Title: Reaping the Whirlwind (Boom Boom Ba Remix), Part 10/14
Summary: What does the addition of supernatural-related reaps to the reaping workload, Roxy’s promotion, the addition of a new grim reaper with supernatural experience, a new sort-of boyfriend who may or may not be a pirate, and an approaching apocalypse all have in common? New grim reaper boss George doesn’t know, but she’s willing to bet that in the middle of it all the universe will kick her ass. Again.
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Dead Like Me crossover
Characters: Dead Like Me (order of appearance) — George, Mason, Daisy, Roxy, Kiffany, Delores, Penny, OCs. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (order of appearance) — Dawn, Buffy, Willow (appearance only), Giles (appearance only), Xander, OCs.
Pairing: George/Xander (nothing explicit)
Rating: R for language, cartoon violence and death, sexual situations
Warning: Spoilers for all of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV show only), Dead Like Me, and Dead Like Me: Life After Death.
Things didn’t get worse.
People who say that phrase like it’s something positive need to get repeatedly kicked in the head. If that’s the best you can say about anything, then you’ve already hit rock bottom and it’s only a matter of time before it all falls apart.
The only bright spot, if you can even call it that, was that on Dawn’s all-supernatural reap evening she didn’t end up reaping any Slayers, she didn’t run into anyone she knew, and she didn’t hear or see the face-ripping squid demon.
Hey, you gotta take your victories where you can find them, right?
As for Xander, it was pretty clear that I’d have to ditch him and fast. Because I, George Lass, am such a brave person I went with my default. Pretend he didn’t exist. If I saw him first, I’d just pull the reaper disappearing act and run in the opposite direction. If he saw me first, or if he called, I’d just politely let him know that while it was fun, I just wasn’t feeling the magic.
Oh, my God. Am I actually planning to say something that lame if I find myself backed in a corner?
Why, yes. Yes I am. It’ll probably come out more like, “Duh. Hurr. Derr. Duh-hurr-derr” followed by the sound of my running feet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to get my message across.
Dawn was back on old-fashioned daytime reaps the day after my disastrous date, and once more I joined Mason and Daisy in the after-dark brigade. We kept holding steady at four reaps each, but that wasn’t any help at all. We were all running on empty, and the workload didn’t look like it was about to get any lighter.
“Hmmmm,” George distractedly responded as she stared at her computer screen.
Someone spun her chair around so that she was facing away from her desk. A few blinks later to clear her vision, and she saw a concerned-looking Delores bending down over her.
“Unh, is something wrong?” George asked.
“Millie, you’ve been staring at that computer screen for the past half-hour like you haven’t even seen it,” Delores said. “It’s not like you at all.”
“Sorry, Delores,” George said as she rubbed her forehead. “I, unh, I haven’t been feeling well.”
Delores put on her stern-mother face. “I think you need to take some time off.”
“Delores, I’m fine. I just need more coffee,” George protested.
This was what my life had come to. Delores tells me to take some time off and I tell her to just hook up the caffeine IV and leave me alone with my paper-pushing office work.
“While I appreciate your dedication to Happy Time and your job, coffee is no substitute for rest, missy,” Delores clucked at her. “There’s an awful stomach ailment going around. Sam has been out for 2 days with it.”
“I think Sam actually has the beach flu,” George pointed out.
“Oh, how awful,” Delores put a hand over her heart. “He caught the flu at the beach?”
“Sure. Why not?” George asked with resignation.
Sometimes I really wonder about Delores. In so many ways, she’s a really smart lady. Yet when it comes to certain things, she’s absolutely clueless.
“But I’m pretty sure I don’t have the flu, or some stomach ailment, or anything like that,” George added. “I just haven’t been getting a lot of sleep.”
Delores tisked as she shook her head. “Hormones.”
George did a double-take. “What?”
Delores looked around to make sure no one was listening before bending closer and saying in a whisper, “Are you due for your period?”
“Unh, I really don’t want to talk about it,” George said. “It’d be too…weird.”
“Well, the ol’ PMS train can certainly wreck havoc with your sleep patterns,” Delores chuckled. “I remember there was a stretch when I’d be up all night with a hot water bottle on my stomach watching old movies.”
“What? You didn’t pull the ice cream out of the freezer while you were at it?” George asked.
“Oh, ice cream, potato chips, cookies, whatever I could get my hands on. You name it, I’d eat it right out of the container,” Delores snorted as she lightly punched George in the shoulder. She immediately sobered. “It was around that time I gained about 150 pounds and had to be put on a strict all-liquid diet.”
