Dark Angel

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By Peter Sartucci

This little tale takes a different view of one of our favorite American tropes - the hooded guy with the scythe. This story is a stand-alone that I wrote just for fun.

Elmira heard the doorbell ring and promptly jumped up to answer it, glad of any excuse to avoid the pile of bills a little longer. Maybe if she paid the overdrawn Sears card with the Visa and paid the Visa with the Master Card? No, the Visa was maxed out. She was still mentally juggling payments when she opened the solid maple front door, fruit of her last redecorating binge. The little birdseye-knots in the wood had charmed her so and it had only cost $999 plus tax.

The figure on the stoop wore long black robes. The hand withdrawing from her doorbell was skeletal, the face under the black hood likewise.

Elmira’s heart squeezed for a moment, then she gave a nervous laugh as relief flooded through her. The hipshot pose was female and there wasn’t any scythe.

“I’ve never actually used one of those,” the skeletal figure said. The contralto had a whisper like the rustling of old dry paper and the jaws didn’t move. The sound seemed to materialize out of the air in front of them. “It was always a male metaphor anyway.”

Elmira started and stepped back a pace, heart racing. “How – you know what I’m thinking?”

“How could I not? You think louder than you talk.”

The figure advanced into her front hall and Elmira stepped back again, three quick steps that echoed the thumping of her pulse. She almost tripped over the new throw-rug that she’d picked up at Pier One yesterday and went so well with her wallpaper.

“’Well?’” The skeletal hand gestured gracefully. “Black and fuscia with yellow pastels? I don’t think so.”

“What – what do you want?” Elmira’s voice had developed a squeak and her heart was hammering. She took another step back.

The skull-face didn’t change expression but the voice took on a weary tone. “You know perfectly well what I’m here for.” The skeletal hand closed the front door and the shape took a slow step toward her. The advancing foot was skeletal too; the bones clicked on her Australian Cypress floorboards. “And by the way, you overpaid for that cypress – it was on closeout at Lowes.”

Elmira took another step backward, jammed one hip painfully against the sharp corner of the imitation Louis-Quinze hall table she’d bought off E-bay last month (a steal at only $199.99), and lurched aside and back another step. Terror rose in her throat.

“B-b-but I haven’t done anything wrong! My health is fine! There must be a mistake!”

The creature answered her in the same snarky but weary tone. “Oh yes you have. Health is irrelevant. And I don’t make mistakes.”

It stepped around the hall table and she backed several more steps, almost to the kitchen doorway.

“Please, I’ll change my ways! I can get better!” she babbled.

“Little late for negotiating, girl,” the creature drily replied. “You had plenty of warnings.”

Elmira stepped back again, felt the kitchen floor under her heels (wonderful Tuscan tiles that Home Depot had on sale at forty percent off!), and stopped. “How are you going to do it?” she whispered.

A bony hand dived into a hidden pocket, came out with a pair of long black-and-silver scissors. They opened slowly, blades cruelly sharp. “Lately I’ve grown fond of this metaphor. It seems particularly apt for you, dearie.”

“No!” she cried, late resolve firming as her fingernails dug into the kitchen doorframe. “I won’t let you!” She braced her body in the door.

“You know you don’t have any choice. And mere matter can’t stop me.”

The figure lunged at her, scissors raised.

Elmira shuddered as a cold wind seemed to blow over her, through her, and then past. She whirled about to see the creature advancing on the kitchen table (real mahogany veneer from American Furniture Warehouse). Her wallet lay open and before she could take even one step to defend it the creature pounced. The scissors flashed and spit pieces of her credit cards across the pile of unpaid bills.

She tried not to think about the one hidden in her car, but the creature snapped bony fingers and it appeared. One more snip, and Elmira’s heart fell down to her Italian leather sandals and her eyes stung with tears.

“Learn from this,” the figure said, the voice almost kind now. “Next time it won’t just be the Angel of Debt that comes calling.”

And the robed figure evaporated.