Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chapter 3 of Symbol of the Dead

For Chapter 1: Click Here
For Chapter 2: Click Here

 Chapter 3 – Meanwhile, in Another Part of the Afterlife
Rigor Mortis

            In another dimension is the Afterlife, the final destination for the dead. The land of the dead is where a new existence begins. Most spirits live in harmony, but otherwise the Afterlife is like Earth. Ghosts still work, but it's more of a do-your-own-thing situation, rather than the nose-to-the-grindstone environment the living are used to.
            Like any other society, there is a government here: The Heads of the Afterlife. They make the rules and you obey them. Or else. One of these rules is that spirits who visit Earth are never to be seen by the living. The Heads are convinced that if the living find proof of life after death, people will be dying (literally) to get in and will overpopulate the Afterlife.                                                 
            The Judge, the highest-ranking Head, insists on absolute adherence to this rule. His name has been lost down through the ages, which is just fine with him—he knows “the Judge” has significant intimidation value.
 While The Heads give the ruling body the illusion of being a democracy, many denizens of the Afterlife are aware that the judge really runs the show and the rest are yes-men.
 But for a man with the highest rank in the spirit world, some think he is a spirit without a soul. He rules the Afterlife with an iron fist and has no problem crushing those who disobey him. Most don't. A few do. There has only been one war in the eternal history of the Afterlife, which is why there has never been a rebellion against the Judge’s harsh ruling hand. The spirits value peace.
Break the rules and it's off to Grim Island, a prison for spirits worse than any on Earth. It is large enough to accommodate all the rule breakers and the biggest of baddies the Afterlife has to offer.  This is also where the Heads put spirits who have committed crimes against the living and have been before coming or being forced back into to come to the Afterlife from Earth for punishment. The offenses range from causing bodily harm to inflicting death. Those who have killed the living don’t stay for long because they usually have their souls crushed upon arriving on the Island.
          But there are some spirits who break the rules just to have fun, though there are not many of them.
The most famous is the rowdy, dirty, fun-loving, grossness- personified, Rigor Mortis. He has a track record so long, it has mile markers... or so he says. (He's also a well-known liar). This compulsive repulsive is known as the scum of the Afterlife and he loves his reputation as a schlum, someone who's always up to no good.
 Rigor hangs out at a popular bar joint by the name of the Inferno, a place where a ghost can do dirty deeds that the devil himself would shake his head at, if Satan had residence in the Afterlife.
            Lately though, the Inferno's business withered: hobo ghosts have made it their home, but they don't buy anything. They just sleep on the stools and pay no attention to the owner's constant attempts to kick them out. But Rigor keeps the Inferno hot. He sits at the back of a table with his tongue hanging out as he looks at a pretty (gross) stripper whose head dangles from a piece of flesh, has one missing eye, and half her teeth are gone. Another "entertainer" comes up behind Rigor, not looking pleased. She’s not a babe, but at least she’s intact.
            "Rigor, you're back again?" she says with a Swedish accent.
             Rigor doesn’t pay attention to the Swedish entertainer which makes her mad. She decides to play to his libido and gets on stage where the other entertainer is. She pushes the damaged goods aside and starts dancing for Rigor, but he’s still ignoring her. He has his hand on the table and she takes this as an opportunity to change that. She stabs his hand with one of her spike heels. Seeing Rigor wince in pain, she withdraws the stiletto
            “Whoa, baby. What’s up with that?” he asks.
            "Rigor! You know we have a restraining order against you! You don't pay, you don't show respect and, most of all, you never leave!" She would never admit to wanting his attention.
            She steps off the table as he gets up from his chair, mumbling.
            "Ah, c'mon baby! You know I'm a like a puppy-dog. I need someone to scratch that itch behind my ear! Or any other place really."
            He lifts his leg and scratches at the back of his other leg with a toenail sticking out of his holey shoe. The Swedish stripper steps down off the table, clearly disgusted. Rigor, not giving up, follows close behind her.
            She whips around and snaps at him. "No, Rigor, I am not doing any more 'services' for you. Not even a hand shake!"
            Rigor shakes his head regretfully. “But your hands are so magical, baby." He winks at her. She smiles briefly, but won’t be charmed.
            "No! You need to get out, get a job, and THEN you can come back." She opens a door and walks out leaving Rigor, who shakes off his disappointment and grin.
“She’ll be back.”
