A/N: This is my favorite so far. I really enjoyed writing this, and even doing research was fun.
(March on my Children)
The Grim Reaper sits precariously on its pedestal just below the gates of Heaven of and Hell. It sees the contents of dirt smattered across its hand. The grains are unceremoniously lying upon the morphed flesh and shapeless fingers. Its curiosity is piqued and then in a bout of anger the heap is smashed into the decaying earth again. The flailing limbs are reminiscent of a child throwing a temper tantrum.
The gray pool bubbles, creating mud in this never ending pit of infestation. The Reaper throws itself across the grounds and stares into the scene. Nothing of consequence.
It's a war, bloody and raging. It's in the peak of battle and if either side loses too much cavalry they will lose. The Reaper watches in rapt fascination as humans blow each other to smithereens and are congratulated by their fellow comrades.
There is a stony silence as the infantry march forward and cannons are loaded. The firing side yells and cheers while the opposite line quivers in fear. Several die on contact with the cannon, but that is not The Reaper's problem. Because of the overhaul of lost souls, purgatory had to be split into separate sections.
The Reaper's eyes lock on a boy—nowhere near a man—standing at the front. He is solemn, ready to face his death and the Reaper watches him very closely, sure that he will be the one sent to it.
Across the field another soldier takes direct aim, fury lighting his eyes. For whatever reason this man wants to kill the other. The scope of his gun is set and ready as the commander calls them to fire. The bullet pierces the Kid's lung and for several seconds he's left gasping and panting as the air leaks out and never comes back in.
The war continues on around them and soon enough the man who shot him is murdered by stray friendly fire. The Reaper watches the last few moments of the writhing child in the wheat fields and notices that he has reached to grasp one, chewing on the end for a last reprise.
The blood hallows around him like deformed wings, but he will not be going to Heaven, not yet. The Reaper steps back as the scene closes back over into the muck of the swamp. It seats itself comfortably on its thrown. Sometimes it feels like a king, like everything is turning in its favor and maybe that the Reaper is God and not just a henchman.
The Kid appears on the ground in front of the Reaper, still writhing in his pain. He screams and bellows out, calls for people that he no longer has a right to see. Soon enough his new body takes over and begins to repair the damage. His eyes turn flat black and his skin becomes cold and hard with death. The Reaper waits for lucidity to return before standing above him.
"Welcome," it calls, startling the boy.
He shakes his head and his shoulders tremble. "Where am I?"
"You are in Purgatory," it answers. "It appears as though someone was out to get you in that infantry line."
He sighs. "Yeah."
The Reaper straightens and feels the authoritarian power surging over it. This is what makes it feel like a God. "Behind me are the Golden Gates. You can walk through, unscathed, and go towards heaven. There is no guarantee that you will be directly measured into Heaven, but War Mongrels are taken into account."
"There's no guarantee?" he whispers.
"None whatsoever. You have a second option, though, one that would require you to be sent directly to Hell, but it is something to think over nonetheless."
"What is it?" he asks curiously and the Reaper watches his mind fly.
"You can go back to earth—as a spirit—and seek retribution."
"Retribution? Why would I need retribution?" he asks, but his eyes light up so quickly that the Reaper hasn't a chance to answer. "I could go back to General Lee's. If I assist them they could win the war!"
The Reaper nods slowly. "Indeed you can go back. Whatever you need to do in a specific amount of time will be upon your shoulders. But you must realize, any death you bring will be active in sending you to Hell."
The Kid's eyebrows raise. His twang is strong as pride swells through his corpse. "What if I just assist? If I help them win without killing would that be against the rules?"
"There are no rules of war," the Reaper jokes.
He nods vigorously; enticed by the challenge of having the Confederates win without handling death. "Can you send me to Virginia?"
Major Jasper Whitlock stands behind the cavalry, eagerly moving forward with the tired boys. The young man who he stepped in for at the infantry line is alive, but shaken. Jasper assisted him—not thinking it was possible to die—after hearing that his wife of three months was pregnant. The boy was heartbroken to think that he would die without seeing his infant child or young wife.
