Reaper: Flash Fiction by Alaina Kammersgard

Thump, thump, thump.

Simon’s knuckles rapped against the worn oak door. Several minutes passed—no response. He rocked back and forth on his heels, eyeing the name on the mailbox. “R. Greene,” it read. He lifted his trembling fist to knock again, when the door finally creaked open. A faint beam of light streamed onto the dark sidewalk.

“Yes?” An elderly man peered out. “How can I help you?”

Simon’s breath caught in his chest, and he froze for a moment, unsure if the glamour would really work. His silver eyes bored meaningfully into the old man’s blue ones. He waited for the flash of recognition to settle on the wrinkled face before him.

“Ah!” he smiled, reaching out to shake the young man’s hand, but Simon quickly shoved his clammy palms into his sweatshirt pocket before they could touch. “You must be here for the interview?”

“That’s right.” Simon struggled to remember his words. “I’m doing my school report on World War 2. I wanted to hear your stories, Mr. Greene.” He flashed the man a genuine smile.

“Of course!” The old man beckoned Simon inside and waved him over to a pair of arm chairs. “But please, call me Richard. What would you like to hear about?”

Something about Richard’s demeanor calmed Simon’s nerves. He took in the room around him. Everything appeared as ancient as the man before him. Oil lamps and candles were all that lit the dusty space, and the only technology to be found was a hand-crank radio and a vintage rotary phone.

“Whatever you’d like to tell me,” the young man finally answered.

Richard beamed, clearly delighted.

“Ah, letsee here…you’re writing about the war, yes? Well I joined up with the army as soon as I turned 18. I served in the 3rd armored division, Europe…” he began.

He spoke of victory and valor. “It’s only thanks to my buddy Roger that I’m here today, ya know. If he hadn’t seen that German sniper…”

He spoke of grief and loss. “John was a damn fine soldier, better than any of the rest of us. I’ll never forget the sight of his helmet perched atop his bayonet…”

And he even spoke of love. “Now Nancy…Nancy was something special. The way her brown eyes would twinkle when she laughed…”

Simon listened patiently to every word. He made sure to nod or smile when appropriate, and to laugh at all of the old man’s jokes. He found himself truly enjoying Richard’s stories, so much so that he nearly forgot the reason he had come.

By the time he looked down the ebony watch on his wrist. It was nearly midnight. His heart began to pound faster, a stomping elephant in his chest. He stood up, legs shaking.

“Ah, Mr. G—I mean, Richard…it’s time to…” he looked down, remorse veiling his face. He couldn’t finish his sentence.

Richard stood up as well, knees wobbling as he made his way over to the young man. He wheezed a few times, then smiled ruefully.

“I know why you’ve come son. Why you’ve really come, I mean,” he whispered, running a liver-spotted hand through his sparse gray hair. “It was bound to happen one of these days.

Simon stared at him, mouth agape, eyes wide.

“How do you-“ Richard cut him off.

“More than 400,000 American soldiers died in that war, son. Did you know that?” he let out a melancholy sigh. “I’ve seen a great deal of death. Perhaps even more than you. I may not have seen your face before, but those eyes…” he reached up to touch Simon’s forehead, brushing his mouse-brown hair to the side. “I’d recognize those silver eyes anywhere.”

Simon began to nod, slowly, wiping a few stray tears from his cheeks.

“I take it this is your first time?” the old man asked.

Another nod from Simon. “I’m sorry Mr. Greene. I’m meant to comfort you during this time, not…” he trailed off.

“I told you, call me Richard!” the usual grin returned to his face, and his pale blue eyes lit up. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for. If it’s my time, it’s my time. I’ve had a good life. And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to share it.” He grabbed his weathered blue vet’s cap from the table beside him, and placed it atop his head. “Now, we’ve got places to go. I don’t want to put off seeing my Nancy any longer…”

Simon’s lips twitched into the shadow of a smile. He stepped forward, and the two men joined hands.

A blinding flash of light filled the room. The candles on the coffee table flickered and died, the oil lamps sputtered and faded. The heavy, velvet curtains above the window billowed out. And then…stillness. Silence. Richard Greene, and the boy beside him, were gone.

 

 

Bio: I am currently enrolled at Aims as a pre-nursing student, and work for a hospice company as a Certified Nursing Assistant. Although I love working in the medical field and enjoy studying the sciences, my true passion is for creative writing. It is my dream to one day publish a novel. I have always been a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, and generally write within those genres. I initially wrote this piece for the Aims Creative Writing class, but would love for it to become a part of something bigger in the future. Writing fiction allows me to put stories in the world. We can learn so much about ourselves from stories. I believe they can inspire us to chase our dreams, better ourselves, or make a difference in the world. I personally am inspired by the works and characters of J.K. Rowling, Jim Butcher, and Neil Gaiman.