Ok, so this post is gonna be a bit weird. See, this is technically an assignment where I could describe how a group of fictional or non-fictional people came together and became friends. However, I already kind of had a story written around this very idea, but it only involved two of the main cast for one of my books. So I’ll be adding some to it.
I don’t expect you guys to understand everything going on in this story, since I haven’t published any of the books in this series. Most of what you need to know is that this story universe takes place in the afterlife and follows a group of young grim reapers as they battle evil and learn how to do their job. This is a quick anecdote of how they became the group of four that we find in the second book. Yes, the second book. The first focuses on only one of them.
Without further ado here is how the young reapers met. I hope you enjoy!
“How did you and your friends first meet?”
Steven stared down at the question neatly printed on the page of homework. This question was obviously for team sorting, but it just struck him as odd. Why?
Well, he never gave much thought to how he met his friends. It didn’t matter. They were his friends now, why did it matter how they’d met?
Thinking about it a little more he realized he didn’t have any memories of ever meeting Jasmine and Xavier. That wasn’t too surprising though, Jasmine was practically his cousin since their parents had been teammates. Xavier was also kind of like family, having been his neighbor since…forever.
Carolin was the only one he really had any distinct memory of meeting. He smiled as that very memory swam up from the depths of his brain.
“Welcome parents and patrons, to the annual New Orleans Third Grade Talent Show!”
Steven bounced on his toes in excitement as the principal of his school started her welcome speech. The butterflies in his stomach fluttered with anticipation. He’d been waiting for this day all year.
Every December, third grade kids in every district in Limbo would get up on stage and show off their fighting skills. The shows’ main purpose was to help administrators start the process of squad assignment. However, due to the lack of a decent movie theater during the early years of the reapers, the talent show had quickly become a holiday for proud parents just before the Christmas season really got underway.
Now it was Steven’s year of kids turn to get up on that stage one at a time and show off their moves. Steven and his friend Xavier had been practicing their forms every weekend since summer vacation, they were sure they’d get the highest scores.
Steven had chosen to use a staff for the talent show, since that was his mother’s soul scythe. Xavier meanwhile had chosen to work with two long daggers because of their light weight and flexibility. Of course, the boys had added their own bits of flair to the forms because they found it a little easier to do them their own way—and because it looked cool.
Steven turned to look at Xavier in line right in front of him. The children had been lined up according to their seating arrangements in class, so many of the kids in line were right next to their friends.
“You ready?” Steven asked, a big grin on his face.
“Duh,” Xavier said, an even bigger grin on his face as he practically jumped hurtles in front of Steven. “We are going to kick everyone’s g-”
“Please welcome our first student, Amanda!” the principal called, interrupting him.
The line shifted forward a bit as Amanda walked through the door and out onto the stage.
“It’s starting!” Xavier whispered excitedly.
“I know!” Steven whispered back, just as hyped.
Everyone backstage turned their heads to watch the screens set along the top of the wall opposite from where they were lined up. One of the butterflies in Steven’s stomach fluttered up into his heart as Amanda walked out onto stage and curtsied for the politely applauding crowd.
“You may begin now,” the principal said from her judge’s chair.
Amanda nodded, turned around, pulled out her slingshot, readied the weapon, and waited. The rear end of the stage clattered as gears, wires, and pulleys all started working in tandem. Three clay pots set on planks rose from the floor on ropes, heading slowly for the ceiling.
This part of the talent show was always planned by the parent or parents of the kid on stage. This was to ensure that the child could properly display their skills while still having to contend with an element of randomness and the unknown.
Amanda quickly released her first shot, which hit the middle pot slightly off center. The clay container wobbled and dropped off the plank, crashing to the floor.
Amanda drew back her slingshot, took an extra second to aim more carefully, and released her second shot. This one hit its target squarely in the center, shattering the pottery on impact.
Quickly repeating the process, Amanda shattered the last jar right before it disappeared into the ceiling.
Three more pots started sliding horizontally across the back of the stage from right to left slightly faster than the first. Amanda shot these down easily, just barely knocking the last one off its pedestal.
From the opposite end of the stage, another three pots emerged and started going right faster than the last two groups of pottery. The blonde haired girl again shot all but the last one dead center.
The stage mechanisms powered down, and Amanda turned around as the crowd applauded. She curtsied again as the judges scribbled down their final notes.
“Thank you, Amanda,” the elementary school principal said, “Please exit out the doors on your right.”
Amanda curtsied again, smiling widely, and trotted off stage and through the doors leading out into the adjacent hallway. The line shuffled forward again as the next kid was called on stage.
Steven got more and more nervous as the line kept inching forward. In what seemed like both an eternity and no time at all, it was Xavier’s turn to go up on stage.
The two boys high-fived each other as Xavier stepped through the door. Steven turned to watch the screen, but a small noise from the person in line behind him drew his attention.
