The house fire took everything Cynthia cared about, including her life. The only copy of her manuscript, which she had typed on an old fashioned typewriter in a fit of romantic sentimentality, had been incinerated. Her body, which she had taken such pride in keeping healthy and strong, had been reduced to ash when the home she had known for the past four years had burned to the ground. Her only companion had been her tabby, Gertrude, but rather than warn her owner of the inferno, she had done the sensible feline thing and saved her own ass. Cynthia didn’t blame her.
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, and that goes double when you’re a ghost. Sure, trauma had driven her to a life of seclusion, but present circumstances made her rethink the decisions she had made. If she had lived closer to town, maybe a neighbor would have seen the fire. As things stood, the firefighters only happened on her home because of the forest blaze. Now, her consciousness didn’t even have a body, dead or alive, to cling to. The only thing left was the ring she had been wearing when she died.
Her spirit condensed and became contained within that tiny metal band when she had shuffled off her mortal coil…
Most of the firefighters had walked farther off, but two remained close to her former home. From within the ring’s shining band, Cynthia watched one of them approach. “Hey, Bill,” said the female firefighter, picking the ring up to show her companion. “Hear anything about family, next of kin?”
“Nah, sweetheart,” said Bill, the condescending endearment making the firewoman wince while Cynthia psychically winced on her behalf. Cynthia knew that voice; even through the grime and the distortion of the ring, she’d recognize that face anywhere. Though dead, her first impulse was to run away, her second -to warn the woman.
How could she forget that monster? Four years ago, he had turned her world upside down. He had said he’d find her again, that she belonged to him body and soul, but she had moved! Changed her name, secluded herself and- dear God, how did he find her?
Hiding had done her no good. Now was the time for action. Before he hurt someone else.
“Nobody that I know of,” he continued, oblivious to both women’s distress, “but you could find out when we get back to the station.”
“Thanks, Bill,” said the woman, whose name Cynthia learned was “Eve” from the lettering on her flourescent yellow jacket. Eve examined the ring a moment longer before slipping it into her pocket. Instinctually, Cynthia prodded, mentally probing the woman’s psyche. Seeming to reconsider, Eve put the ring on her finger instead.
Immediately, Cynthia felt the rush of life in her new body, the woman’s strength, the ache of her muscles, the warmth of her browned skin. She even smelled the ash in the air. Was she breathing in her old body from within her new one? Eve’s body turned to gaze at her coworker through new eyes. The other firefighters had moved farther away, leaving the three of them relatively isolated. Stepping behind a crumbling and charred wall, the woman grabbed a sharpened piece of unmelted metal, readied herself, and called to Bill. “Hey, come here a sec’. There’s something here I want to show you.”
Bill smirked. Sooner or later, they all wanted him. “Coming, sweetheart,” he said, sidestepping blackened debris as he unknowingly approached his final destination.