Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Page 25

Oh... okay... So I... so I just screwed things up, then...

No, you did fine, Hector. In fact, your intervention ensured that it didn’t develop into a hostage situation.’ Garovel eyed him a moment. ‘Make no mistake, this is risky territory we’re heading into. The idea is to be smart and make the best of situations that are already terrible. Sometimes, there won’t be a good option left to choose, and we’ll just have to endure. Luckily, you’re pretty durable now.

A cup of chili sailed past Hector’s head, and he abruptly realized that a food fight had broken out a few tables away. A half-eaten hot dog landed in his lap and slathered ketchup all over his shirt.

“Oh shit!” came a voice from the crowd. “Sorry about that, pal!” It belonged to a young man he knew to be Micah, smiling apologetically. Micah took a chunk of mashed potatoes to the face.

That looks fun,’ said Garovel. ‘Incredibly wasteful, but fun.

Hector went to get up and had to stifle a groan. When not moving, he could nearly forget that every muscle in his body hated him at the moment. He made his way over to the napkin dispenser at the condiment table, but someone bumped into him. They turned, presumably to apologize, but stopped.

When Hector saw who it was, he averted his eyes and offered his own apology. “Sorry, Davia.”

She looked at him as if she were addressing a blank wall. “Why are you apologizing?” she said. “I bumped into you, didn’t I?”

Hector didn’t chance a reply.

“I’ll look where I’m going next time,” she said. “So don’t tell on me, Hector.” She left him alone.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Page 24

But... why? I don’t...

Like I said, we don’t always agree with one another. That extends to more essential questions, as well. Such as whether or not human lives are even worth protecting in the first place.

That... that sounds horrific...

You see? If we tread into a battlefield, we’ll almost certainly encounter other reapers with servants. And frankly, you are nowhere near ready for that. Their servants will stomp you into the dust.

Aren’t I unkillable, though?

You are, but I’m not. And until you’re able to protect me, we’ll be keeping our heads low. I may be a grim reaper, but I don’t have a death wish.

O-okay...

But there is a reason why I chose Brighton specifically,’ said Garovel, hesitating slightly. ‘There’s something... unsettling about this city.

Unsettling? How do you mean?

Garovel gave a strained expression. ‘I’m not sure. There’s a presence in this city I’ve never felt before. And it’s hiding. I think we may be able to draw it out, given time.

Oh... Hmm.

Did you have any other questions? Feel free to ask me anything.

Hector bit into an apple. Chewing used more muscles than he realized, and he felt his neck and face aching in protest. ‘Actually, there is something. That woman from last night... were you... I mean... were you going to let her die...? In order to catch the murderer, I mean. If I hadn’t interrupted, would you have--

Whoa, whoa, hold on now. The plan was to have the police catch him in the midst of torturing her, not with her dead body. The reason he came so close to killing her was because you spooked him by knocking on the door. Otherwise, he would have been torturing her all night, which would have given the police ample time to arrive.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Page 23

No, I mean... uh... why are you trying to help people here in Brighton? I mean... with all the horrible shit going on in the world, aren’t there lots of other places that need help...? Not that, uh... not that I think preventing murders isn’t important and all, but, ah... there are whole countries at war in the southeast, you know...

I do know, yes. The Korgum-Dozer conflict. And the Kavian civil war in the north. And Jesbol and Horsht far to the west. I’m keenly aware.

Then why are you here?

Perhaps you think I’m the only reaper in the entire world.

Hector blinked.

I’m not, just so it’s clear. I’m merely one of hundreds of thousands. And while it’s true that most of us don’t take on servants, the number of us who do still ends up being quite substantial.

So... you’re saying the other reapers have the war-torn areas covered? Because that doesn’t really--

Garovel shook his head. ‘No, no. Unfortunately, circumstances are appreciably more complicated than that.’ The reaper drifted around the side of the table. ‘Those of us who decide to take on servants and involve ourselves in the world... well, we don’t always agree with one another.

Oh, you mean... oh...

Yeah. It’s especially prevalent in war zones. Some of us will side with one army, while others side with the opposing army. Or some will form their own side, perhaps trying to protect people in the crossfire, perhaps... not.

Hector sat up in his chair. ‘Wait... are you saying... some of you guys are actually trying to make things worse?

Garovel nodded. ‘It may depend on your perspective, but... yes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Page 22

It sometimes seemed a strange thing to him that he could feel so alone with so many people around, but the more he thought about it, the more he supposed that to be the exact problem. He wondered if anyone else felt as lost in the crowd as he did. And now, being undead and seeing Garovel drift among the students like the most unapproachably frightening teacher in the world, Hector also began to wonder if a school where everyone knew one another would have changed his life. Or his death.

