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A Working Holiday

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Being a Reaper could be tough business, especially when you worked in External Influences. The majority of reaps tended to go south fast if they didn’t start there in the first place, and recognizing this and taking precautions were valuable skills for both personal growth and wardrobe retention.

After the last decade or so George could no longer surprised at the weird and wacky ways people bit the bullet but this reap was in its own way something special. In order to give some background we have to go back a bit. Back to Seattle. Back Before (the toilet seat).

***

This all started when George died a tragic death in 2003 care of a Russian toilet seat descending on Seattle. She had lived her whole life in Seattle, and then the next ten years of the afterlife. Those years were in the gentle care of the Wafflehaus Reapers under the command of Rube.

The first years of life after death were spent trying to learn all the lessons that came with joining the Reaper ranks. Seriously there should be some sort of manual or some shit, right?

The thing about being undead was that you had to find out what made being undead worth living, otherwise why stick around, which is what Rube had been trying to get though her thick skull. Well, that and “follow the goddamn rules, they’re there for a fuckin’ reason”.

And then, Bam. Rube had said it was time. Completely arbitrarily, in George’s opinion. It had been around ten years (After Death by Toilet Seat) and not a wrinkle to show for it. This, while awesome, was starting to get some attention at Happy Time. He said it was time to retire Milly and move on to the next name on the list, just another of the many lessons that came with being a reaper. Maybe she’d dye her hair, whatever, fuck Rube, she liked her life.

Then came an opportunity.

Chicago’s External Influences team had somehow ended up with a bunch of newbies and down a reaper, who had gone off to his sparkly lights, selfishly, without tapping someone else. This left the head honcho floundering.

Hearing the story through the local Reaper grapevine, George considered the option. A New Start. She needed one, according to Rube, why not jump in with two feet. It’s not like she wanted to leave everything she knew, but she had to move away and restart; Happy Time was just the start of what could go bad. She could start over again in Seattle, but what if Delores saw her in the streets? Or Crystal? Maybe it was time for something new, and find new things to keep living for.

A girl’s got to keep on living, even a dead one.

***

So four years and change later, and a new adventure.

If only that adventure hadn’t started with 14 hours of being cooped up in a tin can breathing recycled air with 100 other people. She had gotten her first Reaper assignment helping out another Reaper city, and it was in Greece. This so beat the one last year, which was a shooting in New York that one of girls went to.

The idea of going on vacation to Greece in mid-fall wasn’t actually unappealing. But considering the list of fourteen names and locations, she wasn’t sure the whole vacation part of the working vacation would pan out before her return flight in three days.

Armed with a vacation guide, a few key phrases in Greek, a couple hundred dollars converted to euros, and directions to the hotel serving as the Reaper headquarters for the duration, she forged her way into Athens.

How they planned to explain to the hotel staff what they were doing, George had no idea.

Arriving at the hotel, it looked like all of the buildings on the street, older than George was used to (though that seemed to be the theme here) and a little on the run-down side, you know, a bit rough around the edges. It was one of those mid-rise buildings that could have been an apartment building instead. The inside looked like it had last been updated in the 90’s but it looked clean from what she could see. Grabbing the duffel with her shit she set out to find the Reapers.

The directions led her to the second floor, where she found four doors hanging wide open and voices in multiple languages trying to be heard on top of each other. She peaked her head into the first room, hearing what she thought might be French and something else. A woman and a man were arguing and there looked to be another person passed out on a bed. Looking across the hall there were a couple more people having what looked to be a much more reasonable conversation, easier to interrupt.

“Um, Hi?” she hesitantly attempts to get their attention.

“Ah, another one of the Americans!” says a man who looks like he’s in his thirties, with an accent that George tentatively attributes to being local. “I am the organizer for the foreign representatives who are assisting with the situation....” he trails off expectantly, well that was suitably vague in case she wasn’t in the right place.

“Yeah, George Lass, I’m a Reaper from Chicago.” The people behind him had small smiles, and just nodded politely, she wasn’t actually sure if they understood the conversation.

“Wonderful, wonderful, you will be with the other English speakers. You’re the largest group, mostly because of the tourists.” He proceeded to roll his eyes as he herded her into the hall and into one of the other rooms. This one had two singles, a cot in the corner and something that could be called a couch in front of an old TV.

“Ah, I shall leave you with Jenny, she is British and has all of the information you need, yes, yes good.” And then he hurried back out.

