It started like any other day; murder, crime, perpetual hunger. I slipped out my shabby apartment and into the street. The call came in.
“Murder in Section B,” came the robotic voice on the other end before the line went dead in my ear with a screech. Section B, huh? I walked to the car and zipped off, only as fast as the marketplace crowd let me; it was a battle to get anywhere when the rations were handed out.
“Sgt. Granger to investigate,” The door whizzed open and I stepped into the lavish penthouse. “Whatta we got?”
“Bag and tag, let’s get outta here,” The constable spat out his gum and ignored me. I stepped back, puzzled as I saw the familiar face go under the zip. Her eyes stared through me into oblivion. I searched for feelings long dead, like my corpse they rolled out.
The White Strand
They wheeled me out with carelessness, though they treated me better in death than after. I turned away for a breather and collected my thoughts. How did I die, I pondered. A hail of glass littered my living room floor, shattered from what was my coffee table. There was a struggle.
The M.Es left shortly after the cops. I had a few minutes to piece it together before the cleaners arrived. I paced the room; my legs translated through anything in my path. A white streak, so thin it evaded the brutes, caught my attention. I bent down to examine it; my hair was red. That was the first clue.
My time ran out before I could make the call. The cleaners burst into my apartment, with their trolley of equipment leading the charge. They, too, ignored me. Everyone decided not to see me. The white strand sucked away.
I watched them whisk away every shred of evidence, and I’m hopeless to stop them. The penthouse was spotless; I appreciated the cleaners for that. My home was mine again, no longer a crime scene, no longer a piece of time frozen for everyone to observe and study.
I longed to feel the suede of my sofa, to smell the lemon-scented bleach on the kitchen counters. Sniffles rubbed his side against the coffee table’s skeleton. Poor cat. He was the only one who acknowledged me anymore.
I should have known the After Death program was cheap for a reason. Being a living citizen blinded you from the re-living citizen; an aspect of society I experienced. It made it difficult to find my murderer. I had their hair colour, but I still needed to weed through the suspects. Detectives know and loathe the drill.
I, too, more so than in life.
My body shook and faded in fragments; first my hands, then my arms. My chest glitched as I ran for the door. In instinct, I wrapped my faltering hand around the handle, only to see it glide through. The memory of living kept its physical habits. I closed my eyes and put one foot forward.
The door refused my exit and my foot dissolved against its varnished wood. I was locked in with an unstable projector. I had pestered the building manager since my lease began, and it seems I was destined to haunt him further.
I looked over my scattered shoulder to him behind me. His pupils were dilated and begged to be released. He screamed in desperation for relief and I could not give it to him.
“I’m sorry,” I mouthed. The sound was cut off, and soon my form would dissipate into the air and abandon him.
Footsteps sounded from down the hall opposite the door. Salvation, or doom? They grew nearer until they came to an abrupt halt. I saw the shadow creep under the door and its handle creaked down. A click of the loose mechanism startled me into a run for the other side of the lounge. What help would that do?
A man lurked through the slight gap. He invaded my sanctuary. His smile buried wrinkled eyes under flaps of spoiled skin. It was warm. Sincerity washed over my mind. I hesitated in a freeze. He lifted his open hand.
“I’m jus’ ‘ere ta fix ya,” he uttered with a hint of amusement. If shivers could run up my spine, they would have. He turned his head to it. I panicked. His feet stepped closer. I felt my life threatened. His hand rest on my heart. He fiddled.
“There ya go.” He smiled.
He saw me. He noticed my existence. For what felt like months, I had been ignored; alone and unwelcome. Then he saw me. I shook my head of the thought and grit my teeth. It was his job to see people like me and make us feel hope. I refused to be fooled by his warm smile.
I looked at my hands, sturdy and whole. My Heart yet felt vulnerable. Could the company not develop a more mobile Heart device I could carry around with me? I snorted, in as much someone like me could; I only then remembered what Heart meant.
The city lights burned brightly at night. Its streets were alive with the hovers of sound. I held my Heart in my arms, the only object of this world that I could touch. I stared out the large window plane.
Heart: heliogram artificer, maybe one day alive.