Darn It, Rigor
Rigor walks along next to Jack as they walk down the main street of odd buildings and, even more, strange denizens.
Jack asks Rigor, "How did you get kicked out of the Afterlife, anyway?"
"Threw my boss over a cliff."
"Your boss? Last time we spoke you were working as a Death Counselor and they're freelance. You were my Death Counselor, actually, if you remember. It's how we met."
"Best day of your afterlife, right?"
"Eh, in my top two-hundred, probably."
"Sure. Whatever you say, pal. Counselors may be freelancers, but the Heads still oversee the blokes who want to be one. I only got the damn job because my father asked the Judge. The Judge respects my dad, or so he claims, so he let me have it. It was up until I had some other important obligations to attend to that they let me go."
"You mean the burlesque joint? How is Dante anyway?"
"'Burlesque'? Who the hell calls it that anymore? But to answer your question, no. I decided to follow my father's guidance for the job for secretly my own needs. Death Counselors work with prisoners from Grim Island. We counseled the troubled ones to reform them. Hoping some poor son of a bitch will forget about their living problems and move on. However, I had something else in mind while being in there."
"Trying to look for those responsible for …" Rigor has trouble, but eventually says, "her death."
Jack knows he means Elizabeth. He had never met her. She died way before Jack ever met Rigor. But he understands Rigor's pain when it comes to perhaps the only love of his life.
"What did you find out?"
"Not a goddamn thing."
"How'd you investigate it?"
Rigor grins. "I never give away my secrets, Jack."
"Ah. You beat the snot out of them."
"Damn! You figured it out!"
"And you think someone who is in Grim Island knows who killed Elizabeth?"
"I know the person to blame, but I don't know the person responsible."
"I know you blame the Judge for it."
"Always have. He didn't like the fact that a spirit was with the living. Thought it would ruin the Afterlife. Paranoid prick is what he is. He demanded I abandon her at once and my kids. I told him to get bent. He didn't like that. I think he's too gutless to take the life of someone, let alone their soul. So, one of my ideas is that he got someone from the Island, maybe promised them freedom if they did him a favor. But everyone I talked to died long after Elizabeth's death. And those who were around when it happened were too damaged to even talk."
"That place is unforgiving for spirits who have committed crimes. Anyone who doesn't break being in that hellhole is one tough bastard."
"You didn't break and you've been there many times."
Rigor smirks. "Like I said, one tough bastard."
"You'll get whoever is responsible, Rigor."
"Yeah. Look at me go," he says sarcastically.
"I'm surprised you're talking so freely about her. Before you couldn't say anything. It's an improvement."
"Jack, it's not easy. It never is for me. But I trust you. Up until now the only person I could talk freely about this is to my father."
"It's good to talk about things."
"Is it? Let's talk about that hot wife of yours then." Rigor smirks.
A sudden change in conversation is an attribute Jack has always noticed in Rigor, especially when talking about a tragedy. He decides to play along as he can see the hurt it does to Rigor opening old, undying nightmares.
"No. Let's not talk about my wife. I know you only have one thing on your mind."
"One? Dude, I'm versatile. I have ten things on my mind right now when it comes to her." He laughs and nudges Jack. "I'm just kidding. Okay, I'm not."
Jack rolls his good eye. "What happened to the Counselor job?"
"They had a new position for me and it's actually what I've been doing up until very recent. Basically teaching classes to future Guardians."
"Guardian? But you were a Protector. Last I knew they were a higher class of defenders for the Afterlife."
"Exactly! But they wouldn't listen and my father suggested doing it."
"Good thing your father is an advisory to the Heads or else you would've been kicked out of the Afterlife centuries ago. Wait! I didn't even think of that. Your father will just talk to the Judge and convince him to let you back in. You probably don't even have to stay!"
"You sound very excited about that."
"That's hurtful, man! We haven't seen each other in a very long time. I can stay for a few days. It wouldn't kill you … again. I need a vacation and this place don't look half bad."
"Thank you. I try my best."
