Chapter 1: staring down the barrel of a hundred tons
Downtime came rarely but when it did, and they were at home, Kyle would jump on the opportunity to take Dan to an old theatre on a ritualistic date to see whatever stupid movie was being replayed that week as part of the monthly Film Club. They weren't exactly the dating kind, so what else would they do when going out together? Film Club at the old Pathe Theatre would satisfy Kyle's need to feel like a regular couple while also keeping his vampire suitably entertained for a long enough period of time that he didn't end up with him glued to his phone instead of actively engaging.
Ever since the Bloodline incident, Dan had been a little distant - and understandably so - but this ritual of sitting in the back of an old theatre, watching classic films while cuddled into old, plush velvet seats that squeaked if you moved a certain way would bring him back to his human... Even if it was only for the duration of Back To The Future or Jaws. It just made them feel normal, in a world and a relationship that just wasn't, and that was enough for Kyle. It would have been perfect if it wasn't for one rather irritable thing: the ghost that sat in the front row and shouted incessant running commentary or threw things around during the film every single week; and this week was certainly no different.
It would have been easy to ignore if Kyle had been a regular human and couldn't see or hear the ghost (for him, it would have been, at any rate, how Dan would react to the interruption was still up in the air), but being a feeder, a trained feeder, meant that he had the unfortunate ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Unfortunate in that the only pleasant spirit he had ever come across was Charlie's former love, Ed, who would often pop in and out of the flat to check on the pair whenever he could. Other ghosts, on the other hand weren't quite so pleasant. Wailers and poltergeists were especially vexing, but there was nothing anyone of the living persuasion could really do about them. This particular ghost was a product of the decade the film on the screen was originally premiered, wearing something that made Kyle think of pictures of his dad as a young man: the man was eternally glued to an outfit that was made up of a flammable windbreaker jacket in blue with giant, diagonally cut white and red stripes that met at the zip, a bright white t-shirt with The Specials on the front in poorly screen-printed black ink, a pair of tight, acid-wash 'cigarette' jeans with the cuffs rolled up at the ankles and a pair of beaten up boots in a deep shade of red that reminded Kyle of his own blood. The ghost was also stuck with the permanent accessory of his cassette playing Sony Walkman that the 80s ghost would sometimes lie down in the middle of the aisles and listen to, singing along loudly to whatever track was playing on his admittedly shitty mixtape through the bright orange headphones that clung to the gel in his hair whenever he became bored with the now predictable lines and scenes of the moving pictures on screen. A part of Kyle was kind of jealous of the young dead man until he would notice the large stain on the left side of his shirt and remembered why he was stuck in this beautiful old building: he had been murdered, and murdered ghosts were tied to the spot they'd died in. That fact always made Kyle incredibly sad but he daren't go near the guy and ask him to keep it down. The screening room was this ghost's house, after all. It was like asking a vampire not to feed in their own kitchen; sacrilege.
"You're telling me you built a TIME MACHINE! Out of a DELOREAN!!!" The line wasn't delivered very clearly by youthful Michael J Fox, oh no, it had been delivered by the ghost, the last word screeching and echoing around the old room like a tornado in a wine glass and that, apparently, was the straw that broke the vampire's back.
"Oi!" Dan yelled, hopping upright so he could try and get a glimpse of the ghost at the very front of the room. "Shut the fuck up!"
Immediately a rush of anxiety flushed into Kyle's cheeks and gave them a warmth he wasn't used to.
"Fuck you!" Came the ghost's reply, followed by a pair of middle fingers directed at the vampire.
"... Dan," Kyle began, really wishing Dan's temper hadn't gotten the better of him.
"No, Kyle, this sheet needs to fucking cool it." Snipped the vampire, briefly looking down at his human. "We get it, he's seen the film a million times. So have we, but that doesn't give us the right to ruin it for anyone else."
For Dan, it was the audacity of the ghost's overall attitude that had enraged him more than anything. Poor manners cost nothing, or so he had been taught as a child and this spirit's lack of them had finally grated on his very last nerve. The vampire was having none of this shit, not anymore. He was here to enjoy a classic with his lover and escape in an old favourite, not have to listen to a dead man ruin every single frame of it.
"I'll text Charlie... Ask him to see if he can get Ed to help us?" Kyle suggested, already pulling his phone out of his pocket.
"Good. We need someone who speaks Mad Ghost." Dan nodded, throwing a gesture toward the 80s Ghost.
Without warning, said ghost had appeared at the end of their row; wearing a big, sarcastic sort of grin as he leaned against an empty seat, making it slowly, and loudly, squeak.
"Why should I stay quiet when you two break the first rule of any public establishment every week?" He sniped, locking eyes with the steamed vampire.
Dan frowned and squared his shoulders defensively. "The fuck are you on about?"
"No Heavy Petting!" Smirked the ghost, tapping his nose a few times. "I know what you two do all the way up here in the nosebleeds."
"That's none of your business!" Retorted the vampire, while his human quietly tapped out a text message to their friend.
"Someone having hanky panky in what's essentially my bedroom makes it my business." The ghost calmly replied, pulling a face before trying to make eye contact with the feeder that was sinking further and further into his seat and staring deeply into the little box in his hands as he tried to deal with the embarrassment. "You okay there, sweetheart?" Added the ghost, and just to rub salt in the wound he made a playful, sarcastically tone kissing noise.
Kyle didn't reply; he was too busy praying that Ed would appear soon. Anything to take the rather bright spotlight away from his face.
"Back off, George Michael!" Swiped Dan, shuffling over until he was inches away from the spectre's nose.
"What're you gonna do, wham me?" Giggled the ghost. "As cute as you are, darlin', I think necrophilia is frowned upon."
"Get exorcised!" Spat the vampire.
"Get staked!" Mocked the ghost with a bright, gleeful grin plastered onto his pale, thin face. This was the most fun he'd had since... When? 1992? No, no, 1994 - and he was absolutely going to milk this interaction for every giggle he could get. Fuck this irate vampire and his overly shy blood bag.
"If you weren't already dead I'd-"
The overly familiar image of Ed interrupted his thought, standing directly between them.
"Oooh! Who called the ghostbusters?" Said the elder ghost, still grinning like a child.
Chapter 2: it might be getting older, but the night's still young
"Oh God, it's you!" Ed sighed the second he saw the other ghost, an expression of pure exhaustion wiping down his face.
