Author's Note: Hey guys, so I absolutely love the Kieli series and while I love Kieli and Harvey, my favorite has to be Corporal. Anyhoo, this is going to be a fairly short story-probably no more than 10 chapters as I'm in the middle of writing another, larger story. This does have mention of religion in it but not in a preachy way, in a crazy way (in case anyone is bothered by that). Then again…church hypocrisy is a big part of Kieli isn't it? On that note, enjoy the story!
Chapter 1: Perished Parishioners
The train clattered along the tracks, a pillar of smoke billowing into the air and drifting upwards to mingle with the low lying clouds that hung like cotton drapery in the sky. The overcast sunlight was dim and the lights in the train cars cast a weak yellowed glow into the evening. Kieli sat swinging her feet over the edge of the smooth wooden bench as she stared out of the cold, fogged over window.
"It's so drab outside." She spoke up softly, feeling muted in the oppressing silence. Even the old, battered radio was silent for once, the absence of static feeling strangely unnerving for some reason. Harvey shifted in his seat, a curl of cigarette smoke wisping past his face and drifting towards the ceiling. He turned his head and eyed the approaching town with a bored expression.
"It looks like rain." He admonished softly. "We should find a hotel quickly after the train pulls into the station." He replied, letting his gaze drift away again. Kieli nodded in agreement and pressed her face against the window, watching the green hills roll past the glass. As the train pulled into the station the passengers began gathering their luggage and Kieli grabbed their two small bags, making sure to slip the cord of the old radio around her neck. The train lurched to a slow, halting stop and let out a long hiss of steam, fogging the windows all the more. The passengers stood as one, migrating their way in a single file towards the opening doors. Harvey stepped down from the train and turned to help Kieli down as the crowd pushed forward towards the gates. He swung her down from the step and no sooner had her boots touched the concrete than the radio around her neck crackled to life.
"I don't like it here." Corporal suddenly spoke up, his staticy voice tinged with a hint of unease.
"Huh?" Kieli looked down in surprise at the box swinging around her neck.
"What do you mean you don't like it here?" Harvey demanded, pulling Kieli through the pressing crowd.
"It feels bad here. I don't like it." The soldier pressed, abnormally abrupt in his complaint.
"You say that now that we're here." Harvey grumbled, his eye twitching in irritation.
"Why, what's wrong Corporal?" Kieli pressed in concern as the group exited the train station, but the radio remained silent. Her gaze drifted upwards to take in the older, Victorian style buildings clustered around the town square. The bricks were worn and faded with age, dark spires thrusting upwards into the gloomy sky. Stone statues perched on apexes and ledges high above the crowd's heads, glaring menacingly down on by-passers. Kieli felt herself shrink inwards at the smothering feeling of the town and found herself falling into step behind the Undying. Everything was strangely quiet as they made their way through the cobbled streets, like the lulling calm before the storm. The town looked like the strive for modernity had yet to reach its people, isolated in its own little corner of the world as it was. The air felt heavy, weighed down by a thick feeling she couldn't place. It was suffocating.
"A-are we going to be staying here for long?" She suddenly spoke up, clutching a handful of her coat in her fingers. Harvey glanced over his shoulder at her, his brow furrowed, a frown on his face. He must've noticed the town's feeling too.
"Just a day or two." He replied calmly, striding in his quick pace down the sidewalk. "Didn't you say we needed some more supplies?"
"Um, well yeah. There's not another town to stop at for the next few days, right Corporal?" A long pause drifted between the two of them as the radio refused to speak up. "What's wrong with him?" Kieli pouted, tapping the box lightly.
"Who knows? He's the moodiest radio I've ever come across." Harvey grumbled, irritated. "This looks like a hotel, let's check it out." He pointed out, crossing the empty street and climbing the steps.
"I've got a bad feeling…" The radio crackled and Kieli jumped, almost losing her footing on the stone steps.
"It's okay Corporal, we won't be here long." She soothed, attempting to calm the agitated ghost.
"…I suppose…" The soldier relented, sounding unconvinced and falling silent again.
The two of them booked a room at the neat but dingy hotel, leaving their bags in the room before setting out to find a meal. The storm clouds gathered, seeming to converge over the stunted town, threatening a downpour at any moment. Their meal quickly finished, the odd pair began picking their way back towards their hotel, following the trickling stream of people heading home for the night. The shops and restaurants began closing for the night, signs being brought in and curtains pulled over the windows. The streets quickly emptied, doors closed and bolted shut.
"Everyone sure retired quickly for the night." Harvey broke the silence, his cigarette glowing in the encroaching dark.
"Well it does look like rain." Kieli pointed out hesitantly. Something dark flickered out of the corner of her eye and she turned quickly to barely glimpse a figure slipping into a shadowed alley. "Huu, a ghost?" She murmured to herself, unconsciously pressing closer to Harvey. "This town is so quiet!" She sighed. A few minutes later and they were back at the hotel, the soft glow of the lights being devoured hungrily by the pressing darkness from the window. The gathered clouds finally broke, a torrent of rain pouring down on the silent town and fogging the window. On the bed side stand the radio softly played its usual guerilla station, the soft strings of rock boldly penetrating the hush. Harvey lay sprawled across one of the small beds, head reclined back on his folded arms as smoke from his cigarette drifted lazily upwards. Kieli stood near the window, face pressed near the cool panes of glass, breath adding to the fog as she watched the rain fall.
