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Unshaken

Chapter Text

Swamps of Lemoyne, 1889

A full moon was casting its glow down on the murky waters of the swamp, the moss on the tree branches caught in the light; he trudged through the water, the rope over his shoulder as he hauled the small boat closer to his destination. It was hardly accessible by boat alone, the spaces between the trees hardly enough room for the oars, the area gator infested which deterred most people wanting to travel this way - but not him. It was the perfect spot to practice his magicks; secluded, natural defense system, able to peacefully bring chaos to the world around him.

A hiss and low groan sounded to his left, lifting the lantern up to show his clean shaven, pock marked face; a large gator was making its way to the man, a few whispered words flew from his lips made the creature back down and swim away from him. He subtly sneered as the gator crawled away, cussing under his breath. Finally reaching the small shack on the one island in the middle of a grove, he pulled the pocketwatch out of his vest - half ‘til midnight; he quickly went to work preparing the altar inside the one room lean-to, the multitude of candles illuminating the intricate chalk and paint designs meant for summoning.

Letting a few drops of blood trickle from his thumb into a small bowl with bones and herbs, a piece of fabric, and a lock of hair, he sat cross-legged across from the wax ridden altar, focusing on his deep breaths as he started the first incantations of the night, subsequently closing his eyes, concentrating his energy; his uninterrupted summoning chants were brought to a halt, the candles flickering out as the man felt a strange chill run up his spine. Goosebumps formed on the back of his neck, he could see his breath once he opened his eyes.

“Spirit?” his voice slightly hoarse from the nearly hour and a half chanting, eyes darting about the space before him. “Show yourself to me, who summoned you from Satan’s legion. Grant me your presence, demon.”

The lights of the candles lit on their own, a humanoid figure with a decaying ram’s head, tusks of a boar protruding from the grotesque features, a reptilian lower half as the demon started to curl its snake half around the human’s torso. The empty eye sockets bled a thick black ichor, like tar, the decomposing lips of the ram’s head curling into a snarl, fangs stained yellow showed themselves. The demon’s dirt caked, emaciated form towered over him, leaning down, lowly snarling.

‘Who are you, mortal, to summon one as malicious as I?’ the demon’s voice rattled like a dying man, raspy and gravelly.

“I-I am a mere humble f-follower of His dark magicks, great demon,” the man stumbled a bit over his words as the demon drew closer, the snake half still crawling up his torso, pinning his arms to it. “I-I wish to bring chaos and destruction to this world, f-for I have been cast aside by those I once called friends a-and family. An outcast.” He gulped. “I only wish to show them a lesson I am not one to be messed with, so I have summoned you to aid me. Where to start is your choice, I leave it to you. I will summon more, soon there will be enough to call upon Lucifer and spread hellfire on the earth.” The binding around his chest tightened, the tail end curling around his neck, the demon growling, causing the man to slightly panic thinking he was going to die, shutting his eyes tight. “I-I set you free, demon, to wreck havoc on the earth willingly and freely! Go and do what you will!”

The demon’s growls quieted to a deep purr. ‘It shall be done, mortal.’ The snake half loosening and slithered off; the door behind the man flew open, the candles snuffed out by the wind. His eyes snapped open, scrambling to his feet, spinning around subsequently taking a few steps to the door. A smile gradually crept onto his lips, the beginnings of a maniacal laugh rung through the dense swamp woods, nearly sounding like a howl. The fruits of this labor was just beginning to sprout.

Chapter Text

Valentine, a few months later, February 1890

Cold. Snow. He hated it. Yet here he was. Trudging on horseback through the drifts hoping to find the main road into Valentine. Spotting a wagon up ahead, the rider felt relieved he was able to spot it, getting his horse through the snow banks steadily and onto the more paved down trail leading into the livestock town.

“Howdy, stranger,” the bearded driver tipped his hat to the approaching cowboy. “Heading to Valentine?”

“Any place than the desolation I just came through,” the scruffy rider grumbled as he brought his red roan to a walking pace. “Been riding for two days straight.”

“Oh, well, you’ll definitely be needing a hot bath and lots of rest. There’s a hotel in Valentine with decent rooms and a … little lady to keep you company while you bathe,” the driver gave the rider a wink. “James Colfield. What’s your name, son?”

“Pete.”

“Where you come from, Pete?”

Will this guy ever quit yapping? “Everywhere and nowhere, Jimmy.”

“Ah, a free spirit. I used to be like that in my younger days,” James started to recall his youth. “Used to hunt buffalo for the Army, that’s where I got the nickname ‘Buffalo Jim’, I guided archdukes through big game territory, now I spend my time delivering handmade goods to the general store there in town.”

“Very illustrious, Buffalo Jim,” Pete trotted his horse a couple feet ahead of the wagon, having James bring his two horse team to a halt. Pete brandished his pistol, his scarf drawn up over his lower half while Jim talked. “Whatever you have for money, hand it over. Let’s both ride into town peacefully, quietly, and never discuss this little incident, shall we? You seem like a nice guy, Jimmy, but I got a mouth to feed. Mine.” His horse below snorted. “Okay, two mouths to feed. I’d ask politely but,” Pete huffed a small chuckle, “I ain’t the type to do that.”

James faintly scowled. “Listen, mister, I’m not the kind to be frightened by your type. How about you just keep on ridin’ and we avoid each other. I won’t leave Valentine until you get your scrawny rear out of there first.” The pistol’s hammer was cocked, James deeply exhaling in a growly manner as his scowl continued. “One more chance, buster, before I brandish my own and blow you to kingdom come.” He saw the rustler hesitate, seeing it in Pete’s blue eyes. A smirk crawled onto Jim’s bushy lips. “What’s the matter, son? Don’t have it in you now?” He paused. “Coward.”

