I groaned, my head in my hands. I'm tired, bruised and I smell of grease. Tonight is not fun. Yesterday wasn't fun. I haven't had anything like 'fun' in quite some time. I straighten up, put my hands behind me on the crate and lean back on them. Looking at the apparition before me, I try to convey 'don't-do-this-to-me-now' with a pained expression.
"You what?" I say. Get it to repeat what it said. Hopefully it'll give me a few precious moments to let it's words sink into my head, which incidentally feels like all the grit, grime and effluent I've been ankle deep in for too long.
"It is necessary that you build something for us, we need you. It is important beyond your comprehension." The fact it's standing a few good inches above the mud doesn't help me relax. Neither does the rain, all too cold, wet and real as it soaks me, which is passing straight through her. It. Whatever.
"Too right it is, I have no idea what you're on about." I pause, wipe the water and scraggly, greasy hair from my eyes. "Look, I'm flattered, but you can see I'm busy... I think. I'm not up for another weird-ass project from who or whatever you lot work for. I've helped you once already. Find someone else. It's not like you don't have many others to choose from."
It doesn't react immediately. I think it's female, or trying to be. It probably thinks that'll make me listen harder. I'm sure it wasn't female a minute ago.
I know that these creatures or ghosts are real. As in they're not just me going insane, which would be well within my rights. They've been to see me once before, had me create some weird tech from blueprints they gave me. Nothing I'd ever seen before. Nothing from my world. Took me quite a while to get my head round that, that I'd been hired by otherworldly spectre-y things that seemed incorporeal, able to change sex and appearance at will. Who also all wore hooded trenchcoats. Or robes. Or shrouds.
It was pretty cool, thinking about it. But I had an environmental disaster to sort out and I wasn't going to let the spectres stop me from fixing the lifters needed to clear rubble from the streets.
"This time, there are no other options. We need you. We need you now. Worlds are in danger. Yours too. There is no choice."
For me or them, I thought. The spectre was changing. Subtly at first, but it seemed unstable.
"If it's so important why are you being so vague and melodramatic? All the worlds are in danger? There are people suffocating and drowning and dying not three klicks from where you... hover. I help them now, you can come back later. Give me a week. Can't be that quick, destroying all worlds." I grinned at the lame humour brought on by exhaustion.
I don't really know what I saw in that instant. It was a side of the spectres I hadn't seen before. I think she showed me something. I couldn't understand what she showed me though, I think that would have been impossible. But the important bit was;
Then and there, sitting on a crate and being rained on, I knew that the people under the mud would have to wait. That's not something I could deal with in an instant. I'm certain the spectre knew I couldn't handle it.
In that instant, I think she had showed me what would happen if I didn't do what she said. The consequence.
Looking back, I think that's what it was, but I had blocked it out rather than lose my sanity completely. Even so, I fainted straight into the mud.
Sure it was cruel, but I was being a cocky fool and I'm sure it had been itching for a reason to do that to me.