“Everybody will die, but very few people want to be reminded of that fact.”
― Lemony Snicket,
Beth nodded at the elderly woman a few seats away from us.
I followed her gaze, and examined the woman closely – while trying to be as surreptitious as possible.
The woman looked bright-eyed and cheerful as she flicked a finger down her iPad, the large print visible even from where I sat. It seemed to be a news article.
“How can you tell?” I whispered to Beth.
“Obviously not, or I wouldn’t be asking,” I said carefully, quelling a flash of irritation.
Beth raised a rather smug eyebrow. “Her aura is weak. In fact, it might be any minute now.”
Beth raised both eyebrows. “You can’t see those, either?”
I chose not to speak, lest I snapped my reply. I shook my head.
“Well, I suppose you’re still pretty new at this. It’ll happen for you . . . eventually.” She didn’t even bother to disguise her condescending tone.
I knew when I was being baited, so I just gave a thoughtful sort of nod and turned back toward the woman.
I really didn’t want to think about what may or may not happen to her, but I was here to learn more about being a Reaper, not just for a pleasant bus ride (truly an oxymoron). So I turned to Beth again.
“What does her aura look like? What do auras look like in general?”
The older girl seemed to debate on whether or not to lower her standards to answer such a silly question, but the desire to show off her intellect won out. (It’s possible I was reading too much into this.)
“Auras,” she began, “look about how you’d expect. A sort of halo of color around the body. Everyone’s looks different. That woman’s is – or was – a peachy orange color, but now it looks . . . ” She seemed to struggle to find a better word, but finally said, ” . . . moldy.”
She continued, “As for how I know she’s near death, well, that’s something that just comes with the Reaper territory after awhile.”
I looked back at the woman again. She was smiling at some Facebook photos.
“I hate this,” I said suddenly, not quite meaning to but also unable to stop myself.
I was afraid Beth was going to scoff, but she looked sober. “We all do. Well, anyone with a proper conscience.” She made a face that rather marred her perfect features. “I know a few Reapers who actually enjoy ‘the thrill of the hunt,’ so to speak.”
Thinking about that made me feel sick, so I turned away from both Beth and the woman and stared out the opposite window at the streetlamps and trees and buildings flashing by.
“What color is my aura?” I asked after awhile.
Beth gave me a strange look. “You don’t have one. You’re dead, remember?”
I stared. “Not completely. Not anymore.”
“Well, you don’t have a soul. No soul, no aura.”
“Yeah, but – ”
Beth’s gaze snapped toward the elderly woman, who had suddenly slumped in her seat. Her iPad clattered to the bus floor.
A sound wave of worry rippled among the other passengers; a few people started approaching the now seemingly unconscious woman.
“Well,” Beth sighed, “time to go to work.”
And she pulled out her black cloak from her bag.
Yet another installment of my little Memento Mori series! This is actually more of a direct sequel to the very first story, but I’m still working out Reaper details and exploring other characters. So barring its length, this is more of a drabble.