Written by alcoholandaphorism
Michael shivers as he sits on the cold ground under a bridge in North London, chewing upon a wrapped baguette. Beside him sits Jack Hicks, an old friend from those years on the street. Jack has been eyeing him suspiciously since he got here. Even dressed down as he is currently it is obvious that Michael has gone up in the world . One of the rich ones now. The untrustworthy. Michael doesn’t push it, just offers food and drink, conversation, then after a while a gift. Some money to help an old friend by. It’s going to go on drugs, Michael knows that, that’s why he brought food and drink as well, he wanted to make sure his old friend stayed fed, but having been there himself he doesn’t begrudge his old friend whatever choice of escape he so wishes.
He waits longer, small talk, until he finally brings up the question he came here to ask, a name. The Deacon. It takes longer still until Hicks speaks again after the name is said. That is bad name. A serious player with ties to most of the street drugs scene. Many of the Deacon’s business associates aren’t seen again, or are found dead. Rumour says the man is a drugs kingpin. Hicks doesn’t know where he is, but he knows people who may know. People in the Stratford area, in Plaistow, the areas of tower high buildings.
Michael nods as he listens, his mind whirring. This is the man who told the two orderlies to spike the care home patients with Pigment. Why would a drugs lord get involved in what would be effectively a gang members sick prank?
Meanwhile elsewhere, Geoffrey has been mulling over what happened since they returned from their first mission. Their manager slash handler, Andy had debriefed them immediately, with a host of Orpheus bigwigs sitting in to watch. Before the intimidating group of ties and suits they had been dressed down for their lack of discretion, and been put on disciplinary for the publicity relating to the hit and run attack on Timothy.
However behind the harsh words it had seemed like the dressing down was more of a formality, a hand slap. The involvement of an Orpheus group in an expose of care home abuse was beneficial in a lot of ways, including leverage with the coalition government regarding outsourcing of care to the private sector. A lot of strings to pull and contacts to gain. It seemed in this, intentionally, a lot of what actually happened disappeared off the radar, much to Michaels dislike from the look on his face. Michael hadn’t said anything though, he owed Orpheus too much to bite the hand that fed him. What had been interesting was the joy Orpheus as a group had expressed at the bloodied nose they had given Terence and Squib lawyers, it seems that those lawyers had been pressuring a lot of Orpheus crucibles and it was nice to gain some leverage to push back. Noting that, Geoffrey had been spending time, getting contacts with Orpheus legal employees, to be called on if needed in future missions.
Timothy Scott, Captain Timothy Scott, however hasn’t been going anywhere. For the past few weeks, after the hit and run attack he has been a 24/7 resident at whipps cross hospital. Flitting in an out of medically induced comas his mind relives the car crash. The laughing grinning face of James standing over him before fleeing to the darkness. The visits from his crucible mates finds him still and inattentive, unbeknownst to them his injuries have not prevented him projecting and he spends his time walking in the spirit where his flesh may now.
Coincidentally, or most likely not, Geoffrey and Michael are finding in their second Orpheus briefing that their next mission takes them back to their colleagues bedside, back to Whipps Cross Hospital. In what Geoffrey describes as Death By Power point they have explained to them in painful detail the background of the hospital, from its creation in the 1700’s to the Victorian façade added later, to the details of its location, an area of extreme poverty and the hospital itself faces massive funding cuts. It is noted that many venture capitalists are viewing the area with interest, ready to carve it up for purchase. Discretion is a necessity this time
The screen cuts to cctv of a Sergeant Higgins lying there. Faint distortions flickering in and out of sight pock across the camera, almost humanoid in shape. Suddenly Higgins thrashes, seized by convulsions that intensify until his neck breaks and he collapses one more. The footage breaks down into sheer distortion, only resuming what seems to be 25 minutes later by the cctvs clock. The body by then is torn to pieces and littered across the screen.
Andy explains that the perpetrator is believed to be an elderly banshee, mirage red class post life entity. She has been seen in what appears to be 1940’s matron garb upon the premesis.
Michael asks “Is the uniform significant? Best I’ve heard there are no ghosts older than ten years old, is there anything we can presume from the usual dress?”