One wart head lady, whose face is covered with them, comes up to Jack and the newest face of Hollow Hill.
"Hi, Jack. Who's your new friend?"
"This is my good friend ... Hocus."
"Hello there," she says as sweet as a person could.
Rigor grabs Jack by the arm and turns him away while muttering rudely, "Yeah, hi, ugly." He confronts Jack angrily. "Hocus?"
"What's wrong with a little alias? You can't tell me Rigor Mortis is your real name."
"Sounds like something they'd name me if I worked at Chippendales!"
Jack quirks his eyebrow. "What is 'Chip and Dales'? That a restaurant?"
"I'll explain it to you when you get older," Rigor sarcastically says. "Why not let me use my own name?"
"Because Rigor, if they find out who you are ... then ..."
Rigor now looks confused. "Yes?"
Jack slumps his shoulders, obviously frustrated. He doesn't want to tell Rigor about the 'No Afterlife spirits' rule they have. Jack personally doesn't like the rule, but he understands why the denizens of Hollow Hill take that stand. They have been kicked out of the Afterlife because of rules there, so this is their payback. Their intention was to keep out any spirits associated with the ruling body of the Afterlife, but a black and white rule was easier to make.
Jack tried to open talks with the Heads of the Afterlife to find a compromise but received no response to his efforts. Most denizens of Hollow Hill do not mind the presence of spirits who were not officials in the Afterlife. In fact, several dwell here and are tolerated. But Rigor Mortis is a whole other story.
That's what scares Jack the most. He fears the reaction if anyone finds out Rigor is here because he is well known as a former Protector, an official of the Heads of the Afterlife. Jack decides it's best not to tell Rigor about it. Rigor hates rules and who knows what he might do rebelling against this one. He turns his attention to something else to divert Rigor from this line of conversation.
"Look!" Jack points.
Rigor looks at a fountain with a statue of Jack in the middle, with water fountains surrounding him.
Rigor is not impressed. "Yeah, so what?"
Rigor turns around and he notices that Jack is talking to a portly man who is wearing a dark brown suit with a tall hat on his head. This gentleman is Jack's right-hand man.
"Mr. Hyde," Jack asks, out of Rigor's hearing, "do you think we have enough room in town for my friend, Hocus?" Jack hopes to pass Rigor off as a harmless spirit.
"Of course, Jack. Anything for you! Although, why is your friend over there introducing himself to the vampire brothers?"
Jack whips around to look, thinking Rigor making his own introductions is a very bad idea. He can't hear what he's saying, but knowing Rigor, and his mouth for that matter, this can't be good.
"Hey, Dracula ... I heard you suck," Rigor says with a smirk to Sade.
"That's very funny coming from a ghost who should have been locked up ages ago ..."
Jack heard that and now he's worried. Sade seems to know who Rigor is and that's not good. He makes a rush for Rigor, but Mr. Hyde grabs him by the arm, trying to draw Jack's attention to a bit of road work Hollow Hill needs on the main street. Jack tries to peel away, but Mr. Hyde is persistent. Meanwhile, Rigor is about to dig his own grave.
Rigor tells Sade, "I have been locked up, tons of times, and I'm pretty proud of myself."
"We have no time for you, peasant," Sade says with a sneer.
Jack tells Mr. Hyde to go ahead with whatever plans he has and runs over to try and repair whatever damage Rigor might have caused already. "Fellows, how are you doing on this very fine evening?"
"We are doing fine, King Jack," Flad says with a bow that yells mockery.
"Now, I informed you gentlemen to stop calling me 'King.' I hate that."
Sade steps close to Jack. "What are you going to do about it then, King? We will call you whatever we want. You did steal the title after all."
Jack has had big problems with Sade since Jack arrived in Hollow Hill. Sade has tried everything to steer Hollow Hill's denizen's loyalty from Jack. He's used propaganda, word of mouth, and Jack has even suspected Sade has tried to assassinate him a couple times. But each plan has up until now been foiled. Jack is a bright guy and that irritates Sade to no end.
