Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fetters : Wraith the Oblivion

November 1, 2015

Fetters
Wraith: The Oblivion

Wraith: The Oblivion is one of the games I absolutely love.  The game is dark and intense and yet at the same time is a shining light of hope in a desperate world.   I had an opportunity to run it again for Halloween last 2015, and even better it was a chance to let my partner, Rocky, get a taste of one of the games I loved so much.  Interestingly, the night turned out to be an opportunity for two new gamers to try the game as well. Both Bim and Linus never have played under me before, and more interestingly, Linus never gamed ever before.

While it did mean having to tweak and turn down the ick factor, it still allowed me to tell darker tales where not everyone gets out of the plot alive.

The cast of characters in the game are the following:
Martin Goldberg, "The Knife"
Played by Rocky
Hitman. Gun for hire. 43 years.  No family.  Dead first love.
N: Martyr
D: Survivor

Ellie O'Connor
Played by Bim
Literally critic.  Column. Make break careers.  Specialize in fiction.  Single.  30 years old.
N: Rebel
D: Avant Garde

Nick Hunter
Played by BJ
Moderately successful lawyer.  33 years old.
Single.   That one girl who got away.
N: Caregiver
D: Bureaucrat

Luka Watanabe "Luna Luke"
Played by Linus
Gay right hand of a godfather of a cartel.   He's aware, wishes straight but gets job done.  Own place.  Sex with any to make business work.
N: Bon vivant
D: Follower

What began as a story of a literary critic struggling to finish her best seller, very quickly turns into a tale of murder, last rites and final moments.   Ellie struggles to bring words to the bare page but Frank's calls frustrate her attempts to hit her deadline.  He tells her of an up and coming writer, "the next Rowling" so to speak, and she learns her name is Eva Serene Rain.  She decides to step outside and find her muse.  And more pressingly, find something to eat.

Luka is in a car with the driver, when Agatha, his sister, calls him.  She seems to be high that moment and admits she does not know where she is.  A second voice takes the phone and admits he just saw her on the subway.  Luka accuses the guy of  having done something to her, and in response he hangs up.   They track Agatha using the GPS tracking device implanted in her arm, and drive there.  Finding her, Luka sends his driver to pick her up and place her in the car.  A hooded guy knocks at Luka's window while the driver is away.  It turns out to be a homelessman who forces his hand in the open window. Luka forces the window closed, pinning the guy's hand, then finally opens it again when he's had enough pain.  Luka then beats the homeless guy up to amuse himself, then throws cash to "cover for any damages."  The bum grabs his leg, but Luka just fires his pistol at the guy.  The driver returns with the sister and they drive off before anyone else notices.  He reminds Luka that he can't just do that nowadays since people have phones and phones have cameras.  Luka tells him that's his problem.  Agatha, in her delirious state, mutters she thinks she killed someone Luka wanted dead too.

Rain is pouring as Martin stares at a grave.  A Siamese cat stares at him from the bushes.  He brushes it away and returns to his car only to find the cat on the hood, staring at him again.  While driving, he ignores the plane flying overhead despite the storm, and is forced to stop when a page of paper sticks to his windshield.  He parks, peels the page off the glass.

Nick on the other hand, is on an airplane.  He starts a conversation with the girl sitting beside him.  But when the turbulence gets worse, she grabs his hand and holds it close.  She confesses to him that she thinks she's pregnant and talks about having tried to make love with her boyfriend - she claims to have used protection, but that it was hard to swallow things.   He notices a woman staring at her from a few aisles away, who is holding a magazine called, "The Court."  Nick cannot recall her name, and when she notices him staring, she addresses him by name and challenges him to give her name.   She tells Nick her name is Natasha and she used to be blonde, and mentions some place called Jimmy's.  

Ellie crosses the street to the convenience store nearby.  A car drives by and water splatters from its wheels onto her face.  Blindly, she rushes inside hoping to get something to clean it up given the stinging pain is just too much.  She calls out for the cashier, demanding they give her assistance.   Unbeknownst to her, the cashier has his hands up as a guy with a pistol is holding the store up!

As Luka and his driver, argue, Luka notices they are heading straight for an incoming car.  A car swerves, nearly hitting Martin - who was stopped for a moment along the road.  He sees a Siamese cat, the same cat, there as well.  Ignoring the cat, Martin leaps into his car to chase after the other car that nearly hit him.  Luka preps his gun once his driver notes that someone is following them.  Luka tells the drive to slow down, as he plans to talk the other car driver.  The drive stomps on the brakes, and Martin pulls to the side, stopping directly beside the car close enough to keep the doors from opening.  Luka cuts her sister's face with a knife and he starts lying to Martin that the reason they were rushing was because they were hurrying to bring her to the hospital.  Martin steps out of the car, walking to the other car.  Luka realizes the guy didn't buy it and tells the driver to drive the hell out of the area.  Martin steps back as the car drives off.  He mentally notes the license plate.

