Jake held the freezer door open and let the cold mist tumble down his neck. It had been a long day, a ninety-seconds-in-front-of-the-freezer kind of day. This wasn't his freezer, mind you, he didn't have the cash to leave that hulking monster open for nine seconds let alone ninety, this glass-door-beauty was the property of Omar's Food Shop---his favorite post-shit-day grocer.
Jake blinked his eyes and let his pupils adjust to the bright lights inside the freezer door. Rows of frozen dinners, brightly colored pizza boxes of promise, lay high and deep on the shelves in front of him.
Ravioli... Tried that, no thank you.
Vegetable medley? What am I, a rabbit?
Jake was certainly no rabbit, but he wasn't a giraffe either. Topping the scales at close to one eighty and coming in under six feet, Jake was what his old drill sergeant called 'compact.' Built like a bull, both mentally and physically, Jake was about as close to the textbook definition of 'Dream Killer,' as one could get.
He pulled out a bag of frozen fish fillets---hard white bricks of some heavily processed bottom feeder---and turned it over in his callused fingers.
Best if... holy shit, no.
Jake shoved the pending biohazard back on the shelf and continued his hunt for dinner. Pushing a few frost-covered bags out of the way he reached deeper into the cache of bachelor cuisine when a sharp pain rolled up his spine. He stopped and let the cold air numb his fingers.
Yep, no question about it, today was a three-bag-of-peas day. He shook off the tingling spine and tossed three large bags of frozen peas in his cart. The greens weren't for eating, but God almighty they felt like heaven to lay on---at least until they melted.
Jake thought about shoving one of the bags up his t-shirt right now, but then there was a smoking hot red-head at the end of the aisle.
Stay frosty, old man.
Jake chuckled at his own joke, then switched to the next freezer and thumbed through the meats.
Chicken? Practically a vegetable...
You needed protein in his line of work, lots of it, but Jake wanted something from the red and bloody family, and Cluck-the-Hen's frozen chicken fingers weren't going to do it.
It had been one of those days. The ones you kid yourself and say don't happen very often, but for Jake, and the rest of the Dream Killers working this shit-hole that was a sack of crap---those days were every day anymore.
Hmm, Momma's Chicken Fried Steak... In you go!
Three brightly colored boxes with the smiling Mama and her chicken-fried-cattle-goodness clattered to the bottom of his shopping cart.
Ought to find something for tomorrow...
Jake had long since move passed the rookie mistake of wondering if you'd see tomorrow, but that still hadn't made him much of a long-term planner. Sure he'd occasionally buy more than a day's worth of food, and his home fridge had unexpired ketchup. These facts, along with the gray hair behind his ears, were a testament to his maturity. However, even with more condiments and fewer condoms, his shitty apartment and even less stable financial situation hadn't happened by accident, and Jake had no one to blame but himself.
It had been crazy fun in his early days as a Dream Killer---put down bloodthirsty nightmare manifestations by day, and party with strippers by night. What wasn't to love? Sometimes Jake wondered if Psi knew just how much fun he'd had filling their manifestations with kinetic rounds.
Jake let the freezer door close and looped his fingers around the front of the shopping cart. Pulling the half empty carriage with bachelor precision he plotted a course for the beer---it was Friday after all, and what a Friday it had been.
He ran a thick hand over his sore neck and squeezed the corded tendons below his skull.
Time to prescribe some pain killers. What do you recommend, Dr. Booze?
Jake checked to make sure no one was looking, which seemed a rather silly thing to do in hindsight. The whole reason for going to the grocery store on Friday night was to not see people, but habits are what they are. Jake snapped a twenty-ounce can off its plastic rings and pressed it to his head.
Oh, sweet sister Marie...
He rolled the icy cold can back and forth along his temples. If baby Jesus had come down from heaven and offered him eternal salvation in exchange for that tallboy he'd have told the kid to shove it, Jake had all the bliss he needed right here.
He'd soaked more Saturation today than he'd seen in a long time, and his brain was still smarting from it. Jake'd been Dream Killing for over twenty years, but still, a full on blast of Saturation from a high-powered Psi was more than enough to really fuck up one's day---no matter how many times he'd been through it before.
Brain powers, mental magic, whatever the hell you wanted to call it. The world had been a shit-ton easier before all that crap started, but there was no putting it back in the bottle---not now anyway. Jake cracked the can open and tossed back half the golden elixir.
Thank you Mr. Alcohol, you have done me and your country a great service!
Jake grabbed the five pack and shoved it in his cart, careful not to crush Mamma's Chicken Fried steak. Dream Killers weren't allowed to drink after high Saturation exposure---something about too much damage to brain cells.
Jake wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve.
Yeah, fuck that shit.
Saturation was a nasty by-product of excessive Psi use. The more mental mojo Psi let out, the more Saturation built up in their brains. Of course it spilled out---like all crappy things that rarely stay where you put them---and once the Saturation went into overload, that's when the real shit hit the fan. Too much Saturation could cook the noodle of normals, people like Jake and maybe the foxy red-head sharing the frozen foods section with him.
Fueled by the nectar of the gods, Jake's eyes wandered over her short skirt and five-inch heels---not your typical grocery shopping apparel, but it warmed Jake's heart just the same. He'd swung his cart in a tight loop and plotted a course toward that shapely ass when his right knee popped so loud he had to stop and brace himself against a freezer door.
He rubbed the sore joint with his fingers. Just another reminder of the rest of the job, if it wasn't the Saturation that got you, it was the monsters---the nightmarish physical manifestations that came with it.
His knee hadn't been the same in years. First, he never got the surgery---stupid doctors, they don't know shit---and second, having a line-backer sized manifestation bend your knee backwards was going to leave a mark, no two ways about it.
Jake pressed on the tendon and popped it back into place, but not without a blinding-hot flash of pain. He checked, the red-head hadn't seen that little move, her glorious legs had their back to him.
I'll take that win.
Jake pulled his cart up alongside her as she inspected a package of cheese. That was a smart move given the establishment, Omar wasn't great about swapping things out when they expired, but he kept good hours so Jake didn't complain---much.
"Yeah, I'd check the expiration on those..."
Jake was surprised at just how gravelly his voice sounded---too much shouting at the rookie today.
The red-head smiled, one of those beautiful-teeth-showing-actress-smiles, the kind that was sure to melt half a bag of peas in seconds. Jake's nether regions told him this was someone they'd like to see more of---a lot more of.
"Thanks, I've got to find something for my daughter to eat," the woman said, countering his gravelly tone with a voice that flowed like liquid velvet---soft, sultry, and with more than a hint of mystery.
Daughter... pull up, pull up!
Some part of Jake's rational brain---what hadn't been scorched by Saturation or bludgeoned by a muscly manifestations of psionic radiation---was screaming at him about kids.
"Help!" The little girl barreling down the aisle at them couldn't have been more than eight, maybe ten. Shit, for all Jake knew she was five, his mental file folder on kids had no entries aside for 'annoying' and 'eats my food.'
When you work in nightmares you don't have time for kids.
"Honey, what's wrong?"
An old woman's voice cried out from the end of the aisle. "She's a Psi! That little monster is a God damn Psi, I know it."
Instinctively Jake reached a hand behind his back and let his fingers brush across the Sig P320 tucked into his jeans.