June 6, 3:45 pm
Billy saw what was about to happen less than a second before the man in the blood-stained sweatshirt. And he instantly regretted yelling at the man to stop.
Not in the middle of the street, you idiot!
“No! You’ll be reset!!!” he screamed.
He barely stopped in time to prevent the truck from hitting them both. He even reached out a hand toward the man. But it was too late. The truck roared past within five feet of where he stood, taking the man with him in a blur of white, blue and red. The sound of the impact was horrific. Billy thought he could even hear the man’s ghostly bones shattering, and the air expelled from his startled lungs. And then there was the familiar sound of a reset. The sound of glass breaking, as Richard’s ghostly body flew apart, and the pieces evaporated in the still summer air.
At first, Billy was too shocked to speak. But he knew at that instant that he’d lost him, and couldn’t help but cry out.
“No, no, no no NO NO!”
Dammit! The man had been looking right into his eyes, from less than twenty feet away, when the truck plowed into him. Billy even thought he saw recognition in his eyes, that maybe the man knew he was looking at another ghost.
I was so close!
But the bearded ghost was gone. And Billy knew he had no way to follow. He stood stunned on the street corner, as the FedEx truck continued on its way, totally unaware of what it had done. He imagined the driver was pleased that he’d made it through the light. He wouldn’t have had any idea that he had just smashed a body into broken pieces. Yes, it was a ghost body, but, Billy knew, the man would feel every broken bone and shattered organ of that impact.
No one on the street, of course, had seen anything. And there was no body for the police to hover over. The light changed, and a few pedestrians made their way across the intersection, blissfully unaware.
The bearded man had been reset.
Billy was very familiar with what it meant to be reset. He had seen it happen to many ghosts over the years, both by accident and at their own hands. It had happened to him. And of course, it had happened to Mattie more times than he could count over the past century and a half.
The bearded man’s broken body would now be back at the site of his death, slowly and agonizingly reassembling itself.
A reset happened any time a ghost endured what would have been a mortal wound, had their body been living. The ghost body could endure incredible pain. But the ghost body was also real, at least in this world. And if the trauma the ghost body endured reached a critical level, the body just atomized like a shattered mirror, and then reformed back at the site of their death.
Standing numbly on the street corner, being jostled roughly by the passers-by, Billy felt alone in a way he hadn’t for a century. He moaned and grasped his head, trying to figure out what to do next. It had happened so suddenly, his mind was reeling. He had to think.
Okay, so he’s been reset. That means I have no idea where he is now, since I don’t have any idea who he is, or how he died. I have no way to find him. Dammit, I was so close!
Billy knew that this new ghost was important. Incredibly important. In fact, Billy knew, he could well be the answer to everything. He could be the one that Tuilla told him was coming. He might be the one to save everybody.
I had him. I almost had him. And then I lost him. Shit!
He stood on the street corner for a moment, feeling helpless and desperate. But after being knocked roughly into a light post by a pair of girls, he finally stirred himself enough to get off the sidewalk. Getting reset myself isn’t going to help anything, he thought.
He made his way to a short wall at the edge of a parking lot overlooking the busy traffic on South Temple. He climbed up to the top of the wall where he could think and not be knocked about like a pinball.
How am I going to find this new ghost? If he truly is the key to it all, I have to find him. I have to talk to him… If Tuilla was right, and this is the man who can stop what is coming, then nothing matters more than finding him.
Billy wished that his bond with this new ghost was like his bond with Mattie, and that he could just close his eyes and know where he was. Desperate, he closed his eyes, but got no sense of the man. Nothing was there. He sensed Mattie, somewhere off to the west. Probably downtown. But he had no sense of this new ghost. He took a deep breath and tried to concentrate.
Okay. So what do I know? Well, I know he is newly dead, so if I can figure out who he was, maybe that will tell me where he died. He may not still be there by the time I figure it out, but it’s the best shot I have. New ghosts often stick close to where they died, at least for a while.
Then it occurred to him: If the man was newly dead, then perhaps there would be a newspaper obituary that he could read over someone’s shoulder, or a news broadcast that described his death. Both were long-shots, since the man would have died around four days ago, give or take a day. Life moves on pretty quickly, and any newspaper mention might be tough to find. But judging from the man’s appearance, he died violently. That provided some hope. Maybe his death was newsworthy.
It was a slight hope, but that was better than no hope at all.
So, someone who died violently about four or five days ago. That should be pretty easy to figure out. Especially if there was some kind of photo attached to the news story…
There was a bar downtown that he thought would be his best bet. They always left the news on the TV and had copies of the Salt Lake Tribune on the bar. The bartender there was a news junky and resisted the patron requests to put on sports. Plus, bars were always good places to eavesdrop. This one had an older clientele that loved to debate politics and gossip about local news. Someone might leave a newspaper open on the bar. Maybe he would get lucky.
He sensed Mattie. She was on the move, and heading south. For a moment Billy considered abandoning this new ghost to go after her. She could be preparing for another attack, another massacre. But he quickly pushed that impulse away. There was nothing he could do about Mattie, even if he was there. At the theater, he had been nothing but a witness, and he wasn’t sure his heart could bear that again.
He headed toward the bar.