Garovel hung around throughout his first few classes, making the occasional remark about how no one in the room was about to die or pointing out an inaccuracy in the teacher’s lecture. Honestly, Hector was glad for the company, strange as it was, but he wasn’t entirely sure why the reaper was staying. Surely, Garovel had better things to do than observe a second-year geography lesson about the Eloan continent’s tropical regions. Hector refrained from asking about it, however, figuring it might prompt Garovel to leave.

But as the teacher’s lecture drew out and transformed into one of current events, of civil unrest and brutalities in the modern world, a more serious question began to brew in Hector’s mind; and when it was time to break for lunch, he decided to petition Garovel for an answer.

There’s something else I want to know,’ Hector thought, not wanting to look like the crazy kid in the corner of the refectory who sat talking to himself.

Yeah?

Uh... why aren’t you somewhere more important?

Garovel cocked a bony eyebrow. ‘Excuse me?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Page 21

Sorry, but that really needs to go away on its own. I told you to expect pain, didn’t I?

He stood slowly and regretted every moment of it. “Agh, oww...”

It’s bad if I keep putting off the recovery pains and exhaustion. They’ll just come back stronger later.

“You can’t just... ugh... keep putting it off forever?”

Yeah, and then one day, I forget. Or we end up separated for a long time, and guess what happens? You experience pain that is so strong, it drives you actually insane.

He sighed. “Okay, fine...”

You’re very cranky in the morning.

Hector blinked and flushed red. “Ah--I’m sorry. I didn’t, ah, I didn’t m-mean to be rude...”

Garovel seemed amused. ‘It’s fine. Don’t look so worried.

He readied himself for school and left, not needing to say goodbye to his parents who were already gone, and he arrived at the bus stop just as it was pulling up to the curb. Garovel floated steadily along with him, even keeping pace with the bus right outside Hector’s window. No one sat next to him.

Calman High School was notoriously cramped. It sat on a crowded high street, its seven stories paling in comparison to every building around it, and since the property was nowhere near large enough to house any fields or facilities whatsoever, every last one of the school’s physical education courses and sports teams had to be exported to rented buildings. An eighth floor was being added in order to cope with the number of students, but that meager relief was still months from fruition.

Hector arrived at his morning mathematics class and took his seat in the back corner of the room, thankful at least for the walls on two sides of him instead of another pair of warm bodies breathing down his neck.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Page 20 -- III.

“You didn’t mention anything... about whatever the hell... you did to me back there...” This time, his pauses were attributed more to his exhaustion and strained breaths.

I converted the energy your body would normally use to support your life into muscle strength. Which sorta makes you look like a corpse and is why that guy freaked out when he saw you.

“Oh... okay...”

You’re going to feel like I ripped your muscles out of your body and replaced them with flaming needles tomorrow, by the way.

“Joy...”


Chapter Three: ‘Thy path be not gentle...’
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Sneaking back into his house had been a chore. He couldn’t very well have gone through the front door; he was sure he would’ve woken one or both of his parents. So instead, he climbed up the wall to his bedroom window--a wall which clearly was not meant to be climbed. He lost count of how many times he fell. Garovel eventually just decided to empower his body again so that Hector could finally make it back up to his room and into the relief of his bed.

Too soon, however, his alarm clock went off.

Oops, sorry. Time to get up.

He groaned into his pillow. “Oh, just... just fuck right off. Seriously... I wouldn’t get out of this bed right now if you set it on fire...”

Garovel tapped him on the head. ‘It’s fine. You can catch up on your sleep later.

He felt his eyelids recede, the weight from them completely lifted. His exhaustion was gone, he realized, and he sat up. He glared at Garovel. “Why didn’t you just do that earlier?” He winced as aching pains vaulted from muscle to muscle all over his body. “And why don’t you do something about this soreness, too?”

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Page 19

Hector looked at his hands for a second, awed and frightened of himself. He spotted a bundle of rope by the bed, presumably used on the victim earlier. He wrapped it around the killer and tied a triple knot as tightly as he could manage.

Then he saw the woman in the bathroom. She was still alive, and conscious, even. When she saw him, she tried to scream and wriggle free, but her constraints kept her in place all too perfectly. She’d been beaten, apparently, and shallow cuts riddled her arms and face and stomach.

Hector stepped toward her and then stopped, thinking better of it. “Sorry,” he told her. “I’d untie you, but... you should probably stay and explain... uh, to the police... about what he tried to do to you. Otherwise, he could... you know... get away with it... and... yeah...”

She only stared back at him, wide-eyed.

“Oh! But, uh... don’t worry! The police will be here any minute. And he’s unconscious now. And I tied him up just in case. So... uh... y-you’re safe, now. And I-I should, I should go...”

Upon hearing sirens in the distance, he ran. Some onlookers had gathered outside, the security guard from earlier among them, but he just pushed past them. He didn’t stop running until he couldn’t see the apartment complex anymore.

