Once again it’s time for a fun adventure. Enjoy my story below, then follow the links to other stories of participating authors in the blog hop. Leave us comments. We love hearing from you!
This is the 11th installment of GRIT’s adventure. To start at the beginning for context, start with Grim Failure.
The Final Verdict
I had received notice last night to appear before the court first thing this morning. We were less than two days after the earthquake. They hadn’t wasted any time making a decision about my future.
I entered the large domed courtroom that felt like overkill for me, the seven judges, and the lone observer. Samantha sat in the front row, to my right, flashing me an encouraging smile. I nodded in appreciation. I know she was trying to be supportive but honestly, her presence made me feel worse. The one person who had been kind to me was about to witness my lowest and most embarrassing moment—being stripped of my reaper responsibilities and likely demoted to a permanent desk job. That’s if I was lucky and didn’t receive punishment for negligence of clear protocol.
The judges sat in a semi-circle, elevated I’m sure to lord themselves over the lower class—in this case, me. I felt every bit the miniscule lowly nobody they viewed me as. The older lady in the center peered above her glasses and called my name.
I stood, my wobbly legs barely able to support my weight. Slowly, as if I could delay the inevitable, I approached the podium, encased within the semi-circle.
The door opened behind me and in the large, mostly empty hall, the door’s creak and shuffling of footsteps echoed. I watched as a short figure dressed in a long dark coat with the hood pulled down far enough that the dim lighting made it impossible to see their face. Obviously one of the higher-ranking reapers here to amuse himself with the destruction of a former up-and-coming youngster. I guess when you constantly deal with death you come up with odd and obscure ways to entertain yourself. Maybe this guy enjoyed a morbid sense of enjoyment.
The visitor had received my attention but not that of her majesty on high. After eyeing me for an uncomfortably long time, she looked down and read from a prepared statement.
“You have been summoned here today to receive final judgment for your Grim Reaper in Training period, your subsequent probationary period, and the results of such actions.”
I tried to swallow but my dry throat caused me to lapse into a coughing fit. I apologized once I regained control and wanted to shrink even more under the glare coming from the seven judges.
Final judgment? I gripped the podium to keep myself from collapsing. Those words carried so much weight. I wanted to tune out the rest but forced myself to focus on the statement.
“The court has taken into account the subject’s academic as well as professional record, and listened to the testimonies of co-workers—both peers and those in seniority positions, as well as administrative personnel. Our decision, while not unanimous, is final and not available for appeal.”
While hearing the judge announce that an appeal wasn’t an option would normally have bothered me, I couldn’t help but feel a little giddy. I wanted to ask her to reread the last part, where she announced the decision wasn’t unanimous. That meant at least one of the judges didn’t think I was the worst of the worst. With my recent track record I had to take the victories where I could.
I had no intention of appealing their ruling. Whatever they threw my way I had deservedly earned.
“As of sundown last night you are no longer a reaper in training. It is mandated by this panel that you be promoted to a full-time Grim Reaper with all the benefits thereof. You are to report immediately to administration for your first assignment as a Reaper. You will report directly to Stan in all matters regarding your Reaper responsibilities until such time as this panel rules otherwise. This verdict is final and binding. We are dismissed.”
The judge slammed down her gavel and the judges exited single file. Samantha clapped and squealed with delight, then gave me a hug while I stood unmoved, stunned at what I had just heard.
“I’m so happy for you.”
“That…I…What just happened?”
Samantha beamed, smiling from ear to ear. “I told you I owed you my life. You said the most important thing to you was working as a reaper so I convinced my uncle to pull a few strings. You earned this with your bravery. Stan just made sure the judges recognized that fact.”
Stan. She must have a strong pull on her uncle to convince him to help me. Even in helping me though, he had himself set up as my superior so he would always have leverage over me. Still, I couldn’t let that sour the fact that I was going to be, no, I was a real, fully commissioned reaper. I didn’t know what to say.
“Like I said, I owe you my life. If there’s ever anything else you need, find me. Or ask Stan. He’ll take care of you.”
After Samantha left I sat for a minute, gathering my strength (my legs still felt weak) and trying to process the last few minutes. I felt a mix of relief, fear, and anxiety. What would happen if I continued to screw up? Would the panel revoke their decision? Would Stan expose my incompetence? I suddenly felt like I had even more pressure on me than before.
The light dimmed as a shadow swept over me. I had been so lost in thought that I hadn’t noticed the approaching footsteps, even in the empty, quiet room. Standing above me was the hooded reaper that had entered earlier. With all of the excitement I had forgotten about him. When I looked up I could see inside the hood. It wasn’t a reaper. Or a he.
I stood excitedly. “Sheila!”
I tried to hug her but she put up a hand and whispered. “Shh! Nobody can know I’m here.”
Was she that embarrassed to be seen with me? I whispered back. “I’m sorry. Why the disguise?”
“My dad is friends with several of the judges. I can’t risk him knowing I was here.”
“He still hates me.”
What flicker of hope I had felt that she might be here to resume a romantic relationship diminished when she nodded.
“He’s mad that the judges promoted you to a reaper. He tried to talk them out of it but apparently you have someone with a lot of persuasion. Plus…” she scanned the room and once satisfied, dropped her voice even further. “Because the investigation was able to question the souls that tried to drag you and Samantha to Hades, they uncovered some corruption that was targeting Stan and a few of the higher-ups. It’s all hush-hush.”
That had my head spinning and created so many questions. Who knew about the corruption? Is that why I was promoted? Was Sheila’s dad involved?
“You said your dad didn’t want me to become a reaper…” I don’t know how to ask if he was involved and that’s why he wanted me punished.
Sheila, like she always has, read my mind. “He thinks it’s great that your actions exposed the conspiracies. But he thinks it was just luck on your part and that you don’t deserve to be a full-time reaper. Plus, he thinks if you’re working in administration I’m less likely to be interested.”
I wanted to ask if she was still interested but I knew it didn’t matter. “I miss you.” I knew it wouldn’t make a difference but it was true. “You were the only one who believed in me.”
She shyly glanced toward the courtroom door. “She was pretty.”
“Who? Oh, Samantha. Yeah, I guess so.” It wasn’t that I hadn’t noticed, it’s just that Samantha seemed more like the older sister type than a potential dating prospect. Besides, when we parted, nothing was mentioned about us ever seeing each other again.
“I wish you the best. I have to go.”
She gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and hurried away.
I wanted to run after her but knew it was pointless. I wanted to sit and wonder about how my life had suddenly changed in the last few minutes. I wanted to go home and tell my parents the good news about my promotion.
But I had to report to administration. I had a reaper job to do!
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