Dan, took a step back and glared at both spectres. "You know this ghost?" He frowned some then looked over to Kyle who gave him a bewildered shrug in response.
"Yeah," nodded Ed, trying hard to not look disdained at the mere presence of the 80s ghost, "we've crossed paths a few times now."
"Other Ed!" Beamed Not-Marty-McFly when he'd finally realised who the other ghost was. "I haven't seen you in ages..." A frown. "You promised me you'd visit me!"
Ed scratched the back of his head and gave him an awkward smile. "I know... I'm sorry, I've been kind of... Y'know, tied up."
"With what?" Demanded the other ghost, frowning at him. "Your Liver?"
"... Kind of, yeah."
Kyle and Dan shared confused expressions.
"Liver?" Kyle was too curious to stay quiet any longer. Everyone knew that ghosts had their own slang but this particular term was lost on him. "Does he mean Charlie?"
Ed nodded a little then tapped his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Livers are the people ghosts leave behind... Ed here doesn't have one because he was, well, killed, and his family has sort of moved on."
Dan blinked. "His name is Ed, too?"
"Ed Cares." The 80s projection's face immediately lit up. "And you two are... Friends with Other Ed?"
"God I wish you wouldn't call me that!" Whined Ed, giving 80s Ed a good, hard glare.
"I can't call you just Ed because that would be confusing!" Snipped the elder ghost.
"You could call me Eddy or something instead? I don't know!" Cried an exasperated millennial ghost.
80s Ed groaned like a grumpy teenager. "Fine, Eddy... Are you gonna introduce me or what?"
"The guy you were riling up is Dan and the guy who called for me is Kyle." Sighed the younger Ed, halfheartedly gesturing at the vampire and his feeder. "Bigger question is why the fuck are you riling Dan up in the first place?"
"Because he pissed me off and I thought it was fun?" Shrugged the dirty blond, making a face.
The curly haired ghost turned his attention to the vampire and gave him a tired, pleading look. "What happened?"
"Well, Kyle and I were trying to watch Back To The Future," Dan began, already getting himself into a mood again, "but this twat was screeching through it!"
Kyle sighed. "He was kind of... Just... Fucking around."
Ed sighed and gave 80s Ed a dirty look. "What did I tell you about this shit?"
"Not to do it or the council's gonna be up my arse about sentencing me to poltergeistism... Blah, blah, blah, whatever." Replied 80s Ed, rolling his eyes before deciding to fiddle with his Walkman instead of actually paying attention.
"This is serious, Ed!" Snapped the younger ghost, snatching the Walkman from his hands so hard, the headphone jack was violently disconnected. "I'm currently, unofficially, in charge of you and it won't just be your arse the council is gonna be up if they catch wind of your shitty behaviour."
"Give that back!" Shouted the other ghost, his enraged voice loudly echoing around the empty room.
"Not until you listen to me!" Ed told him, shoving the tape player into his overcoat's pocket.
"Give it back to me, Eddy, or I swear to God I will tear you apart!" Screamed the elder ghost again, his aura growing thicker and redder as his voice bounced around the theatre. The younger ghost barely reacted while the vampire backed up so far that he almost tripped over Kyle's legs, just about catching himself before he would end up flat onto his back. Kyle, meanwhile, found himself staring at the aura of the new Ed and wondering why that busted up Walkman meant so damn much to him. Was it something given to him by family before he died? Was the tape inside a mix made by someone he once cared about? Why would anyone get so damn het up about a cassette player that wasn't even a properly physical one anymore?
"Ed, no." The younger ghost told him calmly, refusing to show that he was scared. "Listen to me. This," a waved gesture of Ed's general presence, "is exactly why the Spirit Council is so far up your arse and why they'll want to get a Ouija Hearing done when they get wind of this. They already gave you a last chance about your bullshit, I guarantee you there won't be another one."
"I don't give a fuck about the council right now, Eddy! Or anyone else! I just want my fucking Walkman back!" Roared 80s Ed, his tone gradually becoming more of a desperate whimpering than an angry demand. "Give it back to me! Please! She left it at my plaque, you have to give it back, please!"
"She?" Kyle piped up, finding himself feeling sorry for the desperate ghost.
"My girlfriend... Ex girlfriend... Whatever!" Babbled 80s Ed, brandishing an open hand at the 'Other' Ed. "Just give it back to me!"
"... Ed, mate... Give it back to him." Kyle said quietly, slowly getting up and snaking his way around his vampire and the younger ghost to get to the almost poltergeist at the end of the row.
"He needs to understand I'm not fucking about!" Argued Ed, violently shaking his head.
"I know that, Ed, but just... Trust me, give it back to him." Kyle insisted, anxiously glancing between the two Eds until the younger of the two finally but begrudgingly returned the Walkman. "Thank you."
"Eddy please don't take this away from me again." Whimpered the elder ghost, forcing the headphone jack back into it's hole and putting the player back into his jacket pocket. "I can't lose that, ever, you understand me? Amber left it for me... It's all I have left of her. She moved away after she had the baby and I haven't seen either since and this stupid yellow box and the stupid old tape is all I have left of them. Just... Don't take it from me."
The younger Ed immediately felt shame and sank. His hindsight told him he could have handled the argument better... And, unlike his eyesight, hindsight was 20/20. He sighed and gave his only ghost acquaintance an apologetic look.
"I miss them both... More than you could ever understand, not until Charlie leaves." 80s Ed said quietly, slowly straightening himself up and sniffing, hard, to fight back at his tears. "My son doesn't even know who I am and my- Amber forgot me a long time ago, but with this tape I can just... I don't know, keep them close."
"Charlie won't be forgetting Ed." Dan said rather bluntly.
Kyle quickly glared at him then turn his attention back to Ed Cares. "What he means is, Charlie is a witch so he can see, uhm, Eddy."
"Oh... Then, yeah, Eddy won't ever know what it feels like to have people forget him." A deep breath as he swallowed down his sadness. "It hurts."
"I'm sorry." Mumbled the younger Ed. "I won't touch it again, alright?"
80s Ed nodded. "Thank you."
"Listen, why don't you come with me back to Charlie and Ralph's for a bit? Get rid of your cabin fever, yeah?" Suggested the speccy ghost, offering his peer an olive branch in the form of a weak but encouraging smile. "You can make some Liver friends... Have new people to remember you. I don't mind sharing."
The elder ghost frowned some. "... You sure?"
