Grim Reapers on a Field Trip
by J Lenni Dorner
“Good morning, class,” my teacher, Ms. Anubis, prowls in, speaking without looking up from her tablet. “All thirteen permission slips are signed. Today is your first field trip through the Veil. I trust everyone has studied their marks. Is everyone in costume?”
She nods as she looks around, stopping when she gets to me.
“Katie, what are you wearing?”
“My reaper costume.”
There are giggles from my classmates.
“Why are your robes pink and sparkly?” Ms. Anubis sets down her cracked-screen tablet. She crosses her arms and glares at me.
“There is no rule prohibiting it. Nowhere in your instructions did it say the robes have to be a specific color. I checked.”
Travis laughs. “You’re such a twit. Where did you find pink fabric?”
Everyone laughs with him, including the teacher. I could respond that I got it from his mother, but I opt not to.
We follow Ms. Anubis. The nearest Veil is across the street, in the town center. We’ve all seen it before, but it looks bigger and brighter today.
The adults who normally use this one have taken the day off or are using one of the others. Officer Been orders us to settle down.
“Hello, seventh grade class of Ms. Anubis. For those who don’t know me, I am Officer Been. I am in charge of this Veil. Who can tell me why first-timers, such as yourselves, have to go through today, instead of any other day?”
Five hands shoot up, including mine. I figure that he’ll pick me, since we reside in the same building. But he calls on the other student who shares our address, Travis.
“This Veil goes to Earth, to a place called America. There, today is when people wear costumes. Since we didn’t learn invisibility yet, we go in costume to blend in, dressed the way they expect reapers to look, and snag them.”
“Very good, Travis. Has each of you studied your mark?”
Everyone says they have. Officer Been goes over the history of America’s costume holiday. I can’t hear over Billy and Martin snickering beside me.
“I bet no one expects reapers to look poor,” Billy says.
“I’m here for your soul, or your blackest sheet,” Martin jokingly impersonates Travis. I stomp on his foot.
“What’s your problem?” He backs away from me.
“Maybe Katie’s in love with the street-cleaner’s son,” Billy says. “Katie and Travis rolling in a grave, K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”
“Shut up. I’m trying to concentrate.” I’m not in love with Travis. His parents are nice, though. They failed reaper training, which is why his dad cleans the streets and his mom does upkeep for my apartment building. His mom used to be a tailor, but in a metropolis where no one repairs what can be replaced, her skill became unprofitable.
Until I asked her to help me make this special reaper costume.
Billy goes through the Veil first. Thanks to a screen Officer Been set up, we get to watch the encounter. Billy walks beside his mark, someone that looks a lot like him, except for the different costumes.
“Oh man! I got peanut butter cups at the last house.”
The mark turns to Billy. “You’re lucky.”
Billy shakes his head. “Nah. Peanut butter makes me sick.”
The mark looks into a bag he’s carrying. “Want to trade for this?”
Billy nods. They swap candies. The mark’s hand glows red for a moment, something only those from our side can see. We all cheer as Billy returns through the Veil.
“Piece of… candy!” He laughs and fist pumps. He hands the soul to Officer Been.
Travis goes next. His tattered, more gray than black, robe snags on a bush. He calls out for help. Dogs bark behind a fence. A light comes on in a darkened house.
“No blasted trick-or-treaters wanted here! Can’t you read? Private property!”
“Help, help! I’m trapped!” Tears stream down his face. “I want to go home!” Travis wails.
The man stumbles across his yard, moaning and complaining. He lectures Travis about the dangers of walking at night alone, without a light. Then his hand glows. The mark collapses on his grass.
“Excellent work, Travis!” Ms. Anubis says as he returns from the Veil, passing along the soul. “Katie, you’re up.”
It’s colder than I expected. Maybe this is why Earth people think we wear hooded robes? I sneak down a long, white hall. Even I think this place smells terrible, and I’m from beyond the Veil! If I ever have a mark in a hospital again, I’m bringing nose plugs.
As a nurse ducks out of a room, I slip inside. The door shuts behind me.
“Hi. Trick or treat?” I hold out my bag of candy.
The girl on the bed sets down her crayon and stares at me. “I’m not supposed to have visitors. I’m con… con… confabulous.”
“That’s okay. Want to share my candy?”
“I can’t eat real food.” She points to her IV bag. “You aren’t really a kid like me, are you?”
I move to her bedside. “How do you mean?”
“Why do you think that?”
She shrugs. “I guess because I knew you were coming. I didn’t think you’d be in pink though.”
“Do you like it?” I strut around, modeling. She laughs.
“I love all that is pink and sparkly.” She picks up her pink crayon, makes two marks, and then holds up the drawing. It’s a sparkling, pink sky. “We can go now.”
Smiling, I take her hand. I concentrate. The light is red for a moment, then turns pink with gold glitter as her soul slips out. I hear her laugh a final time. My first field trip through the Veil is over.