Jasper never had anyone like that. His mother died when he was young and his father was a brutal alcoholic. The army seemed like a good escape, and it was.
Jasper's eyes are on the general, he looks at him like a starving man looks at bread and wine. He moved ahead while the troops were marching to see that a small town was up ahead. When the General was ready to turn down a deserted pathway into marshlands Jasper spooked the horses into moving straight. It was quite the sight and he still chuckles over it.
After a few hours they happily pull into a town. They are welcomed with open arms, women make haste to bring food and draw baths. Grateful soldiers move to the houses with doors wide open. Children tug horses into stables and pet the soft manes.
Jasper watches them all with sadness in his eyes. He wants to be a part of this great relief. He wants to talk with the General, to hear stories of battle before the Civil War. His gray uniform is cleansed from the blood but still torn where the bullet entered. It serves as a memory to combine with the collection of his other scars.
He hears muttering and turns toward the road. A short woman is picking up a basket of upturned handkerchiefs. Her dress is dirty where she kneels and her arms are red and raw.
"Damn summer insects," she grumbles.
Jasper lurches forward, his chivalrous side comes in at full force as he kneels down and assists her with the slips of silk. His finger barely makes contact but try as he might, it won't lift. The woman slaps at his hand but hits the ground.
She gasps immediately and falls back onto her rear. Her eyes penetrate Jasper's and her muttering stops completely. He is stock still. No one from the cavalry saw him, almost everyone watched him die on the front lines. He was positive—absolutely certain—that no should be able to see him.
"You… are dead," she accuses.
Jasper struggles for coherency. Before he can answer voices surround him and someone is tugging on the young girl's arm.
"Damn it, Alice," a taller gentleman hisses. "Can't you try to stay out of trouble? The town'll start their chittering again if you do things like this."
"Uh…" she hesitates and her eyes are still locked on Jasper. The man shakes her and her eyes snap upward again. "The basket fell."
"Then pick it up and get back inside!" The man drops her on her feet and moves inside a small cabin where several soldiers rest on the porch, smoking tobacco and drinking whisky.
His eyes are locked on the small woman staring at him with shock. She picks up her basket, turns on her heel and begins muttering once more. He follows the young woman, unsure of what else to be doing. He wants to see his beloved general, but he feels the necessity to haunt her until he is positive she is some sort of witch.
She walks upstairs, drops her basket and turns to glare at the ghostly figure in her room. Young Alice feels the chill of dread creep upward as she sees the man.
"Mama Juju said you'd be a comin' to get me," she says, hands firmly planted on her hips. "Some of the townsfolk think she's a crazy bog lady, but I always knew she wasn't out of her mind."
Jasper nods, hands buried deep within his gray pockets. He scrutinizes the girl and catches the upside down cross on her neck. His mouth twists in a grimace. Witch as she may be, he feels his soul is in jeopardy with this woman.
He clears his throat from habit. "I'll be gone soon enough ma'am," he says. "I have some business to conduct and then you'll never see my ugly mug again."
"Oh no you don't!" She jumps in front of the doorway, fury blazing in her eyes. "If you leave I'll never move on beyond a disciple."
"Well, that's nothing of my concern, ma'am." Jasper tried to hold his ground. He feels his neck prick with pain and needs to get away from her. She makes him uneasy and just glancing around at her herbs and other cage like paraphernalia looks enough to hold him here.
"Gimme your name, Soldier," she orders.
"Jasper Whitlock," he finds himself explaining. She holds power in those bewitching eyes. "I must be going."
She chuckles darkly, lifting her shift above her head. Jasper turns his eyes in modesty and holds out a hand in a halting symbol. He hears the sound of metal and then something is touching his wrist.
"I, Mary Alice Brandon the Third, declare you to be the sacrificial lamb to my prophecy."
Jasper looks back to find that the nymph like girl has removed her shift only to reveal a rather large chest plate with markings and symbols. Jasper recognizes one instantly. Years back in Mississippi when he'd started out his platoon, he had come across a gruesome scene with a headless body marked in symbols. A witch doctor had put the body there to ward off disease.
