Ghouls [[Story idea- Thing]]

Ghouls [[Story idea- Thing]]

Postby Henley » November 11th, 2016, 10:34 pm

[[Not sure if this is the right place for this, but I've been working on this story for a long time and I could use some feedback. I'm hoping going through it will stir up some of those juices that got it started so that I can expand and continue it. So... here goes.
ETA: I've run this chapter through an editor app to correct awkward sentences, so if you'd like the proofread version, proceed to the third post.]]

Chapter 1 -> The Highway

     Rain. It's meant to be cleansing, water in general. It fell heavily on six lanes of highway, three going North, three going South. When it hit the pavement it seemed to bounce off, dancing between cars and shattering into a million smaller drops which hung in the air in a tight mist. The mis swirled near the ground, clutching and curling around tires, doing nothing to slow the brave souls in the rain.
     A motorcycle weaved precariously between cars and bigger trucks, making use of space between the more weighty vehicles. He took the exit for the truck-stop, hardly slowing to swerve around a van trundling down the steep ramp. It was a flash of silver and black, appearing first behind a semi then in front of it, handles wrenching to redirect the rumbling monster. The bike jumped the curb of the diner and kept going, driving down the narrow walkway to the door. The man cut the motor and rested the bike against the tin siding with a clang.
     "I hope he ain't comin' in here." Billie's voice burst the bubble of silence the motorcycle had left in it's wake, pushing a dirty rag across the countertop.
     "You ought to hope harder next time." Mina mumbled.
     The man on the motorcycle was already through the door., clad in a black jacket, jeans, and shiny silver adornments. Mina couldn't see his face, he was wearing one of those huge helmets with the tinted glass stretched over his eyes.
     "Welcome to the Just Past Nowhere Diner." It was Mina’s voice that broke the new bubble. It was written across the door in red neon letters, but management still felt it was necessary to welcome new patrons. She didn't mind having to say it, it was quick and broke the ice that tended to build up on the counter.
     The man meandered further into the diner, head turning this way and that under the helmet. He sat down at the counter and tugged his helmet off.
     "Can I get a menu?" He was casual as he did it, but Mina could sense his smugness. She was staring at him, even before his face appeared. He was as young as she, maybe twenty or so and he had short curly sandy blond hair, bleached in places by the sun. The front was spiked up and Mina wondered to herself how he kept it that way beneath the helmet. His skin was pale, though it had probably been a different complexion before. His neck was smooth save for the spot nearly halfway to his chest where his Adam’s apple protruded from his flesh.
     She was too caught up in her instant distaste of him that she didn’t notice the cursory glance he ran over her body. He noticed her inky black hair pulled back into a messy bun at the crown of her head. He noticed the deep green eyes she regarded him with, and he realized that they were split down the middle with a pitch black pupil. He saw the slant her shoulders were set at as she listed to one side, and the curve of her waist where her hand rested with a green pen. She wasn't wearing a name tag, but the name of the diner was stitched into the left side of her black polo.
     "Sure." Mina’s voice came out closer to a squeak. She pulled out a dusty menu from under the counter and set it in front of him. He brushed the front off before thumbing it open. She watched his eyes scan the pages. They were like caramel, they were so light a brown. All of a sudden his nose wrinkled up and his eyes rolled back in his head.
     "Bless ya." She said. She'd beaten his body to the sneeze. His head rocked forward and his shoulders shook. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. He rubbed his nose and frowned at her.
     "I suppose, I should thank you." He said. But he didn’t. Instead the motorcycle man pointed at one of the specials. "What's Steak of Death?"
     "Porterhouse steak with mashed potatoes and veggies. No substitutes." Mina replied. Billie moved out from the corner of her eye, Mina hadn't realized she had been still standing there, back into the kitchen.
     "Why is it the Steak of Death?" He asked, those big eyes looking up at Mina, suspicious.
     She stared at him. Most people who ended up at the diner had no idea where they were. They asked thousands of questions, mostly about her eyes, the transparency of the other people in the diner. Even the vicious gash that could be seen cut out of the right side of the counter. But she couldn’t tell if this guy really was lost or if he was just being stupid.
     Every once in awhile some special person would wander into the diner. Those people were mystics, like shamans who could walk in two worlds at once. They hardly stayed long, they knew where they were, and who they were looking for.
     "Because its ironic." Billie answered from the kitchen.
[indent["Because its iconic." Mina chirped, miffed Billie had answered first. [/indent]
     The guy looked up from the menu. Mina could hear Billie at the grill with her scraper behind her. She could see in her mind’s the other woman pushing the lunch grime off into the sink like she hadn’t said anything, her hat peering over the open rectangle between the two rooms.
     "Why is it ironic?" Came his voice after a second. He shut the menu and looked up at Mina through heavily lidded eyes.
     "What were you doin' before ya realized there was a truck stop comin' up?" She asked him instead of answering. She shifted to lean over and rest her elbows on the counter. They were face to face now, staring each other down.
     "I....I was..." He frowned. The little space between his eyes crinkled up and he looked away. "I can't--"
     "Think." She urged. "Were ya ridin' your bike?"
     "N--yes... I think I was." He scowled at her. "But you knew that already."
     "Yeah, I noticed when you rode up on our curb. Where were you goin' though?" Mina took a step back from the counter. With her arms folded over her chest she gave him another once over. His shoulders were wide but his chest narrowed beneath his arms angled down to his hips, triangle shaped. Beneath his leather jacket he wore a t-shirt that had probably once been blue, but was now nearly grey; though from wear or design she didn't know.
     "I was coming from the store..." His head started to nod, like the story was slipping into his head, like the rain slipping under the diner door. "But... There's no highway on the way to the store." He spun around on the stool. His eyes stared out the window where the rain still pounded on the cars speeding away.
     "You ever hear of a song called Highway to Hell?" Mina breathed, her words barely a whisper.
     The ones that didn’t know they were dead were the worst. Those that had forgotten something behind them.
     "Highway to Hell... Yeah..." His head started to nod.
     "Well its like that, only that highway out there goes both ways."
     "So I'm...?" His voice was low, heavy.
     "Dead!" Billie was standing there behind Mina. She was still halfway through the kitchen wall. Her shoulder leaned on the stud within. Her stained tee shirt lifted off her stomach to show where her body was invisible within the wall. She wore a black and white trucker hat perched precariously over a mess of wild brown hair. Billie liked to imagine the hat was like a hair net, or so she had informed Mina.
     "Billie..." Mina hissed, rewarding her a glare.
     "Well, he is. Otherwise he wouldn't be sittin' there." She withdrew back into the kitchen again, with a grin. Her hand came back through a moment later to pick up her hat which had fallen.
     "B-but I don't remember..." He spun around on the stool to look at Mina again. His brow was creased and his eyes were sad. She didn't like them sad.
     "Most don't. Not 'til they visit a ghoul usually." She told him. He frowned at her. "What's your name?" She asked after he had frowned at her for a good minute.
     "It's... It was-” He corrected himself. “Dominic." His chin was leaning down on his chest.
     "Well, Dominic, do you want somethin' ta eat or what?"
     He stared at Mina for another minute, like he couldn't understand how she had just brushed off all the "dead" business. Sometimes the return to normalcy one expected in a diner snapped the ghosts to attention. He jabbed his finger down at the Steak of Death and nodded. He slumped down onto the counter after a few seconds. His face turned off toward the other end of the diner. He stared out at the side of a big rig.
     "He wants the steak Billie." Mina mumbled. Billie was already stepping through the wall again. She had to turn around to grab the plate from the window though, it was more solid than her.
     "I know." She deposited the plate onto the counter. Her hand beneath the plate passed right through the marble and into the cupboard below. Dominic sat bolt upright and stared down at the perfectly caramelized piece of steak and the messy splatter of potatoes to one side like it had appeared out of thin air. Which is kind of had.
     "Weren't there supposed to be vegetables?" He asked numbly. Billie and Mina leaned over the plate thoughtfully.
     "I ain't got any." Billie announced after a second. She then stood straight up and crossed her arms daring him to argue.
