Psychopomp

Another brief visit with a callously affable reaper and the precognitive child who serves as his dimensional anchor.

The lights of the waning night wheeled thick overhead, ignited until the moment when daylight would overwhelm their brilliance. Bleeding periods of fearful luminescence together in a desperate attempt to keep the darkness at bay.

Still his presence willed the shadows to linger around the site of his latest efforts, stooping over the still, stretched form of a prominent businessman who had suffered a fatal arrest of the heart only seconds before. Still warm to the touch, or so he imagined. Splayed in one of the most shameful places where a man of his stature could be found, regarding the pavement with blank, glassy eyes.

It was what brought him back to that gaudy corner of the city, night after night. It played fast and loose with its drama, and the unexpected was taken in trade. He could always count on crouching over an unexpected corpse, carefully carving the spirit from stiffening flesh.

“The sun is almost up.”

A soulless statement from the boy who stood at his side, small fingers closed over the excess fabric of a hoodie three sizes too large. Eyes to match the first airy blue of the approaching day, reflecting and absorbing all that they regarded. Pale and absent, muttering his next words as though to the empty air. “The smoke is still rising. We can see it from here – don't you see?”

A glance past those fading neon signs betrayed no hint of smoke, but then, he'd hardly expected to see as the boy did. Smirking instead, letting himself sink back into that heady accord as he held one of his countless daggers over the unlucky corpse. Swinging this way and that like a pendulum, catching light at the highest point of its arc.

His reminder to the hollow-voiced child was given as a question. “What day is it?”

Always a cue for the boy to rummage through the front pocket of that ragged hoodie, extracting the small calendar that he'd faithfully acquired on the year's first day. Flipping through pages decorated with stock pictures of kittens, stopping near to the temperate middle of the year.

“Oh.” The word left his lips as hardly more than a breath, and the calendar was closed, stowed away once more. “The smoke isn't yet.”

“Not yet,” Revenant confirmed, flipping that knife once more between his fingers and letting it fall. Cutting through the corpse as through open air, igniting a spark of enticing power between him and that which lurked within curdling flesh. A new mind, startling in recognition the moment before it was absorbed.

Another voice introduced to the fray, shoved between corners of his mind like a newcomer stumbling through the crush of a crowd. Offering up its thoughts in terror, all that it had learned and created in a body that had greyed and failed around it.

Perfect.

“If you can tell me when the smoke will be,” he sought to tempt the boy, “You can use his money to buy whatever you like today.”

Any other child would have been ecstatic, and far less interesting. The boy who stood before him, however, hardly seemed to acknowledge the offer. “Not today,” he whispered in musing response. “Tomorrow...maybe. No, after the midnight tomorrow. Do I need to buy a new calendar?”

The reaper answered with a firm shake of his head, bringing himself back to his full height in one vigorous motion. “No,” he reminded the absent child. “Not for six and a half months yet. Are you tired of the kittens?”

The boy mirrored that shake of the head, slower, supplemented by a distant mutter. “No, I like kittens.”

“Then the calendar you have now is fine,” Revenant confirmed, casting a broad gesture in the direction of the fallen businessman. “Remember – take the cash from his pockets, but nothing else. Nothing that they could trace to him.”

Of course the boy remembered, but it never hurt to remind him when his mind was elsewhere. With an obedient nod, he stooped at the corpse's side, sliding his pale little hands into the pockets of expensive trousers. Closed around crumpled bills when they emerged.

“Good,” the reaper congratulated him. “Now go, and don't spend too much in one place. When night falls again, I'll be close.”

A ready nod in answer, and the child turned from him, shoving those bills into the drooping pocket of his hoodie. Innocent in expression and slow in movement, wandering his way toward whatever the day would hold. Meanwhile, Revenant braced himself a moment longer against the pavement, then launched himself easily into the paling sky.

The End

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