• Published 3rd Mar 2019
  • 3,179 Views, 375 Comments

Reaping Rainbow - The Hat Man



Rainbow Dash comes face to face with Death himself! And he's... surprisingly cordial, actually. But when Rainbow ends up in his debt, there's only one way to get back to the life she knew: take up the role of the Grim Reaper herself.

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20% Deader

“Ugh… what happened?” Rainbow Dash stood up, eyes still shut tight, as she rubbed her head and groaned. All the while, her alarm clock beeped rhythmically. She reached for it to turn it off and found nothing but empty air. She opened her eyes expecting to see her bedroom but was instead greeted by a small room with mint green walls and a white tile floor. A wooden door with a narrow rectangular window was just ahead.

“Huh? Where am I?” she muttered. She turned around.

“Oh, there I am,” she said with relief when she saw herself lying in a hospital bed.

Then she froze, realizing that everything about that sentence was very wrong.

Not factually, mind you. She did in fact see herself in a hospital bed, head slightly elevated, with machines hooked up to her to help her breathe, a neck brace doing an adequate job bracing her neck, and a bandage around her head. She realized that the sound she’d mistaken for an alarm clock was, in fact, a heart monitor.

Her eye twitched. “Okaaay,” she whispered uneasily. “That’s… probably not good. Oh, unless that’s not actually me!” She leaned closer to the unconscious pony in the bed, inspecting her. “Well, I mean, it’s still not ‘good’ even if it isn’t me. For that pony. But if it is me, then yeah, really bad. For me.”

The rainbow mane certainly matched her own, the color of her coat did as well. But she couldn’t see the mare’s cutie mark under the covers, so she went to lift them to see if it matched as well… only to have her hoof drift right through the solid matter of the entire bed.

She yelped and leaped back, momentarily taking to the air in instinctive surprise.

“Okay,” she said, trying to calm herself. “Okay,” she said again after the first ‘okay’ didn’t work. She swallowed and settled back on the ground. “...Okay,” she said for the third time, feeling slightly better. “Something’s definitely up. I just have to figure out what. Maybe this is another Mirror Pool clone, like when Pinkie made copies of herself? Yeah, that’s possible. And the reason I can pass through stuff is… Twilight or Starlight did a weird spell that I don’t remember right now? Yeah… yeah, that’s an explanation, right? I mean, it’s not like anypony else has another explanation.”

Well, I might have one, said a strange new voice behind her.

Rainbow Dash felt a sudden chill run down her spine, and she froze in place, her eyes bulging. She slowly turned around to see who had spoken.

A pony stood there. Or, more accurately, the skeleton of a pony stood there.

He wore a long, hooded black cloak and carried a tall, curving black scythe that looked as though it had been carved out of the purest obsidian in Equestria and sharpened so much that it cut

off the end of this sentence just by being talked about.

She stared at him, and he, in turn stared back at her with the tiny pale dots of flame that seemed to occupy his eye sockets.

Hallo, he said, raising a hoof in greeting. Sorry I'm late. And so are you, by the looks of things

Rainbow Dash remained silent.

The skeletal pony chuckled, his ‘voice’ sounding dry and whispery, yet perfectly audible with just a hint of a Trottingham accent.

Ah, that joke always kills me, he said. Er, sorry. Poor choice of words.

Rainbow Dash finally managed to hold up a trembling hoof. “Y-you… you’re… you can’t be…”

Yes, I can.

“But you’re not! Not really!”

No, I am. Very much so.

“But then that means…”

It's possible.

Rainbow Dash let out a scream and slumped to the floor. “Noooo, I can’t believe this!” she wailed. “How could this have happened?!”

Oh, I can help with that, actually, he said. Do you by any chance remember the last thing you were doing before you ended up here?

Rainbow Dash paused, tapping her chin. “Um… oh!” She suddenly wore a wide grin. “Yeah, I remember! I decided that I should come up with some new tricks to share with the Wonderbolts! So, I came up with this idea to bounce off a cloud and soar right through the middle of Whitetail Woods! With the extra wind speed, I’d suddenly pull out of the dive at the last minute with a 720 degree turn, pulling up all the leaves around me into a huge tornado. It’d be like this gigantic colorful spiral with me in the center of it! It’s perfect.”

And so you went to try it out?

