The dark figure, all in black swept silently into the small confines of the confessional. The head bowed respectfully before a voice devoid of all emotion intoned forth.
"Forgive me father, for I have sinned."
If the demons ruling hatred and chaos ever held a party, it would be called war. War has a distinct smell, she thought. Like blood and rot, something that seeps into you and never goes away, no matter how many times you bathe yourself, or how many times your clothes are washed. Just as the bloodstains never fade from your hands. She could see the blood of the dead, splashed on her rumpled and torn uniform, coating her hands, smeared across the baked-dry ground she lay sprawled on. Blood was everywhere, the redness of it tinting her vision towards that particular hue of crimson. There was an especially large amount of blood soaking the chest of her jacket and pooling around her, she dully noticed. Such a lovely color, so very vivid. She remembers the picture of her parents. He father, a stern-looking man with a strong chin had his arm linked with the energetic, laughing female in the picture, a ghost of a smile showing on the man's otherwise stoic face. Her mother had brilliant red hair. Or maybe I only think she does. Hard to tell, so much red around... Not much pain though. I was sure there would be. It must have been this red when they died too, twisted metal and broken glass of the crash littering the ground, sirens approaching in the distance. Did your reach for your wife in those last moment father? Or did you let her die alone? God knows she was lonely enough in life...
A harried camp nurse rushed over and took her pulse. A weak beat and muffled groan signaled the faint life her battered body still contained. Pulling a pair of medical scissors out of her medkit, the nurse snipping of the ruined jacket and the once white cotton t-shirt beneath. Frown lines formed at the corners of her mouth as she surveyed the area where the bullet had torn through flesh, shattering a rib before coming to rest in a fragile lung. The punctured tissue hissed with every breath, and a soft gurgling sound signaled the inevitable leaking of blood into the vital organ. The nurse shook her head mournfully, reaching for her belt and drawing the 0.28-mm she kept there for moments like this.
"So young to die." The Medic's tone was slightly sad, yet held no empathy for the teenage girl dying before her. Ignoring the weak hand that pitifully reached to push her arm away and the plaintive croak the female soldier made, she placed the barrel of the gun at her temple and pulled the trigger. The body jerked slightly as grey matter exploded outward, splattering onto dusty white medical garments and the barren ground beneath them. The opened eyes of the dead girl stared sightlessly after the retreating form as she tucked the gun back into her holster and went to find the next patient. It was then that it began to rain, like a great cleansing flow, washing away the scent of death with the dust.
"What sin have you committed, my child?" The old priest had a dry, gentle voice, full of compassion and care for the nameless person before him. It made the being sneer in disgust before spitting a reply like poison at the man's feet.
"I've killed people."
She was drowning now. Swirling madly on a red sea of her own blood, caught in a vortex that spun her like bathwater down the drain. She choked on the vile fluid and spat it out, immediately taking another mouthful as her head submerged one last time. Unable to breathe, she thrashed frantically for the surface, adrenaline giving her an inhuman strength. Her efforts were fruitless, and now it was only her iron will to survive that kept her alive. Will not give up. I am my father's daughter, the stubborn son of a... At that moment, the maddening tide ceased to pull her under and receded.
Splayed now on the solid ground, the girl sucked deep grateful breaths into aching lungs, her whole body shuddering with the effort. It took some time before she had enough strength to stand again. Rising unsteadily to her feet she surveyed her surrounding with a calculated soldiers gaze. The room, if you could even call it that, was expansive, with no walls or ceiling in sight. Then again, it could have been an illusion, since everywhere she turned, she was surrounded by red. The same red of the blood she had just been swimming in. The same red of Momma's hair. She turned to look behind her now and gasped in shock at the black-robed figure standing before her. In one hand, the eerie being clutched a long-handled ancient scythe, the wickedly sharp blade of which was ornately carved with symbols and inscribed with a language she didn't recognize. The proud weapon stood almost as tall as it's bearer, the worn wooden shaft clasped in a gnarled hand with chipped and broken nails. Her eyes were drawn up the figure to the impenetrable shadows that filled the hood where the face should have been. Feeling no fear, she took a step forward. Immediately, the person raised a hand in a silent gesture to stop her advance. The voice that addressed her now wrapped around her like a cool breeze, chilling and haunting, like wolves howling at the distant moon.
"You have been chosen" It was a statement, not a question, and her brow wrinkled in confusion.
"The hell are you talking about? Who are you?"
"I am death, and I am offering you eternal salvation." This was intriguing to her morbid curiosity, much to her chargrin.
"From punishment for your crimes. You have killed. Without remorse or regret. Have you any idea how many have perished by your hand? Surely you don't think your going to heaven after that." The girl licked lips that had suddenly gone dry before she responded.
"I only followed orders."
"Do you think that God above gives a damn about your orders or your loyalty to your commanders?" The girl was unable to answer; she could only listen as the hooded figure continued his address. "My god is more lenient. He is more than willing to offer you a compromise."
"Compromise?" A one-word response was all she could muster.
"I have served the Dark Lord for five-thousand years. My penance is now paid in full, and a replacement is needed."
"And you chose me" Her consternation was apparent.
"You have much to pay penance for."
"I hardly think it's five-thousand years worth!"
"How many years of penance do you think is fair? You have robbed many young people of sixty or so years of their life. Really, five thousand years is less than you deserve. All we ask of you is to harvest the souls of the dead and send them here for judgement. It should not be a harder task than being the soldier you once were."
"But for five thousand years?" She murmured quietly to herself, the decision becoming apparent in her mind, to horrific to fully comprehend. Defeated, she raised her head slowly, clinging to her pride until the very end. Oh Papa, forgive me my trespasses in this life and I will surely forgive yours in your death.
When the Grim Reaper stepped forward and offered the girl his scythe, she inhaled deeply and took it.
The girl couldn't see the blood anymore. In fact, she couldn't see anything anymore. Only a never-ending blackness that clung to her. She felt overwhelmed by it, and when she opened her mouth to scream the darkness fled down her throat to take up residence in her belly. Like a virus the darkness spread and consumed her, coursing through her veins like blood on fire. One final time she screamed.
The old priest was shocked silent by her response. He had heard many varieties of sins, but never had a murderer entered the confessional. Clearing his throat softly, he found his voice again.
"Who were these people child?" Baring her teeth in silent response, the reaper lunged toward the screen dividing them, her hand shooting out with practiced ease and grasping the brilliant red lifeline that bound the man to this plain. With a quiet hiss of a descending blade, the scythe severed the thread and the man collapsed unmoving, eyes glassy and lifeless. A cruel smirk on her once-lovely face, she leaned toward the unbroken grill to utter her response to his unhearing form.
"I've killed everybody."
As Death straightened up to her feet, a single tendril of hair fell free of the dark hood. It was brilliant red, just as her blood had been, once upon a time ago when she had known mortality. Absently tucking it back out of sight, the Reaper strode swiftly to the door of the church, robe swishing gently about her legs. The old wood doors groaned in protest as they were pushed open, and once again as they swung shut. Deliver me Mama; deliver me from evil.
Silence and death now ruled the house of a forgotten God as one by one the ceremonial candles sputtered and went out.
"For thine is the Kingdom, the power, the glory, forever and ever, Amen"