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Bonus teaser from For Whom the Reaper Tolls by Jack Wallen

This is the latest in his ongoing Reaper series …

ONE

“Oh, my Goth!” X pulled out of me. “That’s what it’s like to….”

I shot my hand into the air to keep her from completing the sentence. “You tell anyone we did that….”

X slipped out of bed and into her trademark black nightgown. The second the garment came to rest on her body, the hem seemed to float as if it were carried on a non-existent wind.

I pointed. “You do realize….”

X glanced down at her feet—toes polished a perfect shade of angsty black. “I have no idea. Ever since I started reaping, my dresses seemed to have taken on a life of their own. It’s kinda creepy, in a sort of Burtonesque way.” X spun on her heel to face me. “I like it.”

“About what we just did—” I started.

“You mean me reaping you while you masturbated?”

If I could only blush. “Yeah….”

“That was so hot.” X leaned in and whispered heated words into my ear. “For our next trick….”

I rolled away from Christine and out of the bed. “I’ll be reaping you while you do the deed.”

A lascivious smile etched its way across X’s lips. “Any time, lover.”

Before I could answer, a voice from the other side of the bedroom door broke the spell.

“Hey, we’re starving out here.”

“Jonesy,” X and I whispered in unison.

Breakfast was more than the first meal of the day—it was our church. The task of reaping took a serious toll on our bodies; because of that, X and I had to shovel in serious carbs. This was also a great time for our little group to plan out the coming shenanigans.

“Shall we dine with the commoners?” I asked in my best British dialect.

“Must we, my king? You know how the smell of excrement and failure lingers in my gowns woven of peasant dreams and hopes.”

I bowed to my queen. “Then I shall deign to have your finery crafted from the skins of unicorns, for I hear their flesh is impervious to the scent of despair.”

X giggled and batted her eyelashes. “Oh, but you do spoil me, my king.”

“After you, my dear.” I gestured for X to lead the way.

“It’s about time, playah.” Jonesy spoke through a mouthful of bacon. “Sorry, Griminator, Jonesy’s stomach waits for no one.”

Since his re-awakening, Jonesy had decided to make up for lost time—which translated to, in his very words, Living large in the margin. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I knew his latest mantra was an old-school 311 song. At least the kid had good taste in tunes.

I poured a steaming mug of the blackest coffee I’d ever beheld and placed it in front of X, before snagging a glass of OJ and taking my seat.

Darthaniel’s head bobbed to an unheard beat, a clownish grin plastered across his face.

Wake and bake? I mouthed to Amnesia. She answered with an exaggerated roll of the eyes.

I decided to fuck with Darth by improvising a breakfast song to the tune of Bob Marley’s “Is This Love”—at the tempo of Darth’s bouncing head.

“I want to eat you and eat you right. I want to smother you with syrup just right. You’ll be together, with the roof of my mouth over your head.”

“Hey, my friend.” Darth finally decided to join us in the here and now. “Let us break bread and bask in the love of good friendship. We are all here and alive; it will be a good day.”

“Speaking of which,” Ammy brought the high down a notch. “What’s the plan? The usual? Reap, pizza, wash, rinse, repeat?”

Just as I was about to answer the most important question of the morning, a bolt of lightning burst from the ceiling and yanked me from a very precious peace.

“Fuck. This. Shit. You have the worst goddamn timing, Fate!” I offered up my usual profanity-laden greeting. The swearutation had become a point of pride.

Fate’s glistening shape floated before me and its deep and thunderous James-Earl-Jonesian voice bellowed, “If you were my child—”

“Wait, I’m not? But I’ve been calling you daddy for so long. Are you saying…” I added a gasp to my bit of theatrics. “…I’m a bastard? Or, in the Spanish vernacular, los bastardos? Follar mi mono no!”

“Are you finished?”

“Am I ever?”

“Well played, Grim. Well played.”

I couldn’t help but sigh. “Care to tell me why you pulled me from the most important meal of the day, Fate?”

Without saying a word, Fate cupped its hands together and slowly pulled them apart to reveal a shimmering black and white screen. Inside the magic display, a horrific image appeared—a creature seemingly crafted of thick, viscous oil that dripped upward to make an absolute mockery of gravity.

“Newton would be so pissed at seeing this, Fate.”

“That’s what you take away from beholding Death?”

“Did you say ‘Death’? As in ‘Grim Reaper’ Death?”

Fate roared its disapproval. “You are an Eternal now, Grim! Behave accordingly.”

“Did you think, for a second, that handing me a new title would fundamentally change me? Are you fucking kidding? You and I have been going at this for centuries; you know I’m a belligerent punk whose secondary mission is to challenge the man at all costs. You get that, right? You being the man in this particular scenario.”

Fate fell into a silence that corkscrewed its way under flesh and into the pit of my gut. Instead of using his words, Fate pointed back to the translucent moving picture floating between us.

