“There are many tales and legends of the Grim Reaper. One thing remains consistent. If you see him you died and he’s come to collect your soul. So, if you see a man or a woman with a scythe, stand tall and tell them to ‘Sod off!’ it’s your soul and you have a right to keep it!”
I wrote this story in answer to the following prompts:
Ragtag Daily Prompt — Cleanser
Pensitivity’s Three Things Challenge — Build, Reaped, Late
Fandango’s One Word Challenge — Basic
Word of the Day — Barmecide
The skeletal spectre you see is the Grim Reaper. He is the personification of death. The cleanser of spirits. His demonic scythe, the tool he wields to sever souls from their earthly bodies. They say; if you see him your time on Earth is done.
Mara Gault worked as an anthropologist and archaeologist. Her current research was within the tunnel-like crypts under the city cathedral. She’d been given the unenviable task of recording and researching all the names of those interred beneath those underground curved ceilings.
The tunnels branched into a good two dozen crypts. Each with stone sarcophagi and walls filled with funerary niches. A thousand years of life and death locked away beneath the city.
It was always cold in the tunnels; today the breeze was chilling. Mara pulled her shawls over her shoulders as a tremble passed through her body.
“What was that?” Mara looked from the niche belonging to Sir Aelfred Cannons AD1538— at least he should be in there; if his stone was correct.
Thunk — Thunk
Gazing through her oval glasses towards the crypt’s arched doorway, Mara listened intently. “That’s footsteps within the shuttling of material and a cane striking the floor! But how? I locked the gate behind me. Nobody else can be down here with me,” she whispered causing a cloud of steamy vapour to rise from her lips.
“I’d run. Death comes for you!” said a voice permeating the ether of the room.
Mara flinched. Her chest tightened as she turned and failed to see anybody close to her. “That’s it, time for a coffee break,” she determined. Grabbing her paperwork from the sarcophagus of Lady Catherine Argus AD1605, she left the crypt.
Thunk — Thunk
Wood striking the stone floor echoed along the tunnel. The orange lights and dark spaces between created dark voids in lines disappearing into the depths of the crypts. It was from there something stalked toward her.
“No! Leave me alone!” Mara demanded as fear set her feet running toward the exit.
“There is nothing to fear in death. It is but the basic conclusion to life. The sands of time run out for us all. Grain by grain, tick by tock life ebbs away,” answered an ancient voice. Deep and yet as dry as a vellum leather of an old tome.
Mara held in a shriek. Her skin tingled as if a thousand spiders were wrapping her in a web of silk. “No! I’m only twenty-nine. I have a lot of life left to live. A lot of love left to give. Please, don’t take me now!”
Thunk — Thunk
By the material of his ragged cloak sashaying across the stone floor; the echo of his scythe and boots, Mara knew he was closing the gap. She knew then —she could never outrun him.
“I’ve reaped for a thousand years. Not once have I cleansed a soul before its time was up. I’ve never been too early and never been late. Do not fear damnation, build your hopes on salvation. Only your body dies by my scythe. Your soul — well, you’ll see.” The Reaper cackled like a gargoyle.
Mara could barely breathe as she ran for all she was worth. Through darkness and light, she sprinted along the tunnels. The exit gate lay ahead and filled her with dread. Not only was it open, but the Grim Reaper was walking towards her.
Thunk — Thunk
His scythe clattered against the stone once for every footstep. The demonic, curving, twisting blade glinted as it passed to the light and glowed in the darkness. His bony hands protruded from within his dark grey cassock. The left grasped around the shaft of the scythe. The other clenching as if preparing to grab his victim. No face was visible within the cowl. Only darkness resided there.
“Surely, I should have died by some other cause. You’re supposed to collect the souls of the dead. Not murder people to take them!” Mara argued her voice constricted, trembling.
“Your logic serves you well. The Reaper arrives at your dying moment.”
“Ha! Then be gone because I still live!” Mara swung her hand and slapped the wall. It passed straight through the stonework. “NO!”
“Mara Gault, I am so terribly sorry,” The Reaper came within three feet and bowed his head. “Please, don’t fear me. Walk with me, instead.”
“Look let me live and I’ll give you the name of someone whose soul you could gladly take,” Mara offered. She felt selfish even vindictive but needs must.
“Your barmecide amuses me,” The Reaper chuckled. “Alas death does not work that way.”
Mara thought of her husband working at the building site. Her son and daughter at school, looking forward to the moment when their mother would hug them. Something, she realised would never happen again. Silvery tears flowed from beneath her glasses and left tracts along her cheeks as they dripped into her shawls. “How did I die?”
“Death is a fickle thing. It does not care what form it takes. Death chooses any method so long as it gets the job done.” The Reaper beckoned with the bony hand and led the way deeper into the crypts.
Thunk — Thunk
“Well, that answered nothing,” Mara scowled at him. “And stop banging your bloody scythe. It’s driving me crazy!”
“Do you accept my apologies. This thing weighs a ton and my muscles wasted away years ago.” The Reaper chuckled. “This way, please.”
“Ooh, men! Even when demonic or dead they’re a pain in the arse!” Mara followed him back into the room where she’d been working. There on the floor beneath Aelfred Cannons’ funerary niche was her corporeal body. Oddly her chest was rising and falling. “Erm, Mr Grim, I appear to be breathing!”
“Slight oversight. The hydrogen sulphide will finish you off momentarily.”
“Hey! Then you are killing me or else let me get back in my body and crawl out of here!” Mara yelled.
The Reaper produced an ancient sand timer and peered at it intently.
Mara noticed it was made of human bones. “I demand you let me return to my family!”
“Ten — Nine!”
“Mr Grim, I’m talking to you!”
“Seven —Six — Five!”
“Hey!” Mara yelled her voice echoing along the ancient corridors.
“Three — Two!”
Mara swung her fist smashing the timer out of his skeletal hands. It exploded against the wall in a shower of sand and sparkling motes.
“I’m so glad you did that. See you in sixty years!” The Reaper raised his scythe and tapped it on the floor.
Thunk — Thunk
Mara woke up choking, her eyes burning and streaming. Rolling onto her front, she crawled from the crypt as fast as her burning lungs would allow.
“Down — Here!” she croaked.
“Mara, there you are!” said Vicar David Westbrook dropping beside her.
“Gas —” Mara managed.
“I know the detectors going crazy upstairs. Let’s get you out of here.” David hauled her to her feet and carried her into the bright sunlight.
Mara would recover in a few days. She had a great story to tell. But nobody would believe she met the Grim Reaper and lived.
I need you votes my friends!
Have a great day!