The silent embrace of death wasn't at all like I imagined. I didn't get to see my lifeless body from on high, my whole life didn't flash before my eyes, but I guess there is some truth to the white light bit because the moment I died I found myself in a brightly lit hallway with a sign in front of me that read:
“Welcome to the afterlife- Please take a number.”
Well, if you insist. I took a number and sat down in one of the many chairs lining the hall. There weren't as many people in here as one might think. What's more, my number was one, apparently. It didn't take long before a young looking woman came through a door near where I had appeared. She looked surprised to see me as she came my way.
“Hm, we weren't expecting anyone here this early. Do you have an appointment?” She asked.
“I'm not so sure myself, but it says here I'm number one?” I said questioningly.
“Yes, you're the first person to die today. Wow, lucky you.” She said with a clap. The irony of that was not lost on me.
“I imagined there would be more people,” I said, and no sooner did I say that than did an old man appear near where I had. He paused for a moment, but soon he seemed to understand. He took a number and had a seat. This pattern began to become more frequent as time passed.
“Well here in HR we like to divide our new arrivals by the day they died. You beat most of our staff in. Please be patient as we get everything set up, and we'll call you in.” She said with a smile.
So I really am dead. Not exactly what I was expecting it to be like, but then again I'm not sure what I was expecting, either. I wonder how Riley is taking this. She would have been better off not coming, seeing as it didn't do me any favors. I took a quick look around, but she wasn't here. That's good, at least she didn't die, too.
Man, this is going to be hard on my parents, too. Losing me and Quin at the same time, not to mention this makes it both children... Maybe I'll get to see Emmy, again. What would she even look like? I don't know what to make of any of this.
There was a soft ding that could be heard all around. I looked up to see a monitor displaying “Now Seeing: 1” It wasn't in English, but I somehow knew what the symbols meant.
I stood up and made my way to the end of the hall. When I went through the door, the young lady from earlier smiled and greeted me.
“It's good to see you again. Ok, right this way,” she said as she took my number from me and ushered me to a cubicle. “This is Peter, but you can call him Pete. He'll get you set on the right track.” She gave a quick wave and went back to her desk.
Pete was sifting through some papers on his desk and hadn't yet spoken, or even looked up for that matter. He wore a suit and tie and seemed very tired. Maybe he just isn't a morning person. Is this even considered morning? Whatever.
“Take a seat, take a seat,” he said with a wave of his hand. I quickly complied.
“Ok so, welcome to the afterlife, I'm your walk of life councilor, my name is Peter,” he said. “Could I please see your papers?”
“Um. Papers?” I asked. “I... I don't have any papers.”
Pete pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes. He seemed very irritable. He let out a long sigh before mumbling, “It's gonna be one of those days I see.”
By now several other people occupied the cubicles around us, and I could hear the goings on around me. Things like Oh, you're a Hindu? Alright well it says here your karma isn't exactly what we're looking for, so how do you feel about being a cat? And Hm, Agnostic? Well you have a few options but we'll have to get it approved first.
“How do you NOT have any papers?” Pete asked me.
“I just don't... No one gave me anything, I just sort of showed up.” I explained.
“Ok, level with me. Are you from management, because I don't have time for an evaluation right now,” he said.
“Do I look like I'm from management?” I asked.
“You're right, you look clueless. Forget I asked,” he said. “Mary, can you come here for a second?” He called out.
The receptionist promptly poked into the cubicle. “Hm?” She asked cheerfully.
“This kid doesn't have any papers... Can you find out which Reaper tagged him and bring them in?” He asked. Tagged me? What am I, deer in season now?
A few awkward minutes went by before she came back and said, “This is Dio, she was the one responsible for Reaping him.” She said as she ushered in an irritated looking girl. The girl, whom I presume is “Dio,” looked like some 90's Anime heroine. She looked to be about my age, and only a little taller than Quin. Her hair was white, in stark contrast to her red eyes. She wore a black and red corset with a poofy skirt around the waist and a cloak draped over her shoulders. Long leather gloves to match her knee high boots, and of course, fishnets...
The moment Pete saw her he covered his face with his hands and mumbled, “for crying out loud, not you again...”
“What's that supposed to mean?!” Dio demanded haughtily.
“Don't play dumb, Dio! Did you even check to see if his soul was ready for harvesting?” Pete asked.
“He smelled pretty ripe to me...” She said curtly. Rude.
Pete just sat there with a look of annoyed disbelief.
“The kid got wrecked by a lesser demon. I put him out of his misery, he was a goner either way. A vampire crashed the party and would have sucked him dry regardless,” She explained.
“Dio, Reapers duty's, line eight. Recite it for me, please,” Pete said slowly.
Dio sighed and said, “Reapers will sever the connection of spirits from their shells when, and only when they are marked for death.”
“Hm... That's very interesting, Dio. It's almost as if it CLEARLY STATES when you are to perform your duties. So, in this case, not only did you not have clearance to take him, but now that I've looked up the location I see he wasn't even in your territory. I wonder how Mike is going to take this one,” Pete said. He was glaring a hole in Dio.
“There's no need to bring the Archangel into this...” she said, defeated.
