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Pandorym

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Chapter One:
A Second Life

It's a warm afternoon on May 31st, 1935 and the sun is shining. A cool breeze tickles your hair and makes ripples in the tea in your cup. You've just graduated from Ursuline Academy here in the great city of New Orleans, and your family couldn't be more pleased. You've done well in your efforts to become the perfect young southern lady -- proper posture and dress, makeup to pale your olive skin to a more acceptable white, parasol and wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off you. Everything is as it should be.

Well, almost. You see, sitting next to you is a charred corpse with a rictus grin of pain permanently plastered on its face, its body occupying the driver's seat of a dilapidated abandoned streetcar that somehow always fits perfectly no matter where you are. That's your Geist, or as it calls itself, The Conductor. A ghostly symbiotic entity you made a deal with after you died to come back to life, in exchange for it being fused to your soul and body to experience life once more through you.

Which reminds you of the second person currently present at the table, sitting across from you and munching on a vanilla scone loudly. Tall, athletic, with pale skin, short swept-back black hair and piercing blue eyes. He's dressed in a strange black overcoat with a feathered collar, black trousers, and black heeled boots. He carries an ebony crozier engraved with death iconography in silver (currently leaning against his chair), and wears a black felt top hat with a silver band.

Nikolas Krushyu. A self-proclaimed "Sin-Eater", a Russian, and most importantly the one who originally got you killed when he distracted the streetcar driver while you were on the tracks holding the cooling corpse of your youngest brother, tragically gunned down by the thugs of a crime family.

He takes a sip of tea and sticks his tongue out. "Ugh, bitter," he mutters before reaching into his coat and pulling out a flask, pouring a decent quantity of what smells like alcohol to you into the brew before sipping (slurping) again. "Much better. So, are you just going to sit there like a statue?"
 
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CatNosferatu

It's the proper morning to fly into Hell.
Validated User
A subtle crackling was heard from the handsome RCA-Victor model T10-1 tombstone radio as Bing Crosby's voice crooned out 'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?' . Even with the crackling of the static, Bing's glorious pipes would not lose an ounce of their emotion as he sang of the times. The Great Depression was in full swing- families were starving, work was slim to none, and the already present gap between rich and poor was growing wider day by day.

Even worse, the whole world seemed to be in a frantic craze. War was on the horizon in Europe, and the United States, still war weary from The Great War and facing the worst financial panic since 1873, was hesitant to stick its foot in the door. America sought to stay neutral, and currently as the United States ranked seventeenth among the nations in active Army strength, there was no real question as to why. And so, America wasn't keen on the idea of sending another generation of sons over seas to die...

But we're getting in too deep. Such things aren't appropriate for a lady to worry or fuss over, especially on a happy day such as this one. Isabelle Porretto, 13th child of the current Porretto clan, first to be born upon this free soil after her family had officially left poverty-stricken Sicily, was a high school graduate. And not just any high school, but the oldest Catholic all-girl high school in the entire United States! Oh how proud she must have been to now belong to a line of young ladies who were not only destined for greatness, but who also belonged to a select pool of privilege.

One would think, at least...

Her delicate fingers cradled her porcelain teacup gently, her gloved hands holding the cup tightly as if the heat was life giving. The pastry upon her plate had been left untouched, and her eyes stared wide into the distance as she appeared lost in her thoughts. The fact that Isabelle was even alive right now had been called a miracle by her family, friends, and the community. Completely run over by an electric street car only two weeks before, the young woman should have been as good as dead and in the family mausoleum with her younger brother. Yet here she was, barely a scratch on her and now in the company of this odd man.

The gentle 'ting' of the ghostly bell that upon the otherworldly street car was ignored by the young lady, though it was clear by her Goya-style wide eyes that there was something troubling her. Watching the man across from her help himself to the many scones and pastries that had been served by the help, Isabelle did her best to play host while wrestling with the abject horror of...this creature beside her.

"I...beg your pardon. It's been a very big day, as you know," she began, a pleasant smile crossing her features. "I suppose father invited you? To thank you for...saving me."

According to what she had heard, this man had been the one to yank her out from beneath the tracks. Unfortunately it also appeared he'd stuck around...for his own reasons.
 
