* * *
The first was done. Around him, the world seemed to crackle with mystical energy, racing over the skin that he momentarily wore. Around him wisps shimmered about, visible even through the flesh’s mundane eyes. Soon the world would see as he did. Soon the dead would be free and the living a thing of the past.
Still, he needed to be careful. The first site was the easiest to access, the others would require more time and energy. On the thought of energy, a rumble arose from the body’s stomach. It seemed his instincts had been on point, food was necessary in order to keep the vessel moving. Once, so very long ago, he’d known these woods and what to forage for, but he no longer trusted the land that hand risen atop the corpse of his home. No, better to scavenge in the strange huts and see what modern delicacies he could uncover.
He moved quietly as he headed back toward the dock where he’d found this flesh. The woman who’d tried to catch him after he grabbed it unnerved him somehow. It was a ridiculous idea, she could only hurt the flesh at most, and then he would simply overtake hers. He was spirit, shadow and magic, beyond her touch. Yet still, the idea of confronting her gave him pause.
Having been without a gut for so long, he didn’t recognize the sound of one whispering intuition to him.
* * *
After giving the crew of Spectre Quest their orders, Velt dragged the three broom closet spirits into another room to have a “chat” with them. This left Kay, Auggie, and Topher alone for the first time since one of them became incorporeal. For a moment, they stared at each other, uncertain of what to say now that communication was once again possible. Ultimately it was Topher, had to be Topher, who spoke up and broke the ice.
“You owe me ten dollars.”
“Excuse me?” Auggie tilted his head a bit too far in exaggeration, hitting an angle that would have been supremely uncomfortable had he possessed actual vertebrae.
“First year of filming: I bet you’d believe in ghosts before the show ended its run. Well, we’re still making episodes and since you’re hovering nearly a foot off the ground, I’d guess you’re finally ready to admit ghosts are real.”
Auggie glanced down and realized he was indeed off the floor again. With a minor exertion of willpower he lowered himself down. Moving in this form was surprisingly easy, so much so that he kept doing it unintentionally.
“Technically I’ve admitted to nothing. Perhaps what’s happening right now is mass-delirium, or there was a leak of toxic fumes in this abandoned place and we’re all passed out on the floor hallucinating.”
“I feel like I’d have at least some resistance to that sorta shit,” Kay pointed out, knocking back a gulp from the bottle she’d been prepared to swing at Velt. “I mean, sure, you two would be gone like freshmen, but I spend a lot of my free time putting toxic things in my body. I’m not going out that easy.”
“To that effect, would you mind I asked why you are still drinking?”
“Cause the chick who told us that you were a disembodied spirit also said we were the only thing standing between the world and some sort of undead apocalypse.”
“That should provide you with more reason for sobriety,” Auggie said.
“Fuck that. If I’m getting killed and the world is ending, there is no way in possibly literal hell I’m facing that shit sober.” Kay illustrated the point with another short glug, then offered the bottle to Topher who waved her off.
“World hasn’t ended yet,” Topher said. “And Velt says our best bet for stopping this emcee ghost is to find Auggie’s body. Were you able to get any of the remote cameras up and running?”
“All four of them.” There was strange note of pride in Auggie’s voice, as though he were a touch insulted that even being ripped from his body would possibly cause him to leave a job incomplete.
“Great, that should give us a decent look at the main parts of the camp. Now, how do we turn them on?”
“Ooooh, I can do this, I’ve seen Auggie do it dozens of times.” Kay darted over, open bottle still in hand, and dropped into the worn chair that sat in front of Auggie’s hub.
“Absolutely not! Topher, don’t let her touch my equipment.”
“She runs a whole editing set-up and works with cameras daily, it’s not like she’s bad with technology.”
“Well… maybe but… she’ll get all my settings tweaked up and it will take ages to fix them.” Auggie was perfectly aware of the ridiculousness of the complaint, but rather than acknowledge it he merely crossed his arms and mentally dug in harder. Luckily, a lifetime of friendship had left Topher with at least some knowledge of how Auggie’s head worked.
“Don’t worry man. We’ll find him and get your body back, I promise. Then you’ll be the one sitting in your chair and messing with the buttons. Kay is just a temporary sub.”
“That’s right tech-boy, for the first time in your life a beautiful woman is under your command.” Kay set the bottle down and turned to the multi-monitored hub and laid her hands on a keyboard. “Now tell me what to do already.”
