“Even in this shitty state, dead men make the news if they die right.”
Consciousness returns slowly, like dark, heavy rapes being drawn aside by unseen hands.
“Prisoner X89132, time of death; 10:02 PM.”
Em can feel his face, chest, and belly pressing down against the floor. A tortured groan gathers deep inside him, but no matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to release it. When he tries to breathe, he can’t feel even the slightest movement of muscles or ribs. There is no cool rush of air in his throat and lungs.
He’s not sure for several moments whether his eyes are open or closed. Everything is so dark. Shadows seem to swirl and pulsate at the edge of his sight like phosphenes.
But, through the gloom. Glowing figures dressed in uniforms are zipping up a body.
It has a beard.
It looks twenty years older.
It looks dead as a doornail.
That’s not a complete surprise.
He looks at himself, dazed.
GM: His surroundings are bleached of all color, like he’s in an old movie. Everything comes in blacks and whites. Or more accurately, blacks and grays. He does not see very much white.
But he looks down at two whole legs.
Emmett: Holy shit. I just died. I just died. I’m dead. There’s another side. Wait, does this mean God exists? Wait, does that mean I’m going to hell? Wait… am I a fucking…?
GM: Em’s decades-older face disappears beneath white plastic. The glowing figures pack up the heart monitor and intravenous lines that administered the fatal poison. They chat amongst themselves. Their voices are somehow distant and faraway.
“Was kinda funny. Usually they say they’re at peace with God or for their families to be strong.”
“See ’em all, I guess.”
Emmett: He gets to his feet—feet!
“Hey!” he calls. “Whoo-hoo!”
He even throws in some jumping jacks for good measure.
GM: No one looks at him.
“Let’s get this wrapped up. Jen thinks I’m cheating on her when I’m out too late.”
“Doesn’t she know when you work?”
“Doesn’t matter to her.”
“That’s pretty crazy.”
“Well… she is a woman…”
Emmett: He examines his clothing, his body. He realizes how absurd it is to be happy to not be a legless sack of shit given the circumstances, but on the other hand, he finds it hard to be too disgusted.
GM: He’s wearing a black sports coat, matching slacks, and leather belt. White shirt, popped at the collar. No tie. It’s stained with droplets of blood and beer, and torn in a couple places.
Emmett: “Okay, okay. Uh…”
He glances around at the figures.
GM: They’re glowing. They’re luminous with light. He can feel… energy wafting from them. It’s faint. Mostly impatience or boredom, the anticipation of things yet to come. But as he stares at them more closely, he can feel those things too. A lover’s perfume in his nostrils. Butter-slathered cornbread in his mouth. A laughing child in his arms. The feelings and sensations warm him like a ray of summer sunshine on a cold winter day.
But not all of them do.
One is men is breathing with such labor. Em can see how his lungs are blackened and filled with congealed tar. More blackness lines his throat. He can see the man in a hospital, coughing and wheezing over the beeping of machines. He can see the man dying.
Another man’s heart is grossly swollen like an overripe fruit. Em can hear it beating, furiously, but the rhythm is off. Fat sluggishly travels through clogged arteries alongside blood. Em can see the swollen heart collapsing like an overworked horse, the man wheezing and gasping as he crumples to the ground, clutching his chest.
Emmett: “Oh, fuck!” He staggers back. “Shit!”
He approaches the struggling man, or ghost, or whatever the fuck, and holds up his hands, cautiously reaching out to touch the one who sounded like Jen’s husband. “I—hey! Can you hear me!?”
GM: His hand passes through the man like he’s not even there.
The man seems to frown at something, but doesn’t turn around.
Emmett: “Oh. Fuck,” he whispers.
“This is… this is really happening. I’m not just insane. I’m not just insane. Ohgod. Ahhhhh. Wow. I’m… I’m a… ghost?”
He holds his hands to his head.
“I… Lena. I need to find Lena.”
He tries to get a sense of his surroundings.
GM: He is in the same execution chamber where he was put to death. The same phones. The same curtains, for the executioner and the witness’ window. The same execution… gurney, with the same leather straps.
He almost does a double take when he looks at it. It’s coated in blackened veins, like a heroin junkie’s gangrenous arm. Dripping needles stick out from everywhere like a hedgehog’s quills. They drip with a steady, oil-like black ichor whose sight makes Em’s skin—the skin he no longer has—crawl. The smell is beyond putrescent. It makes him sick to his stomach. The stomach he no longer has.
That’s when he notices the men are gone. The whole of the execution chamber stands empty. It’s darker, too. It’s as a cold, clammy sensation slithers up the back of Em’s neck to the base of his skull that he observes the chamber’s lights are dead.
And, in the distance.
Emmett: “That’s not good. Fuck. That, uh, really doesn’t sound good.”
He searches desperately for a place to hide. There’s always a place to hide in the movies, and he’s apparently wandered onto a set.
GM: They’ll get you.
The bare room is bereft of any contents save the ‘chair’ where he died, and a tattered, threadbare curtain for the executioner to administer lethal injections from behind.
Emmett: “Okay, fuck.”
Walls. He hasn’t tried running through walls yet.
He really, really hopes he can run through walls.
He sprints—he can sprint!—towards the far wall, in the opposite direction from the noise.
GM: That won’t work.
Emmett: He scrambles to a stop. “Wait, what?! Are you kidding?!”
He tries not to pinwheel himself onto his ghostly ass.
GM: Go ahead. Try it yourself.
Emmett: “Have you ever heard of constructive feedback? I’m open to ideas! Oh, also, what are you?”
GM: Em furiously whirls around. He has the horrible sensation that eyes are watching him from the darkness. Studying his every move. Toxic ichor drops from the chair’s needles.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
I can show you a way out, but you’ll need to do something for me.
Emmett: “Well, don’t say it all at once, we have so much time to kill,” he snarls.
GM: Yeah, they smell the new meat. Wish me strong.
Emmett: He blinks. “Sorry?”
Picture me. Me, getting strong. Off of you.
Emmett: This sounds exploitative and slightly predatory, and he should know—but when you’re already bent over the barrel, it’s not like things can get much worse.
Unless he’s about to get his legs cut off again, which would actually be awful.
He closes his eyes and imagines this… thing, tapped into him like a bigass mosquito. Imagines a trickle of pain and weakness as whatever he’s made of slinks into it, feeding it…
GM: Yeah, that would be pretty awful. So just another normal day in your life.
Emmett: Wait, it can hear him? In his…
GM: The words are delivered without any mockery or passion. Just a statement of fact. It’s true. Every day in his life has sucked, these past few weeks. Months. Longer.
Not that you have a life anymore.
He looks down. His skin isn’t paler. It’s grayer. Less alive. Less… there.
The chamber’s door doesn’t open. It’s torn away, into a writhing mass of huge, indistinct shapes, as black as holes punched in the night. The chorus of wailing cries is so loud that it hurts Em’s ears.
Oh, you should think about Lena now. Think about her really hard.
Emmett: “SHIT! SHITFUCK!”
He scrambles backwards, putting the chair between him and… whatever the fuck that thing is. When he hears the words, his eyes close.
“Think of it like a shot.”
“What are they going to do to my family, Em?!”
“Thanks for being honest.”
A lifetime of mistakes and exploitation and taking her for granted.
Em thinks about it, and wishes to hell he didn’t have to.
GM: Em can’t see what comes next. He hears the cries, so very close—mad and feral as a rabid beast’s, yet almost tortuously human in their quality. Then he’s floating through solid fog.
If there’s a place where thoughts people don’t want to think about all go, this feels like it.
GM: A second might pass. Or a thousand years.
Em opens his eyes.
