“A silver blade, hilt wrapped with Alaskan wolf hide, sun stone etched tip. Best sword I have ever forged!” Says a bald man that appears to be in his late thirties. He also looks like he can be part of any nationality.
“It says ‘Made in China’ on the bottom.”
“That’s because I made it in China! Are you going to give me fifty bucks or not?”
“I’ll give you ten bucks for it.”
“Ten! Get out of here kid! You don’t deserve this blade anyway!”
“Fuck you then old man!” A young man in his early twenties stomps away from the salesman’s swap meet stall.
“I’m not old I’m thirty-two!” The stall keeper corrects him as he places the sword back into its scabbard. “Punk like that wouldn’t be able to make you work anyway.” He looks at the sword then tosses the blade back into a box full of weapons.
“Thirty-two? I thought you we’re over thousands of years old Harry, or do you go by Henry now?” A slim woman wearing all black comes out of his RV. Her hair is dark black with a small streak of blonde here and there, but her most striking feature is her hollow stare that her eyes constantly give off.
“Today feels like a Vergil,” he replies as she takes a seat on a collapsible chair next to him.
“Why do you keep switching names all the time anyway?”
“I already spent multiple lifetimes going by one name. Figured I’d start changing it from time to time to make life a little less boring. Since we live a long time now, it helps.”
“Still can’t believe it’s been a year since I stopped being human,” she sighs. “Didn’t think it would make me feel this cold.”
“Makes sense since you’re a new reaper. So any idea when you’re going to stop going by Liz?” Vergil asks as he looks at potential customers walking around the swap meet.
“Hopefully never. I at least want to keep one thing from my humanity,” she states as she blankly looks up at the sky then turns her attention to Vergil. “Since you brought it up, when are you going to give me my scythe anyway.”
“You’re still not ready for it,” Vergil sighs after giving her a quick glance. Then a potential browser stumbles upon his wares. A middle-aged man gives off an air of wealth and a cloud of arrogance.
“Nice spears you have here. I also like these axes!” He shouts to get Vergil’s attention.
“You don’t need to yell asshole, I’m not deaf!” Vergil shouts back.
“Sorry about that, I’m Carl,” the man introduces himself after getting taken aback by Vergil’s reply, “I pride myself in being a weapon expert.”
“You don’t say?” Vergil sarcastically asks as Liz silently sits beside him.
“Yeah so I know when you’re trying to rip me off.” Carl says as he picks up a war ax. “This thing I’d say it’s worth five hundred dollars, am I right?” Carl asks as he appraises the weapon in his hand.
“I’d say it’s worth a lot more, but I wouldn’t mind selling it at that price. You’re just going to hang it on a wall anyway, not like you’re going to kill someone with it,” Vergil says as he holds out his hand expecting payment.
“Of course not. If anything I’ll hire someone else to do it.” Carl laughs as he pays Vergil for the ax then continues on his way.
“Wasn’t that the Thunder Ax?” Liz asks.
“You just gave a middle-aged rich guy an ax that can split mountains for five hundred bucks,” Liz says half stunned. “Why?!” she finally blurts out.
“Don’t worry, he won’t be holding it for long. Not like he can use it anyway.” Vergil explains.
“I don’t get it. The giant goddess lady told me to get my scythe from yo,u a celestial weapon master. So I spend months looking for you, and when I finally find you I find out that you’re just an old dude traveling around the world selling weapons at swap meets.”
“You sound like you’re not enjoying yourself,” Vergil says.
“Figure that out on your own?” she lets out sarcastically, “What bothers me more is that you just give these random people literal weapons of mass destruction, but it still takes you a week in a half at this point to even consider making my scythe.”
“Still haven’t started on its design by the way.”
“Anyway, it doesn’t matter who I give my weapons to. At some point they will reach the people who can and deserve to wield them,” Vergil explains as a father and his son approach his stall.
“Papa look swards!” The son mispronounces the word.
“Careful Tommy they can cut you.” The father says as he stops his son’s curious hand.
“Your Papa’s right kid. I’ve seen those thing’s in action.” Vergil adds as he walks up to the two of them with Liz still in her seat.
“Sorry to bother you sir.” The father says.
“Sorry for what? With this world being full of gun nuts, it’s good to see a kid interested in swords.” Vergil then kneels down to talk to Tommy. “Your name’s Tommy, right?”
Tommy says yes with a nod.
“Do you like your papa a lot?” Vergil asks.
“Yeah, he’s the best Papa in the world!” Tommy shouts, which puts a smile on the father’s face.
“So, when you grow you want to protect him right?” Vergil asks.
“Then you don’t need these big scary swards!” Vergil tells him in a childish voice then picks up a shield from a nearby box, “Swards only hurt people. If you want to protect someone you love you need a shield like this one.” Vergil gives the small boy a round shield comparable to his size.
“It’s too big!” Tommy says with excitement.
“Well you can’t use it now! When you’re older you can pick it up with one hand and protect everyone you care about.”
“I don’t know Tommy. I think it costs too much to buy,” the father interrupts since he doesn’t want to be forced into buying an expensive shield for his son.
“You don’t think you can afford ten bucks? Buy it now and I’ll even throw in a hunting knife for you,” Vergil offers. “I rather make a kids day then load all this heavy junk back into my RV.”
“For real?” The father asks shocked by the bargain.
