Thursday, November 27, 2014

April 4, later (part 1)

What a crazy day. We had another encounter with the shadow entity (Candy’s term) and this time it appeared in front of a lot of us. Candy and I are no longer alone when it comes to believing in the unbelievable.

It all started at breakfast in our little cafeteria. Candy and I had every intention of getting an ironclad identity on our unwanted presence afterwards, but Katrina and a few of the other women had hatched a plan that put ours on hold.

“What’s up?” Candy asked as we sat down at the end of our usual table, which was unusually crowded. Women were clustered around Katrina. Conversation all over the room was louder and more excited than normal, I noticed. Several of the women sitting with us were not from our group.

Katrina sat at the middle of the table, her space taken up by a handheld and a half-eaten tray of food.  “We’re getting a dance club on board the transport,” she called.

“What?” I blinked. “Says who?”

“Says Captain Wotref.” Katrina beamed from ear to ear. “After all the fun we had at the clubs on the space station, I thought we should have it added to our recreational options. The boys have their pleasure club, so why can’t we have a dance club?”

That got a lot of happy agreement from the other ladies. Everyone seemed quite excited by the plan.

“Wait, you put this in motion?” Candy asked. She looked duly impressed.

Katrina nodded, still smiling. “Once we had Shalia back and we were on our way again, I thought everyone really needed something fun with no redeeming value whatsoever. And lo, the idea to put a dance club on board the Pussy ‘Porter was born.”

That got a lot of laughs. After my awful night of scares, I was delighted to have something lighthearted to contemplate.  “So you talked to the captain, and he said yes? You are awesome, my friend.”

Katrina shrugged modestly. “It was a little more difficult than that, but not by much. First, I looked at our area of the ship to see if we had the space for a club.  We didn’t. So I went to the main concourse and had a look around there. There are three large trading rooms currently not in use.”

“The main concourse, huh?” Candy grinned. “That way we can invite the guys to come watch ... and maybe find a little company for afterward.”

There were a lot of grins and giggles at her suggestion. Someone else said, “Maybe we can even convince some of them that dancing isn’t all that unmanly.”

“Good luck with that,” I snorted. “Unless we can serve alcohol?”

Katrina sighed. “You know the crew has tight limits on their drinking, even during their off-duty hours. They have to be ready for emergencies at all times. Still, we might be able to put in dispensers with consumption trackers for the boys.”

“Oh yeah. All right, so what’s the rest of the story?” I wanted to know.

Katrina put on her modest face again, which told me she’d done a lot more to make this club happen than she was letting on. “I thought it would be nice to present the captain with good reasons to have a club beyond us having fun and attracting more men into our evil clutches.”

“Yeah, like you need help with that, Katrina!” someone called.

More laughter. Katrina waited for it to die down before continuing. “I discussed the club with that psychologist Dr. Feru. I told him how much fun we’d had on Xniktix and that he should sign off on it as being a good mental diversion for us gals. I showed him a few of the vids we’d taken of each other at the clubs to demonstrate how happy it made us. He agreed I had a valid point and would be glad to support the cause.”

“He’s a big fan of our dancing, isn’t he, Katrina? Or was it your means of negotiation that he appreciated?” Megan teased.

Katrina grinned at her. “I reminded him that he’d been seen attending the club, enjoying the entertainment. Nothing more, especially since his clan is busy wooing Samantha. Maybe Sammie did some negotiating on our behalf?”

Everyone turned to a cute brunette standing in the group. She blushed and waved her hands as if to deny the allegation, but she wore a big grin on her face. “We’ve discussed it! With words,” she cried out in defense.

“Sure you have,” Katrina said over our knowing laughter. “At any rate, I next went to Betra and told him of our desire for a place to dance. He forwarded the request to Wotref, and I met with the captain for a round of – ahem – negotiations.”

“Which have proved to be fruitful,” Bettina laughed.

“Indeed. By the way, ladies, Wotref might not be as pretty to look at as some of these boys, but he is an extremely good negotiator. As are his Nobek and Imdiko.” Katrina sighed. “I love the youngsters’ energy, but you just can’t put a price on men with experience who are used to working as a team.”

“So now that you’ve put in all that hard work as our ambassador, what’s next?” Candy asked when we were done laughing.

“Now we choose one of the three available spaces. Then we visit Acquisitions and see what kinds of supplies that department might be willing to donate to our cause. I think I can rope some of our Kalquorian friends into helping us to put the club together.”

