Pyper stared at the massive silhouette moving through the dark, ash-filled street—heading her way. Goosebumps crawled on her skin, and she forced a gulp down her dry throat. Its slow approach was unusual—inhuman. What else could it be? It must be a person, she mused. An urge to duck onto her Jeep’s flooring surged. Yet relief at seeing another person—if it was a human—competed with her nagging fears. Maybe they know what happened to the sun, and why the sky is raining ashes.

A sense of trepidation and vulnerability set in as she awaited the approach of the unknown. She sat inside the inoperative Jeep and realized it offered zero safety. With a glance at the red, soot-coated front door, Pyper hopped out of the vehicle and dashed toward it. She refused to glance over her shoulder, focusing instead on making it back inside her house.

Pyper slammed the door behind her and engaged the lock before doubling over to catch her breath. Her body shook. Images of her kids arriving home from school, screaming and giggling flooded her mind. Oli, where the hell are you? She silently prayed her husband picked them up before the sun vanished—before the ashes started descending. Maybe you’re all hiding out safely.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

The eerie noise pulled her from her thoughts. Pyper lifted her head and hurried over to the living room window. She reached up to close the shutters, leaving them slightly ajar—just enough to peek through.

Clop. Clop. Clop.

Each sound caused more goosebumps sprouting upon her flesh. She squinted and stared toward the left, waiting for the ominous figure to appear.

The vast silhouette came into view, and Pyper blinked to clear her vision. A sizable man riding upon an enormous, black horse stopped on the sidewalk in front of her house. Donned in black armor with partial headgear, he held a spear in one hand. The strange man gazed at her front door, knowingly.

Damn it! I left footprints in the ashes, she mused.

Pyper’s heart raced as she gazed through the shutters, wondering if she ought to open the front door. The massive man shifted his head toward the window, then lifted an arm and waved. Her eyes widened, and her stomach sank. His bright, white teeth were highly visible through the drizzling soot. Though the mysterious man was huge, he exuded friendliness.

She stepped with caution toward the front door, then paused. Pyper breathed in a deep sigh, then edged the door open. She stood, staring into the face of the horse-mounted man—an eerie silence grated on her nerves.

“Greetings, Miss,” the man broke the awkward quietness.

Pyper gave a slight nod, but words failed her.

“My Dear, Miss Pyper, I assure you I mean you no harm. I am here to help.”

“H-how did you know my name?” The color drained from her face.

The man ignored her question. “May I come inside for a moment? I have much information to share with you.”

Pyper hesitated but waved him in. She watched as he climbed off the jumbo horse and whispered something to his obedient animal. He turned and waltzed toward her, making his way into the house. She closed the door but remained in place—in case she needed to escape.

He stood a fair distance from her and gave a warm, toothy smile. “Miss Pyper, you can trust me. I am only here to deliver some news.”

“W-what news? And w-who are you?”

“Miss Pyper, I regret to inform you that while you napped inside your closet,” he pointed at the pile of discarded bags, “Well… I’m sorry, but you suffered a brain aneurism. And, well… you died.”

Pyper stared at him; disbelief possessed her face. “Wh-wh,” she stuttered.

“I sincerely apologize, Miss Pyper. This—” He paused and pointed around their surroundings before continuing. “This is the in-between. You are stuck between existences. It happens sometimes, so don’t fret. I am here to help you move on to your proper destination.”

She backed against the front door to support her wobbling legs. “Wh-what do you mean?”

“Miss Pyper, you died and left the realm you shared with your husband and children. I’m here to help you move into the next phase… an equally lovely existence.”

“But… what if I want to stay here?”

“Oh, my Dear Miss Pyper. Everything has vanished, as you can see. The ashes will continue to fall, and this place will become even more dreary and gloomy. The delightful place awaiting your arrival is bright and warm, unlike this dark and chilly space. You will not regret moving on. Come with me.”

Tears spilled from Pyper’s face and flooded her cheeks. “No, no, no! This can’t be happening,” she said while shaking her head.

“Dear, Dear. It’ll be okay, trust me. When you complete your transition, you will find peace. Now, head out to my horse. I will be but a moment. Then, I will help you to move onward.”

Pyper wiped the tears from her face and gave a slight nod. She opened the front door and inched her way toward the giant black horse.

The vast man removed his headgear, revealing a large set of horns atop his head. An evil grin possessed his face, and he tipped his head down to speak into a device secured to his chest.

“Lucifer, Sir, I caught her before the angels got to her. She’s waiting for me near my horse, and I’ll be transporting her to Hell. Expect us shortly.”

“Excellent,” Lucifer exclaimed. “Now, Abigor, you must hurry because there’s another one stuck in the shadows. Drop her off, then make your way to him before the angels find him,” he ordered.

“On my way,” Abigor responded. He replaced his headgear and headed out the door, wearing a charming smile.