[This text adventure was originally posted in a Discord channel where members would vote on which direction the narrative would take using emojis.]
You have been invited to a Grim Reaper picnic. “Won’t I be out of place?” you ask. “Since I’m not a Grim Reaper?” “Don’t overthink it,” they all say, somehow, with their bony mouths and no lungs or tongues.
–> = Heck yeah, let’s go find out what skeletons serve at a picnic!
–> = Surely there’s something else we could be doing with our lives. What’s a polite way to decline a date with a bunch of Death?
The Grim Reapers huddle together, whispering until they seem to come to some sort of consensus. One of them, having been nominated as a spokesperson, steps forward. “We have decided to be honest. We didn’t think you’d say yes. We thought, you know… you might scream, run off… we’d do a little chase. That sort of thing. I mean. We don’t have a single wicker basket.”
–> A quest! Finally! THE QUEST FOR THE BASKET FOR THE GATHERING OF DEATH!
–> What? A ruse? Oh, that’s it. We’re “rolling for initiative.” We’re serving finger sandwiches… of knuckles!
–> It’s a good thing you brought picnic supplies… and a deep knowledge of picnic etiquette! Pinkies up!
You would think the Grim Reapers have never been invited to a picnic, because in a flash, they’ve pitched their scythes over their shoulders and lunched for the tea and breadcake. Tea splashes past their teeth and down over their ribs. Breadcake tumbles past their jaws and crumbs stick to the tea-wet bones below.
Honestly, it’s pretty gross.
“We have picnicked! A success!” they cry. “Break times over! Back to reaping!”
–> Before you let the Reapers go, you should book a follow-up picnic. It’s so hard getting everyone together, so they should check their calendars while they’re together.
–> That was… all the food. All the tea. Your stomach rumbles.
–> Reaping? Aw, yeah. You’ve got a list of suggestions if anyone is offering a ride-along. Heck, you’ll drive!
There’s broken glass all over the place. The Grim Reaper you were accompanying, “Greg 2”, is up in a tree. Thank goodness for vehicle safety regulation or things could have gone much worse. Why did you say you would drive? You’ve never even had a learner’s permit. It looks so easy in the movies. You just weave your hands back and forth and you have conversations with your traveling companions that involve long periods of uninterrupted eye contact.
How hard could it be?
Turns out: Kinda hard. Now the car is wrecked. Is Greg 2 insured?
The woods are dark and deep.
–> Oh boy! That one first aid class is going to come in handy. Let’s see if Greg 2 needs any bones reset… once we get Greg 2 out of the tree.
–> Oh boy… Greg 2 is not going to be happy. We should slip away now. Change our name. Find a new city to live in.
–> We’re far from civilization. How much do we even remember about wilderness survival? How bad would it be to be eaten by wolves?
Within a few hours, you’ve managed to craft a lean-to using a large branch, fronds, and your pants. If night falls, you’ve got a place to sleep. Whenever you get thirsty, you use a mechanism you’ve rigged that allows you to activate the window cleaning fluid jets on the car while your mouth is over them. The fluid is sweet and you’re feeling increasingly awful, but you’re so proud of the mechanism that allows you to flip the jets remotely that you’re unlikely to stop.
A long walk down the road reveals more trees and more road. Same in the other direction. Night falls and Greg 2 hasn’t moved, so you settle in to your lean-to with your Kindle Paperwhite [sponsored content]. Its soft glow and high contrast screen allow you enjoy thousands of books at your fingertips, though you mostly use it to read fan fiction you emailed to the device.
Sometime after you drop off, you’re rudely awakened by wolves chewing on your legs. It looks awful, but won’t be lethal, because the nearest Grim Reaper is ASLEEP ON THE JOB, GREG 2! IF YOU WANT TO HELP GET THESE WOLVES OFF, YOU CAN HELP ANY TIME!
The wolves, being the owls of the forest floor when it comes to wisdom, realize that you can’t be killed, so they leave you to face the morning with your chewed up legs. And they were, like… your favorite legs.
–> The lean-to and the window-jet-mechanism-thing were such a success, you’re sure you can rig up some new fancy forest legs and get to civilization
–> This survival thing is not working out. It might be time to shake Greg 2 awake so he can take you and your chewed up legs to Hell or whatever.
–> Queen of the Wolves. WE COULD BE QUEEN OF THE WOLVES! All we need is a plan and a Constitution and a crown and a Parliament and those wolves!