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Pandorym

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"No," he replies casually, taking another bite of the fluffy scone, sugary crumbs dropping all over his outfit and trailing from his chin, "no one knows I'm here but you. Well, you and your companion eternal." He gestures at the Conductor as he says the last three words, as if its existence is the most normal thing in the world.
 

CatNosferatu

It's the proper morning to fly into Hell.
Validated User
Her right hand, which now held the teacup by the handle, began to shake gently at his words. The left hand held the saucer tightly, the teacup clattering against it as she tried to place it down seamlessly and without a sound. She failed to do so, but finally placed the cup and saucer down onto the table before answering, "I have no idea what you're talking about."

Her dark brown eyes shifted from his swiftly, her hands now lying elegantly across her lap as she appeared to drift into her own thoughts once again. Adjusting her posture to an even more rigid stance, if that were possible, Isabelle's glance slowly looked to the right. 'Oh, you're still there, are you?' she thought to herself as she gazed upon it.

That ghastly thing had been with her since she'd awakened in the hospital bed a week back. That terrible being of absolute atrocity, that amalgamation of once man and industrial progression, that...that titan of the realm of Sheol, Gehenna, Hell, Hades, wherever it had come from..! She could hear its lock jawed teeth gnashing together as she thought such things, and the static from the radio became worse now; could it hear her thoughts?

Snapping back to her debutante facade, Isabelle simply forced a smile at Nikolas as he stuffed his face.
 

Pandorym

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"Wow you're a bad liar," he declares with a chuckle, draining his porcelain cup of whatever rancid amalgam of tea and liquor he'd mixed before tossing it down carelessly. He rises, walking over to the lone, fragrant apple tree in the garden. He stares up at its beautiful petals moving gently in the warm breeze, as if contemplating life itself... and then rips one of the red fruits from the branches roughly before biting deep into it. He sits back down at the table, chewing with satisfaction.

"So then! Welcome to your new reborn life as a Sin-Eater, one of the Bound. Thanks to your little pacty dealy thing with the Conductor, you're now back amongst the living! Unfortunately for you, that's where the fun and celebration ends. See, the Geist is an evolved ghost that crept from the depths of the Underworld, wanting to experience existence again. It's now a part of you, and you of it. You're bonded! Like friends. Or parasites."

An ephemeral ding echoes out, one ringing with displeasure. Nikolas just waves a hand dismissively at the Conductor. "Yeah, yeah. Tone it down, I got it. Anyway, since you're a best buddy to death now, you can see ghosts, do spooky Ceremonies, and generally have a grand old time handling the dead in a city with some of the most numerous and expansive graveyards in the world. No pressure, really. Questions?" He asks, taking another bite of apple and kicking his feet up on another chair.
 

CatNosferatu

It's the proper morning to fly into Hell.
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Isabelle hid the look of distaste for the visitors actions rather well; it wasn't becoming for a lady to show such emotions publicly. Watching as he seemed to feast on anything he could get his dirty hands on, she tilted her head carefully to the side to signify he had no idea what he was talking about. In reality, she didn't. Ghosts and ceremonies? What a load of malarkey.

But then that bell rang again, that ominous, foreboding sound echoing in her very soul. Her hands quickly pressed to her ears, shattering the facade that she was, in fact, unaware of The Conductors existence.

"Please don't agitate it..." she whispered politely, even in her state of distress. Since she woke up, the sound of that bell seemed to signify some type of communication from the creature. It-he-whatever it was, hadn't spoken a word to her, not even when he had approached her in the beginning.

Briefly piecing together that moment from what felt like an eternity ago, Isabelle remembered a world of darkness closing in on her. There had been pain, but only for a mere moment as her life force slipped away. The nerves in her body muted slowly, as if her soul was gently being pulled away from her form like a warm blanket, exposing her to the deathly cold. All her senses began to extinguish, but the maddening feeling of perfect silence within her consciousness was last to creep upon her. No heartbeat, no breath, nothing. For one brief second, the Universe itself connected with Isabelle's deepest core, ready to welcome her back to the primordial existence from which she and all other beings came from. She urged her body to move, urged her mouth to call out, to beg the pain to come back. To feel anything except this finality.

Please...let me feel something just one more time...