Pete hated that word - ‘coward’. He’s been branded with it for so long it’s earned him the nickname ‘Chicken Pete’ and ‘Peter the Cowardly’. He’s had to prove he wasn’t a coward by killing anyone (innocent, that is) deemed to be killed, only to come up short on execution; he relied on his intimidating stare and pistol to scare people into giving whatever they had on them. His reputation for running away from outlaw bands at the moment of their demise was known throughout the entire country. Rustling, robbing, beating people up to get debts owed, firing back and killing enemy gangs in defense, he could do - but killing a man in cold blood? His arm shook as he couldn’t bring himself to do it, Peter eventually placing the hammer back and stormed off on his horse towards Valentine, leaving James to shake his head and continue his way in the same direction.

Christ, he needed a drink. He pulled up his horse to the hitching post, taking a second to admit his defeat just a few moments ago and dismounted; upon entering Smithfield’s Saloon, he found it to be filled with people looking for a warm place where there was alcohol. Peter strolled up to the bar, taking the open spot next to a napping drunk; he glanced down at the snoring patron to his right, noting the dark hair was growing out almost to his shoulders, parted to the right as it covered part of his face, a rather bushy black beard was prominent.

The bartender strolled up to the pair, shaking the man’s arm. “Hey, buddy, the bar ain’t no place for sleepin’.” The drunk snapped awake with a snore. “If you wanna sleep, there’s rooms upstairs or the hotel across the way.”

“Oh … sorry,” the bearded man lowly apologized.

“It’s okay, chief, he’s stayin’ with me,” Pete put an arm around the drunk’s shoulder. “I’ll take a bottle of whiskey, please.” He laid whatever he had left for money on the counter, getting a shot glass and a bottle of liquid warmth in its place. The first shot went down with ease, Pete exhaling in satisfaction. He poured a second glass, taking his time sipping it as he leaned down on the bar, glancing at the bearded man who took another sip of his beer. “I’m Pete. Peter Venkman. You look a little worse for wear, my friend. What’s eatin’ ya?”

The man remained silent, lost in his own world. Peter snapped his fingers by the guy’s ear to get him to look at Venkman; getting the response he wanted, he asked again. “I’m inquiring about your current state of mind, amigo. Let’s find a spot where we can chat, okay?” Peter pulled at the man’s jacket, escorting them both to an unoccupied table near the front windows. He sat the man down first before taking his seat, in a clearer light, Venkman saw the bearded man had different colored eyes - one green, one brown. His fingers looked sooty and worn, the hands of a blacksmith; his rounded features also carried small smudges of soot along his cheeks, and parts of his forehead.

“Let’s start with introductions again, shall we?” Peter lightly cleared his throat, gesturing to himself. “Peter Venkman.” He pointed a finger to the bearded man who put on an annoyed stare but it softened when he deeply exhaled through his nose and answered.

“Ray Stantz.” He didn’t want to talk to anyone, but either this guy was genuinely trying to befriend him or seem to then end up mocking him and saunter away like most did. Stantz hardly made any friends since moving to Valentine a couple months ago, only speaking with his employer, Mr. Levi at the stables, and a few customers. This cowboy with the scruff and somewhat thinning hair looked concerned about him - might as well go along with it and see what happens.

“What brings you to Valentine, Ray?”

I ended up killing the entire town I made a good living in, only for it to be burned to the ground, along with my wife and two girls. I ran away from it, but I’m forever haunted by the deed I’d done.

“Just looking for work,” he lied. “My trade is blacksmithing.”

“You’re a blacksmith, alright. But you hesitated after I asked you why you’re in this godforsaken town of all places,” Peter sat forward. “What’s the real reason?”

“Hey!” a voice interrupted the pair. Standing behind Ray were two mean looking men with glares matching their attitudes. One had stringy brown hair and thick stubble, shoving Ray in the shoulder with a hard finger. “I recognize your name. My brother lived in the same town that had your shop. I’ve been there a few times. Nice little town.” He paused, leaning down over Ray’s shoulder, placing a hand on the edge of the table and the other on the back of the chair. “Too bad when I came to visit him, the whole town was charred and burnt rubble. I found my brother’s carcass among the others.” He shifted his weight, getting close to Ray’s troubled stare. “I heard the blacksmith in that town went batshit crazy, torched the place. Even his own lady and kids burned to a crisp. Now, what do you have to say for your actions, mister?”

Venkman was taken aback by the whole ordeal unfolding before him. How can a man as innocent looking as Ray do such a thing? The hand on the back of the chair moved to slam Stantz’s forehead onto the table, the man backing off as his lips curled into a snarl.

“You killed my brother, you bastard!”

“I-It wasn’t my fault! I swear!” Ray exclaimed, rubbing his head.

“Then whose was it? The devil?” the man sneered.

A moment’s hesitation filled the air, but Peter nearly believed Ray when Stantz answered, “Yes.”

The greasy haired man snarled, “Bullshit.” He went to beat Ray to death when Peter stood and whipped out his pistol, the barrel aimed at the man’s head.

“Leave him alone, or I’ll blast your brains out, muchacho,” Venkman threatened.

