Mike walked through the crowded streets late at night. The city air was fresh, and if he closed his eyes, he could almost believe it was daytime. Lights blared all around him, in the soft blue of argon lights. A soft rain fell, barely a sprinkle. The populace of the city didn't seem to notice it, some holding up brightly lit umbrellas to block out the drops.
Mike looked around the people, noticing the age gap. It was especially visible these days, the young wearing the new sleek coats and slacks, mainly white or gray, while the older residents stuck with hoodies and fitted jeans. Mike chuckled. He hadn't seen jeans on anyone under forty in his entire life.
At his side, Jack looked over and raised an eyebrow. Jack was a tall man with dark hair and almost electric blue eyes. He seemed to wear a permanent grin, and walked through the crowd as if they were nothing. Which, to him, they might as well be.
Mike looked exactly the same as Jack, and the two could've been twins. Could've been, but they were a bit... different.
"So," Jack said suddenly as they turned up 42nd Street, "this is a costume party, right?" Mike nodded with a sigh. He'd known this was coming.
"Yes, Jack," he said, "it's a costume party. Why ever do you ask?" Jack grinned wider and shrugged.
"Oh, you know," he said, "just the fact that you aren't wearing a costume?" Mike rolled his eyes.
He didn't answer as he and Jack stopped in front of a newer looking building, built in the modern style of lights, everywhere. There was a gigantic strip of glowing blue argon tubes running up the sides, and the windows shone with a similar blue light. Mike sighed and opened the door to the lobby of the building.
Once inside, he quickly scanned his wrist-band on a nearby scanner, and the wall gave out a small beep.
"Welcome, Mike," it said, "Resident Harold is... click... In." Mike nodded and rolled his eyes at Jack.
"As if we didn't already know..." he muttered. Jack laughed.
They walked across the large lobby, with its sheer white floors and darkish gray walls. A large view-screen on one wall played the news, featuring a story on some new invention using ColdLight's tech. It was getting rather old, actually.
ColdLight was the company that had, about a decade ago, revolutionized the world. With their discovery of the titular cold light, they suddenly destroyed just about every previous concept of technology. To Mike, it was all normal, but they were still playing interviews with older folks on how much the world had changed.
Of course, one thing that would never change was ColdLight's opinion of itself. No one knew how any of their tech worked, unless they worked for ColdLight. The company had basically become a world-power overnight.
Mike shook himself out of his thoughts as he and Jack approached the lobby's elevator. The inside of the lift was completely bare, just like all of the other newer elevators, and ran on voice recognition.
"Floor Seven?" the wall asked in a metallic voice.
"You betcha!" Jack said joyfully. There was a small click from inside the wall, but nothing happened. Mike looked over at Jack and rolled his eyes.
"Why do you even try?" he asked, then looked back at the wall, "Yes, floor seven please." There was another click, and this time the elevator doors closed, and the elevator began to rise.
"Okay, seriously," Jack said, turning to Mike, "you have got to have a costume." Mike sighed.
"No, Jack," he said, "I don't want you to-" Jack ignored him and snapped his fingers, and Mike suddenly felt heavier. He frowned and looked down at himself, and saw dark black robes with old-time red runes etched into the edges. He sighed.
The elevator stopped, and Mike exited first. They came out at the intersection of two halls, and Mike automatically turned down the left and began walking. After a couple of seconds, he came to the last door in the hall. To the side of it was a large wall of glass; the side of the building. Mike stopped for a moment and peered into it. Reflected in the dark glass he saw a man wearing black robes with evil-looking red runes etched into the side. It flowed around him, the sleeves long and obscuring his hands. And, over his face was a half-mask featuring a black skull. Mike grimaced.
"No masks," he said, turning back to Jack, "ever." Jack rolled his eyes and snapped his fingers. Mike looked back in the window, saw that the mask was gone, and nodded. He turned back to the door and knocked three times. A second later, the door opened, revealing a man around his mid-twenties, the same age as Mike, wearing a hockey mask. The man took the mask off and grinned.
"Necromancer," he said, "very nice, very chic, and totally not cliché at all..." Mike rolled his eyes.
"Good to see you Harold," he said, walking in, "and it was Jack's idea." Harold's head turned, and fixed at roughly where Jack was standing. Jack laughed, and Harold shivered.
"You can almost see me, can't you?" Jack asked, his voice quiet, seeming to be aimed at Harold. He blinked and nodded, before biting his lip. Jack laughed again and followed Mike into the flat.
