|Chapters One and Two||Chapters Three and Four||Chapters Five and Six||Chapter Seven|
The brilliance of Egon's plan had been exceeded only by the beauty of its simplicity.
After the fortuitous discovery at the temple, Egon had realized that there was only one way to defeat Samhain--from within. To that end, he'd set things up so that Dana and Sheila would keep the pumpkin-headed entity from sacrificing Janine, then the Ghostbusters would follow up with more distractions so that the women could get into position. The goal was to make Samhain so enraged by the interruptions that the desire to make his former jailers watch his final triumph would be overwhelmed by the urge to get them out of his way once and for all.
When he finally absorbed them energy into himself, the Ghostbusters did not fight the pull, which might otherwise have dispersed their essences beyond any hope of recovery. Instead, they allowed themselves to be taken, which left them intact inside their foe. And once there, the Ghostbusters immediately set up a four-way drain on Samhain's considerable power reserves.
Egon's hypothesis was that this would solve two problems. First, it would keep Samhain too busy to kill Janine and consummate his plan. Second, it would disrupt the spell over New York, creating enough confusion in the park so that Dana and Sheila could free Janine, grab the proton packs and trap the weakened Samhain. At the proper moment, the Ghostbusters would have to break free of their captor and get far enough away from him so that the trap would capture only one ghost, not five. And they would have to expel the stolen energies soon after, so that they wouldn't be affected by the massive influx of power.
What Egon hadn't counted on was that in dispelling the excess PKE, they also lost the power to manifest in ghostly form. But in the end, it was just as well--Samhain had been stopped, the city (and most importantly, Janine) had been saved, and the Ghostbusters had accomplished the task they'd needed to complete. Nothing held them back now--it was time to move on.
Egon blinked and looked around. He was in a waiting room of some sort, one tastefully decorated in warm, pleasant colors and furnished with comfortable chairs. Winston, Ray and Peter were sitting on either side of him, looking just as disoriented as he felt. “Hey, what happened?” Winston asked, looking around the room. “One second we're in the middle of a PKE fireworks display, then we're sitting here...wherever here is.”
“Shades of 'Beetlejuice',” Peter said as he grabbed a magazine from a nearby table. “Three years out of date,” he grumbled. “Some things never change.”
Ray looked troubled--the gentle strains of Muzak floating in the air weren't helping his mood any. “Say, guys, you don't think this is, like, the waiting room to get into Heaven, do you?”
“I always figured that there'd be pearly gates, streets of gold, that sort of thing,” Winston said. “This is a bit disappointing.”
“Cheer up, guys.” Peter leaned back and stretched. “This could be Hell, you know.”
“Oh?” Ray squeaked.
“Sure. Waiting around forever for an appointment--sounds like Hell to me.”
“Well, there's one easy way to find out.” Winston rose to his feet and headed over to the receptionist's desk. The secretary was a pretty young woman with dark curly hair and elfin features. At the moment she was listening to someone on the phone (phone?), nodding and taking notes on a pad. When she hung up the phone, she glanced up at the Ghostbuster and smiled. “I'm Sharyn, Winston. What can I do for you?”
“Uhhhh...you know me?” he stammered.
“Sure. And your friends over there are Egon, Ray and Peter.” She grinned at his confused expression. “Anything else you need to know?”
“Well...” Winston took a deep breath. “Where are we, and why are we here?”
“You're in the Afterlife, Winston. Most of us call it Heaven, but you know the politically correct crowd, can't be too specific these days.” She tapped her pen against the desktop. “As for why you're here--well, God would like to speak to you four.”
Winston blinked. “Oh?”
“Hmmm-mmm. He's busy at the moment, but He does know you're here and will get to you just as soon as He can.” She flashed another dazzling smile at the stunned Ghostbuster, then picked up the phone. “Pardon me a moment, Winston. Jack? Sharyn. I'm fine, thanks. Look, that lion of yours is tearing up the flowerbeds out front again. Can you do something about it?” There was a pause. “Yes, Jack, I know he's not a tame lion, but he does listen to you, so make him behave, okay? Thanks. Bye.” She looked up at Winston and shook her head. “Never a dull moment around here, let me tell you.”
“Yeah.” He headed back to his seat and picked up a copy of a 1977 Sports Illustrated. “Man, this is downright bizarre.”
Peter scratched his head. “I thought God was omnipresent.”
“Apparently that's just a rumor,” Winston shrugged.
“Gee, I wonder what he wants to see us for?” Ray asked.
