hey awaken through a haze of repeating dreams of how they died. Except for Rose. She’s just kind of… somewhere? Car crashes, infernos, smoke inhalation, drug OD… Over and over again, slowly losing coherence, less real, less… deadly.
Less and less like the end.
Chad Whateley – athletic heir of the Whateley family, at 16 he fell in love. Unfortunately his family has deep roots in southern “history” and “culture”, and strongly disapproved of this poor black girl he has fallen for. In classic Romeo & Juliet fashion, within weeks this turned into a suicide pact and they consumed poison in an upstairs room of “The Midnight” (a run-down warehouse turned gothrave club) – in his near-death throes he knocked over the candles and started a fire. Freaked out, she ran away and paramedics saved her life. The poison wasn’t strong enough to kill him anyways… but the fire did.
Victor Jansen – ex military with bad PTSD back in college for retraining and return to the workforce. Died crawling through the air vents getting from “The Midnight” to the HQ of a gang that he was after. A fire in the Midnight smoked him like a ham in the vents.
Tyler Rollins – another trust-fund baby, Tyler went full jock and was working his way to being the QB at UGA. A fan of fast cars, football, and a bit of heavy partying, he was driving past “The Midnight” and was distracted by the fire, fire trucks, and sobbing goths all over the area, drifted, and drove his car into the end of a Jersey barrier.
Rose Hazel – worked all the local small food service / barista gigs in the area. It was pretty much impossible to get a drink or food in the UGA campus region without running into her at least once. Always running around to make ends meet, she was leaving one job and on her way to another when something killed her. She has no idea what or who.
Trent Tellis – morgue worker and heroin addict who was completely unprepared for a mass casualty event involving a few dozen people in the 17-22 range. He tied off and cooked himself a dose to “keep on top of things”… but that wasn’t enough. So he did it again.
Then the voice broke into Tyler’s repeating dreams. “We gotta get you out of there… focus on my voice… come on out” – the reaction wasn’t what the voice was hoping for, Tyler panicked and started to thrash about, suddenly aware of the weird caul around him. The knifepoint cut in and the caul was split pouring him onto the chipped and filthy concrete floor. Before him were four more weird embryonic sacs, dark and lumpy, dead and yet containing something.
“Get them out too… you don’t have that much time”
Turning, all he sees is a masked face slipping away through the plywood wall.
The space is an old MARTA bus stop. Not quite the size of a small bedroom. The floors are cracked, dusty, covered in debris. The windows and door all replaced with plywood nailed into place from the outside. The plywood has seen better days and many other projects and is covered in event posters for things that happened in the late 80s. Everything is decrepit, rotting, run down.
As Tyler goes to the other lumps on the floor, one spontaneously erupts in a cascade of light which is then absorbed by the person stepping out of it – Victor. They know each other from school. Not well, but in passing. Together they cut out the others – Tyler remembers Chad from their high end private school and their family connections; everyone knows Rose at least (and in fact no more than) in passing; and no one has met Trent before as he freaks out quietly about how he’s obviously Overdosing and this is one hell of a bad trip surrounded by the people he just embalmed.
There is one anomaly in common for them all (multiple anomalies overall, such as Tyler being mostly made of wrecked car parts) – they are all wearing a silver ring on their first digit of the left hand. The rings are identical except in sizing, each bear the symbol of an open eye, and while they can be removed they immediately turn to silver smoke and reform on the finger in question.
They can touch the world around them, but they have no impact on it. Scraping their feet in the trash on the floor doesn’t move any of it. Pushing against the plywood does nothing. Finally, Tyler snaps and hits the wall as hard as he can… and passes through it. A little experimenting and they learn how to make themselves incorporeal (the “rule of ouch”) and escape the old bus stop. Outside they are in the core of Atlanta, but not like they’ve ever seen the city before. Skyscrapers compete for real estate with much older buildings. The city blocks are three or four times as long as they should be to make room for all these ancient buildings (that burned down in one of Atlanta’s many fires). And as befits the core in the middle of the night, it is abandoned.
