One Last Day

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Is it really what we're told, life after death?
Are the tales true?
What would you give for one last day?

Submitted: September 28, 2018

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Submitted: September 28, 2018

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She didn’t know what to think any more. Nothing had any meaning and now it was all a twirling, screaming mess. It was to be expected however, and Amanda Coxgrove had to admit that anyone else in this situation would probably feel the same.
She had died.
Death…
The end of all things and it had come to her. She wasn’t even that old, barely twenty-seven years of age and she was dead.
Upon her falling into her eternal slumber, Amanda thought that would have been it. An endless black and rest. Not face to face with the Reaper.
It took her back a bit, that the Reaper was real and that there was life after death. It frightened her to no end.
Now, the Reaper was not what she had imagined. Throughout her short life, she had heard that the reaper was skeletal, wearing a robe and carrying a scythe. The being grabbing her by the collar was definitely not that.
It was humanoid, wearing armour, but no hint of the creature inside. It wore a faceless mask, with no eyeholes, or any other features for that matter. It was completely blank.

The whole outfit was very ornate, trimmed with silver and covered in highly polished jewels.

It was a very beautiful thing, yet ominous. Though the thing that worried her the most, was the rifle slung over it’s shoulder. A little strange she thought, yet far more practical than a scythe.

What was happening?

If her heart still beat, it would be working overtime.

Once she was on her feet, the Reaper came in close. It’s mask bare centimetres form her face, almost studying her. It cocked it’s head and made a clicking noise.

Amanda tried to speak, but no words came out. He mouth lolled uselessly, tongue heavy within the oral cavity.

The Reaper surprised her by placing one of it’s gloved hands on her cheek, gently caressing it. Though it’s intent was not that of care, as with a sharp yank closed her open mouth.

This was most definitely not the afterlife she had imagined.

Unless this was Hell?

Was she in Hell?

She found herself hyperventilating, with lungs that had stopped working.

This was Hell!

The Reaper’s head snapped back from it’s cocked position, unnaturally. It studied her, the movements again unnatural.

It then struck her. The Reaper that is.

The creature had slapped her.

There was still pain after death.

Why was there still pain? Hell, that had to be it.

Amanda admitted to herself that the slap had stopped her panic.

The Reaper growled something, in a decidedly feminine voice. It wasn’t a language she knew and it definitely wasn’t a human tongue.

It motioned for her to hold out her arms, extended with her wrist together.

This she did, only for the Reaper to clamp a pair of irons round them. Her panic started up again.

What were the irons for?

Well, they were for linking other souls together weren’t they. This was the conclusion Amanda came to as she was dragged to several other, with similar irons on their wrists. All were linked via a rope and forced to walk, with the Reaper behind them.

They walked for what seemed like days, or was it hours or months.

Whenever they tried to stop the Reaper would jab them with the muzzle of it’s gun, and growl. That got the message across quickly and they would start on their slog again.

Eventually they were met with another group of the damned, a second Reaper in tow. This one was dressed similarly, but lacked the highly ornate jewels and silver trimming.

The second went down on one knee and bowed it’s head.

There were no words spoken between the two, but something was going on between them. It was unnerving.

“Stop staring and get moving!” The second snapped, surprising Amanda that it spoke a language she knew. It was fluent.

“You cannot stay here. Move.”

The bejewelled one grunted in agreement and that was it.

There was a blinding flash of light and intense heat. Amanda was thrown back roughly, blinded and scared.

All around her were shouts and the crack of gunfire.

Slowly her sight returned. If Reapers weren’t enough, there were now Angels clear as day.

Each one was bathed in immaculate light and wings so white.

One was crouched at the far end of the souls, with one of it’s armoured hands caressing a man’s face. It turned back to the others and shook it’s head, before wrenching the poor man’s head around. The body seemed to shatter into nothing but ash and blew away. The Angel moved onto the next and the next, and the next.

Something was very wrong.

Angels were supposed to be beings of good, yet they were ‘killing’ the other souls. The Angel doing the searching was knocked back and lay on the ground motionless.
Amanda turned her head and found the bejewelled Reaper cycling it’s gun. The Angels returned fire and they were indiscriminate. Anyone that was standing in front of the Reapers were gunned down, without a second thought.