What had spoken? Had that been the Universe? God? The Maker itself? No...no, it was a bell. A soft, gentle 'ting' whose highest octave tickled against her nerves. It spoke to her through all of her senses, gently awakening her very being. A single nerve of existence appeared to linger onward, and Isabelle found her sight coming back. Her eyes focused in the darkness, an unearthly light glowing now in this forgotten existence. Isabelle saw what had spoken to her. And she was horrified.

Her chest filled with a gasp of collected anxiety, her memory of the event fading as the smell of the magnolias accosted her senses. Looking once again to the creature, her focus dead on him, there was no mistake from Nikolas' point of view that she was silently acknowledging The Conductors existence.

'He was the most terrifying thing I'd ever experienced, all of my being shaken from his very existence. There was no humanity visibly present within this creature, its misshapen husk mimicking that of a once man, and yet I saw in his eyes a terrible longing. Those eyes spoke every word that his tongue never would, and it was the exact same wish that I had within that moment of time. To feel once more...'

Isabelle had fallen silent long before this moment, but her mind narrated everything to herself. And yet, it was no longer just her own narration, but The Conductors as well.
 

Pandorym

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"Eh. No need to worry about him -- he can't hurt you anymore than he can hurt himself. Good to see you aren't trying to tune him out though. Most newbies do, and end up regretting that in short order. Anyhow! As I said, you're a Sin-Eater, one of the Bound. A supernatural "esohuman" as science puts it, apparently. You're on the more dead side of things though, ghosts and so on. You can sit there and try to ignore the facts -- and me -- all you want, but it won't change anything. I'm trying to save you a rude awakening, though I'm pretty sure you've already had it. Remember the hanging girl in the rafters of the Ursuline auditorium?"
 

CatNosferatu

It's the proper morning to fly into Hell.
Validated User
Her eyes hadn’t left The Conductors, though her shoulders visibly dropped as he mentioned the unexpected visitor at her graduation.

“...yes, I do recall her.” was all she replied, though her mind laid out the picture a little too vividly.

But how could she ignore the blue faced girl whose body slowly swung back and forth above the stage where she and her graduating peers sat? Thankfully, all the young ladies sitting row by row in their identical white dresses and hats, their white gloved hands pleasantly draped over the full bouquet of red roses they cradled, had not noticed the dead girl.

But Isabelle had.
 

Pandorym

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"Yeah, I figured as much. She's a special case -- been there for about fifteen years now, we haven't really done anything about her though because she's in an inconvenient place and can't really cause any problems on the floor beyond minor issues such as a chill or a sudden tugging of hair or something. Anyhow, that's the kind of thing you'll be needing to deal with, as your pact with the Conductor states the same as any of us: the living shall not make victims of the dead, and will not be victimized by them in turn. Your new life came with a cost -- one you can't ignore lest it sever the bond between you and your geist forever, making you one of the Haunted."

He declares all of this in a no-nonsense matter of fact way, as if it is absolute, utter, divine truth that cannot be refuted or argued in any fashion. He then takes a drink straight from the nearby metal pitcher of cool water, before splashing some on his head. "This heat is what's really ghastly," he mutters unpleasantly.
 

CatNosferatu

It's the proper morning to fly into Hell.
Validated User
Reaching for her dessert spoon in order to partake in her pastry, Isabelle's action was interrupted by her saying, "I think you're mistaken. I can't partake in such horrible things. If living again means The Conductor must stay with me, then yes, I acquiesce. But I won't be dealing with any other creatures besides him."

While his words had added to her state of shock even more, it appeared that his action was what got a reaction out of her. As he looked back up from her brief cold shower, he could see the look of shock on her face. Grabbing the metal pitcher, Isabelle expressed in a hushed but appalled tone, "That's awful! Don't drink straight from the pitcher!"

Grabbing the empty crystal goblet that sat adjacent to his filled tea cup, the young lady poured him a proper glass of water then dumped the remaining pitcher into the garden. Without missing a beat there was suddenly a new pitcher of crisp, cold water placed on the table by a maid. "Now then," Isabelle began, sitting back down and straightening herself out, "you were saying?"

All the while this was happening, The Conductor had been watching her hand reach for the delectable pastry. The Geist patiently waited for her to resume after scolding Nikolas, and when she hadn't, there was a noticeable impatience about him. Isabelle jumped as the trolley bell rang loudly, deliberately disturbing her calm atmosphere.

"What on earth is the matter?" she questioned.
 
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