Jack steps close to Sade and whispers, "Sade. I know you don't like me and the feeling is mutual. I've tried making peace, but all you want is war. If you don't like how I run Hollow Hill, then you're more than welcomed to leave."
"I wish you would leave … King," Sade says smugly.
"I've given you all the chances in the world for us to be better men towards each other. Civil. I've offered you a chance to help me because you obviously think that I am somehow not using my powers here correctly."
"Then suggest to me how I should run Hollow Hill."
"Like the former King. The first King. The only King to me. Remember him? The one you ran off. The one who gave Hollow Hill a purpose?"
"The corrupt isn't allowed in Hollow Hill. Speaking of which, weren't we talking about you leaving?"
"You want to talk about corruption? The King refuses to follow his own rules."
"What are you talking about?"
"Afterlife spirits are not allowed here in Hollow Hill."
"Yes, they are." Jack looks around and is now noticing a crowd forming around them. "A few examples are among these people."
Sade walks passed Jack and jumps onto the ledge of the fountain. "Ladies and gentlemen," he starts, "Your King has lied to you. You see this man right here?" Sade points to Rigor. "He isn't a spirit named Hocus."
"Thank you!" Rigor says. He turns to Jack, "I told you that was a stupid name."
Sade continues, "He is a spirit from the Afterlife, but more importantly, he is a Protector."
A small sign of shock from the crowd and a small grin from Sade.
Jack raises his hand to gain attention of the crowd. "Former Protector." But it doesn't work.
Sade continues on his soap box. "For those who are not aware, a Protector is in charge of protecting the Afterlife. That doesn't make them bad. No. What does make them vile to Hollow Hill is they are the ones who ran you out of the Afterlife for your differences. When you died and you went to the Afterlife, what happened to you? Did they treat you with respect? Did they offer you a home?"
Loud "no's" are heard in the crowd, which is getting closer.
Sade again points to Rigor. "He was the one who ran you out and Jack just left the door open for them to come into our dimension. Are you going to stand for that or are you going to let the Afterlife run you out of your only home?"
Sade turns into a bat, as does his brothers and they fly away.
"You told them your real name?" Jack asks Rigor angrily. "Are you totally insane?"
"The guy knew who I was, Jack! Besides, I am not calling myself the dead guy who popped out of my mother's birthday cake a couple centuries ago!"
"I always loved your mother," Jack reminisced. "She looked so innocent during that lap dance."
"Yeah," Rigor says with a chuckle. "She still doesn't talk to me ..."
"I can't say I blame her."
The crowd is close now, the circle getting narrower.
Jack says, "People! Please go about your business. There is no cause for concern here. You know Sade and his habit to spread rumors. There is no cause for alarm."
A giant, black werewolf steps into the center of this circle, bares his teeth as he speaks in a growl. "There have been rumors going around about fresh meat being here in the Hill. Is that true, Jack?"
"No? I don't know." He turns to Rigor. "Who else is with you?"
"No one that I know of," Rigor shrugs. "Hey, wolfie: is the intruder male or female?"
"Female," he growls.
Rigor turns to Jack. "She's not with me now, but give it time," he leers.
Jack shakes his head and turns back to the crowd. "I do not know who this young lady is and if we find her, we will send her back to where she came from."
"She's mine, Relic!" the werewolf snarls. "I haven't had fresh blood in ages and, no disrespect, Jack, but I'm hungry for it. I'll even eat that chump right there beside you."
"Whoa, hold on there, big fella. I'm purely ghost." Rigor puts his hand through his chest and pulls it back out. "See? No meat."
"Remember what I told you!" A voice booms from above.
"Sade!" Jack says with anger looking up where Sade leans against a gargoyle at the top of a building.
"He is an imposter from the Afterlife! He is Rigor Mortis: a cruel, foul, disgusting specter who gets his jollies out of chaos and destruction. If there's one ghost you should not trust, he is it. Destroy him now before he destroys all of you."
"Poetry to my ears," Rigor says.
