It took quite a bit of concentration and coaxing but eventually Derrick and I were able to convince ourselves to follow us. It was still a little hit and miss but we were slowly making progress. Derrick kept making these dorky space references about ‘using the force’, I rolled my eyes at him for the hundredth time, throwing my will to walk from my mind to my body. It took way more than half an hour and I was starting to worry that Dorothy would move on without giving us any answers, by the time we were within sight of her flat, the sun was directly overhead, a rare hot day in London, the sunshine, although it lifted mine and Derricks spirits (pun not intended) did nothing to help the smell which I swear I could see rippling through the streets, it was that pungent. I imagined squiggly green odour lines and clouds of noxious gas cartoon style following us around.
Neither Me nor Derrick had brought up the topic of the Men in Black style watchers but thoughts of them were never far from mind, making my focus on the other me waver, she stopped walking and looked about her dazed. I grunted in frustration and tried to kick her in the shins but of course my foot went right through her, inciting even more frustration. Derrick, doing far better than me was already waiting at Dorothy’s doorstep, peaking into the dark windows.
“All the curtains are drawn, I can’t tell if she’s in there” he called back to me.
“Fantastic Derrick, why don’t you shout a little louder so the whole city can hear you” I muttered back darkly. But he just shrugged and floated back towards my body.
During the morning we’d seen others like us, always minding their own business we stayed away from them or flicked out when they came near. I threatened to find a way to kill Derrick’s body if he didn’t follow this instruction, we had enough to worry about already without adding blubbering strangers into the mix. As it was, only my intense need for answers kept me hanging around with him.
“Take a deep breath and centre yourself” Derrick said coming to a stop next to my body who at this moment was picking a pretty big winner from the depths of her/ my nose.
“Derrick, I swear to god, if you tell me that one more time I will literally decapitate you.” I threatened.
Derrick just smirked “use the force then young padawan”.
Anger exploded inside my and I lashed out yet again with my fist but Derrick flicked out of sight before I had a chance to hit him. He’s learning to avoid my hits too fast for my liking. Biting my lip and digging my nails into my palms I silently counted to 10, purposely ignoring Derricks chuckles as he circled around me. When I felt like I had some control over myself again, I focused back on moving the other me, one step at a time until she was standing next to the physical Derrick in front of our building.
Looking at the solid door I realised I couldn’t get her inside. I myself, could float through the wall but she was real and solid and probably had lost her keys around the time she lost her life. I explained this to Derrick who looked thoughtful for a moment.
“Stay here with the bodies, I’ll pop in and get Dorothy, she’ll know what to do” he said. Before I could reply and tell him, I’m not a babysitter, he was off, floating through the walls. I occupied myself by thinking of new and creative ways of killing him again, each more ludicrous than the last. I was just finalising my plan of luring him onto a spaceship bound for the sun when he reappeared with ghost Dorothy grumbling at his heels.
“Good for nothing kids these days, don’t have half the brains we had” she was muttering, not even attempting to keep the volume low enough for us not to hear. “Bring the bodies” she snapped not stopping on her way to the service alley next to the building. Concentrating on the other me I had by now nicknamed dribbles, I thought her way into limping after the flickering form of the severe elderly lady. She led us down the filthy alley that allowed deliveries to the pub next door. Floating around the corner, I saw the back door to the pub was propped open with a brick.
Derrick and I shrugged at each other before continuing to force our bodies ahead of us into the dark. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, you’d think being dead would come with perks like super night vision or something… but no. I got the impression of lost of bodies squished in together, the smell was horrendous, there was lots of shuffling sounds as well as the occasional smashing glass and cracking of wooden tables and chairs.
“Alright people, it’s just the morons from upstairs, someone turn the lights back on” Dorothy instructed. A moment later lights clicked on and momentarily blinded me. A groan from several places around the room let me know several other people felt the same way.
When my vision finally cleared I sucked in a shocked breath. The room was full to the brim of shuffling, ugly zombies. Everyone who lived in our building next door seemed to be here.
“Okay guys now that we’re all here I can finally get started” Dorothy said with a pointed look at Derrick and me. “Everyone get your bodies under control, we need to keep a low profile and all the crashing and banging is doing my head in”. There was a muted murmur and most of the bodies started to still. I looked over the crowd and noticed the flickering forms ringed around the edge, keeping well out of the way of the shuffling stink in the middle of the room. Dorothy cleared her throat and continued, “much better. Now we’ve all been through some stuff, we all want a chance to share our stories and we all have questions but I’ll have to ask you to wait until the end” she glared into the eyes of the 20 or so ghosts dotted around the outskirts of the room, making it more of a demand than a request.
