Sunday, November 4, 2012

In Inertia

There is a certain allure to the concept of insanity.  Perhaps people link that word up to another adjective like genius.  This of course is not exactly true, especially when you've seen and lived with the people I have.  I have a great gift, and not to share it would be a crime.  Not like a Bible-thumper, the kind that really think that if they don't save you, you're going directly to Hell (do not pass Go, do not collect $200).  And they don't want to see you burn, so they think they are doing you a favor.

I know this for a fact because I've been a thumper before.

I was nine, and my friends pushed me into Jesus.  Brainwashed even.  But no matter what kind of question I came up with, the answer always boiled down to "trust God."  Now I have faith, but not the kind that turns you into a Jesus-happy moron who will believe anything so long as it cites the bible somewhere.

Did you know that in the book of Exodus that "God" gives specific instructions on how to remove mildew from your home?  We don't bother with that anymore because of the invention of bleach.  Yes, bleach was NOT in the bible.  Is it evil?

Homosexuality and bestiality were also condemned.  Both were a great way to spread blood-bourne illnesses like hepatitis, chlamydia, siphilus and other nasty diseases.  Since the advent of condoms, this risk is greatly reduced.  Bestiality is still a no-no because animals cannot give consent, but so long as you're a human adult with a mental capacity to understand the consequences of sex with either gender, I fail to see the problem.  (This goes for pork, circumcision and other taboo practices).

We are clinging to teachings that do not fit the modern times.  The base is good, as Jesus was a wonderful man who had a lot of good things to share, but I'm less inclined to believe the power hungry males who translated his teachings.  They twisted them to their ends and used it as an excuse time and again to cause misery, pain and suffering for their benefit.  *glares* You know, the Crusades?  The Inquisition? The raping and dominating of an entire nation in the name of a "divine right" to acquire more land and money?

Shit, ninety percent of most holidays were based on slaughter and other unpleasant things.  Don't get your sweety a valentine, and DON'T wear green on St. Patrick's day.  What lies beneath disgusts and horrifies me.  We as humans are on a violent track to degradation of personal rights, because the billionaires in charge don't think they have a responsibility to this country.  The poor do too, but I'll bet you anything that if there was a bit more equality and responsibility towards money, 1% would not control 90% of the wealth.

there. all out now. /end rant

~Ghost out

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Schizophrenic Pagan: Opening up the Mind

An article on mental health that I will be posting on Witchvox.  Rights belong to ME, so no stealing :)

Let's begin by making a few things about schizophrenia clear. It commonly involves psychotic episodes in which we hallucinate (usually audio or visual), have severe mood swings, unrealistic delusions and sometimes even black outs, losing hours to days at a time. This is often accompanied by a paranoia or a disconnection from reality. Sometimes it involves multiple personality, but most of the time this is not the case. Some people mistakenly think that we schizotypals are sociopaths, which is not always true. I hardly think I would have made it this far with Wicca if I couldn't feel empathy.

My problem is what most with some sort of mood or psychotic disorder has: what's real and what's crossed wires in the brain?

It is a real and true challenge to fully understand our position with the divine. Many of us claim to be speaking with God (rarely have I met anyone who claims to be speaking to a Goddess), or other voices that belong to several beings. Demons? Faeries? Those who have crossed the Veil? All of which are commitable offenses to the mental health community, but when this sort of thing is the norm in a commune within a circle (or outside the confines of one in many cases), drawing the line between psychosis and reality becomes monstrously difficult.

Perhaps it has something to do with how we are incarnated, how receptive we are to astral happenings and how our minds are equipped to handle such encounters. For me, having a conversation with a dryad spirit is just as real as speaking to a fellow human being. What you would see is some nut-job chatting it up with a tree. Tell me that doesn't sound crazy.

Someone once told me that to tell the difference between spirit noise and internal chatter was to try to figure out the motive of the voice. If it tells you to hurt yourself or others, it's psychosis. I’m pretty sure I disagree at least a little. Our Shadow Selves often berate us with self doubt and sometimes detrimentally harmful advice if not handled properly. It's not all rainbows and farts on the other side of the Veil you know, though some of the more “fluffy” aspects of Paganism would claim that only positivity could be found in a true encounter with a spirit. Hey, every sect of belief has some bad eggs out there, and I think it would be foolish to assume that spirit folk don't have any themselves.

So how DO I tell the difference between astral entities and voices in my head?