“This ain’t your business, cowboy!” he sneered, knocking Peter’s Colt out of his hand and socked him in the jaw, grabbing Ray by his shoulders as he shoved Stantz over to his friend, pinning Ray’s arms behind him. Ray’s vision became stars as fists laid on his face and gut, his lip split, nose bleeding; Venkman gradually recovered from the punch, glowering as he came up behind the greasy haired man.

“Kip!” yelled the man’s friend. Kip spun on his heels just as Venkman landed a blow to his jaw, Peter getting him in a headlock. Kip’s larger cohort threw Ray to the ground, uppercutting Venkman.

“Hey! Take this outside or I’ll sic the sheriff on you!” the bartender exclaimed.

Peter miraculously recovered from the blow despite the force delivered by Kip’s compatriot. “Don’t worry,” he grumbled, taking Kip by the scruff of his jacket, “we’ll take it outside alright.” He dragged Kip out onto the boardwalk, landing another punch that made Kip land on the road.

“Tear ‘im up, Tommy!” Kip snarled through a broken nose. Tommy gave Peter a big shove towards the post, Venkman felt a hard blow to his ribs as he turned around, feeling cornered. Another harsh punch to the gut, Peter shut his eyes fearing the worst when a shot rang out and the fists stopped; Tommy felt a bullet pierce his back by his kidneys, gradually turning around to see Ray aiming Venkman’s Colt directly at him. Peter craned his head to see Stantz with a glare in his eyes, lips curled in a snarl, Stantz fired another round that landed in Tommy’s left eye; as the behemoth sunk to the floor, Kip scrambled to his feet, whipping his own pistol out and fired two rounds, one hitting Ray in his gut and the other burying itself in his right thigh.

As the gun was dropped, Venkman swooped in to catch it, firing a round that grazed Kip’s ear. “C’mon, with me!” Peter supported Ray as he rushed him to Venkman’s horse, Stantz having the adrenaline to get up and sit behind Peter once Venkman was up on his horse, the red roan galloping best it could through the snow going north east of town past the church. Kip mounted his horse quickly, two other cohorts that were in the saloon during the altercation saw what happened to Tommy had jumped on their horses, following Venkman briefly through Cumberland forest.

“Stay with me, Ray!” Peter turned his head to his passenger, catching the three member posse coming after them, close on his tail. “Shit.”

Kip shouldered a repeater rifle, two shots grazed trees, however a third struck Ray in the shoulder, a fourth hitting his right side. Hearing Stantz’s groans, Peter grit his teeth, taking the risk to get off the main road and into the woods. Veering northwest they reached the Dakota River, a portion of it open for travel across; not seeing the warning signs of a winter storm, Venkman didn’t waste time, getting the roan across the water. Kip and his other two compadres skidded to a halt at the bank of the river, feeling the wind pick up around them, more snow starting to fall.

“They’re gonna be dead anyway,” Kip growled. “Let the wolves have them. We gotta head back before the storm hits us.”

Chapter Text

Peter halted his roan on the other side, seeing the three men turn back around for Valentine. Panting he glanced over his shoulder to check on Stantz. The man was looking worse for wear, paleness was setting quickly, Venkman’s stomach wrenching at the beat up sight of him.

“Don’t die on me, buddy,” he panted. “We’ll find you a doctor.”

Gathering his surroundings, Venkman looked for a path, nowhere to go but the Grizzlies. Following a trail, it led them to a railroad track, Peter not seeing anything beyond that; a low groan from Ray informed Venkman to get a move on, the roan galloping across the tracks and onto the same trail they took. As if the oncoming weather wasn’t enough bad luck, Venkman could hear loud snarls coming up to his left; two wolves had started to chase them, nipping at the horse’s hooves. Maneuvering best to pull his sawed off shotgun from his saddle, he managed to kill one wolf, but the other stayed vigilant, succeeding in getting the horse to buck; Venkman and Stantz went flying off the roan, the horse galloping away as the wolf focused on the downed men, going for Ray first. Peter acted fast, his Colt whipped out, firing two rounds, one missing the creature as one bullet pierced the wolf’s ear; the beast yelped, his attention turning to Venkman, Peter blocked with his arm, attempting to fire but found the chamber empty.

“Get off me, you mangy mutt!” Venkman snarled, thankful a shot rang out, killing the wolf before him. Peter stumbled back, regaining his balance, finding the source of the shot. Standing a few feet from them was an African American with a slanted wide brimmed hat, the crown pinched at the top. He wore a thick heavy used military coat, a burnt orange scarf wrapped around his neck, wielding a carbine; the man lowered his rifle, putting it back in the sheath on the saddle.

“Lucky I found you two,” the man approached them, his Appaloosa following close behind, another horse sporting a recently killed doe and buck. He crouched next to Stantz, pressing a finger to his neck. Venkman shuffled his feet over to him, clutching his injured arm, whistling for his horse. The man put an arm across Stantz's shoulders, carrying an unconscious Ray to the trotting roan. “He’s got a pulse but he needs a doctor. Luckily,” he lifted Stantz onto the saddle horizontally, “I know one.” He got up on his Appaloosa, offering a hand. “C’mon. Hop up.”

Venkman glanced at the unconscious body lying on his saddle, feeling sorry the poor guy was going through all this; he took the man’s arm and climbed up, the rider having a hold on the roan’s reins. “I’m Winston, by the way,” the man introduced himself.

“Pete.” Venkman gestured to the downed man. “That’s Ray.”

“Doc and I are just up the road. He can fix you both up.”

 

He stood in an open field, the wheat waving with the breeze blowing past him; no clouds in the sky, the sun shining down on him.

