The land had changed. It was more than the strange-shaped huts or crudely carved trails, it was the very topography of the place he had once known so well. Once, this lake had been fed by a rushing river, surrounded by only brush and saplings. Had it not been for the cliff overlooking the lake, he’d have feared something went awry and somehow they’d surfaced in the wrong spot. Thankfully, the cliff was there. Looming over him and assuring him that the land he once walked upon with feet of flesh still existed here, even if only in spirit.
A horrid smile split the still unfamiliar face he wore. Perhaps it was better than the land lingered here only as a ghost. It was fitting, it was right. Without those who dwelled upon in, the land he knew had died. It had gone to meet those waiting patiently. So just was their cause, so right their dream, that the very earth joined them in their purpose. This thought soothed him as he ran, the thin legs cutting across the land with unexpected speed. It was slow work for one unaccustomed to bodily bindings, but he pressed on.
The night was crisp and new, and the promise of what was to come hummed through the air. All around him the energy crackling, whispering, begging, to be used. Soon he would answer it’s call, soon he would fling open the gates and set the world ablaze.
Tonight, the land of the living would forever be seized by the dead.
* * *
Auggie didn’t wake up as much as he was suddenly awake. There was no groggy half-step as he was accustomed to. One instant there was darkness, the next he was staring up at a dark-grey sky, the first flickers of stars showing themselves against the infinite backdrop of space. Slowly, carefully, he pulled himself to a sitting position. He expect pain to rake through him from the wounds on his back, but he was surprised to realize he felt no pain at all. Not just in his back, his whole body was pain free. Most in his situation didn’t notice such a subtle detail, the loss of the dozens of minor slivers of discomfort and injury slipped past their attention. Auggie’s capacity for observing detail dwarfed most others, so as soon as he sat up he realized something was wrong.
It was only when he looked down at his body and found it translucent, however, that Auggie even remotely considered the possibility of the supernatural.
“Don’t freak out.” The female voice came from behind him. Auggie leapt into the air, intending only to get to his feet but hovering several inches off the ground. The speaker was the woman he’d seen across the lake, purple coat and copper-colored hair. He’d noticed her just before the…
“What did you do to me!” Auggie demanded. It came out angrier than he really meant it too, but trying to not acknowledge the fact that he was floating in the air was sapping a large amount of his self-control.
“I didn’t do anything to you,” the woman replied. “But something did happen. Specifically, you were torn out of your physical body, rendering you a spirit.”
Auggie stared at her, mouth open as he absorbed the ludicrous sincerity with which she was spoke.
“Well then, it seems you’re either completely insane or trying to pull an incredible complex prank on me. Did Topher put you up to this? No, he’s not that dedicated to think of something like this, it must have been Kay.”
“Look, I know denial is the first reaction to becoming a spirit, and normally I’d be kind and gentle as I eased you into acceptance. Unfortunately, we’re sort of working under a clock tonight, which means I don’t have time to coddle your ass. So snap to it, you’re half a foot off the ground and see-through. If I had the technology to fake that, do you think I’d waste it pranking random guys on docks?”
“It makes more sense than believing I’ve suddenly died and come back as a ghost! I don’t even believe in the afterlife, I’m a scientist,” Auggie declared. “Why would I turn into a ghost?”
“That part is a bit complicated, and I’d really rather not try to explain it twice. How about we head up to that hall your friends are camped out at? I’d like to get a little space between us and the undead horde.” She pointed across the lake, to the island Auggie had been trying to film when he was struck.
As his gaze followed her finger, he saw for the first time what was really happening. The red glow from the islands center, the dozens of partially formed spirits climbing their way out and milling around, the blood-red stain of smoke that surrounded the area. Auggie didn’t know that he believed in the supernatural yet, even in his current situation it was asking too much from him, but he did have a sense of self-preservation. Dead or alive, it echoed through the gut he no lingered possessed, telling him to distance between himself and anything that looked like that.
“Perhaps we could move to a better location,” Auggie agreed. “If nothing else it will hopefully bring a swift end to this horrible joke of yours.”
