* * *
The first camera had gone up easily, Kay just needed to drive about halfway up to the top of the cliff and get a good vantage point overlooking as much of the camp as possible. It would have taken forever on foot, but thankfully the trail was wide, if rocky, and allowed the SUV to plow across the terrain in no time. From her spot staring down at the campgrounds below, Kay realized how peaceful this place seemed from far away… if one didn’t include the island of half-ghosts clustered around the red dot.
If things had gone differently, they would probably be snapping creepy shots of that island right now. Topher would be trying to go somewhere that Auggie forbid, Kay would be egging him on, and Auggie would be threatening everything up to and past bloody murder in their earpieces to get them to stop. They would, eventually, and Topher would be placated by Auggie saying he’d gotten some shadows on a remote camera and they should go check it out. Then the big lug would dash off, complaints forgotten in his nearly palpable cloud of excitement over new possibilities. It would be a fun night, with decent footage and for a half-decent episode.
Kay wondered if they would go on with the show when this was done. Even if everything went perfectly and they saved both the world and Auggie, could they keep chasing shadows after tangling with genuine spirits? Topher always hated the hucksters, the people who didn’t believe in what they were documenting. They’d certainly all be beleivers after tonight, but there was no question that such an in depth look would make it harder to get amped up over half-heard voices and camera anomalies.
Digging in her pocket, Kay produced the SUV keys and headed back toward her vehicle. How strange it was to count herself among the believers of anything. Kay had always wanted to believe, she wasn’t trying to wall off the impossible with science like Auggie. From sitting the time of sitting on her grandmothers lap, hearing mystical tales of the old country, Kay had dearly wanted to believe in the supernatural. She just never knew where to put all the faith that was pent up inside her. There were so many lies, so many pretenders to the mystic throne, that it never seemed safe to believe. She feared choosing wrong more than she feared sitting on the fence, so Kay waited for something, anything really, to jump out and prove itself to her.
Well, ghosts had certainly done that, and now that she knew they were real it seemed so obvious. She’d been with Topher for two years now, why had it taken so much to push her across the skeptical threshold? Kay resolved to be a bit more open-minded next time the opportunity presented itself. For the moment, however, her biggest concern was getting down the hill and across the camp. There was nice area in the other side of the forest where she could get a decent view. They only had one camera left, so it needed to count.
The engines roared to life, scattering a few of the orb-like spirits she’d seen floating amidst the trees, and Kay headed back down the cliff.
* * *
It was the strange glow that first told Irwin he was on the right track. As he floated down, phasing through the trees and drawing closer to this strange sensation calling him, he noticed a red glow burning in the forest. He might have been tempted to think it was fire, but fire was alive. It flickered and danced among the shadows. This light didn’t dance, it throbbed, like a heart beating. Had he been in his right state of mind, Irwin would have turned and fled like the coward he’d always been. But Irwin was nowhere near his normal mental state. The calling, the light, it had sunk its hooks into him all the way up in the trees. Now that he was this close he could practically hear it, whispering in his ear that it was all right. He was safe here, safer than he’d ever been before. Nothing could touch him now. After all, his weakness, his body, was gone. Irwin Pistole was a being of will and magic. What did he have to fear?
He floated into a clearing where the body that had once been called Auggie stood, wiping his dirty hands on his pants next to a freshly uncovered stone circle. As Irwin squinted at him, he realized the man seemed fuzzy around the edges, as though his own shadow had leapt atop him and was trying to smother his whole form. Had Irwin known a bit more, he would have understood that this was the wraith inside poking out, magic and excitement proving too much to contain in a borrowed body. Sadly, as had nearly always been the case, Irwin knew next to nothing.
“Brother,” the man greeted him, a twisted grin seated beneath a pair of eyes twinkling with madness. “Have you come to bear witness?”
“I… looking for you,” Irwin stammered, his words barely able to escape as his mind was engulfed by the overwhelming pleasure from being so close to the source of the light. It skittered across the surface of his brain, a brain that no longer existed in any physical capacity, yet the power was undeterred. It whispered in the nooks and crannies, reassuring him and encouraging him.
“I blame you not, tonight is a great night, surely you have been waiting eons for it. Feel no shame, brother. All are welcome to witness the glory.”
“No… I… She’s looking for you.”
At his words, the face of that had once been Auggie’s warped into a snarl. He bounded across the clearing at speeds that seemed impossible to Irwin, grabbing the ghost with a pair of shadowy talons extruding from the tips of his stolen fingers.
“So, you serve the flesh then. Come to lead the blasphemous beast to my doorstep, to try and halt the inevitable march of our superior souls.” He raised his other hand and another set of talons emerged, these longer and sharped than the ones gripping Irwin’s chest. Irwin wasn’t sure if one spirit could harm another, but this guy seemed to be pretty sure it was possible.
“No! I told her nothing!”
“But you will. I can see it in your eyes. You follow whoever scares you the most, feeding off the power of others to wield it as your own. You have no conviction, brother, and that means you have no value.”
“Are you saying she’s stronger than you?” Irwin spat the words, using courage he’d have never found without the light giving his mind strength.
The Emissary stared at this impudent spirit, momentarily shocked by the outburst. Irwin capitalized on the silence.
“You said it yourself, I’ll serve whoever is the strongest, whoever scares me most, whoever offers me the most power. Why would I want her to win? Sure, when I was alive that would be the smart side, but I’m not alive. I’m dead. I’m dead and I’m stuck in this place without the power to so much as move a stick. She’s offering to let me leave the camp or move on, you’re offering me power. Power to rule over the living, power to no longer be stuck like this. Maybe I don’t have conviction, but I do have basic reasoning skills. I want you to win. I want my kind to be the dominant ones in this world.”
There was a long stretch of silence as The Emissary held Irwin in place, talons still extended and ready to strike. Then, after what seemed an eternity to Irwin, he was released, left to float freely as The Emissary turned back to the glowing stone circle.
“You beg well, and perhaps there is wisdom in your cries. Though you doubtlessly lack conviction, there may still be use for you yet. Are you willing to serve? To do what is necessary so that the world may be reborn and all those imprisoned by flesh set free?”
“I’ll do whatever you tell me,” Irwin promised. “Anything you name, if it’s in my power I’ll do it.”
The Emissary turned back around and formed a questioning expression on his pilfered face. “If it’s in your power? That does not sound like dedication to me, brother.”
“I just mean that I’m a new ghost, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know how to do. I told you before, I can’t even move things yet. So if you wanted me to bash someone’s head in with a rock I wouldn’t be able to grab it. That’s all I mean.”
“Ah.” The Emissary walked back around to the stone circle, casting Auggie’s face in red light and shadows. “Then let us test the depths of your commitment, shall we? I am going to give you a task. If you complete it then you will gain a taste of the very power which you seek. If you fail… well, I think I can make time in my night to shred one traitor’s miserable soul.”
“Whatever it is, I’ll take care of it,” Irwin assured him.
“Very well then. It is high past time that we moved things along.”
-Next scene will be Irwin and Velt, then jump back to Auggie showing what the ritual did, then to Kay to show the consequences.
-Wrap the chapter after Kay’s scene.
You passed 30k, so once this is over its time to start laying the groundwork for the big finale.
Daily WordCount: 1,563 Total WordCount: 30,427