Gee, I wonder why.
“Delores, I’m fine. Really,” George insisted.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Delores fixed her with a stern look. “Go home early today. I’ll see you Monday.”
“Unh, Delores?” George held up a finger. “It’s Thursday.”
“I’m telling you to take tomorrow off too, you silly goose. Now shoo,” Delores waved go-away at her, “go home and get some sleep. I expect you to be here Monday bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”
“No arguments,” Delores insisted as she turned and walked away.
George slumped at her desk. Granted, she’d been kind of useless at her Happy Time job all week, but the thought of wandering the city streets until her first reap seemed like a fate worse than being chained to a desk for 8 hours. Maybe she should just follow Delores’s pattern. Go home, get a hot water bottle for her stomach, and gorge on comfort food while watching trashy TV.
Actually, I’ll ditch the hot water bottle. No period, no PMS, no worries. See? That’s me being positive.
George began to collect her stuff when her cell phone twittered. She stupidly stared at it before reading the name of her incoming caller off the phone’s screen.
“Fuck me. I’m not in the mood,” George groaned.
The cell phone stopped its twittering ring and George relaxed.
“There. That’s how you dump people. Ignore them,” George proudly announced.
The cell phone began twittering again.
George’s shoulders sagged. She might as well. Her day was already deep in the suck.
She hit the send button and asked, “Hello?”
“Millie!” Xander’s voice was far too cheerful. “What are you doing this weekend?”
“Unh, this weekend?” George looked helplessly around the office, hoping that one of her nosy coworkers would come along and start asking annoying questions about the identity of her caller. Just her luck, everyone seemed to be actually working. Typical. And right when she needed them to act normally, too. “I…I’m…not going to be here. Business trip. In fact, you called me just as I was leaving for the airport. Won’t be back until the middle of next week. Wednesday. No. I meant Thursday. Could be later than that, though. Depends on how things go.”
George blinked. “Hunh? Really?”
“I mean, bad. Very bad,” Xander said. “Sorry. One of my students distracted me. I was saying ‘good’ to her when I meant to say ‘bad’ to you.”
And that’s when I knew.
George felt her knees give out and she plopped back into her chair. “Yeah, that happens to me all the time.”
“So where you going?” Xander asked.
“Umm, San Diego. New Happy Time client. Their corporate headquarters are there. My boss, Delores, can’t go so she asked me to do it,” George cautiously said.
“Well, have fun,” Xander said in a far less manic tone. “I’ve never been a huge fan of San Diego, but the sunshine’s a nice contrast to the surprise storms we get around here.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” George numbly said.
Xander cleared his throat. “Look, I gotta go. We’ll raincheck doing a fun weekend thing.”
“Yeah, we’ll do that.” George blinked and gave her head a hard shake. “I really have to go.”
George heard Xander take a deep breath. “Take care of yourself. Airline travel can be a real horror show.”
“You too,” George softly said. She then cut the connection.
George sat staring at her desktop for a long time after that.
Do you want to know how an apocalyptic battle begins?
Do you really?
It doesn’t begin when someone yells, “Charge!”
It doesn’t begin when the bad guys attack.
It doesn’t even begin when the fighting starts.
It begins much earlier than that.
It begins with an insistent knock on your door at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday. You crack open your eyes, and check the clock and curse out everyone you ever knew. It can’t be El Creepo dropping by with the reaps. One, it’s an hour too early, and two, El Creepo never knocks.
You stumble out of bed, yelling at the door to hang on just one fucking minute. You stub your toe somewhere in the middle of your apartment, and you start swearing as you grab your foot and hop around.
That insistent knock keeps knocking.
You finally click on a lamp, limp your way to the door, and open it. You don’t bother to look through the spyhole because, fuck it, you’re a reaper. Nothing can hurt you, and if anyone or anything tries they’re in for a painful time.
Things get strange after you open the door. All the lights in the hallway are out and it’s dark. It’s more than dark. It’s black. It’s cold.
Somewhere in the dark Something is watching you; Something is waiting.
You call out the usual. Hello? Is there anyone there? Who the fuck was knocking on my door at 5:30 in the Goddamn morning?
There’s no answer, and you’re getting cold. So you decide to go back into your apartment and shut the door. As you turn around, you step on something that feels like flat package wrapped in paper.
You have a really bad feeling about this.