“What am I supposed to be seeing, Fate? This is Death.” I tossed my hands in the air and offered up a mocking sound of fright. “Oooooh, scary. I’ve seen more hideous creatures in B-horror, made-for-TV movies. I sat through sparkly vampires and fifty shades of wasted celluloid. Trust me, Fate, this has nothing on….”

Fate’s right arm found corporeal significance; his hand found my neck. A tidal wave of electricity washed over my flesh until I couldn’t move. All I could do was hang while Fate threatened to crush my larynx.

“My patience has met its end with you, Grim. If violence is the only means by which I can gain your attention, then so be it.” Fate continued with the white-knuckled grip. “I’m going to tell you a story, one that you should believe. At the dawn of time….” Fate took a moment to glance away from me. When he continued, his voice was hesitant. “For the longest time I was the only being beyond Heaven and Hell. Alone, I controlled the universal balance—the original Eternal. When Death eventually rose to power, it served a true and virtuous path, well outside of my purview.” Fate paused. I could only ever listen to one voice pause—a particular DJ that had absolutely no means of communicating into the Eternal realms. I wasn’t certain what to make of the pause, but Fate continued, placing the kibosh on my curiosity.  “And then Death developed a taste for power. The balance shifted, and very bad things happened. It was then I realized the only chance of restoring the equilibrium would be if I were to spread my kind throughout the Universe. And so I created the Realms and their keepers.”

My body had gone numb from the shoulders down. I tried to point, but my noodle arms failed me in tragic fashion. Fate continued its spiel.

“That’s when Death took matters into its own hands and waged war against the Eternals. It took decades, but we finally managed to fend the monster off and lock it away in the MorteRealm.”

Fate finally set me free. I grabbed at my neck and gasped, “What does that have to do with now…and me?”

“Something is happening within the MorteRealm—an exponentially increasing power. Death’s realm is unreachable by the Eternals—”

I cut Fate short. “You want me to enter the MorteRealm and somehow convince Death to keep calm and fuck off? Are you out of your mind?”

“No.”

“Really, Fate? From my vantage point, you seem pretty damn textbook.”

“No, as in I don’t want you anywhere near the MorteRealm. For reasons which I cannot explain, you shall never go near that forever-dark specter. I have only called you here as a service to a fellow Eternal. You weren’t exactly in a sound state of being when Death was banished, so you have no idea the power it possesses.”

“Wait, what? Did I know about Death? If so, why—”

“This is not up for debate!” Fate bellowed.

“I don’t buy it. This feels like more than a warning. If this were a book or a movie, you’d have just foreshadowed the plot so badly the more intelligent readers and viewers would have already figured out how the story concludes. Big bad Death escapes the MorteRealm, Fate sends Reaper to defeat said über-antagonist, and much celebrating ensues when the dark one is banished back into the MorteRealm. Roll credits…wait for the bonus scene and the cameo from Patty Jenkins, Kevin Smith, or whoever the fuck’s directing this flick. Sound about right?”

Again, Fate fell silent.

This time, I joined its little game.

Fate and I stared at one another for what seemed like hours. Fortunately, we were in one of the Eternal Realms, so time carried with it a certain illogical, relativistic flow. An hour here could equate to a second on the firmament.

“You make me regret my decision, Grim.”

“What decision?”

“Making you an Eternal.”

“Oh, come on, Fate…you know you love our little téte â tétes. We have chemistry. Anecdote subtraction and all that.”

Fate would not cave.

“Fine. I’m sorry. Tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll be sure to let you down. Wait. No. I won’t try to let you down. That’s not right, either. I’ll let you down easily.” Laughter bounced from my mouth. “Oh, hell, Fate, just give me my orders.”

“Be vigilant and watchful for anything out of the ordinary. Getting caught by surprise when Death is involved will not end well for you, those you love, the NeverRealm, or…” Fate fell into a doomsayer silence.

“Or what, Fate?”

“Death has threatened my life once before…he’ll do so again. My truest fear, however, is that he’ll not be content with taking out just one of the Eternals.”

“You mean all of us?”

Fate slowly nodded, its eyes downcast. “I should have destroyed Death when I had the chance. Why I spared its life, I cannot say.”

###

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Jay Wilburn
Jay Wilburn has a Masters Degree in Education that goes mostly unused since he quit teaching to write about zombies. Jay writes horror because he tends to find the light by facing down the darkness. He finds the journey through life easier by having you join him. Jay is the author of 2 series: The Dead Song Legend and The Great Interruption. He cowrote The Enemy Held Near with Armand Rosamilia. You can also find Jay's work in Best Horror of the Year volume 5 and Dark Moon Digest. Each year Jay has the pleasure of featuring many great authors in the genre through the Summer and Winter of Zombie blog tours on his website.

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