tagSci-Fi & FantasyLovers from Beyond Ch. 03

Lovers from Beyond Ch. 03


Bill Tiers was completely alone now, and he was scared shitless.

"Guys?" He voiced out into the darkness, feeling the tension gripping his throat like the cold, clammy hand from a dead man.

There was nobody in the small, abandoned medical room, or anywhere around it for that matter, and he well knew it.

Bill opened his mouth, hoping to call out a second time, but only a strangled, mewling and pathetic noise issued from his vocal cords. The unmistakable murmur of a softly drawn breath jostled a shiver from him. Slowly, the man turned his head and pierced deep into the black. He could see nothing, of course, but he could feel a very real, very palpable presence there, standing just a few yards away.

It was his own stupid fault for being there, Bill knew. For having gone ghost hunting that night after he'd promised himself so many times that the last time was really, really going to be the last time. It had been months ago, he recalled, when he'd gotten spooked so badly on one of the crew's outings. He'd been threatening to quit nearly every single time now.

But no, Hank and the others had convinced him to tag along. Looking back on things, Bill had to admit that there was a certain thrill, a certain rush of adrenalin and sexiness in searching out the spirits of the no longer living. He got caught up in that feeling yet again. Yeah, that's exactly what had happened, he understood.

Hank was the jock, of course. He was the guy who was continually prodding and poking away at phantoms, daring them and oftentimes insulting them to come out and show their ghastly faces on video. Hank was the guy whose face was in front of the camera nearly eighty percent of the time. He was the leader of the troop, always brazenly walking into the darkest confines and holding an EVP recorder out before him like a magic wand. Mr. Sex Appeal, he also was, because he possessed the handsome, boyish looks that the female viewers were always clamoring for.

George was the camera guy, although he'd been nicknamed Buttons by the small crew. Buttons was responsible for the sudden jerks and swerves that propagated the TV show. He was the guy who was always repeating the same two useless phrases over and over like a broken record. They were 'Oh, my God.' and 'Did you hear that?' He never uttered anything more creative or intelligent. Perhaps that's all the audience was willing to accept from him.

The last two people on the team were Susie, the blonde with the pretty face who was monitoring the handful of cameras they'd set up earlier. Next to Susie was a second cameraman, Eli, otherwise and good-naturedly known as the token black guy. The two of them wouldn't move from the abandoned hospital's lobby, unless they caught sight or sound of something unusual. In tandem, they would both head out to investigate. Since they weren't the stars of the show, their findings would always be negligible.

As usual, anything and everything hinged on Bill. The isolated man gulped. He was the person the TV audience never, ever saw. Bill was the guy armed with only a mere flashlight, the guy who would walk a few rooms ahead of the ghost hunters, or stand way down at the end of an obscure hallway. Bill was the man who would slam doors shut or knock over chairs, or flash a filtered light across a wall just as the team was approaching.

Bill had gotten pretty good at his task, too. He could produce some very convincing orbs on occasion, just by cupping his hand around the end of a flashlight with a colored lens on it. Also, Bill's frame made for casting a pretty good silhouette from elevated windows, if he darkened his flashlight just so and propped it up between his feet. By spreading his feet quickly, and allowing the flashlight to drop down, the camera would record what looked like a fleeing specter. It was all done to sensationalize events, of course, and to keep the viewers tuning in every week. This in turn led to his crew getting their paychecks on time.

There was a downside to Bill's job, however. He always had to be far enough away not to be seen or heard by any of the sound recording equipment. Otherwise he would ruin the entire take and they'd have to do the scene all over again. He was the man who had to crawl into some very tight spaces, or climb up onto precarious perches, in order to make the team's exploits that much more convincing. And if anybody were to run into some unwitting vagrant taking a snooze, or some druggie having himself a fix, chances were that it wouldn't be Hank or Buttons, or any of the others. Instead, it would be the intrepid Bill Tiers who first came face to face with danger.

That night was supposed to be like any other night, Bill lamented, as he heard that same subtle breath again. This time it came from a different direction. The breath was closer to him now, he was sure of it. That realization made him cringe into a corner of cobwebby and long unused cabinets. He shuddered.

