Tuesday, April 18, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 3

Part 3 of the ongoing short story.  The animals and their antics will be back in a couple of weeks. Provided we don't kill each other.



The cloud morphed into a human face with black pitlike eyes glaring at them. It bore right up against Sam, towering over him at twice it's original size, tendrils of hair whipping around him.

“Get out!” the mist shrieked.

Sam stood his ground, and Eric raised up his burning brush of sage. The cloud recoiled from the sage and shattered apart just as quickly as it had manifested. Shrieks and screams reverberated through the hallway, and the doors opened and slammed shut one by one again.

Sam glanced at Eric, undisturbed. “I see what you mean about that sage,” he said.

Not much rattled Eric, but the encounter with the poltergeist shook him slightly. His hand holding the sage trembled.

“It might be better if you put it out, though,” Sam continued. “They can't seem to manifest properly around it.”

“We don't want them to manifest," Eric said.  "We want them to move on!"

“I agree, but trying to force them out will just piss them off more.”

Eric didn't much care if they were pissed off or depressed. The sooner they could perform the exorcism, the better, and he could go home to his cats and Alejandro.

“Downstairs!” A voice startled them from behind.

Eric and Sam both spun around to see an elderly man in a long white lab coat. He balanced on a cane, his glasses crooked on his lined face, and white hair stuck out over his ears.

“In the basement!” the man said. “Follow me!”

“Dr. Goodenough?” Sam asked. “What are you doing here?”

The man didn't answer. He darted between the two, and fled down the corridor, the tails of his coat streaming behind him.

“How did he get in here?” Eric asked.

Sam looked puzzled.

“You said you spoke to him on the phone?” Eric asked.

“Yes, he commissioned me for this job.”

“And he asked you to exorcise the ghosts?”

Sam strode down the corridor and Eric followed, clutching the sage.  "I don't exactly perform exorcisms," Sam said.  "From what I understand, this place closed down in the late eighties.”

“It was condemned,” Eric said. “The patients were mistreated, the conditions were terrible. The usual Bedlam cliche.”

“Well, it must have been really bad,” Sam said. “In the last year spirits have started haunting Dr. Goodenough, keeping him awake at night. He just retired, and instead of enjoying his retirement he's under constant stress with the hauntings.”

“He told you this?” Eric was skeptical. Most people didn't actually believe in ghosts and hauntings. Those that called ghost hunters usually did it for the fun of being on reality TV.

“I guess months of sleepless nights from all the banging, moaning, and rattling is enough to convince someone that they aren't just going crazy,” Sam said.

“Everyone's a little bit crazy," Eric said. "Especially people who do what we do."

Sam shrugged. “I'm definitely crazy."

This did not serve to reassure Eric.

“The ghosts are haunting the doctor in his home?"

"They're attached to him," Sam said.  "They follow him around.  He never gets a break from them."

That must be inconvenient, Eric thought. “And he hasn't set foot in this building since it was condemned?”

“I don't think so. He worked here for three years before the building was shut down. He was the psychiatrist on resident.  He was young, just starting out.”

This intrigued Eric. His job was to eradicate supernatural activity and keep it on the down low to protect civilians. It never occurred to him to actually discuss such things with the civilians. It had also never occurred to him that civilians might be seeking out people like Sam, whatever he did, to help them with their supernatural problems. Most people preferred to remain in the dark on such things which was why Eric and the Moonlighters existed.

The light of the burning sage was bright enough to lead their way to the stairwell. Sam pulled the door open, and Eric flinched at the screech from the rusted hinges. Eric examined the shattered pane of glass in the door, studying the jagged triangular pieces jutting from the window frame. He couldn't tell if the ghosts had caused it or the patients, years ago. He suspected it didn't much matter as he followed Sam through the doorway.  Sam let the door slip from his hand and it swung shut, the slam echoing through the empty building and rattling the peeling walls. A low-pitched moan rose up around them, causing the hairs on the back of Eric's neck to rise and his blood to chill. He pulled his jacket more tightly around him and wondered about Sam in his thin T-shirt. Sam's arms broke out in goosebumps, but that seemed to be the only indication that the cold bothered him.

The cement floor of the basement was so cold it seeped through the soles of Eric's expensive loafers. Eric swept the burning sage around, illuminating the cavernous room, and Sam switched on his flashlight. The whispers and chatters ascended above them, mixing together into a dull, wordless din and scattering through the air like the legs of thousands of cockroaches.

A high-pitched screeching broke through the cacaphony, and Sam moved the light of his flashlight close to the ceiling at the back wall. Shadowy figures stalked along the top of what looked like rows of large metal cages, like those used in the isolation room a vet's office. Red eyes burned in the darkness.

“Dr. Goodenough?” Sam called, sweeping his light around. The screaming from the back wall intensified, the shadows moving menacingly back and forth across the cages. Something small, hard, and round shot between Eric and Sam and bounced against the floor behind them before rolling away. Sam shone his light behind them, swearing under his breath. Another small object bounced between them. Sam shone the light above the cages and caught the shape of something large, hunched over, and hairy. It screamed at them, baring sharp teeth in a mangled muzzle. It's features blurred and sharpened as it moved through the shadows, never completely in focus.

“Are those ghost chimpanzees?” Eric whispered. “I was unaware animals could become ghosts”

“I've seen it before,” Sam said. “Dr. Goodenough? Are you here?”

Eric stepped through a wide arching entry that opened into a tossed laboratory. He held up the burning sage, illuminating the sight in all its grisly glory. A large table lay scattered with broken glass, torn papers, test tubes, and other odds and ends. Trash littered the floor and the stench of dried blood, feces, and putrid decay hit his nostrils. He pulled his handkerchief from his breast pocket and pressed it daintily to his nose. The screeching of the ghostly apes crescendoed behind him as Sam walked up and swept his flashlight around the room.

“Wow, what happened here?” Sam asked, undisturbed by the stench.

Eric shook his head and passed his sage off to Sam. The pleasant smell of the sage did little to overpower the stench of death. The decay sat tangible in the air, and Eric nearly gagged. He pulled his own flashlight out of his messenger bag and trained it on the floor. Dark stains covered the linoleum in erratic splatters and Eric didn't want to know who or what had perished here. He stepped over to the lab table and swept the light over it. Rat feces scattered across the paper littering the table.

“Better cover your nose,” Eric called to Sam. “You don't want to catch Hanta Virus.”

Sam made a face and stepped back. Eric stuck the flashlight under his arm and tied his handkerchief about his nose and chin before dipping into his bag yet again and pulling out a pair of latex gloves. He pulled these on and trained the flashlight on the table again.  Sam watched him with admiration before wandering off to look about the room.

“Where did the doctor go?” Eric asked as Sam shined his light over the dark splatters on the wall.
 
Sam didn't respond for a moment. He'd disappeared through another doorway, and a little while later he walked out quickly and joined Eric at the table. Eric turned to him, raising an eyebrow.

“You don't want to go in there,” Sam said.

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