Steve Reynolds walks the streets of Roseland beneath the crimson sky. Passing faces ignore him. He is a ghost haunting sidewalks filled with musicians pounding plastic buckets, beggars holding cardboard signs, shoppers lugging bags. Discarded paper cups litter the street. The sky darkens, streetlamps spark, and lights fill the windows of the tall buildings.
Ghosts walk the streets, not the memory ghosts from Necropolis or the specters from the Sanctuary of Sin, but children wearing bed sheets. They carry sacks filled with treats. A man in a gorilla suit waits in line behind a woman wearing a negligee and bunny ears at the door to a nightclub spilling music onto the street.
Did he trick-or-treat as a kid? Is there a daughter somewhere waiting for her dad to take her out for trick-or-treat? He remembers Halloween, but not his childhood or if he has a family. Maybe somewhere in Roseland, his daughter wears a princess costume while holding her empty bag. She sits on the porch waiting for him to come home.
Looking around, Steve finds a quiet street lined with old apartment buildings. The decorative stonework appears like something from an age when craftsman cared about their work. The building across the street includes gargoyles gazing down from high perches.
A herd of goblins scurry down the steps scrambling onto the sidewalk, and turn racing for the next building. Chasing after, a woman waves a flashlight splashing a person dressed in a long black coat. Steve watches the parent scurry around a pedestrian, and he spots her face.
Kandy glances back at the woman chasing after the children. Unbuckling belt, she loosens her coat falling open waving behind her like a cape as she ascends the stone steps.
Stepping onto the road, Steve waves his hand. He tries to call out, but his dry throat burns. Watching Kandy disappear inside the apartment building, he scurries onto the sidewalk and takes the steps two at a time. His heavy feet stumble at the top, and he crashes into the door. Pulling the door open, he dives inside.
The green carpet on the stairs appears new, and fresh paint attacks his nose. Keeping near the wall, avoiding creaks and groans, he climbs the stairs. Among the snapping of the cooling building, he hears muffled voices and music. On the first floor, he gazes down the hall finding closed doors. Turning the corner, he climbs to the next, his breath puffing at the exertion. If Kandy is on the top floor, he may have to give up his pursuit.
On the third floor, he leans on the banister and takes a deep breath.
An explosion, bits of wood shower the hall, and emerging from the dust, a man wearing only boxer shorts runs bouncing off the wall and back into the center. Appearing behind him, Kandy holds a shotgun in one hand and a sword in the other. Twisting around, Steve watches the man run past. Gazing down the hall, he spots Kandy already midway to the other end. Glancing over-shoulder, he confirms the empty hall. It is as if Kandy teleported.
The man in the boxer shorts looks back over his shoulder unaware of the woman crouching down in his path. Leaning a shoulder low, Kandy trips the man lifting him up over end falling on his backside and rolling over head smacking against the wall. Spinning around, she jams the shotgun against the man’s nose and pulls the trigger, and the gun fires, the boom rattling the foundation.
A cloud swallows Kandy.
Teeth clenched, Steve fights the ringing in his ears. Reaching out towards the white cloud, he stumbles down the hall. Concern over the man, the residents, the building, and Kandy twist and turn within as his shaky legs carry him. The dust clears revealing Kandy standing over the man’s legs. She holds the shotgun pointed at his chest. Where the man’s head should be, there is a hole in the wall at the center of blood spray.
Kandy turns around, her cruel gaze bearing down. As she slips the sword into her leather coat, she says something lost to the ringing.
Knees weakening, Steve reaches out at the air searching for balance. There is nothing he can do for the headless victim. There is nothing he can do about the killer holding the shotgun. His life is hers if she wants it.
“Steve,” says Kandy. She holds her hand out. “The quiet place!”
In that instant, he realizes precisely what she means. Like in Necropolis, like in the Sanctuary of Sin, and perhaps like even in Torx’s apartment building, he steps into the shadows of the world. He grasps Kandy’s hand, and together they glide down the stairs, their soundless feet carrying them to the second floor.
This is the quiet place. His heartbeat is still within his head, but nothing beyond. Darkness eats at the floor and walls turning the building nearly transparent. He sees the street below, the cars parked on the street: phantoms. They pass an apparition climbing the stairs in slow motion. Glancing back, he considers the perspective from the ghost, a woman climbing the stairs at normal speed barely aware of two phantoms blurring past. The quiet place, the shadows between folds of time, feels like home.
He is alive. His legs find their strength, and he glides down the steps and through the closed door. Turning, Kandy leads him around the corner where she releases his hand. Stepping out of the shadows, he returns to the world. Sounds of traffic, music, and laughter attack along with the crisp evening air.
Reaching a black muscle car, Kandy pulls the door open and tosses the shotgun and sword into the back seat. “Get in.”
He obeys her command.
The car roars, the thundering pistons shaking the entire vehicle. Steve barely connects his seat belt when the tires squeal, and the car throws him against the door. Kandy howls out the window like a warrior announcing victory after a great battle. She straightens the car out and speeds down the road. No headlights. Itoril see better without them.