He’s in a hospital room. Like the one he spent so long in, before everything went to hell. Lena’s in the bed. Her wrists are covered in bandages and handcuffed to the frame.
Emmett: He stares. “Len…?”
This isn’t right. It doesn’t make sense.
GM: Lena gives no response. Her eyes are closed.
Emmett: He gets close to her, not bothering to speak. He reaches out a hand for her. “What…what happened?” he asks. He sounds like a damn five-year-old.
GM: His older sister remains silent. Up close, her skin is aglow with light. Not like his gray and faded hand. Not like the men he saw in the execution chamber, either. Her light is much fainter than theirs. The edges of her skin seem almost translucent.
Her hair is grayer and thinner, too. The lines on her face are deeper. The once-plump woman, who’d never quite shed the extra pounds from her two pregnancies, looks like she’s finally lost weight. She doesn’t look fitter, though. Her hollow and jaundiced skin seems to hang loosely over a skeleton that’s still several sizes too small. Translucent black ichor slowly seeps from her handcuffed wrists.
Emmett: “What…” He reaches out to touch the toxic sludge, even as instinct tells him he really, really shouldn’t.
GM: It comes away underneath Em’s fingers and stains them dark.
This is your fault.
Emmett: He starts at the voice. “I don’t understand. I told her about Bud. I… I told the truth. I fixed it!”
The last is more yelp than a yell. Hadn’t he taken it back, when he hung up on his younger self? Hadn’t he made it right?
GM: You’ll never make it right.
Look at those handcuffs. They don’t put those on hospital patients just for kicks, dumbass. I mean, you’d know pretty well there.
Emmett: “She didn’t do anything wrong,” he mutters, pathetic in his attempt to undo what he’s seeing.
GM: Hey, you’re right about something. She didn’t. Let’s wait until she wakes up and tell her that. I’m sure it’ll make everything better.
Maybe not though. She was pretty ticked when she last saw you. Wonder what she’d say now.
Emmett: He tears his gaze from her. “What are you?”
GM: There is no response.
Emmett: “Come on. Please? You’re hanging around, so clearly you have something to do with me.”
GM: Em can hear nothing but the steady beeping of Lena’s medical equipment.
Then there’s a distant, hair-raising scream.
Emmett: He blinks and recoils, searching for two directions—one to flee from, and another to run to.
GM: The two directions are one, for there is but a single door into Lena’s room.
Emmett: He glances at Lena—has she reacted?
GM: Her eyes remain closed. No expression crosses her features.
Emmett: This no running through walls thing is a real bitch, he thinks, trying to first open the door with his spectral hand, and if that doesn’t work, attempt to just… phase through it.
GM: Em’s hands passes through the knob like it isn’t there. So does his body. He smashes headfirst into a mad-eyed, glowing and luminous figure like Lena, with a silver cord trailing from their back.
Amelie: Amelie feels like a bull, suddenly crashing through halls she has no idea how she’s gotten into, then blindsided by a solid force. Worse, a moving force, yelling obscenities, come to take her to that hellscape.
The mad-eyed young woman turns back to face it. She keeps one hand behind her back, grabbed to her tether. She holds out the other one in a balled fist, ready to defend herself if this thing, whatever it is, can see her. She carefully skirts back and snarls,
“Get away! I’m warning you, I’ll kill you twice, you vampire fuck!”
Emmett: “Shit!” he repeats again. “Wow, fuck! Please don’t!”
It’s a man, looking quite the worse for wear despite his handsome features, and currently holding his hands up in a desperate attempt at appeasement.
As he does, he rakes his eyes over her. “You… don’t seem like a monster.”
Amelie: It speaks. It hears her. Amelie’s wild eyes rake over the ’man’s’ form. She still looks like she’s convinced she can cut him in half with her nails.
“You! You’re not a black haze. What are you!? We’re in Limbo, aren’t we? Are you a monster?”
GM: Amelie can just barely make out the contours of the man’s shadow-drenched face against the hospital corridor’s eerily flickering lights. His skin isn’t like hers. It’s pallid and gray. Leeched of color.
Emmett: The sheer absurdity of it strikes Em as he clambers, cautiously, to his feet. “Why,” he grates, “would a monster ask you if you’re a monster, and fall on his ass when the scary glowing bitch bumps into him out of nowhere?”
Amelie: “Demons lie,” she spits. “I was running down the hall, and you-”
Amelie suddenly looks at to the door, then back towards the man. She’s out of her hospital room and this man walked through a door.
“Fine. I’ll bite. Who are you?”
Emmett: “A ghost, I think. I mean, I was alive not that long ago, but seem to be rather distinctly deceased at the moment. Name’s Em.”
He stars her up and down, trying to take in specific features past the luminous aura.
“And you are…?”
Amelie: Amelie looks past him to see if there’s a silver cord. She sees none.
“You can call me Amy, Em. I am… not exactly sure what’s happening with me. I’m sorry you died.”
She pauses a moment. The terror shivering through her veins is starting to lessen.
“Have you looked outside yet?”
Emmett: “No. I’m reaaaaally new to this, actually. They killed me, I think, a few hours ago.”
He shakes his head.
“You… you’re not dead. What are you doing here?”
Amelie: “DON’T look outside,” she asserts, scanning the hall for any windows.
“I don’t know. Something grabbed me, and everything just went black. I don’t know if I can tell you the rest. You were killed? Murdered?”
Emmett: “Something like that,” he says. “It’s… a long story. So, you’re… who are you, exactly? How did you get here? Besides just getting KO’d.”
Amelie: “There’s no story. I woke up like this, over my body. I couldn’t even get out of my room until I started running from… ‘it’,” she starts.
“Look, help me out, and I might know someone who can help you. How did you get through that door?”
Emmett: He looks at her blankly. “Well, you know. Ghost. Spooooky.” He runs his hand through the door to demonstrate. “All I had to do was die.”
He doesn’t push on her story, although he’s curious.
He’s scared she might return the favor.
Amelie: Amelie holds up her hand. “It just hurts when I do it! Badly! You didn’t think anything? Cross your fingers, pucker your ass, mutter some bullshit, anything? I don’t even know how I got out of that room.”
GM: The surrounding corridor is bereft of windows. It’s choked with dust and debris. The two’s footsteps leave prints. Paint peels from moldering walls. The feeble, flickering lights don’t provide illumination so much as hint at unseen things lurking in the deeper darkness just beyond.
Emmett: He actually laughs at that. “No. Maybe the rules are different for me, though. I don’t look like I just took a bath in a nuclear explosion, though.”
He glances around. “Mind, this whole place looks bombed. Maybe the world’s ended, and we’re just what’s left?”
He sounds… almost hopeful?
Amelie: Amelie shrinks slightly at that and looks herself over.
“What? Am I green? And I doubt that, considering you’re still bleeding from your wrist. Was your hand chopped off? And don’t even… I’m trying not to look at what’s around us. Outside is worse.”
Emmett: “Hmmm?” He stares at it, apparently noticing for the first time. “Oh. No, only my legs. Not sure why that’s happening…” He shrugs. “But hey, apparently ghosts are real, too, so I’m still kind of at a general loss.”
“Look, Amy, I… was less than a perfect person. Decent odds that the answer to why I’m here is ‘because I’m a bad person.’ Which means I might not be safe to hang out with, forever.”
Amelie: “Are you trying to give me a hero’s goodbye? Don’t give me that shit. Ghosts are real, vampire are real, I’m pretty sure demons are real, and that means there are rules to this,” she starts, looking behind herself again.
“Okay, help me figure out how to get back into my body… and I’ll tell you where to find someone who works with ghosts. Maybe she can help you move on, she has other ghosts I’m pretty sure who work for her.”
Something pulls at the back of his mind, ever so lightly.