“If I recall, the last time this happened he put you on the Black Plague cleanup crew, didn't he? How was that? Busy, huh?” Pete prodded.
Dio visibly shuddered at the thought. “So much overtime...”
“That's right. Have a seat, I'll deal with you next... and leave your scythe in the hall before you break something,” he said.
Her shoulders slumped as she propped her scythe against the wall and plopped down next to me. She crossed her arms and shot a sideways glance at me.
“Alright, you. I've pulled your file here. Looks like you're one of the special cases. You don't have an ETA, nothing unusual there. You never know when someone in your position might ride the heroism role straight to the afterlife... man your folder is packed full of potential plots. How have you managed to avoid them all this time?” He asked.
“I refuse to play into any of it. You write it off like it's some mild inconvenience, but that curse took my sister away!” My hands were sweating and I was biting back my sudden anger. “Are you saying that someone here decided that I was supposed to live this way?!”
“Yes. That's exactly what it is,” Pete said flatly as he turned the pages of my file.
“That's not acceptable!” I yelled as I lurched out of my chair. “You can't just force someone to go through this!”
“Sit down,” He said quietly, and I immediately found myself in my chair once more, unable to move. “People are born into poverty, disease, and war zones every day with no say so in the matter and you think that you're being treated unfairly? Parents who love you, friends who miss you already, and an exciting life. I'm sorry about what happened to your sister, but guess what, life isn't fair.”
My whole body was cold and I could feel the tears streaming down my face. He was right. Quin was murdered in a house fire, and that's just naming one. Emmy died, not me. Yet I act like I was the one who paid the price. This is all so messed up. I'm not wrong, am I? I'm not a bad person for hating the thing that took her away from me, right?
“Alright kid, you've got two options as far as I can tell. Normally we would just make you help out around the office here until you reached your ETA, but you don't have one. So we have to give you some purpose. So either A: I send you back to your body, but demons will just devour your soul now that your lifeline has been cut, or B: You become a Grim Reaper and ferry the souls of the dead to the afterlife,” Pete explained.
“I choose Option A.”
“Alrighty I'll just get a work order in for your scythe, that will take a few days, and- … hold on you mean you want to go back? Was I not clear about what would happen?” He looked to Dio. “I did say he would be devoured, right?”
Dio nodded. “He doesn't look like the brightest bulb in the batch, though. Try speaking slowly.”
“I know exactly what you said, and Dio, don't insult my intelligence when you can't seem to follow step-by-step instructions,” I said. “But being a Grim Reaper sounds exactly like the kind of thing the hero would become. Dead or not, I'm sticking to my guns on this one.”
“...Well then, I imagine we'll be meeting again very soon, for the time being, get out of my office.”
And just like that, I woke up.
I smelled where I was before my eyes could recognize the familiar ceiling of the hospital where Riley and I were brought months ago. This place smelled like sterilized death. To my right were all the machines I was hooked up to, and to my left... My father. He was out cold in an armchair that didn't look like the other chairs in the room. He probably brought it himself, knowing him.
“Dad,” I whispered softly.
His eyes opened slowly and he glanced at me.
“It’s late, let me sleep. I’ll be happy to see you in about five hours,”
“That’s not what you say when your bedridden son returns from the afterlife! Aren’t you a little surprised?!”
“Not really. Are you?” He asked.
“There’s some food on that tray if you’re hungry,” He said.
To my right was a bedside tray. I removed the lid to find it completely empty, save for some jello with what looked like a bite taken out of it.
“You ate my food? Have you no shame?”
“The chicken was a bit dry. I did you a favor honestly.”
“The jello didn’t sit well with you?”
With a disgusted look on his face, he said,
“The stuff nearly killed me. I considered eating it all and dragging you back from the afterlife myself.”
“Where's mom?” I asked.
“She's at home with Quin,” he explained.
“Quin? What? What happened?” I said as I tried to sit up.
“Take it easy. I'll explain,” he said. “You've been in a coma for a month.”
An entire month has gone by? How long was I in that place? I guess time doesn't follow the same rules in the afterlife.
“When Riley pulled you out of that burning house, you had Quin wrapped in your arms,” he continued.
“-wait... you mean she's alive? She's back?” I asked.
“Yea... I know, it's crazy, right? The police can't identify her. She doesn't exist on anyone's records.” he said. “We asked if we could adopt her. She was placed in foster care for a few days but some woman from the army showed up and pulled some strings for us. She said she knew you.”
Shizune... I guess they still have their eyes on me. I bet she was pissed when she found out I died... or almost died? I don't know.
“So what happens now? Do things just go back to the way they were?” I asked.
“...Knowing you, probably not.” he said.
“I always find myself in the eye of the storm.” I said with a sigh.
He ruffled my hair and grinned.
“Son, you ARE the eye of the storm.”
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Isaac was born to be the main character, and
he knows it. Though, were it up to him, that would
not be the case.
He wants a quiet life. A normal life. For seventeen
years Isaac has done everything he can to avoid
the lead role.
Supporting characters practically throw themselves
head on into Isaac's path as he desperately tries to
derail whatever Pilot Episode, Prologue, or Opening
their "Chance Meeting" might result in.
Isaac Gray might not be a bad guy,
but he is certainly
No One's Hero.