Ellie starts talking about being friends with a high-ranking editor as she calls for help in her blindness, but her actions end up causing the guy to fire the pistol.  The owner of the shop crumples to the ground, and Ellie hears the man admit he wasn't supposed to kill him.   When the guy starts mumbling about not wanting to go to prison and how there shouldn't be any witnesses, Ellie admits she can't see anything and her memory is bad too..  But the man mutters he recalls her saying she is someone important.  A box is shoved against her chest.  Ellie realizes its a tissue box.  Wiping her face clean, she realizes she is alone with the dead shop owner.  But then the door opens once more as the thief returns, having forgotten to get the money.  Ellie pretends to still be blind, but risks an attempt to take a peek at the guy.  The guy is a semi-bald man of latin descent.  But when Ellie notices all the blood against the walls, she nearly gasps and reveals she can see everything.    When the guy walks up to her, she flinches, but excuses it away to be because she could hear him approach.  He asks her to help him open the door, and he goes off to find water to wash her face with.  While gone, she hits the silent alarm at the bottom of the desk.  She helps him open the cashier, but even as she tries to convince him to take his time to count the bills, she feels him push the gun against her hand.  He runs off, leaving her there.  She hurries to the back looking for a backdoor and finds a four-year old girl looking straight back at her.

Nick jokes that they have nothing to be afraid off, despite the turbulence.  "You're not pregnant, are you?"  The woman across the aisle, Natasha, however cock-blocks Nick and convinces the woman to leave him.  "Men like Nick care about one thing, their dick or their title. You're just in the way."  The woman walks away, bothered.  Natasha goes back to her magazine, but Nick walks up to him and still strikes a conversation with him.  She tells him she is Natasha N'djad and they met on the night he won his first case.   Nick remembers he even called her Christy during sex.  Nick simply invites her to join him instead for a drink.  Turbulence shakes the plane once more.   The Captain informs everyone that they're having trouble contacting the tower, so they need to circle for a few minutes.  He tries to reassure them that this is normal and there's no need to be alarmed.  As Nick and Natasha trade barbed words a few more times, however, and when Natasha tries to suggest Nick offer an apology, he instead just teases her that blonde suits her better.  But before she could say anything to retort, a terribly loud BANG makes everything for a brief moment appear bluish white.  Nick grabs the Emergency Guide, wondering what the hell that could be.  Someone yells out that lightning might have just gotten hit by lightning.   The flight attendants try to calm everyone down.  She asks if he still keeps the "pen" and she reminds him how freaked out he was when she tried using it that night.  He tells her it was important because it was from this place called, "None of your business."  She hints that she found "her" and alludes that she was able to find Christy and hints at her having two kids.   Nick suggests maybe they can try Jimmy's again.  Almost as if on cue, the Captain announces that they're finally cleared for landing.

Martin steps back into the car, not really seeing the Latin young man running away from the nearby convenience store.  He hears the incoming sirens, and uses a payphone to call 911.  He uses an odd accent to tell the emergency services in broken English about a car that came out of nowhere that nearly did a "run-and-hit."  He then follows this with accurate descriptions of the driver, the passengers and the make of the car.   He even mentions the woman looked like she was slashed on the face.

Luka tells his driver to stop the car.   He calls his lawyer, Christy, pulling in a favor from a congressman in DC to change the records of the car to point to him instead.  Christy admits it will take some time to do it.  Luka reminds her of the favors he did for her, "So are you going to do this for me? Who do I need to call to make this happen?"   Luka then tells Mike to get gas and burn the car, despite the rain.  "Make it happen."  Luka then brings Agatha to the nearest motel.  Sirens blare in the background.  The guy at the motel stares at them and just charges them $100 without question. Luka tosses him a $1000 and heads to the room.  Agatha wakes up in the room, still panicked and scared.  Luka reminds her not to use drugs and even pins the wound he gave her as being self-inflicted.  He goes as far as revealing tablets of ecstasy (he carried himself) and claims he got it from her pocket.  Agatha now admits she went to Mario since Luka's contacts didn't give her any drugs, but she showed him.  Luka starts to get the implication that she killed him.  "The best part, he died saying your name. Guess he was thinking of you as I did it."  For Agatha, she thinks she just solved Luka's problem of Mario edging into her brother's business.  Luka, however, realizes this is another big issue he has to fix somehow.

Outside, the woman at the counter looks up.  Four men step in and she points to the room without a key.  The men nod and head up.   Still on hold, Martin rambles in Russian, hangs up the phone, and gets back into his car.

Ellie stares at the four-year old girl, who starts asking if her daddy is okay.  Ellie tries to reassure her while hiding her face from the girl.  She makes for the rear door as she tells the girl to wait for the policemen to arrive.  She runs out into the alleyway.

Martin sees a woman heading into the rain from the back alley.  He recognizes the signs of running away and turns the car to pull up beside her.  Ellie sees the mustang slow down beside her.  She thanks him for the concern.  Police cars rush passed them.  Ellie pulls the door open and slides in.  "I just need a place... where to..." Martin shakes his head, "Smoking is not good for your health."  She asks to be dropped off at the next two corners.  Martin drives them down the road.

The plane begins to land.

Ellie thanks Martin for giving her a ride.   Martin notices the streak of blood on Ellie's sleeve.  He asks if there's something she's not telling him.  Martin firmly holds Ellie's elbow and holds her from leaving his car.  "It is not your blood."  She tries explaining that she came from some party.  But Martin tells her she's not a very good liar.  "You are not my priest," she hisses.  "But I can be your confessor," Martin barks back.  He pulls her back into the car.