“Sounds like a deal to me,” he says shortly.
Amelie: Amelie suddenly stands up straight, eyes wide as she scans both directions down the halls. She looks like a rabbit caught in a den with a badger.
“Something’s coming. We need to go. Let’s follow the cord back towards…” she starts, but something clamps in her throat. No. She can’t finish that sentence.
Emmett: “Uh, what?” He gets to his feet, unsure.
Amelie: Amelie feels her feet turn to lead as she turns back towards her room. It’s still too much.
“Shit. Back this way, just go. You have your legs back, use them.”
Emmett: He starts to walk in the direction indicated, first slowly, then with more speed. But then…
“Wait, I hear it from over there.”
Amelie: Amelie pauses mid-jog and turns back, looking down each end of the hall. “Back the other way, then. We need to keep moving.”
Emmett: He follows, content to let her take the lead for now.
Amelie: Amelie stops again and grits her teeth, shuffling her feet like she’s going to piss herself, before taking off the way they heard the noises.
“Shit, I can’t go back there! We just need to move! We’ll get out into a more open area.”
Emmett: “Okay… hospitals have cafeterias, right?”
Amelie: Amelie keeps her eyes glued to the way ahead, just wishing he could go home. “Yes. They do. Why is this relevant as we’re running from what sounds like a woodchipper?”
Emmett: “You said you wanted an open area? We find that, or some place like it, we’ll have a lot more room to maneuver, and places to hide.”
Amelie: “Hide? According to you I’m bright white, and I can’t go through walls. You’ve seen that shitty horror movie with the red face paint guy over someone’s shoulder, right?”
GM: The two run down the deserted corridor, their eerily muted footsteps kicking up thick trails of dust. No hearts pound in their chests. No sweat trickles down their backs.
They simply run.
Indistinct shapes and outlines race past in the gloom. Perhaps doors. Amelie tries not to think of any windows on the other sides. Em tries not to think of how they are running towards the noises.
Noises that are growing louder.
Noises that ring like the staccato clicking of chattering teeth, but heavier. Much heavier.
Noises that are drawing closer. There’s no mistaking it.
They are being followed.
Or perhaps hunted.
Emmett: Shit. Shit.
His eyes comb the hallways, desperate for a passageway, or a stairwell, or a big neon sign that says THIS WAY TO YOUR ETERNAL REWARD. Although come to think of it, the last would probably just deposit him in the middle of a book-club review circle where every other member was Mouse.
He needs to do what he’s always done when confronted with dangerous, fatal truths. He needs to hide.
GM: I might know a few places where you can.
Emmett: He manages to avoid skidding to a halt. “Oh, NOW you can talk!”
Amelie: Amelie starts at the harsh “NOW” coming out of nowhere from Em. She whirls back like a frightened deer.
“What happened? Who can talk?”
GM: They can hear you talk, dumbass. Yes or no.
Emmett: Does she get out, too?
GM: ‘She?’ Looks more like a ‘he’ to me. I mean, that hair…
Emmett: She helped us. She’s coming.
GM: Hey, up to you guys. But get her to shut the fuck up if you want her to come. Both of you. I know, that’s a pretty tall order for you especially, but work with me here.
Emmett: He shakes his head as if to clear it.
“My friend. In my head. Long story. Maybe it’s a ghost thing or I’m genuinely insane. He has a way out of here, but says we need to be quiet, so, let’s do that, okay? Just… be quiet for a minute.”
He tries to deliver the batshit crazy truth of things as calmly as possible.
GM: I said shut UP, dumbass! They can hear you!
Emmett: Oh. So… now they know we’re trying to escape?
GM: Sure as fuck do now.
Emmett Delacroix finds another way to screw himself over. Gosh, who could have seen that coming?
Emmett: Hey, do you want to hustle on getting us out of here?
GM: No promises now. Look for the wheelchair that’s coming up. Push it down the next flight of stairs, it’ll make a ton of noise, and take the ones up…
Amelie: If Em’s voice was just in his head, Amelie suspects it would have died with him. She’s quickly come to know she shouldn’t accept anything as a coincidence.
She keeps as quiet as she can and tries not to dwell on the fact she is running from something at the instructions of a ghost and his imaginary friend. It’s not the strangest thing she’s seen today. Still, she eyes him as they move.
GM: The two run.
Save for the intermittent flickering of the overhead lights, the abandoned hospital corridors are almost pitch black. Some part of Amelie is instinctively wary. Things could lurk in those shadows. Things like the horrible noises drawing steadily closer.
To Em, they seem almost a second home.
He doesn’t run. He glides. He melts into those shadows like his last meal’s nutella over his tongue.
The two reach a set of stairs. One flight leads up. One flight leads down. Em grabs the handles of a solid-feeling wheelchair, then pushes it down the first stairwell. There’s a terrific racket that the two can only hope buys time as their legs furiously pump, taking the decaying steps two at a time, three at a time.
Amelie: Even without sensation in her feet or any sound to Em’s footsteps, Amelie watches Em’s back. She follows his movements like a dance, stepping where he steps and keeping her mouth shut. It helps not to have a pounding heart.
The distraction is brilliant. The direction they actually follow is no less tense, but she bets on this man.
GM: They clear the stairs. Another corridor stretches before them. They run. They take several turns. They keep running. They duck into a side room.
The dust is thick. The darkness is thicker. They huddle to the floor. They cannot hear the hearts that would be pounding in their chests like drums, if they still had hearts that could beat.
They pray their hunters are just as deaf.
Well, that was close. Guess your running mouth didn’t get anyone’s legs hacked off, for once.
Amelie: Amelie keeps her hands clasped and her eyes fixed on the door to make herself as small as she can. She prays that God can still see her in this horrible place, and that nothing else can.
The seconds feel like hours. She swears she can feel the phantom sweat on her back.
GM: Or perhaps she prays for that too. To feel alive, physical, in some small way.
Time stretches. And stretches.
No sounds are audible from beyond the pair’s hiding place. The stale air is silent and still.
Amelie: Amelie still says nothing, just listening to the hall and watching Em as her mind races. Family, friends, all the mysteries she has to dig into now. She needs to finish those letters from confession. She needs to go home, even if she’s sure it’s just as inhospitable. After all this, she just wants to rest, even if it’s in a cell.
For now she just waits, to see if Em or his imaginary friend has anything to say.
GM: Both remain silent.
Perhaps it’s simply all in his head. There are madmen and lunatics enough in the real world who claim to hear voices.
Amelie: Madman listening to voices or not, those voices have lead her to safety so far. She’s willing to delay her judgment for now, especially if she can gleam any way to control her newfound half-death from it.
Emmett: Em looks up at her in the dark. His eyes are faraway.
Hey. Do you have a name?
GM: There is no response.
Emmett: Oh, come on. I don’t know what or who you are, except you apparently get off on watching me try to survive. You know everything about me but don’t seem to have much to do other than stick around. And I might have a big goddamn ego, but even I know I’m not THAT interesting. If you don’t give me a name, or something, I’m probably going to stop taking your advice. Build some trust, this can be a lot more comfortable for both of us. So come on. For both our sakes’. I’m trying to turn over a new leaf, here. Please? Pretty please? Imaginary friend?
GM: Em’s only answer is silence.
Emmett: Fine. Be that way… Mouse.
Emmett: Okay, Gasper the Unfriendly Ghost. Any reason we shouldn’t keep moving?
Amelie: Amelie slowly reaches out to touch Em on the shoulder, to see if he can feel her.
Emmett: He nods, that faraway look retreating. He points above, then to his ear, followed by a questioning look.
Amelie: She looks up and puts her hands behind her ears, listening for any movement.
