The world took him. It warped him. It changed him. It made him what he was. And then it threw him away. This is the story of a boy who lived, of a boy who killed, of a boy who died. This is the story of a ghost without a past, a string of the memories of a life once lived, now long forgotten. A glimpse of what might have been, had things been different, had the world been kinder. (This is my idea for the corporation story contest. I plan for it to become a full length novel, hopefully in time for the contest! Please support the cause and comment/like, because otherwise I really have motivation issues and will probably forget and work on another story instead).


4. Chapter 3.

            Kain did not know what exactly he expected the reaction of the witless cowards watching him to be, but at the least he thought they ought to be grateful, perhaps even awed at his skill, as he managed to disarm the girl. Of course, he was disappointed once again when, upon carefully taking the knives, there was little actual reaction. They just acted as if he’d done what was expected of him, like a tool that behaved as it should, and that attitude irked Kain. After all, he was the player, skillfully moving the mindless pawns across a board they couldn’t even see.

            “You are under arrest for-” a cop began, stepping forward with handcuffs, but the girl quickly cut him off with an irritated glance.

            “Never mind that, we don’t have time for it. Even if you managed to list all my sins – which you wouldn’t – I’d be long gone by the time you finished.” Kain snickered quietly as the flabbergasted man recoiled in surprise and the girl turned away disdainfully. “Look, here is how this is going to happen. You have one hour,” she stated calmly, clearly speaking only to Kain. “Use it wisely. After that time has passed, no torture or trick you can concoct will make me talk. I will also make one request, which you can decide to ignore or grant at your discretion.”

            “What do you want? What’s the request?”

            She gave him a flat look, radiating displeasure. “You will learn in fifty-nine minutes. Also,” she continued, turning suddenly to fix the cop still standing a few feet away, awkwardly holding a pair of handcuffs. “No one touches me.” She grabbed the cuffs and slid them onto her own wrists, pushing them closed.

            Kain didn’t even bother looking around to see what the actual officers thought. He knew that he would do anything to satisfy this creature of blood and death. “We have a deal.”

            Of course it was not that simple. He spent valuable minutes arguing with other detectives and cops who demanded she be taken to interrogation. Finally, when he’d managed to convince the more important of his opposition, he took the girl back down to his newly scrubbed conference room and set up a desk and chairs before motioning her to sit. “We’ll start with something easy. Tell me your name.”

            Surprisingly, she laughed, a bitter, angry sound that clashed with her innocent appearance yet seemed almost perfectly compatible with her dark aura. “Well, looks like you really have a screwed up sense of ease, don’t you. I don’t have a name, not anymore. My… coworkers and employers call me Phantom.”

            “Alright then, Phantom, can you tell me what your occupation is?” Kain asked, jotting notes as he spoke.

            “I am an assassin.” The casual ease with which she made the declaration shocked Kain more than the job itself. He had assumed it involved crime, after all, by the reactions of the men in the lobby.

            Finally overcome by burning curiosity, Kain leaned forward. “Why exactly were you standing in the middle of a ring of guns?”

            Phantom smiled widely. “Oh, nothing much. I just walked it to report a crime. But then, apparently announcing that you murdered seven people less than ten minutes ago is probably frowned upon, isn’t it?” Kain laughed at the complete absurdity of it. She’d willingly given herself up merely for the sake of a request he still had the ability and right to refuse.

            “Alright, next question. Who do you work for?”

            Leaning back in her chair, Phantom stretched lazily. “I don’t actually know. We called ourselves the Illusionists, but I’ve never actually seen the boss. Ghost might have at some point, but Specter was our main contact for jobs and reports.”

            “The Illusionists, huh? And how many of you are there?” It took all of Kain’s self-control to ask only the one question, to refrain from hounding her with every puzzle that came to mind. He had to remind himself that he had one hour –thirty-two minutes, now – and then he’d never learn anything.

            “There were two of us, in the beginning. About a year ago the number went up to five. Ghost was technically the first of us, easily the best of us. I was second, then the others all at once.”

            “And you all kill?”

            “No. None of us kill. We merely shatter illusions. Beauty, love, trust. They are all illusions. But the greatest illusion of all is life itself. It is a product of smoke and glass, a mirage in the dessert. All we do is break the mirrors and reveal the trick for what it was.”

            “A quaint way to put it, sure, but it’s all the same, isn’t it?”

            Phantom met Kain’s eyes calmly. “Yes, it’s the same. But some of us didn’t like to think of themselves as monsters.”

            “Understandable. But you don’t mind it.” It wasn’t a question. Judging by the lazy calm of her responses, the ease with which she admitted to murder, Kain knew that this Phantom was proud of her work, so he continued without waiting for a reply. “And what about those bracelets? Do all of you ‘Illusionists’ wear them?”

            “Next question.” Phantom’s flat response and sudden tension interested Kain more than any answer she might have given.

            He opened his mouth to ask again, but before he could she suddenly leaned forward. “Why did you come near me? Weren’t you afraid I would cut you? I might have killed you, you know.”

            “Yes, I know.” Kain stood and walked to the side of the room, picking up one of the knives he’d taken from her earlier. Holding it carefully – they really were exquisite pieces of work, perfectly shaped daggers heavy enough to cut through bone, yet light enough to be easily thrown – he shifted it to his right hand. “And had you killed me it really would have been a pity. However,” Kain continued, rolling up the sleeve of his left arm and placing the blade in the center of his palm, “I really don’t think being cut would be such a hardship.”

            With one swift slash he cut through the skin, and for an instant there was merely a thin white line across his hand, no blood, no pain, nothing to show he’d been cut at all. And then the little red droplets appeared as if by magic, as if they were an illusion. Blood welled up in the gash, collecting in his palm, and Kain smiled down at it. Then, catching the girl’s eye, he brought his hand up to his lips and licked the wound.

            Of course, Kain had never particularly enjoyed the taste of his own blood. It was too mundane, too common. There was no challenge in procuring it, no sacrifice to obtain it. It was just always there. But this was a deliberate action, a sign to prove to Phantom that he was unique, that he was different. However, unlike the reaction he always elicited, she didn’t flinch or look sick. Rather, she leaned back, obviously bored by the whole thing. “Five minutes.”

            “What?” Kain looked down at his watch quickly, shocked by how much time had passed. “No, that’s not right. I’ve still got at least twenty!”

            Phantom leaned forward, placing her head between her knees as if she were sick or nauseous. “I know,” she said, voice still calm and collected, but it was strained. “I know, and I’m sorry, but it seems I’ve overestimated my time. Specter will have to tell you the rest. Just give me a paper and I’ll tell you where she is.” Kain obliged slowly, the fact that his time was up still not processed, looping endlessly in his mind and clouding his judgment.

            “So what is it you wanted, then? Why did you bother doing this?” Kain asked, reaching out to take the paper back, glancing down long enough to notice that it was an address, but not focusing enough to actually read it.

            “This morning you found the body of a boy who’d been murdered, right?” Kain nodded, and Phantom continued on, shifting her eyes away from his face, staring into space. “I want to see the body.”

            “Why? Who was he?”

            Phantom looked at him once more, her hands coming up to brush her hair to the side, baring her neck. “I honestly don’t know who he really was, what his real name was, but he is Ghost. He is the first Illusionist, my partner and my savior.” She touched a small mark on the side of her throat, something Kain only now noticed. It was miniscule and well hidden, but it was undeniably a puncture wound. “And I want to die beside him.”

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