Written by alcoholandaphorism
In the streets around London Bridge Geoffrey walks, hoping that everything will finally sink in. He has been offered the opportunity, if you can call it that, to be reduced to effectively death, to be preserved as his spirit walks the world. The alternative is to walk away, to walk away from the money and mystery Orpheus represent.
An hour later, the ink still wet on the medical waivers Geoffrey sits in the Orpheus medical facilities. Time to do this he thinks. His arms are numb from the preparatory injections and they have to push him to the sleeper cradles. The rooms holding the cradles are different from the rest of the Orpheus facilities, utilitarian in nature with cold steel walls. No panoramic vistas of London here. No windows in fact. Just plastic sheet curtains blocking the view of the cradles, or the coffins as most sleepers seem to call them.
The doctor by his side talks clinically about what will happen next, the removal of blood from his his body and the injection of preservation fluid, the gradual reduction of bodily functions and finally an induced mini heart attack until he is technically dead. To his surprise Geoffrey realises this is the doctors strange way of trying to calm him. Tuning out the doctors macabre words he concentrates on what will face him next.
A whirl and grind and his attention is focussed once more, the coffin grinding open, a tomb awaiting him. His body, now limp, lowered into its grasp. Blue black liquid pumped into his veins and he convulses, once then again, the lid now over him, though he cannot remember when that happened. The calm doctors voice muffled then gone. He is alone. The darkness floods in.
“He’s gone flatline” A tech reports with a curiously detached voice, looking down at his tablet. Blinking Geoffrey sees his body before him, black veins riddling his skin.
“Is he here” The doctor asks, looking at Alysia. Alysia looks straight at Geoffrey’s spirit form, sympathy on her face “It worked” she says. The doctor forces a smile and reassures Geoffrey that everything is all right. “Your looking the wrong way” Alysia interrupts “He’s behind you” She shakes her head “Ok, you are going to have to take care now. People can’t see you or touch you, but it does hurt if they move through you when you aren’t prepared. Unlike the other two you are going to be down for a long time, months most likely. You will need them most likely. They can share lifeforce with you, especially if you get injured, but don’t take too much if you can avoid it. They can’t project without relying on that energy themselves”.
That said she takes Geoffrey through to the Zen garden, its shape changed subtly. The rocks placed slightly differently, and the raking has left different impressions “I always see a tiger leading it’s cub through a river” Alysia confides “Anyway, I’d best get the other two here”
In his small unfurnished apartment Michael sits looking out the frosted window. The heating billows warm air out around him, and it feels like the most decadent luxury ever imagined. At Orpheus encouraging he has squired a well cut suit but it still feels odd hanging upon him. Outside the dead and living walk back and forth, and for a moment he cannot see the difference between the two. His reverie is broken by the phones call, Orpheus has need of him.
Timothy is wandering the barracks of London. He has paid attention to Orpheus warnings. Avoided the sites of the 7/7 bombings, and the suicide spots of London. They can see the dead now, and some things cannot be unseen. He had seen enough at Kings Cross, a bustling horde, eternally scrambling away from an unseen fire but never escaping, The phone rings for him as well. A first mission.
A smell of wood smoke awaits them at the shard.. Despite the distance into the town somehow a lingering aroma of fields haunts them as well. The clatter of the overground tube applauds their approach and the beeping of car horns provides exclamation marks to it. Appropriately, even here is not spared the vision of spirits, a mess of plasm flesh, all that is left of a car wreck victim, wails without sentience. Another spirit figure falls to nothingness as the living walk through it. It probably didn’t even notice its own approaching ending.
When they finally reach the shards lobby Timothy and Michael are finally spared the visions. A small army of guards keep the unwelcome living at bay as well. The journey tp the twelfth floor is short and uneventful, the lift doors opening to reveal Alysia and Geoffrey awaiting them.
“You holding up ok there sir?” Michael asks on seeing Geoffrey’s spirit
“Well I’m glad I don’t have to do it again for a few months lets say that. It wasn’t fun” Geoffrey answers.
