I’m aware this sounds like I probably kidnapped and tortured people, but that’s not the case. No, it was more of an emotional thing. It was a matter of control or dominance, if you will. That was behind me though. I decided to move on with my life and become a better person, or at the very least a decent human being, and make something positive of my life for other people instead of hurting those who had put their trust in me and were purposely let down.
I moved to a new city. My best friend was the only one who I kept in contact with, though it was long distance. He was probably the only single human being who saw me for who I wanted to be. To elaborate, though, that was only because I allowed him to see that part of me. There came a moment where I realized that there are some people that even I wouldn’t want to hurt, but at this point it had come far too late. It was specifically his doing that I realized what kind of person I was. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have moved here in the first place.
First thing I did, of course, was get a new job. It was simple: I needed some money to pay for a place to stay and tide me over until I could find a more permanent solution for my financial future. So I decided to work at a store and live in a cheap apartment. I had plenty of things, but given how they were acquired, I decided to get rid of most of them in a desperate attempt to purge that part of my past from my conscience.
One night at the store during the graveyard shift I so desperately signed up for, I got to meet a woman who was new to work there. Given that I was naturally a night owl, most people there were either begrudgingly accepting of my energy or, at best, pretended to be okay with it and put on a happy face. However, she and I hit it off almost immediately. She had also made it a habit of being awake when others were busy being unconscious in their cozy, warm beds.
I wouldn’t say that my attraction to her was because she was outright beautiful so much as she was definitively my type. Her long black hair that reached beyond her shoulders, wits, and an intriguing personality immediately drew me in. She was certainly intelligent, too. We had both made a habit of playing mind games with each other for fun and seeing who could fool the other. I would be lying if I said that I stood a chance after she got to know me. The experience was almost humbling, because where I had spent most of my life wrapped up in manipulating others, she could so easily maneuver right on to my weak points that she had so quickly discovered.
After about a month, I had finally collected enough money to spend on more than just living expenses, so I decided to ask this woman out on a date. Where with most people it would take a small exchange of words, with the two of us, it had to be a needlessly complex task. We spent a good couple minutes in a back-and-forth until it turned out that I was, instead of asking her out to eat because I owed her for her covering for me a few nights ago, I was actually asking her on a date. I couldn’t say she was lying, but at the same time, not being able to mask myself was both a humbling and rewarding experience. It almost felt like a weight was off of me now that I knew that I could by myself, though I decided to keep up the appearance of having my guard up to allow us to continue to have our fun like we always had for these past couple of weeks.
The date went well. It wasn’t long before I ended up confessing my feelings for her and why I had them, though that certainly wasn’t my original intention. However, things ended up taking a turn for the more personal shortly after that.
“I’m interested in knowing the person you were before you moved up here.”
In the middle of cutting my steak, the sawing motion I was performing with my knife came to a halt. With a slow glance back up toward her face, I put on a fake smile, shrugged lightly and responded, “That guy was definitely less perfect than the one in front of you now.” The words were light and playful. I had learned that humor was a good way to deflect her attention off of things. However, it became apparent that by now she must have learned this already.
Over the course of a couple minutes, she wore me down and eventually I explained that I was a sort of con artist, although that wasn’t necessarily accurate because that was only in times of financial desperation. Instead, I simply played with people’s feelings and consequently hurt those people pretty badly in the end. With a strange, almost devious, knowing smile, she nodded and stated in a particularly unsettlingly victorious tone, “I know.” I had questioned what she meant by that and, indeed, it had a sort of ominous type of air around those words, but I realized that she was just trying to be creepy, and she was simply playing around and just acknowledging what I had said.
Later that night, after spending some time walking in the park, I decided to question her past now, since fair is fair. Her responses were particularly vague, giving such useless fragments of information as “I suppose you could say I was also less than perfect” and what basically amounted to variations of that. Instead of deciding to trick her into telling me, I decided to be more straightforward and ask for something more concrete.
“My own history wasn’t really pretty,” I stated in a straightforward, slightly pressuring tone, looking at her sitting beside me on our little bench we found. “I still told you, though, even if I was a little… uncomfortable at first.”
To admit such things like that felt like I was allowing myself to be shot. It was unusual for me to trust anyone like this, but I was certainly intending to make a change in my personality, no matter how much it was killing me to do so. Glancing ahead, she looked as though she was pondering something. I was familiar with that expression, because that would be what I would do if I was trying to double check my lies to make sure they matched up. She looked back at me and wore an uncomfortable expression, however. I certainly felt like she was about to tell the truth.
“I hurt people too. I suppose you can say like attracts like.”
She gave a little smile to me that, emotionally, pulled me in. It all began to make sense now. It was very much possible she moved here for the same reason I did. It was almost a stroke of pure luck that we had found each other. With this realization in mind, I quietly took her into my arms and it was there we stayed for the remainder of the hour, quietly talking about more pleasant things in a mutual attempt to boost our mood.
