It takes a few lives before you really get the hang of how it all works and what your purpose really is.

Mine is to walk those dark alleys in the dead of the night, waiting to protect anyone who might stumble where they shouldn’t be. Tonight, it’s a woman. She’s cursing and weaving down the alley, digging in her rather large, expensive Michael Kors handbag. I assume she’s looking for her keys.

The shadows in front of her shift and watch, beady eyes tracking her every movement. She’s an easy target. One of the dregs comes out and stands in front of her.

“Maryanne, you’re drunk. Go home.”

My eyebrow crests. He knows her. He won’t hurt her. “No! I’m gonna kill you, you bastard.”

He doesn’t laugh. “Maryanne, please.” His eyes shift toward me. He misses the gun she has finally retrieved from her handbag.

“Fucker,” she mutters and the gun goes off. She bolts from the alleyway and is gone.

I’m standing there, speechless. There’s blood soaking the ground, but I cannot move. Police lights flash behind me, and I’m still. I feel them move around me, toward the bleeding man, but I still cannot move. I’ve seen death before, but not like this. His blood turns black, oozes and seems to crawl along the ground, toward a drain. I watch in horror.

As they lift him up onto the stretcher, his eyes lock with mine. “You didn’t save me,” he accuses. They move behind me locking my wrists in metal cuffs. “I was supposed to be saved,” he cries and it echoes off the buildings around me.

It doesn’t take long for them to load me into the car and take me to the station. They search my pockets for identification, and get frustrated when they find none. “Who are you?” They growl and glare at me.

“I’m Atticus. Atticus Finch.”

The burly policewoman mutters, “Well someone’s Mama liked to read.” And I can’t help but smile. “Well, Atticus,” she says, with a smirk on her face, “you’ll have to stay here until we can verify you are who you say you are.” It was meant to be intimidating, but all I can do is shrug. It’s my fifth life, no one who knows me is still alive.

She leads me to a small cell in the back of the building. She locks me in. “Murder is a serious thing,” she says, looking straight at me.

“Yes, ma’am,” is all I can think of to say back.

Then I am alone.

It seems like the days pass by smoothly. They bring food and water. And I stand, stretch and eat all I can. I know I will be here a while. After ten days, it gets to be routine. I start wondering how long they can hold me, when the burly woman’s footsteps echo down the hallway.

Her keys turn in the lock, “Okay, Atticus. No one knows who you are, and we found no gunpowder on your hands. Guess you’re free to go. But if I see you in here again…” She leaves her statement unfinished, but gives me a warning look.

I’m tired and weary as I head for my home. It’s an abandoned warehouse out by the docks. Someone owns it, I’ve just never seen them or had anyone come sniffing around, so I keep my meager belongings there. I shuffle that way, only to see the woman with the gun. She’s smiling now, having come out of the bar with a friend. She doesn’t give me a second glance, but for some reason, I turn on my heels and follow her.

I don’t have to wait long. Four streets away, I see the black blood oozing towards her, following her every move. I don’t know what it is, but it unnerves me. In all my five lives, I’ve never seen anything that gives me chills more than this. But, still, I follow.

It doesn’t notice that I’m there.

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