“Because nobody negotiates deals like you,” I pointed out. “Sheesh Katrina, by the time the dance club is up and running, you’ll be too tired to enjoy it.”

That earned more laughter. Katrina picked out who would come along with her to choose the most likely space for our club. Naturally, she asked Candy and me to be a part of it. Though we had planned to work on our ghost problem, we scuttled that to scout out our dance hall prospects instead.  Why not, right? It was for a good cause.

“Picking a room shouldn’t take very long,” Candy told me in an undertone. “We’ll have plenty of time to pull our investigative gear together.”

“Investigative gear?” I asked. “What are you talking about?”

She gave me a look that said silly Shalia. “You can’t hunt ghosts with blasters or butterfly nets. I think my handheld will cover it all, but I want to make sure.”

I wanted to ask her why we would have to hunt the restless spirit when it kept calling on me without invitation. I kept my mouth shut, however. Candy had apparently put a lot of thought into the matter, and she claimed to have some expertise when it came to the supernatural.

Expert or not, she was not prepared when it showed up. Nope, you don’t need blasters or butterfly nets when it comes to stalking spirits. Just Shalia.

Monday, November 24, 2014

April 4, early

Well, Betra now thinks I’m crazy.  However, Candy is thrilled to have a kindred spirit (pun intended, ha-freaking-ha) when it comes to believing in ghosts.

I got my act together soon after my last entry, and put my plan into action.  I commed Betra from my bed.  His sleepy, “Liaison Betra here” gave me a pang of guilt, which helped to steady my nerves so I didn’t sound like a big baby.

“Betra, something weird just happened in my quarters.  Can you come over?” I asked.

“I’ll be right there.”

I gave myself no time to second-guess any actions. The moment I clicked the com off, I threw back the covers and got out of bed.  Calling for the sitting room’s lights, I marched boldly in.

There was nothing to see.  No specter in chains, moaning and wailing, awaited me.  Well, I’d seen the damned thing disappear, so I knew it could be there, invisible.

I decided to act as if it was present.  “If you’re still here, I want to know who you are.  Maybe I can help you.  Is that what you want? Are you looking for help?”

I waited.  The silent seconds spun out as I turned in a circle in the middle of the room. I saw nothing.

Yet I felt as if I could sense something there. It could have been my overactive imagination, I do admit that.  I’ve never had any evidence that I possess ESP or telepathy or can commune with the dead.  Why would I start now? It was more likely I was feeling what I wanted to feel.

I tried again. “Listen, you’re freaking people out by showing up in their rooms, walking the halls, all that stuff.  You’ve given me a couple of bad scares now. It’s time to stop playing games. Tell me your name.  Tell me what you want.”

“Open the door, Shalia.”

I jumped a mile if I jumped an inch at the disembodied voice.  Then I cursed when I realized it was Betra talking through the door announcer.  Sheesh.

“Door open,” I said after filling the air with dirty words.

Betra came in, looking ready to fight with his armored formsuit on.  Maybe I had sounded more panicked than I thought when I commed. So much for my brave front.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” he asked. He looked relieved to see me standing there in one piece.  Bless that man.

“Come look at this,” I said, grabbing him by the hand and tugging him into my bedroom to show him the stuff the ghost had knocked over.

As he frowned at the scattered things, I told him what had happened.  The crease between his brows grew deeper and deeper as I spoke.

“There was no one else in your sitting room. It’s just us in here.” He went and peeked in my bathroom before re-joining me. “We’re alone. You did not accidentally bump into these shelves?  You’re sure about that?”

“I said so, didn’t I?”

“Yes ,well...” Betra hesitated, looking at me with trepidation.

“What?” I kept looking all around us, wondering if the ghost would make another appearance.

“You’ve been known to sleepwalk these last few weeks since you got back. It’s possible you were dreaming about this threatening shadow, and that you got up and bumped into the shelves yourself. Then you woke, positive you’d seen something when in fact it was just a dream.”

I gave him all of my attention. Betra didn’t believe me. He thought I was still suffering from the trauma.

Speaking carefully so he’d know I wasn’t going loony again, I said, “I was wide awake. I know that for a fact, Betra.”

His concern didn’t go away. “You’ve had hallucinations recently.”

His continued disbelief in my powers of sanity pissed me off.  “This was no figment of my imagination, damn it! I saw something in here! It was real!”

