Danse Macabre: Sixteen – Don’t Fear The Reaper

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Sixteen – Don’t Fear The Reaper Gryphon enjoyed a dreamless, untroubled sleep, the kind the dead might enjoy if they actually slept. (Presumably his passengers did, but they didn’t count.) The phone eventually woke him up, but as he groped for it he was dimly aware this was ring five or six. Using all that psychokinetic energy really wiped him out. “ ‘lo?” he mumbled into the receiver, eyes still firmly closed. “Wow Gryphon, you’re still sleeping?” Varner said. “Late night last night?” He rolled over and opened his eyes, looking at the clock. Was it really one in the afternoon? Well, it wasn’t one in the morning. “Sort of. Didn’t really sleep well.” “Ah.” Varner said it in...

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Danse Macabre: Fifteen – Knife

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Fifteen – Knife Here was a problem that was always a bit of a bitch. They were so energetic now that there was no way Gryphon could even get near a car, not to mention get in one. The wiring wouldn’t so much melt as totally vaporize, and he’d probably cause the windshield to explode. But he’d been hoping to take Harold back to the river, to where he’d dumped his victims, but it was too far to walk. Was it too far to walk to the store? He didn’t think so. So he ended up walking the street with the stiff, seething Harold, who wanted to break away but hadn’t a hope in hell. Ruby had a death grip on him – no pun intended – but Gryphon hadn’t totally ceded control of his own body to her....

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Danse Macabre: Fourteen – The Suffering

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Fourteen – The Suffering On the way back home – well, his home for now – he stopped to get some fast food, mainly because he felt so tired he wasn’t sure he’d stay awake on the drive. It was kind of pathetic, but what could you do? Apparently threatening to kill someone wasn’t enough to keep him awake anymore. But Gryphon was allowed one of those moments that he’d come to cherish, a moment when his Greek chorus of the damned fell mercifully silent. He got to hear the white noise hum inside his head, the emptiness where thoughts should be. Of course he had none; he felt hollowed out, flushed, wiped clean. The crowds of people who had shared space inside him had carved away pieces of himself...

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Danse Macabre: Thirteen – Gimme Shelter

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Thirteen – Gimme Shelter “Oh cry me a river, asshole,” Jeff said irritably, shaking his head in disgust. O’Leary continued to do so, although he was struggling to get a hold of himself. He sobbed in a strangled sort of way, like he was trying to physically hold back the tears and failing miserably. He still was refusing to look at him. Maybe a minute passed, the plopping sound of the rain in puddles an oddly appropriate counterpoint to his strange, squished sobs. “I didn’t mean … I panicked …” “I was black, so you fucking shot me!” Jeff snapped, and Gryphon was pretty sure he saw the puddles around them waver in response. He was only a ghost, but that didn’t mean his anger lacked...

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Danse Macabre: Twelve – Killing In The Name Of

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Twelve – Killing In the Name Of “What do you mean prepare to be disappointed?” O’Leary repeated, parking the SUV parallel to the mouth of the overgrown gravel driveway. Gryphon looked back to see Wax just standing there between the raindrops, like he was waiting for a bus. It made him briefly wonder if a bus of the dead would be any worse than a standard transit bus during rush hour. Probably not. It might actually be more peaceful and smell better. “He’s dead, Cal.” O’Leary glared at him, like he thought he was just saying that to piss him off. “What? No he isn’t.” “I assure you, he is.” Gryphon didn’t stick around to argue with him – he...

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Danse Macabre: Eleven – Exit Does Not Exist

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Eleven – Exit Does Not Exist One of the cops got into the patrol car, an almost ludicrously small woman with her blonde hair pulled back in a short ponytail, and she glanced back at him through the shatterproof divider as she turned in the front seat. “Were you talking to yourself?” “Yes,” Gryphon replied, not even bothering to be defensive. Either way they thought he was nuts: either he was talking to himself or talking to a ghost, or thinking he was talking to a ghost while talking to himself. There was no way to win. She gave him a funny look, but eventually turned away and got on the radio, which she originally intended to do, ignoring him completely. He liked it that way. He slept again, until...

