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Dead Endings: Chapter 2

A downloadable package of this chapter (.pdf, .epub, and .mobi) is available in the Sparkler Monthly Issue #006 back issue.

“I’d like some alcohol. A lot of alcohol,” Everett said.

Cailen couldn’t agree more.

Getting back to her apartment had involved the most expensive cab ride of her life. It had been completely necessary, as neither Everett nor Cailen had been in any shape to tackle the subway. Everett had paid, but the sheer cost of the fare made her weep inside. Cailen thought she should at least offer the finest she had, then.

She rose wordlessly, collected two tumblers, and poured generous servings from her prized bottle of 16-year-old Aberlour. When she set the glasses down, light filtered through the rich hues of the spirit and emblazoned chips of gold on the tabletop.

Everett stared at his drink for a moment, then downed it in one gulp.

Cailen goggled at the feat, but he ruined the effect by immediately choking and coughing.

“Another?” she asked dryly.

“Yes!” he managed.

She held the bottle back for a moment. “I’m going to pretend you’re twenty-one, and you’re going to drink it with a little class, all right?”

After his hacking died down and she got a nod of agreement, they both sipped the beverage like civilized people. Nerves finally under control, Everett eventually asked the question Cailen herself was still pondering.

“What happened?”

Her hand unconsciously moved to her chest and probed the area. Still whole. No sucking wounds or sticky wetness met her searching fingers.

“I’m not sure.”

“You were, like…possessed or something.”

“Definitely possessed,” she agreed.

“I’m sorry,” he offered.

“Not your fault.”

“It kind of really is, but thanks for saying that.”

As Cailen swirled some of the scotch around in her mouth, part of her agreed. The other part argued that she’d made the decision as well–and that it didn’t really matter whose fault it was. She told him so, but he still looked upset.

“It wasn’t fun,” she agreed with forced cheer, “but c’mon–no one expects a ghost knife.”

He shivered. “What did it feel like?” he asked.

She took a deep drink and finished the glass. The liquid burned radiantly down her throat, and filled her with the warmth she so severely lacked in that moment. She savored it as long as she could.

“Horrible,” she murmured. “It felt horrible. The first time, it went in through the back. I don’t know who was more surprised–me, or Warner.”

“He wasn’t expecting it?”

“No. Not a bit.”

“And the second time?”

“Whoever killed him got him again when he was down.” Cailen tapped the spot next to her sternum. “Almost right in the heart. Then…he just bled.”

They both stared morosely at the tabletop. Everett got up and poured her another glass.

“Are you…all right now?” he asked. “When you were sitting back at Warner’s apartment, your eyes just… Your nose started bleeding, and…”

“Sip your drink,” she ordered.

Cailen took her own advice. She didn’t want to think about the feeling of life slipping away through the holes in her chest–Warner’s chest.

“There was something else there,” she told him at last. “Besides Warner.”

“Something? You saw the killer?!”

She held up a hand. “No, no–nothing like that. There was just…something. It could have been a spirit, I guess. It wasn’t particularly distinct.”

She thought back to the hazy projection. What could you say about a blue smudge? She’d definitely never encountered anything like it before. Of course, she’d been actively avoiding spirits for years, so maybe she’d missed out. She’d have to ask Gabriella when she got back.

“I don’t know what it was,” she went on. “It didn’t have a shape, really. It just sort of hung in the air like a cloud. The only real impression I got from it was that it was separate from Warner, and it felt, well…happy?”

Everett paused mid-sip. “Happy?”

“It’s weird, I know. But right before you punched me–”

“Slapped! And knocked some sense back into you.”

“–abused my face with your sweaty hands, I just had this overwhelming sense of happiness.

He sloshed the scotch back and forth in his glass thoughtfully. “How many ghosts would you say are happy?” he asked.

She snorted. “About as many as have winning personalities.”

He chewed on that for a minute, then set his glass down and leaned back into the couch.

“Well, that actually lines up with what I sensed. Both smells were in the bedroom, but the batteries scent–Warner, I guess–was a lot stronger. When you turned and walked off to the kitchen, there was something, but…” He rubbed his mouth. “Then you had your little seizure–and I got the strongest whiff of cinnamon I’ve had yet. It was like someone blew a spoonful in my face.”

“So,” she said. “Two distinct personalities plus two distinct smells equals two spirits, is what I’m getting.”

He frowned. “Do you think Warner was possessed?”

“Maybe? I mean, it did feel like something had ‘settled’ over him when I was on the floor, but I honestly don’t know what to make of it. Most ghosts I’ve seen have a shape and a reason and can’t hop locations. They also tend to prefer living people–not dead or dying ones.”

Everett squished deeper into the couch cushions. “We need more information,” he declared. “Is there, like, a book or something on…”

He looked up at her face and threw his hands into the air. “I know, I know! But there has to be something out there with accurate info. I’m sure there are more experienced people who can sense this stuff and maybe wrote something down, or…”

“Look,” Cailen interrupted. “While I’m sure there are other people out there who can see or sme–fine–sense ghosts, have you met any? Besides Gabriella, I mean.” She waved a hand. “She’s the only idiot with actual talent publicly offering her services. I tried looking up books years ago, as I’m sure you did, and most of it is just hearsay or fiction. If you really want an expert opinion, you’ll have to wait until she gets back.”

“What about calling her?”

“She’s backpacking. I doubt she even bothered to bring a phone with her, since she said reception is hell in the countryside.”

He sighed, visibly defeated.

“Then I’ll just have to do what I’ve been doing,” he muttered. “Look into the facts that I can confirm.”

“Not satisfied yet?”

He shook his head. “I thought knowing what else was in there would be enough, but now I just have more questions.”

While Everett stared moodily out the window, Cailen unconsciously rubbed her chest again. They still ached, those spots. Like the spirit of Jacob Warner haunting apartment 3C, the ghosts of the wounds lingered in her.

How easy it was to die. All it took was an unexpected blade, metal and flesh in opposition…because metal always won. To bleed, slowly but surely, and have your life pour into the grooves of cheap linoleum flooring.

Sorry, Jacob, she thought. I saw and felt what you wanted me to, but I don’t understand it.

“I’m going home,” Everett announced wearily.

She nodded and rose to collect their glasses. She was more than ready for bed herself; she wanted to be alone to process her thoughts.

Everett shrugged into his jacket, but paused in the entryway.

“It’s… It’s been a weird night,” he said.

She couldn’t disagree with that.

“I just want to say thanks. You didn’t want to do it…and I can totally see why now. I’m sorry you got hurt.”

“I’ll live,” she said with a faint smile. He returned it a little sheepishly.

“Seriously, thanks.”

“You’re welcome. I’m still going to kick Gabriella’s ass, though.”

“Not before I can get some information out of her first, please.”

She waved him off, but as she watched his tall figure shrink down the hallway, she found herself blurting, “Everett!”

He turned and cocked his head to the side.

“Tell me… Tell me if you find anything else out!”

Proceed to Chapter 2, page 2–>