But it isn't poetry to Jack. "Rigor, you don't understand. There is a rule that even I can't touch. If any Afterlife official, even being a former one like yourself, invades Hollow Hill, they are going to have the Doctor rip out your soul!"
The smile fades from Rigor's face. "Ouch."
Suddenly the crowd jumps at Rigor, grabbing at him. He struggles with them but then realizes something.
"Wait a minute." He rises above them in flight, smiling, and salutes them with mocking glee. "I'm a ghost, you're not."
His laugh is cut short when three ghosts appear and grab his arms, legs, and around his waist. He resumes struggling. "Hey! What are you doing, jerks? Let me go!"
"Takes a ghost to catch a ghost," one of them chuckles as they carry him toward Dr. Vigor's tower in the distance.
Jack tries to stop Rigor's abductors. "Wait!" he yells. "He's an idiot, but he means well."
A witch flying next to Jack says, "A well! That's a great idea. We'll dispose of the body in a well."
The ghosts and the mob pay no further attention to Jack.
"Darn it, Rigor," Jack mutters and runs after the mob.
Down in the secret laboratory of Dr. Vigor's, Sam looks around at all of his inventions. He comes rolling in from another room with what looks like a garage door remote.
"This is my lab ... full of failures. Lots of them."
"The machine you say we need isn't one of them, right?" Sam asks with concern. "Oh no, it's my pride and joy."
Dr. Vigor presses the button as a large door in front of them opens with sharp squeals and sparks flying.
"Should have applied some oil to it!" Dr. Vigor yells.
Sam see's headlights come on and an old, beat-up, dark gray car emerges. In the rear of the car are three large rotating discs where the trunk would be.
"Wow, for such a junky car I never knew it would be able to travel through different dimensions," Sam says with amazement.
Dr. Vigor smiles. "I made it myself."
"I don't doubt that. What are these three large plates for?"
"These are ... well, turntables of a sort. Just like the symbol you etched to get here. These discs contain odd shapes and angles that make up symbols as well. When the symbols line up, they cause a portal to open and thus take you to whichever dimension you choose as your destination."
Dr. Vigor approaches the driver's side door that automatically opens and a ramp unfolds. Sam rushes over to see some more of this strange car. Vigor presses a button to reveal a touch screen.
Dr. Vigor says, "You can either manually enter the dimension here or choose from a map of available dimensions."
Sam's expression communicates that she is both amazed and praying that Vigor's invention will work.
"Any questions?" Dr. Vigor asks.
Before Sam can respond, an alarm blares with accompanying flashing red siren lights. A big screen TV near the ceiling turns itself on, showing the mob right outside the door.
"Oh, great," Dr. Vigor says with a smug look on his face. "Another mob. This is the eighth one this month."
"Eighth one?" Sam asks, surprised.
"Yes. They come ask me for skinny-now pills or new livers, and then they come back with more problems. One guy took my pills and grew a head ... well ... out of where the sun don't shine … and he wanted me to fix it."
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?" she questions his ability to make a car that travels through different dimensions. Even for a paranormal investigator, this sounds a little far-fetched.
"What can I say? I am a scientist, not a pharmacist!"
Dr. Vigor frantically rolls over to a section with a tangle of chains hanging from the ceiling. He raises his hand and waves it around, clearly trying to remember which one he needs.
"Ah! This one!" He pulls down and a whooshing sound immediately follows. "Move!" Dr. Vigor shouts at Sam. She jumps back nanoseconds before a huge sword slices down at the spot she had been standing.
"That could've killed me!" she exclaimed, after a moment of stunned silence. "Also, why do you need a sword on the ceiling?"
"The chains are a space saver."
He pulls another chain, where outside a trap door opens and a huge telescope emerges. A cable drops down near Dr. Vigor and he hooks it into a slot in the keyboard with a joystick. As he moves the stick, the telescope moves and follows his motions. The front door image on the TV goes to static and now broadcasts the telescope camera.
"Let's see why they're so angry."
Dr. Vigor winces as the camera shows the massive mob. He pans up to get a better view of the mob.
"You must have done something really wrong," Sam says.