The woman, Jenny, had wavy dirty blonde hair and looked about 40, though that didn’t really mean anything for a Reaper. “So, would you mind if we wait for the other two before I do the whole explanation, so I don’t have to keep repeating it?”

“Yeah, no problem.” George grabbed the single bed next to the door. “Do you know when the others should get in?”

“Oh, not too long. I think everyone should be here after lunch. I was just going to skip around the corner to the fast food place. You want something?”

Hey, free food, not going to turn that down. “Sure, do they have burgers or something?”

Jenny chuckled, “I don’t think you can go anywhere in the world these days and not find burgers, and relax, it’s going to be a long few days and you certainly traveled farther than I did.” With that she grabbed her purse and left with a small wave, while George wondered if they would actually get keys or if they’d just be living communally or something.

Opening her duffle and throwing it to the floor by her bed, she flopped down on top of the covers and decided to find out if, unlike in the airplane, she could sleep.

Apparently she could, because she woke up to the smell of cheap fast food and the thump of a suitcase hitting the door frame.

“Sorry, sorry!” An apologetic American-accented man cried out. As George struggled to return to the land of the living, Jenny reassured him and introduced herself. Mr Fumbles gave his name as Mike and continued to attempt to roll his awkward suitcase through the door. In the end he heaved the case through the door frame and propped it next to the couch. He then turned back to the door and said loudly, “Dude, do you want the couch or the cot? The ladies beat us to the beds.”

The ladies looked as another male voice neared the door. “What I think, is that aren’t good choices.” The voice froze George, and all she could think was “No way,” before she saw Rube standing in the doorway. As in Wafflehaus, Seattle, Rube, here in Greece.

She could only stare as he walked in towing an old leather suitcase. He glanced around the room assessing. Same old Rube. He gaze landed on her and she could see it stopped him.

She quirked a smile at him as he recovered, “Hey Rube,” she said in a soft voice. Softer than she expected.

She hadn’t actually seen him in four years. She’d heard bits and pieces through Daisy or Roxy, and occasionally a tidbit from Mason, but those rarely made sense.

“Georgia,” he replied, and yeah, he was one of the few people who got away with that. The others were looking back and forth between them. “Good to see you,” he said, then turning back to Mike, “I’ll take the couch; it looks a little more sturdy than that contraption.”
Mike nodded hesitantly and moved his stuff over as Rube settled on the couch. Jenny took the moment to pass George a burger and offered extras to the two men. Mike settled in as Rube passed on the food.

George grinned at the look he gave the food. Rube was a food snob.

“Still eating at the Wafflehaus?” She asked.

“Every day,” he said mildly. “And Mason is still pissing Kiffany off, each damn time.”

George chuckled, thinking of the many times she had witnessed that, “Sounds about right. I suppose it’s gourmet compared to this.” She pointed at her food and Rube gave a little chuckle.

The conversation trailed off as three of them polished off their food and Rube rummaged in his bag. As Jenny finished she explained the game plan for the next two days. The locals had gone through the lists as best they could and decided to give the outsiders all of the tourists while the local crew and another group of Greeks dealt with all of the deaths of locals.

They all wanted to know if anyone knew what was going to happen. Mass shootings, tsunami like waves, George didn’t like the idea of getting pulled out to the sea, give her a nice shooting any day of the week. She said as much to them, and got a laugh out of it. Rube had a twinkle in his eye.

They’d tried to take the names and group them by location but with about 15 names apiece, there are still going to be some running around.

George had the area around the Museum of Antiquities which apparently included two incidents at different parts of the museum that happened at the same time. All of the ETDs (Estimated Time of Death) were for the next evening so hopefully enough loitering around earlier in the day would cut down the number of last minute reaps. Rube’s assignments happened to be at another tourist attraction in the area near hers.

Then there was a weird Reaper seminar put on by the local contingent. English was the most common language but even then people were translating everything. Basically it was chaos and everyone was either giving advice tearing apart people’s methods. It was pretty much a shit-show, but the free food at the end almost made it worth not skipping out.

Everyone pretty much collapsed afterwards, meaning she wasn’t able to catch Rube, not that she knew what she would try to say after four years.

The next morning the four English speakers grabbed breakfast together before splitting up to scope out their locations. George wandered the museum basically to eavesdrop and stared at the little plaques and the white marble naked people. There were a few of those. She located a number of people from her list here and there. By lunch she had caught five, and then started using the “Hey, is (blank) here?” routine. She received a lot of weird looks, but it also got the job done.

