It's a Wonderful Death - Sarah J. Schmitt

Chapter 1

The gypsy fortune-teller at the Halloween carnival predicts I’ll have a long life full of possibilities. Of course, that’s right before she uses me as a human shield to avoid the outstretched hand of a black-cloak-clad, sickle-wielding Grim Reaper and then flees hysterically from the tent. Really, if you think about it, that makes her a liar and a murderer. I better get a refund.

And no matter what the Grim Reaper says about not meaning to collect my soul, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m looking down at my lifeless body while my friends stare at each other. Hello? Call 911. Or maybe someone could start doing CPR. Idiots.

“Come with me,” the Reaper insists, tugging on my arm. “There isn’t much time.”

I shake him off and shoot my best withering glare in his direction. “I don’t think so. You saw what she did. You were coming for her, not me. She’s the one you should be hauling out of here.”

And then he shrugs his shoulders. Is he kidding? He rips my soul from my body and the next minute acts like I’m asking to change the station on the car radio.

He smiles a saccharin sweet smile. Yeah, like I’m going to fall for that.

“My job is to transport the souls. Nothing more. Nothing less.” He’s talking to me like I’m a four-year-old.

I don’t know if it’s the smile or the tone of his voice, but I’ve gone from being confused to really ticked off. My hands curl into fists. “Well, it’s my senior year and my job is to win homecoming queen next week. And to do that, I need to be alive. You have to send me back.”

“I can’t do it.”

“And why not?”

He whips around to face me, his hood falling down around his neck. He’s actually kind of cute with his chiseled face and coal black eyes. Of course he’s unnaturally pale, which is a total turn-off. And let’s not forget he’s a big part of the reason my body and soul no longer appear to be connected.

“I don’t have that kind of clearance,” he says. “Even if it was an accidental collection, it’s out of my hands.”

I find his words ironic. After all, it was his hand that got me into this mess in the first place.

“Like you said, it was an accident,” I fume, refusing to admit my argument might be pointless. “If you can’t, can someone else?”

He continues watching me with a blank gaze. When I can’t take his silent treatment for one more second, I look back toward my body.

“Wait a minute!” I shriek. “Is that blood coming out of my ear?” I look closer and notice my blue eyes are staring at the ceiling with a vacant expression. Other than the eyes and blood, I look normal. Okay, sure, maybe my skin is a little on the gray side, but the lighting in the tent is horrible. Why do fortune-tellers always use so many flickering candles? When I get back into my body, I am definitely calling the fire marshal. There has to be a violation here somewhere. She may not die, but that gypsy woman is still going to pay for what she did.

I scan the rest of my body and notice the way my neck is tilting at a weird angle. Of course that could be because my jet black hair is pulled up in a messy bun. No one can lay comfortably with a bun. It’s physically impossible.

Other than all that, I look like I always do: perfect. Well, except for the bruise on my cheek. I must have slammed it into the cash register when I fell. It’s going to take some serious cover-up to camouflage that bad boy.

A flash of movement captures my attention. Finally someone starts doing chest compressions. Fat lot of good it’ll do me if the Reaper doesn’t figure something out and fast.

With nothing left to lose, I try a different approach. “Hey, you never told me your name.”

“What?” he asks in genuine surprise.

“What am I supposed to call you?”

“Gideon.” He’s looking at me like he thinks I’m up to something but can’t quite figure it out. I get that a lot.

“Well, Gideon,” I say as nicely as I can, “there has to be something you can do. Maybe snap a finger, wish on a star, or whatever. No one ever has to know about this silly misunderstanding. Then, once I’m back among the living, you can track down that stupid gypsy, have a