A Creepy Thing Happened on the Way to the Firehouse
A muted ray of autumn sun filtered in through the windows of the university lab. It went completely unnoticed by the group of chemistry students hard at work on the finishing touches of their midterm projects. The room was intensely quiet except for the hiss of the Bunsen burners and an occasional murmur from a concentrating student or two. The professor, short, stout and graying, walked among them like a vulture waiting for a fresh kill.
At the far end of the room, standing at the last work station, was Sophie Martin. Wearing a white lab coat, dark hair pulled back out of her slightly freckled face, she held up a beaker full of a greenish solution. Her hazel eyes studied it intently from behind a pair of safety goggles as she swished it around a few times before pausing to jot something down on a notebook, the page of which was covered in a splatter of formulas and equations. Next to the notebook was a rack of beakers, vials, and bubbling flasks, each one containing an oddly colored liquid.
Sophie sat down on the stool by the counter and produced a dropper from a front pocket. Dipping the point into a flask across from her, she squeezed the rubber bulb on the other end and drew out the amount of the steaming fluid she needed. Bracing her elbows on the countertop, she tipped the dropper into the beaker of solution and paused to take a steadying breath.
This was it. This was the final step in the entire sequence and then it would be over. Just five drops, five little drops and if she got the correct reaction, she could walk out of the lab with a solid "A" on the midterm.
She squeezed the dropper.
Sophie pitched forward as someone bumped into her from behind.
There was absolutely nothing she could do as she watched all her hard work go crashing across the countertop in a multicolored mess of shattering glass and a flood of chemicals that were never meant to be mixed.
All the other students and the professor immediately stopped what they were doing and gaped openmouthed as the notebook fizzled and started dissolving right before their eyes. After reducing it to nothing more than a metal spiral, the puddle started eating its way through the countertop at an alarming rate. Fortunately, Sophie had jumped back before coming into contact with the corrosive tidal wave.
She whipped around and there behind her was the culprit. The tall, auburn-haired young woman was at a loss for words.
"I…I'm so sorry…" she started.
"What were you thinking?" snapped Sophie, without really meaning to. A strange surge of anger was building up inside her like magma under a volcano. She didn't know where it was coming from and she didn't like it, but she couldn't hold it back. Everything she wanted to say to the other student erupted from her mouth in a torrent of accusations.
A heavy silence descended on the lab. Every single person in the room stood rooted to the spot, staring at Sophie and wondering what could possibly follow that supposedly midterm-induced outburst…
All at once, the lights flickered and went out.
"Oh no..." Sophie whispered hoarsely to herself as a terrified look of dawning comprehension spread over her face. "No, this can't be happening!"
And she bolted, leaving the confused class gawking after her.
Sophie sprinted through the chilly October air, lungs burning and head buzzing with a swarm of questions as thick as the fog curling around her.
Her power was back, no doubt about that, but it seemed different somehow…stronger and more volatile. Ever since the Ghostbusters, her former employers, had declared her telekinesis-free over a year ago, her life had taken an unprecedented turn for the better. This was all she needed right now. How had it happened? And why?
…Wait! The Ghostbusters! Maybe those weirdos could help her!
She stopped, suddenly aware that she'd been running for the last fifteen minutes without really realizing where she was going. The fog was so thick she could barely see two feet in front of her…and it was awfully quiet here, wherever "here" was.
It was mid-afternoon, yet the sunlight seemed particularly dim at the moment. She noted that she was no longer on the city sidewalk, but had been heading down a pathway lined with the silhouettes of leafless trees and iron lamp posts. Where was she? And where was everybody else? It was pretty unusual not to have anyone rushing past in the middle of a typical day in New York City.
Sophie pulled the safety goggles she was still wearing up to the top of her head and shivered. Unfortunately, her jacket was still in the classroom where she'd left it during her panicked exit. The thin lab coat wasn't much protection against the chill, but she drew it tightly around her anyway—
She jumped at the sound of a breaking twig behind her.
"Who's there?" she ventured.
After a tense moment, Sophie decided she must still be on edge from the incident back at the university. It was only her imagination…that was probably just someone else coming down the path. She cautiously started forward again, anxious to get out of this creepy place.
"Sorcererrr...?" a raspy whisper issued from the murkiness behind her.
She stopped dead, her quick, frightened breaths materializing before her as a misty addition to the fog.
"Sorcererrrr!" the voice repeated, a little louder.
Sophie turned slowly…and met a pair of bright green glowing eyes.
"You have returned to ussss?"
"AAAAAAAGH!" Sophie shrieked and stumbled backwards, tripping over something on the way which sent her sprawling flat on her back. Rolling over, she came face-to-face with a large, crumbling headstone. It was then she realized where she was: a cemetery.
At that moment, a bony hand broke through the earth beside her, snatching at her leg. Another hand exploded out of the ground a few feet away…
Sophie was about to send up another scream, but the sharp, stabbing pain that ripped through her head cut it off before it could even make its way to her mouth. She scrabbled blindly to her feet, gasping and clutching at her throbbing temples.
