Chapter 6

I blew my nose again. For the hundredth time I was so thankful I was smart enough to pack tissues. Luke held the flashlight gingerly.

"Maybe this is a sign we shouldn't go down there?" he asked. His nervousness was making me nervous.

"I disagree," I said. "I think this just shows I'm recovering." Well, I wasn't cold anyway. But that image of zombie-me, that's forever burned in my skull.

I stood up, scrunching my tissue into a pocket. I switched on my headlight, Luke switched on the flashlight I gave him. I gripped my iron rod for reassurance. I just gave Luke one look, then I opened the door.

The smell that hit me was so strange. It was dusty, stale, cold. But there was something else beneath all that. I went slowly down the stairs. I couldn't see much, but as I got further down, I could see some kind of shape at the bottom. There just wasn't enough light to make it out. The smell started to become clearer. It was kind of fleshy, rotten. I knew what I was smelling.

I tore my tissue from my pocket and covered my nose. "Luke, we're going to find at least one corpse." How could I sound so normal?

Over my shoulder, he directed the beam to the shape below us. The blanket covering it had slipped, meaning the curled up legs were only partially covered. It was like someone had just dumped it.

"Not a good sign," Luke murmured.

I inched nearer to the corpse, telling myself over and over that it was not alive, that it would not suddenly sit up and attack me. Eventually I was on the step above where the head should be. Still nothing. I raised my eyes to look into the room. I could not believe it.

This was a small room with many blanketed corpses. I couldn't see all the way in, but I could make out a row of shapes lying on the ground against the wall. It was weird. At first the corpses were put into haphazard rows, almost carefully organised. But then the nearer to the stairs I looked, the more the corpses were just strewn everywhere, like the killer had been in more of a hurry each time. And the one in front of me had just been left there.

I shivered. Shoulda known it would be cold in here. I bent down.

"What are you doing?" whispered Luke suddenly, startling me in the process.

"Inspecting the body, what do you think?" I whispered back. Why were we whispering?

I shifted my right hand so that it could hold the rod and the tissue against my nose. Slowly, I pulled the blanket away, prepared for any horror I would see. Dead hazel eyes stared at me. His hair was solidly orange, but his skin was pretty golden. Weird set of colouring. I couldn't help notice that he was about the same age as Ray and Luke, even though he was way smaller. I sadly covered him up again.

I carefully shifted the poor boy's legs away so Luke and I could step around him and get to the bottom. Directly on the right was another corpse. I pulled the top of the blanket away. This boy was black and younger. His hair was in dreads and I noticed by his mouth hanging open that he wore braces. Sighing, I pulled the blanket back over his head. I don't think I wanted to look any lower on any of them.

I stood up and looked around, wondering if all of them were boys that went to high school. I walked further to the back, towards where the bodies were a bit more orderly. Luke had his flashlight pointed to a really bloody blanket. He got my curiosity peaked, so I pulled it back. This boy looked chinese but was so pale. I didn't want to see his wounds.

I looked at Luke. "This boy must have bled to death," I said quietly. He looked shocked, and just nodded.

I covered the poor boy again. I fully lifted away the blanket of another corpse. This was a white boy with black hair. He was wearing cargo pants with an official Spice Girls T-shirt. With that I learned that the murderer had been doing this for at least 10 years. That's sick. I covered the poor boy and stood up. I was now standing in front of what I could guess were the first victims. There was one corpse right in the far left corner. He was positioned perfectly, like at a morgue, not like the other corpses that had so obviously just been dropped.

I stepped over to it, carefully. I could only wonder what this boy could have looked like. The flashlight Luke had strayed to another part of the room. I bent down next to this strange corpse almost saintly. I pulled back the blanket to see his face.

"Luke?" I called in a hard voice. "Why am I staring at your corpse?"

"What? That some kind of sick joke?" He didn't sound too happy and might was well have stomped over to where I was kneeling. I just kept my position like a statue, I still hadn't let go of the blanket.

He hadn't reacted. I looked up. He was frozen. He was confused but looked like he could either cry or scream at any minute, perhaps both. So that's what you looked like when you saw yourself dead.

He moved his hand that was holding the flashlight. "I'm holding this flashlight," he said in a broken voice. "I can't be a ghost."

But Luke was starting to turn less solid, my headlight was shining right through him. And I think he noticed. He suddenly ran out of the room, and I saw his feet running through the corpses. I looked back at Luke's corpse regretfully. No wonder his clothes were so retro, he was just wearing what everyone else was wearing at the time. It was also strange that his corpse was the only one with his eyes closed.

I covered him up again and stood up. Oh geez, my rod had accidentally knocked back another blanket. This corpse had short blonde hair, soft brown eyes (which were dead and staring at me-creepy!) and was the oldest corpse in here, so far as I knew anyway. He was still very young but he was a college student, not a high school student. Unfortunately I could see something I didn't want to. His clothes and abdomen had been slashed to pieces. Gross. I covered him up quickly and left, being careful where I stepped.