So you bend down and pick it up. Thanks to the dim light from a lamp in your apartment, you can see it's one of the interoffice envelopes. You look around before you open it up. Then you pull out a packet of papers that have been paper-clipped together.
As you read down the list of names, you spot your first familiar name. You check to see who’s been assigned and see that it’s been left blank. Someone has decided to dump that decision in your lap. You don’t know who you’ll assign to this reap, but you do know who you won’t.
Even though your hands are shaking, you keep reading down the list. You turn one page. Then you turn the next.
That’s when you spot a second familiar name.
That’s when you get pissed.
“Hey! What is this shit? Do you think this is funny?”
The lights snap on and suddenly you’re no longer in a cold, dark place but a familiar, warm hallway.
“Get back here! You son of a bitch! Get back here!”
Whatever it is that was waiting, Whatever it is that was watching, has left with the dark. All you’re doing is yelling at an empty hallway. You stand there for a few minutes as the shock of what you’re looking at finally slams home. Then you turn and go back into your apartment, because you know that there’s nothing you can do. You can’t change fate, and you can’t bargain with Death. It’s not allowed.
So, this is how an apocalyptic battles ends.
It ends before someone yells, “Charge!”
It ends before the bad guys attack.
It ends long before the fighting even starts.
It ends at 5:40 a.m. when a reaper sits down at her desk and begins painstakingly writing out her post-its.
And for some people when the ending comes, the ending is forever.
Mason looked up. “George?” his voice was almost a squeak.
George slowly, carefully slid into the booth with her head down.
“George?” Daisy faintly echoed next to her.
George looked up and right at Dawn who was sitting across from her.
“Today,” George said. “It’s happening today.”
To Dawn’s credit, she didn’t say a single word. Instead she just watched and waited.
With a deep breath to steady her nerves, George slowly opened her Day Planner and revealed four neat stacks of post-its. Without looking down, she casually moved her hand to cover one of the post-it piles so it looked like her hand just happened to be resting in that particular spot.
“Bloody hell,” Mason prayed.
“Oh, my God.” Daisy sounded sick.
Dawn blinked at the Day Planner, clearly in shock.
“I’ve got instructions to get through, so before I start handing out—”
Dawn’s hand snaked out and she snatched the post-it stack next to George’s hand. “I’m taking this one.”
“What?” George said as she quickly looked down.
Oh, fuck. I covered the wrong damn post-it pile.
“Dawn—” George began.
“I have to do this one. I need to do this one,” Dawn insisted.
“Shit. Hold on a second guys,” George said to Daisy and Mason as she got up and grabbed Dawn by the arm.
“You don’t have to drag. I’m coming willingly,” Dawn said as she got up before George could start pulling.
“Outside,” George ordered.
Without a word, Dawn headed for the Pancake Stack door.
“What’s going on?” Daisy asked.
“It’s between me and Dawn,” George said as she grabbed the post-it pile she had accidentally hidden with her hand and shoved it in her pocket. “Just hang tight.”
When George hit the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, she half-expected that Dawn had taken off and even now was looking for a hiding place so that she wouldn’t have any other choice but to let Dawn do the reap. So she was a little surprised to see that Dawn was waiting for her.
“Did you expect me to run?” Dawn asked in a low voice. “I know it won’t do any good, so why waste the time, right?”
“I guess you’ve learned something in the century or so since you died,” George mumbled.
Dawn shot George a look.
“Sorry,” George immediately apologized. “I’ve dropped into that mode where sarcasm is the only thing keeping me sane.”
“You’ve never been through this,” Dawn said softly.
“I don’t know of anyone who’s been through an apocalyptic battle.”
“Actually, you do.”
“I do?” George asked.
Dawn took a deep and shuddering breath. “Me.”
“Not this side of it though.” Dawn hefted the stack of post-its. “I was always on the fighting side. The save-the-world side. I never saw this side of it. I never even thought about it. None of us did. Ever. Unless we lost someone we knew, and even then we only thought about the people we lost. We never thought about all those other people who died.”
“Ummm, you’re making it sound like you’ve been through this more than once.”
“I’ve been through this nine times? Ten? I’ve lost count,” Dawn simply said.
George’s jaw dropped.
“But I never thought about the post-its. Never. There must’ve been post-its, right?” Dawn glanced at George before returning to her contemplation of the post-its in her hand. “There had to have been. All those names. All those pieces of paper. All those lives. What does it say about me that I never even thought about it?”
