The first thing I did was rip the soul out of some poor, unsuspecting street level drug dealer. Just walked right up to the punk and thieved it out of him. Who the hell cared, somebody had to be my guinea pig and he was no innocent. It was just strange how he had looked at me before I had turned him into a soulless shuck.
Usually, they could feel me descending down on them, about to consume their spirit in one satisfying gulp. But he was surprised. Because he had thought me just another rolo on the street trying to get on by killing and getting people strung out.
He had the first part right, at least.
I was about to send the bastard’s soul hurtling back to Evil, when the great depraved one did me a great dishonor and came to me instead.
Like I said, Evil terrified me, and in that dark, empty alley where I had pilfered a human being’s entire life force on a whim and sent his empty skeleton stumbling down the street uninhabited, I was practically paralyzed with terror. Evil had never sought me out before. I always went to him.
The cost will be great, Evil’s voice grated in my head, leaving my thoughts in shreds.
“What do you mean?” I asked, cringing. My head was throbbing with the pain of the intrusion.
You desired the mortal, and you shall have her. You want revenge, take it. But the cost will be great.
“I’ll pay it, whatever it is,” I said. I was already dead. I was a Reaper. What else could Evil take from me?
The list is endless.
“As long as Luz isn’t on that list, then I’m okay.”
I may be vile, but I keep my word. The mortal is yours forever.
If I had known what was to come, I would’ve asked it to elaborate on that a bit.
I have restored your mortality, but there are things you must know if you wish to remain in this realm of the living.
“What kind of things?” But I was dreading the answer.
First, you are still a Reaper and your soul belongs to me. You are not free simply because you are mortal. There is no such thing as freedom for a Reaper.
I knew this and needed no reminders. “What else?” I said, knowing there was more.
Ah, the best part. If your mortal touches you, ever, she will die and for eternity, her soul will reap for me.
He had found my weakness. Because I would’ve rather died a million more painful deaths than to ever condemn Luz to an after life spent as a Reaper.
Yet, I was torn.
The idea of never being able to touch her was like death to me. But I had sacrificed that for revenge and Evil made the rules. I wouldn’t let her touch me.
Knowing how this tortured me, Evil’s face stretched into something that I figured was supposed to be amusement. Instead, it turned out to be one of the most horrifying things I had ever seen. And I did mean, one. Because I had seen Evil do some pretty terrifying stuff.
I will be taking that now.
I looked down at the soul I had clutched in my fist. The essence of a man, silently screaming and crying out at the horror standing in front of him. I could do nothing for him. I didn’t want to do anything for him and felt no remorse when I handed him over into Evil’s anxious hands.
Evil left as it had come. Silent as death, leaving the air smelling like a rotting corpse. Right away, I started making my way through the slums, towards Luz’s hovel. I was harassed by a few ñeros looking for a victim to rob or beat into oblivion, but the threat was abolished as soon as they got within a few feet of me. I guessed they could sense that I was something they didn’t want to fuck with and backed off. It felt kind of good to know I was still scaring the shit out of people even though I was mortal again.
It was dark, but not late, and the lights in Luz’s tiny chantey were ablaze. The windows were so dirty that everything inside was like a blur. I couldn’t tell if Luz was anywhere in there and I couldn’t just appear inside anymore.
So I knocked.
Liliana, Luz’s daughter, answered the door. She was a tiny beauty, like her mother, with wide brown eyes and straight black hair down to her waist. She couldn’t have been more than six years old and reeked of an innocence I had never had as a child. My childhood was not something I wanted to remember, ever, however, Evil refused to let me forget.
“Hola, Liliana,” I said, using the child’s name to gain her trust.
“Hola,” She replied. She was staring right at me and I knew she wasn’t afraid. I didn’t affect children like I did adults. I didn’t know why exactly, just that it had always been this way.
“Is your mother home?” I asked, glad that my Spanish speaking skills seemed up to par. It was the first time I had ever spoken Spanish out loud. With my inability to talk as a Reaper for the lack of a tongue, I had only been able to master the art of comprehension.
“My Aunt Paola is dead,” The little girl said, matter of factly.
