Author: MissClarity PM
Arthur Jennings was a painfully normal and generally uninteresting boy. Once he finally breaks into the popular crowd via Eric Julian, everyone's favorite guy, his luck runs out. Arthur and Eric swerve to avoid a strange man in the road and both die in the wreck. The next moment they are confronted with the son of the Grim Reaper, Death's bounty hunter with plot to take over.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror - Words: 4,378 - Published: 01-20-13 - id: 3093692
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter One: The Boys in the Band
Eric Julian walked, or rather floated, down the hall of Western Hills High that morning in December just as he had the three previous Decembers. He would be late for class again but he couldn't bring himself to care. Mr. Troupe, his history teacher, loved Eric for his outspoken wit and "passion" for history. Eric marveled at what five minutes worth of stupid questions after class every Tuesday could do for you.
The bell tone rang from the intercom, Eric was still a few feet from the room. His pace stayed steady, his flannel shirt fluttered from his lean frame, and he waltzed through the door completely confident and nearly unnoticed besides a few flickering eyes and a couple of glazed smiles.
"Hey," whispered Trevor, one of the guys who made it a habit to attach himself to Eric.
"What's up?" asked Eric as he slid out a beaten notebook with Rolling Stones and Metallica stickers all over it.
"Wanna hang after school?" asked Trevor, picking at the scabs on his knuckles he doubtless obtained doing stupid tricks on his skateboard.
Eric hesitated. He knew that if he went over to Trevor's house after school they would smoke and play video games or listen to music until Eric's mother called for him to come home. As tempting as that was for Eric, he had other plans for that evening.
"Nah man, math test tomorrow," said Eric with a placating smile.
"Cool dude, next time," Trevor said, hitting Eric on the shoulder. Eric turned his face to Mr. Troupe who was babbling about the civil war. He tuned out the annoying prattle and scribbled out lyrics for his next song in his notebook.
Meanwhile, a few seats in front of Eric, sat Arthur Jennings. Unlike Eric, the boy with the artfully messed up hair and strategically ripped jeans in the back row, Arthur was paying attention to Mr. Troupe. As the man dealt out fascinating tidbits about the past, each was taken in by Arthur and written down verbatim into his notebook.
Suddenly, a note was thrown right into the path of Arthur's next sentence.
"Want to come over tonight?" was scrawled neatly with a small drawing of a cartoon girl with hearts in the eyes. It was from Arthur's girlfriend, Lacy. Arthur looked up at the source of the intrusion and she looked back at him with a sly smile from under her unruly tresses and decisively unfeminine eyebrows.
Arthur frowned and wrote "math test" back. He threw it as covertly as he could in the front row and in direct view of Mr. Troupe. Though Arthur hardly worried about being caught, Mr. Troupe loved him for his perfect test-scores and passion for history.
Lacy looked back with a dismayed face but smiled regardless.
The last bell of the day rang. Arthur, for the fifth time that week, dropped his homework. Papers went skittering all over the hallway and he tried to chase them down the tiled floors while masses of students kicked and trampled them.
At the same time, Eric was throwing his beaten up messenger bag into the back of his best friend's truck. As the pickup pealed out of the parking lot, Eric saw the image of a auburn haired boy sprinting after the school bus with a wad of papers in his hand.
"Hey, hold up," Eric said, watching as the bus pulled away unaware of its missing passenger.
"What? Why?" Asked Benny, a black-haired boy with an abundance of facial piercings.
"That kid missed the bus," Eric said, pointing out the window. His wrist bands and bracelets clanked against the glass.
"Gotcha," said Benny, not even questioning Eric. He swung the truck around in an improvised U-turn and sped back up to where Arthur was sitting with his head in his hands. Benny eased up slowly to Arthur. The bespectacled boy looked up, squinting against the May sun.
"Hey, want a ride?" asked Eric, tapping the ashes off of his cigarette. He was only seventeen, but his older brother bought cigarettes for him.
"Uh, I don't know..." Arthur debated whether or not to just wait until his mom was done with work, or go home now in the company of Eric Julian: Hills High's favorite hipster.
"It's on the way," Benny commented from the driver's seat. Arthur's eyes widened at the sight of Benny. He didn't know that he and Eric were in league with each other. While Eric was generally socially amorphous, Benny stuck to the crowd that was cloaked in shadows and preceded by heavy metal blaring through headphones. That didn't seem like something Eric would associate himself with.