"Yeah. It'll be good for you to get out of this old place for a few hours, anyway, right? You don't wanna end up a wailer, do you?"
"... Alright, yeah... Cool... Uhm. I'll come with you... Will I see Kyle and Dan again?"
Kyle gave him a brighter version of Ed's smile. "Of course! Ed can show you our flat and you can come hang out with us whenever you're feeling cooped up."
Dan managed to swallow his pride and nodded when the ghost glanced over him for a reaction.
"See? We don't mind... Just, be mindful of Dan... He gets a bit, uhm..." Kyle frowned, trying to think of an appropriate word.
"Bitchy." Dan finished for him, managing a laugh, pulling one out of the new Ed too.
"Alright... Then, I'll see you at home, later?" Asked the ghost, looking between the two like an excitable puppy.
"Well, we were gonna go and see Ralph, Charlie and James afterwards so, uh, we'll see you there." Kyle told him.
"Cool... Uhm, sorry for annoying you... Like Eddy said, I get cabin fever in here sometimes... I get bored..."
Dan raised a hand to stop him babbling anymore. "I get it. Just go with Ed and we'll see you later, okay?"
"See you later, then." Nodded the ghost before turning his attention to his younger counterpart. "Show me the way, then."
"Alright." Replied Ed, giving the two Livers a nod each before leading his spiritual friend through the wall and disappeared.
Chapter 3: we never, never give up on the lost boy life
This home seemed... Different to what he was used to. For a moment, maybe two, he felt sort of afraid of what he was seeing. Most of the place looked fairly normal but there were parts of the flat that made him rather uncomfortable but he couldn't understand why that was. There was a box by the window that incessantly glowed a deep blue light from the middle of it, another cylindrical thing that also glowed blue when it was spoken to, several other boxes with several other lights he didn't understand and, quite frankly, didn't want to understand what they were for and a thing that looked like a television but he couldn't comprehend the lack of back end on it and a part of him had concluded that it couldn't be a television. 80s Ed frowned, thoroughly confused by the wizardry that just seemed to be normal to everyone else in the room then leaned over to Eddy, who had just finished explaining who the walking stereotype was to his Liver friends.
"Eddy...? Is that a screen from the USS Enterprise or something?" The boomer asked, his tone akin to a confused yet excited child.
Eddy blinked. "What?"
"That thing, over there... On the short sideboard. Is it a screen from the USS Enterprise?" Insisted Ed, pointing at the flat-screen television.
"It's a TV." Eddy replied, frowning at his elder.
"It is?" Ed's eyes widened. "Where's the back?"
"You mean the tubes?" Ralph cut in, leaning his head to one side to take a good look at this new Ed. "They don't need the tubes anymore."
"So... How does it work?" Ed frowned, apparently even more confused by this concept.
"I don't know... I don't build them, I just use them." Ralph told him, bluntly, shrugging some as he straightened up. "Anything else you want to know about?"
"... What most of these glowy boxes are." Ed told him sheepishly, prompting three separate amused snorts from three parts of the room. One from James, one from Charlie and one from Eddy, each one a millisecond apart - a noise that rubbed the boomer ghost's fur the wrong way and forced a parental sigh of frustration from Ralph.
"Hey, if you were stuck in a building for thirty-odd years you wouldn't know what they were either... Leave him alone." He snapped, getting out of his seat and approaching 80s Ed. "Which boxes are you on about, mate?"
"Well uhm, that one by the window, those underneath the television, the tube on the table and the one in the small guy's hands." Ed explained, still embarrassed by his lack of technological knowledge. "And why the fuck are there so many of them?"
"Ah, well, uhm, they all do different things." Ralph replied, trying to offer an encouraging sort of smile. "The box by the window is the internet... I assume you know about that?"
"Oh the thing that uses the landline in films?" This response garnered another snort from the werewolf.
"Yeah, we've kind of evolved from that in the time James has been alive." Ralph explained, giving James a low-key punch to the gut of his own. "The tube is called Alexa and you ask it things and it tells you or it does it for you... Watch; Alexa?" The top of the tube lit up. "Play Ghost Town by The Specials."
"Okay, now playing Ghost Town by The Specials." Replied the tube before doing exactly that, the familiar song wafting into the air like a familiar smell.
"Oh wow! That's wicked!" Cried Ed, running over to it and dropping to his knees. "Will it listen to me?"
"Uhm... No." Eddy told him. "For some reason it only listens to the living. All the other ones listen to us though."
"There's other ones?" Ed's eyes lit up and a wide, excitable grin stretched across his face. "I like the future."
"... The present." James reminded him.
"Hey, furball, to me this is the future!" Ed snapped at him.
"Okay, boomer." Replied the werewolf sarcastically, rolling his eyes and returning his attention to his little black box. Now this device is what confused 80s Ed the most because, according to Eddy, this was a 'smart' phone. Why it was called that, he didn't know... Nor was it really explained to him and he hesitated to ask about the reasoning a second time. Instead, he decided to watch what the young werewolf was doing with it. He watched him go through something called Twitter and lots of writing and pictures as James pushed the screen upward, revealing more of the same thing along with the occasional video of something only vaguely amusing that, for some reason, James and Charlie seemed to find unrelentingly funny.
"Did you write all of that?" He asked, tilting his head at the screen.
"No, I didn't..." James sighed, trying hard not to roll his eyes again in case Ralph gave him another ripping. "These are other people making posts, talking about stuff in their lives or stuff they like... Or don't like, depending which of their accounts you're looking at. Sometimes the posts are funny, sometimes they're serious... Sometimes it's promotional stuff for like TV shows or films or whatever. In 2015, there were a lot of jokes called uh, memes, about Back To The Future."
"Because Marty went there to stop his son from getting beaten up by Biff's grandson, right? And the hoverboard?" A loud gasp erupted from the ghost. "Wait! Are the hoverboards real?"
James' eyes widened at the pure sincerity of the ghost's question. "Uh... Not quite in the way you think. Hold on." Within a few moments, he had suddenly brought up a picture of someone stood on a two-wheeled, light-up board and enhanced the picture so that Ed could see the actual board properly. "That, is a hoverboard."
Ed frowned. "It doesn't even float!" He whined, clearly very disappointed by this aspect of 'the future'.
"I know... And yes the trainers exist but there's only like five pairs and they're worth like half a million each or something like that." James continued, much to Eddy's apparent amusement.