It's not easy, it never has been and probably never will be. First thing I do is ground and center, then I check my aura and chakras reaction to the voice. If it is attached to me by a chord or within my own energy field, I can safely assume that its merely mental chatter. Even my Shadow Self has its special place in my energy field, and I keep tabs on it closely. If the entity is not a part of my own energy field, then I can assume that it is separate from me, and can be reasoned with to depart (or share some thoughts on whatever might be an issue that day). It could mean the difference between lighting some incense and candles or casting a banishing circle, opinion of the voice pending.

I by no means discourage people like me to not take their medicine, but its interfering properties can sometimes throw me for a loop. Ever hear that expression “My mind is so open my brains fall out?” I can feel that those of us with some kind of psychotic disorder have this problem. We are too receptive, and like moths to a flame, both internal and external forces are drawn to our minds. Things get pretty tangled up in there if too much is going on, and it can be dangerously overwhelming.

Learning to channel that energy properly is key to sorting out the chaos of the mind. Talking with faeries is fun, but there needs to be a line drawn between those mischievous things rearranging your sock drawer and a paranoia of someone actually messing with your belongings. A little research might be in order. What kind of faeries like to move things about to get a rise out of you? Is there any other evidence that eludes to having any of the fae in your household? Perhaps simply asking them to leave you alone might be in order, at least until you can sort out exactly which energy is where within and without you.

Some would say listen to your intuition on the matter, but what most don't realize that schizophrenic folk have nothing but doubt in their minds sometimes, and no amount of reasoning can make one believe one thing over another. There very well may be a guardian angel in your presence, but on the flip side demons are a very real thing, and most are self generated into a life of their own. Not to say that they are nothing but evil troublemakers, some of my best advice comes from beings of a lower vibration than myself. Just like with people, their words need to taken with a grain of salt.

If it is determined that a being is separate from yourself and its presence is unwelcome, some banishing spellwork might be in order. Again, the difference from a malicious spirit and the Shadow Self may be hard to distinguish. Either way, making allies with either of them could prove beneficial. To face one's fears – as irrational as they can be with us schizotypals – can prove to be a strengthening of sorts. Taking control of the illness can be aided greatly with a firm grip on whats real and what's not, a protective circle (even if its just to make yourself feel safer) and possibly the correct medication combination. Be wary of what you put into yourself, friends; antipsychotics tend to deaden some sixth sense perception as well as everyday emotion. I suppose its up to how open you want your mind to be, and what you can handle as someone who is mentally ill.

As for me, I’m still working on that reality boundary, and will probably struggle with it to my dying day. But I like to think of it as a challenge. I am incarnate right now in this body with all of its merits and flaws, and I must make the most of it if I want a degree of happiness. To open one's mind, sometimes you take in the good as well as the bad, and our job is to sort out what is a healthy dose of fear and a realistic take on happiness.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Reaper Chapter Five

Chapter Five

“Are you … alive?”

It took me a minute to really answer. My body felt like it weighed exponential tons. I couldn't see who was inquiring because my back was to her, still hanging from the branch.

“No,” I finally said.

“What... what's going on?”

“Let me down and I’ll tell you,” I told her.

The girl climbed up the tree and after struggling with the firm knot I’d made, released the belt's hold on me. I collapsed to the ground in a heap, my arms and legs tingling. I looked around and found myself at that accursed ocean still. But now there was a pull … a longing. I saw the boat and reached for it weakly. I had to get on that boat. The urgency of it was strong.

“Where are we?” the girl asked. I could see her now as I sat up, weak as spaghetti. She was young with long brown hair and dark eyes. It started to click.

“On the shores of Styx,” I answered, taking off my mask as Marcus did before me. I handed it to her, who looked both confused an intrigued. “Here.”


“You are my replacement. Just bring them here. They know the rest.” I rose, still shaky, but that goddamned boat was calling to me. Like not getting in it was not an option.

“Where are you going?” the girl asked.

I thought about that answer as I boarded. “Where I belong.”

“Wait, am I supposed to do anything? I’m so confused.”

“I was too at first, but now that I’m dead it makes more sense. Here.” I handed her my keys.

“What is this?”

“My apartment and car. They're yours now, do as you will with them.”

“You killed yourself.”

“As my predecessor did before me.” I started to row. “See you.”

The girl waved wistfully, as if she were trying to sort the whole thing out. I didn't care. I knew where I was going, and nothing was going to hold me back anymore.