“As you all know, I’ve kept a keen eye on the neighbourhood for a few years now” Dorothy started, I wanted to chuckle at her underestimation but one look at the solemn faces around me stopped that impulse in it’s track.
“What you don’t know is I’ve been doing it all for a reason, none of you got to meet my dear Alfred but I’ve told you all enough what a big shot he was, he worked within Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Oh we lived all over the world, the most exciting life anyone could wish for. Until he sadly passed away that is.”
“About a year ago, I noticed something hinky going on, I just had a real bad feeling in my bones and my feelings were always reliable. So I called up some old contacts and surprise, surprise there was already an investigation going on, the HMSS had been trying to keep tabs on the Korean’s across the road but couldn’t get an in so I offered my services. The problem was, the big boys on top didn’t want to hear anything of it, so we had to keep it down low, that’s why I bribed little Johnny here to put a camera up outside my window” little Johnny was actually a 35 year old, balding, fat man who moved in 2 years ago after cheating on his wife. His two girls came to stay one weekend a month, the rest of the time he was in a drunken stupor, still he was a whizz on computers and electronics and had hooked me up more than once with free satellite T.V and the neighbor’s WiFi all for a bottle of whiskey and a promising smile.
“Those Koreans across the road started acting really weird, coming and going at all hours, secret meetings in the middle of the night, strange noises and flashing lights,” Dorothy continued. “About 4 months ago, things turned even more sinister. Did any of you notice the filthy hobo that lingered on the corner disappeared?” she looked at all of us in turn, noting the blank stares and awkward shuffles she carried on without an answer. “He wasn’t the first or last to go missing, I’ve noted 16 people this year alone, always after a visit from one of those dummies across the road.”
“I called my handler regularly and gave them updates but their hands were tied, they accepted the information gladly but couldn’t act on it themselves, there’s a load of red tape and someone up top wasn’t giving in”
“I guess I could have taken my investigation further myself and gone to see what was going on myself but I’m just a helpless old lady” Derrick and I exchanged a look that said ‘she is anything but helpless’
“I carried on recording and taking notes, making sure none of them knew what I was up to” Dorothy continued. “I asked little Johnny here for a recording device, do you remember dear?” she smiled up at him as he nodded awkwardly. “Early one morning I waited for one of their secret meetings to come to an end, as soon as the last one turned the corner, I ran outside calling for mittens, you know he’s always been a dirty stop out, canoodling with the other cats. I had his bowl of food in one hand and I was shaking it as I wandered and down the road, all the time I was double checking none of them were in sight, when I was sure I was alone I wandered over to their building and dug that baby out of my secret hiding spot” Dorothy mimed triumphantly pulling out something from her ample cleavage. “I cracked open one of the windows on the side of building and left the recording device behind the curtains, I knew they never opened them and even if they did open them and find it, who would think of me?” she questioned happily but her expression turned sour as she continued. “I left it there about a week before going back for it, again I made sure no one was around and carried out my charade, I was a little too eager and had to duck behind that meals on wheels van that comes at stupid O’clock in the morning but I managed to get back over here in one piece. Johnny here came over that evening and together we went through it, want to tell them about it dear?”
John looked as though he wanted to do anything else but bravely stepped up and cleared his throat. “Ms Garner here had kept meticulous records noting dates and times of the meetings she had seen, she swore me to secrecy before allowing me to look, so we set up the recorder and rewound back to the first time she had pin pointed as a time of interest.” We all leaned forward eagerly, the mystery had been built up more than long enough and we were all eager for answers.
Johnny licked his lips nervously before continuing “The tape was, well it was an indecipherable mess. Strange clicks and squawks, screaming that’d curl your toes and a strange language we couldn’t name. I ran the tape through several databases trying to decipher it but….” Johnny shrugged and took a step back, blending back in with the others around him.
“Thank you dear” Dorothy said, attempting to pinch his cheek affectionately. “The point I gathered from those horrid sounds was…”
The whole crowd leant forward in anticipation, we were all lost, confused and eager for answers. What did anything she said have to do with what happened to us? And how were the people we saw in the chinese place up the road connected? Who were the strange men keeping tabs on us? And what did they do to us? Did they just want to kill everyone or was the split dead their experiment? Could we die again? Could it be reversed?
Unfortunately before she could continue, a huge explosion was let off outside, it blasted through the front wall of the pub, bricks flew towards us at lighting speed followed shortly by a hail of bullets It was complete chaos, body parts were flying all over the place, flickering forms running and screaming. The motorbike twins from the chinese window, stormed in, a gun in each hand, face still dreamily soft as if they were in a bubble bath, not slaughtering the walking dead. I saw 3 people flick out mid scream as their physical bodies were ripped to shreds by debris and bullets. That answered one question, we could die again and this time was possibly for good.
Time to get out of here.