Excerpts from the journal of Connor Galloway, an employee of Orpheus and member of Crucible 7.
Richmond Virginia, October 7, 2013.
I can’t sleep. Everything I’ve seen today has been too exciting and it all keeps running through my head. I figure getting it out onto paper may help me make some sense of it so here goes. Let’s start at the beginning.
Julie dropped me off at the Orpheus offices just after eight and since I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying I told her that I would text when I was done. She has plenty of study to get on with anyway.
The security guard, Warren, checked my passport and let me in without any hassle. The front door was set up kind of like an airlock and the second set of doors wouldn’t open until the outer ones had shut and a buzzer had sounded. Inside the foyer looked very modern, all minimalist and sterile. It reminded me of pictures of the Google offices. Vending machines and couches marked the waiting area and I noticed that there were quite a few crates of tissues stacked up against one wall. Dealing with a lot of grieving clients obviously requires Orpheus to supply certain items.
The receptionist asked me to wait and assured me that someone would be along for me shortly. The only other person in the room was a young man, early-twenties, wearing a Letterman jacket and sitting in a wheelchair. He was built like an athlete but the chair obviously meant there was a story to be told. Soon enough a couple more people arrived and as the receptionist referred to them as Crucible 7 I realised these were probably going to be my teammates. There was a woman in her 50’s who was dressed tidily and smiled at everyone and a man about my own age dressed in what was clearly a very expensive three piece suit.The woman, introducing herself as Nurse Dahlia Roberts, broke the awkward silence and soon we were all acquainted. The young man, Dan Smith, had moved up from Florida but was reluctant to say much more than that. The suit, who seemed perfectly at home, introduced himself as Markus Drake, from Chicago. They seemed like a strange assortment, and me a professor shipped in from Edinburgh, what a bunch of misfits.
Tyler Prator was the one who burst in and invited us to begin the orientation. He looked like every ‘manager’ I’ve ever known, wearing a shirt, pressed pants and a little too much hair product. He produced an ID card, swiped us through a door and led us down a corridor that was lined with meeting rooms on either side. From one of them an older man saw us and gave a wink before lighting up a cigarette which Tyler quickly scolded him for. We eventually reached an elevator and Tyler gave us the rundown which I’ll briefly write here.
Ground level – Offices, including his, and other areas focused on running the company. Not really our place. Apparently there are a lot of off limits areas here.
Level 1 – Basically Basement 1, this floor is in fact underground and has rooms, a cafeteria, recreational facilities, a gym, pool, everything. Kinda like a hotel where everything is free, but your room might be taken by someone else… Some more of the Orpheus offices were also on this floor.
Level 2 (Basement 2) – This is the place I’m most excited about. This is where the Sleepers and Skimmers do their projecting. I may write more about that later.
First stop, Level 2. Tyler once again swiped his card and this time had to authenticate by voice as well. Down we went, into the belly of the beast. Tyler kept saying, “This is where the magic happens” which got a little annoying but honestly I was just excited to get started. Only two doors led off from the foyer, one to the Sleeper’s Cradles, the cryogenic tubes they project from, and the other which led to what Tyler called the Yoga Room. In the corner two Orpheus employees, both quite young, were locked in a deep discussion.
We headed to the Yoga Room and at first it was disorienting. The lights were dim and faded in and out and a strange soundtrack murmured in the background, a combination of white noise and staccato clicks. The room itself was laid out with cushions and couches, obviously designed for comfort. One couch was in fact occupied by a middle-aged man who reeked of alcohol. We met Lisa Schilller, the Skimmer instructor, who spoke of Sleepers with a hint of disdain.
Back in the foyer Tyler took Dan and Markus to check out the Cradles and asked Dahlia and myself to wait. While they were gone the employees broke off their discussion, the man heading up the elevator while the woman walked over towards us. We spoke briefly and it turns out she was another Skimmer called Amy, and a member of Crucible 4. When she left she said something about how around here it’s the ‘quick or the dead’ and laughed to herself. Not sure what she meant by that.
When the others (the Sleepers) returned Dan looked quite shaken up. Something about the tubes maybe.
