This month’s short story is brought to you by the Grim Reaper. Each story can be read individually with the final story bringing all the characters together.

These stories are written differently than I normally write stories. The Spirit World is a void, and the characters are nameless, as the Grim Reaper needs to keep confidentiality for the spirits they speak to.

Enjoy a sneak peek into The Grim Reaper Files, and enjoy.

Bargaining

I made a cup of steaming tea appear in front of the woman sitting across from me and a cup appear before myself. I decided to drink coffee this time. The burning sensation still felt good, and even though the caffeine had zero effect on me, I still liked to believe it made a difference. Some sessions were easier than others.

The woman had her head down on the table, sobbing. She had visited me twice before. The first time, she was in denial. She didn’t think she should be here. It wasn’t her time to go. It got harder for me not to roll my eyes. I couldn’t count the number of spirits who had told me it wasn’t their time to cross over.

What most spirits don’t know is the moment you’re born into a physical form, a clock begins to tick. The clock being much like the one on this black wall. It didn’t measure time in the way we understand it. It measured how much time you had left. No one can see it. No one even knows it’s there. And if they did know it was there, they wouldn’t know how to read it.

Then, the last time she was here, she was angry. Like, really angry. At me.

I had to admit, out of the countless spirits I’ve aided, I think she took the top spot for scaring me the most. And I had dealt with a lot of vengeful spirits before.

Like the many before her, she was angry she was here and not back in the physical world with her children and grandchildren. She was only 73 years old, and her third grandchild had recently been born. She couldn’t believe I had the audacity to take her away from her family so soon.

The problem was I couldn’t control her illness. It was all up to the clock.

Sometimes it was a short amount of years, and sometimes it was long. Even I didn’t know how it worked.

The other problem was that she believed me to be the bad guy since I was the one who took her away from her physical form. It was an old story I heard time and time again, and, as the Grim Reaper, I had to grin and bear it.

For some reason, a rumor started in the physical world that the Grim Reaper, me, caused death. But I had nothing to do with it. I was here to help, and no matter how many times I tried to explain that, I would always be viewed as the bad guy.

Spirits would plead with me, argue with me, to release them back into the physical world. But I wasn’t keeping them here. I had nothing to do with them dying.

As much as I wanted to clear my name, it wasn’t my job to convince the spirits of this. They’d eventually realize, even though the physical world would never understand.

The woman wasn’t much different from the others. She was simply going through the stages of grief. Yes, spirits encountered grief much like they would if they were grieving someone else in their physical form.

First denial, then anger, and now…

“Please,” she begged, her head still on the table. She raised her fist, banging it on the table.

Bargaining. The worst stage.

I could handle denial and, of course, acceptance. I could also handle the yelling of anger and blubbering of depression. But bargaining? There was absolutely nothing I could do. I was powerless, yet the spirits thought I held power within my scythe.

Which was another rumor the physical beings made up – my scythe was supposedly the one who aided me in killing them. It was my “weapon.” But, really, I thought it was cool and mostly used it as a walking stick.

“Have a sip of tea,” I said gently.

She lifted her head enough for me to see the darkening of her eyes as she glared daggers into my soul.

“It’ll help you feel better, I promise,” I coaxed.

She sat up in her chair, staring at the tea. She held onto the mug with both hands, sniffling. “It’s warm.”

I nodded. Some bits of her physical form still lingered so she could feel its warmth. She’d also be able to taste a bit of it.

“Is it poison?” she asked, arching a brow.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. Although, what I really wanted to do was remind her that she was already dead.

She took a sip, making a disgusted face when she put the mug back down on the table.

“You’ll begin to lose your taste buds, which is probably why it tastes a bit funny. But, for now, the effects of the tea will still help you feel calm,” I explained.

She sighed. In a gentle tone, she spoke again, looking at me with pleading eyes. “What can I do to fix this? My grandchildren need their grandmother, and my daughter still needs her mother.”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry, but all I can do is make you feel comfortable here now. Once you get used to the spirit world, there is a way to check in on those left in the physical world.”

“I can speak to them?”

“Not exactly. You can leave subtle hints to let them know you’re around.”

She slouched in her seat. “But what can I do to go back?”

“Nothing,” I replied. Maybe that was a little blunt, but sometimes that was the only way to get through to them.

“Do you see that clock?” I pointed to the giant circle on the wall. I noticed it was already orange, which meant time was running out for this session. “Every person has that inside of them once they’re born into the physical world. Yours turned red. That’s why you’re here.”

The woman stared at the clock and then turned back to me. “Can’t I change it’s batteries?”

“Batteries?”

“Can you recharge it?”

“What?”

“I need to go back to my kids!”

I sighed. “I’m sorry… But that clock is human nature. It has nothing to do with me. It doesn’t even have anything to do with you. No one can reverse time or fast-forward it. We can’t pause it, no matter how much we want to. Once it turns red, that’s it.”

“But how was I supposed to know it was going to turn red soon…?” she sniffled, tears beginning to spill from her eyes now. It seemed as though we were exiting the bargaining stage and entering depression already.

“No one knows when it’s going to turn red,” I explained. “I don’t even know when the clock up there is going to turn. All I know is that it gives us the right amount of time we need. How we choose to spend that time is up to us.”

Before she could say anything else, the clock on the black wall turned red.

“And that’s it for this session,” I said, standing from the table. “Will I see you again?”

She, too, stood, wiping the tears from her face. “When can I come back?”

“Anytime you need to. I’m always here.”

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Rachel Poli

Rachel Poli

Author

Rachel Poli is a multi-genre author with a soft spot for mystery.

She often experiments with short stories and flash fiction, however, she's currently working on the first book of her detective fiction series.

When she's not writing, she's usually cleaning, reading, or playing video games. She currently resides in New England with her zoo.

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