I tried to power walk out of the office, flicking through the loose papers of Anni Bay’s disbanded file. It was missing a lot of paperwork, and was apparently ditched under a filing cabinet for years.
It was really a miracle that this girl was even still alive.
Another thing that you should know is that I am the last resource.
Before you wheel us Guiders in you get the “Saviors” as they call themselves.
Or knobs, to everyone else.
They (you probably guessed it) try save the person by defeating and accepting all their inner demons.
Now I’m not a complete prick, I know that they Saviours are doing good, but I mean, come on- “Saviours”?
And they get to decided when they come and go from lives, all high and mighty, the bastards.
But anyway, most of them are nice enough, and they’re usually good at what they do (Matt Gregory for example, who saved hundreds and got promoted), but every now and again a kid will be a challenge, and some will slip through the cracks.
If you get sent more than five or so Saviours, you're given a big stamp over your file with “unsustainable”, and you’re tossed to the side.
“Sorry, tough luck. We tried. See you when you get up here.”
So if these dust covered, teacup stained sheets are right, this file was marked “unsustainable” and accidently hidden away under a cabinet.
The worst part was this girl was twelve at the time and had been sent six Saviours, all of whom gave up and headed home.
So some Monitor found it, and stamped her file number into the main computer to tick the confirmed deceased box, when he saw a little yellow tag beside her name, “Alive.”
So we shot down a Saviour and he came back to say she’s aged, but everything is as they ditched it. She’s managed to save herself for this long.
But they presumed (dead people not being very hopeful and all) that she was still unredeemable and there was no use pumping Saviour’s time into her, so they shoved her into a drawer until I came along, needing a way out.
I flicked through the rest of her file, desperately trying to find any tips on how to save her life.
See, the difference between Saviours and us Guiders are that we are shit. We’re meant to die, that’s why this is a punishment. So any help, even a photo of the girl or where in the world I’m going to would help.
“Hey, Rainvile, right?”
I looked up at the secretary, who stood three inches away from my face with huge eyes and way too much blush for someone without a blood circulatory system, “Uh, Renville?” I said.
“Yeah, well I was wondering if you ever wanted to maybe go out?”
I blinked at her, “Go out?”
“Yeah. Like…” she giggled, “On a date. Or whatever.”
“Uh…” No. Obviously not. I mean, when, even? I am on my way to dying right now, when do I have time to go on a date with a chick like this?
Her eyes were bulging and her bubblegum pink lips nearly snarling, “Wow.” she said, “Thanks.”
Shit, I said that all outloud. Of course.
The struggle of a Guider.
“No, sorry, I didn’t mean to say that. I’ll, uh…” I stopped trying. I mean, this was probably not coming back to bite me on the ass, this Anni Bay chick was much more important than my love-life (or lust-life, if you will). I tried to push passed her, and she just jutted out her shoulder to hit me and throw me off.
“You’re going to regret being such a tool, Cavalieri.” Matt just walked beside me, both the fuming secretary and the recently dead and the (slightly braver looking) Dameon Alfred watching us slide through the crowds of lines leading to the administrative office for the non-sinners.
“I’m going to die, Gregory. What does she matter?”
“She died in childbirth.”
“So did like half the woman in the maternity ward up here.”
When we got to a slight opening in the swarms of people all in blinding white, Matt put a hand to my chest to stop me. He did that a lot. Maybe because he always needed to motion to me to stop, or maybe he was just touchy.
“She died at eighteen years old in the seventies while giving birth to a set of twins because she was so alone, she thought it might help.”
I looked back at the small mound under her stomach, and the way she rubbed it slightly every now and again, as if there was something still there for her.
I just ran my thumb over the papers, “And?”
“And? And you might want to start feeling some compassion or else you’ll end up demon food.”
“You don’t become demon food. You really don’t know how this Hell thing works do you?”
