Memento Mori: Two – I’m With Stupid

 Alone With the Dead:
Memento Mori
by Andrea Speed

Two – I’m With Stupid

Gryphon stared back at the man, who looked between the device in his hands and his face with increasing alarm. “What the hell …”

The guy at the table, who was leaner and shorter than the other man, held up something that looked like a small portable microphone, and said, “Yeah, we’ve got a definite temperature drop in here, and the ion counter is goin’ nuts over. I think we got more than one …”4.jpg

“What is that thing?” Gryphon asked the guy in front of him. He had ginger colored hair and a matching goatee, making him look like a logger who had embraced the grunge movement and never looked back. The man looked at him once more, and his hazel eyes were wide with what could very well have been fear. At the very least, he seemed a little freaked. “Electromagnetic field detector.”

He scoffed. “No wonder it’s going nuts. Point it away from me, or it might explode on you. I’m hell on electrical equipment.”

The guy did, and his widened at whatever his EMF detector was telling him. “Holy shit.” He swung it back towards him again, and then looked at him with a scrutiny so intense that Gryph felt like smacking him.

Who are these fuckheads? Taneesha wondered.

The guy at the table, Shane, said, “Clay, I got a three degree temperature drop at your locat -” Shane looked up, and saw him for the first time. He had a lean, hangdog sort of face, like he was constantly regretting something he’d done in fifth grade. “Oh, umm, oh.”

These were the guys from the Spirit Guides booth, and now he felt as confused as he looked. “What are you guys?”

The ginger haired guy – Clay – backed up to the table, holding his EMF detector over his shoulder for Shane to take. “We’re, umm, ghost hunters. Kinda. I mean, we don’t harm them, we just, uh, try and help them.”

Shane looked at the EMF thing, and let out a low whistle. “Christ in a bucket, would you look at that reading?”

“Help them?” Gryphon replied, snickering. “You mean try and tell them to go away, right? Stop bugging the nice living people?”

Shane looked at him over Clay’s shoulder, and asked, “You aren’t a ghost perchance, are ya?”

Clay blanched, his round face turning whey colored as his eyes bugged out in horror at what Shane asked so bluntly, but it only made Gryphon smirk. “I’m an agent, apparently. And not the kind that sets up business meetings either.”

These guys are good, Ruby said.

Are you kidding me? Hugh exclaimed. They’re Larry and Curly, missing a Moe.

They figured out there’s ghosts in here, she replied. It’s more than anyone else has done.

“An agent?” Shane repeated, clearly not getting it at first. But as he scratched his head, Clay said, “Oh, wait – like a poltergeist agent?”

“Bingo. So you might want to turn off all your electrical equipment, because they control the power, I don’t, and they like to pretend they have no control at all.”

That’s not true, Mr. Aronofsky protested. I have no idea how we do that.

“They?” Shane repeated. It looked like he was shutting off the electrical equipment, a plus for him. Clay was slowly making his way around the table, trying hard not to look as if he was retreating. “More than one?”

“Yeah, four to be exact.”

“Around you?”

He smiled at them, his mild buzz making him feel genuinely reckless. If these guys thought they were “ghost hunters”, they’d probably believe anything, and conversely, if they claimed he was nuts, who would believe them? “Technically, in me. They seem to move in, I don’t know why.”

Ever heard of too much information, sweet cheeks? Ruby commented.

Now they were both looking at him funny, skeptical but not exactly disbelieving. “You’re possessed?” Shane asked. He seemed to be the stoic one of the duo.

Larry, Hugh insisted.

“Sort of, but not exactly. It’s kind of complicated. The will of the person and their level of upset at the time I meet them has a lot to do with whether they take over or not.” Maybe it was the body heat of everyone in this small space, but he suddenly felt hot, sweat expressing itself through his pores, but he was too damp from the torrent outside for anyone to tell.

Kiddo, you’re not well, Ruby said. I don’t think you have a buzz, you have a fever.

Oh no, Mr. Aronofsky chimed in. I think she may be right; you’re sick. You should go back to the motel and get some sleep.

But he ignored them, because he felt unbelievably good. If this was sickness, he wanted to be sick more often.

Clay and Shane exchanged wary glances, then looked down at their now quiescent equipment, and seemed to change their mind. But, as usual, Shane did the talking. “You communicate with spirits?”

“More like they communicate with me. Believe me, I never wanted to get into all this shit, but hey, what can you do?”

“Have you always had this ability, or did something happen to you ..?”

“Something happened to me, and it’s a long story. Let’s just say I almost died, and I’ve never been the same since. What about you guys? Why do you hunt ghosts?”

“That’s kinda a long story too,” Clay finally said, somewhat sheepishly. Oh, did he have an embarrassing story, or was the story mainly his? Staring at him, he had the strangest urge to say “Sorry about your mother,” and didn’t realize he actually had until he found Clay staring at him saucer eyed and slack jawed.

“What did you just say?” Shane asked, a slight chill creeping into his voice.

You need Ritalin or somethin’, Taneesha carped. Ain’t you got no impulse control at all?

“Your – his – mom. Sorry. Tragedy makes a bitch of us all.” He rubbed rainwater out of his eyes, which suddenly felt hot and dry, in spite of the water still trickling down from his hair. Maybe they were right about him not being well. “Umm, look guys, sorry, I think I’m being a complete asshole to you and I don’t mean to, so I’ll just move on, okay?”

The first sensible thing you’ve done all evening, Mr. Aronofsky commented.

But as he started to walk away, Shane said, “Wait.”

Gryphon paused and looked back as the gaunt man said, “The fair’s over in a couple of hours. How ‘bout we meet you in the Red Dog, a diner a couple blocks from here, afterwards? We can talk better then.”