Back up to Level 1 and Tyler told us we would need to check in with HR to get our voice recognition sorted out. Then we were left to do some paperwork. Insurance stuff. As soon as Tyler had left the room Dan asked, “Anyone else shitting themselves?” Markus replied saying something about how he didn’t mind the cradles. I think his exact words were, “the finality of it looked restful.”
“Were we in the same room?” was Dans response. I can’t blame him, I still haven’t seen the cradles and they already give me the chills.
Markus also spotted my Kao Yord peeking out the top of my shirt and so I told him a bit about Yantra tattooing. He seemed pretty skeptical, which struck me as odd for someone starting work at Orpheus.
I asked Dan about his chair and he offered a very brief story. Some kind of football accident left him with spinal damage. Poor guy, to be stuck in a chair so young.
I read a section of the papers out loud, “In the case of extreme dismemberment… What the hell is extreme dismemberment?”
“That’s where you lose more than one limb in the same accident,” the matter-of-fact response from Dahlia reminded me that as a Nurse she has probably seen some things.
Tyler soon came back and asked us if we wanted to get started projecting. I wanted to get into it but Dan said he needed some time. Tyler checked his watch and gave us an hour to visit HR and get back. Dan disappeared for most of the hour. I decided to get the HR task out of the way first thing and it seemed that Dahlia and Markus had the same plan. On our way back to the lounge area I challenged Markus to a quick game of table tennis, which he won, but it gave me a chance to hear more of his views. He doesn’t believe in souls. He thinks that the ghosts that have been reported are somehow echos of people, not really them at all. I don’t know how that fits in to the whole projectors and spooks spectrum but I let it slide for now, this Markus seems like a good guy. He did tell me he thinks Tyler might be a bit of a selfish snake…
Dan showed up at the end of the hour and a few minutes later Tyler entered the meeting room, still on his phone. He seemed impatient and even a little aggressive towards whomever he was talking to. I leaned over to Markus and said, “I see what you mean.”
It wasn’t long after that that we got to try projecting. That is to say, leave our physical bodies and walk in the spirit world. Lisa led us through a bunch of breathing and relaxing exercises, some of which were very familiar to me. She also asked us to visualise certain things like, “imagine you are looking at the room from a different point of view.” As the process continued I came close to falling asleep and actually fell backwards, jolting awake. I got to my feet and cursed, which I feel bad about now because Dahlia, who was sitting close by, snapped back awake at the sound. Lisa calmed me down and we got back into our rhythm. I think it may have been four hours before I felt it. The sound of my breathing coming from all around me as if I was sitting in a cavity within my own chest. Then a tingling sensation followed by a shock, like diving into a pool. I opened my eyes and looked around.
The room looked much like I remembered it except everything shimmered. It was as if every surface had been draped in sheer blue fabric. I recalled my experiences on Pigment, seeing the spirit world via drugs, and this was a thousand times more intense than what I knew. While Pigment showed you a swirling, jumbled hallucination, when I projected the smallest detail was in sharp focus. I looked towards Dahlia and saw a bluish version of her face dip in and out of her physical body as she ‘woke’ and began to look around. I looked down to where my hands lay and tried to lift them. Blue tinted hands rose up out of the physical ones, almost sloughing off the excess before breaking away. Dahlia saw me looking at my hands and tried the trick herself.
Then Lisa stood, her spirit-form rising from her physical, which stayed on the floor. She bid us both to stand and we did. It was strange, like learning gravity all over again. I looked across at Dahlia as we both stood and was shocked to see she appeared younger, mid-twenties, and wearing a nurse’s uniform. We were then joined by Markus, who looked much like his normal self, and Dan, who wore a blue and silver football uniform, pads and all. His chair was also missing. Lisa said something about how beautiful projecting was and how, “We all get to see you, how you see you.” The only real change in my own image was that my tattoos were glowing. Being a foreigner I had no idea what team Dan was representing so naturally I asked. Cowboys.
