by Emily Devenport
Wraiths can be beautiful, angelically so at times. But most of the time we’re thin and unsubstantial. Or at least, that’s the way it’s been for me. I haven’t been doing this for very long, so there are a lot of things I haven’t figured out yet. And so far, no one seems inclined to tell me what to expect.
No one told me how ugly we can be, either. I found that out by scaring the bejeezus out of some guy when I was hiding under a table in an old house, and he and his cohorts were cutting some drugs and talking about shooting people. They were so blasé about it, I just got madder and madder as I listened to them. It was the first powerful feeling I had experienced since – you know, whatever happened to turn me into a wraith. Transmogrification, chemical reaction, gravity waves – whatever. I was suddenly there, like a mist that congealed on a cold, wet night, and my self-awareness was so primitive that I just sort of hung out under that table.
“His head exploded,” said the guy who was about to get the shock of his life, and he laughed like a child who’s just discovered puppies.
In my mind’s eye I could see the man who had been killed; he was more substantial than I. The sight was pathetic, and my anger made me real. I crystalized like magma hitting the cold air and grabbed his leg.
“What the fuck?” he shrieked, and he and his comrades looked under the table. That’s when I flashed them the ugly muggly. There was a moment of shocked silence, and then they leaped backward. I could feel a shockwave going from me to them, a burst of power that was pure emotion.
It surprised me as much as it did them, and my hands became insubstantial. The guy pulled right through them, and bits of me went along with him like smoke. That only scared him more, and before I could get over the surprise, they had all scrambled, scuttled, and bounced out of the house and into the night.
I looked at my hands and they solidified again – but not entirely. I could still see through them. They were claw-like, with lethal-looking nails. But as I continued to stare at them, the claws melted back into hands.
The house had become silent after the men ran away. I could hear the distant sound of barking dogs and traffic, but the quality of silence inside the house was interesting. It wasn’t ordinary at all, it was the reason I had come to be there. This sparked my curiosity.
I rose, and realized I had passed right through the table. It was littered with baggies of white powder. Empty bags waited to be filled with more of the same, from a couple of bricks of more cohesive stuff that had been wrapped in plastic. The men had been breaking off chunks of this and then chopping it into finer powder with the edges of credit cards.
I spent a brief time musing about this collection of molecules that could inspire a man to shoot someone in the head, then moved away from the table. When I focused, I could touch it. When I touched it, I became aware of the essence of its wood. Though it had been cut long ago, I sensed potential for life in it.
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Emily Devenport has published nine novels under three pen names. Her novel Broken Time was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award. She also has two new novels forthcoming from Tor: Medusa Uploaded and an untitled sequel.
Her short stories have been published in ASIMOV’S SF MAGAZINE, the Full Spectrum anthology, The Mammoth Book of Kaiju, UNCANNY, CICADA, SCIENCE FICTION WORLD, ALFRED HITCHCOCK, CLARKESWORLD, and ABORIGINAL SF, whose readers voted her a Boomerang Award.