Photo Prompt Story: Bored To Death

This is a short story, in 775 words.
It was prompted by the above photo, sent to me by Fraggle.
https://fragglerocking.org/

The Grim Reaper was really bored now. If it carried on like this, he might well end up being made redundant. And he had always thought of it as a job for life.

Not that there hadn’t been good times. He thought of them fondly, recalling the carnage in his mind’s eye. The Black Death had kept him busy, and he had even put in for overtime at the peak of that epidemic. Naturally, it had been declined. But still, he had argued it was justified. He didn’t get a minute off in more than eight years. Then there was the Spanish Flu. He would like to have shaken hands with whoever first spread that contagion, instead of just reaping in his unknown soul. Still his biggest success in one year, never bettered. All those wars were good too. He just had to sit back and watch as the fools slaughtered each other, doing his job for him. They were the halcyon days, the easy money times.

He missed the scaring too. Looming like a dark shadow over someone just about to expire, giving them the fright of their life, at the moment of their death. That was such fun, it really was. He didn’t miss the scythe and cape though. They were both so cumbersome, and people had started to catch on, even printing drawings of him going about his business. It got so that you couldn’t go around facilitating someone’s demise without an audience looking out for your well-known appearance cast on a wall.

After thousands of years of arguments, he had finally managed to get agreement over an outfit change. A smart suit and tie, three-quarter raincoat, and a trilby hat. Not only did that allow his shadow to blend in better, it also gave him somewhere to keep his cigarettes and lighter. Talking of which, smoking had been really useful for his job. Not that the news of all that lung cancer bothered him, as he didn’t have any lungs. Other things helped too. They started burning coal, which affected their breathing. And once they were driving those cars, wow! He could guarantee a good crop from cars any day of the week. So many more than ever fell under a horse and buggy.

Grim (he liked to use his first name) also loved aircraft, especially those big long-haul models. Up to four hundred at a time, when one of those crashed. That kept up his quota, you can be sure of that. And some wonderful human had gone and invented the atomic bomb. He loved that man. One hundred thousand or more, dead in an instant. He was able to take the rest of the day off after that. But they only used two of them, and that was a real disappointment. Still, there was always biological warfare. How great was that? One thing he loved about those fools, they always thought up ingenious ways to make sure the were gone before their time.

Although he wasn’t sure of the exact date, he remembered noticing when it started to get very slow at work. Antibiotics, pioneering surgery, women surviving childbirth, and so much other medical crap that interfered with his business. When the boss called him in, he had his arguments ready. Suicides were on the up, but they didn’t count against his figures, so he couldn’t use that. “Don’t blame me, boss. They got clever. Stopped killing each other so much, and started to look after their health. You’ve seen it. Aerobics, gym class, jogging, quitting smoking, eating leaves, all that stuff. I tell you, one of these days, they are going to live forever, and then I will have no job at all. I just thank my lucky stars for accidents, and junkies. They keep me ticking over part-time”.

He accepted a written warning. Reluctantly.

Ever since, it had got worse. Some days, he was finished work before lunch. Not that he had to eat anything, but he had started to plan the day in their terms, after all this time. And he had to admit that he couldn’t even cheat them anymore. Sometimes in the past, he had boosted a slack day by making a few personal appearances. Nothing like the grisly spectacle of his shadow to make someone pop off before their time.

But the outfit change he had fought so long and hard for had come back to bite him. Who was going to be scared of the shadow of a man in raincoat and hat? Unbelievably, some woman had even stood and taken a photo of him one night. Not scared in the least. Well that had been a while ago, and now he had an appointment with her. One she wasn’t going to like, and wouldn’t be photographing.

He would just finish his cigarette first.

73 thoughts on “Photo Prompt Story: Bored To Death

  1. Oh dear. Poor Grim. He ought to have joined a Union – only there was only one of him! Lol. But there might be a pandemic waiting in the wings! Brilliantly written.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind words, LVS.
      I am influenced more by TV, sad to say. Old episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’, and ‘Tales of The Unexpected’. My favourite writers are Charles Dickens, Mikhail Sholokhov, Peter Ackroyd, and Bernard Cornwell, and none of those are in the short-story ‘genre’.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Like

  2. Oh, poor Fraggle! She’d better watch out!

    Something very different from you Pete, I like your black SOH

    A new study shows that people who enjoy dark humor jokes are generally more intelligent and less aggressive than people who take offense by them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very good, Pete. As alluded to by Jeanne above, Death is one of the main characters in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, and he is treated very sympathetically so, as a result, the subject of some lovely black humour. Cheers, Jon.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I only came to TP quite late, Pete, within the last 5 years; the same with Neil Gaiman: I enjoy their work, and TP collaborated with Stephen Baxter on a very clever series of books called The Long Earth, about parallel universes, if you have any taste for sci-fi. I read the Happy Potter series because both my daughters are avid fans πŸ˜€ Cheers, Jon.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 🀣🀣🀣 wow! What happy times to remember. The Grim had a good run but, I guess, With better atomic bombs and life of sitting on the couch getting obese and heart disease, I’m sure his happier times will return.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. (1) For the life of me, I can’t begin to comprehend why Grim would even consider changing his outfit. Hoodies are still in fashion, aren’t they? And doesn’t a scythe come in handy for cutting grass around open graves? Sure, a scythe might not be cutting edge technology, but it’s still very effective as a decapitation tool! Pete, I hate to throw shade on Grim’s decision, but…
    (2) “Then there was the Spanish Flu. He would like to have shaken hands with whoever first spread that contagion…” It’s too bad he didn’t. Think of all the lives that could have been saved had Grim been forced to take sick leave due to the Spanish Influenza!
    (3) “He missed the scaring too. Looming like a dark shadow over someone just about to expire, giving them the fright of their life, at the moment of their death. That was such fun, it really was.” Dear Grim, Hollywood is going to miss you. It just ain’t the same without cape and scythe! Now you look like a dandy Nosferatu, and only half as scary without the pointy ears and fangs!
    (4) “Unbelievably, some woman had even stood and taken a photo of him one night. Not scared in the least. Well that had been a while ago, and now he had an appointment with her.” I understand this completely. I once took a photo of the local dentist. But, very wisely, I then blocked his office’s telephone calls!

    Liked by 3 people

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