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By Xajacity
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Hi everyone,

It's great to meet you all; being part of this community is a thrill!

Terror In Paradise is a 3-part novella (with a short epilogue) that’s set in a world where the Ghostbusters have franchised globally. It introduces new characters but remains true to the spirit and lore established by legendary creators Aykroyd, Ramis and Reitman.

If I've written this well, Terror In Paradise will entertain you as the movies, cartoons, and games do. This community is comprised of the ultimate GB fans, so any feedback on this will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

Lee.

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PART 1: TOUCH OF EVIL

Steam enveloped Cecelia as she stepped from the shower and stretched for her towel. Wrapped in the soft, bronze-coloured cotton, the young woman leaned forward to wipe fog from the bathroom mirror and froze. The noise was louder than ever before, almost like a gunshot. It vibrated the walls and trembled up her feet from the tiles.

Damn, she thought. Always when it’s most awkward.

She pinpointed the disturbance instantly. The townhouse was modest: two bedrooms with an ensuite upstairs, a second toilet, kitchen, laundry, lounge/dining room and a small patio downstairs. Opposite the base of the stairs was the front door—the source of the bang.

Mysterious noises had plagued her for weeks and were now a daily occurrence. Worse, they always happened when she was alone and vulnerable: showering, using the toilet, or about to fall asleep in bed. When she cleaned the house or did her laundry, she heard nothing. Not a peep while she read on the patio or worked on her laptop in the dining room. Cemeteries weren’t as peaceful as her second bedroom, a space she’d planned to turn into a work office but remained unfurnished. Her lounge was a den of serenity, though her parents would argue their housewarming gifts made that room, if not a private area, a personal one. Ancestral shells and rocks from the Yugambeh people made it so; a collection any indigenous Australian would be proud of.

Cecelia’s breath caught. Footsteps tramped methodically up the stairs. In addition to the ferocity of the downstairs blast, staircase activity was abnormal.

Snap out of it, Cecelia! Nothing about these noises is normal!

From the top of the stairs, one could turn left and down the hall towards the empty second room or right towards hers. The intruder veered her way. Whatever stranger stalked her home would soon be at her ensuite door.

She shivered beneath her towel.

Why did she listen for so long? Naked beneath that towel or not, she should be hightailing it down the street.

Yeah right! On the broken legs she’d earn leaping out the bedroom window? Escaping her home was only possible via the front and rear patio doors, both of which were impossible to reach when the hallway was blocked by a massive-sounding assailant!

Or was none of this real, as her recently dumped ex-boyfriend Eric had claimed whenever she’d voiced concerns about the noises? “Probably imagining it,” he’d said, never having heard them himself. “Or a rodent problem.” During their final argument about it, a frustrated Cecelia emoted that he wasn’t being supportive enough. He’d called her crazy, and that had been the end of them.

The problem was that Eric’s words had instilled doubt, and consequently, she’d done nothing to discover the sounds’ origins. Not because she’d agreed with his assertions. Her inaction was practical. Getting somebody to check the wall spaces meant calling the rental agency. They’d deem the matter non-urgent since no tangible damage or physical evidence existed. Past experiences with non-urgent issues had resulted in waiting forever for responses. Hell, getting the lounge’s air-conditioner fixed had been a six-month ordeal!

Yet there were occasions she'd deemed the matter urgent. These incidents occurred while she was alone in bed and drifting off to sleep. Confessing them to Eric had been a tipping point, fuel for his unfair criticism. “Of course that’s when it would happen!” he’d declared. “You were probably dreaming!” But she was positive she’d been awake when those unseen hands had begun caressing her. On one occasion, they’d actually pinned her to the mattress. Podcasts Eric had insisted she listened to labelled similarly described reports as ‘sleep paralysis’—a neural mix-up where your body is in sleep mode but your brain is awake. Granted, that was a possible explanation for the bed attacks. However, it didn’t explain the noises she heard while she was up and fully conscious.

Scratching or pattering across the walls was most common, though you’d be hard-pressed to label these as phenomena. As a teenager, she recalled watching TV when a similar-sounding rhythm had caught her attention. The culprit had been a giant, hairy-legged spider, startling at the time but comprehensible. Critters in the drywall could be the case again here.

Except that her gut told her it wasn’t.

And now, the true culprit had smashed in her front door and thudded up her staircase.

A frightening idea arose: What if it was Eric, sore at being dumped and wild for retaliation? What if he’d always been responsible and was gaslighting her?

The footsteps halted as if the intruder (Eric?) read her mind.

Patter patter patter. Along the ceiling, across the skirting boards and down the walls.

Could whatever was in her hallway be simultaneously inside the roof and bathroom walls? Her ex didn’t seem capable of such an elaborate scheme.

Pitter-patters crisscrossed the large frameless mirror in front of her. Swirls in the steam, thick in the small ensuite, attracted her attention. Cecelia blinked, squeezed her eyes tightly and shook her head to clear the impossible. Nothing changed the vision.

You’re not crazy you’re not crazy you’re not crazy, she thought, for the first time unsure if this was accurate.

Patterns emerged upon the mirror like a dozen invisible fingers, cutting through the condensation with an irritating and protracted series of squeaks.

Too shocked to flee, Cecelia’s mouth twitched, a scream locked in her throat, the key to release it missing.

This was not Eric or a random intruder. No human intruder.

Cecelia’s shivering became a racking tremor as the shapes on the mirror connected to form letters and then a simple, terrifying phrase:

Tonight you’re mine.

Cold air wafted across her face from an unseen source, clearing the foreground and drying the mirror. A pinkish-purple-coloured skull appeared in the reflection, which parted the background fog as it advanced from behind her. Its glowing red eyes crackled and sparked as if charged with electricity. Clawed hands shoved her forward and pinned her against the basin. Violently, those claws ripped the towel away. Feeling utterly defenceless, the key found its way to her throat, and Cecelia released her trapped scream.

The door to her ensuite crashed open. A flood of cold air buffeted her exposed body, which was now damper from sweat than her recent shower.

God save her; what else had come to participate in this horror?

A new noise was introduced: something powering up. A red glow—probably the monster’s eyes—intensified in her peripheries. Restrained and unable to turn her head, she couldn’t be certain. All she could do was pray that when the demon killed her, it would be quick and painless.

Glass exploded beside her face, shards propelled everywhere, a few grazing her cheeks. Heat like she couldn’t imagine licked her skin. Smoke infiltrated her nostrils. There was a churning electrical buzz and flashes of orange and blue. Inside the bathroom, the echoing cacophony was deafening. Screaming again, she kicked forward against her vanity cupboard to escape, movement possible now those beastly hands had released her. A deep and guttural roar joined the discordant mix, a cry of rage.

It might have been seconds or minutes before Cecelia reopened her eyes; the preceding events were a blur. Crouched and cowering beneath the sink, she had no recollection of dropping there. Her face was sore, cut and possibly scorched. Littering the tiles around her were bits of broken mirror and globules resembling pink hair gel.

What the hell had just happened?

“Let me know when you’re decent,” a baritone said from around the corner.

The intruder!

“Are you hurt?” the voice asked.

It was too much base for her ex, nor was it a voice she recognized. “Whoever you are,” she said, “I’m calling the police.” It was a bluff easily undone. All it would take is a notification to reveal her phone beneath her pillow. Meanwhile, if she could stand and lock herself inside the bathroom without cutting her feet on the glass— Shit! Lock what? The door was hanging halfway off its hinges.

“Glad to know you’re not dead,” the hiding person stated.

“Who are you, and what do you want? Try to touch me, I dare you! I’ll rip it off, for real!”

“Rip it off?”

“Your penis!”

“I got what you meant.”

“Well, believe it!”

The intruder hesitated before continuing. “Is that shrill tone because I singed you or wrecked your bathroom?” He paused, and after considering it, said, “I guess it could be both.” The voice was getting closer. “When you report this, mentioning it happened while trying to save you might be helpful.”

A large man appeared in her splintered doorway. He wore an undersized khaki tan jumpsuit (the sleeves and pants legs were sheered to accommodate his size). The fabric above the outfit’s left breast was torn, exposing a hairy nipple she found as unappealing as the man’s black hair, which, upon his head and around his face, hung long and unkempt. The man held one hand up as if surrendering; his other was draped across his face. “Not looking,” he said, “in case your bits are still showing.”

Using her arms to cover herself, she reached for the bronze-coloured towel.

“I wouldn’t use that,” the man warned. “Glass shards might have stuck to the fibres.”

“You said you weren’t looking!” she snapped, noticing the gap between his fingers.

“You weren’t responding and I was worried.”

“Well, stop worrying and get me some clothes!”

The man vanished into her bedroom. As he disappeared, Cecelia caught the second tear in his outfit: a small patch below the right shoulder. Given the stranger’s state, she was shocked he didn’t reek or look filthier.

A baritone voice drifted from the direction of her wardrobe. “Can I get you some Betadine? Band-Aids?”

Mindful of her footing, Cecelia stood and reviewed herself in the fragment of mirror still attached to the wall. She washed the scrapes with soap. Merely grazed, her wounds had already coagulated. “I’m fine,” she said. “Clothes are what I need.”

“There are a few choice dresses here,” the man said. “A flashy little yellow number or—hey, this blue one with the white dots is—”

“Those are clubbing dresses! Just get me jeans and a T-shirt!”

“Pretty casual,” he stated, sounding unimpressed.

Exasperated, she was tempted to leap out naked and try her luck in the dirty clothes hamper downstairs. It wasn’t ideal, but at least she could escape her house and scream for help.

Then again, if this guy wanted to attack her, would he be trying to find her clothes to wear?

“I said jeans and a T are pretty casual,” he called out.

“Have you seen what you’re wearing?” she snapped. “Anyway, why would I want to… impressing you is not a priority!”

“Ow, ow, shrill again,” he remarked as if in pain. “Even from here, that’s piercing.”

She heard the rustle of wardrobe coat hangers followed by sliding wood as he rummaged through drawers. “Ok,” he said at last, “I’ve got jeans and a white t-shirt that says,” he paused, presumably to read it. “It says, ‘Crazy? I prefer the term hilariously unstable.’ Shit, I hope that’s not true.” More to himself, he murmured, “That shrill voice though.”

“Just pass them in here!”

“Let me find some panties.”

Picturing that stranger’s grubby fingers rifling through her delicates caused Cecelia’s stomach to tighten. Grinding her teeth, she said, “I’ll get them when I’m dressed.”

“You planning to wear them on the outside?” the man said, thrusting his choices from around the corner.

Shaking her head that he should select a white novelty shirt (one joking about her mental stability, no less), she was thankful that at least she was dry enough that it wouldn’t become instantly transparent. Her long black hair was still damp, so she wrapped it into a bun.

“Stay where you are,” she called out before exiting, peeking around the corner to spy precisely where he was. Moderate as the room was in size, it was large enough that some of her tensions were alleviated when she spotted him by the bedhead. She could dart out and slam the room’s door if needed, closing him inside long enough to sprint down the stairs and out to freedom.

“If you can hurry with your panties so we can debrief and I can be on my way,” the man said. “We need to get our stories straight so you don’t get confused and tell the cops I was the attacker.”

“For all I know, you were!” She didn’t believe this and wasn’t sure why she said it.

“You think I resemble that hairless dick?”

“How do I know that’s not a wig and fake beard?” she accused. “Your jumpsuit has enough pockets for countless disguises!”

He stared at her blankly. “So your shirt is accurate then.” Then he tugged at his hair and beard to demonstrate their verity.

Cecelia’s lips pressed into a thin line. Who was this guy to snipe at her? He looked like… She racked her brain for a comeback. “Well, you look like Charles Manson.”

Confused more than affronted, the man crossed the room to examine himself in the mirror above the dresser he’d been digging through. “Huh,” he said. “Fair. But in my defence, there aren’t many reflective surfaces where I shower.”

“Where is your shower? A swamp?”

After frowning at her for a moment, his face ultimately morphed into its standard look of ambivalence. “Good luck when that demon returns,” he said. “Like I said, try to remember things accurately when you talk to the po-po.”

She backed up at his approach and struck a defensive pose in anticipation of attack. “I know Krav Maga.”

“That the one that teaches penis-ripping?” Without breaking stride, the man progressed to the stairs, a beachy scent lingering in his wake. “Maybe threaten the monster with that next time,” he said, descending the staircase. “Not that demons have genitalia for you to tear off. But if you say it scary enough—I know Krav Maga!—Who knows? Worth a shot.” He paused at the first-floor landing directly opposite the busted front door. “I’ll lean the door, and maybe you can drag something heavy against it.”

Cecelia’s fists remained on guard, watching from the balustrade as the man crunched over the splintered wood, placed the front door at a skewed angle over the entrance, and vacated her premises.

“Good riddance,” she stated, surprised to feel guilt over how she’d treated the guy. Since he was obviously homeless, the whole swamp thing was a low blow. Besides, he was surprisingly clean and not unpleasant-smelling. Most illogical was that there’d been something comforting about him. It must be his eyes, she mused, which were a warm hazel.

The night air was cool and carried a hint of pine as she sprinted into the street after him. “Hey, you,” she said, chasing the stranger to the dark side of the street.

“Hud,” he said, not stopping.

“Fine, grunt at me; way to sulk.”

“My name,” he said, pausing and tapping his chest as if talking to a non-English speaker, “is Hud.”

