Someone Call a Doctor
Director Raphael, Director of Galactic Administration Intelligence leafed through a fat gathering of paper that strained the limits of what normal paper clips should be expected to handle in a civilized society. A device on his desk chimed and the holographic image of a small woman appeared. Or a small image of a regular sized woman.
“Director Raphael,” Ray answered without pulling his eyes from his paperwork. “Make it quick, I only have 45 minutes to practice pretending I like talking to bureaucrats.”
“Uh, hello, Ray,” Sophie said.
Ray looked up at the projection, “Oh, Ms. Fischer.”
“Yeah, hey, I know I should only call in an emergency and you seem really busy...”
“No, go ahead. What is it?”
“It’s a friend of mine. He’s been infected with a weird virus and he seems to be dying.”
“Have you tried a doctor?”
“He’s a special case. He has this ability to transfer his consciousness into dead bodies.”
“Yeah, and this virus has him locked inside one and it’s deteriorating fast.”
“I’ll be there in an hour or so.”
“I understand if...really?”
“Yeah, humans with extraordinary abilities is one of the few excuses the higher-ups will accept for me missing a meeting with the oversight committee. They won’t be happy, but they can’t say squat about it, which makes it especially gratifying for me.”
“Uh...okay...well, I’ll see you soon I guess.”
“Not that I’m not happy to help. There’s just an extra thick layer of icing on this cake.”
A knock came on the metal doors that led from the basement to sidewalk above. Hunter wobbled over, threw the latch and cracked one of the doors enough to see who it was. Standing above him was a tall, pale man with a long face and black, saucer eyes. He was wearing a foldaway raincoat the barely concealed the wings underneath.
“Gabriel?” Hunter asked through the crack.
“Ray,” he replied.
“Right. I knew it was one of them.” Hunter opened the door and Ray descended into the basement.
“Sophie said you had a sick patient on your hands?”
“Over here,” Sophie said from behind shelves of gardening supplies.
Ray turned the corner and saw Linc asleep on a workbench. He saw Duke floating by the table with his arms crossed.
“Is that a vampire?” Ray asked pointing at him. “Because that could be a problem.”
“No, he just looks like one,” Sophie replied.
“Duke,” Duke said and held out his hand.
Ray shook his hand, “You’re cold like one.” He leaned in and examined his eyes, “You’re undead.”
“Right, but not a vampire. I don’t drink blood.”
“That’s not a requisite.”
“I can stand in the sun and I cast a reflection.”
Ray paused and squinted at Duke, still gripping his hand. He held two fingers to his eyes and shifted them between himself and Duke, then released his hand.
“He’s nice, Ray,” Sophie said. “Really.”
“They can be very charming,” Ray said and turned to examine Linc. “What’s this guy’s deal?”
“This is Corpse Guy,” Cheryl said.
“Guy? He looks like a female of your species.”
“Woah, Mr. Gender Assumptions. This is the body he’s currently in. Don’t hate.”
Ray snapped his talons and pointed at Cheryl. “Corpse jumper. Makes sense. Do you have an analysis of the virus?”
Cheryl waved her stitched finger over her tablet.
“What happened there?” Ray asked.
“She implanted something in herself,” Sophie sighed.
Ray looked at her finger, then Linc, then Duke, “I haven’t been paying enough attention. What are you people doing down here? A vampire, a human who inhabits the dead, and elective self-surgery. It’s taken a distinct turn for the macabre.”
“We’re fine,” Cheryl said as Sophie waved her hand in time to her words like she was conducting the chorus to a song.
Ray glanced at Sophie. “We’ll talk. In the meantime,” he took the tablet from Cheryl. “Let’s see what’s up with this virus. Where did he contract it.”
“Some wizard ninjas gave it to him,” Duke said.
Ray stared at Duke askance.
“It’s more like a bunch of ninjas who follow a wizard.”
“I should have never closed the Earth office,” Ray mumbled as he brought his attention back to the tablet. He placed it on a table and removed another one from his jacket pocket. “I need a better analysis. Wave that Frankenstein finger over here.”
Cheryl pointed at Ray’s tablet and a series of holograms began flashing in the air above it.
