Authors: Lindsey Menges
Tags: #Fiction & Literature
©2013 Lindsey Menges
All rights reserved.
This book is dedicated to Adam, for being the Harrison to my Eliza, my biggest cheerleader, and my partner in all things. This story wouldn’t exist without you.
I love you forever and for always.
Part One: The Fairy Godparents
“The greatest gift we can ever give is the gift of a perfect death.”
-Motto of the Fairy Godparent Organization, sub-division of the Federal Security Branch
He isn’t a handsome man, or a hideous man. He isn’t a brave man, or a cowardly man. He isn’t a generous man, or a selfish man.
He is, simply, a man.
Mort Jefferson sits by himself in an elegant room lined with floor-to-ceiling windows. The gentle burble of a black marble waterfall and the steady
of the receptionist’s typing are the only sounds in the room.
That, and the scratch of his pen as he fills out a form.
The form is typed in simple black ink on simple white paper. The use of paper products seemed strange to Mort but, as the receptionist cheerfully explained, their organization likes to have physical records of all Wish submissions.
Not that he really cared; he just wanted something else to think about. A momentary distraction before the memories of what brought him here begin swimming in his brain again. Like a group of sharks circling a helpless seal.
And closing in for the kill.
“I’m leaving you, Mort, and I’m taking Christy with me.”
Mort grits his teeth, a physical attempt to keep the relentless pain at bay. It’s always there; a dull ache that throbs through his entire core. He hunches over and focuses on the simple black text on simple white paper.
[Please print your name in the space below]
The simple man fills out his personal information, gradually getting used to the strange sensation of writing instead of typing or dictating. But when the novelty of the action fades away, the sharks start to swim again.
“Really, Jefferson? You’re going to file a complaint about
? No one gives a shit that you got hurt. Hell, your wife sure didn’t. I mean, she didn’t even
before jumping into bed with me. So, sure, make a formal complaint. But don’t be surprised if I’m still sitting in my big, fancy office tomorrow, and you’ve been reprimanded for spreading slanderous lies.”
The pen snaps. He hadn’t realized how tightly he was gripping it. Ink trickles down his hand, and he drops the now-useless instrument to the ground. The smack against the marble floor echoes harshly in the quiet room.
“Daddy? Why does Mommy say that you’re a loser?”
Mort lets out a shuddering breath and stands up, then promptly bends down to retrieve the broken pen. He can feel the flush of embarrassment on his cheeks, and watches listlessly as more ink flows from the instrument into his stained palm. He glances down at the form in his other hand. The paper is pristine, every section filled in with his answers to the questions. A few drops of stray ink mar the corner of the paper, and he hopes they won’t reject his application because of it. But his fears are unfounded; the beautiful receptionist with the white teeth and blood-red lips takes it from him with an easy smile.
“Thank you, Mr. Jefferson. Now remember, you have seven days to retract your submission.”
“Please, Mort,” begs Melissa, her grey eyes filling with tears.“You don’t have to do this. Please, don’t submit a Wish.”
Mort gives a sad smile to the receptionist. “Don’t worry,” he says. “I won’t retract it.”
She nods, those ruby-red lips knowingly turned upward. He wonders if his own blood will be that red when the time comes.
“Well, assuming that you don’t... Congratulations. Your Death Wish is scheduled for next Saturday at nine o’clock in the evening. Enjoy your last week, Mr. Jefferson. We are honored to be the catalyst for your final wish.”
Mort nods. He also hands over the broken pen, and the woman with the blood-red lips wraps it in a tissue. Nothing dirties this pristine space; even the ink stain that marred the white tile by his chair is already gone. With a world-weary sigh Mort shuffles to the exit, hoping that his last days on this planet will be over soon.
He’s ready to die.
“Oh God, oh God, oh God!”