“I'm coming, Airian.”


The Reaper Chapter Four

Chapter Four

I suppose I didn't have a single regret regarding Airian until early that spring.

“Why will you not let me see my friends?”

Airian stomped her foot. “Dammit, London you hardly pay as much attention to me as you do your friends!”

“What are you talking about?! I’m balls deep in love with you, there's no contest about that!” I yelled. “It's not like dividing my attention means you'll get any less from me!”

“Whatever. You get around Seth and you ignore me!”

“That's not true!”

“It IS and you KNOW it!”

“Airian, what's this supposed to be about? Do you want me even more up your metaphorical ass?”

“Fuck you, London!” she cried, grabbing her jacket and making her way to the door.

“Please don't do this,” I pleaded.

She walked out.

I followed.

“Stop! Airian!”

“Leave me alone!” She stormed out into the crosswalk.

“AIRIAN!!” I called in alarm.

Too late.

I don't know if the driver of the car was drunk or what, but it slammed into her at about thirty miles an hour, sending her up and over the vehicle. I heard her bones crack. I saw the blood spray. I saw the last look in her intense eyes … fear.

I was told she died instantly, but I don't think she did. I sat in the emergency room for an hour before they told me. I’ve never cried so hard in my life. All I could do was go home and grieve, and grieve hard. My stomach felt like it had dropped right out from under me. I couldn't take another conscious breath with her gone. How could I continue without her love? It was like I didn't know what I was missing until it was ripped away, goring my heart open and bleeding tears of despair.

I didn't go anywhere or do anything for three days. Good thing no one needed to be escorted, or they would have been left hanging. Fuck them. Nothing meant anything without Airian. They sky was duller, the food was blander and my life was carved right out of my chest in an instant.

It was like a splash of cold water, waking me from my darkened afternoon slumber. I knew that feeling. A sense of dread washed over me as I looked out my window and down to the graveyard. A hurse.

And Airian's mother.

I was paralyzed for a solid minute. How? How could I take her to her end? She was my wounded heart, and my duty was the salt. It stung like hell; I bit back more tears. I didn't know what to do.

With a sigh, I pulled on my coat and mask, then made my way down to the burial site.

It was brutal, the churning of my chest. There she was, sitting on her own gravestone as they lowered the casket into the earth. She looked up at me and seemed mortified. I stood next to her for a long time without a word. We waited in silence for everyone to leave – an agonizing hour. I didn't want to talk to her while she was watching her family mourn her.

Hell, I didn't want to even be there at all.

“So it's true,” she said softly once we were alone.

“Yeah,” was all I could say.

She looked over to the thick fog that only we could see. “I never thought that this would be the way it ended.”

“Nobody does.” Silence. “... … Were you in pain?”

Airian shook her head. “Only briefly.”

“What's it like?”



Airian thought for a moment. “My whole body went numb and swept up to shut down my brain. It's the only way I can describe it. That numbness ejected me out of my vassal … and here I am.”

“Does time mean anything to you?”

“Not now.” She kicked her feet a little. “This is a blessing you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“Who gets to say goodbye to the love of their life before they die?” she whispered, tears welling up in her eyes. “I can tell you that I’m not mad at you. It was a stupid fight. I would’ve … should've … I don't know.”

“You don't have to do anything now but rest in peace,” I told her. The mask shielded my expressions, and I was grateful. I didn't want her to think I was suffering to the extent I was. One less thing for her to worry about on her trip beyond.

I held out my hand. She took it and we walked slowly towards the fog, the last time together we would ever have. I tried to hold on to the moment, but every second slipped by no matter how I tried to lengthen it. It wasn't long before the sound of waves breaking on the surf could be heard. I had grown to dislike the sound, but now it was unbearable. We stopped right before the water, where the rickety old boat awaited.



“I love you.”

“I love you too. But it's time to go.”

“Just a little longer?” I asked quietly, more to the forces that controlled the dead than to her.

She shook her head. “No, it's time for me to go.” She smiled hollowly, something she did when nervous. “I won't lie to you, death scares the piss out of me.”

“You said you thought the unknown was exciting.”

“I lied.”

We sort of giggled anxiously.

“You know,” Airan said sadly. “My mother used to tell me a story when I was little and my puppy died. The waterbug goes up to the surface to see why when one went up, they never came back down. As soon as he reached the surface he began to change and was a beautiful dragon fly before he knew it. He tried to go back down to tell the others that there was nothing to be afraid of, but he couldn't. He just had to trust that one day those he cared about would join him.”

