James woke up with the smell of musty attics and dead birds lingering in his nostrils. Opening his eyes it was like the dream made real.
“Doctor Kohler?” James asked.
The doctor in the shabby lab coat looked up from his notes and frowned as he saw James sitting there.
“What appears to be the problem?” he asked.
James shrugged. The doctor proceeded with a brief examination, “Other than shock, surprise and a few minor bumps and bruises you’re fine. Now get out of here and stop taking up space that a real explosion victim needs.”
James paused before complying, “You’re him. You are the same Doctor, arent you? How is it now forty years later you dont look a day older?” he asked.
The doctor hissed between clenched teeth, “Keep your voice down! Yes, it’s me. I sewed your hand back together. Now is not the time and this is not the place to discuss it though.”
James shook his head, “There are too many bizarre things going on right now, from ghosts to animated corpses that eat people. I need answers and you’re going to give me one: how is it that forty years can pass and you dont look a day older than when we last met?”
The doctor sighed, looking around at victims of the explosion and the nursing staff tending to them, “Alright. An answer. This is not the place for such a discussion. I will meet you, in two days time, and we will have this discussion then. I will answer not only that question but will explain why your father treated you so badly when you were a child. Do we have a deal?”
James thought for a moment, then spoke with anger in his voice, “What do you know of my father?”
The doctor laughed, “The issue isnt, or rather wasnt, your father. Its you. But to explain the nature of a man would take more time than we have available to us. I will give you the answer to both of your questions when we meet.”
“Two days you say?”
“Yes, two days. I will find you, dont worry.”
James turned to Vincent and elbowed him in the ribs then stood up. “Wake up Vince. Got to go.”
The big man mumbled something and slowly opened his eyes. He rubbed drool from his chin and slowly, with the exagerated care of a drunk man attempting to appear sober, stood up and joined James.
Doctor Kohler watched as the two men left, his left hand massaging the silver ring hanging inside his shirt.
“So, Vincent, shall we go look for these ghosts of yours?” James said.
“You believe me?” Vincent answered.
“I dont know if I believe you or not, but right now it would be good to get away from the dock, get away from the explosion and all of the other wierd stuff that’s happening down here. I think ghosts sound far more appealing.”
Inside, James knew it was a lie. He didnt believe in these so called “ghosts”. Investigating them was bound to be a sure-fire way to end up in a remote location away from the noise and smells. It would be quiet. No-one else around to bring up painful memories or cause him to question reality.
Vincent pointed to a vague shape moving through the late night smog, “Looks like a temperence cab, can you play sober enough to ride in it?”
James laughed, “Sure!”
They walked toward the parked shape which quickly resolved itself as the rear of a taxicab. Painted on the back was a make-shift cross in white paint. James nodded, a temperence cab indeed.
“Where are you two gentlemen headed?” the driver said, his disembodied voice eery, floating out of the mist.
Vincent looked at James who nodded slowly, “North of Regents park, near the zoo.” Vincent said.
“Get in, I dont have all night you know!” the driver said. He was barely discernable through the mist.
James and Vincent climbed into the cab quickly hoping that the driver wouldnt notice how drunk they really were. The cab moved off smoothly as soon as they were seated inside. They couldnt see the driver from where they sat but the steady tread of horses hooves and creak of his seat assured them of his presence. The familiarity of the all, coupled with the drink, lulled both men to sleep within a few blocks.
Neither James nor Vincent were awake to notice the driver flicker twice then vanish, nor the fact that there were no horses generating the hoofbeats. Inside the cab they slept soundly. A voice spoke, “Transport 562, this is central. Report to maintenance immediately for repairs to your holographic projector.”
The voice of the driver spoke, “Unable to comply.”
“I am en-route with passengers.”
“Transport 562, report to maintenance _after_ your present assignment. Can you comply?”
“Affirmative.” the driver’s voice said.
James woke up to cold air blowing in his face. The door of the cab was open and it was still.
“Are we there?” he called to the driver.
“Yes, Regents Park.”
James nudged Vincent and the two men climbed out of the cab, closed the door and stretched after their sleep. The cab pulled away and vanished into the mist behind them.
“So, Vincent, where do these ghosts of yours live?” James asked.
“Just outside the wall of the zoo, near the penguin house. There’s a large tree.”
“OK… lead on.”
They started walking and quickly found the place that Vincent had mentioned. Someone had been digging the flowerbed around the base of the tree and had left a spade thrust into the dark soil. James leaned on the spade as he watched Vincent walk around the tree searching for something.
“It was here.”
“What was?” James asked.
“The corpse of the cat. I walked up and it was covered in blood-sucking mosquitoes. I mean infested with them.”
James shuddered at the thought, “And why is it connected to ghosts?”
Vincent turned and looked at him, “I never said it was. Not as such. It’s as connected as a floating corpse will ever be though. Damn thing hovered then moved away all on its own!”