The four men stand by the door.  They point at their goal and prep the silencers of their guns.

Nick sees Natasha grabbing her suitcase.  He mutters about always liking them more mature.  They are both outside the terminal as Nick hails a cab.  Natasha admits she wouldn't mind a ride.  Nick nonchalantly responds, "Yes, we're heading for bourbon right? Keep up. Keep up."  Natasha tells him, "My car is over here," and walks off.  Nick smirks and follows her.

Agatha is in the shower.  Luka standing by the door, staring at the knife she used to kill Mario.  The door bursts open as the two men rush into the room with guns.  "Officer Goodman, how are you? Are sales are up thanks to the team!" Luka asserts his presence in the room.  The men stop, guns still trained at him, but stay still.  Two more men walk in with guns.  "This is nothing.  Personal business. Part of our business. Tell your men to go away for now."  Luka slowly begins to realize however the four aren't actually cops, despite their pants and blue jackets.  But none of them are wearing badges.  A heavily bandaged man follows the four.  It is Mario.  "I'll make this simple. You or your sister."  Luka glances back at the bathroom and Agatha is still under the running water, oblivious to it all.

"You or your sister!"

Luka shrugs, "Then take me. Let's go."  When Mario threatens to end his life, Luka still tries to twist the situation around, reminding Mario he needs him for his business to keep going.  But Mario mutters back he's merely here to balance the scales.  Even before Luka's words can exit his mouth, the staccato sound of gunshots fill the air.  Agatha turns to hear the shots and covers her ears in fear.

A door slams open at a hotel as Nick carries Natasha into the room.  "Damn you Nick Hunter," Natasha hisses as they head straight to the bed.  "Here," Natasha hands Nick a necktie, "Wear this."  She begins tying it around his eyes.  "Now you can pretend I am blonde," the same thing he was thinking.  She pulls her hands above his head, then pulls his belt free.  She loops it at one of the bed frames and even tells him to feel free to call her Cristy.  As he pulls the blindfold to look at her, he sees her sitting on his crotch as she pounds something on her chest.  Once. Twice. More.  Blood sprays out of him as the blade is slammed in over and over again.

Martin drives them further off, taking the road to leave the city limits.  Ellie once more fears for her life.  "It is so easy to do wrong in this world," Martin empathizes,  "I have to balance the scales."  Ellie tries to stay calm and realizes she has her phone in her pocket.  She tries to feel for the 9-1-1 buttons as Martin mumbles about so much wrong existing in the world.  "You will feel so much better just telling me what you did."   Ellie realizes the pain of touchscreen phones.  No buttons to feel.  The car leaves the city limits as it drives down one of the intercity roads.   Ellie agrees to tell him her burden if he will tells her who he is.  He admits that would be the last thing she would know if he does that.  Ellie suddenly realizes despite the fear that if she lives through this, it would be such a story to write.  The trick is finding a way to do so.

Luka's eyes open.  Even as he begins to prattle about this being the tenth time Mario has tried to off him, he discovers he's alone in the room. It is clean. The bed is made. The door is fixed.  Luka looks down and discovers numerous holes through his chest and stomach.  Even his hands.  The door opens and a pair of guys rushed into the room, giggling as they mumble to each other about the person at the front desk was looking at them.  They remark at how clean the room looks.  The two kiss, passionately.  Gently.  Luka sees the sunlight through the curtains.  And don't even seem to notice he is there.  Luka stands up, seeing the two stumble on each other as they try to rip their clothes off.  They make their way to the bed.  Luka wonders if he's dead.  He walks to the wall length mirror and he can see the two now naked on the bed.  Luka himself is barely visible.  Nor is the fourth person in the room. An old man's face that has somehow pushed through the wall.  His suit looks ragged and out of date.  His hair is gray.  The old man turns in disgust from the two, then turns to Luka and seems surprised that Luka can see him.  The old man raises his hand towards him, and the man's movement shows small twitchy motions.  And suddenly he vanishes as he pulls back through the wall.  Luka runs up to the wall, pushing his hand against the wall, and he feels an immense horrible pain shoot through him as his body discorporates from the contact, with part of him tearing away as the wall rips him apart as he steps through the wall.  The old man vanishes as he rushes through another wall to escape.  Luka glances out the closest window and sees the old man leaping down to the street.  Luka jumps out through the window as he leaps out to follow - and then the panic as he feels gravity grasp hold of him and pull him towards the ground.  Luka hits the ground, instinctively rolling, then recovering.  He realizes he felt the impact.  The  old man is hurriedly rushing down the road as he yells, "I don't want no trouble... I don't want no trouble!  Leave me alone...."  Luka continues following the old man, charging through the crowd of people who neither perceive nor sense him.   More times Luka drops in pain as the things rip through him.  Luka feels himself tearing up like tissue paper.  The old man realizes Luka is tearing apart and runs back to him, realizing Luka is new.  "Take it... take it..." as he offers his hand to Luka.  Luka takes his hand, and feels a warm wrap around him.  The old man tries to teach him to fix his body but Luka doesn't grasp it well.  The old man realizes he has to do it for him and a cold rush swirls through Luka.  He helps him replenish the lost Corpus and rebuild Luka's fragmented form.  "You just died, didn't you?" the old man mutters.  "Well, welcome to your death.  Lesson number one: Just because you're a ghost, it doesn't mean you can get through things.  Lesson number two: Falling still hurts.  Come on, I'll introduce you to others.  Don't worry, we outnumber the living.  We always do."

