Else City – Part 1: Scar Tissue

It wasn’t exactly sleep, more like throwing a switch and laying in a darkened room. Un-life – weirder than the fucking Bardo by anybody’s standards. His scars were itchy as fuck – damn, shouldn’t they stop itching once you had expired? He was not looking forward to work; part of him couldn’t believe he had died out of a nine to five routine to be forced into one yet again. The bummer was that he had been marked up as a suicide when someone had killed him and made it look like that. Thank christ they hadn’t forced him to take a residence on the top floor with the useless cases and their lemming impulses. It was only his place on the force that had got him some lenience on that score. Well, either that or the fact that despite him being called a suicide they knew well and good that he was a murder victim.

Most of the food was shit here. Didn’t seem anyone was bothered about doing anything nice for themselves anymore. You would have thought that a continued existence would have been some kind of motivator, but then you were expecting people who were bad at life to somehow get better. He wanted some small comforts and there had to be some way of securing them – you just had to know the right people.

The phone rang. Two rings and then it cut off. His mobile phone started to cheep – literally to cheep; and it seemed that one of the rules of his time here that it was going to be impossible to change that ring tone.

‘Yeah? Who is it?’

‘O’Halligan, nice phone manner. You need to get yourself here pronto. Your partner says she has a lead on the case you’ve been assigned.’

‘Oh.’

‘Oh, indeed. I understand you haven’t been here very long but you’ll settle in nicely. You don’t have much choice. Do you?’

‘I suppose not. I’ll be there asap.’

The place seemed to have a sense of humour – the taxi service was provided by hearses. They were fairly speedy and it took no time at all to get to the station. He booked in at the front desk and got directions to the morgue where he was told his partner was waiting for him.

The body was on the slab and it looked a right mess – a mess in the way that Jack The Ripper’s handiwork looked. Well, not exactly though – there was no finesse to this at all. He had to admit that he was slightly shocked to see a dead body here. A dead body? How exactly did you describe it?

‘I know what you’re thinking, O’Halligan, and the term we use for bodies in this realm is extinguished. We think of the life-force as an energy burning to run an engine.’

‘Seems a bit weird.’

‘Always does at first. You won’t feel like a rookie for long – you learn fast here; it’s unavoidable. ‘

‘So you’re my partner, Forbes?’

‘Yeah, nice to meet you.’

‘Nice to meet you. So how exactly does forensics work here?’

‘Energy fields, kirlian photographs, karmic fingerprints – a lot of esoteric bullshit is how it seems at first but it works.’

‘OK.’

‘So what have you discovered?’

‘That this wasn’t just something that has been going on for a short time. That this person was tortured for months. Their body, or rather their skin, is pretty much criss-crossed with scar tissue all over. I hate to think how long it took, how it felt; and I hate to think what kind of creature was capable of doing this to them.’

‘When you say creature, do you mean … creature?’

‘Maybe, you got to expect some weird shit out here. This isn’t Kansas after all, Dorothy.’

‘That’s for sure. So how long have you been here?’

‘Well, now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?’

‘Erm, yeah, that’s why I asked – so you’d tell.’

A spindly looking guy with big spectacles stepped into the room. He smelt the same way that all morticians smelt – like he had been preserved in aspic. O’Halligan always found them unnerving people to be around, and having no idea what in the hell passed for forensic science around here, especially given what Forbes had just talked of, this guy made him doubly wary.

‘So what are you going to do?’

‘Talk to the corpse.’

‘Talk to the corpse?’

‘Yes, talk to the corpse.

‘It has moved on from this realm but we can drag it back for the purpose of the investigation. Once you get to these levels death is a strange beast for sure.’

‘If it’s all a matter of perspective then how does it constitute a crime?’

‘Is that not obvious? If you force someone somewhere they don’t want to go then that is what makes it a crime. We’re here to police causality – if a cause is anything other than natural then it’s our business.’

‘Oh.’

‘Did you not get the handbook?’

‘Erm, people actually read that stuff?’

‘Yeah, it’s kind of a survival manual. Once the disbelief wears off and you actually realise where you are then having some kind of clue how to deal with the things that inhabit this place can come in handy. Not to say that they usually wait for you to become a believer before they’ll have a go at you.’

‘Forbes, is he on the level?’

‘Afraid so – you tend to find that everything here runs counter to expectations. The weirder someone is and the less likely it seems to be that they are telling the truth – it probably means they are as honest as the day is long. Days are longer here by the way.’

‘Yeah, and the nights.’

‘It doesn’t have anything to do with any sun either – that burning orb in the sky is the relic of some god that plucked out their eye because it offended them. It sleeps. It was fashionable – the moon belonged to his twin apparently.’

‘Oh-Kay.’

‘Anyway, to business …’

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