Egon exhaled loudly. “This has to be a hallucination. None of this is real. It can't be happening. It isn't logical. There isn't any such thing as an afterlife or final destination. This doesn't exist.”
“Careful what you say, homeboy,” Winston warned softly. “What you say can be used against you, you know.”
“Yeah, do you really want to take the chance that this isn't real?” Peter asked.
“The concept of an afterlife is ancient superstition,” Egon insisted. “There has never been any conclusive scientific proof of the presence of a soul. This isn't happening. It can't be.”
Winston shook his head and smiled. “You keep right on telling yourself that, Egon, and pretty soon you might just believe it yourself.”
Peter leaned over and grinned. “Look, Egon. Maybe this is real, maybe it's not. Right now, though, we can't be sure. So why not play along and see what happens next? Then we can decide on a course of action.”
“Hmmph.” Egon picked up a tattered copy of Scientific American and was just about to open it when the receptionist came over to where they were sitting.
She smiled at them. “The Lord will see you now.”
The room was a packrat's dream come true. It was littered from one wall to the other with paper, magazines, and books that had been plucked from one of the bookshelves that lined every side. Tools, toys and a million other objects were strewn haphazardly on the chairs, the floor, the shelves...everywhere. Near the far wall was a huge wooden desk, the top of which could not be seen because of the mountains of junk that covered every inch of it. Oddly enough, there were no lamps or overhead lights to be seen, yet the room was comfortably lit.
“Nice place,” Peter nodded. “You should feel right at home, Egon. Looks just like your lab.”
There was someone in the room, somewhere--they could hear a voice muttering to itself under the desk: “Drat it all, I just had it a day or so ago, I know it's around here somewhere...I don't know why I keep her around. She keeps tidying everything up right when I've got everything right where I want it.... Ah. Hullo.” A head popped up from nowhere, bathing them with a warm, friendly smile. It was a face craggy and lined, framed with an unruly mop of black-grey hair and bushy black eyebrows that gave him an almost owl-like appearance. But his eyes were deep with wisdom and compassion, and the smile was gentle and welcoming.
“That's right, I'd quite forgotten about you,” he said, a trace of a British accent in his voice. “Permit me to introduce myself. I am God. Better known as The Lord, The Supreme Deity, Ruler of All Creation, Almighty Father, The Big Kahuna, The Big Guy, and so on.” He rose to his feet and smiled again. “You may call me whatever you wish--I don't stand on formalities here, you see.”
He came over and shook hands with each of them, smiling and calling them by name. He was dressed in a baggy, rumpled ensemble that gave him a Chaplinesque appearance. This along with his features eased the Ghostbusters' apprehension--with one exception. “Ah yes, Doctor Spengler,” he nodded amiably. “The one who doesn't believe in Me, but would desperately like to.”
“Aren't you a little short for a deity?” Egon snapped. “Not to mention inappropriately dressed?”
The little man smiled slyly. “I would think that as a scientist, you'd know better than to judge things by their surface appearance.”
“None of this is real,” Egon declared. “I don't believe in any of it--or in you.”
“Perfectly understandable,” their host said softly. “But as my dear friend Gilbert Chesterton would say, it's a rather good thing that I believe in you, isn't it, hmmm?” He abruptly turned away from Egon and waved at a set of chairs by his desk. “Where are my manners, goodness me? Please, do have a seat. You've had a very busy time and I'm sure you'd fancy a rest. Please, please, do sit down.”
Peter looked over at the nearest chair, which was buried in clutter. “That might be a problem,” he said.
“Not at all,” said the little man. In the blink of an eye the chairs were empty. “Oh, I do so hate to show off,” he continued, scurrying around to the chair behind the desk, “but expediency is the better part of good manners.” He sat down, leaned forward and clasped his hands together. “Now then, I suppose you're wondering why I called you here.”
“Well, given that we're dead, I figured that had something to do with it,” Peter answered blithely.
Their host's face burst into a huge grin. “Oh, well played, Peter, well played indeed! I've always liked a man with a good sense of humor!” He chuckled for a few more seconds before returning to a more sober appearance. “Well, to be honest, that is the main subject of this discussion. Firstly, I wanted to congratulate you on your fine efforts in stopping Samhain. Very well done, gentlemen!” He beamed at them with paternal pride.
“Uhhh, Sir?” Ray asked respectfully. “Could I ask You a question?”
“Certainly, my boy. Fire away.”
“Well, why did You let all that happen? I mean, if You really are God, You could have stopped Samhain without our help...I mean, a lot of people got hurt last night...”