It had started off like any other night, with Hank and Buttons prodding and poking around all over the hospital. They were getting some good footage that would be spliced and edited into a coherent stream later. This was the point when Hank usually decided what type of alleged supernatural events he wanted to film. Bill was soon given various spooky instances to fake.

The first few events had gone off without a hitch. Hank gave off his, usual, continual soliloquy about the hospital's lurid history of electroshock and experimental medicines. He mentioned the cruelty of its staff towards those with unfit minds that had once been imprisoned there. Homestead Valley, California, that was where the hospital was located, but Hank had already come up with a catchy label for it.

"More like Dead Valley," Hank's voice had echoed down the long hallway, his words piercing far into the darkness to where Bill stood.

Bill could just imagine Hank staring into the night-vision camera and nodding.

"Yeah, that's it." Hank emphasized. "This place is more like Dead Valley Hospital."

Bill's simple job had been to step over a short stretch of crusty linoleum tiles. He wore shoes with heels hard enough to guarantee that the camera's expensive and sensitive microphone would pick up his movements. He'd seem the glimmer of Hank's flashlight, and he'd already leaned his weight forward to take that first step. That's when the real ghosts had shown up.

The first one unleashed a not quite faint and incredibly diabolical laughter, sounding like a cross between Batman's nemesis, The Joker, and some hyena gone insane. Bill thought back, but no, he couldn't recall Hank having told any of the others to issue such a disturbing cackle. Nor did he believe that either Eli or Susie had a larynx strong enough to make such a noise. He caught murmurs of Hank's nervous voice, still a reasonable distance from where Bill stood. Possibly after emitting his own anxious gulp, Hank must have decided to go on with the show.

Bill scrambled across the hallway and into the doorway of the old infirmary. That's when the next horde of phantasms took their cue. They were like a miniature stampede, running, laughing and screaming. They appeared just a few yards from the short route Bill had just taken. Disconcerted, Bill had swung his open-mouthed face over to see if one of them was following him into the medical room.

He saw one all right, a real, honest to goodness ghost. It was some sort of vague creature, pale white and nearly transparent. It seemed to be wearing a white cloak over its shoulders. The ghost was so tall that only the bottom half of its head was visible in the doorway. Its facial features were as blurry and formless as the rest of its body.

Of course, Bill had freaked. In a frantic dash to get to the opposite side of the nurse's station, he'd upended not one, but two old metal gurneys that had been left behind for decades. He'd also upended himself. In the flurry to recover, Bill supposed the clamor he was making would cause the extremely sensitive microphone on Buttons' camera to blow up right in the cameraman's face. Without the luxury of an active flashlight, only by barging into the cabinets at the far end of the room did Bill discover that he'd reached the opposite wall. Rapidly, he maneuvered his body to face the threat he'd seen at the door.

The specter wasn't only still visible, but it had stepped inside the room now. The top of its head nearly grazed the ceiling. The thing probably stood at eight feet tall! Bill's next impression was that he was looking at an albino version of the Moth Man, perhaps his second cousin the long lost Dove Man. This terrifying phantom image, coupled with his ludicrous interpretation, made Bill blurt out his own diabolical hyena laugh as he snatched in the dark at whatever lay on the cabinets' countertop. His fingers blindly grasped at ancient paperwork, fumbling past some jar which he knocked over and which made an unholy clamor all its own. Finally, his reason, his sanity started to kick in.

What if he accidentally closed his grip on some old, rusty scalpel? Bill speculated. Gangrene and Tetanus, he used the words to steady and calm his rampant thoughts. And what was rust again? Only ferric oxide, of course! High school science at its finest!

Bill focused on the phantom standing before the only way out, surprised to discover that it had vanished. Not quite relieved, Bill's head darted left and right, in case the thing was sliding up next to him. But no, he seemed to be alone now.

Using the respite to catch his breath, Bill groped into his cargo pocket for his flashlight. It was a six-inch, tactical LED deal. The light had about a dozen little bulbs that were practically guaranteed to bewilder the most powerful of phantasms. The man had barely encircled his hand around the flashlight, when he heard a new uproar from the hall outside.

It was Buttons and Hank. Both men were screaming their heads off, and apparently running in a direction contrary to the one Bill was standing in.

