Sharp Reaper

“I’m sorry, how do you know me?” Elsa asked the rotund stranger. It was her first day on this Earth and she hadn’t met anyone yet. She stopped into the cafe to sit down and find some leads on a place to stay. She sat down with her coffee two minutes before a blonde man with a white blazer hanging off his shoulders approached.  He called her name with a smile as if he knew her. The skull tattooed on his forehead seemed to be grinning at her too. She spotted the number 42 on the skull and realized he was a Unique Soul too. But as far as she knew; he wasn’t one of the ones that could see she was one too. Her number was covered up.

“Mundo told me about you,” he sat down without an invitation.

Which Mundo?” She asked. She’d only ever met one Mundo but that was a long time ago. The round man smiled and shook his head.

“It kind of defeats the point of them all changing their name to Mundo if you’re going to start keeping track,” he said. You’ve met a Mundo at some point. A Mundo told me about you,” he shrugged. “Might be the same one, might not be; it doesn’t matter. I’m not even looking for you specifically. I need a Muerte,” he said. “My name’s Chase.”

“What do you need a Muerte for?” Elsa asked. She was interested already. She came to a new Earth hoping to find something to distract her and help her heal from heartache; even if it was her own decision to leave.

“I need a soul reaper position filled. And Muertes are the only ones that are qualified. Interested?”

“I don’t want to kill anyone…,” Elsa said. She realized she had an opportunity to get a closer look at how the universe works. She did not doubt what he was offering for a second. She didn’t want to kill anyone; and, she hoped Chase noticed that was her only objection. Chase smiled and shook his head.

“You don’t have to. The universe is pretty automatic in most aspects. Reapers aren’t sinister forces plotting out intricate deaths. You’re janitors. People die when they’re going to die. Your job is to pick up their soul and drop it off at their caseworker. In your case: me.”

“If people die when they’re going to die… what does the universe need us for? Don’t get me wrong, I am very interested in the job. But I’m trying to learn more about it first,” Elsa said. She didn’t want to risk putting off Chase with too many questions.

“That’s good! Ask me all the questions you like. As I said, you’re the cleanup crew. A person consists of two parts, body and soul, working together. When the body dies, a reaper escorts the soul to its caseworker so that it can move on to another life in a new body,” Chase said. He took in a deeper breath in preparation for a long explanation.

“The soul is an amazing energy source. When a person is alive they have a living brain and can access that energy intelligently. If that energy is left behind in a corpse, it can still animate the body. But without any intelligence, it runs wild. That’s why you’ll find the idea of zombies on pretty much any Earth you go to.”

“Whoa. But.. people die every day.. all over the world. How am I supposed to get to them all?” Elsa asked.

“And this brings us to why only Muertes are fit for the job. You’re going to need to manipulate time, obviously. And actually, the sooner you’re ready for this job, the better. Even with your help adjusting time, we’re already behind schedule.”

“Uh… no offense, but how does that happen? Did someone quit suddenly? I’d like to think the universe is run by a competent being,” Elsa said.

“You’re right,” Chase smiled. “I think the same way; which is actually why we’re behind schedule.”

“You think the universe should be competently run.,, so you let deaths mount up?” Elsa asked. Chase shook his head.

“No. I think the universe should be competently run, so I joined someone who can do the job. I should tell you you’re going to be busy at first; but, I think it’s worth it. We’re starting a brand new afterlife. I’m the first case worker, you’re the first Reaper. We even have our own Lucifer!” Elsa stared at chase with wide eyes.

“We didn’t look for a Muerte sooner because Ms. Sharp needed to make sure the souls she claimed were hers. No one else is claiming them, so now we need you to clean up about a month’s worth of zombies.”

“I’ll do it!” Elsa jumped at the opportunity. Chase smiled.

“Great. Can you start right away?” he asked. At his question, an obsidian scythe fell out of the air and landed next to Elsa. “This’ll boost your control over time; you’ll need it.”

Majestic Life

“Awww, nuts,” Linus opened his eyes and sighed when he recognized the office. He was seated in a comfortable rolling chair in front of a small particle-board desk. A beige monitor took up more than half of the desk. A transparent phone with glowing pink and blue neon lights rested on the other end of the desk. The high-back leather chair behind the desk was empty. He settled in his seat, focused his attention on the phone, then waited.

