This short story was September 2016’s Short Story of the Month! If you enjoy it, and would like to support more, please consider throwing me a buck here.
Content Warning: This story contains scenes of animal abuse, violence, and possible sexual assault. No worries if you don’t feel up to reading it because of that. It was tough for me to write, too.
The shell eventually cracked. I dropped the turtle, surprised.
Then I felt someone behind me.
Their hair fell over most of their face as they looked down at me. They had on a big jacket, jeans, a t-shirt with a logo for something I didn’t recognize.
I was just a kid, but even back then, I knew something very important was happening.
“You can see me?” they said.
I gave a nod, all my rage gone with their appearance.
“Huh. Okay.” They reached down, touching the turtle with one hand, then got back up. “You really shouldn’t have done that.”
I nodded again.
And then they disappeared.
I sat there, on the ground near the stream, and looked to where they had been, trying to find an answer. Later, when I tried to explain this event to my parents, they just scolded me. “You weren’t supposed to be in the woods.” “You shouldn’t have talked to a stranger.” There was no discussion on how they just disappeared. A childhood fantasy, one might say. Eventually, I thought so too.
But it was one that stayed with me. My notebook was full of doodles trying to capture this character I was so sure I had invented. My first crush was on a guy with the same haircut as them. Occasionally, I’d dream they were in the room, watching me sleep, and I’d wake up, fighting the urge to search for them desperately, telling myself I was being silly. There was nobody watching over me. There was nobody for me.
I had graduated high school when Seymour died. He was a good dog, as far as dogs go. Put up with my tantrums like a champion, at least, and still managed to stand me. My parents were out when it happened, and it was just me, sitting in the living room, watching TV, with Seymour in his dog bed. He hadn’t moved in some time, so I called his name.
“Hey, Seymour, you alright?”
I went over and looked at him. He was gone.
I clenched my fists.
“At least you didn’t kill this one,” came a voice.
I turned to look at them behind me. They smiled.
“It’s… you again…” I said. I recognized them. I knew them from years ago. It was surreal.
“Yeah,” they said, walking over to Seymour. They leaned down, and touched him, then stood up to look at me. “You’re a lot older now, though.”
I nodded, unsure what to say.
“Hopefully you won’t see me again anytime soon,” they said. “Though it’s always nice to have someone to talk to.”
“You… like talking to me?” I asked.
“Not many people can see me,” they said, smiling. “So it’s refresh…” And then they disappeared.
“N-no, wait…!” I said at nothing. I started shaking. “Come back!” I yelled into nothingness.
There was nobody there. Just me and my dead dog.
I kicked the wall so hard it left a hole. Days later, as I was forced to patch it with my mom’s help and supervision, I kept picturing them. It was just how I remembered them from when I was a kid. Same jacket. Same haircut. They were someone, I was sure of it. Someone who could disappear. Someone that I’d only seen when something died. But more importantly, they were someone who wanted to talk to me.
So I did an experiment.
I went to the pet store, and bought a mouse, the kind you feed to pet snakes. I walked out, around the back of the building, and took the mouse out of the little cardboard carrier. Then I threw it against the wall of the building as hard as I could.
“I thought we were past this,” they said as they walked out from behind me and towards the mouse.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
“You’re Death, right?”
“I’ve been called that before.” They touched the mouse, and then looked up at me. “Look, don’t…” and then they were gone.
I went back inside, got another mouse, and repeated the process.
“Come on. This is senseless. Surely you’re a better person than this,” they said, walking towards the new mouse corpse.
“Why do you keep disappearing?” I asked.
“After I’ve absorbed the soul, I move on. Small souls don’t take very long,” they said, touching the mouse.
“How can I get you to stick around?” I asked.
“Don’t try,” they said. Then they were gone.
I apologized to the third mouse as it squirmed in my hand, clearly knowing what was about to happen.
“This is really unattractive,” Death said as they appeared again.
