I would not be exaggerating if I said I would give literally anything to turn back time and be normal again. Back when I was simply Rebecca Reyes, college drop out, part-time barista. Things were simpler then, more manageable, back when my life wasn’t complicated by my… abilities.
Oh sure, at first it was amazing, like a plot right out of a superhero movie, but then, the pressure of it all started to get to me. For one, it was insanely overwhelming, the sheer amount of information ready to grasp within my fingertips. All I had to do was close my eyes and focus on a place in my mind, and bam! Suddenly I had unrestricted access to all kinds of places and things I really shouldn’t be privy to. Let me tell you, I didn’t have nearly the amount of self-control needed to deal with that in any kind of moral or ethical manner. And yes, there was such a thing as knowing too much. You might think you want to know what your best friend was up to when she told you suspiciously vague plans that did not include you that weekend, or where your mother actually goes during the “yoga class” time slots marked on her calendar, or what your coworkers talk about when you’re not there, but no, trust me, you really don’t.
You see, astral projection is one of those things that theoretically would be awesome, but instead should really come with a big red warning label that says, “your life will never be the same and you will lose everyone you love and care for.”
Okay, at this point you’re probably wondering, why was I thinking so small? Here I was, gifted with a literal superpower and I was just using it to spy on my family and friends? Why not astrally project into bigger more important things, like say, the Pentagon or Area 51? Shit, I could walk into the CIA headquarters and name my price. I just have to open with, “Hey, you want to know what they’re talking about in Pyongyang right now? How about Moscow? Yeah, that’s right, I can find out almost anything you wish. Anytime, anywhere.”
Well, I did think about that, and I decided that in all likelihood my own government would probably freak the fuck out and lock me up to do experiments on so they could weaponize my newfound abilities. Yeah, I’ve seen Stranger Things. No thanks.
See, that’s one mistake I was determined not to make. Going big was too risky. With this kind of thing, it was usually best to stay under the radar. I may have superpowers but I was no hero. After a lot of soul searching I decided the riskiest thing I was willing to do was start a pseudo private investigator business. I needed the extra cash - I was still paying off student loans on my art degree I didn’t even finish - and, hey, it was better than serving coffee. Turns out, there was a lot of money to be made in the PI business. In only a few months I made a ridiculous amount of cash ratting out cheating husbands and thieving corporate employees. I even tracked down a few teenage runaways for good measure.
It was fun and lucrative. Until I started to see some really fucked up shit, that is.
Long story short, that was what led me here today, astrally projecting over Ashley Winchester’s sleeping body, wondering what in the world I should do.
You see, other than being my former cheer captain who made my high school life miserable and stole my boyfriend (screw you, Craig), Ashley Winchester was also, get this, a killer. Yeah, that’s right. Two months into my wildly successful PI business, I received an anonymous tip that All-American Ashley Winchester was involved in some shady activities. At first I thought somebody was messing with me, trying to get under my skin, but it didn’t really matter. It was a good enough reason for me to start investigating. And okay, maybe I also wanted to dig up some dirt on my high school nemesis. It always annoyed me when I scrolled through social media and occasionally stumbled upon Ashley’s ridiculously perfect instagram reel. Over the years Ashley had graduated from videos of tuck jumps in her cheer uniform to posting wine pictures in Napa Valley and her early morning runs. She was not all sunrise yoga and kombucha in real life. No way. So astrally project I went, hoping to find some dirt, assuming at worst Ashley’s “illegal activities” was financial fraud or tax evasion or some other white collar shit, but nope, instead I found out that she was a straight up murderer.
After two months of following Ashley around, I estimated she has killed no less than ten people in the last year.
No, I haven’t actually witnessed her kill anyone per se, that would have messed me right up. But I have witnessed enough correspondence to surmise what she had been up to.
Apparently, it was her job, and true to form her killing style was subtle. No loud guns or bloody machetes for Ashley, oh no. She preferred to kill with the most elegant and feminine weapon of all time: poison. She used different ones, a special one for every occasion, and apparently she was quite the chemist, choosing substances that evaded routine forensics.
You would think a hit woman would want to stay out of social media, but instead Ashley reveled in her online persona. She used it as the perfect cover, hiding in plain sight. She even had a reel about her gardening, no doubt some of the plants excluded from the feed being the poisonous ones.
Interestingly most of her victims were certified human scum and probably deserved to die anyway (we’re talking mass murderers and crime lords here), but surely that didn’t make her any less culpable? That was why I gave her safe house address to some questionable people looking for revenge. Somehow they tracked me down through my suspiciously effective PI service (in retrospect that wasn’t exactly laying low) and they pretty much threatened the information out of me. What was I supposed to do? Risk life or limb to protect a proven murderess? As I clarified earlier: I was not looking to be a hero.