Except for Jack.
With long brown hair over much of his face, dressed in ripped jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt, Jack steps back when they all step out of the MARTA station. Looking around nervously he approaches them and introduces himself. “Jackknife… Or you know, Jack”
Jackknife reinforces to them that they are dead. “Enfants” he calls them – ghosts fresh from the quick. He tries to fill them in a bit on what being dead is like and then asks to see the silver rings (perhaps seeking a quick relic he could sell?). Upon seeing the eye symbol he warns them “with these, you may not be long among the dead either… he describes a group called the Sons of Tertullian – a group of old catholic exorcists and ghost-hunters. And while he’s never seen these rings before, they definitely bear the symbol of the hunters and that means the “circle” of them are marked for a fate far worse than death.
Then the hounds begin to bay.
“Hierarchy’s Barghests! Enslaved for eternity if they get us!” The keening wail of the hounds tears at the emotional corpus of the circle, fraying from the horrific sound… and then they see the sources bearing down on them from all five available routes away from the MARTA stop – a pair of massive hunting hounds with all the wrong proportions and lacking the hair… it only takes a moment to understand that these were once humans somehow twisted and chained into these houndlike forms. Victor spots an ugly wrought-iron and spiked baseball bat and grabs it, but then the circle runs instead of confronting the beasts.
Displaying skills they didn’t know they had, they barrel past the closest set of hounds – both Tyler & Victor sprouting wings to escape and Tyler moving at superhuman speeds in the process. This conflict unlocking strange abilities that they were previously unaware of. The barghests are confused, sniffing at the air, the escaping circle, and the MARTA station.
In the confusion they lose Jackknife and find themselves in the financial core of the city. Huge towering mirror-finished buildings loom over them, squeezing out older buildings that seem to try to exist in the same space. A taxi drives by in horrible shape, the transmission slowly failing, the driver riddled with cancer. Tyler recognizes Monumental Bank where his father works and suggests they head up… But then realizes that the real issue is Trent who believes he is overdosing back at the funeral home. So they turn to leave the bank when Chad spots something wrong with his reflection. Like there is a second person riding him piggy-back, with claws dug into his chest… and another riding Trent with claws grabbing the sides of his throat.
Obviously aware of his investigation, they detach. Shadow-eaten parasites that were once human – siphoning pathos and attacking with tentacles and rending teeth. Victor keeps beating one with his spiked bat to no noticeable effect. Tyler discovers that his outrage allows him to damage the real world when his attack against a shade misses and instead blows in the front windows of Monumental Bank. But Chad changes the course of the battle – running away to safety, he turns back and uses his untapped usury power to siphon the corpus of the betentacled shade, destroying its form and using some of the corpus to heal his own form and then channeling the rest to reinforce the badly injured Victor. With one shade down, it only takes moments to finally end the second one – smashing it into the plate glass windows across the street from Monumental Bank where the glass seems to shatter and then fall into a tiny hole bringing the shade with it and leaving a perfectly unharmed (but filth-streaked) plate glass window…
In the fighting, someone else becomes present. Trent’s shadow finally speaks up when Trent starts to believe he might actually be dead. He offers consolation, hope, reaffirms Trent’s belief that he is overdosing, and offers him a devil’s deal in exchange to get through this – wings like Tyler’s… for just a little more freedom, a little more control over the situation.
Then Jackknife rejoins them, explaining that those shades are former wraiths consumed by Oblivion and now working as parasitic agents. They adjourn to a small apartment in a burned out shell of a building, the door long fallen from its hinges. Jackknife tries to explain as much as he can about wraithly life and that the reason they are having all these troubles is definitely the rings they are wearing – they need to find how the Sons of Tellurian can track them and if possible destroy this means so no other wraiths can be subject to their harsh “judgment”.
Victor lifewebs the rings and achieves a remarkable success, granting him a straight-line direction towards the source of the problem – something linked to these rings. Something in the same direction of town as where they all died…