“Ray …”

He spun around, turning his head another way to find the source. It sounded so far away, Stantz walked two feet before he heard his name again.

“Ray,” said the voice closer this time.

Turning on his heels he was face to face with the woman he loved dearly - Jenny. Ray started to tear up, staggering subtly to his wife, embracing her tightly, her arms gracefully wrapping around him.

“I’m sorry, Jenny, I’m so sorry,” he quietly sobbed. “I-I didn’t do it … it … it was … I-I saw …”

“Shh, shh,” she pulled away, holding his face in her hands, “it’s okay. It wasn’t you. I came to warn you about the very thing that made you do it.”

“Y-you … you did?” he sniffled.

“It’s going to come for you again, Raymond,” Jenny brushed back his hair that hung on his forehead. “You need to be ready for it. Once its work is done, there’s no stopping the chaos it’ll bring. You need to stop it before uses you, Ray. It’ll do the exact same thing, maybe even more.”

He was at a loss or words, trying to savor this moment as he stared into his wife’s eyes. He missed those beautiful blue eyes, her golden hair; Ray leaned into a hand, still holding her close to him.

“How … how do I stop it? I don’t think I can.”

“You have friends now who can help you, Ray,” Jenny brushed a rolling tear away with a thumb. “Plus, I’ll be there.” She brought him in for a kiss, pulling away. “There’s another matter I need to inform you … the dead don’t stay dead.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“There are forces out there that want to hurt people, to hurt you. Forces that you can’t see until they are provoked. Some of these things want to move on, others want to cause harm. Help those living afflicted by these things, Raymond.” The sky above them quickly turned grey, venturing on black, thunder and lightning clashed in the dark clouds. Ray saw a pang of fear in Jenny’s eyes. “It’s here …” Ash and billowing clouds started to swirl around them, Ray held his wife close to him, an unseen force trying to pull them apart.

Jenny screamed as she was torn away from him, Ray was in a full sprint, crying her name. “Jenny! Give her back! JENNY!!”

“Raymond Stantz … it’s been a while …”

He was swept off his feet, landing on the ground. A half humanoid half snake demonic being with a decaying ram’s head came through the swirling cloud and smoke, Ray remembering voice that haunted him for months until he did the demon’s deed; his heart pounded in his ears, his breath quickened staring into the empty sockets of the ram’s skull as he scooted away.

“I am proud of the work you had done, Raymond. Such wonderful work. You are a perfect vessel for my doings, such an open and easy mind to influence …”

“I refuse to do whatever you have planned,” Stantz spat back. “I won’t do your bidding!” He found himself backed up against a wall. “Leave me alone and bother some other poor bastard, but not me!”

The empty sockets burned hellfire as the demon leaned down towards the cowering human, snarling loudly. “I will make you do it again, Raymond Stantz! There is no stopping me once I have planted the seed in that weak mind of yours, pathetic mortal. You already carry my mark. You will submit, human!”

“NO!!” Ray pushed back, radiating a strange aura about him that caused the demon to slither away from him. The demon growled, sensing something had sparked within the human the creature was not aware of. “Go back to hell where you belong!”

The demon roared, charging the human. Ray braced himself, attempting to block, the demon’s claws swiped at his chest, getting a back handed blow that sent him back against the wall once more. Clawed hands gripped the sides of his head, feeling them apply pressure; Ray grimaced, a scream escaping his chest and out his mouth, he pulled back an arm, throwing a punch at the demon who went flying back into the mist.

 

Peter was socked in the jaw by the shouting man, he heard heavy footsteps approach the bed, a baritone voice calling out to Ray.

“Mr. Stantz, it’s alright! Wake up!” Ray was shaken awake, his eyes snapping open to see a pair of dark brown eyes behind a pair of round glasses gazing down at him. The dark brows of the man subtly lifted at the reaction he was getting, smoothing his features out as Ray was starting to calm down; Stantz’s body ached all over, the cold was starting to get to him as he furiously shivered.

“Winston, get me another blanket, please,” the bespectacled man calmly spoke. A dark skinned man named Winston came into view with another blanket, the large nosed man with dark wavy nearly curly hair pressing a hand to Ray’s forehead. “Fever is progressing …”

“Jenny,” Ray was starting to slip back into unconsciousness from exhaustion. “Jenny …”

“Whoever this ‘Jenny’ is, Stantz, she ain’t here,” Venkman rubbed his jaw as he stood. “He’s been muttering that name ever since we got here, Doc.”

Stantz saw the demon’s face in his head, curling his lips into a snarl, hands reaching out for it; the tall doctor was able to grab Ray by his wrists, holding back a potential assault. “You made me do this, demon!” Stantz shouted, his closed eyes emoting with his features drawn together as he sneered. “You took her from me!”

“Get me a sedative!” the doctor called out. Winston acted quickly, going into the doctor’s bag, pulling out a folded leather case. He pulled up a stool, the doctor glancing at the case and muttered, “I would not prefer my personal stash, Zeddemore.”

“What choice do we have, Doc?” Winston grumbled, pulling a needle out. The doctor pushed back, pinning Ray’s left hand above his head, putting the right down at Stantz’s side as to not upset the bandages on the man’s injured shoulder.

He was fighting the demon’s clutches, trying to free himself as the demon’s mouth was drawing closer, a rattlesnake protruding from it; it nearly got him, feeling the pinprick, Ray roared back, breaking free as he wrapped his hands around the demon’s throat.