A door opened behind him and he whirled around to see who it was. A fat man in a red t-shirt and blue jeans walked in with a smile; he wore a navy blue business coat on his shoulders like a cape. His golden hair was as stringy as a bird’s nest and almost as organized.

“Linus!” he grinned and patted Linus on the back heartily as he walked past. “Great to meet you man, congratulations!”

“Chase?” Linus asked. Despite visiting the office several hundreds of times he’d never met his caseworker. Chase always conducted phone interviews. The fat man nodded; his pale, chubby cheeks wobbled with the motion.

“No more phone interviews,” Chase said. He glanced at the neon phone with a bit of sadness. “Some bull crap about…,” he changed his tone to a mocking authoritative voice. “professional appearance and professional standards.” Chase shook his head. “Anyway, you did it! You’re the last you in,” Chase opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a manila folder. He opened it on the desk and began looking over the forms within.

“How many?” Linus asked.

“We got you down to five,” Chase flipped a sheet over and continued reading. “It looks like you’re the tie-breaker.” Linus nodded.

“Can I go again?” Linus asked. “I mean, to get more points?” He felt disappointed when Chase shook his head.

“Theoretically, yes,” Chase said. “But, you’re already outvoted on that. The other ‘yous’ want to cash out. Luckily they agree on pretty much everything; there’re only a few decisions you have to make.”

“Oh,” Linus sighed. “Fine, what’s my last life like?” he asked. Chase tapped the skull tattoo on his forehead.

“You earned enough to become a Calavera with an extra perk.” Linus sat up with a smile.

“Extra perk?” he asked. “Like what?” Chase flipped another form over and looked at the next sheet.

“Your latest couple of lives…,” Chase made a gesture at Linus. “…this last one in particular, you got pretty environmental.” Linus nodded.

“Yeah, I thought I could extend the path and go all the way to Mundo.” Chase returned the nod.

“You could’ve if you weren’t outvoted. But,” Chase smiled. “You managed to get enough points in ‘Environmentalist’ to get you an elemental power. You get to choose which.” Linus smiled to himself.

“Whoa… a Calavera with elemental powers? I like the sound of that,” he chuckled. “So I’ll be able to control one of the four ele-“

“Six,” Chase corrected.


“Earth, fire, wind, water…,” Chase said. “…sun, and void.”

“Earth,” Linus said. “I mean, that’s my choice.” Chase nodded and grabbed a pen to scribble something on the form. 

“Any preference about what kind of Earth you’re born on?”

“No…,” Linus said. He started out strong, but the ‘o’ stretched out as he thought. “…but, I don’t want to be the only Unique. Is that possible? I’d like to meet a Unique as soon as possible.” Chase smiled as he continued adding notes to the form.

“Our control of your circumstances isn’t quite that exact, but I’ll add a note and we’ll see what happens.” He chuckled. “The universe works in mysterious ways. Gender?”

“I..  I can choose that too?” Linus asked. Chase shrugged.

“Technically, no. But I know what’s it’s like to have decisions taken out of your hands,” he said with a friendly sigh. “You wanted to keep going but you can’t. It sucks, and I don’t want you to start your last life on a sour note. We…,” Chase tapped the navy blue coat on his shoulders. “…are supposed to choose for you. Mix up your lives a bit, you know? But, what the hell. You made it this far, I’ll let you pick. Linus shrugged.

“Thanks! I appreciate the gesture, but I really don’t care. Surprise me.” Chase nodded.


“Whoa, that too!?”

“Yes, when you become a Unique,” Chase said. Linus shrugged.

“You pick for me, a favor from one Calavera to another.” Linus was not ready for the questions but he trusted Chase enough to let him answer. 

“Cool, I can do that,” Chase said. Looks like we’re all set, you’ll be born in a bit,” he closed the folder. “Any guidelines for the name? Anything you don’t want?” Linus smiled and shook his head.

“Nah, I trust you. Just make sure it’s something…,” Linus’ head wavered as he considered several words he wanted to use. Then, he settled on one. “…something majestic.”

Chasing Nostalgia

Casey heard ringing before she opened her eyes. She was seated in front of a desk but the high-back leather chair behind it was empty. She looked around and took inventory of the office. She had no idea how she got there; but, she hoped that finding out where there was would give her some hints.