Walking around the museum was tiring, and with two hours until show time, she spent the next hour sitting in any seat she could find. She found two people while waiting and fifteen minutes until ETD left her with four more reaps.

She did another, “is so-and-so in here”, and found another person. A very confused person, but they were the last reap for that room, so she ran for the other location.

As she reached the room, she gripped the door frame finding it hard to keep her balance. Out of the corner of her eye she glimpsed a graveling playing on one of the massive marble slabs placed around the room. “Shit” she breathed as she realized why her balance was becoming an issue, the ground was actually moving. The other museum goers were starting to realize this as well. She spotted a group of tourists who were stumbling around one of the far marble collections and loudly calling out to each other in English.

George lurched toward them. She caught a few first names and a Johnson, at this point to hell with it. With her fingers crossed, she stroked over their backs as she stumbled past them. Hoping she got everyone on the list, George changed directions back towards the nice doorway, which had been very sturdy at the beginning of the quakes. Doorways were part of earthquake 101, right?

People were either cowering in corners or running for the exits. As she was leaving the room she saw the graveling on the slab jump off and it collapsed on top of the large group of tourists. Well, at least she got the right people, and in the rush and screams she stumbled back towards the other room. The shakes were starting to wear off as she reached her destination.
The other group apparently had a large piece of ceiling fall on them. Who knew. She surveyed the damage, then began locating all of the souls and herding them inconspicuously into the afterlife. This took awhile, between fourteen people who were trying to figure out what was going on, and the pigheaded American couple who absolutely could not believe that they couldn’’t go home, or seemed to want to reenact Beetlejuice or something, George wasn’t sure.

After that they debriefed back at the hotel. George slowly wandered back through streets filled with panicked people. She wasn’t used to this scale of disaster. It didn’t end when she wandered around the corner, it just kept going. There wasn’t too much damage, but the people were scared.

“Sweet! Finished!” Mike whooped after the upper management gave the all clear to. “Vacation time here I come!”

George grinned, “So, we do get the time off? Nothing before our flights tomorrow, right?”

“Yep nice working with you guys, and we’ll see you guys tonight at the hotel anyways,” Jenny told them.

The other two headed off, and George turned to Rube. “So…” she dragged out the word, not sure how he’d respond, “you got any plans?”

Rube looked thoughtful, hands deep in his pockets, then quirked a grin at her and said, “I was thinking of finding some good food. What do you think?”

She didn’t want to push him, and it wasn’t his job to push her anymore, but she didn’t know where to start. They weren’t the same people they were four years ago, but maybe they could get back some of what they lost. They just needed to try.

Dinner was at a place Rube found by asking locals about what they needed to try while in Greece that was authentic. George just tagged along as he stopped a couple of groups and then he got into a large discussion that kept stopping other people to get opinions. She stayed out of that clusterfuck of people expressing opinions about the best food in town.

There must have been a consensus since when Rube escaped a while later he had directions to a restaurant. Apparently he was told what to get because he ordered for both of them and they were served large dishes of calamari, souvlaki and some sort of pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese which seemed to blow Rube’s mind.

It was fun. They talked about old and new friends and finally got caught up. She didn’t realize how much she’d missed having him to talk to. They hadn’t parted on bad terms, but they’d got caught up in their own lives that had gone separate ways.

It was dark when they left the restaurant and wandered downtown mixing with the other tourists. Rube seemed to have a location in mind, though, and they ended up at a small outlook with a railing facing the lit up acropolis.

It was gorgeous and like nothing she had seen before, ridiculously old (like Rube) and stark bright against the night.
“Hey, Peanut,” Rube murmured, still staring at the view.

George grinned, giving him a sidelong glance, watching his profile. She bumped his shoulder gently with her own.

“Hey, Rube.”

He glanced down at her, his lips quirked into a quick grin, and then he went back to watching the lights. He nudged her gently back and they continued in companionable silence.

People were still recovering and in shock from the damages done by the earthquake, but the sun would rise in the morning. Then everyone would go home, leaving the death and chaos of the earthquake, but that wasn’t very different- when had those two things ever not been around since they’ve known each other?

“So, after tomorrow...” George cut herself off awkwardly and looked back at the lights. That was much easier than talking.

“M’not going anywhere, Peanut. You?” She knew he didn’t mean Greece, so she took it as the olive branch that she was hoping for.

“No, that sounds good.”