Momentarily caught off guard Andy’s RP accent slips back to his native Nigerian accent, before quickly returning to the standard clipped tones “Frankly I don’t know. All our intelligence indicates there are no PLE’s older than the year 2000. What this is we are not sure”
Timothy Scott could possibly provide answers to some of those question. In his brief moments of lucidity he has been aware of his status, caught between consciousness and death, Aware of the low beep of the heart monitor. Aware of the low murmuring tones of the nursing staff. In his moments he can concentrate enough to project aware of the large number of weak, confused and barely sentient spirits that walk Whipps cross’ hallways whimpering and moaning.
He hasn’t been idle these past few weeks. He remembers James’ face and in the land of the dead he has walker as far as his energy will let him, looking for clues to his presence. Information came from an odd source, a ghost known only as “Joey”, dressed in a hoodie with blurred logo. Eyes like black hollows peaking out for underneath, and fog rolling from his mouth. He had seen Timothy on his spiritual travels, seen the pistol he carried even in ghost form, and impressed with the “heat” he packed had started a conversation. Tim had arranged to do a few favours back in the world of the living to loosen his tongue, burn a couple of splifs in offering on the street corner that Joey had been stabbed, and other items of the like. He started talking then, that Nick had been arrested, gone insane and had killed himself in police custody. More pertinent, that James has shacked up with some one called The Deacon, over at Plaistow. “Blood” Joey had said “If ye be going for this guy, you’re going to get yourself shanked up proper”.
That was then, now Timothy Scott wanders the wards halls, the pistol weighing down on the inside of his jacket. He can see thee marks on the living he passes, the marks of their coming deaths. People litter stretchers alongside the side of the corridors, the beds already long full. As he passes through the paediatrics units his eyes focus on a spirit, different from most. An elderly woman of about 90 years in a tattered matrons outfit, her gauze weak indeed. She crones mournfully, her arms open in supplication over the cot of a tiny baby. A premature child, no larger than a human hand. As Tim watches the flicker of life in the child wavers and dies.
As living doctors pile into the room, desperately trying to revive the lost child, the matron’s head sags down with grief. Without even seeing Tim she walks from the room and out into the corridor, walking through the end wall as if it wasn’t there. Running after her, Timothy leave s trail of his spiritual self as he charges through the wall also, finding himself in a disused run down area of the hospital.
Battered desks and rusted iv drips litter around derelict beds and small hosts of weak spirits huddle in the wreckage. Some don’t even look human any more, barely humanoid shadows that flit across the floor. One catches Tim’s eye, a soldier, tattered in gauze and features indistinct. The badges of service from the second Iraq war the only identifying elements. In the centre of this the Matron stands over a table, her hand passing through a pen over and over again without comprehension of the reason for her failure.
Outside Whipps Cross Hospital Geoffrey and Michael are finally arriving by cab, Michael in the flesh, Geoffrey in the gauze. The sun is dimming in the horizon, fading behind a tree line that is so rare to see in London these days. They set up shortly in Timothy’s hospital room, Michael balancing a paper on his knees and letting his head sag forwards. To anyone watching it seems as if he fell asleep while reading to his comatosed comrade. In the spirit realm, Geoffrey sees Michael’s gauze project from his flesh to join him. This should allow them to investigate with the required discretion. “Lot less spirits than last time we were here” Michael mumbles “In a hospital they should be staying the same or rising, hope it’s not a bad sign”
“So, what’s the plan?” Geoffrey asks
“Most of the incidents are happening around Dr Tanner and Dr Shaw. Guess we find the Doctors coffee room, find them, and follow them to see if there’s any clues”
It takes nearly two hours of searching, but they find Dr Tanner and follow him to his office. A mid 40’s man, he sits at his desk, head in hands and a decanter of whisky soon retrieved from his desk for a healthy measure. The dim VDU screen shows a half written report on a death on the ward. A baby, premature born but deceased under strange circumstances.
The mobile phone rings, breaking the silence “Hello darling. Yeah, been one of those days “Tanner says “Death on the ward. A baby. Yeah, I’m ok. Had to break the news to the parents. Pathologists report should be back soon to give us an idea what the cause was as I have no idea. Third death this week on the ward.”