     "Oh..." His Adam's apple bobbed up and down in his throat. "Alright then..." He rubbed at the counter beside the plate absently. Only then did Mina realize she hadn't done her whole job. She tugged a drawer out under the counter and pulled out a fork and knife. When she set them by his fingers, he didn't even lift his head. He picked the silverware up and started in on the steak. Billie and she just stood there staring at him.
     "You know," Dominic stuck a chunk of beef into his mouth. "I don't like to be watched." He scooped up some of the mashed potatoes and dropped them into his mouth too. His brown eyes lifted up to stare back at Billie and Mina. Mina saw the corner of his lip raise, but it was not a kind curve to his lips.
     Mina had the sense to try and giggle, to laugh it off. Billie on the other hand had no such desires. She turned and stalked off back into the kitchen. Her storm off would have been almost perfect, if her hat had stayed in place.
     The green eyed girl turned away and didn't see if Billie reached back out to claim it. Instead she stared at this dead man with an imagined sense of humor. Dominic was busy eating away at his steak, pretending he didn't notice her. But she knew he did. His eyebrows were raised and he had this little half smirk on his lips.
     'Where were you from?" Mina rested her hip to the counter near him. He didn't answer for right away, intent apparently on finishing his steak. But his movements were jerky, his cuts jagged. After he cleared the plate of the chunk of meat he started in on the potatoes with ferocity.
     "I don't remember. I see the ocean, and little stubbly trees that are leaning into the water." He fell silent for a moment, then two. "But I can't think of the name." His milky eyes looked up at her like a puppy. "Why can't I remember?"
     "I don't know. Folks that come through usually 'member where they came from." She said, shrugging her shoulder. "But you can imagine the place?"
     His head bobbed up and down like it was on a spring. Mina rolled her shoulders and wrung her hands in her apron.
     "Well there's this... Person... Who helps lost spirits... Uh... Take a peek at their past life. I could... Ya know... Give you directions, if you like." His big milky eyes stared up at her like she had just offered him free coffee.
     "You would do that?" Dominic whispered.
     "It's kinda my job." Mina turned away from him.
     All around the diner were the usual customers. The ghosts who got stuck in the diner when they arrived. Many never left. Most didn't want to. The diner had become a sort of home for them in the afterlife.
     "Finish your steak. I'll take ya to the ghoul when yer done." She pushed an empty cup across the counter toward him. As it slid over the smooth surface it filled to the brim with brilliant orange juice; which was obviously what he wanted because he slurped it down.
     Mina slipped out from behind the counter while he finished eating, continuing her duties. In part, making sure the dead who were permanently in the diner were... All there. Amic liked putting his detached fingers in his drink. Alexi and Marcello were always swapping ears. And Mr. Jensen had a tendency of losing his leg, so Mina always had to put it back on. But it wasn't Mr. Jensen, or any of the others who were having a problem today. Today it was Ms. Bacarri. She was sitting at a booth by the big front windows. Her arrival to the diner had been a particularly bloody one. The car her boyfriend, Mr. Jensen, had been driving lost brakes, and the two crashed into several other cars in the real world. The car kept going and crashed into the front window of the netherworld. Part of the bumper still stuck out of the slice it had taken from the diner’s counter. The two of them died; Mr. Jensen arrived without his leg, Ms. Bacarri arrived without her head attached. At her table she had her usual Egg a la Death; two eggs and a side of bacon, but she wasn’t eating. Her hand was rolled up into a fist and would have propped her chin up if it was in the proper place. As it was, her lips were set in a very thoughtful line as she stared at the salt shaker. Her head sat in a pool of dried blood in the middle of the table facing the interior of the diner. Her curly grey hair was still almost perfect atop her incorporeal head.
     "How are you today Ms. Bacarri?" Mina ran her fingers over the table, checking to see if she needed to clean it. Ms. Bacarri’s eyes zipped away from the salt and watched Mina’s fingers.
     "Oh I'm alright. That man on the motorbike scared me half to death." She laughed. It was a hollow bouncing noise that ricocheted off the window.
     "Would ya like me to help you with yer head Ms. Bacarri?" Mina tried not to grimace as her eyes spun around to try and see the younger woman more clearly.
     "What's wrong with my head?" She squealed.
     Every time; she did this, every time Mina went over to help.
     "Ms. Bacarri, yer dead and your head... well... its no longer attached. Would you like me to help ya put it back?" The girl tried to speak slowly. Some days it was easier to get through to her than others. Some days it was like trying to pull teeth.
     "My head!" Ms. Bacarri moved to stand up, but all she did was bang her knee on the underside of the table and curse.
     "Ms. Bacarri! Settle down." By now Mina felt like the entire diner was staring at her back. She didn't look around though. She knew that the only way to keep face was to put Ms. Bacarri’s head back onto the shaking shoulders from whence it had come. "Hold still. This might hurt.." Mina took hold of her head just below the pearl earrings she had been wearing when she died. She squealed in pain and shock as Mina hefted the head to her hip. Ms. Bacarri’s body started to rock side to side, her mouth was hanging open in a half scream.
     Then there were a pair of hands on Ms. Bacarri’s shoulders. Long pale fingers, thick knuckles with a dusting of soft golden hairs on the backs of them, gently pressed into the lace shawl Ms. Bacarri was wearing; her body stilled. Mina quickly lifted Ms. Bacarri’s head up and onto her shoulders, careful to get the eyes and nose and all, going in the right direction, without sticking her fingers into them. Ms. Bacarri's mouth snapped shut. Her bright blue eyes opened and closed and she looked around curiously, as if she quite enjoyed the view that was not from the table.
     "What are you all staring at me for?" She sniffed and turned her back to the diner. Mina couldn't imagine what she had been like when she was alive.
     "Just admiring your earrings Mrs. Bacarri." The waitress said, wiping her fingers on her apron.[indent]
[indent]Mina scowled and took a few steps back away from the booth. Before she looked over to the owner of the fingers she took stock of the other diners. Alexi and Marcello each had their own ears, Amic had all ten fingers on, and Mr. Jensen had his leg under the proper knee. It seemed as if the rest of them had decided not to test Mina and the owner of the fingers.
     Since Mina had no reason left not to look at the man who had saved her ten minutes of fighting with Ms. Bacarri, she turned to find Dominic. He was taller than her, she had to tilt her head a little to look at his eyes. Both of his eyebrows were chasing his hairline as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. His lips were turned down slightly, not quite a frown but a thoughtful tilt.
     "Who do I pay for the meal? I couldn't find Billie." Dominic jerked his arm, pointing with his elbow, back at the window marked Orders. Mina could see Billie’s hat bobbing back and forth behind the window, but she was sure the ghost had found somewhere else to be when Ms. Bacarri had started screaming.
     "Ya don't pay for food here." Mina told him. He just nodded and stood there at the end of Ms. Bacarri's booth beside her.
     Mina met eyes with Billie over his shoulder. The country girl had her hand braced on her hip and she was frowning at Mina. She shook her head, mouthed that she shouldn’t take the ghost boy anywhere. But Mina just frowned back. She didn’t know why Billie wouldn’t want her to go. Billie had no control over what she did. Mina was in charge of Billie, not the other way around.
     "Are ya ready to go then?" Mina stomped off toward the front door, the one he had came through earlier, without waiting for his answer.
     "Yeah.. I guess." It sounded like he was coming after her, but Mina was too determined to keep up her air of fierceness to look over her shoulder. "Who is it we're going to see anyhow?"
     He didn't mention that she was originally going to just give him directions. His hand reached around Mina as they reached the door. He pushed it open, but she was already going out. She passed right through his arm and the glass door, onto the cement walkway. She stepped out under the awning and turned around. The rain played out a loud tattoo on the canvas over their heads. Dominic ground to a stop in front of her with a frown creasing his brow, the unspoken question of her tangibility on his lips.
     "We're going to see a ghoul. They'll help you remember who you are. Then you can move on.... Probably." Mina led the way off from under the awning.
     "So... You're dead to...?" He whispered, like it was a secret he wasn’t supposed to know about.
     "Of course I am. Whyd'ya think I was here in this rat hole?" She snorted and stepped into the rain.
     "Of course..." She heard him whisper, his voice right behind her. His breath warm on the back of her neck for someone who had no more breath to breathe.
Last edited by Henley on November 23rd, 2016, 9:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Ghouls [[Story idea- Thing]]

