“What do you mean makeup? It’s going to be fucking dark!”
“You’ll have to do your piece to camera before you go in to the dungeons Mr Reed…”
“Dungeons! Blood damp cellar under a condemned chicken packing factory you mean.” Reed scoffed at the trembling 18 year old makeup girl.
Grudgingly Anthony Reed harrumphed his way to the chair and flopped into it. Relieved that he had complied, the make up girl, Hannah, hastily prepared the aging star for his appearance on “Celebrity Ghost Catchers”.
Four D-List celebrities stood in a circle with the show’s two presenters. The red brick arches above them dripping with moisture seeping from the derelict factory above. Or medieval castle, whichever you chose to believe. One an over-fake-tanned man with bouffant white hair and a theatrical looking coat, the other a thirty-something ex-Children’s-TV presenter, renowned for her screaming.
“Please, everyone, all join hands.” Instructed the tangerine coloured medium.
They did, Anthony gritting his teeth and remembering what his agent had told him … “Look Tony, there is no eight series of “Extreme Pub Quiz” for you to present. The format’s dead. Take the money from the frigging production company and be thankful you’re not doing panto with Jim Davidson.”
The lights were turned off and the squeaky presenter started her usual monologue of “Oooh there’s a strange feeling about this place … what was that noise! … there’s a definite chill …”. Anthony fought back a chuckle, submerging it under the comforting weight of the cheque from “Frantic Productions”.
After several minutes of mounting, well what the show’s producers would have liked to think of as tension but Anthony decide was the same stuff as mounts up in the corner of a stable, the psychic suddenly threw back his head with a jerk. From his mouth came a contorted high pitch falsetto voice “Ooooooo, please sir don’t leave me alone down here I only took that apple cos I was starvin’ for sure.”
Anthony covered his laugh with a cough, why were the ghosts always bloody cockney, they were in Stoke for goodness sake. “Sorry.” He explained “I have a tickle in my throat.”
“That’ll be one of the spirits trying to communicate through your voice.” Said the one of the other celebs earnestly. Anthony seemed to recognise as a former news anchor who’d been photographed doing a Sharon Stone, getting out of a limo at a film premier with a short skirt on. Sad cow.
The show presenter then decided that they should all take their guttering candle and the mini-cam they had been given and sit in a different section of the labyrinthine undercroft on ghost watch.
Anthony elected to make his way deep into the cellar, out of earshot of the rest of the guests and crew. He sat in an alcove in a room at the end of the deepest corridor and placed the still rolling camera on the floor facing the wall. Time for a recreational ciggy he thought.
Halfway down the reefer he started to feel quite at home. Each time he drew on the roach-end of the spliff it illuminated the vaulted ceiling of the room with a comforting orange glow. He held the smoke deep in his chest for a moment.
A dark shape appeared in the doorless entrance to the chamber. “Don’t worry darlin’ I’ll put on a bit of a show for the cameras in a bit when I’m mellowed out.” He added, “Just tell em the smoke’s ectoplasm.” He began to giggle.
“Cat got your tongue?” he asked the shape.
As he drew on his exotic cigarette the shape moved forward, resolving itself into a figure. She was dark haired, shorter than the presenter and pale skinned. He thought he recognised her but couldn’t quite place her.
“Oh, I see. Surprise guest eh? Well the show’s getting a bit tired so I suppose they have to throw something in other than objects floating across the room on black cotton.
“I’m Amy. Who are you?”
Deciding to skip the indignant “What do you mean? Don’t you recognise me?” speech he replied “Anthony. Nice costume by the way, they splashed out on that didn’t they? Not the usual moth-eaten props … ” His voice trailed off, she was looking at him in a way that sent a chill down his spine. It was a sort of good-bad chill. It disturbed him, but the intensity of her stare was quite captivating, almost a come-on. She must be ten years his junior, but what the heck!
As he was about to unleash the famed Reed charm assault a piece of cannabis resin dropped out of the roll-up and burned its way through his shirt, searing the skin just above his navel.
“Fuck, fuck, shit!” He threw his spliff to one side, it sizzled and was extinguished by one of the shallow pools of muddy water on the beaten earth floor. Anthony rubbed his now very sore stomach, “Another shirt ruined …”
“Are you hurt? Let me see” Amy moved toward him her hand slipped inside his shirt. Her fingers were cold, ice cold. Their eyes met and for a moment he could see the veins beneath her skin, skin like rice paper dissolving in a waterfall of light. First the veins and arteries pulsed with blood, then black tar oozed from their rupturing, rotting walls. Flesh fell from her bones and her sensuous dark brown eyes melted down her cheeks leaving only pitch black holes.
He closed his eyes, threw his head back and opened his mouth to scream, but the darkness swallowed the sound. He shut his eyes and waited for, well he didn’t know what.
Moments passed, a warm summer sun warmed his upturned face. He became aware of birds singing and the sound of leaves rustling in a gentle breeze. Anthony slowly opened his eyes and lowered his head to find himself gazing at Amy. Her skin was warm and full of life, cheeks flushed, unlike the pale white phantom in the undercroft. Her eyes were the same, dark and soothing, the eyes don’t lie.
She stepped back, away from him. Amy turned and asked, “Unfasten my bodice.” He did, uncomprehending, slowly unlacing the garment. What was he doing? Where was he? When was he?. She slipped out of the light blue gown and turned to face him dressed , rather immodestly in her cotton undergarments, bosom heaving, eyes wanting him.
He reached out and took her in his arms. Their lips met and all his questions were forgotten
To be concluded