Five Reapers

This was a thought-exercise I came up with while freewriting; I still haven’t come up with a decent world for it.

In this country, there are five Deaths. Each person—or each person’s heart—chooses one, to bring them to the afterlife.

The first is an assassin. His presence is not known, his footsteps not heard—there is only the moment that his blade strikes. Then, pulling themselves up from their corpses and standing blinking in the half-light, his victims see him; he beckons once, and steps away. Only a fool does not follow, for there are worse fates than merely being dead. He comes to those whose fear of death is strongest, that they need not know when it is coming.

The second is a woman with a melodious voice. As the time of the dying one draws near, she appears to him and invites them to follow. Those who do not choose to do so, she will not force into it; she is patient. But it is only because it is before their times that she gives them a choice; one day, she will come, and without an invitation she will lead them away, close their eyes as she tells them of the realization of their greatest desires. Those who choose her are those who most desire control in their lives; many believe that there is no real set time to die, that there are only those of weak will, and that they will be stronger.

The third is a seeker of adventure, with a loud voice and an excited bearing. He is the rarest visitor among the reapers, most often courted by those who themselves seek death or the risk thereof. Between them it becomes a contest, as they do greater and greater things, and ask him, “Can the adventure you promise give you this?” And he smiles, and says “That, and more.” And so it continues, until in rockslide or lost handhold, broken equipment, act of nature or sabotage, the adventure ends—and then the adventurer stands, and offers a hand to his target, and says, “Follow me.” Some linger beyond even then, but it is not for long; they too come to miss the excitement, and the adventurer offers more beyond life.

Still another is a bureaucrat, the rolls of those fated to die a leatherbound book he keeps within his pocket. He is fair; those to whom he comes, he gives ample warning, that they may get their affairs in order. But this so that when he comes for them, they will not stall—for he has his work, and more importantly, he has the works of the learned dead to read, and the longer these errands take, the less time there will be for such things. Those who seek him seek to know their moment beyond a shadow of a doubt, and to not leave unfinished business behind.

The last comes in the form of a child, a little girl, bouncy and be-ribboned. To her seekers she comes in a giddy rush, enveloping them in a hug with such enthusiasm that it knocks their breath away; when she releases them their breath does not return, and she leads them to her playplaces in the hereafter. As with her counterparts the lady and the adventurer, she will not always take the soul that she embraces—at times, she will let go, and return later. She is, unlike the others, a Death that can be cheated, sparing her targets if sufficiently amused. But though she can be convinced to let people live past their time, it is her choice and hers alone when they come with her, and she is as unpredictable as any child.

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