When I got back upstairs, I closed the door and picked up the flashlight Luke had dropped. Luke himself was obviously upset, he kept pacing nervously around the main entrance hall. But he acted weird. He walked backwards and forwards, side to side and in any possible direction around the room. Sometimes he moved at the speed of a normal person, sometimes he sped up, like how you see characters bouncing side-to-side on a screen when you speed up a tape in a VCR. And sometimes he teleported. He would walk in one direction, disappear and reappear from another point in the room walking in the same direction. I honestly found it interesting to watch.

I took out my cell, thinking that I wanted to record it. But as I picked camera mode, I remembered there was a certain test that I could have, and perhaps should have, done when I first met him. I aimed the camera at Luke. I could see him, but he wasn't on the screen. Definitely not alive. He suddenly stopped and stared at my cell in shock.

"What's that?" He pointed at the camera like it was a huge needle.

"My cellphone," I explained. "Although I'm using its camera right now."

He tried to react, or find an appropriate reaction if there was one, but then he just gave up. He slumped. "What year is it?"


At first he didn't react. So I just opened up my backpack and put some things back into it. "D'you have hoverboards?"

I was confused by this. "Huh?"

"Hoverboards. Skateboards that can fly. You know? Like in that Transformers movie?"

"Um, no we don't, and I've never seen that movie." I've only seen the live-action ones.

He looked really upset. "I could hold things. And touch things. You saw." I couldn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. What do you do when you find out you're dead? "I don't know how I died!" He collapsed onto the floor and sat in a slouch.

I tried to figure out something to say. Eventually I thought of something, and took a couple steps towards him. "When someone's passed on, they're meant to be at peace. But you're not. Somehow you died and you were the first victim of whoever killed Ray."

"Doesn't exactly help," he mumbled depressingly.

"I think you're the clue," I said. "Just tell me what you can remember, hopefully we can piece something together."

He sighed. This time he looked up. "That's another problem. I don't remember much from when I was alive. I don't remember where I went to elementary school, I don't remember many of my classes, I don't remember what I coulda possibly written in my Book of Shadows, I don't remember most of my relatives, if I had any. I don't even remember going to any circles. I shoulda been initiated at 14." While he was talking, I had knelt down next to him. "But I have no memory of that ceremony. Do you see the problem Tanya? When someone dies, they take their experiences and memories with them. But I don't have many of those and I'm stuck here." He looked like he was about to cry. "It can't have been 15 years! I don't remember just hanging around here and doing nothing! I only remember being in this house today!"

I wanted to comfort him. Oh but I had no idea how you comfort a ghost. He just continued rambling.

"Just think of all I missed out on. Now I'll never have a family. I'll never see the world outside of this state. I'll never know what life is like outside of high school." He looked up in shock as he realised something. "I'll never be able to see The Crow!"

I never saw that coming. "The movie The Crow?" I checked.

He looked at me like I was a total retard. "Yeah the movie. As in Brandon Lee's last ever!"

He's dead and one thing he's upset about is that he'll never get the chance to see a movie. Huh. Well, I then thought that if he could remember that, he should be able to remember something else about his life.

"I've seen it," I admitted quietly. "We really enjoyed it."

"You and Ray?" he checked.

I smiled. "Yeah, me and Ray." I shrugged. "If you want to, I can tell you the story."

Luke sniffed. "Don't miss anything out."

So we sat comfortably on that wooden floor, while I told him everything I could remember from the movie. The tragic deaths of Eric Draven and his fiancé Shelly. How sad it must have been for young Sarah to fend for herself while her mom just gets high. The kind cop Albrecht, who stayed by Shelly's side while she fought for her life for 30 hours before giving up. Eric managed to retrieve these memories from Albrecht and felt her suffering. I still don't get how, but whatever. I then had to detail how after Eric got his revenge and killed everyone who murdered him and Shelly, he had to face off against Top Dollar. This guy ruled the underground city, had a half-sister for a lover, and had ordered Eric and Shelly murdered when they refused to move out of their apartment.

Eric had nothing left to do really, but Top Dollar had captured Sarah, so he had to go save her. Unfortunately the lover/sister had caught the crow that brought him back to life and so his immortality got drained.

"But that was how he was when he faced Top Dollar on the roof of that cathedral," said Luke.

I stared at him. "How could you know that? I thought you never saw this movie?"

"I think I've heard all this. I think someone else has told me the plot. Lemme think. Eric defeats Top Dollar by giving him 30 hours of pain, which were Shelly's last memories. In shock he falls to his death. Shelly herself takes Eric back to the other side and Sarah gets given the ring by the crow."

I stared at him even more. "That's right. Although I remember Top Dollar getting impaled on one of those spikes. Who told you?"

He concentrated really hard. "Um, let's see. He was tall, blonde, brown eyes. He said he was a medium. Hi...r...Robert. Yeah. His name was Robert."
© Ruth Hüneke 2009