"Half a million what?" Asked the elder ghost, fully enthralled by this information.
"... Pounds?" Frowned James.
"Ah, I thought you were gonna say dollars is all... Y'know since Nike is American and everything." Ed explained. He wasn't that stupid, then. Just old and stuck in a point in time the werewolf could never remember.
"Oh right, yeah." James nodded. Boomer Ed was simultaneously hilarious and sad and a part of James wanted to take back his sarcastic comment from earlier.
"... Anyways." Eddy's voice interrupted the lesson and Ed's head snapped up in response. "There's a few more important things we want to talk to you about."
Ed straightened up. "Like what?"
"Your behaviour lately?" The younger Ed replied, gesturing at the entirety of his peer.
"Oh," was the only response, followed by three beats' worth of a pause and: "... Right, that."
x x x x x x
The flat became a little overcrowded when Dan and Kyle had finally arrived, followed by two other people. One Ed vaguely recognised as being a demon who visited his cinema every few weeks, the other, a complete stranger. Something about her screamed witch, but he could never be sure with witches. They always had this thing about them that made him uneasy, even if they were nice like Charlie. Maybe it was the fact that they had weird pets? This witch had two, by the looks of it. A small pale green dragon that was hovering behind her and a giant, bright blue tarantula that rested a little too comfortably on her shoulder. Didn't witches usually only have one pet... Familiar? Why did this one have two and why was one of them a giant ass tarantula?
"Guys you remember Emma and Rich, right?" Kyle interrupted his thought process. A quiet murmuring of agreement before the feeder sucked his teeth when he realised that new Ed hadn't met either of them. "That isn't Marty McFly, that's our new, uh, friend... Ed."
"... Uh, hello." Said the ghost, throwing up a hand in an awkward sort of wave. "I know Rich... Sort of. He comes to my cinema for one of the clubs."
"Oh right, yeah, you're the poltergeist from theatre two, aren't you?" Replied the demon, making a face.
"I'm not a poltergeist!" Snapped Ed.
"Not yet." Corrected Other Ed.
"I'm not one at all!" Snapped the elder ghost again.
"Yet... That's why Emma and Rich are here. Charlie needs some help with the ritual so we can talk to a Councillor." Elaborated the younger ghost.
"And when exactly were you going to tell me that?" Blunted 80s Ed.
"Well, uhm, Charlie texted Emma while I was talking to him about your situation while James and Ralph were showing you how the playstation worked." Sighed Modern Ed, scratching at the back of his neck rather anxiously. "We need to do something or they'll just summon us and make you one anyways... Think of it as like, a hearing, kind of."
As frustrated as he was by the accusation and the plans made behind his back, Ed had to admit that his younger spectral friend did have a point. He was getting worse the longer he was in his cinema and he was beginning to become aware and, frankly, quite afraid of what was happening to him. The problem was the fact that without knowing who killed him, Ed didn't really have much choice but return to the cinema at the end of the day. That was his safe place, his home... His only place. He had tried going to a warehouse before but he couldn't last more than hour because some teenagers had thrown a rave in there and ruined his peace and he knew he couldn't stay here, in Other Ed's place. It wasn't right to tread into another ghost's haunt and invade it, after all. Even if had been invited.
Eventually he let out a harsh sigh. "Fine," he said quietly, "but it doesn't leave this room and whatever the Councillor tells us to do, we do it My way."
"Agreed." Nodded the millennial.
"Right then!" A clapping noise from Emma's corner. "Shall we, boys?"
Chapter 4: so here we are, escaping from the world outside
A little anxious, the boomer ghost's automatic response to the idea of coming face to face with a member of the Council again was to flee and he had tried while the witch and her demon friend set up a circle and pulled out the Ouija board while Charlie disappeared to find the matching planchette. Unfortunately his attempt to Rent-A-Ghost back to the cinema was foiled by the big dog in the room. Glitching was not a fun thing to experience and especially after three, excruciatingly painful electrocution-like moments. He supposed that it was probably what it felt like to be exterminated by a Dalek and by God he wasn't about to try escaping again... Was this why Eddy made him come here? To a place with a werewolf? So he couldn't escape? Oh god. This was a form of an intervention! The little shits, all of them! God if only he was an actual poltergeist, he could wreak havoc and have his (rather petty) revenge on these youths.
From his perch on the sofa's armrest, he frowned and watched as Charlie returned with his object and helped the other two finish the circle that was made up of UV tape, a lone pillar candle that was an odd shade of lilac and the Ouija set in the middle of the floor. The others, the vampires, the werewolf, the feeder and Eddy took to their stations at various points of the circle as and when the dragon and his arachnid friend indicated they had to. The spider, Ed noted, in a more aggressive fashion, the dragon acting more like a small, excitable, scaly kind of dog as they interacted with the humans. He, meanwhile, huffed and folded his arms tightly against his chest waiting for someone to eventually tell him to come to the circle too. Not that he wanted to. No, he just wanted to go home now. Go home, calm down, maybe avoid Eddy for a few weeks... Then again, this was meant to help him. At least that was the idea. The "plan", as it were. Perhaps he should swallow his pride and let them? Yeah, it was probably easier not to fight them anymore. They already had a werewolf negating his ability to teleport, after all, so Lord only knew what the demon could do to him. Eventually, he saw a flash of blue at his feet followed by a loud, angry squeaking noise.
"The fuck?" He blinked then snapped his eyes to the floor. The spider. "Go away."
"Hermes, I told you to be nice!" Snapped the spider's owner, bending down to gather up the spider and placing it back on her shoulder. "Ed, is it?" He nodded. "He's trying to ask you to come and join us in the circle... Preferably next to uhm, Ed, or in the middle with the set, since you're the reason for our call and all." An oddly forced polite smile that made the ghost grimace right back at her.
"Alright." He said, pushing himself upright and slowly stepping over to the open space beside Eddy at the top of the circle.
"So, boys, are we ready to play telephone operators?" A more sincere smile from Emma now, followed by a giggle, as she addressed her peers.
"We're all set up. Who's doing what?" Replied Rich, crouched beside the ancient, splintering yet beautifully painted board.
"Since Charlie is the least experienced, he can be on board duty." Emma told him, causing a quiet muttering between Dan and Ralph, something the witch completely ignored. "I'll do the spell and you can be the typist."
"Cool." Nodded the demon, swapping sides with Charlie before properly getting onto his knees and placing the planchette onto the board while Charlie put a hand either side of the painted wooden plank and nodded to indicate that he and Rich were now ready.