“Quick … Winston …” the doctor managed to get out as the vice-like grip continue to tighten. Venkman attempted to get Ray’s hands off the man’s throat, cussing Stantz’s strength. Winston’s first effort was met with Stantz jerking away from his advance, he tried again, firmly holding Ray’s head down and tilted it to expose his neck and quickly plunged the needle in, dispersing the sedative.

The demon was gradually fading, the gray mist clearing to leave him in a room similar to the home he used to live in. The fireplace roared, Ray saw a woman with gold hair sleeping in the bed, his feet shuffled over to her, climbing into bed as he laid next to her, drifting off.

“Incredible,” the doctor’s voice hoarse as Ray’s hands fell to his sides, the tall man rising to his feet as he rubbed his throat.

“A barely conscious man chokes you to death and all you have to say is ‘incredible’,” Peter rolled his eyes.

“This fevered state has produced an extraordinary thing I haven’t seen before,” the doctor sat in the chair adjacent to the bed. “Most patients wouldn’t have the strength to do that. This overall experience observing him while you two were out hunting has been very interesting.”

Venkman was starting to get the creeps from this doctor, but something was very familiar about this man. “If you, uh, don’t mind me asking, doc,” Peter cleared his throat, “where you from … originally?”

The doctor glanced up at Venkman, rising to his feet. “I don’t believe I formally introduced myself,” he extended his hand. “Doctor Egon Spengler, originally from Blackwater.”

Blackwater. Venkman’s been there numerous times. But the doctor’s name struck an odd fear in Peter; he’s heard stories about this man, mostly rumors - he hoped. He was shaking hands with the Grim Reaper of Blackwater.

Chapter Text

“Have you been to Blackwater, Mr. Venkman?” Spengler asked.

“A few times, yeah,” Peter quickly released his hand from the shake. Spengler saw how uneasy Venkman looked once he mentioned his name and place of origin, he subtly squinted his eyes studying Venkman’s facial features to read any tics.

“Have I done something wrong?”

“To other people you have.”

Spengler let out a small chuckle as the doctor smirked. “Those are mostly rumors, Mr. Venkman. Stories. But to humor you, some are true.”

Peter remained quiet as he watched Spengler turn his attention back to Ray; from what he’s heard, Spengler did more than rob a grave or two. If that man ends up mistreating Ray that could, and will, lead to his death, Venkman would gladly see Spengler hang. The doctor could see bleeding on Ray’s shirt, his brows faintly drawing together as he pulled back the blanket to the unconscious man’s waist. Those claw marks weren’t there before, four lines at an angle that didn’t seem too deep but would require stitching; Spengler subtly cocked his head to the side, grabbing a pair of surgical scissors to cut the torn shirt open. Venkman kept a watchful eye as he got closer to observe; Egon had retrieved needle and thread from his medical kit, dressing the wounds before making the first few stitches to close them up.

The outlaw couldn’t help but notice a faint tremor in Egon’s hands most wouldn’t catch as the doctor patched Ray up. “Nerves?”

Spengler kept silent, getting the smallest claw mark closed, snipping the thread and moved on to the next. Venkman leaned on the footboard, putting his weight on a leg. “Now, why would an upstanding doctor like yourself have the shakes? If it was hereditary, sure, good for you, you can control it.” He saw the open leather pouch by Ray’s foot, picking it up. “But if it was something else …”

He could feel a pair of eyes staring him down, Venkman glanced up from the pouch he was studying to see the doctor scowling at him over the rims of his glasses. “Listen, I just don’t want you harming my friend here,” Peter closed the pouch and tossed it back on the bed.

“He’ll be fine,” Spengler mumbled, going back to his work. “Nothing to worry about.”

“Is that what you told the people who eventually died under your hands?”

Egon paused the stitching, closing his eyes and opened them, deeply breathing through his nose. His left hand holding the surgical needle had a gradual tremor, he could feel a faint layer of sweat perspiring on his forehead, a gnawing itch spread through Spengler’s body as he fought back the addiction to use his stash of morphine and laudanum. He had been perfectly fine performing surgeries and standard exams under the influence, however under concentrated small doses to take the edge off; it didn’t take long before the need to take more overrode him. Reckless amputations leading to infection and death, a lobotomy that caused the patient’s suicide a month after the procedure (not to mention two more cases resulted in the same ending), general malpractice, causing the nickname ‘Grim Reaper of Blackwater’ to spread across West Elizabeth and beyond.

A law agent had come to his office with a warrant, catching the doctor in the middle of a morphine trip, Spengler drawing a pistol he had on the desk, shooting the lawman in the head; as he stood there panting heavily, shock took over his system, the doctor quickly packing up shop and rode out. Trying to lay low as best he could, he found himself in the company of a gang of outlaws, befriending at least two of the members; Egon had spent a year with them before parting, looking to start his operations again, this time in Rhodes. A Pinkerton agent had caught wind of his arrival, intent with bringing him in.

“Either you come quietly, Dr. Spengler, or I have no problem in dragging you out of here,” the ginger agent with a scruffy beard sneered after heated words were exchanged.
A pistol was whipped out from the gun belt Spengler wore, the barrel square in the middle of the agent’s forehead. “You have ten seconds to walk out that door, or I’ll crack that skull open and make you dance the jig,” he threatened the agent.

 

“Hey.”

Venkman brought Spengler out of his reminiscing, the doctor snapping his gaze to the scruffy outlaw; Peter saw the man space out for a good two minutes, watching the tremor move to the other hand. “What’s going on, chief.”

