"About god damn time," Greco sighs, thrusting the folder into your hands.\n\n"Catch the next Thirteen and get back here as soon as you're done. Try not to take too long, I hate when you waste my fuckin' time. Oh, and one more thing..."\n\nYou turn back toward him in time to see him digging an eyeball out of his puffy face. He tosses it at you and it hits the floor with a small wet 'splut' before sprouting wiry black legs and scuttling up your pant leg. It considers you ponderously for a moment before nestling down into your pocket.\n\n"Do a good job. You're on review." Greco grins toothily, even the gaping eye-socket seeming to express his sadistic mirth.\n\nYou groan and turn, leaving the offices and heading for the [[train station|Train]].
You slip into the walk-in closet behind the man, who is searching for something at the bottom of a shelf built into the wall. He slides a shoe box out onto the floor, and you immediately know what he's come for.\n\nThings have now gotten serious; it's not uncommon for a routine haunting to go awry the moment some idiot skinhead pulls a gun and starts trying to shoot the fear away. You cannot let this terrified man put a bullet in his wife or his son. Your mission is to scare them, not to kill anybody, and if one of them were to die, they'd come looking for you. The last thing you need right now is a new enemy.\n\nHe opens the lid of the box and pulls out a semi-automatic handgun. You take a breath and close your eyes, preparing for a decisive expenditure of ectoplasm. Time to act.\n\n-[[Turn the closet into an unending abyss|Void]]\n-[[Turn the closet into a gore-filled abattoir|Abattoir]]\n-[[Turn the closet into a furious hellscape|Hellscape]]
You don't want to waste any time-- you decide to get their attention right off the bat. Looking around for a moment, trying to decide a good point of origin for your cacophony, you eventually settle on the fridge. How poetically disturbing, you decide, to start hearing something coming from inside the refrigerator while in the middle of a meal.\n\nYou slip through the refrigerator and close your eyes, gathering up your ecto and pushing it toward your center of mass, keeping it close to your lungs. Once satisfied, you open your mouth and begin to wail. The sound starts low and quickly builds, the mean combination of a human scream, a shrieking cat, heavy digital interference, the pained moan of dying woman, the desperate bloody gargling of a dying man.\n\nThe family's collective nerve dissolves in seconds, Junior staring wide-eyed at the fridge as mommy dearest enfolds his head in her arms. All three get up from their seats, mother and son making their way for the exit; to your surprise, however, the man is coming straight toward the fridge. Acting quickly, you expend a reserve of precious ectoplasm to manifest a temporary hallucination at the moment the desperate man opens the fridge door: the inner walls of the refrigerator slick with blood and gore, and in the center of the appliance a clotted mass of throbbing tumescent viscera with an open-mouthed human face.\n\nThe man immediately begins to scream, slamming the fridge shut and fleeing the room with his family in tow. //Close call//, you think to yourself, and take a moment to gather up some [[ectoplasm|Ecto]].
Another cold, rainy Stygian afternoon.\n\nRainy, anyway. That much you can observe. Cold is a different matter; the dead are insensate to things like ambient temperature. For better or worse. But everything sure fucking looks cold, the way a day-old corpse looks after being pulled out of a river, pale and slick.\n\nYou tip your head back and wipe brackish water from your brow. The black skyline crawls with movement and shimmers with the criss-crossing mesh of mile-long gossamer webs; the [[loathespiders|Spiders]] are out in force.
Most of the dead belong to a hand-full of castes that have been around since time immemorial. There are Spooks, like yourself, who specialize in harassing the living. Gremlins are inclined toward machines and electricity. Ghouls are the only ones among the dead who can actually steal objects from the Skinlands and bring them back to Stygia. Sculptors can change the shape of a dead man's soul, give them wings or claws or a new face. Haints fly like dead sparrows, watching everything that goes on in the world below them. Angels, however, are a new phenomenon; nobody is quite sure what they do, only that they all have the same black wings and empty eye-sockets.\n\nAn Alley street-gypsy told you all of this, as well as the fact that to bind an Angels wings is to bind their soul and strip them of their power. The gypsy didn't have to tell you that the Empire considers them extremely dangerous, and regularly sends out platoons of [[Horsemen]] to find and exterminate them en masse.\n\n[[((Back))|Angel]]
The ghoul grins and laughs, a slick, guttering sound that you immediately wish would stop.\n\n"Gimme two for it, haunter!"\n\nYou reach into your pocket and fish out a couple of Styx, setting them cautiously in the ghoul's hand. He drops the knife on the ground and darts away, muttering and laughing to himself.\n\nYou lean down and pick up the knife, turning it over in your hand for a moment or two before slipping it into a pocket. It's probably too small to be useful, but it's pretty and you like sharp things.\n\nAfter a couple more minutes of silence, the Thirteen finally rolls into the station, squealing and hissing as it slows to a stop and opens its doors. You stand, stretch for a second, and [[board|Thirteen]] the train.\n\n<<set $hasKnife = true>>