The entire cemetery was coming to life with a horde waking dead. A mix of skeletons and ghosts were popping up from their graves left and right with a chorus of bloodcurdling groans and howls.
Sophie, now nearly terrified out of her wits, the crippling pain making it almost impossible to move at all, forced herself to stumble forward. Skeletons closed in slowly on every side, reaching out and clawing at her clothes and hair. The ghosts began to swoop around her, their eerie greenish eyes growing brighter and brighter by the second…
"Sorcererrr…Sorcererrr…" they chanted.
"NOOO!" she yelled, attempting to make a break for it, but another pair of hands erupted from the ground in front of her, grabbing her by the ankles in what seemed like a last-ditch effort to keep her from leaving the cemetery for good. Sophie threw out her own hands to break the fall...
Egon placed the P.K.E meter he'd been using on the table at the far end of the basement room. He'd just finished performing a routine maintenance check on the containment unit and was feeling satisfied with the results when the meter sprang suddenly to life. It buzzed and chirped wildly, the little arms snapping up to their full extent.
Puzzled, Egon raised an eyebrow and rubbed his chin. This was strange…there hadn't seemed to be any psychokinetic energy coming from the containment unit before. He turned back to it, eager to diagnose and fix the problem right away.
For the next ten minutes, he repeated the standard maintenance check from top to bottom, scrutinizing every inch just in case he'd missed something the first time around…but there was nothing out of the ordinary. Everything was in perfect order and that must mean the energy was coming from someplace else…but where?
He picked up the meter. The screen on the front was a jumble of peaks and valleys, nearly impossible to decipher at the rate they were coming through, even for him. This was most perplexing—
The sound of the front door flying forcefully open pulled him from his thoughts. He heard Janine's usual flat greeting, immediately followed by a young woman's panic stricken voice…which sounded oddly familiar. Could it be…?
Yes, he'd know it anywhere: the flood of frightened words all trying to get out at once, the breathless and near hyperventilation point tones…but what was Sophie Martin doing at the Firehouse now? None of them had even heard from her in over a year.
He decided he'd better surface from the basement to find out. After all, if the recent behavior of the meter was any indicator of what had brought about their ex-custodian's unexpected appearance, they obviously had a problem.
The front door of the Firehouse burst open.
"Ghostbusters," Janine said unenthusiastically without looking up from the computer at first.
Sophie, lab coat now hanging off her shoulders in dirty shreds, dashed across the room toward the desk, looking hysterical and winded. Her face was scratched and smudged and the palms of her hands were just as shredded as the lab coat.
"How can I help—Sophie?"
"Wh-where are the Ghostbusters?" she spluttered, skidding to a stop. "I have to see them…now! There's…there's something wrong…"
Janine eyed her up and down for a few seconds, not exactly sure how to respond. "Um…Egon's downstairs but the others are out on a call…what happened to you?"
"It's back—I was in class…the lights—I don't know what's happening!"
"What're you talking about?" asked Janine, more than a little concerned.
"Sophie?" Egon appeared in the doorway to the basement. "What's going on?"
"There's something wrong…it's back," Sophie gasped, running up to him. "Y-you told me it was gone—I ran away…through a cemetery…glowing eyes…skeletons everywhere, grabbing at me—th-they're after me!"
Egon, eyebrows creasing as he took in the bedraggled, frightened girl in front of him, caught Sophie's trembling shoulders, attempting to steady her. "Calm down. You're not making any sense—" At that moment, he noticed her hands. Seizing both wrists, he held them up, examining the scraped and bloodied palms. "Sophie, what happened?"
"I barely got away—AAGH!" Another shot of stabbing pain tore through her head. She yanked her hands out of Egon's grasp and clutched at her temples while the lights flickered and went completely out.
"Egon…?" asked Janine slowly, standing up and edging nervously over to him.
Without warning, the light bulbs shattered and so did all the windows. A shower of sparks and glass poured down on them from above. Janine and Egon covered their heads as a sudden gust of wind roared through the Firehouse, picking up the loose shards and other deadly debris.
"What's happening to me?" Sophie yelled over the chaos. "Y-you said it was gone…I don't understand!"
"This is impossible!" Egon shouted back. "Something must have been interfering with the meter that day in the hospital—" The wind peaked at a tornadic rush, cutting him off.
Everything else in the room, including Janine's desk and the filing cabinets behind it, lifted into the air and whirled above them…the fire poles warped inward toward Sophie as if they were being sucked into a vortex…finally, she screamed in complete and terrified agony.
"GET DOWN!" shouted Egon, pulling Janine to the floor with him as he ducked, throwing an arm protectively over her.
Suddenly, Sophie's eyes rolled back. She staggered forward a step, collapsed to her knees, then flopped to the ground and didn't move. The heavy circling objects crashed back down to earth, narrowly and miraculously missing all three of them…
And the room fell into a shocked hush.