Story: By Any Other Name (A Shadow Walkers short)

Trigger warning for self-harm, cutting, suicide.So…the Immerverse is currently doing a show called Freedom Farm (last one this Saturday!), and in the last show there was a moment where I looked at the stream based in the garage, and saw – within the wider scene – the moment below. Something in my brain decided it looked like a ghostly apparition, and I grabbed a screenshot, then wrote this story the next day.
The actress in the picture is the amazing Victoria Hogan, currently playing Rose in the show. So here it is, one new Shadow Walkers story, featuring a brand new character, and a couple of ghosts.

By Any Other Name
(A Shadow Walkers short)
by Lee Hulme

“In here, Miss Sweet, you’ll see it,” James, the house owner, nodded as he pushed the button to raise the garage door.
Ella entered the garage, looking around obligingly, expecting emptiness, prepared to spin something to make him feel better. Instead, her gaze fixed on a figure, sat in a chair facing the back of the garage.

Before looking closer, Ella turned and nodded to James, “I see it. I need quiet to try and communicate.”
James nodded and stayed where he was for a moment before starting, and nodding again as he flicked on the light and closed the door.
The single bulb did more to reveal all the shadows than chase away the darkness, but it illuminated the figure on the chair.
“So who are you, then?” Ella murmured.
The figure was female and almost solid, the lines of the dark garage wall only very faintly visible through her. She wore a white top, scooped low at the neck, a long black skirt, black slip-on shoes. Her hair was long and blonde, not quite curly, framing a sharp-featured but gentle face. On her lap lay a white blanket, on top of which rested her hands, wrist facing upwards, bandaged tightly with strips of black cloth. Blood spotted the whites and oozed from beneath the cloth, dark and thick. The figure sat perfectly still, eyes unfocused, mouth slack.
Ella put down her bag of supplies and moved closer, stepping in front of the figure and crouching down.
The eyes focused on her warily.
“Not just an echo, then,” Ella said quietly. “You can see me. That’s good. Can you communicate?”
The figure hesitated and then nodded her head so slowly and stiffly Ella almost expected to hear a creak of neck joints.
“How about speaking, can you talk to me? It’ll make this easier, but we can work around it if not.”
Again the figure paused, mouth working. A slight frown creased the pretty face, as if the figure was trying to remember how to connect her thoughts to her mouth. After a few moments, she spoke, “Yes.”
Ella smiled, “Well done. I know that wasn’t easy for you. Can you tell me who you are? Do you remember your name?”
Again the pause, and then: “Rose.”
“Rose, my name is Ella.”
A small smile.
Ella stood and got a chair, sitting across from Rose, “Do you know where you are?”
Rose nodded and spoke slowly, “Garage. My house – was my house. Somebody else’s now.”
Ella nodded, “Do you know how long you’ve been here?”
“Forever. Yesterday. Don’t know.”
“Do you know what happened to you?” Ella asked cautiously.
Rose slowly lifted her arms, wrists facing towards Ella, “I got hurt. I think I did it.”
Ella nodded, “Do you remember why?”
Rose nodded.
“Can you show me?”
Rose nodded again and reached out a hand. Ella took it and closed her eyes, feeling a jolt as she was pulled into Rose’s memories.
When the tug ceased, Ella was outside, standing beside a trellis. In front of her was Rose, and a young man, handsome but for his haughty expression. Looking around she realised she was at a wedding, and listened as the minister proclaimed them man and wife, watched the kiss, the cheers and celebrations.
Rose’s voice spoke in her mind: “My wedding day. I was 19. Young, in love. Stupid. Foolish. He was older, he worked for my Dad, he was on the fast track to the top, and he was my way out from beneath the shadow of Mom and Dad. Only child, rich and paranoid parents – I was feeling stifled, so I took the first man that proclaimed his love. Maybe I believed him, maybe I loved him too much to care – maybe I convinced myself of both those things. I don’t even remember anymore. But here we are, married.”
The scene rippled and faded, bleeding into a still image of Rose and Tad in a bedroom.
“He never abused me – no violence, no cruel words. Not like you’re thinking.”
Ella shrugged, “Usual obvious thing to think, sadly.”
“I know, but it wasn’t that. He wanted my money – all of it – and he had a plan to get it.”
Ella frowned, “What-“
“Just watch,” Rose interrupted. “It’ll make more sense if you just watch.”
Ella nodded obligingly and faced the scene as it began to move.
Tad paced up and down beside the bed, watching Rose closely.
Rose sat on the bed, wrapped to her nose in a duvet, rocking back and forth against the headboard, every movement creating a comforting squeak as she whispered to herself too fast and too quietly for any words to be heard.
