“Hey, jailhouse! Who wants to RIOT!”
GM: Em wakes up again later. It’s one of the most refreshing sleeps he’s ever had, stealing over him like a baby and releasing him like Sami Watts from an expensive date, knowing he’ll always be back. He slept like the dead.
He can’t say how much time has passed. His surroundings and slumbering three neighbors are exactly the same as before.
Moans and sobs lick at his ears.
Emmett: It’s as cheery as any morning he had on the row. Well, or whatever time of day. It’s all the same with no sun.
He spends his time building rapport with Courtney, telling her stories and listening to her own. He eases the conversation towards her work, and the man who put them both in the Dungeon—but he doesn’t lean on her if she seems reticent to talk about Mouton.
Emmett: It’s easiest to start by making fun of his hair. “It’s like a fire hazard all by itself. Or something alive.”
GM: “There was a girl who made a joke about that.”
“He set her hair on fire.”
“We were mostly too scared of him to make many jokes.”
Emmett: “I was scared of him, too, for a while. But now we’re dead. He can’t hurt us. But we might be able to hurt him.”
GM: “You have something against him besides his hair?”
Emmett: “The Dungeon took my legs.”
“And I think he’s a prick.”
GM: “Oh. Sorry.”
Emmett: “So am I. How did you end up working for him? Learning about him?”
GM: “Just another strip club. Worked at a bunch. He owned that one.”
“Heard he owns a bunch though. Supposed to be really loaded.”
Emmett: “He is. I sold drugs for him, for a while. He’s rich, but you wouldn’t know it because he has such shit taste.”
GM: “Well, guess it’s like they say. You can buy everything but that.”
Emmett: He steers the conversation into happier waters. “What did you want to be when you grew up? If you wanted to be anything.”
GM: “I never really thought that far, honestly. I just… wanted regular meals, and a place to actually stay without getting kicked out or the utilities shut off or crazy neighbors.”
“So someone who made money, I guess.”
Emmett: “I wanted to be a spy. James Bond every Halloween until I was twelve. Then I wanted to be a con artist. Which I became, but when you get what you want, you get what once you wanted.”
“But what would you do, if you could be free again?”
GM: “Huh?” Courtney remarks at his last statement.
But she answers his question with, “You mean since dying?”
Emmett: “Well, yes. I mean, dead is the new forty.”
GM: “Maybe hunt down my mom’s ghost and beat the shit out of her.”
“If I’m here, maybe she is.”
Emmett: He laughs, pleasantly surprised. “A little justice. I know that feeling.”
GM: “You want it on Cash Money, right?”
Emmett: “I want it on a lot of people. But he’s up there.”
GM: “Why the fuck not. He’s a scumbag and I have nothing better to do now.”
Emmett: “I’d appreciate that, if you have the patience. I’m not sure what to do to him, yet. But I think we can come up with something.”
He doesn’t press that subject, though. Not yet.
GM: The pair are interrupted as the door to the ‘pokey’ slams open. Bobbi Jo loudly bangs a spoon along all the glass prisons in her path.
“Rise an’ shine ta seize da daaa-aaaaaay!”
“Ah wait, yer all fucked as a twelve-year-old whore, ne’er mind.”
“Haw haw haw!”
“Yer all so fucked. HAW-HAW HAW!”
A chorus of moans, sobs, and glares of pure, unadulterated hate greet the redhead.
“Hoo, Ah kint wait till Ah learn ta really hurtcha. Dis gets old!”
“But not dat old. Haw haw haw!”
She bangs the spoon along a few more prisons.
Emmett: He winks at Courtney before Bobbi passes.
“Hey dere, beau-ti-ful,” Em says for his part as she does.
GM: The spoon is loud. It hurts his ears. And his ears are everywhere. It’s a rattling, body-shaking cacophony that’s impossible to mute or escape.
Bobbi Jo flashes a lip-less grin as she turns to regard his prison.
“Well, ’ey dere, ’andsome.”
“Haw ya likin’ da pokey?”
Emmett: He purses his lips. Maybe it makes him look like a duck, lips warped along his prison’s circumference. And more importantly, still cute and uneasy to offend.
