The Kiss of Death

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It’s dark outside, but the sweat still prickles along my hairline and runs in slimy drops down my back, somehow avoiding the expensive running clothing which is supposed to keep me dry and cool in any weather. The temperature hasn’t dropped any for all that the sun went down.

It’s not the safest thing to be out in the park this time of night, but I’ve done it for years and nothing’s happened to me yet. I guess it’s harder to hit a moving target.

I thought it was gone, but the feeling comes back- I’m being followed. It’s been like this for the last few nights.

I step up the pace a bit and check over my shoulder, but the path is empty. I’m approaching the forested bit, but that’s not where the feeling is coming from. Just as I reach the trees I blank out. My vision goes white and fuzzy, and there’s this strange buzz in my ears.

When I come to I’m back near the entrance to the park. I’m still sweaty like I’ve been running. There’s still someone behind me. I look, but I can’t see anyone. My house is on the other side. I need to get there.

I try another route.

The air is thick and muggy- it sticks to my lungs, and I have to push harder to move it in and out. Maybe I’m panicking just a little.

At the little kid playground I blank out again. This time there are things moving in the whiteness. Shapes. But, they move too fast for me to see them beyond the fact that they’re human-shaped. Sort of.

I’m back at the beginning of the park.

Now I’m fucking scared.

I run.

It doesn’t matter what direction. It happens every time.

 

Out of the blur a hand catches my arm.

I can’t breathe, for all that I’m blowing air like a bellows. I have no strength to fight, but I try.

The hand is attached to an arm, and a face. I pull him out of the haze of white into the darkness of the park. He steps away from my punch easily, watching me with his dark eyes. He has a large frame, but a thin face, like he doesn’t get much exercise. He’s pale in the way that people are who avoid the sun. A tattoo peeks out under the edge of his dark t-shirt. Except for his blindingly pale skin he nearly melts into the darkness.

This must be my stalker.

I try to punch him again, but I’m so tired.

He holds up his hands and backs up a step.

“Can we just talk for a second?” He says. He sounds annoyed.

I’m the one who should be annoyed. Actually, I’m angry.

“Why?” I can manage the one word in between gasps for air.

“Wouldn’t you like to stop running for a bit and catch your breath?”

That sounds reasonable. I guess. And running doesn’t seem to be working. I let my silence speak for itself while  my lungs catch up with my legs.

“Only if you tell me what’s going on here.”

He smiles in an embarrassed way, and he glances down at his shoes. He shrugs.

“I’m not very good at this part.”

I let him stew in it for a bit, because I’m still angry. It’s better than being scared.

“Right,” he mutters, and then looks up at me. “There’s no good way to say it, because obviously you’ve missed out on the fact.”

He pauses.

“I’m sorry to have to be the one to inform you, but you’re dead.”

I shove him hard enough to knock him over. He disappears into the haze, which sweeps out to drown me .

And I’m back at the entrance to the park.

The feeling like I’m being followed comes back, but this time I wait.

The guys shows up, like I thought he might. He steps out of blinding whiteness, and I hear what sounds like traffic noises distorted down a long tunnel. It disappears with the light. That’s when I notice that there’s no noise anywhere here. It’s dead silent.

Dead.

Before he can open his mouth to say anything I bleat it out. Like a child.

“I just want to go home.”

Really, I want my life back, but if I can just get home I’m pretty sure I can figure the rest of it out.

“Are you sure?”

Why does he sound so relieved?

“Yeah.  Is it going to be hard or something?”

“You’re stuck in the darkness. I’m here to help you get free.”

That… seems to be true enough.

“Who are you, anyway?”

“Ethan Chandler.”

“And you’re here to help me… why?”

I can’t stop the anger from leaking into my voice a little here.

He doesn’t quite, but something that looks a little like a smile catches at the corners of his mouth. It makes him look a little less scary. A little more human.

“Not exactly out of the goodness of my heart. I’d rather be at home myself. But, you don’t turn down a direct order from Death.”

There goes my budding feelings for him.

“You’re saying that the Grim Reaper told you to hunt me down and tell me that I’m dead.”

The park is getting darker around me. It feels like walls closing in.

“Not you specifically, but people like you; anyone who is trapped, and maybe a little difficult to find.”

I glance around.

“And, what if I don’t go with you?”

“How long can you keep running?”

That’s not really a question.

“Okay.”

My voice is really small.  And the air is thick again. Panic. I start to talk a little fast.

“I don’t know how it happened, though. You would think you’d notice something like that.”

Now he does smile. A bit.

“Maybe it’s better this way.”

He takes a step toward me, and I hold my ground.

“How does this work? You’re sending me home, right?”

It’s a little confusing, and it’s getting hard to see.

He puts his hand over my eyes.

“She’s usually the one to do this,” he says. “But in instances like this I’ll have to do.”

 

His lips are warm and soft against mine.

 

 

*****

 

Author’s note:

I’m terrible at coming up with names for stories. If you can think up a better one, please tell me.

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