Crawling forward, Alba peered over the side of the bed, his eyes widening a bit as he looked at the crisp, black robe folded neatly inside the box. “Well, this is awkward,” he stated. “If the Orbs make you a Reaper, then what does that make me?”
Wide-eyed and breathing heavily, like he had just sprinted down the hall and back, Sammy backed another step away and bumped against the Visitor chair. “I don’t want to be a Reaper,” he said putting the chair between him and the box. “I can still heal!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Swinging his feet back around, he continued in a rising voice. “And I can still reap.” He kicked at the box with the tip of his sandal. “Obviously my position is on the line now with all the stuff that’s happened.” His expression tightened into a glare. “You’re not getting my job, gnome!” He glowered fiercely at Sammy who didn’t hesitate to snarl back.
“I don’t want your stupid job, elf! Haven’t you been listening? I can still heal!” Angrily he shoved at the chair which skidded forward. At the same moment, a thump came from the window. Looking annoyed, he turned to see the middle sunflower twist around itself, then twirl back with it’s leaves stretched out in a flourish.
“Stuck the landing, I’d say,” Alba mused, watching. Then the two smaller sunflowers on the right end curled around each other and pressed their faces together. “Oh hell no!” Holding up his palm at Sammy’s face he growled, “I am not taking you on a date!”
“Go fertilize yourself!” Sammy yelled.
“WILL YOU TWO STOP SCREAMING!” Hair looking like molten gold, Trypette stormed into the room. “I can hear you arguing all the way down by the Discharge Desk.” Her flashing, brown eyes fixed on Alba seated on the bed. “And what do you think you’re doing? You shouldn’t even be here!” Catching sight of the box on the floor she stopped in her tracks and snapped her mouth shut. Anger still hung in the air around her, but her face had become blank. Banging his way around the chair, Sammy shook a finger at her.
“Is this your doing? Where are my clothes?” His face darkened as Trypette cast a worried look at the doorway behind her and took a step back, shaking her head.
“No, this was not my decision.” Avoiding Alba’s eyes, she backed another step, then sucked in a panicked breath as he streaked off the bed in a dark trail and planted himself squarely in the door frame, cutting off her escape.
“I think not,” Alba said softly, with a threatening edge in his voice. The arachnophobic Birch Elf that had been cowering on the bed only moments ago was gone, and in its place stood an angry looking Reaper. His mouth widened into a nasty smile as Trypette spun around and blanched.
Staring at Alba in shock, Sammy pulled nervously at the edges of his gown, tightening it around himself. “Too fast,” he whispered. “How are you so fast?”
“The process would be so much longer if people could outrun us,” Alba answered while keeping his eyes locked on the golden gnome. “Now tell us, healer, who’s idea it was to replace Sammy’s clothes with a Reaper’s robe.”
“I don’t know.” Trypette said shaking her head. “I thought his clothes were still in there. I fixed his tassel,” she added, her deep voice scratchy and thin. “Even if I did know, I wouldn’t be allowed to tell you.”
“And I’m not allowed to randomly collect souls.” Alba raised a bone-white hand in the air toward her. “But I could do it if I really wanted to.”
“Alba, don’t.” Visibly shaken, Sammy moved around Trypette and stepped bravely between them. “This doesn’t solve anything.” His eyes bulged at the nearness of the Reaper’s hand. “We need answers, not another problem we can’t fix.” Looking surprised to find that he had been holding his breath, he exhaled with a whoosh as the Reaper lowered his hand.
“I suppose you’re right,” Alba said. “But I’m not going to lose my job over you. Do you have any idea what happens to a Reaper that gets removed?” He didn’t wait for a response. “They’re sent to the Specimen Lab.” As soon as the words were out, Alba caught himself and gaped stupidly at Sammy, who looked equally dumbstruck. Together they stared at the box on the floor.
“Um, would you guys please tell me what is going on?” Still seriously rattled, Trypette reached out with trembling hands and pulled the edges of Sammy hospital gown closed.
* * * * *