Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer
David closed the door and slid the deadbolt, tossing his keys on the hall stand. He crossed the small parlor to the sideboard, and as he reached for a tumbler and the bottle of Jamesons, he was startled by a voice from the corner.
“I’d prefer you didn’t do that,” a deep, tired sound from the direction of his overstuffed armchair.
David’s hand shook, gripping the glass tightly as he turned to where the man sat hidden in the shadows. “Who the bloody hell are you, and what are you doing in my flat?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t have let me in if I’d asked.” The figure produced a cigarette from a jacket pocket, and tearing the ignitor open drew deeply before exhaling slowly into the room. “I’m in collections David, and I’m afraid you’re in possession of something that’s no longer yours to keep.”
“Jesus, are you here about the television? I’m only a few days past, and if your lot kept better shop hours, I’d have been able to pay it last week when I was in the city. Here, you can take the cheque and shove off.” He started back towards the hall, but stopped when it was apparent the figure wasn’t moving.
“This isn’t about the television, it’s that body you’re wearing, I’ve come to take it back.”
David stood still, not sure he’d just heard correctly. “You’ve come for what?”
“Do you remember the company you owned, the money you made, before the accident, before…” he paused, waving around the now smokey room, “before this place? Do you remember when you acquired that body?”
Far more words formed in Davids head than made it to his lips. He could only stammer “accident? company?”
“You were quite a powerful man in your day I understand, but you had that thing for experimental aircraft, so your company had you heavily insured,” the cigarette glowed brightly as he inhaled, “and that insurance policy bought you out, reconstituted you in that body you’re wearing now.”
David looked down reflexively, noticed that he still held the glass, and in a daze set it down on the sideboard.
“Of course the condition of the insurance was that you be disassociated with your past, which is how you wound up here. I suppose the insurance company covered the rent.”
“I don’t understand, what do you mean by ‘that body you’re wearing'”
“You see, the insurance company put your policy claim out to tender, and the winning bidder scraped up what was left from your cockpit and installed you into the body you’ve been wandering round in these last few years. The problem is that company’s gone bankrupt, and as they purchased the rights to that body from my employer, and as they never paid for it, my employer’s sent me ’round to pick it up.”
David fingered the glass, and shakily uncapped the bottle of whisky. “My employer, my insurance, won’t they cover what’s owed?” He didn’t believe what was happening, but it was beginning to seem unnervingly familiar.
“We started there, unfortunately the insurance is nearly tapped, and I’m afraid your previous employer doesn’t seem to like you that much.”
“How long have I got, and what then?”
“In a few minutes, when you’re ready, I’ll release you to the ether, and return that body to my employer. It’s not like you weren’t living on borrowed time anyways now, is it?”
David poured a healthy measure from the bottle into his glass. “I think I’ll have that drink if it’s all the same to you, at least the whisky I’m sure I’ve paid for.”