Authors: Brian Blose
Tags: #reincarnation, #serial killer, #immortal, #observer, #watcher
Published by Brian Blose at Smashwords.
Copyright 2016 Brian Blose. All Rights Reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Any similarities to
real people, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All
characters, places and events are used fictitiously.
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A flicker of nothingness, followed by garish
yellow walls, brass lamps, knotty oak stained mahogany, and
nautical paintings: a chintzy hotel conference room with delusions
of resort-hood. Hess stood a single step into the room, frozen
Where every other Iteration began with a
download of fake memories from his current identity, this time
there was only the realization that he still existed followed by
the cacophony of a world crashing into motion from its freeze-frame
Hess gasped in air reminiscent of
lemon-scented furniture polish, salt water, and fried food. His
heart thundered in his chest as he considered the wall paneling.
This world appeared post-industrial and pre-electric. Of course, as
Elza always pointed out, technological developments didn't always
follow the typical sequence.
Shaking palms smeared sweat across his clammy
forehead. He shouldn't be alive after the end of last Iteration,
but here he was. Hess squeezed his eyes shut. Did Elza live too? Or
had the Creator respected their individual wishes, ending her while
Hess reached out a hand to steady himself on
the wall, then took a knee. He lived. That should be enough. It
to be enough.
Before he could regain control of his
trembling limbs, a violent spasm seized his abdomen, catapulting a
volley of bile forth to splatter across the floor boards. For a
moment, his forehead rested on the hard floor. Then Hess rolled
over to stare up.
Up into the too-bright eyes of a dark-skinned
man holding an uncapped pen like a dagger. “Fucking fantastic. The
Creator made my death-day wish come true. I get to properly express
A memory fluttered to the surface of his
mind. Hess squinted at the dark man above him, recalling the
reverse of their current situation, with him standing above the
other during the second Iteration. “
The maniacal smile warped into a scowl.
“Hess? You are literally the only Observer not on my shit list.
I've got so many feelings I want to talk over with my coworkers.”
Erik made stabbing motions with his pen. “It's gonna be a fucking
conversation. Those suiciding pigs are gonna hurt
so bad, Hess.”
He pushed himself to his feet. “What makes
you think the other Observers are here? We're the only two who
wanted to live.”
“Aw, did your tummy ache distwact you? Do you
need me to read the literal writing on the wall? You know, the big
fucking sign that says 'Executive retreat: discuss your
observations for one week'? This right here is the perfect
opportunity to fulfill my dying wish. I ever tell you that torture
parties are my fave? Never got into sex or music or any of that
shit, but hurting people gets me off every time.”
Hess squared his shoulders. “You don't touch
Cold calculation registered on Erik's face
for a moment. “Fine. Bitch built me a nuke, after all. The others
are mine, so stay away unless you want to join in the festivities.
I sympathize with your properly self-preserving ways and wouldn't
begrudge you some vengeance.”
“What about discussing our observations?”
Sudden cheer lit up Erik's features. “Oh,
there will be so much discussion over the next week. These pathetic
creatures are gonna positively
. I mean that
figuratively and literally, Hess-a-roni. They will apologize, and
explain themselves, and squirt blood everywhere. Only thing that
could ever top the fun we're gonna have is if I didn't have to die
at the end.”
Hess grunted, then shrugged. “You don't want
to die? Then stay behind when the world ends.”
“Don't be ridiculous. That's just a different
way to die. Might even be that losing one of us hurts the Creator,
which is the only thing I'm not willing to do at this point. Show
must go on or some shit.”
“A world can't end until the last Observer
leaves. I've stayed behind twice.” He took a deep breath. “And I'm
doing it again in a week.”
Erik's uneven squint grew more lopsided. “You
fucking with me?”
“Then why would the Creator make us believe
going AWOL was a death sentence? Either you're fucking with me or
the Creator lied.”
“The dangers of staying behind were only ever
implied. If I had to guess, I would say it was for our own
Erik's upper lip began to twitch.
“You know how the others voted,” Hess said.
“Imagine if they had been staying extra in each Iteration. The
group suicide would have happened a lot sooner. By making us leave
on time, the Creator extended the lives of the Observers who wanted
to keep going.”
Like sunlight burning away shadow, reason
displaced rage. Erik blinked several times, nodded, and cracked a
broad smile. “The Creator suspected some of us would be rejects.
Fucking brilliant. How long do you think a world can support life?
A million years? I could be content with a million. 'Spose you
could ask your ex for a sciency estimate?”
Hess blew out a hard breath. “I don't think
we're speaking at the moment.”