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Danse Macabre: Ten – Misfits and Mistakes

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Ten – Misfits and Mistakes “He has a key,” Gryphon repeated, for Varner’s edification. “To the padlock.” Varner gave him a suspicious look. “That’s not just a guess, is it?” “Hey, not bad for a cop,” the ghost said. “Think he can spell his own name too?” Good one, Ray said. Gryphon sighed, and Varner looked over his shoulder, following his gaze, trying to see what he saw. He couldn’t, of course. “No. there’s another victim here, Anna Alvarez. She doesn’t think much of our investigational skills.” “Hey, you’re okay,” Anna said. “It’s the fucking cops that should have found this place three victims ago. What the fuck do we pay taxes for?” She paused briefly....

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Danse Macabre: Nine – Deer Lodge

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Nine – Deer Lodge It took a while for him to sort through the files, even though he didn’t read them. Gryphon just looked at the photos and waited for the spark of recognition. All the photos fell into one of two categories: casual ones, ones from high school or birthday parties or family gatherings, or mug shots. It was like the yin and yang of life, the up and the down, the people who were victims of random chance and the people who were victims of circumstances. The first one he identified was Sheila, Shelia Colleen Maitland, who was one of the mug shot ones. She was younger, her hair was different, but it was her. Then he identified poor Rita, Margarita Helene Schillenger, caught at someone’s birthday...

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Danse Macabre: Eight – The Dark Side Of The Moon

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Eight – The Dark Side Of The Moon The ice crunched beneath his feet as Gryphon approached the door, and the air got so cold he could feel his cheeks and nose go numb. The door didn’t want to open, but Ruby telekinetically kicked it open, and they stepped into the lingering illusion of the room. Of course the room was an illusion. In the real world it was as old and desolate as the rest of the house, but as he crossed the threshold, he crossed into someone else’s world. Miraculously, sunlight was pouring through the window, revealing a tidy room with a small, narrow bed in a black metal frame, the covers pulled so tightly across the mattress they looked stapled on. The walls were covered with oatmeal...

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Danse Macabre: Seven – We’re All Gone

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Seven – We’re All Gone Gryphon came to with a jerk, sort of surprised to find himself sitting up in a car seat, looking out a shattered windshield. Car accident, remember? Hugh prompted. Right. He looked over at O’Leary to find him slumped over the steering wheel. “Cal?” he asked. There was no response. Check his pulse, Hugh instructed. Gryphon rolled his eyes. “I can never find a pulse and you know it.” Fine. Let me take over. That idea was a relief, and he wasn’t sure why. No, scratch that – he knew exactly why. Even he was tired of being in his own skin. “Yeah, fine.” The process of letting the others take over had become easier. It was just like letting go, although of what he...

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Danse Macabre: Six – Ghost Dance

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Six – Ghost Dance “How do you know about him?” O’Leary asked when he could finally speak. It had taken him several tries to make his mouth work correctly. “Have you been investigating me?” Gryphon scoffed, rubbing his forehead. His head was starting to hurt, but in a weird way that wasn’t entirely unpleasant. “Again, let me take you back to that point where you agreed that I wasn’t a screaming fraud. I’m not. I know about Jeff McCandless because he told me not to trust you. Now, do I hear your version of the story or not?” “I told you to get offa my lawn,” the old dead guy croaked. “We’re not on your lawn,” Gryphon snapped, casting an evil glance at him. “Now knock it...

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Danse Macabre: Five – Vicarious Atonement

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Five – Vicarious Atonement The morning was gray and gloomy, the storm had moved on but left suffocating humidity behind. The air seemed as thick and saturated as a wet sponge.Gryphon felt exhausted, like he hadn’t slept at all, but that happened a lot. It was like he used so much energy keeping all these people with him, he could never keep up his own energy levels. Either that, or they were draining power from him to feed their honestly formidable psychokinetic powers. Clay had made pancakes and soy bacon for breakfast, which wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Clay made his pancakes with carbonated water, so they weren’t as heavy as some, and instead of syrup he poured loganberry jam on them. Again, not bad....