"Okay," Harold said, shutting the door behind them, "I know I've said it before, but Jack creeps me out." Mike chuckled.
"No kidding, right?" he said, "But does he look exactly like you? No. Lucky." Harold laughed, a deep hearty laugh, something rare today. Mike smiled. Harold was what might be called a "bear" of a man. He was only around twenty-five, of course, but he was very broad shoulders with ruddy red hair and a wide grin. Mike had known him since they were both kids, and they'd always got along great. Harold led him and Jack further into the flat and then sat down.
Harold's place was really nice. That was a fact that struck Mike every time he came to it, considering his own pitiful rooms. Harold was somewhat of an "old-money" guy, but he had used his inheritance to start a construction company, and had become a huge success.
His room reflected that, designed in the newest fashion, with sleek walls, a huge black view-screen on one wall, and shining argon lights running around the ceiling throughout.
Mike sat down on Harold's couch, across from the seat Harold himself had taken. Jack sat next to him.
"Well," Harold said, leaning forward, "you two are pretty early." Jack laughed.
"No kidding," he said, his voice hanging in the air slightly. Harold blinked, then shook his head.
"Anyways," he said, "I have a favor to ask." Mike raised an eyebrow.
"A... favor?" he said, "Is it something big? Cause I don't know if you want to incur a debt with me so frivolously..." Mike lowered his brows darkly, and the light in the room seemed to dim slightly. Harold stared at him for a second before bursting out in laughter.
"Nice one," he said, "almost got me there, man." Mike grinned. He enjoyed his "dark necromancer" moments.
"So, whatcha need?" Mike asked, leaning back into the couch. Harold bit his lip.
"It's Holly," he said, "I think she might be a... you know. Like you. So I thought you could ask grandad." Mike raised an eyebrow.
"Really?" he asked, "Weird, never pegged her for that..." Holly was Harold's sister, and they'd also known each other from childhood. Harold just nodded. "Okay then," Mike said, "I'll go ask Richard then, shall I?"
"Thanks," Harold said with a barely audible sigh, "she just... you know. She asked about Jack at the last party, when he was wearing that snake mask." Mike nodded. He'd remembered that party, a sort of opera-esque thing. Mike had worn the obligatory suit, but had forgone the mask, due to personal preference. Jack, however, had worn a complex snake mask and matching green suit, all of which went to waste due to the fact that no one could see him.
Mike and Jack had an odd relationship. When Mike had been seventeen, he'd died. No heartbeat, no breathing, no nothing. And then he'd been revived, just as his soul had begun to leave his body. The resulting shock had resulted in his soul being split, and Jack had been "born." Now, normally, this would not be a problem. In fact, most people who had medically died probably had bits of themselves following them, both unaware of the other entirely, completely in sync. Mike, however, could see ghosts.
And so imagine his surprise when he saw a ghost of himself following him everywhere he went.
Mike stood and made a small gesture that he was going to leave the room, and Harold nodded, then nervously looked at where Mike saw Jack sitting next to him. Mike rolled his eyes.
"And Jack," Mike said, "no freaking out Harold, alright? I will bind you, if I have to." Jack nodded and put his feet up on the curved footrest, flinging his arms behind his head. He seemed to fade slightly, and Mike could start to see the background behind him. Mike nodded and walked off to find somewhere private.
Mike could do more than just see ghosts, too. He could talk to them, interact with them, summon them, and bind them. He was, as Jack had alluded to humorously with the costume, a necromancer. However, it was more in the old sense of the word, that of communication with the dead, as opposed to raising undead hordes. Not that he couldn't do that, either...
Mike soon found a small second sitting room, and crouched down in the center of the room. He reached into his pocket and took out a sheet of white cloth emblazoned with flowing runes. Of course, Mike had just used one of those "make-your-own" print out and iron on things, but Richard didn't have to know that.
He laid the cloth down carefully. He then reached around his neck and unclasped a simple chain. He brought it around his head and grabbed the small clear cube that swung from it. The cube was slightly white, as if there was an intense frost on the inside. Mike set it down in the middle of the inscribed circle and touched the top with a single finger.
The cube burst into a soft blue light, illuminating Mike's face in a cold glow. He drew in a deep breath before speaking.