Postby Henley » November 17th, 2016, 7:55 pm

Chapter 2 -> Ghoul Realms

     Truth be told Mina wasn't completely dead. She'd not been alive for quite some time. The Netherworld was full of strange beings. Some who could walk in both worlds, like vampires, and some that only walked in one, like ghosts. There were lots of others, demons that could fly, and set things on fire by thinking about it. But they all didn't "exist" exactly the same. Most ghosts are totally tangible, they have to open doors and sit in seats. Some of them are less tangible than others, like Billie, who could walk through walls, or hold a plate up. Some, like those who have trouble holding onto limbs, have trouble holding their forms together. Sometimes those ghosts didn't even appear at all.
     And then there were ghouls. Beings that are usually solid, and for some to go from tangible to intangible is a big effort. They can see into other realms and sometimes, powerful ghouls, can manipulate other worlds. Some can even see into the future. Mina knew, because she was actually a ghoul, not the ghost Dominic assumed she was.
     "Now don't talk 'till somebody talks to you. Got it?" Mina was standing against a big gold colored door. Somebody had painted black designs all over it in swirling patterns and letters. Dominic slowly let his head bounce up and down but he didn’t speak. He was standing among the yellow dust that led up to the stairs Mina was on. He was probably trying to read the symbols behind her head.
     "Do you get it?" The girl snapped her fingers under his nose.
     "Huh..? Oh, yeah. I get it." His eyes dropped and refocused on Mina. Those deep pools for eyes stared at the strangeness of her split green orbs. His lips spread in a warm smile, though Mina couldn’t fight back the thought that he was mocking the way she spoke.
     "Okay..." She turned around and twisted the large gold handle set into the middle of the black door. It was heavy but, swung open of its own accord, however, without a push or a even a touch from Mina’s ghoul fingers.
     Mina was sure Dominic did not know that ghouls had houses, or realms, let alone been inside one. From the outside ghoul realmss looked like they had come from the living world, as if they were someone’s memory where they had tried to take refuge after death. Most of them were in two worlds, the one she had taken him to a fine example of a ghoul realm that resided in many. The front entry hall was about twenty feet long, but Dominic would have guessed that the wall he saw at the end, a mirror showing their small forms far in the distance, wasn’t as close as it seemed. The right wall was painted a dull sandstone brown and boring naval paintings lined the upper half. The left wall was decorated with the universe, huge galaxies glided across the wall. They vanished at the far end only to reappear at the beginning, like they were circling the hallway as its central point. There was no furniture, and the only other doorway was on the right hand wall, between a ship painting and a port photograph.
     This is where Mina led Dominic. The hallway beneath the doorway branched off in eight directions just inside. Dominic followed Mina down the second hallway to the left of where they started. He cast a glance over his shoulder, he could see the universe wall and the other halls that led from the intersection. Those hallways looked like they belonged in different times; the one Mina had chosen was lined in floral patterns that Dominic guessed were Victorian.
     "Wh--?" Mina didn't let him finish. She held up a hand, shushed him.
     "I said no talking." They were arriving at the room at the end of the hall now. Beyond, it looked like a drawing room from the Victorian age, only when the stuff was new.
     "Vhy didn't you knock?" A male's voice carried out into the hall. Mina stopped in the doorway as the room began to shift, Dominic stuttering to a halt before he bumped into her. The furniture inside aged rapidly, then returned to that strange like new state. Only then did she step forward to answer the voice within.
     "You never answer when I do, Proshloye." Mina said, her lips puckered slightly.
     Dominic stepped into the room behind her, staring around with wide eyes, lips slack. He avoided looking at the owner of the voice, a very tall slender man sprawled out over a chaise near the middle of the room, splendidly dressed in a purple pinstriped three piece suit. Proshloye, whom he assumed the man was, had a thin chiseled beard framing a long face that matched his short salt and pepper hair. A fat cigar poked out from puffy lips that spewed a thick cloud of purple smoke.
     "I might one of zeese dayz. You vreally shouldn't give up like zat." He retorted. The cigar bounced up and down in his mouth as he spoke. "It is polite. Who 'ave you brought to me?" His dark purple eyes glowed with a faint purplish light, like the color of his eyes were seeping out into the air around his face. They flickered with joy and greed as his gaze swept over the ghost that was Dominic.
     "His name's Dominic and he wants ta remember where he came from." Mina glanced over her shoulder to look at the pale biker. He'd gotten stuck, peering at the stack of frayed texts on a small table. Proshloye squinted at him over his cigar as well. He lifted his hand to remove the stinking stick from his lips.
     "Vwhere he came vfrom... Per-apz I can help viz-at." Slowly the Russian unfolded himself from the depths of his chaise. He prowled over the floor closer to Mina and the ghost by the table. Purple smoke curled through the curls of Mina’s ponytail and around the back of her neck. It stung Dominic’s eyes and tickled his nose. It seemed to caress his cheek bones, brush over his earlobes. The blonde shifted his feet.
     "Come, closer inside, both of you." Proshloye turned and retreated back toward the chaise. As he did the room began to change again, the victorian wall paper faded and fell away, the furniture became blocky. Soon thet were standing no longer in a drawing room, but a medieval chamber. Proshloye was now leaning over an ancient scrying bowl half filled with a silvery liquid. Mina thought Dominic looked frightened, or at least shocked into a stand still. She skirted around his form at what was now just a tanned leather box, even as the room shifted. She came to stop beside the scrying bowl and leaned over to look. So far nothing had changed inside, the liquid simply continued to swirl in the bowl as if an invisible hand stirred.
     "Are you deaf? I said come closer, boy." The ghoul that was Proshloye lifted his head. He had changed as well, just like the room. His body was completely obscured by a thick dark robe with a hood pulled over to shadow his face. Mina knew that beneath the hood his face had deteriorated to that of only a skull, but the sight of that could scare the newly dead. Though not to death, usually it forced them to disperse. As such, it was reserved for times of intimidation.
     Dominic seemed to snap to in slow motion, his head lifting, his fingers searching for something in the empty air at his sides. He took several small steps closer, his mouth flapping open like a beached fish. He looked like he was trying to say something, but Mina gave him a look and he stopped dead in his tracks.
     "What's going to happen?" His voice sounded hollow in the cold chambers. The girl gave a dramatic sigh and gestured to Proshloye.
     "Do you know what Proshloye means Dominic? Other than the fact that it is this ghoul's name." She crossed her arms over her chest. It really didn't matter what he said next, the scrying bowl among them was already changing. Dominic didn't seem to notice that. His caramel eyes were locked to the split pupils of Mina.
     "No. But I assume it's something Russian." He whispered, like he was still remembering that Mina had asked him to be quiet.
     "Proshloye tells me it means The Past. That is what he sees. He can see into your past life."
     "I see. And what is he going to do exactly? Will it hurt?"
     Mina gave another sigh and made a grand waving gesture to the scrying bowl.
     "It's already being done, you fool. It began when you decided to come closer. Even now he is peering into your past, dredging up the images you remember. Look." For a moment her accent vanished. Like she had turned into a different person as Proshloye had. She still looked like the girl he had met in the diner, but now she seemed to stand a little taller, her hair seemed a little darmer. Mina reached across the bowl and took hold of Dominic’s ear. Normally it was hard for her to catch hold of a ghost, but in times of distress, especially for the ghost, it was easier. She pulled his gaze away from her and down to the silvery liquid mingling in the bowl. A sandy beach was floating in and out between the silver waves. Dominic's mental image zoomed in and the image was following a sandy path that led up a hill, like a first person video. A tiny village began to appear.
     "Look to the sides ov ze road. Can you see any signs?" Proshloye's voice seemed to echo and float out from within the scrying bowl. It was like he was standing in the image, not across from Dominic and Mina. The image wavered as the ghost twisted his head. His caramel eyes were unfocused. He was only seeing what was inside of the silver liquid, not the room he actually stood in.
     "I'm not sure what I'm going to see..." Dominic whispered, a note of fear creeping in. His voice swam up out of the silver. Then, all three of them saw it. A squat square of wood looming up at the top of the hill. It was washed out and white with thick muddled lettering. Faded as they were, they could read the name of the town: Silinunte.
     Mina broke away from the scrying bowl and moved over to one of Proshloye's tables. On it were stacks and stacks of old books, but some new ones were mixed in between. She shuffled through the tomes in search of the one modern touch that traveled through every change to the house. A slim tablet with a little blue light blinking in the upper left corner.
     "Search for country of origin: Silinunte." She whispered to the light. It glowed for a moment brighter and then the screen flickered to life. It was connected to the living world by something ridiculous and confusing to a ghoul who had not lived in the world of technology. But Proshloye told her once how to use it to search for things ghosts needed. The screens rapidly swept by as the tablet searched for the country Dominic's little town was from.
     "Search complete. Country of origin for Silinunte is: Italy. Town on the southern coast of Sicily." The tablet had a haunting woman's voice, she could have been standing right beside Mina. She glanced over her shoulder with a frown, though Mina knew she wasn't there, it still creeped her out.
     "Thank you." Mina said, about to set the tablet down.
     “Warning. Duplicate entry detected. Country of origin for Silinunte is: The United States of America. Town on the gulf coast of Florida.” And then the screen went dark and the little blue light switched back on, waiting for the next request. Mina dropped the tablet back down onto the table with a frown and spun back to the scrying bowl. Dominic and Proshloye were both still bent over staring into the silvery liquid. They were speaking to each other but they were both still in Silinunte.
     "Italy, Proshloye. Sicily. Or the US, Florida." Mina pressed her fingers to the back of Proshloye’s hand leaning against the scrying bowl. Beneath her fingers she could feel the rises and ridges of pure bone, the fabric of his robe filling in the space.
     The ghoul's head snapped up and away from the bowl. The silvery liquid shimmered and the image broke up with little waves as the bowl swayed. Proshloye's empty sockets stared at Mina from out of his hood.
