This is two days late but better late than never, I guess? This is a continuation of my previous post, and the October Writing Challenge: Day 10.
The warmth of the mug radiated to my hands. I stared down at the hot tea, oddly entranced. I felt the condensation trickle to my fingertips. There was an odd comfort in a cup of tea. The steam raised up warmed up my face as I slowly took a sip. Familiarity, is all I could think.
After being lost in this place, the “reaper” lead me to his house and gave me tea, after I insisted. I would never go to a stranger’s home, but considering I still refuse to acknowledge this was real, I made the exception. It was homelier than I imagined. On the outside, it looked like a small bungalow but inside it was oddly spacious. The minimalist composition further added to this sparse look. There were no walls, you could see from one end of the room to the other. As I came through the doors, the small kitchen particularly stuck out. It differed from the house which was dark and stylish. The kitchen cabinets were white and the walls were a pale yellow. It also meant he had to eat and that there were places around to get food from. Both were a comforting fact.
The rest of the house was dark, which suited him. Even the couch I rest on was black. Behind me was his bedroom, with black bedsheets and a black bed frame. The walls were an array of grey.
My trance was cut short from the harsh steps of the so-called reaper. Before I could look up, I could see him pacing back and forth in my peripheral vision.”I don’t understand.”
“You and me both, dude.” Finally relaxed and embracing the new warmth, I gulped down the hot tea. I stretch on his couch and began to lay down.
“No, no” he rushed toward me before my back could rest against the leather of the couch, he placed his hand on my back and pushed me up. “No,” he repeated. “Don’t make yourself comfortable. You’re going heaven or hell. Or anywhere. But you don’t belong here.”
“Well, you’re apparently the expert, so you tell me.”
Clearly, I was a novice at this whole dying thing. He tried to retaliate he quickly stopped himself, knowing he had no argument. “Why are you relaxed now, anyway? Ten minutes ago, you were frantic, cursing me out.”
I shrugged. “Ten minutes ago, you were level-headed and carefree. Frazzled much?” I knew I was pissing off my only hope to get out but I just felt so serene. “What usually happens when someone dies?”
“I get a name and when I read the name I can see the person’s face. I wander out to the forest and in the middle of the plains, I see a body lying there. They are unconscious, laying in the place, every time. When they wake, they can’t recall their life at all but I know their life. But now, they’re in a strange place and we begin. I guide them through these wastelands, where they start to recall events and their life. When they know the truth, then they have reached the end. For each person, it’s different but it’s a gate, a gate to the next life. The final one.”
“Interesting. But it proves I’m not dead. I remember everything, my whole life. My house for example, it’s nice. Not too big but not too small. There’s the porch door which is white and leads to the black tiles and that is where we keep our shoes. Then there’s another door, a cream colour. This leads to our hallway. There’s two doors, the one with a glass pane leads to our living room. It’s all open, so we have a long room and the kitchen at the end. Above the kitchen is a skylight, which you can see from my room. The kitchen has a lot of light which I always hated a bit because it blinds me first thing in the morning. The-”
“Okay!” He cut me off clearly agitated, “I get it! Maybe just the events leading up to when I saw you?”
“There were the same shopkeepers. Nothing out of the ordinary there but the rain. I took a shortcut again not out of the ordinary. It was raining before I came here, heavy rain, it even had the same rain smell mixed with petrol and mud. And of course, weird rabid dog panting which I thought came from you.”
His eyes widened. “Hellhounds,” was all he muttered. “Did it bite you tear you limb from limb?”
“No, I ran.”
“No one could ever outrun a hellhound, especially how unfit you are from how I saw you hunched over from running. It is just so weird.”
I let him think about it, making a conscious effort not to make any sound. I good ten minutes passed and I felt his tension only increase.
I extended my hand out as a sign of friendship. “As you know my name is Alyssa. I just found it odd that we haven’t been formally introduced.”
He was wary but graciously accepted my act of kindness, remaining silent.
“This is the portion of the evening where you say your name.”
“I’m reaper, I guess.”
“That’s not a name, you must have had a name once. A life aside from reaping.”
“This is all I know. All I have ever done. I am but a reaper.”
“So how long you been doing this gig?”
“What is with the interrogation?”
“I’m trying to be friendly.”
“I think I preferred when you were threatening me.” He sighed, “as far back as I can remember. The beginning of time, I guess. I don’t know. There was no life before this for me, and there will be no life after.”
“De-pressing,” I said in a sing song tone.
“I am sorry I don’t get the same luxury as you pathetic humans.” That hurt me more than anything he said so far, I was questioning if I went too far.
It wasn’t long before he spoke again. “I apologise for my outburst. But I have seen a lot of people. I have seen their deepest darkest secrets and all their desires. I see how truly flawed they are. I am not the one to pass judgement. But I see it. I can’t pretend like I haven’t seen it.”
“I don’t want to make this about myself again but can you see anything about me, even a glimpse?”
“That’s exactly it. I see nothing. You’re blank. Usually, I see everything and when I look in their eyes I see their souls. The eyes are a window to the soul, never underestimate how true that is. I see what they don’t know about themselves. Just to summarise, paper, vision, memory lane which then leads to the gate. I’m a glorified delivery boy. With you, there’s nothing, I didn’t even realise you came here, I didn’t know your face, I know nothing about you. it irks me.”
“Maybe it’s just a delayed reaction. What if you look in my eyes like really look in them?”
“It couldn’t hurt to try,” he said with an unexpected smirk. This was the first time he even came close to a smile and I couldn’t help smiling back. We sat opposite each other, my legs were folded and he sat upright. As he stared into my eyes, I could see him once again reaching a disappointing blank. “You have black eyes,” he whispered.
I know he didn’t see my years unfold before his very eyes because I saw his. The entirety of the reaper’s existence flashed before my eyes. But he was no reaper, he may be one now, but he wasn’t from the start as he believed. There is more to his story, that he has yet to learn. A sad story, a boy born destined to live a normal life, he lived a boy but died before he became a man. As my vision became clouded and I felt a dampness on my face, I could barely see his face change. Empathy. Something he hadn’t felt in years despite the thousands of people who previously broke down in front of him.
“Micah,” was all that came from my lips.
He looked at her in disarray, completely unaware of all that she had seen. He began to wipe my tears with his thumb, which I know that he hasn’t ever been compelled to do this for any other soul. That only made me tear up more. I abruptly stood up, startling him slightly. My back was turned to him, and quickly wiped my eyes with my sleeves.
I felt eyes behind me staring a hole through the back of my head, as I tried to regain my composure around this stranger a second time today. I dug my hands deeps into my pocket and felt a roughness at the bottom, which I brushed over with my thumb. I took out the foreign object, which was a scrunched-up piece of paper which I had never seen before. As I unfolded it, it revealed the new name I had just learnt.
I could decipher my new role which I really wish I didn’t have to take.