“Fine, Hud. Look, you said demon. You saw that, too? A ghost, like on the news?” Searching his face for truth and confirmation she wasn’t crazy uncovered a new thought. His jumpsuit no longer appeared a random choice. “Wait, are you… do you work for the…? I’ve seen ads warning of growing incidents, and the Gold Coast branch seems to be constantly recruiting.”

“I definitely don't work for them. Well,” he tilted his head from side to side as if weighing options. “Not officially.”

“But you did? Or you know someone in the compan—”

“I’m familiar with what attacked you because I’ve been tracking it. Trust me, ‘They’ don’t know shit about what’s after you.”

“Why are you tracking it if you’re not an employee?” She grabbed the tatters of his sleeve. “And why would you be wearing their uniform?” She circled to his rear and tried to angle him towards the streetlights for a better inspection. Secured to his back was a Compressed Neutrona Wand, a tool the company advertised increased fieldworker manoeuvrability. She stepped back and reviewed his attire again. “Did you steal all this?”

“It was left to me.” He waved the topic away. “Look, all I want to do is bust that creep. If you can do me a solid and not call the so-called professionals, I’ll solve our problem.”

Flustered, she said, “You’ve multiplied my problems!”

“Come again?”

“You broke my door! I don’t own that place; damage gets deducted from my bond.” She threw her hands up. As if Hud cared. Even if he did, he wouldn’t have the means to reimburse her. “Forget it, I’m going to my Mum’s.”

“Oooh,” Hud said, spoiling her getaway. “I’d avoid visiting loved ones for now. When that thing latches onto someone, it tends to follow them around.” He paused while she processed this, and when he spoke again, his voice was genuine. “With the proper tools, I can fix something temporary with your door. In return, please don’t interfere with my hunt.”

“It’ll follow me to my Mum’s?” Cecelia asked, stomach sinking.

“Worse is if it fancies her.”

“Then, I’ll go to a motel,” she said.

“Perfect, no big deal if you lure it there to kill them; who are they to you?”

Cecelia shivered. Was she trapped at home until this thing was caught?

“And you’re not worried it’ll target you?” she asked Hud.

A bitter smile touched his face. “If only it would.”

Inviting Hud into her home was not high on her list of desirables, but his authenticity affected her. “Fix my door,” she told him, “and you can patrol all you want after that.”

“Deal,” he said. “But keep your expectations reasonable. I can’t mend it like new without proper material. What I can do is enough to stop crooks waltzing in.”

The trees flanking the road rustled in cheer, and the breeze carried another waft of pine her way. It mixed pleasantly with the ocean aroma Hud exuded.

“Come on,” she said and steered him back towards her home. “But look, while you’re fixing the door, it’s the law that I report what happened so you know I have to call them. I won’t rat you out,” she added when he turned to flee. “I’ll even give you some food.”

The man’s lips smacked as he weighed her offer.

“Consider it this way,” Cecelia persisted, “sharing what you know could help bust the demon.” She didn’t tell him it was also to have someone official record the man’s presence, just in case her instinct about him was wrong.

“This,” Hud said, thumbing the CNW on his back, “is what will bust the demon.”

She scoffed, already feeling way too comfortable with the guy. “If another mirror needs exploding, you can use it.”

He shrugged, seemingly unoffended. “You make an omelette…” He raised his hands as if to say, ’nuff said.

“Well, not to make you feel bad, but those reflective eggs aren’t cheap. And like the door you’re sort of but not really fixing, they’re not likely to be covered by my insurance.”

“Get the materials, and I can fix the bathroom, too.”

This was probably an empty boast, but she’d let him prove himself with her door and then consider future repairs. If he was capable, the savings in labour would go a ways towards repaying his debt. “I’m happy you’re prepared to fix what you destroyed,” she told him.

“You should be,” he said. “Not only because the damage was done to save you, but because you’re forcing me to deal with them. It’s only because we’re bonding so hardcore that I’m sacrificing all this dignity.”

She halted him in front of the door he’d shattered off its hinges. “Listen, Hud, we’re not bonding. You’re here for carpentry and to help with a supernatural matter. That’s all.”

He tilted his head. “Is that a practised coy, or have I brought it out in you?”

As condescendingly as she could, Cecelia patted him on the chest. “I’ll fix the door myself.”

“Kidding, kidding. Fine, there’s no bonding.” Hud raised his hands in defeat. “I’m just here to help.”

“Good,” she stated, noting again how disarming the man was. She should be careful of that. Charming men with kind eyes weren’t necessarily kind people. Plus, charm went a long way, but there were limits to what she’d accept in a rebound relationship. Unemployed, homeless people were off limits.

She nodded at her resolution and tightened her emotional shield against another unhelpful observation: beneath all that hair was a potentially handsome guy.

What a waste, she mused.

“Sacrificed your dignity,” Cecelia muttered as they crossed the smashed threshold of her home.

“You joke,” Hud said, “but only because you’ve never dealt with a Ghostbuster before.”

To be continued in PART 2: INVESTIGATION
Last edited by Xajacity on June 23rd, 2024, 6:04 am, edited 4 times in total.
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By Xajacity
#4998515
PART 2: INVESTIGATION

“I thought you were fixing this,” Cecelia said through strained breaths. Her small frame struggled to hold the front door an inch off the ground so it remained aligned with the newly drilled hinge holes.

“Use your body weight,” Hud suggested as he rummaged through an empty ice cream container full of assorted screws.

“Can’t I set it down until you find the right screws?”

“Best you don’t,” he said, his face curtained by his hair. He casually sorted through metal as if her torso weren’t moments away from a population of hernias.

“Couldn’t you have held this and I found the screws?”

“Toned-looking girl like you must go to the gym,” Hud said, upending the bucket of screws onto her kitchen bench with a loud clatter.

“I don’t do weights!” she groaned. Sweat coated her body, and her muscles began to quiver.

“Is working out easier when you talk the whole time?”

“Are you seriously telling me to shut up?”

“Not that bluntly,” Hud stated. Then, glimpsing her about to put the door down, added, “You’ll set us back if you do that. Crooks could be lurking; this is the Goldy, remember.”

“Then get over here!”

“Not much point of that without the right screws.”

“It’s slipping!” Strands of hair were escaping her bun and falling into her face, exacerbating her discomfort.

Pausing his search, Hud turned towards her and frowned. “You said you had the correct-sized screws. You didn’t mention they were mixed up among all this shrapnel. I expected this to be quick.”

“Forget it…” she said, sweat stinging her eyes and hoping she wouldn’t squash her toes with the heavy fire door when it landed.

In three quick steps, the broad-shouldered, six-foot-two vagabond caught the door and lifted the weight off her. Cecelia stumbled and collapsed onto the carpet, her fingers stiff from how long they’d been folded around the door’s edges. Meanwhile, Hud propped the door up on his bare foot, kept it in place with one hand, and used a power drill with the other to affix the appropriate side to the doorframe.

“You could have held it yourself?” she sputtered, her urge to slap him tempered by her exhaustion.

“Again,” Hud said and assisted Cecelia up, “we needed the correct size screws first.” She watched him test his handiwork by swinging the door back and forth a few times. “Ain’t no locking this,” he said, playing with the strip of doorjamb wrenched free when he’d kicked his way in. “But if we close it and lean something heavy against—”

Flashing patterns of blue light faded up on Hud’s face, the bright glare intensifying in tandem with the hefty rumble of an approaching engine.

“No siren,” Hud mumbled. “Bummer.” He sulked away from the door, crashed onto Cecelia’s sofa and stared mutely at the blank TV. With the overhead lights in the lounge off, he was all shadows. It matched his mood, which had worsened since she’d reported the attack to the Ghostbusters’ Gold Coast branch. Hud had sniped about the organization in general terms yet been unwilling to give a specific reason for his dislike.

Cecelia studied him curiously and recalled their chat about it immediately after she’d called the branch. Hud had only begun drilling the new hinge holes for the door then. “You don’t even like the ads?” she’d asked him. “Who ya gonna—”

“Keep singing and the next hole I drill is through my head.”

Rolling her eyes, she’d said, “Well, the news has shown them helping tons of people. Just because they fired you doesn’t mean the rest of us shouldn’t be grateful for them, especially now that ghosts have spread into more neighbourhoods.”

Hud had merely grunted. In retrospect, it might have been her mix of prying, assumptions and singing that caused him to assign her door-holding duty.

She flexed her fingers as the recollection ended. “You think Ectomobiles are ambulance or hearse conversions?” Cecelia asked Hud as the company’s trademark white 1959 Cadillac pulled into the driveway. If the guy was a former employee, he should know.

“Don’t care,” Hud grunted from the couch. Then, with less snark, he said, “But I can admit to digging the siren.” Petulantly, he added, “Whoever they sent couldn’t even get that right.”

“Are you going to be like this all night?”

Hud paused. “Probably.”

Radiant bursts from the rotating roof lights infiltrated the apartment, periodically bathing everything inside blue. At such close proximity, Cecelia needed to shield her eyes. “They’re not going to blast the neighbourhood with the siren when it’s not an emergency. The demon is already gone.”

Instead of listening to her, Hud’s fingers vigorously searched the area below the sofa’s armrest.

“It’s not a recliner,” she informed him.

He groaned and fell against the rear cushion, yelping as the CNW dug into his back. Complaining louder, he slid the weapon off its V-Hook and laid it beside him.

“My deepest apologies none of this matches your usual high standards,” Cecelia said.

The gruff engine waned, but the lights remained on, keeping the person who exited the vehicle silhouetted. Cecelia opened the door wider in preparation for the field operative, startled when the blue glow died, and her foyer fluorescents sharply defined him.

He cut a slim figure in his uniform: a flight suit the colour of Hud’s, complimented with an army-style pistol belt, black leather jump boots and grey elbow pads. The rest of him was bulked with gear, and she wondered how someone so thin managed to carry it all. Hooked to the man’s left shoulder was a two-way; over his right and hanging like a handbag was a medium-sized box with a cord connected to a long, burnt mahogany-coloured rod. A Proton Pack was strapped onto his back, a traditional Neutrona Wand fastened along the right side. Clipped to his belt at the hip was a black, oblong-shaped device with a handle and folded silver wings. Much of this paraphernalia she’d seen in ads, though she couldn’t recall what they all did.

“Cecelia Winterstone?” The man asked. Except for his clean-shaven, severe countenance, the paranormal investigator had the appearance of a local: tanned with sun-lightened hair.

“Yes,” she said, surprised at the break in her voice. It was suddenly hard to believe this man was at her property. It was like having a fully armed cop standing there on official business: a little intimidating.

“My name is Gene Riscraven,” he said, supporting the red and black surname patch stitched across the left breast of his coveralls, just below his two-way. “I’m with the Gold Coast Ghostbusters. You called in a supernatural disturbance?”

“Yes,” she said, clearing her throat and mining confidence. “Please, come in.”

He stepped inside and tried to close the door behind him. With the latch and doorjamb demolished, it wouldn’t comply.

“Your assailant did this?” Riscraven asked, helping her position a pair of kitchen bench stools against the door to prevent it from swinging open.

“Tangentially,” she replied and felt her face redden.

“Interesting,” Riscraven said and followed her to the base of the stairwell. He removed his Proton Pack and the grey box with the wooden-looking rod and leaned them against the newel post.

Cecelia swallowed against the persistent thickness in her throat. “Should I take you to the crime scene?”

“Shortly,” he replied. “Let’s review what happened first.” He indicated a chair at the dining room table. She moved to it while he pulled out the chair opposite her.

She sat and marvelled at his demeanour. The Ghostbuster made Hud, who was probably ten years older and more typical of the guys she knew, seem positively juvenile.

Riscraven paused before sitting, head turned in Hud’s direction as he noticed him for the first time. “You involved in this, sir?”

Still slumped on the couch and obscured by the lounge’s darkness, Hud sighed. “Intimately,” he said and sprang up. He prowled to the dining room table and drew the chair nearest Cecelia, sliding it closer to her. Sand cascaded off his tattered flight suit as he sat, littering the table.

“How you wanna spin this disc, Gene?” Hud asked Riscraven, sweeping the sand onto the carpet. Cecelia frowned but elected to withhold her rebuke. Hud had already spread enough sand around; what was a sprinkle more?

The paranormal investigator sniffed blatantly as he sat with them, probably expecting a smell to match the vagabond’s unkempt appearance. He reviewed Hud’s outfit, which was plainly recognisable in this well-lit area. “A CWU-27/P coverall,” he noted.

Hud grinned as if he weren’t under suspicion. “A fellow patron of Pacas op shop. Great selection there, huh?”

“Interesting,” Riscraven said, retrieving a small digital recorder from one of his many pockets. Turning it on and situating it on the table between them, he stated the date and time and gave a brief scene summary. Then, “I’m sitting here with resident Cecelia Winterstone, aged…?” He lifted his eyebrows to her.

“Oh,” she cleared her throat and leaned closer to the recorder. “Twenty-six.”

“Race?”

“Indigenous Australian.”

Riscraven shifted his eyes to Hud. “Also present is…?”

“Yes, present.”

“Your name,” the Ghostbuster stated patiently.

“Hud.”

“Full name, please.”

“Hud,” he repeated. “Singular, like Banksy, Prince or Coolio.” He crossed himself in respect to the deceased.

“Interesting,” Riscraven said.

“Interested in a lot, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Riscraven remarked. “What’s your relationship to Miss Winterstone?”

“Saviour.”

“No,” Cecelia said. “That’s not his… we don’t have a….” She frowned at Hud and tsk’d. “I mean, technically, he arrived at a time when I was—”

“She’s worried about the optics,” Hud mentioned to Riscraven as if confidentially. “If you want to document my race as Afro-Cuban, we can avoid the whole white saviour issue.”

“You’re Afro-Cuban?” Riscraven asked, taking him seriously.

Hud laughed.

“He didn’t save me,” Cecelia said, frustration mounting. “Hud interrupted the attack.”

“Semantics,” Hud said.

Saved implies the danger is over,” she told Hud. Back to the recorder, she stated, “I won’t be safe until that thing is contained.”

“Thing being a demon,” Hud said.

“We won’t know the class or species until I’ve conducted my investigation,” Riscraven said.

“Class seven demon,” Hud said.

Riscraven studied him closely. “Interesting.” He pulled out his phone. “I’m going to consult—”

“Thesaurus dot com?”

“Hud!” Cecelia snapped.

The snipe didn’t seem to discourage Riscraven. “The Tobin Spirit Guide app,” he stated. “Can you please describe what you saw, Miss Winterstone?”

“I could simply tell you which demon,” Hud said.

Riscraven’s gaze shifted to Hud. “We follow protocol for a reason, Mr Hud. And that means we don’t guess.”

“It’s Spitswapper.”

“How do you…?” The Ghostbuster frowned and his eyes narrowed. He swiftly composed himself and told Cecelia, “Don’t let him influence you, ma’am. Please, in your own words, what did you see?”

There was no risk Cecelia could be swayed by Hud; she couldn’t name a single demon. She scrunched her face and tried to visualise her assailant. “It was really foggy when it appeared.”

“It produced vapours?” Riscraven asked, using the app to input her response.

“No,” Cecelia said. “I’d been in the shower.”

“I see,” Riscraven stated. “And it’s guise?”

“Guise?”

The Ghostbuster looked up from his phone. “Most entities are ethereal. Transparent. However, when it serves them to be seen—if it serves them—they conjure a guise: visual and often accompanied with sonic cues. Some species do this by possessing a living host. Others self-manifest the guise.”

“Like a fake appearance?” Cecelia asked.

“More like an exaggeration. It’s akin to deimatic displays—commonly called ‘startle displays’ in the natural world. Like when a mantodea—commonly called a praying mantis—produces rasping sounds and reveals bright colours, simulating eyes and an open mouth. Or the Chlamydosaurus kingii—commonly known as the frill-neck lizard—which gapes its actual mouth, lifts its tail and expands its frill.”

Hud raised a finger to interrupt. “It might save time if you stick to the common names.”

“I wasn’t facing it,” Cecelia said, lowering her gaze. “It was hard to see properly. But in the mirror, before I was… pinned, I saw a purplish skull with red eyes. They crackled.”

“Sure did,” Hud agreed.

“Interesting you say pinned,” Riscraven observed, lifting his attention from the app. “Had it tried this before?”

“A couple of occasions in bed.” She described the incidents, anticipating a critique similar to Eric’s. She looked to Hud when she was done, who she was surprised to see had dropped the facetious act to listen carefully.

“Didn’t see it during the bed assaults,” Riscraven summarised. “What about its grip? Was it firm or soft? Did it feel like a single appendage or multiple? Was there any residue?”

“It felt like a pair of firm hands. No residue.” She furrowed her brow. “There is some kind of gunk in the bathroom, though.”

“But not on the bed?”

She shook her head.

“Anywhere else in the home?”

“No residue. But sometimes I hear noises. Different from the crackling.”

“The crackling you heard from its eyes?”

“Yes. The other noises could have been anything, though. Explainable, even.” Really? Or was that Eric talking?

“What sort of noises?” Riscraven asked.

Cecelia’s lips compressed into a line while she gathered her words. “In the walls—or on them. Scratching. More often tapping noises, like tiny feet running around. We thought it might have been rats or bugs.”

“We?” Riscraven queried. His confused gaze flicked between Cecelia and Hud.

“Not me,” Hud said. “I know bugs can’t pin you to the bed. Not unless there are a million of ’em.”

“My ex-boyfriend,” Cecelia clarified and sank a little in her chair.

“He witnessed these occurrences?” Riscraven asked.

Cecelia shook her head.

Riscraven kept typing into his phone. “Any other unexplainable phenomena?”

“Just tonight,” she answered, happy the Ghostbuster dropped her ex from the discussion. “On my mirror, a second before it attacked, the thing wrote: Tonight, you’re mine.”

“Interesting.”

Hud raised a finger to interrupt. “Could any of this be intriguing?”

“A statement of capture and/or ownership,” Riscraven noted, blocking Hud out. “This does help narrow down the class. It’s a shame you don’t have a better visual description.”

“I know exactly what it looks like,” Hud said. “I’ve seen it heaps of times.”

Only Riscraven’s slightly wilting shoulders clued them to his feelings about this. “Very well, Mr Hud,” he said, waiting for the man to proceed.

“It’s Spitswapper.”

The corners of the Ghostbuster’s mouth twitched. “No conclusions yet.”

“You don’t even want to look it up?”

“We don’t start with conclusions,” Riscraven stated, “because it can taint our memories of what we actually saw. Suddenly, we’re changing things to fit a hypothesis instead of reaching it scientifically.”

Hud sighed and threw his hands up. “It’s an ocean dweller. That’s not a hypothesis; I’ve seen it there.”

“I presume you reside at the beach?” Riscraven sniffed him again.

“For now.”

“At Surfers Paradise? I saw a yellow Free-2-Rent electric scooter out front.”

“Off Old Burleigh Road,” Hud said.

“Address?”

“Just gave it.”

Without a shred of empathy, Riscraven stated, “To be clear: you’re homeless.”

Embarrassed though she was for Hud at this question, Cecelia leaned in, curious to hear him confirm the conclusion she’d already made.

“It’s not illegal to be homeless,” Hud stated. “Provided you don’t breach the Summary Offences Act of two-thousand and five.”

Cecelia’s eyes widened. As if reading her mind, Hud said, “Pays to research while you’re able. Also, if you’re going homeless, don’t waste money on booze and smokes. Buy a toothbrush, soap, hair and fingernail clippers. Maintain some dignity.”

“Thanks for the tip,” Cecelia said, as if ‘going homeless’ was a lifestyle choice she’d ever consider.

As though deaf to Hud and Cecelia’s exchange, Riscraven placed his palms facing outwards. “Mr Hud, I’m not a lawmaker or a police officer. I’m simply gathering facts.”

“Because you think if I’m homeless, my testimony won’t be credible or reliable.”

“For the moment, my opinions don’t matter. Now, please describe whatever you can about the entity. Stick only to what you saw.” Riscraven’s thumb was poised above his phone’s screen, ready to enter whatever Hud told him.

The scruffy yet clean vagabond contemplated continuing. A look from Cecelia motivated him to plough forth. “When it materialises, its guise is bald, with no ears or nose. Red eyes that occasionally electrify, like she said,” Hud motioned to Cecelia. “Its head, when you see it, exists purely from crown to upper jaw, which ends jagged like a row of sharp teeth. No lower jaw. It has a long tongue that whips out from the neck when it’s ready to attach itself to a host.”

“Attach to a host?” Riscraven queried, pausing from looking at his phone to study Hud.

“Best way to describe it,” Hud stated.

“We’ll return to that soon,” Riscraven said, back on the app. “Can you complete the physical description—the body shape and colour?”

“Body is uniformly narrow at the top and flares at the base, like a thin person wearing a wire-frame dress from centuries ago.”

“It’s clothed?”

“No, that’s its shape. Doesn’t have legs, just a cone-shaped bottom. It floats, so it probably doesn’t need legs.” He took a deep breath. “Arms are sinewy but strong. It has two hands, each with three fingers and a thumb, all ending in yellow claws. Overall colour is a purplish-pink and it’s covered in protruding veins.”

“Veins?” Cecelia asked, a sour taste flooding her mouth. Imagining this thing in her house and touching her brought an urge to vomit.

“It doesn’t look smooth,” Hud continued. “Just a series of pulsing cords.”

“What else?” Riscraven asked.

“That’s not enough?” Hud asked with a flare of impatience. “Fine, it looks like a giant dick in a dress!”

Riscraven looked up momentarily and then began swiping his finger on his phone.

“You should get yourself checked,” Cecelia told Hud and gave a minor tip of the head to his crotch.

“I didn’t say my dick,” he replied.

“Let’s move along,” Riscraven suggested. “Anything you can add regarding its behaviour?”

Hud sighed. “It’s fast. If I had to guess, maybe, fifty or sixty K’s. It slows during attack, though. Leaves goo behind.”

“That’s the residue I mentioned in my bathroom,” Cecelia told Riscraven.

“I’ll take a sample during my field review,” the Ghostbuster assured her. “It’s likely ectoplasmic. However, it’s worth testing in case it’s psychomagnotheric.”

“Common terms, professor,” Hud reminded him.

“Ghost or else mood slime,” Riscraven said, voice tinged with irritation.

Hud reacted like a naughty child, pleased to have evoked an emotive reaction from the teacher. “The slime is pink,” he told Riscraven, “which often presents as psychomagnotheric. However, since I’ve never seen anything coated by the goo reacting to emotional states, my guess is ectoplasmic.”

A new emotion danced on Riscraven’s face: astonishment. It faded quicker than a reality TV show celebrity. “Let’s move on to its behaviour. You said you’ve seen it attach to a host when it corporealises. Can you explicate?”

“I’d love to explicate,” Hud said. “Anything to drag this out.” He took a deep breath as if deep in serious thought. “The tongue,” he stuck his own out and grabbed it between his fingers, “hickths ou’ an’ lathooths—”

“Speak clearer, please?” Riscraven asked.

Hud leaned closer to the digital recorder, tongue still gripped, “Lathoethsss—”

Clearing his throat, Riscraven said, “Mr Hud, another way this will go faster is sans the theatrics.”

Hud released his tongue and straightened his posture. Motioning to Cecelia, he said, “Bet she understood.”

Goaded into the bet, Riscraven looked to Cecelia. She acquiesced, but only to keep the peace. “The tongue flicks out, and lassoes… was as far as he got.”

Giving her a wink, Hud turned to Riscraven and leaned back in his chair, hands laced behind his head. “I’ll use small words for you. Once the tongue has wrapped around a victim, it pins them and…” Something passed over Hud’s face, and he dropped his hands to the table. The subsequent detail seemed to remind him of the seriousness of this case, and the sarcastic facet of his personality evaporated. “The demon… fills them with some kind of poison. I think.”

“Why do you think that?” Riscraven asked.

Jaw clenched, Hud said, “Because I’ve seen a victim and she appeared bloated, almost like a drowned body.”

“Interesting,” the Ghostbuster said, either oblivious or indifferent to Hud’s emotional state. “Is there anything else you can share?”

Hud shook his head, “Nope.”

Turning off the little recorder and pocketing it, Riscraven sat in contemplation.

“Anything you might want to share?” Hud asked. “We didn’t just invite you here to listen.”

Instead of responding, Riscraven returned to his phone. “Hmmm,” he said, eyes darting back and forth as he read.

“Useful, isn’t he?” Hud asked Cecelia, mordancy wholly resumed.

Riscraven spun the face of his phone their way to reveal what he’d been studying. “Is this what you saw?”

Hud’s mouth twisted in recognition. “You know it is.”

Presented with high-definition images of the monster (detailed close-ups of the long tongue being particularly grotesque), Cecelia shuddered for the millionth time that evening.

“I need to examine the bathroom to be certain,” Riscraven said, “but I’m almost convinced your accoster is a class seven, semi-corporeal, free-roaming Metaspectre.”

“Phew.” Hud feigned wiping sweat from his brow. To Cecelia, he said, “Feels better to know, right?” Then, to Riscraven, “So we’re clear, what’s this Metaspectre called?”

Riscraven’s lips thinned. “Reponere Furantur.”

“More commonly called…” Hud’s eyes flicked to Cecelia as he awaited the Ghostbuster’s reply.

“Spitswapper,” Riscraven conceded.

Hud winked at her, but his charm fell to the wayside as the demon’s moniker crystallised in her mind. Somehow, Riscraven’s acknowledgement of the name connected it to the monster in a disturbingly real way. “I’m definitely going to puke,” Cecelia said, her stomach turning.

“Let it out,” Hud told her, casually keeping the stray hairs from her bun off her face as if her throwing up all over the table was perfectly acceptable.

“I wouldn’t do it here!” she said, anger diverting her nausea.

“You do you,” Hud said as if she needed his permission.

“If it is Spitswapper,” Riscraven said, “it’s extremely dangerous. We’ve been chasing it for decades. The total of its victims is relatively small given how long it’s been active, but when it strikes, it’s lethal.” He stood from the table. “Please excuse me while I secure another piece of equipment from the Ectomobile.”

“Can’t fault his manners,” Hud said as the Ghostbuster departed the home. “You think this guy knows what he’s doing?” he asked Cecelia. “I told him I knew what we were hunting and because of this,” he indicated his shabby appearance, “he ignored me. Then he spends most of the time on his phone. Anybody can Google.” His wavy black hair swayed across his face as he shook his head. “It’s all the franchising they did; diluted the service.”

“Rant out of your system?” Cecelia asked.

Hud chuckled. “My rant don’t expire, Cece; I’ve got the lifespan of a Proton Pack.”

Clattering at the home’s tiny foyer as Riscraven re-entered interrupted their conversation. “Franchising was unavoidable,” he said as he resealed the door and strode back to the dining table.

Since Hud maintained his confident poise despite being overheard, Cecelia shrank a little on his behalf.

“Closing the gateway opened at Central Park West in ’eighty-four,” Riscraven explained, “didn’t prevent supernatural seepage and a substantial increase in paranormal activity worldwide. It wouldn’t be feasible for the founders to globe-trot from North Moore Street to catch them all.”

“Of course not,” Cecelia agreed.

“As for a layperson Googling or even using the TSG app,” Riscraven proceeded, “that’s akin to a sick person researching their malady on Web MD: a recipe for misdiagnoses. Understand that there are hundreds of supernatural species within the seven paranormal classes. They can appear similar but be vastly different in temperament. Some of your descriptions—if not interpreted correctly—could have us thinking we’re dealing with,” he waved his hands as if pulling an example from thin air, “a succubus. Hence, we follow protocol.”

“Does a textbook accurate label mean you’ll bust it any differently?” Hud asked with a condescending glare.

Riscraven scrunched his face as if the question was absurd. “It adjusts how we approach it.”

Which makes sense,” Cecelia emphasised to Hud so he’d forfeit. His perpetual belligerence was not the asset he presumed it was.

Shutting his lids and raising his eyebrows as if to say, whatever, signalled Hud’s surrender. This was good enough for Cecelia, who hopped up to stand with Riscraven.

The Ghostbuster had slung the grey box with the wooden-coloured rod over his shoulder again. He also ported new arsenal. On his head were a pair of green goggles with protruding black and silver lenses, which could be flopped down onto his face when required. In his hand was a transparent cylindrical device about three feet long and with the circumference of a pizza. A strip was cut out an inch from the top of one side to create a handle. At the bottom, the cylinder was joined onto a two-inch thick transparent disc, wider in diameter than the cylinder. Atop this disc flashed various coloured lights; its base sported small multidirectional wheels.

“Confirmation we’re dealing with Spitswapper will bring good news,” Riscraven said. “By all accounts, the demon can only conduct a physical assault once per twenty-four-hour cycle. Then it needs a recharge.”

“Recharge?” Cecelia asked.

“It’s to do with how it burns and replenishes its energy. Flying saps a portion of its stamina. The intense burst of an attack drains the rest.”

“Doesn’t burn much dancing on my walls,” Cecelia noted. “It can do that for hours.”

“It remained incorporeal when this occurred, yes?”

She nodded.

“This requires much less energy and can be prolonged. In fact, because of the energy it drains when striking, Spitswapper can spend months taunting intended victims in advance. Prey incapacitated by fear is easier to snare.”

“Prey,” Hud remarked, joining them at the stairs after a quick visit to the couch. “And this was the good news,” he said to Cecelia.

“Please show me the crime scene,” Riscraven asked Cecelia. The pair climbed the stairs; Hud followed at their rear.

At the entrance to the ensuite, Riscraven set the cylindrical transparent unit on the carpet and fitted the Ecto-Goggles over his face. He turned on the grey box attached to the strap over his shoulder and unhooked the long wood-coloured rod, holding it out like a magic wand. It made little puffing sounds. Next, he unclipped the curved rectangle with the silver wings from his belt; gripping it by the handle, he turned it on. This device emitted beeps. Using all his gear simultaneously, he paced Cecelia’s bedroom.

“I heard a person can’t do multiple things at once with a hundred per cent effectiveness,” Hud said from the bedroom doorway.

“The readings will alert me to anything worth paying attention to.”

“Really?” Hud said. “When your Sniffer is missing its hand pump?”

Cecelia gently elbowed him.

The Ghostbuster chuckled briefly as he examined the dresser. “We haven’t needed those for years. It works automatically now.”

“What is that thing, anyway?” Cecelia asked.

“It’s just one of their little toys,” Hud answered.

“Cute,” Riscraven said. “But Ghostbusters don’t ever refer to our equipment so flippantly. This is a Bacharach Ghost Sniffer. Five-hundred model.”

“Mustn’t think laypersons can read, either,” Hud mumbled, pointing at the clearly visible label on the side.

“What does it do?” Cecelia asked Riscraven.

“Filters spectral articles in the air. The main unit draws them through the tube for analysis. Right now, the Sniffer is providing me with a detailed breakdown of any supernatural activity exhibited here; as opposed to the PKE,” he said, lifting the other gadget, “which purely measures psychokinetic energy.”

“I’ve seen you guys using that smaller one in your ads,” Cecelia said. “Shouldn’t the wings rise?”

“They will if the meter detects anything.”

“Ghost vibes,” Hud said and winked again.

“I got it,” she said and returned the wink with exaggerated posturing.

After circling the room and checking the walls, roof and various bits of furniture, Riscraven neared the bathroom. The PKE’s wings rose, and the lights running across them pulsed faster.

“This is where it happened,” Cecelia said. “You can see the goo.”

“The tapping in the walls,” Riscraven said before entering her bathroom, “happens in the bedroom and ensuite. What about the other rooms in the home?”

“I hear it in the downstairs toilet, too.”

“What about the kitchen?”

“No,” she answered.

“I didn’t see the second toilet when I came in. Where is it located?”

“Behind the kitchen,” she said. With her hands, she plotted a visual schematic for him. “It goes: the entrance where you came in, kitchen to the right—you would have seen that.”

Riscraven nodded.

“And then behind where the kitchen sink is, there’s a small laundry, and off that is the toilet.”

“That’s very helpful,” Riscraven advised her. “If you and Hud can wait out here, I’ll take more readings and sample the slime.”

“Careful of the glass,” she warned the Ghostbuster, though undoubtedly he saw it all over the floor.

“Won’t cut through these,” he said, stamping his boots for show. Then he reattached the PKE and rod to his belt, freeing his hands to activate the cylinder. It hummed like a low-voltage vacuum, and when he set it on its wheels and let it go, the thing acted like one, a forward-facing laser scanning and targeting globules of slime and sucking them up into the storage unit above. While it worked, Riscraven resumed scanning the bathroom using the Sniffer and PKE.

When the humming stopped, all the slime had been collected. “You got it all!” Cecelia exclaimed, relieved she’d not need to mop the goo up herself.

“Usually, we’d only use the Ecto-Vac to sample evidence,” the Ghostbuster said, flipping his goggles up again, “but I figured the lab would appreciate extra for testing purposes.”

“Would’ve got more points pretending you were being helpful,” Hud stated.

Riscraven cleared his throat. “More good news—”

“Good as last time?” Hud said, earning a harsher elbow from Cecelia that caused him to grunt.

“Indeed,” Riscraven said, oblivious to Hud’s sarcasm and noting Cecelia’s physical rebuke with mild confusion. “My Ecto-Goggles are an extension of the E-Vac and PKE meter. Converting the data into visual information, I was able to analyse the slime. It’s definitely ectoplasm. Then, I checked the density of negatively charged particles in your bathroom. The speed of molecular decay and the Sniffer’s readout authenticate our theory that your problem is, indeed, Spitswapper.”

Hud slapped his cheek and opened his mouth in mock amazement.

“If Spitswapper,” saying its name soured Cecelia’s mouth, “succeeded, how would it have…” she swallowed, curious to ask her question but terrified to know the answer. “Hud said,” she turned to him, “you said you saw a body, and it was bloated?”

“Maybe we should save this for daylight,” Hud suggested. “No point scaring yourself now when it’s not coming back tonight.”

“Spitswapper has declared ownership,” Riscraven stated. “While not tonight, it will be back. It doesn’t stop until it’s completed its goal.”

“Nice bedside manner,” Hud said.

“Tell me,” Cecelia demanded. “What does it do?”

Hud took a step back to let Riscraven explain. Worry painted his face. “I warned you,” he said, crossing his arms and leaning against the bedroom wall opposite the bathroom.

Cecelia expected a long-winded and detailed answer, so she was taken aback by Riscraven’s bluntness. “It swaps spit with you.”

Shaking her head less in incredulity and more from a refusal to believe, Cecelia opened her mouth, closed it, and then said, “Come again?”

“Its common name should make it obvious,” the Ghostbuster said. “Its tongue is a proboscis that drains saliva from your body while simultaneously pumping its own into you. Hence, spit swapping. That’s why you only find its ectoplasm,” he lightly kicked the goo-filled cylinder, “when it’s actually attacking. It’s essentially drool.”

Like a zombie, Cecelia stumbled to the staircase.

“You good?” Hud asked and took a step towards her.

A perplexed-sounding Riscraven called after her. “Miss Winterstone?”

From an amble to a gallop, Cecelia tore down the stairs, flew through her kitchen and laundry and emptied her stomach into the second toilet.

When she returned to the top floor, portions of Cecelia’s face, hair and t-shirt dripped from where she’d clumsily drunk and splashed water onto herself post-vomit.

“I had the same reaction when I found out,” Hud told her while Riscraven continued to study her curiously. Hud next turned to the Ghostbuster. “Something I never learned is why it lives at the ocean?”

That the discourteous vagabond was finally consulting him seriously elevated Riscraven’s pride. “Excellent question. Salt molecules are made of sodium ions and chloride ions. Hence, salt water is a good conductor of electricity.”

Collecting herself, Cecelia frowned at them. “Mind involving me in what you’re talking about?”

“Spits recharges there,” Hud told her, then consulted the Ghostbuster again. It was strange for Cecelia to see him suddenly taking this professional seriously. “You said correctly identifying ghosts adjusts how we catch them. Well, now you’re satisfied with what we’re after, what’s the plan?”

Riscraven stared blankly. “Another sensible question, thank you, Mr. Hud. According to the Ghostbusters Field Manual,” he retrieved his phone and opened another app. He started reading it. With his finger, he swiped the screen and kept reading. This went on for minutes. Hud and Cecelia shared an unimpressed side glance.

“Indeed,” Riscraven stated when he was done. “It’s a team job. Spitswapper’s preternatural reflexes have proven too quick for a single exterminator in past encounters. However, through flanking and an effective series of feints and parries, our scientists theorise the demon can be boxed and trapped.”

“Easy,” Hud said, dusting his hands and smiling at Cecelia.

“Not easy,” the literal-minded Ghostbuster interjected. “But, given the trouble this thing has caused Ghostbusters over the decades, I should have no shortage of volunteers desirous to return with me tomorrow to end its terrible reign.”

“I’m desirous to see that, too,” Hud told Cecelia, which she knew meant he planned to catch it before the Ghostbusters did.

“One thing that I haven’t been able to determine,” Riscraven said, interrupting her thought, “is why it broke your mirror. You didn’t mention that in your report.” It was not a rebuke as much an observation. “Property destruction isn’t really this entity’s MO.”

Cecelia flushed. “Oh,” she said, suddenly worried about getting Hud into trouble. “Maybe it wanted to up the scare factor?”

“Possibly,” Riscraven stated. “Have there been any other violent interactions?”

She shook her head.

“Things moving on their own? You may be infested by a secondary spirit—poltergeists being a common example.”

“Guess that makes me a noisy ghost,” Hud said, raising his hand in confession. With a look, he reassured Cecelia he knew what he was doing.

“You did this?” Riscraven asked him.

“Yep.”

“You thought the writing meant the demon was in the mirror,” Riscraven concluded. “And tried to punch it.”

After snickering at the Ghostbuster, Hud said, “I saw it in the doorway. And as for punching it…” he shook his head. “Gene,” he tsk’d him. “You, of all people, should recognise the work of a proton stream.”

Like a reproachful parent, Riscraven’s chin sank to his chest, his eyes peering up at Hud. “What do you mean a proton stream? There’s no way you have a Proton Pack.”

“No, no, no,” Hud said, waving the idea away.

“No,” the Ghostbuster reiterated, emitting a relieved chortle. “Of course not.”

“It’s a CNW.”

Riscraven seemed to require a moment before this registered in his brain. “A what?” He examined Hud up and down, searching for evidence. “How do you have a… you fired a Particle Thrower at this young lady?”

“It’s called a Neutrona Wand,” Hud schooled. “Compressed model.”

“I know what it’s called! I was using layman’s terms!”

“Ghost-catching gun would have been more layman.”

“Where is it?” Riscraven took a giant step forward.

“What’s the big deal? It’s not like you have to be licensed to use your gear.”

“Of course you do! These days, anyway,” he added thoughtfully. “If nothing else, you have to be trained to use it.”

“Really?” Hud said through a half-smile. “I’ve seen footage of your co-founders back in the late twentieth. They used to tear. Shit. Up.

Outraged like mooned royalty, Riscraven scoffed. “Nonsense. They were completely professional.”

“If that’s what you call professional…”

“The co-founders’ conduct is beside the point,” Riscraven snapped. “What were you planning to do if you hit your target? The positively-charged subatomic anti-particles fired from your wand only temporarily incapacitate ghosts, spectres, revenants, shades, wraiths, apparitions, spooks, demons,” he emphasised the latter as if to say, like in this case. “Need I go on?”

“Please do, it’s a fascinating list.”

“My point,” Riscraven said, “is that without a Muon Trap, all you would have done is chuff the thing off. Soon as you released your wand, it’d be loose again and sore as hell.”

“Is this a penis metaphor?” Hud asked, then mouthed sorry in response to Cecelia’s stern look. “Anyway, where’s your ghost trap?” he asked Riscraven.

“In the Ectomobile!”

Hud looked at him patronisingly. “What good is it in there?”

“I don’t need it here; we’ve established the culprit is Spitswapper and won’t be back tonight!”

“You were only confident about that after your examination. Meanwhile, you brought in your Proton Pack—which you left downstairs, by the way. What would you have done if Cece’s attacker hadn’t been Spits and had hung around up here? Punched it?”

Riscraven sputtered for a reply. When he managed to speak, his arms flailed wildly. “My pack is still in the property and the ghost trap in the driveway!”

“Muon Trap.”

You said ghost trap,” Riscraven’s arms flailed wider. “It is a ghost trap; commonly called a Muon… not commonly…” He exhaled and slammed his balled fists into his thighs. “It’s the same thing!” Sweat beaded on his temple and dripped beneath the Ecto-Goggles. “But you had no trap nearby. A-a-and!” He wagged his finger at Hud. “Even if you had a trap, how long did you plan to keep it in there? They have a limited battery life, and if the positively charged laser protection grid within it goes off…” he laughed hysterically.

“Is that a question?”

“Not for a cretin like you!”

“Name calling is beneath us, Gene.”

“Where did you plan to transfer the entity?” Riscraven barked, crossing his arms and glaring intensely. “You got an ECU on the beach?”

Hud frowned. “Emergency Control—”

“De Ecto Containment Unit!”

“Shouldn’t that be DECU?”

Well, Hud’s broken him, Cecelia thought as the Ghostbuster stormed up to Hud and tried to spin him around.

“A lesser man might call this assault,” Hud said as the Ghostbuster he greatly outweighed feebly swayed him. The attempt was, however, enough for Riscraven to glimpse the CNW hanging from the V-Hook affixed to Hud’s back.

“Gozer’s Minions!” Riscraven cried, staggering from the sight. “It’s true. You’re not permitted to have that!”

“It was a gift,” Hud stated, amused at the mess he’d made of the previously stoic field agent.

“Impossible. Official Ghostbusters tech is proprietary and not for sale, which means,” a lightbulb seemingly lit in his head, and he unfastened the two-way from his shoulder. “You’re under arrest for theft.”

“Hold your gavel there Judgey McJudgerson. You can report this, but you’re the one who’ll be busted.”

“Ha!” Riscraven cackled with increased hysteria.

“Laugh all you want, but I have ownership papers for this thing under Hudgins.”

Riscraven’s attention was torn from the two-way. “Hudgins?”

“Happy now?”

Evidently, this did make Riscraven happy. A measure of the stoicism Cecelia feared had been obliterated returned. “Authenticating your claim is a simple task.”

“Go for it,” Hud said, not a twitch or flinch suggesting a lie. Of course, he could also be a superb bluffer.

Riscraven fixed the two-way back upon his shoulder, curiosity allowing him to regain the rest of his calm. Wiping the sweat from his eyes, he asked, “So you were a Ghostbuster?” He inspected Hud’s coveralls again and, before waiting for an answer, asked, “Why are you wearing a female-cut uniform?” Again impatient for an answer: “Which branch? Not ours here; I know every Gold Coast employee.”

“Sydney,” Hud said. “Three years ago.”

“That’s national HQ,” Riscraven said and sniffed haughtily. “You must have been fired. There haven’t been redundancies in the industry since the nineteen-nineties.”

Hud’s eyes narrowed.

Treating the shaggy-haired man’s silence as confirmation, Riscraven continued. “They ripped your insignia off,” he pointed to the holes in fabric at Hud’s right arm and left pec, “so you couldn’t misrepresent us.” Nodding as if he had it all figured out, he concluded, “Disgraced, you weren’t able to find work and conceded to a life of vagrancy.”

“Field workers don’t need PhDs in psychology anymore,” Hud said, “but you…” he offered a slow clap. “You’re a legit mentalist.”

Misreading the compliment as genuine, Riscraven said, “Well, parapsychology is required; I attained my doctorate earlier this year. Psychology is optional.” He paused as if building suspense and then pumped his eyebrows with pride. “I opted.”

Dr Gene,” Hud said and clapped again.

“It’s Dr Riscraven, but I don’t like to insist on the title. Some might argue, ‘Why not? You spent years earning it?’ What they don’t realise is it doesn’t serve a field agent to sound arrogant. So, unless my credentials are questioned, I let my work speak for itself.”

Hud’s eyes turned slowly to Cecelia and then slid back to Riscraven. “No, we wouldn’t want you sounding arrogant.”

An awkward silence followed that Cecelia was keen to end. When it did, she regretted having wished for it.

Behind them came the sound of tiny feet, pattering along the walls and growing steadily louder.


To be continued in PART 3: DEMON IN PARADISE
Last edited by Xajacity on June 23rd, 2024, 6:05 am, edited 2 times in total.
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By Xajacity
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PART 3: DEMON IN PARADISE

Everyone’s face dropped.

“Pest control ever get around to checking your place out?” Hud asked.

Cecelia shook her head, eyes wide.

“No need for concern,” Riscraven said, scanning the walls. “These Nomex uniforms offer a high degree of protection against ectoplasmic substances.”

Cecelia considered her flimsy outfit and Hud glanced at his own tattered coveralls.

“I guess you’re okay then,” Hud told the Ghostbuster.

“Maybe we should head to my lounge,” Cecelia suggested. “It never goes there. I think it’s afraid of my indigenous artefacts.”

“Thinking demons care about religious or totemic cultural paraphernalia is a human conceit,” Riscraven dismissed, pursuing the sounds in the room with his PKE meter. “A misconception propagated by pop culture. A ghost might care if it was religious in life.”

It was hard to define why Cecelia was bothered by this. Perhaps she’d found comfort in believing the pieces from her culture held power, that they were more than beautiful relics.

“Learn that from an app?” Hud asked the Ghostbuster.

“From study,” Riscraven said. The silver wings of the PKE meter flew to their limit, and the device beeped wildly. Gaping at the results, he uttered, “Reponere Furantur.”

“But you said it had to recharge before it struck again,” Cecelia said, heart racing. She retreated from the walls and edged up against Hud. Somehow, having him there was reassuring.

“Exactly,” Riscraven said. “Hence why this is so—”

“Interesting?” Hud proposed.

“Indeed,” Riscraven said, sliding the active meter into its holster. “I’m going to get my pack and a trap from the car.” He headed for the stairs.

“What do we do if it returns while you’re gone?” Cecelia asked.

“It can’t have replenished entirely,” Riscraven said as he descended the staircase. “Not in the brief window it’s been away.”

“All good,” Hud said and pulled his CNW. “I’ve got just the condom to bag this ugly dick.” He flicked a silver switch near the handle. The bass and whine of the unit powering up filled the room.

“Wait!” Riscraven exclaimed. He was halfway down the stairs and started heading back their way. “Not a chance; you aren’t licensed to use that and will cause more damage than you already have. Switch it o—”

The tapping on the bedroom walls rushed to the stairwell like a speeding drum roll. A loud timpani pounded directly behind the stunned Ghostbuster.

“Get your gear!” Cecelia shouted at him.

“Okay, but—” He never finished. A purple and pink blur materialised from the wall at his rear, the demon corporealising, arms out, claws landing heavily upon Riscraven’s shoulders. Clutching the Ghostbuster tightly, it raced him up the remaining stairs. Riscraven’s legs were bent behind him, and his feet dragged into each step as he was propelled towards Hud and Cecelia.

The violence of the attack caused a horrified mask to stretch across Riscraven’s face. Instinctively, Hud put an arm around Cecelia (whether to support or for support, she didn’t know), and they braced for impact.

A hair’s breadth from them, Riscraven halted as if he’d hit an invisible wall. Above him, the demon’s face leered, eyes crackling with red electricity. The thing spanned nearly six-and-a-half feet from the top of its head to the bottom of its flared lower torso. Absent a lower jaw, the impression was of a hungry predator with a gaping maw.

“Do… something…” the Ghostbuster begged.

“Get back,” Hud told Cecelia, moving her away and taking aim. Before he could fire, the demon’s tongue whipped from its sticky, purplish throat and curled around the Ghostbuster’s face. Hud tried to get a clear shot without hitting the man, but Spitswapper kept shifting position, making this impossible.

“It’s… starting to—” A gargling noise usurped Riscraven’s speech. Slime seeped at the corners of his eyes, trickling down his cheeks like tears. The demon’s tongue widened. Soon, hardly any part of the Ghostbuster’s face was visible.

“Shoot!” Cecelia pleaded.

“I’ll hit Gene!” Hud said, thwarted wherever he aimed as if the demon could anticipate every new area targeted.

“Let him go!” Cecelia shouted and lunged forward, grabbing Riscraven by the waist and trying to pry him free. Meanwhile, Riscraven’s eyes, practically all that remained visible of him beneath the thick, slimy tongue, rolled back and presented purely white. There was a sick gurgling noise, and the Ghostbuster began to throb and contort like a blow-up doll being inflated and deflated in alternating breaths.

“Try to keep him in place and keep your head low!” Hud shouted to her, trying to flank Spitswapper before it could pivot and re-shield itself with Riscraven.

“It’s too fast!” Cecelia shouted.

“Go left!” Hud shouted, to which Cecelia, confused and panicked, yanked Riscraven right.

“Perfect!” Hud said, predicting her mistake and darting the other way to secure a target zone. He pressed a button on the wand and unleashed an orange and blue stream of particles at the demon’s side. Roaring with rage, Spitswapper unfurled its vile tongue and dropped Riscraven at Cecelia’s feet.

Stepping over the Ghostbuster like a man possessed, Hud advanced, proton stream tearing long and sparking strips from the walls and ceiling as he chased Spitswapper out the room and into the hallway. Even over the loud CNW, Cecelia heard Hud shouting, “Damn you to hell!” until the veiny creature had struck and vanished through the wall. Hud was a few steps down the stairs after it before Cecelia’s voice stopped him.

“Call an ambulance!”

“But the demon—”

“Gene’s still alive, but not for long!” she shrieked, holding the Ghostbuster on his side in the recovery position, a technique learned in first aid training. A trickle of slime dribbled from Riscraven’s mouth, but a finger probe suggested no blockage. She turned him onto his back, rechecked his mouth and peered as far down his throat as possible. Nothing was visible. If nothing obstructed his airways, why wasn’t he breathing? How long could a heart keep pumping without oxygen? She tilted his head and breathed into his mouth twice, suddenly fearing that if there was something in his throat, this might be worsening the blockage.

Practice drills during first aid training had made her feel competent. Under the stress of a real situation, she didn’t know what else to do.

“I don’t have a phone!” she heard Hud shout from the staircase. “Use the two-way on his shoulder!”

“It’s shorted out because of the slime!” she said.

“How about your phone?” Hud said, still from the stairs.

Cecelia’s adrenalin skyrocketed; she couldn’t remember where it was. Too much required her attention. Focussing purely on Riscraven, she watched for any rise or fall of his chest.

Nothing.

An idea struck her. She located the Ghostbuster’s car keys and threw them in Hud’s direction. “See if there’s another two-way in his Ecto,” she said, rechecking Riscraven’s neck for a pulse. Miraculously, despite him not breathing, his heart remained strong.

She heard Hud race down the stairs, knock the chairs holding the front door closed out the way, and exit.

Monitoring the prone Ghostbuster felt like eternity. Worse was contemplating the demon’s return. Having reappeared tonight when it was supposedly unable to opened the possibility of a third attack. What would she do then?

“…way too long,” Cecelia heard Hud say as he re-entered her apartment. “And there’s nothing else you can do until then?” He grunted as he bound up the stairs, scraping against the wall as he came.

Cecelia leaned over Riscraven to check his vitals. Regularly, she’d turn him to his side and try to scoop out whatever was lodged in his throat—presumably more slime—but hardly a trickle ever came out.

“Tell them I can’t get the slime out and it’s clogging his airways!” she told Hud as he entered her bedroom. “I don’t think I should give more breaths.”

Hud waved her away as if she was making it hard for him to hear the person on the walkie-talkie. He dropped a ghost trap by the bathroom door and Gene’s Proton Pack by the opposite wall. “Just hurry,” he said into the two-way, turning a nob that cut the communication with a brief crackle.

“Why didn’t you tell them?” she demanded.

Hud leaned over Riscraven and searched his pockets until he located the man’s cell phone. He held it up to Cecelia and placed it on the carpet beside her.

“Shit,” she said and flushed red. Considering how often the Ghostbuster had used it, she felt stupid for forgetting and guilty for the implications to Riscraven’s life.

“Slipped my mind, too,” Hud said and inspected Riscraven closely. Then he sat back on his haunches and muttered, “Huh,” with a measure of awe.

“He’s going to die!”

“They said as long as one of us keeps contact with him,” Hud scrutinised Cecelia’s positioning to ensure this was happening, “he’ll live.”

“Contact how? What do we need to do?”

“Just touch him. Even a toe is enough.”

“That makes no sense!” Despite feeling her fingers on Riscraven’s pulse, she felt the need to ensure they were definitely on him.

“Does anything about this make sense?” Hud asked.

“Are they sending someone to help?” she queried. “We can’t sit like this all night. What if that thing returns?”

Hud nodded and filled her in. “Another Ghostbusters unit is on its way, but being that the closest branch to us is in Brisbane and currently working another job, it probably won’t reach us for hours.”

“Hours!”

“Let’s keep this on,” Hud asked, examining the PKE meter in Riscraven’s belt. It hummed and buzzed steadily but was otherwise still. “It’ll warn us if that thing comes back without signalling its arrival on the walls first.” He sat against the wall opposite her, a few feet away. “We’ll take shifts maintaining contact with him. Use your foot; you’ll need your hands free if dick appears.”

“If his dick appears?” she shouted.

“Not his,” Hud told her, indicating Riscraven. “I meant Spitswapper.”

“Just call it that or the demon!” she admonished, jumpy and dubious of the cavalier way they were to care for the unconscious Ghostbuster. “I need to know if his pulse drops; otherwise, I won’t know to start CPR.”

“Long as one of us is touching him,” Hud said, “he’ll stay comatose until the med unit arrives. Lady I spoke with assured me. This is a supernatural issue; don’t expect logic.”

Cecelia scanned Riscraven’s body regardless, a habit from first aid training. Constantly leaning over him was stiffening her shoulder. Reluctant as she was to concede, she carefully shifted her weight and dug a foot beneath Riscraven’s torso. This allowed her to stretch and lean against the wall facing Hud. Most of her hair had slipped from the bun, so she finally shook it all free. The wavy black strands cascaded past her shoulders, catching Hud’s attention. He pretended not to notice.

“If we hadn’t detached him from that thing as quickly as we did,” Hud stated and finished the statement with a finger across his neck.

While Cecelia processed this, Hud crawled over and brought the Proton Pack and trap closer to them. Visibly debating whether to give her the CNW or the pack, he ultimately gave her the smaller unit. “Be careful with this. It was a gift.”

The scaled-down Particle Thrower was light and scarcely the length of her forearm. Thin in depth, its shape was triangular, somewhat evocative of a paper airplane. The buttons on the handle were labelled but too ambiguous for the weapon to be turned on or fired intuitively. Cecelia opened her mouth to query them when a noise interrupted her.

“My bad,” Hud said and patted his stomach.

Cecelia eased back down. As her panic receded, she remembered the reward she’d offered Hud for fixing her door. “There’s pizza in the fridge,” she said. “Half a bottle of Pepsi, too. Have as much as you want.”

Hud thought about it. “I’m not thrilled at the idea of Spits returning for you while I’m down there.”

“You’re right,” she said, dragging Hud’s leg over to rest on Riscraven. “If it’s gonna come back for me, it’ll probably appear up here.” She got to her feet, stretched her back some more and turned to the doorway.

“Don’t,” he pleaded, obviously uncomfortable at her leaving without his protection. “I’ve gone longer without food.”

“Back in a sec.”

“Wait!”

She paused again.

“If you need to use the CNW,” Hud said, “flick the Activate switch on the left. Aim the nozzle at your target and push Intensify. Then hold on. It’s not as powerful as a full-sized Neutrona Wand but it still kicks when it fires.”

“And Gene made it sound so difficult,” she said, winking in a way that felt very Hud and hurrying to the kitchen. Choosing fruit, cold pizza and a soft drink, she wondered what had made her behave flirtatiously. This wasn’t the occasion for frivolities, nor was Hud her type. Perhaps if he was employed, had a haircut and took a shave…

She was in her room again within two minutes.

“No glasses?” Hud asked while she lowered herself, and the food, to the carpet. The apple and mandarin she’d been balancing on the pizza box rolled off and in his direction as though telekinetically summoned.

“It’s all yours,” Cecelia said, swapping Riscraven-contact duty with him.

It took Hud a moment to accept this, and then he nodded in thanks. “Not everyone is so generous,” he said, eagerly opening the grease-stained box and grabbing the first pizza slice his fingers connected with. “I’ll try not to spill on your carpet.”

As if an identical thought struck them, they examined the eviscerated walls and the mirror shards decorating her nearby bathroom floor. “Probably wouldn’t notice if you did,” Cecelia remarked.

“Fair,” Hud said, and the pair actually smiled. It turned into a laugh. The shared absurdity of what they were going through and that they’d be laughing about it made it harder to stop.

“If you didn’t laugh, right?” Cecelia said through persistent fits of giggles.

Hud nodded and started to settle. “Plus, I ran out of tears years ago.”

Cecelia was still catching her breath from the giggle-fit when the weight of his words sank in. Quickly, the atmosphere turned sombre and she again wondered about Hud’s past. Perhaps if she tactfully asked him about it, he’d open up.

Evidently, he was simultaneously pondering her. After his third slice of pizza, he asked about her ex. “If it’s still raw,” he said, “we don’t need to discuss it.”

“Not raw,” she half-lied. “We only dated a few months. Ending it was my decision.”

“Doesn’t mean it was painless,” he observed, a little too astutely.

With a hint of emotion that betrayed the half-lie, she revealed how the mysterious noises in the house weren’t the reason they’d split. Rather, it was Eric’s inability to hear her or support her feelings.

“Valid,” Hud said. “Communication is key. Only works when it’s both ways.”

“Exactly,” she said, surprised at Hud’s sensitivity. It was an opportune moment to ask him about his past.

Again, he spoke before she could. “Is Cecelia a common indigenous name?”

“Oh.” Surprised again. “No.”

“My school didn’t spend much time on first nationers,” he added, taking a swig from the Pepsi bottle.

No schools did, Cecelia thought. It didn’t help that the indigenous community comprised less than four per cent of the country’s population. All this made it easy for the non-indigenous populace to pretend the land’s original inhabitants didn’t exist. “First nation is a white person’s label,” she said. Then, to reassure him, she added, “It’s fine. The label comes from a good place, even if it’s kind of been forced upon us.”

“Is there something you prefer?” Hud asked, and because she knew he was also coming from a good place, she resisted the urge to simply say fellow human beings.

“Indigenous is fine,” Cecelia said and watched him relax. “Anyway, I was named after my great nan’s sister—not an indigenous Australian but a South Sea Islander. Her mum came from Vanuatu.”

“Vanuatu?” he asked, hunching forward to listen carefully.”

“We were brought over as blackbirding.”

Hud’s expression was blank with ignorance.

“A term for what slavers did,” she explained. “Kidnapping was easier for them than cutting sugarcane themselves.”

“You say it so matter-of-factly.”

“Doesn’t mean I don’t get mad sometimes. Or just sad. Wish I could say Dad’s ancestry fared better. My indigenous side comes from him, from the Gurang tribe. You’d know their land as Bundaberg.”

Hud silently processed this data. The uneaten slice of pizza in his hand drooped until it was about to fall. “How did he get the surname Winterst—”

“My turn for the next question.”

Beneath his shaggy beard, Cecelia saw Hud’s lips purse. “Why am I homeless?”

It was such an obvious question; she wasn’t shocked he’d guessed. “You can tell me it’s none of my business.”

He shoved the flaccid slice of pizza into his mouth and picked up the final piece from the box. “You think I was fired like Gene said?”

His intuition was so accurate it made her face redden. Hoping to add some levity, she said, “Probably for your terrible aim.”

“Gene didn’t imply that.”

“Err…” A grin parted her lips, a terrible habit that occurred whenever she was nervous, embarrassed, and unsure how to handle it.

“Sensitive,” Hud said, turning her smile into a nervous giggle.

“Sorry, it’s not funny.” The more she tried to restrain it, the worse it got.

“It’s fine; it was a fair shot.” He raised his eyebrows in anticipation of her reaction. “Not a pun person?”

His good humour settled her. “Is that why you’re mad at the Ghostbusters?” she asked.

Like someone needing a swig of booze for courage, Hud swung the Pepsi to his lips. The motion was too quick, and the drink frothed and spurted into his mouth. He coughed and tried to play it off as nothing, struggling for breath. He wiped the brown liquid from his beard and carefully brushed sticky strands of hair behind his ears. His eyes were watery when he cleared his throat and looked at her. “Smooth,” he croaked.

Again, they shared a laugh, but a twisted smile lingered on Hud’s face. It was pained and bitter. “Lenora was always fearless,” he said. “My wife,” he clarified.

Like the power had been cut, Cecelia’s mirth vanished. His wife?

Hud chuckled, a humourless sound. “Bloody stubborn, that woman. Probably why she suited the job so well. You remind me of her, which sounds like a come-on, but I’m serious.”

Bloody stubborn isn’t the come-on you think it is,” she said.

“Call it determined, then.”

“Better,” she agreed. “Lenora is a Ghostbuster, too?”

She was the Ghostbuster,” he clarified, reflecting a moment. He leaned forward to check Cecelia’s foot remained connected to Riscraven and then settled back against the wall. “Sydney had the first Australian branch, converted from the Woollahra Fire Station. They’re always converted fire stations, you know.”

Having seen Ectomobiles driving out of enough of them in ads or on the news, Cecelia nodded.

“We were super familiar with GBHQ. Woollahra Public School—where we met in grade three—was across from it on Forth Street. Lenora was fascinated by the place. All emergency services, actually. Even at eight-years-old, she wanted to help people. This urge made more sense to me as we got older because of how her dad treated her. That man…” he drifted off into a personal reverie that set his face grim. “Some people are dealt shitty cards with the families they’re born into.”

Family was a core facet of indigenous culture, and because Cecelia had enjoyed an idyllic upbringing, she couldn’t personally relate. However, she had read and seen enough online to intellectually understand.

“He was abusive?” she asked.

Another shadow crossed Hud’s face. “It was bad,” he said, shaking off the private recollection. “So you might have thought that her old man being bumped off by a connected bookie when she was fifteen was a win.”

Considering the death of a parent as a positive thing was difficult to empathise with. She’d be devastated if anything happened to any relative.

“It was for a while,” Hud continued. “Until the prick reappeared four years later. The Ghostbusters came, zapped and trapped him and,” he slapped his hands together. “Lenora had found her calling.”

It made sense, though why Hud took issue with the profession remained mysterious.

“We married a year later,” Hud said. “She was twenty, still a cadet. Any job in emergency services is a serious commitment—I’d reconciled already—but I wasn’t prepared for how much of her it would consume. Studying for her PhD and on-the-job training meant I saw Lenora most when I’d be working a site and Ecto tore past. Even if it was a block away, the siren screamed her proximity.”

“Site?”

“I was a tradie on my way to managing a crew,” he said, almost like it didn’t matter. “And I was proud of her, you know? She was helping people like she’d always wanted to.”

“You should have been proud.”

“I said I was,” he snapped, though his ire passed quickly. “But there’s more to life than work.”

No arguments from Cecelia there. Her job at the bank was not a passion. It earned her enough to pay her bills and enjoy hot showers. It wasn’t the added responsibility that deterred her from promotions; it was the extra hours she’d be expected to work, tilting her work-life balance in the wrong direction. So she could imagine how sharing life with someone career-dedicated like Lenora might cause conflict and, from where it seemed his story was headed, divorce.

“Were you still together when you moved here?”

“I moved here for her,” he stated. “We’d been living in Kings Cross in a one-bedroom apartment—”

“She wasn’t required to live at the station?”

His head jerked back like the question was crazy. “Nobody does that anymore. Although,” he seemed to reconsider, “our place was less than ten minutes’ drive to the Woollahra Station, and that convenience meant she practically did live there.” He took a deep breath. “Which is how we’d lived until I’d had enough.”

“Divorce,” Cecelia stated.

“What? No, I confessed how I felt and asked her to switch roles to something less intensive.”

“Oh, I assumed—”

“We’d known each other since we were eight. I can still,” he closed his eyes, “picture her at every year of her life, starting from then.” Opening his eyes, he said, “You don’t leap from that kind of bond to divorce without fighting to stay together.”

“I’m sorry, I just… because divorce is so common, I must have…” She waved the words away. “Terrible assumption.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, making her feel doubly awful. “Communication, remember—super important. I should have communicated my feelings sooner. The downside to knowing someone so long is that you can rest the relationship on cruise control and expect it to take care of itself.”

“Why didn’t you speak up sooner?” Cecelia asked, not an accusation; she was curious.

“Lenora was following her calling. I couldn’t ask her to give that up. Instead, I sussed out if there was another role in the company that might be equally fulfilling and return time to us. Incredibly,” he rolled his eyes, “she’d already been considering a move to R and D: a nine-to-five role with advancement opportunities that would pay better than fieldwork.”

“That’s great,” Cecelia remarked, still unsure where the problem lurked.

From how Hud’s face sank, the revelation was coming. “Before that, we didn’t speak much about her work—not her career prospects; never specific cases. I could have asked, but resenting how much it occupied her, I didn’t want to waste more time talking about it.”

“Were you ever worried about her?”

“About the job being dangerous?”

Cecelia nodded.

“Lenora was capable, and because she didn’t worry, I didn’t. Might sound weird, but I always figured the reason she was so cool with it was because compared to her old man, fighting ghosts was easy.” He squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and when he opened them, they were adrift in memory. “She applied for R and D and got it. The week before the transfer, she’d been working a gig at a massage parlour off Hall Street—super close to the beach.” He swallowed. “That last week of fieldwork, I got funny about it for the first time. Started asking if she’d ever had close calls—scary incidents. She said something interesting; at the time, I wondered if it was simply to appease me. She said: ‘The existence of ghosts isn’t scary but reassuring. People have speculated about life after death for millennia. But since the late twentieth century, we’ve had confirmation of an afterlife.’ That comforted her.”

Ghosts and Ghostbusting had always existed in Cecelia’s lifetime, so this philosophy was odd to consider. “I suppose for kind people,” she mused, “an afterlife is a nice thought.”

“There’s nothing nice about death,” Hud said, flat and cold. “Not for those left behind.”

Cecelia felt a need to swallow, but her mouth was dry. Suddenly, she understood where this tale was headed.

“When she reached the massage parlour on Hall Street,” Hud continued, “it was late. Only the manager, who had been closing up, remained on site. He was irate that nobody came the night before when the thing he’d called about had presented itself. But the Ghostbusters were busy and understaffed and… anyway. It was considered a non-urgent routine investigation, which once identified as legitimately supernatural—from all this gear,” Hud said and pointed to the Sniffer and PKE meter still attached to Gene’s prone body, “would be revisited the next day by the paranormal forensic unit. So Lenora investigated. The entity appeared. She fired at it with her CNW, but the thing didn’t stay corporeal long and flew off before she could hit it.” Hud reached for the Pepsi and found it empty. His brow furrowed, and Cecelia knew it had nothing to do with the drink.

“That night, I’d conked out on the couch in the lounge around eleven and never heard Lenora come home. Whenever this happened, she’d wake me after her shower and bring me to bed. So I was confused when I woke the following day still on the couch.

“I found her in our ensuite when I went to use the toilet the following morning. She was bloated and slick with pink slime. The way she looked,” again he clenched his eyes shut; his voice cracked. “You’d think she’d drowned. I prepared to do CPR, knowing that it was already too late but refusing to believe it. As I leant over her I heard tapping on the walls. It travelled around the bathroom like the patter of invisible legs. The demon appeared behind me. Before I could react it flew off. Tearing out the house after it, I caught its trail, a red blur headed toward the ocean. It was too fast to chase, but what could I do, anyway? I didn’t even know how to turn the damn CNW on back then.”

“I’m so sorry,” Cecelia said, genuinely heartbroken.

“Before calling the cops and the Ghostbusters, I hid her CNW and told them it was missing. Nobody was catching that thing but me. I also requested her uniform, which I was allowed to keep, provided the nametag and no-ghost logo were stripped. Impersonating a Ghostbuster is a federal crime,” he advised.

To Cecelia, this made sense, given the rule applied to all other natural emergency service agents. “And they ripped holes in her uniform when they removed them?”

Embarrassment washed over Hud’s face; his fingers pulled loosely at the tattered fabric. “I probably should have let them do it,” he said and swallowed hard. “But after receiving condolences instead of useful info from the Ghostbusters in her unit, I was pissed off and wanted them to know it. Might have made a slight spectacle of myself in the branch when I threw the torn pieces at them.”

It was hard for Cecelia to criticize Hud’s behaviour, considering what had motivated it.

“Another item I kept,” Hud confessed, “was Lenora’s two-way. Similar to a police scanner, you can pick up incoming calls, reports and ghost sightings. It let me track anything I heard that fit Spitswapper’s description. This was when I learned its name, by the way,” he added as an aside. “Problem was, the damn thing was always gone before I reached it. More often than not, it came and went so quickly that even the field agents missed it. Forensic units would come for samples later, but I didn’t stick around for that. Studying it was not my goal.”

“It might have helped you catch it?” Cecelia speculated.

Hud shrugged his shoulders. “It didn’t help the Ghostbusters. And so weeks went by, and I grew desperate. Work was less important than vengeance, and finally, the contractor I worked for gave me a choice: return or be replaced. Guess what I chose?”

“And you chased the thing here?”

He nodded. “It’s taken me nearly five years to find it.”

“Something doesn’t make sense,” Cecelia said. “You said you were chasing it through the Ghostbusters scanner. But until tonight’s attack, I’d never reported it. And I did that after you burst in.”

“Nah, I haven’t been able to use the scanner since I sold my car,” Hud answered, as if this was no big deal. “Where would I charge it?”

“But then, how did you know it was here?”

“Fate, if you believe that sort of thing. Coincidence is probably more likely. Let me go back,” he said, waving the air like erasing words on a whiteboard. “After I left my job, I sold whatever was in the apartment, cancelled the lease and lived out of my car. I had savings for food. And petrol, needed to follow where the scanner sent me. On the nights with no reports matching the demon, I conducted long-range patrols, focussing around the massage parlour and the streets between Kings Cross and Bondi—any place I knew it’d been. I’d been showering at one of the rinse ports at Bondi the night it burst out of the water, meters from where I’d parked. Three nights in a row, I waited at that spot on the beach, spying it spring from the water and soar off in the same direction. By then, I’d sussed out how to use the CNW, even came close to tagging the thing once. It’s not that CNWs are tough to aim; that veiny dick is just so hard to hit.”

“You never called the Ghostbusters to help?”

“Call on what? I had no phone.”

“You had a two-way.”

“Using that would have revealed that I had it.”

“So you allowed it to go on rampaging?” Cecelia’s anger flared and caused Hud to jolt up in surprise. “Who knows how many more could have been killed? It could have killed me!

Her words hit home, and Hud winced as if in pain. “I wasn’t in the best headspace when Lenora died,” he said. “And spending so much time since then solo, well, you can lose sight of the bigger picture.”

“That doesn’t make it better,” she said, unsatisfied.

“I know,” he said, sounding genuine. “This is not an excuse, but reporting it after the third night wouldn’t have mattered. Spits didn’t appear again in that location. Must have been fed up with me shooting at it.”

“Get to the part where you tracked it here.”

He nodded, probably happy to move past his selfish motivations. “Right, well, I still had my car and the two-way in Sydney. After weeks without any hint of the veiny di—” his face flushed and he corrected, “demon, I picked up a conversation where a Ghostbuster was assigned something closely resembling it. The fieldworker had encountered Spits before and figured he was being sent after it. The dispatch operator shut his theory down. Queensland branches were now logging reports of it, most recently at the Gold Coast.”

“And that’s all it took for you to drive here?”

“What else did I have? Soon after arriving, I ran out of savings, and without money for petrol, I sold the car and started living at Surfers Paradise, on the beach.”

“So you couldn’t travel or track it?”

Hud flushed with embarrassment. “It wasn’t the most thought-out plan. Free-2-Rent scooters were useful, but searching was a crap shoot. From a year of sightings in and around Sydney, I knew it probably needed the ocean to hide in. So I made a home near a large sand dune where I could be sheltered from one side. Found a golf umbrella I could adjust to shield me from the others. I’d travel the Surfer’s shoreline every night, hoping to catch sight of it and praying it didn’t migrate again. I’d sleep with the CNW wrapped in a plastic bag and buried beneath me so nobody would see and try to steal it. Did this for four years before my gamble paid off.”

“Four years,” Cecelia marvelled. “I’m amazed you never gave up.”

“Revenge is a powerful motivator.”

“And you chased it to my home?”

“Essentially. Though, that was a mission in itself. Something else I’d gleaned from months scanning on the two-way was the demon is a creature of habit. It identifies a target, travelling between them and whatever section of the ocean is most convenient, back and forth along the same route. It harasses its target until it rejects them or chooses to hone in. For my wife, Spitswapper was charged enough and honed quickly. Luckily for you it took longer to decide, and I had the chance to follow it a little further during each expedition, until I finally spied its destination: your townhouse.”

“You’ve put a lot of work into this,” Cecelia acknowledged. “And I might have considered myself lucky if you had a flipping ghost trap!

Hud paused. “When you say it like that, it sounds like a waste of four years.”

“You think?”

Dismissing her reprimand with a shake of his head, he lifted the rectangular trap by its handle and said, “Or was it?”

Cecelia groaned and rolled her eyes. “You give too much credit to coincidence.”

“Or is it fate?”

“We going to have this debate?”

Near Cecelia’s knee came an increased intensity of beeps and the tiny hum of gears. Her eyes landed on the rising wings of the PKE meter. The accompanying rhythm of the lights increased in tandem with the elevation of the wings.

Patter patter patter; the noise tearing up the walls.

“It can’t be,” Cecelia muttered, anxiety climbing. She squeezed her foot further beneath Riscraven’s torso to better secure contact and collected the CNW off the carpet, cradling it tightly.

“This demon sure has the hots for you,” Hud said, gazing around the room for signs of it.

Cecelia flicked the silver switch on her weapon labelled Activate. The wand powered up with a resonant ding.

“Push the Intensify button to shoot,” Hud reminded her as he hurriedly strapped on the full-size Proton Pack. He fossicked around the Neutrona Wand until he’d hit the relevant switches. It hummed to life and blinked.

“Flanking this thing is going to be tough with you immobilised,” Hud said, brows furrowed in thought. “I’ll try and push it between us when it corporealises. Soon as one of our streams snares it, the other cuts theirs off and throws the trap.” He placed the yellow-and-black-topped unit beside her leg and held up the pedal connected to it via a thick black cord. “Stamp on this once to open it and a second time to suck the demon inside.”

“Okay,” she said, heart pounding in her ears.

Hud stood and followed the taps around the room. “Shit, also,” he said and turned back to her. “Couple things I learned from eavesdropping on the two-way: we cannot cross our streams. And don’t look at the trap when it opens.”

“Okay,” Cecelia repeated, bleary-eyed from the late hour and the situation’s intensity. What if that thing latched onto her again and succeeded this time? Seeing it attack Gene worsened the thought, and she hoped she’d remember the instructions needed to detain Spitswapper and prevent her slimy demise.

“You’ve got this,” Hud said when he noticed her trembling. “We’ve got the tools.”

“If only we had the talent,” Cecelia said, giggling nervously. Feeling confident was tough with their invisible enemy menacing around the room.

Hud stalked the noise, wand at the ready. The longer this went on, the worse Cecelia’s anxiety grew. She was sweating and almost hit the Intensify button when the tapping loudened. As if sensing her fear, the demon circled her location, entering the ensuite she sat across and drumming on the tiles. As if this wasn’t nerve-racking enough, the mirror shards began sliding around the floor, and it was soon apparent the demon might launch them like flying daggers.

“Let’s minimise the threats,” Hud said and tried to balance the askew door closed. Too damaged from when he’d kicked it open earlier, it kept tilting off its hinges. “Slide away from the doorway,” he told Cecelia as he worked on sealing it. “Just in case it—argh!”

He lifted the heavy wood like a shield as the collected mirror blades shot at him. A hail of breaking glass crashed and echoed inside the room, and Hud bravely clung to the door to jam it against the doorway.

“Bloody hell,” he stated when the ensuite was shut enough. He checked his fingers for cuts. “Any get through?” he asked Cecelia.

Jacked with energy, she doubted she’d have felt it if any had. With the nose of her CNW pointed at the bathroom door, she scanned herself and shook her head. Hud, meanwhile, had backed away from the door, pointing his larger Neutrona Wand in its direction.

“If we get lucky, it’ll appear right there,” he said, the words no sooner from him than the door rattled with a violent pounding. The noise jumped to the adjacent wall and danced along the roof.

More excruciating minutes passed while Hud trailed the bumping thuds around the room. During his third lap, he paused and frowned. “It stopped.”

Cecelia held her breath. Could they have outlasted Spitswapper? If it had lost its stamina, it’d finally need to retreat to the ocean and recharge.

Hud was on the other side of her bed when Cecelia saw the purplish tongue apparate in the reflection of the window. It had scarcely uncurled when the rest of the pulsing monster materialised behind it. Cleverly, the demon angled its arrival so that the long-haired man prevented a clean shot from her.

“Duck!” Cecelia screamed, and Hud reflexively obeyed her. Pressing the Intensify button caused an orange and blue proton stream to rocket from the wand’s tip, juddering Cecelia’s arm and making it difficult to hold the CNW straight.
Spitswapper anticipated the blast and darted sideways, causing the electric bolt to smash through the window and into the night air.

The demon remained fully visible when it targeted Cecelia, its maw widening and tongue whipping straight at her.
Without thinking, she fired her CNW again. The demon pivoted. The stream missed, but Hud’s own entered from the other side and pushed the monster back towards her.

Flicking her stream sideways connected it with the demon. She shouted with triumph as it ensnared the beast, the noise as the proton streams spewed from the two weapons deafening inside the small room. Focussed on keeping the demon in place, she didn’t notice when Hud cut his stream and crawled her way to grab the Muon Trap. She was only aware of it when the black and yellow striped twin gates at the trap’s top sprang wide, and a white glow burst forth.
Blazing colours splashed the room more vibrantly than a nightclub dancefloor.

Foot raised above the pedal, Hud’s face was alive with emotion. Without the bright flashing lights, Cecelia suspected he would look equally wild. The moment he’d been waiting years for was upon him: justice for his wife and revenge against the demon that had derailed his life. Madness converted to triumph as the purple and pink veined demon, writhing within Cecelia’s proton lasso, twisted to look at him. Electricity sparked and crackled from its vicious red eyes.

Grinning, Hud shouted, “You’ll get no pleasure from this box, dick!” Down slammed his foot on the pedal, and an extra intense torrent of light rocketed from the trap, which whined as it dragged the demon into it. Cecelia remembered to stop shooting and did so just in time, turning away until the howl of the demon ceased and the blinding brilliance in front of her had darkened. A quiet beeping noise emitted from the trap and it started to smoke.

Hud walked over and nudged it with his bare foot. Tendrils of blue electricity zapped him. “Shit!” he shouted and hopped on the spot.

Cecelia laughed until tears rolled down her cheeks. “You were this close,” she said, thumb and index finger held a centimetre apart, “to being cool.”

“Suppose you think you’ve earned bragging rights because you saved me?” Hud said, flinching through the lingering pain of an electric shock.

With pride, Cecelia realised she had saved him. A second passed between them, and Hud smiled, radiating gratitude for what they’d experienced together and how she’d validated his sacrifices.

Those damn kind eyes, she thought.

“Am I a ghost?” a weak voice gurgled from the carpet.

The Ghostbuster was moving.

To be conlcuded in: EPILOGUE
Last edited by Xajacity on June 23rd, 2024, 6:05 am, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
By Fritz
#4998770
I apologize for not saying anything sooner, but I decided to give this a read when it first started. It's tough to create some new twists in a franchise that's been around for forty years and has comprised five movies, 180 animated episodes, and like a hundred or so comics, but you definitely brought some interesting ones to the table.

I'll say more when you post the epilogue, but as a guy who's written a fan fic or two or a few dozen himself in his time, I've been enjoying this one.

Thanks for posting it.
:)
User avatar
By Xajacity
#4998781
Thanks for this comment, Fritz. It means a lot. Originally, I wrote this story for my own enjoyment. After sharing it here, and without any feedback, I was starting to think I'd missed the mark with my take on a franchise that continues to mean a great deal to me.

Your work is extensive and appears to be a huge success. I'll set time aside to dive into it before I begin my next writing project.

I should have the Epilogue ready to post next week. I'd love to get more of your thoughts if you have the time. It's obvious from reading various threads on this site that many fans here (yourself being a major one) have a vast knowledge of Ghostbusters lore. If I've made any errors in my references, this is no doubt the place to learn about them.

Thanks again!
User avatar
By Fritz
#4998788
Xajacity wrote: June 21st, 2024, 6:41 am Thanks for this comment, Fritz. It means a lot. Originally, I wrote this story for my own enjoyment. After sharing it here, and without any feedback, I was starting to think I'd missed the mark with my take on a franchise that continues to mean a great deal to me.
I completely relate. I remember when I uploaded my first story to a site that's technically still there but doesn't do much anymore other than reblog other sites stuff. I was nervous as hell. Thankfully, it was well recieved.
Your work is extensive and appears to be a huge success. I'll set time aside to dive into it before I begin my next writing project.
:blush:

Well, once upon a time it might have been called a "huge success" but the interest in it has ebbed and flowed (and is mostly at an ebb right now). Don't feel you *have* to look at it, but if you have any questions about where to start with 166 stories over 21 years, let me know.
I should have the Epilogue ready to post next week. I'd love to get more of your thoughts if you have the time. It's obvious from reading various threads on this site that many fans here (yourself being a major one) have a vast knowledge of Ghostbusters lore. If I've made any errors in my references, this is no doubt the place to learn about them.
No "lore" errors jumping out at me yet. There's plenty of places you can look if you have any questions, the best being the reference sections here on GBFans or of course the Ghostbusters Wiki. But as long as you keep what's actually in the movies in mind, you'll probably be just fine.
Thanks again!
You're very welcome
:)
User avatar
By Xajacity
#4998809
Well, once upon a time it might have been called a "huge success" but the interest in it has ebbed and flowed (and is mostly at an ebb right now). Don't feel you *have* to look at it, but if you have any questions about where to start with 166 stories over 21 years, let me know.
I planned to go through them chronologically; however, if you recommend a place to begin, I'll set my targets there.
No "lore" errors jumping out at me yet. There's plenty of places you can look if you have any questions, the best being the reference sections here on GBFans or of course the Ghostbusters Wiki. But as long as you keep what's actually in the movies in mind, you'll probably be just fine.
Awesome. Yes, the movies were my primary inspiration (particularly when extrapolating how/why GB might franchise, plus how field tools/equipment might evolve), with some cross-checking to the Wiki, the Tobin Spirit Guide, or simply studying the GB gear I own. I wish I had known about the reference sections on this site (not to mention the site itself!) when I wrote Terror In Paradise! Since joining GB Fans, my knowledge has expanded considerably. And it's been hella fun to study!
User avatar
By Xajacity
#4998810
EPILOGUE

“Gene!” Cecelia cried, her foot still wedged beneath him.

The previously incapacitated Ghostbuster rolled awkwardly onto his side and vomited a litre of slime. “Not a ghost,” he said and vomited some more.

When he was done, he sat up and regarded them calmly. “Apologies for the carpet.”

“You okay?” Cecelia asked him, to which Gene nodded weakly. The vomit was gross, but after what they’d experienced, it was manageable and a reasonable price to pay for the Ghostbusters having survived.

Frowning at the mess, Hud asked her, “You need to spew again?” His own face was growing paler by the second.

“Do you?

Hud nodded, covered his mouth and took off downstairs.

Cecelia waited with Gene until she heard the toilet flush. Hud was still down there when a knock came at the front door. “Ghostbusters,” a voice called from outside. “Is anybody home?”

She heard Hud remove the chairs against the front door and let them in. “Took your time,” he said.

“We came from Brisbane,” a male-sounding voice replied in defence. “Are you the homeowner?” The voice dripped with doubt.

“She’s upstairs. I called you in.”

“I see,” the voice said. Cecelia heard more people entering.

“We only need the nurses now,” Hud stated. “You three fieldies can wait in the car.”

A deeper man’s voice: “We were told there was a class seven—”

“It’s upstairs,” Hud interrupted. “Trapped.”

A feminine voice. “How did you—”

“Can we do the report tomorrow?” Hud asked. “It’s very late.”

There was a brief conference and then grumbles as the three Ghostbusters Hud evicted exited her home.

A different feminine voice said, “Please, lead us to him.”

Footsteps climbed her staircase.

Ushered into her room was a Polynesian-looking Ghostbuster with the nametag Ioane, along with a masculine, Caucasian partner whose surname read Moore. Both wore white cuts of the Ghostbusters uniform, patched with a modified no-ghost logo on their sleeves. In these versions, the standard doughy ghost held a caduceus in its left hand and had wings extending from its back.

The pair carried a gurney and wore CNWs on their backs and the typical field agent paraphernalia on their belts.

“Riscraven, you’re awake!” Moore said to their seated and wobbly intercity colleague. He bent down to check on him.

“Apparently,” Riscraven answered. “Have we met?”

“At the national conference last year,” Moore said, trying to keep Gene relaxed before they started examining him with their equipment.

“Did we dance?” Riscraven asked, earnest in his partial delirium.

“Alas, no,” Moore told him. “But if we did, it would have been a nice break from all those Zeddemore Industries engineering lectures.”

“Thanks for taking care of him,” Ioane told Cecelia.

“It’s not after me,” Riscraven whispered to Moore as if he’d been asked. “I was just in the way. It wants the pretty one.”

“Let’s not reduce the young lady to that,” Moore told him, sniffing until he located what he was smelling. His eyes practically popped out when they saw the smoking trap. “You were serious,” he told Hud. “You busted a Reponere Furantur?”

Ioane, who had been unpacking a first-aid kit with a printed logo on the case matching the one on her shoulder, stopped to see what had affected Moore. Equally stunned, she told Cecelia, “Ma’am, you caught a class seven that’s been on our hit list for decades.”

Moore added, “And believed to have been terrorising people for centuries.” Trading places with Ioane, he bent over and picked up the trap with an awed expression.

“We both caught it,” Cecelia said and motioned to Hud.

“We did?” Gene asked.

“Couldn’t have done it without you,” Hud said, patting Riscraven on the back.

“Of course not,” Riscraven replied.

Ioane, who had been unfolding the gurney by the stairs, whistled as Moore fixed the trap to his belt so it could be taken back with them. To Hud and Cecelia, she said, “We’ll have to get you guys on the payroll.”

Cecelia laughed. “No offence, but after this experience—”

“We’ll let you know,” Hud said. Cecelia was surprised not to detect any irony. “Not every department requires PhDs or fifteen-hour days,” he told her.

Ioane and Moore assisted Riscraven onto the gurney and began affixing electrodes to him.

Moore asked Cecelia, “Are you free tomorrow if the GC branch sends a forensic unit here to take samples and ask some follow-up questions?”

“Samples like this?” Cecelia pointed out the transparent, slime-filled cylinder on the bathroom tiles.

“That’s a start,” Moore said, impressed again. To Ioane, he said, “I’ll collect the E-Vac once we’ve loaded him in.”

Ioane nodded to her partner and inserted a cannula into Riscraven’s hand.

“We’ll still need to come back tomorrow,” Moore told Cecelia. “Government protocol.”

“No problem,” Hud and Cecelia answered in unison.

“Great,” Moore said. “We’ll need reports from both of you.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow, too,” Riscraven said as if on auto-pilot. “For my car. Where’s my keys?” He tried to sit up on the gurney. “Where’s my Proton Pack?” He grew flustered as he scanned for it.

“Try to stay calm, Gene,” Ioane said.

“They’re unlicensed to use it!” he exclaimed.

Hud shrugged. “Could be anywhere,” he told the slime-covered Ghostbuster. “You made a big mess; lots of damage.”

Diverted by the accusation, Riscraven said, “If you file an insurance claim on our website, we should get back to you in the next financial year.”

“It’s only August,” Cecelia said.

“Claims are … one moment,” Riscraven turned his head and spewed more slime onto the carpet, causing Ioane to leap away. “FAQs are online,” he concluded and was carted away.

Hud and Cecelia watched as the Ghostbuster paramedics carried Riscraven downstairs, out the door and into their Ectomobile, which was parked behind Riscraven’s. The engine blared, and blue lights spun.

Moore ran back inside and up the stairs. Picking up the E-Vac, he said, “Someone from the company will call in the morning to let you know when the forensic unit is on its way.”

Cecelia nodded and thanked him again. A moment later, he and the other Ghostbusters reversed off her driveway.

“Almost doesn’t seem worth them having come,” Hud told Cecelia as they watched the departing vehicle from the balustrade.

“Because we caught Spitswapper?”

Hud shook his head. “None of them used the siren.”

Cecelia looked at him and smiled. Ghostbusters branches were popping up nationwide. She was confident Hud would hear another Ectomobile siren.

He might even be the person blaring it.

THE END
User avatar
By Fritz
#4998868
Okay, first, and I'll put it in spoiler block so I'm doing less crapping on your thread...
This Post Contains Spoilers
There was a nice, catchy beginning hook, a scene of normality going off the rails (oh boy, would some director or artist have trouble making shower scenes family friendly in a visual medium lol) and introducing our heroine. Cecilia holds up about as well as anybody could under the circumstance, and does show a lot of bravery and resolve over the course of the story.

Hud was an intriguing mystery early on; was he some kind of fired Ghostbuster? If so why did he have some gear? Why's he so scruffy? What was up with him and the monster? The answers finally came and greatly enhanced his character, his apparently tense relationship with GBI and burning desire to take down Spitswapper made a lot of sense.

Riscraven was a great foil--a consummate professional who does everything by the book, but the fact that he was an actual, acknowledged Ghostbuster I think helped the audience not see him as some kind of Walter Peck in training. We could even relate to him being exasperated by Hud's utter evasiveness about how he knows so much (which, again, made a lot of sense once the backstory was told.) I thought he might be a goner late in the story, but I was glad he survived.

And Spitswapper aka "Reponere Furantur"...it all seemed to plausible as an actual creature from folklore I actually googled the name to make sure it wasn't authentic (the first thing that came up was a link to this thread and then a bunch of furniture stores :lol:). It's utter creepy pseudo-rapiness was a lot more intense than most Ghostbusters monsters tend to be, but then again we had Zuul and Vinz Clortho in the very first movie and Afterlife whose intentions were not family friendly, just kept it off screen.
Cecelia looked at him and smiled. Ghostbusters branches were popping up nationwide. She was confident Hud would hear another Ectomobile siren.

He might even be the person blaring it.
I would look forward to such a thing, should it happen.
User avatar
By Xajacity
#4998893
Firstly, a massive thanks for your feedback. Not only for your kind words (which were a lot more positive than I anticipated—call this a fault of writer’s insecurity and no reflection on your conduct, which has been unwaveringly respectful) but also for your specificity. It’s reassuring to know the thinking I put into these characters and their development was received exactly as intended.

Aligning with the OG Ghostbusters tone (which, in my opinion, has been retroactively labelled family-friendly since it straddles lines) remained a priority throughout the entire writing process. Having funny and occasionally flirtatious banter and to be legit scary in places was important. Never being explicit in either category was key (regarding innuendo, so many things went over my head when watching GB 1 as a kid, haha).

A quick tangent on this: Like you, I’ve enjoyed the recent movies, and while sometimes I feel it’s hard for me to assess them objectively, there have been several choices within them I didn’t love. Concerning the characters and their relationships to one another, definitely. But also a tone shift. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll find threads on GB Fans where I can discuss this in more detail. Suffice it to say, I get where you’re coming from.

As for Spitswapper’s "proper" name, I invented something in Latin (which, for idiosyncratic reasons, Riz deemed important to know) to boost the demon’s credibility. It essentially means to replace and steal, since that's the demon's MO.
I would look forward to such a thing, should it happen.
Kind of you to say so! I have a decent idea of what becomes of Cecelia and Hud (and tried to leave threads—some blatant) about what this is. Writing about it is another matter. Like Schrödinger's cat, sometimes it’s hard to know if leaving the box closed is better.
This Post Contains Spoilers
Your recommendations are exactly where I'll start reading! It's an intimidating body of work, so I appreciate the guidance.
Having read many of your posts on GB Fans, it's abundantly clear you know your stuff, so I'm genuinely excited to dive into your narrative fiction.
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