     "Which do you think it is? Could he be of ze godz? A name so strange in two places? One in the ancient world, anozer in ze modern." His teeth clattered when he tried to move muscles that weren't there anymore, but he spoke. His bony fingers stretched over the edge of the bowl, blindly searching the marble.
     "How should I know? You're the past. You can look an' see if some god visited his mam." Mina crossed her arms over her chest, again, as if cold. She forced her mouth to twist and turn into the accent she practiced and maintained. She glanced over to see of Dominic had awoken from the scrying bowl. His caramel eyes were glassy and he still stared into the silvery waves. Curiously Mina leaned over to look at the last image the two had been looking at. Inside a pretty woman with curly black hair that she had tied back with a black ribbon stared down from a rickety porch. She was wearing a long grey dress with a purple apron wrapped over her waist. Her skin was a dark brown color with work bleached hands. She was smiling at Dominic when the image was broken, like she was welcoming a child home...
     "Is that your mother Dominic?" Mina stepped around the scrying bowl and touched his arm. Her fingers passed straight through the first time and she had to try again to get his attention. He blinked and focused for a moment.
     "I- Uh.. Yes. That is Silvia. My mother." He tilted his head to look down at the beautiful woman, though more like he didn't why she looked unfamiliar.
     "And yer father? Where is he?" The ghost's brow collapsed and his eyes grew dark as he stared into the depths of the scrying bowl.
     "My father. Why would you want to know about him?" His lips formed a hard line and those soft caramel eyes turned upon Mina. The soft spoken ghost who was frightened by his own death was suddenly hard and unfriendly.
     "Who is he? It can be important in the land of the dead Dominic." Proshloye's voice cut into the silence that grew when Mina would not speak. She took a step back, though, relinquishing access to the ghost. The room they were standing in was back to the victorian style and the fat lipped Russian man was superimposed over Proshloye's bones.
     "How on Earth would my father change anything here in this place of death?" Dominic stood up taller and let go of the scrying bowl. The marble podium disappeared with a snap.
     Proshloye and Mina decided not to answer. The taller ghoul waved his hand toward the ghost, sending him over to sit on the lounger in the middle of the room with only the wave of his hand. His head slumped down against his chest, the urge to sleep received from the ghoul without even a word.
     "He will come for him, you know zis. If you continue to guard him you may find yourself in more trouble zan he iz worth." Slowly the skull was starting to fill in and his nose interrupted my view of his huge purple eyes coming into focus.
     "Is he mine ta guard though?" Mina glanced over at Dominic. She didn’t ask who the ‘he’ Proshloye had spoken of. Of the pantheons of gods that sent their dead to their Netherworld there were many ‘he’s.
     "If he choze you, zen yes." Came the other ghoul’s answer.
     "Did 'e choose me? He almost rode his bike into the diner. He didn't exactly go through no choosen' ritual Proshloye." The ghost on the lounge shifted around, mumbled, groaned. Mina dropped her voice down to a whisper. "They said we'd be able to sense a demigod… But nobody at tha diner noticed a thing. He certainly don't look like one now."
     "Per-apz that is because of whoze child he iz… But I cannot see into Silwia's life without 'er 'ere." The Russian was nearly all flesh now, his beard trembling at the end of his chin, the purple, smoking cigar tucked between his fingers.
     "Are you saying that if he's the… If he's his… he may have hidden 'imself?" Mina looked over at the boy, his blond spikes lying on his forehead. He didn't seem to radiate power. She had seen demigods pass over through the diner before, they always had a hero's glow. They weren’t pale, but golden and their bodies were traced in light.
     But Dominic? This ghost was almost transparent. His skin was poreless and ivory, like she would expect a vampire to be. They passed through the diner too, usually with a stake in their chest or burns on their bodies.
     "If he iz one of hiz… maybe; he could have hidden himselv from us ghoulz. Vhy he vould vant to, I cannot know. Per-apz he believes 'e is in danger." The ghoul placed his cigar between his lips and gave it a puff. He grinned and turned away without another word to Mina.
     Which left her standing in the center of a Victorian sitting room with a potentially dangerous demigod who was nearly asleep. Needless to say she was ecstatic.
     Slowly, she made her way over to Dominic where he lay sprawled out on the lounger. His caramel eyes lifted to her as she approached, but he didn’t speak. Mina offered her hand out to him; gave him the universal c’mon sign. His cold fingers slid into her open palm, and tightened like a child’s around her smaller fingers.
     Her digits gave off sparks and shimmered as she struggled to retain her shape. She noticed how strong his form was against her own, how unusual it was for those who made their way into the diner.
     “Let’s get you out of here before someone more dangerous comes lookin’ for ya.” She whispered. Dominic’s head lolled in a nod as he stood. He swayed from one side to the other, and as he balanced he seemed taller somehow. More solid and less pale, though Mina couldn’t have guessed why.
     She guided his trance-like form by the elbow back through the house and down the main galaxy hall and to the front door. From the inside of the house the golden door was a soft grey with tiny rubies painstakingly decorating the wooden surface. OA single line in latin broke the greyness, painted in emeralds. ‘Per verum est potentia.’ Through knowledge there is power.
     Mina pushed Dominic’s prone form out ahead of her, frowning at the emeralds. Even when Proshloye wasn’t there he seemed to be whispering in her ear. Dominic’s hand instinctively reached for the handle, but not before he banged into its surface and leaned against it.
     With a twist he stumbled out of the doorway, and Mina lost her grip. The fact that he fell was part of it, the other part was the person standing just outside.
     He wore his shroud: the Lord of the Underworld. His broad shoulders were hidden beneath writhing shadows which plunged in a single sheet to the dusty ground beneath. On his head short black ringlets poked from beneath his Helm of Shadows, clinging to his temples and beneath his ears. Mina could barely see his shadowy green eyes, but the sight of them made her take a step back into Proshloye’s realm. He was the most fearsome of those below, especially to a ghoul whose very existence dangled from his shroud.
     “Come out. Do not be afraid.” His voice was like fingernails dragging over granite. “You have discovered my child.” He wasn’t asking a question, but rather, making a statement. Daring Mina to say she hadn’t.
     “He sure don’t smell like yours.” The ghoul replied, stomping from the ghoul’s realm to stand next to where Dominic knelt. She knew it was a bold move to challenge him, it could have ended her right there. A smattering of dust on Proshloye’s dusty doorstep. But he didn’t. Somehow, the tilt in his head, and the immense shadow clustering under his eyes told her he wouldn't.
     “You are right, ghouling. He does not appear to be mine.” Slowly Hades, or Pluto, swept closer to Dominic and Mina. When the god moved his cloak screamed in agony, silently, the trapped souls stretched out at his knees and elbows trying to escape. She reached down to help haul the ghost to his feet. It took her several tries, but she managed to get him up, fingertips clinging to his jacket sleeve. His lids seemed to blink in slow motion; Mina shrank back, as the god drew close.
     “How did you come here, ghost?” Hades drew his hands down to his waist, clasping long thin fingers together, before his pelvis.
     So far Dominic had simply existed there with this blank look on his face. But now, with this god standing over him he snapped free of Proshloye’s spell.
     “I... uh... I was riding my bike from the grocery store... in...” He waved his hands around his head. His hair bounced and his candy eyes were wild. “I don’t know where... But next thing I know I’m walking into this piece of crap diner ordering Steak of Death.” He started speaking slowly, but as he remembered more, he spoke faster, with more hostility toward the man at every word.
     “When did Billie start that?” Hades asked, turning his eyes on Mina, ignoring Dominic's anger. He had never even entered the diner, so she didn’t know why he asked.
     “Some old crone brought the idea in a while ago.” She muttered, her accent slipping again. She was using Dominic as a shield between her and the god, standing just behind the blond's elbow.
     “Oh, I should stop in and have some.” The god reached up and swept aside his helm, the blackened metal slipping away in a dark mist. His curly hair lay flat around his ears and over his forehead, an extreme case of hat hair. Mina had the ridiculous thought that he needed lessons from Dominic on how to keep his hair pristine under a hat.
     “And now?” The dead-man’s once spiky blonde hair was going limp, starting to curl. The god’s form threw shadows over his face.
     “Well, me and... I actually don’t know her name...” Suddenly they were both looking at Mina; Dominic with betrayal in his eyes, and Hades with bright curiosity. She didn’t grace either of them with an answer, just a shrug. The ghost frowned and turned back to the god. “Well we discovered where I was from. I saw my mother.”
     “Your mother?” Hades’s voice rose in an impressive boom, one that got the ghoul to step back again. His lips twisted into a grim smirk. “Did you now... Where did Proshloye’s spell take you, boy?”
     “Silinunte.” She butt in, supplying the name of Dominic’s origin for her name, belated. “Sicily, if he’s yours he belongs to Pluto, not Hades. He could be from Florida though, he could have nuthin to do with ya...” Dominic spun on Mina again. So, he missed the transformation.
     The god’s face changed. His brooding expression softened, became less angular, more greedy, rounded. His dark greasy hair grew in soft curls; light and shining as gold. He brushed those curls away from his eyes as they grew and Mina watched those greens deepen to a dark mahogany. They were warm, but rich. He shifted from he who is only keeper of the dead, to the god of all precious things which are beneath the earth.
     “Ah, now I see the resemblance. Those Sicilian browns. Silvia, your mother is Silvia Hornswallow. I remember you now.” Even his voice had changed from hard Hades to, precious, silky Pluto. Dominic stumbled backwards, lurching away from both him and Mina. His gaze stuck on the transformed god.
     “You only needed ta look through a diff'rent set of eyes.” Mina commented. Dominic’s caramel orbs shifted from her face to Pluto’s in disbelief, and question.
     “What are you talking about?” His voice was husky, accusing.
     “This is yer father. You wanted to know where you came from, and here’s a piece of it.” She gestured to the looming god before her.
     “What?” He gasped.
     “You are half god, half mortal. I met your mother a very long time ago. Florida was in celebration and I was searching for some good wine to poison...” Pluto petered out as he took in Dominic’s look. “You do not believe me.”
     “Why would I believe you? I don’t know you.” Dominic’s voice was like steel glancing off an opponent’s sword.
     “You may not know me now. But I hope you shall.” His wooden eyes looked past his son to Mina. “In the future, perhaps.” His lips split into a painful looking grin.
     “What does he m--?” There was a sizzle and a crack like thunder, renting Dominic's words in two. The god had gone. The dust was cleared where his shroud had laid around Pluto’s feet.
____________________________________

