by Dorian Grendel
She sprawled on the cobbles before me, a young woman, thin faced and as pale as the moonlight. Glossy darkness pooled around her head. Threads like questing tendrils reached towards the gutter. I had arrived too late to save her fall, and I was sorry for that. A distant curse and the cry of a child echoed from the tenement above, but how or why the woman came to be here was not my business.
You can never tell how someone will die. Warriors make a pact with death, easing gently into the embrace of eternity with no more than a sigh as the fateful blade parts their flesh. Or they may bide a while with stoic grace as a mortal wound festers. They know the halls of the heroes await them.
Those who’ve had their fill of life come forth with little reluctance or regret. It is the least fortunate among us, lacking the means for nobility or dignity, who cling most ferociously to their meagre portions. They must be prised, white knuckled and bloody nailed from their last rent shreds of vitality, as though fearing death holds worse horrors than their accustomed distress. They seem surprised, even indignant, that their last tiny flicker of hope or illusion is about to be snuffed.
This one came at me screaming, scratching and cursing, clawing at my face. If she’d been more substance than shadow I might have feared for my safety, but a deft snick of my scythe severed the thread binding her to this mortal realm. With a sob of surprise she was gone.
I needed a moment’s grace to acknowledge a life now spent, but my scanner flashed red. My next appointment was already due. Targets to meet. No peace for the damned, and no rest for this reaper.
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Dorian Grendel lives in the English West Midlands, and scratches a living working in a warehouse. In his spare time he practices playing guitar and cycles by the canals if the weather is fine. Having never written before, he entered a flash fiction contest just to see if he could. Some people liked what he wrote, so he tried it again. This is his first submission for publication.