“It ain’t the Monteleone,” he drawls. “But it’s purtier than death row. ’specially when you come ’round.”
GM: “Aw, cum on a cousin, yer a real sweet-talker. Ya got lips so purty Ah’d like ta, Ah ‘unno, fuck da shit outta ’em. Ah’d ’ave ya suck off ma strap-on if ya was corp-reel.”
“Da end is a bayonet, so da boys it goes in makes all da bes’ sounds.”
“Well, da tip o’ a bayonet. Mosta da shaft is still curved a lil’, like ah real cock.”
Emmett: “Hahaha, Ah bet it’s da biggest dey ever had. How much o’ your time you spend fucking out there and not visitin’ me in ’ere? A soul gets lonely.”
GM: “Biggest sure is right! Ah once stabbed all da way through da other side of a boy’s skull, haw haw! Da look on ’is face! ’Is eyes were huge!”
Bobbi Jo grins a lip-less grin at the memory before continuing, “Ah got better things ta do dan visitin’ ghostballies Ah cain’t even hurt. Maybe dat’ll change once Ah learn ‘ow ferm ma sis, though! ’Til then, ya gotcher girlyfriend ta keep ya com’ny.”
Bobbi Jo holds up a glass prison containing the head of a confused and terrified-looking younger woman who doesn’t resemble Christina Roberts.
“’Christina Roberts!” she whoops.
GM: “Which o’ yer cellmates ya want ’er ta move out, ’andsome?”
Emmett: You ever think maybe we’re not such a great person?
“Uh, dat one o’er dere and I don’t get along too well.” Then he realizes he can’t point. “Da black fella.”
GM: “‘Da nigger? Good choice! Yer surrounded ba girlies dis way. Ah bet dat was ’ow ya liked it when ya was a breather, waaaasn’ it?”
“Tellin’ ‘em how purdy dey were an’ stickin’ yer willy in ’em all!”
Emmett: “Yeah, I was a real piece o’ work, but ain’t no lie when I tell it like it is about you, Bobbi Jo.” He smiles his most earnest smile under the circumstances.
GM: So where’s the brilliant plan for getting out?
GM: “‘Course not, ’cuz Ah’m da prettiest girl in all da Quarter.”
“And if Ah e’er ain’t, Ah’ll eat da ones dat are. So Ah’ll be number #1, ’gain.”
Emmett: “Well, it’s weird yeh bring that up.”
Em averts his eyes shyly.
“Ah wasn’t gonna say nothin.’”
GM: “Say nothin’ ’bout what?”
Emmett: Em hesitates. “It’s just…yer real pretty n’ all Bobbi Jo, but…ah found anudder, ah, prettier face. But Ah still think yer real sweet on da eyes!” He adds earnestly, obsequiously.
GM: Bobbi Jo bares her teeth, which Em now sees include two oh-so-sharp fangs.
“An’ who is dis purtier face?”
Emmett: “Well come now, Bobbi Jo, dat ain’t a fair question,” Em protests, even as his wyes curve around their spherical prison to shine on Turner’s sphere.
GM: Bobbi Jo drops the prison with its new occupant to the floor with a glassy thud. She yanks up Em’s and holds it right in front of her face. He can see every bump, tear, and discoloration of the scar tissue covering where her lips used to be.
“Shit’s fair, casper.”
“Yer gonna tell me. Or Ah’m gonna let Sugarbelle ’ave some more fun witcha.”
“Den, Ah’m gonna stick ya in da shitter fer a while.”
“An’ let aaaalll ma renfields do a number two on ya.”
Emmett: “Oh, well, if ya’ll that mad…it’s ‘er.” He gesticulates with his entire being to point at the scarred woman.
“Turner! Ah’m sorry, baby! Ah had to tell ‘er!”
GM: “Dat’s who?” Bobbi Jo snarls, yanking up Turner’s prison.
The former Marine just glares in her face.
Emmett: “Please don’t crack ‘er purty face!” Em wails. “Ah mean, any more than it already is, ah like a lil’ scarring—“
GM: “Scarrin’!? Dis ugly cunt ain’t got scars near good as mine! She’s got ‘er lips! Dat bitch got ’er LIPS and ya say _’er’s scars’re better!?_” Bobbi Jo froths.