     “I never thought o’ Florida as Roman country. But since Pluta claimed ya..” Mina was muttering, Dominic didn’t catch all of what she said, as she was walking away from him at a rapid pace.
     “What are you talking about?”
     Mina spun on him, heels kicking up yellow dust all around them. Her green eyes were dark and thunderous as she jabbed her finger at the space above his head. The ghost tilted his head back. Mina watched his curls rubbing against the collar of his shirt, wondering if it tickled. Above Dominic’s head spun a golden symbol that resembled a capital P with the foot of an uppercase L superimposed over the helm they had just viewed, etched in black into thin air.
     “Wh--” His voice was quiet, frightened. Mina’s features softened, just as Dominic’s face fell to look into her green eyes again. Her black hair had fallen into her face and brushed over her cheek.
[indent[Noticing his eyes upon her she pushed the hair aside and scowled. [/indent]
     “Pluto has claimed you as his son, acknowledged that you are who you are. Though much good it’ll do ya, since yer dead.”
     “Didn’t you have a father when you were alive?” She whispered.
     Dominic’s head was shaking, His lips formed words but no sound came out.
     “I... no. My mother said he went away when I was small. But she always looked like she was expecting him to come back. She’d sit by the window and stare out at the street light, like she was thinking something would appear.” He sank down to sit on the step leading up to Proshloye’s house. The door had closed behind them and the black symbols were glowing against the surface, almost like the ghoul inside was listening. “I never thought that... that I’d... I’m dead.” He finished with a gasp and a frown.
     Mina reached down and touched his wrist. He jerked away from her touch, those caramel eyes staring up at her in bewilderment.
     “This innit the way its supposed ta happen.” She whispered. She crouched down in front of him, her hair swaying into her eyes again. “Yer s’posed to find out when yer alive, fight for the world. Die for the world and be welcomed here like a hero. I don’t know why yer here, or why you don’t have the hero’s glow, but we’re gunna find out.” She held her hand out to him. Her fingers were as pale as his own, if not more pale, now. They were shorter than he had expected, and the nails were trimmed close to her fingertips, yellow dust collected in crescents there. He took her hand and let her pull him to his feet, only one time being necessary to grab hold.
     “How could you do that? You have seen my past, and it told me nothing.”
     “We saw your distant past. Not where you died, or how.” Dominic watched her lips as she spoke. Her lips were wide and flat, not full as he had always imagined women’s lips to be. Her bottom lip pouted slightly, and tiny spidery cracks ranged along her lips’ surface.
     “How would you look there?” His voice came out as a tired gasp, his eyes risen to hers and he stared into those strange orbs. He had never seen eyes like them, he assumed they were the mark of being a ghoul. Proshloye’s eyes had been strange too. “Because you’re like Proshloye right? You’re not a ghost, are you?” He remembered Billie’s eyes, staring down at him. Nearly the same mouse brown as her hair had been. Normal. Human, like his.
     She took a deep breath. Her hand stiffened within Dominic’s but he wouldn’t let her pull back. She frowned down at their joined hands, her chubby fingers squeezed between his long thin ones.
     “No. I’m not a regular ghost.” She didn’t look up from his hand. Her eyes were glued to his knuckles, bone white smudges of skin. “I’m a ghoul.” Her voice popped and she stood up quickly. Dominic dropped her hand.
     “So you can show me what happened?” The ghost couldn’t find the energy to stand. His form even wavered slightly, right before Mina’s eyes.
     “I can take you ta another ghoul. S’all I can do. My powers ain’t like Proshloye. I can’t... show you what happened.” Her green eyes stared off into the swirling yellow dust that surrounded Proshloye’s home. “Aria can look into the near past. People’s deaths.” She took a step away from Dominic, and vanished, the dust hardly disturbed where she had stood.
     Dominic stumbled to his feet. He reached out into the dust storm. He tried to call for her, but he didn’t know her name.
     Then her face reappeared, just her head really, seemed to peer out from the air just in front of him. “Aren’t ya commin?” Her lips were pulled up into a smile, the first Dominic had seen from her. Her eyes were shining with amusement.
     “It would be easier to follow you if I knew where we were going.” He muttered, but he took a step closer to her floating head.
     “Or you could just follow. Sometimes its easier to just go with the flow.” Half of her body sshimmered back from whatever plane she had switched to. Her right hand stretched out to him again, familiar in the gesture. She reached out, and he succumbed.
     “Sometimes the flow is going the wrong way.” He was standing right in front of her now, his left hand gripping hers. Mina’s lips were parted slightly, like she was getting ready to speak, but his words seemed to have halted her train of thought. “But if you’re leading. I might as well follow.” His breath stirred the hair that rested against her cheek. His hand felt warm against her cold fingers, and again she was forced to realize this ghost was no ordinary ghost, he was a hero’s ghost who wasn’t supposed to be dead. His face was inches from hers as she stepped back, drawing him with her into the other world she was half in.
     “This is Visionaria’s realm. She is a seer, like Proshloye and me.” Her accent was nearly gone. Dominic couldn’t keep his eyes off hers, they were close enough to kiss. Mina could smell the steak he had eaten at the Diner, the stink of Proshloye’s purple cigar, the yellow dust that swirled in his realm. [/indent[
[indent]“Oi! If you want what you came for you best get yourselves inside. I am not going to stand around watchin’ you two all eternity.” A woman was standing on the verandah of a big manor style house; it went all around the first floor. The upper floor sported balconies and bay windows, and it was painted a brilliant green with white trim. The woman had long brown hair that she had braided down her left shoulder, which was bare. She wore an old fashioned white dress that hung from her right shoulder. The waist was tied with a green ribbon which trailed down to her knees where the dress ended. She was barefoot, and her skin was pale, but where her bones were close to the surface her skin shimmered like satin; at her shins, her cheekbones, her fingers, her forehead. Light sprang from her body like from a polished car.
     “Aria.” Mina forced her eyes away from Dominic’s and up to the porch where the woman stood. The ghost blinked in the startling light of Aria’s realm. There was a bright sun here, shining down on a grassy lawn plagued with daffodils. He looked up at the new ghoul with a frown.
     “What are you standing there for?” He asked. Mina turned away from him, releasing her hand from his grasp. She ascended the steps and stood beside the shimmering woman, Aria. Her eyes were black as night, the entire eye. No white showed save for her pupil, which was a small white circle in the very middle.
     The white pupil flickered over to Mina at her side, she didn't speak, though. Aria could sense that Mina was trying to hide from the demigod.
     “Because I was asked to.” Her voice was silky and smooth, and some sort of foreign accent was sprinkled over her words. It wasn’t thick like Mina’s, but it was definitely there.
     “Do all ghouls have an accent?” Dominic seemed to speak before he thought better of it. The words spilled out of his mouth, curious and unabashed.
     Aria glanced at Mina, but the other ghoul wouldn’t look away from Dominic. Her split gaze was caught on something on the blond haired dead boy.
     “Most of us draw out powers from a... specific culture. I know you have met Proshloye, his is Russian. I draw upon a small area in France, in the mountains.” Aria was examining her nails. They were long and black, not painted, but as if they were claws stretching from the end of her fingers. “So... yes, we all have... accents.” Her lips parted and she was smiling down at Dominic. “But enough about us. Wouldn’t you like to see how you died?”
     She didn’t wait for an answer. Mina and Aria only turned to leave. They stepped through the open doorway that led into the big house. It didn’t look French at all to Dominic. He didn't know much about French architecture, though.
     His boots made loud thumping sounds as he climbed to the top of the stairs. He followed the two women into a parlor room where lace adornments decorated nearly every surface. But the ghouls weren’t in that room. Nor the next two he found, a kitchen and a dining room. He couldn’t find any stairs, so if they had gone to the second floor, he didn’t know how they had done it.
     “Aria?” He called. He spun in a tight circle in one of the bathrooms he had found. “Aria...?” He called again, stepping back into the hallway. The walls were painted sky blue on the inside and captured butterflies decorated the walls behind glass.
     “Stop lollygagging.” It was Mina. She was standing in the doorway to the dining room, framed in a green light. “Aria’s ready for ya.” He expected her hand to raise, for her to reach out for him like she had before. But she didn’t. She just stood there frowning at him. When he started for her she turned and stepped back inside the dining room. The first time he had been in there the furniture was all cut from light colored pine wood, a long rectangular dining table with uncomfortable looking dining chairs. A china hutch, a buffet table, and a big red brick fireplace. But the second time he stepped in all of the furniture was gone. The room reeked of French perfume and coffee, the fireplace was made out of hundreds of different stones all stuck together. Inside, a green fire was burning and Aria stood beside the structure. But she wasn’t in the white dress anymore. Her body was obscured by a dark red cloak. Her brown braid, outside of her hood, wrapped around the back of her neck and dangled over her right shoulder. She was staring down into the green fire, so Dominic couldn’t see her face, or if she still had one.
     “You’ve got a nice bike, Dominic.” Aria drawled. Mina went to stand opposite Aria at the fireplace, her gaze tending to the flames within.
     “What?” He asked. In the grate the flames were changing, pictures were moving within, green people shifting against brighter blue flames.
     “There it is." An iridescent finger swam into his vision, obscuring his view. "Why would you travel so far for groceries? Isn’t there a shop in your town?” Aria’s voice drifted out from the flames.
_________________________________

