Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 10, 2013.
Dan walked in as we were discussing the Orphanage. He was out of the wheelchair and using a cane which I thought was a good sign. He was obviously taken aback by the state of the rest of us and we immediately filled him in on what had happened that morning. The fight at the orphanage, the meeting at the church, and Prator’s ‘well done’ speech.
We’d just finished describing the Reverend Green when Prator burst back in saying something along the lines of, “Great, you’re all here, I’ve got another mission for you.” He told us it should be an easy one and that we’d earned a bit of a break. I am grateful for the rest but he made it sound so patronizing.
Well, it’s out of town, up in Washington D.C., and we’re not scheduled to leave until Monday so I’ll just leave the briefing here for now.
As I read it over I spotted the term ‘Dies Ignis’ which roughly translates from latin as Day of Fire. I recognised it from a book I’d read called ‘Dies Ignis Deconstructed’ which is a study of an old Latin text, said to be written by Lucifer himself. It talks about a series of ages, at the end of which is a great apocalypse. It also details three possible ways for humanity to endure this apocalypse. I told the others about the book, but since it didn’t really relate to this mission I think Markus was the only one who showed any interest. I’ll have to dig out that book for him.
Dan was interested to hear about our plans to go to the Church service that night, but suggested we get an early dinner before heading out. The four of us made our way down to the cafeteria and I helped myself to the very american ‘Pulled-Pork’. As we ate we were visited by Erin, from Crucible 3, who inquired about our job.
We told her that we’d encountered some spectres and she tolds us what she knew about them. That no one really knows where they come from, but they’re always animalistic and uncommunicative. We told her about the whimpering spectre that seemed to want to leave and she seemed very interested but ultimately couldn’t give us any solid information. Apparently Orpheus hasn’t officially classified them, or acknowledged their existence. At least not publicly. I can only imagine the panic if people knew that not only are there invisible dead people hanging around, but also invisible, dead, and angry people. Murderous might be a better word for it actually.
When she heard that we were going to check out the church Erin smiled and laughed. Saying how cute it was that the newbies were still enthusiastic enough to stay and work late. She would be heading home at five. She did however approve of how we were sticking together, saying that it was the one thing that would keep us safe. Grimes was apparently practically living at Orpheus now, and had turned into something of a loner since his partner, a firefighter, had left due to work-related stress. Can’t say I blame him.
Well, our Crucible had been reunited so I think we all felt a little safer. We finished up and took the company car out to the Church of the Sacred Mother. On the way there I told Markus that he should probably arrive separately from us, as the spooks would find it suspicious if we got out of the same car. He shared my sentiments and so we let him out a couple of blocks early before pulling into the car park.
It was busy again, similar to the first night I’d seen it. We waited outside among the predominantly black crowd and were soon approached by an older white couple who introduced themselves as Dave and Oleda. Apparently they’d been doing community work in the neighbourhood since before the church opened. They asked why such a strange group of us had arrived together and Dahlia simply told them we were part of the same ‘support group’ and were looking for more. Oleda nodded reassuringly and said, “Ah, you’ve lost people too.”
Looking around, it seemed like a lot of the patrons had gotten dressed up in their ‘sunday best’. I spotted Reverend Thaddeus Green who was making his way towards us. He welcomed us back, and having not done proper introductions earlier he extended his hand to each of us in turn. Then he locked his eyes one me and smiled, “I see you’ve brought your friend from this afternoon.”
I was confused for a second and so he elaborated, “It’s not every day a coupl’a white folk come down to the ghetto with a spook in they car.” He gestured over my shoulder to somewhere where Markus must’ve been standing.
I didn’t know what to say, I think I started sweating. I couldn’t just break our cover, but obviously there was something going on with us that he was interested in.
“One of them is following us?” I stammered out and the smile on the Reverend’s face melted away.
“Well, like ah said… Everybody’s welcome at the Church of the Sacred Mother,” and with that he turned and went back inside.
I could tell the others weren’t very impressed with how I’d handled the situation. I think I just kinda stared at the floor as the crowd slowly moved inside for the service. We took a set of seats at the back and I pulled my jacket collar up. It was quite dim inside and there were candles flickering all around the walls and on the stage. The place was decked out with all kinds of religious paraphernalia, although no one religion stood out. There were plenty of depictions of the Virgin Mary, but I caught sight of a few other mother goddess figures including Shakti, the Great Divine Mother of Hinduism.
As the crowd filed in most of the spooks headed towards the front and sat in empty seats there. Inevitably a few of the oblivious living patrons sat in the same chairs as the spooks, who moved on without a fuss. It all seemed to be part of the ritual and soon everyone was seated.
Once the crowd had quietened, Thaddeus emerged onto the stage clutching a large holy book. He began his sermon with the line, “Brothers and sisters, breathin’ and otherwise.” He carried on to tell us all of the love of the Sacred Mother, and that this church was a safe place for all her follows to gather. After a few minutes of his preaching he addressed the crowd more directly.
“I believe there is a woman here tonight… Who is looking for a lost soul.” A woman near the front stood and was admitted up to the stage, “and who are you searching for, ma’am?”
