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Grim Clerk: Death Runs a Corner Store

by Mr.RMA

Mr.RMA Keith runs a convenience store, from early afternoon to closing time in the evenings. It's not a glamorous job but he knows what he's doing. Unfortunately, Keith has a second job, in which he suffers the exact opposite predicament. It's certainly more alluring... if being the Grim Reaper can be considered as such, but he knows nothing about reaping souls.
In an abyss between existence and oblivion, a hooded creature with a familiar, grimly designed farming tool in their grasp was at their wit’s end. Guiding and protecting thankless souls, for eternity, for as long as mortal existence, that was their job. There was no volunteering, no trial period, no choice in the matter. Eons in and it never seemed to ease up, the deceased seemed to just keep coming. For different reasons perhaps, but soon it didn’t even matter how, the shadowy harbinger just needed them to keep moving along. There wasn’t any passion to it, no energetic feeling, it was such a tiresome affair… They were desperate to get out of it. Ravenous was their desire to forget their relentless duties.

The laws of the Reapers were clear, there was nothing within the rules that would allow “retirement”, not while their world was still occupied with the souls of the living. This one didn’t care about the rules any longer. There were other ways to get rid of the job. Forbidden methods perhaps, but, if the others wanted to take up issue with it, then they could come pursuing. At least it would offer a change of pace. They weren’t going to turn back on this now. First soul of the day was going to get quite the unexpected afterlife.


“Uh, sir, we don’t allow open carry...”


For a moment, the store clerk felt an unspeakable pain shoot from his bullet-struck torso, losing his breath. He stumbled backward as he lost his sight. He hit the ground just as his consciousness followed suit. It was all over, no waking up from this one… He could tell, even before all his senses left him, this was fatal. What a way to go too, it was already such a terrible day, at least he wouldn’t have to live with it…

Of course, it wasn’t going to be that simple, the mandatory life-flashing began, he saw his mundane childhood on familiar suburban streets. The line of houses that all looked the same, as per HOA standards, surrounded him once more. They never stopped looking the same while he and his rotating carousel of designated “friends” grew older. Then one of his friends wanted more out of him, and he was stupid enough to say yes. She moved, he did too. City life would be refreshing. He got a new job so quickly, and that apartment wasn’t so bad at all for the rent they were asking for. This was going to be an adventure, and she’d be right there to experience it with him. Except, she changed her mind about that. Suddenly the job seemed like a hopeless void of repetition and low pay, and that apartment looked like a costly prison cell. Then that lovely gunshot popped back up for old time’s sake, just to wrap up the waste of a life in a nice little disappointing bow. He’d felt himself floating about in a white void as the temporal clip-show came to an end, without a body, without physical structure. He saw a hooded, humanoid creature enshrouded in darkness in that abyss. It looked at him through its hidden features for but a moment, presumably pondering over something, if he could hazard a guess. It had something in its hands, pole-like, the long handle as pitch black as the shadow that wielded it. The blade at the edge looked sharp enough to split molecules. The shadow looked at him for a moment more, silent as it tossed its iconic tool in his direction. Instinctively he caught it, and like a house with a defaulted electric bill, everything went dark.

This made his waking up all-the-more unsettling. All signs had pointed to the end, this wasn’t supposed to happen. Sure, he may have not been experienced with dying, but a novice to this subject still couldn’t have mistaken it for anything else. Yet, he was wrong. Suddenly he was back where he was, slumped on the floor of the cashier’s post. The mugger was gone… and the silent alarm was blinking… and he was sitting here on his own, with the massive entrance wound still where it was before. As his senses had returned about half way, he finally saw the deep crimson puddle of blood on the floor, no doubt his own, no one else was around to claim it. Once he could get back up to his feet, aside from a pang of dizziness, it felt like he’d never been shot at all, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Plenty of concerns should have likely sprung up in his mind, all sorts of reasons to panic… Yet the dominant thought of the bunch proved to be: “Shit, I gotta clean this up…”

Tossing aside something that had fallen on top of him, he set to work, toweling at the puddles of his own blood with any of the various cleaning supplies he could find under the table. Eventually he seemed to strike a good combination of chemicals and the goopy red plasma was out of sight… generally. Stumbling over to the alarm, he managed to deactivate it just as the first few police cars started to show up. The wound though… How was he going to explain this? He panicked for a moment, but common sense reminded him he still had his unzipped windbreaker on. A lovely shade of red too, perfect, the few stains that had gotten on it looked like water…maybe… He zipped it up just enough to hide the wound, moving his hand over to his back and feeling around… No hole, good, the bullet was just lodged in him then. Not something he’d ever had considered a good thing before, but these were circumstances far beyond anything he expected this morning.

