Time of Troubles
by Garry Vakarian
I started my shift at seven o’clock sharp, as always, and looked at the list. By looking at the names of the souls I was assigned to cull today, it seemed I was to work in Northern America. I adjusted my hood to better cover my skull and grabbed my scythe.
Being a Grim Reaper is a globetrotter’s dream, with the ability to travel instantly all around the world. I chose this assignment not because I wanted to finish my travel’s wish list from when I was alive but because my aptitude test was inconclusive. At my death and while waiting in Purgatory, I couldn’t decide whether I should join the Angels in Celestia or the ranks of Demons in the Netherworld. So in the end I ended up culling the newly dead and accompanying them to chose their afterlife in my bare bones wrapped in a black get-up.
I exited the cloakroom and took the hallway to limbo. Whoever designed it loved heroic fantasy. The hallway was more like a crypt corridor than a functional hall with its walls of dark stones. There were the old red rug on the floor and the occasional candles to provide light. It was as if this place was born in the middle ages and stayed there. At least the vault was high enough to accommodate us, the hooded ones, with our scythes up unlike the tunnels that led to Hell. They were so cramped and full of cave-like decorum it made us feel uneasy, even us, so imagine the poor slobs we had to drive through them. It wasn’t until the end of the hallway that we could reach limbo and “teleport” to Earth.
However, I had a nasty feeling. Something was not right. Usually I met other Reapers on my way to limbo or in the break room but today, I didn’t run into anybody aside a few maintenance skeletons and their Succubus supervisor. Soon after I reached Earth and caught sight of my first target of the day, it all became clear.
The setting was a road accident in rural Idaho. A drunken couple returning from a party in the middle of the cold winter night lost control of their Honda Civic over a patch of ice and hit a tree. Or so I thought. I appeared right behind the car and I was going to check on the girl, the first cull of my shift. Her boyfriend wasn’t on the list thanks to his airbag and the way the car crashed. However something was amiss. Normally the corpse would slowly start to glow and I would touch it in order to separate the soul from the earthly remains. Sometimes people wouldn’t be deceased yet or extra lucid types would catch a glimpse of us, hence our widespread image in human folklore.
This time though, no glows were to be seen. As I approached the passenger side of the car I heard strange noises, like an animal moaning with its mouth full of food. Still perplexed as to why things were not as they should be, like the dozens of accidents I’d dealt with before, I reached the door and peeked over the shattered window. Like any other car crash the setting was gruesome with blood and guts all around the passenger compartment.
However the girl’s head wasn’t leaning on the headrest nor the dashboard but over her boyfriend’s shoulder. I thought it was strange at first but after looking more carefully I discovered she wasn’t resting on him but actually eating his neck… “What the hell?!” was my only reaction. Since I was already dead she couldn’t do me any harm but the sight of this scene disgusted me profoundly.
Corpses were back to life and craved for living flesh. Something stopped the natural cycle of life and prohibited human souls to escape their earthly vessels, trapping them inside instead without control. It didn’t take long for the boy to die and become a walking nightmare.
That’s when I understood this was a serious problem because if souls are trapped in their rotting husks of former bodies, my job was in danger and maybe even the equilibrium of the afterlife realms. This was the dreaded Apocalypse but I had to regain composure and not fall into panic. Hopefully I had just what I needed in cases like this: my Reaper Emergency Manual®.
“In case of a zombie apocalypse, locate your nearest supervisor.” Finding my boss Priyanka in the middle of this mess became my new mission. That is how my crazy adventures began in post zombie apocalypse Earth a.k.a. the Time of Troubles…