“I understand.” He leaned in Ray's direction. “You wonder why I didn't just snap my fingers and banish the little spook before he caused any mischief.”
“Well...yes,” Ray nodded reluctantly.
The little man rose to his feet and paced behind his desk. “Well, Raymond, the only thing I can tell you is that these things do happen for a purpose, even if it isn't always clear just why.” At the sound of Egon's soft snort of derision, he turned and stared at the scientist. “Perhaps it was simply to teach a hard-headed scientist that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in his philosophy.” He shook his head and chuckled to himself again. “Oh, William did have such a gift for the turn of a phrase...” He quickly returned his attention to the Ghostbusters. “But let me point out, my dear boy, that I wasn't exactly idle. After all, I did send you four after Samhain, didn't I?”
“Well...” Ray considered the idea. “Yeah, I guess so.”
“Quite.” A gasp of delighted surprise escaped the little man, and he hurried over to one of the many dusty and overburdened bookshelves lining the right wall. “There it is! My goodness, I thought I'd lost it forever!” He picked the object up and studied it carefully--for all appearances it seemed to be a plastic recorder. He put the instrument to his lips and puffed out a very weak rendition of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb', then beamed at his guests.
Egon snorted again. “You're the Supreme Deity, and that's the best you can do?”
With a nod, the little man put the recorder back to his lips and proceeded to play a selection from Mozart's “Magic Flute” to absolute perfection. When he finished, he smiled at the dumbstruck Ghostbusters. “Being a Supreme Deity, as you stated, can get a bit boring if you make everything too easy, you know. Now, where were we? Oh yes--I let some bad things happen, didn't I? But we covered that under the 'Ultimate Plan' lecture, so that's done...”
“Wait a minute,” Winston said. 'People got hurt down there, in a lot of different ways! That can't be just explained away by Your Plan!”
“I'm afraid it is,” their host said, shaking his craggy features mournfully. “As I said, nothing worthwhile comes from just having everything handed to you. I know it sounds terribly cruel and unjust, but since you can't see it from my point of view, I'm afraid you'll just have to trust me on this.”
“That's asking quite a bit,” Egon said.
“I know, but...” He smiled abruptly and snapped his fingers. “You know, there's no reason why I can't give you a brief look at how I see things! After all, I am God, aren't I?”
“That's still open to debate,” Egon grumbled. Peter shushed him. And suddenly their minds were overwhelmed with knowledge and understanding, as they viewed existence from outside instead of from within. For one brief moment, they saw the intricate jigsaw puzzle of eternity as a finished product...and then they were back in the little man's office, pale and shaken.
“Wow,” breathed Winston.
“I take it you understand a bit better now?” their host asked; four heads nodded rapidly. “Good, good,” he beamed as he returned to his desk. “Now then, let's move on to the next subject, the one that's been troubling you so, Egon.” Spengler blanched then turned beet crimson. “Well, let me say that I'm quite prepared to let you all in--yes, you too Egon. I don't take things like that personally. You've all earned the right, heaven knows.” He smiled at the pun. “But,” he added with an upraised finger, “there is a second possibility.”
“I don't like hot climates,” Peter said quickly.
“Good, because Hell was the last thing I was thinking about.” The little man sat back down. “You know, there's a great deal to be done down there. In stopping Samhain, you put all that dreadful PKE stuff back into play. There's going to be a number of consequences because of that. So I was wondering if you wouldn't mind doing me a small favor...”
“Which is?” Peter prompted, his heart pounding.
“Well, I was hoping you'd agree to go back down there for a while and see what you could do about tidying up the mess you left.” He sat back and smiled at their astounded expressions. “Take as long as you need to decide, gentlemen--you have all the time in the world, up here.”
“How long would we be going back for?” Peter asked carefully.
“That would depend,” came the answer, accompanied by a sly look. “I'd understand if you were to say 'no', but I was hoping...”
“Yes,” Egon declared.
“I'm in.” Peter echoed.
“Make it three,” Winston added.
“Sure!” Ray chimed in. “Boy, just wait till we publish all this in Tobin's--the ultimate life-after-death experience! They'll never believe it!”
“Oh, must you do that?” the little man said, aggrieved. “I do so hate all that fuss...I only recently got over all the ado with the New Age people...all those silly crystals, and those channelers...”
“Hey, no one ever believes us to begin with,” Peter smiled. “This should be no exception.”
