Death Comes Calling

I’m sure the internet has already heard, but my dearest publisher, Janrae Frank, passed away last weekend. We’re all still in mourning, but one of my characters decided to take matters into his own hands. 

This short is barely a thousand words long, but I’d like it to be a tribute to Janrae. She was an awesome, practical, no-nonsense curmudgeon and the internet will be a sad place without her.

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Being the God of Death wasn’t an easy job. Had Sean Lucason known his destiny beforehand, he doubted it would make a difference. It felt like only yesterday that he had hefted his scythe for the first time. The weight of the souls he reaped made it feel so much heavier than the dense, magical metal it was crafted from.

It was years since then, and now he leaned against the scythe and looked out on Earth. It was an unremarkable part of the planet, buildings and people and cars, just like all the towns around it. Winter had its hold firmly on this part of the world. The trees were all naked, white adorning the tops of each branch. The roads were slush, muddy and gray from the cars rolling along them. All around him, the mortals were bundled up tightly against the cold.

The chill didn’t bother Sean. Being a god, he had to get anywhere he was needed and a little thing like freezing temperatures would only hinder him in his mission. It was only when he hit the poles that he might have to put on a light jacket, and only if he was planning on staying a while.

He spread his wings and felt the wind rustle his feathers. If the mortals could see him, he’d look quite a sight. They’d call him a fallen angel, until his red-brown eyes went ruby. With those, and his almost unnaturally black hair, humans would decry him as a demon.

Sean chuckled at the thought. His wings were the mark of his divinity, and their blackness showed his alignment. He was a Dark God, not an evil one. He’d dealt with evil in his past.

That was over with, thankfully. Sean folded up his wings and looked around once more. Something had brought him to this part of the world. His magic, the threads that tugged his thoughts and showed him where he was needed, had insisted that he be here, at this very moment.

Normally, he’d allow his demons to collect the souls that didn’t naturally migrate their way into his father’s hands. The important souls, or the ones that needed the most comfort, were the ones that he sought. The soul he was after felt to be a mix of the two.

“Death’s in town,” Sean murmured. His tenor voice hadn’t quite hit the deep baritone of his father’s, but it was getting there. Give it a few centuries, maybe, and he’d shatter windows.

Not that Lucifer did that, but Sean always wondered if he got bored.

The time for dawdling was over. Sean closed his eyes and felt at his magic. It would guide him to where he needed to be. He took flight and, scythe in hand, made his way to the cemetery. That was where this soul was, he could feel.

The funeral he arrived at didn’t surprise him. It was a small affair, a few mourners gathered around the closed casket. Off to the side, Sean spied the soul he was here for. It was a woman, in her mid-fifties if he had to take a guess, with wild brown hair and sharp eyes. She was dressed in a hospital gown, which was unsurprising to Sean. Many of his deceased from America had died in hospitals.

The soul gazed at a young woman near the casket and her expression turned fond. Sean sidled up to her and leaned against his scythe.

“People always say that it’s bad luck to attend your own funeral,” the woman said. She glanced over at Sean. “I’m dead. I don’t think there’s much worse luck to be had.”

“It depends on if my dad really likes you,” Sean deadpanned. He held out a hand. “Sean Lucason.”

“Janrae Frank,” the woman returned. Her grip was firm and brooked no nonsense.

“Why are you hanging around?” Sean asked. He looked to the funeral. “Someone you want to take care of?”

Janrae’s smile turned proud. “She can take care of herself, so no. I’m not quite sure why I’m here,” she confessed. “I feel like I need to be back at my computer. There was so much work to get done. My company was about to release a book before I died. There are so many authors and editors to handle. There’s too much left undone for me to just be dead.”

Unfinished business, Sean thought. Out loud, he wondered, “So who’s going to do all of that now?”

“My daughter and her partner can handle it,” Janrae declared. She smiled. “Elaine can, as well. Everyone’s going to take care of each other at Daverana.”

“If you’re so sure, why are you here?” Sean asked her. “I mean, it seems like you’re keeping an eye on them.”

“Why shouldn’t I? I don’t have anything else to do.” She tapped her chin and turned pensive. “I suppose you’re here to tell me that I need to go.”

“It’d be nice,” Sean agreed. He straightened and let his wings unfurl just a tad. This attracted Janrae’s attention to them and she studied the appendages carefully.

“I must say, this was entirely unexpected. You look like an angel, but angels don’t normally have dark wings. That you have a scythe means that you’re the grim reaper, but you’re not wearing a dreadful black robe.” Janrae smirked. “I must say, I’m glad for that.”

“Too grim?” Sean quipped.

“Much.” Janrae sighed and looked again at the funeral. “There was so much that I couldn’t tell my daughter at the end. I wish I could have had the chance.”

“She can’t see or hear you. You can still try to tell her, but it wouldn’t work,” Sean said regretfully.

“I already did, right after I died. I know she couldn’t hear me, but I felt better for saying it.” Janrae brushed her hospital gown off and turned away from the funeral. “I suppose now is as good a time as any to pass on. It would be futile for me to ask you to watch over my family, wouldn’t it?”

“It’s not part of my job,” Sean affirmed, though he was sad that he couldn’t. If he tried to watch over every person’s family, he’d never get all of the souls off of the planet. The balance would be shattered and the Earth would not come out of it unscathed.

Janrae nodded. “Well then, shall we?”

Sean took her hand and led her away.