“How do you like it so far?”
“It's pretty nice,” she sat on the floor in front of the couch, head leaned back against the seat cushion. “I miss driving on the right side of the road. Took me a few days to adjust.”
Her mom chuckled on the other side of the phone. “I bet. Get any fancy schmancy gross British food yet?”
She shook her head. “Nah, it's actually not that bad. But apparently jellied eel is a thing here, so…”
“Fuckin’ right ‘gross’. I'd rather eat my own hand.”
Her mom laughed out loud at the comment. “Well don't run out of hands. I'm sure that's not the worst thing you'll hear about over there. Anyway, I gotta go. I'm gonna get back to work.”
“Alrighty, I'll catch you later. Have a good rest of your day, ma. Love you.”
“Bye, Corinne! I love you too!”
Corinne ended the call, feeling alone in the apartment again. Too quiet.
No friends in London yet.
Everyone she’d ever known still back in San Diego.
A brand new life.
“You wouldn't move all of the way to London if you didn't want to isolate yourself,” a former coworker once stated.
Yeah whatever, fuck you.
She got a lot of criticism on the decision. She credited that to the divorce.
25, nearly 26 years old and already a divorcee.
Well… That's just what happens in a passionless marriage to someone you met at 19 and married at 21.
It wasn't Ben's fault things didn't work out. It didn't really seem like anyone's fault. It just didn't work. They weren't in love anymore.
At least they didn't have any children to have to battle for custody over. No pets. Just each other. Simple. Easy.
Corinne Smith got up from where she sat on the floor and made her way to her bedroom. The tiny London apartment felt too big for just her alone.
She did miss his company.
Laying in bed and plugging in her phone, she turned to the empty side of the bed and found herself wishing that it was warm with the presence of another body.
And the sex. She definitely missed sex.
Must've been time to start dating again.
“Yes?” She looked up from the laptop in front of her when she heard her name being called. She spotted Molly waving her over from across the office. Another new employee, who she stuck with during her first week at the office.
Corinne closed her laptop and moved around the other desks and clicking keyboards to Molly's desk- where she turned the screen of her desktop to show Corinne what appeared to be an old video of a large, human-shaped blur walking through a busy street.
“I know you like supernatural things,” Molly said. Corinne adored the accent. Still charmed after two weeks of living overseas.
“Is that from a movie?” Corinne asked.
Molly shook her head. “I filmed it this morning by accident. I was preparing a new vlog video and wanted some footage of the street.”
“You're fuckin’ with me,” Corinne gave her a wry smirk. “You edited it really good, I gotta give you credit, Mol.”
“I swear it, I didn't edit it one bit!”
“Spooooooky,” the American woman wiggled the fingers of one hand at Molly. “You should show that to Helene. We could start a paranormal page. ‘Haunted UK’ or whatever.”
Although, she hadn't expected for the idea to come to fruition within the week.
Helene had loved the idea of a paranormal column on their website- and put Corinne and Molly in charge of it effective immediately.
Which neither of them were particularly excited about. It meant they'd be the fools of the website- chasing ghosts and aliens and all kinds of bullshit that didn't exist.
“Good job there, bud.” Corinne opened her laptop at her new workstation. “I didn't think you'd actually pitch the idea.” They'd had to move their desks together- and Corinne had liked her previous spot on the edge of the room. The center was so crowded.
“How would I knew she'd like it!?” Molly groaned. “I didn't even suggest it, I only made a joke.’
Corinne gave her a wry look. “I thought you knew as a British person-- other British people don't have a sense of humor...”
Molly couldn't help but smirk. “Oh bugger off!”
Molly no longer writing product reviews, and Corinne no longer editing for the celebrity column. They instead had to research legends and potentially ‘haunted’ locations around England. Ultimately the job was kinda fun. And it gave them excuses to leave the office throughout the day to go to the locations and take a few quick pictures or videos. Then spend the rest of the work day out at lunch or just goofing off; and over the following weeks, Molly and Corinne had solidified a friendship.
“Eugh,” Corinne winced as she swallowed a mouthful of beer. “That's what Guiness tastes like!? It's like coffee with cream infused with a skunk's ass…”
Molly laughed, nearly doubled over their table in the bar-- or ‘pub’ as she was trying to start calling it. “You don't like it!?”
“No way, it's all yours,” Corinne slid the glass across the table to Molly. “I don't suppose y'all have Coronas here instead?”
Molly poured the remainder of her last beer into Corinne's discarded glass and drank. “It's an import here. A bit more costly.”
“Fuck it,” Corinne waved over their waiter and ordered a Corona with lime- unsure if she had to specify.
“You must not be very Irish,” Molly smirked, already halfway through the glass by the time Corinne got her Corona. Which she downed half of as quickly as a glass of water.
“I mean-” Corinne shrugged. “I might be. I was adopted so I don’t really know what I am. The red hair comes from somewhere, though.” She ran a hand through the long right side of her hair. It came down to her chin- the rest cut in a neat pixie style. A recent change. Once the divorce was finalized, she felt the urge to drastically change her appearance. So she cut off about thirteen inches of hair.
