Topher scanned the equipment bag one last time, making certain that everything they needed was accounted for. Auggie handled what he called the “real” tech like cameras and microphones and what-not, but Topher always did a double-check on the ghost-tracking equipment. He refused to be caught in a paranormal hot-bed and not have the proper tech to capture spiritual activity.
“Electromagnetic Frequency Detectors, check.” He mumbled this to himself as he ticked off a set of four devices meant to measures the spikes in frequencies caused by ghosts. These were the real-deal, not the trick ones that would move up or down with a flick of a switch on the back.
After three years in this business, Topher had realized that a lot of his colleagues were charlatans and hucksters, intent on putting out an entertaining show regardless of the accuracy of the phenomena they depicted. He didn’t have the power to stop them, most real scientists lumped everyone in this field along with the fakers anyway. All he could do was put on a better show with honest results and non-edited footage, which he strived to do every day. Topher took pride not only in his ratings, which had gorwn to triple that of the fakers in the past year, but also in the fact every debunker the internet could throw at him had failed to uncover a single iota of proof that he’d altered any images or sounds. No one would, either. Topher was looking for the real deal, he refused to sully his reputation by holding up fakes. Of course, almost no one really believed anyway, they just couldn’t say he was lying about what he posted.
“Spectral Voice Recorders, check.” These were specifically calibrated to capture spirit noise that other listening devices might miss. After dealing with several sub-par models, Topher had finally convinced Auggie to put something together. They worked amazingly, just like all of Auggie’s inventions, capturing minute audible anomalies while filtering out background noise. He’d tried to convince his friend to sell them to other researchers, however he’d refused on the basis of not wanting to bother with more production.
Despite being friends since grade-school, Topher never truly understood August Parrish. He claimed to have no interest in parties, the paranormal, or really anything outside his bubble of learning and inventing, yet every time Topher came up with a crazy idea Auggie was invariably by his side. Sure, sometimes he’d have to coax the him out, but often it took only the slightest push and Auggie was in, grumbling the whole time while never falling behind. At least Auggie’s sister made a certain amount of sense, she hated socializing and therefore didn’t do it. Auggie always seemed more like he just felt like he should protest.
“Ectoplasmic Motion Sensor, check.” In truth, Topher had no idea if this piece of tech actually was attuned to the movements of spirits like it claimed, or it was just a regular motion-detector. If it was the real deal, that was great, and if not, well he still needed a motion detector anyway. Might as well roll the dice on one supposedly designed for the purpose. Researching ghosts meant taking risks, sometimes on the equipment, sometimes on the safety of the location.
Topher considered it unfortunate that the work had become so glamorous over the last decade. It attracted the wrong kind of people to the industry. He’d never wanted to become a quasi-celebrity, though he did enjoy the funding and investigation-opportunities that such status afforded him. No, all Topher Nightshade had ever wanted to do was prove to the world what he already knew: Ghosts were real.
He’d learned that firsthand in the basement of his neighborhood Fast Gas Dash at the age of seven. Though countless people had tried to convince him otherwise, Topher refused to budge in his certainty. He might not be as smart as Auggie, or all that savvy about anything that wasn’t ghosts, but Topher was not the sort of man to doubt the truth when he saw it. He wasn’t the one who was wrong, and sooner or later he’d capture something on video that would prove that to everyone.
“Protein bars, check.” Sometime shoots ran long and there wasn’t time for a full-meal. With the last of his checklist completed, Topher shut the top of the final case he’d been inventorying and rose from the floor. His back and legs let out a series of pops as he did a full-body stretch. A quick glance at the clock told him it was nearly one in the morning. They’d be sleeping in tomorrow in preparation for an all-night shoot, then catching a plane to New Mexico.
“Hope I can sleep this time,” Topher muttered as he headed out the office door, remembering to lock up behind him. Even after all this time, he could barely settle down enough to fall asleep on nights before big shoots. That excitement, the tingle of anticipation over what was to come, refused to let his mind pass from the waking world to the dreaming one.
Oh well, if he found sleep unwilling to come, he could always squeeze in some time at the gym.
* * *
“Ready to admit it’s not just fog?” Clinton asked.
The island, small though it was, could normally be seen from any vantage point on the lake. That had before, of course, because now it and the waters surrounding it were completely enshrouded in swirling mist. Clinton and Art had realized days ago that it was paranormal in nature, and not just due to the fact that it refused to dissipate regardless of the weather.