GM: The abandoned hospital is still and silent to the pair’s ears. There’s no blaring intercom, no ringing phones, no sounds of health care workers exchanging medical jargon, no beeping machinery.
Just complete and total silence.
Amelie: Amelie shakes her head and removes her hands from her ears. Her fingers point down like legs and ‘walk’ towards the door before she gives an alternating thumbs up thumbs down, looking for approval.
Emmett: He tilts his head as if listening, then gives her the thumbs up and starts the belly crawl to the door.
Amelie: Amelie follows suit in a modified way. She carefully stalks through the hall on all fours, not trusting her knees not to slam into the floors. It suits her just fine.
There’s less chance of looking out a window from this low to the ground.
GM: The two progress through the gloomy, dust-lined corridor without apparent incident.
Amelie: That’s two floors between them now. Amelie taps Em again and motions to him whether it’s okay to speak. There’s nowhere for her to go but back into her body, but they need a way to get him to the French Quarter.
Emmett: He shrugs, and mouths the words, Voice gone.
He sits up and looks at her, each mouthed word accompanied by a gesture. Where. Can. I find you.
Amelie: With his face marred in shadows, Amelie has to focus on what he’s mouthing. She’s a little alarmed by the fact his voice seems to have vanished. Has it been taken away? She does her best to be easy to understand as she whispers her answer back. She’s barely even breathing.
“Focus on Tantsy. I can’t control this yet to find you. Give me your full name.”
Emmett: “Emmett Delacroix.” He hesitates. “You… can probably look me up.”
He does not seem thrilled by the prospect.
Amelie: “Amelie Savard,” she offers back. “I will pay you back.”
Now they just need to figure out the mechanics. Amelie doesn’t remember how she’s left her room, much less gotten through that door.
“We should find a place to plan our next move. I don’t want you to have to face… outside unprepared.”
Emmett: He frowns. “How could it be that bad?”
Amelie: Amelie’s face drops as she instinctively re-checks the hall for windows.
“The Superdome. Just… don’t let it see you. You aren’t there, no matter what you see. The rest is just like this hospital.”
Emmett: “…ok.” He isn’t quite sure what he’s agreeing to, but he’s pretty sure it won’t end in her murdering his family.
“So… what are you going to do?”
Amelie: Amelie pauses for a moment. “It’s a tower. Try your best not to look,” she repeats. “I just need to figure a way back into my body. And deal with the real world. Do you know the date you died, by any chance?”
Emmett: “In February. What feels like today to me. They’ll have the date online. Look up Louisiana’s death row executions. I’m pretty sure they said there would be a few journalists when they wheeled me into the chamber. I mean, even in this shitty state, dead men make the news if they die right.”
Amelie: “Five months,” she mutters, mostly to herself. “Death row, you’ll have to tell me about it next time we talk. For now, does that voice of yours have any insights on how it’s going to get you safely to Tantsy?”
Emmett: Em shakes his head. “Gasper the Unfriendly Ghost doesn’t seem to feel like talking.”
Amelie: Amelie taps her chin, her head racing through any possible way to get away from this place without being exposed to the outside. Without it seeing them.
“University campuses and teaching hospitals have steam tunnels underneath. We may be able to get into the sewers from there if downtown NOLA doesn’t have them as well. The CBD has plenty of solid ground for tunnels, right? You could pop up above to look where we are every few blocks.”
Emmett: “That’s not a bad idea, assuming there aren’t ghostly sewer gators or some shit—which with my luck, there might be.”
He regards her carefully. “Are you seriously not freaked out about the whole death row thing?”
Amelie: “Is that seriously what I should be worried about right now? Stuck in the land of the dead, corpse tower fucking watching for me, expecting to see an loa come around a corner any second with a hatchet and a bag? I can only be freaked out about so many things at once, Em. I’m still processing being put into a coma by a demon.”
Emmett: “…point.” He shrugs. “Okay, so, we find the sewers.”
Amelie: “Or the steam tunnels. If they exist. I want to avoid going outside if at all possible. Unless you have other ideas? I’m all ears.”
Emmett: “You have bigger balls than I did at your age. Or most of the years after. I trust you.”
He’s surprised to find that he isn’t lying.
He bends down, and tests the floor with the palm of his hand. Can he phase through it? He doubts it, but his instincts have proven largely useless thus far.
GM: Em’s hands pass through the floor like it’s no more than smoke.
Amelie: “Em? Hey wait! I can’t follow you like that. I don’t even know how I left my room. I ran away from the window and just… ended up in the hall. How are you doing that?”
Emmett: “I just am. Look, just… give it a try.” He raises one of his fingers up through the floor and gives her a wave.
Amelie: Amelie looks over her hand and remembers the pain from last time. But she’s resolute, takes a breath to clear her nerves and puts a hand against the floor, following his example.
GM: Amelie’s hand presses against solid surface.
Amelie: She pulls it back before it does any damage, and gives Em a ‘told you’ look.
GM: She’s doing it wrong.
Emmett: Jesus Christ, are you actually incapable of anything but at least mild criticism? How is she doing it wrong?
GM: Get her to call you ‘master’ and I might have some tips.
Emmett: Huh? What do you mean with that ‘master’ shit?
GM: You don’t think that’s funny? Ask her to suck your dick then. Let’s see how big a dyke she is.
Emmett: Wait, can ghosts even orgasm? Also, I’m not doing that to somebody who’s only trying to help me.
GM: Okay, we can leave her then. Hope she can run fast if those things show back up. Wonder how long that’ll take?
Emmett: Em seems preoccupied, that faraway look once more in place, his smile slipping. “Ok, I’ll tell you what. I’ll scout ahead for a tunnel, but never more than a room or two ahead. Or below. Or adjacent. Lemme see something…”
He squats and, trying to focus on that strange weightlessness that comes with not having a body, tries to kick himself above the ground and float.
GM: He remains grounded.
Emmett: “Damn, I got excited for a second.”
Amelie: Amelie frowns and looks around the hall slowly. Her face slips into sad and fearful resolution. “Em, can you sit with me for a moment?”
Emmett: “Uh, sure.”
Amelie: Amelie presses her back against the wall and slides down it, landing on her ass. Even with his earlier words, more balls than his at her age, she looks like she’s getting ready to start tearing up.
“Repeat the address to Tantsy’s shop to me. I need to make sure you remember it.”
Emmett: He repeats it calmly. He doesn’t get it wrong.
GM: He tries to summon his next words. They choke in his throat.
Emmett: What the…
GM: I said you’d make me do this.
Emmett: What the fuck. WHAT THE FUCK.
GM: Wonder what we should have you say instead? You’ve done such amazing things with that tongue of yours before.
Emmett: Goddammit. Don’t. Please, don’t.
GM: And by ‘amazing’, I mean ‘started his day king of the world, ended it with his legs hacked off from his own stupidity’.
You’ll just turn her against you anyways, knowing you. I mean, you did with Lena. Who’d have thought you’d ever pull that off?
Emmett: Because… I’ll pay you if you don’t. More juice. I don’t want to be that person anymore. Not all the time. You have me over a barrel. Fuck me now and you’ll have to take over every time you want something done. Give me some space, I’ll walk in your lane more often.
GM: Nah, I don’t want juice.
Emmett: I can be a dick to somebody else. Just not her, not right now. I’ll find Cash Money and give him AIDS-inducing nightmares. I’ll tell a little girl that her parents killed her puppy. I just… can I do the right thing? Once?
GM: Boring. Strike two.
Emmett: FUCK. I’ll find Mouse. I owe him, I know I do. But I’ll hurt him. I’ll run him in circles. He’s more fun to mess with than some random dyke anyway, and we need her on our side, okay? I don’t know what the fuck I can do, but assuming at least some ghost stories are true, we can give him a real fucking scare. Let me kick the retard. Not the person who’s actually helpful.