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You once met a gremlin hawking haunted warez at an open market in Black Hand Alley. After sitting and hearing his dissertation about the similarities between Stygia and a massively multiplayer online game, he taught you a few interesting tricks that you could use on electronic devices in the Skinlands for a bit of extra fun. "The flesh-and-blood world's a modern place, dude," you remember him saying. "You're never more than ten feet away from something digital to fuck with."\n\nAnd sure enough, there sits father dearest talking dazedly into his cell phone. You slide back toward the nearest wall and lower yourself down, placing your hand over an electrical outlet to attune yourself. Then, closing your eyes and eating up some ecto, you begin.\n\nThe lights are the first to go, and the family is immediately put on edge. The room now cast in darkness, you turn on the widescreen television on top of the armoire and let it display a pattern of white noise and grainy, violent imagery; home video footage of torture, mangled corpses, the usual. Junior is immediately transfixed, his mother trying desperately to pull his attention away. Father begins telling the story to whoever's on the other end of the phone, so you replace the incoming voice with garbled, washed-out screams of pain. He cries out and drops the phone.\n\nThere's a beauty to the subtlety of this kind of haunting; while the family isn't exactly terrified, you have done irreversible damage by ensuring that none of them ever feel safe around any modern appliance again. True horror lasts.\n\nFather, deciding it's time to take some form of action, stands and makes his way slowly toward the darkened closet. You collect a few loose strands of ecto and [[follow him in|Closet]].
Greco stares at you for a moment.\n\n"You hit your head or somethin', knock loose the little sense you had? He's a Sculptor, not a Spook. They can't go up and mess around in the Skinlands the way we can. Most he can do is watch. They got the market cornered on twisting shit up down here, but ain't a damn thing he can do on the other side."\n\n[[((Back))|Job]]
You push the encounter from the club to the far corners of your mind as you make your way back to Spookhouse and head up the stairs. Greco looks up from his desk when you walk in, evidently surprised to see you.\n\n"Well hey there, hotshot. Back so soon?"\n\nHe motions with his hand, and you feel a wriggling in your pocket; the eye he had assigned to you at the beginning of the mission crawls off of you and makes its way back toward him. He replaces it in his skull and leans back for a few moment, watching the replay against the canvas of his closed eyelid. He cracks a smile, watching the haunting play out, laughing here and there. "Ha, ha, ha. This is why I keep you around, kiddo. You're inventive. Good job up there, the client will be very pleased." He opens his eyes and turns his head toward you, beaming.\n\n"Good enough to pay me?" you assert. Greco looks wounded, but begins shuffling around in his desk. He produces a small black drawstring bag of some crude material, tossing it toward you. Coins jangle from within. You smile.\n\n"Come back in a week, I'll have something new for ya," he promises as he turns away. "But for now, do me a favor and fuck off."\n\nNot wanting to spend another moment in the bloated manspider's presence, you [[oblige|Street]] his request.
Unadorned black stages curl like dead animals around a crowd of darkened shark-mouthed onlookers, each with a different dancing woman. Their corpses all retain the telltale deathsigns; the smallish brunette with the bullet holes in her stomach, the confident-looking blonde with rope-burns around her neck. You admire them. \n\nMost clubs would hire Sculptors to corpsecraft the marks away, but this one caters to a more 'specific' demographic. However, while most of the goggle-eyed specters around you view the deathsigns as fetishistic turn-ons, you can't help but appreciate them for the candid sincerity they imply. You still wear a scarf to keep the gash on your throat hidden.\n\nThe music hits a slowdown and the leftmost stage empties. After a few empty moments, [[she|She]] walks out, blindfold on, black wings furled against her back. She begins dancing, slowly, beautifully, but not in a way that inspires rampant necrolust. As such, she doesn't attract much attention.\n\nYou flicker through the crowd and take a [[seat|Angel]] in front of her.
Why not start in with a classic? No matter what else anyone can say about you, they can't criticize your taste. You press yourself back against the wall and let your fingers slip under the skin of the tangible. The high corners of the walls begin to darken, staining deep maroon. Daddy's the first to notice, his eyes trailing slowly up to the far corner of the room. Still chewing, he wipes his hand on the napkin in his lap, standing and placing it on the table before walking toward the wall. You can see him trying to convince himself it's some kind of leak from a broken pipe.\n\n"What in the world is--" his wife begins, but she cuts herself short with a high, clipped yelp when a line of blood drags itself across her shoulder. You might as well get it going from the ceiling too.\n\nYou smile to yourself. //Everything bleeds.//\n\nPanic follows shortly as the family backs hastily from the dinner table, watching frantically as thick trails of blood slide down the walls, dripping liquid stalactites lowering from the ceiling to the ground. Junior clings wide-eyed to mother's leg while she yells for hubby, who immediately begins to usher them out of the room. Soon the kitchen is a glistening abattoir. You smile proudly at your work. You never get tired of this one.\n\nThe family is out of the room quickly, scrambling up the stairs. The air of the kitchen and small dining room is crowded with sweet, sweet [[ectoplasm|Ecto]].
