TJR: Oh! Don't worry! I'm not going to "ply my trade" on you today. I really do want this interview.
M: Well, that's a relief. But why?
TJR: Well, when I turned in my application to start my own Reaping business with the IRS...
M: Wait. The IRS?
TJR: Yes. I'm sure you've heard that the only two certainties in life are Death and Taxes. Well, it was decided at some point that they might as well share building space and staff. Makes it easier to coordinate. So, in every major IRS building, usually the basement, there is a Death Management office. Even in the smaller buildings you can usually request a franchise application, although they require that you go to a major office for testing.
TJR: Of course. They have to be sure that you have the right frame of mind for the business. That you can be depended on and aren't overly squeamish. They say there's nothing more awkward than a person failing to be shuffled off because their Reaper got a case of the dry heaves.
M: What if that happens?
TJR: Usually something unpleasant, so I've heard. If it isn't taken care of quickly it will result in ghouls.
M: Ghouls? Like vampires or zombies?
TJR: Not exactly, although they can be mistaken for such. But they are in fact just ghouls. Souls trapped in decaying bodies. When that happens to a person they tend to go a bit funny in the head. Some of them act as though they are vampires, seeking out victims in an attempt to quench a thirst they don't really have. Others get depressed and just wander around and slowly fall apart. Those are often mistaken for zombies, but really they just want to be left alone.
The real problem when someone has crossed over to ghoul status is they fall off the radar, so to speak. Reapers have no way of locating them. Not even through the IRS. So then a reclamation unit gets dispatched to the spot where the death should have occurred and they set about tracking down and containing the ghoul, hopefully before it kills anyone.
M: That's nice of them.
TJR: It's not done to be nice really, it's done to prevent extra paperwork.
M: How so?
TJR: Well, as it was explained to me, since the ghouls have fallen off the radar nothing is able to keep tabs on them and their actions weren't anticipated. Therefor, if a ghoul kills someone it's unexpected and since it was before the victim's predetermined time there isn't a Reaper ready to take the soul. And if the soul isn't properly reaped, then the victim becomes a ghoul.
A lot of undead mythology is based off of this actually.
Many ghouls aren't discovered until they fail to show up for their scheduled time of death and their Reaper reports them as a "no show". Then a detective is sent to find out when and where the missing-deceased was last seen alive and then cross reference that location with known ghoul activity. It's all ghastly complicated, although I've heard that someone is working on a computer program to make it a bit easier. I'm just glad it's not my problem as long as I do my job properly.
M: You mentioned other Reapers. I thought there was just you and The Grim Reaper. There are more?
TJR: Oh certainly. The world is a big place. The Grim Reaper was a solo operator for a very long time, but he was having a bit of trouble keeping up with the population growth around the Middle Ages. There were quite a few ghoul outbreaks due to him falling behind. So, The Powers That Be decided that it was time to expand the work force. Word was circulated and people were recruited into the Reaper Army. Many of them in fact came from the large population of ghouls.
Back then the requirements were a lot more strict. Much like any army you had to form a unified image. Everyone had to dress in robes, carry a scythe and have their flesh and organs stripped from their bones.
Fortunately in the mid 50s The Powers noticed what was happening in the field of restaurant franchising. They decided to give it a "hundred-year-try" while maintaining the Reaper Army at its current strength, just in case things didn't go so well. And that leads me back to why I need this interview.
M: Oh! That's right! I'm sorry I interrupted earlier.
TJR: No problem. It all works out in the end. The standing Rule of Death is when it's someone's time to pass on, they automatically fall under the scythe UNLESS they are aware of their other options. So, if someone is about to die and they have heard of me, or one of the other franchise operators, then a signal is sent to my GPS locator along with a name, description and exact time and cause of death. Then I can either accept or decline the soul. At that point I usually have to get moving because they don't give as much advance notice as they used to. Not since Fred.
M: Who's Fred?
TJR: I'll tell you about him some other time. Let's just say he had a "Plan" and leave it at that for now.
... to be continued ...