Emmett: “Ah guess ah just got real accustomed teh lookin’ at ‘er."
You still offering that juice? I feel like we’re about to need it.
GM: Sure am.
Emmett: What’s the price?
GM: I’ll ask you to pay me back, down the line, and cause all sorts of shit if you don’t.
Emmett: Okay, but I want a lot. Hit me.
It rushes through him like a line of coke in the bathroom followed by a cake-sized sugar rush.
Man, that was a really good birthday party. He wonders if Noah and Maya remember it.
That’s the stuff.
He almost feels alive again.
“Look, Bobbi Jo,” he says, straining against his prison with anticipation. “It’s not you. It’s me.”
GM: It leaves him feeling dirty, too. It’s the alertness, power, and energy of the high, but while Mark was ravaging his ass. The dull ache of his self-loathing, the part of him that wanted to just sink into a bog and stew in misery and hurt, felt like a hideous pustule about to burst from the energy of the coke struggling to pour out.
He feels it here, too. He, Gasper, both, wants to pour out. To hurt all of the world, for all the ways he’s been hurt. To hurt everybody and everything until his, their, own pain is eclipsed in the resulting detonation of grief, agony and sorrow. To suffer because he suffers.
Bobbi Jo stares between him and Turner for a moment.
Then she literally roars, fangs madly gnashing her lipless mouth, eyes blazing with a pure destructive id beyond any fury Em has ever seen, and smashes the glass.
It’s like yanking off an impossibly tight pair of pants enveloping his entire body. There’s simultaneous pain and relief as Em swells like a balloon animal being pumped full of air. Bobbi Jo’s blurring fists leave literal cracks in the floor as they smash through his and Turner’s bodies, again and again an again. Her fangs flash as her jaw snaps and rips and tears at his throat like a wild animal. Em doesn’t feel a thing.
Emmett: “Turner, the shelves! Now!”
GM: Turner literally stands up through Bobbi Jo, her legs passing through the howling monster’s head like it’s water.
“OORAH, BITCH!” she snarls, and throws herself against the shelf.
It almost seems to happen in slow motion.
Em sees every frame like in a movie he’s shooting.
Turner, slamming into the metal.
The shelves’ ponderous groan.
The metal quaking, bending, in a way it shouldn’t. She’d have to be pulling it down with her hands, and as strong as Bobbi Jo, for it to do that—
Emmett: His own voice, yelling as loud as he can.
“Hey, jailhouse! Who wants to RIOT!”
GM: Then the orb-sized little glass prisons almost innocuously rolling off, like the first droplets of water in an onrushing tsunami.
The first one smashes into the floor.
The din of shattering glass fills his ears, eclipsing even Bobbi Jo’s frenzied howls as she continues to savage his incorporeal flesh.
There’s a second of silence, as the smashed orbs release their precious contents. People, dead and ashen-faced like Em. Some are short. Some are tall. Some are men. Some are women. Some are young. Some are old. Some are hideous. Some are fair. Some are familiar. Some are strangers.
But all of them are one thing:
A primeval scream splits the air, loud and furious as any tornado, as a tsunami of spectral limbs falls upon Bobbi Jo. The howling monster is blasted entirely off her feet and smashed face-first into the ceiling like a rag doll. Glass explodes. Metal flies. Spectral fire crackles. Banshee-like wails split the air. Fist after fist after fist descends as the walls, the floor, the very air, seems to shake and buck and trembles beneath the freed shades’ collective wrath.
Bobbi Jo screams back too. She writhes and thrashes. She twists like a bobcat in heat, jaws snapping, feet kicking, fists blurring, the force of her blows leaving more cracks against the ceiling. Some of the ghosts die. She rips off their heads, kicks in their chests, tears out their throats. They fall away like flotsam along an ocean current.
But there are so many.
So, so many.
And Bobbi Jo’s murderous hands pass harmlessly through most of them. The ghosts fall upon her in droves, smothering her beneath the sheer press and bulk of their phantasmal bodies. Glass pelts Bobbi Jo’s face. Snapped-off steel smashes into her limbs. There’s more glassy shatterings, too, in the distance. Turner is breaking the other shelves. Howling winds race through the room, smashing Bobbi Jo from the ceiling to the floor to the ceiling again, like a tantrum-throwing child smashing their toy up and down, up and down. The ghosts swarm over her backside, her topside, ripping and tearing, hitting and kicking, pulling and snapping, everywhere. Bones crack. Blood spurts and gushes. Clothes shred apart.
