"Grim! Get your boney butt over here."

"Mandy, it's late. Even Death gotta sleep, girl, what is it?"

"I can't sleep. Billy got that stupid song stuck in my head."

"De one about boogers an' brains an' weasels?"

"Yeah. I need something to get it out of my head. Tell me a story."

"I don' wanna tell a story, I wanna sleep meself."

"If you know what's good for you, you're gonna tell me a story. A good one too. Not one that leaves me stuck in some alternate reality of a fairy tale."

"Hehe, dat was a good one. Well… what you wanna hear about?"

"Hm… has anyone ever cheated you? It might be useful information for… Grim? Grim, don't glare at me like that. Grim!"

"Why. Would you. Want. T'know."

"I just do. I own you, remember? You've got a story, I can smell it."

"Story? Hah. You've no idea, chile. You've no idea.

"It was t'ousands of years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was a good time for me, wars were bloody an' fought with swords an' spears. Men were offered to me on torture devices, gaspin' for breath. It was wonderful.

"One day I was doin' me job, dere was dis li'l girl 'bout your age who was sick. I came an' swung me scythe, gatherin' her immortal soul to meself, when I felt a hand on me shoulder. I looked over, shocked—I wasn't showin' meself den, he shouldn't have seen me—an' saw dis man. Nothin' special, but he had me shoulder.

" 'Give her back' he said. 'It's not her time.'"

"I laughed and pulled out her hourglass to prove him wrong… but dere was more sand in it. I frowned, looking at her soul. It was small in my hands, flickering with fear.

" 'Too late,' I said. 'She's mine now.'

"Fast as I said it, he grabbed de soul from me hands and turned to the body. Said somethin' I didn't hear, den put de soul back! I've never been able to put de two back together, but he did it like it was no problem.

"I wasn't happy, but I thought dat was all I'd see of him. No. Next it was a young man. I felt a little bad, his mother was a widow an' dere wasn't much to be done for her with no one to support her back den, but his sand had run out.

"I'd taken his soul for a good half day when it suddenly left the shelf in me house and whizzed out de door. Dat never happened before, so I grabbed me scythe an' followed. De soul flew through the air for miles, right into his grip. He didn't even look at me when he put it back in de body.

"I got angry. Dis man was on me turf. I tapped him on de shoulder, meanin' to set him straight, but he turned and brushed me hand off. 'Isn't my time.' Like he knew. Knew what I didn't even know without lookin' at his hourglass. De nerve."

"I started watchin' him on me rounds. Saw who he was friends with, and who he was enemies with. He made some powerful enemies, an' dey were tryin' to get me in on him."

"One day, I saw I had one o' his friends. I guessed he'd be comin' for dis one, so I took it to me house and locked it in the tightest part of me secret rooms. A few days passed, an' nothin' happened. I relaxed, thinkin' he'd finally learned his lesson. I opened the door to peek at de soul for just a second, and ZOOM. Past me cheekbone so fast it nearly tore me hood off. I chased it, furious. Sure enough, dere he was, puttin' de soul an' de body back together. I pulled out me scythe, ready to do some arbitrary reapin'. Nobody gets on my turf, it just didn't happen! I swung it over his head, and he reached up an' stopped it with one hand! He looked at me, an' said with a sad sorta smile, 'Not yet.'"

"Not yet? Not yet?! As if he could tell de Grim Reaper when his own time was! But what could I do?

"Finally, came de day his enemies caught him, an' offered him to me on a torture device. He hung dere, gaspin' an' cryin'. I stood dere, grinnin' like anything. He was learning, and soon I'd have his soul too, just like the rest of 'em. When his sand run out, he shouted somethin', but I didn't hear. I just swung me scythe and collected another soul. I took it to me house an' locked it up tighter than I'd locked up any other soul. I left, sure everything was under control.

"Only three days later, I come back to find all de other souls gathered round his, listening while he talks about how he can get 'em all outta there. I'd never destroyed a soul, but I was sure at dat moment dat I could. I was dat angry. I took his soul in me hands to crush it, but suddenly it grew an' took de form of a man. A big man.

"You may've beat me in a silly game, chile, but dis man beat me wit' his bare hands. I couldn't touch him. He stared at me, an' I'll never forget what he said. Like it was a challenge. 'Death, where is thy sting? Thy victory?' an' den…"

"Then what? What happened?"

"He took 'em. T'ousands, mebbe millions of 'em. All de souls I collected over all'a years come spillin' out with him. Some stayed, didn't believe they was free. Most left with him… an' den he…"


"He took me keys away!"


"Don' laugh at me, chile! Dey weren't regular keys! Dey were de keys to me house! De house where I kept 'em all! He kept starin' at me, an' he grabbed away me keys an' tucked 'em in his robe—an' jus' walked out! Nobody walks outta me house, nobody! But he left like he'd been on holiday."

"… you're making this up, Grim."

"I wish I was, I wish I was. I'd never been more humiliated in me entire career, not even when Billy made me clean his toilet with me robe. I had to start me collection all over again, an' dats not de worst of it."

"What's worse?"

"I can't keep 'em all! Sometimes—a lotta times—when I swing me scythe, he comes an' takes de soul outta me hands while I stand there an' can't move. Right outta me hands!"

"Whoah… someone really beat you… who was he?"

"Is, chile. He still is because of what he did. Haven't been able to take his soul. All he does now is look at me an'… an' I can't explain, but I start to shake deep in me bones. He frightens me, an' I can't explain why."

"Who is he, Grim? Who?"

"Why would I tell you dat? You may be my 'best friend' now, Mandy, but in de next life, you'll just be another soul on de shelf. Dis horrible 'friendship' is gonna cost you when you're in my domain."

"Grim! Don't you dare leave, get back here! Grim! Tell me his name! TELL ME HIS NAME!!!"