Reaper #2798, Trevor Killister, sits outside in the waiting room. His black backpack rests dismal on the floor beside his chair. The muffled sounds of a hospital reach him from down the hall, but he is absorbed in his own thoughts. He fixes his black rimmed glasses and pops a piece of peppermint gum into his mouth, chewing impatiently. Then, he pulls out his phone and opens up Reaperbook. As he scrolls through the barrage of status updates, a reminder appears on the brightly lit screen. It reads “Appointment: 1:52pm — Howard Wilton”. Trevor closes the reminder. There are pictures from Cindy Calister’s party last weekend and he’s more interested in why Henry, her ex-boyfriend, was there than the next soul he’d be hauling to the afterlife.
Cindy’s profile picture shows her smiling beside the corpse that had been, only moments before the photo, her first reap. It’s an elderly woman, eyes closed peacefully in her last slumber. Cindy poses in front, giving a jubilant thumbs up to the camera. On her profile page, Cindy’s relationship status reads “dating Henry M.”. With a furrowed brow, he closes Reaperbook, deciding that he wasn’t all that interested in Cindy, anyways. The time on his phone reads 1:46pm.Trevor grabs his backpack and heads into the hospital room.
Howard Wilton is not particularly old. He looks to be in his sixties with a pronounced roundness to his stomach. He must have been the sort of man to enjoy a good meal or two. According to Trevor’s email debriefing this morning, Howard had suffered from a heart attack and wasn’t going to make it. It was his second. Howard lies asleep in the hospital bed, his chest rising and falling faintly.
Trevor takes a seat and pulls out his laptop from his backpack, the brand new Scythe Z-07 model. Even though Trevor knows a newer, slimmer and better version will be out in a few months, he still takes the time to wipe off any dust from the cover. Although every Reaper has the same laptop by now, the novelty still hasn’t worn off. He opens the eReaper server and enters his login information. Reaper#: 2798, Password: Killisterkills!it, and scrolls through the list of potential deaths in this area, searching for Howard’s signal. His name is easy to find, as there are only a few other possible reaps in this area for today. The button across from Howard’s name reads “Reap This Soul”, highlighted in a vibrant green that indicates availability. Trevor clicks it. An error screen appears.
“ReaperNet Server Error 503
We’re sorry, but our servers are currently overloaded. Please refresh the page or try again in a few minutes.”
“What the hell?” says Trevor. He clicks refresh. Nothing happens. He tries again. Still nothing. “Damn it.”
The time on the screen now reads 1:49pm. Trevor pulls out his cellphone from his pocket and speed dials technical assistance. A chipper female voice answers.
“Hello, eReaper technical assistance. How can I help you today?”
“Hi, this is Reaper #2798. I’ve got a reap due in a few minutes and the server is down for me. Could you help me out?”
“Oh, hey Trevor! I didn’t see you at my party last weekend. Where were you?”
Trevor pauses. “Cindy?”
“Obviously! Don’t dodge the question. The party, where were you?”
“Oh, I was working late shifts, I couldn’t make it. Wait, you’re working tech today?”
“Yeah,” she says, her tone dropping a little. “They bumped me down to technical assistance because someone upstairs said I didn’t conduct myself professionally on my first reap.”
Trevor can hear the frown from the other side of the line, and briefly he thinks about her Reaperbook profile photo.
“Bummer,” says Trevor. “Those stiffs upstairs can be such buzzkills.”
Stiffs is what Trevor and his friend Mike call their bosses. After a long day of work, Mike likes to toast the start of every party with “one for the stiffs and another for the dead”, occasionally adding some choice descriptive adjectives if he’s had a particularly tough day.
“So, about the server…” says Trevor, his eye on the clock. The penalty for too many tardy reaps is much worse than Cindy’s current punishment. If Trevor gets too many late reaps on his record, he’ll have to go through etiquette training again, or worse, he’ll be stuck working customer service for Scythe.
“Oh, right!” says Cindy. “It looks like the connection in your area is down. Do you wanna do the reap through your phone on the mobile server?”
“Sure,” says Trevor. It’ll cost him, since he doesn’t have a data plan, but it’s better than the alternative.
“All right, your phone is connected to the eReaper server. Now just log in and start the download,” says Cindy.
Trevor does so, and then gets back on the phone. The clock reads 1:51pm.
“Thanks, Cindy. How long does it normally take to download?”
“It’s almost done,” says Cindy, and then after a brief silence on the phone, “Okay, Howard Wilton’s soul has now been downloaded to your phone. You can drop off your reap at the office or send it in online.”
“Awesome. Thanks,” says Trevor. He watches as the clock turns 1:52pm.
“By the way, there’s a party at my place tonight,” says Cindy. “You and Mike and everyone are invited. I better see you guys there!”
“We’ll be there,” says Trevor, grinning as he ends the call.
He puts his laptop away, and then swings one strap of his backpack over his shoulder. He looks at his reap, who has now stopped breathing and lies eerily still on the hospital bed, then down to his cell phone where the man’s soul now rests.
“Come on, Howard,” says Trevor as he saunters out of the room. “I’ll escort you to the offices. I’m in a good mood today.”
Joyce Chong is an undergraduate student in Ontario, Canada. Recent publications include Literary Orphans, theNewerYork, and The Molotov Cocktail, with work forthcoming in Pieces of Cake.