“I've never heard that story.”

“Maybe you can pass it on to the next corpse that comes your way.”

More nervous laughing, even though I was ready to collapse from emotional exhaustion.

Airian boarded the boat. “Goodbye, London.”

All I could do was nod and wave as she rowed off, never to be seen again. My heart broke a thousand fold, so I sat down in the sand an sobbed like a little girl. I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. My eyes ached, my throat burned, my nose ran. I didn't care.

At last I rose and started to make my way back through the fog. A twisted, gnarled tree stood, alone in the gray dunes. I stopped and leaned on it, then undid my belt. I noosed it around my neck and climbed up, wrapping it around a thin but sturdy branch. I hugged it for a while, debating whether or not I wanted to continue living.

Finally, I allowed myself to fall and the noose took my life.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Reaper Chapter Three

Chapter Three

Airian and I dated for a few months. I have to say that those months were the happiest I’d had in a long time. We did things that couples did. Cooked together. Played with her camera together. Saw movies together. Introduced our respective friends to each other. Fought on occasion. Nothing major.

But she was everything to me.

It's almost indescribable the way she made my heart tremble. I didn't want to spend a moment away from her and you bet your ass I was up hers the whole time. It was reciprocated. It was wonderful. I felt like I could fly around her, I was that lovesick.

“So explain it to me again,” she said one day as she added more vegetables to the hot pan. I turned off the oversensitive smoke detectors so she wouldn't set them off. My cooking capabilities consisted of Ramen and TV dinners, so she made sure I ate right every weekend or so. “You walk the dead down to this beach and they row off?”

“That's the pattern.”

“But where do they … you know, go?”

“Beats me.”

“You obviously get paid.”

“Enough to survive comfortably.”

“Don't you ever wonder why you were chosen to do this?” she asked, putting the pasta into a pot of boiling water. Every motion she made was captivating.

“All the time,” I admitted, handing her the pepper. “But it's not like I can just ask.”

I never told her about Marcus. For some reason I thought his presence on this earth should be a secret.

“That's bullshit,” she told me, pointing the spatula at me. “Is there a way to complain to some kind of death supervisor or something?”

“I wish.”

“What happens when you don't do it?”

“Never tried. Something bad. I feel it.”

Arian drained her pasta and lathered it with butter and garlic. “Are you scared?”

“About what?” I asked.

“Of dying.”



I thought about that and lit a cigarette, dragging deeply and exhaling slowly. “I'm just like anyone else I think. I’m alive, so I can't know what lies beyond that beach. It's that simple. Everyone fears the unknown.”

“Not me,” Arian laughed. “I get excited.”

I wrapped my arms around her from behind. I can say I cherished every moment when I was with her. I swear the sun shone brighter in her presence. My whole world was more enriched, and good god she was my everything.

I couldn't have been happier.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Reaper Chapter Two

Chapter Two

“Man, cheer up, London. You're killing my buzz!”

I shrugged and knocked back another shot. “Sorry.”

“You've been real shady lately, you bastard,” Seth told me. “Ever since I helped you move into that apartment your all emo.”

“Don't compare me to teenagers,” I replied.

“So what have you been up to? This is only like the third time I’ve seen you since May.”

“Nothing, really.”

“I call bullshit.”

“Call it what you want, I’m just not into getting so inebriated I can't think strait.”

“Buzzkill,” Seth accused. The waitress came by and cleared our empty glasses, then asked if we would like anything else. I declined. Seth ordered another shot of tequila. “So what, you got a girlfriend or a boyfriend something?”

“No, not really.”

“Do you even have a life when I’m not around?” Seth laughed.

“Can't say I do.” I rose to leave after I paid my tab.

“Hey, where are you going?”

“Home. It's late.”

“Good lord, it's only nine o'clock!”

“See you later,” I told him, and left. I wonder if it was truly just chance that I was getting irritated with one of my only friends and ducked out. Still raining. Maybe I was depressed or something, but dealing with death every week or so was taxing to my psyche. I found myself wondering what would happen if I just stopped doing it.

I wonder a lot of things.

“Don't be this way, baby.”

“Get lost, you creep!”

“Come on!”

“I said beat it! I broke up with you because you just don't listen. We're THROUGH, got it?”


“Get your hands off of me, asshole!”

