**Rated T for coarse language and minor adult themes**
Death. Such a simple yet menacing word. Inevitable as it is terrifying, we fear it simply because it is the embodiment of the unknown. It has run its icy fingers through the strands of time for as long as there has been life. There are myths and legends written about it, at least one for every culture. It is at the foundation of everything that frightens us most. But, truth is, Death’s actually a pretty nice guy.
My name’s Jacqueline. I’m just your friendly neighborhood... Reaper. Yeah, you heard that right. Now, I know what image that word conjures up in your mind. No, I’m not the stereotypical “Grim Reaper” as all the Wikipedia pages you’re probably looking up now will show draped in long black robes with a giant scythe. To all of you who have dressed up as one of these little beauties for Halloween, hate to break it to you but, you’re dead wrong. No pun intended. The real things are much cooler and a whole hell of a lot more spine-chilling. Ok ok, I’ll explain. Let’s start at the beginning.
8:42 am, Friday, June 28th
The smell of freshly baked bread and lavender permeates the air. A sort of lilting melody drifts in and out of existence, somehow still tangible in its absence. I try to hum along but it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t want to be attached to a human staff. I give up. I’m clearly dreaming but I’m totally cool with that, I just wish I could stay... Looking around, I see a meadow. Flowers that look as if they’ve been transplanted straight out of the “Guide to American Wildflowers” that I keep hidden in my backpack are painted over the landscape in every color imaginable. It’s beautiful. So much so that it doesn’t even bother me that about nine of the plants I can identify around me belong to different growing seasons. Technically impossible, but who am I to question paradise? It’s the perfect temperature; that in between state that feels like a warm blanket cloaking your entire body. A wind picks up from nowhere, or maybe it had been there all along, and I look down at my clothing. I’m draped in a ridiculously romantic white nightgown, the kind that I’d always pictured myself wearing on a balcony in some fairytale castle. Not that I’d ever admit this to a living soul. I’m suddenly struck by how much a person like me doesn’t deserve to set foot in a place such as this. I feel as if my footsteps should be etched out in burnt earth and singed leaves. I even fancy that I smell the tang of burning greenery for a second before checking my path and seeing that I am not, in fact, a poison to this wonderland. I continue on, slightly more aware of myself now, through the thick sweetness of my surroundings. I feel it before it makes itself heard. An unmistakable presence that spells a stilling of things, a silence so deep it resonates with its own song. Then it speaks. One word, my name
“Jacqueline” I turn and barely register the outline of a glowing figure--
My phone rings. The images of that heavenly place bleed from my mind, streaking as they do so, leaving only blurry remnants of what had seemed so incredibly real moments before. I feel their departure keenly, as if the memories are being cut from my brain. Letting out a frustrated growl, I throw myself from the couch I had apparently crashed on last night. Well, this morning technically but that’s beside the point.
“Dammit!” a loud stream of expletives follows as I trip over an unruly plastic cup, completely ignoring the random guy socked out next to the sofa. No, not random… oh shit, I think, wincing slightly at the shard of a memory I’ve managed to lock onto from last night. I look down and, sure enough, no pants. So this is who I hooked up with… wow, I really was drunk. Disgusted with myself, I turn back to the phone. I am now painfully aware of a splitting headache developing. Following the lilting notes of Moondance by Van Morrison, a personal favorite of mine, I finally locate my cell. It’s in my pants. I almost wish I remembered the night before, must’ve been insane.
Flipping the ancient thing open, I snap
“This better be good” the sound of a laugh follows as I try to pull my pants on with one hand. The result is an ungraceful heap of me sprawled on the floor.
“Crazy night, eh?” the all too familiar voice on the other end of the line is tinged with amusement. It pisses me off.
“Seriously, Drake. You have ten seconds to tell me what the fuck you want before I’m hanging up”
“Cool it, Raves,” short for Raven, his nickname for me, due to my black hair and habit of clothing myself in the same color “just got an invite to Ryan’s party, it’s TONIGHT.”
“Ok” I am entirely done with this. All I feel like doing is finding some dark corner to curl up in so I can attempt to piece together splinters of the dream.
“Raves, c’mon, RYAN. Ryan Mckinnon? THE Ryan.”
“So?” I consider hanging up on him.
“It’s gonna be the party of the year! His parents are gone for the week, some vow renewal thing, I dunno. Point is, rumor has it, he’s managed to overhaul his dad’s warehouse out on Dockers Road. Emptied the place out, made a stage. Got some new bands to play and a DJ. Everything.”
“Alcohol?” I am seriously not in the mood for this but I hate myself enough right now that I may consider agreeing if enough of my vices are involved.
“HELL yeah. He probably bought out the whole fucking liquor store. But really, your priorities are screwed up, Raves. Music, dancing, girls, whatever, and all you’re worried about is booze?” He sounds incredulous though I’m sure he knew somewhere deep down that the presence or absence of alcoholic beverages would be my deciding factor. Drake’s known me longer than anyone. He’s like a really, really negligent big brother to me. That’s not to say he doesn’t care because I know he does. It’s just that his solution to a problem is to simply ignore it until either, a) it goes away or, b) it kills you. So I’m not surprised that he pretends to be shocked anew every time my self-abusive tendencies come up. Truth is, I like it better this way.
“Drinks and girls?” an exasperated sigh from the other end follows my question.
“Yeah, drinks and girls. Honestly, I don’t know why I bother talking if you’re just gonna ignore half of it”
“Ok.” I’d made my decision.
“Ok?” Drake is such an idiot sometimes.
“Oh! Sweet! So I’ll pick you up around 7 at the post?” ‘The post’ has been our meeting point for years. It’s an old sign post just outside of town. Some people say it’s haunted, that there was once a farmhouse there that met its demise in flames, along with the family it housed. I don’t believe it.
“Sounds good, see ya” I flip the phone shut with an uneasy feeling. Something tells me this is a bad idea. Can’t back out now though, I think while sighing. All that’s left now is to hope I won’t regret this too much. I really should’ve listened to my gut instinct.