Bobbi Jo screams.
They rip off her hair in chunks. They smash in her teeth. They rip out her fangs. They pull off her fingers. They crush and pulverize her bones. Em’s not sure how she’s still alive. Especially when the children, whose faces are blackest of all with hatred, rip open her chest and pry apart her ribcage. Bobbi Jo’s half-decayed heart isn’t even beating, but the blood still soaks their hungrily digging, red-painted little hands, and ravenously gnawing little mouths. All of them shriek “Jacob!” in ceaseless chant.
Lucidity suddenly steals over Bobbi Jo’s eyes.
“PAWWW!!” she screams, rawly. “PAWWW!!! AH’M SORRY AH WUS BAD!!!!!”
Emmett: The reckoning is mesmerizing in its wrath. A fierce and brutal pride thunders in the place his heart used to be.
This might be the kindest thing Emmett Delacroix has ever wrought.
The children swarm over her like piranhas and rip out her heart. Suddenly there’s no more Bobbi Jo.
Just a motionless, partly decayed corpse clad in biker leathers with an American flag-patterned swastika.
Emmett: The guard is dead, but the wardens will be coming soon. Em’s spectral gaze sweeps the room, looking for familiar faces, trying to gauge the mood of the tempestuous crowd. It feels good to be back in his full spectral attire, refreshing even to see the rotted and gangrenous arm his death has left him with.
GM: The mood is a tempest.
And he’s carried right out.
The spectral mob doesn’t slow. It doesn’t pause. It literally flies out of the room, rising up in one great tide and carrying all in its path with it, even Bobbi Jo’s ash-smeared leathers. Specters take flight and smash head-long into all-too corporeal walls as an oddly stone-like alarm klaxon shrieks in the distance.
The first ghosts to pour through the door scream and die, dissolving apart as though melted by acid. The next ghosts die too. And the ones after them. The doorway is lined with strange runes etched in white. But the mob pours forth, undeterred, unable to turn back even if its members wanted to. Pain melts through Em’s head as he’s carried along like a leaf in a storm.
Alarms wail. Footsteps thump. Voices shout. Pain rocks the spectral mob. Men in dark suits, armed with shotguns, belching explosions across the ghosts.
But the flesh and blood assailants don’t last nearly as long under the spirits’ collective wrath as Bobbi Jo.
The lucky ones die screaming as they’re literally ripped apart. The unlucky ones get their faces melted like hot wax, their ears ruptured in bloody explosions, or hoarsely shriek as the ghosts flow into their open mouths. They jerk and dance like puppets, laughing insanely with bloodshot eyes as they open fire on their surviving comrades.
Emmett: He lets out a joyous cry and steps on the gas, drawing on the powers he does not understand yet. His suit, formerly made of shadow and smoke, turns purple as an aubergine, sprouting a fluttering tail that dangles down to his legs, the collar flaring into something majestic and gaudy, like a rattlesnake’s jowls. A top hat the same color, big enough to stuff a rabbit into, drops onto his head, and when he throws his gangrenous fist into the air, he finds it’s wrapped around a cane so tall it could almost be called a scepter.
Pretty lights, he thinks ruefully, and pumps the cane into the air triumphantly.
Fireworks bright enough to blind a shooting star burst from its end, purple and green and gold sparks cascading over his shoulders and wreathing him in flames the colors of New Orleans. In a colorless world, the circus ringmaster is king. He closes his eyes for a moment and idly wishes his new aches would subside—and when he opens his eyes, he sees his not-real wounds closing.
Emboldened and freshly wreathed in his war paint, he tries something he hasn’t before, focusing on one of the momentarily intact goons. He lets himself manifest physically, and tries making one of his shadow-things more real, too. His cane twists and turns into a snake, one of those big Bayou-born cottonmouth fuckers, only as big around as a fire pole and made of green fire.