Whatever was happening, Amanda did not want to be anywhere near. She pushed her self up…

That was strange.

Amanda looked at her now free arms. The irons must have broken when she was thrown back, it didn’t matter. She was free from them.

It was then she turned to run. All other parties were distracted, and she didn’t really fancy dying again; the first time had been unpleasant enough.

Amanda just ran and continued to run, even after the shouts, screams and gun fire receded into the distance. She couldn’t recall for how long she ran, all she knew was that her body ached and that she wouldn’t stop.

Well, she never intended on stopping, but another blinding flash took her. This time there was no heat, nor shouting.

Amanda felt herself being enveloped by a gentle warmth, like that of being wrapped in a blanket on a winters morning. It was comforting.

Then before her eyes, a spiderweb of cracks appeared and the whole thing fell apart, amidst a flurry of snowflakes. The flakes settled and melted.

So, there was still some beauty in the afterlife or that was what she though. Closing her eyes again, she opened them to find herself looking at her ceiling.

And no wonder why it felt as she was within a blanket on a winter morning, because she was in wrapped in her blanket and it was winter outside.

What an awful nightmare that had been, but that explained the sheer madness of what had happened. There were no such things as Reapers and Angels.

Amanda didn’t even believe in God or any of that rubbish anyway. There was no life after death, any reasonable person could figure that out.

It had shaken her up a little, that much was true.

She shook her head and glanced at her clock. A quarter to five on a Friday, she had slept through most of the day. What joy, but not a major thing. She didn’t have work today or tomorrow.

A nice shower and then she would head out. That at least would take her mind from the nightmare.

 

 

All calm and now dressed, Amanda made her was from the small apartment.

It was quiet for a Friday, but all that meant was her favourite place would be empty which would make a difference.

The Outlaw Priestess.

During the day time the place was a tearoom, and by evening a high end club.

Amanda slowly took to the stairs, and by the sound coming from above it wasn’t as empty as she would have hoped. The piano was being played, which was an odd thing. The piano in the Priestess . It was just decoration.

she was greeted by the barman who waved. The piano was occupied by several men and a few women, in uniform. She hadn’t seen them before, and they seemed very out of place.

They were all very pale, this only severed to highlight the make-up around each of their eyes. It was only a simple ring around the eye, like an eye shadow but thicker. All were different, one had black, the other an exaggerated grey, a third with magenta and so on.

Amanda turned her attention away as she took a seat at the bar, the place was empty apart from her and the group in uniform.

Smiling at the barman, Amanda asked, “Who on earth are they, Liam?”

He shrugged, “Don’t know, Mandy. They just came in this morning, and started messing about with the keys. They’ve been playing ever since and they’re getting on my nerves.”

anger rising on his face.

The Outlaw Priestess, was not really a place for the rowdy. No, it was more of a place for those of the upper echelons of life to relax with a quiet drink.

“Can you people keep that noise down, we have a regular customer in now. Otherwise, I will have to ask you to leave,” Liam had raised his voice to a level Amanda had never heard before.

“Actually, I don’t mind,” Amanda told the barman, not really wanting to cause a fuss. She looked over the group, “Keep on playing.”

Liam gave her a look of disbelief, obviously not enjoying the strange group. That very group had now parted slightly, giving her a good look at the one actually playing. The upper part of his face was obscured by the peak on his cap, he was smiling at her, “Thank you. Now, would the pretty lady like to make a request for our last song.”

The man continued to smile at her, waiting.

Amanda felt a blush creep across her cheeks, her mind went blank. She couldn’t think of a single song.

“It’s alright if you don’t, I have something in mind. This is one of my father’s favourites, I hope you yourself enjoy it….

 

Don’t stand a chance,

without romance.

Keep the graveside warm for me.

Since you shot through,

I’ve crooned for you...”

 

Amanda found herself listening to a song that started out as a ballad, then changed to an almost jazz-like piece.

The man at the keys wasn’t the best singer, but he wasn’t ruining the song by any stretch. Whilst it wouldn’t be something she would listen to at home, it was nice to hear something live.

