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A Fox Among Hounds

For Round Five of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that began with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted," and ended with the line, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

Firefighters tend to an injured person after a car accident.

Some people swore that The House Was Haunted was the worst punk rock album ever recorded. The CD now served as a coaster, separating a half empty bottle of warm beer from the polished wood table in Michael's apartment. Technically, the apartment wasn't his, being rented by a friend of his, however in truth Michael and his friend were one in the same person. A beam of morning sunlight was sneaking up on the derelict CD, bringing all of the scratches and dirt into sharp relief and leading Michael to realize how much they had in common. Both were well past their prime and never that great to begin with. And their current purpose seemed mostly to act as a prophylaxis keeping the messier elements of the past from contaminating the present.

Holding his past at bay, being one nameless face in a crowd, working for cash and never staying in one place for long were all growing more impossible with the passage of time. People no longer exist entirely within their own bodies. Their existence extends into thousands of pieces of data that reside in countless databases like incorporeal ghosts in the ether. One can no longer simply pack a bag and relocate.  That extended self refuses to budge. Michael was sure that one day he would see a crowd photo on Google where his face was tagged with his name and GPS coordinates.

Worse, like last night's left over beer, he was still dealing with the disturbing events of the previous day. Since his situation did not permit checks or credit cards, he carried a lot of cash. On his return from the ATM, Michael was mugged by a homeless man. The man didn't even use a gun. He merely strong armed the wallet from Michael's hands and took off running.

The financial hit from loosing the cash was painful enough. Worse, perhaps ultimately fatal, was the loss of control over his ID. More from a sense of desperation than any hope for success, Michael ran in pursuit. He never saw the car coming and neither did the mugger. There was only the sound of the car's grill caving in, the sight of the mugger's body hurtling through the air and a dull thud when it landed. A small crowd of onlookers immediately gathered around the crumpled body, making it impossible for Michael to recover his wallet. He could not, after all, be seen lifting a wallet from the body of an accident victim. Nor could he explain his situation to the police and ask for the wallet's return.

With his wallet now in the hands of the authorities, the question was what to do next. Relocate again? To where? What would he do when he got there? If he stayed put, how long would it be before he looked out through the peephole in his front door and saw men in flak jackets carrying assault rifles? This worry over the dark outlook for his future as well as the encroaching sun had caused Michael to start to sweat when the words from the radio hit him like a glass of ice water dumped down his spine.

The news summary included an item about a fatal pedestrian accident. The name of the victim? Michael Jacobson.  He was listening to his own obituary. The Michael of his past was dead. With his passing, the ghosts that had dogged him for so long were exorcised and nothing was ever the same again after that.