“You bet I did!” Rainbow said, thumping her chest proudly. “Everything went perfect! I was zooming through the air-”

Right...

“-I bounced off the cloud-”

Go on...

“-and then I rocketed down through the trees-”

Almost there...

“-and was about to pull up when I saw that big one—”

She froze, her enthusiastic expression melting into one of horrified realization.

And there we are. And there you are, actually, he said, indicating her unconscious body on the bed.

“Wait, then you must be—”

Ah, well, perhaps we should just stop beating around the bush, if you don't mind, he said. To make it plain, yes, I am Death, and yes, this is really happening to you because you smacked headfirst into a tree.

“But… but that’s so lame!” she shrieked. “I can’t have died that way! That just can’t be it!”

Actually, you're right, Death said. After you hit the tree, which was old and rotting, it snapped and fell on top of you.

“No!”

Yes. And, ah... then the squirrels living in the tree attacked you for destroying their home.

Rainbow’s jaw dropped open.

Seeing that she had gone silent, Death decided to continue: And now, Rainbow Dash, I have come for you.

Rainbow Dash swallowed and began to back away. “So, this is it,” she muttered, mostly to herself. “My life is over. You’re going to take me away.”

Well, actually, in this particular case—

“Unless…” Rainbow said, narrowing her eyes.

Wait... please tell me you are not thinking of—

“Unless you’re too slow to catch me!” she shouted before taking to the air and soaring out the open hospital window.

Death rolled his wispy eyes. Oh dear, he sighed. I should have known she'd be a runner.

He raised his scythe and slashed at the air, creating an opening in space and time that he then trotted through.

Three... Two...


Rainbow Dash shot away from the Ponyville General Hospital and through the window of her cloud house on the outskirts of Ponyville. She went up the stairs and leaped through her bedroom door…

...Only to come face to face with Death, who was sitting in the middle of the room.

One... he finished.

“Augh!” Rainbow Dash yelped, coming to a sudden halt in midair. She whirled around, intending to escape again, when Death suddenly lowered his scythe, hooking it into her tail, causing her to get no more than half a meter away before she was yanked back to the ground.

Please don't do that again, Death admonished.

“No!” she screamed. “Let me go!”

Rainbow Dash, would you please just listen?

“P-please don’t take me!” she wailed, bursting into tears. “It was just one mistake! I’m t-too young to dieeeee!”

Death sighed as Rainbow loudly sobbed on the floor, tears streaming down her cheeks as she hysterically pleaded for her life.

All right, that's enough of this, he mumbled. He seized Rainbow Dash by the neck, brought her face up to his and bellowed:

Be silent, impudent mortal!!

She fell silent and stared back at him with fearful, tear-stained eyes.

There, now that I have your attention, he said, I can continue: I'm not necessarily here to take you away.

Rainbow Dash blinked away tears. “R-really?”

Death nodded.

Rainbow Dash breathed a sigh of relief. “So I’m not dead,” she said. “Heh. I guess I should have figured that out since my heart monitor was still going. Anyway, so how long until I wake up?”

A few days.

“Well, that’s a relief. I guess spending a few days as a ghost won’t be so—”

Or never.

She gawked at him again. “But you said you weren’t here to take me!”

No, I said not 'necessarily.'

“Then what are you doing here? If I’m not dead, then why come after me?!”

I do apologize, but this is a rather awkward situation, he said, bowing his head slightly. You see, sometimes I am summoned prematurely, and this happens to be one of those cases. You're having what we in 'The Biz' refer to as a 'Near Death Experience.'

“A ‘near death experience’?” she repeated incredulously.

Well, I am Death, you are near me, and it seems to be quite an experience for you, judging by your reaction. I would say that counts.

“So, let me get this straight,” she said, holding out her hooves, narrowing her eyes at Death. “You mean to tell me that I’m not really dead, but I’m also not really alive either? Like I’m stuck in the middle?”

Oh, that sums it up nicely, yes, Death said. You'll either come out of your coma and go back to your usual life or... not.

“So, if I don’t, then—”

Ah, then you will be coming with me, Death replied.

Rainbow Dash swallowed.

It isn't so bad. And, in the meantime, most animals will be able to see you. Oh, speaking of which, there's your pet tortoise!

