Daina Roe-Duenes

Loving with a Risk

Nocturne Malik trudged into the auditorium. Unlike the others rushing to be up in front next to the stage, he wasn't so eager to attend this meeting. He'd much rather be at the Lake of Misfortune. However, all beings enrolled in the Reaper Training Program were required to go. It was mandatory. He stepped up to the stage quietly, his mind on that lake he desired to be at right now.

A tall, thin man stepped out from the curtains- the principal and head reaper. He was the ideal vision of a reaper- silver hair gleaming in the light, and bright orange eyes. His skin was pale enough to be mistaken for the white of bones. He wore the traditional black robes and carried a long scythe.

"Ahem, I appreciate that you all made it here-whether you want to be or not. Now, concerning the Reaper for a Day contest-" The reapers in training cheered loudly, and Nocturne rolled his eyes. The head reaper grinned and continued on.

"Yes, yes. I know you're all very excited over this chance to live out your future for a day, but at least let me give the name before you go into a frenzy. Now, here I have this envelope," he announced. He pulled a crimson red letter out of his pocket, a scythe drawn on the back of it. The entire room with silent, all reapers in training gazing at the letter with anticipation and excitement. The Head Reaper noticed this, and with a grin he waved the letter around in circles. Their gazes followed the envelope, like a dog longing for a treat. He laughed and continued his speech.

"Now, you all know how we chose the names. We took the reapers in training with the highest rank and put their names in a bowl and picked one out. Now then, I won't delay this meeting any longer. The winner of the contest is," He pulled a slip of paper from the envelope. Nocturne turned and started to leave. By this point he was losing precious time.

"Nocturne Malik!" The loud voice rang through the air and the other Reapers in training were looking upon him with envy. Nocturne was still, and the only thought in is mind was ' Damn it! '

-

Nocturne had gotten an hour of free time before he had to carry on the duties of a reaper. Now he lay by the Lake of Misfortune, gazing lovingly into the liquid surface. On the lake was the reflection of a girl with dull brown hair and bright green eyes. She was sitting on the front steps of a worn down wooden house, petting a cat.

"Amara," he sighed. He hated to be away from her, even for just a day. He would dedicate all his free time to watch her through this lake, the lake that showed those with tragic lives. True to its name, he had learned some very upsetting things about her life. She had lost her parents in a car accident and her adoptive parents only wanted her for the money.

It was when she was in the orphanage 2 years ago that he first sighted her. The reaper training classes had been brought to the Lake of Misfortune for a field trip. He had gazed into the lake's surface to see a small girl taking care of a rabbit. The rabbit was sick, and he couldn't help but wonder why she was wasting her time and taking care of something that would die either way.

Nocturne had been fascinated by this showing of mercy and love to the prey animal. He had created a schedule of visiting the lake to watch her when he had free time. The more he observed her life, the deeper he plunged cupid's bow into his heart. He had fallen in love with the mortal girl.

With a look to the sky, he whispered a goodbye to the girl's image and left the area, promising not to be away from her for too long.

-

"So, then. Are you excited for your first job as a reaper?" The Head Reaper asked, observing Nocturne's reactions. He seemed much more serious now that the audience was gone, and Nocturne couldn't help but wonder if the playful and amused reaper from this morning had been false, a lie.

Nocturne forced a grin, trying to create a facade of excitement. He didn't want to be here, but he had no choice. Resisting this 'opportunity' was dangerous, and he could be put at risk for doing so.

"Of course! This is the best thing that's ever happened to me," he all but shouted, faking a laugh of joy. The Head Reaper stared at him, scrutinizing him for anything that might betray his words. Finally, he smirked and handed Nocturne a reapers robe and a scythe. The blade of the scythe was beautiful. It had a sharp edge that had never been dulled from use. For a moment, Nocturne did feel excitement in his heart at holding the weapon. Never had he held such a thing of beauty.

"Well then, you're all on your own now, kid. Get going and get those souls!" The head reaper handed him the list.