“Do you think any of us do?” George asked. “Hate to say it, but you’re not the only competitor in the self-centered horse race, and you sure as hell aren’t going to win, place, or show in that one.”
“Why do you that?”
“No matter what anyone says, you always boil it down to, ‘Hey, you’re not all that unique, you know’,” Dawn said with irritation.
“And if you actually listened to me, you’d realize that I just said that you weren’t the most self-centered person I know. I said you weren’t even close.” George threw up her hands. “Jesus. You just told me that you’ve fought in — not stood by and watched with a thumb up your ass, not ran the hell away like any sane person would do, not nearly get killed because you were too busy screaming for help — but fought — as in put your ass on the line — in so many of these that you’ve lost count, and you think I’m dissing you? I’m just saying that you’re being too hard on yourself for not wanting to think about death and destruction because you were too busy keeping yourself and the people you knew in one piece. No one wants to think about death and destruction, and that’s even if they sit on their asses all day and watch Barney the Purple Dinosaur.”
Dawn was blinking very hard. “Oh.”
“Look, I didn’t come out here to hold your hand, and I sure as hell didn’t drag you out here for you to hold mine,” George said. “Give me the post-its, Dawn.”
“I have to do this,” Dawn quietly insisted.
George took a deep breath through her nose. “No, you really don’t. Let Mason, Daisy, or me handle this. You don’t need to take this hit, and you don’t need to carry this. You’ve got people who’ll do it for you. Hell, any one of us would be willing to pass on a message to your sister that you’re okay if you want. But don’t think you have to do this, because you really don’t.”
Dawn leaned against a parking meter. “So letting me reap Buffy isn’t against the rules.”
I could’ve put an end to it right there. I could’ve said that it was against all the rules. I could’ve said it was the biggest no-no in the reaper handbook.
Not because I didn’t want to lie to Dawn. Not because if I lied Dawn could’ve easily found out after the fact by asking Bryan, who probably knew the rules better than I did.
I didn’t lie to her because of Reggie. If I knew that my sister had a post-it, I’d want to get my hands on it, too. Not because I could save her, because that’s impossible. I’d want to do it because if I was her reaper, I could make sure she’d reach her lights okay and I’d be able to say good-bye.
“Technically, no,” George said. “It’s just not something that’s done.”
Dawn ran a finger back and forth across the surface of the top post-it, as if she could erase all of the information that had been written on it. “So if I want to do it, I can. There’s nothing stopping me from doing it, and there’s nothing stopping you from letting me.”
“You can’t save her, Dawn,” George said.
“I know.” Dawn hung her head. “One way or the other, Buffy dies. Save her body from getting killed, her soul rots away and she turns into the Slayer equivalent of Charles Manson, or refuse to reap her and her soul’s buried alive in a corpse.”
“That’s right,” George emphasized.
“Buffy’d rather be dead.” Dawn looked up. Her eyes were suspiciously bright, but dry. “I know that this time it’s good-bye forever. No last-minute CPR, no resurrection spells, no coming back from the dead. This time it’s permanent.”
“Death’s always permanent,” George said.
Dawn’s smile had a bitter edge. “Don’t be too sure. Find yourself a powerful enough witch and black enough magic, and you’d be shocked what you can do.”
Dawn sounded like she was talking from experience.
Bryan had told me that Dawn’s people were dangerous. I should’ve realized that Dawn was once one of the dangerous people, too.
It made me wonder why Someone decided that Dawn was just the reaper I needed in my crew.
Dawn’s face smoothed over into an expressionless mask. “You’d also be shocked at the consequences for doing that.”
George forced herself back into her usual equilibrium. “Nasty blowback from fucking with death? Not really.”
Dawn coughed something that sounded like it was halfway between a sob and a laugh. “I forgot who was I talking to.”
“And my offer still stands.” George knew Dawn wouldn’t take her up on it, but she felt that she needed to give Dawn one more chance to back down. “Daisy, Mason, and I would be more than…well…not happy. But any one of us would be willing to do this for you.”
Dawn shook her head as she held the post-its up. “You’re going to let me do this?”
George swallowed and nodded. “Please don’t make me regret it.”
“Back inside,” George said with a jerk of head. “And don’t let on to Mason and Daisy that your sister is on your agenda. If they ask, just say you recognized a name and they won’t push. Not today they won’t. If you want to talk to anyone about it after the fact, fine. But not before.”
“Trust me. I won’t,” Dawn said as she went through the door.