“Splendid!” The craggy fellow clapped his hands gleefully and rose to his feet. “Well, don't let me keep you.” He shook their hands as he herded them to the door. 'Just see Sharyn on your way out, and she'll take care of all the details. Don't know what I'd do without her, you know. She's made herself rather indispensable...” As Egon prepared to leave, the little man's eyes grew deep and thoughtful. “You are going to take a great deal more work, Dr. Spengler. Fortunately, I've got the perfect person in place to teach you all about the little miracles in life. She's already doing an excellent job, I must admit.”
“What?” Egon blinked, confused.
“Never mind. We'll discuss it the next time you're up. Well, good luck, gentlemen, and good hunting!” He shut the door behind them and smiled to himself. “Not bad for a day's work,” he said softly, then plucked the recorder out of his suit pocket and tried another rendition of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'.
It was a long, slow trip from Central Park to Ghostbusters Central. First, it took forever to maneuver the battered ECTO-1 through the confused, wandering hordes of half-naked men and women. Dana was grateful that their odyssey was devoid of any cops or park maintenance personnel, who would no doubt be glaring at the damage the heavy vehicle was doing to the place. She suspected there'd be plenty of recriminations along those lines in the days to come.
Then it was a major battle to get back on the gridlocked city streets and get the car pointed south. Between the cars sitting idle in the middle of the streets, the debris from the night's wild festivities, and the other drivers trying to get home as quickly as possible, Dana at times wondered if they wouldn't be better off just pulling over and walking back.
Sheila was sitting quietly in the front passenger's seat, staring out the window and occasionally offering quiet advice on open traffic pockets. Janine lay stretched out across the back seats, covered in a heavy blanket they'd found somewhere. She looked utterly drained and beyond consolation. And in the back of the banged-up vehicle sat two quietly beeping traps containing the catches of the day. Every time traffic stalled, Dana found herself looking back to make sure their prisoners were secure.
“Won't happen,” Sheila said at one point, shaking her head. “Ray told me that once these things snag a ghost, they're in to stay.”
“I just want to be sure, that's all,” Dana snapped. A second later, she sighed and slumped against the steering wheel. “Sorry.”
“It's okay.” Sheila's gaze drifted out the window. “It's been one hell of a night, and I mean that literally. Bad craziness...” She bit her lip, looking as if she was trying to find the proper words for what she was about to say. “We need to call the police when we get back to the firehouse.”
Dana nodded. The Ghostbusters' bodies would have to be taken to the city morgue for autopsies. And their wills and legal papers would have to be retrieved so that their last wishes would be followed. And the business would probably have to be legally dissolved and the property sold off, which meant the lawyers would need to be called...
And unfortunately, there was only one person who could possibly do any of those things. And right now, Janine didn't need the hassles. It might even be too much for her to bear.
As if she'd been reading Dana's mind, Janine looked up. “I'll take care of things,” she said softly. “I know what to do. Don't worry.”
“All right.” Dana saw the firehouse approaching on the right and felt her apprehension setting in again. As if finding them the first time wasn't bad enough, this time she knew what was waiting for her. Dana shook her head and took a deep breath. “We're here.” Neither of the other women said anything.
She reached for the automatic door opener, then thought about all the police cars and ambulances that would be showing up soon. So she parked outside instead, maneuvering ECTO-1 beside Janine's pink Volkswagen. She switched the ignition off and turned to find Sheila staring at her. They then glanced back at Janine, who was still huddled in the blanket. She was pale and still, like a porcelain doll whose expression was forever frozen on her face. Her eyes stared straight ahead, seeing everything and nothing at all.
“Let's go,” Dana said quietly. They got out of the car and headed to the front door, watching Dana fumble with the keys for the lock to the visitors’ entrance. Then they went inside.
The firehouse was eerily quiet. The four shrouded bodies still lay on the floor, bathed in shadows and starlight. Dana took a step forward and jumped at the resulting echoes that bounced throughout the place. “We'd best call the police,” she suggested softly.
“Oh damn,” Sheila suddenly swore. “The phone lines were cut, remember? And I don't think anyone's going to open their doors to us, not after everything that's gone on tonight.”
“But we can't just leave them here like this!” Dana snapped. “It's not right, Sheila! I can't bear the thought of Peter just...just...” The carefully constructed dam that had been holding back her tears suddenly exploded. “Oh damn,” she sobbed, collapsing into Sheila's arms as her pain and grief overwhelmed her at last.
Janine's bare feet padded softly across the concrete floor as she moved unerringly through the darkness towards one particular body. She carefully knelt beside Egon and removed the sheet, then cradled his head in her lap, running her fingers through his hair. The expression on her face left no doubt of the depth of her feelings for him.
