What’s your life worth on the open market?
A debt collector can tell you precisely.
Lirium plays the part of the grim reaper well, with his dark trenchcoat, jackboots, and the black marks on his soul that every debt collector carries. He’s just in it for his cut, the ten percent of the life energy he collects before he transfers it on to the high potentials, the people who will make the world a better place with their brains, their work, and their lives. That hit of life energy, a bottle of vodka, and a visit from one of Madam Anastazja’s sex workers keep him alive, stable, and mostly sane… until he collects again. But when his recovery ritual is disrupted by a sex worker who isn’t what she seems, he has to choose between doing an illegal hit for a girl whose story has more holes than his soul or facing the bottle alone–a dark pit he’s not sure he’ll be able to climb out of again.
The first three episodes of the Debt Collector serial are collectively the length of a short novel, or 152 pages. These are the first three of nine episodes in the first season of The Debt Collector serial. This dark and gritty future-noir is about a world where your life-worth is tabulated on the open market and going into debt risks a lot more than your credit rating. Episode 4, Broken, releases 4/17/13. For more about the Debt Collector serial, see DebtCollectorSeries.com
My jackboots are new, the latest ultra-light material out of Hong Kong’s synthetics district, and they make a strange squeaking sound against the hospital floor. It’s the kind of sound that might gather snickers or a raised eyebrow, but no one looks at me, at least not on purpose. I stroll past the ICU desk, taking my time, breathing in the antiseptic smell that masks the odor of death held back by machines and drugs and round-the-clock care. The nurses duck their heads and study their charts, ignoring me. As if catching my eye might mean I’m coming to collect their debt, rather than Mr. Henry’s in Room 301.
The floor is so highly polished that I see the reflection of my trenchcoat running ahead of me, black as a midnight grave, a spook that lives on the surface of the oft-scrubbed tiles. It reaches the door to 301 before me and disappears in the dim, flickering light coming from the room. The spook has gone back where he belongs, into the dark recesses of my soul, assuming I still have one. If I was a betting man, I would say the odds of having a soul keep getting longer with every transfer I do. The older debt collectors, the ones who are still alive, don’t have anything shining out of their dull-glass eyes, even when they’re hyped up on a transfer. There’s no telling what my eyes look like.
I stopped looking in the mirror a long time ago.
Mr. Henry’s hooked up in all the usual places—tubes in his arms and monitor patches hovering over his temples and the blue-veined skin of his chest. His knobbed knees and shriveled legs stick out the end of the blanket. I don’t know if he’s tossed the blanket aside or the nurses just forgot to cover him up again after his sponge bath or whatever they do to prepare patients for a debt transfer. Goosebumps raise the hair on what’s left of his legs into a small forest of gray fur. I tug the thin, white-weave blanket over his exposed legs, and Mr. Henry opens his eyes.
They’re pale green and watery—washed out and used up like the rest of him.
“You’ve come for me,” he says.
Susan Kaye Quinn grew up in California, where she wrote snippets of stories and passed them to her friends during class. Her teachers pretended not to notice and only confiscated her stories a couple times.Susan left writing behind to pursue a bunch of engineering degrees, but she was drawn back to writing by an irresistible urge to share her stories with her niece, her kids, and all the wonderful friends she’s met along the way.
She doesn’t have to sneak her notes anymore, which is too bad.
Susan writes from the Chicago suburbs with her three boys, two cats, and one husband. Which, it turns out, is exactly as a much as she can handle.