Nick's eyes open.  He hears the click-clack of cameras and the mumbling voices of people.  Nick realizes he is staring at himself, naked and bloodied on the soiled bed.  Police officers are standing around as the detective inspects his body.  Forensics is searching for clues.  Nick feels the immense urge to laugh.   A painful surge hits as Nick feels someone walk through him as well.  Nick realizes this isn't some joke.  A few more times, things hit and pass through Nick... but he learns from the pain real quick and pulls to a corner to watch what is happening.  They count fifteen stab wounds to his chest.  A scream erupts from the door.  All turn to see Natasha, dropping an ice bucket as she gives the perfect performance of a woman seeing his dead body for the first time!  Nick wants to get angry but before he can react, another figure walks into the room.  Black as pitch, the figure walks noiselessly into the room.  Like a mummy wrapped in black leather, the thing stares at the body, then turns to face Nick's direction.  Nick nervously says hello.  The figure's yellow eyes train on him as Nick considers a way out.  Instincts tell him he should run.  The leather figure leaps at Nick, with the bandages unfurling as it flies mid-air, and like a leathery Venus fly-trap it tries to swallow Nick whole!  Nick leaps for the door, spitting out curses as he runs through people to get out... through too many people until he is completely ripped away.

A song. Nick hears a familiar song.  His eye open once more and he discovers he is somewhere else.  He pulls up and he begins to grasp where he is.  Jimmy's.   He has no idea how he got there.  The bar is still closed, yet the music is playing as Jimmy tidies up the bar.  Nick moves to the barstool and drops on it.  Jimmy suddenly speaks up, "So you finally here?"  Nick looks up, startled.  "I guess?"  "Wasn't expecting you here til a few days from now," Jimmy responds without looking up.  Nick looks around, confused.  "Why not?"  "Weather and all," Jimmy mutters back, "Good thing you had a safe flight."  Nick starts to remember things.  He now remembers Natasha and the knife.  The murder.  The bitch.  "So," Jimmy asks, "Dead?"  Nick looks up, confused.  "No... not dead.. Just a... a prank.. I can't be dead here... Senior Partner..."    Jimmy's next response was odder. "Fucking deserved it.  Given everything that has happened."  Nick starts to realize Jimmy might not be talking to him.  "Whatever you say, Natasha," Jimmy responds as he turns to face Nick's direction and reveals the bluetooth headset he is talking to, "All I know is, the bastard had it coming."  Nick stares as he realizes Jimmy was in it with Natasha.  "See you in a few," Jimmy tells Natasha on the phone.  Nick feels the anger swell.  He reaches out to grab Jimmy and instinctively, the very moment he touches Jimmy, he pulls his hand back.  It was the tearing sensation once more.  Jimmy sits down, oblivious to Nick's presence, and mutters aloud to himself how Nick sadly has finally bitten off far more than he can chew.  Nick knows Natasha will be coming here.  He realizes it is a chance to learn more. And just maybe get back at them for this.

"I'm telling you Nick, you don't really have anyone else but me now," Nick hears a voice whisper to him.  He turns around and at the mirror sees his own reflection talking to him, "Don't worry you're not alone.  You got me."

Martin pulls off the interstate and brings Ellie to an old Church.  Ellie tries to manipulate her phone but she can't seem to get a feel if she's doing it right.  "I guess we're doing a proper confession then," Ellie tries to lighten the mood upon seeing the Church.  Martin however tells them they will be fine right here at the front of the Church.  "Just be honest with me and this will be over very quickly."   Ellie keeps trying to dial the phone in her pocket, but Martin remarks this place has really bad signal.  Ellie tries to shift the dialogue to get Martin to admit if there's something he wants.  Martin shifts the question back to the blood on her arm.  She admits he was just at the wrong place at the wrong time, and explains she ran away cause her presence there would have been misconstrued.  They debate about people and their importance, and of her being a bystander to events - being blinded and having wandered into a robbery.  Martin seems to take offense in her leaving the child with her dead father.  Ellie admits she pressed the security button, but she doesn't understand why this stranger is interrogating her.  "Because I am the man with the gun," he hisses.  Ellie starts challenging him for kidnapping her and for living a convenient life.  Martin just tells her she is not helping things along and that they are here for confession.  She stresses that she was at the wrong place at the wrong time.  He tells her he is usually paid to do this sort of thing, but he tells her this is personal.  As Ellie continues trying to explain she really had no choice, Martin gets distracted by the sight of a black Siamese cat at the corner of his eye.  Being the fourth time to see it, he pulls his gun out.  Ellie gasps, fearing this is it!  But to her surprise, he apologies, saying its been a long night, and motions her to open the door.  "Think about what you failed to do," Martin remarks then closes the door and drives off - leaving Ellie at the front of the old Church.