The man finished the song as he started, with a soft smile gracing his lips.

The others around the piano nodded to the man and left without a word, leaving only him. He stood, and walked over to her, still smiling softly.

The man turned to Liam, “I’ll have the same again, and another of whatever that is for the lady.”

Out of one of the numerous pockets adorning his tunic, he pulled several notes and placed them on the bar counter.

Liam smiled back in a sickly-sweet manner, still not amused by his presence. He quickly poured the drinks and went elsewhere, with a snort.

“Are you wanting to get me drunk?” Amanda asked, pointing at the second drink. Her first not being half finished.

The man shook his head, “I’m just being nice, erm...Miss?”

He extended his hand.

“Amanda,” She replied, staring at his hand briefly before taking it, “Amanda Coxgrove, and how about you?”

The man flashed his teeth and took an overly dramatic bow, “Richter von Bayer at your service Ma’am, but please call me Rick. I rather dislike Richter.”

With his right hand he grabbed his cap by it’s peak and gently removed it from his head, opening up his face.

The man before her seemed to be roughly the same age as her, if not a little younger. He was tall, skinny and like the others that had been there, ashen white. The make-up around his eyes was a burnt red. The eyes themselves were a cold grey, with tiny flecks of gold throughout.

He coughed lightly, “I don’t mean to be rude, do you mind not staring. I don’t think my appearance is that strange.”

Amanda turned her head away in embarrassment, the blush again returning.

“Sorry, it’s just...” She gestured to the make-up.

“The paint? It just means I’ve killed before,” Richter remarked nonchalantly, raising his drink to his mouth.

Well, now the uniform made more sense.

“I think it makes us look rather effeminate, but hey it’s tradition. I’m not going to argue with it.”

Richter took another drink, the mood becoming somewhat awkward.

Amanda looked at her own drink and then back to Richter, “You play the piano well. I was really impressed, though I can’t say I’ve ever heard that song before.”

With a smirk, Richter said, “I don’t supposed you would have, can’t say I’m really a fan. It’s fun to play though.”

“I’ve never seen someone like you play so well, who taught you?”

The man before he scoffed, “Oh, I see how it is? Just because of I’m a soldier, doesn’t mean I’m not good enough to play a piano well. And if you must know who taught me, my father, my mother and two of my aunts. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Richter emptied his drink and walked away from the bar. His departure left Amanda feeling even more awkward. She hadn’t meant to come off as rude, it was just that she was intrigued by him.

Suddenly her dream came back to her; specifically the part about dying, and the fact that it could happen at anytime.

It was a split-second decision she made; forgetting about her other drink, Amanda went after the strange man, with the ashen white skin and painted eyes.

Richter was just outside the door, lighting up a cigarette.

“Please wait,” She called out.

He looked at her oddly, cocking his head.

“Are you alright?” He asked, “I only came out to smoke. I wasn’t angry at your comment, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

Amanda stood gawping, a mixture of embarrassment and annoyance floating round her head. It was now her turn to scoff, “You made me think...You could have at least made it clear you weren’t offended. Rather rude of you. I mean, you don’t even know me.”

Richter dropped his cigarette and crushed it under his heel.

“Nor you me. Let’s just forget about the last five minutes and I’ve obviously done something to interest you, as why else would you chase after me?”

The soft smile returned to his face.

To Amanda the smile seemed to be mocking her. She exhaled through her nose and looked the pale man in the eyes, “Because why not. Life’s too short and if you don’t jump at opportunities, you’ll lose them.”

Richter tilted his head back grinning, “Ah yes. Humanities two greatest enemies, mortality and time. I once knew a man who claimed he could not die and would never age. He was proven wrong by a very persuasive tank.”

He chuckled to himself, “He was a bastard anyway. But I suppose your reasoning is enough to run after a complete stranger. How about we rectify the strangers part? Would you perhaps like to join me for dinner?”

Amanda stared at Richter and huffed, “Sure.”

“Great, where’s your favourite place to eat?”

Her favourite place to eat? That was a good question, it wasn’t something that usually crossed her mind.

“I don’t really have a favourite, but there is a place I’ve been wanting to try. It’s not too far from here, you can take me there.”