Suddenly the merest whisper of a groan drifted through the firehouse. Dana and Sheila stiffened and glanced around, each acutely aware that their only weapons were outside in ECTO-1. Janine didn't seem to notice anything until a second moan followed the first. Nearby, one of the three bodies began to move, sending the linen fluttering. Janine glanced first at the animated corpse, then at Dana and Sheila. “Get a pack,” she ordered.
Neither woman moved.
And now the sheet flew completely away from the body to reveal Dr. Peter Venkman, who looked around and groaned. “God, I feel like the living dead.”
Egon's eyes flickered open and stared up at Janine.
Winston and Ray sat up and looked around.
Dana squeaked and sank into a dead faint.
“Man, this has been one crazy night,” Winston declared, sipping at his coffee. After recovering from the shock of the Ghostbusters' resurrection and a teary reunion with Ray, the ever-resourceful Sheila had grabbed Janine's car keys and found an all-night donut shop for emergency provisions. “Dying, beating Samhain, coming back to life.... who’d believe it?”
“Winston, we didn't 'die',” Egon insisted. “It was an extreme out-of-body experience. Our astral forms were torn away from our bodies by Samhain's attack, leaving our physical manifestations in a severe coma-like state until we were able to return.”
“I don't know,” Sheila mused as she munched on a chocolate long-john. “You sure looked snuffed to me. You know, Ray,” she added as she slapped a hand that was heading for the donut box, “you looked pretty cute for a corpse. I've heard stories about women who got off on sneaking into mortuaries and...”
“Guys,” Peter interrupted. “The important thing is that we took Samhain's best shot and beat him.” He yawned and stretched his arms out. “By the way, where is ol' Pumpkinhead? Copycat too, while I'm thinking of it.”
“Oh God,” Dana gasped. “We left them in the back of ECTO!” She leaped to her feet and grabbed the car keys.
“Easy,” Peter assured her, grabbing her arm and pulling her back down beside him. “They'll keep.” He looked up at the hole in the ceiling. “Looks like we're going to have to find temporary living space for a while, though.”
“I think I can find a place for you in my apartment,” Dana smiled.
“I know just the place.”
“Hmm-mmm. Oscar will love sharing his bedroom with you.” She ignored the mock stare of outrage on his face and sipped at her coffee.
“And before you ask, Ray--yes, you can stay with me,” Sheila sighed. “But if you even try to eat another donut, the deal's off.”
“Aw, Sheila...” Ray said, looking guilty.
“Winston,” Dana said, suddenly remembering the only unattached Ghostbuster in the room. “I've got a friend in the apartment next door who's in Europe for the next two months. I've been keeping an eye on her things, but if I called her, I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you stayed there for the time being!”
“We'll see,” he smiled. “I can always go home for awhile--so long as Mom doesn't start charging me room and board like she did last time.”
“And you, Dr. Spengler, are staying with me,” Janine declared, wrapping an arm around his. The past hour had seen the gradual re-emergence of the feisty receptionist, much to everyone's relief.
“I think that would be a very good idea,” Peter said, casting a meaningful gaze in Egon's direction. Spengler blushed furiously but said nothing. “Well,” Peter concluded with another yawn, “I think that's it for tonight, kiddies. Janine, you take Egon home--the rest of us will pile into ECTO-1 and carpool.”
“Don't even think it, Raymond Stantz,” Sheila suddenly warned. “You are NOT, repeat NOT going to bring any of those traps into my apartment! Get that right out of your head!”
“But Sheila...” Ray's protests faded under the laughter of the others as they followed the arguing couple towards the front door. Janine and Egon stayed behind in the reception area, looking at each other for a long time before melting into a tight embrace.
“I'm so glad you're back,” she sobbed, letting her tears flow down his chest. “When I saw you lying there...I just...I just didn't want to live anymore. I love you, Egon, I love you so much...”
“I love you too,” he whispered, savoring her warmth and softness. “But it's all right, Janine. We didn't really die--it was all some sort of astral projection.” He let her go and gently wiped the tears from her face. “It's late. Why don't we leave and get some rest?”
She sniffed away her remaining tears and smiled up at him. “All right.” As they headed for the door, she suddenly asked, “So. How did Copycat look in comparison to me?” When no reply came, she turned around and found him staring at the battered old sofa where Samhain had struck him down. “Egon?”
He turned around and blinked at her. “What?”
“Is everything all right?”
“Uhh...yes, of course. Let's go.” But as he turned to shut the door behind them, Egon could not help but look back one more time...
...at the small plastic recorder sitting on the sofa, bathed in starlight.