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Danse Macabre: Four – The Outsider

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Four – The Outsider Gryphon found himself sitting on a curb, legs splayed out before him on the edge of a city street. He notice stubbed cigarettes in the gutter, crumpled beer cans, a used condom, all the hallmarks of a bad neighborhood or the area in front of a seedy bar. Across the street was the sad sight of a closed down store – what was left of its windows were smashed out; indecipherable graffiti was scrawled on the plywood beneath the frames – but it had a huge cracked parking lot, where discarded fast food wrappers scraped across the asphalt like tumbleweeds. There was a white van in the lot, parked across what had once been one of the traffic lanes, although there was no one else around...

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Danse Macabre: Three – In This Twilight

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Three – In This Twilight Gryphon faced the girl, aware of a slight white noise hum at the edge of his hearing and a distant feeling that indicated she was a ghost, not a poltergeist. Again, if he knew how these things were decided, he imagined he’d be a very rich man. Or at least one with fewer puzzles making his brain hurt. “Who are you?” She eyed him quite dubiously. “Rita. Are you dead?” “Only partly. Why are you here?” She looked around, blinking at the surroundings as if she’d never quite seen them before. “I was killed, I guess. I don’t know where I am, though. I wasn’t here when … well, last I remember.” “What do you remember?” “I was punched in the head. Or it felt like...

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Danse Macabre: Two – Waking Up With Wolves

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed Two – Waking Up With Wolves “You don’t believe in this, but you want me to find someone anyways?” O’Leary gave him an uncomfortable glare, crossing his arms over his broad chest. “I’m completely fucking desperate, okay? Does that explain things for you?” Gryphon shrugged, sitting back down on the edge of his bed and gesturing for O’Leary to take the chair. He shook his head, turning down the offer to sit. “It helps. So who is it you’re looking for?” He sighed heavily, shoulders sagging. “Approximately ten years ago, a fifteen year old girl, Juliet Saltzman, disappeared while walking home from school. Her backpack was found in a ditch not far from where she was last seen. There was a...

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Danse Macabre: One – Fall To Place

Alone With The Dead Danse Macabre by Andrea Speed One – Fall to Place It was kind of hard to say why, but of all the strange things he had done in his life, this was perhaps the strangest. What? Seriously? Hugh said in his head. Okay, kid, either you haven’t been paying attention, or you’ve lived the most sheltered life in existence, pre-us. I’m votin’ for sheltered, Taneesha said. Me too, Ray agreed. “Would you all stop dog piling on me?” Gryphon snapped, looking out the window at his view. Now there was another concept that would take some getting used to. The whole “ghost hunting” thing with Shane and Clay had been working out surprisingly well. They got some local publicity for the thing they did for the Oregon Historical Society, and...

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Memento Mori: Fourteen – Exit Music From a Film

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Fourteen – Exit Music From a Film He decided to feign ignorance of Serenity Acres just to see how far it would take him. As it turned out, not very far at all. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he’d gone out to the place he’d asked about earlier in the evening. Not only that, but apparently curiosity got the better of Clay. “After we heard about it – the official statement seems to be a transient accidentally burned it down while squatting in the place, killing himself. Which didn’t make sense, because nobody would go all the way out there to squat, or do anything – nobody hangs around there. It feels off.” Clay’s eyes took on a suspicious glitter, almost amused. “Well, if you...

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Memento Mori: Thirteen – Gravity Gets Things Done

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Thirteen – Gravity Gets Things Done The ocean was blue-gray, a darker color than the azure sky, which seemed to go on for forever, barely broken up by a smattering of high clouds that looked like a torn layer of cotton gauze. The water lapped gently at the golden shore, splashing down and retreating once more, only to do it again. Gryphon supposed it was pretty, but then again, he supposed it was also the epitome of futility, nature’s version of Sisyphus. In that case, it was a perfect representation of him, wasn’t it? What the hell had he been doing with his life since the dead pulled him back from the brink? He’d been their taxi service, their conduit for revenge, and nothing more. Shouldn’t he...