Dr. Vigor shrugs it off. "Maybe they found out that in their house deeds is a small print clause that assigns their organs to me after they die ... or whenever I see fit. Wait a minute ... My God is that really ...?" He backs up, blinks a few times, and looks back at the screen. "Rigor Mortis?"
"Well yeah, you have decayed quite a bit," Sam says in a matter-of-fact tone.
"Not that! The ghost."
"There's a ghost with the name 'Rigor Mortis?'" Sam says with a chuckle. "Did his mother have a weird sense of humor or what?"
"I don't know his mother, but I do know he has a few skeletons in the closet, but most of them are out. He's kind of a bragger. Still, there's something about him that I find unique."
"What would that be?"
They look at the screen again and notice that Rigor uses one free hand to flip them the finger.
"Are you getting my good side?" Rigor taunts the camera.
"Charming," Sam says, but doesn't mean it.
"Well, I did hear he's kind of a jackass. This just proves my point!" Dr. Vigor says.
Suddenly, the speakers blast a deep growling voice. "Doctor Vigor!"
"Uh-oh. That doesn't sound good." Dr. Vigor shuts off the telescope camera and activates the front door camera. It's the werewolf.
"Get your soul robbing machine out, so we can get rid of this disease that will surely plague our town with his nonsense," the beast yells.
Dr. Vigor then pulls down on another chain and Sam swiftly moves out of the way as a precaution. The doctor grabs the microphone that dropped from the ceiling.
"Werewolf, I got rid of that infernal machine ages ago. I should have never made the damn thing and used it for my coat rack more than anything else. It's scrap metal now. Find another doctor if you so wish Rigor Mortis to be no more. I am not doing it."
Shouts from the angry mob rise and reverberate through the speakers.
Sam says, "You need to find a way to calm them down."
Dr. Vigor thinks for a moment and addresses Jack. "Jack, are you there?"
Jack squeezes his way through the front of the line. "Yes, I'm right here."
"What do you suggest we do now that these people know I don't have that machine anymore?"
"Well …" Jack looks at Rigor. "Can you please bring Rigor down to me?" He says to the ghosts holding onto Rigor. They do as he wishes, but keep their grip on him.
Rigor says, "I should give that doctor a big kiss."
"I don't think so," is heard from the speakers via Dr. Vigor.
Jack whispers to Rigor, "You've been kicked out of the Afterlife, right?"
"You know it. I'll sing it loud and proud in the streets if I have to."
"Okay. I have an idea. We lock you up."
"That's an idea? What's your secondary idea? Disembowelment?"
"Listen to me. They need time to cool down before I can talk to them. Convince them you're not the enemy. Tell them your situation and how you got kicked out of the Afterlife, just as they did. They'll understand."
Rigor thinks about it for a moment. "Yeah, whatever. Fine. Do what you must to get those precious votes."
"Good. By the way, we're not a democracy."
"Communist," Rigor says snarky, not happy his own friend has to punish him to appeal to his people.
"Okay!" Jack addresses the crowd. "We're going to do as you wish and punish Rigor Mortis, but we're not going to rob him of his soul. Before I make my suggestion, does anyone have any suggestions of their own?"
Thousands of hands go up. Jack says, "That does not include crushing his soul." And hundreds of hands go down.
Rigor laughs. "Ha! Try your best."
"May I make a suggestion, please?" one of the ghosts holding him says. "A shower wouldn't kill him."
Rigor scowls at his captor malevolently. "Oh, no! Anything but that!" Rigor is deathly afraid of water.
Standing next to Jack, a Cyclops who appears to have swamp thing ancestors says, "That Mortis guy is kidding, right?"
Jack makes a smug look, almost pity. "No. He's not."
Jack turns his attention back to everyone. "I'm afraid we're going to have to do something much worse than a shower. I have a suggestion that's not as harsh as taking one's soul, but I think it's devastating enough. Rigor Mortis will be locked up in our jail for an unspecified amount of time."
The mob cheers, happy with that ruling, but Rigor is sick of this. He didn't want to take action and make Jack look weak, but he now feels he has no choice.