“Okay, okay.  I can see you believe something was in here. I’ll report it to Oses first thing in the morning, and he can check the corridor’s security vids to see if anyone entered your quarters.”

I threw my hands up in the air. “I told you, it disappeared! That thing can make itself invisible. Why aren’t you getting that?”

Betra held his hands up, trying to placate me. “I heard what you said. But on the off chance someone broke into your quarters, it needs to be checked out. You want to find evidence of some sort, don’t you? You have to admit, it’s a strange story, Shalia.”

He didn’t believe me. Betra thought I’d been dreaming or was still taking trips into La-La Land.

I can understand his position. After all, I’d thought Candy’s story of a ghost was pretty silly a few hours ago. Plus I had been dealing with all the trauma of my abduction, what with nightmares and hallucinations. Betra had a point.

At the same time, I felt horribly betrayed by my lover. Betra was one of my safe harbors, a man who had given me strength and security when I needed it. The bit of me that relied so much on him was hurt to be dismissed as hysterical.  I know what I saw, and I needed him to accept my account as truth.

The hurt came out as anger. “Fine. Tell Oses to look. I’m sorry I woke you.”

“Don’t be,” he said. “You know I’m always here for you.”

“Sure, as long as I’m being sensible,” I spat. “Good night, Betra.”

“Don’t be mad,” he said, moving towards me with his arms outstretched.

I moved away. “It’s too late for that.”

“Come on, Shalia. I’ll spend the night so you can get some decent rest. Or you can come back to my quarters if you’re uncomfortable in here.”

I wasn’t having it. “No. Get out and leave me alone.”

Betra gave me the kicked puppy look he does all too well. “I just want to help you.”

“You can start by taking me seriously.”

“I take everything to do with you very seriously.”

I’d had enough. “Get out. I don’t want you here.”

My liaison finally saw he wasn’t going to placate me. “All right. I’ll have one more look around and go. Com if you need anything.”

“I won’t.”

I’d turned childish with my pouting, but the hurt was growing. I just wanted Betra to leave. He went over my rooms and then did so, shaking his head.

I didn’t get back to sleep. I was pretty sure that wasn’t going to happen for the rest of the night. Instead, I dressed and went to the rec room to wait out the time until others began to stir. I kept myself busy with games and using a Kalquorian language program Oses had installed on my handheld. The hours didn’t fly by, but they went faster than a crawl at least.

At last, people began to stir. I heard voices here and there calling out good mornings. Liaisons, maintenance, and housekeeping personnel began moving about the corridors, along with the occasional Kalquorian who had enjoyed a sleepover with one of the gals.

I’d already availed myself of the coffee dispenser in the rec room, but I poured myself a fresh cup along with a second. Thus armed, I walked a short distance down the corridor and stopped at one of the doors. I bumped the visitor announce with my elbow. When seconds ticked by and no one answered, I bumped it again, a little longer.

Finally a sleepy voice called, “Who is it?”

I had to smile. “Good, you’re here. Are you alone?”

“Hey. Come on in, Shalia.”

The door hissed open and I walked into the sitting room just as Candy entered it too from her bedroom. She wore a snuggly robe over a barely-there slip of lace. She blinked at me uncertainly. “What time is it?”

“Too damned early. Yell at me, and then have this coffee and wake up. I want to talk about the ghost.”

Her blue eyes widened.  “Did you see it?”

I went over to the lounger and sank into it. “I think it’s been in my room twice now.”

Candy’s mouth dropped wide open and she gasped with excited horror.  Twice? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I thought I was having funky sedative hallucinations. The first time still might have been nothing. Last night was a different story.”

Candy sat down and grabbed the coffee I’d brought her. Her rapt gaze never leaving my face, she said, “Tell me the whole thing from the first encounter.”

So I did while my friend sucked down her morning beverage in record time. I’m surprised she didn’t scald her throat and guts. Candy was riveted during the entire tale, gasping and muttering things like, “Oh my God,” throughout.

“You poor thing,” she said with real feeling at the end of my story. “It’s awful to have something like this happen and the person you count on most doesn’t believe you.”

I squirmed a little when she said that. Until last night, I hadn’t put any stock in Candy’s ghost either. Now I felt bad about that. At least I hadn’t outright ridiculed her or questioned her sanity. Betra’s attitude had hinted at him being worried for my state of mind. He had probably already commed Feru to report I was coming apart again.