That seemed like a good idea, and another way to rid herself of the nightmare.

 

 

The pair sat awkwardly facing each other, well she was at least. So much for trying to get to know one another.

“I haven’t seen you around here before?”

Richter smirked at her attempt at small talk, “No, I don’t suppose you would have. Myself and my squad are on leave for a week or so. We got sent here.”

The cheerful expression on his face died, “Quite frankly I could do with more time away, but I have to do my job.”

“You mean the war between Kapitel and Duchy of Wren? I can’t say I recognise the uniform, have the Duchy recently changed it?” She asked.

The pale man chuckled nervously and said in a hushed voice, “I’m not wearing the uniform of a Duchy soldier.”

Amanda’s eyes widened in shock, “You fight for Kapitel! But that accent and...and...”

Richter shushed her, “We’re mercenaries. Paid for by Kapitel, to fight for Kapitel for an agreed amount of time, because they are losing. And what should you care, you’re a neutral nation. Hell, the only reason I’m here now, is because my father pulled strings to get my lot as far away as possible. We’re not really supposed to be here, so I’d appreciate it if this conversation didn’t go any further.”

“One last thing if you don’t mind me asking, how bad is it? We don’t really get much news other than the odd piece.”

His left eyebrow raised slightly, “There are trenches running from the mountains on the western boarder of Kapitel, and they run all the way south over the border into the Duchy of Wren to the coast. Everything within ten miles of either are gone. These people haven’t gone through this kind of warfare before, nor do I believe your lot have. It’s a brutal back and forth, through mud and barbed wire. Waves of infantry are cut down by the thousands. They don’t all die though and are left in the dead ground, between the trenches. All you can hear is the sound of guns and screaming, constant screaming...”

His eyes were distant.

“Ah, sorry,” He apologised, waving his hands about, “I didn’t mean to go there. Let’s instead discuss you Miss Amanda Coxgrove.”

She didn’t give much away, only giving him bits and pieces about herself.

Richter sat smiling throughout it all and spoke up at the end, “Well, you do seem to have an interesting life Miss Coxgrove. I can’t really tell you much about myself, other than the obvious as I have no real home and have been part of the army since I was sixteen. I followed my father in, not that it was voluntary, national service and all that. There’s not really much more than that.”

“Since you were sixteen...i don’t understand why men throw their lives away in the military. Do you not fear death?” Amanda questioned.

“No. Death is not something I fear. It’s not something to be feared, and at the end of the day you cannot run from the Reaper. You must face your death standing tall.”

Amanda would have probed him further on the subject, but the waiter came by with their food changing the mood.

“Ah wonderful,” Richter exclaimed, “You know, it’s been an eternity since I last had proper food and not military rations cooked during the last war.”

He speared part of his meal with his fork, and brought it to his mouth. A look of euphoria lit up his face as he chewed.

“Oh! It actually tastes like food. Napoleon might have been right when he said an army marches on it’s stomach, but he forgot to mention that the food has to be edible first.”

He chuckled to himself.

“Who’s Napoleon?”

“He was a man who thought himself a king, when he was really a tyrant. A good strategist, not that it helped him. Anyway, how’s your food?”

Amanda looked down at her own plate, “It’s alright. Can’t say I’m as impressed with it as you, but it’s not awful.”

She probably wouldn’t be coming back to the restaurant any time soon. Despite the food not being to her liking, Amanda was still enjoying herself. Richter was interesting enough.

They continued chatting well after the meals were gone, leaving the building before they could be ejected by one of the waiters.

The sun had just about dipped below the horizon, the last rays of light struggling to keep a hold on the sky. Richter stopped walking just ahead of her; his head raised, looking at the sky.

“It’s beautiful up there, and one day we’ll be able to walk amongst them,” Amanda commented.

The pale man grunted in response, not looking at her, “Yes, I suppose it will happen eventually.”

He sighed, lowing his head. As he turned round his eyes widened, his left hand slipped inside his tunic and pulled out a pistol.

“Miss Coxgrove, walk slowly towards me please.”

She went to turn and look, but Richter caught her head with his free hand.

“Don’t look, just keep on walking and everything will be alright.”

