This is the story about a girl who lived, died, and met a guy… in that order.
Is it possible to find true love and happiness, while condemned to purgatory until the end of days?
Olivia Brennan wasn’t eager to find out. Working for a division of Purgatory and Associates, her job consisted of one headache after another, caused by the impatient souls waiting to move onto eternal paradise. After a hard day at work, she was most content to stay home, watching reruns or reading a book. Aside from a few friends occasionally forcing socialization, her afterlife was nothing special.
That all changed the moment Drake walked into her life. He was handsome, charming, and had a sadness behind his eyes she could relate to. It seemed that Fate had finally brought her a kindred spirit…
But could Olivia move past her own dark regrets of the life she left behind or would falling for him demand the ultimate sacrifice—herself?
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Nicki Scalise lives in Colorado with her husband. They share their home with four dogs and a chinchilla. The animals pretty much run the joint, the humans just pay the bills. Prayer for the Deadis her debut novel.
Open internationally. Signed copies of Apocalypse: An Anthology by Authors and Readers, Paranormal Anthology with a Twist, Prayer for the Dead and Stalkers Anthology (not pictured). There will also be bookmarks, A Prayer for the Dead keychain, and an I <3 Indie Authors bumper sticker.
This is the original opening chapter for Prayer for the Dead. I scraped this scene because I felt it lacked “punch”. I must have reworked the opening to the novel a dozen times before settling on the chapter I chose. This one was missing Olivia’s humor and sarcasm. That’s a key component to understanding the character and it needed to be included upon meeting her for the first time. This chapter hasn’t seen an editor’s pen, so it’s a little rough, but I hope you enjoy reading what could have been.
It was early Friday morning and I had a new arrival due at any moment. I always try to greet them when they first walk in the door. I find it makes the transition easier to see a smiling face or at least it did for me.
At 8:32 on the dot my new ward and her escort breezed through the front doors. The new ward appeared young and a quick peek into her file confirmed my suspicions. Her name was Maggie. She was nineteen years, four months, eight days, fourteen hours and thirty seven minutes old. I shook my head, I hated getting the young ones.
Maggie held her hands tight in front of her. Her short blonde hair barely poked out from beneath the hood of her grey Colorado State University sweatshirt. She had the appearance of a little pixie. Her blue eyes were wide with fear and wonder.
She was accompanied by her Reaper named Hannah. The Reaper was adorned in all white and her long blonde hair gave very little in the way of contrast to her clothes. Hannah had once told me the look was intentional, it gave the impression of purity, someone you could trust. Our eyes met and she stole a side glance at the young woman. She didn’t need to say it but we were both thinking it.
Maggie was too young to be here, too young to have died.
The roads in Colorado had been snowy that morning. Maggie had been on her way to class. Some yahoo driving too fast for conditions, spun into oncoming traffic, hitting Maggie’s car head on. She was killed instantly. Instead of making it to class in time to take her midterm she wound up here, in purgatory.
I approached slowly and met them in the middle of the expansive lobby. I gave a quick nod in greeting to Hannah which she returned before I addressed the co-ed. “Hello Maggie. My name is Olivia and I’m going to be you’re liaison”
I reached out to shake her hand and she reciprocated absently. I spoke clearly using small words. I did this intentionally. Most wards are usually in shock upon arrival. It’s better to reel them in slowly then bombard them with a bunch of jargon that will slip in one ear out the other.
Maggie’s eyes were still sweeping around the lobby but I pressed on “Do you understand what happened and where you are? Did Hannah explain that part to you?”
“Okay, I’ll be taking you on from here.”
Maggie’s eyes stopped scanning. When she spoke there was an edge of panic to her voice “Liaison to what? Taking me where? What does that mean?”
“All it means is that I’ll be taking care of you while you’re here in purgatory and you’re parting ways with Hannah.”
Maggie’s eyes got wide and she grabbed ahold of Hannah’s hand with both of hers. She shook her head emphatically just like a small child under threat of being parted from their mother on the first day of grade school. Maggie didn’t know Hannah any better than she knew me, but Hannah was familiar and that made her safe in this uncertain period of transition. It’s not an uncommon response for the departed to become quickly attached to their Reaper. After all, it’s the first face a soul sees when they die.
Hannah laid her free hand on Maggie’s shoulder keeping her voice calm and soothing as she reassured her that it would be all right and that I could be trusted. The tension started to melt away from the girl’s face as she listened.
Watching a Reaper work has always been fascinating to me. Their magic is similar to hypnotic suggestion and they get this kind of melody to their voice when they are ensorcelling a soul. Ever heard someone who’s had a near death experience say they felt a strange sort of calm wash over them? That would be the Reaper’s doing. They’re present for those near death experiences, they take the souls of those whose time is up and put back the ones that popped too soon. They’re the reason souls end up in my office rather than roaming around aimlessly not knowing how to proceed with their afterlife.
Once Hannah was finished working her mojo, she said goodbye to Maggie. The new ward and I walked down the hallway to the elevators, as we waited for the car to arrive she turned to me. She was fidgeting with the seam of her sweatshirt, her eyes focused on the floor. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Sure.” I knew what was coming before she even opened her mouth. It’s the same first question I get from everyone passing through the front doors. It was the same first question I had asked.
“Why am I in Purgatory?”
It’s a common misconception that Purgatory is hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. I like to think of life as a flight from New York to Hawaii and purgatory is the layover in Des Moines. Just a quick pit stop while your family and friends pray away your sins so you can move onto the next destination.
You see the moment you die, the sins you committed during the course of your life are tallied. Then it’s up to all the loved ones you left behind to absolve your sins with prayers. The more you sinned, higher the chances you’ll be stuck here for a while. It’s a quota thing. Those prayers don’t necessarily mean a free pass to eternal paradise they just clear the soul so it’s free to move on. Sometimes a soul will move onto Hawaii and sometimes it goes straight to Tijuana.
When I was done reciting the quick cliff notes version, Maggie seemed satisfied with the answer. I knew better though, all new arrivals have a million and one questions, most of which I do not have the answers to. I’m low man on the totem pole here, a glorified desk monkey if you will. I have enough security clearance to my job and not an inkling more.
“How long have you been here?” She asked. The doors to the elevator dinged open and we stepped inside.
The personal questions I hated most. I knew people asked because they were out of their element and wanted to find something familiar to cling to no matter how insignificant. Problem is one answer from me never satisfies. It only opened the flood gates to more questions that I really didn’t care to respond to.
“Ten years.” Her face looked horrified before I quickly recovered “Don’t worry you won’t be here that long. I’m a special case and won’t ever leave.”
She gasped “That’s horrible! Why can’t you leave?”
I punched the button for the second floor as the doors slid shut “Well, because someone has to live in Des Moines.”