As I followed Dawn back to the booth, I wondered how she’d react to the news that she knew two people with post-its. I knew she wouldn’t trade, but there was also a chance that she was still carrying some anger from her funeral.
Since telling her wouldn’t do any good, and might even make things worse, I kept my stack of post-its in my pocket and my mouth shut.
George slid into the booth and distributed the remaining two post-it stacks to Mason and Daisy.
“There are a lot of post-its here,” Mason said.
Daisy frowned. “Except for the top post-it, none of mine have times. Just a name and a location.”
“Not true. The bottom and top post-its have times.” George steeled herself as Dawn, Mason, and Daisy checked their stacks. “The first reaps of the day, and the last reaps of the day have to be done like you normally would. Find, reap, and show the soul to their lights.”
“Bloody hell. It’s a fire drill, innit?” Mason asked.
“Fire drill?” Dawn and Daisy chorused.
“You’ve never done one?” Mason asked Daisy with surprise.
Daisy looked frightened as she shook her head.
“Done a couple myself.” Mason gave George a tight, apologetic smile. “George has done one.”
Thank you Mason for not saying that George actually caused one.
“I…I’ve never heard the term fire drill, but I know what Mason means,” George hesitantly began. “Basically, it’s when a whole lot of people are going to die in a really tight time period. Essentially, we have to go out and find the people we’re supposed to reap at the locations listed on the post-it. Usually they’re already dead when you get to them, and we usually have an 8-hour window after they die to get to them.”
Mason sat up. “Usually. Which means that’s not true for this one.”
George shook her head. “You can’t start reaping the untimed reaps until you do the reap on the bottom post-it. And you have to be done with all reaps before you get to the top post-it. You also can’t do the top post-it earlier in the day. You have to be there to do your last reap, and you have to take the soul to its lights. No exceptions.”
“Blood hell,” Mason mumbled as he checked his window of time. “I’ve got to do all this in 4-and-half hours.”
Dawn silently checked her top and bottom post-its, but didn’t say anything.
Daisy’s hands were clenching and unclenching. “What about the reaps without a time? Does this mean they die alone?”
“I assure you, they won’t be alone,” said a male voice.
All four reapers looked sharply up at the intrusion.
“Bryan!” Dawn jumped out of her seat and hugged the book reaper.
“Bryan?” Mason asked.
“Dawn’s boss from her bookstore job,” George quickly explained.
Mason’s expression darkened. “I know what he is, alright.”
Daisy’s hands relaxed. “So you’re here to make sure no one dies alone,” she said to Bryan.
Bryan slid into the booth, and Dawn followed.
“During a normal fire drill — an excellent way to describe it — the souls would be sent by you to a central location and George would be there to take care of them until they’re able to move on,” Bryan said. “However, George is urgently needed elsewhere, so I will be playing the role normally reserved for her.”
“But these poor bastards are going to still be alive when we reap them.” Mason waved the post-its at Bryan. “We can’t go telling their souls to piss off to some holding pen while their bodies might be still breathing for hours after the fact.”
“When you reap the soul, you will whisper a phrase in their ear,” Bryan said. “This phrase will keep the soul in place until moments before they die. It will also tell them that when they die, they will be instantly transported to this location.”
“We can do that?” George asked.
“Normally, no. Today, you can,” Bryan said. “The phrase won’t do you any good before you collect your first soul of the day, and it won’t work after you collect your last. You might say you’ve been given special dispensation until the crisis ends one way or the other.”
“This is how we’re going to do it?” Daisy’s hands again started clenching and unclenching. “We reap somebody and whisper in their ear that when they die they have to go to the Pancake Stack and wait?”
“Essentially, yes,” Bryan said. “The Latin phrase that I’ll teach you will actually say more than that, but that is the basic gist.”
“I don’t like this,” Daisy muttered.
Dawn suddenly leaned forward. “Kiffany coming up behind you with coffee.”
Everyone was doing a very poor job of looking like it was business as usual when Kiffany reached their table. “Anyone ordering today?” she asked.
“I’m…I’m…I’m going to get a large coffee to go,” George said. “Anyone else?”
“Coke with chipped ice, also to go,” Daisy mumbled.
“Nothin’ for me, Kiffany darling,” Mason said just a little too brightly.
“Just ice water in a to-go cop,” Dawn said in a normal voice.
“I will most certainly peruse your menu very soon,” Bryan said as he poured on the charm. “I’m rather tied up at the moment.”
