As the priorities in my life have shifted a bit for the next couple of months, the release of Winning Ticket is postponed indefinitely. On the upside, I still had this micro story ready on my shelf.
It’s set in the same universe but standalone and separate from the George Alpha stories.
‘Today’s winner is an old one,’ Katherine said to Susan as they walked down the hallway. ’We don’t have a name. All we know from the imprint is that it’s a man.’
‘Imprint?’ Susan asked.
‘Spirit imprint. The imprint that your physical body leaves on your spirit. Don’t ask me how it works but the scientists can determine exactly what someone looked like at any point during their life, just from looking at the spirit.’
Susan took in the information. She was nineteen and doing an internship at Spirit Central. Accompanying Katherine was her first assignment.
‘With old spirits like this one,’ Katherine continued, ‘the imprint is all we have to go on. Anything else will have to come from the spirit itself. Ah, here it is.’ As they stopped in front of a door labelled Spirit Room 2, she put a hand on the doorknob and looked at Susan. ‘The challenge with old ones is sticking to the point, as they’re usually confused and have lots of questions, the trick is to take control of the conversation and not give them much of a chance. I’ve done this a hundred times, let me do all the talking, you just sit and observe. And remember, when the light is green, our guest is present, so if you have a question for me, don’t forget to push the mute button on the table first.’
Susan nodded as Katherine opened the door.
They walked into the spirit room and took a seat at the table, facing the black, oblong speaker attached to the wall. Beneath it hung a small plaque with the number one. Above it was a red light, which turned green shortly after they sat down.
‘Eh… hello?’ a voice sounded uncertainly.
Katherine opened the folder she had been holding under her arm and spread out the papers in front of her on the table.
‘Hello, sir. My name is Katherine Lipgloss, I am here with my colleague Susan, can you tell me your name, please?’
‘Eh… my name?’
It took a couple of seconds for the spirit to reply. Told you, Katherine mouthed to Susan, confused. ’Sir?’ she repeated out loud.
‘Eh… Jack Levy,’ finally came back.
‘Very nice to meet you mister Levy,’ Katherine cheerfully replied.
‘Wh-where am I?’
‘You are in Spirit Central, mister Levy.’
‘Spirit Central, what’s that? Wait, spirit… I’m… dead?’
‘I’m afraid so, sir. Spirit Central is the modern version of what I believe was called the House of Spirits in your time.’
Katherine pressed down the mute button and looked at Susan. ‘This happens a lot, back in the day where mister Levy is from, they didn’t do processing of new arrivals, so he was never informed he died. This is probably the first time he wakes up.’
Susan nodded back at Katherine, who unmuted the microphone again.
‘I died…’ sounded from the speaker.
‘Which is exactly why we are here. I have some excellent news for you, sir, you’ve w—‘
‘How did I die?’
‘Ah… I’m afraid we don’t have that information.’
Katherine sighed inwardly, answering these questions was not part of her job description, yet they always came up when dealing with old spirits.
‘It happened too long ago, unfortunately we don’t have any records anymore from your time.’
‘My time? What year is this?’
‘After The Fires, this is the 151st year since the Great Fires.’
‘Well, 151 years ago the entire city burned down, the event is known as The Great Fires.’
‘Never heard of it.’
‘That’s because you died before the fires occurred, or in them.’
‘I’ve been dead for 150 years?’ the spirit on the other side reacted surprised. ‘But… but it’s like only yesterday that I was alive…’
‘From your perspective, you were,’ Katherine said, ‘it’s perfectly normal to be a bit confused about the timeline, sir.’
Susan knew about this. Spirits were not aware of actual time passing but they did have a sense of time passed. He would remember everything very clearly but at the same time somehow feel that it was ages ago.
‘But the reason why we are here, mister Levy,’ Katherine continued mercilessly, ‘is because we have some excellent news. You, sir, have won the Lottery!’
She paused as if expecting a hurrah from the other end, but all that came back after several seconds was, ‘The Lottery?’
‘That’s right. You won the Spirit Reincarnation Lottery this month, you’re going to be reincarnated.’
‘Yes, you can expect to walk out of here in a real body again by the end of next week!’
The spirit needed a moment to let that sink in.
‘I’m dead… I never even knew I was dead but now you’re telling me I’ll be alive again next week?’
‘Absolutely, because you are a winner! You should count yourself very lucky, the odds of winning the Lottery are 3,231,752 to one, as of this morning.’
Susan leaned over to Katherine and whispered something in her ear.
‘I’m sorry,’ Katherine corrected herself, ‘apparently it’s even 3,231,756 to one! How does that make you feel, sir?’
‘I’ll be free?’ the spirit asked.
‘You said I’ll be walking out of there, so, I’ll be free?’
‘Yes, of course.’ Katherine was confused. ‘Why wouldn’t you be?’