"Hey Jack, sorry I have to do this, bud. But I've had it with all this picking-on-Rigor talk."
With a cocky glance at his captors, Rigor executes a front sweeping motion with his leg, catapulting the ghost behind him against the building. Then he fires off energy from his hands into the remaining ghosts' chests that knocks them both away. Freed, he jets high into the sky
"Get him!" a yell screeches from the crowd.
The two witches set off on their brooms, the werewolf howls, and the mob runs towards Rigor as he darts at a dizzying speed between buildings, leaving them far behind. He flies back to the town square, lands in an alley and watches the two witches fly by. He lights a cigarette and takes a drag while turning away.
"So long, suckers."
Seeing the mob run after the escapee on screen, Dr. Vigor moves back, pulls on the chain again. The telescope retracts and the cable goes back into the ceiling. He rolls back over to the car.
"Nice people," Sam says sarcastically.
"They may be scary, but they do mean well," Dr. Vigor says, then turns to the Dimension Machine. "Gotta make a few readjustments before we set off for the Afterlife to look for your sister."
"Brother," Sam corrects.
"Does that rule apply to me?"
"The one about being sent to jail for trespassing."
"Nah! That applies only to people like Rigor Mortis. The worst thing we can do to you is to behead you." He's only pulling her leg, but Sam doesn't get the joke.
"What?" Sam yelps.
'Shouldn't have said that', he thinks. 'Might as well tell her the truth.'
"Rigor Mortis is a different case. For you, we would just send you back to the dimension you came from. You're not the problem around here. The Afterlife is, with their discrimination. I don't know. I loathed politics when I was alive and the feeling is still very much the same being dead. Come and I'll show you how to help me with the preparations."
"Come child, come to me. You look cold, hungry, maybe even scared."
Luke is outside a dark alleyway. All he can see of this creature behind the voice is its deep, but frightening yellow eyes.
"No, thanks. Two out of those three are right, but I can manage on my own," Luke says backing away.
Then a giant, black, slimy arm comes out, grabs him and pulls, but Luke grabs hold of the corner of a brick building next to him.
"What do you want?!" Luke yells.
"Food! I'm hungry!"
Luke looks over and spots a large figure in the distance. "Hey!" Luke points, almost loses his grip and holds onto the building again. "There's a big guy over there! Eat him!"
"On a diet!"
"Even ghosts are having a fitness craze?!"
Above Luke, a man in a black trench coat, standing at the ledge of a high building, is watching the streets. He spots Luke in trouble and descends from above at amazing speed. He lands with such force that a strong wind almost breaks Luke's hold on the building. The man raises his arm, squints his eyes in concentration and a bolt of energy comes out of his hand, hitting the hungry creature that has Luke in its grip right between the eyes. The thing groans in pain, scuttles away and topples trashcans in its path.
The man goes to Luke and helps him up.
"Hey, thanks, officer." Luke first assumes the man who saved him must be a cop, but then realizes that's a thought from his world. "Wait. You guys don't call them cops here."
"Technically, the correct term is 'Guardians.'"
"Oh, right. I knew that."
"You need to be careful out here in the Afterlife. There's a lot more dangers here than one might think. Take that," he points to the alleyway that sheltered the hungry creature, "as a lesson to your new reality." He then walks away.
Luke looks scared for a moment but then grins. "That was so killer!"
Wandering through the streets, Luke comes across an information booth. Scrawled on a wall is that same offer: "Need help adjusting to the Afterlife?" There's an old man behind the booth's counter who greets him.
Luke nods. "Yeah, how do I contact this 'Need help adjusting' service? Because I'm new to the Afterlife and I do need some …"
"Stop," the old man interrupts.
"Not again," Luke mutters, thinking he's about to be told the same thing the bartender told him. Stay away from him.
"Look, you seem like a nice kid. Not many people can handle this guy. He's cruel, he's rude, he spits, he smokes, and he's not your ordinary Ghost Adventures spirit that tells you to 'Get out' and that's it. He'll cause you more trouble than you can imagine."
