This week instead of a new comic, I’ve posted a short story called The Grim Reaper Rebrand Project. You will find it right after this week’s poetry comics. I’d love to know what you think about the story. Please feel free to add a comment!
The Grim Reaper Rebrand Project
The smell of coffee pulled me out of my stupor as I walked into the bustling café from the pounding rain.
I scanned the room, and I saw her.
We had only corresponded via email, but there could be no doubt that she was the one I was supposed to meet.
She was sitting in the far corner at a table near the large window facing the busy street, her long, flowing black cloak spilling onto the floor from her seat, her white skeletal features protruding from the mantle, and a long scythe propped up against the window behind her.
Everyone else in the café was giving her table a wide berth.
I approached her table. There were already two drinks there. She was sipping a chai tea. A tall paper cup sat in front of the seat opposite her.
“Ms. Reaper?” I asked.
“Please called me Grim. All my friends do.”
With a graceful sweep of her hand, she motioned for me to sit and join her.
“I got you a large hot chocolate, extra hot, with extra whipped cream. That’s your usual, right?” She said.
I smiled awkwardly and nodded. I began to sip, letting the hot chocolate finish the job of awakening my senses that the aroma of the coffee had started.
I was about to ask how she knew what I liked to drink when she started to speak again.
“You know, drinking that every day isn’t healthy.”
I stopped drinking and stared at her. She seemed genuinely concerned about my health.
“Right.” I was a little unnerved. “Tell me about your branding problem Grim.”
It was time to get down to business.
Grim put on a pair of hipster black, horn-rimmed glasses and pulled out a yellow legal pad from her cloak.
“I’m tired of people being afraid of me. I can’t get anyone to talk to me. Everyone acts like I’m trying to kill them.”
She smiled slightly the way one does when you’ve told a subtle joke, and you hope someone else gets it.
I chuckled. “But, isn’t that what you do? I mean, isn’t that why they call you Death?”
Her smile disappeared into a straight line. “I could do without the mansplaining, Jason.”
I gulped. She was right.
“I’m sorry. You’re right. So, you’re looking to rebrand yourself away from being ‘Death’?”
Her nod was curt. I was going to have to work hard to earn her trust back. I was losing control of the meeting.
“Are you going to continue doing the same — uh — work?”
“Yes. I will continue reaping souls. That’s what I do. It’s who I am. I can’t imagine having some kind of desk job. I love that each day is different. I am passionate about my work.”
I scratched my chin and pulled my own yellow legal pad out of my bag.
“It looks like you came with some notes. Do you mind telling me more about what direction you were thinking?” I asked.
Finally, her face brightened, and she smiled again.
“Absolutely! I wrote down all the different parts of my job. Would it help if I went over them with you?”
“Definitely,” I said.
She cleared her throat, which caused several nearby patrons to jump a little.
“I visit the living in the moments when it is time for their mortal life to end. I guide their souls from this word into the next realm. I explain the setup there and help them get checked in. Because people are dying all the time, I can choose to be immune to time — it may make more sense if you think of me as being able to stop time — although strictly speaking, that’s not true.”
I was writing furiously.
“What do you use the scythe for?”
“Oh, that functions as my ID badge to get into the next realm. We don’t have biometrics yet. The IT department is so antiquated.”
“That’s it? It’s just so that you can get into work?”
“Mostly. I also use it to reap stubborn souls who are unwilling to let go of their mortal attachments.” She said.
I absentmindedly drank more of my hot chocolate.
She looked at me over the top of her glasses. I thought I saw pity in her eyes.
“You know a good walk every day wouldn’t kill you.”
Now she sounded preachy.
“Right. I really should start doing that.” I said.
Grim glared at me — her gaze piercing my soul.
She shook her arm free from her cloak. It was covered with dozens of different wristwatches. She looked at one near her elbow and back at me.
“According to this, you must be serious about finally getting a little more exercise. I’m so glad.”
I froze for a second, letting the implications of what she had just said wash over me.
“So, how can you help me?” She asked.
“Let me make sure I understand what you are after,” I said.
“You want to continue reaping souls. But, you don’t want people to be afraid of you. You think the whole ‘Death’ moniker is not a good brand, and you want something different. Is that right?”
“Yes. You see, I don’t cause death. I show up when death is imminent. Mortals are awful with the entire correlation never infers causation thing.”
I made a few notes on my pad.
“Have you thought about starting a blog?” I asked.
“I’d love that! But, I’m not sure what to call it. All the good domains are taken. That’s another reason I need a new brand!”
I nodded. I scanned my notes.
“It’s okay if you can’t help. I won’t hold it against you.” She said.
She was balancing her narrow white chin on top of her fist. She was a strange combination of stoic and vulnerable. I had never wanted to help a client so badly.
“Let’s not give up yet. Rebranding efforts can take a lot of time.” I said.
I looked over my notes once again, hoping that something would jump out at me.
“I want to help people. I’m not in the death business, you know. I’m really in the soul business.” She said.
I looked up.
“What about building a brand around being the Uber for souls?” I said.
She glared at me over the top of her glasses again.
“That’s the best you can do? Your suggesting I become another ‘Uber of’ something else? That doesn’t strike you as tired?”
She was right; that was garbage.
“I’m just brainstorming here,” I said. “How about you call yourself ‘Soul Escort’?”
“Soul Train — wait, never mind,” I said. “Tell me again what you do after you collect a soul?”
“I take them into the next realm and help them get checked in. I answer their questions as best as I can and I…”
I jumped up from the table. “You’re a consultant!”
“Well, kind of.” She said.
“You’re an afterlife transition consultant. No! You’re the Afterlife Transition Consultant!”
Her mouth gradually transformed from a thoughtful grimace into a broad grin and then into a full smile.
“Yes! Yes! That’s it!” She was now standing too.
I felt a chill and became a little sick to my stomach.
She pulled away. “Sorry about that. I got a little carried away!”
I smiled as I sat back down.
“Thank you so much. I’m so excited. I’ve got to run and do some reaping. But, later tonight, I’m going to keep working on this. You don’t do logos, do you?”
“No. I only do writing and brainstorming.” I said.
“Okay. No problem. I think I know someone. Afterlife transition consultant. I feel so much better about my job now!”
We began packing up.
“Jason, I’ll be in touch with you later this week.” She said.
I felt all the warmth drain out of my face and hands.
“I mean about doing content for my new site.” She said.
I sighed and smiled.
“Sounds great. I’ll talk to you later, Grim.”
She smiled at me again, turned around, grabbed her scythe, and disappeared.
Thanks for reading!
Be the weird you want to see in the world!