A Beautiful Disaster

This week’s flash fiction challenge was based on this disturbing new cover of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. It took me awhile to think up what to write about but once it came, I wrote the story in half an hour! It’s a bit over 1,000 words, but not much (1,023). Hope you enjoy. Comments welcomed :).

She stared at me blankly, with glassy eyes that made her look more like a mannequin. The bleach-blonde hair didn’t help matters. Neither did the false lashes surrounding her blue eyes that made her look like one of those creepy dolls that closed their eyes when you lay them down. I shuddered

After a moment, she looked away. She hadn’t seen me but had looked right through me, lost in thought.

Just as well. Most people didn’t see me. Or those that did, chose not to believe what they were seeing, and brushed me off as some kind of figment of their imagination. They just couldn’t accept that I was real, so they did whatever they could to convince themselves I wasn’t. But most people were too wrapped up in themselves, in their own little lives, to even really notice me in the first place.

I didn’t look all that different from everyone else, mind you, just that I wasn’t 100% there. At certain angles, in certain lights, I often disappeared completely. Which was disconcerting if you happened to see me one second, and then I was gone the next. Except I wasn’t really. Like a reflection in a window. You could see me, but nothing substantial.

That’s what happens when you’re dead. You still exist, sort of, but on the outskirts of the living world.

I didn’t choose to die. It was an accident. Are all accidents freak accidents? I wonder about these things sometimes. You have lots of time to think when you’re dead. And when you’re not moving on to anywhere else. I’m stuck here. I have to stay, because I have a job to do. I’m a grim reaper. Don’t ask me why I signed up to do it. I wasn’t thinking. I had just died, for fuck sake, and some strange woman shoved some papers at me. I was pretty dazed and confused. One minute I was alive, walking down the street, listening to my music and sending a text message with my phone. The next minute, all I feel is a big black ball of pain, and then I’m standing in this waiting room that looks like a doctor’s office from the 70’s and asked to fill out these forms. Here’s some advice. Read the fine print. Always. Otherwise you’ll probably be signing your life away. Ha, no pun intended.

So that’s how I became a grim reaper. Or simply a reaper as we call ourselves. It’s grim enough without actually adding the word. I wander around, looking for people who are imminently going to shuffle off their mortal coil, so I can help them when the get to the waiting room. Give them some advice so they know what the heck they’re doing there and what happened. It requires a bit of an adjustment period, you know. Going from the living world, to the dead. Not to mention the fact that the after life is like stepping back in time. They really could do with updating their décor. It would take a bit of the shock out of the whole experience, if I can give my two cents.

But I guess no one is really paying much attention to the chairs they’re sitting in when they’re trying to decide where they want to go. They have a couple of choices. They can choose to be reincarnated and start life over again, as someone else. One caveat, they won’t remember that they lived before. Kind of pointless, if you ask me, to not be able to learn from their previous lives. Or they can choose to become a reaper like me. Like a glorified guidance counsellor for the recently departed. And there’s a lot of legalese. Snore. A third option is to become an angel. But that’s a lot of work. Trying to solve the worlds problems, and the problems of humanity.  I wouldn’t recommend it. The job doesn’t even come with wings. Angels don’t fly. Sorry if I’ve burst your bubble. They’re still normal people, like me. Well, more like you. Imagine a giant cosmic call centre. Angels are the help line, answering people’s prayers. And it’s a 24/7 gig, because there’s 7 billion people on the planet and most of them are praying about something at some point.  Imagine listening to people asking for help, constantly. It’s never ending. People complaining about their lives – wanting to be some one else, somewhere else, to get out of their lives, and be living someone else’s life. You living people just don’t realize how good you have it, even when you might think you want something different. Ever heard the phrase the grass is greener? Yeah, well, it’s definitely not. Remember call centre. That’s never a good job, even if you are an angel. Us who have jobs in the after life don’t even get paid. But you don’t need money here anyways. I shouldn’t mention this but…we just take what we want from the other side. The living world. I guess you could call it stealing. Ever wonder where your socks disappear to from the wash? That could be me. Or an angel. We still need to wear clothes. There’s modesty in the afterlife. We don’t just wander around naked. Especially us reapers, who the living can see if they really pay attention. If they don’t look straight through us like Ms Blonde Mannequin opposite me on the bus.

The blonde pulled the cord and the bus rolled to a stop. She rose on impossibly high heels and tottered off. I followed, shaking my head as she looked down at her phone, neglecting her surroundings. My chest tightened. This was far too close to home. I walked behind her, like a shadow. I watched as the car came around the corner, the one she didn’t see. Just as I hadn’t. Tires squealed, and I looked away as blonde hair flew past me. And then we were standing in the waiting room, and I was patting her neatly manicured hand reassuringly. She was a beautiful disaster, and just another day at work.

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