"Alright," said Arthur finally, stuffing all of his homework into his backpack and clambering into the rust bucket of a truck. "Thanks," said Arthur, trying to get his hair to fall back into place. It was hopeless.
"Dude, how do you get your hair like that?" asked Eric as the truck took off in a cloud of tobacco smoke.
"Me?" asked Arthur, surprised.
"Yeah, I spend like an hour every day trying to get it like that," Eric said, picking at strands of his dark-brown hair and shifting them to look slightly more disheveled.
"Uh, it's natural I guess," Arthur replied. Their eyes met in the rear view mirror.
"Cool," said Eric with a nod. Arthur felt pretty proud of himself. Being admired by one of the most admirable people in Hills High was a small victory, but it meat a lot to Arthur.
Eric and Benny proceeded to turn on the radio. A My Chemical Romance song came on, one of Arthur's favorite bands. The two began singing along. Arthur couldn't help himself and started singing too. Eric and Benny stopped and looked at Arthur.
"You know this song?" Asked Eric. Arthur nodded. "Sweet, dude you have a pretty good voice," he commented. Arthur never thought about that before, truthfully. He never dreamed of singing in front of other people, so he never knew.
"Uh, thanks?" he said skeptically. Eric turned around in the seat. His hair was floating around his face in the open window's wind and he smiled his smile that made the girls whisper in the hallway.
"No problem, bud. Hey, do you wanna come check out our band? Right now I'm singing and playing the guitar but I suck at singing. We could use a lead singer," said Eric invitingly. Arthur was sure he was dreaming. There was no way he was being asked by Eric Julian to join his band.
"You don't suck," Arthur said in protestation. He had heard Eric's band before, they play every year at the school's talent show and they won the community's battle of the bands twice.
"Yeah, but he's not great, either," said Benny with a laugh. Eric didn't even break eye contact as he punched Benny's shoulder. The truck swerved. "Driving here!"
"What do you think?" asked Eric. Arthur wanted to say no. He suspected this was all just a set up for some sort of embarrassment. Eric Julian did not talk to Arthur Jennings and his friends. Ever. Something was rotten, but this was a once in a lifetime chance for Arthur to move up a few social notches. From the Robotics team to one of "Eric's friends," would put him in direct contact not only with the beautiful people, but girls who didn't need to shave their eyebrows every two days.
"Uh, sounds cool," Arthur said, trying his best not to sound like a nerd.
"Awesome. I'll swing by your place tomorrow after school," said Eric. "I live just down the street,"
Arthur suppressed the 'I know' that wanted to come out as Benny pulled up to his house. Instead he said "Thanks a lot for the ride,"
"No problem," said Benny with a metallic smile.
"See you tomorrow," said Eric. Arthur gave a quick wave and walked inside of his house completely dazed and confused. He had no idea what just happened, but he was pretty sure he just made friends with Eric Julian.
Both Eric and Arthur spent the rest of the day studying for the infamous math test diligently. While no one suspected it of Eric, grades were a high priority for both of the boys in question.
When night finally fell, Arthur took to his books while Eric took to concocting his music.
Unbeknownst to Arthur, Eric was well aware of Arthur's existence and sincere in his invitation to join the band. They had lived on the same street for over five years now. However, every time Eric wanted to talk to Arthur, the latter would make eye contact and then put his head down and scurry away. That was a pretty good indication to Eric that Arthur didn't want to have anything to to with him. So he left Arthur alone. Eric was glad to finally have cornered Arthur, he always wanted to know why the odd auburn boy hated him so much.
The next day both Arthur and Eric passed the math test with surprising ease. Eric went about his day as normal, chatting with whomever happened across his path.
Arthur, on the other hand, was very distracted by the things to come. He was quiet, more so than usual. Lacy picked up on it and asked why, but when Arthur told her that Eric Julian invited him to join his band she assumed he was being sarcastic and proceeded to laugh at him. All of Arthur's other friends had the same reaction.
That did not bode well.
The day ended very quickly for Arthur who made it a point to get on the stupid bus without any sort of fiasco.
It was no sooner that Arthur walked in the door to his house that a black car pulled into the driveway. Arthur could see the vague outline of Eric through the glass.
"Mom! I'm going to hang out with my friend," he called.
"Alright honey, be back before ten!" she called from upstairs.
Arthur was nervous as he grabbed his jacket and left the house because he didn't know what to expect. But when he got into Eric's car the boy smiled invitingly and Arthur couldn't find it in himself to distrust him.
