Another piercing scream spread through the air like a noxious breath, sending another horrified shudder down Johnny's already more than rattled bones. Whatever this thing was, it was nothing that he himself had ever encountered before. Caleb was now up and moving around, taking out his lighter in search of a torch or light switch, anything that would provide them with more visible light. Having finally found such a device, an anemic incandescent bulb slowly sparked wearily back to life in response to his flicking of the switch, changing the passageway from a place of pitch black to a world of light and shadow. It was not that great an improvement. The shrieking continued in the distance, although Johnny now felt that he had heard it come almost imperceptibly closer, and he was certain that it would now be drawn even nearer by the light.
"I'm waiting..." Caleb commented, clearly having no doubts either about the present direction of the thing that was threatening them. It was then that Johnny thought he saw a faint shimmer of something further off down the passageway. He could still not be sure if he had really seen anything or not, but Caleb certainly was. He had the benefit of knowing what to expect. Caleb brandished his sawed-off and prepared for the worst. Things had suddenly gone distressingly quiet, although Johnny now felt what seemed like a light breeze hit his face. Caleb let out a growl like a dog that sensed that trouble was on the wind. Everything seemed to be hanging in the air. The silence was broken by the return of the bloodcurdling screams, as what looked like a caricature of the grim reaper suddenly appeared in sharp relief before them.
"Beware the Phantasm of the Opera!" Caleb reiterated, right before dodging out of the way of its swinging scythe. In the process Johnny got bawled over by the rolling Caleb, who nonchalantly shoved him out of the way and quickly got back to his feet. Realizing how much of a hindrance he had suddenly become, Johnny tried his best to make a reverse by loading another flare into his pistol, wildly aiming it at the still extant form of the Phantasm. As soon as he had fired however the Phantasm simply faded into thin air, the flare passing harmlessly through its spectral form and embedding itself into the opposing wall, burning eerily in the dark. Caleb simply brushed the dirt off his long coat and waited for the spectre's response.
All was silent again, although a moving shimmer could still be made out by the trained eye, circling above them. Caleb trained his weapon on the shimmer, moving along with it, waiting for the full thing to reappear again. Johnny simply watched all this perplexed. Another scream ushered in the return of the Phantasm, something which Caleb was now prepared for. He fired both barrels straight into the menacing figure while it was still corporeal, causing it to recoil in an almost comical fashion, a shocked expression on its boney face. Caleb quickly reloaded and fired his weapon again, managing to strike the form before it had a chance to dematerialize, paralyzing the Phantasm once more. Caleb quickly reached into his pockets for more, but quickly discovered an absence of shells.
The Phantasm once again became a shimmer, and Caleb brought out the Tommy Gun he still had with him from his past battle with the Cultists. While doing so he lost track of the shimmer, leaving it up to Johnny to warn him of its presence behind him. Caleb quickly span around and grabbed the snath of the Phantasm's scythe, preventing it from using the weapon against him. Then he aimed the Tommy Gun with his other hand, discharging a full chamber into its still apparent form. It once again recoiled, wrenching the snath out of Caleb's strong grip and quickly backing away. Caleb just kept on firing. Eventually it let loose a mighty scream even more terrible than the ones it had made previously, falling in upon itself until nothing more of the spectre remained. Caleb relaxed. Johnny kept watching the spot where it had disappeared utterly petrified.
"What was it?" he asked finally, having regained the nerve to speak.
"It's a long story..." Caleb admitted, leaning himself against the wall and breathing hard. "You see, I am supposed to be dead, kept around only by a power that is not my own. Even though I slew my old master the gift he gave me still persists, allowing me to make the motions of the living. However, that is not the same thing as being truly alive, something which these Phantasms object to."
"But what are they?" Johnny inquired again, somehow being able to take the rest of Caleb's sordid story in stride. He was getting used to his new friend being far from mundane.
"They are sent to collect me and return me back to my grave. They exist between the land of the living and the land of the dead, crossing over only to harvest their victims. They are apparitions of death. "
"And they will never leave you alone?" Johnny persisted, still terrified.
"Looks like it" Caleb responded, a sardonic smile appearing on his face. "You still want to follow me now boy?" Johnny definitely had to think about that. He had no idea that he would have to contend with anything nearly as terrible as that when he had started. Still, he did continue to really have nowhere else to go, and there still seemed to be no one else who would stick up for him. Besides, it seemed disloyal to abandon the man now simply because he had found out about another one of his demons. Johnny decided he would stay, and his questions had actually given Caleb an idea. Maybe the scroll could serve another purpose. If it had the power to control life and death maybe it could give him a proper and full life again untainted by the tomb. Maybe it could make the Phantasms leave him alone.
"Come on then, we still have places to go..." Caleb declared, heading off down the passage from which the apparition had came. Johnny saw nothing else for it but to follow.
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Some might recall that I had previously made mention as part of the Blood Wiki's sixth anniversary that I had plans to once again invest some of my time in an area of Blood fandom that I had formerly been quite involved in. To that end I present Scroll, a story I originally began in the summer of 2008 as a kind of retelling of the story behind Cryptic Passage in an attempt to bring it further in line with the main Blood canon. Designed to be published in multiple parts, I shall endeavour to release a new instalment of Scroll every Sunday from March 9th on until the story is complete.