Beyond the cracked sidewalk and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors and the patch of dry brown grass, there stood a ten-foot high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt-out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: REJOICE!


Hannah got on the bus. It was about half an hour to go to work: the girl was rolling in it there and back every working day. The landscape outside the window, stretching along the way, repeat every day. The girl was tired of this. In order not to waste time in vain, Hannah bought and read a newspaper. On the bus, the girl settled herself comfortably on the seat near the window, opened the newspaper, and began reading. The Missoulian was the only newspaper that came out every day and announced the latest news to readers. Hannah read “Local and Regional News,” “Outdoors,” “406 Politics,” and “Opinion.” The girl opened “Buy and Sell” and moved to the “Latest Local Offers.” Her gaze focused on the strange announcement “We will arrange for you a meeting with a deceased relative or friend” and a telephone number.


Hannah remembered her mother who died in a car accident, and tears welled in her eyes. The whole day passed like on needles. The girl could not forget the announcement. The desire to call the phone number listed in it eclipsed all else. The girl wanted to share this news with someone, but Hannah couldn’t do it, because the work rules allowed her to call only in case of an emergency. In addition, the girl did not have close friends and relatives: even before the birth of the child, her father left the family, and her mother raised Hannah alone. Finally, the work day was over, and the girl went home.


Several men and women sat in leather chairs located around the perimeter of the room. Their advanced age was underlined by a grid of wrinkles on their hands, necks, and faces, and was emphasized by gray hairstyles. The dim light of the diode lamps practically did not give a shadow, and the carpets hanging on the walls and lying under their feet extinguished all sound. On the wall, a LED panel slightly glowed with a soft light, the red letters on the gold background of which read: “REJOICE!” There was silence in the room, occasionally interrupted by one of the speakers. “Gentlemen!” he said insinuatingly, “the exchange of souls continues to improve. Recent experiments of our scientists have yielded positive results. They simplified the procedure. We left the risk zone. But it’s one thing to experiment on mentally ill people without relatives, and another to use young, energetic people whose dramatic change of behavior may be suspicious.”


The bus again ran Hannah along the familiar streets, but already in the opposite direction. Her heart was hurrying and almost jumped out of her chest: home, home! Hannah flew into the house like a whirlwind, threw off her shoes, and fell to the sofa in exhaustion. Finally, she could call. The girl took out a newspaper, found the underlined number, and began to press the buttons. The phone was not answered immediately. A voice of indefinite age and sex with a hoarse smoker timbre confirmed that the announcement was correct, but warned that it was necessary to meet first and set a date and place for an interview:

“In Greenough Park, where the double bridge crosses the stream. Do you know this place?” asked the voice. “There are benches; people rarely walk there. Nobody will interfere with or chat.”

“Yes, of course,” Hannah replied. She knew this park well, where she strolled with her mother as a child, when Mom was still alive.


Damien took out a photo of Hannah and looked at her. If your mom was just as big a simpleton as you, then it’s understandable why Drew left his wife, the man thought. “I need to look at you completely.” He took the scotch and stuck the photo to the center of the mirror so that the face in the picture was on the same level as his own. Damien pulled out three candles from the dresser; one was almost burnt, two others were new. He placed the candles on the edges of the mirror at its base, and left a third candle in his hand.


The day after the telephone conversation, Hannah felt a little unwell. It was impossible for her to skip work, but thoughts were confused in her head, and the work did go badly. Understanding that management did not want her leaving the job, Hannah, overcoming herself and not giving a look that she was in a bad mood, suffered until the end of the working day. At home, she took a few pills, measured the temperature and pressure, but found nothing wrong. The girl decided to go to bed early, but at night, she had a terrible dream.