“You’ve been looking into the soldier who died, right?” I asked, hoping Candy had persisted in her belief that the matter should be further investigated. “What was the kid’s name again?”

“Nobek Frin. I’ve looked into other deaths on board this ship too, but his was the only one to have taken place in this vicinity. It was also the most brutal murder.”

I stared at her.  “By the prophets, Candy, how many have died on this tub?”

“Close to 25 men.” Her blue eyes were wide. “Some were accidents, but most were from fights between young Nobeks that got out of hand. It’s apparently common for it to happen to that breed when they’ve been shut up in a ship for too long, especially the ones in their twenties. That’s why we have so many shore leaves scheduled on our trip. They need frequent breaks.”

“Older Nobeks don’t do well in confined spaces either,” I said, thinking of Oses on board the Little Creep’s ship. “So it doesn’t necessarily have to be Nobek Frin stalking around, giving us the shivers. It could be someone else.”

Candy nodded. “It is a possibility. However, Frin fits the profile of a restless spirit the best. He was the victim of a violent, unjustified death—”

“Is there any other kind?” I laughed with little humor.

She kept going.  “Plus there’s been a great deal of recent emotional upheaval in the vicinity where he died. I’m talking about being attacked by Tragooms and your abduction, of course. Hey, you know they tore out your old quarters and restored it to like new.”

I shrugged. “My new quarters are fine. I’m not moving back. Even if they got the shit smell out of there, I’m in no hurry to go back in where Betra and I damned near died.”

Candy was fairly bouncing with excitement. “You don’t understand. Re-decorating or renovating a place can disturb spirits. Maybe your old quarters was where Frin died.”

“You have no way of knowing that,” I said. I settled back on the lounger cushions and eyed her. “How do you know so much about what makes dead people haunt the living?”

“I told you, I had an experience living in a haunted house when I was young. I did a bunch of research into the spirit world later to try and get over being scared about it.”

I gave Candy a smile. “I guess that didn’t work out quite the way you planned. You keep getting freaked out over this ghost.”

She blushed. “I know. In most cases, they can’t harm the living. However, it’s one thing to know that and another to not lose my shit when I’m face to face with one.”

I laughed out loud over that. “So what else can make someone decide to come back to scare the hell out of us breathing types?”

“Oh, revenge. A need for justice.”

I mused. “I wonder if Frin’s killers were convicted.”

Candy nodded, sending her curls bouncing all over her shoulders.  “Three were executed and two received life sentences. But it could be that Frin doesn’t know about that. If we could make contact and tell him, it might put him at rest.”

“Putting him at rest would put me at rest,” I said. “I hate that he seems to have become fixated on me. If I move to other quarters, will that throw him off?”

Candy bit her lip. “Spirits can attach themselves to the living and follow them around. It could be your pain has attracted him.”

Attached to me? I had a sudden, ugly thought. My hair abruptly felt like it was standing on end. “Candy, let’s say for shits and giggles it’s not Nobek Frin roaming around. Given your reasons for a dead person to manifest as a ghost, I could be haunted because I had something to do with someone’s death.  If they blamed me for killing them in an awful way and wanted revenge...”

Her eyes went wide. “The Little Creep? Or his girlfriend?”

“Maybe.” I swallowed. They fit Candy’s profile for restless spirits in the making, but I was thinking of someone else.

There had been that Earther man Finiuld brought to me, hoping for me to exact revenge on the male gender for the way I’d been treated on my home planet. I hadn’t harmed him, not directly. But because of me, Oses had tortured him. Because of me, he’d suffered an awful, unthinkable death. I didn’t even know that Earther’s name, yet my worst nightmares were of what had been done to him ... all because of me. If anyone had a reason to want revenge beyond the grave, it would have been that man.

Candy’s words recurred to me: In most cases, they can’t harm the living.  That would have been comforting, except for the items knocked off my shelves. If a ghost could affect the physical world that much, then he could potentially make things happen to me. Considering the revenge that nameless Earther was due, they would be most unpleasant things.

“We need to find out who the ghost is,” I said. My voice trembled.

Candy nodded. “I’ll get right on it.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

April 4, fucking early o’clock

What the fuck is going on???

