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When you are hanging in the balance and clinging to life, quite literally, by a thread, there are fewer inauspicious words than, “Oops!” that can shatter whatever meager shard of hope you carry around in your soul. My miniscule speck of hope was obliterated exactly seventeen seconds before a concrete sidewalk graciously broke my fall. I had just enough time to layer a curse over my soul, binding my spirit to the person who dashed my dreams –and me– to the ground. It’s an eerie feeling, watching yourself die. Thankfully, it’s typically a once in a lifetime opportunity, and most people miss it. I would have happily missed seeing my death and its immediate aftermath, but I wasn’t given much choice in the matter. I tell you, red has never been my color.
Sirens whooped in the distance, rushing toward my body, alerted, most likely, by some curious, unfortunate person who saw the entire thing. Any moment now, I would be surrounded by well-meaning medical professionals who would knock themselves out trying to save me. I wished I could tell them to slow down, that there wasn’t any hurry; It’s not like I was going anywhere anytime soon. Surprisingly, I wasn’t bitter; perhaps death was the great equalizer, simmering all emotions into vapor, boiling away the hot passions until nothing was left except for tepid indifference.
“Oh, my God, Kiera! Kiera! Oh! Oh!” Screams pierced the eardrums I no longer had, announcing the arrival of my new bond-mate and her hysteria. I turned, dragging my newly non-existent eyeballs away from my corpse and fixed Sami Turner with a glare.
Did I say I wasn’t bitter? I lied.
“You killed me!” I hurled my displeasure at her. “Seriously. I’m dead!”
She froze, horror and confusion chasing the shock and guilt from her tear-streaked face. With a shaking hand, she waved a hand through me, ghost me, whipped her gaze down to my body and back up to me. “Oh, my God!”
“You said that already.”
“In the flesh.” I chuckled. Death humor, as it were.
“You can’t be dead! I didn’t mean to drop you, Master, I’m so sorry, you’re dead and it’s all my fault!” She choked off a sob, pressed a fist to her mouth, and snorted and sniffled a few times before taking a heaving breath. “We can fix this. I can fix this. Get back in your body –it’s not cold yet– and I’ll do –attempt– the reanimation spell, and you’ll be up and walking in no time! No time at all!” We both looked down at my broken body; I stayed silent, and let Sami taste the lie she’d just told. Fearfully, she turned wide, shiny, honey-colored eyes to me. “I don’t want to be haunted!” she wailed.
“Oh, okay, then, fool child; I’ll just go and NOT BE DEAD!” Several windows in the building behind us shattered under the hammering pressure of my voice. I nodded to myself, mildly satisfied. It seemed that my power had been properly transferred from my living state to my…not-so living state. Sami withered under the full weight of my gaze, her pale skin turning gray as the blood drained from her face.
“I’m sorry, Master,” she whimpered.
“You know, you never call me ‘Master’ unless you’ve screwed up and you’re afraid I’m going to turn you into stuffed rat and hang you by the tail.” I sighed and fingered the onyx cross dangling from my ear; it was as translucent as the rest of me, but it felt solid enough. I raked my gaze across Sami’s askew glasses, disheveled clothing, and flyaway hair. Her bun had come undone, frizzy curls springing free from the prison of hair gel and bobby pins. “You’ll need to move my body,” I told her. “Can’t have it falling into the wrong hands. And you’ll need to hurry.” I tilted my head toward the sound of the parade of sirens. “I hope you can write fast.”
A determined expression, one made of steel, graced her face. Her nervousness fled, leaving behind the woman I knew best, the one who stalked me across fourteen of these United States to beg me to train her. “I can do this, Kiera. Your trust in me is not misplaced.”
“Less talking, more doing,” I snapped out. “And I never said I trusted you.”
“You don’t trust me?”
I pointed to my body. She withered. “I did apologize for that,” she whimpered.
I threw up my hands. “Just get on with it.”
Sami squinted up at the sky, checking her position against the glittering stars, while digging through the bag hanging from her shoulder. She came up with a bag of pungent herbs, a sharp, bone-hilted knife, and a large piece of chalk. My eyebrows went up in a hurry. I started to question her, to ask her what the hell she thought she was going to do, but rustling noises and whispers from the side of the building commanded my attention. I turned, and anger began to radiate through my pores. Ectoplasm. What are souls made of, anyway? I was stumped, pondering the mechanics and improbabilities of my unlife, but only for a moment; the brightness of a camera flash jerked my mind back to the present. Several camera flashes.
I growled at the growing crowd of morbid, excitement-seeking people. They leaked through the tiny entrance to the alley, scrambling over each to take photo and video with their smart phones and tablets. I could just see the viral Youtube video now: Woman Falls Off Building; Second Woman Sets Corpse on Fire.
Hang on, now. Hold the darn phone. Sets corpse on fire? Was that smoke I smelled?
“SAMI!” I roared. The ground shook; the people squealed and ducked and made all manner of helpless, confused squawks. I saw one young person of indeterminate gender look right at me and frown slightly. I wanted to explore that, to see if people other than my soon-to-be unloved beloved apprentice could me, but the flames shooting up from my body distracted me. “What in the name of the Goddess do you think you’re doing to me?”
Sami winced, and pushed her glasses higher on her nose. She flapped her free hand at the flames. “Aah, Master, um..I..may..have drawn the wrong..thingy. By accident! Accident! I would never burn your body on purpose, oh my Gods, you’re going to kill me, aren’t you?”
I didn’t trust myself to speak. The earthly vessel that housed me for 37 years was collapsing in on itself, transforming into ash much, much faster than should have been possible. I had been exceedingly fond of that body, with its smooth, nut brown skin; long, kinky hair; dark, smoldering eyes. I used to set people’s hearts aflame with my gaze; now my gaze had been set aflame. I wanted to weep. I wanted to throttle Sami, but if she died, so would my current connection to this plane of existence.
“Sami,” I said as the sirens intruded upon my resting place.
“Master?” she squeaked.
“Run, darling.” Sami paled, dropped her chalk, turned, stumbled, and fled the scene. A fresh explosion of whispers followed her into the darkness. I could hear the law enforcement and medical personnel hustling to get to me, shoving their way through the crowd. I didn’t need the details of my demise broadcast over the internet or uploaded to someone’s Facebook account. I might have already been too late to stop the initial posts, but I could prevent anymore of them going out into cyberspace.
I took a deep, unnecessary breath, and let it out, slowly. White light sizzled in the clear night sky. A few onlookers glanced up; beeps and taps signaled the checking of weather reports and status updates about the strange lightning that appeared from nowhere. I pulled harder on the Earth’s energy, causing sparks to leap from my fingertips. Gasps turned into yelps which evolved into screams as I sent a rush of hot electricity through all electronic devices –and the hands that held them. Curses were punctuated with the crunching sounds of glass and plastic shattering on the ground. I sent one final surge up, into the lights hanging from the building, exploding the bulbs, and covering the alley in near total darkness. I hurried to my remains, which were a human-shaped pile of ash, and inhaled sharply. My body, which used to contain my spirit, was now being contained in my spirit, which was an extremely disconcerting feeling.
I turned, wondering if I could fly back to my workshop or if I had to obey the laws of gravity and walk; a flicker of movement caught my eye. The youth I had noticed before, whoever ze was, was creeping closer to me. I spun, and locked gazes with hir. Hir eyes darkened with danger and amusement.
“I see you,” ze whispered to me.