Written by alcoholandaphorism
Wall after wall passes through Geoffrey’s immaterial eyes as his spirit form chases the ghost that has just caused such a ruckus. In the physical world around him nurses and attendants stand screaming or lie nigh catatonic in the wake of having the reality of existence beyond death revealed to them. The lights kick in and out, and in the darkness he follows his quarry by his vitality alone. Even that in the end is not enough, and in the midst of a panicking mob that threatens to tatter his spirit corpus even further Geoffrey is forced to admit he has lost his target. With but a mutter of “Damnit” he turns to return to the others.
Another chase is taking place in the physical world, shoving through the crowd Timothy runs after the attendant James, one of the two responsible for the horrid abuse within this nursing home. The chase spills out of the front door and onto the street headlong and without care for either’s safety. Mid way across the street Timothy’s view of his target is lost as he finds himself locked in the blinding lights that approach him. Unable to stop his momentum he flies from the impact with the approaching car and skids across the tarmac, leaving layers of skin in his wake. As the stars waver above his eyes he blinks, once , twice then is still.
Then there is Michael, alone with Nick, the other of the two orderlies responsible for the abuse in this home. Well mostly alone, outside the room’s doors nurses tear strips from the walls, leaving shattered fingernails and blood in return. TV’s are smashed and drawers ransacked as they try to vent their fear in the most primal fashion possible. On a mirror behind Michael the words “Who am I?” are scrawled in blood.
“Now” Michael starts “I need you to talk to me Nick. After what you have done I’m not inclined to help you unless you gave give me something. What did you do? What pills did you give them?”
Nigh incoherent Nick blathers about how he and James had been taking the patients pills and mixing them up, randomly assigning them to different people. Then they started taking the pills themselves just to see what happened. What catches Michael attention though is one letter “P”, the street name for pigment, which they had started giving the patients.
A cheap drug and popular with those who have fallen on hard times, and the homeless. Bare luck had kept him from ever trying Michael thought. A heroin rush and vivid trips from it’s reputation. The person who sold it to them was even the one who suggested selling it to the patients.
“Who?” Michael demanded. Nick drew back “I said who!
Filing that as a name to look up later with some of his old acquaintances from the street Michael turns to look at the returned Geoffrey.
“Lost him” Geoffrey shrugs
“They’ve been giving the patients a drug called pigment” Michael turned back to Nick “Now before, you said it was him. Who’s him?”
Nick backs off shaking his head “No way. Not saying nuffing”
“Is he being uncooperative?” Geoffrey asks
“You know, for a man who is only alive because of us he is amazingly uncooperative”
“Shall I put the fear up him?”
“He’s only alive because I owe Orpheus more than I hate him. Feel free” As he finishes the sentence Michael lets his spirit float free from his body and tangles silver threads around the rooms door, creaking it close and sealing them from view, “He’s all yours”
In the corner of the room Geoffrey calls upon his will and his spectral form comes into hazy view on the edge of Nicks vision, the recent wounds still evident on his plasm
“You’re trying our patience” Geoffrey wails.
Nick screams, bowel and bladder voiding in terror as he drags himself away from the apparition
“Now, before we were talking about a he” Michael says “Who’s he?”
“Walter. Walter Stephenson” Nick shouts
“Good. Now in the future remember this and take better care of people. We can return any time we want”
Nicks eyes roll back into his head and he sags to the floor unconscious.
Calmer now Michael looks to Geoffrey again “Thank you my friend, I couldn’t have done it without you”
“I’ve been waiting to do that since we got here” Geoffrey replies “Pity I can’t levitate items, or we could really have had fun”
“Well, I’m heading out again now, best make yourself scarce Geoffrey. We don’t want to pt the fear up them”
There are some newcomers in the main hallway, amongst the catatonic and the collapsed are a small group in business suits, talking rapidly on blackberries”
“We have this in hand” Michael says “Those who can move, help those who can’t. We advise everyone moves away from this area while we resolve the problem”
Amy, the receptionist, looks at them with apprehension “What happened?”
“We will explain afterwards, is there anywhere you can move these people to?”
