Tuesday, April 4, 2017

All in a Day's Work Part 1

The animals and I are in an all-out war.  The cats are mad at me, I'm mad at Percy, Tess is mad at Surina, Surina is mad at me, the cats hate Surina, and I woke up this morning to incessant scratching and a cat bouncing off the walls, wailing.

I'm over all of them, so please enjoy a short story:

Dr. Eric Hanson had been putting off the old, abandoned mental hospital for some time.

He glared at the dilapidated building with distaste and resignation. Exorcism and ghost hunting were his least favorite parts of the job. He didn't care for ghosts. They gave him the creeps. He much preferred a rabid werewolf or a pissed-off vampire. He would even rather deal with witches, and he particularly hated them. Nasty creatures, with their black cats, flying brooms, and hideous cackles.

Witches were tangible and corporeal. One could still fight witches.

With a sigh, Eric set down his messenger bag and pulled out his smartphone. The screen glowed brightly in the night. Clouds scudded across the sky, covering the weak light of the half-moon and the sprinkling of stars. Eric frowned at his phone. Several text messages from his favorite Moonlighter, Holly Craft, and a missed call from the Organization Against Evil Paranormal Phenomena Headquarters in Cheyenne greeted him. Normally Holly would handle the ghosts, but she had another gig involving the eradication of a nest of fledgling vampires that had been plaguing Lodge Grass for weeks. Lodge Grass was on the reservation in Montana, just over the state line, and fair game when it came to supernatural activity. Vampires liked to feed off the drunks and drug addicts. People died on the reservation every month from drunk driving accidents, overdoses, or criminal activity. Most vampires fed on the available food supply, benefiting from the binges and drug use because they didn’t have to use their glamour to get their victims to forget. Death by vampire was rare, and when an accidental death did occur, it was a small percentage compared to those caused by the humans. This recent nest of fledglings, however, had become careless and uncontrollable, leaving bodies piling up. Vampires didn’t like to call human attention to themselves, and they particularly didn’t like being on the Moonlighters’ radar, so the behavior of the fledglings was out of character. Eric had dispatched Holly to deal with the nest. If she didn’t, older, more experienced vampires would handle it, and more people could die in that crossfire. 

Meanwhile, that left Eric to deal with the mental hospital, abandoned on the outskirts of Buffalo.
The mental hospital had stood empty for decades. The last time it had housed patients had been in 1988, when the county finally shut it down. Since then people whispered that the place was haunted, though any real supernatural activity had been minor. Eric had filed it away under “Lesser Priorities.” The occasional vampire nest took up residence there while passing through Wyoming, on their way to some place more interesting like California or Colorado. Occasionally a werewolf might spend a stormy, rainy night there. Most creatures steered clear. As the least populated state in the country, Wyoming had the least amount of supernatural activity, and Eric supervised the smallest division of Moonlighters.

Ghosts were the only creatures that enjoyed the lonely solitude of Wyoming. They were prevalent, but generally harmless.

Lately, the hospital showed signs of violent manifestations and increasing activity. Eric could no longer ignore it.  Even the wreckers wouldn't go near the condemned building, and it needed to be razed.

Eric scowled at the building again before picking up his messenger bag and straightening his Italian silk tie. His polished black loafers shone so brightly the moon reflected in their sheen. Blade-sharp pleats ran the length of his black pin-striped trousers. Not a wrinkle or cat hair marred his matching suit jacket despite the fact that he owned three purebred Chinchillas. He combed his silver-threaded dark hair in a neat, distinguished style matching the trimmed perfection of his salt and pepper goatee. Eric pocketed his phone and strode towards the front entrance. Large boards crisscrossed the gaping holes of the doorway and broken out windows. Graffiti tags decorated the peeling walls of the building.

Holly always brought her German shepherds on a job – dogs specifically trained to hit on supernatural activity and protect her from attacks – but Eric preferred to work alone.  That and he preferred cats.