“And THAT’S how we’re going to ensure that our guiding documents are available for revision. Because people change. Wolves change. This amendment system will make sure that the monarchy changes with us.”
As the only being within earshot that has hands, Greg 2 leads the applause, its bony hands clanking against each other, slowly at first, then with gathering excitement.
The wolves, with their ink-stained paws from signing the ratification papers, howl their approval. Wow. You did it. You’ve convinced them. You’re now Queen of the Wolves. It took months to learn the language of the wolves, expanding your vocabulary every time they came back to nibble on you. It took years of guiding them through thought experiments, open debates, experiments with representational democracy, the successful completion of a wolf-designed forest obstacle course to prove your physical fitness… and Toothface totally tried to cheat. (That’s the big gray wolf who argued that monarchies always fail because they’re tend to devolve into inherited transfer of power to the unqualified, but too bad, Toothface’s attempt to rig the race failed and they can suck it.)
“I should probably get back to work,” said Greg 2, brushing leaves and dust off its scythe. “This was cool, though.”
–> So long, Greg 2! We’ve got a wolf nation to run, so we don’t have time for your Grim Reaper distractions!
–> But Greg 2, if you leave, what happens to all these bite marks we’re covered in? You gotta help us out with that first!
–> Yes, Greg 2. Time… to “leave.” As was part of my plan all along! SINCE THE DAY OF THE PICNIC!
“I’ve gathered you here, my Parliament of Wolves, to answer a very important question: Don’t you guys have anything else to eat but me? Because seriously. It’s really annoying.”
Wolf Rep Toothface scrapes the ground to yield the floor to Greg 2. Greg’s wearing their most formal Grim Reaper clothes. “Thank you, Wolf Rep… I’ll try to keep this brief. Your Queen, source of delightful nibbles since even before the coronation, is well on their way to becoming a skeleton, like me. When we came to this forest, we were mere travelers, as dissimilar as could be. I was a supernatural being, and your Queen… was a terrible driver. We’ve all come so far.”
Many of the wolves sniff their approval, tails wagging slightly.
“So I’m asking you to pass a bill into law that requires all of the Parliament of Wolves to finish the job. Eat the rest of your Queen, and then your Queen and I can fulfill our true destiny: Being the world’s first tag team Grim Reapers!”
This is news to you. You didn’t know anything about Greg 2’s hopes or dreams. Probably should have asked about them at some point over the last few months. You search your heart. How do you really feel about transcending the world of blood and sinew?
–> This is gross.
–> There’s a lot of job security in the Grim Reaper industry, actually, and it’s not like our resumes have been getting a lot of bites. Probably. Actually, there’s no phones or internet out here, who knows.
–> Don’t stop at the bones, Parliament of Wolves. Eat me up. Eat up Greg 2. Grow strong.”
“It wasn’t hard to talk them into eating the rest of you,” said Greg 2.
You nod from where you’re sitting on a stool, back at GRIM REAPER HEADQUARTERS. In front of you there’s a flash from a digital camera as your ID picture is taken, to be printed on a magnetic key card.
“I can’t help but feel like this is a step down,” you say. “I was Queen of the Wolves. I had the full support of Parliament.”
“There was no job security, though,” said Greg 2. “Sooner or later, those wolves were going to try to vote you out. No, it’s much better here. Grab your security badge there and follow me.”
GRIM REAPER HEADQUARTERS has long, gray hallways and you follow Greg 2 down several of them, lost in your own thoughts of teeth and fur and legislation… a life left behind. So when Greg 2 opens a door to the sound of horns, noisemakers, confetti explosions, you realize you’ve been ambushed by a Welcome To The Team party. There’s a cake.
The room fills with the clacking applause of Grim Reapers and with a smile, you turn to Greg 2, who’s actually pulling at their clavicle, peeling back… something. A … mask? Greg 2’s skull face comes away and you’re suddenly seeing your own face where Greg 2’s bony smile used to be!
“Today… you are now a Greg. You no longer have to be you, so I’m going to take care of that for you. Today… is your Greg-uation Day!”
The party is a blur. You shake so many bony hands with your own bony hands, have your shoulders bones patted in a comradely fashion, and you try to eat cake only to have it tumble into your empty rib cage. At some point you lose sight of Greg 2… or Greg “You”… who had to go replace you in the world, having passed on its duty, now free to pursue life— an actual life!— in your place. With your face.
And you know what? You hope it works out for Greg 2.
A soft bell chimes. The party goers grab their scythes and you find yours is already at hand. Time to go to work.
THE END…. ??? !!! ???
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