One of the men in suits moves forwards, interrupting and fixing Michael with a disapproving stare “I have no idea what is going on here. All I can gather is that someone in this business decided to bring you people in and now I find a business filled with catatonic customers. Now I hear you want to move our customers elsewhere as well!”
“Sir” Michael replies “ We are doing what we have to to resolve a situation resulting from two of your orderlies repeatedly physically abusing patients in your care”
A business card is suddenly pressed into Michael hand, Terence and Squib Business Lawyers. Even as he is taking that in the business suited woman who pressed it there says “Do you have evidence, or shall we just prosecute you for slander against my client?”
“Mam, if you like we can call the police and test for pigment in your patients systems”
The resulting tirade includes threats of prosecution for nearly everything in the book. Geoffrey whispers unseen into Michael ear “Lets make the call”. Fiddling with his phone Michael types “First lets get a full confession from Nick. Can you handle?” and holds it where Geoffrey can see it.
On reading this Geoffrey wanders back into the sealed room where Nick slumbers, and concentrates, making his spirit form manifest physically. Upending a nearby glass of water over Nicks head he leans close and whispers “Wakey wakey…boo!”
Suddenly shot awake, Nick scrambles backwards fleeing straight into the main corridor where the other await “Oh god help me please, they won’t leave me alone. Help me” Orderlies pile on him dragging him to the ground where struggles kicking and screaming.
“What the hell is going on here?” the besuited man exclaims
“Something we would already have dealt with if you hadn’t interrupted us. This man feels guilt for his crimes and wishes to make a full confession I believe”
Nicks instantly starts babbling a confession to all he has done, until the lawyer reaches forwards and pressed her hand across his mouth “Not one more word. Not one. Nothing until you have full legal representation, do you understand?” As large muscled men drag Nick off she continues “Mr Cleary, do you wish some legal advice on this matter?”
The businessman now identified as Mr Cleary replies “Get him the fuck out of here. I don’t care what was arranged. Get him out”
“I would not advise that” Michael says” You have three post life entities or similar on your premesis and…
“We do not acknowledge the existence of PLEs” The lawyer says “Get out. Now.”
“Really?” Michael just shrugs and sits upon one of the seats, his eyes closing and head dipping. Moments later the air whirls, objects from all around dragged together in the vague figure of a man “Really?”. The objects collapse to the ground and Michaels head rises once more.
“How needlessly showy”the lawyer mutters with contempt. Notably the only person in the room not shocked by what has just occurred.
“Well mam, you we’re just about to throw me out. I would have preferred something else given the time”
“Well then, we have you on several counts of property damage as well…”
“Mam. We have a situation that is very serious and that is why we are here. Now if we can just deal with this as human beings we can resolve it quickly and leave. A nice bit of compromise. If we can’t deal with each other as human beings then we can have a high publicity court case about the abuse cases here. We just want to resolve the issue and we aren’t even charging a penny. So how about some compromise here?”
“Don’t forget to mention perverting the course of justice” Geoffrey smirks
“Ah yes, lets not forget perverting the course of justice, so what do we say” Michael holds up the phone “Shall I call the cops?”
“We will take you to court and..”
“Very well.” Michael sighs and dials “Police. Yes. I’m sorry but I believe this to be an emergency. We have several pensioners at a nursing home who have been given pigment against their will and physically abused”
It takes about an hour for the police to arrive, and then they do in numbers, toxicology van, forensics and detectives. The lawyer is first to great them with an ingratiating smile, and quickly tries to turn the views of the police to her way of thinking. When Michael sees who is heading up the police he releases a long held breath. The first bit of luck all night. Sergeant Johnson. On the streets Michael had been beaten, falsely, or oft rightly held, and harassed by every police he met. Except one. This one.
Offering a handshake and a smile Michael is pleased at the surprise caused by his presence
“You’ve gone up in the world haven’t you” Johnson says, looking over Michael s new suit.
“I can’t complain. Feels odd, but its far better than the alternative. Best you know, there’s another lad around, James, who is involved and a lawyer hasn’t warned him to keep his mouth shut yet. If you see him he could be a weak link.”
“Well it seems it polite society it’s lawyers that try to put the knife in you. My partner told me that he had seen abuse including breaking the leg of one of the patients”
“Your partner, Tim would that be?”