She didn’t listen, swatting his hand away.

Not one hundred feet away stood a familiar figure, dressed from head to foot in a highly ornate armour, with silver trim and jewels.

Two other figures stood next to it. They weren’t dressed in a similar manner, instead wearing a heavy wool uniform, with a gas-hood and helmet obscuring their faces. All three carried rifles.

It took her a moment to recognise, but Richter was wearing a similar uniform; albeit without the equipment hanging off it.

The Reaper pointed and shouted something.

Richter loosed a low growl, scaring Amanda, “Come on mother you speak this language, why not use it?”

Amanda looked at him shocked. He had just called that thing mother.

“She’s in a mood kiddo. So, she’s speaking nothing but Erebay,” A third voice from behind interjected, “Trust me and just leave it be.”

Four more of the soldier had appeared, one of them unmasked.

“Shouldn’t you be in Kapitel?” Richter asked, a hint of confusion laced his voice.

The unmasked soldier shook his head, “The government cut and run with the money, so we’re pulling out. There is a more pressing matter though.”

Amanda could only think that the scene unfolding before her was still part of the dream, she hadn’t woken up you. The last several hours hadn’t happened and she was still in her bed.

She snapped out of her thought when Richter asked, “What’s so important that you and mother are both here?”

The unmasked man bit his lip and exhaled through his nose, “Last night Angelic ram-parties hit several soul convoys, one of them being your mother’s. One of the souls got away in the confusion and I’m pretty sure you can figure out who it was. It isn’t that hard.”

The soldier’s gaze fell upon her. A cold spear shot through her body, as panic flooded her mind.

“Shit,” Richter cursed, his eyes met with hers, “You know earlier when I said you can’t run from the Reaper, I wasn’t being philosophical. I was speaking from experience. Surely though, it doesn’t take seven of you to catch one soul?”

The unmasked man held up his hands, “Just following orders, kiddo. Ram-parties are becoming far too common an occurrence, so all military campaigns have been put on hold. We’re now all Reaper escorts.”

She pinched herself, and felt the sting. She wasn’t dreaming.

Panic turned to shear terror in her mind as she began to back away. Her feet tangled around themselves and tumbled to the floor.

“Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” Amanda repeated to herself, eyes darting from one soldier to another.

“He’s not going to be much help in this situation. In fact he was sent to retrieve you,” Richter pointed to the unmasked man, “My father, the being you refer to as ‘God’.”

“Ma’am,” The unmasked soldier bowed his head, “Sorry for the fright. It wasn’t our intention, and I’ll also take this time to apologise for the way my wife’s earlier behaviour.”

“I can do that myself,” The Reaper growled, “I’m not some child, Jonathan!”

The Reaper slowly walked over, and extended her hand.

Amanda sat staring at it, before realising what the Reaper was doing. She took the hand and was pulled up, face to face with the blank mask.

The Reaper grabbed the bottom of the mask and with a sharp tug, pulled it off. Several wires hung limply from the side of the helmet.

Like with the rest, the Reaper was pale with cerise pink eye make-up. She was younger that Amanda expected. Looking younger than Richter in fact, which couldn’t be right. The one he claimed to be his father had stepped into the light; he was just as young. Black make-up surrounded eyes the colour of molten gold. The only other notable feature she could take away from his face, were the three scars that criss-crossed.

The Reaper opened her mouth and sighed, “My handling of your soul was poor. I did not mean to come off as brutish as I did.”

She looked Amanda straight in the eyes. They were cold grey and bloodshot, almost as if she had been crying.

“I’m sorry.”

“And so am I,” Richter’s father spoke from behind her, followed by a faint click.

Tear began to well in her eyes, as she started to beg. She begged for mercy, pleading with the man she had met only hours before, but he just looked away.

“Know that we do not do this out of malic, or evil. One who has already passed on from this life, cannot be allowed to live again. This time you will reach your final destination,” The Reaper stepped to one side, giving a brief nod to the man behind.

She couldn’t recall much else, other than death.

She was dead.

 

 

(Song lyrics written by Tim Finn & Phil Judd, from the 1976 song The Woman Who Loves You, by Split Enz.)


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