Garovel grabbed his shoulder, and suddenly, his strength left him. He fell to his knees, gasping for breath. His deathly body, however, returned to normal. The blackened and missing chunks of flesh grew anew, becoming the livelier ashy brown color they were before. He barely felt capable of walking, as if he’d just run a marathon where the prize was getting run over by a bus.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Page 18

He bounded up the first staircase he saw and got off at the fourth floor. A pair of hallways bade him choose, so he followed Garovel’s directions to the door of the murderer.

Hector pounded on the door. “Hello?! Please open up, sir! There’s, ah--a gas leak, and we need to evacuate the building!”

No answer.

Garovel ventured inside. ‘He’s hiding her in the bathroom.’

He backed up and started kicking the door. “Please, sir! I know you’re in there! This is very important!” The door didn’t budge at all. It might as well have been a wall.

He’s about to slit her throat.’

“No!”

Here.’ Garovel found his shoulder, and Hector immediately felt an explosion of pain throughout his body before it vanished familiarly. ‘Kick it in!

The door flew from its hinges, ripping its deadbolt and chained lock right out of the wood and plaster.

“What the fuck?!” came a voice from the bathroom, and when the man came out and saw Hector, horror struck his face and he backed away toward the living room. “What the fuck are you?!”

And Hector was confused, because he couldn’t see his own skin eating away at itself, revealing the dried, bloodless muscles of his face. He couldn’t see his shaved hair gone ghostly white or his bloodshot eyes outlined in dead, blackened flesh. Hector just kept walking forward, undeterred by the knife that the murderer threw into his chest, and he grabbed the man by the throat and slowly tightened his grip. Hector could hardly believe how weak the man’s struggles were. He easily kept him pinned against the wall, strangling the man until he fell unconscious.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Page 17

The reaper made no response.

Hector kept pressing. “I mean, because, I-I can’t die, right? He won’t be able to kill me? And... because I... I already wasted my life, anyway, so... I wouldn’t even be risking anything...”

Are you telling me you want to deal with him yourself?’

“I... uh... yeah.”

Garovel tilted his head. ‘That’s surprisingly bold of you. I thought you’d prefer to take things slower.’

“I just... don’t want anyone getting killed, is all...”

If that’s the case, then you should probably hurry.’

Hector’s face stiffened. “What? Why?”

Well, you know how I said the plan was to have the police visit him at an inconvenient time? He kills women by seducing them and bringing them back to his apartment, so the intention was to have them show up in the middle of--

“What?!” He looked back to the balcony, but the man wasn’t there anymore. He grabbed the phone and dialed the police.

Now you’re calling? But you just said--

“Hello?!” he yelled into the receiver. “There’s a guy in my building about to kill someone! He’s got a gun--”

He uses a knife.’

“--I mean, a knife, and ah--I heard him making threats on someone’s life from outside his apartment!”

<“What is your location?”>

“Ah--” Garovel gave him the address of the building, and he relayed it to the operator.

<“Please stay on the line, sir.”>

“Sorry, I can’t! Just get here!” He hung up and ran across the street. He barged through the entrance, and a security guard scrambled to stop him, but Hector had quite a head start. “Matter of life and death!” he shouted back as an apology.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Page 16

He wondered what he would do if some stranger came up to him and started talking, like what happens in every movie where a young person ends up in a strange neighborhood late at night, and the more he thought about it, the more he resolved that there wasn’t much for him to be afraid of. In fact, he almost wanted some creepy drunk person to saunter up and start a conversation, just so he could see what would happen. He figured it would inevitably be something surprising, like them turning out to be really fun and perfectly harmless, if a bit over-friendly from the inebriation. And if they tried to kidnap and murder him, well. That would be surprising for them.

Here,’ said Garovel, stirring him from his wonderment. The reaper drifted near a phone booth, and Hector entered. ‘Up there.

He looked where the reaper pointed and saw a fourth floor balcony of a high-end apartment building. A man stood there, smoking in front of a lamp over a window. Even at this distance, he could see that the man was well-dressed in a dark suit and undone tie.

“That... that’s the guy?”

Yeah.

Hector eyed the phone in front of him. The next step was obvious enough, but he hesitated. “But... what if...”

Hmm?

“What if I call the police... and they come and... what if that guy kills one of them?”

Garovel looked at him heavily. ‘If you’re wondering why I’m not sending you in there instead, it’s because this is your first try. I don’t intend to give you more than you can handle.

“But... if someone has to risk their life... then it should be me... shouldn’t it?”

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Page 15

Garovel laughed, promptly apologized for laughing, and then fixed him. He asked Garovel why he could still feel pain, and the reaper explained that pain was still useful in letting him know which parts worked and which didn’t.

“Are you really sure about this?” he mumbled into the cool night air.

What do you mean? Of course I’m sure.

“But... how am I supposed to stop a serial killer...? You’re not gonna... make me... kill this guy, right?”

