"So," said Dan quietly, "what do we do now?"
The group looked at each other, a little lost, while Ian continued to admire the glowing light that was now emitting from his would and Nesbitt hovered and circled it with some curiosity. The dragon tried to fly through the string, apparently testing whether it would break or not, but found itself somersaulting forward once he made contact with it, just about saving himself from crashing snout-first into the wall. Nesbitt huffed, snorted, letting out a few sparks as he set himself upright again, then continued hovering around the ghost instead. Admittedly, the ghost had to stop himself from laughing at the slapstick of the reptilian's attempts but soon found himself distracted by the chatter of the group.
"I'm not sure we should keep going now, we... Or well, those of us living need some sleep." Ralph sighed.
"And something to eat." Mumbled James, shifting uncomfortably to try and hide the sound of his rumbling stomach.
"That too." Ralph agreed, nodding some, his eyes making a swift, sly twitch in Dan's direction before finding himself settling on the ghosts for some kind of decision.
Ed took note of what was said and looked to Ian for some words on the matter. It was his decision after all and they weren't exactly pressed for time but knowing the more boisterous spirit, he'd want to chase the lead like they were the Famous Five or some such nonsense, forgetting that the rest of the group had to somehow stay alive in the process.
"Ian?" He encouraged, desperate now to know what was on the other ghost's mind.
"I'm not sure if I can turn this off." Came the response, totally unrelated to the question he had been asked.
"Not what we asked, Gordon the Golfer." Snipped Dan, his hunger just about creeping into his mood elevation.
"Alright, calm down!" Ian clapped back, sticking his tongue out at the vampire. "I mean, we do have a month to figure everything out... Maybe me and Eddy can follow this with Nesbitt and the spider and when we find the end we send one of them to go and get you?"
Emma made a face.
"What?" Frowned Ian.
"Nesbitt doesn't like many people except for me and apparently Kyle now, so I don't know if he'd enjoy being stuck with a pair of ghosts." She explained, folding her arms against her chest. "And Hermes, well, he's a temperamental tarantula and I won't lie to you all he's done since we left Ralph's was complain about you and make snide comments."
"You understand it?" Ian's turn to make a face.
"Yes, he's my familiar, of course I understand him you idiot!" Emma scolded him, throwing a hand up. "Nesbitt speaks too but he's decided he isn't speaking to me unless frosties are involved or it's a message for Kyle. Don't ask they're both a bit-"
"I get you." Sighed Ian, holding both hands up to show he was done with the witch lecture. "Anyway if you livers need to sleep and eat I guess we'll pair up and go by ourselves?" He added, exchanging glances with Ed.
"Alright, fine." Sighed Ed after a beat to think about it. "Someone needs to keep from doing something stupid."
Woody clapped his hands together. "So it's settled, the Caspers are going to follow the line and we get to go home and finally get some sleep."
Most of the group nodded in agreement. Except, predictably two vampires and one werewolf.
"What happens when you find the end?" Dan demanded.
"Well one of us will come and get you, obviously," Ed assured him.
Ralph inhaled to stop himself from sighing. "I think we should split up a bit and look into the other end of the mystery." He said carefully tilting his head to one side. "Because having this many people working on one angle is a bit much, isn't it?"
"... Fair point." Agreed Ian. "Alright what if Ed came to get you, Charlie, James, Emma and Rich when we find the end while Will, Woody, Dan and Kyle look into the other angles?"
"You mean looking into your name and seeing what comes up?" Will suggested, trying to be helpful.
"Yeah, yeah, that. Do that... However you do that now." Ian nodded, frowning a little at the idea of them using the newfangled technologies to look him up. Perhaps it was a sense of fear that was creeping up on him about the idea of being the subject of an archived newspaper headline? Perhaps it was just his boomer technophobia? Whatever it was, it made him incredibly uneasy. "On the intranet thingy, I s'pose, right?"
Woody and James exchanged looks of pure amusement.
"On the internet, yeah." James snickered. Ah that's why Ian was uneasy, he could feel the young wolf's mockery coming from a mile off. It wasn't his fault he'd died before the internet was a thing people took for granted, nor was it his fault that he had limited knowledge of the bloody thing that mostly came from films. The most technologically advanced thing he had seen before today was a PC monitor that was the size of a small television, after all. Still, he supposed he would have to get used to it until he started learning more about today's technology. The Alexa tube still intrigued him.
