Reapers Are A Girl’s BestFriend(ZATR #1)
Zulie’s mother did not wake up with her in the woods the next morning.
The girl nearly sprained her own wrist from the force she had in her body straining to roll her mother off the bed of grass, leaves, and branches that she broke off from the trees. She knew she was too skinny and too weak to be doing this herself, but there was no other way to get her off. The bed crumbled underneath the mother’s body as she rolled over. Zulie isn’t sure if the cracking sounds were just from the bed or her joints. The body made a heavy whoosh sound followed by a heavy thud as her body finally fell to the ground.
Zulie sat up in what was left of the bed and swat away the waft of dust that rose from the impact, studying the remains of her mother. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
Her mother is dead. Though the first thing this morning they had plans to run for the car and drive to the nearest church possible. They were going to find the pastor. They were going to exorcise the house. Zulie’s mother never taught her what it means to exorcise a house, but from the way her mother spoke about it, she knew it was serious.
But there was nothing to be afraid of in the home. And now, her mother is dead.
And Zulie is roaming around the woods on her own.
She didn’t know her mother drank the water while Zulie slept. She was fine, for a moment so she came to bed and they slept nose to nose. Just like old times if Zulie had a bad dream. Then belched a white foam of mucus and saliva over her face before her body gave in to the poison. Zulie did not realize the wet feeling on her face was vomit until she woke up this morning.
All because she made her poison for the animals in the wrong water bottle.
Zulie knows what it means to die. She is aware that her mother isn’t coming back. But for some reason, she is not sad about it.
The way the body fell on the ground wasn’t gruesome or horrific enough for Zulie to cry.
Zulie had to say it was disappointing to look at. She only looked as though she were sleeping.
Zulie’s mother would always tell her:
Tomorrow always brings hope, and tomorrow will always bring joy.
And she said….something else, Zulie never remembers.
But why does she not feel the hope her mother promised this morning of finding her friend?
Did her mother take it with her to the grave?
Which by the way, Zulie still felt it was appropriate to dig. She will do it, just not now. Right now, she needs to find food. After that, she will go and find the perfect flower to place on her grave.
It was only right since she never told her mother why she felt she was running away from Satan. They were running from their old home because her mother had the idea that the house was haunted and trying to kill them both.
Little did her mother know, it was just little Zulie killing animals around the house because she was trying to call the Reaper. And she had brought the extra water bottle mixed with poison and water to find something else to kill in the morning.
She had only seen a loved one die in front of her once in her nine years of life, her dog Barkley.
He was a good dog. But he was a stupid dog.
The day Barkley died, he was chasing after a ball that Zulie purposely threw as hard as she could because she was curious about how good he was at the game of fetch. Moments later, Barkley lay across the street flattened by the tires of a large diesel truck that was driving way too fast for the neighborhood they lived on.
It all happened in a quick flash.
His soft body split with a terrifying snap.
The chilling screams after the truck hit her dog could have filled the neighborhood.
But the way one of his hind legs twitched on the lab mix puppy, she believed that her Barkley lived. At least trying to fight for his little life. So she started to run to her hurt puppy.
She brought him into the house as quickly as she could with a bed of leaves and one poorly wrapped around his shattered body with dandelion weeds wrapped to keep it secure. She wanted to believe they were good enough, but they unraveled as she awkwardly held him to keep his body together.
She carefully placed Barkley down on the carpet so she could find the real first aid kit in the kitchen to wrap him in until she could find a neighbor to help her.
When she came back with the first aid kit, a tall, dark figure stood only two feet away from Barkley. Its back was turned to Zulie. As quietly as she could, she ran behind the nearest couch she could reach. He wore a long draping black hood and carried a staff as tall as him wielding a long steel blade, sharp and curved like a parrot beak.
A Reaper. But the young girl believed that Reapers only came for humans when they die? Why was he here for her dog? Zulie looked over to her dog, and the body stopped fighting. However, the most spectacular thing happened. An orb of light grew away from the belly of the puppy and swelled, swelled, swelled until it took the form of four legs, a snout, body, and mannerisms of a ghostly Barkley.
The Reaper reached into his pocket and pulled out a shadow. With a twist of his fingers, the cloud of shadow created a leash for Barkley. It even had a bell, jingling a tune that echoed through the house in waves.
