No Reprieve, by Michael A. Kechula
When Ron staggered from a bar and steadied himself against a building, his cell phone rang.
“Ron Higenlooper?” asked an ethereal-sounding voice.
“Yeah. Who wants to know?”
“Are the last four digits of your social security number 8999?”
“Yeah. What of it?”
“Greetings,” said the voice.
“Who is this?”
“She who is feared by all.”
“Up yours, Jerk-O,” Ron said, hanging up.
His phone rang again, as he staggered down one of Mid-Town Manhattan’s darkened side streets.
“I will not be insulted or ignored. Don’t hang up until I tell you. If you do, a taxi will jump the curb and cut you in half. Understand?”
“Screw you!” Ron hollered.
An out-of-service taxi appeared. Suddenly, it went out of control and swerved toward him. “I understand!” he screamed.
The driver gained control, missing Ron by a few feet.
“As you can see, I mean what I say,” the voice said.
“Damn that was close! What’s going on? Who the hell are you?”
“They call me Destroya. I called to advise you that you’re going to die tomorrow morning. Ten hours from now. Find a priest and make your last confession.”
“I’m not Catholic,” Ron said.
“My records show you are.”
“I was one a long time ago. But I don’t believe in anything, anymore. In fact, I don’t believe you exist. Damn whiskey’s messing up my brain and giving me weird thoughts.”
“Whether you believe I exist or not doesn’t matter. You now have 9 hours and 59 minutes left. Why don’t you ask a priest about me? Tell him Destroya sent you. Or don’t you dare?”
She hung up.
St. Michael’s Church, where Ron once attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, was a few blocks away. He arrived just as a meeting ended. Spotting a guy wearing a Roman collar, he called out, “Hey, Father.”
“Can I help you?”
“I was told to find a priest.”
“Who told you?”
“A female named Destroya.”
Ron heard a sharp intake of breath.
“Did you actually see her?” asked the priest, as he hastily blessed himself.
“Nope. She called me.”
“I can’t help you. Nobody can.”
“Can you at least tell me who Destroya is?”
“The Grim Reaper.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Ron said, “there’s no such thing.”
“You’re wrong. Once her sword is raised, nobody can evade her dastardly attack. The time, place, and method of your death were ordained before your birth. You must make peace with God and plead for a stay of execution. The Almighty is merciful to the godly. Have you kept the ten commandments?”
“I keep my own commandments: grab whatever you want before the other guy does.”
“Even if it means stealing and killing?”
“Have you done such things?” asked the priest.
“Then you’ve lived an evil life.”
“What’s evil to you is ordinary for me.”
“There’s no reprieve. Make peace with God before it’s too late.”
“No!” Ron said. “I don’t believe any of that hokum.”
“Few have ever heard Destroya’s voice,” the priest said. “You’ve been unreasonably privileged. Perhaps she’ll grant the death of your choosing. Maybe you can plead for an end that’s not gruesome or painful.”
“How about this one? Suppose I ask to be whacked right between the eyes by a flying saucer, while I’m standing on top of the Empire State Building giving Destroya the finger. At least I’ll find out if flying saucers really exist.”
“Foolish sacrilege,” said the priest.
Ron called him a nasty name, and departed.
“You have nine hours left,” Destroya said over the phone, while Ron looked for a cab.
“Is that so? How’s it gonna happen?”
“It’s a surprise.”
“Yeah, sure. Hey, why not wipe me out in style? How about doing something spectacular that’ll give the newspapers big headlines: ‘DESTROYA STRIKES AGAIN!’ In fact, I’ll go right now to the New York Times and tell a reporter what’s gonna happen. I’ll say that tomorrow morning, a flying saucer’s gonna whack me between the eyes while I’m on top of the Empire State Building.”
“Is that how you’d like to be dispatched to Eternity at 8:46 tomorrow morning?”
“Yep. Might as well go out with a big bang. It’ll give people something to talk about for generations.”
“How do I know for sure you’re real?” he asked.
“As a sign, I just ordered a seagull to soil you.”
A passing gull splattered Ron’s shoulder. He got so unnerved, he ran five city blocks to the New York Times Building, found a reporter, and told his story.
“Empire State Building?” asked the reporter. “Tomorrow morning at 8:46? A flying saucer?”
“Yeah. Tell your readers that Destroya, the Grim Reaper, is responsible. Make everybody aware she exists. And that she can control birds and taxis. Maybe the world can band together and find a way to stop her. Then everybody will be able to live forever.”
“You seem convinced that she’s for real.”
“She sure is. See this mess on my suit jacket? She made a bird do that.”
Noticing Ron’s boozy breath, the reporter said, “I hate to disappoint you, but your demise can’t happen on the Empire State Building. It’s closed to visitors. They’re sandblasting to remove decades of soot. Why not head for the World Trade Center? Go up to the observation tower. Let the flying saucer whomp you there.”
“Great idea,” Ron said.
The reporter had the whole night crew in stitches telling them about the wacky drunk and his impending death by flying saucer.
At 8:00 the next morning, Ron rode the subway to the World Trade Center and took the elevator to the observation tower.
As he stood on the 110thfloor scanning the skies for flying saucers, his phone rang.
“I see you decided to die somewhere else,” said Destroya. “You have 10 seconds left. Since flying saucers don’t exist, I found a wonderful alternative. Look to your right. See that airliner heading toward you?”
Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: http://www.booksforabuck.com/ to read a free story or chapter in all of his books.
Posted on May 6, 2015, in Contest, Issue 16: Shinigami Stories—Reaping the Harvest of Souls and tagged contest, death, death reaper, e-zine, grim reaper, horror, shinigami, short stories, The Were-Traveler. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.