“Sure nothing’s wrong here, kid? Someone reported shots going off at this very street-corner,” one of the officers said as the clerk calmly attempted to explain the ruckus.

“Yeah, just a mix-up with the silent alarm is all, I’ll have to talk to the manager about it. I’m sorry, officers, the “gunshots” were probably some punk with firecrackers or something, y’know how it is.” It didn’t feel right fabricating a story to cops, but when the lie was easier to believe than the truth, he really felt there wasn’t any choice in the matter.

The officers wrote a few more things down, one of them relaying the situation over their radio, but generally they seemed to buy his explanation.

“Alright, son, see to it that alarm gets fixed asap so this doesn’t happen again, alright? You have a nice day, ah...” he took a moment to glance at the nametag. “…Keith. By the way, you probably ought’a get some water, kid, you lookin’ pale as a sheet,” he murmured before walking out.

That ended up all working out far better than he’d planned… For a moment, Keith merely leaned back in relief as the police left the scene, though something brushed against his ankle, and as he curiously went to pick it up, his heart would have stopped a second time if it could. Before him, in his very grasp, was the scythe he’d seen in the hands of that shadowy figure, the same one it had tossed his way before he’d reawakened. He must have stared at it for a good fifteen minutes before he was eventually interrupted.

“Hey, you the guy I’m supposed to talk to? You look like you got the main credential there,” said a voice that sounded strangely loud and distant at the same time. Looking across the register, there appeared to be a man who’d be in his college years where age was concerned, with a baseball cap and some simple t-shirt and loose-fitting sweatpants, though he seemed to be… translucent… and floating a few inches off the ground.

“I uh… I mean…” Keith looked at the spectral figure, then back to the scythe, then back again to the man, at a reasonable loss for words. “…I mean, I think I just got the job, man… but like, beats the hell outta me what I’m supposed to do for you here,” he said, with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Ah, shit, didn’t they like, give you a memo or somethin’ to look over? You must’a known something about the job when you applied for it,” the ghost said.

“That’s the thing, man, I didn’t apply for this, someone just kinda tossed me this thing and now I’m seeing ghosts… drawing a blank otherwise.”

“Oh, wow, sounds to me like you got yourself drafted then, sorry dude, that kinda sucks. But uh… well why don't you just kinda swing that at me and see what happens? Can’t hurt, yeah?” Seemed like a decent idea, at least something to start on, so Keith awkwardly wandered over to the front where the ghost was, clumsily raising the scythe up and cautiously swinging the blade down on him. He flickered for a moment, but otherwise, nothing.

“Well, that didn’t work, but no harm in trying…” Keith muttered. “Guess it’ll be a while ‘till we work something out, what’s your name?” he asked, just as he noticed someone not-so-ghostly was making their way to the door. Quickly he tossed his scythe back under the table and tried to look as casual as possible as the ghost began to answer.

“Name’s Victor, though Vic is quicker so I’ve just always had everyone call me that, don’t worry ‘bout me by the way, these fellas can’t see me, tried with some other guys making my way here, you’re the only one who noticed so far.”

“Oh, okay,” he muttered quietly as the living customer made their way in and started perusing the aisles. “Guess I should be grateful you aren’t gonna hinder any business or anything… So uh, Vic, probably a personal question but, how’d you die?”

“Heh… like a dumbass. Tripped over myself on the sidewalk, didn’t catch myself in time, my cranium found just the right spot on the concrete, boom. I don’t even think my body’s at the morgue yet, but whatever, can’t call mulligan. Just the fact I ain’t floating in nothingness is a trip, instead I get to just literally float around. I’ll bet there’re some good perks to this whole ghost thing.”

“Yeah, maybe… Find everything you’re looking for, Miss? Yeah, sorry, eggs don’t get restocked ‘till tomorrow morning. Alright, that’ll be $2.99. Have a nice day… Anyway, yeah I don’t know, being a ghost does look kinda cool from where I’m standing. I mean, stuck in this stupid dead body, having to hide my fucked up stomach and do all the cleanup just so I don’t cause an uproar. Bastard who shot me gets off scot-free because I had to clean up his crime…”

“Wow… Life’s a bitch and death ain’t any sweeter, is it? Well, look at the bright side, when that prick bites it, you’re gonna be the one to send him to Hell, that’ll be sweet, you should figure out if there’s some kinda like, spectral video camera and save that shit for posterity,” Vic quipped, actually looking quite excited by that.

“Yeah probably, gotta learn how to actually damn people though, remember,” Keith said in reply, taking a broom and proceeding to sweep the floors.

