style of clothes that the wearer desires, yes. As far as color goes, it’s more along the lines of the model T."
Catching my puzzled look, she clarified, “You can have any color you want, as long as it’s black.”
“Makes sense I guess. Might be a bit disconcerting to die and find Death dressed like Magnum P.I.”
Nicole actually threw back her head and laughed. It was a nice laugh, clear and uninhibited, though I got the sense that it hadn’t been used in a while.
Nicole wiped her eyes with the back of one hand and shook her head. “You are funny. No one’s made me laugh in about eighty years.”
Even though I was dead, some things do not appear to change. One of those is that when you make a beautiful woman laugh, your automatic next action is to try and do it again.
Fortunately for my dignity, I couldn’t come up with a decent follow-up witticism, so we walked in silence for a moment.
Nicole stopped and turned to me. “We’d like to offer you a position as a Reaper. You can choose to accept or not, there aren’t any consequences either way.”
“You offer it to everybody who dies?”
Nicole shook her head. “On the contrary, it is not offered often, or indiscriminately. The Reapers get a notice about the people who are to be offered a position. That’s why you got me, actually."
I smiled at her. “You’re the Reaper recruiter?”
Her lips twitched upwards, not quite making it to a smile. “Let’s just say that I’m one of the less… quirky Reapers.
Some of us have been reaping for millennia, and it has a way of making some of us… unique.”
“Quirky? Unique? What do you mean?”
She sighed. “Some Reapers get very sad. Some get creative and some get a little sadistic. Some get a little… grim.” She grinned as I groaned.
“Alistair, for example, wears a Victorian mortician’s suit with an ebony walking stick. Jack uses a medieval jester’s outfit and a straight razor.
Like I said, you do this for quite a while and it produces some interesting results.”
She cleared her throat, her face growing more businesslike. “So, I am formally offering you a position as a Reaper. You’ll intern with me for a year, then you can go out on your own assignments.
What do you say?”
“Can I have some time to think about it?”
Nicole shook her head. “Sorry, I need an answer now.”
I nodded. “Why not. Might be fun.”
Nicole smiled and extended a hand. We shook and she produced a bundle of black cloth from somewhere.
I pulled the black cloak over my head and was surprised to find that it was made from the softest material I’d ever felt.
Man if I could sell this stuff it’d put cashmere and silk out of business in a week.
When I looked up after settling the cloak about my shoulders, Nicole was holding out a scythe and a small signet ring.
I took the scythe in my right hand as she took my left hand and slipped the signet ring onto my pinky finger.
“The ring lets you access the powers and abilities available to the Reapers. I’ll teach you how to use it over the next year.”
The ring was, unsurprisingly, made of a glossy black metal and fitted with a rectangular piece of obsidian.
Finished with my study of the ring, I hefted the scythe and found it to be much lighter than I expected. “How do I make my clothes and scythe change like you did?”
“Close your eyes and focus on your scythe and clothes in your mind. Then picture them changing into whatever you like.”
I closed my eyes and focused. I didn’t feel anything happening. Obviously it took some practice to change things as easily as Nicole had earlier.
I concentrated harder and suddenly felt a tingling, tickling sensation run over my body. I opened my eyes, hoping that everything had worked the way I wanted.
I mean, it’d be really embarrassing if I forgot to imagine my pants having a seat to cover my ass wouldn’t it?
Looking down, I found myself wearing a stylish black suit over an open necked dress shirt and vest.
My left wrist sported a blacked out Rolex Sea Dweller and my right hand gripped a sleek pistol with a suppressor. I slipped the gun into a shoulder holster and looked at Nicole.
She nodded approvingly. “Very nice. Ready to go?”
I nodded, and she swept her left hand, inscribing an arch in the air. A black doorway flowed into existence as her fingers brushed through the air. She reached out and took my hand in hers.
“Portal travel can be a bit disorienting your first time. Just hang onto my hand and you’ll get the hang of it in no time.”
I rolled my eyes, but smiled at the same time. I think I was going to enjoy my new job.