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.

Unsure

“I don’t think I was ready. I had always dreamed about moving away. I wanted to get away from my family for many reasons. But I never wanted it to get to the point that I would never speak to them or see them ever again.” She took a sip of her coffee, sighing. She peered into the mug, frowning. Did she not like the taste? Maybe I had put in too much sugar.

“I had dreams, you know?” she continued, putting her mug down on the table. She let it go, folding her hands together and looking me in the eyes. “Everyone says you shouldn’t take life for granted. Anything can change in an instant. But you never think it’ll ever happen to you, you know?”

I nodded, sipping my own drink. Earl Grey. A touch of milk to cool it a bit. I never wanted to cool it too much, though. I enjoyed the burning sensation on my tongue. The tingling feeling allowed me to feel something. It had been so long, after all.

She chuckled, breaking me out of my thoughts. I stiffened, staring at her, but quickly realized she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking out the window into the void beside us.

“You must hear that speech a lot, huh?” she asked.

“No,” I said, clearing my throat. “Every experience is a unique one. Whatever you have to say to me comes from your heart.”

She frowned again. “What heart? Mine is no longer beating.”

“That may be,” I replied reassuringly, “but your heart is still part of you. Your heart carried your soul for 48 years, allowing you to feel emotions, encounter milestones, love others and yourself, and experience life. Now, your soul carries that heart. It may not beat anymore, but it holds many memories and feelings.”

She smiled. It was a sad smile, but the smile was there all the same. Maybe I was being helpful, maybe I wasn’t. Maybe she was trying to be nice because what else could she do?

There was no going back. She was here to stay, and she knew that. Whether she accepted it or not was up to her.

“You know,” she said, leaning back in her chair, “you’re right. I did experience a lot in life, didn’t I?”

“You absolutely did,” I agreed.

Although, I really had no idea what she experienced in life. This was our first meeting together, and so far, all she’s talked about was how she wasn’t ready to cross over to the other side.

It was a common side effect of separation. I had seen it many times over. Nine times out of ten, the spirit is confused—sometimes angry, but mostly confused and sometimes somber.

Those are the emotions I’d expect to see, so it never really bothered me. I do sometimes feel bad for them. Some days, my caseload is filled to the brim with unexpected cases. I can deal with anger and sadness, but when they’re young and confused about why they’ve crossed over, I feel for them.

Occasionally, I had some cases where the spirit was already at peace. Those were easy. Just last week I helped an elderly woman, 111 years old, cross over. Her relief and joy was almost contagious.

The woman sitting across the table from me now was not so lucky. 48 years old, on her way to work in the rain, and hit by a hydroplaning bus. She never stood a chance. Luckily, it was an instantaneous death. Not that it makes it any easier, but if you’re going to separate from your physical form, it’s best if it’s quick. If there’s no chance of saving yourself, you might as well not be aware you ever had the option in the first place.

She buried her face in her hands. “Ugh, I met someone at the coffee shop just two days ago. I was supposed to call him. Now he’s going to think I’ve ghosted him.”

She let go of her face, her eyes wide, staring sheepishly at me. “I mean… no pun intended, of course.”

“Of course,” I replied gently.

“Was that offensive?”

“Not to me.”

She breathed a sigh of relief, leaning back against her chair once again.

I looked to my right, where a large circle clock hung upon the wall. It had no hands or face. Time didn’t exist where we were. The circular clock glowed orange, though, which meant the session was almost done. Even I wasn’t sure how long the clock lasted. Some sessions seemed to last as long as a snap, while others seemed to last forever – however long forever was.

“It looks as though we should wrap things up now,” I said, pointing my thumb to the large clock.

The woman looked over her shoulder, nodding. “I see. I’m sure you’re very busy.”

I smiled in agreement. The truth was, I was never busy and always busy at the same time. Numerous spirits left their physical forms every second, day and night. The bridge to cross over was always filled. I either had to help the spirits along or I was here, talking to them about what the next chapter for them endured.

“Would you like to come back again soon?” I asked.

She hesitated.

“You can come back whenever you’d like. If you need help figuring out where to go from here, what to do, or if you feel the need to talk things out some more, that’s okay. I’ll be here.”

The woman stood from her chair. She stuck her hand out for me to shake, and I took it without hesitation. Our spirits were physical when they needed to be. The brain was a powerful tool, no matter its form.

“Thank you,” she said politely and left.

There were no doors, and we couldn’t see beyond a certain point even though there were no walls. The farther she walked away, the lighter her spirit became before it disappeared.

I peered into her coffee mug. She barely drank any of it, though that didn’t surprise me. Most spirits were afraid to eat or drink anything shortly after arriving. It was difficult to get used to the non-taste.

I caused it to disappear along with the hot tea I had been drinking. Then, I turned around, facing the large clock that had turned yellow. Someone was waiting, so I let them in.

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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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