“Even in this shitty state, dead men make the news if they die right.”
GM: Amelie smashes headfirst into a man. He looks quite the worse for wear despite his handsome features. He’s dressed in a dark sports coat. No cord trails from his back, nor does any light glow from his body like Amelie’s.
She’s outside of her room now.
Support: “SHIT!” exclaims the man.
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!”
Support: “Shit!” he repeats again, holding his hands up in a desperate attempt at appeasement. “Wow, fuck! Please don’t!”
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.
Support: The man 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?”
Support: “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.
“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?”
Support: “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?”
Support: “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?”
Support: 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.”
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.
Support: 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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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.
Support: “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.”
Support: 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.”
Support: He follows, seemingly 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.”
Support: “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?”
Support: “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.
Noises grow 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.
Support: Em suddenly looks like he narrowly avoided skidding to a halt.
“Oh, NOW you can talk!”
Amelie: Amelie starts at the harsh explanation coming out of nowhere. She whirls back like a frightened deer.
“What happened? Who can talk?”
Support: 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.
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 water.
The two reach a set of stairs. One flight leads up. One flight leads down. Em grabs the handles of a 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.
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.
Support: Em looks up at her in the dark. His eyes are faraway.
Amelie: Amelie slowly reaches out to touch Em on the shoulder, to see if he can feel her.
Support: 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.
Support: 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.
Support: 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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: Emmett 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.”
“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?”
Support: “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?”
Support: 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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “…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.”
Support: “You have bigger balls than I did at your age. Or most of the years after. I trust you.”
He bends down and tests the floor with the palm of his hand.
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?”
Support: “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.
Support: Em seems preoccupied, that faraway look once more in place, his smile slipping.
“Okay, 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 seemingly tries to kick himself above the ground.
GM: He remains grounded.
Support: “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?”
Support: “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.”
Support: He starts to reply, 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.
Then he gives a little laugh.
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.”
Support: 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.”
Support: He suddenly straightens. “Okay. 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. 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 goes on for a solid five minutes.
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.”
Support: 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?”
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?”
Support: “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.
Support: Em takes a 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.
Support: 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.
Support: “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?”
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.”
Support: He begins on a tremulous (if still quiet) note.
“Soooooommmmewhere, over the rainbowwww, way up hiiigh…”
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.”
Support: Em holds her, awkwardly for a moment. Then he just jumps and throws the pair towards the ground, singing all the while.
GM: The dust-strewn floor rushes up towards Amelie’s sight. Then past it. She reflexively clamps her eyes shut at the approaching impact. It doesn’t come. She’s falling.
She’s never fallen before, except in dreams. And that time at the LaLaurie House. She wonders if this is what it’s supposed to like. No sense of vertigo. No butterflies in her stomach. No sweat moistening her palms.
Just sinking. Sinking at a breakneck speed. Indistinct phantom-like shapes, blacker than black, writhe and cavort at the edge of Amelie’s sight. Phosphenes. Inherent electrical charges the retina produces even when it is in its resting state.
Pain abruptly smashes through Amelie’s body. Her limbs are bruised and heavy. She isn’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.
Support: Em groans, too, as he lets out a garbled “Ta da…”
He looks around, as if trying to get a feel for his surroundings.
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.
Support: “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.
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.”
Support: “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.
Support: 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.
Support: “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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: He glances at it. “I don’t feel too bad…”
GM: Amelie sees dark blood dripping from a needle-shaped point.
Support: “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.”
Support: 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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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?”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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?”
Support: “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.
Support: 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.
Support: 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.”
Support: “I trust you, kid.”
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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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.”
Support: “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.”
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?”
Support: “Bits and pieces, nothing really pertinent to our situation. Mostly being a dick. Why?”
“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.
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.”
Support: 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.
Support: 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!”
Support: 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.
Support: 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: Suddenly, everything goes black.