The reverend threw his head back and called out as if to the heavens, “if your little girl is in the house tonight I would ask that she please step forward!” Sure enough, one of the spooks stood up and made her way to the stage to stand opposite the woman. With his head still rocked back and his eyes closed the Reverend continued, “Please ma’am, what is a question that only your daughter could answer?”
“What did I get you for your third birthday?”
The spook tentatively replied, “a pink tricycle.” Immediately the reverend relayed the message, “Was it a pink tricycle,ma’am?”
The woman looked shocked, “Yes…”
“Ma’am,” he paused for a dramatic second, “you are reunited with your daughter.”
With that the crowd began to cheer and clap. After a few rowdy minutes the Reverend raised his hands for silence. “I shall now tend to the reunited,” he said, and with that he was gone.
Dave came and found us, knowing that we were first timers. He asked what we thought of the reverend’s amazing gift. “How did he do that?” Dahlia asked, only to receive a vague response of, “He has been touched by the Sacred Mother.” He didn’t have much else to say and I kept my mouth shut, hoping not to get us into any more trouble.
When Dave left Dahlia turned back to us, “I wonder if he has a connection to Orpheus. He obviously has the same Dead Eyes ability as we do.” Having read plenty of historical accounts of mediums I posed a different possibility. Even the people at Orpheus had to learn from someone, so it stands to reason that other people around the world might be able to stumble upon the ability. It’s also possible that he’s taking some strain of Pigment, although he wasn’t showing any signs of the high that accompanies the vision.
A young spook approached us as we were talking and said, “Man, I heard y’all are from Orpheus. Is that true?”
“Who told you that?” I replied, trying to speak inconspicuously.
“Jus’ rumours,” he looked us over, “you got some balls coming down here though.”
“Man, there’s people round here who hate y’all. They out to get alla y’all. Hope you’re watchin’ your back for the Sick Six.”
“Oh shit, I said too much man,” he shrugged and grinned as he left, “you jus’ watch yourselves.”
The Reverend returned to the stage and when he had silence he called out, “I believe we have some new additions to our flock tonight.” I sunk lower in my seat.
“I am Reverend,” came a voice from the middle of the crowd. To my surprise, Markus stood and raised his hand. It didn’t even sound like him.
“We have a new spook in the house, ladies and gentlemen!” the Reverend sounded very pleased and the congregation clapped at the news, “what is your name, friend?”
“Mark O’reilly,” the conviction in Markus’ voice was strong and the Reverend simply nodded.
“And what brings you to the Church of the Sacred Mother, Mark?”
“I’ve lost so many. I thought they’d all be here?”
“Ah, I see,” the Reverend said smiling as he turned to the crowd, “He doesn’t know of the Shadowstorm.” He chuckled as if answering the questions of a child.
They talked back and forth for a minute or so and I was surprised how much information Markus was able to squeeze out of him. Something called the Shadowstorm had removed all trace of the older ghosts. He asked about the ‘red star’ to which Thaddeus replied that it was a beacon, sent by the Sacred Mother to guide us. The Reverend continuously asked if Markus was willing to accept the Sacred Mother into his heart but he simply acted confused and forgetful. It was quite a remarkable imitation of how our first PLE, Chris Overby, had behaved.
The conversation came to a climax as Markus repeated, “I’m so lost…” as the Reverend continued to ask, “Will you accept her?” His voice grew louder and more evangelical until eventually Markus replied with, “I need direction,” and Thaddeus pounced on what seemed to be a good ending to the spectacle. “And you shall find it here! AMEN!”
Once more the room erupted in applause. Having just witnessed a ‘miracle’ a small group of women broke into song. A few others picked it up as Reverend Thaddeus Green beamed at the congregation. He ran down through the aisles to sing, clap, and dance with his flock.
It was about nine o’clock by the time we got back to the office. On the drive back Markus and I theorized over what the Shadowstorm might be. Markus’ favourite theory was that perhaps it was a natural cleansing cycle, to prevent the spirit world from overcrowding.
Back in the office, with our computers handy, we set about learning more about this Sick Six that had it in for us. Dan pulled up Google and we found an old news article from twelve years ago about a brutal gang based in Richmond. As we scrolled through I recognised the picture of the cop who brought the gang in. His name was Ken Davenport and we’d seen him outside the Drink earlier that week looking rather haggard. It turns out that he’d taken the gang down but had his family killed in retaliation.
We also found a short list of some of the gangs members. Terrence Richard, a crooked lawyer. Jason Hein, their hitman. Ethan Torrance, another gangster with very little other information. And finally Uriah Bishop, the leader. We exchanged looks as Dan read out the name. Apparently they’d all been sentenced to death and incarcerated in Fairfax county jail, a maximum security facility.
We all came to the same conclusion, that the members of the Sick Six had died and then carried on their crooked ways in the spirit world. Dahlia thought it was unlikely that they would all become fully aware ghosts as opposed to blips and repeaters. I shared the thought that perhaps as gangsters they had been exposed to death a lot during their lives, giving them a closer connection to the spirit world. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons Orpheus chose us to be projectors.
It was getting late, but at least we had the day off tomorrow. Prator had asked that we still come in to work, but without a mission to take care of we’d be able to get some rest. When I got home I searched around for my copy of ‘Dies Ignes Deconstructed’ and put it near the front door.