Major Contest 2018: The Hate & Coat Award
‘Why are they holding my funeral here? It was well known I wanted the service at Saint Aurelian’s! Where’s Death? Why have I got you instead of the man himself? You know who I am, right?’ She glared at me.
‘Yes, JJ, I know who you are.’
When Death had offered me this opportunity for revenge I’d leapt at it. It had been ready to go for years, but JJ had refused to die at a reasonable age and managed to outlive both her children and four of her nine grandchildren. I think she hoped to outlive them all.
She’d taken death in her stride. Instead of dealing with a frail, wrinkly old prune of a woman, I had to contend with JJ as her younger twenty-something self with the face and body of an Italian goddess – olive complexion, black wavy hair, big brown eyes framed with long dark lashes, high cheek bones, and full, pouting lips. Thankfully I wanted to fuck her over more than I wanted to fuck her.
‘So where is Death?’
‘Too busy for JJ Barnes?’
‘Well, you tell Death that I require his presence at my funeral, not that of a lowly assistant!’
It was an effort not to take offence. After forty years in his service I was quite high ranking. She stared at me suggestively, angling her body so we were almost touching. Warning bells! She couldn’t know it was me, the form I was wearing was not my own. No, this was just JJ trying to get what she wanted. Looking at her, desire throbbed through me along with memories of the good times we’d had. ‘Focus! Remember what she did to you!’ I moved away, dropping my eyes, touching my left earlobe, murmuring, ‘I’ll contact Death for you.’
‘AH, JJ, I DO HOPE YOU ARE ENJOYING YOUR FUNERAL,’ said Death, commandeering vocal chords and eyes.
‘No, actually, I’m not! Why is my funeral here in this dinky little church and not at Saint Aurelian’s? I wanted the service there, not here!
‘YES I KNEW YOU WOULDN’T BE PLEASED, DARLING, BUT IT IS THE BARNES TRADITION TO USE THIS DINKY LITTLE CHURCH, DON’T YOU KNOW?’
‘And where are all the mourners, Death? There’s hardly anyone here at all! There should be hundreds! Where’s my family? They need to be here.’
‘THIS IS YOUR PRIVATE FUNERAL, JJ. THERE WILL BE A PUBLIC ONE LATER AT SAINT AURELIAN’S. YOU DO REMEMBER HOW MESSY A BARNES’ PRIVATE FUNERAL CAN BE, DON’T YOU DARLING?’
‘I suppose so, but how am I meant to pass on the Barnes legacy without any of my family here? One of them must wear the overcoat.’
‘YOU DID NOT LIST A SUCCESSOR.’
‘No, my death was rather unexpected. I was hoping one of the great grandchildren would show some promise, all the grandchildren are useless. Just bring me one at random.’
‘MOST HAVE TOO MANY CHILDREN. HARDER TO MAKE DISAPPEAR, DON’T YOU KNOW.’
‘Andrew then. He only has one brat child and his wife’s a demented, religious pansy. Will the demons be satisfied with only two?’
‘AT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S FUNERAL ONLY YOUR LOVER WAS SACRIFICED. THE WIFE AND CHILD WILL SUFFICE. I AM SORRY I CANNOT BE THERE ON THIS AUSPICIOUS OCCASION, BUT THERE HAS BEEN AN EARTHQUAKE IN AFRICA AND I HAVE THOUSANDS OF SOULS TO COLLECT. MUST GO. TOODELOO.’
In my mind Death whispered, ‘HOPE THIS WORKS. GOOD LUCK,’ and severed the connection. The church came back into focus.
I watched JJ storm over to the black overcoat hanging by her coffin. Being dead I could see it exactly for what it was and shuddered. Foul tendrils of darkness curled around it and when the chosen Barnes recipient put it on they would become a demonic tool. A distant ancestor had made a pact and now the Barnes family ruled half the world.
When JJ had put it on at her grandfather’s funeral she’d offered me to the demons without any sign of regret. That hurt far more than demon teeth and claws, and revenge burned like fire in my ravaged soul so brightly that the demons could not keep me. So Death and I plotted. Of course, chance played a rather large part, but we’d influenced it as best we could. If the Ceremony went smoothly the chance of failure increased significantly, but any little delay aided us in our attempt to drag the Ceremony over the time limit.
Andrew was as uncooperative as we’d known he’d be. It was for that reason, Death had manipulated JJ into choosing him. Being a “sensitive” meant Andrew was aware of the evil infusing the overcoat and refused to put it on.
‘You’re Death’s Assistant, make him put it on!’ snarled JJ at my side.
‘The contract states that the Barnes successor must be a willing participant otherwise the contract is null and void. Seems Andrew was not a good choice. You’re going to need someone else.’
I watched, despairing as Peter and family were dragged to the coffin. ‘Don’t do it, Peter!’ I thought. Peter reached for the overcoat, then hesitated. It was enough. A foul, howling wind swept through the church.
‘Oh God, no! They’re here! What have you done?’
‘It’s called revenge, JJ,’ I said, revealing my true form.
‘Together forever you said, but you were pretty quick to sacrifice me for your inheritance!’
‘I didn’t know they were going to kill you!’
I laughed, ‘Of course you didn’t.’
‘It’s true,’ she said, grabbing my hand, ‘Please, Tenina, believe me. Not a day has passed without regret.’ She kissed me then, pressing herself against me. Desire flooded my bones, but not enough to win me over.
‘Don’t let them take me!’
‘Those were my last words to you,’ I said, kissing her one last time, ‘She’s all yours, fellas. Make sure you take the overcoat and all the ancestors too. Toodeloo, darling,’ I said, blowing JJ a kiss as I faded away.