I’m running through the alleyway, the heels of my pumps creating a sharp staccato in the soundless night. There is a low chuckle behind me. I start
he’s getting closer. But the lamp-lit end of the alley is ahead. I reach the sidewalk and glance back while simultaneously darting to the right. But when I turn, my foot falls too hard on the sidewalk and the heel of my left shoe snaps off. I stumble and fall, purse skittering away into the gutter.
“Oh no, no!”
I throw my palms out, trying to cushion the fall. They scrape against the concrete and I wince at the onslaught of pain. My breath pushes out of my lungs in panicked gasps, and I clap one hand over my mouth to muffle the sounds. I
as the grit pushes deeper into my wounded hands, then exhale; within moments the scrapes are gone.
But my pursuer is not.
His cackles when he takes in my collapsed form.
“Poor kitty. Did we hurt our little ankle?” Cruel laughter punctuates his words.
I’m sobbing now, tears and snot streaming down my face as I crawl forward, ignoring the pain in my hands and knees. Even if the injuries have healed, the residual pain is still a low fire underneath my skin.
“You’re doing great, Godmother Eliza. The client is directly ahead and has just spotted you.”
The transmitter in my ear crackles before the feed goes silent once again.
I nod to myself and continue forward, catching sight of the middle-aged man at the end of the block. But at that moment, the person chasing me wraps his hands around my calves and wrenches me backwards.
!” I scream, begging. “Oh please, please, please no! Don’t hurt me, oh God, please, no!”
He laughs before flipping me over, forcing me to look at him while he pins me down. A bead of sweat rolls down his bulbous nose and drips onto my forehead. His lips hover over mine, sour breath filling my nostrils.
“Scream all you want, girly, you’re not going anywhere.”
He smirks, lifting me up before slamming me back down onto the sidewalk. My eyes blur with pain and the back of my skull cracks from the impact. I glare at him.
“Geez, Harrison,” I say under my breath, “ could you be a
gentler? I don’t feel like going back to the doctor anytime soon.”
He winks and whispers a quick
to me before looking up. His eyes widen. I follow his gaze just in time to see the client’s fist shoot forward and sink into the side of Harrison’s face.
I drop my mouth in shock. The older man grabs Harrison’s collar, pulling him to his feet before smashing him against the wall.
” he snarls, slamming Harrison against the wall with each word.
The client lets go and Harrison stumbles forward, gasping in pain before falling to his knees. The client turns around to look at me, a triumphant smile on his face. Small droplets of sweat shine on his forehead, leaving his thin brown hair plastered to his scalp. Even though his breathing is labored, his pale green eyes shine with victory.
But behind him, Harrison pulls out a gun from the waistband of his jeans. A pause, the harsh click of the firing pin, and a bullet flies from the chamber. The client’s eyes widen in shock as the bullet buries itself in his back. Harrison collapses to the pavement behind him, truly unconscious this time.
The client crumples to the ground next to me. I whimper and reach out to him. The motion causes me to wince, and I look down to find my left ankle bent at a
angle. I know that my Chip is working on the injury, but I won’t be able to stand for a little bit longer. So instead
I push myself into a sitting position and lean forward. I pull his limp form to my side and let him rest his head in my lap. I brush a strand of hair away from his face and look down at him. The client meets my eyes and smiles, gasping and wheezing.
“Thank you, Miss… Despite the pain, it was always my dream to save a pretty face.”
The corners of my lips tug up in a soft smile. I lean down to give him a tender kiss on the forehead. He smiles before his eyes close, the sedative in the bullet dragging him into his final sleep.
I lift his head out of my lap and gently lay the unconscious man on the ground, glad that the Wish completion is going well. I stand up, reach down to take off my now-useless shoes, and walk over to the street. I pause to stretch my arms above my head and reach back until I hear a satisfying
. Bending down, I fish my purse from the gutter. A thin stream of what I
is water leaks from one corner and I wrinkle my nose in distaste. Thankfully, the accessory is from the Costuming Department and doesn’t actually belong to me. I turn and walk back to the target just as Harrison begins to stir.