GM: Yeah? How does she help us? We already got the address.
Emmett: She clearly knows the ghost scene better than we do. Oh, and here’s a hint, Ride-along, she’s not dead but she can see us. That means she can either help or hurt us. She can help act as our hands if this Tantsy cunt ends up being a fraud, because I don’t know about you, but I’m only checking it out because I have nothing else to believe in. We KNOW she can deal with us. Tantsy’s a gamble. This kid’s the only thing we’ve met that hasn’t tried to kill us. Let’s not give her a reason to.
GM: ‘This kid’? Someone sure wants to feel like a grown-up. She’s what, a couple years younger than you?
Emmett: Uh, she looks too young for a career in porno. I can legally drink. I feel pretty comfortable. And you’re being a douche instead of arguing, which means…
GM: Yeah, not good enough. But tell you what. I’ll throw you a bone. Lena or the dyke. Your choice which one we fuck up.
Well, even more. You did a pretty good job at that all on your own.
Emmett: What a fucking miserable situation.
GM: You deserve it.
Emmett: Lena’s already gone. I can’t hurt her more.
He hates himself for suggesting it. But they’re far away, and young. And he’s already done the worst he can, and he actually does need Amy as an ally…
Noah and Maya. I won’t hurt them that badly, but I can still make them miserable. You know that’ll hurt me more than hazing some dyke.
GM: Hey, works for me. Go give the dyke your pep talk.
Emmett: He starts to say something else, but he chokes. And then he breathes.
“Look, Amy, I get that shit’s terrifying. And I have it easy, maybe, because once you’ve died, it’s easy to feel like you can’t fuck up any more.”
He stares at her, and his gaze isn’t wise, or mature, but it’s there, and it’s sympathetic.
“You’re scared of losing whatever you’ve built in this life. I get that. I lost a lot before I died, and it doesn’t get less painful once everything’s gone. But you don’t need to panic yet. You actually can’t, if you want to get back to whoever you care about, because unless you’re like me, somebody out there still cares about you, too.”
“Just…” He hesitates, and she can see him grappling with something in his mind, shaking his head as if to clear it of some fog. “…know that you’re still alive. And that matters. You matter. Focus on keeping it that way, and celebrating it, not on how absolutely shit everything is. It’s not great advice, maybe, but… it’s still true. You’re alive.”
He turns away as he finishes.
GM: I think you could improve it though with maybe some queer quote at the end? Like, ‘never apologize for who you love.’ Or, ‘you say be straight, I say taste the rainbow.’ ‘Whoever tries to bring us down is already below us!’
Emmett: Some twisted part of himself gives a little laugh.
It beats crying.
GM: Yeah, thank you, I’m here all week.
Amelie: Em getting emotional doesn’t help the young woman who’s already sniffling and barely fighting back tears. But not for the reason Em thinks. It’s not because she’s panicking. It’s because she knows what’s best here.
“Shut up, Emmett. You don’t know how little I-I matter in life. Right now we’re fighting for your eternity, s-so listen to me,” she starts, taking a shuddering breath in. She’s scared to be alone.
“I can’t move like you. You need to head down into the sewers. Follow my directions, find Tantsy, but leave me here. I’ll slow you down and you can’t afford that. Tell her about me, the girl she stabbed, maybe she can help. Maybe I’ll figure out how to get back home before then, even.”
Emmett: He doesn’t look at her.
She thinks she hears him mutter, “I love you kids.”
Just that. Okay.
Amelie: Amelie sniffles but starts to calm down. She’s glad he’s at least made this easy for her.
“You’re looking for a big wrought iron hatch, in a maintenance area. Follow the thicker pipes… those are likely the water pipes that can lead you to the sewer access.”
GM: Funny thing is, she really could come with us. Walk through walls and all… if you can think of something else to do for me.
She doesn’t have to suck your cock. Your choice. Really.
Be a shame to leave her here to die, like you did with basically everyone else.
Emmett: Yeah. It would.
‘You know, I experimented too when I was a kid. It gets better.’
GM: Ha ha. That’s good. Pretty low price for her life though. Haze her the entire way there and we’ll call it a deal.
Emmett: Fuck. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t done worse.
GM: I mean, I’m pretty damn witty if I may say so myself—and modest—but I like to laugh at someone else’s act too, you know?
Emmett: Yeah, I know. Ghost Rider.
GM: Legless Fuckwit.
Emmett: He suddenly straightens. “Ok. But you don’t have to stay here. You can come with, you’ll just have to hear me out. I think I can teach you how to move like I can.”
He looks her dead in the eye. “You’ll thank me later. Because this, Amelie, is about your soul.”
What follows can only be described as a half-sermon, half-memoir of Em’s various “insights” on the hollowness of a homosexual lifestyle based on his (admittedly limited) high school career.
Various standouts include:
“You know, I experimented too when I was a kid. It gets better.”
“The real pain wasn’t in my anus. It was in the space I was trying to fill. In my soul. Not my anus.”
“It took seeing what that dog did to what I thought was its friend for me to realize the perversity…”
“The truth is difficult to acknowledge, to wade through, but if you’ve eaten as much pussy as I think you have, you can probably manage.”
“Not that regular sex is any better, mind. Though if you want to find out about that, you’ll probably have to grow out your hair.”
Unless interrupted, he can go on for a solid five minutes.
Oh man, that’s great.
Maybe you should specify the hair on her head though. She probably thinks you mean her legs. Or her snatch.
Emmett: Why would growing that out help? Wait, are you into body hair?
GM: Seriously. This is you at your best, Em. No one ever appreciated your wit.
Emmett: Sure they did. They kept trying to kill me for it.
GM: Succeeded, too. A killing joke. Killing you.
Emmett: Ha. Drop Dead Fred.
Amelie: Amelie looks at the man like he’s retarded for a solid two minutes, all her feelings and sacrifice feeling belittled and that safe feeling she’s had with him crushed.
“Emmett. I’m going to give you the benefit of a doubt that Drop Dead Fred in that head takes turns with you for control of your mouth, and clear up something for you both. Not only is the most intimate touch I’ve ever gotten while conscious a vampire suck-humping me while I watch with my soul, but I’m not a shag hoover, you get me? There had better be a point to this.”
GM: Hmm. I think she’s lying. She’s been in this hospital for five months, right? In a coma?
Emmett: She said so. What do you think’s a lie? I don’t buy her being straight, personally, but whatever.
GM: Yeah, I don’t either, but that’s not it. The virgin bit.
I don’t think she’s trying to lie. But maybe it hasn’t occurred to her…
Emmett: Wait, you think she got raped? Jesus, I don’t trust the staff here after how they treated me, but that’s pretty dark.
GM: I’m just saying, five months konked out. That’s a lot of time. Wouldn’t be able to fight back or remember anything.
Emmett: Yeah, I watched Kill Bill too.
Still, I mean. You know. That assumes somebody wants to rape her.
GM: Hey, throw on a wig. Or just close your eyes. From the sound of it, someone’s already been getting handsy with her anyway. ‘Vampire suck-humping’? Christ, you can’t make this shit up.
Emmett: What do you know about vampires?
GM: That they don’t care if you like to munch carpets, apparently.
Emmett: Are we ever going to talk about what the fuck you actually are?
Also, you’re up. The tips?
GM: Clear up the bit how she thinks it’s me, first. Own up, Em.
Emmett: There’s about two seconds of silence. Then:
“Oh, it’s me all right. There’s a certain amount of moral bookkeeping I have to do before teaching you my secrets. If you just use these gifts to spy on some poor girls in a locker room, how would that affect my afterlife?”
GM: Better hope she really does after that so-clever pause.
