Demands and Complaints.
The reaping season, as determined by the ancient Omiscan calendar, used to be (inexplicably) during the month of July. That’s over now, because May really is too damn hot to be wearing a robe.
-The Book of the Dead, Revised Edition
“We are not going to the cemetery,” Alice hissed as another bead of sweat dripped into her eye.
She cursed and swiped furiously at her forehead.
Even in springtime at six in the morning, the heat in StrangerVille was oppressive. Of all the amenities the little military outpost lacked (and there were many), a reliable power grid topped the list. That meant almost no place would risk running an air conditioning unit at full power: not the 8 Bells bar that doubled as the local coffee shop, not the StrangerVille Information Center that deigned to call itself a library, and certainly not the bus depot on the edge of town.
For Alice, real air conditioning began and ended in Oasis Springs at the Route 309 Convenience Store where she worked.
“But we must! Nearly 80 souls are active so it’s time to see what the reaper has brought me. It is the day of the culling!” a voice whined.
Alice rounded the corner near her house, patting her pockets to check for her keys. Did she bring them or just leave them under the mat in front of her trailer?
The sooner she got inside, the sooner she could take a cold shower and lay under the fan…
“Are you even listening to me?” the voice snapped. It belonged to Ben, the God of Death and a whole host of other things that hardly seemed related as far as Alice could tell—
“Death, Resurrection, Agriculture, Fertility, and Nectar. Why is that so complicated? Surely, you can see how vital and connected they all are?” Ben continued, answering her unspoken question.
Alice had been sharing her headspace with Ben since the morning of her 13th birthday. She went to sleep dreaming of her first co-ed party and woke up with the voice of an ancient god in her head. It had been downhill since then. She had no private thoughts, Ben could not bear to leave a question unanswered, and he of the “unknowable name” had an opinion on everything.
“Unpronounceable.” Ben corrected.
“What?” Alice asked, distracted as she peered down the block.
“Unpronounceable, not unknowable. My name is unpronounceable in your sim tongue so I went with something simple, and jazzy if I do say so myself…”
Alice ignored him. From this short distance, she could see that there were no cars in front of the house, which meant her parents were already on their way to work. She started walking. This was the best case scenario, Alice hated running into people when Ben was in one of his moods.
“Moods? I don’t have moods! I’m an all-powerful being! The only emotion I could possibly suffer is an untold amount of frustration from missing this very important culling. I mean centuries of tradition at risk because…Alice? Hello? You are not even listening to me!” he huffed, his tone aghast.
“No!” Alice snapped, throwing up her hands, “I am absolutely not listening!”
“And do you want to know why? Because I’ve been restocking shelves of toilet paper and sunscreen since ten o’clock last night and that was just keep myself from dying of boredom! I had to kick out a rando wearing a clown suit and chase off eight—count ‘em—eight stray cats,” she ticked off the number on her fingers before continuing. “I’m tired. I’m hot as fuck. And I don’t care what you want.”
Alice took a few deep breaths to try and calm herself down. It wasn’t worth fighting with Ben. She just needed to climb into her bed and get some rest.
She slipped around the back of the house and let herself into her trailer.