Upon looking up after reading the first name, Nocturne realized his surroundings had changed. A car lay on its side, dented and giving off smoke. His 24 hours had begun.

-

The clock read 11:47 pm now. So far, he had gone through a day of reaping resistant souls. One man had thrown a shoe at him. Checking a name off, Nocturne realized he only had one more person to go, and for that he was thankful. The name was Amara Harrington.

Nocturne paused. That name sounded so familiar, and he was absolutely sure he had heard it before. Then he realized why. Amara Harrington was his Amara. His angel from the Lake of Tragedy, who had to deal with so much pain. And now he had to kill her?

He just stared at the list, thinking this over. How could he just kill the girl he loved? But then, how could he not? If he refused to kill her, he'd be deemed as unfit to be a reaper and then they'd kill him. He couldn't let her die, though. It was unfair, her being only 15. She was being robbed of her life!

Looking up from the list, he found himself in front of a run down wooden house. The wooden porch seemed to be rotting, and the 3 steps up to it were broken and cracked. Yelling could be heard from inside.

Nocturne quietly walked into the house, having no need to be sneaky. Healthy mortals wouldn't be able to see him. He wandered through the rooms, looking for the one that held his angel, his Amara. He finally found his way to her room by her loud coughing fits.

She lay on the bed, a thin rag excuse for a blanket thrown over her. Had her eyes always been so dull? No, of course not. Where was the brightness that once shined though there was no happiness? Her skin was pale as moonlight, close to the light blue of ice.

He stared at her. She was still beautiful, she always would be beautiful to him. But it was in a tragic way that she had beauty. And he had to end that beauty, all for the sake of his job and life.

"Are you here to take me to heaven?" A gentle voice whispered.

Amara had noticed Nocturne. He was quiet, not sure on how to answer. How was he to explain his appearance? That he was to reap and take away her soul and deliver it for evaluation? So he just smiled and spoke the words that came from his heart.

"I'm here to take you away from all this pain, Amara. I've been watching over you for a while. I've seen what agony you go through here," He spoke. Tears came to Amara's eyes, and she smiled.

"Nobody has ever wanted anything to do with me. Why have you been watching?"

Nocturne sighed, and decided that he ought to tell the truth. He was about to take her soul, so he at least owed her this much. He sat down and told her everything, starting with who he was to the first visit to the Lake of Misfortune to now. Amara listened quietly, not interrupting even once. When Nocturne finished his tale and admittance of love, Amara simply smiled once more.

Nocturne stared down at the floor. He felt guilt biting away at his heart. He would have to take her soul now. He couldn't delay it any longer.

A hand rested upon his cheek, and he looked up into Amara's emerald eyes. She seemed calm, happy even.

"Don't be afraid to take my soul. There's still an afterlife, right? Don't make it seem as if this is the last breath I'll take," She assured him.

Nocturne nodded weakly, stood up, and raised the scythe. Amara spoke one more sentence before he swung the weapon down, ending her life on earth.

"Thanks for saving my soul."

-

One Year Later

Nocturne put up his scythe, and began his trek to the evaluation room. He was a full fledged reaper now. In fact, he was one of the best reapers there were. He reaped without feeling. He had lost his heart to a emerald eyed girl a long time ago, and his emotions as well. Nocturne couldn't help but wonder where she was. He hadn't seen her, and could only assume the worst – that she'd been outcast as a dark angel, forced to wander aimlessly for eternity.

He walked up to the door, pushed it open, and gave a slight bow to the angels upon entrance. He kept his head low, a sign of respect due to his social rank being far below theirs. He dipped the scythes blade into a pool, emptying the souls into the cold water.

Quietly, Nocturne turned to leave. A hand on his cheek stopped him. He turned once more, only to stare into the most beautiful green eyes he'd ever seen. Her brown hair reached her hips now, and a pair of beautiful pearl-colored wings rested on her back.

Tears formed in Nocturne's eyes as all the emotions he'd left with her came rushing back to his heart.