“Goddamn,” he mutters, pulling himself from the dregs of sleep. He moans and rolls over, tilting his head from side to side as if he can slowly shake the pain away. “I didn’t think he was gonna go
berserk on me.” He looks up at me, propping himself up onto one arm.
“Hey, Elly,” he calls out. “How’s your ankle?”
I rummage around the contents of the purse, pulling a pen-like instrument from its depths. “Oh, it’s fine,” I reply, rolling my left foot to confirm. “It healed itself while he was beating you into next week.” I turn around, throwing my partner a teasing grin and a wink.
I’m back at the unconscious man’s side in a moment. Harrison grumbles to himself while I crouch down and turn the client’s head away from me, exposing the area of his neck directly beneath the skull. I click a button on the pen and a small, silver knife springs up from its depths.
“Well it’s not like I could
fight back,” Harrison responds, pulling a piece of paper from his back pocket and consulting it. “His Wish
said he wanted to save a woman by overpowering an ‘evil man pursuing her’. No way he could ever hurt me if I was putting any effort into it.” He smirks at the last comment, flexes a bicep, and winks at me.
I roll my eyes but smile while brushing the client’s brown hair to the side with one hand. I sweep my knife just below the client’s skull with the other. Bright red blood wells up from the incision and spills over the sides, some of it trickling onto my fingers. With another press of the button a silver claw replaces the pen’s knife head. I pull back the skin on either side of the cut and slide the claw into the wound. After wiggling it around for a second it clamps down.
“Bag please, Godfather Strong-Man,” I chuckle, pulling the pen out of the target’s neck while holding my other hand out to my partner. Harrison crouches down next to me and hands me a small plastic bag. I click the button on the pen a final time and the claw releases a small microchip into the bag, along with drops of blood from the client’s neck and my fingers.
We both look down at the target, moments ticking by. Finally, with a sharp intake of breath, the man goes rigid on the pavement. We both nod and the voice comes back on our transmitters.
“Great job you two, grade-A work. We’ll send a cleanup crew to take care of the body. You can both head back.”
Harrison presses a finger to his ear and says “Roger that, boss,” while I pull the blonde wig from my head and shake out my long, silver hair. My scalp feels slightly sticky from the heat of the headpiece. Harrison pulls off the fake nose plastered on his face and his own ratty auburn wig. I look over his shoulder and wave to the two tall people in black suits a few yards away. They both nod before turning back to the crowd that has gathered at the end of the block. It’s the job of the Monitors to ensure no one interferes with a Death Wish, and right now they are keeping the onlookers that a public Wish completion always draws at bay. I see some curious glances in the group, but the majority of them look scared.
I sigh. I’m used to feeling like a zoo exhibit, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
I knew that being a Godmother meant some degree of isolation from the general public, but I never could have anticipated the level of fear others felt for us when I signed up for this job. Years ago, I was hurt that civilians were scared of me because I was doing my job. Now the terrified looks and whispers I encounter daily have become mere background noise that accompanies public Wish completions.
Oh well. If the only time I can be kind to them is in their final moments, so be it.
“Ignoring whether or not he could’ve
you,” I continue, turning back to Harrison while finger-combing my hair into manageable gray waves, “I’m glad we could make him so happy in the end. He seemed like a nice guy.”
“A nice guy?” Harrison brushes his golden curls away from his forehead. He scoffs. “Please, I get so sick of these hero scenarios. He was probably some jerk who worked a mid-level, mind-numbing cubicle job and never did anything exciting. After work, I bet all he ever did was watch horribly cheesy action movies and fantasize about being some sort of stereotypical Old World macho man. You know, the kind who saved beautiful, helpless women by day and slept with those same women by night.” He waves his hand at the body dismissively. “He’s not a nice guy. He’s just some loser with an Old World hero complex.”
I shrug my shoulders and stand up, walking down the alley and away from the crowd. Harrison follows on my heels.
“Regardless of his reasons for it, isn’t it credible that he wanted his last act to be a good one?”
Harrison snorts and moves closer, draping his arm around my shoulders while we turn the corner.
