“You think Sceptre’s got a facebook?” Jonah asked.
Whitey looked up from the floor where the copy of Radiohead’s vinyl version of Ok Computer lay. He liked the cover art. A poster of it used to hang on his dorm room wall. He would tell people that it was “haunting.”
“Sceptre can’t touch a computer,” Whitey said. “Sceptre can’t touch anything. None of us can.”
“But he can possess,” Jonah said. “That’s how I update mine.”
Whitey floated to as close to “standing” as he could manage. This was true. While incapable of tactile contact, possession was always an option. The rule of thumb seemed to be, as far as Whitey could tell, that they had to stick to the absent-minded and feeble. “Stay out of Starbucks,” Burly had said when Whitey first Crossed. “Caffeinated motherfuckers tend to have shit-fits when they realize they’re not the ones piloting the ol’ brain stem.”
Whitey thought about the original question and shook his head. Why would Sceptre want to? “I think he’s above all that,” Whitey said.
“You’re probably right.” Jonah kicked his feet up and and floated in their air as though resting on an invisible hammock. Whitey and the other rookies called it “Beetlejuicing”. “He’s so cool,” Jonah sighed.
Burly bellowed from downstairs. “Those dolls better be prepped! I need full-on indian-burial-ground shit in the living room by three!”
Jonah flipped out of his “hammock” while he and Whitey floated down through the bedroom floor and out the ceiling on the other side.
“Sorry, Burly,” they said in unison.
“Fucking amateurs,” he said. The pus drained quicker from the gunshot wound in his head when he was mad, Whitey noticed.
“What about Twitter? I can see Sceptre posting some rad shit,” Jonah said.
“I think he’s above that too,” Whitey said.
Whitey’s whole body shimmered as thick rivulets of scarlet blood oozed from behind the family portrait above the fireplace. “Jonah thinks Sceptre’s got a facebook,” he said to Burly as he astrally projected a severed head, mouth agape, atop the corner of the flatscreen.
Burly floated up the chimney to make sure he could summon swarms of juicy black flies on cue. His voice sounded even more ominous as it bounced off the brick down to them, “He’s too big for all that shit!”
“That’s what I said,” Whitey called back up.
“Besides,” Burly floated out from behind the wall and hovered near a cross beam, “he’s like a rock star. Guy did Mansfield Street, remember? That was masterful piece of möbiusing.”
The firm had been hired by a mini-mall developer to clear out Mansfield Street. Normally, a job of that size would require a whole crew of apparitions. Sceptre took on the whole thing by himself. Eight houses in total, each one riddled with the stuff of nightmares–green mists from the attic, eerie children’s laughing, rotting tentacled things in bathtubs. It was some Lovecraft-level type shit, but Sceptre made sure to shred their nerves a little more. He turned the entire street into one giant Möbius Strip of terror–a never ending loop of fear. Whenever someone tried to leave Mansfield Street, they’d pop back up on the other side.
Sceptre was Sceptre because he wasn’t just another haunting grinder. He elevated the entire profession to an artistry and möbiusing Mansfield Street was his Ziggy Stardust.
“You don’t go from that to ‘liking’ someone’s picture of a cupcake or whatever,” said Burly.
“I dunno,” Jonah said, spitting beetles and centipedes behind the couch. “Cassandra swears she found his LinkedIn.”
They heard a knock on the door.
Whitey looked at Burly. “I thought you said 3!”
“Timetable must be off!” Pus streamed from Burly’s headwound as he said shouted: “Backstage, pronto!”
As if their bodies were elaborate pieces of origami, all three ghosts folded in on themselves and vanished into Netherspace.
The first time Whitey went to Netherspace, he felt like vomiting. The good thing about being an apparition is that all that existential angst goes away: you know there’s something after death. But Netherspace–a black void of literal and infinite emptiness–made you doubt what was after the afterlife.
“You guys rigged the little girl’s room, right?” Burly asked.
Jonah glanced at Whitey and said, “We… um–.”
“There were no dolls!” Whitey said. “Intel fucked us on this one. Kid’s like 16. It’s all ironic t-shirts and alternative music up there!”
“Client requested a Creepy Doll Uprising at midnight,” Burly said. “You couldn’t improvise?”
“With what? Make the eyes on her fucking Morrisey poster shift?” Jonah said. “She’d probably want to stay here forever!”
“Yes! Great idea!” Burly said. “Take some initiative! We didn’t even finish the living room. Jesus, this is just a Flash Fright job–easy money. Prepped, timed, and executed in under three hours. The wife is supposed to see the living room, filled to the brim with macabre shit, flip out, and sign the deed over to her ex.”
“We tried, honest.”
“Shut up, Jonah.” Burly sighed. “Look… just…focus on your jobs. It’s showtime.”
In the living room, Cheryl Frido screamed. It echoed throughout Netherspace and the boys breathed a sigh of relief. The blood from behind the portrait became torrential, a cascading gush of sticky viscera. A black and brown wave of beetles and centipedes spread across the carpet, coating Mrs. Frido’s Manolo Blahniks like living, clicking oil. And the capper: as Mrs. Frido kicked desperately at the bugs, she fell in front of the fireplace where she heard the droning buzz of Burly’s flies. The swarm escaped the darkness of the chimney with the glee of children on the last day of school. They explored everything with wonder and astonishment: a few found themselves tangled in Mrs. Frido’s dirty blonde hair; others zipped into the darkness of her nostrils; the more brave dodged her pearly white teeth and zig-zagged to the back of her throat.
“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon,” Burly whispered from Netherspace. “Fucking flee, lady.”
Mrs. Frido ditched the $785 shoes as she got to her feet. The boys reappeared and their hard work evaporated.
“Think she’s gone for good?” Whitey asked.
Burly shrugged. “Dunno, rook. The living are weird like that.”