Ellie gasps, alive and scared, but alone.  The phone has no signal.  She is just happy to be alive.

As Martin drives off.  Siamese cat watches it leave, and it stops beside the bare legs of a woman.

Nick hears his reflection talking to him about how it is true, he is dead, and it guides Nick to see the holes in his chest.  Looking down, Nick is bothered how he can even see the back of his jacket through his still open yet not bleeding wounds.  The reflection explains how he is now made of corpus the stuff dead things are made of.  Nick laments why the two would even want to kill him - and the reflection starts counting them off.  When Nick asks who the reflection is, it remarks it is Nick's other half. It's kin. It's... shadow.  He begins giving him information on how being dead still has its own advantages.  The reflection asks Nick for a memory he will not need, in exchange, he will learn one thing that he doesn't realize he already knows.  "Do you remember your fourth birthday? Or the first thing you broke as a child?  Name of the first woman you slept with? Just one thing. This economy of things is all just business after all." Nick wonders if he's Satan, and the reflection laughs at how he knows he never believed in Satan.  Nick decides to give the day he chose his career over a woman.  Their hands clamp together, and Nick feels the weight fade away.  He discovers he has a power called Orienteering, and now has a sense of finding things he wants to locate.   Nick wonders what he would be looking for.  What he wants to find.

"They're here."

Nick looks up to see Natasha and Jimmy at the bar.  She gives him a long deep kiss.  Jimmy asks if its done.  Natasha smiles in response.  They talk about playing this very carefully.

Luka learns from the old man more about being dead, including the ability to recover lost Corpus through pure emotions that can be drawn in from the living - especially in places where it is celebrated such as funerals, motels, and weddings.  And how they can also regain it in murder scenes, violent crimes and the like.  He learns how when they run out of Corpus, and Pathos, they get shunted to the things that are important to them: Fetters.  "We get so fettered to these things that when get ripped apart, we reemerge in them."  Luka wonders if he can build his body back, but the old man explains a few can find ways to feel alive... to manifest... but it usually just happens for a second or two.   Completely fresh off the boat, Luka learns more with the old man than he would willingly be thankful for, including the existence of Arcanoi and the wraith groups.  This sparks curiosity and interest in Luka on what he can do. Luka learns of someone called an Oracle, and asks to be taken to her.  In exchange, Luka promises to owe him.  They opt for visiting one of the places Luka considers important to "fuel up."  They talk about a thrift shop where Luka's personal stuff are and they head there while they talk about the Hierarchy, the government that runs the dead. And how its ruler remains missing for the last few years.

Ellie starts a voice recording, talking about the events that happened in case "Frank" finds her dead body and to make sure this becomes a manuscript.  She narrates what she can of the events that lead to her being on this road, and hopes if she does die, then at least she will leave what might be her best work. She checks the battery and it looks good.  She sees a woman standing at the side of the road, smiling as she waits.  Beautiful and almost vibrant in the night's darkness, Ellie wonders why a woman would be standing along the interstate road while barefoot in her nightie.  A cold sensation washes down her back.  Ellie glances down at her phone to check the signal, but it suddenly starts ringing - startling her to almost drop it.  She answers it and hears her editor, Frank, at the other end. He tells her he's outside her condo and she tries to explain quickly that she's at some Church area.  She asks Frank to listen and he explains everything she can.  She described to him where she is, hoping he will recognize where it could be.

Martin drives back off, hoping to head back to the cemetery. He stops at a corner when he stats to realize that it seems to still be night - it should already be approaching dawn by now.  The dashboard shows him ten past midnight.  He draws his gun and steps out of the car and realizes he's at the train tracks.  Stepping back into the car, he drives on to find any familiar place.  He sees a familiar motel and stops the car to step out and try to understand if he had lost time or something.  Once again, the cat appears on the hood of the cat, meowing at him.  Martin fires at shot at the cat, and the cat meows back.  Did he miss?  He pushes the gun against the cat's head, but it doesn't react.  Martin fires a second time, and the cat's head is pulverized into a red cloud.  But in an eye blink, the cat is whole and meows at him again.   Martin hurries back into the car, confused and scared for the first time in his life. He pulls into the cemetery, headlights closing in from the distance, and two motorcycles suddenly come to a stop in front of Martin's car.  Martin steps out of the car but then loses his balance and he slips to the ground.  One shines the headlight of the motorcycle at Martin.  The other closes in to Martin, and he realizes the rider's boots are made of flesh and bone.  Its face is one stretched over like a mask, stapled onto the guy's head.  The man yells out something that sounds Latin as he swings something at Martin's direction.  Martin dodges to the side and sees the crude massive mace that punches into the ground where he earlier was.    The other closes in on Martin.

Frank arrives and Ellie excitedly tells him that she has a story to tell that would blow the popular authors out of the water.  Frank, however, seems uncertain if he can trust Ellie's insane story.  When Frank starts describing the Mustang, and the appearance of the drive, Ellis is bothered that Frank seems to know the man she had met personally.  Frank hands her a newspaper to explain as he drives them both away from the Church.

