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Goes Both Ways

Shannon Fay is a Canadian writer living in London. She is a graduate of Clarion West (2014) and 2013 winner of the James White Award. Online she can be found at ayearonsaturn.com or @shannonlfay.

It took several blows before the monster stayed down. Even then I kept swinging, the axe head moving like a sped-up metronome. I didn't stop until my knees started to buckle. Only then did I put the axe down and survey my work.
The red stain on the floor was a familiar scene, except instead of a young woman a middle-aged man lay smeared on the ground. It was over. No more visions, no more being plunged into the mind of a serial killer at the moment of kill.
I doubted that the psi-investigation arm of the FBI would consider this a success, but I just couldn't take it anymore. When I enrolled in the program I was told my job was merely to gather clues, to scan the visions for anything that could uncover the killer's identity. But the closer I got to him the further I got from myself. The visions started to seem more real than my own life. Soon I was spending more time in his sick, twisted brain than in my own.
So when I "saw" that he was staying one state over at the Pine Crest Inn, I didn't pass the information on to the higher-ups. I didn't want him arrested. If he got a life sentence, I'd be locked up with him, getting sucked deeper and deeper into his brain every day. I had to sever the connection myself or I'd never be sane again.
The girls had all screamed and begged. He didn't even see me coming. Once he got over his surprise he still didn't yell. He looked like someone who had just figured out a riddle.
"It goes both ways," he had said as I raised my axe for the killing blow. "It goes both ways."
I brought the axe down.
Once it was done I sat on one of the motel beds. The mattress bounced under me. I felt lighter than I had in a long time. Dimly I heard sirens. Before I had left the office I had sent an e-mail to my boss, telling him where I was going and why. I had put a timer on it so that it would be sent only after I had had enough time to do what needed to be done.
When the police burst through the door I stood with my hands in the air.
"It's all right," I said. "I'm FBI."
I reached for my badge. It wasn't there. I felt a moment of panic but then my boss, a heavyset man with drooping eyes, stepped through the door.
"Boss," I said, smiling. I let one of the cops handcuff me.
"Gavin Meyers," the boss said, "You are under arrest for the murder of FBI Agent Thomas Grayson."
"What?" I said, jerking away from the cop. "No, boss, it's me, Tom. Gavin Meyers is the killer. What are you doing?"
The boss didn't say anything, just cast a glance at the corpse and left. A cop grabbed hold on either side of me.
"No, this is a mistake! I'm not Meyers, I killed Meyers! He killed those girls, not me--"
I shut up as we passed the body on the floor. Next to the torso was what looked at first like an open wallet, but up close I saw it was an FBI ID card and badge. I saw my picture on the badge and then for the first time noticed how it matched the man on the floor.
It goes both ways, I thought numbly as the cops led me to the police car. It goes both ways.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Author Comments

In these kinds of stories everyone always feels bad for the psychic detective. After all, they peer into a killer's mind, see awful things, and have their mind influenced by the murderer. But what about the killer themselves? How does the psychic exchange effect them? What would it be like to suddenly have a conscience inflicted upon you after going your whole life without one?

- Shannon Fay
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