“Holy hell, gang, that’s bound to have created some trauma which will likely pop up at a most inconvenient time. I’m surprised you tried again so quick. How did you know it would work? That I’d show up and not a creepy ghoulie ghostie?” Four sets of eyes, two living, two dead turned to Sam, who shrugged.

“I didn’t. Which is why I advised Herb and Alex to hide behind the counter. Casey didn’t need to, but chose to nonetheless.”

Tommy shone a laughing smile in Casey’s direction.
“That seems on brand. Some things never change, huh, stoner?”

“That’s not fair! I’ve never been a ghost before. How am I supposed to know if I’m impervious to creepy fucking monsters? Forgive me if I’m a little hesitant to get murdered again!”

Tommy’s smile made it all the way to laughter.
“You’re right, Casey. I have no idea what’s happening or how I’m even here so maybe someone can enlighten me?”

“Well you’re here thanks to me.” Casey smirked. Tommy turned to Sam.

“Is that true? I thought I was here thanks to you.”

“Well I pulled you through, but Casey was the one who came up with the idea to use the flashlight.”

“Technically, I suggested the light on a cellphone, but Cass and Herb don’t have one because they’re born-again Luddites or something. I have no idea what happened to mine, and Sam’s battery is too low.

Sam looked apologetic.
“I left my charger at the motel.”

Alex wasn’t sure she’d experienced anything as odd as watching a three way conversation between two people she could see and one she couldn’t. She turned to Sam.
“As weird as it feels to ask this, can ghosts see each other normally? Like, do they interact and stuff?”

Sam shrugged again.
“I’ve never really known it to happen, but a lot of this is pretty new for me. The fact that I was able to pull Tommy and whatever that other thing was into our world is pretty off the charts unusual.”

“How were you brave enough to try again, Sam?”

“I asked my mum. When I went to the bathroom to splash water on my face, I gave her a quick call and asked if she could imagine what had happened. She pointed out that I likely had some nervousness, if not outright fear going into the experiment. So that’s what I attracted. She also brought up the possibility that whatever it was might have some sort of connection to this place which made it easier for it to show up. So the second time, I made sure that it was just Tommy I focused on, and not my fears.”

“Well it was a hell of a lesson, and you did great the second time. No harm, no foul beyond the nightmares I’m likely to have the rest of my life.” Herb had returned from the kitchen with the bottle of bourbon and a glare to reciprocate the one Alex gave him. “No, Alex, I’m not planning to stay drunk. But you have to admit, coming face to face with a creepy ghoulie ghostie warrants a dram or six if nothing else does.”

Tommy shook her head and laughed.
“You two are cute. That said, I cannot get used to you being Alex, Cassie. And staying to work at the café? We have so much to catch up on.”

“To be fair, Tommy, you’ve only known me as Alex for a few minutes. Also? I’m finding the fact that you’re standing in front of me, flesh and blood again to be a real trip.” She hugged her friend tight.

“Ha! You think that’s a mindfuck, try being dead! Except don’t because it fucking sucks.”

“I second that, ” Casey chimed in. “Hey Sam, do you think that you could make me flesh and blood too?”

Sam’s expression grew sad.
“I’m really sorry about this, but you’re not actually flesh and blood. I’ve not brought you back, you won’t be able to stay like this. The closest I can come to describing it is that you’re tangible, where you weren’t before. For the moment, you’ll be able to hug Alex and have her feel it, and while most things might seem solid to you, I’m not sure if you could move things around. Maybe with a certain amount of focus and effort? But I don’t know. I’ve never seen my mum move anything, but maybe she just didn’t in front of me.”

“So, if I’m understanding this correctly, it’s almost as though you’ve found a way to amplify the energy field I give off so that I’m vibrating at a frequency which is closer to being on par with that of a living body. If my molecules are moving at a similar rate to the table or Alex then we wouldn’t be able to pass through another, but perhaps my molecular structure is too sparse to be able to manipulate objects.” Tommy swiped her hand at a spoon sitting on the saucer next to Alex’s mug of tea. It rattled a bit but she was unable to lift it. Sam nodded.