He paused, seeing Tank, Rainbow Dash’s tortoise, slowly make his way out of the little house Rainbow had bought for him. Death raised a skeletal hoof.

Hallo, Tank!

Tank slowly craned his neck to look up and see Death standing before him. His beady eyes went wide and he immediately retreated into his shell.

Ah. I seem to have that effect on most animals, unfortunately. Except for cats. A shame. I would love to try keeping a little companion. Perhaps something that would appreciate my work... like a crow! Oh, or a rat with a tiny cloak and—

“Could we please focus on me, here?” Rainbow asked, tapping him on the shoulder.

Oh. Of course. I am terribly sorry. Is there something else I can do for you? Do you have any other questions?

“Only, like, a bajillion questions!” Rainbow exclaimed. “Like, what happens after you die? And if I do die, am I going to Pony Heaven?” She paused, biting her lip. “Or… Pony Hell?”

I'm afraid that I don't know the answer to those questions, Rainbow Dash, he said. I'm simply here to collect the spirits of those who have left the mortal coil and guide them on to whatever lies beyond. What that is, I cannot say. It simply isn't part of my job description.

Rainbow rolled her eyes. “Well, that’s a letdown,” she grumbled. “In that case, for my next question, why are you doing this anyway?”

Doing 'this?' he asked, tilting his head to the side. Could you be more specific?

“You know… killing ponies.”

At this, his eyes flashed with sudden, intense flames.

I do no such thing! he shouted. I go where I am needed and help those who've passed on to accept their fate, but I do NOT steal lives from anyone.

“Okay, okay!” Rainbow said, holding up her hooves hurriedly as she backed away. She offered a sheepish grin. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you, Mr. Grim Reapony.”

Please do not call me that.

“Sorry,” she said quickly. “So, I was also wondering… if somepony doesn’t want to die, can they get out of it somehow?”

Death let out a long, bone-dry sigh. He went over to Rainbow Dash’s desk and pulled out a chair, taking a seat. (Apparently he was more solid than she was, she observed.)

Technically... yes. There are a few select rules in place for one in your position, he said.

“Really?!” Rainbow Dash exclaimed, taking flight and flying close enough to be muzzle to muzzle with him.

He pushed her back gently. Yes, but there are only three options, and I doubt you'll like any of them, if that is what you're asking.

“Oh my gosh, I knew it!” she exclaimed. “What’s the first?”

If a pony simply cannot give up on this mortal coil, they can remain a ghost and haunt the living until they finally accept their death or a sufficiently skilled cleric, priest, or mage exorcises them.

Rainbow Dash made a face. “Ugh,” she said. “That sounds lame. I mean, it’d be great for pranking at first, but after that…” She sighed. “Okay, but wasn’t there another way? Twilight was telling me about this book she read where somepony played a game against Death - I mean, you - and managed to win? What do they call that? A… um…”

A duel?

“Yeah!” she exclaimed. “Like, if I challenged you to… let’s see…”

A race, perhaps?

“Ha! Exactly! I bet I could… wait.” She paused, remembering how Death had easily beaten her back to her house when she’d tried to escape him earlier. “Okay, no, not a race. Ummm…”

Well, most ponies challenge me to a game of chess, he offered helpfully.

“Pfft! I’m not playing an egghead game like that!” she scoffed.

In any case, you should probably know that the terms of the duel are—

“Ah ha!” she suddenly shouted, raising a hoof to the sky. “Death, prepare yourself! Because I’m about to beat you in a game that nopony has ever beaten me in before! I challenge you to (pause for dramatic effect)... a game of Monopony!”

Death shrugged. Well, it's your funeral, he said.

With a tap of his scythe, a table appeared between them with a Monopony board already set up.


3 hours later…

Rainbow Dash was in a cold sweat and too nervous to figure out how a non-corporeal spirit could sweat in the first place.

Death sat across from her, a cup of tea in his hoof. He sipped it calmly in a way that would have perplexed Rainbow if she hadn’t been so focused on the task at hand.

You know, this is actually rather fun. I'm not sure why some ponies say they'd rather die than play it again.

Rainbow Dash shot him a glare as she held the dice in her hoof. “Okay… I’m so close to passing Go and collecting those 200 bits. Dice don’t fail me now!”

With an enthusiastic cry, she rolled the dice. Her eager smile faded as she saw the results of the roll.