Looking irritated at the no smoking sign Tim chips in “Well, looks like you’ve lost weight there”
“You think so?” Geoffrey smiles wryly “Guess I can’t pack on the pounds like this. No food bills either”
“You really want to rake it in. So tell me, did you remember to turn the gas off then?” Tim says.
“Drat, and remind me to turn down the heat next time”
Banter done, they follow Alysia to the briefing room, holding the door open for Geoffrey’s ghost form. The room is thee epitome of ultra corporate chic, modern art on the walls and ultra thin flip top laptops on the desk. The window looks out on the London gherkin, Andrew Abboh, management supervisor awaits them. In a grey suit and mahogany tie, neat trimmed goatee surrounding his corporate smile. He greets the nervous projectors with a sonorous voice “Hello, I’m going to be your Management Supervisor for today’s briefing.
“Our handler them” Tim interjects
“You could say that. I’m responsible for reminding you that out there you will be the public face of Orpheus. When they see you, they see us.” A presentation starts up behind him, youtube clips streamed in, and hyperlinked photos of a nursing home. In the corner google maps zooms in to show the nursing homes location. “Crestview Nursing home, they will be our clients for this one” An animated image loads, a rocket soaring up into the words “Success” then exploding.
“We have information to suggest that there are one to two weak Post Life Entities at this site. It should provide good progress towards the monthly KPI’s we have set for your crucible.”
Orpheus Mission Brief: 65
We have recently been approached by Janine Hastings of the Crestview Retirement Home in Leytonstone. Ms Hastings
contacted us in confidence; and – given the subsequent follow-up calls made by our marketing and public liaison teams –
appears to have done so somewhat reluctantly. Ms Hastings is a sceptic. She has little time for discussions about Post-life
Entities and even less for dealing with organisations like ours. She made it very clear that she considers Orpheus to be a
business run by charlatans, religious fanatics; the dangerously deluded and the deeply cynical. This is one of the reasons
as to why – at the suggestion of marketing and public liaisons – we have decided to run this mission pro bono. Amrit on
the media desk has long advocated that we assign some of the more ‘fluffy’ cases to a fee free dossier. Group Operations
Director Mick Cooper agreed and has identified this mission as a fantastic opportunity for the company to make some
significant inroads into gaining appeal with the 3rd sector and the wider public.
According to our initial intel, members of staff and several of the residents at Crestview have reported witnessing shadowy
figures, hearing disembodied voices and witnessing cold spots in certain rooms. Our analysis of these reports suggests the
presence of one to two drones. Our working hypothesis is that these PLE’s are most likely to be remnants of those
residents who have recently passed over. Your job is to enter the residential home, identify any PLE activity and ensure
that the location is thoroughly fumigated.
Needless to say, we are trusting your Crucible with this mission because you are new and we need to market your skill
sets to potential clients. We expect you to comport yourselves with the upmost professionalism at all times. Please refer to
the operations manual with regards to our code of conduct, code of ethics, professional relations, disciplinary procedure
and bonus scales. If you have any further questions, please relate them to your line manager.
“As you can see from the documents on your screen we are dealing with a group of sceptics. Initial reports from migrant workers were dismissed by the other staff, but when Timothy Oxley, a noted fund raiser for the Conservative Party saw it as well people started paying attention. If it happened to one of theirs then it must be real. Our main contact is still a sceptic though so refused to let us get involved until we offered to do it pro bono. Hopefully this should help raise some public awareness. Not to mention we have reason to believe that some of the powerful people working their may have some skeletons in their closet that may end up being profitable for Orpheus. Discretion is key however here. This will be a PR opportunity and you will be at the forefront”
rubbing the scars on his face Michael says “That would be why you picked the most photogenic of us then”
“There are a number of sins that make-up can cover, and for everything else there’s photoshop”
Timothy raises his hand “What is the timeline for this operation?”
