“So, let me get this straight. The two that you came here with yesterday, who are trying to become famous ghost hunters, aren’t actually able to see or interact with ghosts?”

Sam nodded.
“Honestly, I’m not totally sure they even believe in them. Shooter isn’t really the brains of the operation, and I have moments where I also think that about Angelié, but then there are other times when I’m genuinely not sure she’s as dizzy as she seems. At any rate, Shooter is kind of along for the ride. The desire for fame is solely hers, though he’s too much of a gent to say that part out loud.”

“So how did she find Tommy if she can’t see ghosts?”

“I don’t know. I want to say it was a fluke. Maybe she just picked room 13 because it’s room 13. Oooh, spooky 13. Honestly, this town has so many ghosts, it would be difficult not to encounter one. It’s strange for such a small place. I mean, I expect to see lots of ghosts in a city, because people are dying there all the time. Ghosts don’t really stick around all that long unless whatever happened was really dramatic. That sort of energy leaves a mark. But here, there are not only ghosts who are long dead, but they’re haunting places they didn’t die. That’s new.”

Herb spoke up.
“We have a…friend? who did mention there is an increase in revenants. That’s just a fancy word for ghosts, yeah?”

“In common use, it’s come to mean that. More accurately, it’s a term to denote something returning. It could mean that dead folks who were never meant to be ghosts in the first place are coming back for some reason. In some stories, it’s specifically a term for the undead, which could be anything from zombies to vampires, depending on context.”

Herb looked dismayed.
“I could probably deal with zombies as long as they’re not the fast ones, but vampires? Hell no, if there’s any hint of vampires, I’m out.”

Alex rolled her eyes at him.
“Don’t be dramatic. There’s no such thing as vampires.”

“I notice you didn’t say anything about zombies. Also, I’m not sure we can discount anything at this point. Not long ago I’d have said there’s no such thing as ghosts. Or eggwitch horrors.”

Sam was confused.

Alex shook her head.
“Eggwitch. But what he means is Eldritch. Pay no attention to the man who didn’t grow up with a nerdy half-brother. Herb’s just trying to alleviate the tension. And failing because we really need to sort out what’s happening so we can work out if we have a chance of stopping it.” She turned to Sam. “Did you talk to Tommy much, does she know anything?”

Sam shrugged. “Not sure. She seemed pretty confused as to why she’s here or what happened after she died. I can ask her though.”

“When you go back to the motel?”

“Actually, I was going to try and call her from here.”

“How do you do that?”

“I have this stone my mum gave me a long time ago. She called it a hagstone. It has a hole in the middle formed over time by natural occurrences or snake tongues or something.  If I focus hard enough and then look through it, I’ve been able to bring my mum to wherever I am at the time. She showed me how to do it before she died. If I can do it with her, maybe I can do it with Tommy? I don’t need it to see your brother because he’s already here, though I’ve never tried to use it to talk to anyone except my mum, so I’m not sure it will work.”

“I wonder if the hereafter has decent long distance rates.”

“Herb, stop it. This is not the time for jokes, even if yours were funny.”

“Please tell my sister I disagree with her. I think Herb is hilarious.”

Sam turned to Alex.
“Your brother wanted me to tell you he thinks that Herb is funny.”

“Of course he would. He’s high most of the time.” Alex sighed and turned toward the table in the corner. “I wish I could see you, little brother. I miss you so much. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to-” she bit her lip in that way people do when they don’t want to cry. Casey stood and walked toward the counter, then through it to stand next to Alex. He awkwardly put his arm around her shoulders, missing the first couple of times. She shivered.

“What the hell, did it just get super cold in here?”

Sam gestured to where Casey was standing.
“He’s trying to give you a hug. You can feel him? That’s interesting.”

“I feel something, it’s weird. Almost like my shoulders are covered in mist, but not wet, just foggy. Like an arm’s length of dog nose.”

“An arm’s length of dog nose? What the hell does that even mean? I try to offer you comfort and this is what I get?”

Sam tried not to laugh, but the look on Casey’s face made it difficult.
“Um, he said…”

“Yeah, I can pretty much guess. An excess of indignation? Sorry Casey, I know you’re trying to be supportive but it’s going to take a bit to get used to you being a ghost. I’m still in the depths of mourning you. And Tommy. And even Kirk, though I didn’t really get to know him all that well. Hey!” Alex turned to Sam. “Have you seen a really muscular guy, about yay tall, kind of irrationally good looking?”

“No, Tommy asked about him too. He was her guy?”

Alex nodded sadly.
“Yeah, he and Tommy were just getting to know one another. Casey and I have known Tommy since we were all little. Nathan too. Last fall the group of us were on a road trip when we- when the asshole who we thought was our friend decided he wanted to play at being a psycho. I guess he’d been pretty messed up for a long time. We were close when we were kids, but over time we grew apart so when he suggested the road trip, I think there was a sense of ‘for old times’ sake’ about it. I had a feeling…I mean, I have these feelings sometimes, and I should have… tried harder…” She broke off and grabbed a napkin from the dispenser, holding it against her eyes. Herb wrapped his arm around her shoulder, without missing once. Since he wasn’t a ghost and all.

“We all have regret, Alex. If I’d faced my brother all those years ago instead of hiding, I might’ve saved countless lives, including Tommy, Kirk, and Casey.”

Alex waved his words away with the napkin.
“Or he might have killed you and his reign of terror would still be happening. What’s past is prologue. Even with foresight, I’m rarely able to pinpoint what and when. It’s not very helpful, unlike being able to see and talk to ghosts.” She gestured to Sam. “Do you really think you can maybe connect with Tommy here?”

“I can try. Worst case scenario, I call mum and ask her for advice. But it would be better if I can figure it out on my own.”

“Because your mom wouldn’t want you enmeshed in our troubles?”

“Not, it’s not that. It’s like you said earlier, we all have regrets. One of mine involves describing Tommy as really fit and beautiful to a woman who doesn’t see something simple as death as a barrier to meddling in my life. If she gets wind of my trying to make contact with her, well…”

Two living heads and one ghostly one nodded in commiseration with Sam.

Alex smiled suddenly.
“It’s kind of nice to know that moms are mom-like whether here or hereafter. Though it is interesting that’s how you chose to describe Tommy…” There was a mild teasing tone to Alex’s voice which made Sam blush a bit.

“Oh come on now, let’s be fair,” Herb interjected with a grin, “How else would you describe her?”

Three living heads and one ghostly one nodded.


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