The Grim Response

by S. Douglas Larsen © 2002

The Grim Reaper mumbled under his breath as he pedaled down the rural highway. Riding a bicycle had definitely not been part of the job description when he'd signed on. This just wasn't respectable. He should have been riding his great pale steed. Death could not travel on a bicycle and be taken seriously.

To begin with, people were starting to figure out that they could get away, beat Death so to speak. It was impossible to run someone down on a bicycle if they decided to try and out run death. A good Harley-Davidson would have been more suiting, but there was some natural law about his transport having to be a living soul, or at least powered by one, so all motor vehicles were out of the question.

Furthermore, a bicycle wasn't dignified. He couldn't look the part on it. For one thing, he couldn't carry his great scythe on the bicycle like he had on his great pale stallion. He couldn't hold it high like he'd always done, because now he needed both hands to hold the handlebars, change gears apply the brakes and worse yet signal when he decided to turn or stop. He'd tried strapping it to the bicycle but the handle stuck out and the blade dragged on the ground. Thus, he was forced to use a little travel sickle that made him look more like a poor dirt farmer than an immortal incarnation. He carried it folded in the water bottle, which, since he never drank, served as his carry-all. The absolute worst part, however, was that he was forced to work nude so to speak. He couldn't wear the great cloak that had so marked his appearance since the beginning of time. It dragged on the ground, got caught in the chain, or ended up woven through the spokes of the wheels, braking the bike and throwing him to the ground. No, riding a bike was by no means dignified.

The animal rights groups were at fault. Abusive work conditions they said. Too much work, too little rest, to much death, it was emotional torture for the horse they said. Just having to put up with their nonsense was emotional torture for him. Where were his rights? Where was the world going to anyway?

He, of course, wasn't the only incarnation that was having problems with these new-glory, bleeding-heart groups. The other horsemen weren't allowed to ride their steeds either. They had poor War refereeing long verbal debates and voting over the internet to settle disputes better ended by a swift kick in the behind or a firm punch in the nose. Famine was only allowed to prey upon the top models and their fans that followed every new fashion, and even then he was taking a beating. Pestilence had it the worst. They all felt a great deal of pity for him, all of the troubled incarnations that was. Society had poor pestilence so shot full of inoculations and antibiotics that he couldn't even get out of bed to work.

There were some incarnations that weren't all that bad off. Mother Nature was having a hay day with all the ecologists and environmentalists fighting for her. The most ironic situation in the Grim reaper's opinion was Cupid who was actually encouraged to go around shooting people, when war was discriminated for getting others to do so. Things were just too crazy and nothing made any sense anymore.

Death pulled up in front of a mailbox placed beside a thin dirt road that lead off across a wide, green meadow and up into a large grove of trees. The golden letters on the black metal mailbox read, "Lake Watichi Animal Rights Center".

A smile flashed across his skeletal factions. That was quite a feat for a bare skull, but nobody was there to appreciate it. He reached down and unscrewed the top of the water bottle. The small sickle popped up thanks to the spring he'd loaded in the bottom, and he caught it in one bony hand, unfolding it with a quick flick of his wrist. Without waiting another minute, the Grime Reaper placed the curved blade between his teeth, turned the bicycle down the dirt road and started to pedal for all he was worth.

Less than half-an-hour later, the Grim Reaper had finished his work. The well-kept compound was littered with corpses of late animal rights activists. Death wiped his soiled blade on the ripped shirt of a blonde youth and then folded it shut with a soft click. He pulled a small hourglass from somewhere unseen inside his ribcage and looked at it quickly before stowing it away again in its hiding place.

"I'd better get going," he said to nobody in particular. "It wouldn't be suiting for Death to arrive at work late."

He stretched and yawned as he went to retrieve the bicycle from where it had been thrown when he dove off to claim his first victim. Working during his off-hours was starting to wear him down, but that would soon end, and everything would be as it had been. He pulled a parchment from the water bottle and unrolled it. He read down a long list of scratched names with evident satisfaction. He scratched off one more and rolled the list up again, storing it along with the portable sickle.

He took one more look around and wondered if anyone would ever figure out who was responsible for all the untimely carnage. He just shrugged the question away as he started pedaling back up the dirt road. He knew it really didn't matter whether they did or not. What could they do, give him the death penalty?

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