That made me stop and glance over to behind the bar. Call me chivalrous, but I had real beef with anyone that would lay their hands on someone weaker. It just triggers a nasty reaction in me.

I walked up behind the jerk and yanked him off of his victim. Whoever he was, he was drunk and swinging at me. I ducked and laid a hard punch into his gut, which stopped him dead in his tracks. He dropped, moaning in pain. I held my hand out to Airian, who seemed too shocked to really register what just happened.

“Let's get out of here,” I told her. “Before he decides to get up.” I nudged him with my foot. “Which won't be any time soon, but still...”

Airian smiled. I thought I would die in that instant. She was a heavy set woman, but looking at her face made me conclude that if she were skinny she wouldn't be as pretty. Her blue eyes were captivating, and though her hair was wet with rain, it perfectly framed her face.

“Okay,” was all she said as she took my hand.

We made our way down Main Street, and then the questions started.

“What's your name?” Airian asked, looking up to me. I was tall and lanky, so her seeing me drop someone who weighed about a hundred pounds more than me might have been a surprise.

“London,” I answered.

“I'm Airian.”

“Pleased to meet you, Airian.”

“The pleasure is all mine.” She smiled again. God she was hot when she smiled.

“Should I walk you home?” I asked, concerned for her safety. Honest.

Airian frowned. It wasn't as pretty as her smile, but she still had a magic about her that I could not deny. “I don't … want to go home yet.”

“That's okay. Let's enjoy the rain,” I told her with a smile. As I thought, she smiled again. I could go on all night and day about that smile. And when I was the reason for it I felt giddy. “What are you doing in this crappy little college town?”

“I'm a student,” she said as we walked. “I study art.”

“Any specialty?”

“I'm a big fan of Andy Warhol, so it's pretty broad,” Airian sighed. “I like photography mostly, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this degree.”

“Why do you say that?”

She gave me a look. Oh, that look. “Come on, who hires an artist? Very few of us miserable artists can make a real living off of what our passion is. I’ll probably be on register for the rest of my life.”

“That's so sad.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No, I mean that you have to compromise on your passion for your job.” I turned us up Court Street, not really caring where we ended up, though I was headed home by habit. “Nothing you do should be a waste.”

She looked inquisitive, but didn't continue the topic. “So what do you do?” she asked.

“I escort the dead to their fate,” I said bluntly. I don't know why I was honest, but I wasn't told that it was supposed to be a big secret or anything. I looked down at her to gauge her reaction.

“I don't know what that means,” she finally said.

“To be honest, neither do I,” I laughed. She laughed with me. Golden music, that. “It's just something I have to do I guess.”

“We all have to do things that we don't want to,” Airian said quietly, stopping.

“Are you alright?”

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“I dunno, I was headed home and wouldn't mind the company.”

Airian squinted. “No funny stuff, I have mace.”

I laughed again. “No way! You're definitely my type, but that would just be rude!”

She blushed. Ah, her expressions! Her lips hinted upwards, like she was trying not to smile. A tragedy in my opinion. “Just keep your hands to yourself and I’d be happy to join you.”


“I'm serious, no hanky panky or I will mace your eyeballs right out of your skull!”

“You have my word. Unless you initiate, my hands remain innocent.”

We stopped at the top of the hill so Airian could catch her breath. I was used to the trek, but waited patiently. She had taken off her heels, as it had been too steep for her to walk in them, so there she was, barefoot in the rain, a vision of beauty.

I don't think I even swooned this much with my first girlfriend.

We got to know each other a little, but the last few blocks were quiet. I paused and she bumped into me. “What's wrong?”

“We're here,” I said, looking past my house to the graveyard fence not twenty feet away. My one bedroom upstairs piece of crap dwelling was dark and lonely upon entry. It made me uneasy, so I turned on the light. Airian took off her coat. “Put it on the couch,” I instructed, taking off my own drenched hoodie and hanging it up on the bathroom door.

“I could never live so close to a graveyard,” she commented as she looked out one of the windows facing the hill.

“Part of the job description,” I told her. I still wasn't sure if she believed me or not.

I’m not sure what happened next, but the order of the evening meant little. I was fucking her before I knew it. I don't know, maybe I found her confidence in her body image attractive. Most bigger women are always griping out their weight. Airian never did. If she was insecure about it, she hid it well. Every inch of her skin was quivering to my touch, and I worshiped her figure with my lust. It couldn't have been more perfect.