Suddenly her words trigger a thought …
"A job? Oh crap, I'm late for work!"
            Rigor's job for a half a century has been as a demon hunter advisor. Some would think that his name Rigor Mortis refers to rotting corpses and all that other good stuff, but really, he's just damn lazy. He used to be the lead hunter. One of the best. Every day was a new adventure. Every day brought new challenges and the delicious danger of running into a demon with the power to rip his soul out and send him into total nonexistence. This used to happen all the time before the great Afterlife war broke out.  After the war, Rigor was assigned to Louisiana for decades until tragedy struck.
            Before Rigor turned into the spirit he is known for now—womanizing and not very good at that—he actually had a love of his life. His Elizabeth. They lived happily with their two children, Orion and Bellatrix. His truly blissful life came to an end when Elizabeth’s existence was brutally destroyed in front of him. It devastated Rigor. Nothing mattered anymore, and the previously-prominent spirit Rigor turned into a reckless entity.
            He always suspected the Heads had something to do with Elizabeth’s demise, but could not prove it. Lack of proof, however, did not stop his suspicions and added a razor edge to his attitude toward dealing with Afterlife authorities.
            Although some would rather be rid of Rigor, and many have tried, the Heads still have a use for him. For the past century or so, he has been teaching young protectors what it takes to be great guardians of both the land of the living and dead.
            But a lack of war and few demons causing a ruckus have left the Heads focusing their resources toward other departments, so the guardian division has been victim of continual budget cuts.
The headquarters building looks like it should be condemned, but inside it is crammed with secretaries at old metal desks typing away on old typewriters in a warren of offices. One such office sports a "Supervisor" plaque on the door. Inside, there are a desk, a really old computer from the 80’s and a few filing cabinets.
            Rigor has been summoned to the office and sits in a chair in front of the Supervisor.
"I don’t understand this." Rigor declares. "I used to be the leading hunter here and am now the leader at teaching these young kids how to protect the living and dead. I've been here for centuries. You can’t just get rid of me after my devoted work. This is the only thing I’ve ever been good at. Besides, it gets a ton of babes in my crib, you know what I’m saying?" Rigor smirks and raises his eyebrows.
            "You were." The supervisor says.
            "Look, Rigor, this isn't easy for me. Do you think I want to get rid of you after all your hard work? I mean, you're practically a God around here! Well, WERE practically a god until you started becoming a lazy schmuck, but hey, crap happens! Ghosts get bored with being ghosts. We understand that!" 
            "Thanks for sympathizing with me. I appreciate the talk." Rigor says sarcastically as he gets up to leave, but the supervisor pushes him back on the chair.
            "Now, don't tell anyone I said this, this is shooshed right?" the supervisor says. Rigor nods. "The reason they want to let you go is because you're washed up!"
            Rigor looks offended and shoots up from his seat.
            "Washed up?! I made this division!"
            "You're right... made it go straight into the ground!"
            Rigor and the supervisor are nose-to-nose, then Rigor then cracks a smirk. The smirk turns into a laugh. 
            "What’s so funny?" The supervisor asks.
            Rigor’s laugh turns into hysterics.
            “What is so damn funny?”
            “THIS …” Rigor shrieks.
            Rigor grabs his boss by the collar, and they disappear.
          They reappear outside the bulding, The supervisor dangles in the air, upside down, just beyond the edge of a cliff. Rigor shows no visible effort to keep him hanging there.
            "You going to hire me back?" he hollers.
            "Gee, let me think about it. No!"
 Rigor makes a motion with his fist, dangling the Supervisor lower.
            "Yes-s-s?" Rigor stretches out the word with a smirk on his face.
            "Can’t we make a deal?"
            "Sure. I want my own office ... no, wait! My own building with a casino, a clean theater and a dirty theater if you catch my drift, and ... oh yeah ... your job!"
            “Rigor, do you really think you’re as good as you were centuries ago?” the Supervisor said with surprising calm for a man hanging over a cliff. “I’m sorry pal, but you’re not. I’m doing you a favor by pulling the plug on a career that has been on life support for so long now.”
            Rigor momentarily seems to be struck by this. But he shrugs, not buying it. The Heads have had it out for him for centuries. As the Afterlife’s former lead Protector, he knows more about the Heads’ wrong doings than they have ever been comfortable with. This is just another in a series of their moves to keep him out of any position where he might be listened to if he chose to talk.