As Tad paced, Ella watched his expression. He barely tried to hide his sneer, even as Rose looked up at him pleadingly, before her gaze shifted to beyond his should and her mouth opened in a silent scream.
At this, Tad exited the room, leaving Rose to scream and whimper and sob.
“I’m seeing a monster. Tall, flayed of all its skin, carrying a rusty short sword inscribed with glowing runes. I saw monsters a lot, but him the most.”
Ella nodded thoughtfully as the scene bled into the next.
A new room, white and clinical a hospital of some kind. Rose was strapped to a sturdy bed, staring blankly at the ceiling as a man in a white lab coat injected her with a cloudy liquid and stepped back.
After a few moments, Rose began to struggle and moan, then to buck and shout, screaming for someone to save her. Eventually exhaustion set in and she lay still, sobbing, tears running down into her hair.
A new scene and Tad was guiding Rose out of the car and back into their house.
Another, and Rose was pretending to swallow pills and then spitting them out.
Another and Rose was watching Tad from the bedroom window as he got into his car and drove away. Rose turned back to the room and nodded to herself firmly.
“Last one,” Rose whispered as the scene changed again. This time it was the garage – recognisable, despite a different layout.
Rose entered and closed the door behind her reaching purposefully for an empty glass jar. Throwing it to the floor, she wrapped her hand in a black scarf, then bent and picked out a thick, sharp piece. Sitting on the chair, she took some deep breaths, then focused her gaze intently on the glass she held.
Without hesitation, she tore the glass down from wrist to forearm, hissing sharply as the blood began to flow.
Changing hands, almost dropping the piece of glass, she drew a similar cut down her right arm.
Now the glass clattered to the floor and she rested her head against the garage wall, watching the blood flow until her eyes closed and her face grew peaceful.
Without warning the garage door opened and Tad walked in. He stopped dead for a moment, took a step forwards as if to help, and then raced outside.
Ella heard retching sounds, then silence.
After a few minutes, Tad came back into the garage with two strips of black cloth – the same two Rose still wore. After checking her pulse, he grunted satisfaction and lifted her hands one by one, tying the cloth tightly around, “Messy way to do it but it works for me,” he told Rose as he pulled out his cell.
The scene faded and Ella returned to herself. Looking away from Rose, she swiped her hands across her eyes, smearing tears over her face.
“I’m sorry,” Rose whispered.
Ella shook her head and sat back down, “He made you think you were insane. He fed you something to make you hallucinate. He drove you to an institution, and then he drove you to suicide just to escape.”
Rose nodded, “Part of me always knew. I think that made it worse. I didn’t want to let him win, but I don’t think there was a way to make him lose.”
Ella nodded understanding, “Are you here now from choice, or are you stuck?”
Rose sighed, “Stuck, I think. Tad’s dead already, there’s nothing for me to stay for. But I’m afraid of what’s waiting for me, after what I did.”
“Then it’s time we let you go to your rest.”
Rose smiled slightly, “That would be nice.”
Ella opened her bag of supplies and began laying out stones and candles around Rose’s chair, chattering away softly as she worked. “These are just things that help me channel – everyone who works with the dead have their own way of doing things, passed down in familiar or from mentors and altered until it feels right. Mine is pretty simple compared to most. OK, ready?”
Rose nodded, “What do I do?”
“Well, you’re stuck here because you’re afraid – you fear there will be punishment for taking your own life. If I can find a spirit to tell you otherwise and guide you onwards, that should be it. Simple, really.”
Rose nodded.
Ella closed her eyes and shifted her mind sideways, looking for the hook that meant she was connected with a more ephemeral realm. A mental click told her she was there, and she opened her eyes again. The garage shimmered softly, no longer visible even faintly through Rose’s figure. Ella sent out a mind-call to one of her spirit friends and seconds later a figure materialised. He was short, dark and impeccably dressed, and turning his kind smile on Ella and Rose he bowed his head respectfully.
“What can I do for you, Ella?”
“Simon, thank you for coming. This is Rose. You can see how she died, and she’s been stuck here, worried that she might be subject to punishment. I know that’s not the case, even without the exceptional circumstances, but I hoped you’d be able to reassure and guide her through.”
Simon nodded and began to speak, instead cut off by a roar as another figure appeared beside Rose.