Emmett: Keep it short then, jackass, I can’t lie and hold a conversation up here at the same time.
GM: Yeah you can. You’re just not trying. Wonder where else you’ve heard those words?
Amelie: Amelie stares dumbfoundedly and wonders what the hell is going on. If he’s trying to make her angry, the insults aren’t what’s doing it. It’s the sudden change. They’re in danger, or more precisely, she is in danger. He has a route out now. Is he just doing this to piss her off after she’s handed him a route forward?
“Emmett, this isn’t funny. What are you getting at? What’s your goal here?”
Emmett: Come on, pay up.
GM: You pay up. Get her to shut up.
Emmett: What, just stop talking?
Emmett: “To help both of us, well, mostly you, so be quiet for a few minutes. I think I can help you move through walls and such, but I need some silence. So kindly shush.” He flashes her a pleading, yet oddly earnest look.
Amelie: Amelie’s face twists into a confused glare, but she keeps silent. This had better be going somewhere.
Emmett: Talk or I’m done taking your deals, and I spill the beans to her completely. We had a good thing going, don’t ruin it.
GM: About as ‘good a thing’ as you and Villars did.
Emmett: Before he sold me out? I had zero problems with him. Spill.
GM: Pretty sure he had one with you, dumbass. With you, y’know, not paying him. You think he sold your debt to Bud just for shits and giggles?
Emmett: Why do you keep… Christ, hold up your end of the deal already.
GM: Hold up yours.
Emmett: What am I missing here? I straight up asked you if you meant you wanted her quiet, and you said nothing. Say what you want, if you want it. I’m not TRYING to hold us up, unlike one of us.
Emmett: Okay, fine. Fuck, this is going to hurt.
He thinks of what he’s about to say.
GM: Oh, that is good… want a few pointers?
Emmett: Go ahead. Dick.
Em takes an (unnecessary) breath. “Amy, when I was a kid my aunt took me and my sister to church every Sunday. Her name was Clarice.”
The story that follows is a short one. One that Amelie, if she felt the need to retell it, could do so in a sentence.
But it’s long, too. It’s length is not in the time he takes to tell it, or in the details.
It’s in his eyes. A story, told, is not a story lived.
Hell is a short story. It lasts for eternity. The length of the story is in his eyes, and it’s a length that can only be intertwined with truth.
“What happened lingered. I didn’t deal with it well. The ways I acted were directly because of that. You might think I’m just being a bigot. You might think I’m talking out of my ass. Or that this is some kind of strange, perverted joke.”
“I’m telling you it matters because it mattered for me. And because I want you to realize that it matters for you, and some things are best admitting to yourself before you’re waiting to die. So. Look at me and say, ‘I understand,’ and I can do something to help you. If you can’t, I’ll try to help you later. But it might be too late, then. So, what’s it going to be, kid? Can you swallow your pride and take my advice, or are we parting ways accomplices instead of friends?”
Amelie: Amelie stays quiet during the story as her heart drops into her stomach. It’s sad on its own. It’s even worse under these circumstances. Death row, brought back after death to suffer more, sadness compounding onto the sadness of the obelisk of flesh and screaming outside. She’s so confused at what he wants from her and why she has to listen to all his regrets on top of everything else. It’s even worse how it was his aunt. She remembers her own aunt, who must be waiting for her in the real world. What must she be feeling right now?
Her eyes are already getting wet. It’s awkward and fumbling, but she sees the desperate plea and can only remember the last time she ignored someone who warned her.
She doesn’t find it difficult to choke back her pride. She looks pensive for only a moment before she puts her trust back in Emmet. The Emmett who didn’t run when she gave him a clear path away.
GM: Fucking. Finally.
I think we found someone who makes Mouse look smart.
Emmett: Great, we made the gay kid cry. So how about we teach her to get out of the closet without having to open the door, huh?
GM: Tell her to close her eyes, take your hand, and sing ‘Over the Rainbow.’
Emmett: Tips or I drop the act right now.
GM: I’m not kidding around. That’s how you do it.
The first step of doing it, anyways.
Emmett: Minus the song?
GM: With the song.
Emmett: What the fuck are you talking about?
GM: Hey, it’ll probably make her feel better. I’m sure she’s got the lyrics down by heart.
Emmett: I’m seriously past fucking around here, Gasper. Hold up your end of the deal or you lose everything you just got me to do.
GM: The only one who’s fucking around is you. ‘Kid.’ If the dyke wants to walk through walls, the first step is for her to close her eyes, take your hand, and sing ‘Over the Rainbow’.
If you’d rather have her die than sing a song, no skin off my ass.
But if you’re so curious, that’s not a universal prerequisite. It’s just what’ll work for her.
Emmett: Why. The fuck. Would that be true.
He lets out a very long, very exasperated, sigh.
“Okay. Close your eyes, and take my hand.”
Amelie: Amelie looks at his hand and actually finds herself a little embarrassed. She’s never been the damsel in distress before, and now that he’s offering actual help she can only trust him or let him leave.
She doesn’t let herself hesitate. She takes the plunge and closes her eyes tight before gripping his hand firmly.
GM: Someone’s missing a ste-eeeep…
Emmett: We’ll get there!
He thinks for a moment on how to phrase it.
Look, I just wanna say in advance if this is a prank, because it’s totally the kind of thing I might do, I’m literally only going along to confirm that you’re full of shit and that I never have to trust you again.
GM: Those do sound like the sorts of things someone might have said to you.
Emmett: And I only ever got those people once.
“Okay, this is going to be weird, but I swear it worked for me.”
“I need you to sing with me, okay? Just… join in. Can you do that?”
GM: Nice lead-in.
Emmett: Yeah, about the only way I see it working.
GM: Yeah, I think she’d feel worse if it was just her singing, but you take what you can get.
Emmett: You know, Gasper, for a pretty vindictive piece of shit from Beyond the Grave, I actually don’t mind talking to you.
Amelie: “Dude, I had to sing sea shanties during pirate events and old medieval carols every winter working. Even dykes can sing, let’s get this over with.”
GM: AHAHAHAHAHA, she’s just spiking the ball for us, isn’t she?
Emmett: He begins on a tremulous (if still quiet) note.
“Soooooommmmewhere, over the rainbowwww, way up hiiigh…”
This is so not how I pictured the afterlife.
Amelie: Braddah Iz. At least he has good taste. Amelie takes a small breath and follows suit. She feels stupid but shows Em the fruit of years of practice. Her voice is soft and warm, it doesn’t match her looks at all.
“And the dreeaaams that you dream of, once in a lullaby.”
GM: She’s got a nice voice. Figures she’d have practice at that song.
Hold onto her and fall through the floor. She’ll fall with you.
Emmett: Em holds her, and wills himself down.
GM: No, stupid. None of that ‘mind over matter’ crap. You need to fucking throw yourselves at it.
Emmett: And then decides that telekinesis is a lost cause, and just jumps and throws the pair towards the earth, singing all the while.
GM: The dust-strewn floor rushes up towards Em’s sight. Then past it. He reflexively clamps his eyes shut at the approaching impact. It doesn’t come. He’s falling.
He’s never fallen before, except in dreams. He wonders if this is what it’s supposed to like. No sense of vertigo. No butterflies in his stomach. No sweat moistening his palms.
Just sinking. Sinking at a breakneck speed. Indistinct phantom-like shapes, blacker than black, writhe and cavort at the edge of his and Amelie’s sight. Phosphenes, Lena called them once. Inherent electrical charges the retina produces even when it is in its resting state.
It would be a relief to still get those.
Pain abruptly smashes through his and Amelie’s bodies. Their limbs are bruised and heavy. They aren’t sinking anymore.