Nick watches as Natasha and Jimmy talk more of their coming plans.  As Nick wonders if there is someone who can touch the living, his reflection starts offering to help him accomplish things, bargaining to twist things in his favor.  Nick accepts it and discovers someone with the "blue light" can help him. He leaves Jimmy's and starts to make his way to the subway in hopes of finding that person with the blue light.  To his surprise, he can see eddies and whorls swirling ahead of him, as if guiding the way.   He feels the presence of something unnatural nearby.  He turns his head to sense where it comes from.

Luka and the old man make their way to the Church, which the old man claims is where the Oracle awaits.  Luka enjoys thinking of the mess of the Hierarchy of seemingly being like the Mafia in how it tries to organize things.    A man asks them "How do you do that?" and the two look up to a man talking to them.  The man turns out to be Nick.  Nick recognizes Luka to be one of his clients, and Luka openly mutters, "You're one of those guys Cristy fucked." The train arrives as they talk, Nick sees his reflection once more as the train rushes by.  It complains to Nick about how Luka is talking about Cristy, but thankfully Luka and the old man interrupt it and share their story about heading for the Oracle.  The two exchange quick stories about how they died but during their conversation, a dark cloud descends from the ceiling towards them.  Within its dark embrace, a thing moves on all fours.  The figure seems like a man, but a muzzle of rusted metal and inward-pointing spikes is locked around his face.  It sniffs the air, then moves towards them through the ceiling.  The vertical slits of its eyes narrow as it approaches. "Barghest !" the old man gasps, as he starts to back away.  "Run!"  As it howls, multiple howls in the distance do the same.  Luka sees the old man and Nick rush for the train. Luka, however, chooses to try talking to it.

Martin dodges the mace a second time.  He draws out his pistol and fires at the man with the mace.  His head explodes with black goo that dissipates into smoke.  The second one closes in, flickering as if against a strobe light, and swings his own mace against Martin's chest.  Martin rolls away, recovering, and getting to his feet.  The headless one, however, impossibly starts to gather the smoke back and reform his head.  The second one starts plucking on the mace to create spikes on its surface.  Martin fires at the second one this time, dropping backwards as the bullet slams into his forehead.  His head actually snaps backwards all the way to have it hit his own heels. The first one's head has reformed, and nail like talons emerge from his wrists.  Instincts kick in as Martin now is certain these things are not human.  He holds his breath, crouching low in a ready posture to get into a fight, and something amazing happens.  The two suddenly seem to be unable to perceive him now.  They look around, angry, and begin to move away.  Martin sees the cat once more.  It walks up to him and watches with him the two things leaving.  As Martin exhales, he ends up talking to the cat, "What the fuck was that?"  To his surprise, the cat responds, "Finally."  Martin tries to grasp what is happening, and why he can talk to a cat, and it tells him about how Martin thinks of himself so much as a monster, he forgets he has a rational side to himself.  And it seems that side of him is... embodied by the cat.  "If you were a monster, she would not have loved you."

Moonlight shines through the clouds.  Martin realizes it shines upon the grave of the woman he loves.  The cat asks if Martin finally remembers what happened the last few days.  Martin thinks he finishes the job.  He met that girl in the mart.  But he didn't remember everything that happened.  And he now realizes he isn't even getting wet in the rain.   The cat mutters it is time to get back home, since he had been using up so much of his pathos that he's been reemerging in his Mustang, his only remaining Fetter.

Ellie and Frank go through the details of the night, with Ellie trying to explain that everything she has shared is true.  "I just want to get back home in one piece," she sighs.  Frank hands her the newspaper in his car and she sees the headline features a dead mass-murderer. Over 40 were killed in the shoot-out.  She realizes the man is Martin Goldberg, the Knife.  The same man in the car.  The wall was painted with the words, "Guilty."   Ellie admits he looks like the guy, but Frank wonders if she is just trying to pretend she's going crazy to help market the coming book.  Frank decides he will bring her home, and he can stay in the living room to stay awake and read the manuscript.  Ellie tries to talk him out of it as they continue driving back to the city.  

"So you saw him.  The Knife."

"Nothing seemed out of the ordinary though.  Well, save for the kidnapping part."

Frank admits there are rumors that Martin was always seen at a theater before.  He suggests they can try going there at midnight.  Maybe Martin's ghost was trying to find someone to write his last words or something.  Ellie is just grateful she is finally safe.    They see the police cars gathered at the convenience store across the street, then head up to the condo to get Ellie tucked in after forcing her to eat and shower.  Ellie soon drifts off, falling asleep, while Frank stays over to wonder about things.  He wonders if what she claims to have seen is true - he had checked with his police contacts and they confirmed there was a four-year old girl at the convenience store.

Nick leaps into the train with the old man as the Barghest closes in.  The old man hisses angrily that Luka is the one who owes him, not Nick.  Luka tells them to go ahead.  As the train leaves, Luka watches the Barghest prowling closer.  Nick asks the old man, "If I save him, you will owe me, right?"  Nick leaps out of the train and rolls against the tracks, tearing part of his corpus away.   Luka drops to one knee, seeing the Barghest's drool falling from its maw yet never hitting the ground.  Luka claims to be a willing servant before the monster, but the beast does not seem to know how to react.  Nick scrambles back to his feet, and far behind, the old man leaps out of the train as well.  To Nick's surprise, the thing has not attacked Luka yet.  Luka tells it he wants to meet the others.  The thing leaps forward, maw unraveling to bite at Luka, but Nick runs to tackle him aside.  Unexpectedly, his coat billows against the wind and Nick finds himself riding the wind as he rushes forward!  Nick yanks Luka away as the thing's jaws snap the air where he was earlier.  Luka calls out to the old man, asking for a way to kill it.  But the old man repeats that normally he just runs.