Michael pauses “How do you know Tim, have you bumped into him?”
“Someone did, at high speed. Car impact with multiple injuries. Being tended to at the local hospital now”
“I hadn’t heard. Listen, I’m sorry to drag you into this”
Johnson smirks sardonically “Well I was just off a ten hour shift, What does another 8 matter. On my anniversary with my wife bitching at me that I’ll be late back. Another four hours of paperwork, it’s nothing. Cold meal waiting for me, then back to the next days shift”
“I’m sorry. They were abusing patients, what else could I do?”
“Well it keeps me away from the missus, so don’t worry. Right, you with the tie” Johnson harangues a nearby suited man “Where’s this Nick character, I’m going to do some digging round here. My eczema is playing up something rotten and you know me. When its playing up I don’t stop digging until I find what I want. Anyone going to get in my way? No? Good.”
In the chaos Michael quickly speaks to Geoffrey “I’m sorry to ask this, but we still have a PLE around and a job to do. I can’t do a thing with the lawyers on me, can you look into it?”
“I’ll keep an eye on Nick until the plods get to him, then I’ll see what I can find.” Geoffrey says. As he wanders off he can swear that the lawyer was looking straight at him for a moment. Keeping an eye on the sedated Nick, he feels eyes upon him again. The lawyer smiles slightly as if seeing him in the room then accompanies Nick out to met the police.
Wandering back past the television Geoffrey sees it crackle once more, a figure in monochrome 1940’s suit and RP accent speaking out of it “*** Fire at Kings Cross*** ay none of the dead are older than ten years***bout Kings Cross. Are they echoes? Are they something else?***Not like us. Don’t go near Kings Cross. There have been disappearances****Orpheus are right**hat they are I have no idea. Radio Free Death signing off.”
Another figure seems to be watching the screen A shadowy old man. The man who Geoffrey had spied fleeing from the room where Nick had been attacked. A man now standing oblivious enthralled by the static of a TV screen. To Geoffrey’s eyes he seems different from the other entities they have seen today, stronger, nearly as strong as an Orpheus agent.
As Geoffrey approaches the tattered grey man turns “Who am I?” He says
“I don’t know. What do you remember?”
“Remember” The man says “I can’t remember. WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER?”his physique shifts, needles like hypodermics rupturing from under his nails, mouth gapes open to show rows of teeth. Before Geoffrey can move the man is on him, tearing at his gauze like it was paper.
In the hallway beside Michael pauses and speaks to the air “Excuse me a moment” before his body crumples to the ground. His spirit released he runs to Geoffrey’s aid slamming his fist into the snarling man’s throat. As the man creature staggers back, fleeing this unexpected assault Michael looks down at ragged holes in his gauze. He had been struck in the confusion of the fray.
“Is it dead?” Geoffrey asks
“No. Escaped. Are you ok. You look ragged”
“My first thought is to say still breathing, but that doesn’t really apply any more. Poor guy looked more confused than aggressive there. Couldn’t seem to work out who he was and it sent him into a rage”
Looking over at his body Michael sees it being wheeled away on a stretcher “One moment”. Returning his spirit to his body Michael rises, wincing at the pain in his ribs, a reminder of the spectral battle before. Geoffrey winks at him “Say you felt light headed”
“Sorry I felt a touch faint there, would it be ok to splash some water on my face please, its been a long day?”
Amy walks over to him, with a smile that shows faintly through her streaked mascara stained face “I’ll show you to the toilet”
As Michael splashes water across his face within the toilet facilities Amy starts shaking
“Do you think I’ll be able to sleep after all this? Do you? I’ve got a boy coming, I’m going to bring him into a world, like, like this. I was fine with the idea of ghosts, but they were meant to be nice, beaming us goodwill. Now I’ve seen this. They hurt us. I’m never going to stop seeing that”
Michael thinks long and hard “Ghosts are just like people. You hurt them, they hurt people back. No different. Treat them right and they beam all the good will you need. This man, he was hurt bad by those two, and he’s hurting bad back. That’s all it is, they are just people who got hurt. Just people.”