He wonders what she is doing in Virginia. There are swamp and marshlands here and there, but it is a God fearing place that she should not be able to survive in. Jasper's eyes are drawn to the chilled metal around his wrist. His body is still pale, nearly transparent and eerie, but the metal hangs out of place.
"Come," Alice orders sharply and turns from the room.
Jasper has no choice but to follow the small woman. He struggles the whole way and screams at her. No one else seems to notice the exchange, and even with her flashy chest plate she is treated as something to be kept away from, not confronted.
She walks them through town and into a barren field that takes two hours to cross. Jasper's pants are stained at the knee when they reach the swamp parts. Alice hoists her dress up to her buttocks and wades through.
In the distance a wooden boat floats with eyes painted down the side. Jasper hesitates to get inside, but Alice worms her way in and snaps her fingers at him. He has no choice but to step inside. He finds that he does not sink through the wood and that he is drawn to a circle in the center of the boat.
"You want me not to go into the Celestial Gates?" he asks her.
She hisses at a bird that lands on her knee. "You can go, if ya follow everything I say and appease me."
"What could you possibly need me for?"
Jasper closes his mouth in a thin line, summoning the Reaper in his mind. It's probably afraid of the little monster. No telling what power she'd hold if she wrapped her hands around Death.
An hour of rowing and they enter a narrow path. Alice exits the boat, ties it to a tree and walks ahead. Jasper has no choice but to follow after her. He attempts to pull the metal off his wrist, but the fingers of his right hand fade through it. His left wrist is trapped inside.
Alice holds her skirt up and stampedes through a grouping of vultures ripping apart a dead animal. She fears not of the terrifying birds and kicks them from her way. They back away from her and squawk, going back to their meal. Jasper swallows hard and once again tries to flee.
A small shack with yellow lit windows glares in the evening light. The curtains are crimson and before Alice can knock on the board of wood acting as a door, a dark skinned woman shoves it aside. Jasper feels a chill run up his spine at the sight of her. She has hundreds of necklaces, bracelets and rings on. Her eyes are pointed in two different directions and the teeth she has remaining are black and decayed. There are streaks of white under her eyes and one on her chin. Alice regards her excitedly, pointing to Jasper's metal accessory.
The woman gasps and claps her hands, the bracelets clack together and the rings smack against each other. She grins her broken smile up in his direction. Alice moves around her, Jasper skirts around the woman.
"Well, chil'," the woman coos. "I'm glad ya find ya spirit."
"No one else can see him. Can you?" Alice asks, sitting in a chair made of what Jasper thinks are bones.
The woman shakes her head. "Nah, chil'. No one sees tha spirit. We need to draw 'im out."
"How?" Alice asks, eyes darting to Jasper.
A chill breaks his spine, severing the bone until the shards leave his skin ice cold. "No!" he bellows.
"Hold on, Mama Juju," Alice says. "He's protesting."
"I cannot kill!" Jasper screams at her. "The moment I kill a human I'll be brought into physical form and determined for hell."
"If he kills he'll go to hell," Alice relays to the Mother. "Is there any other way?"
"Tha Reapa'," she ponders. "Tha Reapa' told him this?"
"He says yes, Mama."
"Reapa' can't touch tha Bog." The Mother's wide grin returns. "Spirit friend can kill to be born into tha physical."
Jasper bristles and throws his arms out. "I do not want to murder!"
"Then why'd you come back, Mr. Whitlock?" Alice asks, annoyed. "I think if you were so concerned with Heaven you would'a just gone. Not come back to earth."
"It's like I told you," Jasper responds. "I have unfinished business."
"You War Dogs are all the same," she sneers. "You came back for revenge. You came to murder more innocents for your side's gain."
"And that's my own business to attend to. You are ebbing the natural flow, woman! I only have a certain space of time before I'm lost to the world!"
"Mama," Alice calls. "Can we hurry? There's a time limit on his existence."
"Even in death," the woman mutters.