“So I’m attractive otherwise?” I asked.
Death stopped, and looked at me with a confused expression. “What?”
“I think you’re attractive,” I said. I never was good at innuendo.
Death shook their head, and leaned down to touch the mouse. “That’s nice, I suppose.”
“You said you liked talking to me. Do you find me attractive?” I asked again.
“Being able to be seen is exciting,” Death said. “I’m not sure that translates to…” and then they were gone.
I went back in for another mouse, but the look the guy who gets them out of the little cage had for me made it clear I should probably go.
I needed a better plan. More importantly, I needed a bigger soul.
Everyone seemed pretty shocked when I took up deer hunting. I read article after article online. It took a long time to save up money for all the equipment. I don’t look good in camo. But if it worked, it’d be worth it, I knew.
“Where did this come from?” my friend, Kelli, asked. I had blew her off so many times for practice, she had finally decided to come along to see what I was doing. Now, at the campus archery range, she watched me aim and shoot again and again. I was mostly past the point of wrist pain from messing up my shots. Now I was just working on accuracy. The season started in two weeks, and I was determined to make the most of it.
“It’s important,” I said.
“Clearly,” she said. “But surely there’s more to it.”
I released my final arrow. A decent shot. I headed out to collect them all and try again.
“Is this a guy?” she asked.
“Not a guy,” I said. “You’re on the right track.”
Kelli laughed as I walked back and notched another arrow. “I’m pretty sure anyone that requires this much effort to impress isn’t worth it.”
I lowered my bow. “Have you ever wanted something impossible?” I said without looking at her.
“I really wanted my own unicorn in the first grade,” she said, chuckling.
“What if you learned that was actually possible?”
“It’s not, though,”
I raised the bow again. “Well, mine is.” I released another arrow. It was a solid hit. “I think it’s worth it to get my unicorn.”
Kelli frowned. “Well, alright…”
I released another arrow. It hit the target with its little thunk.
“You do seem to be getting sort of good at this,” she said, watching.
I nodded. “Better I am, the more time I have.”
Kelli shook her head. “Well, you have fun, then. I’m going to grab some dinner.”
I nodded, and lined up another shot.
Kelli let out a little annoyed sigh, and headed back to her car.
I shot until my arms ached and it was too dark to see properly.
Two weeks later I was in a tree stand in the early morning. Unlike, I’m sure, most of the hunters out there on that first morning of deer season, I didn’t really care about finding an impressive buck. I just wanted anything.
A young buck approached, sniffing at the scent I had left. I pulled back my bow. I didn’t even hesitate.
The deer tried to stay upright, bleating in pain. And then it fell.
I rushed down from the tree, over to the deer, and looked around.
“Please stop,” Death said as they appeared.
“I found a workaround,” I said as they approached. “I’m going to process and donate all the meat to the hungry. So it’s alright. Good can come from this, and now you’re allowed to find me attractive.”
Death shot me a look.
“Am I attractive yet?”
“What are you doing?” they asked.
“I want you,” I said.
They leaned down, touching the deer, then looked back to me. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’ve masturbated to the image of having you more times than I can count over the past year.”
Death just laughed. “I’m pretty sure that isn’t how romance works,” they said.
“Doesn’t mean it couldn’t work like that,” I said. “How many people have you been with?”
“A few,” they said.
“Why not me, too?”
“Stop this…” they said. “This is ridiculous.”
I figured it was best to switch to gathering information, then. “What happens while you’re here? Does nobody else die while you’re here?” I asked.
“I’m in many places at the same time,” Death said.
“So if I kill two deer, there will be two of you here?” I asked.
Death took a breath. “Yes. Are you going to masturbate to that, too?”
“Without a doubt.”
We stared each other down, trying to read each other. Even though their hair, their gaze was powerful. Then they disappeared.
Two days later, the next time I downed a deer, they just appeared, sighing.
“How often can someone see you?” I asked.