The doctor gave a harsh sniffle, continuing his work once the shakes subsided. “Just a relapse,” Egon muttered. “Winston has been trying to get me to break the addiction. Some days it works.”

“And the others?”

“Self explanatory, wouldn’t you think?” Egon glanced at him over the rims of his glasses. Venkman gave a short nod, removing himself from the bed.

The door swung open, the cold wind howling outside; Winston had two rabbits slung over his shoulder from checking nearby traps, he pushed hard against the wind to shut the door, succeeding and locked it. “We’re gonna be snowed in for a day or two, should have enough food to last us until the weather calms down,” he announced, setting the rabbits down on the table. He glanced over at the bed ridden man. “How’s he holding up, Doc?”

“Stable, but received markings of an unknown origin.” The largest of the claw marks was closed up, two more to go, intrigued how the claw marks appeared out of nowhere - they weren’t there when Stantz was first brought in.

“And how are you holdin’ up?”

Spengler took a moment to answer, the silence telling Winston all he needed to know. The relapses were few these past four months, but the times he’s found Egon passed out outnumbered. He lightly sighed out his mouth, taking his coat off, eyeing the weather outside.

“How about you?” Peter came over to Winston, leaning against the wall as he faced him. “How did a guy like you ended up shacking with the goddamn Butcher of West Elizabeth?”

Winston had a small grin in the corner of his mouth when he heard that moniker, giving a short huff of a chuckle. “He came across me and a couple of lawmen, I asked for his help, I was framed for a murder I didn’t commit. He shot them both right where they stood. One of them recognized Doc from a different warrant, anyway.” He paused, eyeing Venkman. “You’re not an undercover journalist or going to turn us in, are you?”

“I’m just making formalities here, is all. I wouldn’t want to be within ten miles of a Pinkerton, are you kidding me?”

“You’re asking every one of us here what our stories are,” Winston lightly shrugged. “I’m just curious why you’re so curious, Pete.”

“Curiosity killed the cat, Venkman,” Spengler was heard, wiping his hands clean with a rag. “Keep asking and I’ll personally perform an invasive head exam.”

“Thanks, big guy, I appreciate that,” Peter snarked. Silence briefly stayed before Winston spoke up.

“I didn’t have a place stay, really, after my time in the military,” he continued. “I don’t have a wife, kids,” he faintly shrugged again, “I was already on the run, needed to lie low, Doc knew some people who took me in for a short while. One guy in that group ended up running me out, though. I’m gonna kill that sonofabitch one of these days if I ever find him.”

“Mr. Clark was unwelcoming to me as well during my tenure with Misters Van der Linde and Matthews,” Spengler piped up, taking a seat at the table with coffee. “I’d like to preserve his body for display.” He paused, the rim of the mug at his lips as he added, “But he had an odd curiosity for the supernatural … even ignited my own.”

“That man gave me the creeps,” Winston gave a light shiver. “Like I said, I see him, I’ll kill him dead on the spot.”

Spengler’s words stuck with Peter as Venkman pulled himself from the wall and sat at the table. “You, a man of medicine, science … believes in ghosts? You’re pulling my leg, Spengz.”

“I heard of a doctor in England by the name of Doyle who is also curious of the paranormal, Venkman, I wouldn’t pigeon hole professionals of medicine into being only so close minded to things that can be beyond rational and scientific thinking.”

“Okay, Doc, then answer me this,” Peter leaned forward on the table, “have you been haunted by the souls of those you killed? Or are they hallucinations when you knock yourself out from your little stash?”

“Lemme ask you something, Cowardly Pete …” came a voice Venkman hadn’t heard in years, they turned around to see a grisly apparition of an outlaw decorated with cuts and bullet holes, Peter gulped hard when he recognized who it was, “am I a hallucination, you sonofabitch?”

Venkman stared into the dead eyes of Big Joe, a former criminal Peter had gotten killed during a shoot out with the law while Venkman escaped. Joe never did like Venkman the second he met him, sometimes calling him 'Pussyfootin' Peter'; the ghost snarled at him, seeming to not have an advantage, but saw an opening with the unconscious man lying on the bed.

"I've been wanting to get my hands on you, Pussyfoot," Big Joe growled. "You handed us to the goddamn wolves, traitor! It was you who tipped them off!"

"Me? A traitor?" Peter scoffed, standing, getting into his charming and deceiving demeanor. "No! Listen, Joe, I have a tendency to scurry even before they start blazing at us, yes. But I'm not the kind to snitch, okay? I may give off that feelin' to everybody, but I get my kicks until the party's over."

"Well, the party's over for you, Pete," Joe sneered, vanishing into the body of Ray Stantz, possessing him. Stantz's body bolted from the bed, his left hand grabbing the pistol hanging on the back of the chair, his eyes washed over as white voids pierced Venkman's bewildered stare. A fired round was diverted when Spengler pushed Stantz's arm out of the way, the bullet cracking the wood, the ghost controlling Ray brought the barrel over to the doctor, however missing the intended kill and ended up grazing the left temple of Spengler's head as the doctor tackled the possessed man and wrestled the gun out of his hand. Joe headbutted Egon, reaching for the pistol again when Ray's body went rigid; a low beastly growl came from Stantz, a scream in Ray's voice pushed out as Big Joe was forcefully extracted by Stantz's own doing. All three men were taken aback by this feat, Ray fighting exhaustion but lost to it, fainting.

