Choosing a victim is always the hardest part. People beg and plead with you, as if they didn’t know this was coming all along. People always complain about how they didn’t have enough time, as though I’ve never heard that excuse before. The woman before me was beautiful. She volunteered at an animal shelter, and she was going to get married next week. She didn’t know that day might never come.
I had been closely following her for days now, creeping in the shadows. The stories always went the same when people spoke of me, so unoriginal.
“Mary Carter?” I called out from my hiding spot, though I was already well acquainted with who she was. She stopped walking and turned to face me. I watched as the smile on her face dissipated, fear instantly taking over her.
“Please no. Please! I’m getting married next week! There wasn’t enough time!” I shook my head. Predictability was your worst enemy.
“There will never be enough time.” I had already made my decision, pleading and whining just became annoying.
“But what about Darren?” It was never really about the Darrens. It was about the Marys. The people who felt there was so much more to life than what they had experienced. The same selfish people who thought their lives were more important than someone else’s.
“What about Darren, Mary?” I knew all about her. All about her past, and what she had done to get Darren.
“I—I love him. We’re getting married. Please, take me after the wedding.” After the wedding—it was an interesting concept, but it might already be too late. After the wedding there would be another life to account for, and I wasn’t going to make the man lose two people he had the potential to love.
“Somebody else loved Darren once too, Mary.” With a wave of my hand a mirror appeared in front of her. “Look familiar?”Mary looked as though her breath had been stolen, and I hadn’t even placed a hand on her yet. This was going to be fun.
“Abby wasn’t right for Darren. She wasn’t mature enough. She was different.” Her reasoning made me sick. Any shred of sympathy I had for her had been lost in that moment.
“Different because of her sickness. You stole her one chance at love!” Darren was a genuine man. I had looked into him before I found the real source of Abby’s suffering in Mary. People could talk all they wanted about how terrible and corrupt I was, but humans were the truly corrupt ones. Never had I seen a species so able to let others suffer for their personal gain. Never had a species needed to be punished more than the human race.
“No—that’s not true!” She was hysterical, overcome by her emotions.
“The sad part is that she lost her love, and her life. She had no more will to live. I had to come and take her.” Abby had gone quietly, peacefully. At seventeen years old she had accepted her fate. Mary was crying now, but I was indifferent. She deserved to suffer, just as Abby had.
“But, I didn’t do anything. Darren chose me.” Darren, the poor fool, had chosen wrong. Abby had loved him the moment she met him, and Mary had seen that. Always competitive, she decided she wouldn’t stop until she had something Abby couldn’t.
“You couldn’t handle being sidelined due to your sister’s disease. You wanted something you knew she couldn’t have. Doesn’t it hurt you to know she should have been at your wedding?” Abby was the first case that had ever gotten to me. Part of this job was remaining unfeeling, which was harder than it seemed.
“Abby’s cancer had nothing to do with it! My parents always put her first because she was sick. I was the healthy twin! It wasn’t fair! They had a daughter who was going to live, and they focused on the one who wouldn’t.” The anger inside of me was no longer suppressible, and the wind began to kick up. In the stories people told of me, nobody ever mentioned my power to change the weather. Rain began to pour down around us.
“You’ve had ten years to live without the burden of your sister. Ten years with no weight on your shoulders. All of the animal shelters and vegetarians in the world can’t replace your guilt. You know you helped drive the knife into Abby.” Lightning and Thunder crashed around us, trees cracking under the intense guidance of the lightning. The darkness encompassed us, until you could barely make out the buildings.
“What will killing me do? Abby can’t come back here! She wouldn’t want this.” Oh, how wrong Mary was. Death changed people; it allowed them to see what their eyes had been previously blinded to.
“Abby was the one who sent me here. We’ve had ten years together. Ten years to plot the ruin of your life.” People thought the choice was random, and sometimes it was. Other times, we took people at the request of others. It was completely my discretion, and Abby’s case—it had stuck with me.
“I don’t believe you.” I could see her looking for a place to run, but there was nowhere to go. I could find her wherever she went, and we were no longer on Earth. Her spirit and I were descending steadily to a place I called home.
“Ask for yourself.” I said, as our feet hit the ground and Abby approached me. She looked just like Mary did, but in a much more innocent and pure way. Abby was somebody who would have made a difference in the world, without ever stepping on people to get there. Mary had proven to be different from her sister.
“Mary.” Abby’s eyes were cold, a technique I had taught her when she had first come to me ten years ago. I stood behind her, for moral support if she required it.
“Abby, why?” Mary was crying again, and I began to restore Earth’s weather to normal. No more people had to die at my hands tonight.
“Because you betrayed me Mary. I saw you go after Darren. I watched from my hospital bed as you left me to go be with him. You knew I liked him.” I had to turn away from Abby and Mary, because the sadness in her voice pained me. Reapers weren’t supposed to have feelings.
“Abby, why wouldn’t you want me to be happy?” Abby’s harsh laughter made me smile. She was going to make an excellent reaper someday.
“I could ask you the same question. But I’d bet you’d have a selfish answer. I want you to be happy Mary. That’s why you’re going back.”
“Abby—what are you doing?” I asked, unsure of what had just happened. We had had an agreement.
“You will suffer enough in time Mary. The child you are bearing is not Darren’s, and he will finally see you for what you really are.” Suffering is relative. For some, death is the worst pain they will experience. For others, their pain is involved in losing someone they love.
Mary Carter, age 28. She had a child, was going through a horrible divorce process, and this was the life she had condemned herself to.
People always plead that they haven’t had enough time. Mary Carter is proof that time can be your most fatal enemy.