Next to him in line was a girl about half a head shorter than him. She had pitch-black hair tightly pulled into two braided pigtails that hung down her back. Her eyes, which were staring at the ground through big, circular, wire-rim glasses, were a soft brown. The pale skin of her face was tight with worry and a little green. She had her hands drawn up to her chest and she was hunched forward a little as if she wanted to shrink down to the size of a mouse and scurry away. The noise she had made was something between a whimper, a grunt, and a squeak.
Steven, oblivious as he was, had never seen this girl sitting next to him in class. He had a vague recollection of her sometimes answering questions, but other than that, he’d never noticed her before.
Maybe I should say something to her, he thought, She looks like she’d start throwing up if her stomach wasn’t empty
Suddenly, the crowd started cheering, and Xavier exited just as the judges called Steven’s name.
Now or never.
“Good luck,” he said to the girl.
She looked up and he smiled with a lot more confidence than he felt. Her face became a little less green and the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly.
Steven quickly stepped through the door before his slowness got noticed. He grabbed his staff from where it was leaning next to all the other weapons on the inside wall of the stage and stepped up to the center.
The crowd applauded politely and he heard his mom whistle loudly from the back of the auditorium. He scanned the section of the crowd where the sound had come from and quickly found his mom. She was smiling widely and giving him two, very enthusiastic, thumbs up. He smiled back, his mom’s smile and the smile from that girl behind him had chased away several of the butterflies in his stomach.
He bowed to the judges, who consisted of the elementary school principal, the middle school principal, and a childless Thanatos. The elementary principal said, “You may now begin.”
Immediately, four plastic crash test dummies popped out of the floor: one directly behind him, one on either side, and one hanging from wires above him. They moved in what seemed a random pattern, some sliding closer while other scooted away, and then they’d change directions without warning.
Steven crouched in a ready stance. His mother had warned him that she wouldn’t go easy with the challenge. This was a test of his reflexes and ability to pick the right move for the right attack. This routine was all about thinking on his toes.
He pivoted around so that he was facing the back wall. This afforded him a better view of his opponents.
The dummy on his left attacked first, dashing forward on its support.
Steven whipped around, slamming the right end of his staff into the side of the dummy, knocking it off its support.
Reversing direction, Steven hooked the left end of his weapon into the dummy’s torso before spinning around and throwing the plastic man into his attacking comrade on the other side of the stage.
The two dummies slammed into each other and crashed to the floor of the stage. Their companion on the ground rushed the young reaper to avenge his fallen friends.
Steven let go of the staff with his left hand and thrust the pole of wood into the dummy’s neck with his right. The one-handed strike gave him extra reach as well as power, but it was a risk. Reduced grip gave him less control of the strike.
Luckily, this extra reach allowed him enough room to dodge as the last remaining crash tester dropped from the ceiling. The dummy stopped its fall before it hit the ground and started retreating into the air.
Steven however had taken this opportunity to grasp his staff with two hands like a great sword. He leapt into the air, raising the weapon over his head, before slamming the staff into the dummy’s back as he came down.
The thin wires holding the dummy up snapped and the plastic spirit crashed to the floor of the stage.
Steven readied himself in case his mother had more in store for him. However, the machines stopped cranking and the crowd applauded, his mother clapping, cheering, and whistling above everyone else.
“Thank you Steven,” his principal said, “Please exit out the doors to your right.”
Steven bowed, grinning broadly, and quickly stepped out into the hallway, waving to his mom on the way out.
Out in the hallway, all the other kids who’d finished had gathered into clusters of friends. He placed his staff into the box with all the other weapons that had been used.
“Dude!” Xavier said, running up to him, “That was awesome!”
They bumped fists.
“Thanks,” Steven said, feeling a little bashful all of a sudden. “You were great too.”
“Come on. Let’s go get our Mythos cards out of our lockers and we can play while we wait to see Bulk and Stud screw up.”
“Hold on. I want to see this next girl first.”
He looked up to the top of the wall to watch the screen.
The girl who’d been behind him in line was standing nervously in the center of the stage, a satchel strapped from her left shoulder to her right hip.
The principal told her she could begin, and instantly the girl’s challenge popped out of the stage.
Steven and Xavier gaped at the screen. Steven’s mother might have made his talent show difficult, many other parents did, but the challenge on the screen was insane.
Eight archery targets spun in a circle around one stationary target on the back wall of the stage. Two crash test dummies on either side of the stage moved from the back of the stage to the front and back again. Five clay jars hung suspended from wires above the girl, moving erratically around the air above the stage. On the back wall, an electronic clock appeared above the spinning targets and started counting down from thirty seconds.
“There’s no way she can-” Xavier started to say, but stopped as the girl spun around and threw three throwing knives from her satchel at the spinning targets on the back wall.