The sunset was burning outside the window, and twilight came to the room. The man, just in case, lowered thick curtains, and the room plunged into darkness. But Damien was not embarrassed: he saw in the dark. The man looked at the burned candle and set fire to her wick. The candle, crackling, caught fire and Damien looked at the light for a while and breathed in the smoke coming from the candle, then went to the mirror, lit the candles at its base, and put out his own. The candles flared, lit the mirror and the nearest objects, but in the room, their rays were lost.


Damien sat in a chair facing the mirror and began, without blinking, to look closely at the photograph. The image on it began to grow, acquire volumetric forms, and spread to the entire surface of the mirror. Finally, it was formed into a clear image of a girl, and Damien easily saw Hannah in her. “Well, honey, tell me about yourself,” and he carefully listened and remembered what the phantom was saying to him.


She saw sleep: a big room with windows closed by curtains. A man was sitting in the middle of the room, but however Hannah tried, she could not see his face. The man sat in a chair and began to ask her questions. Shimmering light illuminated the room. The questions entered into Hannah through her ears, touched her mind, and came out in the form of answers from her mouth. Sometimes it seemed to Hannah that she did not see and therefore did not understand the questions, sometimes that the answers were formed by themselves, and the girl did not take part in them.


“We gave an announcement,” said one of the men. “Few responded. But there are some interesting options. Hannah Talbot,” Damien continued his message. “She grew up in a broken home. Her father left her mother when she was pregnant and did not contact them again. Her mother worked in the traffic police, participated in the pursuit of an offender, and perished in a crash. The girl was given to a foster family, but she was involved in thefts and was placed in the Missoula County Detention Center for Juvenile Offenders. During her stay in this institution, she has proven that she is disciplined, but lacks initiative. She shied away from companies, worried about an offense, and believed that she had disgraced the memory of her mother. She has no relatives or close friends. The girl avoids parties and companies.” “We are taking her into development,” suggested the third of those present. The rest nodded in agreement.


Olivia was looking forward to her triumph. The Council decided to reincarnate her into a girl. This would eliminate the many psychological problems that Olivia experienced when she moved into a male. The most difficult problem was to suppress the instinct of motherhood. Olivia had no children, but she wanted them, especially when she was in a body with the age of twenty to fifty years. The second problem she had to overcome was a sex change. Olivia treated women with condescension, but she refused to care for them. One day, being in the body of a young boy, she went into a guy-club and picked up an aging playboy there. Olivia is still disgusted to remember what he did to her. Now she will enter the body of a young woman. Dreams come true! Rejoice! And Olivia thought lustfully about Damien.


Damien again took out a photo of Hannah and did everything like the last time. But now he looked at the photo a little differently. The image began to creep away on a mirror; however, this time the man saw the woman with the child. They held each other’s hands. Damien stiffened, his eyes stopped on the image, and he began to notice how the woman began to grow old and the child grew up. Everything was fast and synchronous, and it seemed that a woman and a child were walking through time.


Suddenly, a black shadow covered the image. Damien tensed: this was not part of his plan. But curiosity over the spectacle overcame the man, and he began to look, expecting what would happen next. The black fog began to dissipate, and Damien saw the same woman, but in a police uniform and driving a car. The car was rapidly picking up speed; Damien realized that the police were following someone. “So what are you,” flashed through the brain of a man. A window opened in the pursued car, and the man saw that some objects had been thrown out of it. A police car drove over one of them, flipped over, and hit the concrete fence at full speed.


Damien began to stare into the mirror, and the image went backwards. The car was back on its wheels and drove back. After a while, the policewoman was already dressed in her usual clothes and was holding a child by the hand. Damien stopped the movement of the image and began to manipulate it. The girl disappeared; the woman took up the entire area of ​​the mirror. Damien began to stare at the figure in the mirror, and the clothes began to leave the woman, dissolving, like a girl, until the woman turned up completely naked. Damien got up, took off his clothes, and also remained naked.


