Fantasy Short Story

The Reaper’s Revenge

Author: Joseph Murphy-James

The candle’s life was sixteen hours, precisely.

It was near midnight, start of the leap day, the allotted time. She placed the candle on its holder.

Midnight, ignite the wick, for five minutes, exactly.

The taper was offered, causing the flame to flicker. At twelve, the candle illuminated the abbey with infeasible brilliance; a special candle. Chill intense, atmosphere suffocating, it arrived, first indistinct, then solidifying, scythe first, its edge acute. The hood was inky, gown an impossible blackness. Mortal creatures were frozen in place. Except the negotiator. She owned the candle.

192 burns. There would be no more. 768 additional years of life, 4 for each burn.

The Reaper stared as the negotiator shivered. It shook its skeletal head, incapable of interceding. She would cheat death, again, another four years. Its veil slipped back, revealing the perpetual grin of a hideous skull. Eternity was endless, it could wait. For her, time was tangible, slipping away until the leap day, when she regained four lost years. Thank the candle.

This was the ultimate lighting.

She’d lived 788 years, but was seemingly twenty, her age at disclosure, outliving her loves; a curse, yet an addiction. The clock moved on and the glow faded, flame extinguished, candle consumed. The Reaper departed; she sensed its pleasure. The last burn, she could resist no more.


February 28th, five minutes to midnight, the last leap year, she faced her destiny where she’d acquired life. Click from the clock: four minutes.

Ordinary candles illuminated the abbey, lacklustre in comparison, causing flickering shadows. Click: three minutes.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust?

Stone walls, oak doors, earthen floors, enduring structures, unlike her: mortal, especially today. Click: two minutes.

She’d witnessed cruelty, brutality in her long life, a never ending cycle; always someone willing to execute any task, however abhorrent. Life, not always sweet; a habit, difficult to break. Click: one minute.

A breeze from nowhere: door slammed, shutters clattered, candles flickered, and died. In the darkness, her breathing laboured, she would face this. Click: midnight.

The darkness smothers her, then is ousted.

In the holder, a new candle burned. The Reaper stood before her, scythe keen, raised, ready, skull, grotesque, grinning. The flame shone, she watched, time passed and the candle faded. Contemptuously, the Reaper spoke, for the first time in their confrontations.

There are worse fates than death.

Like this story?

Try Joseph Murphy-James' The Shires of York series

The Shires of York is a six part Fantasy Series set in Yorkshire that uses the rich history of God’s Own County as a backdrop for the epic tale. The Dämonen were exiled by the Elven and the only way to achieve their aim to dominate the Shires is through the Veils which are shut. To open them requires twelve Crystals of the Veils and the dragons are their guardians and will not relinquish the crystals lightly.

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