The walls and ceiling slip away without so much as a sound, leaving the man on a floor that seems to spend endlessly into infinite blackness. He looks up, eyes wide, and goes still. There is no recognition in his eyes; it is clear that he cannot make sense of his surroundings. No rational mind could, and his is no different. He stands slowly, gun in hand, and stares out into the void. The floor drops away, and suddenly he is spinning, weightless, that same look of empty confusion set on his features. The gun slips from his fingers as his mind retreats from his body. He falls for minutes that stretch like hours, and soon he is as the void; mute, empty and torpid.\n\nYou look down at his body sprawled across the closet floor, perfectly still, eyes agape. He's not going anywhere, but unfortunately he's also not giving off any ecto.\n\nExhausted, you leave the closet. The woman and child, you are surprised to find, are gone. You're unsure how long you spent in the void; they must have fled. As soon as the man comes to his senses, he'll leave the house and never go back to it, or anywhere within three blocks of it. Mission [[accomplished|Home again]].
The train lurches to a stop, jostling you forward out of your seat and waking you. You've made it to the Skinlands.\n\nYou step off the train and onto a subway platform; looking back over your shoulder, the Thirteen is gone, replaced by a normal subway train. A thin crowd of the living is shifting around you, some boarding the train, some disembarking. Of course none of them see you.\n\nYou open the folder you've kept folded double in your coat pocket and thumb through the vital job information. The address is nearby, maybe a fifteen minute walk. You tuck the folder back into your coat and start off.\n\nThe trip is quick and uneventful, and you're reminded of how utterly banal the skinlands are. Stygia is a consistently fucked-up and dangerous place, but at least interesting things happen on a fairly regular basis.\n\nYou stand before a house matching the photograph in the folder. Looks like this is the [[place|House]].
The air flashes hot and red, and the man looks up from the gun in his hand. He no longer sees his familiar closet walls, his suits, his coats, his shirts and pants; he sees, stretched for miles before him, is a scorched and bloody landscape that seethes and churns, whole vistas of throbbing fleshly geography rising and falling like a molten sea. The sky is black and rimmed with toxic yellow clouds, and red lightning flashes to expose the silhouettes of twisted crags and splintered towers all along the horizon. The cries of wretched birds rend the air, and blood flows down the sides of distant scabrous mountains. The whole world seems to groan, rolling and twisting.\n\nThe man doesn't scream, or even stand. He simply looks all around himself for a few long moments before his conscious mind seems to abandon hope. He falls backward, his breathing shallow, his senses gone.\n\nYou look down at his sprawled form on the floor of the walk-in closet and narrow your eyes. Barely a drop of ecto for all that effort; he shut down too quickly. Still, just as soon as he wakes up he's going to run as far as he can and never look back. You slip out of the closet and see that his wife and child have already split the scene. Despite your exhaustion and ecto-emptiness, you smile to yourself for a job well done. The house is empty. Mission [[accomplished|Home again]].
Greco slides open the drawer of his desk and produces a manilla folder, setting it in front of you.\n\n"Pretty basic stuff, really. House used to belong to a pretty influential Sculptor who wants it kept unoccupied until he can tie up all his loose strings, and he is paying us //very// generously to help him with that. Take a train up, find the house, scare 'em shitless and empty the place out."\n\n-[["Who's the Sculptor?"|The Sculptor]]\n-[["What 'loose strings' are you talking about?"|Loose Strings]]\n-[["Who're the people in the house now?"|People]]\n-[["What's so special about the house?"|The House]]\n-[["Why can't the Sculptor do it himself?"|Himself]]\n-[["Alright, I'm ready."|Eye]]\n
You walk for half a mile before finally making it to the station for the Thirteen line. You must've just missed it; looking up into the bleak sky, you can see the last train speeding along the tracks that point straight up like a miles-long ladder to the other side. No big deal, another one will be around in ten.\n\nYou park it on a bench off to the side of the platform and do your best to be innocuous. It works for a few minutes, until a grinning little hunchback sidles up to you, taking gurgling, watery little breaths as he rubs his hands and stares. A [[ghoul|Ghoul]] by the smell of him.\n\n"Wanna buy something? Got lots of things, things you want, things you need."\n\n-[["Fuck off."|Fuck Off]]\n-[["What've you got?"|What've you got]]\n-[[Ignore the ghoul.|Ignore]]
"Shit, nothin', I guess. Probably just sentimental value. I don't get paid to pry into that kind of shit and neither do you."\n\n[[((Back))|Job]]
Maybe the lowest form of life down in Stygia, Ghouls are people who didn't make it through the death process with all their cards in the deck. About the one thing they're good for is going to the skinlands and bringing things back with them; nobody's quite sure how they manage to do this, but it's something nobody else can do, and is the only reason they're tolerated.\n\nThis one smells like a wet rat with a skin infection. He's oggling you deliriously.\n\n[[((Back))|Train]]
You head downstairs and step out onto the porch, sitting for a few moments, still woozy from ecto-drain. A siren wails in the distance. None of the family can be seen from here; they're long gone. You take Greco's folder out and thumb through its pages, making sure there aren't any additional requirements. Satisfied that you're done here, you rest a few moments longer before standing and making your way back toward the [[train station|Streets]].