"Right, so, we have a plan, yeah?" Dan's voice snapped him back to reality. "Can we go now; leave you sheets to it?"
Ed tensed at the slur. "Yes, you guys can go now." He replied through gritted teeth. "We'll let you know what we find."
"Cool." Dan nodded.
"Let's go gang, split up and look for clues!" James exclaimed in a poorly executed attempt at an American accent.
When the rest of the gang had left and it was just the two of them, the eerie silence of the cemetery had become more uncomfortable. The type of discomfort that, like the tension in a bad atmosphere, could be cut by a blunt butterknife and settled on their shoulders like a heavy weight. Ed sniffed, pushing his fists further into his pockets and tightening his coat while Ian examined the line that was persistently glowing with such brightness it could temporarily blind someone if they looked directly at it for too long. It seemed to glitter as well as shine, like dust spots dancing in the sunlight. It wasn't a warm yellow as one would expect from such a light, neither was it a bright white as first suspected; it was a sort of blue-silver combination that started from his chest and ended somewhere in the distance. It was enthralling to just watch it exist but, as the second sigh from Ed reminded him, there was no time to dawdle and admire the artistry of the afterlife. The line should, would lead him to what remained of his body after thirty-odd years and that, somehow, was meant to give them some kind of clue as to what happened that night. A part of the ghost prayed that it wouldn't be another flash flood of half-remembered images because it was uncomfortable enough having had to have done it twice already and his head still pounded occasionally when it decided to give him something else to faintly remember. The other part of him, the largest part of him, however, had a sinking feeling that the clue would, indeed, come to them that way. There was also a fear that he would lose his mind the second he saw his body, the way he'd heard of other ghosts doing. Ed had told him of the poor girl who had died in the flat next to Ralph and Charlie's screaming for days after seeing her body lying on the ground after some kind of accident that had lead to her death and Christ knows Ian wasn't prepared to be in that state and gain the Wailer label. He swallowed, cleared his throat and looked up at Ed.
"So, we teleport outside of the cemetery and then we see where it takes us?" Ian suggested.
"Sounds like a plan, yeah." Agreed Ed, offering him an attempted reassuring smile. "Lead the way." He added, using the top half of his body to make a sort of forwarding gesture. With a deep breath, they both popped out of the area and landed back at the gates, finding that the line snaked around a corner, back the way they'd initially come from.
"If this takes us back to the cinema, I'll be pissed." Joked Ian, trying to break the tension as they turned the corner.
"From the look of it, we won't be going back there," Ed commented, pointing at how the line decided to turn another corner and lead them to the entrance of what used to be a tube station. "Was this an open station when you were alive?"
"I'm not sure... It looked like it hasn't been touched by anything but weather since the war." Frowned Ian, examining the dusty, coloured glass and tiles of the original sign that had been preserved for some ungodly reason. "I guess we'll know more when we go inside?"
"Ladies first." Scoffed Ed, unwilling to admit that he was paralyzingly anxious about entering an abandoned tube station to find a body.
"Alright then." Ian sighed, rolling his eyes. He took a moment to take a deep breath, closed his eyes and stepped through the boards that kept the general public out of what was now a death trap of a tube station.
The only light on the other side came from the line that was attached to him, making it difficult to see his surroundings but he noted the bottom half of a Casio watch advert, the very tops of the turnstiles, and the lower half of a ticket booth. He squinted, trying to adjust to the rest of the station's deep darkness but couldn't make anything else out.
"Ian?" Ed's voice interrupted his examination.
"Come through." He called back. "Careful though, it's pretty dark in here."
"What on Earth would happen to me?" Ed said as he phased through the boards and entered the station. "Or you, for that matter, we're already dead."
"Sorry." Huffed Ian. "Force of habit."
"I hope whoever killed you didn't bury you in the tunnel or something," Ed whined.
"Yeah, well, as far as I'm aware and, according to this line that's physically attached to me, unfortunately, it kind of looks that way, doesn't it, mate?" Snipped the elder ghost, making a point moving slowly and carefully toward the stairs.
"How would he have done that without someone catching him, though?" Ed argued, following close behind like a frightened puppy. "Or without your body being found?"
"I don't know, do I?" Ian argued back, his voice echoing off the tiled walls. "I don't have the ability to telekinetically link with my fucking murderer! Otherwise, we'd have already finished this stupid 'case' Arlen threw at us by now." He added, his impatience growing.
