A year ago, I couldn’t step outside without seeing an advertisement for the new app known only as Hex. It came seemingly from nowhere and promised granted wishes to anyone with a smart phone. Invented by a group of women in their basement, the app was an instant hit across international markets. Entire families found their fortune through Hex.
Personally, I avoided it like a virus—which is to say I downloaded the app, but never used it. See, the catch is that Hex can only be used once. It grants one wish, then it doesn’t work anymore. I’m saving my wish. When I do use it, I want it to change my life in a real way. For now, I’m keeping Hex as a “break in-case of emergency” kind of thing.
As it stands, my life is pretty good these days. I’ve got a date planned for tonight at eight. It’ll be my first since—well, for as long as I can remember. I don’t get out much.
I’ve already tried on three outfits, but they don’t feel right. I could go with a classic black dress, perfect for dinner; but what if she wants to go bowling after? Or walking through the park? Her DateMe profile did say she was sporty. But would a pantsuit be too intimidating?
I pull on a pair of dark jeans and a flouncy green blouse—the one with cut-outs to reveal my shoulders and a deep open back. She’s going to love me in this. After I get dressed, I grab my keys, say goodbye to my cat Eli, and head out to my little blue BMW.
*Beepbeep* I’M RUNNING LATE. C U SOON.
Well, isn’t she cute? I slip into the leather seat and grab my furry steering wheel. I don’t know when I became obsessed with luxury textiles, but soft things send ripples of calm and pleasure through my being. Which is why I never go on a date with out a pair of fuzzy handcuffs—just in case.
The car peels onto the street. I turn my music loud and drum the wheel as I jam out. I’m singing at the top of my lungs along with Whitney Houston, trying my best to overcome the power chords of the ballad.
The song ends and I’m parked in a dark lot. The towering building in front of me is definitely not Chez Limon, where my date is probably waiting. I don’t remember pulling in.
I glance down at the dashboard. 4am. What?
There’s no one around. The parking lot is deserted and it seems as though the building is, too. This isn’t right.
I go to start the car, but my key isn’t in the ignition. It’s not on the floor or in my pockets either. I look around for my phone. Nowhere.
My heart races and I wipe clammy hands on my jeans. It seems like I’m alone .
Well. I can’t just sit here and wait for someone to show up.
I open the door and look around, just to make sure there’s no one watching or waiting. But how would I know? It’s dark and there are a thousand good hiding places out here. Trees and shadow. Not to mention this boxy, twelve-story building.
A light flashes on way above me on the seventh floor. Someone is here.
I follow a narrow sidewalk around the side of the building. My instincts are screaming to be aware, so I look for any sign of movement. This place is creepy enough as it is; the last thing I need is to tense up and freak out because a raccoon surprises me.
The path ends at a metal door with a small, wire-glass window in the top. The hall inside appears empty. I push. Lightly, at first…then a little harder. And the door swings open.
Somewhere down the long, empty hall, a clock ticks in rhythm with my heartbeat. Tic-tic, tic-tic. It echoes—mingles with the far off sound of a dripping sink. I follow the dripping, compelled by something I can’t explain.
I tip-toe down the hall, turning right at the end until I find the room with the sink—a small, pristine room with a steel table in its center. Before I step in to turn off the spigot, a large red door catches my eye.
There’s something scrawled across the door in white chalk—too small to see from where I am. I move closer, slowly. I can’t shake the feeling I’m being watched.
That’s all it says. A small white arrow points to the dust-coated handle.
I could go back. I could turn around and walk to the road, try to catch a ride to a gas-station. Call my date. But my incessant need to know everything is stronger than the common sense telling me to get out.
I twist the handle and find a dark, narrow elevator. A little yellow lightbulb flickers above my head as I step in. The elevator’s dark, grimy little windows reveal an even darker blackness outside the shaft.
A smiley sticker glows at me, stuck on one of the buttons. A little white 7 shines underneath. I press the button and the shaft lurches and drops before it rises, scraping against the walls as it moves. Eternity passes in the darkness of the elevator before it finally clunks into place.
I push the heavy door open and nearly tumble out into another darkened hallway. This one is carpeted with doors lining the walls. It looks like an office space.
I try the first door I come across, jiggling the handle. No use. I try every door until I come to a door with a small red sticker in its center. I clench my hands, sticky with sweat and rust from the elevator. It’s warm in this hall. Too warm.
I twist the knob and the door creaks open. The light’s on. The room isn’t fancy. A single desk, filing cabinets lining the wall behind it—a mini-bar. Perfect. I’m having a weird day and a drink is exactly what I need.
I walk over to the bar and mix my favorite cocktail—an old-fashioned Roy Rogers. It’s a good thing all the ingredients are here. I wonder whose office this is and where they might be. They’ve got to be in the building somewhere—who turned on this light?
After I throw back the first glass—and then another—I decide to look around. A post-it note hangs from the desk. I hadn’t noticed it at first, but it’s the only piece of paper in here.
“Play the tape—”
it says, with an arrow pointing towards the filing cabinet.
The big wooden cabinet doors are heavy at first. I yank and pull until they pop open, and I fall backwards onto the desk. My vision is swimming—something isn’t right here. But I knew that.
A huge screen rests behind the doors, and beneath it, waiting for me, are an old VCR and accompanying VHS. The contents of the cabinet seem to waver. The drinks got to my head.
With fumbling fingers, I eventually get the tape into the VCR and hit Play. Just as I do, the drinks take their toll and my knees give up the fight. I collapse to the floor as the screen flickers to life.
“Hello there, Helix.” The voice from the television sounds familiar, but I’m curled up on the floor, willing the spinning in my head and stomach to stop.
“It won’t stop,” she says, as though I’d spoken out loud.
“This is the consequence…”
“Consequence for what?” The nausea wells up in me—twists and turns into pain. “What is happening?”
“This is your payment, like all who use Hex,” she answers.
“But I didn’t use it. It’s still on my phone—I’ve never even opened it!” I wrap my arms around my torso as I try to turn around and face the screen.
“You have forgotten, so this tape is here to remind you.” She continues.
“I didn’t use it…” My lungs burn and it’s hard to suck in a breath. I gasp for air and reach up to grab the desk, to pull myself to my feet.
“You must remember, Helix. After all, this is your doing.”
Finally, I’m standing and can look over at the face on screen. The face looking back is my own.
“As you know, you get one wish with Hex.” My face smiles at me from the other side. “And you wished to forget your duty. But you know something the others don’t, Helix.”
“I don’t know anything right now,” It’s amazing I can even speak, although my words come out as a growl.
“You know that after a year, the price has to be paid. And before you made your wish, you were the debt collector.” The Me in the screen sat back onto a chair I didn’t recognize. “You wanted to forget. Forget the killings.
Forget the horror of what you’ve done. To know what it is to be human and have a soul. But your time has come. You must return to what you truly are.”
“What I am? Who—”
A memory floods into my mind, images and feelings I’d never experienced. Anger and violence. And then it comes. And I know she’s right.
I was an Enforcer—a spirit soldier for the makers of Hex, meant to carry souls to Hell once their contract with Hex ends. And the only way to return, to complete my duty…
I look over at the bar as dawning comes over me. On the bottommost shelf is a little brown bottle, one I saw once before almost a year ago. One I now remember carries a deadly, unstoppable toxin.
“Now, I hope you understand, Helix. This will be painful.”
I take one last look at my own face, laughing down at me from the monitor before I collapse once more from the toxin eating at my insides. My screams are the last thing I hear before the world goes white.