"Sup dude?" Eric asked as Arthur sat down awkwardly. Eric's demeanor was completely at ease which made Arthur start fidgeting more.
"N-nothing," Arthur stammered. Eric let out a small chuckle.
"Yeah. You take that math test today?" Eric asked as they pulled out of the driveway in one smooth motion.
"Yes," answered Arthur.
"How'd you do?" Eric's effortless conversational skills were a mystery to Arthur, who found it hard to even think of words let alone say them.
"Well. I'm really good at math, though," Arthur replied. He winced, realizing it sounded like he was bragging.
"Me too," Eric said casually.
Arthur couldn't help but get the feeling maybe he was wrong about Eric all the years he'd known him. It was true that everyone seemed to like Eric, so Arthur assumed he was just like every other popular kid in the history of high school. Now Arthur was thinking that maybe everyone liked Eric because he was actually a nice guy. For the first time in a long time, Arthur felt utterly stupid.
Eric turned up the radio in the car so it was blisteringly loud. Arthur couldn't hear himself think let alone talk. The music was a mixed CD that Eric put together himself. Some of the songs Arthur knew, others he had never heard but liked, and some were just utterly torturous to listen to. But Arthur admired Eric's eclectic taste and was pleasantly surprised at how much they had in common.
When the two arrived at their destination, Arthur's stomach coiled and his heartbeat jumped back to his jaw. Eric seemed to sense this.
"Relax, you're cool," said Eric, his grey-blue eyes looked warm and intent on telepathically calming Arthur. Unfortunately it didn't help.
They walked up to the house, which was rather large compared to the ones in Arthur and Eric's neighborhood. It was well kept and clean. A maid even answered the door when Eric pushed the doorbell that let an echoing chime through the small mansion.
"Welcome back, Mr. Julian," said the maid pleasantly. She was a kind-looking old woman with graying hair and dark brown skin.
"Hi Clarissa, are they downstairs?" Asked Eric, taking off his shoes at the door. Arthur did the same, nearly falling over in the process.
"Yes, and who is this?" asked the maid.
"Arthur Jennings," said Eric.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Jennings," said the maid.
"Uh-uh you too," Arthur said, nearly slapping himself. The maid smiled and went on her merry way.
Eric led them as they padded across the Brazilian hardwood floors. The house was immense and beautiful, though they only saw the kitchen and the foyer. Arthur could tell the family that lived there was very well off.
Eric opened the door to the basement and they walked down almost silently, their footsteps muffled by the soft white carpet. Arthur's heart rate increased by half.
"Hey guys," said Eric, as they stepped into the gargantuan finished basement. Three other guys were there, beers in hand, lounging against very professional looking sound equipment and musical instruments.
"Hey dude," they echoed back. Arthur recognized Benny, but the other two people looked older and Arthur had never seen them before.
"Guys, this is Arthur," Eric explained. They each shook his hand.
"I'm Robert Edward Dougan, they just call me Red," said one of the older men that looked about twenty four. He was thin but muscular and intimidating. Arthur was slightly distracted by the man's gauged earlobes and shock of dyed red hair that fell over his eyes.
"Chad, Chad Harper," said the other one. He looked about twenty and must have weighed over two hundred pounds.
"Yeah, so these are the guys of 'Mortal Venom'. Red and Chad are in college, this is Red's house. And you know Benny. Arthur goes to my school," Eric explained to the guys.
"Nice to meet you," Arthur managed to squeak out.
"Right, so let's get started. Arthur, want a beer?" asked Eric. Arthur stared at him wide-eyed for a moment before shaking his head vigorously.
"Give the kid something to chill him the hell out," said Red in a joking manner.
"S'alright," said Benny, throwing a can of beer at Arthur.
"Hey, if he said no, he said no," Eric said deprecatingly. He took the can from Arthur, opened it, and drank from it himself. "Okay, we're gonna be doing 'Teenagers' by My Chem. You know that song, don't you?" asked Eric. Arthur nodded.
"So he's gonna sing?" asked Red, leaning on his guitar.
"Yeah," replied Eric. Red nodded and took up the guitar. Benny strapped on a bass and Chad got behind the drum set. Arthur was surprised that no one had a problem with Arthur singing. He thought that they would all revolt against Eric and throw them both out.
"Okay, one, two, one, two, three, four," Eric counted.