One knife hit the central target while the other two hit one target on either side. The blades sunk deep into the targets about an inch or two from a perfect bull’s-eye.
The girl then pulled out two knives with her right hand and threw them underhanded at the spinning targets. She repeated the action before the first two weapons had even reached the wall.
The four knives hit four of the empty targets in the same place the first three had stuck. Another underhanded throw sent one last blade into the final spinning target.
The girl reached into the satchel again and pulled out four throwing knives with her right hand. Taking two of the knives with her left hand, she flung the pairs of blades in opposite directions. One weapon slammed into each of the crash test dummies’ right eyes, stopping their back and forth sliding motions.
Five more times the girl reached into her pouch, alternating her throwing hand each time. The ceramic pots would have had a greater chance at surviving in an RPG than they did on that stage.
With five seconds left, the timer above the stage stopped as the last bits of clay fell to the floor.
The girl quickly turned around, bowed, and scurried toward the exit before the awestruck crowd had a chance to applaud. She opened the door to the hall, ran past Steven and Xavier, and hurried outside.
Steven got a glance of the girl’s face as she dashed past him. She looked as if she were on the verge of tears.
“That was…” Xavier said, searching for the right word, “weird. Anyway, let’s go get our cards.”
“You go ahead,” Steven said distractedly, looking after the girl. “You can get mine too. I’ll be right back.”
“Ok,” Xavier shrugged before walking down the hall.
Steven walked the opposite direction, after the girl. He exited through the doors and looked around. Over by the playground, he could see a shoe sticking out from behind the small climbing wall.
He walked to the wall and peered behind the piece of playground equipment. The girl sat huddled on the ground, head on her knees, and her back propped against the wall. Her shoulders shook with audible sobs.
“Hey,” Steven said softly, crouching down next to the girl.
She flinched and looked up, revealing the thin line of tears that was starting to flow down her face. Seeing a familiar face, she relaxed a little, took of her glasses, and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her t-shirt.
“H-hi,” she stuttered back. Her voice was soft and quiet, as well as a little squeaky.
“Are you ok?” Steven asked. He realized how stupid that question was, but he didn’t know what else to say.
“N-n-no,” the girl said, placing her glasses back on her nose and scooting over to make room for him, “I-I-I w-was t-terrib-ble back there.”
Steven was dumbstruck.
“What are you talking about?” he said, sitting down next to the black-haired girl. “You were amazing!”
“N-no I w-wasn’t. I m-missed the c-center.”
“By like, an inch. That’s incredible. Especially with that insane challenge your parents set up.”
“I only have one parent…my dad…the osiris.”
“Your dad is the Osiris!?” Steven asked, dumbstruck yet again. This girl was full of surprises.
“B-b-but he d-d-didn’t come t-to see m-me,” she said, her eyes tearing up again. She started sniffling as she held back her sobs.
“Seriously? Even after setting up that kind of show?”
The girl pressed her forehead against her knees again and started shaking as she held back sobs heavier sobs. Steven hastily searched for a way to comfort her.
“Maybe you just couldn’t see him,” he said.
“N-n-no,” she sobbed in a heartbreaking voice that was half-sad, half-angry. “I checked every face. He wasn’t there. He promised me that he would show up and he didn’t. When I get back, he’ll say he was too busy. He’s always too busy! He’s too busy to even come to my talent show!”
The dam broke and the girl started crying. Heavy sobs racked her form and tears rolled down her face. She hugged her knees closer to her body and curled into a tight ball.
Steven had no idea what to do. He’d never comforted someone before, much less a girl—a girl he barely knew. He tried to think. What did his mom do for him when he cried?
He shuffled closer to the girl, draped his arm over her shoulders, and pulled her closer. The girl relaxed just enough to press her face against his shoulder and muffle her sobs by crying into his shirt. They stayed like that for several minutes. Steven was uncomfortable, but he stayed where he was.
Eventually, the girl’s sobbing ceased and she stopped crying.
“I-I’m sorry,” she croaked, pulling back from his shoulder and readjusting her glasses. “Y-you don’t know me and I d-don’t know you.”
“That’s ok,” Steven said, drawing back his arm and giving what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “My name is Steven. What’s yours?”
“C-carolin,” she said, looking up and giving him a small smile.
“You want to be my friend?”
“R-really?” she asked, her smile growing. “Y-you want to be f-friends with m-me?”
“Yeah. So is that a yes?”
Carolin nodded. Steven smiled.
“Great,” he said.
A slightly awkward silence followed.
“So…” Steven said, “You want to come play Mythos with me and my other friend?”
Carolin smiled. “Yes, please.”
The two stood up and walked back inside. Steven felt great. He had done great in the talent show, he was going to kick Xavier’s butt in a game of Mythos, and he had made a friend that he totally wanted for a squadmate.