The ghost hovered above them all with a grotesque snarl on his face, dashing for Venkman; in a flash the ghost took over, making Venkman draw his own gun to his head, the barrel under his chin. Winston quickly stepped in, snatching the pistol away before it could be fired, socking Venkman in the jaw; it chilled Zeddemore to see white voids stare at him with anger, Joe charging him as Winston got him into a hold. "Get out of him, hellspawn," Winston growled, trying to keep his grip as the ghost possessed man was fighting back with inhuman strength.

'Ray ... Ray, wake up ... they need you ... help them ...'

"I ain't leavin' til he's dead," Joe snarled, wrestling his way out of the choke hold. He pulled the second pistol Venkman hand on his belt, cocking the hammer, getting dramatic as he gradually brought the barrel to Peter's temple. "He deserves to be with the rest of us, and everyone else he's abandoned!"

Before the trigger could be pulled, Peter's body levitated off the ground by a foot, his body rigid, the pistol falling to the ground being caught by Winston as he set the hammer back in place; Spengler witnessed firsthand Ray snapping awake and ripped a fingerless leather glove off his left hand, a strange insignia burned into his palm. Ray had that hand focused on Venkman, rising to his feet; Zeddemore and Spengler watched in astonishment as Ray tensed his hand and pulled it back to him in a closed fist, the ghost getting yanked out of Peter. The apparition of Big Joe remained frozen, Stantz extended his fist, opening it up as small crackles of orange and purple lightning flared in his hand; the sigil on his palm began to glow a dark orange, his mismatched eyes glaring, a nosebleed was starting to form the longer Stantz held the ghost in his control.

"Leave them alone," he commanded, the energy in the cabin growing heavy, a shot of orange and purple lightning spiked from his hand, causing a portal to gradually rip open as the ghost was sucked into it, the tear closing itself. Stantz immediately felt drained after performing that feat, coming to reality as he stared at his left hand in shock and astonishment. He slowly turned around to see Winston and Egon stare at him dumbfounded and somewhat terrified; neither men could fully understand what just happened, it shook all three of them to their core at this recent discovery.

Venkman came to, rubbing his head as he sat up, cracking an eye open at the three bewildered men. "The hell just happened?"

Chapter Text

Venkman came to, rubbing his head as he sat up, cracking an eye open at the three bewildered men. "The hell just happened?"

“Good question … I … I don’t know,” Ray shuffled over to the bed, eyes still focused on his hand. The sigil on his hand became black, looking like a tattoo; he associated it with the demonic workings he was forced to do, but somehow made it serve another purpose. “It just … did something I didn’t expect it to.”

Spengler sat down across from Ray, examining the other’s hand. “How long have you had this?”

“Not long, few months. But … last time this lit up …,” Ray went silent, not wanting to speak of the horrific act the demon made him commit. The very thought of his wife and girls dying in that fire, the screams of everyone in that town, Stantz closed his watery eyes, a couple tears falling as he bowed his head. He let out a harsh sniffle, his body faintly tremored, shakily exhaling. “I … I didn’t want it to happen but … that thing … kept haunting me …”

“The demon you were hallucinating earlier.”

“It was there in my head, Venkman,” Ray snapped his annoyed stare to him. “It wants me do its bidding again.” His gaze turned back to the sigil. “I won’t let it torture me into committing whatever he wants. Not if I can help it. When I was confronting it I … my resistance must have altered the mark’s purpose in a way.” He looked up to the others. “It’s never done that before. The only thing this,” he held up his hand, “has done is bring nothing but destruction.”

“Like torching that town you lived in,” Pete brought up. Winston and Egon turned their stare to Venkman, Peter gesturing to Ray. “Hey, it’s what he told me back in Valentine. Well … that one guy did, anyway.”

Ray remembered Kip and his brother; the brother was a horse trader, often coming in to get them shoed. He had a friendly demeanor, a gut busting laugh. Kip, from the times Stantz has interacted with him, was on the quiet side but polite;

“I didn’t mean to do it,” Ray’s mumbling turned their attention back. “When it made me burn my home, the town, I felt … disconnected. Like I wasn’t the one controlling my body.”

A flashback came to him - the town in a raging fire, seeing himself stand alone before it, his back turned to him. Moving to face himself, Ray saw his past self with a cold stare, skin a pale ashen gray, eyes bloodshot with the iris and pupils a dull orange. “A monster.”

His cold stare gazed at the burning buildings before him, the faint screams of those still alive reaching his ears; a man on fire stumbling his way from the inferno, soon collapsing to the ground. The demon stood behind him, a low purr sounded from it, pleased with the work done here, though one more thing must be accomplished; a cry had broken out from Ray’s left - his wife Jenny was limping towards him, her voice raspy from inhaling the smoke.

“Ray … please …,” she choked a sob. “Wake up … what’s happened to you?”

‘She survived …,’ the demon growled, lowering itself to whisper into Ray’s ear, its thin bony hands placing themselves on Stantz’s shoulders. ‘Finish what you started …’

Jenny was lifted into the air, Ray with his extended hand holding her up; she stared into those dead eyes - this wasn’t her husband. She felt a sharp pain starting in her chest, the fire spreading across her body the flames burned her from the inside out. As she was choking from her burning lungs, she could see a demonic figure right behind her husband, a grotesque half man, half snake with a decaying ram’s head and boar tusks - so this was the cause. Before the flames consumed her entirely, she mouthed ‘I love you’ to Ray, her body collapsing to the ground as the hold was released.