Then came the uncomfortable bit. At least, it was for eldest member of the group at any rate. He, personally, had never witnessed a witchcraft ritual before. In fact, he had never experienced magic before so this entire situation felt uncomfortable to him. The last time he and Eddy spoke to the Council, the Council had been the ones to summon them and bring them to Limbo for the original hearing where Eddy was named his babysitter in an official capacity, so this? A ritual? Weird colourful mist stuff? This was weird and incredibly uncomfortable for him. It gave the elder ghost a feeling of deep anxiety, something he hadn't felt in quite a long time. Not since...? The thought left him before it had even properly arrived. Something happened that had distracted him anyway.
Emma had clicked her fingers and caused a small mass of pale pink and grass green misty-liquid to form around the tip of her forefinger. The magic fascinated the boomer ghost. It reminded him, somewhat, of a lava lamp. Yes, that was it! The inside of a lava lamp without the surrounding metal structure and the useless little light-bulb at the bottom. Curious, he watched as the witch used her magic to light the pillar candle before shaking her hand effectively extinguishing the mist before she picked up the candle and made her way to the end of the circle that was directly opposite him. When they made eye contact, she offered him a twitch of a smile, which he returned and then she composed herself and took a deep breath.
"To solidify the circle will those surrounding it who are living please take each other's hands." She said, her voice now a calmed sense of authority. Without a word, Dan, Ralph, Kyle and James grasped at each other's hands while the ghosts awkwardly exchanged glances and the two men at the centre of the circle took a moment to prepare themselves for the next step. Rich made a triangle shape with his hands, his forefingers coming together at the wider end of the planchette and closed his eyes while Charlie's hands now emitted a darker magic before creating a blue, purple and black spotted dome around the board on the floor before looking up to the Covener at the head of the circle for his next cue. Hermes, Ed noticed, was slowly moving it's fangs and twitched it's pedipalps with a weird air of quiet excitement. Like it was eager to watch what happened next. Meanwhile, the dragon had decided to curl up on the sofa and take this time to have a snooze. In the almost perfect silence, Ed swore he could hear it snore but he daren't ask anyone else if they could; not even Eddy, who was focused upon watching the demon with cautious eyes.
Then Emma interrupted his thoughts again.
"We here in the circle ask that we are protected, our subjects are protected and our objects are protected." She stated, beginning to slowly move clockwise around the inside of the ritualistic circle, tightly gripping the candle with both hands as if she was afraid she drop it. "We ask the board at the centre to reach out through the void and make contact with the Council of Spirits on our behalf so that we may find Arlen and ask him for his advice."
Then Rich spoke up, his low voice oddly hypnotic. "We offer the planchette to Arlen so that he may accept or decline our call."
"If he accepts, we welcome him to join us within the circle, if he declines we will ask another member of the Council of Spirits for their help." Charlie chimed in, his voice somewhat shakier than the other two which signified that this was probably his first ever proper ritual. By that point, Emma had made her way to Eddy and stopped in order to make a cross about his person with the candle in her hands.
"Ed Wetenhall, who passed over by way of a vehicle accident in 2016, joins our circle to ask his peer for advice." She hummed, before coming face to face with the elder ghost and repeating the cross. "Ed..."
"Cares." He finished for her.
"Ed Cares, who whose life was taken in-"
"1985." He finished for her a second time.
Emma swallowed her vexed bile and continued calmly. "Ed Cares, whose life was taken in 1985, also joins our circle to ask his peer for advice."
"Ed Cares is also the subject of our call and Arlen is the last Councillor to have spoken to him." Rich added, opening his eyes to focus all of his energy on the wooden triangle that currently laid still on the board.
At that, Emma turned her back on the boomer ghost, causing him to frown, confused by the suddenty of her movements. She hummed four notes then placed the candle onto the floor before she went to sit beside Rich and placed a hand on top of his causing an odd coloured mist to appear around them. Now that her magic had combined with Charlie's larger dome and made the demon's visible, the combined colours had created a micro spotted sunset. Now that was, indeed, a fascinating thing. It was like the beauty of a sunset but shrunken and displayed right here in the centre of this London flat. It was enough to make both ghosts and Kyle to gasp, quietly at the sight. The vampires, meanwhile, seemed quietly impressed while the lone werewolf cocked his head curiously at it. Witches, Ed decided in that moment, were truly the most impressive supernatural beings.
"It's moving!" Dan's voice cut through the awed silence, forcing everyone in the outer circle to refocus on the planchette which was, slowly, twitching toward the top of the board where the words YES and NO had been delicately yet colourfully hand-painted into the walnut wood until it eventually settled on the word yes.
"Thank you, Arlen, for accepting our call," Rich said to the open air, "and thank you for agreeing to join us."
"You're welcome." Said an overly familiar, deep Irish voice from behind 80s Ed, making him jump.
As soon as it was noticed that Arlen had arrived, the three magic-wielders took their hands away from the Ouija set making the micro sunset disappear into the thin air.
"Why am I unsurprised by the fact that this discussion involves Mr Cares?" Sighed the newest ghost in the room, deciding to drop himself dramatically onto the armchair in the corner of the room. "What did he do, this time, Mr Wetenhall?"
The younger Ed cleared his throat, tapped at the front of his glasses then faced his elder. "Well, uhm, it's not so much what he's done..."
"His attitude can't be helping, though can it?" Replied Arlen, glaring intensely at 80s Ed when they finally made eye contact, making the boomer ghost feel as if he were a schoolboy.
"Well, uhm, no..." Agreed Ed the younger. "But that's why we called you. We need to help him so that he doesn't end up, well, you know-"
"A Wailer? A Poltergeist?" Arlen finished for him. "That wouldn't be very good for anyone."
Ed the elder cleared his throat. "I, uhm, I need some help."
"Seems fair enough." Agreed the Councillor. "Now then, how shall we help you to avoid a Hearing, eh?"
"I, uhm, I don't know." Shrugged the 80s ghost, trying hard not to show his fear.
"Mr Wetenhall?" Arlen moved to the millennial ghost for some form of answer.
"I think we need to find his murderer so that he can move on and life his afterlife with some sense of peace?" Replied the youngest ghost.
"And what about your friends? What do they think?" Asked the eldest, his golden eyes scanning the other figures in the room. "Do you agree with Mr Wetenhall's suggestion?"