And, because there is no such thing as too gaudy, he yells, “Freedom!” as it stares the guard in the eye and hisses.
GM: Em feels like he did back at his parents’ house. A biting cold, a sensation like punching though molasses, and the blossoming of color around his sight. The man screams at the snake and tries to flee, then gets thrown against the ceiling like a rag doll by a sea of spectral fists. There’s a hideous crack, and then whether he survived becomes moot as he’s literally ripped apart limb from limb. Scores of voices howl with wrath and exultation at Em’s battle cry.
It’s not a crypt they’re in. It’s a nice house. It reminds Em of the Devillers house: old money that’s more subdued in its displays of wealth than mobsters like Fat Benny. The ghostly mob tears through it, flinging chairs, toppling shelves, ripping drapes, tearing the very boards from the floor. All is chaos. All is destroyed.
What’s left of the suited men fall back, shotguns still belching covering fire. Shrill alarms continue to ring. As the mob pours forward, still oddly unable to simply float through the walls, necromantic wards flare to life. Bolts of black energy burst ghosts apart like spun glass, or dissolve them into sticky heaps of ectoplasmic goo. Salt particles fly through the air, raining down on the howling mob like acid as wardens emerge to quell the riot.
It’s them. More ghosts. Bound in dark spectral chains, they look like slaves as they fight, but they fight all the same. Their ranks smash into their freed brethren like one ocean wave into another. The surviving suits spray rocksalt rounds across the mob. At the vanguard, Em sees Sugarbelle, and a wroth-featured, cruel-faced pale man in a white suit with dark hair. They bark orders to their slaves as black energy flies from their fingertips, blasting apart the rebellious ghosts.
Emmett: He looks at one of those enslaved ghosts, and feels an immense swell of pity.
What a pitiful bondage. What a miserable way to spend an afterlife. Actually serving your captors.
Then he looks at their chains.
And he speaks.
“BREAK THEIR CHAINS!” he howls, and from a pocket in his garish jacket he pulls a matchbook with his own grinning face on the side, and he takes a match, strikes it, and throws it into the air like a firecracker that explodes in a ball of flame no CGI could match, directly in Bobbi Jo’s prettier sister’s face.
GM: Sugarbelle howls in that same bestial voice as Bobbi Jo. Fangs jut from her mouth as she flings herself away from the illusory fire. The man next to her snarls something hateful and wades into the melee, ripping a ghost’s head from its neck.
At Em’s cry, the rebellioud shades fall upon their shackled brethren. They beat them to the ground and snap the darkly glowing shackles from their cuffs. The freed ghosts, many of whose bodies are even more scarred and disfigured than Em’s compatriots, immediately turn upon their one-time captors with blood-curdling shrieks.
Em may have thought the carnage earlier was fierce, but it’s as nothing against the two spectral batallions meeting in open battle. No one is insubstantial. No one cannot be hurt. They fight like wild animals, like demons, falling upon one another with a mindless savaegry and heedless disregard or their own safety only the dead could possibly have.
Objects and sundry smash through the air like poltergeist-guided missiles. Flensing talons and nightmarish fangs carve into dead flesh like butcher knives. Keening, banshee-like shrieks literally rupture heads. Crackling bursts of grave-blue fire, cloud-like tempests of dark spectral energy, and shrieking arctic winds flense spectral flesh from bone. The ghosts mindlessly fight on past mutilation, past unconsciousness, past dismemberment. They stop only at complete annihilation.
Emmett: That chill from before crawls down Em’s neck, and he feels the first bite of a shovel into his shallow grave.
He contributes where he can. Mind, he’s not foolhardy enough to actually get into the meat grinder, but rather he ducks and weaves through the battle’s edges, throwing in the odd phantasm to tilt the balance where he can, and really nailing the lighting game. He stalks Sugarbelle, remembering how casually she tortured him earlier, tossing more fireworks and making shadows dance for her attention so that she’s always distracted. The more out of control and reactive he can keep her, the better the chances of his cohorts chewing through her the way they did the other vampire.
Goddamn, is being dead fun.
GM: The fireworks seem to particularly startle Sugarbelle. They make her eyes bulge and her fangs jut. She even loses her glasses amidst the tumult: Em gets the satisfaction of bringing his feet down on the frames with an audible crunch, the same way bullies do to four-eyed nerds in grade school.