Bill took a wary step toward the door, only to quickly cower back when he saw a plethora of mental patients in pale white hospital gowns traveling past. They loped, they stumbled, they rolled along on wheelchairs, these ghosts of the deceased insane. They mumbled or chuckled or drooled as they went. There were dozens of them, it seemed, all headed down the hall toward Buttons and Hank. Looks like you've got your hands full, Hank, Bill thought, clamping a hand over his mouth before another eruption of hyena laughter spilled out of him.

All thoughts of turning on his ultra flashlight were gone, as he wanted in no way whatsoever to draw attention to his precarious spot. Instead, Bill tried his best to bring his breathing and heartbeat under control, and to avoid chuckling like a loon. Then Bill witnessed the ghost of an angry old woman clambered along past the doorway. Her bag of insulin swayed about wildly on the tall rolling stand she was dragging along. This bizarre sight was nearly enough to set him off into hysteria again.

Like a loon!

The ghastly parade continued on down the hall, as if more concerned with appearing on camera than in doing any actual haunting. Meanwhile, Bill rambled through his scant options for an escape route. Most of the entrances had padlocks and chains on them. The old hospital had kept such measures for many years now. Everything was locked up tight, except for the main entry they'd used to come in. That's where Eli and Susie were stationed.

That meant that the entire horde of doom stood between him and the most logical way out. Breaking a window wouldn't work, because there were metal grates on the windows on both the first and second floors, and the third floor was just too far up to try. Climbing up onto the roof seemed feasible, but he figured any fire escapes had long since been secured to keep out any urban explorers. Bill's only real option seemed to be to wait up there on the roof until the sun came up. Could the ghosts of mental patients climb up onto the rooftop and wreak their unholy havoc on top of the hospital, he wondered?

That was when Bill figured out that he wasn't completely alone in the infirmary.

"Guys?" He'd asked, just a couple of moments ago.

The cold presence hovered near him. If Bill could have shrunk into the tall cabinet standing behind him, he would have done it. His hand encircled his little, powerful flashlight. He wondered if ghosts would call other ghosts to join them, once they had their prey cornered.

"I've got a flashlight." Bill said, as he pulled the high-tech device out. "And I'm not afraid to use it!"

He really was turning into a loon, he thought. He had to get out of that building before whatever psychosis he was going through became permanent. Emboldened, Bill pushed down on the rubber-covered button, only to discover that the flashlight no longer functioned.

"Well, that fucking figures." He mumbled, stashing it back into his pocket.

No way he was leaving the light behind, as he'd paid too much money for it. Next, he faced in the direction he assumed the spirit was standing.

"Listen, whatever you are. You don't want to mess with me."

Right after he said that, he fully considered how confrontational his words might have sounded to a phantasm.

"Look, I'm not any kind of tough guy. That would be Hank. If you're looking for somebody to tussle with, he's your man. I'm more of a pussycat, really. You don't want me. You want him. He's much better looking than I am."

The presence made no move, neither fore nor aft.

"Okay, what you really want to do is to go into the light." Bill nodded, hoping he sounded convincing. "That's right. You want to head into the light. Then you'll carry on, or move on, or whatever the hell it is that ghosts are supposed to do."

He could sense the ghost taking a step closer to him.

"Oh, shit." He mumbled, his back so tight against the cabinet he was surprised he didn't have splinters all over his shirt. In exasperation, Bill gritted his teeth and spat out, "Look, if you're going to kill me, just go ahead and do it! Just... Just do it quickly, okay? Don't make me suffer all night, because that's a really cruel thing to do to me. You know I can't get out of here because there's only one real way out. And you know all your ghost buddies are standing out there in the hallway, right between the only exit and me. So, whatever you're going to do, just do it and get it over with!"

The ghost swept forward, forcing Bill to close his eyes and cringe. He braced himself for the worst. Something cold and frightening came up near his face, and he shuddered. Bill even moaned a little. He wasn't too macho to admit that later, if he somehow got out of that gruesome hospital alive.

Bill felt the coldness pressing against his face, against his mouth. His lips felt the very distinct outline of a single finger pressed on them.

Like a loon!