Both Nick and Luka hear the thing begin howling.  The voice is frighteningly distorted, tearing into their corpus.   The old man yells at them to buy him time.  Luka starts throwing words, hoping to intimidate the dog.  He starts hurling insults, power words that he knows catch people off-guard, and to his surprise the thing stares at him and seemingly cannot look away.  From the side, Nick sees Luka's words working!  The barghest is backing away, as it perceives the world around it twisting and distorting - blood dripping from the walls and screams howl from the corners.  The old man guides Nick to heal himself, showing him how to reform his torn gauze.  Nick remembers Christy, seeing her in his mind's eye, and he feels a surge of emotion swirling into him.   Hands plant on Luka's shoulders, a face leans beside his, and to his surprise he sees a woman whispering to him, "That's my boy.  You know you can terrify the thing apart."  Luka feels greater confidence and walks towards the thing, twisting its perceptions even more.  Nick flies once more, using his Argos, and swings a punch at the barghest!  Having accepted the assistance of the Shadow, spikes erupt from his knuckles and then twist into hooks as they bite into its meat.  They tear chunks of the barghest's corpus off as Nick completes the swing.  The barghest staggers to the ground.  As it tries to howl a second time, the old man draws out a flint lock pistol and fires it at the barghest, dispersing it into a shadow.  "You just had to kill it," the old man snarls.  Luka questions why these things are leading the world now, but the old man corrects him that something else worse leads the world they are in now.

Ellie wakes up.  She sees Frank drifting off to sleep.  She realizes there is another man in the room.  Martin Goldberg.  Ellie panics, hitting the light on, and he's not there.  She rushes to Frank, shoving him awake, and telling him it is time to head to the theater.

At the same theater, Martin and the cat move in the darkness and see her seated and watching the running movie.  The woman who Martin cared for. Amy.  As the cat tries to say something, Martin shoves it aside and he walks up to her, asking if it is really her.  Amy's eyes narrow, starting at Martin, uncertain.  Martin admits he doesn't know either what is going on.  Amy admits she had always been watching him when he would come, watching the same movie they used to love.  But now, with both of them dead, they can once more be together.  They talk of their first meeting.  Of their dislike of crowds.  Of their yellow house.  Of their life together.

Ellie steps into the theater with Frank.  As they make their way inside, Ellie looks around searching for any sign of Martin the Knife, despite not knowing for certain what they will do if they do see him.
Nick feels every last bit of self-confidence and control fade away as the Shadow Bid failed.  It places its hand against the glass and tells Nick, "Put it here."  Nick plants his hand against the glass too, and suddenly everything seems... wrong. Words are reversed.  His left hand rises as he lifts his right hand.  Almost like... he's stuck inside the mirror.  "You stay there," his reflections says, "I'll handle it from here."  Luka insists they both have a lot of explaining to do and asks the old man to bring them to the oracle.  "Nick" smiles, "The Oracle?  Perfect."

Ellie sees Martin.  Martin and Amy are so caught up in their moment of finally being reunited, neither notice the sole woman who can perceive them.  Ellie shows Frank where the two are, but sees nothing.  Ellie pulls out her phone camera and tries recording the two - and to her shock it works!  Frank stares at the video and sees Martin and Amy captured in it.  Frank tells Ellie he will watch her back and takes her phone to record Ellie as she approaches the two.

"Don't let her touch you," the cat warns Martin.  When asked why, the cat merely hisses, "Trust me."  Martin hisses there is nothing rational about this situation and he demands a reason.  The cat explains if he touches her, something very bad will happen.   Martin hears voices nearby complaining, and turning to the sound he sees Ellie.  He feels anger well up upon seeing her in what he considers to be a private place.  Amy begs Martin to just hold her hand.  Martin tells her to wait, and he starts walking straight up to Ellie to confront her.  The other people in the theater complain and tell Ellie to get out of the way. Ellie's mind races, especially when Martin draws his gun, and as she wonders if ghosts with guns can hurt people, she draws her own pistol as well!

Nick, Luka, and the old man ride the train, and soon, disembark at an unmarked station where the old man proclaims the Oracle awaits.   Luka asks if there are traditions or customs to gain the Oracle's positive viewpoint and the old man explains the need for obols as payment.  Luka holds it close and realizes the coins are moaning in pain.  They too, were once spirits but now have been molded to become their currency.  Luka offers to ask the old man's questions for him, and the old man agrees.  He asks Lukas to ask for him where his "Giselle" has gone.  And for the third, if they will ever be reunited.  Nick hears the discussions faintly in the distance as he watches through borrowed eyes.  Wanting to wrestle control back, Nick slams his hand against the glass and tries to regain dominance.  He begins to slip from his self-consciousness and finds himself yanked into the depths of a new harrowing.   Luka walks to the door of the Oracle and twists the knob open.