"Wow it's really coming down now!" She said aloud in wonder, glad they'd made it back to the room before the bottom had fallen out. It was pitch black beyond the window, the streets lit only by old fashioned lights that let off a weak orange glow. From the far left of her view a sudden white mist began drifting down the street, creeping and twisting its smoky tendrils along every crevice and darkened alley. "Oh!" She gasped, pressing closer in surprise. As she watched from the mist, a leg began forming, brushing its way out of the fog as another leg joined it. The being blossomed upwards, mist twining and molding to form a man. He strode forward, the mist swirling around his legs as more figures began forming. "Harvey!" She called, edging over to make room as the copper haired man rose off of the creaky bed and made his way over.
"What is that?" He asked softly, watching the gathering figures forming in the dark. They were steadily appearing, giving off an eerie white glow of their own as they walked down the empty street. Their guises were solemn and their mouths parted, a soft mournful noise of singing drifting eerily from their midst as they converged together. A mob of them had gathered by now, some disappearing out of sight down the street and yet still more came. Kieli suddenly became aware of the sound of garbled static as the radio cut in and out, its music fading in waves.
"Cut me off Kieli-" The Corporal's weak voice suddenly spoke up, a fizz of static distorting his voice.
"Are you okay Corporal?" Kieli asked worried.
"I'm being-…-pulled…-me off, please!" He cried and she quickly switched his knob off.
"What's going on?" She murmured, turning back to the window as the horde of ghostly figures continued their walk.
"They're ghosts." Harvey confirmed her silent question as the sounds of soft, crying song rose into the night around them.
"So many…" It almost reminded her of that time…back in the mine. So many people who had collectively died. "Where are they all going?" She wondered aloud, watching the rain stream down, cutting through their wispy forms. The ghostly parade continued for a few more minutes, the two of them watching silently from their window as the mournful forms drifted by. "I wonder where they're all going…" Kieli repeatedly softly, her eyes following them. The last one to emerge from the mist was a small child. She swirled upwards, her dress blossoming in the mist as she scurried forward, trying to catch up with the others. As she crossed into the street the little girl paused and turned her sad eyes upwards, locking gazes with them. Curls of hair cupped her round, moon shaped face, eyes large, expression one of innocence. Suddenly Kieli knew she had to go. Without a sound she turned quickly on her heels, hair whipping behind her as she dashed to the night table, snatched up the Corporal and wrenched open the door.
"Hey! Kieli!" Harvey shouted, turning in alarm to stop her.
"I have to see!" She called back, lingering in the doorway.
"You shouldn't go! You can't get involved with every ghost you meet!" He snapped, irritated at her brash actions.
"Maybe we can help them, maybe we can convince them to move on!" Kieli shot back. "They must be what's making the town feel so drained and sad." She suggested, turning and rushing towards the stairs.
"Kieli!" Harvey shouted, hesitating a moment before running after her, making sure to shut the door behind him. "This is dangerous!" He grumbled, clattering down the stairs behind her.
"We'll just see where they're going!" She replied confidently.
"This is a waste of time, we should mind our own business. You always get caught up in this stuff…" He pressed but she shook her head, opening the door to the steadily falling rain.
"Just a look!" She promised, moving out into the rain. Harvey followed close behind her into the pitch dark, their clothes instantly becoming dampened by the mist and rain. They hurried down the eerie street, following after the mass of glowing bodies. Shaking wet hair out of her face, Kieli craned her neck to see over the crowd.
"I wonder where they're going?" She asked aloud, hovering closer to the edge of the large group. Emboldened by Harvey's comforting presence, she suddenly pushed forward, wading into the freezing mist and edging past the ghosts.
"Kieli!" Harvey scowled, quickly following her and squeezing past the pressing ghosts. "Kieli! Since when did you get so bold…?" He muttered sullenly under his breath, remembering when she used to cry for him every time she was assaulted by the bad memories of a ghost.
"Excuse me!" She called over the singing, falling into step beside an older woman. "Excuse me, where is everyone heading to?" She asked and the woman turned to her with milky eyes and a warm smile.
"Why we're heading to the church of course!"
"The church?" Kieli repeated, side stepping a waft of a ghost. So far none of the figures had passed through her yet but they pressed all around the two living beings and trying to avoid stepping through anyone, Kieli kept her arms folded to her chest.
"Why yes dear, are you here to join our congregation?" The old woman asked kindly.
"This is bad Kieli-we should go." Harvey spoke up behind her, trying to avoid the crowding ghosts himself. Now that he studied the ghosts he noticed they all seemed to be wearing fine clothes, as if they'd dressed in their Sunday finest and set off for church the day they'd died. So what happened at the church? He thought to himself, worming his way closer to Kieli's back.