That was probably the best date of my life. Where others were good because I intended to reel people in and ensure that I was liked, this time, there was surely an attractive pull between the two of us for who we really were. A new understanding and appreciation between us was formed. For the rest of this coming month, work had changed from being a place of which I was indifferent to into a time that I looked forward to on the nights we knew we would work together on. Being in a position where we were both poor, we had supported each other in not falling to the temptation of acquiring money in less than admirable ways.
We had made a habit of seeing each other at my apartment, which was closer to work than hers, instead of spending money on dates. One such night came unexpectedly. I heard a knock on the door. It was quick and loud. Given that the time was two in the morning, I figured that it was certainly more than likely to be her. Upon opening my door, I was pleasantly surprised briefly with her face, but then found myself instead worried because that same face wore an expression of sadness framing her eyes that began to tear up at the sight of me.
Almost instinctively our hands met and I backed up while she stepped forward to bring her inside and then I shut the door once she had been taken in. The two of us moved to my sofa and, silently, I held her while she quietly whimpered. A couple sad minutes later, she looked up at me and finally spoke her first words since she had come over. “I’m sorry. I need to leave.” Her voice was quivery and hurt me from how pained she sounded.
With a quiet nod, I responded. “I’ll let you talk to me about this tomorrow, then. If you don’t want to talk, though, just stay with me. I can definitely stay quiet.” At these words, she looked into my eyes with a look of pure dread. Her lips quivered slightly as though she knew what she wanted to say but felt afraid to do so, but then finally did.
“You don’t understand. I mean that I need to leave this place. … I need to leave you.”
That last statement had hit my nerves to their very core. Not only could I feel just how much it was tearing her up to say that, but also because it had set off a fear so intense that it was almost as instinctual as seeing a bear on its hind legs bearing down on you menacingly. I desperately needed to hold on to this as much as I could and hopefully find a solution to this.
“Is it money?” My first question almost sounded more hopeful than concerned, although given the time we had spent together, I knew she would know that I was grasping at straws to keep things intact. “I’ll let you stay with me if you need to. If it’s work, we can see about getting you a new job. If it’s me, tell me what I’m doing wrong and I promise I’ll fix it!” With each and every possible excuse I was grabbing, my pitch and desperation increased. It wasn’t long before she had pulled me into a kiss to calm me down and get me to be quiet.
It had greatly surprised me. Given the lighting through the slits in the window, the room began to take on a slightly orange hue from the street light whose placement I disliked right outside my window. With her face I had grown to see as pure beauty framed by that hair I constantly complimented her on, it wasn’t long before that simple kiss had multiplied into many more and the two of us engaged in what felt like the best time we had spent intimately together.
After we had finished, we had ended up on my bed together. What we had done had not improved our situation, however. Instead of holding each other like we normally would, she grew even more distant. The desperation began to swell inside me once more. If this were to be our last night together, I would learn to look back on it fondly, but at this point I was in complete fear that this would end up being the last time I ever got to touch her and I had grown completely resolute and entrenched in the idea that I would not allow that to happen and that I would help her overcome whatever problem she had in order to keep her with me.
The problem however ended up lying in the fact that I needed to determine what was driving her away from this place. Every approach – subtle manipulation to directly asking her – led to absolutely nothing of value, not even a hint. Eventually, though, her will had been eroded. This elicited a deep feeling of relief and satisfaction now that I knew that our relationship still meant to her what it had before tonight.
With her arms folded, she stared at the point on the bed that was between the two spots we were sitting on across from each other. “I can’t do what I came here to do.” The statement had taken a long time to come out, but when it did, the words that made it up were delivered in an extremely hushed voice, almost like she was afraid to say this.
“I don’t think I understand. I’ve helped you the same way you’ve helped me.”
“That might be true, but that’s not why I’m here.” Her face slowly shifted to a less emotionally charged one. She must have finally resolved in herself the conflict she was going through to tell me this.
“Then… why don’t you tell me, sweetie?” I asked, using my recent little nickname for her. Though I had certainly used these types of names in the past, it was never with meaning but more to just solidify my hold I had on people. This time, it was for a similar purpose, but with radically more sincere motivations behind it.
Her eyes closed and her head shook. That conflict must have come back. I couldn’t help but mentally question what was so intense that she didn’t want to tell me.
“I already knew who you were before you moved here.” Her voice had lowered yet again, like she admitted some truth that might anger or hurt me. I was confused. Was she someone I had hurt in the past? That thought had quickly grown into me mentally going down a list of everyone I had wronged but no one matched her at all, unless it was someone who had radically changed from a few months to over a few years ago.
“Do… I know you?” I asked and leaned forward, expectant of an answer that would hopefully bring to light a truth I had forgotten.
“No, you don’t, but I know you. In a way, you still don’t know me. More specifically, what I am.”
