As soon as Sophia left, the urges began to assault him. The limo purred as it pulled to the curb and the door opened. As soon as it did, he folded his big body inside and the limo merged back into the traffic. The first stop was just up the road. A man was too engaged texting and stepped out into oncoming traffic without looking. Death was catapulted from the back seat to free the soul from the bent and twisted body.
White clouds washed around the man before his soul journeyed into the afterlife after he managed to ask Death where his phone was. Death’s job would be halved if it weren’t for that invention.
The next harvest took place in a back alley. Two thugs had stabbed a middle-aged man for the fifty dollars in his wallet. Death took the man’s soul as soon as the first wisps of black mist reached him, hoping to save the stranger from some of the pain.
As soon as the soul parted from the body, the man had looked at one of the assailants. “Jeremy?” But he’d been so confused and the men had run away before he could see the man’s face.
Just before he was whisked away, the man had turned to Death. “Wasn’t my life worth more than fifty dollars?”
But Death had seen people killed for half a rotten apple if the other person was hungry and desperate enough. Instead, he told the man, “Money has nothing to do with a soul’s worth. The actions in your life put the true value on your soul.” White mist took the man away before he could reply. As it was the white mist, Death knew the man had done more good than bad in his life to warrant getting into heaven. He watched the mad fade instead of turning his back as he most always did after his job was done. It felt good to watch that soul depart for his afterlife.
In the next alley down two men fought. Twin gunshots rang out and Death was called to harvest again. Red mist swirled around the souls. Even though Death had separated them from their bodies, the men still fought in their ethereal state. To his surprise it was the two men who had murdered the man who had just departed.
“You screwed it up. You were meant to get the information out of him before you killed him,” one said.
“If you didn’t hand me the knife, we would have learned where she was,” the other said.
The first man swung his fist through the face of the other. “You’ve wasted my life.”
“And you’ve wasted the master’s.”
They screamed in agony as red mist swirled around them, their cries fading until there was nothing left but the dank smell of old urine in the back alley. They could argue all they liked in hell. They were going to the right place for it.
From there he was called to the hospital. He hated hospitals. There were always so many souls to harvest. He was urged into the cancer ward to a woman so frail and incapacitated that she smiled when she saw him. It wasn’t a beaming smile that celebrated life, like Sophia. It was a smile of relief he’d come to know well.
She kissed her husband and wished him farewell before Death gently touched her shoulder and gave her the release she craved. She thanked him as the white mist began her journey into the afterlife. Her family closed around her body and cried.
Something shifted inside. Something unnamed and undefinable as he watched the family from outside the room. He wanted to tell them that her soul had healed. That she had been accepted into heaven. That one day, he would come for them and that he would provide their souls release so they could find their afterlife. That by telling them, they would find comfort that their loved one was not suffering now. That in fact, she would feel better than she’d ever felt in her life.
But for the first time in a thousand years, he watched them grieve. He stayed until their tears had dried and they had comforted one another. And then he stayed as they spoke about their mother, sharing their favorite stories about her. Things she had done. Things that had happened. They laughed and cried and then laughed some more.
He was confused at first. Why would they talk about those things when her soul was gone? She wasn’t here to hear them. She would never come back to her body. She could do no more for them, but they spoke about her life as though it was a celebration.
Then the niggling feeling started up again and a beaming smile appeared in his mind and he was urged to the next room, and then into the operating room and then into the intensive care unit. By the time the urge to harvest had diminished and he wandered back through the hospital’s entrance it was dark. The limo drew up and he was propelled into the back seat.
This time there was whiskey. He downed two tumblers before the limo pulled out the front of the bungalow. He beat the propulsion from the back seat and climbed the steps to the lived-in bungalow that apparently was home. For now. Until Danu calmed down.
On the front steps of the porch was a kitten. It wasn’t surrounded by black mist so it didn’t need to be harvested.
“What are you doing here?” He picked it up. It weighed just about nothing in his hand. He petted the tiny thing and it let out a little mew. “Have you lost your mother?”
He looked into the bushes as though the shadows there would suddenly reveal a mother cat looking for her missing kitten. The night was chilly. Not warm enough for a kitten of this size. It would probably be all right on the porch. He was sure its mother would come past at some time and pick it up.
The thing started purring and curled into his palm. He sighed and hung his head. The door opened and he obediently went inside.
“Guess you need something to eat, huh? What do kittens eat? I’m sure it isn’t bananas.” A search of the pantry revealed several cans of tuna. The kitten opened its large eyes and mewed as though sensing its dinner.
“Tuna it is then.”
He found a shallow dish and a can opener and soon the kitten was purring and eating as though it had never eaten a thing in its life before. His own stomach growled. Pity the same couldn’t be said for finding his own dinner in the pantry, or a servant to deliver it to him.
He squeezed another banana out of its peel and finished off with an apple before he climbed upstairs. He passed the bathroom and caught the odor his body emitted.
He managed to figure the shower out and stripped off his clothing. What he wouldn’t give to be in his own home where he didn’t need showers or clean clothing or food. How on earth did humans cope with all of these fruitless time-wasting activities? He was too tired to ponder it before falling on the bed with the printed daisies on the cover and finding sleep.