Name: Cecilia Robert
Genre: YA dark fantasy with Sci-fi elements.
Most eighteen year olds I know are in the university, engaged to be married or bouncing a baby on their hip.
Not me. I collect souls for a the Grim Reaper. My soul belongs to the him.
From inside the Watchman Chamber of the south tower of Vienna’s , St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and away from the oppressive, muggy Summer heat, I brace my back on the cooling surface of the wall. I tap my high-heeled foot to the fast rhythm of the song blaring from my music player. My eyes trail a flock of birds performing some sort of dance across the summer blue sky highlighted with red and orange streaks, and the fading yellow of the setting sun. Doves coo from somewhere close. I smile.
These are the rare moments of my self-created paradise while waiting for my assignments from Grim.
Shifting my eyes to the ground below, I inhale deeply. My heart squeezes on itself, and my throat burns with longing. I miss my home, I miss this life.
Clenching my jaw, I shove the sneaking memories back to where they belong: at the back of my mind. I fist my hands, and remind myself that this isn’t my home anymore. The After world of Shadow and Light is, a dimension between our world and others. Although living with Grim in his gothic castle is as adventurous as it gets, I’d rather live in the city I was born in.
Instead, I focus on the people moving about resembling confused dots, and this time I exhale feeling giddy. This is how an eagle feels soaring in the sky, it’s razor-sharp eyes roving around for prey. Except I can’t fly. But I walk through walls and travel to places at the blink of an eye. And I don’t prey either. I prefer a more suave approach, namely, soul collecting.
Behind Vienna’s blend of baroque, renaissance architecture, and modern settings, its sidewalk cafés, cobbled stone and well-maintained tarmac streets, the veiled world thrives. Creatures invisible to the human eye skulk in corners and slither along walls. However, I see everything. It comes with the job.
My two years as the Reaper’s novice are almost up. Soon I’ll be a Soul Collector graduate – as long as I pass my test. Grim hasn’t hinted on the details as yet. Whenever I think about it, my forehead breaks into a cold sweat, and I can barely breathe. Half the time I find myself chanting Please let it not be a collection for a young soul, like a baby, a child’s, or a teen’s. The bright spot in all this is, once I graduate, I’ll have more free with my family and friends,something I haven’t been able to do as often as I would have wanted in the last two years.
I’m snapped out of thoughts by the soft microwave-like ding, indicating that I have a new assignment. My moment in paradise is over, a reminder my job isn’t ordinary. Sighing, my eyes flutter close ,and Grim’s instructions flash like a neon sign in my mind’s eye.
Assignment: Soul Collection
Light World Home For The Elderly, 7th district, Vienna
Age: Ninety-nine years
Soul Colour: red
I don’t get names, just their soul colour. I can tell what kind of life a person lived by that colour. This one has had a vibrant life.
With one last glance at the city’s sweeping view, I turn the music off, drop the player inside my pocket, and walk away from the barred lookout window of the chamber. Summoning the Concealment Spell, I brace myself. Between one step and the next, I feel the caress as light as air, envelop me. I descend down the never-ending spiral stairs of the Cathedral. The click click of my heels on the stone floor shatter the silence, the effect comforting. No one is around. The opening hours ended half an hour ago.
Outside the Cathedral, I project the destination in my mind. Walking through walls ‘ghosting’ as I call it, takes less time than catching the underground trains and the tram street cars as I can walk through one wall, and come out close or at the exact position of my intended place.
As I pass through a wall, I glimpse a ghoul lounging on top of an angel statue inbuilt on the walls by the entrance of a Barock building. A Draangel – descendant of angels and dragons – dashes by in full Concealment, scales gleaming in the fading daylight. Glancing on my right, a Djinn in his smoke form floats around, leering at a group of girls wearing miniskirts and halter tops.
An oncoming tram misses hitting me by a hair. I smile. I can’t be hit. In my current form things just pass right through me. Even when I’m not concealed I can’t die. I’ve tested this theory several times and I just keep coming back. My soul is under lock and key, and my body indestructible, thanks to Grim.
Inside the Light World home for the elderly, I locate my client in room 308. Taking a deep breath, I ghost inside the room, a dull ache piercing my chest. About eight people, with similar facial features, surround the bed, shielding her from my view. Shifting my body, I peek at the name tag stuck on the rail at the foot of her bed: Mrs. Elfriede Strauss.
Knowing the names is important to me. The soul deserves respect.
Straightening , I sidle to the other side of the room, and hover at the open window, and wait as her family pays their last respects. A small child with blond curls – maybe the grandchild – is holding Mrs. Strauss’ hand, her tiny shoulders shaking helplessly. Beside her, a dark haired man has his arm wrapped tightly around the shoulders of a blonde haired woman. Her shoulders quiver. I suspect that if he was to let go of her she would collapse. I bite my lower lip, shove my hands inside my pockets of my trench coat and shift my gaze outside of the window.
Once her family leaves, I wipe my eyes and inch towards the bed. Although I have collected souls countless times, it still gets to me every time.
Mrs. Strauss opens her eyes, and smiles at me. And I know she is ready. She closes her eyes, and with a smile she draws her last breath.
Dipping a hand inside one of the many pockets of my well padded Trench coat, I extract a glass soul vial. I lift the cap off, and as if responding to a silent symphony, the crimson mist-like soul dances towards me. I hold my breath as it glides gently through the vial mouth, swirls for a few seconds, then settles down. I breath out, my heart almost bursting with joy.
After collecting her soul, I replace the cap, mark and slip it carefully inside the pockets, making sure the other vials are arranged properly. After buttoning up my designer Trench – courtesy of Grim as he insists that his novice should be well outfitted -, I ghost out of the room. Later on in the night, I’ll learn more about her during the daily conversations I usually hold with the souls before handing the souls over to Grim. My pulse picks up a beat at the thought, then stutters. This part of the collection leaves me either feeling like crap, or elated, depending on the kind of life the soul led before collection.