The car is mostly empty, so it doesn't take long for you to find a seat and settle back. You close your eyes and take a breath, going over your conversation with Greco in your head. You wonder what it is that makes certain people Spooks and certain people Haints and certain people Sculptors. You guess as long as you didn't turn out a Ghoul then it's probably not worth dwelling on.\n\nThe train howls as its doors shut, and it begins to move forward, slowly at first, building speed quickly. Soon it's ascending the tracks, and Stygia is disappearing behind/underneath you. You close your eyes and allow yourself to drift off, the black steel carriage hurtling you onward to the land of the [[living|Skinlands]].
The private police of the Stygian Empire, brawny armored men with the heads of horses. They are uniquely skilled in the ground-up destruction of the dead, and as such are feared universally. If a group of Horsemen shows up, something very serious has gone down.\n\n[[((Back))|Angels]]
"He's our client, and that's all you need to know. He swings a lot of clout down here, and if he wants to pay us to clear out a house up there, then that's what we do. And trust me, he will pay."\n\n[[((Back))|Job]]
The bed is an age-old symbol of safety; a place to retreat to from the terrors of everday life, to go for respite in times of duress. In childhood, people crawl into bed and pull their blankets over their eyes and the outside world is shut out, negated, protected against. The living will spend nearly a third of their entire lives in bed, and it is the most vulnerable time of a person's life, and yet there is a sanctuary in the comfort and security a bed provides.\n\nUntil you fuck it up, anyway.\n\nYou slink to the foot of the bed and dip your hands into the fabric, pushing down past the physical matter and into the essence of the object. A few moments and a small expenditure of ecto later and the sheets are roiling like a thick, angry sea; junior and mama are looking panicked, clutching at each other for support.\n\nTurning things up a notch, you throw a few ghostly hands into the mix, stretching up from the bedsheets and enclosing around the outstretched wrists and ankles of the two. Mother screams, which jerks father away from his conversation just in time to see your final contribution; a gaping, void-dark mouth that opens vertically along the surface of the bed, immediately underneath the screaming pair. They instantly drop into the fissure and it begins to close around them, elevating their screams to a fever pitch.\n\nThe man begins shouting his son's name, groping desperately for any limb or extremity he can pull to yank his wife and son back to the surface. You decide to dispel the illusion; if he kept at it too long he'd realize that nothing was actually happening to them. You can't really hurt these people, as badly as you'd like to sometimes.\n\nIn an instant it's over and the three are huddling together on the bed, the mussed sheets the only indication of any struggle. Father stands from the bed and begins shuffling toward the closet.\n\nYou grab up a few loose strands of ecto to keep yourself going, then head in [[after him|Closet]].
You pretend not to hear the ghoul. He continues to stare at you for a few minutes, working his mouth and breathing loudly. After a while he gets the idea and ambuls away.\n\nIt isn't long before the Thirteen shows up, squealing to a stop with a long, languid hiss before opening its doors. You stand, stretch for a moment, and [[board|Thirteen]].
"The hell should I know? You got yours, I got mine, he's got his. Probably the house has got somethin' to do with his. Maybe he needs it empty in order to finish his business, or maybe he's just a rat-fuck who hates seeing the living scuffing up the floors of his old house. I didn't ask because it's none of my fuckin' business, and it's none of yours, neither."\n\n[[((Back))|Job]]
You first saw her a week ago after you stepped into the bar for the first time to get off the street and out from under an ashstorm. Like now, nobody was paying her much attention, but she struck you immediately as indescribably beautiful, and more than a little out of place. Most noteworthy were her wings, large and feathered, the shimerring blue-black of a grackle's head. At first you thought they might be corpsecraft, but they had none of the typical marks. They were too unblemished, too...\n\nAlive.\n\n[[((Back))|Club]]
The ghoul winces at your clipped response and shrinks back like he expects to be hit. You fix your eyes on him, and he quickly turn and slinks off. Fuckin' ghouls, man.\n\nMinutes later and the Thirteen finally arrives, squealing into the station and stopping with a loud hiss before opening its doors. You stand, stretch for a moment, then make your way [[aboard|Thirteen]].