"Our doors are open to everyone." The elderly woman continued, turning her gaze to face back ahead. As the group pressed forward Kieli noticed the buildings begin to grow more dilapidated. Bricks became chipped and missing, gaps showed where shingles had fallen off and shattered on the streets below and shutters dangled precariously on rusty hinges. Finally the buildings began to blacken, crumble and collapse inward on themselves. A fire had obviously spread, eating its way along the line of buildings as it raged towards the train station.
"So that must be it." Harvey spoke up from behind her and she jumped, turning to look at him. As she turned though her arms scrunched in closer to her chest and her sleeve brushed the knob of the radio.
"That's what kill-" She broke off suddenly as the grinding noise of static suddenly broke noisily into the quiet followed quickly by a horrible piercing high-pitched screeching noise. The ghosts all froze, halting in their ethereal drifting as the loud noise shrilled into the chilled air.
"Ssssh….Kieli?" Came Corporal's weak sounding voice. "Ssshzzt…-why did you turn-….-on?" He demanded anxiously as Kieli's head snapped up to stare at the crowd of ghosts. Slowly each figure rotated to stare inwards at the two living beings, their white washed eyes wide in surprise as an eerie silence fell over the mass. Suddenly the spirits began clustering around them, crowding forward to get closer as cries began to rise up.
"Kieli let's get out of here!" Harvey shouted, ghosts pressing in at them from all sides. Transparent hands shot out, reaching-grasping at their figures, the frigid touches leeching warmth from their bodies as they clamored forward.
"How dare you!"
"To the church!"
"Black spirit!" The screams rose up, mist swirling in swaths of blinding white as a vicious wind whipped up, catching at their clothing and hair.
"It must be purified!"
"Come with us!"
"Harvey!" Kieli cried, closing her eyes tight and pressing closer to the man as the pale figures lunged for her chest. There was a sudden horrid gargle of static and then the Corporal's cries joined the cacophony of noise. The ghosts reached forward, clutching and clinging to the radio as black static was clawed from the old box.
"Corporal!" Harvey shouted, jolting forward only to have his hands unpleasantly pass through the figures. "It can't be-!"
"W-what's going on?" Kieli cried, clutching the radio protectively to her chest and backing further away. It was no use. The mob surged forward, hands passing through their bodies as the Corporal was yanked from his radio. The fuzzy form of the soldier appeared, jerking away from the ensnaring fingers that scrabbled at his limbs.
"Get the hell off me! Just what are you playing at?" He shouted, wrenching desperately away from them.
"You must be purged!"
"The Priest shall do it!"
"Take him there!" They cried, dragging the black static soldier forward by his arms and legs. The Corporal kicked out, his figure breaking up a bit and then reforming as he struggled against their many grasps.
"Kieli!" He cried urgently.
"Harvey-what can we do?" Kieli cried, pushing forward and wading through the soupy mist that dragged at her legs. It felt like concrete had been poured around her feet and she couldn't move fast enough. Her slender, pale hand reached out, her body craning forward as the Corporal's own hand shot out. There was a moment of strain, fighting against the current of cold bodies, before their hands met…and the Corporal's fingers passed straight through hers.
"It's no use Kieli, we can't touch them!" Harvey called out to her, his hands clasping her shoulders as he pressed himself protectively against her back.
"There must be something we can do! Why are you taking him?" She shouted at the ghosts pressing past her. "Corporal!"
"Damn you bastards!" The soldier snarled, a sudden violent blast of his energy exploding several nearby figures into puffs of mist. The wisps were quickly absorbed back into the cloud and almost immediately the figures formed again, clawing at the man and pulling him along with them. His ghostly heel dug into the ground, helpless against the mass horde of ghosts as he was forcefully dragged down the street. Like a tide surging back out to sea, the mist closed in behind the group leaving Kieli and Harvey rooted to their spots, helpless as they watched their friend being carried away.
"Corporal! CORPORAL!" Kieli wailed and then just like that the night was silent again. The glowing mist slowly dissipated leaving behind a cold feeling of desolation in its wake. The dark crept calmly back into its place blanketing the town as the rain steadily pounded down on the cobbles, thoroughly soaking the two still figures.
And suddenly she regretted leaving the hotel room.
"Come on!" Harvey commanded, grabbing a hold of her shaking hand and tugging her behind him as he took off running towards where the vaporous mob had vanished. The two sprinted down the street, their feet splashing wetly through gathered puddles and casting droplets everywhere. The buildings around them became blackened skeletons in the dark, jagged teeth of charred wood jutting dangerously towards the ebony sky. Tendrils of soot were caught up by the wind and whipped across the cobbles as the water ran in black rivulets down the gutters. In front of them a church suddenly appeared, looming in disapproving malevolence.
Author's Note: So what did you think? Let me know if any of the characters seemed a bit OC, I wish to avoid that. I also wish Kieli would grow in popularity! Please review and lemme know what you think! Reviews will be cherished, flames not tolerated. Also, the word Corporal derives from the Italian words lancia peseta, meaning "broken lance" or "broken spear" but is also used in respect to a seasoned soldier who has seen combat. Hence the title. So until next time! *cheerful wave*