Oh, no. That could get messy. Serial killers are matters for the authorities, but I’ve been observing this guy, and in this instance, the police could use an assist. Just someone to point them in the right direction, that is.

“Point, how?”

An anonymous phone call.

“That will actually work?”

We just have to give them an excuse to visit his apartment at a particularly inconvenient time for him. The rest should follow.

They walked for a long while in the dark, leaving the modesty of Hector’s inner city neighborhood for the downtown towers. He wasn’t sure what time it was, but judging by the fog gathering between the buildings, he guessed it was late enough to be considered early again. The air tram had not stopped running, though, carrying rowdy passengers above the street on its suspended rails, and loud music in the distance bridged the gaps not already filled by sirens.

People on the sidewalks and in the street paid him little mind as they laughed at each other’s jokes or stumbled out of a night club or slept on the bench in front of a Nancy’s.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Page 14 -- II.

The last couple weeks, I watched you quite a lot. That’s when I noticed. You were always alone.’ Garovel paused. ‘At school, you almost never speak to any of your classmates. Maybe it’s because you have such trouble communicating. Even here, in your own house, you’re very distant from your parents. I don’t think I ever saw you say more than a few words to them at a time.

He squinted hard, feeling the sudden tension behind his eyes, trying to keep it away.

The reason you waited so long to kill yourself, it was because you were waiting for someone to stop you, wasn’t it?

He covered his eyes with his hand, as if to make some vain attempt at hiding himself. “But... no one did...”

No. No one did.

The tears were there in full now, streaming down his face, and he couldn’t make them go away, much as he wanted to.

And then, after you died, when I asked you if you would help me, you agreed. That was all the confirmation I needed. Because like I said, if you had really wanted to die, then you wouldn’t have said yes to me.

He tried to say something else, uncertain what, but found his breath too choked to form words.

So now you’ve got another chance. And this time, you’ll try to help me, just like I’ll try to help you.


Chapter Two: ‘Hark! Ye quiet horrors...!’
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Hector had snuck out of the house, which he had never done before and was not sure he ever wanted to do again. His room was on the second floor, so he jumped out the window and broke both of his legs, which hurt like hell, he discovered.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Page 13

At that, Hector hesitated. For a time, he merely sat there, letting his gaze fall from Garovel to the floor. “But,” he finally said, “I killed myself...”

I know. I watched you do it.

“Then... then why didn’t you ask someone else? Someone who died by accident or something?” He breathed a curt breath. “Someone who actually deserves a chance like this...”

If you’d really wanted to die like that, then you wouldn’t have agreed to help me when I asked you.

As he sat there, his head eased down between his hands. “But...” He sighed.

Before you died, I had been watching you for quite a while.

He looked up. “What...?”

From the moment you decided to commit suicide, I could sense the aura of death around you.’ The shadows of Garovel’s missing eyes seemed abruptly more intent upon him. ‘That’s how it works. I sense death when the soul becomes directly imperiled. If you were about to get hit by a bus, I wouldn’t sense your death until you walked in front of the thing. Situations like that really suck. But for people like you, people who intend to commit suicide, I sense death when the decision is finalized in your mind.

He blinked. “Then... you must’ve been...”

Yes. I was waiting for nearly seven months. That’s how long it took you to do it.’ Garovel gave a small shrug. ‘Not the longest I’ve ever seen, but definitely up there. I’d check on you from time to time, maybe two or three times a week. Eventually, I started to wonder why you were letting things drag out so much, why you didn’t just get it over with. And then I figured it out.

His gaze returned to the floor, and his eyes eased shut as he listened.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Page 12

“Dammit, I’m... trying...”

Ah well. I understood you the second time, anyway.

“Then answer my question, already!”

Hey, you didn’t pause that time. Good job.

“I wish you had a body so I could strangle you...”

That’s an important question, though. Obviously, if I could keep more people alive, I would. I don’t know about everyone, but yes. The problem is, I can only maintain a stable connection with one soul at a time. If I tried to maintain it with a second person, then my energy would begin to dissipate, which would end up exhausting or destroying me. And if either of those two things happen to me, then the people I’m connected to would have their souls ripped from their still-living bodies, which would result in either brain death or a psychotic break. And a body with a broken consciousness can become rather monstrous, to say the least.

He cocked his head back. “You mean, they’d... like... start killing random people?”

Among other gruesome things, yeah.

“Wow... okay.” He folded his slender arms, and his face distorted a little. “But if that’s the case, then... why’d you pick me for this job?”

Well, I had to pick someone. I needed a servant, and there you were.

“That’s it...? It was just coincidence that you picked me...?”

Mostly.

Hector eyed the reaper. “And what does that mean? ‘Mostly’?”

I try not to petition murderers and the like for this job, so yes, there is some judgment involved, on my part. What’s more, I didn’t pick you. I asked you. You’re the one who agreed.

“But... a second chance like this... who the hell would turn down your offer?”