All I could say was, “I know.”
“Liliana, who are you talking to?” An older woman’s voice said, and Claudia, Luz’s mother, appeared behind the little girl.
As soon as the old woman saw me, she crossed herself. I tried to smile, to ease her, but I didn’t think I managed it very well. Having been a Reaper for so long, smiles had become foreign to me.
The fragile old woman came forward to take Liliana’s hand. “Who are you? What do you want?” She croaked. Her voice was weak and I wondered what ailed her. I searched her mind and found it. Cancer. It hadn’t gotten as bad as it was going to get, but everyday, she could feel herself getting weaker.
Claudia gasped. I was sure it was because she had felt me poking around in her head. Sometimes that happened.
“Dios mio,” She breathed, wrapping her arms around Liliana to pull her close, away from me.
“I’m here to see Luz,” I said, pushing on as if nothing was wrong, “I want to make sure she’s okay. I...heard what happened.” Word traveled fast in the slums, so it wasn’t a surprise that I already knew what had happened to Luz.
“How do you know my Luz?” Claudia was suspicious of me and had every right to be. It was obvious I wasn’t from Bogota. I wasn’t even Colombian, or Hispanic for that matter. I wasn’t even alive. I had a feeling Claudia knew that.
“I’m an old friend from school,” I lied. “I knew Paola too...”
At the mention of her youngest daughter, Claudia’s eyes filled with tears. “They’ve taken her, I hear. To the morgue. I haven’t even seen her,” She managed to say, “I’m not well and Luz...” She swiped at her wet cheeks. “I have to care for Liliana.”
“I understand.” I hesitated. “May...I come in?”
Claudia didn’t want to, but against her better judgement, stepped aside to let me pass. Their little hovel was dim and cramped, even with the small amount of furniture they had. Crosses covered the walls as filthy, matted carpet covered the floor, and a bible sat on a small table nearby, opened to Revelations. The place smelled of sour mildew and even I was bothered by the stench. Even though I usually only ever had the smell of dead bodies in my nasal tract.
“Luz is in the back room,” Claudia said, crossing herself again. I was sure she didn’t want me anywhere near her daughter and would be praying over her bible again as soon as I was out of sight.
“I’ll show you,” Liliana said. The little girl reached out and grabbed my hand. I barely stopped myself from screaming.
But, nothing happened, and I realized that nothing ever would. Evil hadn’t taken everything from me, only Luz. Then I realized she was everything to me and something impossible happened. I began to loathe Evil even more than I had before. Mortality would be torture for me, just like my last life.
The back room was filled to capacity with a big bed and nothing else. With nowhere else for them to go, clothes and shoes were stacked on the floor. Luz, my dark-haired beauty, lay on the bed covered by a thin blanket. Her eyes were closed, her breathing was shallow, and her face was swollen from being backhanded by Andrés. I seethed with rage. I wanted to kill the ñero all over again.
“Mama,” Liliana softly called out, giving Luz a little shake.
Her mother’s eyes fluttered open. She looked at her daughter and smiled. With a weak hand, she brushed Liliana’s hair from her face. “Hola, mi mamita...” Then her eyes found me and I waited for her to either ask who I was or cross herself as Claudia had.
But neither happened. She kept smiling and held out her hand to me. “Mi salvador...” She breathed.
I was shocked into a complete non-reaction. Luz had just called me her “savior”. How in the world had she known?
“Come closer,” She beckoned me. I did, scooting just close enough so that if she reached out she couldn’t touch me. Not on purpose or by accident.
“You saved my life.” She coughed and cringed as she tried to sit up. I wanted to help, but all I could do was watch.
“Yes...” It was all I could say.
“Que gracias, I am grateful.” She was reading me just like I was reading her. Liliana wasn’t paying us too much attention as she started braiding a very dirty doll’s hair.
“How did you know?” I asked. “That wasn’t me. I mean, I wasn’t myself––”
Luz smiled. “I know. I can sense you. You haven’t been yourself for a very long time.”
I cursed to myself. I hadn’t expected this. I hadn’t expected Luz to know me, who I really was. Maybe even what I really was.