“We need it done quickly. We have forty eight hours. This should be, at worst, a minor nuisance to deal with. We have important interviews booked for just after and we want to action some good press from this synergy. There’s a Metro article that ties into Big Society and all that nonsense and we want our name right in the middle of it”
“I take it we don’t have any information on what may have caused it?” Michael asks
“Probably just people popping their clogs in an old folks home, happens all the time”
“Who do we talk to then in order to find out who died. It’s not the politest question when we want to make a good impression”
Oxley nods at Michaels question “Good point. Miss Hasting should be able to appoint someone to handle that”
“Is there any backup in case things go south?” Tim asks
“This is just a blip class, I hardly think it should be an issue”
Timothy frowns at this, his years in the military have led to somewhat of a distrust of intelligence and such statements based on them.
Geoffrey asks the last question “What do we know about getting rid of these things?”
“The usual. Remove unfinished business, if they are troublesome use your crucibles horrors to handle them. Ok we have three grand discretionary budget on this but I want all receipts and all claims will be checked. Good luck”
As the three discuss the operation on the way out Michael shakes his head “three thousand pounds on expenses alone. I will never get used to that”
“Try not to spend it all or they will want your blood” Tim says “Then again they already have Geoffrey’s”
“A ghost and I still can’t avoid death by powerpoint” Geoffrey mutters
It’s already late, near midnight but the crucible set off immediately, calling a taxi to take them near. The plans are quickly set, arrive with two in the flesh but refer to a third available on the phone so they can talk to the ghost without looking like madmen. Inside the polished black cab their driver rambles about the problem with all the usual targets. Foreigners. Muslims. The Poor. The last causes Michael to politely request he be quiet as they need to think.
As they travel down the streets they see a couple of teenagers out on the corner, cigarette smoke around them and mobile phones pumping out music into the night. An elderly Asian couple walk on the opposite side of the road, past boarded up windows. Diesel fumes and smoke waft up. Here the crucible step out, a few streets from the retirement home, leaving the Taxi driver to drive off sans tip,
Timothy suggest not ringing ahead to the Retirement Home, he doesn’t wish to tip their hand too early in case anything is up. “We could send Geoffrey in to listen as we call them. See what response they have to us ringing in. See if they are hiding anything. Geoffrey agrees an the three approach.
The two in flesh set up opposite the home outside a dilapidated church, a plaque marking it as being owned by the Church of Resurrection. Amongst rusty climbing frames and cigarette butts they look around at the area. The Crestview home sits in a small patch of greenery that has been encroached upon by growing urban development. It tries to keep its quaint feel with fake Tudor decoration but cannot hide that it is an old institutional building nestled amongst high rise buildings. Inside the elderly sit facing flickering TV screens. Their actions no different from those of the dead.
Geoffrey glances at the reception as he approaches, spotting a bored young woman concentration on a glamour magazine inside. With a short stab of pain he slips through the wall, fading into what is obviously a bedroom of one of the elderly. A woman lies staring at the ceiling muttering to herself. The room aches with the smell of mildew, excrement and urine, Glancing at the visit log Geoffrey notices no one has visited today. Stepping into the corridor he find himself face first upon the ground. Pain punching through his back.
His mind desperately trying to construct what has just happened, he feels a weight upon him and a high pitch voice screams “Why? Why did they leave me? Where am I?” Pulling himself away Geoffrey spies the woman from the bed, eyes jet black and mouth ruptured to a gaping maw. His vision spins, spying a moment not now. A woman, mouth filled with broken glass and dripping poison. Cold black fire crawling across the ceiling. Flashes and gunfire. He hears his won voice in terror “I’ve seen this. Saw this happen. It’s too late. They’re going to kill us. Kill us all”. The now snaps back. He glances around, in the hospital, and alone once more. “Well that wasn’t on the dossier” he mutters. His gauze is tattered and torn now, black veins evident on his limbs and patterns of frost forming.
This examination is interrupted by the arrival of two early twenties Caucasian men. Both in orderlies uniforms, one with ponytail strapped back, the other quite heavyset and laughing. The first knocks on the woman’s door as they snicker between themselves.
“So, you reckon we should give her sommat from the lucky dip tonight?”
“What about pigment?”
“Get fucked. That’s for us. Remember the party, that shit we saw?”