“Don't sweat it too much, lover-boy. I have
it on good authority half the population possesses a vagina.”
Before Hess could respond, the door to the
conference room creaked open to admit a petite dark-skinned woman
who stomped up to them radiating reckless indifference. He
recognized body and attitude in an instant. It was San, looking
exactly as she had the first time he met her in Iteration two; back
then he had been wandering the world alone in search of Elza. They
had identified each other as Observers when he passed through her
Hess turned to study Erik. Both San and Erik
looked the same as they had in Iteration two. “Am I wearing the
same body as Iteration two?”
Erik laughed. “Fuck no. You ain't that pasty
“The two of you look exactly the same as the
first time I saw you.”
San shrugged. “More important, where's the
booze? If we're ending it with an executive retreat at an island
resort, I'm getting hammered.”
“Suicidin' San. You're lucky, bitch, a minute
ago I was ready to show you my game face.”
“Did it look like this?” San screwed her face
up into a parody of mental derangement.
Erik's eyes lit up. “How cute. You think
you're a big girl.”
San heaved a sigh. “I'll definitely need
booze for this.”
Hess interrupted their posturing. “Where are
“They're here. Starting an Iteration in a
room full of Observers is an odd experience. Just as we start
recognizing each other, the hotelier reads us an instruction letter
from our 'company chairman' about how we are supposed to discuss
our observations for a week. Not too subtle, that Creator of
“Are the other cowards too afwaid to face
San snorted. “I always thought the baby talk
appropriate for your development level.”
“Nothing 'bout me's appropriate. For example,
I got this special technique I like to do. Burn every fucking
millimeter of skin on a body. Then you smear them in shit and give
them free reign of a basement with running water. They always try
to clean themselves up at first. But something makes them stop
before long. Never could decide if it was the pain or seeing their
skin wash down the drain.”
San rolled her eyes. “You don't say. Well,
once while sailing through shark infested waters I saw a frenzy. It
looked like someone replaced all the water with fins and teeth.
Terrifying. So, me being me, I jumped in. I can't even guess how
many times they ripped me to pieces. They didn't stop for almost a
whole day. I developed an actual phobia from the experience. Two
years later, I went back to chase that adrenaline high.”
Erik sneered. “What, you saying I can't break
“I'm already broken. But yes, I think you
overestimate your skills.”
“Wanna test that theory?”
Hess stepped between the two. “Where exactly
are the others?”
“Listening to the hotelier give a speech
about the island. Industries and exports, that kind of thing. He's
a sixth generation islander and oh so proud of his home. I'm not
interested. I stopped observing the moment I cast my vote.”
The next arrival stepped into the room. “Hey
San, they got a bar in the restaurant. I put a couple bottles of
gin on our boss's tab. Never thought the Creator would buy me a
Hess identified the newcomer in an instant.
Drake, wearing his Iteration two body and brandishing a bottle in
each hand like a frat boy. As Drake approached, his eyes fixed on
Erik and bulged. “Oh shit.” He tossed a bottle towards San and
retreated back through the door.
Gleeful cackles erupted from Erik. Hess
rolled his eyes and followed Drake's path back into the hotel
proper. As he walked, the layout became clear to him. The hotel was
a multistory affair with a conference room attached to one side and
a restaurant to the other, with a long hall on the first floor
connecting the two. At the halfway point of the hall sat a
double-door entrance overlooking a circular drive composed of faded
paving stones, a check-in desk directly opposite the doors next to
a public stair.
From the echoing sounds of retreating voices,
his group had just ascended. He hesitated there, unsure of himself
until the front desk staff offered him a room key with a flourish.
“You neglected to take your room key when you checked in, Mr. Hess.
I trust the conference room passed your inspection? It is separated
from the hotel proper by the breezeway, so there should be no
danger of people overhearing confidential matters.”
“So I'm already checked in?”
“The porters took your things up already, and
the rest of your party arrived on the second coach. The kitchens
will deliver a welcome meal to the conference room in an hour.
Until then, you are free to freshen up and unpack your things. We
apologize for the inconvenience, but hot water is limited to after
six o'clock due to a coal shortage. The barrier reef snagged the
last barge and they refuse to send another until someone pays for
what was lost at sea.”
Hess studied the key on his way up the
stairs. It bore a stamp indicating room 204, which sat conveniently
close to the stair. He glanced each way down the hall but saw no
one else. With a sigh, he entered to inspect his room.
Cramped, hot, and yellow described the space.
Hess didn't waste any further time inside. As he turned from
re-locking his door, he noticed a woman frozen in the act of
descending the stairs. He slowly straightened.