Auggie took just a moment, debating whether or not to respond to her “beautiful woman” jab, then thought better of it. Crude as she was, Kay was trying to make him feel better by settling back into their usual dynamic. And, strangely enough, it sort of worked.
“Very well, let’s see what the cameras are capturing. Try not to spill any of your near-ethanol intoxicants on my equipment while you’re at it.”
“No promises!” Kay declared proudly.
* * *
“And that’s when you came in and we decided to hide and see how things went,” Clinton finished explaining. “No one has ever come here that could see us. Well, one guy took some mushrooms back in the early eighties, a few years before Art died, and I think he and I had a conversation. It was hard to tell if him constantly going off topic was because of the mushrooms or if he was hallucinating a talk that was similar to the one I thought we were having.”
“Could have been either,” Velt told him. “Occasionally drugs open up the senses, but it takes a really spot-on mix that few people happen across, plus the dosage and chemicals needed various based on someone’s body.”
“Who cares about a forty year old conversation? I want to know how you plan to get us out of here,” Irwin demanded. He leaned forward in his chair, so much so that he’d have gone tumbling off if he had any mass for gravity to take hold of. “You’re a medium; your job is to help lost spirits, so it’s time for you to get to it.”
“First off, I’m not that kind of medium.” Velt’s face was expressionless, but there was current of violence in her tone that made both Art and Clinton shift in their seats. A living person shouldn’t be able to do anything to injure them, yet every ounce of sense they had told them to treat her as a very real threat. “Secondly, I don’t have to do shit for you. I’ve got bigger problems to worry about. If you want help, I suggest you earn it by taking work off my plate.”
“You would try to extort the dead?” Irwin’s indignation was matched only by his willful ignorance at ignoring the fact that he’d been trying to extort a medium.
“I’ll bargain with them, when they have something I can use. In this case, you three might just be handy. You can cover lots of ground quickly, and The Emissary will be on the lookout for me and the other living folks. I doubt it would ever occur to him to hide from spirits.”
“Gotcha, you want us to go huntin’ for him. We find the fella, you stop the dead-world-risin’ madness, and then you help us move on or at least get off this damn campground. That about sum it up?” Art asked.
“Look at that, thirty years apart and we still speak the same language,” Velt said, gracing Art with a smile. “You hit the nail on the head. In fact, I think solving my problem will also solve yours. You’ve all been stuck here because this place is a combination spirit trap and magnet. It draws in every soul that dies in its reach and then holds them in place, all building toward today. Once we stop the ritual, the magic will dissipate, and you should be free to go to whatever is waiting for you.”
“How convenient. The thing we want just happens to coincide with giving you exactly what you want.” Irwin sat back and crossed his arms. “I don’t but it. I want assurances that our efforts will be properly rewarded.”
“I can assure you that I’ll knock that stupid look off your face if you keep slowing me down with your bullshit. That work for you?”
“Empty threat. I’ve been dead long enough to know that we can only interact with the physical world through incredible effort, and nothing living can so much as touch us.”
Velt stared down Irwin with a smile very different from the genial one she’d flashed art. This was not a social conveyance, it was a predator bearing its teeth.
“A whole year? You have no fucking idea what the rules of your world are. I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by spirits, I saw them before I even knew there was a distinction between living and dead. I’ve made a life, a career, out of dealing with the shittiest of your lot, and I’ve damned good at it. Oh, and one more thing: I never make empty threats.”
Things very well might have escalated in that moments, as Irwin’s stupidity beat out his survival instincts in the race to his tongue, but fortunately (for him) Kay’s voice bounced off the walls and interrupted their discussion.
“Velt! Come here!”
“What’s wrong? Did you see a clue?”
“Fuck a clue! We see Auggie, on screen, right now. He’s down by the cabins.”
Velt turned back to the spirits. “Anyone who wants to earn a ticket out of here, come with me. Hopefully we can end this whole shitshow right now.”
-Obviously jump back to action scene now, as they try and catch Auggie’s body.
-This is about the time to show Velt’s effect on spirits, it’s been hinted at long enough. Time to make it tangible for the reader.
-Also need to show why The Emissary is dangerous, even to living things. Perhaps a brief confrontation with Topher.
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