Kiffany raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Unh-hunh.”
“So, Kiffany, do you have any big plans for the day?” Mason asked.
Daisy and Dawn nailed their horrified gazes on Mason. George just sighed.
“Was thinking about picking up the evening shift,” Kiffany said. “I saw a blood moon last night. Seems to me that’s exactly the time when you’d want to stay in a clean, well-lighted, safe place.”
“I think it’s an excellent idea,” Bryan said as he doubled his charm level. “I fear that I will be trapped here this evening waiting on visitors, but I’m uncertain of their expected time of arrival. I’d be honored to have such charming company.”
“Unh-hunh,” Kiffany skeptically agreed. “These visitors. They’re not paying customers, are they?”
“I assure you, they will not be a bother to your paying clientele,” Bryan promised.
Kiffany fixed Bryan with a stern look. “Just so long as that’s true. Blood moon or not, the waitresses here still need to earn a living.” She turned to George and her stern countenance disappeared. “I’ll get your order ready.”
Kiffany was barely out of earshot when Dawn said to Mason, “Don’t tell me you’re reaping Kiffany.”
“I’m not,” Mason protested. “I was about to suggest that she leg it and to not stop until she hit Los Angeles.”
“None of us have Kiffany’s post-it, Dawn,” George said. “I should know. I wrote them out.”
“That doesn’t mean someone else doesn’t have it,” Daisy said as she looked at Bryan.
Bryan held up his hands. “I am here strictly in a shepherding capacity. I won’t be doing any reaps.”
“What, no books are going to snuff it in the big battle?” Mason snidely asked.
“Mason,” George warned with a shake of her head.
“I don’t know if Kiffany is among those who’ll be moving on.” Bryan seemed unfazed. “However, if there is a post-it with her name on it, it hardly matters where she is. If there isn’t, it would be much better for her to be in a place where you know she won’t get hurt. This dining establishment is one of the few guaranteed safe places for her to be.”
“That means there are other collection points,” George said.
Dawn went white. “How many are there?”
“You don’t want to know,” Bryan said as he patted Dawn’s hand. “Now, I do need to teach you that phrase. None of you are leaving until you can recite flawlessly on command.”
And so began the most horrifying day of my life after death, and I’m including attending my own autopsy and funeral in that assessment.
My first reap, the reap that would set me loose on an unaware city population, turned out to be a Slayer. I don’t have any idea who killed her, or even how she died. I pulled a I’m-a-clueless-tourist-and-I’m-lost scam to get her attention and get her close enough for me to touch her. While she gave me directions Fremont Library, I heard something that sounded like a zap and she burst into flame.
After I put out myself out by smothering the flames using the stop-drop-and-roll method, I guided M. Callahan to her lights. M. in this case stood for Michele, and not Marguerite. Still, as I saw her happily run toward the mountains that rose to insane heights in her lights, I couldn’t help feeling grateful that if there was a post-it with Marguerite’s name on it, it wasn’t in my stack.
Once I made a pit stop to replace my burned clothes under the disapproving eye of the sales staff at Fashionable Threads, I was off and running.
That’s when things got really weird.
All of my post-its sent me to bustling street corners, busy cafés, crowded sports bars, and shops doing a brisk business. Every place I went was the kind of place people go to enjoy a normal, sunny, early summer Sunday afternoon. As I lurked around the edges of the crowd looking for my reap, I felt like a serial killer stalking her prey.
Is it this one? Or that one? She doesn’t look like she can run very fast in those shoes. He’s drinking way too much beer for this time of the day. She looks distracted. He’s oblivious. For everyone I looked at, I tried to find that one element about them that would make them a likely corpse.
The job would’ve been a lot easier if there were gravelings around. At least if they were sniffing around a person, I’d know that I’d hit my mark. But since these people were still alive and nowhere near their deaths, there were no gravelings to find. That scared me. That scared me a lot, and not just because I was afraid I’d reap the wrong person.
Just when I was about to give up, someone would call out a name that matched the first initial and the last name on one of my post-its, and it happened every single time. How often does it happen that you are going about your day, and someone out of the blue calls you by your first and last name? And yet it happened almost two dozen times for almost two dozen people.
As the sun began to set and my stack of post-its got thinner, I tried not to think about the name, location, and E.T.D. written on my last post-it.
A. Harris, the Georgia Lass Memorial, 9:57 p.m.
So much for that urban legend.
The kind of help I give is the kind no one wants or needs.