The music started and Arthur was nervous as he gripped the microphone. He started singing so quietly that he couldn't even hear himself. He looked at Eric, who gave him a reassuring smile. Gradually, Arthur loosened up and he forgot that he was where he was. He closed his eyes and sang the song like he had a thousand times before.
When the song finally ended, Eric came up and gave Arthur a high five.
"Nice man!" said Red, coming up to clap Arthur on the shoulder.
"Yeah, really sweet vocals," said Benny.
Arthur beamed with pride.
"Guys I think we have a new lead singer," said Eric, digging through a cardboard box. He gave Arthur a black T-shirt that said "MORTAL VENOM" on it in static white letters.
"Awesome," said Arthur, it was like a dream come true.
The rest of the night the band ran through their set list of songs Arthur knew. He was given a demo CD and told to go learn all of Comatose Landing's songs before the next practice on Tuesday. Arthur was determined.
When he and Eric left, Arthur was so happy he thought he could fly all the way back home.
"Congrats, man," Eric said as they pulled out of the driveway. It had started to rain during band practice but now it was pouring down. Purple clouds rolled over the moon and thunder rumbled up in the sky.
"Thank you, for letting me in, I mean," Arthur said. He felt a lot more comfortable around Eric now but he was still his bumbling self. He wondered if this would change how they treated each other at school.
The rain got so bad that neither of them could see the road, even with the windshield wipers on full throttle. They kept rolling along, though, both of them getting nervous and squinting to see in the darkness.
Suddenly a human shape appeared in the otherwise deserted road. Eric slammed on the brakes and tried to control the car as it spun around, but it was too late. They had veered off to avoid the person and the car went whirling over the side of the road. Arthur didn't even have time to scream as the car tumbled and rolled into the ditch below, finally landing upside down.
Arthur felt a pain in his head and warm water running down the side of his body, which in reality was blood. He was panicking. He couldn't move or scream and the agony was nearly unbearable. His vision began to go red and blotchy, black spots were taking over as the pain blossomed. Time ticked on forever as he struggled to make his body move, his eyes open, his lungs take in air, his fingers to pry open the door, but the pain overwhelmed him. The fear was suffocating him in an utterly hopeless panic. He welcomed the blackness as it came and the pain finally stopped.
The next moment Arthur was standing next to the wrecked car. The wheels had stopped spinning and the rain continued to pour down. The road was deserted, no cars or houses for another three miles at least. He felt his body up and down. Nothing. No injuries or pain. Arthur looked around confused until he spotted the man that had been standing in the middle of the road nearly a hundred feet away in the woods.
"Hey!" Arthur yelled. The man started walking in his direction. He was a very intimidating figure. He wore red pants and a black leather jacket, his face was just a white blur from so far away.
As the man approached, Arthur could see he had long white-blond hair, down to his thighs and was wearing a black top hat with a red band. The figure smiled as he traipsed up the hill, his eyes looked like nothing more than sockets.
Eric appeared next to Arthur. He looked first at the wreck, then at Arthur, then felt himself for injuries the same as Arthur just had. Then he caught sight of the approaching figure and frowned.
"Who is that?" Asked Eric.
"I don't know," Arthur said, the fear seeping into his voice.
The figure was upon them. Up close the two boys saw a ghastly man who smiled with too white teeth and a skeletal frame well over six feet tall. In addition to the red pants, the man had straps and belts buckled to his knees and thighs, some with small sacks attached to them which made him seem very strange.
"Good evening, gentlemen," said the figure. He took off his hat and bowed to them courteously. The man looked about the same age as Red, but his cheeks and eyes made him seem starved.
"Who are you?" Eric barked out.
"Now, now. Manners, my friend, are imperative. My name is Bone Grimmson. You can call me Mr. Grim," he said, gazing directly at Eric. When he shifted his gaze to Arthur the boy felt a chill down his spine. Mr. Grim had one glass-green eye and that one milky-white as if he was blind, but Arthur could sense that he could see from that eye.
"Why were you in the middle of the road?" Eric asked. Mr. Grim reached into the holster around his hip. There was a huge old-fashioned six-shooter pistol there. Eric and Arthur yelped in fear, but Mr. Grim pulled out a rolled up piece of paper that was crammed right beside the gun.
Mr. Grim grinned at them as the paper unrolled.
"Eric Julian and Arthur Jennings, die of a car crash during a spring storm. May 15th, 2012. You see, gentlemen, if your time is up then it's my job to make sure you don't cheat death. As I said, my name is Mr. Grim and I'm here to collect your souls," said Mr. Grim in a gleeful way.