She emerges from the back, a large tome in her dark hands. It's made of some animal, and even from where he stands he can smell it. She opens a page with a rather large diagram affixed to the page. Jasper tries to peek at the page but Mother closes it quickly, pulling a red cloth from a cylindrical shape.
"It's a good thing ya brought me this offerin', chil'," Mother says and drops the tarp.
Jasper steps away, a gasp stuck in his throat and vomit tugging at his esophagus. Alice looks at the floor, refusing to meet his gaze or the woman inside a rusty metal cage.
She's no older than twenty, tan limbs and blonde hair. She looks regal, someone fitting to belong in a royal family. Jasper knows if he saw her he'd be struck by her beauty, but now she's dirty, covered in markings of black dirt and white chalk. Her pink nipples have crosses covering the length of her breasts and her pubic hair is decorated with beads and gem stones.
There is a bone in her mouth, strapped around the back of her head and gagging her. Jasper still understands what the girl's screaming at the women. She wants help, to be released. Her body is contorted into an awkward position, her labia open with her legs and Jasper feels disgusted.
"Dear God," he whispers.
"Tell ya spirit to go on. Kill this sacrifice so ya may take on ya physical form," Mother says.
"It's virgin blood," Alice explains silently. "Tainted virgin blood more specifically. She committed murder, her blood and body are pure, her soul is not. You can take physical purity, though, since you are here, good and evil spirits will be exchanged."
"No Hell, spirit," Mother explains. "The markin's, they protect ya from the fires."
"I—I," Jasper swallows. "No, I—I won't!"
"He refuses," Alice relays.
"Jasper, kill her."
He takes four steps forward, rears his arm for the briefest second and strikes the young the woman in her throat, cutting off her air way and killing her only moments later.
Jasper has threatened Alice with death numerous times, tells her that his revenge will be against her and that she will die a most heinous death. She shrugs it off every time, telling him he'll never get the opportunity.
He regained his physical body, which was a curse. He could not float freely, sit by his General and listen to tales, he could not spend time with his fellow soldiers for they had seen him die. He was forced to stay by the Devil's side while she read her books and drew strange monograms along the lengths of her walls. On several occasions her mother or father would come in, deposit food and leave. Not once had they asked who Jasper was. He's grateful for this, for her does not want news to spread of him.
"Do you intend to assist them in winning the war?" Alice asks, scrawling notes in a packed book. Papers slip from the pages sometimes and Jasper covertly crinkles them up when she is not looking.
He refuses to answer, but her imploring eyes force him to do so. "Yes."
"Stupid boy," she mutters. "Of all the things to exact revenge on, you choose that? What could you possibly do to help them? You are dead and of no use."
"Well I could have," he snaps. "But now that my physical body has returned I'll be of little to no use. I had no intention to kill with my own hands."
"And how would you go about doing that? Your ghostly abilities would have no effect on the outcome on the war."
Jasper scoffs. "I'd relay information. I could see the opposing forces coming and lead my men away. They would be safe with my efforts."
Alice giggles and then laughs loudly. Her hysteria continues for minutes while Jasper watches her with fury. Her face is red and purple, eyes watering and spilling over. Once fallen to her back, she rolls from side to side, tangling her legs within the folds of her dress.
He grasps one of the many glasses of liquid on her shelves and throws it into the wall. The shattering noise stops her bout of laughter as she looks to see which one he's destroyed. The smell rises up quickly and she chokes on the stench.
"Skunk essence," she gasps.
He smirks. The smell fazes him, but does bring about tears and difficulty in breathing. She wraps a scarf around her mouth and nose as she hurriedly cleans up the mess. Her eyes turn to glare at Jasper, who has lazily returned to lounging on a large stack of clothing. Her room is messier than the Bog, it's absolutely atrocious, but he prefers to be here than there.
Alice throws open the windows and hangs outside of one, greedily taking in air. Jasper contemplates once more a way to assist the cavalry. He feels a magnetic pulse to his comrades, but he also cannot leave Alice's side without her explicit permission—which she has yet to give in any regards.