I was confused. What she was? As in, the type of person she was? I asked her this to help clarify what she meant, but instead she shook her head and that left me even more confused. Then she opened her eyes and looked up at me. My face had immediately shifted to one of shock at the view of her eyes having now changed their color to a deep violet.
“My job is to kill those who deserve to die, but you changed, and so… my job did as well.”
Internally, I was feeling a clash of both confusion and terror that I held back in order to try to be as understanding as possible.
“I can tell by your face that you’re scared. Don’t worry. My job’s also to make sure that people stay alive that deserve it.”
Apparently I wasn’t good enough at holding those feelings back. At this point, most people would have passed this off as crazy, but given what happened to her eyes, that was enough to immediately dismiss that notion. With a sly smile, she continued on to her next statement.
“Have you ever wondered why I like to wear black so much, or that one jacket you always tell me looks cool?”
The two of us shared a small laugh, then I shook my head a little to bring myself back to the topic at hand.
“So then what are you?” I asked the most obvious question, and in reply, I received a look of self-satisfaction on her face. I could tell she had already predicted I would ask that, although it wasn’t a difficult guess to make. In response, I jokingly folded my arms and shot a glare at her with my eyes, then stuck out my tongue and let her speak.
“I’m a reaper.” She gave a small nod and grinned, as if very proud of this. In response, I raised my eyebrow and immediately asked my next question.
If that was not enough to confuse me, I had noticed a strange inconsistency between this and her previous question. "Wait, you actually have to wear black and everything?"
She stared at me blankly for a second as the question sank in, then laughed and shook her head. "Of course not. We don't have a uniform or something or else you guys would start to catch on after a few hundred years. I was just asking that because it's usually a pretty stereotypical image of ours."
I simply nodded, then moved on to the other inconsistency I had picked out. “’A’ reaper, as in… there are more of you guys?”
“Of course there are. I know that you have a billion or two questions, but it would take a very long time…” Part of the way through that response, her pitch lowered to a more depressed one and she had brought her gaze back onto the bed. I knew that the topic was going back to the original one.
“… and you need to leave for a new job.” I had finally pieced it together, and she nodded silently. “So I probably won’t see you again.”
At first, while she was looking down, I spied a devious smirk forming on her face, then as she looked up her expression went back to normal and she spoke with a slight shrug. “I might get this one over with quickly. I just might visit you often. Oh, and believe me when I say that I’ll be able to keep an eye on you.” Her stare on me intensified, and I knew specifically what she as implying, and about the same time, the two of us laughed in almost unison.
The rest of the night consisted of my trying to understand what she was. These last hours had certainly ended on a much more positive note than when it had begun. The two of us had gone to bed with my knowledge that I would not say a word about this and that she would be gone the morning when I woke up. To test this, I had held on to her as I fell asleep and, to my surprise, as I awoke, I was on my back and she was gone. I smiled a little at the realization that she was cleverer than I had previous thought. For a good five more minutes, I hadn’t bothered to get up until the pangs of hunger began to set in. With a small groan, I forced myself up and went to remedy this with some cereal. As I stepped out of my room, across from me on the front door I could see a small sticky note attached to it. Filled to the brim with both curiosity and happiness that my best friend had left a note before she left, I walked over and examined it.
“Don’t forget that I know every single detail about you. Remember Elizabeth?”
A deep pain grew inside of me. With my eyes now closed, I shook my head, took a deep breath and then turned around. In the living room, I could see from where I was standing an old newspaper clipping I had kept.
Mrs. Elizabeth Johnson, 22, died Friday in her home by suicide. She was a graduate of the University of Montana. Funeral was today at Sunset Funeral Home…
Indeed, like does attract like. With a small sigh, I brought myself to the chair that was across from the small end table that the little slip of paper rested on. In writing, however, was another message. With an eyebrow quivered, I leaned in to read what it had to say. Scrawled in the same handwriting in ink was, “I know you didn’t want that to happen. Your best friend and I both know this.”
The words could no longer be read through the tears that began to form in my eyes. That note had brought out such a massive whirlwind of feelings, most notably that she actually had taken the effort to truly get to know me. At that point, I grabbed the clipping and crumpled it up. Dropping it into the trashcan, I smiled at a new realization. If even Death thought I was redeemable, then perhaps I’m not the monster I’ve been told I was for so long.
The main purpose of this was to try to get the reader to question just what type of person this man was, even at the end, and cause him or her to re-evaluate their own viewpoint of what exactly constitutes as their personal guidelines of what is forgiveable. It is obvious this man has had to deal with a lot of personal pain and guilt, and almost everyone had hated him; he was putting forth a lot of effort to change himself and become the type of person he wanted to be remembered as. It also shows just what people can see a person as - from the outside perspective of most people, he would be an abomination, but to the people who took the effort to get to know him, he was trying his best to get far away from that.