     “The shop in town doesn’t have her medicine...” Dominic answered. But he wasn’t standing in Aria’s parlor room anymore. No, they were standing on Carver Street, the street where the pharmacy he needed to go to for his mother’s medicine was. He always got any groceries they needed while he was in the city.
     Aria, in her red cloak stood beside him, the fabric whipping around her legs, mingling with the white dress she had been wearing beneath. Mina stood a few feet away, staring down the street. Unlike the other ghouls he had seen she still looked the same, long dark hair let loose from its ponytail, jeans and white tee-shirt, though cleaner now than it had been at the diner.
     “So you drive here to get it. On your bike?” Aria turned. Dominic’s motorcycle sat at the curb outside of the pharmacy. The saddle bags were filled and a bit of plastic bag stuck out of one of them.
     “Yeah... Every Tuesday.” He mumbled. He took a step toward the bike only to stop halfway. Because he had just exited the shop, too. A Dominic with spiky blond curls and a helmet tucked under his arm.
     “See you next week Mr. Cormack!” The other Dominic was saying over his shoulder. He had a smile on his face as he stopped at the curb. Someone called back out after Dominic, but he only smiled and tucked the prescription bag into his pocket. The other Dominic slipped his head into his helmet and lifted his bike from the curb.
     The ghost Dominic reached into his jacket pocket, almost subconsciously, but he didn’t pull anything out. Mina watched him curiously, but she didn’t speak, not even after he watched himself start the bike and pull away from the curb.
     “Take my hand Dominic. We’ll skip ahead to see how you die.” Aria was offering her hand to him. Her fingers were nearly skeletal, her skin was pulled tight against her bones. It still shimmered where the bones pressed to her pale flesh. Dominic looked up into her face. It was hardly there anymore. Her dark eyes were set into the image of a day of the dead skull. Her cheeks were hollowed out and her eyelids were dark smudges.
     “What if I don’t want to see myself die?” His voice was small. The women exchanged glances. Mina stepped close to the ghost. She slipped her cold pale fingers into his hand, laced her digits with his.
     “If you want to find out why you died, you’ll have to see it Dom.” Her voice was soft. He couldn’t hear the twang he had first heard from her lips in the diner. Mina was all ghoul right then, even though she wasn’t in her true form. [indent]
[indent]“I can’t go back.”
     “There may be a way back... but only if you died a hero.” That was Aria’s voice in his ear.
     “How will I know?” Dominic turned on her, frowning.
     “We’ll know.” Mina said. And her twang was back. Her smile was crooked as she gave his hand a tug.
     They weren’t standing on Carver Street anymore. They were on the two laned road that passed between the city and Silinunte, by the sea. Dominic and Mina stood together, their hands clasped together. Aria stood a few feet away, in the mouth of a tunnel.
     “Take this light.” She turned and held out a torch with a blue fire burning at the tip.
     “Why?” Dominic took the torch, expecting it to be hot in his hand. But the flame was cool near his face and the wrapping wasn’t burning. It was just some sort of vessel.
     “That’s a tunnel, and that’s where your accident happens and it's dark.” Aria turned back to the dark opening and vanished inside.
     “How does she know?” He asked Mina. Dominic held the torch high, trying to see into the mouth of the tunnel.
     “She’s seen it already.” Mina let her hand slip free of his and vanished into the tunnel, too.
_______________________________