"We do, yes." Nodded Ralph, the apparent spokesperson for the livers.
Arlen took a deep breath and went silent for a few moments as he thought over the idea.
"Fine." He said after a painful amount of time. "You, all of you, have a month to find out who murdered Mr Cares and Free him or the Council will make him a Poltergeist."
"Alright." Nodded the youngest ghost, extended his hand out to Arlen. "Agreed."
"If you Fail, I will rebind you to your liver until his death." Arlen told him, taking and shaking his hand.
"Oh." Gulped the youngest ghost, before a slow-burning flash of light solidified their deal and Arlen, with a loud click, disappeared.
"Shit." Spat Cares.
"Guess we all have to play detective for this idiot, now?" Muttered James, breaking the circle so he could take Arlen's place on the armchair with a loud, frustrated huff.
"With the Eds being in charge." Rich told him.
"Dead Eds Detective Agency, solvers of supernatural mysteries and cold cases, James speaking, how can I help?" Mocked the wolf, holding a hand to his ear.
Chapter 5: oh, what would your mother say if she could see what we're doing now?
The 'Detective Agency's' first stop was back at the scene of the crime; the Apollo Cinema, which was currently Ed's home. Not by choice, of course, he would have preferred to have been in his old flat. A poky, dingy little thing in the remnants of the old slums on the Isle Of Dogs that was full to the brim of everything he and Amber had owned. The only thing he could really remember about being inside it was within a hazy memory brought on by the song Frankie on his mixtape; he and Amber dancing around the bright orange kitchenette, laughing and smiling about stupid things. That was all that ever came back to him when he listened to the song, everything else was blurry and poorly remembered, if he remembered anything else at all. Meanwhile the cinema was his daily routine now. Every day was the same shit but a different film. Same shit, different people. Occasionally the odd night time visitor in the form of paranormal investigators trying to contact the only other two ghosts in the building; a young man from 1927 who had died in a fire in the projection room and a crotchety old woman who had died back when the cinema was a regular stage theatre in the 1890s... She annoyed Ed immensely because all she did was sing dumb music hall songs about some fishmonger who lost his eels or some such nonsense. The man, meanwhile, kept to himself and mostly bothered the staff in the foyer or the old geezer who worked the projection room now, usually berating him and throwing the poor guy's lunch at the door in protest.
Luckily, both of Ed's roommates had disappeared when he and his new gang arrived back at the cinema and he found himself breathing a sigh of relief when they all gathered in the foyer. It was quiet and dark because the staff had all left and the witches had used their magic to unlock the doors and shut off the alarm to make sure that they wouldn't be disturbed as they split up and looked for Scooby Doos. He was grouped with Rich and Emma in the screening room, wandering around the large, ornately decorated room while Charlie, James and Ralph took the upper balcony, Dan, Kyle and Eddy took the back rooms and Will and Woody had been allocated for basement duty.
"So, is there anything you remember about the night you died?" Rich's question cut through the eerie silence in the room.
"Not really." Confessed the ghost, hopping onto the stage platform and plonking himself down in front of a weighted stage curtain by the steps. "All I remember is being here."
"So just that you were in this building?" Rich frowned, a little disappointed that the ghost couldn't remember anything else about his origins.
Ed nodded. "That's about it, yeah."
"Show me your side." Commanded the demon, an order the ghost hesitated to obey. He hated the gaping hole in his left side that ruined his Specials shirt and reminded him that he had, in fact, lost a fight with someone to end up on this plain of existence. He was growing to dislike the demon too as he calmly approached and scrutinised the wound for what felt like forever.
"Emma, do you think it'd be an idea to force the memories back?" Rich queried, ignoring Ed's obvious glowering, turning to the witch.
"I mean, it's either that or we go to his plaque at the cemetery and make him put his hand on it." She replied, taking a seat in the front row. "They'll both be as bad as each other but right now? I think they're the only options we have unless one of the others find something interesting."
"Something I doubt since Ed's been dead since 1985... Anything that could be interesting would have either been thrown out or sold." Rich sighed, returning his attention to the ghost, who was still wearing an angry little face. He did not appreciate being talked about as if he wasn't in the room - even if he'd become used to it by now.
"Just do what you're going to do before I ditch you freaks for my hidey hole." He snipped.
"Alright, just... It might hurt a bit so bare that in mind, okay?" An expression Ed recognised as vague concern came over the demon's face and it gave him an instinctive urge to Rent-A-Ghost away immediately; only to be foiled by the memory that doing such a thing would hurt too given the status of these two magical beings.
"Fine but be fucking quick about it, Beelzebub." Ed told the demon, holding his jacket open for him.
Opting to ignore the insult that had been hastily thrown at him, Rich took a deep breath and hovered a hand over Ed's wound. He muttered some words the ghost assumed was Latin (it wasn't, it was much older) and then, suddenly, out of nowhere, came the searing pain. A pain like nothing he had ever felt before and consumed his entire spectral being. Ed screamed and started writhing in response, screwing his eyes shut and trying - but failing - to move away from the demon's hand. It was as if he had been pinned to the spot and was being cruelly tortured by Hell's best agent.
"LET ME GO! STOP!" He screamed, his voice bouncing across the room. "MAKE IT STOP! STOP IT! PLEASE, GOD, FUCKING STOP!"
"I can't stop or it won't work!" Snapped the demon.
"FUCK YOU!" Ed spat at him, trying to kick at Rich now, his legs flailing about like the limbs of an inflatable tube man. "LET ME THE FUCK - AH! - GO!"
This was much worse than anything else he had ever encountered. Neither glitching nor spirit boxes hurt this much - and what was worse, he was now getting a flash of memories from his life being streamed straight into his head at such a speed it made him feel sick. Everything from his birth to his death was being forced into his mind and it made the pain so much worse. So much worse, in fact, that he didn't notice when Rich finally did let go and let Ed flop onto his side, glitching and twitching on the polished stage floor like a terribly rendered hologram.
"Give him a minute." Rich told the witch when she ran to Ed's side.
"I've never seen a ghost react so badly to a Forced Remembrance before." She said, her tone worried and at the brink of tears. "He was in so much pain."
"He'll be okay, trust me." Rich replied, pulling her back some. "Just give him a minute."
Eventually, Ed had stopped glitching and groaned.
"Ed!" Cried Emma, relieved that Rich had been right after all. "Are you okay?"