No, the faces appearing and vanishing in the shifting fog had been their first solid clue that this was being caused by something other than crazy humidity or temperatures. Once it changed color, going from a non-descript white to a half-sunset/half-blood red, that was really just the final nail in the coffin.
“I’ll concede that it’s weird,” Irwin said begrudgingly. Art had brought him down from the woods, where the newest spirit was trying once again to push through the boundary that kept him enclosed. Even though they didn’t know what was going on, it seemed outright cruel to let Irwin miss the most interesting thing to happen in years. “But maybe it’s a natural phenomenon. Our earth is dealing with global warming and climate change and all kinds of complex stuff that you two wouldn’t know this since you’ve been dead so long.”
The fog swirled, and a dozen faces manifested in plain view. Their mouths hung open at disjointed and horrifying angle, their mist-eye-sockets pulled wide. If they weren’t screaming, they were doing an award-worthy pantomime of it.
“If you tell me that’s regular weather nowadays, I’m gonna have to call bullshit,” Art warned. “Cause I’m pretty sure if I was still alive and wearing pants, I’da just shit ‘em. And I’m used to creepy dead stuff.”
“Okay… that probably wasn’t normal,” Irwin agreed. It was strange how he felt as though his pulse had sped up even though he didn’t have one. He was waiting for the tingle of adrenaline and thin layer of sweat to manifest like it did every time he got scared. After a few moments, he remembered his condition and let the expectation cease.
“Which brings us back to our question from the other day, what do you think it is?” Clinton asked.
“Have either of you… did anyone go touch it?”
“Sweet fuckin’ Hell no,” Art replied immediately. “The ghosts in there look like they’re having a cocaine orgy? We ain’t goin’ near that thing and neither should you. Whatever it is, it don’t look ghost friendly.”
“What’s the worst that can happen?” Irwin pointed out. “We’re already dead and stuck in this prison of a summer camp with no way out. Maybe that thing at least comes with a way out.”
“That could be true,” Clinton agreed. “However, you should also consider the possibility that it leads to far worse places than this. I’d not be surprised if we’re looking a doorway to the devil’s own front door.”
“Oh geez, here we go with the religion again,” Irwin said.
“I realize you and I do not share similar faiths, but you must concede that our mere presence here after death speaks to the fact that there are things beyond the mortal pale. Whether you believe in Hell as the bible defines it or just as an awful place where the dead go, it very well may exist.”
“At least in Hell there’s probably a means of escape,” Irwin muttered. “That’s more than we’ve got here.”
“Still think it’s a bad idea to go near it,” Art reminded him. “All religion and hell and what-not aside, damn thing just looks painful, least judging by the expression on them weird mist faces. Course, you’re a grown dead-man, ain’t our place to tell you what to do. Me and Clinton are just going to watch through, seeing as the show’s still going on.”
“What do you mean?”
“It’s growing,” Clinton explained. “Started out over just the center of the island, but over the past few days it’s swallowed the whole thing. We thought it would end there, then it just kept getting wider. As near as we can tell, seeing as we’re judging distance based on featureless open water, it’s grown by about the half the size of the island over again.”
“So, what? You two are just going to sit here watching until it expands and covers the whole camp?”
“First off, if you’ve got a way to stop a mysterious face-fog I’d love to listen to it,” Art said. “And second, it ain’t gonna come to that. Clinton says it’s slowing down.”
Irwin looked over to the other ghost who gave a nod. “If it keeps losing speed at its current rate, the whole thing will have stopped by sunset tonight.”
“Don’t suppose you know what happens then,” Irwin probed.
“Maybe nothing,” Clinton replied. “Maybe it starts dissipating. Maybe it rises into the air. Hell, maybe it begins the end of the world. Any guess is as good as the next right now. We have literally nothing but weird red fog and occasional faces to go on.”
“Anything could happen.” Irwin didn’t mean to let the generous dollop of hope slip into his voice, but as he stared up at the first rays of sunshine peeking in the sky from the east, he couldn’t help it. Anything, anything, would be better than being stuck in this damn camp with moldy old ghosts for company. Irwin didn’t care if the mist did signal the end of the world, honestly, as long as it provided him a way out.
After all, he was already dead. What did he care if the rest of the world followed?
-Shift back to the ghost crew on the next scene, keep Velt as obscured as possible.
- Add some Kay and Auggie interaction to the next scene, this has been serious and a bit of levity will keep the tone relaxed. Avoid anything romantic, though, opposites attract is an obvious trope.
Daily WordCount: 1819. Total WordCount: 5401