We exchanged numbers in the morning and she went on her way. Watching her leave, I caught sight of a hurse. No rest for the wicked I suppose. I located my dry longcoat and found the mask, tracing over the lines painted on it with my fingers for a while before donning it. I couldn't get my mind off of her though.


I was struck dumb in love without even noticing it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Reaper Chapter One

Chapter One

Maybe I was just looking for an excuse.

My life was mundane, and there were a lot of empty holes, so I filled them with a search for myself. Whatever that meant. I lived by myself across from a large graveyard down the hill. I had a job. I paid my bills. I played guitar. I looked at Playboy. I thought about how interesting my life would be if I actually cared about anything enough to follow through on stuff like that. I could have moved. I could have turned it down.

I have only met Marcus once, and he gave me the vague details of what I was to do. It was surreal, as if I had woken from a dream only to find that I had been awake the whole time. He told me about the dead. He handed me a mask to shield my identity. From who I can't really say, but Marcus was kind of a big and scary dude. So the only questions I asked were the ones that pertained to my duty.

I guess what I regret the most is not asking him why.

It was rainy, so today's funeral was a short and tearful affair. I had gone numb from such things. It didn't matter if it was an older person, someone my age having their lives cut short and even children didn't even make me flinch anymore. They were dead. That was that. I didn't know them, and I didn't care to. With the mask only the deceased could see me.

It got old, really. The dead – only just very recently severed – asked an awful lot of questions. Sometimes I answered them. Sometimes I just didn't bother. “Where is Heaven?” “Am I a ghost?” and “How can I be dead?!” were common protests. Today a forty-eight year old woman named Sharie had died of cancer two days ago. She was the most distraught of any of them I’ve seen. She could barely speak through her weeping. Six months ago I would have tried to comfort her. Today she was just another dead person.

“But WHY?!” she sobbed into my chest.

I didn't know. So I didn't answer. Just pulled up the hood of my longcoat and beckoned for her to follow me down the hill. She just stood there.

“Are you Death?” she asked fearfully.

“Tch!” I snorted. Yeah, like I had that kind of power. I’d make my bitch landlord drop dead if that were the case. I beckoned again. I wanted to say “Hurry up, lady,” but being cruel to them never helped. They cling to me, why I could guess was that I was the only one that could interact with them before they departed. Rarely was anyone willingly accepting of the fact that they were dead.

My presence made it real.

Some would cry. Some would even laugh. A lot of them drilled me for answers I don't have. I used to hate just shrugging , or apologizing when I didn't have the reasons they wanted to hear. But now they were just another soul awaiting wherever they went after I delivered them.

I started to walk down the hill.

“Don't leave!! Wait!” Sharie called, jogging to catch up to me. “You really don't know anything?!”

I shook my head and beckoned again. Finally, Sharie followed, eyes watching her feet in defeat. The fog and steam from the cold autumn storm swelled up at the bottom of the hill, and as I led her through, the grass and gravestones faded away, lost in the thickness of the cloud of damp dew. After a few minutes the sound of an ocean could be heard.

Sharie noticed through the silence between us. She seemed anxious to break it, though asking me anything probably wouldn't answer any of her fears. “Where are we?” she asked meekly through tears.

I suppose I’m a sucker for weaker women. “The River Styx,” I finally told her, pointing to a boat on the shore of a dark and murky beach.

“But … where am I supposed to go?” she whispered, holding tight to my arm.

I shrugged again. I just pointed to the boat again. Sharie screwed up her face as she let more tears fall. But I recognized the posture of the conclusion the soul at last comes to. She was dead. And there was no taking it back.

As soon as she got in the boat and started rowing my obligation ended. But I watched her until she disappeared into the fog, wondering if I too would someday come to this fate. And who would guide me? Or would I already know? I never knew what was beyond that beach, and I suppose when I’m dead I’ll find out. I went back the way I came and ended up back in the graveyard, the mourners already gone. It was pouring here, so I just left and went back to my second floor apartment, stripping off my wet clothing and putting that mask back in my bottom drawer.

I’ve tested the ability to go about invisible, but it seems to only work around gravestones. Never tried that again, when every soul that hadn't been sent off flocked to me like moths of a flame. Made me wonder … who else does this? I know I can't be the only one, or the world would burst with dead souls. I had burning questions like these for Marcus, but I only ever met him once, and I was too shocked to really ask anything else.

No, I’m not Death. I’m a Reaper. Whatever that means.

And then I met Airian.