     When Dominic stepped in he was instantly surrounded by mist. He could hear his motorcycle roaring in the distance, but he couldn’t see any light save the ghoul torch he held in his own hand.
     “Hello? Aria? Other ghoul who’s name I still don’t know?” He frowned.
     Then her eye swam out of the mist. A single pinpoint shone where Dominic’s light reflected in her eye. Her inky black hair had fallen into her face and covered her right eye, so her left eye stared at Dominic with that split pupil. Her face was watery and washed in blue light. She looked sick and pale.
     “Are ya just going to stand there?” Little sparks of light sprang over the shine on her eye.
     “It would be easier to follow you if I knew where I was going.” He whispered. Her lips split apart in a smile. Mina took his hand again and led him into the mist.
     “Why is it so dark in here? And what’s all this mist?”
     “Its the work o’ monsters... It hides ‘em, what they do, makes mortals see what they want ta see. What they want ta believe.” She felt the warmth drifting off of his hand and wondered if it was due to his other self being so near. “Aria’s here, just a little further. Where she thinks it happened.” And there she was. The ghoul with the shimmery skin and the red hood throwing her face into shadow. Her white pupils drifted over to stare into Dominic’s face, but she wasn’t smiling.
     “This won’t be pretty. There was powerful magic here.” Her voice faded as the roar of Dominic’s bike grew louder, closer. That was when he saw the monster, the creature making all of the mist surrounding them. It was a woman, standing just beside Aria. She had long blonde hair that was interwoven with the soft blue mist which surrounded her. She had huge blue eyes which stared into the darkness and the roaring of the motorcycle which filled the heavy air. Her skin was bronzed and mostly uncovered save for her torso, where she wore a yellow sundress. Her mouth was open and a tune was flowing out, but it was hard to hear. What was strangest was what was in her mouth; jagged, broken teeth and a black forked tongue that clicked out tiny taps.
     “Who is she?” Dominic asked. Before either of the ghouls could answer, the other Dominic appeared on his motorcycle.
     The woman stretched her arms out and she took a deep, ragged breath. Her blue eyes closed and her voice rose high, attempting to drown out the motorcycle, be heard above it. And she did it. One loud note hung in the air and bounced around the inside of the tunnel. Aria, Mina and Dominic saw the other Dominic’s head come up, as if he heard the song even through his helmet.
     “She’s a siren.” Aria’s voice was sad as she whispered the words. Even as she spoke the siren woman pressed her hands to her flat stomach, which swelled with her song. Each of them heard something different, but only Dominic knew how she spoke to the motorcycle rider.
     “She’s calling out in my mother’s voice... But... it sounds like its coming from the far end of the tunnel... Not from the wall...” Dominic muttered. Mina stared into his face. Saw his words were spoken true. “I remember this tunnel now, from my childhood. There were stories about how cars would drive in and run straight into the walls.”
     Mina glanced over her shoulder to where the Siren stood. Her dress fell to the ground, flowed now in one long length of fabric around her feet. Her fingers dug into the fabric at her waist, and her brow was furrowed. Almost as if the song was hard for her to maintain.
     Then it happened. Dominic’s bike barreled through the mist. The headlamp was on, but they couldn’t be sure what the living man had been seeing. He smashed into the concrete barricade that separated the road and the outer wall of the tunnel. The front tire of the bike crumpled and the other Dominic was thrown over the gap. He crashed into the outer wall and his body fell behind the barricade and out of sight. A smear of red angled down the wall like a splatter of paint. The bike was still on, it revved and smoked; sputtered and then died.
     The siren slipped over the barricade and dropped soundlessly onto the sidewalk beyond. The mist clogging the tunnel began to dissipate and the siren’s form grew more clear. Her hair was a twisted mass of blonde dreads that hung greasily down over her shoulders. Her skin was a green waterlogged color and taut to her bones.
     “Sleep well little hero.” She giggled. She reached down and took something from the other Dominic’s body. “Hopefully your daddy doesn’t send you back.” She giggled again, a high pitched trilling as she tucked whatever it was she had taken into the bodice of her gown. She spun in a quick circle and in a spurt of bad smelling water she vanished.
     The world of the living shimmered and melted away as the siren did. Aria’s skin slowly filled in, her shimmering skin caught the dying light of his blue torch, the color of the fire shifting and melting, mixing to green. Her dark eyes flickered back and forth between Mina and the ghost, questions dripping down her cheeks like tears. Slowly the Netherworld reformed around the three of them. The cheerful green fire in the red brick fireplace sprang to life first, Dominic's torch spitting out of existence. The lace decorated furniture followed, popping and sparking into place.
     “Was that a hero’s death M--?” Aria’s voice choked off, just before she spoke Mina’s name. Her white pupils flashed over to the ghoul and she coughed. Her brunette braid fell down around from her shoulder and nearly down to the floor. “That siren seemed to have targeted him, didn’t she?” Aria rushed away from the fireplace. She vanished down a hallway that hadn’t been there when Dominic had done his sweep of the lower level.
     “Em? Is that your name?” Dominic whispered. His lids were lowered over his caramel eyes and the little space between his brows was crinkled.
     “No.” Mina murmured. Her eyes were on the hall Aria had slipped down. “Its not important. Aria?” She took a few steps toward the hallway, muttering under her breath.
     Dominic had the good grace to stay silent. He sank down into one of the couches near the fire. His fingers played nervously over the lace that trimmed the couch. Mina fidgeted with the hem of her shirt with a frown. Her split pupils were locked on the empty doorway and her lips moved silently.
     “I’ve got it.” Aria tumbled back into the room. She held a tome that was bigger than her head in her arms, both hands wrapped around the thick cracked leather. The pages were yellowed and the edges were hand-cut, jagged and random. A title was stamped on the front and down the spine in gold lettering, but he couldn’t read what it said.
     “Got what?” Dominic croaked.
     “The book o’ monsters.” Mina murmured. She pulled one of the side tables into the center of the room. Its shadow draped over the floor as she placed it before the fire. “Each of the more powerful monsters get their names put down in this book. Don’t know why Aria has it though.” She shot the other ghoul a look that signed death warrants. Aria just grinned at Mina and dropped the book onto the table.
     “Who writes them?”
     “Ghouls, ghosts, vampires... Depends on who’s got their hands on it.” Mina said. She reached out and with a flick of her wrist she threw the book open. Her lips moved and she muttered in some other language, something Dominic didn’t understand. The pages shimmered and began to turn as if a wind stroked the pages. “Sirens... She wore yella. Odd color for sirens innit?” Mina regarded Aria sideways.
     “Venenifer- poisoned, venomous, enchanting. Known for the imitation of sunshine.” The brunette read. Aria’s white pupils angled up beneath her lids to look at Mina. “That explains the yellow. She’s a siren but she wasn’t on the siren’s island originally. Why would she be in a tunnel in la Floride?”
     Mina shrugged, her shoulders stuck on the upswing. Dominic watched her pale hands toy with the edges of the pages on the book. Her bright green eyes drifted over the words within, like she was trying to coax something else out from the pages.
     “Aria, why don’t you get Dominic something to eat? He hasn’t eaten since the diner.” Mina didn’t look up. Her pale fingers brushed over the raised black bumps stroking the rough texture. Dominic watched her hands curiously, wondering was she attached to the book somehow?
     “Sure thing.” Aria gripped Dominic’s elbow and pulled him to his feet. The ghost protested but no matter how hard he pulled he couldn’t free himself from Aria’s grip.
     “Wait! I’m not hungry!” Aria pushed Dominic into the dining room and sat him down in one of the high backed chairs.
     “Ghosts need to eat, no matter what you’ve heard.” She waved a hand over the soft wood table and a spread of cheeses, breads, and wines bubbled to the surface; as if through liquid water. “Don’t worry, little one. All will be well.” Aria pulled a plate of yellow cheeses closer to him, within arms reach; and she left him there.
     He tried to follow, but Dominic found himself attached to the chair. He called out, cursed their names, even though he only knew one of them. His entire being squirmed; but nothing worked. Aria smiled and closed the dining room door behind her, locking the ghost inside.
Vaughn | bookworm | Hartley Harem
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Sistina
Ash Angel - HenleyMarauder - Keeper of the Spines
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Henley
 