The park was quiet and deserted. Autumn has already fully entered its rights. A barely audible, murmured stream. A taxi brought Hannah to the parking lot near the park. The girl got out and the car drove away. Hannah passed through one bridge, then another, and stopped in indecision, looking around. There were several benches, and she was confused. But all the benches were in full view, the girl realized that they would definitely see her, and decided to choose a bench far away from the sidewalk, on which people could walk and interfere in her conversation.


The woman stood in the mirror without moving. Damien began to examine her figure: face, breasts, stomach, and everything else. After some time, he felt some itching in his body and, occasionally looking and comparing the image in the mirror to himself, he began to notice changes in his body: women’s breasts became apparent, the pelvis began to expand, the press cubes on the abdomen began to transform into a woman’s waist. The man felt a slight tingle and was pleased, but Damien did not feel fear: he had already had to transform into a woman, and that did not frighten him. Finally, the transformation was over. You are not plain, Demmy, a thought slipped through her mind. You could be an attractive woman.


Hannah saw the woman when she got out of the taxi. She, like Hannah earlier, also looked around, and, seeing the bridges, went through the stream. There was no one but Hannah on the benches, and the woman, seeing the girl, confidently went to her, but the closer she came to Hannah, the more fear overcame the girl. She saw her mother walking toward her. Hannah tried to get up, but fear bound her body, and the girl could not even move. “Well hello, daughter,” said the woman and sat down next to Hannah on the bench. “Are you glad to meet me?”


The meeting was deemed excellent. Damien returned home and took on the usual image for himself. The process of reincarnation has borne fruit, and the girl is now probably in a trance. Still, it’s just like that to see the once-deceased mother. Now the girl needs to be prepared for the reincarnation of souls. The man went to the mirror, as before, lit the candles, and, placing the chair opposite the mirror, sat down in it and began to look in the mirror. A few minutes later, he saw a wall of concrete blocks with a ritual shrine at the base. The candles were burning, and it seemed to Damien that through their flames he saw the eyes watching him.


Hannah was dumbfounded at the meeting with her mother. She was expecting anything, but not meeting with Mom. Her mother had not changed much: she was the same as then, in early childhood, when the girl had saw her mother in the last time. But Hannah was even more shocked by her last words. Embracing the girl, the woman whispered: “I can get back to you, daughter! I miss you!” After this recollection, Hannah’s eyes filled with tears. The girl took out a handkerchief and rubbed her eyes. I’ll do anything for you, Mom!


Damien was in thought. If he is being watched, then he is not trusted. But there was no confidence in the surveillance. He need to look during a session through the mirror with super candles. But he didn’t have enough super candles for that. He needed at least two, but he had only one. And they wouldn’t give him more. Where to find the second super candle, Damien knows, but the fact of the matter is that only the supervisor can withdraw it from the witch’s place. Damien does not even know who it is. He came to identify this person only by watching the installed candles. It will take a few days. His absence during such a time will be noticed.


The other person must be the observer. Bookmark candles always do on Friday, the thirteenth number. There are a few such days a year: one or two, this year one, Friday the 13th, has already passed, but the second is approaching, in August. Damien knows “depositors”—he was sometimes sent him—they are easy to spot in time to prepare. After the bookmark, he need to install the observation of the shrine. The supervisor usually takes the super candle away after a few days. I need to prepare an observer.


The phone bell rang unexpectedly and unusually. A familiar voice either asked or said, “Hannah, are you pleased with the meeting with your mother?” and, without waiting for an answer, he added, “We helped you. Now you help us. What you need to do, we will tell you at the meeting. I will be waiting for you on the same day of the week, at the same hour and in the same place where you met your mother.” The man ended the conversation and the phone disconnected. Hannah went to the meeting, realizing that she had to do something unusual. This time, her vis-a-vis turned out to be a young, imposing man. He handed the girl a photograph and a wad of $100 bills. The task was simple: to observe the place captured in the picture, and to photograph everyone who leaves or takes something there. On the back of the picture was the address.


For all installments of “Rejoice!,” click here.