"Calm down! Fucking Hell." Swiped Ed as they came to the bottom of the first set of stairs. They could just about see the bottom, where normally a brightly lit crossroads between two platforms would be displayed and made a note that the line made a sharp left-turn. With their instincts on guard, the two specters followed the line onto a disused platform and found that the line went further, daring them to follow it into the tunnel by being the best source of light in the giant, high-ceilinged room. This fact set Ian's teeth on edge and doubled Ed's anxiety. Knowing that this station was quite an old one, having been disused for years, they feared the fact that they hadn't seen a single other ghost their entire way down to the platform and it was much too quiet for a place where numerous people would have died. It made their spines shiver at the thought of the area being forbidden for any reason. Ed prayed it wasn't a demon hangout. Ian prayed they came across someone before they found his remains. Both prayed they wouldn't be chased out by some kind of entity. A quiet tube station was nothing anyone wanted to experience. A dark, quiet tube station; even less so.
"I hate that it's leading us onto the tracks." Whispered Ian, hopping down off of the platform. "I'm half expecting plague-pit ghosts to pop out of the ground or something."
"Don't say that!" Ed whimpered. "Besides they're not that scary."
"They are when they pop out of the ground in the dark." Argued Ian, following the track toward the tunnel. "You know what they died of, right?"
"Yes, you facetious arse, I do." Ed sniped. "Not all of them rotted to death and, like us, I doubt they're gonna look the way they died."
"Listen, Mr Perfect, just because you died of an internal head injury doesn't mean the rest of us gets to look nice in our ghost form." Ian clapped back, pushing his jacket back and his shirt up to reveal a series of long, black marks against the left side of his torso that would have shown off his internal workings had they not been totally hollow. "I'm stuck with that forever. So imagine what those plague-pit lot look like after passing."
"... Fair enough." Sniffed Ed, having realised now that he had crossed a line. Quietly, he found himself grateful that he didn't have to suffer with being reminded of how he died every day and stretched a silent form of sympathy toward Ian. "I'm sorry." He said eventually.
Ian dropped his shirt. "It's fine." He mumbled. "This feels like it goes on forever."
"It probably does." Sighed the younger ghost, putting a hand against a series of dust-entrenched cables that ran against the wall. "Don't the living staff come down these abandoned tunnels every once in a while?"
"I wouldn't know." Ian shrugged, trying hard to concentrate on where they were going in the dim lighting.
"When I was alive, I remember watching a documentary or something about the tube with Charlie and there's a few of these tube stations all around London." Continued Ed as if he hadn't heard Ian's response. If the elder ghost hadn't known better, he would have said that Ed was babbling to keep himself from panicking. "Some of them still have ads and stuff from the 20s... There's a secret war room from the 40s and everything that's been preserved."
"Is there, really?" A feigned noise of interest.
"Yeah, and on one of the abandoned lines it's said you can come across an empty tube train that if you go on it takes you to another dimension or something like that." The conspiracies just head to rear their ugly heads, didn't they? "Sometimes it's a modern train, sometimes it's an older one... It depends. If it's an older one, apparently people step off and look really confused. Like time travel or something."
"Next you'll say they're haunted!" Smirked the elder ghost.
"Oh shut up!" Ed hissed. "It was an interesting documentary, okay?"
"Yeah, one full of fiction." Sighed Ian, rolling his eyes. "You youngins fall for literally any bullshit, don't you?"
"What's wrong with believing in the extraordinary? Especially as a ghost?" Frowned Ed.
"There's the supernatural, which is tangible and real and you can see, like us, vampires, werewolves and shit, and then there's utter horseshit like time travel and aliens," Ian muttered, taking a moment to glare over his shoulder at the younger ghost.
"Isn't your favourite film Back To The Future?" Argued Ed.
"Yes, but that's a bloody film!" Sighed Ian, clearly exasperated by this stupid discussion. "Nothing about it is real."
"Oh come on, mate, if magic and the paranormal is real why not the scientific theory of time travel?" More pushing stupidity.
A growl escaped the elder ghost. "For a speccy nerd, you're fucking stupid."
"I'm not stupid." Muttered the younger. "I'm just more open-minded, is all."
"That's idiot for 'I'm a fucking gullible git'." Spat Ian, just about managing to stop himself from tripping over the rail at his feet.
"James is right, you are a boomer."
