Ray Stanz ignored the sounds of his friends. He poured himself another shot of whiskey as the three boisterously bounded down the stairs. A Twinkee, uneaten and alone, lay sheathed in its two-pack wrapper before him.
"Ray," Peter Venkman called, as he flipped on the central lighting which over-powered the small hanging lamp that Ray sat under. "Why are you sitting down here in the dark?"
"We're going uptown to the swankiest restaurant we can get served in to celebrate." Winston Zeddmore neared his friend and team-mate, with a mixed look of elation and concern in his eyes and a cigarette in his hand. "Though, I think, with all we've done for this city, we'll either be looking forword to a lot of free meals or we'll be double charged for our food for covering their pets in marshmallow fluff."
After adjusting his glasses, Egon Spengler asked of Ray, "Are you drinking?"
"Yes," Ray replied, in a voice that was both bitter and sad. He tossed back the shot, grimacing at the burn the ran down his chest and settled in his belly. "I would really appreciate it if everyone would leave me alone. Thank you." He poured another shot.
Peter reached out in an attempt to take the bottle from his friend. Ray snatched the bottle to his chest and chugged the poured shot. The burn was more intense and he clenched his teeth in a wince at the feeling.
Egon's eyes went wide at Ray's childish reaction. "What is wrong?"
Visibly, Ray's shoulders slumped and he sighed aloud. He set both bottle and shot glass down on the workbench. Turning on his stool, he faced Egon with a frown etched into his features. His normally bright eyes were dull from lack of sleep and stress. "Today it hit me." He paused a moment. "It hit me like a tonne of bricks."
"What did, Ray?" Egon asked, less empathetically, more scientifically.
"I almost got us killed twice in one day. And not just us, no sir. Everyone. Existence would have been unmade because of me."
Peter breathed a scathing sigh and shook his head. "You realize that we're all alive, right? Not squished. Not suffering from marshmallow pneumonia. Peachy keen and fine."
"Hey," Winston said, raising his hand in attempt to quash the rising tension. "Ray, you want to talk about it?"
"Talk about what?" Venkman retorted, his tone impatient. "The fact that since honest Ray can't tell a lie, we all got roasted?"
Egon interjected. "Uh, to be fair, I do believe that Gozer the Gozarian would have required proof of our godhood, and would have subsequently immolated us for our misgivings."
"We still got roasted." Peter snatched the bottle and took a quick swig.
Ray sighed again. "I just couldn't live with a lie like that."
Peter slammed the bottle down on the bench. "It's kind of hard to live with a lie if you're dead."
"But we're not," Winston said, a finality to his voice. "Gozer got wasted. End of story. No reason to feel bad."
Ray sighed again. "But.. I summoned the Destroyer. If it weren't for me, all of the people that were crushed to death by marshmallow fluff would still be alive."
Winston flicked the ashes off of the end of his cigarette and put his free hand on Ray's shoulder. "I have a confession to make, Ray. You weren't the only one to think of a Destroyer. You just thought of it first."
A moment of shock crossed the Parapsychologist's face followed by a rising smile. Ray's grin wavered and he asked, "How did you know it was me then?"
"It came to me right as Gozer said that the deed was done," Winston said, removing his hand from Ray's shoulder and giving an open handed gesture as he spoke. "Remember those Hammer Horror movies. Well, I loved 'em. Scared the hell out of me. First thing that came to my mind was Dracula. Christopher Lee's version."
Egon cleared his throat. "I also envisioned a Destroyer."
Peter smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand. "You guys! Seriously!" He jabbed an accusative finger in Egon's direction. "What monstrosity would you have unleashed on the innocents?"
Ray chimed in, "Which leaves you out."
Venkman shot a snide smile at Ray.
"The Cockroach that ate Cincinnati." Egon looked sheepishly at his wringing hands.
His companions turned and stared at him.
"What? I enjoy the song," Egon defended. "Honestly, we were fortunate that Ray chose as he did."
"Venkman," Winston said, after a draw on his cigarette, "What about you? Did you pick one?"
"Do I look like the bringer of the End of Days?"
"Come on, man," Zeddemore said matter-of-factly, "You're telling me you cleared your mind completely? You didn't think of one thing up there?"
"If you must know…" Peter left a moment of silence. "Connie Sellica."
The stare that the three had previously given to Egon was mirrored back to Peter. "Connie Sellica?" the three asked simultaneously.
"Yes, the lovely Miss Connie. You know, she played Pam in the Greatest American Hero."
Egon held a look of disgust and disbelief on Venkman for a second, before he turned to Ray, looking more contemplative. "What I was trying to say before was that had both Winston or myself chosen the Destroyer, the outcome would have been very different."
"Of course!" Ray exclaimed, brightness returning to is eyes. "Winston's Dracula would have been an undead vampire. He would have spread his vampirism to the general public, thus making it an epidemic. Dracula would sire the human race as his army of the night."
Egon continued, not missing a beat. "And were he based on the mythos of Vlad the Impaler, he would have not only been able to change into various forms, and enthrall his victims, but also resurrect any time we would 'kill' him. Even if we would attempt to engage him in melee combat, he would be nearly unstoppable."
"That's bad," Winston admitted, his face falling.
Ray's enthusiasm had returned in full force. "And your cockroach, Egon," he said, gesturing to his friend, "would be completely immune to the nuclear energy in the proton beams. The fire from them might effect it, but its size would be an issue." He chuckled. "That would have been a disaster!"
Zeddemore's frown-lines deepened. "What about giant Connie Sellica as the Destroyer?"
Venkman laughed to himself. "You'd all be dead, but giant Miss Sellica wouldn't be able to resist my manly charms."
Ray looked taken aback. "What about Dana?"
"I've worked all of this out, Ray. Dana was possessed by Zuul, remember? So little Miss Giant Connie Sellica and I would be ruling the world under Gozer right now."
Spengler and Zeddemore exchanged a defeated look. "Nice teamwork, Venkman," said Winston.
Venkman started upstairs, "No-one gets in the way of me and giant Connie Sellica!"
Stanz stood and began to follow Peter. "Pete, wait up! I'm starving!"
"Ray," Egon called to his friend, "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Ray stopped, turned and replied with enthusiasm.
"We're just kind of worried if you spent all day down here drinking," Zeddemore said in a sympathetic tone.
"All day?" Ray shook his head and laughed. "Like I said, it hit me maybe, what? Twenty minutes ago. The shots I took while you were here were my firsts. I did toss back that Twinkee before you came down, but I spent most of the day detailing the inside of the Ecto 1, trying to get all of the marshmallow fluff out of her interior."
"Oh," Egon replied in a flat tone.
Ray bounded up the stairs, calling back down them, "Come on guys! Dinner is calling my name!"
Egon and Winston stood in the silence for a moment. Egon's long fingers sought out the remaining Twinkee, as Winston procured the shot-glass and the whiskey bottle. After pouring himself a shot, Zeddemore offered his drink out in salute to Spengler. Egon tapped his pastry to the glass. The two downed their vice of choice.
Haunted by what could have been, the two Ghostbusters morosely ascended the stairs to join their team-mates.