by Julia Pereira, Age 18, Canada
Artwork by Lucy Zhang
October’s fiction prompt was “skeleton.”
Death’s Day Off
I could feel him before I could see him.
I felt him in the way my skin prickled as he came up behind me. I shivered as thick, silky cloth brushed against the backs of my bare arms. I felt the fabric graze my ear as he drew his hooded face closer. But no breath fluttered against my neck. Of course not. He didn’t breathe, after all.
“You killed again,” he muttered, his irritated voice gravelly and deep.
I closed my eyes briefly and spun to face him.
“Yeah, only because you’re a twat who won’t return my phone calls.”
His head tipped back in frustration, and then he ripped off his hood. “I’m busy, Lauren.” His shaven head was completely tattooed to look like a skull; his dark skin was even darker around the nose and eyes, and his mouth was tattooed over with teeth. It was fitting since beneath those long black robes he was actually a skeleton. “I have a job. A very important job, might I add. I can’t just take a two week vacation from reaping the souls of the dead. Who is supposed to do that if not me?”
I put one hand on my hip and gave him my best you-better-not-give-me-another-excuse-or-I-will-snap-your-exposed-spine-in-half glare. I’ve practically mastered it. “Don’t give me that, Ian. It’s not like you don’t have coworkers who can take over your district for the day, and frankly just don’t care if you have grim reaper stuff to do. I’m your girlfriend. The least you can do is call me back.”
He groaned obnoxiously loud. “Lauren.” Ian pulled back the cloak that covered him from head to toe bones and reached deep into the folds looking for something. It gave me a good glimpse of the tattooed skin of his neck that tapered off seamlessly into his exposed rib cage, which ,secured behind it, held various ambiguously-shaped dark things.
Grim Reaper organs were weird.
“You can’t keep doing this.” He pulled out the List. The List. The List of the people who were meant to die that day. He got one every morning from his stick-in-the-mud boss. “Look at this, Lauren! This guy you killed wasn’t on the List! Do you know how much paperwork I have to fill out now?” He rubbed at his eyebrows.
My glare softened a bit. “He was a piece of trash anyway.” Avoiding his eyes, I looked at the body at my feet. The blood draining from the exposed pink flesh of the neck that was now completely detached from its grey-faced head would stain my expensive shoes, but I thought it was worth it at the time if it meant seeing my mostly-skeleton boyfriend.
Ian’s shoulders slumped, and I resisted the urge to reach out. I couldn’t let his puppy dog eyes ruin my resolve. “Why do you do this, babe? You know I get into enough trouble as it is because we’re together.”
My resolve was weaker than I hoped. My fingers traced his cheek gently, and I mustered up my sweetest smile. “I do this because I want to see you.”
Which was true. I only killed now when I was desperate to see him…or when I really wanted to kill someone. This activity of mine was how we met in the first place. After I had committed one of my first murders, I saw him. The black robed six-foot tall walking super model from Hell. Everyone is supposed to ignore the Reapers and let them do their jobs, but no one warned me that if you took a peek under the hood you’d find some of the most attractive creatures alive—err, dead. And when I saw Ian, with his strong jaw clenched and beautiful eyes narrowed with strain as he collected the pulsing warm light of a newly exposed soul, I knew I had to see him again. So I killed strategically to find out the area he covered and his schedule, and eventually—six painstakingly long months later—he had come up to me as I was trying to clean my bloodied knife and asked in a curious voice, “Are you flirting with me?”
The rest was history.
And even now, with Ian looking tired and angry, I still wanted to see his face. I could never get tired of seeing his face, not for as long as I live.
Tucking the List away, Ian covered my hand on his cheek with his own and leaned into it, his brilliant red eyes shuttering close. “I missed you, too.”
I couldn’t help myself any longer and pulled him roughly into my arms. We just held each other tightly for a perfect moment. With my face buried in in the crook of his neck, I murmured with a grin, “I’ll buy you a big mac if you take the rest of the day off.”
He moved back to show me the roll of his eyes and then darted in to peck my lips with his. I felt his smile against my mouth.
“A big mac and large fries.”
Julia writes, “I am a student studying at OCAD University who has been working hard to improve my writing in poetry, short stories and longer prose and to gain more credibility in this field. I finished writing my YA novel this past New Year’s Eve and now I am trying to get my work published and distributed to a larger audience. My dream is to be a worldwide best selling author and I think this is a perfect stepping stone to that goal.”