Reaper Page 9

I slid down the pale green wall until I sat on the floor with Levi looking down at me. Where would I go now—if I took the job—when I wasn’t killing people and harvesting their souls?

Nursing shoes squeaked down the hall, drawing me from my self-pity.

“Why can’t they see us?” I asked, staring as a wrinkled old woman with bright red, thinning hair hobbled past us, leaning on a walker. She seemed to avoid us instinctively, even though she couldn’t see us, and that made me feel a little better. If she was scared of us—even subconsciously—then we had to be real.


Levi slid out of his chair and I stood to follow him. “They can’t see you because you’re just visiting.” We stepped past a room full of square tables, where senior citizens sat playing cards and dominoes. “They can’t see me because I don’t want them to see me, and that’s a reaper’s prerogative.

Selective corporeality, visibility, etc…” He glanced up at me, one brow arched.

“Usually that’s a selling point.”

I felt a grin tug at one side of my mouth. There were obvious perks with that particular fringe benefit. “So, ‘reaper’ is real y just a nice word for ‘covert pervert?’ Is that what you’re saying?”

“Not if you want to keep your job for long. But the officials tend to overlook innocent observation in the rookies, because after a few years, most of them outgrow the phase.”

I stopped in the middle of the hall, frowning down at him. “Okay, first of all, how open to interpretation is the phrase ‘innocent observation?’ And second, why would anyone ever outgrow that phase?”

“They outgrow it along with their humanity, Tod. The longer we’re dead, the less we have in common with the living, and you don’t lust for what no longer interests you.”

Great. “So you’re saying the afterlife is hard on the libido? FYI, that’s probably not a good bullet point for your recruiting brochure.”

“Yet it rarely scares away potential recruits. Any idea why?” Levi blinked up at me, studying my eyes like he could see the gears turning behind them, a hint of grim amusement in the curve of his little-boy mouth. And suddenly I understood.

“Yeah.” I started walking again, staring ahead to avoid his gaze.

“Because we all think we’ll be the exception.” Myself included. Surely if I could still be near my family—even in an altered state of existence—I wouldn’t lose my humanity. How could I, if I surrounded myself with it?

When I looked up, he was still watching me, but the smile was gone. “It won’t work,” he said, his child’s voice soft but confident. “They won’t be enough.”

I frowned, but held eye contact. “Reapers can read minds?”

“No, but I wasalways pretty good at connecting the dots.” Levi shrugged, hands in his pockets. “It may work for a little while. But the more time you spend with them, the harder it’l be for them to accept your death.

Even if they never see you. And beyond that, they will grow old, and when they die, there will be nothing left of your humanity. Death will have you eventually, Tod, and the longer you cling to what you had, the harder it’ll be to let go in the end.”

“So, you reap souls and crush hopes? Is that part of the job, or just a service you offer for free?” My chest ached, like my heart had bruised it from the inside— the first physical discomfort I’d felt since waking up dead—and I couldn’t decide if that was a good sign or a bad one.

“I thought you’d want the unvarnished truth, rather than the glossy veneer. Was I wrong?”

I closed my eyes, then opened them to meet his gaze. “Bring on the truth.” Even if it made me want to end my own life. Again.

Though his expression never changed, I could have sworn Levi looked…satisfied.

“So, even taking into account this unvarnished loss of humanity, does anyone ever turn you down? I mean, the choices are reap or die, right? So does anyone actually ask to be nailed back into the coffin?” Levi nodded slowly, and I squinted at the red-tinted haze cast by the light shining through his copper curls. It was like a crimson anti-halo, gruesomely appropriate for a child of death, and a reminder that Levi wasn’t there to help me. He was there to fil a vacancy.

“It happens. But more often than that, they accept, then change their minds.”


“Some people can’t handle not being a part of the living world. Others don’t have the stomach for the job.”

“What exactly is the job? Do you actually…kill people?” Because, having even indirectly contributed to my brother’s death, I knew for a fact that I didn’t have whatever it took to play executioner.

Levi shrugged. “It’s not murder, by any means, but yes, we extinguish life when the time comes. Then we col ect the soul and take it to be recycled.”

“So…you killed Nash?” Part of me was horrified by the thought, but the other half was relieved that someone else was wil ing to take the blame.

“And you saved him.”

But that wasn’t right. I hadn’t so much saved him as given back what I’d played a part in taking. That didn’t make me a hero. It just made me dead.

And that’s when a new fear broke the surface of confusion that defined my afterlife so far. “Hey, you’re not gonna go back and kill him if I turn this down, are you?” Because I was far from sure I wanted to spend my afterlife extinguishing human existence, one poor soul at a time.

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies