“Wake the hell up!”
It’s not the most polite greeting but it does its job. As my eyes creaked open I was presented with the silhouette of my guest. A young girl stood before me, her dark eyes folded into a frown that was strangely attractive. She wasn’t beautiful by any means, but she had an aura of pure innocence that you rarely get to see in my line of work.
Unfortunately for her most people can’t see auras, and just took her to be the slightly mad-looking girl that she appeared to be. She’d hired me about a week before, claiming she’d been seeing ghosts. Being the only person in the city who had any connection with the supernatural, even one as tenuous as mine, meant that I was the only person she could turn to. I’d been very little help, naturally. One bang on the head and I could see auras, which was admittedly quite cool, but I knew nothing about dealing with ghosts.
Luckily for me the girl wasn’t too bright, so I’d been milking her for cash for the last few days without actually doing any work. Her greeting told me I had probably run out of luck.
“It’s 4 in the afternoon! Are you going to do any work today?” she bellowed at me, her chapped lips rounding out every syllable with great accuracy.
“I do my best work when asleep.” I snapped as I rolled my face back into the arm of the sofa upon which I had made my meagre bed.
“I find that hard to believe. You aren’t even taking me seriously are you?”
“Of course I am. I’ve been hard at work for days. You’re just tetchy because you’re running out of money to pay for your habit!”
Sure, that was a little crude of me, but she had kept me up half the night bitching about her misery addiction. For those of you not in the know misery is the new designer drug, the ultimate downer. It had spread like wildfire amongst the youth, mainly because it was both legal and cheap. The girl, Carly, had been on it for years and it had melted her emotions into a rumbling volcano of hate and sadness, depending on the day. Today it was sadness.
My little comment had caused her to burst into tears and cry for hours. I’m not sure how many exactly, after the first hour I gave up trying to go back to sleep and left her in the flat. I reasoned that pretending to work would be better than listening to a drug-addled adolescent whine and bawl for the foreseeable future.
Working, for me, consisted of strolling around the city with my hands in my pockets and avoiding eye contact for as long as possible. People will tell you that eye contact is a good thing, that it shows confidence, but all it actually does is get you noticed, and getting noticed is rarely a good thing. I prefer to lay low, especially since more and more people seem to think I’m a paranormal investigator now. I can see how they would think that, what with the sign on my door saying “Hubris McLeod: Freelance Civil Servant”.
I roamed around the city for a few hours without taking notice of anything. As I headed into the park, however, something caught my eye. It seems that I do have slight detectives instinct after all, as I had wound up stood in front of Carly’s house. It was a big Gothic number, left to her by her grandmother a few years ago. By the look of it this coincided with the start of her misery habit, the overgrown lawn had clearly not seen a mower in some time and the windows were covered in a thick layer of grime. I decided a little exploration of the house couldn’t hurt, so I waded through the tall grass and made my way to the front door.
Carly had given me her house key when I agreed to take her case and she hadn’t been home since, apparently the ghosts had really freaked her out. The key she had given me worked like a charm and the door swung open. About 2 inches, the chain was on. Carly had sworn to me that no-one else lived there with her, so this worried me a little. I put my mouth to the crack in the door and shouted a greeting just in case whoever was in there would reply. They didn’t so I kicked the door in.
I gingerly entered the main hallway and was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of rotten cat food. It took a few more steps before I realised that the floor was squelching as I moved. I took out the small torch that I keep on my keyring and switched it on, shining it at the floor. To my horror the floor was covered in maggots, wriggling their disgusting way around my feet. I quickly squelched out of the hall and into the living room, slamming the door behind me to keep the maggots out. The living room was much nicer than the hallway, and a lot more modern. Plush furniture littered the room, and in the far corner was a large plasma television which was pumping out static. All of this was secondary, however, to the large crimson aura floating in the air above the coffee table.
Auras are, typically, attached to a person or a creature. Not everyone has an aura despite what so-called mystics may claim, and those that do tend to be celestially important. I’m still no expert on auras, but what I do know is that they never exist on their own, they are always tied to a body, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this one hovering alone in an abandoned house. I cautiously walked towards the aura, being sure to make as little noise as possible just in case. When I get closer I realised that the aura wasn’t actually a single colour, it was rippling through various shades of red, as though someone were shining a light through a glass of wine. Despite what my best judgement was telling me I reached out to touch it and was almost immediately punished for doing so.
As I reached out a heavy blow landed on the back of my skull, causing me to stagger over the coffee table and land on my knees. I turned around to see who had dealt the blow and was greeted with a powerful punch in the face. I slumped to the ground and passed out.