Dan and Markus briefly left the room to inspect their sleeping bodies while Lisa told me and Dahlia more about being a skimmer. She apologised to Dahlia and then suddenly slapped her. Our shock was short lived as Lisa bid us look at the face of Dahlia’s physical body and we saw the red hand print appear. It seems that because we’re so closely connected to our bodies while projecting any damage is transferred back to our physical selves. I slapped myself and watched as my face quickly reddened and then faded back to normal. Dan and Markus had returned by now and gave me a curious look so Lisa quickly explained. She also told us that Sleepers don’t have the same connection and that their bodies would be perfectly unharmed by anything that happened in the spirit world. Dan’s comment was something along the lines of, “Best news all day.” He may be reluctant to ‘go under’ now, but I think this kid’s going to be fine.
After that we spent time learning some of the terminology that Orpheus agents use. I’ll jot some down here for reference.
Spook – Either a Projector or a self-aware Ghost, basically people in the spirit world.
Vitality – A Spook’s strength or life-force. It can be diminished through exertion but more on that soon.
Horrors – A Spook’s ghost-like abilities. Nicknamed for the ghost stories they resemble. Apparently Orpheus agents are psychoanalyzed and then trained in one of five ability groups called Shades.
Lisa also showed us how one Spook can share their Vitality with another. She moved between each of us, placing a gentle hand on our shoulders. When it was my turn I swear I could see currents of energy run down her arm and into me. A feeling of warmth spread from her touch. “Crucibles are expected to work on these bonds as they strengthen over time,” she told us, “So we encourage you to share Vitality early and often.”
Next Lisa demonstrated how a Spook can will themselves to become incorporeal, her arm plunging through one of the walls up to her elbow. We each attempted to follow her example but it was getting late.
Reuniting with my physical body was every bit as jarring as leaving it. Every movement felt heavy, like I’d just hopped out of a bath after a long soak. I looked over to where I knew Lisa, Dan and Markus were standing and remarked, “They’re right there!”
Lisa had one more trick to show us, an ability nicknamed Dead Eyes that allows an Orpheus agent to see into the spirit world without actually projecting. By doing some of the breathing exercises and letting my vision unfocus (kind of like doing one of those magic eye puzzle) I could see the others standing near by watching us. It came easy enough and was just as easily dismissed.
I checked my phone. The display told me it was already 7pm and there were a couple of unread messages from Julie. Lisa apologised for keeping us so late on the first day and so Dahlia and I both headed out. I have mixed feelings towards the other guys situation, the Sleepers that is. They’ll be frozen for roughly two weeks and spend all that time in the spirit world. I can’t wait to get back to it and I think Lisa noticed my excitement. She warned us that it was probably not a good idea to project or use Dead Eyes outside of the Orpheus building at least until after our training. She also recommended never to Dead Eyes our homes, as there might be something there that we don’t want to see.
I said goodbye to Dahlia and wasn’t waiting long before Julie arrived. She was a little annoyed that I was working so late, and hadn’t text her back, but that faded once I told her about how I had projected. I think I talked non-stop the entire ride home, even through the drive-through and around my burger.
So now here I am, sitting in my new apartment surrounded by my old books. Julie feel asleep a while ago but I’m just too excited, I can’t wait to get back to work. Seems like a strange thing to write but it’s true. You know what, I think I’ll have a look around.
A GHOST! I just saw a fucking ghost! None of this ‘projected spirit of someone who I’ve met in the flesh’ but the remnants of someone who has died!
Ok, so I broke the rule. I Dead Eyes the apartment. It was all pretty tame really. The walls seemed to age and then snap back to present day and there were traces of doors and a fireplace set into the wall that don’t exist. At least not anymore. Some of my older books, the first editions and the rare ones, were glowing. The text seemed to bulge off the pages.
I drew the shutters and took a look outside. It was kind of like staring at an old movie set as rundown facades shimmered in and out of view across the buildings. Strangely the night sky was completely devoid of stars but for a single baleful red light high overhead. It mesmerised me for a second and when I looked back down to the street I saw it. Him. Whatever.
He looked like a homeless person, but his rough long hair and beard floated a little. He wore what looked like a Vietnam era military uniform, in pristine condition, and he stood perfectly still, staring at the ground.
I stumbled backwards and knocked over one of my piles of books, snapping out of Dead Eyes. I think I’ve seen enough for one night…