Now I wish I’d taken the sedative Dr. Feru gave me.  But no, I had to be tough Shalia.  I was sure I’d beaten the stupid nightmares.  I showed them who was boss by not taking the drugs and sleeping all alone in my room despite invites from Candy, Betra, and Oses.  I even turned my lights almost all the way down. Damn right I did. I left the room as close to pitch black as it could be while still giving myself just enough light to find the bathroom if I needed it.  Now it’s the middle of the night and I’m wide awake, cowering in my bed.  There were no nightmares, but real life is doing a number on me now.

I think I saw the ghost.

I saw something, damn it.  It wasn’t a dream and it wasn’t a hallucination.  It was in my room and it was real. I have proof. I’m staring at the evidence.

I should com Betra.  He’s on call day and night.  But first I want to stop shaking.  I’m tired of being fragile Shalia.  I want to be my old tough pre-kidnapping self again.  And if I can’t be that Shalia, I want to at least fake it.  As soon as I stop shaking, I’ll com my liaison and show him that someone or something was in my quarters.  Something that can disappear into thin air.

I woke up about twenty minutes ago.  I had the idea that something had touched me, brushing against my face, though I felt nothing when I swam into consciousness.  My heart was hammering like it had the other night though, when the sedation had left me frozen solid in my bed.  At first I tried to console myself that I was having another weird medication-inspired trip.  It took a few seconds for me to remember I hadn’t taken anything.  I was trying to be old Shalia. I was trying to not be damaged anymore.

So I sat up, and that’s when I saw the dark shape again.  The huge black shadow that looked like some mighty beast was there. It was blacker than the other shadows, all hunched up as if it could make itself smaller that way, as if it could escape my stare.  Last time it had been near the doorway.  This time, it was in the corner closest to my bed.  All that stood between me and it was a bunch of shelves and the crap I had cluttered on them.

I couldn’t scream.  Hell, I couldn’t breathe for the next few seconds.  Every fiber of my being was yelling twenty different things at once:  Run!  Attack!  Call for help!  Confront it!

Meanwhile, that – thing simply stood as still as a statue, seemingly every bit as frozen as I was.
When I could breathe again, my voice was an awful whispery thing, as terrified as a small child’s.  “Who’s there?” I quavered.

No answer.  It didn’t move.

I remember being a child afraid of the dark.  Like most children, I would pull the covers over my head because nothing says Monster Protection like a market-ordered bedspread.  I’m not a child anymore, but the urge to hide under the covers was almost overpowering.

Being afraid in my own room had the bizarre effect of pissing me off.  I was supposed to be safe here, so long as the transport wasn’t under attack.  I was free of Finiuld’s ship, where there had been nothing but fear.  I was home. Nothing had the right to make me terrified, not in this space that I had claimed until I made it to Kalquor.

The spike of anger gave me the moment’s courage I needed to shout, “Lights up full!”

In the bare second it took for the panels in the wall to respond with illumination, the dark shape moved. It knocked against my shelves, sending a couple of hair clips, a lipstick, and my half-drunk cup of water crashing to the floor.  I saw a hint of a blurred form streaking towards the door that led to my sitting room before the lights came up well enough to see by.  Then it disappeared, a smear of black nearly seven feet high.

I saw it.  I know I saw it.  But I don’t know what it was.

My brief burst of bravery disappeared with that dark entity.  I’ve been sitting in my bed for the last few minutes, listening over my own gasping breath for any sounds in the sitting room.  I’ve heard nothing but me breathe and the soft rustling of me moving against my bedding.  I finally grabbed my handheld to write all this down in case something happens.  In case something comes for me from out of that other room.

I am trying to convince myself to be strong and that there is nothing to be afraid of.  Yes, I know I saw something strange...maybe even otherworldly.  Candy and others have seen it too though, and no one has been hurt.  It’s just freaky.  Freaky is not dangerous. That is why I haven’t commed Betra yet.  First I’m going to stop shaking.  Then I will tell him to come see me.  When I know he is on his way, I will get up out of this bed, and I will check the other room to see if my visitor is still around.  I will face this head on.  If what I saw is a ghost, it may be looking for help – someone to help it find peace.  There is nothing to be scared of.  Once I know I can com Betra and ask him to come without sounding like a hysterical child, I will prove that to myself.

It’s hard to be calm though, when I’m staring at the hair clips, lipstick, and water spilled all over the floor.  It’s hard to be brave when I have proof that something came in here, something that can appear and disappear at will.  Damn it, what if the ghost isn’t just some poor lost soul?  What if it is that murdered soldier Candy told me about, looking for vengeance on the living?  How the hell do I fight off something like that?