It was like waking from a nightmare, the demon had let go of him once his wife was consumed by the fire; Ray had first tried to resist when the demon ordered him, but being the passenger in his own body he could only watch himself kill the only woman he loved. Once he was freed, it felt like he held his breath the entire time, he saw the chaos around him, panic setting in as he realized what happened; staring down at the sigil in his palm, the orange glow had faded to make it appear like a burned on tattoo.

“Jenny … the girls …,” he thought aloud, running to his cabin only to stop at the burning body in front of him. He could make out her form, and the clothing, Ray’s face dropping into horror as he recognized the body as his wife’s. Stantz sunk to his knees, weeping that the demon made him do this; he wanted to hold her close, kiss her, all he could do now was watch in horror while she burned.

“I should’ve just walked into that fire and killed myself,” Ray mumbled, clenching his left hand into a fist. “I’d do anything to hunt that demon down and kill it with my bare hands.”

“When this demon does manifest itself, perhaps you can,” Spengler wiped at the wound on his temple where the bullet grazed him.

“If I can get this under control,” Ray opened his hand, staring at the mark on his palm, feeling vengeance take hold of him. He has to make this right. “Then … yeah … I can.”

“We might be snowed in for a while,” Winston piped up, looking out the window, “you got the rest of the winter to figure it out.”


Late March, 1890

The snow was halfway melted, spring’s first grass and vegetation had started to come alive, a man on horseback was traveling along the muddy road leading to Moonstone Pond. He had tracked down a buck for two miles, losing it to a small pack of wolves, the man letting out a disgruntled sigh as he rode back to his camp. His horse below him had suddenly stopped, the animal’s ears swiveling back and forth, the rider sensing something was spooking it.

“It’s okay, girl,” he pet at the horse’s neck, “we’re just about there. C’mon.”

When he gave her a small nudge to her ribs, an apparition of a rather large grizzly appeared right in front of them, the ghostly beast letting out a roar. The horse reared up, the man fighting to stay in the saddle but fell backwards into the mud and slosh. His horse took off, only the spectral bear standing above him snarling that shook the earth below him. The bear got down on all fours to attack, the man shielding himself and prayed for a miracle - hearing a shot ring out, he opened his eyes, seeing through the bear four men stood on the other side of the creature.

A bearded fellow with a fox hat stepped forward, holding his left hand out that was strangely glowing from his palm, lightning a weird color shot out from it that zapped the bear, apparently the creature was hurt by this; the bear roared at them, paying the mud covered man no mind as the four men were its targets now. Another man, this one with glasses and a flat crown wide brimmed hat shouldered a double barrel shotgun, firing two rounds that also affected the ghostly bear; the downed man didn’t see bullets graze the trees, seeing the shotgun shells were white once the bespectacled man reloaded.

A dark skinned man also carried a shotgun, firing the same type of rounds into the creature, while the cowboy with scruff took out a lasso, the loop large enough to wrap around the bear’s neck, the cowboy pulling tight as he tried to bring it in with help from the bearded fellow who made a lasso from the lightning coming from his hand.

“Get the box!” the cowboy yelled. The man with the glasses fetched a medium sized wooden box from the wagon, positioning it to face the apparition as he held it, lifting the lid. “You get it from here, Ray!”

The bearded fellow, Ray, pulled the bear closer, his other hand touching a carved mark on the underside of the lid that activated a strange purple light from the lead lined box, the air around them grew heavy as a vortex started to suck the bear into it. A bright flash of light exploded from it, fading once the bear was contained; the lid shut and no sign of the ghost around, the four men looked pleased with themselves at the success. The terrified man stumbled to his feet, staggering a few steps before stopping.

“Hey, wh-who are you guys?” What he just witnessed he could never unsee, taken aback by the ghostly image he never knew could exist. The fact that four men somehow were able to trap this monster was flooring him.

The four glanced at each other, unsure of what to call themselves. The one called Ray spoke up, “We’re uhh … the ghost … hunters.”

“Ghost hunters?” the cowboy scoffed, shaking his head. He approached the dumbfounded man. “Hi. Pete Venkman. Look, what you just saw a lot of people in the surrounding area would have the same face as you have on right now. We just started doing this so there’s a few kinks to work out …”

“But you didn’t answer my question,” the man butted in. “Who are you guys?”

Peter was trying to think of a good name for their small gang when Winston piped up behind him.

“Ghostbusters,” Winston called out. “We’re the Ghostbusters.”

“Ghost … busters,” the man slowly nodded, still trying to piece together what the hell just happened. He nervously chuckled shaking his head. “Strangest thing I’ve ever seen but … thank you. All of you.” He extended his hand out to Peter. “Cody Lewis.”

When they shook, Peter noticed the man’s hands were cold as ice, hiding his surprised stare as he smiled. Venkman returned to his comrades, hopping into the wagon as the four rode off; the man who named himself Cody Lewis turned deathly pale, his eyes turning blind, his corpse falling to the floor as a man in black approached the road, having hidden himself from the encounter. He had used the corpse he found, manipulated back to life, knowing a ghostly bear had been haunting the mountains; it was only a matter of time that he found it. He was going to use it for his own gains, but his plans were interrupted by four men - two of which he recognized.

The man in black’s lips curled into a nasty smile. “Spengler and Zeddemore … fancy seeing you two. We’ll meet again soon. I’ll make sure of that.” He had noticed the bearded fellow had the mark of the demon he summoned months ago, sensing the demon’s power over the man had been altered to serve another purpose but no matter - the demon will claim him in the end.