“What do you think. Should we check out the wards?” Geoffrey asks
“The doctor doesn’t look involved. Sounds a good plan. I’d suggest one of us stay here, but I don’t want us to be without backup if things go wrong” With that they leave the Doctor as unseen as they arrived.
Back in the broken down unused ward the Matrons eyes flicker up. Gold light flowing through her from Tim’s palms. Vitality flowing from him to her rising her to self awareness. Images flow from her to him and their energies merge. A ward in 1939. Dozens of young men around her. Word War 2. Weeping and moaning fills the air. Those with lost and amputated limbs crushed together. A single man sticks out in memory. An America GI with slick hair and a small moustache. She is blushing at something he said but that doesn’t deter the man from continuing
“This night’s going to live forever. You and me. We’re going to see the end of this, the end of Adolf’s
doing, and you know what, after this I’m going to marry you”
“You can’t say that. It’s not professional. I’m a nurse here”
“I’m a soldier, and the rules of war are different. If we can make something here, that makes everything we did worthwhile.”
years skip by with the memories a voice in the darkness
“Mum, mum, I have to tell them”
“No, I don’t want them to see this, to see me like this. My grand kids. I want their memories as I was, not me being here in a place like this”
The memories stop, connection severed and Tim is aware of the suddenly aware Matron looking at him
“Young man, do you think it is entirely proper to touch a woman of my station in such a manner”
Recognising her reaction Timothy Scott quickly drops into a character that would not alarm her
“My apologies. I wished to attract your attention without alerting the patients” he indicates to the shadowing spirits around them
“Oh yes” The Matron looks as if only just seeing them “The patients. My rounds! I am late already. Tell me sir, where you here to see someone?”
“I’m from the military medical core. I’m here to report on the situation” Tim says, quickly establishing a cover.
“Oh how brave you must be for them to send you here, with all those men dying in the war against the Fuhrer. Sir, what rank are you?” The Matron asks
“Captain. Captain Scott. No relation” Tim smiles but the Matron makes no response to his little witticism.
“So Captain Scott. Are you going to help? Are these men who served their country going to find themselves with a pension at the end of this or are they just going to be written off?”
“I will do my best, with whatever power those above give me”
As the Matron leads Tim back through the wall into the wards they discuss the second world war which the Matron still imagines herself to be within, of the old rogue Winston and the battles that in reality have long ago ended.
“It’s always the young and the brave of a country that bear the brunt in time of crisis. So Captain, how many people have you seen lost in action”
“An honest one. So with all these crimes of war, these men whose names are on a memorial from the great war, all those who never came back, yet we find the war happening again. With all that and this so called just war, tell me, is it just to you Captain? Is it worth it. Is the madness of the Germans so much that these horrors can be justified?”
“Certainly there are those who believe they do a good thing” Tim says “and maybe they can justify the moral hypocrisy of what they do to their fellow humans. I, I cannot give an honest answer. I am still trying to answer it to myself”
The Matron looks with respect “You are very very honest. A dangerous trait for man in your position. I have heard tales from Germany, what they are doing. I cannot think it is but madness that grips then, a madness that will lead to the downfall of Europe. I have to believe that in facing Mr Hitler we are doing something good”
“To commit sin upon those who do the sinning is vengeance not justice, to do justice we must reach the people who do such things” Tim says
“My, my, a philosopher as well. Are you married sir? You should see my Roger, a darling man, an American. Once he returns from service in Africa we are to be wed”
Turning the corner into the paediatrics ward Captain Timothy Scott comes face to face with his projecting colleagues Geoffrey and Michael. Not spying the two newcomers the matron moves to alongside a child’s cot. The child looks wasted and thin, his skin tight across a visible skull, The spirit signs of the leukaemia that ravages him is unmistakable.
“I don’t know what I can do for him. I can feel his pain. His suffering” the matron says “Where are the nurses? Where are the doctors?” she looks around as if seeing the word for the first time “What is this machinery? I’m. I feel., What is this?” confused her hand goes to stoke the boys face and she watches it pass through without touching. “Captain Scott, where are the doctors? No boy should have to suffer like this”
“I’ll see if I can find some on to help” Timothy says as he approaches his colleagues “Sorry, I’ve not been briefed yet. What are you here for?”