"What's his name?"
The clerk looks around and whispers, "Rigor Mortis. But I strongly advise you that there are better ways to learn how to adjust to the Afterlife than getting mixed up with him."
"Why are you telling me his name if you're warning me to stay away from him?"
"If you know his name, you'll know who to look for to stay away from. He's a troublemaker."
Luke smirks. He's going to try and look for him. "Thanks for the help."
The clerk notices a silent alarm going off. A screen pops up with all of Luke's vitals, confirming Luke is alive. He glares at him suspiciously.
Luke looks at the man awkwardly. "Everything okay?"
"Yes." The man smiles. "Everything is fine. Do enjoy your time here in the Afterlife."
"One more thing if you don't mind. Where can I find this Mortis guy? Actually, it's more of I want to know where he lives, so I can stay away from him." The clerk tells him and bids Luke a safe Afterlife. As soon as Luke is out of sight, he picks up a phone and dials a few numbers before he simply says these few words:
"We have the living here in the Afterlife."
After the old man hangs up, he looks at the phone sadly, as if regretting making
The directions the man at the information booth took Luke on the outskirts of the city. Good thing a couple good Samaritans offered Luke a ride. Before Luke arrived, a mailman with only one arm and a mailbag walks up to a tombstone with a mailbox next to it. He looks like he was viciously attacked by three or more dogs in his life. One of his eyes is wide open, the other is gone, leaving only a nasty looking hole.
He is clearly frightened as he looks at the mailbox. Reaching into the bag, his hand shakes violently. He pulls out a few envelopes and slowly reaches for the lid. Holding his breath, he pauses with his hand on the lid, then breathes again when nothing happens. He sighs with relief and very gently slides the mail through the opening. But before he can release the envelopes, the box shakes violently and the lid sprouts vicious teeth in a gaping mouth. Stretching from its wooden post, the box snatches the mailman in its shark-like jaws and swallows him whole. Luke is dropped off a few seconds later, unaware of the drama that had just taken place. He stands near the grave with its mailbox on the top of a small hill. There is a moss-covered tree to the left of the tombstone. At the right is a billboard with a large wanted poster with a picture of cocky smiling Rigor Mortis.
'For a guy whose name is so cursed by everyone, he doesn't keep much of a low profile,' Luke thinks to himself.
He walks up to the tombstone with Rigor Mortis chiseled into it. On top of the tombstone are three stone skeletons. Luke looks at them closely. The ones on each end grasp small, rusty metal swords pointed downward in their bony hands, but it's the one in the middle that really catches his attention. This skeleton holds a shining scythe. Fascinated, Luke reaches out to touch the glittering blade, once he touches it, the scythe goes down and presses it down. Chain sounds rise from beneath the earth startling Luke to step back. It's a good thing he did. The earth in front of the tombstone slides back, and as it does, Luke sees the skeletons' swords rising. When the ground stops moving, Luke cautiously approaches the hole where solid ground used to be. Peering into the earth, Luke can see nothing in the darkness.
"I can't see a thing—"
Suddenly he hears a noise like branches breaking. The moss-covered tree is reaching out to him with branchy hands. An unlit torch lies in its twigs, then explodes into fiery light. The tree leans closer to Luke, clearly offering the torch. Luke hesitates for a moment before he grabs it. "Um … thanks."
The tree makes an "okay" gesture with a twiggy hand, pulls its branch back and resumes the appearance of a dead, moss-covered tree. Luke looks from the tree down to the shadowy stairs. Fortifying himself with a deep breath, he begins his descent into the darkness. Meanwhile, far below in Rigor's underground home are two of his roommates. One is a doll of a girl named Nancy. Cute and petite, she is an actual doll who was possessed by a troubled demon child in an Asian factory when the company manufactured a new doll named Cutesy Tootsie. When word got out about this new doll that demonstrated some disturbing characteristics, the government ordered all the dolls burned. And they were ... except one. Nancy found a portal to the Afterlife in a cemetery one night when running from the authorities and found the ad about Rigor Mortis' services. She took him up on the offer and has since lived with him as more of a maid than a roommate. Nancy is complaining. "Does that scum bum, Mortis, know how to clean his own house? What am I, his maid?"
