The Dreadful Guide of Souls (flash fiction)

Here’s a piece of horror flash fiction about despair and holy terror. It’s about 580 words and has a reading time of 2 and a half minutes. Let me know what you think!

Content warning: This one is rather dark and it contains mentions of suicide, self-harm, and substance abuse. Please skip this if these topics are triggering to you.

Black sludge dripped from her eyelids. She had terrible wings, thousands of them, that made her look like a giant insect. She also had numerous hands, two of which held a large scroll. She held it before her awful face.

She was the Angel of Death.

And she was here for me, slithering inside my motel room.

You may wonder how this is all possible. Or how I’ve survived to tell the tale. It’s a long story, but I’ll try to be brief.

I went to the motel that night with the intent to die. I brought a bag of heroin, a bottle of vodka, and a handgun. I was done with life, the utter meaninglessness of it. And, at the moment, at least, I no longer feared death.

But I was very, very wrong about not fearing death.

“Timothy,” the Angel said in her awful voice. “You’ve summoned me. You wanted me here, so let’s be done with it.”

The wings flapped, making a disgusting noise. She held up the scroll and showed me my name. Then, she told me it was time to erase it.

I hadn’t thought dying would be like this. Her ripping me to shreds in the dirty motel room, sucking the marrow off my bones. But then again, how was I to know? I wasn’t religious, and no one, I don’t care how imaginative, would believe this is the way it happens.

So, I pleaded with her; I begged for my life. She slinked around the room, the black sludge oozing onto the carpet. Her hands morphed into sharp talons, and she put the scroll back into her cloak.

“You fear me, as you should,” she hissed. “There is only one way to change your fate.” I asked her what it was. She smiled, revealing sharp canine teeth. “You must dedicate your life to the service of God. That is the only way.”

It seemed so obvious, so simple. Of course, I said I would; I told her, frantically, that I’d be born again. Anything to never see her again.

“Good. Now, be on with you.”

I ran from the room into the parking lot. I jumped into my car and sped away, not knowing if it was all a fever dream. It felt so real but, to this day, I still question it. I’d never been one to believe in the supernatural, which was maybe the reason I’d ended up in such existential despair.

I’ve talked to other recovering addicts since this happened, but I’ve never told my whole story of that night. The other addicts tell me about their moments of clarity and surrender when they chose life over death. But they’ve never mentioned experiencing the horror that I saw.

Could it be possible? Are these people also afraid to speak her name? In their suicidal madness, did the angel also appear to them?

I guess I’ll never know.

I’ve since joined a church and become a man of God. But I’ve done it more out of fear than anything else. Yes, I’m clean and sober. But I still have my moments of misery. The difference now is the fear of seeing that horrid face again and the giant insect body. I hope to God the angel never revisits me.

I’ve seen the face of death, and I’ve survived it. You don’t have to believe my tale; I know you probably won’t. Just hope you never experience it.

The End

Author’s Note: The Angel of Death, or a psychopomp, is common in many religions and cultures. In the Western world, we know him best as the Grim Reaper. Before writing this story, I was interested to see the other psychopomp variations in other cultures, such as Santa Muerte in Mexican neo-paganism and folk Catholicism.

The title (“The Dreadful Guide of Souls”) comes from the literal meaning of psychopomp, which derives from the Greek word psychopompós, and means ‘guide of souls.’

(Photo by Donovan Reeves on Unsplash)

2 thoughts on “The Dreadful Guide of Souls (flash fiction)

  1. Dave Williams July 9, 2021 / 1:56 pm

    Man, what a scary description of the Angel of Death! I was ready for the encounter in the motel room to go badly, but you really turned that around.

    • Nick Pipitone July 9, 2021 / 2:04 pm

      Indeed! I got the idea of the description from the Islamic view of the Angel of Death. They apparently believed he/she had multiple wings and eyes.

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