Note: This is part four in an ongoing series. The previous parts are listed here. The end of part three is in italics.
The Work (Part I)
The Work (Part II)
The Work (Part III)
“Well, you were right,” Jasper said, glancing at her. “It's big.” He turned back to Michael. “You, my friend, are wearing the body of a convicted murderer.”
“Are you sure?” Eva said.
“Positive.” Jasper drummed his fingers along the wood of the coffee table. “Someone snatches a spirit out of a body like this, it leaves behind a….shadow. Like an afterimage? Echoes of who inhabited the body before, where they’d gone, what they’d done. That kind of thing. I couldn’t see much. And I don’t want to see more, thank you. But the person who owned this body was a murderer. And also,” Jasper slid off the table to grab the remote control, “it’s been on TV.”
He flicked the television on, turned it to the local news channel and a few human interest stories later the face of the body Michael wore filled the screen, the anchor announcing that the body of a convicted killer, who had been murdered in prison, had gone missing during transport to the funeral home in Kingsland. The driver hadn’t realized it until he’d arrived on site and gone to unload the body.
“From what I got,” Jasper spoke up again looking at Michael, “he slipped away when the driver made a pit stop. Found you parked. Pulled you out of the car. Sound about right?”
Michael’s eyes focused on something in the distance, mouth drawing down at the corners, the silver-grey smoke nearly obscuring his face as he spoke. “I was at a light. I’d just sent a text to my sister telling her I couldn’t come for dinner this weekend. The door opened. He yanked me out. And—it felt like….” Michael closed his eyes, mouth thinning out, chasing the memory of a feeling. “Velcro being ripped apart. I was looking down at my own face, smiling up at me. I’ve never smiled like that before. He pushed me into a ditch. Took my car. I—“ He trailed off, grew inhumanly still, milky eyes distant, floating in the murky water of memory and then his body shuddered as he remembered to draw breath, make words. “I saw you. At your house. I don’t remember getting there.”
“Not surprising,” Eva said. “Death is a big enough confusion on its own. Displacement is even worse,” she continued, Jasper nodding along. “Your spirit wasn’t ready to leave your body.”
The room was quiet for a moment. Then:
“What do I do?” The words were simple. She heard them every day. But Michael’s voice was full of enough grief, enough despair that Eva felt her stomach churn and clench as if it were trying to devour itself.
“First things first,” Jasper said. “You need to get this boy a new suit. He can’t be walking around in the body of a dead murderer. That’s the opposite of low key.”
"Any ideas? It’s not like we can just walk into the body store and pick out a new model."
"No?” There was edge to Jasper’s grin that Eva didn’t like. He stood, pulling out his wallet and fishing a card from inside. He handed it to her. “Try Blue Mountain. I'd recommend looking for ones with, ah, no grieving relatives.... There's at least one that's bound to be a better fit than...this." He wrinkled his nose. “And it won’t be rotting, either. That,” he nodded to the card, “is a friend of mine. You tell her what you need, she’ll help you out.”
“And you,” Michael said, wary, curious. “What will you be doing?”
“Putting out a spiritual APB for your body. The thing about people like us, Michael,” Jasper grinned, gesturing to Eva and himself “is that we really do have eyes and ears everywhere.”
Loosely, for the Darkroom prompt "coming up for air," at Our Write Side.
Oh, I admit, it's loosely for both prompts.
It's been nearly a year since I added to this piece. And I'm going to blame that firmly on grad school (which I finished this past summer, yay!).
And, as always, this piece is posted with little polishing, as part of my attempts to get over the perfectionist tendencies that plague me when it comes to first drafts.