“That actually makes a lot of sense.”

“Yeah well, what do I know, I’m just a physicist.”

“You really are an unusual group of people, you know that?”

Herb raised his glass.
“Cheers to that. We’ve seen some stuff, and from the sounds of it, we’re not done yet.”

“No, we really aren’t. Maybe we should have a cup of tea and work out what we know for certain.” She moved to put the kettle on. Sam sat the flashlight on a napkin, to keep it steady and lit, unsure if Tommy might disappear if it fell on the floor and turned off.

“I su0ppose I can try and bring you through, Casey, but I’m not sure if it’ll work for more than one at a time. Do you have another flashlight, Alex?”

She brought one back from the kitchen.
“I hope it works, it would be nice to have everyone together again.” She paled and turned to Tommy with an apology. “I’m sorry, Tommy, about Kirk, I mean.” Tommy wrapped her as tight as her sparse molecular structure would allow.

“Me too, Cassie. I’m sorry about all of it. However, the weirdest part is that it doesn’t really feel weird. I mean, we’ve never been conventional. On some level it makes perfect sense that we would have stumbled into a scenario like this. And if we’re trying to stay on the side of positivity, I have to say it’s kind of awesome that I checked out while I still look so hot, amirite?” She pivoted and posed, tossing a look over her shoulder at her own spandex covered ass. “Talk about dead sexy!”

Everyone was quite distracted for a long moment, until the kettle let out a long whistle. Tommy remarked, “See? Even the kettle thinks so!”

If there was a note of hysteria underlying the resulting laughter, they were all much too fond of each other to be so impolite to mention it.

A few moments later, there was cause for more joy, and a few tears when Casey and his half-sister embraced for the first time in a long time. Alex turned to Sam with a grateful smile.

“This is really amazing, thank you.”

“Oh, it’s my pleasure. Honestly, I’m just as amazed as you are. There is something really strange about this place. I’ve been meaning to go to the museum all day to see what I can find out. I might do that now that you’re all situated here. I imagine Shooter and Ange will be looking for me at some point too, I’m genuinely not sure what they want to do but since I’m technically their employee, I should probably check in.”

“Won’t we disappear if you leave? I mean, aren’t you the one keeping us here?”

Sam exhaled slowly.
“I’m not sure. I don’t think so because Casey was already here and somehow got here without being pulled even though he died somewhere else.”

Herb laughed, and this time the note of hysteria was closer to the surface.
“I just thought of something. What if we’re all dead and this is a shared hallucination? Maybe everything we’re experiencing is just a clusterfuck of our collective memories. Did you hear what that creepy thing said? About us being meat for the beast? Where have we heard that before?”

They all just looked at him, unsure of how to respond. Alex thought for a moment, walked over to where he stood and took the bottle from his hand. Herb tried to protest but she spun away from him and put the bottle to her lips. She grimaced as it burned down her throat, and had barely swallowed it when she started coughing.

“Fuck!” Her exclamation caught them all by surprise. “I’m going to say we’re not dead because if I was part of a shared hallucination, alcohol would taste better.”

Herb gave her a pained look.
“This is high end bourbon that you’re coughing all over the place. When you get to heaven, this is what you’ll smell on god’s breath.”

Casey piped up at this.
“I feel like god would be more of a stoner. I mean, explain the platypus.”

Tommy rolled her eyes.
“Holy fuck, if I wasn’t dead I’d ask you to kill me now, Sam. Can you believe these jokers? Come on you guys, don’t be stupid. Something weird is going on and if I’m only able to be on this side of the looking glass temporarily let’s work out what’s going on and how I can help, mmkay?”


Photo by Mathieu Stern on Unsplash