So remember the challenge I did last week?
Well, Chuck Wendig decided that this weeks challenge will be for us to continue someone else’s story, but still not finish it.
The stuff in bold she wrote, while my continuation with remain in normal mode.
Ready? Let’s go!
Don’t Talk to the Dead
Everyone knew talking to the dead was a bad idea.
It always ended up creating all manner of messes for the rest of the world to deal with. The riddles the dead would weave…people knew better than to listen to them anymore. If Osama Bin Ladin hadn’t thought he was following his ancestors plans, he probably never would have become a radical. Hitler wouldn’t have become an elitist. Hell, most serial killers start off by listening to the whispers of the dead.
That said, a lot of people were willing to break their rules to carry out the wishes of a lost loved one. Only problem was, quite often, they didn’t realize that the echoes people left behind weren’t really them anymore. Just the worst of them would remain, the parts they wanted to leave behind and never think about again. Their darkest secrets, their worst desires, their most wild, inappropriate thoughts. Remnants weren’t human anymore. Just a concentration of evil, all their former goodness stripped away forever.
Cory already knew all this. Knew it better than most people, in fact. Not many people were willing to study old messages from the dead as a career, let alone be insane enough to actively attempt to communicate with them. Cory had been deliberately talking to the dead for the better part of six years now, carefully recording each interaction, extensively analyzing every aspect of what the dead would say.
Granted, some of these conversations were more significant, and traumatic, than others.
He’d talked to his “grandfather” a total of twelve times now. Each time was more difficult than the last. Even though Cory knew, logically, that the man talking to him wasn’t really his grandpa anymore, it was impossible to completely dissociate the evil remnant from the kindly, world-wise man Cory had known.
The first time they’d spoken, he’d told Cory to kill a judge. He’d said the man had murdered more than one criminal to keep them from revealing his many affairs. Cory, obviously, hadn’t done it. Truthfully, he didn’t believe any facts he got from the dead. They were all spinning their own, manipulative stories, not to mention that their memories were skewed by how little of their original self was left.
Still, every time he spoke to his “grandfather” and the man wondered why Cory wasn’t doing as he’d been told, it got harder. Having the man who raised you, the man you respected above all others, being disappointed in you was never easy, and Cory still hadn’t managed to totally separate this remnant from his grandpa.
The longer you talked to a specific remnant, the harder it got. All the research said it. And, by all accounts, no one who spoke to the same one thirteen times had managed to evade either ending up in a psychiatric facility, attempting to kill someone, or committing suicide.
Because that was what the dead did. They tried to get more people to join them.
Then, on the thirteenth visit, as predicated, something changed. Cory could feel it through the entire day leading up to it. The night before; he could not sleep, his pumping heart becoming the soundtrack of insomnia. He spent the night staring at his ceiling, fiddling with the air conditioner; too hot, then too cold.
On five hours of rest he went through that day, the clouds echoing his mood with long dark streaks, pressing up against each other, as if they were stitched together. He stopped a moment to look up at them. The hints of rain gave the air its own taste. As the rain began to drop, he raced towards the facility.
The facility itself was a strange location, by anyone’s standards. The rifts that allowed the remnants to bleed through had popped up on the earth surface, with little care for what stood there. Both hospitals and playground alike, leveled in the rush to study. The buildings were built up around the chambers that contained the phenomenon.
The rain was already splashing on the nape of Cory’s neck, sprinkling across his face and fogging his glasses. Yet, he stood and looked around for a moment, remembering the swing set and the long yellow slide. It was there he had first met his grandpa, when he had first been introduced to the man who would influence his life. He had not known who this man was; just an elderly man who always laughed at his jokes, no matter how juvenile.
A particularly large drop of water hit him on the upper eyelid, and he was forced from his memory. He brushed it off, and pulled out his keycard. The I.D. picture display was a much happier version of him; a much more naïve version.
The machine accepted his card with a flash of green light, and he walked inside
Besides the various monitoring areas, and overly long hallways, the building really only consisted of one room. It was a circular area, cameras all pointing at the center, recording even the slightest twitch from the pit on the floor.
That was really the best way to describe it: a pit. Darkness ebbed from it, the bright lights of the room doing nothing to diminish it. A ring of electricity spiraled around the edges, keeping anything that might escape from moving beyond it. “Grandpa” had learned that well enough during a heated conversation.
Cory was not sure why, but he felt dread as he powered on the various devices. The beeping of monitors filled the quiet room. The cameras all swiveled in their sockets and focused on the platform. A long stream of light pumped down the pit. In response, shrieking noises came from within. A few hands reached up towards the edges, only to be electrocuted back into their place. Only one allowed through.
It took a few moments, but he eventually appeared. Rising up from the pit, like a toy at the claw machine. His skin a translucent blue, his eyes were white globes; devoid of irises.
“Hello, Cory” he said.
Well, that was fun. The final part of the challenge coming next week.
This time, we finish a story.