School of Deaths
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School of Deaths
- by Christopher Mannino
- Genre Young Adult Fantasy
- Tags Deaths, Fantasy, Sexism, Grim Reaper, Magic, Young Adult, Scythes, School, Bullying, Coming-of-Age, Dragons, Afterlife
- Release May 2, 2014
- Cover Designer Celaiveen
- Pages 272
- ISBN 978-1-77127-524-8
- Price $5.95
Thirteen-year-old Suzie Sarnio always believed the Grim Reaper was a fairy tale image of a skeleton with a scythe. Now, forced to enter the College of Deaths, she finds herself training to bring souls from the Living World to the Hereafter. The task is demanding enough, but as the only female in the all-male College, she quickly becomes a target. Attacked by both classmates and strangers, Suzie is alone in a world where even her teachers want her to fail.
Caught in the middle of a plot to overthrow the World of Deaths, Suzie must uncover the reason she’s been brought there: the first female Death in a million years.
She walked to Hann who stood in the center of the class. He handed her a long scythe, even taller than she was. It was light in her hand; the handle danced with energy. The blade slid through the air like sunlight through water. Life flowed down from the blade, coursing through the handle, sending tingles into her arm. Sweat beaded in her palms and trickled from her forehead.
“Let the scythe do the work,” reminded Hann. “And you’ll be fine.”
She nodded and walked back to her group. She tied herself to Frank and Billy using a tether. Then she held the scythe in her hands and paused.
This was ridiculous. She was a thirteen-year-old girl, a kid from Maryland, holding a scythe. Not some costume piece, but an actual, working scythe. Now she, Suzie, was supposed to Reap a soul. Even her mysteries with Sindril and the Dragon Key suddenly seemed trivial.
“Good luck,” said Frank.
She adjusted her grip and adjusted again. The tingles in the scythe grew stronger, itching her hands and arms. It’s ready. It wants to swing; to do its job. She moved her hands a third time and Frank glanced at Billy. Billy adjusted his mask.
“What’s the matter,” taunted Luc behind her. “Is the little girl scared?”
She clutched the handle and let the blade fall. She hardly moved, but the blade shot downward, slicing air, light, heat, even thought. For an instant, her arm was on fire and the world vanished into darkness.
The smell of strawberries exploded around her as color, form, and details blurred into a single, unending stream of confusion. She heard the sound of screams in the distance, and tears. The scythe pulled her down, down, down between the worlds. She slipped past the twin suns of the In-Between and watched the Mortal World approaching. On the edge of her vision, she glimpsed two bright pools of green fire.
“You grow stronger every day,” said the eyes. “But the greatest challenge is yet to come.”
She tried to turn, but the scythe pulled her onward. She coursed through stars and space, beyond time and emotion. Lighter than a daydream, she slipped through a crevice: the gap between light and shadow. The blade twisted, finding its way.
A face appeared before her: an elderly man she didn’t recognize. Somehow, she sensed a name: Elias Stoneridge.
She landed hard, stumbling as her feet hit a tiled floor. Beads of white light trickled off the blade.
For a moment, she couldn’t tell where she was. She heard beeps and the slow intake of air.
Frank patted her on the shoulder. “You okay?” he asked.
“Remember, don’t let anyone else see us,” said Frank, looking around the hospital room.
Certified Deaths received special robes to help avoid mortal eyes. Ironically, the Deaths who’d inspired tales of the Grim Reaper throughout the ages had been students like her. Students and ones who didn’t make it back. She shuddered, remembering her skeletal appearance. It seemed long ago.
A man lay in a bed, connected to an array of tubes and machines. Suzie walked to the foot of his bed and read the name on his chart. “Elias Stoneridge.” The scythe quivered in her hand. The handle pulsed like a beating heart, or was that only her own heartbeat? No, the blade felt the soul, it was hungry.
“It’s his time,” said Frank, patting her on the shoulder. “Quickly, before someone comes.”
Elias’s eyes stared at her, but he seemed to look through her. He gasped for air and the machines behind the bed beeped.
“A nurse is coming,” said Billy, glancing into the hallway. “She’s only a few doors down.”
Suzie didn’t have time to think, but in a way, she didn’t have to. She didn’t even swing; she relaxed her muscles and stopped fighting the scythe. The blade leapt downward, straight through Elias Stoneridge. As it struck the weak stranger, she felt a strange sensation as the blade swam through the soul. For an instant, she swore she heard chewing, not from Elias, but from the blade itself. The scythe continued down through the floor, before swinging around. It pulled on her, jerking her into a stumble.
Elias sat up, his eyes wide with fear. His body lay on the bed and the machine let out a long, droll beep. The scythe tingled again.
“About time,” said the soul of Elias Stoneridge. “Past few days have been awful. What kept you?”
“Sorry?” said Suzie.
“Quick, quick,” said Billy.
The beeping and hiss of tubes grated on her. The blade at the end of her scythe turned slightly. Had she turned? No, the scythe was ready to go on. The tingling in the handle started to itch. Billy tugged on one of the tethers and waved his hands, telling her to hurry.
“Take my hand, please,” said Suzie.
“You lot are dressed a bit dark for angels. And where’re your wings?”
“Please, Mr. Stoneridge,” said Suzie. “We have to go.” She felt her strength failing her. She could barely stand. She was Reaping a soul. An old man she’d never heard of. A man she was taking from his family. She was taking him away to never come back.
Elias turned and peered at himself. “I am dead, right?”
“We are Deaths,” said Frank. “And we’re here to take you onward.”