Ricorda Avant looked down at the blood on his hands. No. That wasn’t his name. Or at least it wasn’t now. He couldn’t remember.
Polished white walls surrounded him. White and red. Red was splattered, blossoming, on the walls and floor. More blood.
When he looked up, he found a young woman bound to a chair. The display was a glorious masterpiece painted entirely in red. Scarlet brush strokes framed the girl’s arms, legs, and face. The gory centerpiece was a sanguine stroke across her throat. In Ricorda’s other hand was the sharp, silver paintbrush.
Suddenly the thick, hot blood turned clear and cold, running down his fingers and dripping onto the now tile floor. Ricorda collapsed against the shower wall, sinking to his knees and burying his head in his arms.
He wasn’t ready for this. He had been told that your second life was another chance, a shot at redemption. But whatever this was, he couldn’t handle it.
He hadn’t expected his memories to return so soon and so violently. Most Seconds didn’t remember their first life until the evening of their fifteenth birthday. Ricorda was fifteen today, but it was only six in the morning.
Ricorda didn’t know how long he had idled in the shower, but he sat up, turned off the water, and grabbed a towel. Stepping out, he looked down at the birthmark encircling his ankle. This mark was what confirmed him as a Second. It reminded him that some time before, he had been born, lived, and died, all with a different face and name.
Cof. That’s what his name had been. He hadn’t known it until now.
A sense of desperation and anguish swept over him. What was he going to do? He couldn’t go to another Second. It wasn’t that he didn’t know any, because he did. Being a Second wasn’t uncommon. But how would they react if he told them he remembered being a murderer? Ricorda had heard strange stories. He’d heard about teens remembering their previous spouses or worst enemies, but being a murderer?
Had his First self ever considered what it’d be like? To be 15 years old, discovering that he’d tortured and murdered an innocent girl? Maybe she wasn’t innocent. Maybe he had a good reason. But isn’t that the illusion every murderer has?
Before he knew it, Ricorda was packing a bag. Skipping school wasn’t enough. He couldn’t stay here any longer. His parents worked all day; they wouldn’t notice he was gone. He didn’t know where he was going, for how long, or even why he was leaving. He just knew he had to leave. Perhaps he was going to search for answers. Something in his memories, just out of his reach, compelled him. He had unfinished business.
Ricorda walked down the stairs and onto the front porch. He lost his balance and toppled backwards, slamming his head into the door frame. It wasn’t enough to knock him out, but it sent him spiraling into another hallucinative memory.
He was in the same white room. He held the same keen knife to a man’s throat.
“Tell me what I need to know, and I’ll let you go. You can’t trust my word, but it’s all you have to go on,” Cof said calmly. His voice was as calm and dark as an unmoving lake.
He studied the man carefully. He was very simple. Nothing stood out except that his eyes were ragingly fierce. They pierced Cof like needles. They made everything else about the man, his brown hair, his thin body, his sharp facial features, seem dull in comparison. The man just smiled at him sympathetically, like he knew something Cof didn’t.
“Feel free to tell me any time now,” Cof said, lifting the knife and bringing it to the man’s arm. He sliced a crimson gash down the man’s left hand. He didn’t even flinch. He just looked at the door, his mind somewhere else.
The door behind Cof swung inward, slamming against the interrogation room wall. He closed his eyes and sighed regretfully. He should have known. They were bound to find him eventually.
He turned around to face two men in red uniforms. Cof knew he couldn’t beat them this time, not when he stared down the barrel of their pistols. He dropped his knife and put his hands on the back of his head. One man kept his gun focused on Cof while the other untied the man in the chair. The former prisoner stood up and stretched his stiff neck. The uniformed man handed his gun to his superior. Cof felt cold air on the back of his neck as the pistol was lifted and aimed at him.
“Last words are a luxury you don’t deserve.”
Blood. Pain. Darkness.
Ricorda awoke to a throbbing in the back of his head. He wasn’t sure if it was from tripping on the porch or remembering the bullet finding a home in his skull.
He pulled himself into a sitting position, then struggled to his feet, picking up his bag. He stumbled down the porch stairs to the driveway. When he reached the sidewalk he leaned heavily against a street lamp, trying to regain his balance. Through the raging agony in his head, he had a single moment of clarity.
He didn’t know who that man was, but he would soon. It would come back to him. It had been 15 years, yet something told Ricorda that somewhere that man still lived. He knew why he was walking down this street, why he had felt he needed to do something, go somewhere. He was going to find the man who killed him.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.