AN: Hello. I am new to this site and am very nervous about posting my work. All my life I have written, whether it was in my head or on paper, but sharing it with others is...whew, a little scary! I have written and posted fanfiction for years, but this is different, it's all mine and I am anxious to hear your thoughts. I am posting because I really want to improve, I want to create something that really truly rips the reader away. I appreciate any and all advice or thoughts you have. This is a WIP, but I already have 16 chapters finished. Again, thank you so much for even clicking on my story, your readership means everything!

CHAPTER 1

She stared out across the distance, her eyes scanning the horizon as the day bled brilliant pinks and oranges down into the muted night. Time stretched along the backdrop of sky, rippling and moving with shades of bruised indigo, silently but relentlessly ticking the minutes away. Grudgingly Anna began to gather her resolve, attempting to pull the tarnished and tattered remains around her, resolutely ignoring the gaping holes made by her own growing apathy.

I can do this, I can, and it's just a job, Anna told herself. Everyone had to contribute and she was no different, although if cosmic contributions were weighed and measured lately hers would probably fall short. She hadn't been this depressed since before she died and that was saying something. Especially when taken into account that Anna had once welcomed death by offering up her own after her entire family were wiped out from the plague in the year 1349.

Anna stood firm and unyielding on her perch above the city. From her vantage point she could see the people below moving hurriedly from one destination to another, often more involved with their cell phones or computers then with the others around them. Blinking jade green eyes, Anna tried to stifle the yearning to be a part of them, a part of the world. But she wasn't.

Instead she was only a part of the end.

She had once been told that sometimes souls that pass prematurely are given on a case by case basis, a second chance. An opportunity to gain through firsthand experience, insight into the never ending and necessary machine called death. And that was how an orphaned and grieving 16 year old Anna had swallowed mouthfuls of belladonna expecting to see her mother on the other side and ended up rising to consciousness as the proud owner of every black garment known to man, a list of names miles long, and a shiny new go get um attitude.

Somehow, without even realizing it, Anna had become disillusioned. Angels of Death were supposed to exude impartiality, not disinterest. Over her long tenure Anna was supposed to gain respect for death and dying to help rectify her reckless throwing away of her own life. Now it just seemed pointless, and despite never needing to sleep, Anna was tired. She met new souls that passed and escorted them to their respective resting places, whether it was up or down, she existed in the twilight of in-between.

Shrugging her delicate shoulders, Anna crammed her self-introspection back into the tiny box of things she tried to rarely think about, and focused on her list once again reading the first name off the top. Her auburn hair lay shining down her back, a long liquid trail of smoldering fire as the descending sun played light and shadow over the thick locks.

Jim Grady, 29, gunshot to the head….hmmmm. Convicted felon, armed robbery, assault, no small wonder which elevator he'd be taking. Trying once again to focus her thoughts, she began chanting Grady's name with her inner voice. Once Anna narrowed down his position she waved her hand and appeared silently and impassively next to Grady's body. He was lying in a pool of his own blood, a mocking halo congealing on the floor, red against the sticky grey of the 7/11 convenience store linoleum. A 9mm lay next to his outstretched fingers, tips curling towards the palm, his body ceding defeat even after the gun slipped from his lifeless grip.

Anna looked over as the rookie cop, who had taken the shot, was celebrating saving the day by losing his lunch forcibly and repeatedly into the wilting bushes. He had a good heart and she knew he'd come to terms with his culpability over time. As for the departed Mr. Grady, Anna felt no remorse in his passing. Had the officer not responded when he did she could very well have been here to collect the attendant or the young mother who'd stopped in to purchase milk on her way home. Grady wouldn't have hesitated to end either of their lives and Anna was more than ready to conclude her business by foisting him off onto the next step.

She reached two slender fingers down, barely noticing the feel of his cool skin, and touched his forehead. With the ease of skillful repetitiveness she drew his soul towards her, thus reaping Jim Grady. As Anna did so, she couldn't help but shudder as she noted the colors that made up his soul.

Every soul was unique, an individual canvas reflecting that person's accomplishments, worth, potential; a very reveling self- portrait, only completely in colors rather than literal depictions, shades and hues over lines and hollows. Through countless years of ceaseless job experience, Anna had found pinks were generally happy; greens competitive and motivated, blues could be either sad or calm depending on the depth of tone. Red, especially deep reds tended to be angry, yellows full of love and faith. Every soul usually had a mix of colors, a kaleidoscope of visceral history, sometimes with a particular hue shining with dominance. But like 64 count Crayola crayon boxes around the world, all were represented, even black, brown, and gray. Grady's soul was very Jackson Pollock, an oily chaos of tangling inky black tendrils against a grey misty backdrop interspersed with angry red splotches practically burning in the intensity of their scarlet reflections.

Feeling a shuddery sigh tingle the back of her throat, Anna claimed the soul and pictured the holding room in her mind. She was anxious to disperse the tainted baggage for several reasons, mainly due to the sulfurous smell already emanating from the repugnant man's essence but also because she had an appointment later that evening for which she did not wish to be late.

Straightening her spine, Anna walked across the room, listing to the sound of her footsteps faintly echo against the hard tile. She passed other Angels of Death on the way to the elevators, frowning as she was forced to get in line. Apparently there was a traffic jam.

Anna nudged the black clad shoulder in front of her, pleasantly pleased it was someone she knew. A former civil war soldier Alec stood a foot taller than Anna's shorter 5'1, and he leaned down to be able to hear her question, his tall body nearly bent in half as he lowered his head next to Anna's shining auburn hair.

"What happened," she inquired as the flow to the elevators usually ran smoothly and without delay.

"Tsunami," he answered shifting his weight as he turned around to answer directly.

"Oh," Anna murmured. "Guess were going to be here a while huh."

"Probably," he responded.

Alec was the only person Anna had met who could turn communicating entirely in one word sentences into a much enjoyed artistic hobby. She looked behind her as the line of black stretched on endlessly. They moved up a fraction of an inch before forward momentum stalled again.

Anna had once claimed a soul who suffered from a heart attack waiting in line at the DMV; this traffic was ironically reminiscent of the thick and stagnant lines of humanity she'd witnessed that day. Peering around Alec as best she could Anna counted 26 more deposits to go and then it was her turn. The line moved forward again sluggishly. Anna concentrated on steadying her breathing, slowly and evenly, until she felt her previous state of numb begin to invade her being bringing with it the reassuring void. I can do this she reminded herself; it's just another day like all the other days in an infinite string of atrophied monotony. Just do your job.

She watched Alec walk into the elevator doors, mere moments later he came back out, winking as he left presumably to collect another. Finally it was Anna's turn, she stepped inside as the doors opened and leaned slightly against the rich mahogany paneling. She waited for the elevator to register its occupants and make a destination decision; although she was pretty confident she knew which direction they were headed. AC/DC's Highway to Hell came blaring out of the speakers as the box jarred to life and began moving down, 666 floors later the doors slid open with a hiss. She'd forgotten what a sense of humor the devil had sometimes. Anna's lips twisted into a wry smile as she remembered once upon a time it had been Beethoven's 9th symphony that had provided the mood music for the descent downstairs. She liked AC/DC better.