The dark voice, which reverberated in Julia’s bones, paused. Hooded and dark, she couldn’t see anything more than it was a figure. Smoke rolled off the figure and drifted across her floor. When it touched her, it numbed the skin.
The figure looked over at Julia. A part of her brain, the part that wasn’t panicking, was fascinated by her panic. What did you think would happen? That part asked. Did you really think it wouldn’t work?
He cleared his throat.
Looking around he saw the candles and the sticks. Although Julia couldn’t see his expression, she could tell he was thinking. She just wished she knew what he was thinking. He hadn’t sounded happy to be summoned.
He looked up at her and Julia felt his gaze pierce her soul. He didn’t even have eyes and yet she was caught speechless. Her mind was frozen, trapped in a loop. Death. Death. Death was in her bedroom! He sighed. And the smoke around him rippled and wavered filling the room again. Wait, was he leaving?!
When Julia could see again there was a very different figure in her bedroom. No longer hooded and cloaked in deadly mist. A young boy, pale and fragile looking with large clear eyes. She made the mistake of looking into those eyes. She quickly looked away. Nope, still Death, her mind said.
“Um,” the boy held out his hand. “I am Tad Dustpine,” he said brightly. It almost sounded like a question. Or a plea.
She found her voice. It was too high and she could hear the panic clearly, but it worked. “You’re the Grim Reaper?”
“I go by many names,” the boy replied. He looked at his hand. Julia didn’t dare touch it, even if he was wearing gloves. He frowned and lowered it speaking almost to himself. “I thought I was doing that right. I will have to ask Amelia.”
He looked up at her, his too-large eyes hinting at the universe beyond. She avoided his gaze this time. “As I was asking before you panicked, how did you find that spell?”
He studied the cover. “Ah, that explains it,” he said turning around. He held the book in one hand. But then, in a puff of dark smoke, the book vanished.
“That was a library book!” Julia protested without thinking. Her mom was going to kill her for losing a library book. She’d have to pay to replace it.
“Yes. It was my library book. I had not realised it was missing.”
They stood there staring at each other for a few moments. Julia wasn’t sure what to say. What did you say to Death? It’s not like he would want a cup of tea.
He cleared his throat again. “Well, since you went to all this trouble, what do you want?”
“No one summons me just to chat,” he sounded almost sad at those words. “You have not lost anyone recently,” he paused and then a smile lit up his face. “Ah! The ghost child. I was just talking to him.”
“You said you couldn’t help,” Julia couldn’t help but throw his words back.
“And I cannot. The rules of this universe are very clear. Unless someone is written in my book, I cannot take them.”
“There has to be something we can do,” Julia protested. She couldn’t – wouldn’t believe that there was nothing. She turned towards James, hoping he would speak up. But the room was empty. James wasn’t there. “Where’s James?” She asked looking all around. What if something had happened to him?
“Be calm,” Tad said. “I thought it best if we speak alone. As for your previous question, there is nothing I can do,” he stressed the pronoun.
“I knew it wasn’t helpless!” She could do something. “But, what can I do? Oh! Is it the book of life?”
She had read about a book of life in the tome the Grim Reaper had taken. Something about it bringing ghosts back to life. She couldn’t quite remember the page. Why did he have to take the book? And why hadn’t she thought to copy the pages?
“That would work,” Tad mused. “But I am afraid it would not work for the ghost boy. The book of life can bring a ghost back to their former life, but James has forgotten his life. He only remembers remembering them.”
Julia frowned. She wanted to argue that James did remember his past life. She’d heard all the stories about him and his family. But she remembered all too well the first time she called him James. He had protested, quite convincingly, that he wasn’t James. Even after she’d proven it to him, he had been uncomfortable with the idea.
“Is there something else I can do then? Some magical lamp or wishing well?” She leaned forward. It wasn’t so bad talking to this boy. He seemed only slightly older than she and as long as she didn’t look into his eyes, she could almost believe he was normal. Almost.
“No, no,” Tad interjected. “That would be absurd.” He paused a moment. “You are quite determined. Very well, there is ambrosia-”
“The food of the gods?” Julia frowned.
“The Greeks called it that. But it is not easy to make. Nor is it quick. It might take a lifetime- ”
“That’s okay,” Julia said quickly. “How do I make it?”
“As I said it is not easy. The first ingredient is a Death Flower.”
Julia had read about Death flowers in the book. They were right next to the entry on the Grim Reaper. Why didn’t the book mention anything about Tad? “You use the flowers to ward off death. Er, ward off you,” she remembered. The book said that if you handed the flower to the Grim Reaper, he would spare you. Or was it that if your loved one handed the flower to the Grim Reaper he would spare you?
“Hmph, yes,” Tad replied. “The flowers used to be very common, but once their properties were known…” he shrugged. “It caused all sorts of problems. Now the oracle protects the secret.”
“Yes, the oracle of the falls. You’ll have to ask them about the Death flower. I am not allowed to know.”
As Tad finished speaking, his face drew blank, eyes unfocused. Julia stilled her own question and waited. It looked like no one was anywhere near home. It was disconcerting. Then within seconds, he returned and smiled sadly. “I must go.”
It was too late, the Grim Reaper vanished in a puff of black smoke and Julia was left alone in her room.
* RipuAncestor’s wonderful Tad Dustpine is crossing worlds to join us over here. You should read about Tad’s adventures in her story Chrysanthemum Tango. He’s an awesome character.
* I really should have pointed this out before, but I am heavily depending on…stealing?… from Terry Pratchett’s Death character – who also speaks in all-caps. In this chapter, I also steal his Rite of AshkEnte that the wizards of Discworld use to summon Death.
* Outside from Julia’s mysterious purple cc bed, the only other mods used here were the Pose Player and Special Effects Players and the Teleport mod.
* Challenge details: CitizenErased14’s Ambrosia Challenge