They walked towards the deer, clearly debating ignoring me. Then they said, “It’s only people who’ve died and been brought back. It’s very rare. Most ‘near-death experiences’ don’t involve actual death.”
“My mom told me I was clinically dead as an infant for about a minute,” I said.
Death nodded. “And that’s why you can see me.”
“And of those who can see you, how many talk to you?”
Death touched the deer and looked to me. “A very, very small portion. Most find me creepy.”
“I think you’re hot.”
“I know,” Death said, sighing and pushing their hair out of their face. “Look, I’ve never been big on people summoning me like this, you know. It feels… sad. And they always want something from me. I can’t grant wishes. I’m a force. I just do what I was made to do.”
“What do they ask for?”
“Saving a loved one, usually. Or power.”
“I don’t want that.”
“You’ve made it very clear what you want.”
“You said you’ve been with others. That means you’re capable of it.”
Death sighed. “Look, those were… different circumstances.”
“Complications?” I asked.
“Yes…” they said. “Love is… really strange sometimes. But it doesn’t matter at this point.”
“I promise I won’t create complications.”
“I have no intention of letting you.”
“So let’s fuck,” I said.
“No,” they said.
“Next time I see you, I’m going to kiss you,” I said.
“I don’t want that.”
“I think you do.”
They opened their mouth to speak, but disappeared.
It took me until the last day of deer season to land another one. I was frustrated, but overjoyed as I heard the arrow sink into the deer’s flesh. I rushed down.
There they were.
I moved in.
“You’re going to go through with it,” Death said, looking at me warily.
I reached out, and touched their cheek. They shivered a little. They weren’t warm, but they still felt like a person. I hadn’t known if they’d be ghostly or what, but I could work with this.
“How long since you’ve been touched?” I asked.
“A long, long time,” they said softly.
“How about kissed?”
I pulled them against me, looking into their eyes, serious. “I’m going to kiss you now.”
They didn’t struggle as my lips pressed against theirs.
I pulled back.
“Are you satisfied now?” Death asked.
“No,” I said. “Was that so bad?”
“…no,” they admitted, and started walking towards the deer.
“Just let me go down on you. You don’t even have to reciprocate,” I said as they touched the deer.
“I have never talked to someone as forward and vulgar as you,” they said, standing back up and looking at me.
“We don’t have a lot of time for pleasantries,” I said.
Death sighed. “I suppose that’s fair.”
I grabbed them, and kissed them again.
“This, however, is really unfair,” they said.
“I don’t really care,” I said, and kissed them again.
“So I’ve realized.”
Three kisses later, they finally started to get into it a little, wrapping their arms back around me. But before things could get really going, they disappeared, and I nearly fell forward without them to lean against.
It was just me, in the woods, alone with a dead deer.
I tried again next weekend. It was technically illegal, but I was so close, and decided I didn’t care. I thought I was going to come up empty, but at the last moment, I spotted a doe. It didn’t take long.
“About last time,” they said as they appeared.
“We don’t have time for that,” I said as I grabbed them, pressing my lips against theirs.
“Mmmph…” they said into the kiss, and again, louder, as I shoved a hand down the front of their jeans. They shuddered hard as I squeezed.
“C-come, now…” they said, trying to regain their balance.
“That’s the idea,” I said, pushing them to the ground.
I tried to get on top of them, but they kicked me off, and I tumbled to the side.
They stood, brushing themselves off, and walking over to the deer, touching it.
“It’s not too late,” I said.
“Am I really to expect that we just do this once and you are satisfied with it?” Death asked, not turning to look at me.
“It’ll be fun.”
“This hasn’t been fun… this has been…” They shook their head, looking for a word. “Look, I was lonely, and I should have been clearer, but this isn’t going to happen.”
“Yes, it will.”
Death looked at me. “I won’t talk to you again. So please, stop killing things and move on, okay?”
“I won’t give up,” I said.
Death just started walking away.
“Next time, I will have you,” I said.
