The Bookkeeper of the Grim, Hideous Ticket

Dawning of twilight comes before the world revives, a purgatory of sorts neither the dying bustle of evening, nor the hustle of working morning. Prying eyes are fewer and the streets nigh empty. No more perfect time exists for the disposal of sin, and Jacob Stevenson was only the latest of many to take advantage.

He glanced around the dock for possible witnesses. Empty boats dipped in the water, waves lapped softly against the shore, and the morning sun peaked lazily over the horizon. Satisfied, he kneeled. Twenty minutes later only soupy curls remained, big as bows and red as cherries on the murky water’s surface. The strands of hair straightened in the morning surf, then disappeared.

Jacob turned to leave, then a sound so deep it shook his soul stopped him. With puckered pores, he froze.

A geyser erupted up by his side, followed by a fetid stench that burned his nose. No matter how he tried he could not close his watering eyes.

Jacob whipped around just in time to see a figure rise from the gurgling waves. A boat and walking stick came to rest beneath the terrifying being. Maroon, voluminous robes wrapped around the body, revealing only piercing eyes inside the cowl. The being’s presence punched a hole in the morning, leaving only night where it hovered. Its mottled hand grabbed and slammed the staff against the bottom of the boat.

Shapely, dirt-coated legs rose from the depths, followed by intestine tendrils that trailed into the lake. Chunks of coagulated blood slid from the crudely cut waist and plashed into the water. When pink fingernails broke the surface, Jacob’s worst sin rose haunt him.

Her legs draped across the left arm of the figure, while the shoulders ascended to rest on the right arm. Slowly, the hanging gut coiled up and pulled the two halves back together.

Jacob screamed.

The figure’s gaze shifted from the re-knitting body. The sound coming from Jacob’s throat was snuffed out.

“No, you will have no such mercies.”

Voices in thousands of languages drilled into Jacob’s ear, and he grabbed his head. A piercing ache exploded across his forehead and above his ears. He howled with pain.

Unconcerned, the specter raised the woman in its arms. The air thickened with a curse, then suddenly she sat up, like a board snapped in half under too much pressure. A trickle of blood looped her abdomen. Without noticing, she tried to smooth back hair and a chunk of scalp came away in a knot.

The figure released her and she turned. The left foot swung out first in an elliptical dip – leg unbent – and froze at its peak like a toy soldier, then the right foot jerked forward. Jacob realized no life inhabited the visage of puppetry before him, even as it walked. When but inches away, her eye lashes shucked open, the curve of her eyes gummied by mucus.

Behind her the figure snapped.

The corners of her mouth shot up in a joker’s grin, and Jacob recoiled. Sweat coated him completely. When a rigid, clammy hand cupped his face, he fainted once again.

“Wake and witness my judgment upon you.” The voices assailed him without sympathy, and he cursed the lips that uttered them. Abruptly, he realiazed he was being choked. He opened his eyes and dug at his neck with a gasp.

Before him hovered a fuzzy image of himself, and he clawed at his throat to breathe. It was then he noticed a tiny, silver oval whipping left and right. His fingers slowed and he lifted his chin to see better. Even as the fingernails dug into his skin and sawed his delicate flesh, Jacob felt the answer rise in him and he burst into sobs. The tears burned his cheeks as they slid down. Cracked skin curled up in streaks after in their wake.

The locket had been the only gift her father had ever bestowed upon her to let her live a mortal life. Attached to her soul, the jewelry dug into Jacob now to find the whole of her hidden within him. Helpless, he watched as his blood spurted mist-fine into the fog.

The spray slowed and came to a stop. Jacob swallowed, but the necklace still obstructed his throat. He could only take in half of the oxygen he desperately wanted. He wheezed and a rumble crept across the water.

The figure laughed. “Did you think you would live a whole life after what you have done to my daughter?”

A snap cracked the air and the image of Jacob magnified. Beneath the peeling skin, new formed the color of deep honey. His hair turned a patchwork checkerboard pattern and the strands extended in long wisps. The brown of his eyes turned green, and even his colorless lips plumped with red.

He shot a glance begging for mercy toward the being, desperate.

“Oh, no,” the figure said and waved a bony hand in dismissal, “not for you; I felt the knife you plunged it into her heart; I paced the shore to comfort her on her journey. I could have accepted normal human violence. That was the world I let her live in. But her death was a tool to smuggle her into Hell. For that alone I would hang you in Tartarus, a resurrecting treat for the Hounds of Dinai. To save her, however, I condemn you to a century of death. Her locket will devour your soul.

With every tear you’ll uncover her skin. With every kiss you buff away your own lips. For every five years, needle sharp hair will replace your own in patches. And around your neck you will wear her soul, alive and waiting for the day her body is reborn. I am the Grim Reaper, I am Death, I am Charon, and my wrath is forever unequaled, because I have dominion over the eternity of your soul.”

This is part of the Terrible Minds challenge!


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