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Memento Mori: Twelve – Dead By Dawn

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Twelve – Dead By Dawn It was always odd to be in the back seat of his own mind, watching as others took him over and made his body do things he never commanded it to do, but in this case he was glad. Hugh would probably think he was a big old pussy, but he hated fire; he especially hated when there was a lot of it where it shouldn’t be. Being surrounded by it was enough to bring on a panic attack … if his body was responding to him. Right now, it wasn’t. Right now, he could see Louis looking around in abject shock as the fire licked up the walls, spreading like a living stain, clinging to the ceiling as if in violation of physics, but perhaps the most shocking thing to Louis was that he wasn’t...

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Memento Mori: Eleven – Don’t Save Us From The Flames

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Eleven – Don’t Save Us From The Flames According to Dante, there were nine levels of hell, which each one very specific in its punishments and the rules for those who would dwell there. Of course he was a fiction writer with a strong sense of Catholicism and an infatuation with a pre-pubescent girl, and Gryphon didn’t believe in any sort of afterlife like heaven or hell – some kind of fabulous or terrifying kingdom where you got to frolic with angels or get anally probed by imps – as it was such fairy tale bullshit he couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind bought for it a second. Still, he did believe there could be types of hell, such as the things Human beings did to one another,...

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Memento Mori: Ten – Wake Up The Dead

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Ten – Wake Up The Dead Clay did have an answer, as he expected, and he told Shane and Clay he wanted to go there tomorrow. He was lying, of course, but they weren’t to know that. After he got all the information he needed, he asked to be taken back to his motel, as he claimed to be completely shagged out after the whole Laurel Stanhope thing, and subsequent interrogation. No one disbelieved him; the pity was almost palpable. But of course it was a crock of shit. He went back to his room to have a piss, and dig out the money he had hidden in his duffle bag before heading out to the Buick. You can’t possibly be serious, Mr. Aronofsky insisted. “Would you stop saying that? I am. I’m not waiting for this...

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Memento Mori: Nine – Fight the Power

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Nine – Fight the Power Gryphon noticed something that Ruby hadn’t, or at least that she hadn’t commented on. When the two way mirror fell away, the cops monitoring in the other room jumped up, some reaching instinctively for their weapons, but there were two people standing at the back of the room, looking on in mute horror: Kevin and Rachel. The cops in the now exposed room pulled their service weapons, and Romano barked, “Sit down, now, and stop … whatever the hell you’re doing.” That was when the funniest thing happened: Rachel stood up for him. “You can’t talk to him like. He hasn’t done anything.” Everybody, even Ruby, looked at her in general disbelief. Romano’s blocky shoulders...

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Memento Mori: Eight – Freak Show

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Eight – Freak Show Gryphon stared at the woman (Laurel; her name was Laurel Stanhope), pretending he didn’t know what she was talking about, but of course he knew. He didn’t want to know, but it was hard to deny. “He did this to you?” “We were the first. He didn’t know what he was doing, but he knows now. He’s coming back. He’s ready this time.” “Ready? For what? To do what?” “Gryphon? Clay said, and touched his shoulder. For some reason, that did it. This fragile reality shattered; whatever the rapport between him and the angry dead were, it just ceased to exist when other people tried to barge into it, and he felt the backlash like a physical thing. It seemed to hit him square in the...

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Memento Mori: Seven – Passive

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Seven – Passive The first appointment of the evening took them to a pre-fab house at the end of a cul-de-sac in a Portland suburb, right where it slowly gave way to the rural. In the cul-de-sac were perfect lawns and cookie cutter houses, and just beyond it, as if there was some invisible demarcation line, were wide fields and spiky tangles of blackberry bushes, the smell of cow shit faint but quite prevalent in the air when the breeze changed direction. Shane warned him they would refer to him as a “psychic”, as that was the term more people were familiar with – in a supernatural sense – than “agent”, and Gryphon honestly didn’t care. They could call him Patsy the Dog Faced Boy as long...

