Prompt: what if you had to throw away your whole identity
– every memory, friend and thing you have ever had?
Kris heard the phone ring and her heart dropped to a dead tremor in her chest. Was that the call? For six weeks, she had been working undercover. Her whole life had been a lie, a fabrication. Did they seriously expect her to go back under so soon?
Her eyes scanned the walls of her studio flat. Bookshelves, cupboards, drawers. Should would miss all of them and all the half-remembered treasures they contained, but it was only temporary.
She would be back, with a lifetime to forget them again. Her hand reached for the phone. Had she missed the call? It rang again. Tough luck, she thought.
“This is Kris.” she said, keeping her voice flat and toneless. If that did not get the message across, nothing would.
“Agent Maddox?” the voice on the other end asked. It was unfamiliar, the voice of a blue shirt, no tie bureaucrat in a back office. But there was panic in his tone, words stumbling over each other in a rush to get out.
“That’s right. What happened?”
“Agent, your cover’s blown.”
The words stewed in her mind, swimming around in sluggish circles. What did they mean? She knew the answer. They did not mean anything.
“What are you talking about?” she asked, hearing the bitter anger in her tone. What were they thinking, making her panic like that? “The operation is over. Which cover is blown?”
“I’m really sorry. They said you had to be told straight away. There’s no one else here. They said it’s serious. You have to burn it now.”
“For fuck’s sake, which cover?”
She was almost shrieking, the words scratching her throat as she spat them out.
“The file says ‘Kris Maddox – identity compromised’. I’m sorry.”
There was a grating ripple of static and the line cut out.
Kris was sitting on the floor, her back resting against the kitchen counter. Since when? She did not remember sitting. How long had she been staring at the phone? There was no time for that.
Her legs were moving, taking her from one side of the room to the other. How had she stood up? It felt like there was no strength left in her body. Her arms reached out. Kris was picking things up, putting them in the trash can.
Where was the rubbish? There it was, strewn across the kitchen floor. She looked around and saw the balcony. The screen doors slid open and she stepped out into the cool night air.
A childhood photo dropped into the can, a spider’s web of cracked glass splintering through a pair of smiling faces. They were fond faces. A laughing child swung from their arms.
The match hissed to life, leaving a winding trickle of black smoke as it dropped. A red glow, a yellow flame springing to life, more smoke. Fire ate at the corners of the picture.
School yearbooks, favourite novels, a leather-bound notebook with her initials embossed on the spine. Who was K.M.? Jess did not know anyone with that name.
Someone was crying on the balcony, but there was no time to ask why. This was Kim Maddox’s home, not hers. It was time to leave.