“I’ve got him!” I yelled into the phone as I scrambled down the street. “Forty-ninth and Broadway!” I shoved my way through an Asian family on the way home from the market. Their bags went flying, oranges spilling onto the street and bouncing in front of honking cabs.
Accented curses chased me as I lowered the phone and sprinted after my prey, a youth in a green sports jacket and cap. A bright yellow glow surrounded him, my indication of his true identity.
I wore the body of a businessman, late thirties, lean and trim. Fortunately for me, this guy hit the gym. I dashed around a corner at speed, my quarry curving and dodging between the Theater District’s early evening crowds. Buildings towered around us, blazing with the lights of fervent advertising.
Phi glanced over his shoulder at me. I thought I caught a look of surprise on his lean face. He’d know me from my glow, of course—the one visible only to others like us.
I jumped over a metal construction barrier, landing in the street, where I dashed out around the crowds. A chorus of honks and yells accompanied me as I gained, step by step, on Phi. It’s hard to lose a man in Manhattan. There aren’t alleyways to duck in, and the crowds don’t help hide us from one another.
Phi ducked right, shoving his way through a glass door and into a diner.
What the hell? I thought, chasing after, throwing my shoulder against the door and pushing into the restaurant. Was he going to try to get out another way? That—
Phi stood just inside, arm leveled toward me, a handgun pointed at my head. I pulled to a stop, gaping for a moment, before he shot me point blank in the head.
I thrashed about, losing sense of location, purpose, even self as I was ejected from the dying body. For a few primal moments, I couldn’t think. I was a rat in the darkness, desperately seeking light.
Glows all around. The warmth of souls. One rose from the body I’d left, the soul of the man to whom it had really belonged. That was brilliant yellow, and now untouchable. Unsavory, also. I needed warmth.
I charged for a body, no purpose behind my choice beyond pure instinct. I latched on, a lion on the gazelle, ripping and battering against the consciousness there, forcing it down. It didn’t want to let me in, but I needed that warmth.
I won. In this primal state, I usually do. Few souls are practiced at fighting off an invasion.
To be continued.
- Charlaine Harris: “In the Blue Hereafter”
- William Kent Krueger: “Hide and Seek”
- Jan Burke: “Stepping into the Dead Zone”
- Joe R. Lansdale: “Dead on the Bones”
- Caitlin Kittredge: “The Devil Went down to Boston”
- Brendan DuBois: “On the Playing Fields of Blood”
- Dana Cameron: “The God’s Games”
- Scott Sigler: “The Case of the Haunted Safeway”
- Ellen Kushner: “Prise de Fer”
- Brandon Sanderson: “Dreamer”
- Mercedes Lackey: “False Knight on the Road”
- Seanan McGuire: “Jammed”
- Adam-Troy Castro: “Hide and Shriek”
- Laura Lippman: “Ice”
- Toni L. P. Kelner: “Bell, Book, and Candlepin”