In the vast majority of cases, a giant swarm of unusually large and wretched-looking spiders is apropos of absolutely nothing. But who gives a shit about that? Nearly all living human beings are terrified of spiders, and terror is your objective, not verisimilitude.\n\nThe bedroom is a nest of dark corners and niches. You shiver in anticipation as you sink to the floor and slip your fingers down into the carpet, under the skin of the room. It's exhausting; each spider is its own self-maintained hallucination, and the ecto demand is massive, but the ensuing chaos is worth every bit.\n\nYou draw upon the look of the Loathespiders back home; spindly and bulbous, with slick black exoskeletons and overlarge mandibles punctuated with the roots of human teeth. Of course, your Loathespiders won't be the size of a building face. They come from corners, from shadows, from under the bed, from any part of the room the light fails to reach. They slide down silvery webs, legs curled inward, and drop onto the bed, onto exposed shoulders, onto any visible surface.\n\nThe terror is immediate and intensely satisfying.\n\nThe wife releases her son immediately and begins to shriek, pressing her palms up into her eyes as though to push the thought of the spiders out of her own head. Father jumps when one of the spiders drops from the ceiling and slide-clings down his back, twisting and throwing himself backward against a wall. Junior especially seems to be having a difficult time, curling up and hyperventilating as he scoots backward to escape a spider that crawls ponderously toward him. The man is dismayed to find that all attempts to smash or kick away the spiders are met with failure. He shouts incoherently, jumping onto and over the bed and making for the closet.\n\nYou laugh to yourself as you gather up some of the delicious ecto rising up from the pair on the bed, then send the spiders back into their dark corners and [[follow|Closet]] the husband.
There's a rush of stale air as the Angel's wings unfurl, slinging curls of sharp metal wire in all directions. She immediately turns, propping herself up on her knees and grabbing your head, palms flat against your ears.\n\n//"YOU LITTLE COCKSUCKER, I'LL--"//\n\nShe opens her mouth and tilts her head back, and a sound rends the air, like all the beasts of Pandora's box howling in rage and indignation. The air shakes, electric and furious, and your stomach churns. Through the angel's hands you can hear faint thudding-popping noises, and you feel thin spatters against the back of your coat.\n\nThe noise stops. She releases your head. You turn to see that the club is now empty, the vacant floor doused in dripping black corpse-sludge, sprinkled with odds and ends; change, watches, lighters, loose articles. The other dancers are sitting on their stages, dazed but intact. They gather their wits and seize on the confusion, grabbing together what clothes they can find before running out to the street.\n\nYou hear glass shattering and feel a rush of air from behind you. When you turn around, the angel is gone, a few drifting feathers all that remain of her.\n\nYou stand up unsteadily and make your way toward the door, ditching your corpse-spattered jacket [[behind you|Job Complete]].
You find the family gathered together in the far corner of the master bedroom, mother and son curled together on the bed with shell-shocked expressions on their faces as daddy dearest speaks lowly to someone on the phone. His tone is less-than-officious, suggesting that he might have called a close friend for counsel rather than any of the living authorities.\n\n//Hope it helped//, you think, shaking out your arms and preparing yourself for round two.\n\n-[[Make the bed 'eat' the prostrate pair|Bed]]\n-[[Play with the electronic devices in the room|Gremlin]]\n-[[Spiderstorm|Spiderstorm]]
Your angel comes to you, wrapping her arms about your neck and enfolding you in her wings. She shifts, her wings sliding along the strands of web that ensnare you, and suddenly you are cut loose, held aloft in the arms of the blindfolded woman whose wings begin to beat again. You hold on to her for dear life, afraid to fall, unsure what happens to a ghost after a twelve-story drop. As before she shifts her arms to cover your ears, wrapping your head in a protective embrace. You turn to see the other twelve angels encircling the loathespider that had singled you out.\n\nThe angels all open their mouths and begin to howl.\n\nThe loathespider rears up on its great legs, raising its forelegs as though to strike, when its many eyes begin to burst, black ichor spraying from each wound. The air is a cacophonous storm of angels' voices, the whole world giving a great shudder as the loathespider detaches from the building to which it clung and falls. Stygia shakes when the spider hits the ground, crushing a number of small buildings and annihilating the pavement beneath it. A shrill screaming sound erupts from the spider for one long moment before its legs all curl inward and its movements cease. The loathespider is dead.\n\nThe angels stop singing, and Stygia is quieter than it's ever been, like the entire city has held its breath. The Loathespiders have existed forever, some say before Stygia itself. No one has ever seen one die, much less be killed.\n\nYour angel lowers you slowly to the rooftop of an apartment building, releasing you from her embrace and withdrawing to join the others. You watch after her as they all fly off, then look to the massive corpse of the loathespider that occupies the better part of the now-empty street below.\n\nStygia is changing, you think to yourself. It is changing, and you are a part of that change now.\n\nYou decide to head home and get some rest. It's going to be an eventful couple of weeks.\n\n//The End//
Sweet, sweet ecto. Nectar of the dead gods, Mother Ink's milk. Thick, vaporous strands of the green essence hang and twist languidly in the air of the small kitchen. It's the lifeblood of all ghostkind, and the living practically sweat the stuff. You reach out your hand and delicately weave your fingers through strand after strand, licking it off your fingers like syrupy smoke. You pause when you look down at a particularly large wisp and see the silhouette of a screaming, eyeless face. You smile. Terror produces the best ecto.\n\nFEAR HAS A FLAVOR, AND IT IS //DELICIOUS.//\n\nHaving drunk deeply the fruits of your labor, you follow the family [[upstairs|Upstairs]] to continue your nightmarish assault.