“Yeah, but they’re catatonic, don’t matter what shit they see”
“Ah fuck, the bitch shat herself” That last phrase a response to the opening of the door to the woman’s soiled room “ Ah shit I was meant to clean that today. Look at her though. Who cares” The ponytailed man shoves the woman to the floor, yanking the bedsheets out from under her. A loud crunch results and the woman screams.
“Fuck. Think her legs broken.” Forcing her lips open he shoves a pill into her mouth. Slapping her until she swallows “That’s good. Don’t make me hit you again. Listen bruv, lets just say we found her like this when we walked in. She fell off her bed or summat.” That said they shove her back on the bed in her drug induced sleep.
Geoffrey follows them through the building. Out in front of the CCTV’s they put on an elaborate façade of kindness and politeness to the patients. Even then though he sees them reaching into and old man’s pockets and switching his medicine for something else. Glancing at their name tags he sees their names “Nick Podopolus and James Ohalan”
Moments later outside Geoffrey has just explained what he has just seen, Michael stands tense and quiet, an intense flicker to his eyes. “Fuck it” Tim says” We’re going in”. “Remember we are not here for health and safety inspection, but if they happen to coincidentally stumble over this that is to our benefit. We don’t want to be too blatant”.
“Tim. You’d best talk. I’m not able to do subtle right now” Michael mumbles “Geoffrey, listen. I said you should go in there and you got hurt. Let me help”
Geoffrey initially resist, but eventually lets Michael help him. In a moment of disarming intimacy the lifeforce flows between the two, healing Geoffrey’s wounds “That’s enough” Geoffrey says, still ragged around the edges.
“You’re not getting a medal for this, just a bonus. No need to be the hard man” Tim says
Geoffrey smiles a ragged smile “I may need to manifest for those two scumbags. I look like death itself right now. You do the math”
Inside it takes a few moments for the woman at reception to notice the two who have just walked in.
“Hello, were from Orpheus” Tim says offering a hand.
“Oh yeah, You’re the people who speak to the dead and stuff. My gran died you know, She was meant to leave me money and stuff ya know, I took care of her. Yet she died and left me nothin’. You sort those things?”
Tim proffers a business card “That’s exactly what we deal with. Speaking with the dead. We can help there. Right now we are here to see Miss Hastings”
The girl looks nervous” She isn’t here right now. Don’t think she would appreciate a call at home either. Could get an orderly to help you. Ya know I saw a ghost here. In the women’s toilets. Old person. Thought they were perving on me but when I turned round no one was there. Oh god, was it a ghost,a ghost perving on me?”
“Obviously we couldn’t say until we have investigated” Tim offers
The arriving orderly turns out to be the ponytailed man seen before. Seeing Michaels heckles rise, Tim places a hand on his shoulder, calming him.
“Where Nick?” the girl asks
“Out having a fag” James says ”So, geeze, what happened at the party the other night. You were all over that bloke” he turns to the two Orpheus operatives “Women aye, got a good looking bloke like me after her and she is all over some darkie”
Tim says “I have met others with same view” in a dull tone, throwing a sympathetic look at the receptionist.
“So this some mumbo jumbo hippy shit?” James asks as he shows them around “Good scam. Had an uncle who made money off talking to dead people. Shit you guys look loaded. I need some of that action”
“You have more than most people, appreciate what you have young sir” Michael says, restraining his urge to say more.”
In the room they have been led to elderly people sit unmoving, eyes glazed as they stare at a flickering television that soon descends into static. As Tim looks a face forms from the noise of the static, an elderly gentleman with receding hairline, dated suit and handkerchief in his breast pocket. With a clipped received pronunciation accent he speaks to those watching
“I’m sorry for having to interrupt your broadcast. I have some pressing news from the other side*static*. It has come to my attention that have been incidents blurry the boundaries between life and dea*static*It had been going longer t*static* Orpheus believes we have beer around a mere five ye*static*incorrect. This is Radio Free Death and goodnight.
Pure static returns to the television and Michael and Tim exchange glances as they realise they were the only ones to see that. Michael hangs back as Tim pushes on with James. Noticing Michaels absence James turns worried.
