Story one in Supernatural Week of Ghosts and Goblins and Ghouls (no vampires included):
Scene: Sheets and blankets and duvets of rain, pouring down with the intent of penetrating the soil, pounds upon pounds of freshly disturbed dirt, crust through crust through core back out the other side. Streaked brown smudges against gray smirk of the sky, dawn but it did not look it. Too dark, too musty and crowded with moisture, a cleared throat away from a grubby sunrise. A hand pushed itself through the loose carpet of earth, followed by its twin, missing a finger, and a whole body hoisted upwards, bathed in the sky’s sweat. Birth, the wrinkled head of a bird poking through the stringy stiffness of eggshell. Rebirth, cold, dripping flesh ripping through muddy soil.
Inside, five cobblestoned streets away, the well-lit sanctuary of the Firm. The firm of Messrs. Today, Tomorrow, and Scaffolding, producers and marketers of lost time. They specialized in time wasted and things left unsaid, the soiled things found behind seat cushions if one knew where to look. Few did, but Messrs. Today, Tomorrow, and Scaffolding were of these few. They opened their offices promptly at six o’clock in the morning, not a minute sooner nor later. They closed their offices when the mood struck them, for they had no need for routine. Though Mr. Today tended to pay strict attention to their opening hour, he was asleep by the closing hour, no matter when it was. Since Yesterday had ceased to be a presence at the office, the gentlemen fell asleep easily with no one to wake them up. In such cases where one or more of the gentlemen fell asleep, Mr. Scaffolding would close up shop and draw the blinds. That was his duty. He had a burgundy robe with a gold crest on it specifically for this purpose, and it was his duty to wear the robe as he closed up shop and drew the blinds. No one could figure out how to remove Yesterday’s initials from the inside of the robe, so Mr. Scaffolding wore a robe with Yesterday’s initials inside it. But he did his duty, day after day after week after month., ever since he had come there, though he could no longer remember arriving.
Ink and pen tips scratched upon wild wood surfaces, parchment tanned with age and the dampness of drawers. Records and business receipts, the orders of the previous day tucked into shelves and log books. Tidy as ever. Mr. Today and Mr. Scaffolding folded bills into envelopes, pressed the purple wax seal to their lips. Mr. Tomorrow opened the blinds, blinked into the dawn that was nowhere near dawn.
Ragged hair flopped across hollow cheeks, the solid sockets now filled with spiders’ eggs, the dent once called a mouth, a dusty gash through what used to be the face, the broken jaw flapping against a neck, a chest; ribs rattling in the chill air. And through those ponderous sockets now occupied by moths and their children, through those ponderous sockets rose a vision of gold, hazy thread of gold woven through the dark dawn that hardly looked like dawn. Gold, plate, rectangular, plaque, words, markings, engravings, set into red brick brown brick white fence all around green trees sagging underneath rain. Distant ring of a bell down the street, peal of church or chapel or funerary procession.
Stumbled down the streets, empty and bleary, gassy lamplight struggling through but smothered by a fog of rain. Staggered five streets down, all the curtains drawn, not a one up on Sunday – for it was Sunday, as far as anybody knew. Reached the door, that green wooded door painting immaculate should have been black but the black peeled much before. Those steps, cannot make it up the steps, cannot conquer that, slam fist into the wall not with the five-fingered hand, with the four-fingered hand. Now the three-fingered hand, three-fingered fist. And the door opens to a white haired man with a white haired wig perched atop his white haired head. Joints crackle as he helps a poor sinner through his doorway. Not representative.
A hat flapped over the man’s face, but Mr. Today and Mr. Tomorrow could see enough to know that those blue-boned hands of his were not long from this world, and not too much longer for it again.
“Sit him down,” said Mr. Today, fetched the brandy from a dusty old cabinet clenched between doorframe and wall.
Mr. Tomorrow hauled their visitor to the nearest chair, set him upright though he kept leaning over, not quite a sturdy fellow as fellows went, not quite stable or stolid as he could have been. Mr. Tomorrow removed their visitor’s hat, placed it in the hands of Mr. Scaffolding, who had slumped to a desk feeling useless in the situation. Mr. Scaffolding frolicked to the hat rack and did what was expected of him, turned back to his superiors who were looking at the face of the man with no hat. Or a man? As Mr. Scaffolding approached, he noticed the lack of eyeballs, skin, and general luster about the man. Or a man?
“Simon,” said Mr. Tomorrow, patting the gentleman’s hand. The gentleman’s blue, grainy, scraped, scrapped, dying, dead, frozen, flaking old hand. “He looks like a Simon to me.”
Mr. Today agreed, and Mr. Scaffolding nodded because that was his duty as well.
Minutes later, Simon Yesterday bit through the bones of Mr. Today before moving on to Mr. Tomorrow, supple marrow and crimped skin. Mr. Scaffolding had disintegrated, a small pile of dust on the honey wood floor. He tasted of burnt chocolate.