“What, you’re still gonna keep up with this? Keith, buddy, you’re dead, you don’t have to work for a living anymore, kinda defeats the purpose,” Vic said, watching in a rather perplexed matter as the new Grim Reaper, Harbinger of Death, the guide to the afterlife, swept the floors of some shoddy convenience store.

“Well, what else am I supposed to do? I can’t just jump into a void when I wanna take a break, still gotta earn money for the rent, and honestly, I’d rather keep ties up with the few folks who care about my existence. Don’t wanna see some creepy empty casket funeral for myself. Best I just keep up what I’ve been doing.” Sure, it might have seemed somewhat pathetic an answer, but, Keith hadn’t asked for the new job in the first place, he wasn’t going to have it cost him his old one.

“Oh, shit, right, heh… Wonder if my mom will fork over the cash… Nah, that would cut too deep into her booze money, I ain’t getting a funeral. Whatever, guess I’m spared the sob fest… Still, man, you’re supposed to be a pretty big deal, it’s kinda sad to see you just keeping on with something like this.”

“Well it’s kinda sad I don’t know how to reap souls too, isn’t it? And… oh, shit…” Keith had started explaining himself, only to see more of the spectral variety of customers start drifting their way in, all of them almost immediately looking to him rather expectedly.

“Hey, Todd! Shit man, did you just die too? Sucks… but isn’t this whole floating thing crazy!?” Vic called over to one of the others with a wave.

“Okay… okay… uh… Everyone, I’m still figuring this out but right now… Just uh… go to apartment 233 at 85 Manchester St, alright? 85, got it? Pembroke Place. I’ll deal with all you guys there, tell any other ghosts you see to follow you by the way, got it?” Though some of the recently deceased looked to Keith in disbelief, they all eventually nodded and floated their way out towards the apartment in question, aside from Vic.

“Heh, so that’s our afterlife now, hanging out in your apartment for eternity?” he said with a bit of a snort.

“What, didn’t wanna follow the rest of ‘em?”

“Nah, think I’ll keep giving you company, sounds like you need it if you’re still holding onto a crappy little job like this postmortem.” He actually sounded rather sincere despite the continual career jabs, so Keith decided to drop it at that, tossing a pack of cigarettes to a habitual customer who just as swiftly slipped the exact change on the table before walking back out.

“Hey, at least I know what I’m doing with this one, that’s a plus,” Keith said as he put the cash in the register.

“Puttin’ the new spin on ‘dead-end job…’ but whatever man, just hope you figure out something before your place gets too haunted, for your sake. Like, I don’t think we can possess kitchen appliances or anything, but then again I’ve been dead for about ten minutes, hell if I know.”

The rest of the afternoon passed as if everything were normal, in spite of everything that wasn’t. Living patrons got their goods and left, dead ones got their temporary new address and floated off, and eventually, nightfall came around.

“Alright… closing time…” Keith muttered.

“Fantastic drone work, real bang-up job, Keith ol’ pal,” Vic said, earning a tired “shut-up” in return before the undead clerk realized something else unfortunate.

“Oh god, I can’t leave the scythe here, if the morning shift sees it they’ll freak…” he muttered, pulling his jacket off and wrapping it around the bladed end. At least now it didn’t quite look so… weapon-like.

“Oh shit, you really did take a good one in the gut there, no kidding,” Vic said at the sight of the now-exposed fatal injury.

“Yep… good thing it’s dark out at least, shouldn’t be too hard to hide it out there… You coming with?” he asked as he punched out and prepared to lock up for the evening.

“Eh, guess I could, you’ve probably got a crowd forming back there though. I’ll bet by now everyone thinks they’re in hell or something, or just a really boring purgatory… actually on second thought I think I’ll just go drifting around a bit. Maybe I’ll stop by,” Vic said, floating through the door as the lights flickered off, Keith soon following as he made sure the doors were secure and the alarm was armed.

“Probably a good call on your part… I’ll figure this out, sooner or later… god I hope sooner… I mean, can’t be so tough once I get the hang of it, just, like, bam you’re good, you get heaven, and bam you’re an evil motherfucker, hell for you.”

“Yeah, sounds like what I’d expect… Same time tomorrow?”

Keith looked to Vic at that as if he had to be kidding, but, apparently not, because he was waiting for an answer.

“Yeah… guess so.”

They went off in different directions at that, and Keith kept his semi-concealed scythe close as he dragged his feet off in the direction of his apartment. It was going to be a long night, in the company of the dead, in rising numbers… but at least tomorrow was pay day.
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