Else City 4: This Shit That Is Reality

Pursey was head of the Clean Up Crew and he was a famously bad tempered bastard; he did not like dealing with people from other departments: dealing with the inanimate and decimated had fractured his mind into compartments where quiet horror constituted the biggest drawer and social niceties had one of the smaller allotments.
He hawked up a healthy wad of phlegm and targetted the ground just in front of O’Halligan. Normally O’Halligan would have cracked him upside his head but he just thought to himself how this guy was going to fit right in with whatever it was residing in that place.
As Pursey and his men entered the property there was an atmospheric shift – it felt as if the space they were occupying was collapsing in on itself; everyone looked as oppressed as they obviously felt. The high pitched whine which pierced the air had been building so gradually a few of them had thought they were suffering tinnitus, but it became apparent that all of them were hearing it, and then it turned into a hybrid scream / drill noise that had them all clutching their heads. A few people started to leak blood from the ears – they were all paralysed by the pain, all looking towards the place where Pursey had gone.
O’Halligan was expecting the place to explode and all of them to come stumbling out aflame and shrieking in agony but it was much more mundane – Pursey looked totally unfazed, as if he dealt with this kind of shit everyday, and in some ways that was exactly what he did.
He exited with a large specimen jar, a huge grin spread across his face.
‘Know what we have here, ladies and gentleman?’
When he got no response, he continued: ‘We have a pocket universe – that thing which started to dissolve O’Halligan’s suit was not acid, but a supercondensed pocket of reality, one antithetical to our own universe. Whilst it is held in what, for the moment I am going to call an egg, it runs just like our universe would (an hermetically sealed continuum) but when the thing is burst or broken it becomes something less stable – a hybrid entity which can no longer subsist by itself and which attacks that around it.’
‘Ok, Pursey, so where does this little scientific miracle come from?’
‘Glad you asked, O’Halligan, where it comes from is the anus of the thing which consumed those people in there.’
‘Run that by me again.’
‘OK, so the thing which ate those human beings in there digested them and shit out brand new universes.’
‘And how is that possible?’
‘That part I haven’t quite worked out. One has to wonder, if reality is the waste product this thing craps out, then what exactly is it that it is digesting?’
‘Forbes, tell me this isn’t fucking with your head.’
‘Oh, I can’t tell you that, O’Halligan – it is a skullfuck and no mistake.’
‘So, what do we do about it?’
‘Well, while Pursey takes this boil back to the lab and looks at it, we go and have a drink in some dive bars and see of anything doesn’t float to the top.’
‘Sounds like a plan.’

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Else City – Part 3: Suited Not Suited

O’Halligan was told to suit up — to FESS up as they termed it; First Encounter Suit Situation. He hated to think what in the hell it was that they were going out there to look for — he didn’t want to go, but like everything that had happened to him from his death onwards he didn’t have much choice. They had struck it lucky — Langston Through had only had one appointment on the day of his death and the property had been standing empty for a fair while — long enough that something might have been able to lay eggs there and for them to have come full term.

Forbes was all gung-ho about the whole thing; really stoked to have something that she might be able to work her frustrations out on. The way she told it — if they couldn’t immediately recognise the species of whatever it was that had killed the victim and couldn’t establish sentience pretty quickly thereafter then they got to basically pump it full of bullets and do the research later. This kind of shit happened all the time — beings from other levels escaping and making their way here for a snack; sometimes it turned out that it had been sanctioned and these creatures had immunity from prosecution. She was looking forward to finding out what the case was with this one.

The suit was uncomfortable: it was unwieldy and it was hot inside there; claustrophobic. He did not like this situation in the least. They both had their weapons drawn. The back-up team — three examples of varying incapability had just EMP burst the house to shut down any systems that might be operational in there and to open the locks. He got to go in first — a privilege, he supposed, afforded to newbies who were obviously more expendable than an experienced officer, of which there were few.