Michael looks over at the matron “Strange, you seem to have found our main suspect already. Last time in the care home the man didn’t know what he was doing. It is possible we are seeing the same thing here, she may not be hurting them intentionally”
Tim looks back at the matron “She was standing over a child before it died, if she did anything, or if now, or…” he pauses “Well, shit”
“Be careful “Geoffrey says “Orpheus has classified her mirage red, she may seem benign now, but if she turns hostile she may be able to deal out some damage”
“She seems to be waiting for her husband, named Roger” Tim offers
Michael looks again at her antiquated form of dress “Has she given any indication of when she passed away. Her clothes don’t seem to match the ten year limit”
“She thinks she is in the second world war, it is like she is older that she is supposed to be. I wonder if we are being hoodwinked” Tim muses, nervous now
Geoffrey’s mind reels, sight dragged away from the here and now. A bed. A man, both his legs lost. The matron pleading with a shadowy figure half formed. A guttural rasp and scream as chains dig deep into the spirit of the man and tears him to pieces. The matron fleeing
“Ah crap” Geoffrey mutters, his mind snapping back to the present “Something’s closing in. Watch yourselves.” His eyes flicker to the sick child, no older than 11. Threads of fate around him tightening and soon to be cut short “The child is in danger”
“Excuse me” Tim says to the matron as he slips the pistol free. Michael lays his hand upon Geoffrey’s shoulder, their vitality merging ready to aid one another in a coming conflict.
Lights flicker and still. In the darkness the matrons voice sings out in a crooning lullaby. In the stochastic burst of returning light the living child tosses and turns. Then the walls seem to fold in, no something steps forth from them. A barely human cadaver from nightmares. A hybrid of flayed dog and the atrocities of death camps. Needles puncture from its skin and hooked chains swing from its ribcage. Its tongue flicks forth, another chain that tastes the air, impossibly long arms sway back and forth in the air, reaching for prey. Laughing it steps past the projectors towards the boy. Its skin ruptures and chain after chain unfurls to wards its prey, the metal moaning softly.
“Hit it” Michael says and lets the anger he holds so tight loose, flowing through Geoffrey, bolstering his energy. Holding this new found anger in, Geoffrey reigns back his scream, a scream that can tear apart gauze and stone. He wishes to warm off the creature, not kill it.
Realising it is under attack the creature bubbles with necrotic fire that bolsters it, pushing through the pain. Bolstering his spiritual plasm past any normal human limits Timothy tries to step in, pistol barking once and again. The creature barks, bites and tears, but its rage cannot find purchase on the juggernaut of reinforced plasm that now makes up Timothy’s form. It snaps, and roars, pushed back, but its tongue chain spits out hooking into the living child’s form, tearing it’s soul free. The creatures jaws close fast, ready to crush down on this delicate morsel, but a single final gunshot sounds and the creature screams in pain. The chain tongue severed and the child freed. Denied, it retreats back into the darkness and leaves the panting projectors wondering what they just faced.
“Is everyone ok? Speak to me” Tim barks.
Geoffrey just sits silent “Geoff? Geoff? Speak to me”
“Physically? Still in one piece” Geoffrey replies.
The rage still running through him, Michael turns to shout at Geoffrey, to ask him why he held back, but seeing his mournful face the anger sputters and dies. Silent they all look to the confused child spirit lying before them. The child’s plasm thin and washed out. Behind them the Matron returns to repeating basic actions unaware, the energy that maintained her higher consciousness spent now.
“Who are you?” The boy says “Are you here to help me?”