“No, no, no, dear Godmother Eliza. Let me tell you about our recently-deceased target.” He pulls out the paper from his pocket again while I plant a quick kiss on his hand. “His name was Mort Jefferson, a forty-two year old customer service representative for a local holo-TV provider. Married for ten years to a Miss Roberta Allman, and father to eight-year-old Christy Jefferson. On their tenth anniversary, Roberta admitted to Mort that she had been having an affair with Mort’s supervisor for four years, and that she was going to leave Mort for her lover. Roberta took their daughter and, despite Mort taking it up with higher management, his supervisor was never demoted or fired.”
I feel a wave of sympathy for our client.“That’s so sad,” I murmur. We’re silent for a few moments, and the gentle
of our feet on the pavement echoes in the night. The Monitors cleared out the area surrounding the Wish completion site, so we are the only souls in a normally crowded street.
I glance up at the stars winking above us. “But if that happened to you, wouldn’t you want to die? And end your life in a way that brought you a final wave of happiness?”
I look back at
Harrison and he shakes his head.
“See, that’s the thing. I’m not saying horrible things didn’t happen to him. But he still had a job, a roof over his head, and our observations showed that there was a sweet woman named Melissa who helped him through the hard times.”
A small wave of irritation shoots through me. Just because some parts of your life are going well, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to feel helpless.
“But at least he died in a noble way.” I want to make a positive case for Mort Jefferson. I want to look at all of my clients in a positive light, no matter their reasons for dying. But Harrison just laughs.
? Elly, the guy planned the entire thing! You think he
saw someone in need and lent a helping hand? He never had the guts to do anything, and quite frankly, the fact that he had the courage to wish for a death involving a bullet in the back is a miracle in itself. He had all the time in the world, and the one time he did something truly good, it was
. So no, there’s nothing noble about inflating your sense of self-worth at the last moment, especially if it was all a setup.” He sighs, and his shoulders sink for a moment. Even though he whispers, running his hand across his face in an exhausted gesture, I can still hear every word. “I wish I didn’t have to complete Wishes like these
—they’re so pointless and stupid.”
I’m shocked by his response. My partner is normally one of the most cheerful people in the world. This bitter outburst is out of character. I grasp the hand that’s covering my shoulder and spin out from his embrace before holding both of his hands in mine. I take in the sight of him with a smile.
Standing at five feet seven inches, Harrison is about a head shorter than my six foot tall frame. He has straight golden hair that curls slightly into dyed blue tips at the end. The blue tips in his hair match the blue streaks in my own silver hair. When he dyed his hair for the first time, I liked the look so much that I asked him to do mine. After he did, we both looked in the mirror and laughed, knowing that everyone in the office would see our hair and know we were partners. Around Harrison’s throat hangs a second reminder of our partner status. We each wear a black cord necklace with dark blue, tear-shaped pendants. These necklaces are not only pretty trinkets, but they act as communication devices so that we are in contact at all times.
We are both wearing the outfits the Costuming Department chose for this Wish assignment: his a grease-stained, white t-shirt with torn jeans and ratty sneakers, and mine a floral-print, knee-length dress with
tan sling backs. Our costumes are often radically different from our normal choice of attire; Harrison is quite partial to cardigans and slacks, while I tend to prefer leggings and camisoles or tunics.
His chocolate-brown eyes soften at my smile, and I pull him close for a kiss. When we break apart I gently cup the injured side of his face in my hand, even though the wound has already healed.
“Hey,” I whisper. His eyes shift up to my pale blue ones. “No matter the reason for their death, no matter if it was justified or not, let’s always remember one thing. The least we can do is grant their last request as they leave this world. Okay?”
He doesn’t respond at first, just turns his face into my hand to kiss my palm. Then he looks back at me and smiles, drawing our fingers together before we begin walking again.
“Okay,” he says. “That sounds good.”
We walk the last few blocks in a comfortable silence. Eventually the towering façade of our headquarters comes into view