“I’d rather give these to you two for free, but they say it’s bad luck to give away a knife,” Vergil says as he holds out a sheathed hunting knife for the father to take.
“Deal! Thank you very much!” The father immediately takes out the money and trades it with Vergil’s knife. The father and son leave, with the shield strapped to the fathers arm and hunting knife attached to his belt loop.
“You just gave away the Vanishing Knife and the Darkness Shield for five bucks each to a kid,” Liz says as Vergil takes his seat next to her.
“I gave the knife to his dad,” Vergil says.
“Either way, you just gave away a weapon to a kid, but you still haven’t given me what was appointed to me,” Liz argues.
“He deserves it, and so will his great, great, great, grandson,” Vergil says as he stares off to the distance. “Do you even understand what your role as reaper is?”
“Not really, I just know I have to guide the souls of the dead, whatever that means,” Liz answers, “but I can’t find out what I really have to do without my scythe can I?”
“I know the answer, but it won’t do you any good if I just tell you.” He answers as he looks down the swap meet’s path, then gets out of his chair. “You take this one, I need to check on something.” He taps her shoulder as he gets in his RV.
“Okay?” Liz says surprised noticing a small glisten in his eyes as he walks past her.
“Hey!” An energetic teenage girl greets her. She’s wearing clothes that border on revealing, wearing a small button up blue blouse, denim short shorts with tall socks and sneakers. Finally her outfit is complete with a bangle of bracelets on her left wrist.
“I can’t sell weapons to a minor you know.” Liz states with indifference.
“I’m not a minor! I’m eighteen!” She replies as she shows Liz her driver’s license. Alissa Freeman, DOB: 6/13/97, eyes brown, hair black. Oddly enough her thumb is covering her weight and height.
“Alright so what do you want?” Liz asks making sure that her ID is at the very least passable since she could care less if it’s fake or not.
“I’m looking for knives maybe daggers if you have those.” Alissa requests. Liz notices something on her skin under her bracelets. Then in an instant, Liz see’s all of Alissa’s tragic suffering of her past. Then she sees a glimpse of her full potential in the future where they meet again. The mental knock back almost brings her to tears, but she’s still able to keep a straight face.
“Weapons are for hurting other people not yourself,” Liz says, making Alissa’s eyes perk up “At the very least be proud of your scars.” She reaches for her hand and moves her bracelets out of the way to show the multiple cuts across Alissa’s wrist. “They show others what you survived and the mistakes you learned from.”
Alissa pulls her hand back as she starts to tear up.
“Wait here, I got something for you,” Liz says as she looks through the stall, then she sees a glowing iron bo staff only visible to her. On the surface it looks like a metal pole, but in the right hands it turns into the Flaming Heaven Staff, one of Vergil’s longest kept weapons. She twirls it as she makes the short walk back to Alissa, then presents it to her. “Here. This is for you.”
“I can’t afford that.” She mumbles through her tears.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ve been trying to get rid of this thing for a long time. Just take it, not like anyone else is going to.” Liz convinces her as Alissa finally takes hold of it.
“It’s actually feels pretty cool to hold,” she says with a smile as she unknowingly poses with her staff by putting it behind her neck and holds each end with both hands. This gives Liz a quick vision of future events.
“It suits you,” Liz compliments her after seeing her strike the same pose in the future where she becomes a nearly unstoppable warrior that can even give her, an embodiment of death, a challenge.
“Thank you, I’ll make sure to take good care of it,” she says as she walks away with staff in hand.
“Yeah, don’t mention it,” Liz whispers to herself as she sees the flame of potential walk away from her knowing that she will be a different person in the future because of the gift she gave her. “It’s going to suck to see you go,” she mutters as she wipes away her slow tears.
“Looks like you gave away the stick,” Vergil says as he bursts out of the RV. “I’ve had that thing for a few millennia. It’s too unstable to just give to anyone.”
“Hey, Verg, if I ever do decide to change my name later on, I’m going to go by Alissa,: she tells him as she hides her face.”That sounds like a good name.”
“Sounds like you learned something. Also sounds like you’re not ready for it either.”
“Yeah, I can’t even pretend anymore,” Liz agrees.
“That’s just fine. Trust me. After many lifetimes you’re never ready for it.” Vergil tells her this knowing the pain that she’s going to feel because of her new role in the universe. “You know, Vergil is a good name. Wouldn’t mind going by it for a little longer. Anyway, I better get started on your scythe. You watch the stall. There’s still souls you have to meet.” He goes back into his RV, leaving Liz on her own again.
“This sucks,” Liz mutters as groups start to form around the stall looking through the weapons of celestial origin.
Ruben Escobar is a new writer living in Southern California. “I wrote this story as a way to express the hidden potential of strangers we meet on a daily basis.”
Poet/Photographer Jennifer Matthews’ poetry has been published in Nepal by Pen Himalaya and locally by the Wilderness Retreat Writers Organization, Midway Journal, The Somerville Times, Ibbetson Street Press and Boston Girl Guide. Jennifer was nominated for a poetry award by the Cambridge Arts Council for her book of Poetry Fairy Tales and Misdemeanors. Her songs have been released nationally and internationally and her photography has been used as covers for a number of Ibbetson Street Press poetry books and has been exhibited at The Middle East Restaurant, 1369 Coffeehouses, Sound Bites Restaurant in Somerville and McLean Hospital.