“Here, boy! ”The Reaper called out to the newly departed soul. The puppy’s tiny white soul heard the call and came running to him like he was reunited with an old friend. It was a hushed, breathy voice, but Zulie was afraid to approach him because she did not want him to take her too.
But he could tell she was there. “Don’t be afraid Zulie.” The Reaper turned to the couch she was hiding behind. “I’m not here to hurt anyone.”
“You’re taking my dog.” She stared into the yellow eyes that floated in the hood. They were cool-toned almost white. And from the way that they curved in the hood when he talked, honest.
“Yes, I am.” the Reaper says. He was reluctant to turn and face the child. He bent down on his smoking knees to get to her level.
She looked so innocent. Little brown skin girl with afro puffs tied like mouse ears, big wide eyes, and a nose as cute as a button. Her smile made him uneasy. The Reaper believed that the little girl had no intention of hurting her dog. But there was something in her expression that made the Reaper feel uncomfortable. “Do you want to know why I’m here for Barkley, Zulie?”
“W-Why are you here for Barkley?” Zulie was so afraid she could only let out whispers.
“I’m taking Barkley away because it is hard to take care of a ghost puppy in this world. Don’t worry, I promise to take great care of him.”
“Will I ever get to see my puppy again? Zulie asks.
“Of course you will.” The Reaper replies, attempting again to beckon the dog into his arms. Zulie was almost jealous of the way the puppy jumped into his arms, being carried like a newborn child.
“ Will, I ever see you again?” The little girl asks.
The Reaper replied with words that Zulie will never forget:
“ I will only come for the dead.”
“Oh.” The girl sounded crushed, and it only made the Reaper feel worse about what he was doing. The Reaper hurried back to his feet with the puppy, signaling as best he could the symbol for a new doorway to the afterlife.
“Well. I must be going to show Barkley his new home. Farewell!”
The portal hissed and thundered as it filled the living room.
Zulie wanted so bad to see what was on the other side.
She watched curiously as Barkley and the Reaper disappeared into the expanse of warm light.
The night the Reaper came for Barkley was the first time she ever felt like she made a friend. The Reaper was real, and he could talk, also knew her name.
He was kind. And she HAD to see her friend again.
He would only come for the dead.
Zulie doesn’t want to die.
The temptation to kill was nothing new to Zulie. Now she had to get creative.
From that day forward, she killed little things: swatted flies, crushing ants, beetles, cockroaches, spiders. Zulie killed anything that crawled or flew or both. She even gathered a few on a leaf and brought it into her home, resting exactly where her puppy took his last breath. She waited for hours for something to happen.
To her disappointment, her mother came home.
“Why are there bugs in my living room?! Clean up this mess and stop running in and out of the house!”
The Reaper never came.
She started to kill bigger things: rats, small birds that would fall out of their nests(in these situations, they were not murders but putting them out of their misery). One time, her mother ran over a squirrel that underestimated the speed of the car and got pancaked between the tires and the asphalt.
The Reaper never came then.
It was hopeless. Zulie worked hard every morning, noon, and night at getting the Reaper to visit. But he would never come.
Until the faithful morning, Zulie’s mother pulled her from her bed, rushing to get her and the girl out of the house because of the dead black cat Zulie’s mother found in the living room. Zulie decided to keep it a secret that she killed the cat she was feeding outside with rat poisoning.
She was running out of options. And it made her mother believe Satan had plagued their home and they had to leave everything behind, immediately.
Now it has been three hours since Zulie started to pace the woods… She was scared, tired, and hungry.
At least she had another bottle of water.
The bottle of water that she and her mother were supposed to drink from. But she needed to find food and more material for the bed, quickly. The young girl thought about trying to retrace her steps out of the woods. She could run back into the house, call her Uncle, tell him what really happened.
But then she would have to explain why she had spent weeks looking for a Reaper.
She paced and paced until she heard a thunder-like crack from behind her.
She turned to see a portal of warm light, a long black hood waving in her direction,
and white smoky soul in the shape of an excited, tail-wagging puppy.
****If you’ve made it to the end of this piece thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time to read my work! This is a story I plan to make into a series( Not sure how many) But, please share the link to this story and I’ll post another part to the series soon!