Of course, predictably, now my stupid guilty conscience was eating me up.
It occurred to me that, just like me, Ashley probably had her own personal reasons for doing what she was doing. Maybe her family was being held hostage in some dark barn basement somewhere and the only way she could free them was to execute a certain number of hits. Maybe she was brainwashed as a young orphan to be a trained assassin like some sort of Black Widow. Maybe she was a soft-hearted serial killer who only killed bad people. Who knows? Also, not that it mattered now, but Craig turned out to be a cheating asshole anyway, so really she did me a favor in high school.
I looked at the alarm clock next to Ashley’s bed. It was almost two in the morning. If they were coming tonight, they would be coming around now.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I didn’t have time to research the people who threatened me about Ashley, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to surmise they were probably part of some really nefarious shit. To my knowledge Ashley has only killed criminals like drug lords and sex offenders. It wasn’t like she was killing innocent children or anything like that. These people wanting to kill her were probably human traffickers or worse.
There was a small noise from Ashley’s back door. I didn’t have to astral project to know it was the same scary looking man who held a gun to my head earlier.
I focused all my mental energy on Ashley’s face. During astral projections I have absolutely no physical abilities whatsoever. I couldn’t make noise or even blow out a candle. What I did know was that certain people were more sensitive to my presence than others. Some would turn their head and look straight at me even though they couldn’t see me, sensing that they were being watched. Some would get goosebumps and shiver in my presence even in a warm room. It must be some kind of innate instinct some people have.
At first it freaked me out, but once I was certain that they really couldn’t see me, I got used to it.
As luck would have it, Ashley happened to be one of those people.
Right now, I was really hoping her heightened senses would wake her up.
I hovered over her, inches from her face, willing my astral body to project whatever power it had. I mentally screamed at her sleeping body.
Ashley, wake up! Wake up!
Another noise from the hallway. They were getting closer.
All of a sudden Ashley’s eyes fluttered open and I was looking right at her pale blue eyes. It felt as if she could see me as she seemed to hold my gaze for a few seconds. Then quickly she sat up and smoothly retrieved a small black handgun from a hidden compartment in her headboard. Her movements were automatic and practiced. She had the gun cocked and ready to shoot in seconds. She aimed it at her door with steady hands.
A man dressed in black stops at her doorway. He must have heard Ashley’s movements and is deciding what to do.
“I know you’re there.” Ashley said suddenly, her voice surprisingly soft and gentle. “You’ve been watching me.”
If I didn’t know any better I could swear she was talking to me.
The man kicked in the door and fired off multiple shots at the bed without hesitation. An explosion of pillow feathers filled the room. Ashley had rolled off the bed just in time and fired back. Her glass bedside table shattered in the midst of the chaos.
Suddenly there was a lot of red. Too much red.
If my astral body had a heart, it would have been racing. My physical body back in my bedroom has started sweating. I felt a familiar psychic tug trying to pull me back.
No, no. Not yet.
I resist the psychic pull. It was contracting like it always did when there was perceived danger. But I couldn’t leave, not yet.
The man was leaning against the wall, leaving a smear of blood behind him as he slid down to the floor. He was still alive but there was a swell of dark red wetness slowly enlarging on his dark shirt. His gun was a foot away and he was struggling to reach it.
Ashley was sprawled on the ground next to her bed. She was unconscious.
I went over her in a panic. To my relief I saw that her chest was rising and falling. Her eyes were closed and there was a trickle of blood down her scalp. She must have hit her head on the bedside table that lay in broken pieces around her.
The man grunted. He almost had his gun now. Shit.
I focused on Ashley. I didn’t really know how her senses worked, but it worked when I tried to wake her up earlier so I decided to try it again. I bombarded her with mental chatter: Ashley, damn it, you better wake up. I know you don’t like me and I don’t like you, but you better wake up or this guy is going to kill you and probably me too. Wake up, damn it!
Lo and behold Ashley started to stir awake. Slowly. Much too slowly. She looked confused. She blinked a few times while rubbing the back of her head and then squinted at me.
Ashley’s shoulder exploded in a splatter of red. The last thing I saw was Ashley’s terrified eyes before I was snapped back into my body.
No, no, no.
I woke up in my rented room in a pool of sweat. A quick glance at the clock told me it was two-twenty in the morning. Ashley’s safe house was only a fifteen minute drive away. I specifically chose a hotel close enough in case something like this were to happen. My link to my body was strongest when it was close. Also, hiding out in a room registered under a false name was probably better than being a sitting duck in my own house while I was astral projecting.
My plan was to get into my car and drive far far away in case things went south.
Instead though, once I was in my car, I found myself racing as fast as I could straight back to Ashley’s place.
I only had one thought that overpowered all the others at that moment.
I could still save her.