Someone who just wants to die.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Page 11

“Er, yeah...” He nodded again.

You should know, however, that I will always require this of you. My entire purpose in reviving you is so that you can help me save lives. So no matter how your life may change--be it a new job, getting married, having children, or anything else--if you ever become unable to help me, then I will have to release your soul and find someone else.’

“O-okay...” He squinted. “But... how could I ever become ‘unable’ to help you? I mean... I doubt I’ll ever be too busy to go save a person’s life...”

That’s good of you to say, but it may not always be your decision. For instance, if your brain ended up in a jar, you wouldn’t be able to save anyone. And I wouldn’t be able to get you out. Well. Maybe if it was a weak jar. I mean, a REALLY weak jar. I’m not too sure.

He blinked a couple times. “Uh... what? Why would my brain end up in a jar?”

I dunno. I was just giving an example.’

That example was far too specific, Hector felt. “Are... are you gonna ask me to fight a mad scientist or something?”

Oh, um. I wasn’t planning on it, but I can’t say its an impossibility, either. Who knows what the future will bring, right?

“Er... right...” Hector’s gaze drifted toward the ground for a moment, then to the unbroken skin on his arms again. "I do have a question, though...”

What is it?’

“If... if you can... resurrect people like this... then... why don’t you... you know... do it... for everyone?”

Garovel hesitated. ‘Uh. What? I can’t understand you. Stop pausing so much when you talk.’

“Agh...” He tried again. “If you can resurrect people, then... why don’t you just... resurrect everyone?”

You’re still pausing. I told you to stop that.’

Monday, April 15, 2013

Page 10

It has to do with your brain.’ Garovel tapped a long phalanx bone against his bare skull. ‘Rather than having to rely on blood and flesh for all of its energy, your brain now relies entirely upon me, largely because I now inhabit your brain, so to speak. But, in terms of this physical world, your brain is now self-sustaining. Even if, say, you bleed to death or your heart stops beating or you even stop breathing, your brain will continue to work just fine.’ The reaper paused again. ‘Of course, it’s not quite as simplistic as it sounds, since the brain is a pretty complicated piece of equipment. I did have to numb all sorts of signals that might otherwise fool your brain into thinking it needs to shut down due to a lack of blood or glucose or what have you, but you don’t really need to worry about all that. I’ve got everything covered.’

Hector tried to say something but found he didn’t have the words, so he just kind of stared with a raised brow.

The reaper tilted its head at him. ‘Did that make sense?’

He merely nodded.

Alright, then. The third advantage is, obviously, having my shining personality around whenever you need me.’

He couldn’t help smirking just a little.

Though, it’s more than just my personality,’ Garovel went on. ‘As a reaper of death, I have the ability to sense whenever someone is on the verge of it. The verge of death, that is. Simply put, I perceive an aura of impending doom about a person’s soul. It’s very dramatic. Especially because I can’t do anything to help them. You, on the other hand, can. So whenever I sense that aura around someone, I want you to try and save them. Understood?’

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Page 9

“I wonder how long it would’ve taken...”

The reaper fell quiet after that. It wasn’t until after Hector had nearly finished cleaning that the conversation resumed.

I’m Garovel, by the way. Garovel is my name, that is.’

Hector took a seat on the edge of the bathtub and looked at the floating skeleton again. “Okay,” was all he said.

Garovel tilted his head. ‘Not much for conversation, eh? You talked more when you were dead.’

“...Sorry. I don’t... I mean... yeah.”

Well, don’t worry about it. There’s no need to rush things.’ Garovel drifted nearer the mirror, and Hector realized suddenly that the reaper had no reflection. ‘You don’t seem to be the very curious type, so I guess I’ll just explain. Stop me if you have a question.’

Hector waited.

You and I are now connected,’ Garovel said. ‘I am what sustains your life, now. Biologically, your body is alive again, but I am the only thing that keeps you attached to your body. Your soul, your consciousness, your sense of self, whatever you want to call the thing, I’m the one who maintains its connection with this world, now.’ The reaper paused a moment, considerate perhaps. ‘I suppose that might sound like a bad thing. Having your soul controlled by someone else, that is, but there are actually some pretty fantastic advantages to this whole scenario. The first is, of course, the ability to restore your body, but I already talked about that. And I believe you’ve already glimpsed the second major advantage. That is, the ability to continue moving, even after your body is technically dead.’

He blinked.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Page 8

He looked around, blinking. The kitchen was empty, still. He chanced a whisper. “Where are you...?”

Still in the bathroom,’ came the reply. ‘I can talk to you, no matter how far apart we are. Has to do with the fact that I’m tapped directly into your brain, rather than talking with a physical voice.’

There was a pause, and Hector just kind of squinted as he waited.

It works both ways, you know. Say something in your head, and I’ll hear you.’ Another pause. ‘You have to actually think something explicitly, though. Concentration is what solidifies the thoughts in our minds and makes them understandable.’

