THE GHOUL IN:
I'm caught in a trap.
America's in the same scenario, sat looking stupid as it waits for it to spring, this whole country spiraling towards the war in Europe whether it wants to get involved or not. The screams of our brothers in Europe acting as a warning of the horrors to come, it'll be something simple. A convoy accidentally fired on, that mustached jerk over in Germany offending Roosevelt, it'll happen any day now. I'm not sure when... but soon. Very soon. There's going to be a war in the streets, blood will spill in the gutter, and if we're not careful this whole city is going to drown. These people aren't ready for a war, but me? I'll be ready.
My stomach screams.
This trap I'm caught in isn't one that I'm accustomed to. Metal clings to my hands, cold yet firm, and from somewhere nearby the scent of roasted meat catches my nostrils. I shift uncomfortably in my seat, unsure about everything that's going on around me, and then the door to the room gets flung open and I see the face of my captor.
"Breakfast!" Ms Crouch, my landlady, yells as she slides a round plate in front of me, steaming hot from its content. "Do eat up, dear." She says before starting to hobble back towards the exit, old, aching legs matching the rest of her body. On my plate is a group of sausages, scrambled eggs and baked beans, the best meal I've had in ages. Normally I don't wake up until around 6:30 in the afternoon, and then I either grab a bite from one of the street vendors outside, or I just don't eat. Recently, however, the streets of New York have been quiet, thanks to all the new costumed heroes cropping up, so for once, I've been able to catch a bit of rest.
"God bless you, fair woman." I say, already bringing a fork full of food to my mouth and stuffing it inside. "But... ou need'abt ob fothered."
"'Course I should have, Mister Walters!" She says by the door, giving me a strange, knowing wink. "You're always so cynical in the mornings! Sit down and enjoy life for once!"
The door to my room slams shut, causing dust to fall form the ceiling that makes me groan. I take another long look at my breakfast and in a couple of minutes it's all gone, and I give off a long sigh before deciding to get down to business. My case book's already on the table, a to-do list for the evening, and I'm just going through and planning what criminal scum I'm going to pay a visit to first, when something pops into my mind.
A voice, not my own, and not of this world, says: "Help me."
I sit dumbfounded, looking around my room for a sign of some mysterious intruder, and when I see nothing, I chalk it off to growing old and begin to stand up out of my chair. Only for the voice to come back and speak again.
"Please help me." The voice bounces off the walls of my mind, impossible to ignore, and forces me to spring up to my feet like I've been jabbed in the spine.
"Alright. Who's there?!" I yell, clenching my fists and glaring up at the ceiling in search of some unseen specter. "Come on out! Now!"
There's a clicking in my brain, one I realize sounds just like gunfire. There's screaming, coming from someone else, and then there's a deadly silence.
"I can't... I'm... I'm not there. Please. Please you have to help. They're coming."
I move to the window, glaring cautiously out at the streets. "Well where are you?" It's all quiet, not just in my mind but in the street, people going about their business on a nice, cold day. "Tell me where you are so that I can help."
"Beak Street!" My head nearly explodes from the scream, in fact I nearly faint, falling against the wall to balance myself. "Please! Please! I'm in the Pharmacy at Beak Street!" He screams again, long and painful making me wince. "Please! You've got t-"
Something screeches, like an amplified, out of tune radio. The connection between my mind and the messenger's is severed, and I slump down to the ground, sweating from the pressure placed on my psyche. "Jesus." I rub my head, which has started throbbing and aching. A thought passes me by. "Why do I always get the weird stuff?" Then I remember the message's scream for help, and a fire lights in my eyes.
I get up to grab my goggles.
It takes a couple of minutes for me to get dressed. I grab the essentials, donning my coat, my mask, hat, and my spotless gloves. Before donning my goggles I have a quick glance in the mirror, and wonder whether or not I'm going insane. There's only one way to find out.
Stepping downstairs, I move to the front door, dressed in full uniform and find myself being called by my landlord.
"Mister Walters!" She yells from somewhere else in the building, surrounded by the sound of clanging pots and pans. "Or is it Mister Ghoul I'm talkin' to?"
My hand twitches on the door knob, desperate for action. "Mister Ghoul." I answer, voice shifting into the deeper tones that have spread fear into the hearts of many.
"Oh. Well if you're not back by midnight don't bother coming back!"
I give a silent nod before stepping out into the street, familiar with the rules set upon the building. One thing I'm not familiar with, however, is wearing my outfit in broad daylight. I've done it before but never this early, and judging from the odd looks I get as soon as I step onto the sidewalk, I know it's going to be an odd day.
Beak Street is only a couple of blocks away, a fact I'm glad for, as all heads in the street swivel towards me. A deathly silence fills the air, and I instantly know that I'm making a mistake. This is going to end with me locked up in a jail cell, alongside the countless criminals I've put away over the last year.
Nighttime and daytime are two different worlds, with two different people, I belong to the former. It's strange seeing New York City during the day, seeing people actually be happy rather than the misery that usually permeates the place like an infection. A woman carries her newborn son in a pram, a fairly uncommon sight for a freak like myself. Even the people driving their cars have stopped to glare at me, and taking advantage of the pause I cross the street and shove my hands into my pockets, keeping my head down low, and somehow I manage to blend into the crowds.
At one point a police officer catches sight of me from across the street and our eyes meet for a moment. I recognize him from the precinct, David Pace, and there's a second of hesitation. The police aren't a big fan of my operations, and while there hasn't been an outright conflict between myself and the NYPD, it wouldn't surprise me if the end of my career comes from the bullet of a police officer, rather than the knife of a gang member. For some reason David gives me a smile, chuckles to himself and carries on with his patrol, pretending he didn't see me and just leaves me feeling very confused.
I'm probably not worth the effort.
Beak Street looms around the corner, containing unknown dangers that are probably far beyond me. I take a deep breath, step around the corner and feel thankful that the street is mostly empty. Up in the sky, snow starts to fall, drifting softly down from above. Ignoring it, I move towards the pharmacy at the end of the street and see blood on the ground. Not much, but the red marks are there, and obvious. The door to the pharmacy lies open, someone's body lying in the way and keeping the thing open. Cautious, I pull the empty revolver from my coat pocket and step into the building, searching for the man who called me, and only finding a massacre.
Bullets cover the floor, kept company by the bodies of the men and women they've murdered. All of the dead were the pharmacy's staff, yet immediately something feels off about the whole thing. Pills and bottles cover the floor, and my mind begins to race, looking at everything in search of any potential clues. Something catches my eye, so I holster my weapon and walk over to a shelf, covered in dust except for one small section. Instinctively I press down on the shelf, causing the wood to shift downward, and the sound of gears shifting begins to fill my ears.
Behind me, the pharmacy counter begins to rise up into the air, revealing a hidden staircase, and a sense of dark excitement begins to fill my stomach as I find myself being lured down the rabbit hole. At the bottom of the staircase lies some sort of lab, a testing facility, stinking of filthy chemicals and other odors I'd rather ignore. There's a table fitted with restraints, and as I move further down the stairs, I notice something painted on the wall in big, black letters.
U.S. Government Testing Facility
That's when the trap gets sprung.