“Do I scare you?” I asked.
“Sisas, yes.” But yet, she hadn’t crossed herself or told me to get the hell out. She didn’t even seem to mind that Liliana was around me.
“I know you’d never hurt her,” Luz said.
“Can you read my mind?”
She smiled. “No. And even if I could, I wouldn’t. I don’t want to know what someone like you thinks.”
“Someone like me?”
“Whatever you are.” And with those words, I knew that even though she didn’t know exactly what I was, she accepted me anyway. Her salvador, the Reaper of Bogota.
“El Muerte is dead,” I said, “Lu Mal is next.”
Luz’s smile fell and pain filled her expression. She said nothing. Liliana was looking up at me, fully alert, but Luz didn’t send her away. So I kept going.
“For what’s happened to you, he will die.”
She looked up at me, her mouth set in a grim line. “And for Paola?”
I smiled, though it probably looked more like a grimace. “For Paola, he will suffer while he dies.”
Luz didn’t even hesitate. “Good.”
“Good,” Liliana repeated, then went back to braiding her doll’s hair.
Then Luz and I just stared at each other. She was beautiful still, even with effects of being beaten marring her face. There was an aura around her, but not like one of an innocent. There was something dark about Luz, and I realized it was the reason I had been so drawn to her. Something lurked underneath all of that beauty, something tortured and untamed. And even though I was the Reaper, ruled by Evil, I hoped I would never find out what it was.
The gunshot cut into the silence like a machete.
Within a breath, I was in Reaper mode. I pushed Liliana to floor and Luz fell on top of her, curling her body around her daughter. I flew from the room, pulling the door closed behind me. I wasn’t scared. Being dead already had that effect on you.
I smelled death even before I found Claudia bleeding out over her bible from a shot to the head. I left her as she was, not daring to touch her. I wasn’t going to allow this saintly woman to fall to my fate because I had reaped her soul. I would never give Evil the pleasure.
The front door had been left wide open and I ran out into the night. I heard the sound of screeching tires and chased it. I saw the black car whip around the corner, heading away from me, and I dashed through the alley to cut it off on the other side, knowing where it was headed. There was only way out of this part of the slum.
I moved fast, even for a mortal, and emerged from the alley before the automobile could fly by me. I stood in its path, unmoving. The car revved its engine and sped up. I just smiled and waited for it to get close enough.
I leapt onto the hood just as the car was about to mow me down. With a fist, I punched through the windshield and went for the driver. I grabbed the first part of him I came into contact with and jerked him headfirst through the pane. The passenger shot at me and I was hit a couple of times. Being used to pain, I ignored the sting of the wounds. This was just a body to me and I could just steal a new one if mine ended up with too many bullets in it.
With no one to drive, the car crashed into a group of hovels. The stench of death didn’t taint the air so I knew the crash hadn't killed, or even hurt anyone.
I snapped the driver’s neck as easy as crumbling a cracker, as I rolled off of the hood of the car. I had no use for him. The passenger was the shooter and that was who I wanted. Letting the driver’s body drop to the ground, I ripped the damaged door from its hinges and dragged out the injured bastard who had killed an innocent old woman in cold blood and had then tried to do the same to me.
“Who sent you?” I growled, even though I already knew. I wanted to hear the name so my rage had something to attach itself to, making my thoughts of revenge all the more demonic.
A crowd had gathered, but as expected, they stayed the hell away from me. Good, because I was in that zone now, the one where no one was safe from my wrath.
“Fuck you,” the ñero spit at me.
I punched out a few of his teeth. “Who sent you?”
He coughed and spit out dentene and blood. “That guaricha is gonna die. So is her little guaricha hija. No one gets away from Lu Mal.” He laughed and I let him.
With two fingers, I reached into the wound in my neck and without a sound or even a grimace of pain, pulled out the bullet that had caused it.
The bastard stopped laughing.
“I’m sure someone out there cares about you and will pray for your soul,” I said, “but by the time those prayers make it to God’s ears, you will already be in Hell.”
The man opened his mouth to scream as I shoved the bullet into his eye socket.
Copyright © 2012 by Diantha Jones