Against the Odds
Initially, Robert's form on the bed appears lifeless, one arm slung across the empty side of the bed and the other one hidden by the figure standing over him, and I think that I've come here too late, after the deed has been done.
It's only when I force my projection to float slightly to the side that I can see his chest still rising and falling, with the man standing over him rubbing his chin as he stares down. A blade catches the light of the moon coming in from the open window as the stranger's gloved hand spins the knife slowly.
He's not someone I recognize. Robert had many enemies, with me being one of them. And as someone who loathed him, I could confidently claim that I was fairly aware of most of his other enemies, as well; the enemy of my enemy is my friend, after all. But this man eludes my knowledge.
I wonder what Robert did to him. I look at the drool running down a side of Robert's face, at his potbelly straining the fabric of his T-shirt, even asleep, and think about all the times I wished this man were dead. When he stole my plans for a merger and successfully marketed them to the CEO. When he got promoted to COO right after. When he blamed me for a deal bust resulting in the loss of millions of dollars, which had actually just been him embezzling money.
When I got fired for something I didn't do and lost custody of my kids.
Each one of these times made me picture, with embarrassingly vivid detail, the ways I could kill this man. I had imagined how his face would look as the life slipped from his body, the jowls of his repulsive face going slack. Blood would drip from a bullet wound, or a stab line, or from his mouth, depending on the scenario, and in a matter of minutes, the world would no longer need to put up with Robert Shaly ever again.
Those were only wistful thoughts. Yet, here I am (or not quite here), watching my darkest fantasy about to come true. The stranger moves about the room slowly now, looking through drawers and tables. I decide to do some examining of my own throughout the house, though not in pursuit of something like the stranger seems to be; I want to see what Robert has bought himself with the life he stole from me.
It's quite a lot. The house is large for someone who is twice-divorced with no children. The foyer has crystals dripping from a ceiling chandelier, and marble floors I could probably see my reflection in if I had a real body. I move into the kitchen and see the same type of clinical cleanliness. He must have maids that come in to tidy up.
He has a fancy automated fridge system that I can't hope to figure out, so I stick my head directly through the fridge door and peak inside. Vegetables rot in the bottom drawers of the fridge, and the rest of the shelves are filled with Budweisers and a half-empty, open box of McDonald's chicken nuggets. I guess he hasn't really needed to use the kitchen if he can afford to dine at New York's finest restaurants, anyways.
The next four rooms look almost indistinguishable from each other; beds with only slightly different comforter patterns, and an armoire/desk/side table combo that is positioned the same way in relation to the doorways.
It's only in the fifth room that I see a change.
An old man lies on a hospital bed. I count three—no, four tubes exiting his body and disappearing either into the IV stand or to places under and at the top of the bed. The man's feet stick out from under the blanket on him, and they are swollen, with bruises all around. A full tray of food sits on the table next to him, with a few flies already claiming it as their meal.
My projection flies back into Robert's room before I can even think about it. The stranger is immobile, holding a binder open, and I float directly in front of him to see his eyes move across the page.
NOTICE OF OVERDRAFT, the top of the page says.
I don't get to read the rest of it, though, because the stranger is back in motion. He sets the binder down and starts spinning the knife again.
There still isn't enough that I know about Robert to decide if his actions are justified. There's barely enough for me to know that he doesn't deserve what is about to happen to him.
But what I do know now is that he deserves a fighting chance against this.
I am back in my corporeal body within seconds, but every movement feels sluggish from sleep. Even so, I make myself dial Robert's number, and as the line rings, I hope that at the very least he has a chance to fix matters.
Whether or not he survives, is now up to him.