"Ian." Said the ghost quietly, slowly forcing himself upright.
The witch blinked at him, confused by the response. "What?"
"My name... It's Ian." Said the ghost, rubbing at the back of his head. "Ian Dudfield."
"Your name isn't Ed Cares?" Rich was also confused by the statement.
"No... Well, uhm, Edward is my middle name so... Ed is sort of my name." He frowned before glancing over the other two. "Ed Cares was a name I used for a band I was in."
"And it was the only name you remembered?" Rich offered as a theory, one he got a nod in response to.
"Do you remember anything else?" Emma asked him, carefully climbing up onto the stage and sitting beside the ghost.
"Everything." Ian told her. "My whole life."
"How you died?" Whispered the witch.
"Everything." Ian repeated, nodding some. "I was stabbed... Here... Well, not here, outside. By the bins in the alley round the back."
"Do you know who stabbed you?" Asked the demon as he texted the others to meet them outside.
"Steve." Came the monotone response. "Steven Davies... He was in a skinhead gang and he hated me. To be fair, I hated him too... And we were out there because I rescued some poor girl from being hurt by him."
"What was her name? Maybe we can track her down?" Emma suggested.
"I don't know. I didn't really stop to ask her that after I told her to run from Steve." Ian chipped, putting his head into his hands. "Everything happened so fast. I don't remember much of anything else after that... I think that when I finally went Lights Out that's when everything stopped recording."
"We do have his name, though, and we can look him up." Rich said, putting his phone away. "See if he's still around and if he's alive."
"I mean, even if he isn't, we can still get justice for E-Ian." Emma reminded her friend. "The Spirit Council doesn't take too kindly to murderers."
"True." Agreed the demon. "Right, let's go meet the others outside so we can see if you remember anything else."
"I mean, I just told you that I don't." Ian said, rather sternly, pushing himself off the stage. "But there is a way of uhm... Linking me to my body, right?"
Rich frowned and took a minute to consider the question. "Yeah, there is." He said eventually. "If we get you to your plaque and you touch it, your Line will connect your soul to your body."
"Right then, the next stop is the cemetery on the Isle Of Dogs." Ian told him heading for the heavy double doors at the other end of the room.
Chapter 6: oh, what would your mother say if she could hear what we talk about?
Moving from the theatre to the Isle Of Dogs as a group had proven difficult, especially with both wolves being nothing but negative about the tube travel and the vampires quietly arguing about whether or not they should respond to one particularly overconfident human belittling them while the rest of the group suffered with embarrassment, but it was managed... Eventually. The ghosts seemed to naturally lead the pack with Ian scanning his immediate area with an air of scrutiny. It was vaguely recognisable but something was different, although he couldn't put his finger on the reason why it felt so different. Maybe when this "case" had played out, he could regain some memories and make sense of it all?
"Are you sure you know where you're going?" Ed piped up when they came to yet another crossroads and were forced to pause.
"Well, no." Ian replied. "I don't really remember where anything is."
"To be fair, the entirety of London has changed in the last thirty-odd years so I'm not surprised nothing is jogging your memory." Ralph added, pulling his phone out to open Google Maps. "Do you remember what the cemetery was called?"
The ghost's face warped into a deep frown as he desperately tried to remember even a part of the name. "Our Lady's?" Came the eventual guess as he turned to Ralph and tried to look at the phone screen while the vampire fiddled with it.
"Nothing's coming up apart from Saint Matthias' Churchyard which... Y'know isn't a crematorium for one, and East London Crematorium which isn't specific to here." Ralph told him having assessed the nearest toggle spots and switched between them a few times.
"Don't blame me! All I remember is Isle of Dogs!" Ian exclaimed, aggressively throwing his hands around in frustration.
"It's okay, Ian, it's alright we'll figure it out." Ed told him, putting a hand on his peer's shoulder.
"I hate this! I wish I could just remember!" Snapped the elder ghost, smacking the side of his head. "How come you remember everything, Eddy? Eh? How the fuck can you remember and I can't?"
"Hey, take it easy, mate, calm down!" The younger ghost whined, fighting with the elder's strength as he tried to pry his arm down. "I don't remember how I died but everything else I remember because of Charlie being around... I can't help that Amber left you behind."
The last part had stung Ian because Ed gained a dark glare as a response.
"Don't." A low growl of an order; one that rivalled even the more experienced wolf of the group.
"S-Sorry... I didn't mean anything by it-" Began Ed.
"How far is the crematorium, beardy?" Ian interrupted, deciding that now was probably the best ending for the previous discussion before he ended up working in some self-inflicted pain followed by Spartan rage.
A little thrown aback by the switch in atmosphere, Ralph blinked a few times at the ghosts, glanced at the rest of the group, took a sharp inhale then returned his attention to the block in his hand for a few seconds.
"About ten minutes if we hopped on the tube again or about half an hour if we walked." He eventually replied with a quiet sigh, shoving his phone back into the pocket of his jeans.
Woody cleared his throat at that. "I'm not going back on that bloody thing." He growled.
"Agreed. It's fucking awful trying to maintain my equilibrium standing up in a stupid tin can." James nodded, grimacing at the very idea of fighting with his body in an underground train a second time.
"Ah so you really are more dog than man, now?" Dan quipped, a sly grin materialising onto his face.
"Shut it, you mite!" James snapped.
"Oh for fuck's sake he's not doing any harm, I make jokes like that about us all the time." Woody sighed. Newer wolves were always so... Over the top when it came to the dog comparisons and he had never understood that. It bothered him, somewhat, that someone so intelligent would lose the ability to take a joke the second a claw tore into their bodies. Saying that, though, in this instance a part of Woody found himself agreeing with James a little bit... Losing the ability to stand up straight when a train or a bus was moving was like experiencing an entire circle of Hell all to himself and anyone who was not a werewolf would never understand the utterly ineffable sensation.
"Woody's right, I was joking... I would prefer to walk too." Said Dan, raising his hands defensively. "It's a nice day and besides, it might help Ed, uhm, no, Ian's memory."
"... I can help with that a bit." Charlie said quietly, shuffling a little.
"How?" Ian was still sceptical of the magic-possessing beings, even if he had been impressed by their work with the phoard earlier that day. For some reason, the idea of one person having that much power frightened him. Perhaps it was because he was relatively new to this entire cultural world of supernaturals, given the fact that he was a plain ol' human in life? Or was he? Memory loss was a frustrating side-effect of death.