“I'm so jealous of your hair,” Molly slurred. They'd been drinking for some time now. They were off tomorrow so there was nothing stopping them from getting ‘absolutely pissed’ tonight- as the Brit said. And she wasn’t much of a drinker- but Corinne was admittedly a seasoned veteran. “Such a cute haircut. I could never muster up the courage to cut mine off…”
Corinne smiled widely at the compliment, elbow on the table propping her chin as Molly drunkenly stroked her own long blonde curls. Her eyes wandered toward a TV screen beyond Molly- where the news was on.
Nation still rebuilding as the 30th Anniversary of The Zeppelin Incident approaches.
“Hey, I got an idea,” Corinne said, pointing Molly's gaze toward the TV. “How about we write about the Zeppelin Incident?”
Molly's expression went grim. “What about it…?”
“I heard some bizarre shit happened.” Corinne said. She and Molly watched the screen together as 30 year old photos showed. London was a burning hellscape. The night sky glowing with flames that towered over the many buildings. The rest of the sky obscured by smoke and ash. Some other photos of the same locations afterward- of London rebuilding and improving.
“I couldn't tell you,” Molly said quietly. “I hadn't been born until 2004.”
“Were your parents there?”
“Yes, but they don't like to talk about it.”
“Do you think they’d be willing to if we can add, maybe, a crowdfunding effort to house some of the people who are still displaced?”
“Make our article a long term effort, crowdfund help for people and resources, write out individual survivors’ stories...” Molly mused.
“Visit significant locations, research the hows and the whys,” Corinne barely knew anything about the incident. Just that it was perpetrated by several different groups. Happened suddenly in the middle of the night. And had an enormous death toll that climbed for years and years as more bodies were discovered or hospitalized survivors died from medical complications.
And that many bodies were dressed in either Papal armor or Nazi regalia. History had mentioned that Nazis had been involved in the occult. Disgusting fucking animals.
The idea made it all seem more likely that something unnatural was at work. Hence the heavy Catholic presence.
So what the fuck was it?
“We should do some reading before we get started,” Corinne said. “This is gonna take weeks. But I think Helene is gonna greenlight it when she sees how much effort is going into it.”
Molly’s boyfriend was stuck in traffic and wasn’t going to be able to get her, so the two women walked to Corinne’s apartment where they’d stay the night.
“You’re… Suchagoodfriend…” Molly slurred in between yawns.
Corinne snickered and helped Molly onto the couch. “Yeah yeah, you’re gonna think different in the morning when the sun’s in your eyes.” She nudged over a small trash can from under an end table. “Here, in case you get sick.”
“You’rethebeeeeest,” Molly yawned and snuggled against the couch. Corinne laid the throw blanket over her and even plugged in her phone to charge.
“Mmmmmhm,” Corinne hummed. “And you’re an alcoholic with a low tolerance. But I like you anyway. G’night, Mol.”
Cori. Her parents and friends all called her that growing up. It brought back some nice memories as Corinne excused herself to her bedroom.
An older woman slept alone in a narrow bed in a big room. Corinne could hear the leathery creak of her boots as she walked closer-- aware that she wasn’t herself, but someone else.
Seeing through someone else’s eyes as they approached the unsuspecting lady.
Corinne could make out the stranger’s shadow as they leaned over the woman, tongue gliding over a razor sharp maw of teeth as they bent toward her slowly. Going for the throat.
She woke with a jump, gray eyes meeting the darkness of her own bedroom. Picking her phone off of the side of her bed, she aimed the screen away from herself to illuminate the room.
Alone. As always.
She even got up out of her bed to check on Molly-- snoring away on the couch.
All was well.
The redhead settled back into her room, taking care to close the door silently. The bed creaked a little under her weight, and she sat cross legged in the center of her bed, eyes wincing at the brightness of her dimmed phone as she wrote down the dream.
Just as she’d written down all of the others like it.
In the morning, Corinne woke Molly up with some water and some solid food.
“I’m never drinking again.”
“If I had a dollar for every time I said that,” Corinne smirked, sitting in the teal armchair adjacent to the gray couch.
“American dollars are worthless here and so is your pity,” Molly muttered.
“Okay, suffer then,” Corinne teased. “Guess you don’t want any aspirin to go with my pity?”
Molly gave her a moping face. “Please?”
Corinne suppressed a laugh as she retrieved the pills. Molly sipped at her water and swallowed the pills once they were in her hand. Corinne sat back down in her previous spot and rubbed sleep from her eyes.
“You look tired.”
Corinne looked over at Molly and sneered. “Thanks! That’s the nicest way of saying I look like shit that I could ever hear. Love it, fam.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “Did you get any sleep?”
“Weird dream. Had a hard time falling back asleep afterward,” Corinne yawned. She opened up the note on her phone where she’d written the dream down. The word 'HELLSING' stared at her from the bottom line in all caps. She didn’t know why she wrote it. She just knew that word when she woke up.
“D’you want to talk about it?”
“Nah, I’m okay.” Corinne slipped her phone into the pocket of her hoodie. Oversized and warm. One of the few things she kept in the divorce that was Ben’s. “I have a lot of weird dreams.”
“Ah,” Molly said and rubbed her aching temples. “Will’s on the way. He always teases me when I’m hungover.”