Amy smiles at that “You’re all right you are.” She pauses “ So, how long were you on the street?”
Michael swallows twice before answering “How did you know?”
“I’ve worked here long enough. Seen people come in. that look in the eye. You spot it after a while. Wait. God, I just remembered. Two months ago. Walter. He was a patient we lost. He had amnesia. Used to talk about his family, about his kids that stopped visiting”
“What you just said is possible the most important thing said all night. Do you have anything of his, anything that can help him remember?”
Amy pauses “You think Walter is doing this. I, I used to talk to him, about the war. About his family. You think he’s doing this”
“He’s been hurt. By Nick and James and he can’t remember who he is. Do you have anything that could help him?”
“Yes, yes. Photo’s and letters, left here when he died. They’re in the car, I’ll get them right now. I’ll be right back”.
Geoffrey watches outside as Amy rushes out to a little Micra car, pulling a box from it. From the corner of his eye he spies the ghost they now know as Walter, watching through a downstairs window with a mournful gaze. A moment of confusion crosses his face and then he vanishes,
Approaching where he was Geoffrey spies him again and offers a hand “Walter. Your name is Walter. The answers are this way”
Walter takes a single step towards Geoffrey then collides with one of the living, his gauze dragged away with their passing. Weeping he slides down the wall.
“I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know anything. Please help me”
“Your name is Walter” Geoffrey repeats “Answers are coming. Please come this way”
“You know who I am?” Walter raises a hand pleading “Please my good fellow help me. Help me”
Michael is there now, moving spreading the photos out around Walter, links to his past “Please Amy, read the letters. He can hear you”
A light comes to Walters eyes “Caroline, is that you” his fingers brush a photo, nudging it forwards.
Amy jumps “Is that him?”
“Yes, he’s asking if you are Caroline” Michael says
“Caroline. His daughter. He thinks I’m his daughter”
Amy reads the letters for hours, suns shines through the windows as dawn break. Walter smiles, eyes closed, as the past washes over him in Amy’s reading. Finally, as a blood red light fills the room, voice hoarse Amy reads the final letter. Bone tired the Orpheus group watch as Walter sobs silent tears of joy, aware once more.
“I love them so much. Miss them so much, I remember who I am now, what happened to me, what they did to me. They gave me that black drug. The drug that killed me. That is what you have brought me. Memories of everything I have lost….Thank you. Thank you so very much. The memories, they keep me here, I’m not ready to go. Not yet. I need to keep them safe. Will you help me one more time?”
“Whatever we can do” comes the answer.
Amy looks around at Michael words “Is he still here, can he hear me?”
“Of course I can hear you my dear thank you so much” Walter says and Michael relays.
Geoffrey speaks “I am so sorry for what has happened to you, but Nick and Jammy will get their comeuppance”
Michael nods “The police have them now They will never hurt anyone else”
“You’ve read the papers” Walter says “You know the justice system is a joke. What will they get, a computer, an easy ride, a holiday? They won’t even get put away for life when they took mine”
“They will have a life, a life lived in fear. They know what is out there, know we are out here. They will be watching their backs their entire lives.” Geoffrey says
“Perhaps, perhaps they need a pointed reminder of the horror to remind them”
“Orpheus is skilled in watching people, monitoring them. We shall not lose track of them”
At Geoffrey’s words Walter looks somewhat mollified “Very well, for what you have done and will do I thank you both. I would like very much however to see my wife and children”
Geoffrey looks to Michael “Can we get a trace on them?”
When Michael relays Amy answers “Surely he knows his wife is dying. She cannot have long left” Beside her a portrait shudders in its stand “Hey, what did I say?”
“It is ok” Michael says “If you could be so kind as to get us the contact details as quickly as possible please”
As the details are gathered Michael speaks to Sergeant Johnson, making sure it is ok for them to leave and leaving contact number
“Look at you with your smart phone there Michael. Doing pretty well for yourself, any chance you can throw some of that money my way, wink wink nudge nudge “Johnson says before turning to the other cops “Don’t worry I’m kidding, I’m not on the take guys”
Another taxi ride, Michael and his two unseen companions. The hospital is less than helpful as they ring ahead trying to get access to see Walters wife. At Orpheus’ name they are considered cranks and crazies.