"Well, uhm, the spellbook Emma lent me had something about giving ghosts pre-death memories in it... Maybe we could use that spell to help you out?" Charlie elaborated, digging through a brown leather messenger bag that had been slung over his shoulder.
Emma gasped. "Of course! Why didn't I think of that earlier?" She carefully took a battered purple book from Charlie and skimmed through it until she came a marked page. "I saved it a while ago because of a premonition dream I had a few months ago... I knew it would come in handy!"
The spider on her shoulder scrambled from one side to another and excitedly moved it's pedipalps, like it was sharing its witch's sudden excitement, making Ian uncomfortable for the second time that day. He preferred the dragon companion but it seemed to have taken a liking to Dan's feeder over anyone else. Nesbitt, as it was named, was clinging to Kyle's shoulders for dear life as though it feared falling off at any given moment. It was cute, in an odd sort of way.
"Right okay, I think we've got this... We have a demon, we have the ghost," Emma's voice brought him back to reality, "Rich just needs to borrow a wand."
"Do demons not have wands?" As soon as it escaped the ghost, he realised it was a stupid question. The air around him had him feeling it in his ghostly gut.
Rich was the one to show him the most kindness in response. "Well, we don't really need them." He explained, rotating a hand to show how quickly he could manifest and evaporate his magic. "We're born powerful, witches need training to control the power."
"We can use pure magic for basic stuff, but everything else kind of needs a wand." Emma elaborated, nodding some.
"Demons are technically, well, for lack of a better description, angel witches." Rich expanded, deciding to make it a little easier to understand.
"Hm, that's kind of cool." Murmured Ian, pushing out his lower lip. "Right so, let's do this before I get antsy again."
x x x x x x x x x x x x
After Ian had regained the memory of life before death, he found himself confused and scared of everything around him. Nothing was recognisable, everything had completely changed. Or at least, everything that wasn't a house had completely changed - even if some of the council houses had suddenly disappeared too in the last thirty-odd years. He was lost in a new city without a map and that absolutely terrified him.
"That there with the purple door used to be Old Grady's house which means... The cemetery my plaque's at is close." He said when he had mustered up enough courage to finally speak again. "Straight ahead until the lights then left and then across the road." This was about as much confidence as he would allow himself without actually seeing the place or, even better, his black marble plaque in front of his face.
Sure enough, after only two accidental wrong turns, there it was in all of it's faded grey glory; an imposing gloom of a gated archway that lead up to a series of polished walls decorated with flowers and hung knickknacks in various states of decay.
"It's locked." Mumbled Dan, fiddling with the gate.
"Of course it is you muppet, it's almost eleven at night. Who goes to visit someone's graveside at this hour?" Snipped Kyle.
"Right now?" Emma interrupted, using her wand to make a pointed strike at the lock making it spark, bang and unceremoniously fall to the ground with a clank. "Us."
The gang followed the ghosts through the decades of dead, the magic inclined using their powers to light the way, trying to get to the correct name before someone found them sneaking around.
"Ere! It's Mystery Inc!" A fat ghost with greyed hair flimsily attached to the side of his head appeared at the end of one wall and cackled at the sight before him.
"Piss off you old gout." Replied Ian, giving the geezer two fingers.
"It's you lot who should piss off, sneakin' about like that." Retorted the other ghost.
"Sorry, we're just looking for something and once we find it, we'll leave." Ed stumbled, trying to quickly diffuse a situation before it occurred. The last thing they needed was Arlen giving them grief for breaking the law in order to find Ian's killer. He could already hear the angry tones of the Irishman's spectral being echoing around his head and that was more than enough to encourage him to keep things copacetic between all parties.
"Oh aye? What's it you're looking for, then?"
"Tell me your name and I'll show you where you are." Well, that was easy... Too easy. "Oh an' your YOD... There might be a fuckin' load of people with the same name as you and I really don't want Scooby and the gang hangin' about 'ere too much longer." There was the hostility.
"Ian Edward Dudfield. 1985." He replied, scuffing his foot against the concrete ground.
"Ah yeah, next aisle, third row down on the left." Said the nosy geezer, pointing to his left. "Don't be too long now, hear? I'll keep ol' Mac busy while you kids snoop."
"... Thank you." It came reluctantly but it was still genuine gratitude from the Marty McFly lookalike and that had earned him a cheeky sort of grin and a wink that reminded him of his father. Or was it his brother? Never mind that, he knew where to look for his plaque now.
As they passed the geezer, the rest of the group gave their equivalence of thanks to him and followed Ian in a snaking sort of line until they eventually gathered at the right spot.
It was a sad affair, really, seeing his plaque bare of flowers while everyone else's were brightly decorated or abandoned with decaying remains of some kind of plant or wind-chime set. Then again, Amber hadn't ever returned to London after leaving and it shouldn't have hurt him so much to see his name looking so bland and lonely. He sighed, a deep, sad sort of noise expelling from his form. Even the gold paint that made his name stand out had started peeling and it made him feel so heart-breakingly sad.
"... So," he sighed, "if I put my hand on the stone it'll link me to my body, right?" An anxious glance over his shoulder at the rest of the group, with only Emma nodding in response to his question. "Okay, uhm... Here goes."
He raised a shaky hand and slowly put it as close to the stone as he could, just stopping short of actually touching it.
A beat then; Dan's voice.
"Go on, then."
Followed by Woody's. "Yeah, what're you waiting for, mate?"
And Will's gentler tones. "Go ahead, Ian, we're not going anywhere."
Before, finally, Kyle's body suddenly stood beside him. "Are you okay?"
"I'm..." An anxious pause. "I'm scared."
Ed the younger straightened up in realisation and put a hand on Ed the elder's shoulder.
"It's alright, take your time." He said gently. "Take a deep breath, count to three then do it."
Ian made brief eye contact and nodded. "Okay."
One, a deep inhale.
Two, a low, long exhale.
Three... Sudden contact with cold stone and a mass of bright light that consisted of spiritual string exploded from the stone, wrapped itself around Ian then clawed into him without so much as a scratch of pain, taking less than a moment to settle before a single, thick line shot out of his breast and punched its way through any obstacle until the tip of it was unseen by the naked eye.
"... Fucking hell." Whispered the ghost, finding himself tempted to touch the light now. "That's... Wicked."
Chapter 7: the waves are crashing down on you and me again
"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.