“Sticking with the prank denial, huh? Well, whatever works for you.” She began walking off the dock, toward the path that would lead to the main hall.
“Answer me this then, if I’m a ghost why can you see me?” Auggie tried not to think about what he was doing as he moved, here merely walked as though he were on a slope and ignored the fact that he was descending from thin-air. There was a rational explanation for this, he just had to find it.
“Because I’m a medium, obviously. You can call me Velt.”
“That’s an odd name.”
“And who are you, Butch Everyman?”
“My name is August Parrish, but most people call me Auggie.” He caught up to her easily, his speed largely determined by how fast he concentrated on moving more than the actual motion of his legs. He drew so near so quickly that he almost clipped her, but Velt twisted away at the last moment.
“Try not to touch me,” she warned.
“No, I’m… let’s just say it’s a bad idea for now. I’ll explain when we get to the top of the hill.”
“What is this mysterious deadline you keep hinting at? I’m already dead, according to you, I fail to see what other tragedy will befall us.”
“For one thing, there’s a lot more at stake that just one life,” Velt told him, speaking quickly over her shoulder as she walked. “And besides that, I want to fill them in on the situation before the spirit piloting your body finds them.”
Auggie nodded his head and kept moving, then the content of her words struck him in a way that physical objects no longer could.
* * *
Topher was gearing up to go look for Auggie when the front door to the main hall banged open, sending a river of relief surging through the large man’s body. After the loud noise rattled the cabin, he’d grown increasingly concerned about the amount of time Auggie was taking to place cameras. He’d just finished prepping the night-vision goggles, as well as a set for his friend, when the sound of the door heralded the presumed return of his best friend. He turned from the equipment table, expecting to see Auggie, looking put-out and slightly annoyed but still safe.
Instead, Topher laid eyes on one of the more beautiful girls he’d ever seen. True, she didn’t have it going on in the sense that beauty magazines would be trying to book appointments with her, but she had the sort of take-no-bullshit fire in her eyes and confident demeanor that Topher liked. Adding in that her damp copper hair and curved face were traits he generally sought out, this girl could have easily stepped out of one of his fantasies.
Except she hadn’t. She’d walked in the front door of the main hall, in a camp that was supposed to be closed to everyone but them. Topher’s initial exhilaration faded as he realized this was a potential trespasser, and he might have to call the cops on this lovely woman.
“Hey,” Kay called, walking around the table. “Did I hear Auggie come in?”
“No,” Topher said.
“Sort of a yes and no,” the new woman replied.
“Of course she did, I’m right here,” Auggie declared. He waved at Topher and Kay, both of whom had their eyes locked on Velt. Neither was giving him so much as a glance. “You know Topher, if you’re this good of an actor I’m going to start expecting more out of you on camera.”
“He’s not acting, they can’t hear you,” Velt told him.
“Who’s the new broad?” Kay asked. “Did Auggie hire a tech or something?”
“No, he’d have told us,” Topher responded. “Ma’am, may I ask what you’re doing here? This is private property, we’re only permitted in for a shoot. If you had car trouble or something we’d be happy to call you a ride, but you’re really not supposed to be here.”
“I don’t have car trouble; I broke in a few days ago.” She looked them up and down, taking a measure of each. The guy was muscular, but it was the bulky type that said he earned through weights rather than athletics. The girl was wiry and lean, but Velt knew better than to underestimate that. It was the mistake people usually made with her. Still, if they escalated the situation before understanding was reached, she felt confident she could handle things. “By my guess you must be Topher, and the one with the messy hair is Kay. If I’m wrong, them your parents both did you great injustices when naming you.”
-Lot of this scene left, so calling it here for today. When picking up, have Topher mis-interpret her as a fan of the series to explain away her knowledge.
-Try and show Auggie coming to grips with his situation before this chapter wraps. While he is skeptical by nature, someone with his level of logic would ultimately accept the truth of the situation.
-Velt is going to be key to keeping this scene light. One of three close people just ostensibly died, the only way it won’t dissolve into tears and seriousness is if she refuses to let it.
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