The phone that continued ringing in steady intervals was transparent and pink neon lights glowed from inside the clear case. The rotary on its inclined front glowed with a neon blue light highlighting the numbers. The phone sat on a small desk with a large, beige, CRT monitor taking up more than half of its surface.  The walls consisted of wood panels decorated with dozens of posters. They advertised movies and bands that Casey had never heard of. She was somewhat amused by the fact that every person on every person wore sunglasses and a popped up collar. There wasn’t much else to the office except a closed door. As she thought about poking her head out the door opened.

A beautiful woman with aqua-blue curls strode in with an annoyed look on her face. She seemed surprised by Casey but she rolled her eyes and picked up the ringing phone.

“Ezey said no more phone interviews,” she said with a firm tone. “You have a client.” As Casey watched the exchanged she took in the woman’s appearance. She had olive skin with a star tattooed on her left cheek; the number 35 decorated the blue star. She wore a navy blue business coat that gave her a professional appearance from the waist up. A matching navy sarong was wrapped around her waist and showed plenty of leg when she walked. The woman hung up the phone, then smiled politely at Casey.

“Sorry about the wait, your caseworker will be right in,” she said. She turned to leave but Casey managed to find her voice.

“Where am I?” the confused woman asked. The woman continued to walk and smile; she did not slow at all.

“You’re dead,” she said as she walked through the door and closed it.

“I’m… dead?” Casey asked aloud to herself. She closed her eyes and furrowed her brow to think. “I’d been sick…” she remembered feeling hot and achy. She was soaking the sheets with sweat at night and waking up with chills. “I was going to go to the doctor today…,” she realized she had put off the doctor visit too long. The door opened again and a fat man walked in. He looked young. Casey guessed his age was somewhere around her own 28 years. His golden hair looked like a bird’s nest; stringy and disorganized. He had a skull tattooed on his forehead with the number 42 on its forehead in gold numbers.

He wore the same navy blue coat the other woman wore, but with a much more casual attitude. After seeing both of them, Casey assumed the coat was part of a uniform. His coat rested on his shoulders like a cape, his arms were free of its sleeves. Under it, he wore a tight red t-shirt that matched one of the posters on the wall, sunglasses and all. He wore sagging blue jeans and black high-top sneakers to complete the outfit.

“Casey!” he said with a broad smile as he entered and waddled around her to sit behind the desk. “I’m glad we finally get to meet.”

“Finally?” she asked. The rotund man nodded and reached into one of his desk drawers. He pulled out a manila folder, opened it and set it on the desk to look over it.

“Yeah. Normally I do it over the phone,” he said. He kept talking to the file instead of looking up to meet Casey’s eyes.

“Am I dead?” Casey asked. The man chuckled.

“Women are just dying to meet me,” he said playfully, then closed the file and looked up at Casey.

“You’re dead. We’ve talked on the phone a few times,” he shrugged. “Well, every time you die.” He reached a plump hand out across the desk to her. “I’m your caseworker, Chase.” Casey gave him a confused look instead of shaking his hand. He nodded then lowered the hand.  “You’ve only died a handful of times, it’ll take several more until you start remembering me.”

“More? I’m going to die more?” Casey asked.

“Sure, it’s how the thing works. Don’t worry, you’ll figure it out eventually. Bye,” he said with a smile and waved at her.

“Wait. That’s it? Just hi and bye!?” Casey asked with a hard edge in her voice. “I want answers!” she shouted. Chase shrugged.

“They used to give answers. Way back when. But now, there’re more people dying and not enough staff to deal with them.” He sighed. “Any answers I give you, you plain won’t remember. This is just a check in to let you know things are still on track and put you at ease for your next life.” Casey crossed her arms in a huff as if refusing to leave. Chase glanced at his monitor. “Okay, you have time for one question. Make it fast,” he said.

Casey thought about her last memories of being sick. She remembered the spasms she felt while coughing and wheezing, then she looked at her hands. Sitting in the small office, she wiggled her fingers. Wherever she was now, it felt as real as when she was sick. She decided on a question, but she wanted to word it carefully.

“Wherever I was before this office, it feels the same as now. So my question is… how did I get from there to here? I mean, what happened to me that got me from there to here,” she asked. Chase smiled.

“You died,” he said. “See you next time,” he waved again and Casey’s vision went black. Then, she was born again.