"HEY, RICHEY!" he shouted, his voice being sucked into the Beyond before contacting the real world. The cube sparked black, and there was a faint whispering coming from nowhere. Darkness began swirling around Mike as he crouched on the ground, and he could feel the pressure of spirits trying to get in. They pushed and shoved against him, whispering softly. It was several moments before the reply came.
"I'm not coming unless you do it right," a thin voice said from the cube. Mike rolled his eyes.
"Sheesh," he muttered, then coughed. "Come ye dark spirit?" he said wryly, "Is that better?" There was a thin sigh, and the whispering suddenly cut off. Mike stood and back a few inches away, just as a translucent figure appeared over the cloth. The figure was of a young man with dark red hair and a strong jaw. His shoulders were much thinner than his grandson's, but the resemblance was there.
"Nice to see you, Mike," the figure said, its voice fuller now, "and in proper costume, too! Congratulations!" Mike sighed.
"It was Jack, alright?" he said, "and its good to see you too, Richard." Richard smiled, and stepped down from the circle. Normally, he wouldn't have been able to do that, but he had written the binding himself, and Mike knew there was nothing to fear from Richard. For him, at least.
Richard looked around for a moment, and his lips curled downwards slightly.
"I see you're in one of those new buildings," he said, "nice. You know, all this cold-light stuff creeps me out."
"You're a ghost, Richard," Mike said, "I'm not sure how that's possible. And, anyway, I have to talk to you." Richard nodded, then frowned.
"Is Harold here?" he asked suddenly. Mike cocked his head.
"Uh, yeah," Mike said, "this is his place..." Richard perked up.
"Oh?" he said, "I'm glad to see he's doing well. I'm going to go say hi." Mike gaped.
"Wait, no!" he said, trying desperately to force Richard back into the circle, "I have a question!" Richard ignored his efforts and walked out, into the hall adjacent to small sitting rooms. Argon lights ran along the top edge of the hall, giving a strange blue overlay to the scene. Mike cursed and snatched up his cloth and the cube, running after Richard. "Wait!" he called out to the spirit.
"I'm sure Harold can ask me himself," Richard said, not stopping, "I assume he asked you to ask me?" Richard turned the corner into the main hall, and Mike skidded after him.
"Well, yeah!" Mike said, "But I can't just let you go running around!" Richard shrugged. The two burst out into the main living room almost simultaneously, and Harold's head swiveled around.
"Granddad?" he asked, stunned. Richard grinned widely, and walked over and hugged him. Harold just stared.
"I knew you'd be able to see," Richard said. Mike just shook his head and sat down next to Jack.
"Granddad!" Harold said again, still looking shocked, "I mean, I knew you'd be here... but..." Richard chuckled and shook Harold gently.
"Well," Richard said, "I'm a bit stronger than Jack there, and I'm you're grandfather, for Pete's sake!" Harold looked at Mike helplessly, and he shrugged. Harold looked back at his grandfather and laughed.
"I guess that makes it a bit easier," he said, "I had a question to ask you." Richard nodded, and went over, standing near the view-screen. Mike didn't know why, but older ghosts always preferred to stand.
"Ask away," Richard said, "and hello Jack, not antagonizing anyone too much, hopefully?" Jack grinned and nodded.
"Not too much," he said, and Harold shivered again.
Mike had always thought it strange how people saw ghosts. Most people had extreme difficulties consciously recognizing words from ghosts, though they picked up on non-word sounds extremely well. They could also be trained, in a way, to be able to hear words, but it usually took a haunting in their place of work or their home to get the required amount of experience. Mike had never seen it too often, though he noticed some people he knew were giving odd looks in Jack's direction.
"It's Holly," Harold said, "is she a necromancer too?" Richard sighed.
"Yes," he said, "it was fairly obvious years ago. I put a veil on her, of course, so that she could have a semi-normal childhood, but I never intended it to be permanent. No, I just wanted it to last long enough that I could have someone besides me train her." Richard turned to Mike and grinned. "That would be you, Michael," he said, then turned back to Harold, "and I will explain everything to her myself, to save you two the trouble." Mike blinked.
"What?" he asked, "You want me to train her?" Richard nodded. Mike felt himself start to sweat. "But... but," he stammered. Harold frowned at him, and Jack sighed.
"Mike," he said, "get over it." Mike swallowed.
"Just call me back after the party," Richard said, starting to fade, "I'll talk to her then." Mike gulped again.
"Wait," Harold said, "how'd he know that there was a party...?" And, at that moment, the doorbell beeped.