             "It isn’t me that’s changed,” Rigor replies. “It’s the Afterlife. I’m warning you. If the Heads don’t change their ways, soon something will happen that will threaten the very fabric of the Afterlife. Tell the Judge something for me, if a Grim Worm doesn’t come out and bite your ass in half. Tell him that I will not be the one to save this dimension.”
            “Why are you like this now?”
            “Because I refuse to be blind like the rest of you. Oh and by the way, when you meet the ground below, it’s a little hard to get to know.”
            Rigor drops his former supervisor over the cliff. The man screams as he falls, and hits the ground with a howling moan. He lies there groaning before he slowly sits up. A black mass rises from the nearby ground and advances toward him. He scrambles to a safe cave at the base of the cliff and as he slams the heavy door shut, the screams at Rigor.
            “I’ll get you for this!”
Rigor, watching from the top of the cliff, grimaces. There’s no telling how long his old boss will be stuck in the cave until someone goes looking for him. But Rigor shrugs and casually walks away whistling.           
            An hour or so later Rigor's is back in his slovenly underground home.
            "Fire me and threaten me with getting kicked out of here? I’ll show this place. I can get a job at Dante’s anyways. He owes me one for getting prostitution legalized exclusively on his property."
            There’s an annoying knock at the door.
            "Who is it!?" he screeches.
            No answer.
            He moves closer to the door.
            "If this is about spiking the Judge’s water with anthrax, all I can say is, he is such a cry baby."
            No answer again. Standing now with his cheek against the door, he listens, trying to get an idea of who or what it might be. Then the door explodes open. Rigor and the door go flying into a big screen TV. A man, about 6’7” wearing a black trench coat and a black top hat walks in.
            "Mr. Mortis." The tall man says with a deep, ancient voice.  
            The door crashes to the ground as Rigor crawls out of the TV.
            "Hello. Welcome to my humble home. Who the hell are you?!"  
            "The name is Ole." 
"What’s your last name? Bastard?" He then lets out a laugh, but Ole’s deadpan expression does not change.
            Ole reaches into his jacket; Rigor wonders if he’s pulling a gun, but it’s just a paper. Rigor's gotten plenty of these and most of the time they’re not bad. Restraining orders, hit lists with his name on the top, most wanted, the usual stuff. 
            "What’s this?" Rigor asks with boredom.
            "An eviction notice. You caused a disturbance at work."
            "Can't say that I don't love the word, 'disturbance.' Has a nice ring to it, don't it?"
            "Mr. Mortis, this is serious. The Afterlife doesn’t want to deal with you or your shenanigans anymore. After centuries of your brand of torment, we’ve had enough. We’ve got strict orders from the Judge. You are to choose from three alternatives. The first is, you leave and find a new residence in a different dimension.”
Rigor interrupts, “I’m wanted in most of those dimensions.”
“That really doesn’t surprise me. The second choice: you take a restful sabbatical at the Legends of the Spiritual World Graveyard.”
            Rigor considers this. “Well, that might not be a bad idea. I could use a nap.”           
            "You do realize, however, that your deep sleep will be under the control of the Judge, who just might not want you to wake up …” Ole whispers.
            "Fine! I’ll find somewhere else. I got a ton of friends."
Ole raises an eyebrow.
"Most of which are buried in Legends," Rigor mumbles, remembering.
            Ole shrugs. "Final choice. The Judge says that he wants you to say something to him that you have never said in your afterlife. Just say you’re sorry and, for some strange reason, that will let you off the hook. You have 24 hours to comply.”
            "The 'S' word? Never!” Rigor gasps. “No thank you, sir. You may get out of my residency." Rigor gestures to the empty hole in the wall, where his door used to be.
            Ole looks around, "Then you’d better get busy and start packing your belongings."
            “When I’m good and ready. I have other things to do now.”
            Rigor pats Ole on the shoulder as he floats past him toward the door and says, “Keep your hands off my bourbon and rum collection.”
            Ole turns around, stretches out his arm, grabs Rigor and flings him back inside, against a hits a wall. The thud of Rigor’s impact is resounding.
            "I meant, you pack your belongings now and leave!" He points his long finger at Rigor and then walks out. The door rises behind him and reattaches itself to the frame.
            Rigor shakes his head and says, "What a day." He then giggles a little before getting up, wondering what may happen next.

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