“Uh... Oh.” ‘...Like this?’ he thought, letting his gaze wander toward the ceiling.

Yeah. Easy, right?

Er... sure...’ He grabbed the other accouterments that the reaper had mentioned, made his way back upstairs without drawing the attention of his parents, and began mopping up the bathroom floor. With each stroke, the crimson ebbed away, leaving behind a pinkish residue as the pool of blood crowded back in on itself.

He wasn’t sure how long the blood had been there, but it had begun staining the tile, so he guessed a few hours must have passed, at least.

You’ve gotten quiet,’ said the reaper, making Hector look up from his work. ‘I thought you’d have more questions for me.’

He stared at the blood for a bit. “...They didn’t notice.”

What?

“My parents,” he said, wringing the mop out over the bucket. “They didn’t notice I was dead.”

There was a noticeable pause. ‘You were locked in a bathroom, you know. It probably would have been a while before they discovered your body.’

Friday, April 12, 2013

Page 7

But there’s a lot more I should explain before we start trying to save the world and whatnot, and you should probably clean up this mess before someone sees. Unless you plan on starting things off by revealing your secret to someone.

“Er, right...” He moved toward the door and then paused awkwardly. “Uh...”

Maybe a mop would be useful?

“R-right...” He opened the door and left. A narrow hallway awaited, and he couldn’t help staring at it for a moment. Such a simple place. Creamy white walls and plain brown carpeting. He must have seen it thousands of times, but it seemed somehow different. Everything did, in fact. His scuffed sneakers, his baggy black trousers, even the hallway light over his head and the moth fluttering around it; everything was a reminder of himself, of who he was, of his sudden uncertainty as to whether or not he was still that same person.

He made sure to close the bathroom door behind him and went downstairs. His parents sat together in the den, watching television in the dim light of a tall lamp. They didn’t bother to look at him as he crossed into the kitchen, though he was sure they must have heard his footsteps. But then, he supposed it was better that they didn’t see him. Explaining all the blood on his shirt would have been difficult. Quickly, he grabbed the mop by the refrigerator.

Don’t forget a bucket,’ came the reaper’s soundless voice, and Hector nearly dropped his mop, juggling it between hands for a few moments. ‘Some towels would probably be good, too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Page 6

Ah, well, it’s no big deal. Oh, and before I forget...’ The reaper hovered closer and reached a gangly hand toward him.

Hector recoiled a little, but the hand still found his shoulder. And suddenly, he felt his arms begin to burn. He looked down to see the bloody gashes bulge and tighten. A groan escaped his lips as he watched the wounds close themselves, leaving only streaks of blood behind, both still wet and already dried. The pain subsided after a few moments.

“What the hell...?” He traced over his arm where one of the slits had been, brushing away the blood. Not even a scar remained. What’s more, his arms were no longer numb.

Might want to clean up all this blood,’ said the reaper, motioning to the floor. ‘I can restore your body, but once the blood leaves, I can’t put it back. Same goes for your limbs, if they get chopped off or something. I don’t reattach things. I just regrow them.

He squinted a little. “Regrow...?”

I can revive you, no matter how bad your injuries are,’ it said. ‘Even if your whole body is destroyed, I can recreate it again. That’s how my power works. As long as I maintain a link to your soul, I can resurrect the physical body that accompanies it. Without the soul, though, I can’t do anything.

He wasn’t sure what to say.

It’s too bad, really. If I could create a body from scratch, then I wouldn’t need anyone’s help. I could just make a body for myself and go be a superhero or something.

“Uh... I-I see... I think.”

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Page 5

His eyes fell to the sink, to the razor blade in it. It seemed a strange way to die, suddenly, by way of such a small thing, a tiny strip of sharpened metal. But then, he supposed it hadn’t really been the razor so much as the long, vertical gashes along his arms, which were still there, though they didn’t seem to hurt at all. In fact, he couldn’t even feel them. He seemed capable of moving them just fine, but they were completely numb.

Hello, again,’ came a voice, and he turned to see a figure appear next to him, sitting there... floating there. A skeleton, it seemed to be, its bones emanating white from behind a shroud of the pitchest black he had ever seen. A scythe sat in its grip, the blade hanging low beneath its body.

Hector just kind of stared, wide-eyed.

No return greeting, huh? Well, fine.’ The skeleton’s jaw moved with its words, though Hector couldn’t understand how.

After a moment, he managed to conjure up a word of his own. “You’re...”

The reaper you were just talking to, yes. Nice to meet you. Officially, that is.

“You look... you look just like I imagined you would.” He blinked a few times. “Is this really happening...?”

Ah, right. My appearance.’ It gave a skeletal shrug. ‘Whatever you’re seeing, right now, it’s not really what I look like. In truth, I don’t actually look like anything.

“...What?”