Amelie: Amelie feels the sudden shift even while ethereal the feeling of sinking makes her squeeze the ghost’s hand tight. She doesn’t know if she needs to breathe here, but the sound of shortness is still there. Her voice hitches for just a moment before she starts singing through grit teeth.
“Somewhere over the rainbow, blue birds-
Pain. Amelie feels it roll over her like a truck, from foot to face. She hits the floor and immediately rocks back and forth in that awkward stabbing force, the only sensation of touch this place allows her. Eventually she just stops moving and lies there, there trying to come to grips with her pain as it rakes through her.
Emmett: Em groans, too, as he lets out a garbled “Ta da…”
He looks around, trying to get a feel for his surroundings.
Hey, by the way, is God real? I was kind of banking on that not being the case.
GM: Yeah, you got that bit right in life. He’s mainly an excuse for people like Clarice.
Emmett: So… what the fuck is happening to me? What the shit are you?
Are you me? Because you seem to be literally everything I realized was shit about myself.
GM: What’ll you do for me to find out?
Emmett: Mostly pester you every time your immaterial ass shows up.
GM: Answers aren’t free, Em. Nothing’s free.
Emmett: That might be the only actually interesting thing you’ve said. How about this one: do you have an actual name? Because I’m real comfy just writing pages of tired puns to burn through.
GM: Answers aren’t freee-eeeee…
Amelie: Amelie just keeps still, nursing herself awhile longer on the ground. “Are we there, at least? I’m barely hanging on here,” she groans, finally opening an eye to find him.
Emmett: “You’re welcome,” he mutters before continuing to check around.
GM: Labyrinthine, rust-corroded tunnels yawn before the pair. They smell of shit, mildew, and rot. Even Em’s dead eyes cannot make out what lurks within their pitch-black depths.
Amelie: Finding his darker form in the tunnel, she finally starts to sit. “You did it. We should get moving, then. Jackson Square should be 20 minutes away.”
Emmett: “Okay… any idea which direction?”
Amelie: “Is there any water? It should flow east. Check the walls for writing, too.” Amelie does the second part and looks over the walls for writing left over from the real world.
Emmett: He grumbles to himself about something or the other, but nonetheless checks for her, dipping his immaterial fingers towards where the sewage should flow.
Amelie: “So… should I ask about the singing and weird questions?” Amelie is finally standing, tracing her fingers along pipes as she looks for scrap words.
Emmett: “I think I’ve made my opinions on the subject clear.”
Amelie: “Not exactly. Besides, I’m trying to dissect the how. Like, will I be able to do it if I sing something important to me.”
Emmett: “You could put it to the test by trying again. There’s a wall right over there.”
Amelie: “It’d be smarter to hold off. I’m not bouncing back from a few bruises like I should be, Em. I’m actually pretty hurt.”
“You fell too. How are you holding up? You should check that wrist of yours.”
Emmett: He glances at it. “I don’t feel too bad…”
GM: He sees dark blood dripping from a needle-shaped point.
Emmett: “Except, you know. For the whole being dead thing.”
Amelie: “Lively dead guy, at least.”
Amelie keeps tracing the pipes as she takes a few steps down the tunnel. “We should start moving. Maybe if we find a manhole it’s cross street will be marked on it. If we can’t find any other directions.”
GM: The characters on the pipes seem hazy and out of focus to Amelie’s eyes. Some of them, after she stares long enough, mark the eastward-flowing direction of sewage as she hopes. Others, however, are pure gibberish, written in characters both English and seemingly made-up. The latter twist and coil in on themselves and make her head hurt.
Not all of them appear printed upon the pipes, but etched. And in a manner far from painstaking… there is a crude, feral quality to them, like the products of a clawed beast’s pained but disturbingly focused thrashings.
Yet nor can Amelie entirely dismiss them as savagery or madness. There is meaning to them, she thinks. Directions. Pointing in none of the four cardinal directions… but simply downwards.
Amelie: Amelie puts a hand up against the side of her head as her eyes scan over the pipes, her mind pouring over what she sees. The throbbing proves worth it. She has east, and thus all her cardinal directions! Hope swells before she sees them. Below. The markings are horrific in their implications, but they send the young woman’s mind sent shooting into the ground. What is below New Orleans.
“Emmett… there’s directions here,” she calls, half-whispering as if they can hear her. Her spectral hand comes out to smooth over the etchings, wondering how she can feel them.
GM: Amelie’s hand passes through the pipe like it isn’t there, but stops solid against the etchings. They feel rough and jagged beneath her touch.
Amelie: Amelie smooths over the jagged lettering. She can only dream of what horror carved this into the piping. What it’s talking about. What lurks underneath the underneath of New Orleans. It’s dizzying, but as far as horror goes, the young woman can only assume ‘as above, so below.’
“We should go, Emmett.”
Emmett: He studies her carefully. “Which way?” His eyes seem oddly faraway again. “I’m getting a kind of vibe. I think it might be worth checking… down.”
Amelie: She smooths her hand along the pipe before slowly looking over to him. “Emmett… is there a way I can talk to that thing in your head? It knows something.”
Emmett: “You can talk to me. It hears what I do.”
Amelie: “I want to know why it wants to go down. What’s down there. Those directions? They point down. Somethings clawed them into the metal.”
Emmett: “I’m not sure it wants to, so much as… I don’t know. It feels right.” He frowns at that last bit. “What, like an animal?”
Amelie: “I carve, Emmett. I know what pain and haste look like. Give me your hand.”
Emmett: “Turnabout’s fair play,” he mutters, and complies.
Amelie: Amelie carefully takes his hand carefully and moves it to feel over the jagged scratching.
“See? They even stop my hands… why do both your voice and this person who carved this, want us to go down?”
Emmett: “Maybe there’s just a really nice jazz club with a cheesy name that caters to spirits.”
He does not sound entirely confident in his prediction.
Amelie: Amelie still looks pensive, the joke doesn’t move her as she lets his hand go. “Or a Greek necropolis meant to jail the lost souls of New Orleans. I’m not sure, Emmett.”
Emmett: “Neither is Gasper, apparently.” He glances around. “Okay, better safe than eternally damned. Wanna flip a coin?”
Well, if they had one.
“Right or left?”
Amelie: Amelie rubs her mouth and slowly starts to let the wheels turn in her head, letting her mind race over the variables here. So many fears and maybes pass through her head before she turns to Emmett.
“If that voice in your head is just you being crazy, it could be a spirit homing instinct. And whatever wrote this could also be a spirit. But if what’s in your head is more sinister, then this and this writing is a trap. So I’m going to ask you, Emmett, how much do you trust ‘Gasper’, or rather… does Gasper go if you go?”
Emmett: “No fucking clue,” he answers, the false cheeriness in his voice as convincing as a flaking paint job. “I don’t want to head down, not until I get some damn answers. I say we go this way,” he points to the left-branching path, “pop up after a few minutes, get our bearings, and readjust if we need to.”
GM: The dark tunnels patiently yawn before the two.
Emmett: He whips his head back towards Amelie. “Do you… feel all right?” His face is lined with sudden worry and concern.
Amelie: Amelie doesn’t follow just yet, standing where she’d managed to walk only the few feet from where they fell. She is used to pain, but having it the only clear sensation on her skin is alien and uncomfortable.
“No, Em. I ache like fuck, I’ve been in a demon-induced coma for five months, I’m handcuffed to a hospital bed, I’m pretty sure I was nearly drugged by a rich Whitney cunt. Now I’m in the world of the dead, apparently glowing, dodging a tower of screaming corpses overtop the football stadium in a post-apocalyptic after death wasteland, and all I wanted was to enjoy the place I’ve fantasized about since I was a little girl. And I did all of it to myself. So unless you have ruby shoes on you I can click my dyke fucking heels in, east is this way. My only fucking solace is you, so let’s get you to Tantsy.”