Many saw him die, and if he were to reveal something to them, would he be dismissed to Hell immediately? The Reaper has yet to come for him. Jasper had been summoning it for days, calling upon its help during the brief hours that Alice slept. She would nod off at odd hours, snore for awhile and then wake up, searching the room for him.
"Get a bucket of water you bastard!" Alice screams, while still nearly out the window.
Jasper grudgingly rises and exits the house, glancing about the area before getting a bucket from a horse trough. The well is too far away and as it is men have come out for their nightly tobacco and whisky breaks. He longs to join them.
"Hurry!" Alice screams from above.
Jasper sighs heavily and totes the bucket inside, her parents passing nary a glance as he moves back upstairs. He thinks that perhaps she put a spell over them or that they had become so accustomed to her witching that it's had no effect on them.
Jasper is forced to clean up the skunk perfume with a dirty cloth and the water, his nose aching from the smell but otherwise conveying no pain from the odor. Alice continues with her book, flipping pages violently.
"Always with the damn book," Jasper snaps once finished.
She snorts. "Yes, well, as soon as I find out what should be done with you, you can leave me alone forever."
A breath of relief escapes from his lungs. "What have you so far?"
"I've translated a fair amount of Latin and Mama has assisted me as well. Her spirit was revealed to her when she was a child and therefore she remembers very little about the process her grandmother taught her. But we must become one, to understand the give and take of life and death."
"I must kill you?" Jasper asks, stumped.
"No, no, no." Alice shakes her head sharply. "How will I take on after Mama if you kill me? No, we must complete a ritual. Though I had thought the ritual was revealing you to your physical form. It took me years to find a tainted virgin and it's only a piece of the prophecy!"
Jasper's body stills. He refuses to remember the scared woman he's killed. His dead heart thrums painfully and he rubs the spot over it.
"I'd like to leave soon," he says coldly.
"Well I need to find out how to rid you of my side. The bracelet is necessary to keep you with me for the moment, but once your duty is done you can assist your fellow Soldiers."
"Make no mistake. I will kill you."
Jasper and Alice were once again at Mother's home, sitting side by side on a couch reeking of disgust. Jasper prefers the skunk perfume over the smell of decayed flesh. Alice has given up on researching a union on her own. She refuses to sleep in fear of Jasper escaping and seeking assistance.
"Chil', the answer is slick," Mama bellows. "Unda' ya clothes."
Alice pulls up her shift and looks at her chest plate. Jasper turns toward her, angling the plate up to examine it. The metal is printed with many different shapes and textures. He brushes his fingers over the indentations and figures.
"I don't understand…" Alice mumbles.
"Do I wear it?" Jasper asks.
"Oh! Yes, do we switch the metals? I hadn't thought of that—"
"No," Mother sighs. "Unda' ya clothes. The flesh of ya body."
Alice cocks her head to the side, eyes squinted in confusion, but Jasper understands. He eagerly strips his clothes and unabashedly removes his uniform until he stands naked in the center of the room. Mother nods eagerly and stands, examining his flesh.
She takes out her white chalk and begins to draw symbols. Alice hides her face, focusing instead on the books to her side with the same symbols.
"Alice, remove your clothing or I shall do it for you. I have no time for your timid behavior when the cavalry left this morning." He pulls her from the couch and throws her shift to the floor. "Undo the hook on the plate and prepare yourself."
"No!" she screams. "Mama, there has to be another way!"
"Chil', strip down and begin markin' ya skin," she says and focuses on stroking Jasper to readying form. He tries not to cringe and eagerly encourages his erection to will away the old woman.
In no time at all Jasper is naked, erect and prepared to separate from the She-Devil. Alice, timid and scared, has backed herself into a corner, eyes narrowed on Jasper's erection. It stands as a painful weapon designed to hurt her delicate hymen. Alice cups her groin through her skirts.
Jasper places his hands on his hips, glaring down at Alice. Of every time to be timid and shy now was not a good moment. Mother pulls Alice up and undoes her plate, but Alice fights her off, looking around frantically but her eyes always darting back to Jasper's thick, waiting erection.
