Antonina watched the faces of the people she passed, looking for a certain darkness in their eyes. It was a sharpness with a certain gleam that penetrated everything those eyes looked at. She could recognize it instantly if she saw it. She knew it well. She saw it every day in the mirror, in her own eyes.
As she left Funston to walk down Clement Street, she hoisted the bag of groceries she’d collected from the Russian deli and the Irish bakery. Walking through the Avenues of San Francisco was like walking past the shops of countries from around the world. People bustled about shopping through most of the day. Antonina searched their faces for him as often as she could, watching the eyes of everyone. When she found him, she would make her personal nightmare end.
She entered her apartment in the old Victorian house, and put away her groceries. She read the paper on the cushion in the bay window until it was time. She referred to the crab-shaped device as, The Thing. She lay on her bed and placed it on her head, its legs affixing themselves to her scalp, and connected its cable into her tablet. She started a tablet app that controlled the device and tapped, “Engage.”
She stood beneath a wooden pole with signs pointing to various cities around the globe. It was a mental metaphor of her own creation, where her Control could meet with her. He arrived shortly after, his long black coat brushing at the endless expanse of sand as he approached. He could’ve looked like anything in her mindspace, but he still chose to reveal only darkness beneath his dusty hood. With a wave of his hand an image appeared of an old man dying of cancer in a hospital bed. Without a word, she moved toward the image, and with a flash of consciousness her mind took over the body of the dying man.
In an instant, she knew the agony of a cancer patient with hours to live. An orderly, working for The Consortium placed a gun in her hand, hidden beneath the sheets, and departed. After an hour, Senator Rush showed up and brushed his security detail aside before saying goodbye to an old friend. Antonina didn’t hesitate. She fired, and Senator Rush died immediately.
This was how The Consortium worked. They used the innocent and the infirm to conduct their assassinations. The process was perfect and untraceable and indefensible.
She cut the connection and woke up on her bed. She curled up into a ball and began to sob. As far as she knew, she had just killed the only honest politician in the US, and even knowing this she pulled the trigger anyway. She had to keep killing until she found him in the real world, the man with sharpness in his eyes.
When she first started, she believed she was working for the DIA/DARPA, doing good work to keep the world free. It was Vance Martinelli, a CIA operative who cornered her at The Bitter End pub, who revealed the truth to her. She actually worked for The Consortium, an organization that insured war in the middle-east and assured dependence on petroleum to further their business interests. She hadn’t believed Vance right away, but his evidence was unshakable and damning. She was one of three people in the world able to occupy another body. One worked for the CIA, the other was her Control. He could join her mindspace to give her the target body only if he was located within three blocks from her. He had to live nearby, and so she wandered the neighborhood, looking for him.
It was August when she found him. The middle-aged man looked away quickly, but she’d seen that gleam that no one else could perceive. Perhaps she could’ve shot him with her Glock right then and there, but then the Consortium would’ve retaliated immediately. Instead, she learned her Control’s habits with Martinelli’s help. Then she found of a dog that had contracted rabies in the neighborhood. She knew the signs. The perfect innocent.
On a moonless night, the Rottweiler miraculously escaped its pen and tore out the throat of the world’s most dangerous Body Jumper. Antonina smiled. Her skills had proven useful. “Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it?” she muttered, as she walked past the scene of police cars and an ambulance. Unlike other passing bystanders, she never looked back, she just kept on walking.
Clement Street, beside Geary, in San Francisco really is a wonderful place to visit. You can find food from twenty countries there. I went there often and commonly stopped at The Bitter End for a pint and amazing Fish & Chips.
DIA = Defense Intelligence Agency
DARPA = Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Each week, The Speakeasy hosts a writing challenge for up to 750 words of flash fiction. This week, the story must END with the sentence, “She never looked back, she just kept on walking.” I’m battling stomach flu today so I apologize for the lack of a twist in the end. My tummy was doing all the twisting today. Hopefully, the dog was unexpected at least.