“It’s not a known virus, but it looks like it’s based on Hepatitis. Specially designed to nullify his ability. He's locked into that body like it was his own. Which brings me to a point, has anyone examined the morality of this?”
“Infecting someone with a virus seems pretty fucked up,” Cheryl said. “The morality is pretty cut and dried.”
“No, I mean using someone’s corpse.”
“They’re not using it anymore.”
“They have families, right? Do they know someone is taking the body of their loved one and using it for - what does he do?”
“He’s a PI,” Duke replied.
“But look at this. He’s in terrible condition. Don’t humans have wakes and viewings? Aren’t they going wonder?”
“It’s how he survives. Does the cordyceps fungus examine the morality of what it does?” Cheryl asked.
“Fungus doesn’t have executive functions. It doesn’t have a frontal cortex.”
“That you know of.”
“You think he should just die?” Sophie asked.
Ray paused. “Of course not.”
“Great,” Cheryl said, “now that you’ve decided he’s worthy to live can you cure him?”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Ray said. “Can I get a look at the plants you have here?”
“You should talk to Bart,” Sophie said and led Ray up the stairs.
Duke leaned over Linc. Linc cracked his eyes and strained to smile.
“It’s almost over, man,” Duke said.
“I know,” Linc said. “An angel came to visit me. I’m going home soon.”
“That wasn’t an angel. It was an alien. He’s working on a cure right now.”
Linc grimaced. “What has my life become?”
“I told you, dude. Once your weird, the weird finds you. No point fighting it.”
Ten people sat around a heavy, dark oak table in a dim smokey room.
“Not since our grandfathers have all the heads come together like this,” said a pudgy face with a black pencil mustache.
“Not since our grandfathers have we had a problem like this,” a thin head with a greased comb over said.
“What problem? This guy ain’t shit.” said a black goatee with face tattoos.
“Easy to say when you’re way up there in the north. He’ll get to you.”
“Wait till you’ve had half your men wiped out by his, what are they called? Scorpions?” said the comb-over.
“Centipedes,” the mustache replied.
“Let him come up here and start that shit. We’ll show him how we do it up there,” the goatee said.
“That’s the plan,” Pulsipher said walking past two armed men in suits who pulled their guns and approached him from behind. Two Centipedes emerged from the shadows and snapped the armed men’s necks.
“Who the hell are you?” Combover asked, rising from his chair.
“Is that name supposed to be intimidating?”
“No, it’s an Anglo-Saxon variant of Percival. It’s my actual name.”
“How about I call my boys in here to give you a beatdown?” Goatee said.
“Those guys out back playing dominoes?”
“They’re dead. In fact,” Pulsipher looked at his watch, “as of right now the entire North Philly crew has been decimated. Decimate. Such a great word. Means to reduce by one-tenth. It comes from Roman times where the punishment for failure during wartime was to execute every tenth member of a legion.”
“No, it does. Look it up.”
“I meant you…”
“I know. I’m just being obtuse,” Pulsipher pulled a gun and shot Goatee through the head. “There, I just decimated the heads of the Philadelphia crime families.”
“You’re not getting away with this,” Pencil Mustache said.
“Yes, I am.”
“You think you can just walk in here and…”
“You know what’s another great word? Excruciating. It refers to the agony of crucifixion.” Pulsipher snapped his fingers and the Centipedes dragged Mustache from the table. Another materialized from the shadows dragging a large wooden cross behind him. He laid it on the ground and they forced the struggling man to lie on it. Two held his arms down as the third began driving a nail into his hand. Pulsipher closed his eyes and listened to the screams as if he was lost in a lilting melody. “Lovely.”
“What do you want?” a woman in an ostentatious hat said.
“Control of your operations.”
“Another word I really love is desiccation,” he put his hand on the shoulder of a young man wearing a Yankees cap on sideways. The man’s eyes bulged as he tried to scream but could only produce a dry whimper. His flesh wrinkled and tightened until he looked like a skeleton wrapped in tanned leather. “Has everyone caught onto my schtick yet or do I need to keep going.” He pulled a Thesaurus out his jacket pocket and dropped it on the table.
Gasps and murmurs drifted around the table.
“My great-grandfather started this business in 1921,” the woman said.
“Great run, but all good things…” Pulsipher said. “Don’t take too long with this. I have a big show planned for tomorrow.”