He stared at the man and his sleepy eyes in general disbelief, wondering if this was some kind of set up. Well, what if it was? What could they possibly do to him? “Sure, why not? I’ve got nothing better to do. Who are you guys anyways?”

“I’m Shane McNulty, and that’s Clay West.” He produced a business card, which he handed to him with shaky fingers. It read ‘Spirit Guides – Ghosts and hauntings our specialty’ in bold black font, which won them points. If it had been Gothic font, he’d have crumpled it up and thrown it back in his face.

Aware that the guys were waiting for something from him, he said reluctantly, “I’m Gryphon Ashmore. I don’t have a card.”

“Gryphon?” Shane repeated, a half smile on his face. “That your real name?”

“I wish it wasn’t, but my mother was a flake.” He shrugged and turned away, getting lost in the milling crowd before the guy could question him further. He shoved the card in his pocket, and wondered if they’d actually bother to show up, and if so, why. Maybe they’d attempt an exorcism.

I think you need to return to the motel now, Mr. Aronfosky urged, as Gryphon was suddenly overcome with a case of the chills. But he ignored both, as he hadn’t yet come across a “speaker with the dead”, and he wasn’t leaving until he found someone to berate.

A grandmotherly looking elderly woman did his “numerology chart”, breaking down his name and birth date into numbers. How it was supposed to work he had no idea, but when he spelled his first name for her, she looked vaguely horrified. ”You have all three sevens and a nine as the first four letters in your name?” She asked. He shrugged, because he had no idea what the hell she was talking about. She shook her head and looked down at the graph paper where she was breaking his name down into a math equation. “You must have had a very troubled life.” That made him laugh, as it was almost as funny as her final pronouncement, that he was far more powerful and ambitious than his amicable and “passive” appearance might seem. It wasn’t him that was powerful or ambitious, it was his passengers, but saying that would bring on yet another awkward conversation he didn’t want to have.

He then stopped by a Tarot card reader – how could he not? – a woman who wore a red kente cloth turban with a gauzy purple gown that contrasted pleasantly with her chocolate brown skin. But he didn’t recognize the Tarot cards she was using, and there were different suits and cards of a kind he had never seen before. She also laid them out on the blue cloth covered table in an “astrological” spread, and he found himself staring at the cards, trying to figure out what they were. At the same time, she looked a little confused herself. “Uh … huh,” she said, tapping her long red fingernails impatiently on the edge of the table.

“Bad?” He wondered.

“Well … good and bad are not terms I’m comfortable using,” she admitted, and paused for a very long and suspicious amount of time. “But I think you’re in danger.”

That was a new interpretation. He could hardly keep the smile off his face. “From what?”

That seemed to be a poser. She looked down at the cards, glaring at them as if waiting for them to explain themselves, then tapped the first card she put down. “This is Earth, reversed, representing your self. This indicates you’re a lost soul, out of touch with your basic nature.” She then tapped another card, about six cards away. “This is Fire, reversed, which usually means a catastrophe, changes that you don’t want and probably aren’t in your best interests … and it’s in the house of Scorpio, the house of death. Then, here, in the house of Sagittarius, the house of the spirit, you have The Moon. This is a good card for creativity, and may indicate an awakening of psychic powers, but it also means that are unseen dangers, perhaps in the spiritual realm.” She hesitated, and then tapped the final card. “And then there’s him.”

The card looked like just another guy on a throne; all tarot decks had lots of guys on thrones. “Who’s that?”

“In the house of Pieces, the house of opposition, is the King of Wands, reversed. This is a ruthless, cruel man of great power who misuses it greatly, whom I can’t help but think is tied to the dangers in the houses of Scorpio and Sagittarius. Is he … was your father abusive? Was there a male relative in your past who was especially … unpleasant?”

He scoffed, and shook his head. “Didn’t really know my dad, as he skipped out shortly after I was born. The only male figure I ever had in my life was my Granddad, and he was nice guy. Also, he died when I was eleven.”

“Do you have any enemies?”

He felt like laughing again. Was she going to offer him a “protection spell” or something next? He’d heard of scams like these. “Prob’ly, but they’ve never declared themselves as such. I mean, if there’s a fatwa on me, I’d be the last to know.”

Her dark eyes narrowed as her lips thinned; she knew he wasn’t taking her seriously, and didn’t much care for it, but the “customer” was always right, weren’t they?

Wasn’t there a card like that in the reading Naheed did for you? Ruby piped up. A cruel, authoritative man. Except I think she said he had answers for you, didn’t she?

You can’t believe a word of any of this,Hugh argued. What kind of superstitious shit is this? Fortunes in a deck of weirdo playing cards?

Yeah, it’d be like believing in ghosts, Ruby replied icily.

“Are you in a dangerous line of work?” The fortuneteller asked.

He chuckled, suddenly feeling hot and sweaty again. Man, he needed a drink. “I’m not even working right now, so no. But life can be dangerous enough on its own, right?”

She arched a single dark eyebrow in general disbelief, but he thanked her and left before she could make any further comments. “Hey, wait,” she called out after him, but he didn’t turn to look. He was done there.

He got one more Tarot reading from someone else, and this chirpy, violently blonde woman gave him nothing but vague and upbeat pronouncements, which he hoped would appease Ruby, but she still seemed concerned. Two different readers said there’s a violent man in your near future, she argued. Aren’t you at least a little concerned?

“No. I’ve got violent men in me all the time. Well, in a non-sexual way.” He found an already closed booth, where fliers said that “Madam Paula” would be returning tomorrow for a “session”. Oh joy, just what he was looking for, and it gave him something to do tomorrow.

But he still had to find out what the “ghost hunters” wanted with him tonight.

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