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Re: Ghouls [[Story idea- Thing]]

Postby Henley » November 23rd, 2016, 9:19 pm

[[Take two, thanks to Grin player. Some edits- hopefully easier to read. Plus aesthetics.]]
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Chapter 1 -> The Highway

     Rain. It's meant to be cleansing, water in general. It poured on six lanes of highway, three going North, three going South. Drops danced between cars and shattered into a million smaller drops which hung in the air in a tight mist. The mist swirled near the ground, clutching and curling around tires. The mist did nothing to slow the brave souls driving in the rain.
     A motorcycle weaved between the cars and bigger trucks. The rider making use of space between the more weighty vehicles. He took the exit for the truck-stop, hardly slowing to swerve around a van trundling down the steep ramp. Rider and bike were a flash of silver and black. They appeared first behind a semi. Then in front of it, handles wrenching to redirect the rumbling monster through traffic. The bike jumped the curb of the diner and kept going, driving down the narrow walkway to the door. The man cut the motor and rested the bike against the tin siding with a clang.
     "I hope he ain't comin' in here." Billie's voice burst the bubble of silence the motorcycle had left in it's wake. She pushed a dirty rag across the countertop.
     "You ought to hope harder next time." Mina mumbled in response.
     The man on the motorcycle was already through the door. He was clad in a black jacket, jeans, and shiny silver adornments. Mina couldn't see his face. He was wearing one of those huge helmets with the tinted glass stretched over the eyes.
     "Welcome to the Just Past Nowhere Diner." It was Mina’s voice that broke the new bubble. It was written across the door in red neon letters. Management still felt it was necessary to welcome new patrons. She didn't mind having to say it. It was quick and broke the ice that tended to build up on the counter.
     The man meandered further into the diner. His head turned this way and that under the helmet. He sat down at the counter and tugged his helmet off.
     "Can I get a menu?" He was casual as he did it, but Mina could sense his smugness. She was staring at him, even before his face appeared. He was as young as she, maybe twenty or so and he had short curly sandy blond hair, bleached in places by the sun. The front was spiked up and Mina wondered to herself how he kept it that way beneath the helmet. His skin was pale, though it had been a different complexion before. His neck was smooth except for the spot where his Adam’s apple protruded from his flesh.
     He noticed her inky black hair pulled back into a messy bun at the crown of her head. He noticed the deep green eyes she regarded him with,. He realized that they were split down the middle with a pitch black pupil. He saw the slant her shoulders were set at as she listed to one side. And the curve of her waist where her hand rested with a green pen. She wasn't wearing a name tag, but the name of the diner was stitched into the left side of her black polo.
     "Sure." Mina’s voice came out closer to a squeak. She pulled out a dusty menu from under the counter and set it in front of him. He brushed the front off before thumbing it open. She watched his eyes scan the pages. They were like caramel, they were so light a brown. Abruptly his nose wrinkled up and his eyes rolled back in his head.
     "Bless ya." She said. She'd beaten his body to the sneeze. His head rocked forward and his shoulders shook. His eyebrows shot up in surprise. He rubbed his nose and frowned at her.
     "I suppose, I should thank you." He said. But he didn’t. Instead the motorcycle man pointed at one of the specials. "What's Steak of Death?"
     "Porterhouse steak with mashed potatoes and veggies. No substitutes." Mina replied. Billie moved out from the corner of her eye. Mina hadn't realized she was still standing there.
     "Why is it the Steak of Death?" He asked, those big eyes looking up at Mina, suspicious.
     She stared at him. Most people who ended up at the diner had no idea where they were. They asked thousands of questions. They asked most about her eyes, the transparency of the other people in the diner. Even the vicious gash that could be seen cut out of the right side of the counter. But she couldn’t tell if this guy was lost or if he was just being stupid.
     Every once in awhile someone special would wander into the diner. Those people were mystics, like shamans who could walk in two worlds at once. They hardly stayed long, they knew where they were, and who they were looking for.
     "Because its ironic." Billie answered from the kitchen.
     "Because its iconic." Mina chirped, miffed Billie had answered first.
     The guy looked up from the menu. Mina could hear Billie at the grill with her scraper behind her. She could see it in her mind’s eye. The other woman pushing the lunch grime off into the sink like she hadn’t said anything. Her hat peering over the open rectangle between the two rooms.
     "Why is it ironic?" Came his voice after a second. He shut the menu and looked up at Mina through heavy lidded eyes.
     "What were you doin' before ya realized there was a truck stop comin' up?" She asked him instead of answering. She shifted to lean over and rest her elbows on the counter. They were face to face now, staring each other down.
     "I....I was..." He frowned. The little space between his eyes crinkled up and he looked away. "I can't--"
     "Think." She urged. "Were ya ridin' your bike?"
     "N--yes... I think I was." He scowled at her. "But you knew that already."
     "Yeah, I noticed when you rode up on our curb. Where were you goin' though?" Mina took a step back from the counter. With her arms folded over her chest she gave him another once over. His shoulders were wide. His chest narrowed beneath his arms angled down to his hips, triangle shaped. Beneath his leather jacket he wore a t-shirt that had once been blue, but was now almost grey. Though from wear or design she didn't know.
     "I was coming from the store..." His head started to nod, like the story was slipping into his head, like the rain slipping under the diner door. "But... There's no highway on the way to the store." He spun around on the stool. His eyes stared out the window where the rain still pounded on the cars speeding away.
     "You ever hear of a song called Highway to Hell?" Mina breathed, her words not quite a whisper.
     The ones that didn’t know they were dead were the worst. Those that had forgotten something behind them.
     "Highway to Hell... Yeah..." His head started to nod.
     "Well its like that, only that highway out there goes both ways."
     "So I'm...?" His voice was low, heavy.
     "Dead!" Billie was standing there behind Mina. She was still halfway through the kitchen wall. Her shoulder leaned on the stud within. Her stained tee shirt lifted off her stomach to show where her body was invisible within the wall. She wore a black and white trucker hat perched precariously over a mess of wild brown hair. Billie liked to imagine the hat was like a hair net, or so she had informed Mina.
     "Billie..." Mina hissed, rewarding her a glare.
     "Well, he is. Otherwise he wouldn't be sittin' there." She withdrew back into the kitchen again, with a grin. Her hand came back through a moment later to pick up her hat which had fallen.
     "B-but I don't remember..." He spun around on the stool to look at Mina again. His brow was creased and his eyes were sad. She didn't like them sad.
     "Most don't. Not 'til they visit a ghoul usually." She told him. He frowned at her. "What's your name?" She asked after he had frowned at her for a good minute.
     "It's... It was-” He corrected himself. “Dominic." His chin was leaning down on his chest.
     "Well, Dominic, do you want somethin' ta eat or what?"
     He stared at Mina for another minute. Like he couldn't understand how she had just brushed off all the "dead" business. Sometimes the return to normalcy one expected in a diner snapped the ghosts to attention. He jabbed his finger down at the Steak of Death and nodded. He slumped down onto the counter after a few seconds. His face turned off toward the other end of the diner. He stared out at the side of a big rig.
     "He wants the steak Billie." Mina mumbled. Billie was already stepping through the wall again. She had to turn around to grab the plate from the window though, it was more solid than her.
     "I know." She deposited the plate onto the counter. Her hand beneath the plate passed right through the marble and into the cupboard below. Dominic sat bolt upright . He stared down at the caramelized piece of steak and the messy splatter of potatoes to one side. Like it had appeared out of thin air. Which is kind of had.
     "Weren't there supposed to be vegetables?" He asked, numb. Billie and Mina leaned over the plate, thoughtful.
     "I ain't got any." Billie announced after a second. She then stood straight up and crossed her arms daring him to argue.
     "Oh..." His Adam's apple bobbed up and down in his throat. "Alright then..." He rubbed at the counter beside the plate. Only then did Mina realize she hadn't done her whole job. She tugged a drawer out under the counter and pulled out a fork and knife. When she set them by his fingers, he didn't even lift his head. He picked the silverware up and started in on the steak. Billie and she just stood there staring at him.
     "You know," Dominic stuck a chunk of beef into his mouth. "I don't like to be watched." He scooped up some of the mashed potatoes and dropped them into his mouth too. His brown eyes lifted up to stare back at Billie and Mina. Mina saw the corner of his lip raise, but it was not a kind curve to his lips.
     Mina had the sense to try and giggle, to laugh it off. Billie though, had no such desires. She turned and stalked off back into the kitchen. Her storm off would have been almost perfect, if her hat had stayed in place.
     The green eyed girl turned away and didn't see if Billie reached back out to claim it. Instead she stared at this dead man with an imagined sense of humor. Dominic was busy eating away at his steak, pretending he didn't notice her. But she knew he did. His eyebrows were raised and he had this little half smirk on his lips.
     "Where were you from?" Mina rested her hip to the counter near him. He didn't answer for right away, intent on finishing his steak. But his movements were jerky, his cuts jagged. After he cleared the plate of the chunk of meat he started in on the potatoes with ferocity.
     "I don't remember. I see the ocean, and little stubby trees that are leaning into the water." He fell silent for a moment, then two. "But I can't think of the name." His milky eyes looked up at her like a puppy. "Why can't I remember?"
     "I don't know. Folks that come through usually 'member where they came from." She said, shrugging her shoulder. "But you can imagine the place?"
     His head bobbed up and down like it was on a spring. Mina rolled her shoulders and wrung her hands in her apron.
     "Well there's this... Person... Who helps lost spirits... Uh... Take a peek at their past life. I could... Ya know... Give you directions, if you like." His big milky eyes stared up at her like she had just offered him free coffee.
     "You would do that?" Dominic whispered.
     "It's kinda my job." Mina turned away from him.
     All around the diner were the usual customers. The ghosts who got stuck in the diner when they arrived. Many never left. Most didn't want to. The diner had become a sort of home for them in the afterlife.
     "Finish your steak. I'll take ya to the ghoul when yer done." She pushed an empty cup across the counter toward him. As it slid over the smooth surface it filled to the brim with brilliant orange juice. Which was what he wanted because he slurped it down.
     Mina slipped out from behind the counter while he finished eating, continuing her duties. In part, making sure the dead who were permanent residents in the diner were... all there. Amic liked putting his detached fingers in his drink. Alexi and Marcello were always swapping ears. And Mr. Jensen had a tendency of losing his leg, so Mina always had to put it back on. But it wasn't Mr. Jensen, or any of the others who were having a problem today. Today it was Ms. Bacarri. She was sitting at a booth by the big front windows. Her arrival to the diner had been a particularly bloody one. The car her boyfriend, Mr. Jensen, had been driving lost brakes. The two crashed into several other cars in the real world. The car kept going and crashed into the front window of the netherworld. Part of the bumper still stuck out of the slice it had taken from the diner’s counter. The two of them died; Mr. Jensen arrived without his leg, Ms. Bacarri arrived without her head attached. At her table she had her usual Egg a la Death; two eggs and a side of bacon, but she wasn’t eating. Her hand was rolled up into a fist and would have propped her chin up if it was in the proper place. As it was, her lips were set in a thoughtful line as she stared at the salt shaker. Her head sat in a pool of dried blood in the middle of the table facing the interior of the diner. Her curly grey hair was still almost perfect atop her incorporeal head.
     "How are you today Ms. Bacarri?" Mina ran her fingers over the table, checking to see if she needed to clean it. Ms. Bacarri’s eyes zipped away from the salt. They watched Mina’s fingers.
     "Oh I'm alright. That man on the motorbike scared me half to death." She laughed. It was a hollow bouncing noise that ricocheted off the window.
     "Would ya like me to help you with yer head Ms. Bacarri?" Mina tried not to grimace as her eyes spun around to try and see the younger woman more clearly.
     "What's wrong with my head?" She squealed.
     Every time. She did this every time Mina went over to help.
     "Ms. Bacarri, yer dead and your head... well... its no longer attached. Would you like me to help ya put it back?" The girl tried to speak slow. Some days it was easier to get through to her than others. Some days it was like trying to pull teeth.
     "My head!" Ms. Bacarri moved to stand up, but all she did was bang her knee on the underside of the table and curse.
     "Ms. Bacarri! Settle down." By now Mina felt like the entire diner was staring at her back. She didn't look around though. She knew that the only way to keep face was to put Ms. Bacarri’s head back onto the shaking shoulders from whence it had come. "Hold still. This might hurt.." Mina took hold of her head just below the pearl earrings she had been wearing when she died. She squealed in pain and shock as Mina hefted the head to her hip. Ms. Bacarri’s body started to rock side to side, her mouth was hanging open in a half scream.
     Then there were a pair of hands on Ms. Bacarri’s shoulders. Long pale fingers, thick knuckles with a dusting of soft golden hairs on the backs of them. Gentle, pressed into the lace shawl Ms. Bacarri was wearing. Her body stilled. Mina swiftly lifted Ms. Bacarri’s head up and onto her shoulders. Careful to get the eyes and nose and all, going in the right direction. Without sticking her fingers into them, with luck. Ms. Bacarri's mouth snapped shut. Her bright blue eyes opened and closed and she looked around curious. As if she quite enjoyed the view that was not from the table.
     "What are you all staring at me for?" She sniffed and turned her back to the diner. Mina couldn't imagine what she had been like when she was alive.
     "Just admiring your earrings Mrs. Bacarri." The waitress said, wiping her fingers on her apron.
     Mina scowled and took a few steps back away from the booth. Before she looked over to the owner of the fingers she took stock of the other diners. Alexi and Marcello each had their own ears. Amic had all ten fingers on. And Mr. Jensen had his leg under the proper knee. It seemed as if the rest of them had decided not to test Mina and the owner of the fingers.
     Mina had no reason left not to look at the man who had saved her ten minutes of fighting with Ms. Bacarri. She turned to find Dominic. He was taller than her, she had to tilt her head a little to look at his eyes. Both of his eyebrows were chasing his hairline as he stuffed his hands into his pockets. His lips were turned down some, not quite a frown but a thoughtful tilt.
     "Who do I pay for the meal? I couldn't find Billie." Dominic jerked his arm, pointing with his elbow, back at the window marked Orders. Mina could see Billie’s hat bobbing back and forth behind the window. She was sure the ghost had found somewhere else to be when Ms. Bacarri had started screaming.
     "Ya don't pay for food here." Mina told him. He just nodded and stood there at the end of Ms. Bacarri's booth beside her.
     Mina met eyes with Billie over his shoulder. The country girl had her hand braced on her hip and she was frowning at Mina. She shook her head, mouthed that she shouldn’t take the ghost boy anywhere. But Mina just frowned back. She didn’t know why Billie wouldn’t want her to go. Billie had no control over what she did. Mina was in charge of Billie, not the other way around.
     "Are ya ready to go then?" Mina stomped off toward the front door without waiting for his answer.
     "Yeah.. I guess." It sounded like he was coming after her. But Mina was too determined to keep up her air of fierceness to look over her shoulder. "Who is it we're going to see anyhow?"
     He didn't mention that she was originally going to just give him directions. His hand reached around Mina as they reached the door. He pushed it open, but she was already going out. She passed right through his arm and the glass door, onto the cement walkway. She stepped out under the awning and turned around. The rain played out a loud tattoo on the canvas over their heads. Dominic ground to a stop in front of her with a frown creasing his brow. The unspoken question of her tangibility on his lips.
     "We're going to see a ghoul. They'll help you remember who you are. Then you can move on.... Probably." Mina led the way off from under the awning.
     "So... You're dead to...?" He whispered, like it was a secret he wasn’t supposed to know about.
     "Of course I am. Whyd'ya think I was here in this rat hole?" She snorted and stepped into the rain.
     "Of course..." She heard him whisper, his voice right behind her. His breath warm on the back of her neck for someone who had no more breath to breathe.
Vaughn | bookworm | Hartley Harem
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Sistina
Ash Angel - HenleyMarauder - Keeper of the Spines
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Henley
 
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