Even when it comes with instructions, death is still hard to handle.
I perused through the pages of the book I collected from the library. Humans called it the five stages of grief and if this book was anything to go by, then I was supposed to be going into the acceptance stage, getting over it learning to laugh again, not collecting the heart of a red peacock to summon a reaper.
Even among us supernaturals, death was a hard one to spot. It was said that the only thing that could spot a reaper was another reaper. I begged to differ.
Death was as supernatural as I, only better at hiding. If I could see death, then I could ask for my brother back.
I started by talking with the others at our nest. Many thought me mad but Xix, always with more knowledge than she needed, pointed me in the right direction. I found the scrolls I sought far hidden in our vaults. The chapters on death all came with warnings not to go beyond, only those with a death wish should turn these pages. With my paper in hand, I wrote it all down. What were the reapers? How did they move so fast? When did they know that someone was going to die?
It was strange reading in those catacombs. It’s as if time stopped when I started studying. My friends started worrying, mentioning how I lost colour with each passing day. My aura seemed to wane but it had become an addiction. At last, I found it, a spell to see the reapers. To do it you have to be near someone who is dying. Reapers are hard to spot so you have to be keen. I took a spot near a human hospital. It had to be the biggest irony of life that those who tried to save it were the ones closest to death. Everyday yanking another soul from death’s grip as if telling him that his appointment was cancelled. It was something to admire. As a shapeshifter, I easily took a job sweeping the compound of the place.
Sooner or later their flurry of activity was bound to be replaced by resignation as their best efforts proved worthless. It happened in a few hours. A man in military uniform was rushed in with a leg missing and badly burned. As they started their resuscitative measures, I noticed a figure by the corner of the ward. It was a small figure, barely five feet tall, with a hood covering its face. I saw a nurse go through it like it wasn’t even there.
I was approaching it from behind but it turned to me, “There you are,” it started with an hourglass in hand.
I was taken aback, “I’m glad we’ve finally met,” it continued, “you’ve taken quite some time.”
“Taken time? Were we to meet?”
“Weren’t you informed of our meeting?”
The head of the cloak shook in disappointment. “Of course, how else would you become a proper reaper?”
I tried to see into its hood but there was nothing. Where the face should be was a dark cloud with a voice.
“Were you not reading on what it takes to become a reaper?”
“Did you not perform the ritual to see a reaper?”
“Maybe I did. It doesn’t mean I want to become one.”
“What sees a reaper?” it asked somberly.
I repeated the words everyone knew, “Only a reaper can see a reaper.”
“Do you think those spells you performed for this are without consequence?” It took its hand into its cloak and removed another hourglass this one had its base and top shattered. Sand floated out from both ends. “This is your hourglass.”
“Maybe you should turn to your left and look at your reflection boy. The transformation has already began.”
I turned my palm upwards. It was bone white, smoke billowed from it as if it smoldered. My once fleshy face felt so gaunt I could feel my cheekbones. The hospital was filled with one way mirrors on doors. I walked to one marked store and stared at myself. My eyes were hollowing out. My face was disintegrating like a pillar of sand in strong wind. I screamed. A horrifying pitch escaped my throat and even ghosts floating through the corridors fled. From behind, the reaper approached holding a cloak in both hands.
“There there. You need to control that. A reaper is already terrifying no need to show the full range of your power.”
There was a heavy pause as if he empathized with me, “You need to complete the final phase,” he said. “It would be a pity and nearly impossible to come this far and turn back. Why not find death in its full capacity?” His right palm was outstretched towards the door where the doctors where doing their best to resuscitate the patient.
I wanted to ask him what to do but as we exchanged glances we both knew what I needed to do. With my left fist on top of my right, I twisted both wrists inward and a black rod started to form. We glided through the door as its silver blade finished appearing. I could barely form the words but I understood in my search for death I had become it. As I raised my scythe I managed to see a face forming in his hollow cloak. It’s flat nose and slit eyes were those so often I’d seen in my own reflection. Confused, I asked what was happening.
With thick lips, my lips, forming on his mouth he smiled, “Well you see, for quite some time now, I have been searching for life.”