Your brain forms an image of what I should look like and projects it onto my presence. Appearance is something for your physical reality, where I do not exist.

“I... don’t understand...”

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Page 4

“I don’t know...”

“Well, I hate to rush you, but you might want to decide before someone discovers your dead body. It could cause you problems if people find it before you come back to life.”

“I haven’t said yes, yet...”

“I’m aware. Please decide. I’m impatient.”

“A-alright... I’ll give it a shot. It can’t be much worse...”

“Excellent. I’ll get right to it, then.”

“...What’re you gonna do?”

“Just hold on. This might be a little jarring.”

“Hold on? To what? There’s nothing here... What the...? Whoa!”

-+-+-+-+-

Hector awoke with a cringe. A bolt of pain ran through him, but it vanished after a moment. He blinked away the haze in his vision and sat up.

It was the bathroom, he saw, remembering. This was where he had died, in this little, not-so-white-tiled bathroom. At least, that’s what he thought. Obviously, he wasn’t dead.

The fan in the ceiling buzzed, still, just as before. He remembered that sound, remembered thinking about how it would be the last thing he ever heard, remembered how it had made him feel all the more pitiful in his final moments.

But now, hearing the sound again, the droning hum, he wasn’t sure what to think. It seemed almost like a different noise even though he knew it hadn’t changed.

His shirt was wet, Hector realized, and he looked down at the crimson stains in its thin white cloth. He stood and saw the floor, a pool of his own blood.

He scratched his head. “Huh...”

A mirror greeted him next, his face reflected through a slight cloud of soapy fog. Everything looked the same. The black skin, the shaved head, the somber brown gaze--all his. Somehow, part of him expected to see someone else. Part of him wanted to.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Page 3

“I’ve been around for thousands of years, ferrying souls across this rift between realms. And I’m able to observe the living, but I can’t interact with you until you die. So, as you might imagine, I see a lot of terrible things happen in your world, things that I’d like to be able to do something about. But obviously, I can’t. Not by myself. That’s where you’d come in. I’d find people who are about to die, and then you’d go save them.”

“Uh... wow...”

“Wow?”

“It’s just... I mean... are you serious?”

“Yes.”

“But... uh... That sounds great and all, but... I don’t think I’d be able to save anyone...”

“Sure you would. With my help, you’ll be unkillable.”

“Un...killable...? You mean, like, immortal?”

“Yes. You’d be my undead servant, so naturally, if you die, I’d just revive you again.”

“Whoa... undead...”

“Are you interested in giving it a try?”

“Uh... I dunno. Sounds kind of... insane...”

“Eh. That’s a little rude.”

“You said... I’d be your servant?”

“Yes.”

“...What happens if I disobey you?”

“If you decide you don’t want to help me, anymore, then I’d just release your soul and let you die.”

“You’d kill me...”

“Hey, you’re already dead. What’ve you got to lose?”

“...In that case, it sounds a little too good to be true.”

“It wouldn’t be permanent. If you decide later that you don’t like the arrangement, I’ll find someone else and let you go back to dying.”

“How do I know you’re not lying?”

“Uh. I suppose you don’t. You’ll have to take a bit of a risk. Same as how I’m taking a risk on you.”

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Page 2

“Normally, you’d never know I was here, but I had to disturb you to ask a question.”

“...A proposition.”

“Right. See, as a reaper, I have the power to keep one servant, someone who will help me with various things.”

“Servant...? You want me to be your servant?”

“Servant, partner, friend, ally, whatever you wanna call it, but yes, that’s basically the idea. I’d revive your body, and you’d be able to live again, as long as you help me out. You died very young. I thought you might want a second chance, a chance to, perhaps, live a more fulfilling life.”

“More fulfilling...?”

“Was I wrong?”

“Well... no... but... you could really do that?”

“Yes. No one’s discovered your body, yet, so there’s no problem.”

“So... you could, like, make me into some kind of billionaire or something in my new life?”

“What? No, of course not. That’s not how it works.”

“Then what the hell were you talking about just now?”

“It’s like this: your body is dead, now, but I can revive it and reattach your soul. I can’t give you a brand new body and tons of money. That’d be crazy. I’m a reaper, not a friggin’ genie.”

“Oh... so I’d be living the same life as before...”

“Almost. Well. Kind of. I mean. Things could get a bit complicated.”

“...What the hell does that mean?”

“I wouldn’t revive you for no reason, of course. I’d want you to help me out, like I said.”

“...Help you with what?”

“Saving lives.”

“...Huh?”

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Page 1 -- I.

((Note to new readers: If you find the text too small or otherwise hard on the eyes, try zooming in with your web browser. Or, if you'd rather read the story in e-book format, you can download the first three story arcs [290 pages on this site] for free over at Smashwords or Amazon.))


Chapter One: ‘O, benevolent darkness...!’
Click to display entire chapter at once -- (mobile link)

“Hello there, friend.”

