The black sky seemed to be holding the sun just below the horizon. It would rise soon enough and our opportunity to reap this soul would be gone with the darkness.I slammed the door of my father’s black Bentley and watched as the birds flew from their nests in the high trees. Father glared at me from the other side of the car.
The purple black shadows that reached across the park made a good hiding place for reapers like my father and I. Reapers are not welcome in the human world. Our high, slightly pointed ears, the squareness of our jaws, our narrow set, orange eyes force us to use the night as our veil. But I don’t mind. There is a comfort in the night, like the darkness could wrap itself around me, and hold me in it’s arms.
I hurried to follow behind my father as he headed towards the lake. I was not yet a Reaper Eternal. Not yet able to feel the pull of a dying soul, but I could see the old man on the bench a few yards ahead of us. I was not blind to the fact that his body was dying. I could see it in the exaggerated rise and fall of his shoulders. As if he fought for each inhalation of breath.
My father stopped a few feet away from the black metal bench. The old man who sat there did not seem to notice us standing so close behind him.
Father turned to me and held out his hand. The name, Edgar Tame, was etched in thick lines in the center of his palm like an old scar. This was the soul he was assigned to reap. The man on the bench was Edgar Tames. Once the work was done this name would disappear and another would take it’s place. This was the way of the assignments.
I could reap these souls only because father allowed me to. It was practice, he said.
Tonight I was to join the rest of my family and become Reaper Eternal. A gift I coveted like no other.
“Does it hurt?” I asked.
Father’s eyes followed mine to his palm and the raised name on his leathery skin. He did not answer. Pain was a human weakness he would not admit to.
My father looked like a man of forty years, but he had seen a hundred. He was handsome, in his way, but there was a sadness in him.
“Go to him.” Father commanded.
I turned around to look at the assignment. Edgar Tames sat with his back to me. A group of ducks gathered around him at the edge of the lake and fed from the ground at his feet.
He wore a flannel jacket too thick for the warm morning. His white hair, too long, curled in and out of his crooked collar. I wondered if he could feel my presence. Death was so close to him now.
My job, my skill in fact, was to find the brightest spot in their memories. The most cherished day or feeling that had occurred in their lives and recreate it for them. This picture, this memory, served to help a human process the event that was their death. It was not for me to judge, simply to provide the soul safe passage. Still I find myself secretly intrigued with the humans.
I heard the movement of my father’s feet on the ground. I sensed his impatience. He did not have an affection for the assignments.
I pulled my skirt above my ankles and walked barefoot across the dewey grass. It would be an easy soul to reap as they all were.
I turned back to see father watching me. His eyes bright against the stark white of his skin. I walked to the bench, passed the man, and sat beside him. I kept my head bent low under the hood of my jacket as my father had taught me. I was not as unusual looking as the rest of my family. My long, wavy, brown hair, coupled with the fullness of my face could almost be mistaken for human. A fact that I disliked more than I can say. But my eyes, like all reapers were an unnatural orange.