“Yes” Tim says “We are here to help you”
“Are you doctors? Is my Mum here”
“Can you tell me your name please” Tim asks
“Mikey, Mikey Jones. Is my Mum here, she’s called Denise but I call her Mum”
Tim carefully talks to the child, getting his family’s address and the other details he will need to contact them in the land of the living. The child still seems confused, sat in ghostly replica’s of spider man pyjamas, hair a bright red mop as he looks around the darkened room
“What happened? What was that thing? It was like something from Doctor Who. Is it Doctor Who? Is he here? Am I still ill? I don’t feel ill any more”
“I’m afraid I have some bad news for you” Tim looks over to his colleagues for aid
“Michael shakes his head “That thing is still out there. Don’t doubt it will come back. I’ll go with Geoffrey and try to put it down”
Cursing inside Tim turns back to the child, who looks more alive now that he did in his sickness living. “Listen. I need to explain some very complicated things very quickly, so I need you to listen”
The kid smiles “Are you a solider. Did you have a Tank? I’d love to have a tank. A tank that turns into a robot. Do you have a robot turning tank” Tim shakes his head no as the boy continues on with no end to his enthusiasm “I don’t want to see that man again. He was ugly. And bad. I don’t want to be bad. I’m a good boy, my mum says I’m a good boy. Will she be here soon?”
Tim looks away as he speaks “It is difficult to explain this . The bad man, the man who wished to do harm, Well, he did harm enough to….Well, do you know ghost stories? Well you know there are good ghosts, like Casper the friendly ghost. There are good ghosts and bad ghosts. That thing we scared off was a bad ghost and it tried to do very bad things to you”
“Ghost stories scare me” the kid whispers, his eyes roaming, and finally settling upon his body “That bad ghost. It did a bad thing to me didn’t it”
“Yes. Yes it did”
“My mum. Will I see my mum again?”
“You will see her, but she will not be able to see you” Tim replies.
As the child finally cries, realising what has happened to him, Tim leans in and holds him close. Holding him as he sobs.. “My mum says I shouldn’t cry. I want to be strong for me mum”
“Your mum needs to know you are ok. Can we tell her that?” Tim asks
“But I’m a ghost. A ghost. Does that mean I can do ghost things. Can I walk through walls?”
“I can, which means you can as well”
“Can you teach me? Can I fly? Like superman? Can I make them see me. I want to apologise. I didn’t mean to let the bad man get me. I don’t want them to get mad”
“I’ll let you in on a secret” Tim says with a smile “I can pass messages on to them from you. Think of it as if I’m just visiting here for now, but I can go back. Wake up, and do things in the world for you. It’s just like I’m having a dream now”
Mikey thinks for a moment “Can you tell them I’m not sick any more. Oh and that I’m sorry for taking that bag of sweets, A mix bag. I took them from Jess and then said I didn’t.
“I can do that, the journeys going to be long for you from here on, we need to make sure that you say everything you need to say to your mum and your sister. That there’s nothing left behind that you feel worried or sad about”. And so they talk, of regrets and family. Fears and hopes, until finally Timothy rises, the creature that did this still walks the corridors
“I don’t want to be left alone” Mikey says “Can I hide in that cupboard, just until mum comes” without waiting for a response he stands, pushing himself through the solid door. Moments later his face pokes through again “Ok mister. Wow this is cool. Im going to hide in here for now.”
Michael and Geoffrey have not been idle, stalking the corridors, looking for the creature that attacked them. Michaels hands falls to his pockets, searching in vain for the reassuring feel of a sharp clump of metal that would be there in the physical world. Nothing usable here in the spirit world. Unless.. “Excuse me” he mutters “I’ll be back in a moment” Alone he searches for something half felt, calling to him. In a deserted room amongst rusted iv stands and our of date surgical dressing there is wound a length of chain, a chunk of metal that moans softly a metal of this world of the dead. As he looks he can see faces writhing under the surface. Slipping if from the chain Michael conceals it in his pocket. With his impromptu shiv hidden he returns to Geoffrey and the two try to follow the necrotic taint left in the creatures wake. Despite their best efforts the thing seems nowhere to be found
Timothy, looking to join his two companions steps out into the corridor, lights flickering as he steps forwards. A pool of light forms in front of him, haloing around a woman, the matron spirit who walks alone through the wards. Shadows creep across the ceiling above her, cast by no light here, and form into a falling creature of chain and hooks, the creature they faced before.
Anti light radiates from it as it pounces down upon the matron, chains burying deep into her and tearing at her wraith self. Her screams food for its appetites. Two rounds bark and the creature turns, ichor dripping from its wounds. Pistol in hand, kneeling in firing position Timothy takes an unnecessary breath and aims once more.
