The old man woke up from his slumber, feeling more tired than rested. It was dawn. It was time for him to start work; collecting souls whose time was up to the afterlife. He was always dispirited; no wonder humans called him the Grim Reaper. He thought to himself, what would happen if he took a day off? Looking at his list, the souls for the day were not that interesting; just some miserable chaps who had been given a good beating by life’s circumstances.
He wasn’t the generous or the merciful type; people called him wicked but he preferred the label diligent. He executed his duties to the letter. But today, he was feeling generous which rarely happened. He decided to give it a try and see what the people marked for the day would do with the second chance they have got.
Zoey walked along the road totally absent-mindedly. Michael, the man she had poured her heart and money into, had painfully dumped her for a close friend of hers. She was in her mid-thirties and the people around her never ceased to remind her about her expiring ovaries. Her last chance at a family had just vanished. She felt hopeless.
She didn’t realize it when her feet stepped on the main road. She heard people behind her screaming but they sounded distant. She kept walking across the road.
“Who is that crossing the road? Is she mad or what?” The driver and the two men in the tipper truck driving towards her screamed. She looked unperturbed by the panic everyone around was struck with. The driver slammed on his brakes as hard as he could; praying that he would not kill this mad woman. As for hitting her, it was a given.
The people gasped when the heavy duty vehicle screeched noisily to a halt and a loud thud was heard. Zoey turned when she felt the shadow of the oncoming car. Before she could blink herself to reality, it knocked her down.
Omar was an auto mechanic apprentice. He was a lazy bum and an incorrigible petty thief. He kept stealing money from his supervisor and though he was the usual suspect, there was no concrete proof. He devised a plan to teach him a lesson. Since he is always late to work, he knew the right punishment to mete out to him. When Omar arrived an hour after report time, he was asked to work on some wrecked car which they both knew was a death trap.
Instead of apologizing for being late and avoiding the danger, he shrugged and got down to work.
When he slid underneath the car, the car swayed dangerously. Warning bells rang loudly in his ears. However, his pride took the better side of him and began working. A few minutes later, a familiar voice called out, “Banana and groundnuts!” Omar quickly slid out of the vehicle to smile at his crush and woman of his dreams.
The second his head came out, the vehicle broke down and a heavy scrap of metal fell down. For a moment, both Omar and the fruit seller said nothing as it dawned on them that Omar had nearly escaped a nasty accident.
His supervisor ran in. “Omar, are you are okay?”
He was half disappointed, half relieved that Omar was out from under the damned car. He shook his head and walked away.
The evening news featured the accident scene involving Zoey. It had been captioned: Death on leave?
Zoey was reported to be recovering at the hospital, not in any critical condition. Within an hour, the hashtag #DeathOnLeave was trending on social media with people sharing videos of near death sentences in their communities worldwide.
The old man couldn’t help but burst in laughter. Humans were funny creatures. He caressed his scythe. He was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from his day off. He was itching to get back to the field. He could resume at that very moment but he liked to keep to schedule. It was always good to start at dawn – Greenwich Meridian Time; beginning with claiming people in their sleep and then work through the day. He would wait it out.
He decided to take a look at his list. He frowned when he realized that it had rearranged itself to accommodate the no show for the day. He groaned. He had almost thrice the number for today to claim the next day. So much for a day off, huh? He checked the names of those supposed to go today. One fifth of them would be up in the next week; two fifth of them within the month and the rest within the next two years.
Lucky bastards, he muttered to himself. He hoped they all made use of their extended time. Because of them, some people who had months were going to clock out the next day. Was it worth it? He had to give account to the Life Giver about his activities. How was he going to explain his leave of absence without permission?
Que sera, sera, he thought to himself as the signal to go upstairs came through. Tomorrow was another day. Dawn was coming.
© Josephine Amoako 2019