Sam Smith. That’s the name he’d been going by for the last 150-plus years and it suited him fine, like the 21st Century and it’s clothing styles, which he thought of as he adjusted his tie, making certain that the double-Windsor knot was as small and tight as possible.
He enjoyed looking impeccable for the job, which no matter how much he worked at it never received decent PR. That had always been a problem with his line of work – death.
Time after time, he’d hear how death came for someone who’d had an accident, or murdered or who committed suicide. It wasn’t up to Sam Smith to take someone as much as it was his duty to escort the person towards the afterlife.
In fact, in last the 997 years, he’d only used force once and that was on a Viking Heathen Wolf. There was no reasoning with the man and by the time the confrontation was over, Sam Smith had lost his right arm to mad-man’s sword.
It was embarrassing to have to go to the office the following day to file an on-the-job injury report and then over to the clinic to have the arm reattached. That was also the last time he’d transfigured himself from human form to what people called the ‘Grim Reaper.’
“Do it one time and they think you do it every time,” he’d complain to co-workers.
Finesse, it was the best way to hand anyone whose time it was to go. “Look, it’s going to happen one way or another,” he’d tell the targets putting up a fuss, “Make it easy on yourself.”
His day was nearly complete and he had only one target remaining on his list. But the 86-year old man was proving difficult to find as the man’s inner spirit had gone extremely quiet, something Sam had never encountered before.
For his part, Yoshio Watanabe knew his time was at hand and he had made all the preparations for his passing. The old World War II vet had also promised that when death came to take him, he’d put up one last fight.
Yoshio Watanabe sat quietly in the clearing amid the trees on the outskirts of Tokyo. He had dressed traditionally, a silken kimono, wooden geta’s on his feet, and both a Katana and Wakizashi tucked into the sash tied about his waist.
Sam Smith finally found Yoshio Watanabe. He instantly knew he was going to have a problem with the old man.
“Come on, Mr. Watanabe,” he spoke in perfect Japanese. “Let’s not make this any worse than it already is.”
“I knew you’d come for me one day,” the old man said as got to his feet. “But I will not go quietly.”
Sam Smith stood quietly, waiting for the target to move on him. But the old man stood stock-still as if he were assessing his future opponent’s skill level.
“The old man’s cheese has slipped off his cracker,” Sam Smith decided. “Might as well get it done and over.”
Sam Smith stepped to his left. This caused Yoshio Watanabe to respond by moving to his right and withdrawing only six-inches of his Katana from it’s scabbard.
It was easy to recognize a person who possessed fighting skills and even easier to recognize someone who understood how to handle a sword. Within a second, Sam Smith found himself defending against an 86-year old man flashing two swords around as if he were in his twenties.
Yoshio Watanabe wasn’t the least bit surprised when the man who stood before him changed into a Chokuto-wielding Shinigami, the eastern counterpart to the Grim Reaper. Sam Smith knew that he had to conform to the man’s belief system as he battled with the old man.
The two fought back and forth for nearly a half hour, with neither giving way to the other. It was clear to Sam Smith that he was going have to take Yoshio Watanabe’s head before the old man would be completely satisfied.
Sam Smith stepped to the right and to the inside of Yoshio Watanabe. That’s when he dislodged the Katana from the old man’s hand then wheel about to remove his head in a single stroke.
As Sam Smith’s blade drew through the old man’s neck, Yoshio Watanabe, never one to surrender, drove his Wakizashi through the Shinigami’s sternum with enough force that the tip of the sword became lodged in Sam Smith’s sixth thoracic vertebrae.
With the battle concluded, Sam Smith looked at the old man’s lifeless form on the ground. He knew it wasn’t real, but the sight left him feeling empty.
In the distance he could see Yoshio Watanabe still peacefully seated as he had been when he’d first found him. He could tell that the man had passed and that now his real work was to begin.
Sam Smith walked over to the severed head and picked it up. Next he pulled the headless body of Yoshio Watanabe into a seated position, then handed him his head before helping him to his feet.
Together they walked to the nearby ‘Sorting Ground.’ Once there, he left Yoshio Watanabe in the Sorters hands.
On his way home, he tried to pull the blade from his body, but it was good and stuck. All he wanted to do now was kick his feet up with a beer and watch the nightly news to see if any of his handy work had made it across the editorial desk.
“What happened to you?” Mrs. Smith asked.
“Long story,” Sam Smith said. “I had to duke it out with a guy who believed he was Samurai or something.”
“What do you think the Boss will have to say?”
“No idea, hopefully I won’t have to explain. Just go to the doctor, get it removed and return to work. But I still gotta fill out a work injury report.”
“So, how’d it happen?”
“Honestly, I have no idea. I went in to remove his head and next thing I know as I’m doing that, he ramming this stupid thing through me.”
Sam Smith flipped on the TV and headed into the kitchen to grab a brew from the refrigerator. He returned to the living room, kicked off his shoes, sitting down in his new recliner chair, the couple had purchased two days ago.
As he began to watch the news, Mrs. Smith walked into the room, “What have you done?”
Sam Smith looked up at her, a case of puzzlement showing on his face. He clearly had no idea what he’d done – but he was certain Mrs. Smith would tell him.
“That’s a brand new recliner and now you’ve ruined it by poking a hole in it!”
“I forgot…” he began to say, but she didn’t let him finish.
“You can be so thoughtless sometimes!”
She turn and stomped down the hallway to their bedroom, where she slammed the door behind her and when she did that, Sam Smith knew instantly where he was sleeping tonight. He’d have to let her calm down before they could talk about it, so there was nothing more he could do other than leaned back in the chair and enjoys what measure of comfort it brought him at the moment.
“What a perfect way to end the day,” he sighed as he lifted the beer bottle to his lips.