Eric stepped on the front porch and almost lost his shoe when his foot broke through a rotted plank. Extracting his foot, he grumbled as he pulled a silk handkerchief from his breast pocket and rubbed the toe of his loafer. He'd worry about his scuffed shoe later, and later it would really bother him. His main concern at the moment was getting into the building. He pulled at the planks crisscrossing the doorway, and they came away easily in his hands, splintering away from the rusted nails bored into the door frame. Shattered glass covered the porch outside the doorway and the floor on the inside.

Eric narrowed his eyes, suspecting kids.  They liked to dare each other to enter the haunted house and play Ghost Hunters. If the ghosts were feeling friendly, they would merely give the idiots a fright.

If they felt malevolent, well, God help those kids.

Eric didn't want to think about that. He was afraid of what he might find once he entered the building. Spirits were inevitable, but he was also afraid he'd find victims of the pissed-off poltergeists.

Eric gripped his messenger bag slung over his shoulder, and stepped carefully through the gaping, darkened hole of the entrance. A nail jutting from the doorway snagged the cuff of his trousers and he cursed as he yanked it free with a loud tear.

Inside, darkness enveloped him. Weak moonlight managed to stream through the broken windows, giving Eric enough light to find his flashlight in his bag. He switched it on and scanned the area. The room he stood in appeared to be some kind of reception area. Dust coated the broken furniture strewn around the room. Chairs lay upended against the walls like they'd been thrown. What had once been a reception desk lay in a splintered pile at one end of the room, sporting sharp lethal wooden points that would make excellent stakes for vampire hunting. Eric crouched down to rummage in his messenger bag, extracting a bundle of dried cedar, sage, and sweetgrass. He also removed a large turkey feather and a container of salt. Then he pulled out his large silver cross on a chain and fastened it around his neck, letting it rest conspicuously against his purple tie. Smudging would not dispel the spooks, but it would provide Eric with some protection in his attempt to exorcise the ghosts. Eric upended the salt and poured it round the perimeter of the room. Then he gripped his bundle, collected the feather and flashlight, and edged out of the reception area, shouldering his messenger bag.

Eric made his way down a long corridor, lit only by the beam of his flashlight. Shadows flickered across the walls as he swept his light around, along the ceiling, and down on the floor. The linoleum was shredded and scored, the walls smudged and caked with dirt. Eric peeked in the abandoned rooms, sweeping his light through each one.

The blaring of upbeat Jamaican style music shattered the silence, startling Eric. He froze, his flashlight pointed down the corridor. The music's volume increased, and Eric slid the last few feet down the corridor and peeked in the last doorway before the stairwell. The door had been torn from its hinges, leaving a gaping hole, and lay braced against the corridor wall.

Eric clicked off his flashlight and stared into the room. A circle of long tapered candles burned in the middle of the room. Crumpled chip bags scattered across the floor along with several empty Coke cans. A bag of half-eaten M&M’s lay between the cans. In the middle of the circle of candles, a young man sat cross-legged in faded blue jeans and a black T-shirt emblazoned with some old rock n' roll logo. His shaggy dark brown hair hung over his eyes, and he kept twitching his head to clear his view. As Eric watched, the young man drummed his palms against his knees in time with the music, then got to his feet and executed a simple almost clumsy salsa, sliding along the floor in his socks, and pumping his fists in the air. Eric covered his mouth to hide a smile before the ridiculousness of the situation dawned on him. Some dumbass punk kid was hanging out in a haunted asylum, rocking out like it was the most normal thing in the world.

“Hey!” Eric said, switching on the flashlight.

The kid jumped mid-slide, and whirled around locking eyes with Eric and knocking over one of the candles. The flame went out, and a rush of wind tore through the room, teasing Eric's salt and pepper hair out of its careful arrangement.


“Holy shit!” the kid swore.

Continued next week, barring any stupidity by my pets.

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