She screams and covers her eyes, darting for the door. Mother pushes her hand out in a gesture to stop Jasper. The chalk has yet to dry and she chases after Alice, hauling her back into the room. Alice hides her face from Jasper, her bosom lifts in anger as Mother strips her of clothing.
Soon enough Alice stands nude in the candle light as Mother draws chalk symbols across her breasts and hips, spraying decorative pieces along her nether regions. Jasper finds himself eagerly awaiting his trip into her tight sheath. He licks his lips in anticipation.
"I be back in a good while," Mother says and leaves to the marshlands.
"Lie down and spread your legs. I will make it brief," Jasper coaxes.
She snaps her eyes up to Jasper and sneers. "You lie down and spread your legs."
He clenches his jaw but does as she commands. He spread himself on the small couch and hangs one leg over the arm while the other reaches to the floor. He puts his arms behind his head and awaits Alice's approach.
"Hurry," he says impatiently.
She steps over, her bare feet shuffling against the ratty floor. "Close your eyes," she says quietly.
He does as she commands and he feels her small body climb over his chest. She sits on his stomach and doesn't move for a few minutes. His feels the impulse to open his eyes, but keeps them closed in respect.
He hears her suck in a deep breath. "I don't know…"
Releasing his hands he grasps her hips and lifts her.
Alice closes her eyes, allows him to situate her and then she feels it. The tip of his erection is inside of her.
"It's done. You're free!" she shouts merrily.
Jasper's eyes crack open and he looks up at her, shakes his head once and pushes her hips down further. In a quick movement a stinging pain rips through her pelvis and she jumps backward. Her hands cup her groin and she falls to the floor.
Jasper sits up and pulls off the metal around his wrist that has begun to burn. In an instant his body is freed and the flow of independence surges through his muscles. He wipes away the chalky symbols and gathers his clothes.
"Where's Mama?" Alice sobs, her thighs clenched together.
Jasper ignores the weeping girl on the ground. His threats to kill her are floating into a void while he watches her pathetic form roll around on the floor. He has more important thing to worry about.
Once in the Bog he spots Mother and moves away, into the depths of the marshland while she goes to take care of Alice.
"Reaper!" Jasper yells once far away from the Bog and closer to the boat. "I'm free of witch magic. I need you."
The fog swirls and the Reaper pushes its body forward, startling Jasper. "Your time is coming to a close."
"I was trapped—the girl, she didn't…"
The Reaper's posture reeks of anger and annoyance. "No. Those women knew what they were doing."
Jasper releases a breath. "How much longer?"
"A few hours. I feel as though you should know what you have to be here for." The Reaper waves a shapeless hand and Jasper's eyes snaps shut.
Once open he finds himself in a field. Gun powder creates smog and the scent is so thick he cannot smell the blood from his allies and friends.
Jasper realizes immediately what has happened. A pained cry leaves his throat and Jasper is on the ground beside his friends. He holds the lapels to a man's coat, screaming at the corpse to live, to fight. The enemies are already gone, the General has left battle with the remaining survivors, leaving half dead men to moan and cry for help. Jasper crawls to them, kisses their foreheads as they slip off into death.
He pounds the earth, his fists breaking twigs and his skin abraded by rocks. His head presses into the mud and he cries unabashedly. All he had planned in the afterlife has become ruined, and his friends are gone, his General shaken and heading into enemy territory.
"I change my mind, Reaper," he snaps. "I'll kill them all! All who did this will die, and then that monstrous woman."
The Reaper leaves and Jasper takes off in blind fury. He finds the celebrating platoon and slaughters without mercy. Men plead with him; speak to God as he uses their weapons against them. He slashes bodies until blood covers his gray coat. Jasper screams revenge, tells them no man will kill his countrymen and live to tell the tale.
He finds himself blood drunk once everyone has stopped breathing and his body moves on instinct to find the woman who caused all of his problems. The world rushes by in a flurry of movement and the wind stings his eyes like snake venom. The lust has consumed him, more than the murderous streak that bled through him for his country, for his mother on her deathbed while his father yelled at her to fold his slacks. Jasper's painful human memories seek to destroy just as much as his corpse begs to run.