The finger withdrew, slightly.

"You want me to shut up, huh?" Bill chuckled darkly. "You want me to keep quiet while you murder me? Well, bullshit to that! I'm going to holler up a storm! I'm going to make such a ruckus that I'd be raising the dead, if they weren't already raised in this crazy place!"

The ghost battered him against the ancient wood of the cabinet, hard enough for Bill to hear parts of it crack against his weight. What felt like two hands were up in front of his mouth, covering it entirely. The ghost was trying to prevent any further noises from blurting out of his throat.

Though his body was racked with fear, Bill's senses began to perceive something else. The ghost was trying to protect him from the other maniacs roaming the hospital. And there was more, now that he could hone in on it. There was some kind of sympathy evident, some kind of motherly warmth there. He was sure of it.

Bill spoke in a more subdued tone. "You're not trying to hurt me?"

The ghost grabbed at his hand, and tugged much stronger than he ever imagined a ghost could. Bill's arm stretched out and got pulled toward the door.

"You want me to come with you?" Bill asked.

The ghost tugged at his arm again. Even though he couldn't see a thing in front of his eyes, this time Bill followed.

They went into the hallway, making a turn that would lead them even further from the only viable exit, and further disheartening Bill. Why hadn't the ghost killed him in the infirmary, when it had the chance? Was it leading him somewhere else so that it could kill him, a place where his body would never be found? Or worse, where it would be found in a dozen bloody, little pieces?

Inadvertently, Bill kicked something bulky and made of metal. The first thing that came to mind was some old, industrial bedpan. The ghost halted and seemed to quickly sweep over him, as if attempting to hold him back from kicking the unseen item twice. Once the echo of his collision had died away, the ghost took up the lead again.

They came to another stop. This time, the ghost carefully led Bill's arm out, and placed his hand on the edge of a rail. Bill clutched it, realizing that they'd come to the top of a stairwell. The ghost wanted him to descend the steps. He'd been half fearing that the ghost was leading him into an open elevator shaft, and he wouldn't have even known it until he'd taken that fateful first step in.

What was that old joke? Watch that first step, buster, because it's a long way down!

Like a loon!

"So, you want me to go down the stairs?" Bill asked. "Is that it?"

The ghost was holding his free hand now, but it was nowhere near as insistent as it had previously been. And the hands, Bill noticed, they were much smaller, and felt much softer than his. They were a woman's hands, he was sure of it.

Bill gulped, as he started down the stairs. He trampled over papers, and over a couple of things that cracked like glass. He used both hands to maneuver a turn, never letting go of the rail. Bill continued down another set of steps until finally he stood at some lower level that Hank hadn't taken them to earlier.

"What is this, a basement?"

In reply, the ghost took his hand again and started escorting him down a hall. There were gurneys here and there. The ghost did its best to lead Bill around them, but more than once, he ended up stubbing his toe. This wasn't so bad because of the thick shoes he'd put on. Stubbing his fingers, on the other hand, had him waving his hand in pain and uttering some pretty vile curses, albeit at a very low volume.

After what seemed an eternity, the ghost halted and did something strange. It turned him toward what he thought might be a wall. It seemed to be embracing Bill from behind, and pushing him forward at the same time. The fear began to course through him once again, of elevator shafts or industrial incinerators. Bill reached out and found the edges of a doorway. He gripped both sides and braced himself for the tug of war of his life. The ghost simply held Bill, neither pushing him forward nor letting him go free.

Bill smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, feeling how dry it had gotten. "So, you want me to go inside this room? And you're not trying to kill me?"

The ghost tightened its embrace of him. Now, he could swear he felt boobs pressing against his back. After releasing a long breath, Bill slackened his arms and allowed the ghost to push him into the unknown. He waved his arms around, cautiously, and in case there were any solid objects within range. There didn't seem to be anything anywhere near him.

"Okay, so what happens next?" Bill asked, not really expecting an answer.

He got one anyway.

"You'll be safe here." A woman's raspy voice drifted over, sounding as real as if another person was standing just a couple of feet to his side.

"Who said that?"

"My name's Julia, but most of the candy-stripers just call me Jules, or Julie." The woman replied. "You got a smoke?"

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