“...Where am I? What’s happening?”

“Easy now. Don’t panic. Everything’s alright.”

“...What’s going on? Why can’t I see anything?”

“I’m going to tell you, but I need you to listen. I promise to answer all of your questions, so just try to stay calm, okay?”

“...O-okay.”

“Listen. You’re dead.”

“...What?”

“You’re dead. You don’t have a physical body, anymore. That’s why you can’t see or move.”

“...What kind of crazy joke is this?”

“I’m sorry, friend, but I’m not joking. If I were joking, you’d be laughing. I’m hilarious.”

“What the...?”

“Just relax a moment and think about it. You should remember your death.”

“But... I...”

“Do you remember?”

“I... yes... I remember... I...”

“Don’t worry. It’s alright. I was there when you died. I know what happened.”

“I’m... really dead?”

“Yes.”

“...Does that mean... this is... some kind of afterlife?”

“Not quite. You haven’t reached that point, yet.”

“...What do you mean? Why not? Is it... because I...?”

“No, it’s nothing like that. Everything is perfectly normal. I just woke you up a little early, is all. Because before you move on, I have a proposition for you.”

“Proposition...? Who are you?”

“I’m called a few different things, but you’d probably know me best as a reaper. You know. The grim kind.”

“The hell...?”

“I guide and protect souls as they make the journey into the afterlife. Or oblivion. Whichever.”

“You... don’t know?”

“Sure don’t. I’m just a ferryman.”

“Oh... that’s... disappointing...”

“Hey. It bothers me, too. In fact, shut up about it. I don’t need you reminding me of my shortcomings.”

“Uh, sorry...”

About the Story

~~A young man dies and is offered to be revived by a grim reaper in exchange for servitude. Responsibilities typically include the fight against abominable horrors, human or otherwise. However, this young man already has a few problems of his own... such as crippling shyness.~~

General Information
My current update schedule is at the top of the site, just under the big, glowy title. I've chosen to update in this fashion not because I expect readers to actually read each new piece as it is posted, but because it helps me keep a good writing pace. Additionally, I will put out extra pages whenever someone is kind enough to make a donation (see the "Donate" page for exact details on that), and sometimes for holidays as well.

Setting
The setting of the story is a modern fantasy world called Eleg, which is culturally and technologically similar to present day Earth in many ways, yet also divergent in many others. It's not an alternate timeline, as Eleg has its own geography and political systems, but there are still some historical parallels.

Often, the story will contain very dark subject matter. Similarly often, there will be very strong language. It gets super violent and gory, too.

Suggested Methods of Reading
If you like the story and wish to follow it regularly, I recommend returning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and/or Saturdays.

Or perhaps (and this may sound strange coming from the author), you might want to just forget about this story for a while. That way, when you eventually remember, you'll have a massive archive to dive into. Though, I'd also appreciate you recommending the story to other people while you're away. And while you're not away, I suppose. Really, I just appreciate recommendations. New readers are the best support possible for me.

I also recommend bookmarking the pages you stop at with your web browser, so if you'd like to pick it up again later, you won't spend ages trying to find where you left off.

Obviously, you're free to follow the story however you like, but just know that I generally write the story to be digested on a chapter-by-chapter basis. I post daily for MY sake, because the frequent deadlines keep me frequently motivated.

Long-term Plans
You may be wondering what my overall goals are for the story. Do I already have the whole thing written. Do I know exactly how many chapters there will be. That kind of thing. Here's the answer.

I write TZK in major story arcs. I plot things out really far ahead. I write less far ahead. I don't really have an ending in mind, because I don't intend to stop writing this story for a LONG ASS TIME. I do have a few ideas of how I might like to conclude things, but there's just way too much stuff I wanna do with the story first. It's a really big world, and I still see way too much potential in it to be worrying myself over the final story arcs anytime soon.

Errors
Um. If you happen to spot any typos... then I'd be glad if you pointed them out to me in the comments... even if you're, like... a total dick about it... I'll still be happy and fix them.

If you spot a plot hole or continuity error in the story, then... YOU'RE A LIAR. I DON'T MAKE MISTAKES. I'M PERFECT IN EVERY WAY. LOOK HOW PERFECT I AM. No, but if you really do see one and mention it in the comments, then I may try to address it in the future, if possible. If you're wrong, though, and it's actually not a mistake, then I will call you names and insult your hair.

Friday, April 5, 2013

General Comments

Questions, comments, discussions, anything you guys want to talk about--that's what this page is for. Due to the format of the story, comments tend to get spread all over the place, and I'm sure that makes it a little more difficult for you guys to have conversations with one another. So here you go.

Please don't post typo corrections here, though. It's a lot easier for me to see the typo you're talking about if you post it in the comments of the page that it's on.

And of course, new readers beware. Here be spoilers. Um. Probably.