Sitting on the couch is a man holding a newspaper up to his face. But wait, this man doesn't have a head. His face is right on his chest. Nobody is sure exactly how this happened, but when he arrived in the Afterlife waiting room, he had a nuclear technician nametag on his shoulder. But most of the nametag was burned away; all that remained was "Chest." Hence his new name, "Chest Face." He lets go of the newspaper and picks up the yearbook that had given Mortis the idea of visiting his old school chum, Jack, in Hollow Hill. Chest Face says, "I don't understand why Rigor would want a thing to do with this Jack Relic guy. Who is he? It says here that his only friend is Rigor, but his grades are out of this world. Smart fellow, it seems like, and definitely not the type Rigor hangs out with."
"I don't know. Can't that moron clean up his own mess? I mean this is so like, freaking disgusting." When she says, "disgusting," her one-piece dress turns from a red and fancy frock into a black, raggedy dress. Her curly, blonde hair becomes a long, black greasy mess. Making her way into the Afterlife did not totally exorcise the demon she was possessed by, and when Nancy gets angry that energy gives the demon the power to cause this shape shifting. The changes remain until her anger subsides. Nancy looks down at herself, seeing the shape she's in. She sighs deeply, closes her eyes, takes a few deep breaths and her prettier appearance returns. "All I know about Jack Relic is that he was Rigor's only friend," Nancy answers Chest Face. There's a knock on the front door. Nancy looks over at Chest Face who is now reading Graveyard Wenches magazine with a smirk. "Chest Face? Can you be a dear and go get that, please?" He ignores her, gazing at the Afterlife's equivalent of a nudie magazine. "Fine! I'll go get it!" Her angry energy causes her eyes to turn red. She stomps toward the door, then pauses, makes the effort and her eyes return to normal. Feeling like her own cheerful self, she skips the rest of the way. "Can I help you?" she asks sweetly after opening the door to Luke. "Um, hi," Luke says, taken aback at the sight of this living doll. "Hello there, stranger. What a glorious evening we're having, wouldn't you say?" She blinks her eyelashes in a flirty way. "Yeah, it is. I must have the wrong address. I'm looking for someone." "Well, who is it that you're looking for, you adorable young man?" "Thank you, I'm looking for a Rigor Mortis." Her hand slaps down from the door handle, her eyes turn red and her black hair goes down her sides like snakes. She floats into the air and bellows, "Don't mention that scuz bucket's name in my presence, you butt-munch!" She comes back to the ground and runs out of the room, leaving a trail of fire behind her. Luke's jaw drops and he mutters, "What the hell was that?" Chest Face suddenly appears in the doorway, surprising Luke. "Why are you looking for Rigor?" he asks "I've been told he's one of the best guides of the Afterlife." "He's disappeared. Haven't seen him since morning." "Does he have a cell phone?" "Oh yeah, I didn't think of that." Chest Face grabs an old fashioned rotary telephone. He dials a number and puts the phone to an ear embedded in his chest. A few feet away in a coat closet, a rather annoying ringtone plays. He hangs up the phone and says, "There's your answer. Strange too, he always has his cell phone on him just in case one of his 'babes' calls him, but they never do. Well, they do, but it's usually to remind him of court dates." Luke's pretty bummed out about this. Ever since he was a kid he always dreamt of seeing what a ghost world, if there is one, looked like. He's here now and he wants the best to show him around. He's really started to think that maybe he would like to learn enough about the Afterlife so he could go back and get Sam. The two of them would be a whole lot happier here. "Do you know when he'll be back?" "You seem very anxious to meet him." "Yeah, I'd like to learn about the Afterlife as much as possible." Chest Face nods. "Yeah, this place is pretty hard to handle. I'll tell you what, there is another way to call Rigor, but you must do and say what I tell you."