Booksplosion Writing Contest
I know it’s poison, the second it fills my throat. It’s difficult to pinpoint which kind; once you’ve had enough poison in your life, it all tastes the same. But it’s poison, nonetheless, and my suspicions are confirmed as my body collapses on the ground.
Screams burst from the crowd, but I survey the crumpled body coolly. Dead, I’d guess. Seeing as I’m now viewing the ballroom from the astral plane, it seems a good wager.
My business partner Rogers often wonders how I stay so calm and collected. Truthfully, when assassins have killed you a dozen times in as many weeks, the job hardly seems exciting.
My client tonight is known as 89. I don’t like using names, especially my own. People call me many things, including a ghost.
I am not a ghost. Unfortunately.
Partygoers run right through me, and I catch glimpses of the dim souls within their bodies. All people have connections between body and soul, and only in sleep do they begin to loosen.
I’ve been asleep a long time.
The assassin might still be here. I turn on my earpiece, to check with Rogers if the coast is clear.
It is not. But the man who strides up to me is.
“The Decoy of Death,” he grins. “We meet officially.”
He’s a pale outline of himself, spirit form separated from the newly-deceased body on the ground. It’s Client 89, but his consciousness should be wandering through dreams somewhere.
I look him in the eye. “Client 89, you can’t reconnect with your body yet. Even coming here jeopardizes the operation.”
He nods. “That’s the plan.”
The windows shatter, and figures in black crash into the building. The few paramedics surrounding Client 89’s body scatter as the intruders raise their guns.
They shouldn’t be able to see us, but 89 taps an earpiece to alert them. Though there’s a dozen rifles pointed at me, I know from experience the physical bullets can’t hurt me.
I recognize these people. They’ve killed me countless times in the past year. But they’re here for Client 89, and he’s here for me.
I cross my translucent arms. “What is this, 89? If you’re in such a hurry to die, why’d you pay me to do it for you?”
“I paid you for this moment.” He gestures towards his limp body. “You’ve been sabotaging all our recent missions, and you just showed us how.”
Since my accident, no one has discovered my abilities. Even my clients don’t know exactly what happens. They go under, and I do my job until they wake up in their own body again. Ultimately, they make a miraculous recovery, and I make significant dollar signs.
But no amount of money is worth this trouble.
“What do you want?” I ask.
He laughs. “Nothing. We’re here to kill you.”
“If you find a way to do that, let me know.” I turn, knowing they can’t stop me.
“Are you sure you want to do that, Dakota?”
“We’ve finally figured you out.” He smirks. “Your name is Dakota Kamry, and your body’s in a coma in some American hospital. Rather nasty accident, wasn’t it?”
He has no idea. He shouldn’t, but he does.
It’s a threat, of what will happen if my body dies. But I don’t care. Death is less frightening than returning to a broken body I cannot escape.
“You want information, don’t you?” I challenge. Whatever allows me to save lives can just as easily destroy them, and 89 isn’t the first empty suit to come calling. “Well, I’m afraid you’ve overestimated my will to live.”
“Must be hard.” 89 shakes his head. “Being half alive. Can’t go back to your old life, and can’t move on to the next.” He lifts his chin. “I must ask: why do you do it?”
I’m silent, so he continues. “You could do a lot with your abilities. Everybody sleeps. You could be anyone, if only for a night. So why do you choose to protect the lives of clients who might deserve to die anyway?”
Why do I?
I had a family, before. Every month or so, after the kids are asleep, Gram finds an unmarked envelope outside the door. It’s not much, but it gets them by.
I’ve done what 89 is suggesting, for longer than I should’ve. But now my clients choose to let me live and die for them. And it saves me, just as much as I save them.
Being locked outside your body and inside your mind helps you think. I didn’t live the best life, in the time I was given. So maybe I can’t move forward, until I do enough good to fix my mistakes.
“No one deserves to die,” I say finally.
89 sighs. “I disagree with your philosophy,” he replies. Then he shoots me, three sharp bursts in the chest.
I look at the clear liquid spilling from the holes, at 89’s translucent revolver. He brought it to the astral plane with him. He crouches beside me as I fall to my knees. But I’m not finished.
“No one deserves to die,” I cough. “Some people deserve not to live though.”
As he scoffs, I ****** his earpiece and smash it against the ground. Now his soldiers can’t find him. No one will ever find him again.
He yells, shaking my shoulders, but I just laugh as the world spins.
“Your body will stay dead, 89. But you are not so lucky.”
I leave him there, where he can hurt no one. Quiet floods my mind.
It’s dark, where I’ve gone. I thought it would be brighter. But then my eyes open, and the world isn’t light or dark, but color.
“. . . waking up!”
“Readings look stable . . .”
There are people, and a hospital bed. There are sounds, and sensations along my arms and face. There is Rogers gripping my hand, and there is breath filling my lungs, and there is me.