"We're dead!" Yelled Arthur. Both he and Eric panicked for a moment before Mr. Grim started laughing in a particularly evil way.
"Yes, you're dead. But if you would like, I can make it so you don't have to go to the Underworld," Mr. Grim said.
"How?" Arthur asked desperately. He didn't want to die, especially not while his life was going so well.
"A little wager. If you win, you won't go to the Underworld. If I win, then you go. Deal?" he asked slyly. Arthur and Eric nodded and the Earth spun around them in a full circle.
When everything settled back down, Eric and Arthur were in a tiny room with shelves full of loose papers, jars of eyeballs and tongues, and probably a hundred skulls, human or otherwise.
There was a large oaken table with huge gouges and stains that Arthur feared was probably blood. Two candles were lit in the center on candlesticks that featured the Grim Reaper holding a scythe.
"Please, have a seat, gentlemen," said Mr. Grim. Arthur and Eric sat next to each other on the miss-matched chairs as Mr. Grim stood at the head of the table. He placed on the table a bottle, a deck of playing cards with a skull on the back of them, and a bottle with some sort of black liquid inside and a skull shaped wax topper.
"Pick your poison, if you will, gentlemen," said Mr. Grim with a wave and a wicked smile.
"What's the bottle for?" Asked Eric.
"It's poison. There are those who don't care where their soul ends up, this is the easy way out," he explained. Arthur gulped and swooned. The smell of formaldehyde was thick in the air.
Eric picked up the dice with a firm hand. The look on his face was resolute.
"The game is simple. Whoever rolls a seven first is the winner," explained Mr. Grim. "Roll, and best of luck to you,"
Eric shook the dice and threw them on the table. Eleven.
Mr. Grim took the dice, cast them across the table with a practiced hand. They landed on seven.
Eric's face turned pale in an instant. Mr. Grim grinned and pulled out his six-shooter. Without even a word he lifted it and shot Eric right between the eyes. There was no blood, Eric just vanished.
Arthur was speechless, he just gaped up at Mr. Grim terrified and shaking.
"I never loose," Mr. Grim said with a triumphant look. Arthur could scarcely breathe.
"Your turn, Arthur,"
Arthur took up the dice. He didn't know how to play cards. His hands were sweating and shaking, he could hardly hold the dice. A few tears even crept down his cheeks.
He cast the dice, they flew across the table, rolling and skidding. Arthur closed his eyes. There was silence in the room, an eerie complete silence.
When Arthur finally opened his eyes, he saw Mr. Grim bent over the table with wide, disbelieving eyes. Arthur looked for himself and saw the dice. One four, one three. Over and over again Arthur added the numbers. Seven. He had won.
"I don't know how this is possible, I never lose," Mr. Grim said with a terrifying note of anger in his voice. Arthur remained silent as he cowered down in the seat.
Mr. Grim started rifling through all the things on his shelves, mumbling to himself and casting things off into the room like a hurricane. Eyeballs fell out of jars, finger bones clattered to the floor, parchment fell into puddles of formaldehyde as he searched. His curses became thunderous as he tore through the room and Arthur had no where to find shelter from the hellstorm he'd just kicked up. Finally Mr. Grim pulled out a small bottle of blue liquid and the chaos ceased. It too had a wax skull stopper on top of it.
"Here, drink this, please," muttered Mr. Grim, with the last word trailing off in disgruntlement.
"What will h-happen?" Arthur stammered out.
"Well, seeing as you're dead anyway, I have no choice but to go with the only other option available to you. You'll have to become a Reaper," he said in a begrudging manner.
"A what?" Asked the trembling boy. Mr. Grim's frown deepened.
"Drink it, please, and I'll explain everything tomorrow," Mr. Grim said forcefully staring at Arthur with his unpleasant Green-and-white eyes. There was no wicked smile on his face, just a look of annoyance and detest.
Arthur was in such a state of terror that his hand nearly shook all the liquid out of the skull bottle. He brought it to his dry, cracked lips and let the freezing cold liquid fall into his mouth.
It was the most bitter concoction that Arthur had ever tasted. There was the unmistakable taste of dirt, but a very pungent chemical taste that brought an acute burning to his tongue and esophagus.
"Goodnight, Arthur Jennings," said Mr. Grim. Arthur looked up to see the gun pointed directly at him. Without another thought in his head, the bullet made contact with the space directly between Arthur's eyes. And that was the end of Arthur Jennings.