You think back to a conversation you had with another spook early on in your time in Stygia. An animatronics engineer in life, she had always been a fan of apparitions. "A figure in the darkness evokes dread like nothing else in the world," she told you, smiling wistfully. "It could be supernatural, or it could be natural-- they can't decide quite which at first. All they know is that it's watching them. You unnerve them that way right off the bat and the rest is smooth sailing."\n\nDeciding to test her logic, you slip through the patio door and turn to face the kitchen, looking in through the glass panes of the door. You concentrate momentarily, gathering up your ecto and weaving it into a watery, ethereal skinsuit. You decide to appear as a dirty, long-haired girl in a plain white shift, hair matted, eye-sockets empty, mouth mangled and gaping. You place your hand against the window pane and wait.\n\nSurprisingly, it's nearly a full minute before anyone notices your presence. Junior sees you first, eyes and mouth going wide as he begins to shriek. Mommy and daddy both jump in their seats, looking first to the boy and then to you. They pale instantly and you step back, releasing the illusion just as you step out of the small circle of orange porch-light.\n\nFor the next few minutes you watch their hectic conversation; junior pressing himself bodily into mommy's stomach, hubby opening the back door and pacing listlessly, his wife calling after him to call the police. You can tell by their panic that they all noticed that it wasn't just a living girl. That's good. The seed of the uncanny has taken root.\n\nJunior informs mommy that he can't stay in the room any more, so the entire family decides to head upstairs and phone the authorities. You shift through the patio door and take this moment to gather up some of the [[ectoplasm|Ecto]] that swims dreamily through the air.
She turns her blindfolded head toward you, understanding your presence without seeing it the way a moth understands the moon. She drifts toward you in her dance, her motions complimenting each whisper and beat of the slow song.\n\nYou have not spoken a word to her, never seen her more than once, until today anyway. But after the first time, you had to know more, because no way is she just another ghost.\n\nA few hours in [[Black Hand Alley]] were enough to teach you about the [[Angels]], and she stayed on your mind after that.\n\nShe leans forward, lowering her head toward you, sinking down against the stage.\n\n"You're an angel, aren't you?" You ask.\n\n"Yes," she whispers, and her voice runs like a current through your dead nerves. You cringe bodily, arch forward, try your damnedest not to scream or attract attention. It's been so long since you've //felt// anything and she did that with only her //voice//. You know instantly that she's telling the truth.\n\nShe flattens herself against the stage for moment before sitting up and turning away, showing the bundled-up feathermass of her wings. You can see silvery metallic strands looping and twining through them.\n\n<<if $hasKnife eq 1>>\nYou suddenly remember the knife in your pocket, the silvery little blade you bought from the strange ghoul in the subway. You slip your hand into your pocket and feel for it, extracting it and looking at it in your palm. It seems to glow in your hand, the glow intensifying as you move it closer to the strands of thread that bind the Angel's wings.\n\nYou begin to [[cut|Ascent]].\n<<else>>\nYour dead heart aches inside your chest. You wish tremendously that you could do something for the Angel, but you have no means of helping her, much less in front of an entire crowd of onlookers. You bow your head and stand from the stage, pushing your way back out of the club as quickly and quietly as you can.\n\nBack to [[business|Job Complete]], you think.\n<<endif>>
"Just some fuckin' skinheads, who cares? All the living look the same to me. Just get up there and scare the shit out of 'em. Shouldn't be too hard, there's only three of 'em. Daddy's a teacher or some shit, and the little boy's five, so he's just starting to get his notions of 'This shit ain't right'."\n\n[[((Back))|Job]]
You leave the familiar comfort of your apartment landing and begin making your way down the street toward downtown. You decide to forego taking a corpsewagon; you're not running late and you're strapped for cash, and you're sick of the way the drivers always leer at you. It's not a long walk.\n\nA few blocks later you're climbing the stairs to the Spookhouse offices, checking the number on your arm again out of habit. It's dropped, too much for you to be comfortable with. You pull open the door to the office and are immediately greeted by the sight of your morbidly obese and heavily corpsecrafted boss, Greco.\n\nHe's behind his desk, as usual, leaning back turgidly on his own distended thorax, his eight gnarled legs looking pained beneath the weight of his fat, sallow upper-body. He once tried to explain to you his obsession with spiders, fed you some bullshit about how the Loathespiders are the embodiment of progress and productivity, and how everyone should strive to be more like them. So he dumped paycheck after paycheck into having back-alley Sculptors rework his corpse into the likeness of a fat, hairy tarantula. Naturally.\n\nHe grins at you, numerous eyes rolling in his head as he looks you over.\n\n"Well well, glad you could make it. Was beginning to think I'd have to get up there and do this next job myself."\n\n-[["Watching you try to get up at all would be a laugh."|Har har]]\n-[["Save it, Greco. What's the job?"|Job]]