Matt snatched the file off me, and I slightly lunged for it without realising. That may have been the most important stack of useless papers I’d ever held. Fun fact, there was even a receipt in there for groceries, so who knows what I was getting myself into. This girl mightn’t even be Anni at all.
“This is important. Look, the only way you're getting out of her is by defeating all her inner demons.”
“That’s such a Monitor thing to say-”
“I’m fucking serious, Renville.” Matt’s voice grew dark, nearly into a howl, so I shut my mouth. Matt swearing meant you should shut up, or lose your head.
He pinched between his eyebrows, “You can’t be selfish anymore.”
“Isn’t this job entirely selfish though? I mean, don’t think ill of me, but I’m not doing this saving-lives stuff out of the good of my heart.”
“Have you ever heard of the saying, “There is no such thing as a selfless act”?” he said, and I shook my head, “Well, I shouldn’t be saying this, but really, if you value your life right now, you’ll have to care for her. No choice anymore, I’m afraid.”
I thought for a minute, looking at all the people around us. There were so ordinary, every one looked like the last. How was I supposed to care for a random girl with issues? I mean, everyone has issues.
“I’ll try my best, that’s for sure.” I sighed internally, “But even if I do get dragged to Hell, I think that I’ll deserve what I get. I always thought that, even through every painful death, but I’d obviously never say it.”
“Hey, just try for this girl. Make her represent all the bad things you’ve done. Repentance, or something, right?”
I chuckled and took the file back, “You are a pretty crap Monitor.”
He snatched it back, “A great goodbye, right there.”
“Thanks. But…” I smiled a little, trying not to let the touchy-feely moment hurt to bad, “But you’re a good man.”
Matt gleamed at that one, “Thanks. Now, let’s see the woman who’s promoting you for a bit.”
“Promoting? Oh right.” I took the file back and held it behind my head, “Because I’ll get to be a Saviour.” I tried to fake sequel, but it got caught in my tobacco-cased lungs.
“Exactly, you narcissistic prick.” he took the file back, and started walking on ahead of me, “Now let’s see… Early twenties, undiagnosed condition, family of Indian descent, freelancer who’s afraid of reflections and has serious mommy-issues. Hey, Renny, your kind of girl.”
And I laughed, and suddenly realised that maybe, for once, I could save a life. Or at least find a way to make this one worth living.
The man behind the desk gave me a look up and down while I punched the file number into the dial, ready to beam me off to my last life.
I think he realised what this meant for me, because he gave me a half smile before he got ready to flip the switch.
“Wait, Renville.” Matt stood in the middle of the bleached white room, holding my shoulders at arm’s length, “I need you to know that whatever happens you’ll be okay.”
“And even if something goes wrong, I’m positive that it will eventually sort itself out.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“And, I swear to you, I will always be here for you, supporting you when you-”
“Christ, Matt. I know.” I laughed at him again, all flustered and motherly.
“Don’t be,” I pulled him in and hugged Matt for what was probably the first time in thousands of years, and it was exactly as uncomfortable as you could imagine, but it did help unlodge my heart from my throat.
He stepped back and patted my cheek lightly, like a true 50’s heroic cop, “Good luck, Renville Cavalieri. Go save a life.”
“Thank you, Matt Gregory. And sorry for killing you and all that. And tell the Dameon kid that I’m sorry I couldn’t save him. And tell that secretary chick that I would definitely bang her.”
Matt grinned, “Shut up, and go get living.” But I saw how his eyes scrunched up and his Adam’s apple bobbed in his throat, when he tried to stop being so emotional. He may be the definition of a bastard, but I’d miss him, as much as I’d hate to admit it.
“You better be here when I get back,” I said as he closed the door, shutting me into the room, ready to be dropped into my new body, “No going off getting reincarnated.”
And Matt just smiled and nodded a little, as a final send off before I fell heavily into the mind of a young woman.
And what was the first thing I saw behind Anni Bay’s eyes?
Cracks, color, and a whole lot of blood.