Tad was barely recognisable, his inner rage and ugliness now clear in his face – not obviously deformed, but just wrong somehow. He gripped Rose’s shoulder and glared at Ella and Simon, “I’ve been looking for this ever since I died. It’s mine.”
Simon stepped forwards, clearing his throat, “No she is not. You are the one out of place here, sir, and I ask you to return to whatever pit was incompetent enough to allow you this brief escape.”
Tad looked at Simon incredulously for a moment and then laughed, his hand gripping Rose’s shoulder until she winced in pain.
Ella stood by Simon, “Between us we can call an awful lot of power to our aid, Tad. Who will follow you into a fight against us, to allow you the pleasure of continuing to torture this woman?”
To angry to back down, Tad drew himself up and launched at Simon, who stepped smoothly out of the way, leaving Tad to land face-first on the ground and pick himself back up. His eyes flashed in uncontrolled rage, and he flew this time at Ella, passing directly through and back onto the floor again.
This time, before he could stand, Simon stepped forwards, took hold of his collar, and yanked him upright, “Last chance, Tad. Go now, back to where you came from, or regret it.”
Tad glowered, “Fuck you. That bitch is mine.”
Simon set Tad down, smoothed his shirt, and stepped back, gesturing to Rose.
Slowly Rose got to her feet, looking at Ella for guidance.
Ella nodded encouragingly, trusting that Simon knew what he was doing.
Tad spun around and laughed at Rose, “Here, bitch, let me give you that punching I always had to resist in order to make my story plausible,” he raised his hands and swung at Rose’s head.
The fist connected with a thunk and Rose hit the floor.
Ella started forwards, but Simon held up a hand, shaking his head.
Tad moved to Rose’s prone figure, planting a kick into her ribs.
Rose cried out in pain, but her head shot up and her eyes flashed anger.
Tad grinned and lifted his foot to kick again.
Rose’s hands shot out and grabbed the foot, throwing it sideways. In the moment Tad was off-balance, Rose came to her feet and shoved, sending Tad crashing to the floor before he had time to try and cushion his fall.
Not allowing him time to recover, Rose placed a foot on his neck, “I don’t know what it will do to you if I put all my weight on this foot, Tad, but I bet even in the afterlife it’s nothing nice.”
Tad struggled, but he was pinned too firmly. Eventually he settled for glaring at her.
Simon stepped forwards, knelt by Tad, and raised a hand that glowed with white fire. He touched the fire to Tad’s flesh, and the prone man vanished without a noise.
Rose staggered and righted herself as her foot, with no neck beneath it, hit the floor, “What did you do to him?” she asked Simon.
“What I warned him I would do. Sent him someplace worse than where he was.”
“And me? What did you do to me?”
Simon smiled at Rose, “I did nothing but give you a chance to find your power. You found it, and used it, yourself.”
“What if I hadn’t?”
“Same basic outcome, except you wouldn’t be standing tall. And you’d still be wearing those pieces of cloth over wounds that never closed.”
Rose looked down at her arms and gasped. No black cloths, no injuries, no blood.”
“Come,” Simon held out a hand, “It’s long past time you found your way over to a better place.”
Rose took Simon’s hand and turned to Ella, “Thank you.”
Ella smiled softly, “I’m glad I could help.”
“If I can ever help you – add me to the people you can call if you ever need anything.”
Ella nodded, “I will.”
Rose smiled broadly, lighting up her entire face, and nodded to Simon, “I’m ready.”
Ella watched the two figured fade out of existence. Closing her eyes, she shifted her sight back into the mortal realm. Leaving the garage, she saw James resting on the wall at the foot of the driveway, chatting to two familiar faces. One, copper-haired with electric blue eyes and a melancholy face, dressed casually but elegantly. The other with glasses perched atop messy dark hair, dressed as if she had closed her eyes and thrown on the first thing she could find. Seeing Ella emerge, both smiled warmly.
James turned, “Oh, hi – your friends arrived while you were in there. Uh – Cam and Lana, right?”
Cam nodded as Lana gave Ella a hug, then followed suit.
“All good?” Lana asked.
Ella nodded, “All good. You guys here for a social call, or you n
eed my help?”
Lana laughed, “Yeah. One day we will pay a social visit, we promise, but right now, if you’re not busy for a few days…?”
Ella smiled, “Always free for you guys.” She turned to James, “Your garage is fine again, you won’t see or hear anything more.”
James nodded and handed an envelope over as he shook her hand, “Thank you, here’s your payment, thank you,” with a last curious look at the three of them he went inside.
Lana threw an arm around Ella’s shoulder as they walked towards Cam’s beaten up old car, “You’re gonna love this one, hon.”
Ella smiled, “Please, tell me more.”


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