"I don't know what that means but just, stop talking shit, okay?" Ian insisted.
"Well, what do you want me to talk about?" God, he was a persistently growing annoyance now.
"Anything that isn't bullshit!"
Ed sighed. "Fine... Is there anything you miss about being alive?"
"What d'you mean?" Ian frowned, reassigning his concentration back onto the line.
"Like, I miss being able to eat and dropping onto my bed after a long day... Y'know the stupid mundane shit the living take for granted." Ed elaborated, finding himself walking in time with his elder.
Ian took a minute to consider the question. "I guess it'd be nice to have a pint once in a while." He shrugged. "Or to have snacks while I watch films at the cinema."
"There's a ghost somewhere in Wales that can drink pints." Ed quipped.
"Is there?" Now that was interesting.
"Yeah, he takes people's pints when they're not looking, drinks them and puts the glass upside down on a barstool. He was caught on camera doing it... Charlie said it made the news." Ed told him. "He's either really powerful or he's been a ghost for a long time."
"Let me guess, the landlord called in a ghost hunting team to investigate it?"
"Well, yeah, but the camera footage was off the CCTV." Shrugged the younger ghost.
"Interesting." And it was. "Maybe we should take a trip to Wales some time, ask him how he does it."
"A ghost road trip?" Laughed Ed.
"Why not? We'd both be free after this." Ian smirked.
A wicked grin. "Good point."
After spending what felt like forever in the darkness of the tunnel the two specters found themselves confused by a light at the end of the tunnel and a loud, buzzing noise. Ian's line had also changed, having started spiking and glitching as it got to the next platform on the line. The two of them immediately stopped and looked at each other, utterly aghast at the very idea of seeing some form of life on an abandoned tube line. Was it simply the sheer power of ghosts that had been undisturbed for decades?
"You're seeing and hearing that, too, right?" Ian whispered.
Ed daren't say a word but nodded his response.
"Should we... Keep going?"
"I.. I don't know." Ed confessed. "I don't like how glitchy the line looks or that buzzing noise."
"Y'know what it reminds me of?" A beat. "Those stupid box things ghost hunters have."
"A spiritbox?" Now that the idea had been suggested, it was clear to the younger ghost that that was what it was. "Let's just wait a second before going any further."
And so they waited, listening to what was happening at the end of the tunnel. In between the buzzing noises, they heard someone shouting questions into the empty space. Stupid, innocuous questions about whether or not anyone was there. What caught them off-guard, however, was that the voice had an American accent.
"Oh for fuck's sake... Not Yankee ghost hunters." Moaned Ian. He had dealt with a few groups of American paranormal investigators in the past and they, for some reason, were always the most obnoxious and insistent on getting some kind of response. It was frustrating being the only supernatural that wasn't 'real' to humans and especially frustrating when those humans were trying so hard to prove the existence of ghosts when they could just ask any supernatural person about them but oh no, they had to have their own proof and hundreds of eye-witness testimonies simply weren't enough for them.
"You've dealt with them before?" Ed asked, glancing between the end of the tunnel and Ian.
"Maybe not those particular ones, but I have had to put up with their shit back home." Ian sighed. "They're stubborn fuckers."
"Stubborn how?" Frowned the younger ghost.
"They won't leave until they get some kind of communication from us on camera." Whined the exasperated elder.
"So we're either stuck here until they give up or we have to walk through them to follow the line?" Ed sighed. "Fuckin' Sophie's Choice."
"We can't exactly get one of the others for help, can we?" Ian hissed, glaring at him. "First of all, it's late and they'd do nothing but moan if we woke them up and, second, we have no idea where the fuck we are."
"No, no, I know that. It's just," a harsh sigh, "we can't just hide in here. We haven't got much time or else the others are going to get worried."
"That's what's making me nervous," Ian replied, clenching his jaw. "We're going to have to go through the yanks."
"Fuck." The word dropped out of Ed like a stone.
"Listen, I don't want to be in fucking agony either but we haven't got much of a choice." A defeated Ian threw his hands into the air. "We've got to do this or we'll never find my body."
"Alright, fine!" Ed finally agreed. "You go first, though."
"Why me?" Ian argued. "By my count, it's your turn to go first."
"Jesus fucking Christ! Alright!" Exclaimed the younger ghost. "I'll go first, fuck."
With their petty argument ended, Ed swallowed his pride and carefully made his way forward toward the light.