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Memento Mori: Six – Three Libras

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Six – Three Libras He actually thought he might make it out. Considering how his life had been running lately, Gryphon had no idea why. It seemed overly optimistic.They were passing by the emergency room, heading towards the lobby where patients in various states of need and impatience sat in hard plastic chairs, when he sensed someone, too late for him to tell Clay to choose another exit. The emergency room’s sickly green and white coloring gave way to a cozy bookshop, the warm white lighting bouncing off shelves of polished mahogany, where books overflowed the shelves in a manner suggesting planned chaos. It was a way to be orderly without actually appearing that way, the devious work of a store owner who...

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Memento Mori: Five – You’d Prefer an Astronaut

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Five – You’d Prefer an Astronaut The people in the doorway were not ones he expected: they were Shane and Clay, a/k/a Larry and Curly. As usual, it was the hangdog Shane who spoke first. “Uh, hope we’re not disturbing you, Gryphon. We just got to the Red Dog when they were takin’ you away, and -” “No, great, I’m glad you came,” he told them, frantically looking at the i.v. tubes in his arms, trying to figure out how to remove them. Were those really needles under his skin? How could he remove them without bleeding all over the place? Was that the point? “I really need to get out of here.” Don’t do this, Mr. Aronfosky insisted. You’re honestly ill. I told you he has death wish, Hugh...

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Memento Mori: Four – One Armed Scissor

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Four – One Armed Scissor They were right behind him, and he couldn’t get away.A house materialized in front of him, and Gryphon hastily scrambled up the front porch, yanking open the old door so hard he almost tore it off its hinges. Once inside he slammed it hard, throwing all the bolts and locks, leaning against it in hopes of holding them back. Their steps thudded on the hollow porch, sounding like a rain of boulders, and it seemed like there were hundreds of them after him, thousands. He heard scrabbling beneath the floorboards, skeletal fingers clawing the wood, and he backed up across the empty front room, looking down warily. Sharp, loud booms made him jump, heart leaping up his throat in return,...

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Memento Mori: Three – It’s a Shame About Ray

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed Three – It’s a Shame About Ray The Red Dog was a rather seedy looking all night diner, its neon limbed red sign highlighted by a blue neon clock that you couldn’t actually read until you were in about twenty feet of it. Even then, Gryphon didn’t dare look, as he was afraid to see at what point it would stop. The inside of the diner wasn’t very crowded, with just a few scattered patrons, the décor retro-kitsch under somewhat harsh fluorescents. Formica the color of a smoker’s teeth covered the front counter and the tables in the booths, while red vinyl covered stools and seats with brushed aluminum frames, giving the place some desperately needed color. It smelled strongly of boiled coffee and...

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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 …” “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...

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Memento Mori: One – Psychopomp and Circumstances

Alone With the Dead: Memento Mori by Andrea Speed One – Psychopomp and Circumstances The first night into his trip, Gryphon realized it was hurricane season in Florida.He was in a bar where they inexplicably had the Weather Channel on the t.v. over the bar, even though the weather outside was pretty typical. But some guy with bad hair and an unfortunate jacket was talking about how Florida hadn’t finished cleaning up from the last hurricane, yet there was another one coming in. It was mutually decided that they would wait until hurricane season was over before going to Florida. Mr. Aronofsky had spent most of his life in Philadelphia, and had no desire to experience a hurricane, and Gryph wasn’t thrilled with the prospect either. He could just imagine...

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Alone With the Dead: One – Rid of Me

It was always disconcerting to wake up and find yourself killing someone. Well, it really wasn’t him doing the killing. Gryphon didn’t even know who this man was, even as he saw his fist blacken his other eye. It took him a moment, but as soon as he heard the voice — his, but not his; too deep, and with an accent even he couldn’t identify (but Taneesha had pegged as “South Side Chicago”, and he had no reason to disbelieve her) — he knew what was going on. “Come on, Frank, make me laugh! Beg forgiveness!” the late Officer Stephen Campbell shouted, grabbing his former partner by the throat and hauling him up to his knees. Steve had taken over his body while he was sleeping. Steve was actually his newest “passenger,” but also his most...

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