You slip through the door and enter the foyer; the house is one of the narrow two-stories common to downtown metropolitan areas, built in an era where space was thought to be a concern. It's evening now, so you reason that the whole family is likely home. Your suspicions are confirmed when you head straight back through the downstairs hallway and into the kitchen, immediately finding all three members of the household sitting around the dinner table. You wonder to yourself what kind of family still does sit-down dinners in this day and age.\n\nThere's a father, mother, and child. The father looks like he really could be a teacher, as Greco suggested; wiry and sharp-featured with a neat coif of blonde hair and thin bifocals set on his nose. His wife is appropriately mousey-looking, conservatively straight-haired and wearing a floral print dress. The boy looks like he's bound for private school, with small slacks and a sweater-vest. The whole scene strikes you as absurdly parochial. None of them talk very much.\n\nTime to get things rolling, you decide. You try not to think too hard about the emotional damage you're about to do to a five year old kid.\n\n-[[Make the walls bleed|Blood]]\n-[[Make a figure appear through the back-door window|Figure]]\n-[[Make some unearthly noises to get their attention|Noises]]
Thirty minutes later and you're in downtown Stygia again, the world of the living behind you, winding your way through labyrinthine corridors of glass and black concrete, shop windows, sordid men and cat-eyed women, blood, black rain, guttersteam, music. Stygia has a rhythm and a color and a poetry all its own, and it's the kind of poetry that's staggering at first but that you can't read too much of or your skin starts to feel too tight.\n\nYou keep your attentions away from the sordid onlookers and street characters, intending to head directly back to Spookhouse to collect your pay, when a new rhythm imposes itself over the beat of the city's heart; a mellow, <html><a href="http://youtu.be/VgVcpEu-OFA" target=_blank>sensual</a></html> rhythm sliding through the air out of an open door in the wall to your left. An abjectly familiar door.\n\nYou've got a bit of time, so you decide to poke your head in, just for a minute. You want to know if [[she|Club]]'s there.
The man closes his eyes for a single instant, and reopens them to a sensory assault of visceral horror. Coats and shirts no longer line the walls, replaced by flayed and twitching human figures with gaping eyes and mouths. Blood covers nearly every inch of every surface, the walls and ceilings crowded with chains and hooks and barbs. Several bodies are howling in pain, their riven forms jerking and dancing grotesquely.\n\nThe man screams, a long, winded, breathless scream. He looks down and sees himself as he sees the bodies on the walls; nude, bloodied, ripped and torn. His mind, apparently incapable of accepting the state of his body, shuts down. He collapses.\n\nYou look down at the body of the man in the closet. Only the faintest trace of ecto this time; you hate when they shut down like that. They have to be lucid to be afraid.\n\nFeeling drained, you slip through the closet door and head back into the bedroom. The wife and child are gone, probably having fled when they heard the man screaming the way he did. As soon as the husband comes to his senses he'll flee too, and none of the three will ever come closer than a mile of the place. You've successfully cleared out the house. Mission [[accomplished|Home again]].
A winding corridor in the pit of Stygia's stomach, home to all manner of corner mystics, street sculptors, ferrymen, spooks, haints, ghouls and grimheads. It's the place to go if you're looking for something the Stygian Empire doesn't want you to get ahold of.\n\n[[((Back))|Angel]]
The haints cackle as they swim through the air, leaving you twisting on a strand of loathespider web, stuck fast. Stygia bustles on a dozen stories beneath your feet and panic begins to seize you. You're trapped.\n\nThe web thrums as you struggle, a low note building along the massive cable, signalling the nearby spiders that food has arrived.\n\nYou look up to see one a few hundred yards away, crawling along the faces of Stygia's skyscrapers, coming to take its meal and cull the herd. For a moment it appears that this is the end of your existence; a frivolous life followed by an impotent death, ended beneath the skittering mandibles of a massive arachnid.\n\nWhen you look up, however, you see her-- the Angel from the bar, along with a dozen others, all swooping directly [[toward you|Choir]].