It takes little time for Jasper to realize that he's killed his sworn enemies and only has one person left. He feels empty, yet his strength is depleting knowing the wench is still alive. Had it not been for her he would have saved his general, would have procured victory.
The Bog is familiar, a homely feeling settles through him and he easily finds the small house sitting in the middle of the marsh. Juju sits outside, animal skull in her leather hands and gasps as she sees him. Jasper has no qualms with the woman. Sure, she placed ridiculous notions inside Alice's mind, but he blames that little witch.
He pushes her to the ground, throwing her white chalk to the mud where it sinks quickly. She yells after him, only to be stuck under a thick tree limb. Jasper moves inside the house, locking the door tightly behind him.
Alice is curled up on the couch still. Her hands are tucked between her thighs and her face is drawn. She glances up, notices the change in his demeanor and goes back to staring at the wall. Jasper is angered by her blatant disregard of his roaring fury. She should be trembling in fear, begging him not to hurt her again.
"Go ahead. Do whatever you want to. Won't change anything, though," she mumbles and pulls a thick blanket down from the back of the couch. A plume of dust floats past Jasper and he is kneeling beside her in an instant.
"I said I'd kill you," he snaps. His fingers wrap around her narrow neck. "I could crush you, destroy you right here."
Alice swallows; his fingers grasp her tighter, stopping the movement. Her eyes open a little wider and her sudden emboldened attitude slips away. She jerks her head back and Jasper grasps harder, then releases.
Alice grips her neck with one hand and sits up. Jasper grabs one of the many carved bones from the wall of the room and points it at her. Jasper was never one for theatrics, but after the deaths of his countrymen, the loss of his dignity and the final knowledge that death is looming over his head, he finds the need to drag this out.
"J-just get it over with," Alice stutters. "But leave Mama alone."
"What makes you think she'll be spared? Isn't she the one who convinced you that you're some kind of voodoo woman? I should force you to watch me kill her."
Alice grabs a glass jar and throws it against Jasper's hard chest. The bottle breaks and with an acrid smell, his clothes disintegrate where the liquid splashes. He becomes more infuriated. His clothing—given to him by his country—is burning.
He impales the shaved animal bone into her stomach, weakly satisfied by the short shriek that leaves her throat. Alice looks up at him, mouth ajar, eyes wide, nostrils flaring. She touches the bone and attempts to back away, but perhaps the pain is too much for she remains in one spot. The image of his maddened face is the last she sees as she dies from blood loss.
Jasper steps over her crumpled body, minutes away from death. He doesn't want to watch, knows instantly that she is done for.
The Grim Reaper sits precariously on its pedestal just below the gates of Heaven and Hell. Jasper Whitlock crawls through the gray muck and collapses on the ground in front of it. His face is one of defeat and anguish.
"Have you completed your earthly tasks?" It asks.
Jasper nods once, then drops his head to his hands. "If I didn't kill those bastards I'd be with my fallen men."
"There was so solidification of that promise."
"Is it really better than going directly to Hell? At least I had a fighting chance… now I have ruined it. I'll never join my mother, never see her smiling at me."
"Think not of what could have been, but of what will be," the Reaper consoles him. It has never felt attachments to those it undertakes, but it has always found that every soul needs peace.
"I suppose you're right," he laughs humorlessly. "At least I managed to kill that wench. Perhaps if I am lucky her perpetrator will die in that Bog as well."
The Reaper says nothing. It opens the gate and waves an arm where flying monsters wait to take him in. The Reaper wants so badly to be in Jasper's place. Hell could not be worse than purgatory.
Jasper stands with a settling dust, wipes his pants and salutes the Reaper. For a moment it is stunned and does nothing, and then, slowly, the Reaper salutes back. Its shapeless hand touches the slab of flesh on it forehead and drops back.
Jasper walks forward, embracing his death with the elegance and finesse of a well molded soldier.