Oh dear, it seems that you've landed on Parkneigh Place, Death said. And I happen to have a hotel on that. That's certainly going to cost you, but if my math is correct, and it always is, you do not have enough to cover the cost. He leaned back. I believe that means that I am victorious.

Rainbow Dash lowered her head in defeat. “I can’t believe I lost,” she sighed. “Well, I guess we’ll just have to see if I wake up or not in a few days, right?”

But Death stood and tapped his scythe, causing the board game to vanish.

Ah, Rainbow Dash, if it were only that simple. But you see, the terms of this duel were that I would instantly restore you to life if you won... and you would forfeit said life if you lost.

Which you have.

Rainbow stared back at him in horror. She slowly began to back away. “N-no way,” she whispered. “No way! I… I didn’t know! C-come on, best two out of three?”

I'm afraid not, Rainbow Dash, he said. This has been delightful, but my time is up. And, regrettably, so is yours.

He raised the scythe.

Rainbow ducked, covering her head with her forelegs. “Please, just give me another chance!” she cried. “I mean, didn’t you say there were three options to get out of this? Let me take the third option! I’ll do anything!”

Death paused. Anything? he asked.

Rainbow cautiously opened one eye. “Y-yeah?”

Are you quite certain about that?

She swallowed. For having a face that was essentially a grinning skull, she somehow felt he was grinning more now than he was before. Still, what choice did she have, given the circumstance?

“Yes. If it means I get to be alive and go back to my friends and my family and Scootaloo and everypony else… then yes, I’ll do anything.”

Death lowered his scythe. Well, then, I believe I can offer you a deal. The third way to earn a reprieve is to do me a favor. And I believe that I've earned a short holiday.

“Oh. Uh,” Rainbow Dash mumbled, “that sounds cool. If you want some suggestions or maybe a traveling buddy, I guess Las Pegasus is pretty awesome. Oh, or we could try the beach! Or—”

Actually, Rainbow Dash, you misunderstand, Death said, holding up a hoof. While I am on holiday, another must fulfill the role of the Reaper in my stead.

Rainbow Dash blinked. “Wait, you can’t be serious,” she said. “This is a joke, right? You’re not really saying you want me to—”

Death took hold of his cloak, then swept it off and threw it onto Rainbow Dash in one swift movement. When she looked down, she saw that she was not only wearing his cloak, but holding his scythe in her hoof.

Death himself was wearing a straw hat and a gaudy tropical shirt.

Congratulations, Rainbow Dash! Death said, patting her on the shoulder. You're the new Grim Reaper!

To be continued…

Author's Note:

And so we begin! As usual for my stories... REFERENCES!

  • First and foremost, this story, as some of you might have guessed (if you didn't read the full description), is a bit of an homage to Sir Terry Pratchett's character of Death from the Discworld series. I discovered his books when I was living in Japan and absolutely loved them. Death in particular was one of my favorite characters and his depiction in books like Reaper Man and Thief of Time were among my favorites. When I heard of Sir Terry's passing, I actually wept, and I've wanted to write something as an homage to him ever since, and now I finally get the chance to do so. I hope this story at least somewhat serves as a fitting tribute. (Note: while there are numerous references to Pratchett's work here, you do not need to have read any of it to enjoy this story. :twilightsmile:)
  • Getting into references, Death speaks in small caps like this without quotation marks, which is how Death communicates in the Discworld. Here on FiMfiction, you can do this using the codes [ smcaps ][ /smcaps ] (without the spaces, of course). Special thanks to reader Marker for pointing that out to me!
  • Death refers to the idea of having a pet such as a rat with a little cloak. This is a reference to the character called the Death of Rats, also originating from Pratchett's Reaper Man.
  • The chapter title is, quite obviously, a reference to Rainbow's infamously memetic catchphrase "20% cooler."
  • And, last of all, the story title is a reference to the TV show Reading Rainbow, starring LeVar Burton. A subtle reference to the theme song's opening line "Butterfly in the sky / I can go twice as high" is included in the cover image, too, as Rainbow watches a butterfly fluttering by her scythe.

Btw, if you like the cover image and want to place a commission with the artist, Colby "Greenfinger" Green, you can hit him up on his Twitter or PM and I'll put you in touch with him. :raritywink:

See you next time, folks!

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