The ghoul grins, turning his black mouth into an oily, tooth-studded crescent, then sidles closer to you. You raise a hand defensively and he stops, keeping where he is and digging around in his pockets. After a moment or two he holds out his hands, arraying an assortment of mostly useless objects; a dirty feather, an empty vial, a bullet. The only thing that catches your eye is a small, silvery-looking knife, unusually clean compared to the rest of the ghoul's wares.\n\n-[["On second thought, I'll pass."|Pass]]\n-[["How much for the knife?"|Knife]]
You count your coins as you make your way out of the building and back onto the street. Three hundred Styx, all present and accounted for. Greco may be an asshole, but he's one of the few employers downtown who pays what he says he will.\n\nYou look up into the smoke-streaked expanse of gray sky. A black mass builds on the horizon; an ash storm is coming. The sight of the hospital standing against the coming blackness reminds you to check the tattoo on your arm. As usual it has dropped, by a much higher number than you'd like.\n\nYou'll be seeing the Surgeon soon. The only way to escape that is to tie up whatever loose ends you have from life, and the clock is ticking.\n\n<<if $angelFree eq 1>>\nYour ruminations are interrupted by a sudden realization of perfect quiet on the street around you. Looking down from the sky, you see that the streets have cleared out entirely, but for a group of Horsemen ten feet ahead of you. They stare at you fixedly. One of them opens his maw.\n\n//YOU WERE AT THE DANCING CLUB. YOU AIDED AN ANGEL. YOU OBLIVIATED DOZENS. YOU ARE GUILTY.//\n\nBefore you can react, four haints rush forward and seize you by the arms and legs, hauling you upward as they begin to ascend. You struggle in futility as you rise, twisting your head around to see the Great Webs drawing closer. All at once you are heaved forward by the haints, thrown into a sticky, silvery mass of [[webbing|The Great Web]].\n<<else>>\nA loathespider crawls along the Great Web above you, massive, silent. You decide to head home. It's going to be a rough couple of weeks.\n\n//The End//\n<<endif>>
Ever-moving, ever-spinning, they crawl along the faces of skyscrapers, raining rust and flecks of black iron on the streets beneath them. Some move, some hunt, some just hang torpidly on building facades, resting, waiting. They're ugly things, but the dead web-wrapped skyline is beautiful in winter.\n\nYou can see little bundles of white writhing and twisting here and there in the lower stretches of the Great Webs; inattentive haints who got themselves caught and are now food for the spiders. Poor bastards, you think to yourself. Still, better them than you. At least groundwalkers like you don't have to worry so much.\n\nYour eyes travel further toward the horizon, toward downtown, and pass over the Hospital, stretching upward like a charred black finger and towering over the rest of the city. Beyond the Hospital are the Imperial Engines, churning and roaring and belching greasy black smoke that stains the pale sky like an oil painting.\n\nThe sight of the hospital makes you sick to your stomach. You look down at the number tatooed on the skin of your arm. 17,847,653. Seems like a big number now, but at the rate the Surgeon goes through patients, you guess you've only got a few weeks before you're the one laying stretched out on her table.\n\nTime to [[go|Spookhouse]], you think.
The ghoul looks disappointed, narrowing his eyes threateningly.\n\n"Skeevy Spooks, shitpile gutlovers! I oughta kill you, I oughta drink your spookjuice!"\n\nThe ghoul curls for a moment as if about to strike, when a Bloodhound approaches from behind and hauls the misshapen man up by the collar of his shirt. In an instant they're both gone, disappeared in a vorpal wisp of black aether.\n\nYou give your nerves a minute to settle, and soon the Thirteen is rolling into the station, hissing as it opens its doors. You stand, brush yourself down, and [[board|Thirteen]].
<html>by <a href="http://kittyhorrorshow.wordpress.com">Kitty Horrorshow</a></html>
Greco puts on an expression of feigned hurt and sensitivity.\n\n"Words hurt, you know that? I never done anything to you. You're so cruel to me."\n\nHis eyes narrow as he drops the facade.\n\n"You want the [[job|Job]] or not?"
The glowing knife cuts easily through the shining cords, each one snapping with a faint metallic 'twick.' Her wings unfurl a fraction more with each cord you cut through, and people are beginning to look your way, beginning to notice that one of the dancers isn't dancing. You can hear murmurs welling up in the crowd like a distant thunderstorm.\n\nShe's breathing heavily. It's intensely distracting. You continue to cut.\n\n//"Hey,"// you hear a gruff voice intone, //"the fuck do you think you're doing? Stop!"//\n\nYou turn your head and look over your shoulder to see a tall figure pushing through the crowd toward you. His moth-eaten suit identifies him as the proprietor. He does not look happy with you.\n\nYou continue to cut, sawing through the wire binding the Angel's wings, cutting your fingers up in the process.\n\n//"I'll fucking kill you, you little cocksucker! Cut it out right fucking now!"//\n\n//With pleasure,// you think, cutting through the last of the [[wire|Howl]].\n\n<<set $angelFree = true>>