But Sugarbelle is not Bobbi Jo, helpless before the ghosts’ wrath. Her delicate fingers make spindly, flaying-like motions through the air as she mouths dark chants in a harsh Mesoamerican tongue. Sickly green blasts of necromatic energy incinerate the ghosts where they stand. Phantasmal, jaguar-like claws rip others apart, leaving pitted and smoking obsidian where once was flesh.
Em sees other faces too, in the tumult. Turner, in the thick of the meat grinder, half her face torn off and the rest ablaze with blue fire as she vents her wrath upon the enemy ghosts. She doesn’t bother freeing them, just killing them. Her hands plunge into ectoplasmic flesh and gorily rip and rend from within.
Fizzy’s grabbed a pair of shackles he’s wrapped tight around one of the suits’ throats. He squeezes until the red-faced and desperately struggling man finally goes limp.
Courtney is climbed on top of another ghost, screaming past the top of her lungs as she rakes her nails along his eyes. It’s a warbling, shattered glass-like sound that’s pulled her mouth open impossibly wide, and has the other ghost writhing and clamping his ears.
The new girl looks like she’s just trying to stay alive—or at least dead. She sticks to the edges of the fight, scratching and flailing at whoever gets close.
The antebellum-dressed, dark-skinned man who tortured Em is also there in the thick of things. There are no shackles binding his limbs, but his flensing claws still make mincemeat of the freed ghosts.
The white-suited man alternately fires crackling blasts of dark energy or simply snaps apart spectral limbs and crushes in ectoplasmic skulls with his bare fists. His face is beyond furious as he screams orders and gnashes his fangs.
But the ghosts pour forth. Fists, sorcery, rocksalt spray, and necromantic wards all decimate their ranks, obliterating ghost after ghost, but the mob’s wrath cannot be denied. The survivors surge forward like an unstoppable tide. They slam and pound and scream and fling spectral fire at the entry hall’s great black door until its blasted remains topple backwards with a terrific crash. Em sees they’re in the French Quarter, if the surrounding buildings’ architectural style is any indication. The mob pours out, their screaming captors and their captors’ slaves hot on their heels, then blasts off into the night sky, a chill wind at their backs. The Quarter’s buildings grow steadily smaller as the freed wraiths collectively scream into the starless void. It’s ghastly chorus of the dead and damned, full of page and rage, but something else too. Exaltation.
Emmett: As Emmett soars with them, he wonders how it looks to the living in the Quarter. Can they feel the roar of the dead as they pass? Do they notice the sudden stampede of souls that fly right through them?
Probably not. But if somebody were to watch the skies above the Quarter, if they were to squint, they might wonder if they were seeing fireworks.
GM: Floor-length velvet window treatments reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress pull back to reveal a triptych of large, handsomely proportioned stained-glass windows. In one, Caine slays Abel with a jawbone, then proclaims to Jehovah, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” To its left, Augustus and his son Claudius diablerize Cappadocius and the Antediluvian’s own ‘son’ Japheth, respectively. To the right, Confederate and Union soldiers bloodily skirmish in the bayou, both sides’ features bearing eerily strong familial resemblances.
Dominating the center of the dinning hall is an enormous banquet table crafted of walnut solids and beautiful bands of mahogany, with inlays of maple and ebony and gold trim finishing. Its mirror-polished surface is large enough for a thoroughbred to race down its length. Red-marble tiles form the dinning hall’s floor. On the column-supported ceiling, frieze plasterwork showcases pink debutante camellias blossoming around delicately half-hidden skulls. Six crystalline chandeliers bask the room in brilliant light.
Amist this luxury, the house’s master feasts. He prefers his meals barbecued, but tonight Marjorie has spiced things up with a hearty stew. He lifts the bowl to his smiling fangs as he gulps down bone, gristle, and emulsified flesh, but then convulses as if choking. The slack-faced manservants scatter. Even their lobotomies cannot wipe the fear from visages.
But they are too slow. Far too slow.
His brain-smeared fists clench and un-clench as he whispers across the carnage, his voice an almost gentle tremble:
“Ma sweet Cherry…!”