“Ey, why is he trying to talk to them, their near catatonic. Why doesn’t he talk to me?”
“Do you smoke by any chance” Tim asks, breaking the conversation off before it can get going
“What? You asking if I’m a fag?”
Tim pulls out a pack of cigarettes “No, but I’m gasping. You want one?”
“Ok just don’t get fruity with me”
“Don’t worry” Tim says “I was in the military”
“Army? Sick! My cousin was in the army, shot a bunch of pakis. You get to shoot anyone? Man if I was out there. Would have been like call of fucking duty man.”
Resisting his urge to shake his head Tim leads them outside to smoke, leaving Michael alone to investigate. Flicking his mobile open Michael looks at Geoffrey’s spirit form “Hello? Office? Just checking, I heard some people were looking for me, you will let me know if you see them? Thanks”.
Understanding the message, Geoffrey moved to watch the corridor as Michael approaches the sitting patients. As he comes closer he can’t help but notice bruise marks around the patients necks as they sit nigh catatonic.
“hello. I’m Michael Frost. Do you mind if I intrude. I’m sorry, I don’t wish to be nosey but these marks, did someone do this to you?”
From behind him a voice says “Margery? Margery? It’s been so long Margery.”
Looking Michael sees the gauze form of the man he was just speaking to. Glancing back he sees the man’s body, still but breathing.
“Can I help you sir” Michael asks “Can you tell me who Margery is?”
“My wife. Have you seen her? That nasty man, he hurt me. I didn’t mean to hurt you Margery. Have you seen her?”
“I will ask the receptionist for you” Michael replies,
The receptionist knows exactly what Michael is talking about “Oh, old David? His wife found out he was cheating on her. Took the kids with her. Boy came back one day to tell him his Mum had died and he didn’t want to see old man any more. Surprised he talked to you, he doesn’t speak much”
“It’s just a matter of taking the time” Michael says
“Oh that’s nice, you should talk to the rest”
“I intend to” Michael says, harsher than intended as he thinks of what has been happening to the people here. “How long have you been working here? Or the others James and his friend”
“Oh about two years now, longer than those two they’ve only been here eight months”
and the incidents have been happening two months now Michael muses to himself.
Outside Tim takes a drag on his cigarette, ignoring the tedious spewing of hate from the young orderly. A scream cuts through the conversation. A window shatters outwards, a bedside table hurled through it.
After several panicked swipes James security card registers with the door lock and the two push in. James mumbling “Shit, it happened, it happened again”. They quickly reach the room the screaming is coming from only to have the door slam in their face. Inside they hear Nicks voice, high pitched and pleading “He’s gone crazy. Help me. Shit. Please help me”
Hammering at the door James shouts “Who is it Nick? Who is in there with you?” The screaming inside rises to a crescendo then stops suddenly. Outside the shattered window
Geoffrey looks in to see an elderly man in the middle of the room, screaming, incoherent with rage. As Geoffrey watches strips of flesh flay off the spirit, leaving an emaciated husk, with dislocated jaw and rows of teeth. Silvery threads spread from him to the objects of the room which respond, hurling themselves at the nigh catatonic Nick.
“WHO AM I? WHO AM I? WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?” the elderly spirit shouts
Having caught up with James and Tim at the door, Michael tries it and, to his shock, it opens freely. Inside the room the objects fall from the air and the frail old man turn to look at the new entrant.
“You can see me? Who are you. Who am I?” before Michael can respond the spirit turns an flees through the building, with Geoffrey following hot on his heels. Now alone in the room Michael kneels to check for Nicks pulse. Finding one he is unsure if he is pleased or disappointed. Outside Timothy shouts at James “Right. I need to know what you have been doing for the past week and I need to know now”. James breaks and runs. Pausing from his efforts to bring Nick conscious again Michael speaks to Tim “ A confession may placate the spirits somewhat. Please follow him”
With Tim gone as well Michael looks to the waking Nick “Those things that attacked you, they don’t do so for no reason. Tell me why”
Nick looks wide eyed “The pills. Oh god the pills. I don’t know why but. Oh god its him. It will be all of them. What have we done”
To Be Continued….