What I needed was more time.
I started planning.
I found a hotel where I knew there wouldn’t be many questions asked. I created a lot of accounts on dating sites, and tried to find the perfect sort of sleazeball for my purposes. It wasn’t very hard. You just had to use the right keywords and you’d get plenty of messages.
A few weeks later, I had the right one.
“You are gorgeous, just like your picture,” he said as he brought me my drink.
“Thank you,” I said, taking a sip of my beer. “If anything, your picture didn’t do you justice.”
He laughed. “My my, into me that much, are you?”
“Enough that I almost told you to meet me at my hotel,” I said. “But I figured that might be a bit creepy.”
“Nothing about that is creepy, sweet thing,” he said, grinning.
“I’m glad to be wrong,” I said, grinning right back.
A few beers later, he came back to the hotel room. He was very gropey. I put up with it. All for the prize.
“Why is there plastic all over?” he asked as he walked into the hotel room.
I locked the door behind us. “I’m into some kinky shit,” I said.
“Yeah,” I said, and slammed my fist into his jaw with a crunch. He fell backwards onto the bed with a sick gurgle.
I walked over to the bedside drawer where the knife was. “Nothing personal,” I said.
“H-hey, hey… fuck…” he said, trying to gather himself, move. He was drooling blood onto the plastic on the bed.
I wondered how long I would have. How much time was a human soul worth? How many deer? I had been assuming a lot, but I needed to make sure I had a plan in place, just in case there wasn’t much time for foreplay.
I put the knife up to his neck. “I know Death. You’ll be in good hands.”
“W-what did… I did nothing! Fucking nothing!” he yelled.
I took it slow. I wanted to make sure I was ready to act the moment he stopped. The edge started drawing blood. “Fuck!” he yelled, his hand grabbing my knife hand trying to push me back.
“No,” I said, as he tried to break my grip.
“C-crazy… little…!” he was yelling as I twisted to get my hand away from him. He managed to shove me back, off the bed.
“I won’t give up,” I said as I tried to regain my balance.
He shoved me again, on the shoulder.
I felt my body spin as I fell to the ground, on top of my knife hand, still holding the blade.
“G-ghgggh…” I said. I tried to get up, but I couldn’t.
I heard his footsteps as he ran out the door and down the hall, screaming.
My blood was warm.
“What in the world happened…” they said, taking in the scene. They looked down at me. “Don’t tell me you set this up…”
I reached out for them, my attempts at words coming out as desperate nonsense after being filtered through the pain.
They stepped back a little, so I couldn’t reach. “Did you really want me that badly?”
I tried to drag myself across the floor, towards them.
“In the past, this is when people who can see me have asked me to save them,” Death said, watching me move across the floor. “But you’re not going to do that, are you?”
“Blrrghrg…” I managed, and got my hand on their sneaker.
“What exactly do you think happens here?” they asked. “Are you really expecting me to whisk your soul away to my room for some lovemaking? Now?”
I looked up at them, holding on to their shoe. They were going to take me with them. I wasn’t going to give up.
“I’m not involved in stories with happy endings,” they said.
I couldn’t move anymore. My body wasn’t responding at all. I tried to keep looking at them, but it was fuzzy, fading.
And then there was nothing.
But I’m used to nothing.
I’m used to having nothing.
I’m used to being nothing.
And I’m not going to give up.
We won’t be anywhere special. My room, maybe, nobody else home. They’ll lay on the bed, naked, ready. “I’ve been waiting for this,” they’ll say.
I’ll climb on. I’ll look down at them. “I’m sorry for making this difficult,” they’ll say.
And I’ll ride them. And it’ll be incredible. And I’ll scream out in pleasure. I’ll cum so many times.
And then I’ll know.
In that moment I’ll know.
Thank you very much for reading my story! If you liked it, please share it with your friends and stuff. That would mean a lot to me. There’s plenty more stories and things coming, so I hope to entertain you again soon!