Chapter One: A Quiet Night In

Hello? Did I…. Did I get it working? Is it recording?

I think…. It's working.

Okay. Here we go.

Grr-eetings. If you're listening to this…. It means you…. It-it means you're in a similar position. To me. I think. You were somewhere else, before here. In a different world. No one…. Else…. Would find this useful. Not the creatures. Not-not the others. I'm making this-to tell you what to do. What you have to do to ssurvive. So maybe you can too.

My name is…. I don't suppose I have one any-anymore. Not sure if I can even remember.

….

….

….

….

Oh, right. S-sorry. I was distracted.

I…. Thrall. You can call me that. That- that's my name now, I guess. I don't remember the meaning. But that doesn't matter.

And I…. I… Wanted to make this guide. Now; It must be now. While I can still make words. While I can still remember what…. What spok-en language is like.

The creatures. I'm sure you've sensed them. Even if you haven't. I'm sure you…. You know what I mean by that. You will know they are there.

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It happened once every thousand years, claimed the tales she'd heard. Most had shared her skeptical views on the matter. The vulpines of the past must have been paranoid and delusional. No, the Grim Reaper didn't even exist. It was merely a personification, an attempt by mortals to make some sense of death. It made no corporeal appearance every thousand years to stalk hapless victims in the night. She'd found the notion ridiculous. That was, until it happened. She'd known of the stories and they'd been fresh in her mind when first she learned of the murders. And now, she found herself absolutely fascinated.

"Nylva?"

Her eyes didn't turn away from the screen. "Yes?"

"What is it? I mean, it's creepy, but you've been staring at it for half an hour."

"Creepy indeed," she replied, hardly detecting her own voice.

"We'll just have to lay low for a while- 'til that thing goes away."

"I could use a vacation."

Her ears followed their conversation, but she made no movement otherwise. Her pale brown eyes remained fixated on the computer. This footage was all over the internet, and she'd paused it to stare at the shadowy figure, thinking.

The reaper itself wasn't much to look at. It's appearance was that of a figure covered by a cloak of pure darkness. It seemed to have no feet, a cloud of blackness existing where they should be. From beneath the long hood, she could see the tiniest speck of red. Its hand must have been covered by its sleeve, or perhaps the creature and its cloak were one in the same. Nevertheless, her gaze was drawn to the scythe it held. Somehow the item stood out as being separate from their world's little guest. It was darker than anything she'd seen prior. While the entity appeared to truly exist in the world, its scythe had the look of being a charred piece of reality. It gave off the feeling of permanence. Its mere image seemed to her like a wound, a scar upon the universe that would never truly heal.

"It mostly visits those who are ill or injured, correct?"

"Yeah."

"The deadlier the condition, the better?"

"Uh…. Yeah?"

"Hm. I suppose that would make sense for the Grim Reaper."

"What are you thinking, Nylva?"

She could hear Torai's black and white tail brushing against the floor as it swayed. She smiled at his characteristic apprehension.

"I want it."

Farther behind, Rinx's drink spewed from his muzzle. "You what?" He laughed. "Whatever you've been smoking, I want some."

"You-you want the Grim Reaper?"

"No, my friend. I want it's scythe."

"But-but-but that's…."

Torai gave up on his response as the other fox guffawed. At last she turned away from the screen to face them. There stood the more timid member of their group, staring at her like a frightened kit. His jaws parted as he made yet another attempt for words, then closed. Rinx nearly fell from his plush chair in the midst of his amusement. She gave them a slow blink, leaning back in her seat and making use of the armrests. Finally, Torai skittered off mumbling something about making tea. Rinx's laughter gradually died down. He took several deep breaths in effort to satisfy his now starved lungs. She observed the violet vulpine patiently.

Cream-colored chest still heaving, his expression gradually became that of disbelief. "You're serious."

"Of course I am. When have I ever joked about a prize?"

A pause, then, "this is crazy, even for you."

"That may be so. Nevertheless, I want the Grim Reaper's scythe."

"Wh- how's that going to help us? Who's going to want that, besides you?"

"I don't want it to sell it; I want it for myself. It's been far too long since I treated myself."

Silence.

"No."

"No?"

"You're my friend. Friends don't let friends put themselves in such a dangerous-"

"Nearly everything we do is dangerous, Rinx."

"Yeah, but that's extra dangerous. It's not some regular person, or a cop or something. It's a weird shadow creature that kills everything it touches." It was rare to observe such seriousness in those purple eyes. "I can't let you go off and try to steal the Grim Reaper's scythe."

Her muzzle pointed upward. "And what leads you to believe you can stop me?"

He crossed his arms. "What makes you think I can't?"

There they sat, staring at each other, engrossed in a silent battle of wills. There was no sound but that of the clock. Tick, tock, tick, tock. Time sped onward, and they found their challenging stares interrupted by the black and white fox returning with the promised tea. A warm cup now in hand, and a sweet scent filling her nose, Nylva turned away. She took a sip whilst organizing her thoughts. Torai tucked himself away in his cozy little corner and waited. Rinx gave her a warning look before guzzling the last of his soda. She studied her claws as she reflected on his words. Perhaps it was a bit unreasonable.

"All right."

"Okay."

"Fine, then."

"Yeah."

"Mm-hm."

"Glad we settled that."

"Yes."

"Yep."

Torai, whose green eyes had been flicking between them, asked, "what?"

"Nobody's going after the Grim Reaper or its scythe."

"Oh," he replied with a sigh of relief.

"But we're not going into hiding," she told them.

A pause, then, "what do you have in mind?"

She smiled. "You shall see."

"Okay! Well, if that's all settled, why don't we just watch a movie or something?"

Torai's cheery voice had been a little jarring to hear, but it was a welcome sound. She agreed before Rinx could respond, prompting the youngest vulpine to rush excitedly into their home theater. She uttered a quiet, dainty chuckle at his enthusiasm. Rinx rolled his eyes, and the two of them stood to follow. She took another sip of tea as they ambled side by side through the dimly-lit hallway. The warm, sweet liquid danced across her tongue before sliding down her throat. She spared at a glance at her old partner in crime as their feet sank into plush carpet. His face clearly displayed his doubts.

"You sure he'll be okay? Doing what we do?"

"Of course. All he needs is a little encouragement."

"But-"

"Oh, trust me, will you? He's already a lovely pickpocket. Nearly claimed a prize from me. That alone should tell you enough."

He dropped the subject, and the two of them joined their new friend.

Hai. Here's an idea I'm trying out. Hope ya like it!