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This is the 8th installment of GRIT’s adventure. To start at the beginning for context, start with Grim Failure.
Passing the Buck
Once again I paced nervously outside of the administration building waiting my fate—this time all alone and with no hope Shelia would arrive to comfort me.
In case I had misunderstood her message, her dad and seven brothers arrived just to circle me and explain what would happen if I ever had contact with her again. Trust me, I got the message.
Contrary to popular human belief, reapers aren’t eternal beings. That’s why we’re constantly training new recruits. We grow, we get old, and we die. But unlike humans we don’t have a soul that lives forever. When we die, we cease to exist.
There’s no danger to us when interacting in the human’s physical world; that’s why we make good reapers, or collectors of the souls. We can’t be harmed.
Reapers also can’t directly hurt each other.
So why did Shelia’s dad and brothers scare Hades out of me? Because there is one way that reapers live forever. If we are thrown into Hades before we die we will live forever, just like the human souls, in eternal torment.
I don’t understand how it works exactly, but they told us enough horror stories during our training sessions to convince me to avoid that route at all costs. All costs! That’s why when Shelia’s dad and brothers threatened to drag me to Hades, I vowed to never go near her again. I didn’t vow to them, I vowed to myself.
Stan had said he wanted to pin the whole fiasco with Daniel on Rick and I hoped he was serious. He didn’t seem like the type that would joke, ever, so I felt fairly confident that was his intention.
I still didn’t trust him though. How hard would he try? And I didn’t know if he had the persuasive powers to pull it off. How would Stan wield the kind of leverage to spin the story so a collector gets blamed instead of the reaper, especially a reaper in training? If it blew up in his face they might send us both to Hades. Why couldn’t I just follow the rules?
Finally Stan emerged with the scowl he always wore, which gave me no indication of the results of his meeting. Still, hope fluttered within when I saw he walked alone. Surely if we were in trouble he would be escorted or already locked up.
When Stan drew near his face broke into a wry smile. “You’re in the clear. They pinned the whole incident on Rick.”
My heart soared, and then crashed just as quickly. “What will happen to Rick?”
Stan waved his hand in an unconcerned manner. “That pompous windbag will be fine.”
I understood Stan’s disgruntled attitude toward his partner as I hadn’t seen much in Rick that I liked. But still, I didn’t want to see him thrown into Hades. Or fired. He was annoying and a stickler for rules, but he was good at his job.
Stan must have picked up on my concern and put my mind at ease. “Rick has a stellar record so they only demoted him.”
“I-I don’t understand. Why would they demote him for one mistake if he’s such a great employee?” This didn’t bode well for my own future.
“Like I said, he’s an arrogant prick. Nobody likes him.”
That didn’t sound fair. “So this was an excuse for them to punish him?”
“Welcome to the politics of Grim Reaper administration, kid.”
I appreciated what Stan had done for me but I didn’t like that it was at the expense of Rick.
Now for the scariest question. “What’s going to happen to me?”
“I have your next assignment.”
I threw my hands in the air, screamed, and then threw my arms around Stan. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
He wrestled away and I saw his fist ball up. I ducked and covered my head and waited for the impact that never came.
“Get up you big sissy. I’m not going to hit you. I don’t like physical contact and you’re hugging is getting on my nerve is all.”
I offered him a fist bump instead but I guess it was too late as he glared at my hand like he could melt it with his eyes.
“You’re off the hook for Daniel, thanks to Rick,” Stan chuckled before continuing. “But you’re still on probation. And I won’t mince words, even though they blame Rick, you didn’t collect your last soul, again, and you’re on your last chance. Screw this up and it’s over for you, understand?”
“What’s the assignment,” I asked, hoping it was a reasonable task. I suddenly missed Shelia and her encouraging manner.
“An earthquake in two hours. Twenty-six dead.”
That sounds worse than it is. In situations where there are massive deaths, multiple reapers are assigned to work the scene because there’s no one way for one person to keep all those souls corralled and they can easily escape. This means there are others on hand to help me if I had any trouble.
“You have a newly married couple, Jerry and Annette.”
Newly married? How tragic. But two? I can’t even capture one soul and now they assigned me two.
“They’re on their honeymoon so they’ll probably stay together. Should be easy. Besides, some reapers were assigned three souls. Between retirements, vacations, and an extra high death rate today, administration is short handed.”
Oh no, everyone had several souls meant I wouldn’t be getting any help. I was in big trouble!
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