They stepped inside the house and their visors immediately steamed up, the humidity was off the charts in there and it seemed like some kind of new ecosystem had been established. The EMP had apparently been unnecessary — nothing had been working in here for a while. It made him wonder when was the last time Through had checked out this place. He thought he saw something edge by in his peripheral vision but he couldn’t be sure. He stepped on something, it gave under his foot and burst like a boil, hot gobbets of pus shooting up his leg. He took a step backwards and tried not to vomit inside his suit. The suit’s monitors began to beep — whatever it was that had coated him was eating through the suit.

‘You need to get out of here, ASAP,’ said Forbes ‘We both do. This is going to need the big guns. Look over there,’ she said, pointing.

In the corner, thrown in a pile that nearly reached the ceiling, were human ribcages stripped of meat and to the side of them were the shattered remnants of spinal columns, broken skulls, other smaller bones. He turned and moved quickly towards the door, surprised that nothing had suddenly leapt out at them. He made his way to their vehicle and began to strip out of his damaged suit.

‘What the fuck was that in there, Forbes?’

‘No clue, I suppose we’ll find out when clean-up get out here.’

Else City – Part 2: Grave Talk

He wasn’t exactly sure what he was expecting the doctor to do in order to revive the body but the implement he produced looked simultaneously arcane and futuristic. He brandished it with a flourish and a grin that nearly skinned O’Halligan. Too bloody theatrical — that, he thought, was his problem with the whole bloody place: full of drama queens and amateur dramatics enthusiasts. He was not going to fit in here and that pained him because God knew how long he was going to have to spend here. These dimensions had weird rules about death and the existence you spent here.

‘And that is?’

‘The Lazarus Redial.’

‘Jesus, give me a fucking break.’

‘What?’ said Forbes’Let him have his fun. You try doing what he does on a daily basis and not feeling the need to spice it up by giving things crackpot names. The Doc is one of the more normal people you’re going to meet so you should savour this while you can.’

The doctor turned that manic grin on him again and spinning the the device around his fingers, paused briefy, then like lightning pushed the needle that sprang from it’s end into the flesh of the corpse.

There was a loud farting noise and a sigh.

‘What was that?’ asked O’Halligan.

‘The body on the slab just farted.’

‘Oh.’

‘Excuse me,’ said the body sitting up ‘Didn’t expect to find myself back here, what’s going on? Goddamn, it hurts.’

‘You were killed by something and we were wondering if you might be able to provide us with some information as to what exactly did it.’

‘And you are?’

‘Detective Forbes, Else City Police Department, Homicide Division. Your name please, for the record.’

‘Langston Through. I worked in real estate — I was showing a house — you’ll forgive me but I can’t recall where but it should be in my diary — anyw-a-a-y we distu-u-u-rbed a ne-e-s-t.’

The corpse’s eyes rolled back in its skull and it slumped back onto the slab.

‘Well, that was interesting,’ said O’Halligan sparking up ‘A nest? So we just call the exterminators, eh?’

‘He’s funny, eh, Forbes?’

‘Rib-crackingly hilarious, Doctor. We’ll run a check on Langston Through — shouldn’t be hard to find; real estate isn’t big business out here. If you can k-print him and snap me some aura pics that would be a big help.’

‘No problem. Good luck, O’Halligan.’

‘Thanks.’

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 …’

Else City: Building Tension Extract 0

The suicides were on the top tier so they could jump off the roof if they needed to fulfil their need to re-enact their un-life’s defining moment.

The patricides shared rooms with the tulpas of their fathers so they might kill them again if they so desired. The floor they were on was known as the Oedipus Complex.

Matricides lived in the Norman Bates Complex, where their dead mothers voices blasted out of amplified speakers. There were a perhaps unsurprisingly high number of psychopaths on this floor.

Infanticides lived on the ground floor which had cruelly been dubbed The Crib. They cried like the babies they had sent to early graves.

The whole place was staffed by John Does — the unsolved murders that littered the culture like used condoms. They always looked puzzled, more like ghosts than anyone else.

He was to be booked in under suicide but he tried to tell them he had been murdered. The staff were not too bothered about John Does and where they went which was strange considering their prevalence amongst the staff.

He just put it down to red tape and from what he had heard it bound things tighter here in Else City than it did anywhere. He had come here to work on the police force to start solving crimes that others said had no solution. This building was the start of it all: his first case.