Seven Months Before Impact Day
“You know, I’m happy to have some alone time with you, but this isn’t really how I imagined spending it,” I said, glancing nervously at the array of tools Rachel had assembled.
“I dunno, I’m kind of looking forward to it,” she said, grinning.
“What if something actually works?” I asked, realising I hadn’t even considered the concept of my own mortality for months. “What if you actually manage to kill me?”
“Charlie,” she said, holding my hand and staring into my eyes. “I absolutely guarantee nothing I do will kill you.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I dunno,” she said, grinning. “But I am.”
For some reason, that was enough for me. If Rachel was sure about something, that basically made it a fact.
“Alright,” I said, sighing. “Let’s find out just how much I can survive.”
For two days, Rachel set about testing the limits of my immortality. She cut me open, shot me, electrocuted me, crushed me, blew me up…
Every second of it was excruciating. No matter how many times I died, it never got any less painful. My body healed, but the pain stuck with me.
Incredibly, it seemed like not even complete obliteration kept me out. There was always something left, always enough for the rest of me to piece itself together from. Rachel noted everything down, keeping detailed logs, all while piecing together a mental picture that seemed unfathomable even to me.
“So, doc, what’s the diagnosis?” I joked, stretching out after being blown up from the inside. Rachel raised her eyebrows.
“You really wanna know?”
“Wait, you actually have an answer?”
“Kind of,” she said. “Imagine it like this. For most people, the body is like a… a container, for the soul. You break the container too much, the soul escapes, and the person is dead. After that, I have no idea what happens.”
“So we’re just like, straight-up confirming that people have souls, then?”
“Yep. Every last one of us.”
“Even you,” she said. “Only with you, it’s kind of the other way around.”
“My soul contains my body?”
“No, but your body isn’t there to contain it. Your soul is like… a permanent fixture, y’know. Even without a container, it’s not going anywhere. For whatever reason, it likes where it is. But it also likes having a meatsack, because it needs that to interact with the world. Otherwise, you’d be like Sadie.”
“Nothing in this world can touch your soul,” Rachel continued. “And it seems to have access to a limitless supply of energy, so it just keeps putting your body back together whenever it gets damaged. And that’s why no amount of damage will ever be able to kill you.”
“And what makes my soul so special?”
“Haven’t the foggiest,” she said cheerfully. “But there’ll be plenty of time to figure that out later. What’s important is that I have what I need. The plan’s gonna work.”
“But what if—”
“Trust me,” she said, kissing me. “Everything’s gonna work out just fine.”
“I do trust you,” I told her. “I just hate not being involved.”
We returned to the apartment Sunday evening, finding Aidan and Liz sitting at the table, playing chess, of all things.
“How was your romantic getaway?” Aidan asked, smirking. Did he suspect anything? Surely not.
“None of your business,” I said, rolling my eyes. Liz looked away. “Chess? Really?”
“It’s fun,” Aidan said defensively.
“It’s clichéd,” I retorted.
“Is everything ready?” Rachel asked, cutting through the awkwardness.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” Liz asked. The tension between her and Rachel was… difficult.
“Just answer the question,” Rachel snapped.
“We’re all good,” Aidan said. “I’ve got eyes on the target as we speak, every movement planned, and every possibility covered.”
“Wait, since when do you have ‘eyes’ to put on targets?” I asked, pretending to know less than I really did.
“I hired some help,” Aidan said casually. “Anonymously, don’t worry. When you know how to play the game, people are just like chess pieces.”
“And you know how to play the game?”
“I’m a fast learner,” he said. “Your girlfriend helped, anyway.”
I raised an eyebrow at Rachel, as if she hadn’t already filled me in on all of it.
“I wrote some software,” she said, shaking her head as if it was nothing. “Just some handy tools for things like hacking, staying anonymous and keeping contacts… organised.”
“I didn’t even know you could program,” I lied.
“Neither did I,” she said. “Turns out it’s not so different to building things. You just have to know how all the pieces work.”
“What would we do without you?” I asked.
“Nothing,” she teased.
“We’d manage,” Liz said irritably.
Aidan and I exchanged uncomfortable glances. “We should probably get home,” he said. “Dad’s gonna start worrying.”
“I should get home too,” Liz said.
“Works for me,” Rachel said. “I’ll stay here and keep an eye on things. I have more ideas I wanna work on, anyway.”
We said our goodbyes, and Aidan and I once again took the bus home together. In what was starting to become tradition, he waited until we were alone to talk.
“Did something happen with you and Liz?” he asked.
“She didn’t tell you?”
“I didn’t want to pry,” he said.
“I probably shouldn’t talk about it,” I told him.
“Is it that bad?”
“No, it’s just…” I sighed. “What’s going on with you two?”
“What? What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I…” He bit his lip, and looked out the window, away from me. “I don’t know. Even after all these years, she’s impossible to read.”
“But you like her, don’t you?”
“I wouldn’t say that. Not that I don’t like her, but, like, how can you like someone when you’re not even sure if they like you?”
“Do you want her to like you?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“I’m not sure you’re her type,” I said carefully.
“I’m not anyone’s type,” he replied despondently.
“Dude, I just mean, I think she’s gay,” I said.
“Oh,” he said, before the other piece fell into place. “Oh. So that’s what—”
“You need some straight girls in your life,” I said.
“I’m beginning to doubt there are any in this damn city,” he said, and we both laughed.
Next Week: I’m Going To Break You