‘Because I was in jail.’
‘Ah. In that case I have even better news for you. As a Lottery winner, none of that matters, the past is the past, you can start a completely new life!’
Katherine decided to speed things up a little.
‘I understand this can all be a bit daunting, mister Levy, but not to worry, when you’re reincarnated you will receive a special information package we’ve prepared and it will tell you all about your options as a Lottery reincarnate as well as explain everything about our current time. Now I just need you to answer a couple of formal questions and then I can start the reincarnation procedure. Does that sound okay to you?’
‘Capital!’ She detached the pen from the folder and took the paper titled Reincarnation Form that was lying in front of her. ‘First things first, do you choose to accept the prize, being a reincarnation package?’
‘Of course you do, who wouldn’t, right?’ She ticked a box on the form. ‘So, your name is Jack Levy, yes?’
The name was filled on the form.
‘From your spirit imprint we’ve determined that you are man. Is that how you’d like to remain?’
Katherine rolled her eyes at Susan. ‘As a Lottery winner, we do give you the option to have a sex change and – in this case – come back as a woman. Please note however that we will be using your original body imprint as the basis for the change.’
‘What are you saying? I’ll still be walking around with my di—‘
‘Nono, nothing like that… just think of it as the female version of your previous male body. So, would you like to opt for a sex change, mister Levy?’
The spirit gave it a moment’s thought, probably imagining his old self with breasts and fewer dangly bits.
’No… I think I’ll keep that as it was.’
‘Perfect.’ Another box was ticked. ‘Now, as a winner you may also select at which age you would like your body to be reset.’ She looked at another paper. ‘According to the information I have here, you died at the age of forty-seven, so that’s the maximum you can choose.’
‘What, you mean I can choose to be reincarnated into my fifteen year old body?’
‘Yes, however, it is my duty to inform you that should you choose a non full-grown age, your spirit and cognitive capacity will be reduced accordingly. Basically we advise you to go with eight-teen years as a minimum.’
There was a short pause.
‘They had cut off my hands and feet, will I have those back?’
Susan and Katherine gave each other a questioning look.
‘Eh, of course, sir,’ Katherine recovered, ‘any limbs that might have been lost will be available again, as long as you had them at birth.’
‘So, at which age would you like us to reset your body?’
‘Ah, a classic choice.’ She filled in the number on the form. ‘And that’s actually all the information I needed right now, we will reincarnate you as Jack Levy, in your original, male, twenty-five year old body, perfect!’
‘Absolutely, I know enough. Now, I understand you have a great many questions, but rest assured, upon your reincarnation somebody from the reintegration department will be there to answer all of them!’
Katherine was very skilled at this part of the meeting. ‘I’m afraid that’s all we have time for today, sir, but we’ll see each other at your rebirth next week! Enjoy your sleep until then, and once more, congratulations!’
Katherine pressed the spirit release button. The light above the speaker turned red again, indicating Jack Levy had returned to the waiting room.
‘And that’s how it’s done!’ Katherine smiled at Susan, putting her signature on the form and adding the paper files back in the folder.
Susan frowned, ‘Shouldn’t we inform the police or something?’
‘Why?’ Katherine reacted surprised.
‘Well, the man was in jail during his life, with his hands and feet cut off. I’ve learned about that in history classes, they used to do that to serious criminals long ago, rapists, murderers and so on.’
Katherine removed a paper from the folder again and held it up to Susan. ‘Does it say on this paper that the police has filed a watch request?’
‘A watch request?’
Katherine sighed, ‘Did they ask to be informed when his spirit was reincarnated?’
Susan leaned forward, reading the page, ‘I don’t think so.’
‘No, they did not. Which means we are not obliged to tell them anything and we will respect mister Levy’s privacy.’
‘But he could be a dangerous cr—‘
She paused as a hand was put on her shoulder. ’Susan, dear…’ Katherine chided her, ‘he’s a Lottery winner, and when you win the Lottery, you start with a clean slate, no questions asked.’
A good week later, a healthy, twenty-five year old man walked out of the Spirit Central building, holding a thick information package.
‘Ahh,’ he sniffed the city air, ‘it’s good to be back.’
He signaled for a cab.
‘Whereto?’ the cabbie asked after the man got in.
‘Bring me to this hotel, please.’ He handed over a paper from the package, the driver looked at it and nodded.
Something caught the man’s eyes as the car pulled away from the curb. ’On second thought,’ he said, his gaze following the young girl on the sidewalk, ‘get me to a hardware store first, some place where I can buy an axe… a good one.’
While the car drove through the unfamiliar streets, Jack Levy, previously known as Jack the Jawsplitter, a serial killer with fifty-three murders to his name, admired his new fingers and whistled an old tune.
Thanks for reading, I hope you liked this tiny story. If you did, you might also like the other stories of season 1 of The Cases of George Alpha.