This is part of a new project. An exert from the second chapter and the first meeting of Joe Stringer. In total, this chapter has five such character introductions. All short and intended to try and portray insights into psychological flaws utilised by the....well, that would be telling.
Joseph Carmichael formed one third of a paranormal society. Nay, a fellowship. Not quite the same as the company of nine alighting from Rivendell. But nine was divisible by three and conclusive proof of deeper mysteries in numbers that defied rationale. The Fellowship of The Three sat well. Musketeers they were not.
The remaining thirds were his brothers, Allan and Conrad. Both equally weird, rather handy when it came to obsessive compulsions. In this case matters involving the arcane, supernatural and downright unexplainable. That did exclude the cat with powers of levitation some mad woman called in about one Friday afternoon. The trio concluded lodged up a tree was not evidence they could, hand on hearts, swear by. Although they had cursed a few times whilst feeling foolish gazing at a manx feline in a tree outside the local supermarket. They doubted it was stuck too. Probably saw the mad woman and legged it up so fast that levitation was indeed plausible. Prognosis, based on the small crowd smirking in the background, suggested otherwise. Par for the course in fringe societies where the average Joe had no idea how unsafe things were. What with causality being shrouded in mystery amidst a premise that monsters and ghosts are real.
Rolling with serendipity it was a Joe that Conrad was about to interview.
Joe Stringer sat in a chair that looked too small. Not that it was, but the girth of the incumbent man made it seem so. This chair was at a table in the local public house, The Royal Oak, and said table was being attended by a waitress called Rose. Joe knew she looked down on him. They all did. Nobody liked a fat man who wheezed when he moved. Then again Joe had a gift. They laughed at that too. But sure as pigs end up in sausages, similar to those within the breakfast before him, they would be laughing out of their asses by months end. Joes talent lay in dreams. Mostly they were despotic and censored. A painful reminder that he'd never had a girlfriend. A statistic on pornography search engines where his virgin dreams cost him large in self esteem. Every now and then though there was a genuine mother of all dreams. One that left him wide awake and staring at the ceiling covered in sweat. A lucid in your face booger of reality dipping into his slumbering. The worst ever had been a box covered in soil containing an insane creature screaming in the darkness. To Joe the interred demon knew he was there. The pleading went on and on.
'Help me Joe, I'll pay you well, whatever you want I can give you....what is it women? I can give you those Joe...and life eternal. Roll back the fat and make you one of those men fucking in your dreams.'
The bait of the Devil. Eternal life in Joe's book was a crock of crap and demons lie. Except that one had been tempting; women and desirable. He stayed in that dream too long and rolled out of bed around midday. But boy, had it been tempting. By the end abuse was flying as he woke tangled in sheets with his head under a pillow.
'Fuck you Joe, you're a dead man walking...and I'm coming. Just you wait. Keep your fat ass alive and then we'll dine together.'
Whatever that meant. He was under no delusions of being a corpse on legs. Every doctor he met said so, his bloods said so and no doubt if they asked his heart that would say 'any day now.'
Of late dreams were more frequent. Not the lottery ticket numbers he'd been trying for, but ones featuring dead people. Not any old dead people. These were ones he knew of. Right here in Compton, still alive and kicking last he'd seen. But the dreams had proper scared him. People died all the time right? Folk long in years, terminally ill ones, junkies and those unlucky enough to be hit by trucks rolling past a pot hole. Joe remembered that in the local rag.
'Man killed by lorry in tragic accident; driver and local authority found culpable.'
Joe thought nothing of it until he ambled out of breath to the scene a week later and the dream flashed back. The only change was the pothole. That had been fixed within two days of the collision. Town Council with their hands up. What could you do though?
'Hey copper I had a dream. Next week someone will cycle down that road and get hit by a truck.'
They'd see the fat man and laugh him off as a crank.
The last two days changed things though. More dreams, more dead folk. Except right now they were alive but deep inside Joe knew, like the cyclist, death was coming. So far the demon was quiet. But this needed to end before his card turned up on top of the deck.
'Joe, Joe Stringer?'
Joe wiped his forehead and refocused on reality noting somehow his plate was empty. Trance eating.
'Yes and you must be Conrad Carmichael?'
He shook the hand of the man in front. Rose returned to clear the table and set down two bottles of lager. He nodded consent as she penned them onto his bill.
'That I am,' replied Conrad as he sat down opposite and took a swig from his bottle. 'What's got you so worked up you need a paranormal investigator to talk to?'
The fat man leaned back in his chair, decided it was uncomfortable and leaned forwards instead.
'It's death Mr Carmichael.'
'Is it?' Replied Conrad. 'Anyone we know or do you actually mean Death himself?'
'Somebody in this very bar as it happens.' Joe was sweating again.
'Really? And you know this how?'
'I, Mr Carmichael, have the power of divination in dreams.'
A raised eyebrow opposite. They all look down on me Joe thought again.
There was a pause.
'And, if I'm not being too presumptuous, might one disclose the unfortunate?'
Joe rested uneasily. 'Yes Mr Carmichael, it's you.'