Ghastly 5 Words

On the last day of creative writing before break, we played a “game” in class. Now, when I say “game,” I mean the kind of “game” nerdy writers play when they think they’re being cool.

We each wrote a word on a piece of paper and stuck it in my friend’s Santa Hat. . . then our teacher drew 5 words and we had to write a story with them.

The words were:

Bubbling

Hoist

Destruction (that wasn’t mine at all)

Undulating

Legitimately

Some of the most un-useful words ever. I mean, come on, legitimately????

It was a mistake on the housekeeper’s part. If she hadn’t forgotten that her day off was Wednesday, not Tuesday, she would have been there to open the door and the boy wouldn’t have had to meet his destruction.

But on this particular day, she had forgotten, just as an elephant doesn’t, and so, when the doorbell rang, there was no one there to answer it and turn the tall, dark stranger with a scythe strapped to his back away with the assurance that he’d come to the wrong address. Instead, the stranger was able to enter the house with the ease of an alien invasion to earth and was climbing the stairs to the boy’s room in no time. Minding the manners that had been drilled into him from a young age, he knocked politely on the boy’s bedroom door with the shaft of his scythe and waited, tapping his foot impatiently. It was a few moments before the boy opened the door.

He was a small boy. An innocent boy. The sort of boy they put on billboards for leukemia and no one can look at without being thrown back to that one time they were in bed with the flu on Christmas and weren’t allowed to open presents until they were better. It didn’t help that the boy never smiled and only ate cauliflower and brussel sprouts and all sorts of other hateful foods.

So when the door opened and he found himself facing a tall, dark stranger with a face like John Cleese, the boy didn’t laugh at the absurdity, he didn’t faint, and much like Mr. Nash’s Isabelle, he didn’t scream or scurry. He simply stared up at the spot where the man’s face should have been and politely asked why he was so early for their appointment. “You may remember, sir, that I am but seven at this current stage,” he said. The stranger laughed, but said nothing. The boy sighed, accepting his fate and motioned for him to get on with it.

The stranger raised his scythe significantly. The boy fell to the floor with the sort of sound a small child makes as he falls to the floor. And neither party was surprised to find that the little figure was dead. It was all rather anticlimactic, really.

The stranger carefully put up the scythe in the carrier his mother had given him for his 900th birthday (with the inscription “For Billy, the grimmest of all reapers, Love Mummy”) and hoisted it onto his back. He knelt by his little victim’s side so slowly and carefully that it would have looked tender had he not been tall, dark, faceless and carrying a scythe.

Slowly, he examined the boy. Though he was recognized as the best in his trade across worlds he still checked for a heartbeat beneath the thin cotton of the boy’s Transformer pajamas (which had been bought for him by a mother who tried to do everything right and failed miserably). Even professionals could get it wrong sometimes.

There was no air left in the little lungs—he was legitimately dead, though it seemed his soul was doing its best to escape his body in the form of spittle bubbling up from the boy’s mouth. He was used to this. It was without urgency that he reached into the undulating folds of his nazgûl-esque cloak and retrieved a vial with which he caught the unappealing fluid that held the essence of the boy’s being or something like that. He’d add it to his collection of weak attempts by humans to escape his hand. They were so foolish to believe in an afterlife. In a heaven and a hell. In any place other than a shelf on his living room wall.

He held the jar up to the light and peered at it. The contents ceased to look like exactly what they were and became a shimmering gas. He shook the vial gently and the gas shimmered. Death smiled. The young ones always did glow so.

Note: this is fiction, all fiction, and nothing but fiction. When I read this to my class there was a bit of confusion on that point.

 

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