"Please, if you are going to read this diary, read the entries in the opposite order. You have to understand how reversed my life was. This is what the note that's stuck to the first page says. Do you want me to translate it in the order it was written, or in the order that she wants it to be read?"
Justine thought about this question for a moment before replying, "In the order she wants it to be read."
"Good, I've taken the liberty of emailing the first - or should I say last? - entry to you. Check it when you get home."
"But how did you know I was going to make that decision?"
Jacob smiled. "I know you too well."
Justine took a step back. "You're a bit of a creep, you know."
"At least I'm not the one who goes round stealing dead people's diaries."
"Touché. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you so much for doing this for me, I didn't realise it would take months to translate."
"It's my pleasure; honestly, it's really interesting. Some of the words aren't translatable though. I'm gonna have to see if they crop up again to try and understand what they mean."
"Is there anything I can do? I feel bad for not being able to help."
"You could try and find out more about her. Personal background, you know, friends and family. Don't you have her medical history?"
"I told you, she wasn't even on the hospital's database. But I'll try my best. Thank you."
"Please, thank me when I'm done! Will you be staying for dinner? I could cook something up, or we could order something in..."
"No thanks, I better be going." She edged towards the door.
"Going home to sleep?"
"I know you too well."
Today I awoke with an invigorating start to my new body. Sure, my skin's still the same, and except for the slight bags under my eyes and the inkling of a beard that has crept onto my face, I look identical to what I looked like yesterday. But this is definitely a new body, a new me, with new blood pumping through my veins, and beating in my chest is the dark, delicious heart of a murderer.
My body uncoils out of bed and slinks over to the curtains. The dirty light of dusk is now my morning sun, and although my awakening has taken almost an entire night and day, I feel completely attuned to my surroundings. My memories of yesterday are muted, murky and foggy, but I know who I am and who I am meant to be.
My epiphany didn't last long. However, settling back into reality did not bring the waves of guilt that I had expected to crash down on me, you know, considering I killed a person. In fact, I felt no remorse whatsoever, just refreshed and revitalised, as if I was prepared to run a marathon, which was probably a good thing since I had become a fugitive. I had to make a plan of my next steps, of what I would do next. Leaving would be easy; I had done it before in my past life, I could do it again. It was money that was the problem, or my lack of. How will I live a life on the run if I'm totally skint?
And then it struck me. By committing the ultimate crime I had given birth to the ultimate liberty, because whatever I would do from then on would add little to my ultimate consequence, the penalty for murder. Anything I need, I can steal, and if I'm caught, then so be it. Hell's where I'm heading anyway.
Sat in my mouldy, smoggy flat, I basked in that thought. I was so content with my life at that moment in time that I found myself sitting by the window gazing out until well into the night. I watched the cars drift around the corner with their muddy lights occasionally flashing through the Smog, and the grey, worn out people scurry along the streets in their bug-eye gas masks and Smog-coloured clothes. We're quite antisocial creatures was one of the passing conclusions I made from those grimy panes. I was only stimulated to move from that spot when the Smog had obscured my view entirely, and I realised I was looking out into dunes of nothingness.
By nine o'clock (or around that time, I had stopped bothering with watches), I decided to go out and get some shopping for my journey ahead. I put on my coat, instinctively checking my inner chest pocket which felt quite exposed, and for my mobile that I had crushed earlier, the remains of which were lying in the bin. Despite my pact, it would be pointless to steal when I had a few pounds left to buy my last supplies; just because I had a cool demeanour about my killing didn't mean I was going to be deliberately reckless and carefree.
I've seen what the police can do. Once (in my former life, of course) I was sat in a cafe watching this peculiar man with curly hair. "Curly hair's a sign of the Devil!" my mother used to say, as if she was a saint herself. It was true that you didn't see many people with curly hair - maybe it was one of the effects of the Smog, who knows. Anyway, this man was chatting with the waitress in a tone that was slightly louder than the socially acceptable level, but there were too many people talking for me to really hear what he was saying. I only caught the word "cigarette". At the moment, a bald man with a tan leather jacket put down his newspaper, strolled across the room, grabbed the man with the curly hair by his hair and dragged him outside the shop, without so much as uttering a word. The odd thing was that the hubbub of the day-to-day chatter continued right through this event, as if it was completely normal. My guess was that everyone kept talking out of fear of becoming singled out. It was all nervous chatter, chatter about nothing, just words to fill the silence. No one questioned whether the bald man was part of the police in the first place.
I came back from the shops probably around ten, and I was ready to leave the flat about half an hour later. A glint of sadness flickered within me when I was standing ready to shut the front door for the last time; it was a hellhole, but it had been my hellhole. Still, I smiled as I embraced my new life, or as much as one can smile in a gas mask.