She takes a moment before she starts to follow the tunnel, sticking close to a pipe she’s chosen that promises her eastward progress, wishing she could use it to support herself.
GM: Wow. ‘Only solace is you.’ That might be the saddest thing I’ve heard all day.
Guess she doesn’t you know you as well as we do.
Emmett: Good for her, right?
He keeps pace easily besides her. “Look, just focus on yourself. Things are terrifying but if we’ve managed this long, we can manage as long as we have to. So think happy thoughts. They’re probably going to be the only thing keeping you sane.”
Amelie: “I’m fine. I’m here at the very least until we get you to Tantsy unless you want to poke your head up, you’re on your own until you get back down here. Until then, we should be quiet and keep moving until we find Royal street.”
Emmett: “I trust you, kid.”
GM: Uh-oh. Our friend doesn’t look too good, does she?
Emmett: Not particularly. Know what’s going on?
GM: Yeah, I might.
Emmett: If I call her a dyke will you help out?
GM: Sure. Tell her how she got raped instead.
Anyone’s guess if she really did or not, but I’m sure you can sell it.
Oh, and not now. She’ll think something’s funny if it comes up right when you’re helping her.
Emmett: Okay, but I’ll need the info up front then.
GM: Say we done got a deal.
Emmett: We done got a deal. Hey, it’s a valid concern, isn’t it? Worse that happens is she checks for signs.
Oh. You were trying to sound like Bud on purpose.
GM: Takes one to know one. Anyway. Tell her she needs to believe she isn’t hurt.
None of that mind over matter ‘will myself to heal’ crap. She just isn’t hurt.
Emmett: Is she going back?
To her body, I mean.
GM: You wanna find out?
GM: Don’t tell her how to patch it up then.
They continue for about a few moments before he says, cautiously, “So… would you happen to know which doctor was taking care of you?”
Amelie: Amelie keeps silent until the man speaks again. “I didn’t even know I was in the hospital until I woke up over my own body. Did not see any doctors.”
Emmett: “Huh, that’s… huh.” He clearly has more on his mind. “Just… if you come out of this, do yourself a favor and get yourself, um. Checked.”
Amelie: “You should be more specific, that leaves too much to the imagination.”
Emmett: “There are just rumors about one of the doctors there. That’s all. It’s… probably nothing to be worried about.”
Another moment passes.
“It’s just… you ever see Kill Bill?”
Amelie: Amelie stops in her tracks and rubs the bridge of her nose. That unsettling doctor who saw her about her hand comes to mind.
“I was trying not to think about it, and that’s what I’m going to continue doing. I’ve already been visited by that bloodsucking monster, I don’t want to think about… my chastity.”
GM: ‘Chastity’? When is she from, the fucking Middle Ages?
Emmett: Joan of Arc wannabe could explain the hair. Not that it would make her any less gay by association.
GM: What was it they burned Joan for, being an affront against God? Could be they’ll have a lot in common after all.
Emmett: So, level with me, do you actually dislike gay people?
GM: Not anymore than you do. It’s just so fucking easy a shot with her.
Emmett: So… you are me. Ish.
GM: Answers aren’t free.
Emmett: But yeah, you are.
“Uh huh. Well, the guy’s name is Brown. Dude’s supposed to like girls who are drugged up. Sometimes he takes cases, allegedly, just so he can take advantage. Nasty shit.”
Amelie: Amelie starts walking again. She needs to get back into her body before she starts to worry about it. Stiff upper lip. Maybe she can punish him for it and say she’s been awake this whole time. If she ever wakes up.
“I’m freaking out enough. Stop talking about this.”
GM: Oh, someone’s hit a mark…
Emmett: We’ve got to her.
GM: Not enough.
Emmett: You sure? We risk losing her help if we push her on this. She’s clearly pretty fucked up over it. Small pushes, not all at once.
GM: Yeah, I’m sure.
Amelie: As they walk east, Amelie counts the tunnels they pass on their left. She tries to count steps and tunnel branches that’d equal four or five city blocks.
“Has your other voice been talking?”
Emmett: “Bits and pieces, nothing really pertinent to our situation. Mostly being a dick. Why?”
GM: Not asking twice, Em.
Emmett: “And look, just check your, ah, nether regions with a mirror. That’s all. Don’t worry, it’s probably nothing. Seriously.” The clear concern belies his words.
GM: That’s better.
Besides. If she knew what she wanted she wouldn’t have gotten raped in the first place.
Emmett: Or pretended she wasn’t gay, amirite?
GM: Ha. Bet Doc Brown did. Five months konked out, what do you bet he eventually started bringing a wig and lipstick to spruce things up?
Emmett: Ugh. Why do you think I was so keyed out when I learned who he was after waking up?
Anyway, the good news is if he did, he now has AIDS, right?
…though that would mean she might have them too.
GM: Yeah, you know what they said in sex ed. ‘When you have sex with one person, you have sex with all their partners.’ Seriously. Between Doc Brown, and probably you by proxy, you really do have to wonder what’s festering in her snatch.
Ugh, geez. I feel sick just thinking of that.
Emmett: Can you even get sick?
GM: What couldn’t get sick over that?
Amelie: “Just wondering if it’s the reason you’re not getting the hint. I’ll see a gyno when or IF I ever wake up. Now stop talking about my junk, it’s uncomfortable. Anything else would be preferable. Why don’t we touch on why you’re a ghost? What’d you do that gives you unfinished business, huh?” Her tone is even, just hoping he stops talking about her being raped. “Or maybe it’s old rules! Maybe someone fucked your corpse and now you need to be blessed and re-buried.”
Emmett: His voice is frank. “I put my family in danger by signing their lives over to the Dixie mob.”
Amelie: “Who are the Dixie mob? And more importantly, why?”
GM: Amelie almost doesn’t notice it out of the corner of her eye. Her cord’s light is dimmer. And flickering.
Amelie: Amelie pauses, turning to her cord. Her heart drops into her stomach.
“Emmett… my cord.”
She turns and starts jogging back towards the hospital, testing if it glows any brighter in Em’s sight when she gets closer to her body.
Emmett: His answer dies along with the rest of him. “What’s wrong with it, do you think?”
Amelie: Amelie can’t feel anything but the throbbing pain of her soul having been knocked around. But the message is clear. She turns and runs back to Emmett, grabs his arm, and pulls him along with her to hurry him up.
“Repeat the cross street to me, Emmett. Where are you going if I don’t make it! Repeat it!”
Emmett: He repeats it, his voice calm.
“I know where to go. Don’t worry about me.”
Amelie: “Then hurry up! I might make it!”
Amelie hobbles slightly as she runs, but she runs nonetheless. She counts off branching tunnels before she makes a left turn, heading north now. She’s confident she can make it, or at least see Emmett safely to a doorstep.
GM: Her footsteps echo loudly off the sewer’s pitted walls.
Say something about how you’re sorry she’ll be back in Doc Brown’s loving care.
Emmett: He obliges, keeping pace… if not easily, then sufficiently.
Amelie: Hearing her own footsteps discomforts the young woman even further. She presses her pace, all but skipping down the tunnels as her body throbs and aches. Just a few more blocks. She just needs to get to the store, she can almost feel the scar in her hand throbbing at the memory of Tantsy’s dagger going through her hand.
Even in this form, Amelie feels it. The touch against her scars, and the wave of sensation through them afterwards. She grabs Emmett with surprising strength and holds him where he is. Her voice is barely a whisper in his ear.
“Something is here. Predatory. Can you hear which way?”
GM: It’s then that Amelie’s glowing form vanishes like a snuffed-out candle.
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