By the time they arrive they still have no plan. The Whippscross hospital stands in front of them, huge crumbling Victoria era face , backed by a mix of 70 soviet block look and the worst of thatcher era architecture. With the longest corridor in all of Europe and all the rooms coming off that, finding their target without aid seems a faint chance.
Inside they find the rooms clogged with patents awaiting tending to their injuries, paint peeling off the walls around them. Thin wispy spirits spirits huddled in the shadowed corners. Near thirty medical personnel bustle back and forth through, from one emergency to the next.
Picking the nearest nurse who seems momentarily free, Michael proffers one of Walters letters “I’m sorry mam, I need to get a letter to one of your patients. Would you be able to get it to her please”
“That’s not procedure” the nurse says “Guest can only be in visiting hours and family only”
“I don’t wish to be a guest, I just need a letter to get her. If you can do that I’m gone and out of your life.”
“There’s nothing I can do sir”
Geoffrey, noticing Walter’s eyes flaring with anger once more stands up, and lets loose a strange musical resonance, half cry half sooth. Unheard it still calms the Nurses nerves, soothing the past hours of stress away and she looks back once more.
“Look, I’m really sorry. It’s been a hard night. Just a letter you say? Pass it here, I’ll make sure it gets to her.”
“Geoffrey smiles “Now we just need to follow the letter”
Michael nods. Walter sags once more, his energy fading, gauze torn and translucent. Laying his physical hand over Walters ethereal one, Michael lets his lifeforce flow through. Buttressing Walters will and tying him to existence. Images float between them as he does so. A woman laughing in a wedding dress. Standing over a crib years later, singing a lullaby. A moment waking, breathing reflexively before realising he is dead. Memories. Walters memories. Staggered and drained with his part done Michael drags himself outside and slumps against the wall .Tired beyond rational thought “up to you now Geoffrey” he mutters.
Through the maze of corridors Geoffrey and Walter walk, tracking the letter. Eventually the find themselves in a warm room, utterly quiet but for the low hum of machinery. Tower blacks and patches of green in the distance visible through the windows. As the sun passes behind the clouds their eyes turn to a woman still in the centre of the room. The letter delivered by her side.
The woman, Walters wife lies there. A blanket over her sleeping form, daffodils by her side. Her skin thin like parchment, veins visible below. With a mewling choke Walter steps forwards placing his hand over hers.
“My love. My wife. Oh my darling what have they done to you. I’m so sorry” Looking like a man lost at the end of the world he turns to Geoffrey “What can I do?”
“She won’t be able to hear you directly, but if you wish to speak to her I can relay a message across the shroud”
Stroking her head Walters say “I met her in nineteen thirty one. We are at a ball at Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. I saw her one night, I but a young lad who had nothing. I had to be given money to be able to go there . She was the most beautiful woman n the whole world. Oh my heart broke so if I could not be with her. I courted her, so much, fought off ever single one who wanted her for their own. I even knocked one out who needed it. You called me you knight. That night, the night of our first kiss, I proposed to you. This life and this is how it ends. Our children out there in the world, and you here alone. I am dead, but I love you so much”
The heart monitor pings, her life winding down. With tears in his eye Walter leans closer “My love you have to fight. Whatever threatens to take you, you have to fight. Your time isn’t now. It never is or will be. I have gone, but you are here and you have our children. You cannot go yet, I will wait for your. Whatever is on the other side I will wait for you and welcome you and we will be together. Until death do us part and beyond. The love we had”
“The love you had and still have” Geoffrey says to him.
Walter turns to Geoffrey, “Look after her. Tell her about me. When she is ready but not before then. I need to give her this gift. Thank you, you and your friend, for everything you did. You have done right by me and I will never forget that”
turning back to his wife, Walters lips brush hers. Light pours from him, filling her as he whispers “Goodbye my love, until we meet again” the light grows until it becomes blinding and then he is gone.
The heart monitor pings, and pings and pings again. She draws a breath, strong, pulse rising.
As the surge of emotion washes over him Geoffrey speaks “Rest in peace my friend” and turns away.