The creature bites deep, taking another chunk from the matrons spirit, glutting itself on her pain, then leaps towards Timothy with a roar, It charges through round after round,its unnatural arms reaching. With a final leap it is upon Tim, its needles piercing and tearing his gauze. Calm to the last, Timothy focus through the pain, through the leap and rage and fires twice more. Point blank range and the creatures own weight driving it down onto the bullets that impact its skull result in a shower of ichor and the creature rolls headless across the ground. Holding his side Timothy shifts, gun still covering the quivering body. The body headless but still pawing at its surroundings.
As Tim watches the ground buckles and from beneath it erupts a shaft of black nothingness, accompanies by howls of frustration and deep seating, long denied pleasure. Hundred of malformed limbs reach out and grasp the fallen creature dragging it down beneath the earth. Decapitated though it is the creature fights with all of its last energy, its chains digging grooves in the ground, trying to claw a last moment of escape.
A voice speaks to Tim “Oh Tim, Tim, I’ve been waiting for you so long. Those things we did in Bosnia. Why don’t you follow him. End it all here.” with a final scream the creature is torn through the portal. The voice that speaks it cuts short as the portal snaps shut, and only then does Timothy recognise the voice as his own.
Without time to question what has just happened Timothy staggers over to the Matron, turning her over to face him. She is badly wounded, chain marks clawed what would be fatal wounds if she was still alive. His wounds, shattered ribs, legs askew and where vital organs would be now impaled, no less dangerous “Its over” he rasps, trying to keep movement to a minimum “The thing is gone”
Turning he sees Geoffrey and Michael, just arrived, staring at him, their eyes examining the surroundings looking for hints of the creature
“No need to stand like deer in the headlights. Its dead” Tim says
“We already knew that” Michael says with a relived smile “I take it you mean it is not here any more”
Seeing Timothy’s injuries Geoffrey steps forward, letting their energy merge, healing his wounds. With it go memories. Looking out underwater through a car windscreen, the windows buckling beneath the waters weight. Struggling desperately with the seatbelt. A young woman beside him. Child and dog behind. The water comes on. Never stilling. The memory fades.
Geoffrey matches Timothy’s eyes, seeing the man’s military bearing fade for a moment. A tear breaking from behind his eyes. Eyes that look with Geoffrey with new understanding.
“I wasn’t about to lose you too” Geoffrey says, breaking the moment
Days later and Michael is wishing that he wasn’t the only projector capable of walking right now. The others watch him in spirit. Timothy feeding facts and figures to him, sharing the information a no longer sick child told to him.
In front of the hospital there stands three figures, Two parents and a sister. Bereaved and mourning. He has to step into their grief. The first words comes hard as he steps forwards, telling them names, Addresses. Apologies and events. Things he could not ever have known. He tells them of a sick boy, sick no longer who needs to speak to them from beyond the grave.
He can see their thoughts rushing across their faces. Anger from the father, anger at the false hope at being used, scammed by a stranger. Wish to believe from the mother and confusion from daughter. As he speaks on and on the expressions change to acceptance and then tears. Hugging one another in the parking lot they weep freely as Michael says all that he hears. Standing alone, neither with the spirit nor the family Michael can but watch the effect of his words. The sorrow and relief mixed.
Somewhere in the hospital a child hides in a cupboard, waiting for Timothy to come. To bring the board games again and play. To show the bright comics from the world of the living. A child, no longer sick, who walks the corridors looking for other children recently dead, to show them they are not alone, and in that , maybe, he is a good ghost, a friendly ghost.
At midnight, on a television screen filled with static, an image speaks that only the death touched can hear. In perfect RP clipped pronunciation he addresses them amidst the static“Out there there a***** ghost that will not rest**** hunger for nothing more than oblivion. They are monst*** abominations. They are the antithesis of hope, joy **rcy and pity. There is nothing human there. They are what ***efore us called Spectres. They hunt and wish to do nothing more than to destroy all that breathes******* to wherever they came from. Gentle listeners do not go gently into that long dark night. Fight, fight the dying of the light. ***rpheus have encountered something I had long hoped buried but **** out there and they hunger and hunt us. Gentle listener. Fight them, for your soul is at stake. This is radio free death wishing you a pleasant and convivial evening.