Martin fires the pistol first, and the ghost bullet passes through Ellie!  Frank yells out, asking if she's okay, but the crowd in the theater yell at him to shut up!  Martin instinctively inhales, and to their surprise, the ground where Martin stands creaks against his sudden weight!  The nearby man sitting behind Ellie curses aloud upon seeing a man appear out of nowhere!  Ellie realizes Martin has become real!  Become full manifested in the world!  Ellie fires the gun into the ceiling and calls out to everyone to get out of the theater!  People panic as they break into a run and Martin feels the impact as people slam into him in their attempts to get away from Ellie!  Amy calls out to him once more, begging for Martin to take her hand.

Nick hears a gavel slam against the wood and he realizes he is no longer in the mirror world.  He is at court, sitting as the defendant, and staring at all the sheep in the chambers.  A beautiful woman in the judges robes watches him. At the opposing table, blonde women smile.  Nick is told to rise and asked to give his final statements.  The blondes stare at him, judging him as they giggle, then in unison pull their hair back to cock an ear his way.  Nick opens his words with, "I have done all you wrong."  But then his dark passions rise to the fore and threaten to take over. Lust kicks in.  Nick tries to focus on winning this case, telling himself he has to win it despite the rising lust.  But then he realizes this isn't about a case.  This is about a woman.  About Cristy.  He fails to keep her in his mind.  The blondes begin to grin, showing wolven smiles.

Luka shoves the door open, expecting the Oracle.  As he steps through the doorway, he finds billowing shadows dancing all around.  "Madame Oracle," he calls out, asking for the oracle and even suggesting she is expecting him.  Chains erupt from the shadows and begin clamping on Lukas' arms and legs! The shadows pull away and Luka sees men dressed in what look like Roman Centurion armor, only hammered from flesh, holding the chains as they pull him closer to them.  A man with a skull helm walks up to Luka and holds a spear against his throat.  He mutters, "Fresh corpus.  Bring him home, boys."  The chains continue pulling and a swirling tempest dances against the wall.  "The Grand Maw awaits you."

Ellie stays even as everyone runs in all directions.  Martin sees the cat once more hissing and telling him not to touch Amy.  Martin let's go of his breath, dropping his manifested state, as he mutters to it, "But it is Amy!"  Ignoring all its protests, Martin reaches his hand outwards for Amy to touch.  When their hands touch, the cat looks away before the brilliant explosion of light shines from where the two touch.  "It is you!" Amy smiles, "I've been waiting for so long for you."  The light grows brighter and brighter until Martin realizes he cannot see Amy any more.

"NO!" Martin howls. The cat sighs, "There you go... fulfilling her unfinished business."  Martin feels nothing in the light.  Amy is gone.  Taken away.  Ellie slides her notebook out and tries to scribbling what she can on it based on what happened.  Martin becomes solid once more.  Anger in his heart, Martin turns and sees Ellie busily writing.  Ellie looks up and sees the two staring at her.  "Are you amused?  Was this all for your entertainment?  I lost her!!"   The cat merely goes, "Mmhmm.."

Ellie calmly responds, "I know.  And I want to keep the memory of her.  Someone once wrote that we go through our lives and go through many of our memories. I wanted to see your-"

"It is not your story to tell."  Martin snarls.  He tells her to get out and begins to scream at him to go!  Frank and Ellie hurry away with Martin's voice yelling over and over again to get out.

***

The Tempest.  An eternal storm swirls, stripping things of corpus and leaving only pathos.   Using Argos, the wraiths carry Luka with them through the tempest safely and lead them to a structure so massive, it looks almost like the full moon in the sky.  It instead is a grand, great, massive maw.  Luka thought they meant "Grand Ma" but now he realizes it is some other primordial force.  He is flung inside and swallowed away.

The showbiz world speaks of Ellie O'Connor and her tragic meltdown. Despite her and Frank's attempts to explain the presence of the ghosts and the captured footage, no one else seem to have the ability to see Martin's presence in the recordings.  The two become obsessed with finding more facts on these ghosts, but even that does not last long.  Frank starts wondering if he simply suffered from some kind of mass hysteria, while Ellie continues to insist what they witnessed was real.    Four years pass.  Ellie eventually meets a man who hands her a small pendant, claims to be part of a brotherhood of some sort, and offers her a chance to prove the existence of the spirit world.  In return, she is to leave everything behind and follow him.  Believing there is nothing left for her, she agrees.

Martin haunts the theater for the rest of his life.  He eventually learns he can Embody, becoming so manifested as to be practically human.  But while human, he learns he is just as vulnerable as humans are.  Amy never returns.  Martin wonders what unfinished business he still has to settle - but for the life of him he cannot think of what it can be.  The cat remains with him, offering rational advice when it can.  But despite that, Martin feels he has nothing for him in this Haunt.

Nick awakes to the sound of a voice.  A woman's voice.  His gauze is weak and torn but thankfully he is still alive.  The voice speaks of Nick Hunter, offering prayers to some god that does not answer, and the words somehow give Nick strength.  But for now, he is weak.  Too weak.  And all Nick can think to do is rest.









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