Chapter 1: 1 - First
“No, it’s mine,” Thomas whined, “I had it first.”
“You have first, but I find first.” Robin countered, referring to his initial discovery of the slice shortly after Humphrey's death.
Pat’s head was flicking between the two of them as they argued as though he was watching a tennis match. The neck slice lay abandoned on the grass of the lake bank as the argument erupted between them.
“That is beside the point!” Fantastic, all Pat needed was for the Captain to get involved.
Mary elbowed her way into the group and exasperatedly grasped the neck slice, snatching it from the ground. “This how it be done!” she exclaimed, pausing the conflict in motion as she drew the flesh circle behind her before propelling it forwards, perfectly flat against the water’s surface. It bounced once, it bounced twice, it bounced a third time before flopping and sinking into the murky depths.
“Oho! The first triple skip. Brillopads, Mary!”
Robin flashed her an encouraging grin as she clapped her hands gleefully.
“Go and get it then, Thomas.” said the Captain in a bored voice, pointing nonchalantly with his swaggerstick towards the bottom of the lake.
This was not the first time Thomas had had this job.
Chapter 2: 2 - Bone
The small piece of bone in the neck slice takes centre stage.
Alison frowned. "I didn't know ghosts could get headaches."
"Oh yes. It's just that poor Humphrey seems to get them the most." Pat said, adjusting his glasses.
Mike looked at Alison "One of the ghosts got a headache? Give them a painkill- oh, wait, never mind..." he paused "I saw this thing online the other day: apparently there's a pressure point on the back of your neck on the spine which can relieve the pain," he gazed around the upper portion of the room as if he was scanning invisible floating figures. "Interesting stuff."
Alison sighed. "Well, I suppose it's worth a shot. Any volunteers?"
The ghosts looked between themselves.
"There?" Julian was holding Humphrey's head as he jabbed at a point on the back of his neck.
"Nope." Humphrey's voice was slightly strangled-sounding owing to the fact that he was pressed face down in Julian's spare hand, nose and mouth squashed against the politician's palm.
"Here?" he prodded again.
Cap was peering over his shoulder, stick poised. "Try a little lower," he pointed with the end of the crop.
Julian sighed and poked a tad further down.
"Well I've tried all of it at this point."
Robin spoke from the group watching. "There one bit you haven't try."
"Slicey!" Robin called.
Fanny grimaced as she followed the others through the hallway. They were looking for a slice of neck meat: outrageous.
"Ooh!" Robin suddenly shouted, diving behind a chair and reemerging with the flesh which he'd peeled from the floor. He held it out like someone presenting a fish they'd proudly caught.
Cap's stance changed in anticipation. "Yes please, Julian."
Julian groaned, taking the item from Robin's out-stretched hand and placing it on the table. He held it still with one flat palm on top, and used his other hand to press on the small fragment of bone. A soft squelching noise permeated the silence.
"Ooh!! Just there!" Humphrey's head spoke from where Kitty was stood holding him a few feet away. Tension fell from his face and the pain appeared to ease.
"Okay that's just-" Alison diverted her eyes in repulsion.
"It be witchcraft!"
Chapter 3: 3 - Fear
A stormy night at Button House. Cap and Kitty's father-daughter relationship, and Robin's everlasting wisdom.
It was midnight as lightning flashed over Button House. A loud rumble of thunder echoed overhead and Kitty jumped in fright alone in her bedroom.
She couldn't sleep. Not like this. Perhaps some of the others were still awake - yes, she'd go and see.
Descending the stairs into the drawing room, she trembled slightly. As she got to the doorway, she looked in to see that Robin and the Captain were still awake - the former contemplating chess moves and the latter doing his watch duty until he was happy that everyone had safely turned in for the night.
Cap caught sight of Kitty entering the room and stopped mid-pace, hands held behind his back. "Ah, Katherine. I thought you'd gone to bed."
"I had but I can't sleep. The storm is too loud."
He looked at her with contemplative pity, one eyebrow raised and lips contorted tightly into a wry smile. "I see. Well, when I was in training we were taught how to sleep in all conditions. The trick is to-"
"You need cuddle buddy. It always help me." They both turned to look at Robin. He shrugged casually and then focused his attention back on the chessboard.
"And who might you be suggesting does that?" Cap asked, challenging this claim with an air of disbelief.
"Easy," Robin stood up. He turned to Humphrey's head laid some distance away, so far unnoticed by Kitty. "You mind?" he asked.
"No, not at all."
Kitty assumed Robin was about to hand Humphrey's head to her, before Humphrey added:
"Go and get him."
Robin nodded once and disappeared from the room. When he returned he was holding something else, something floppy.
"Here." In the dim lamplight he held out the object which on closer inspection turned out to be the neck slice.
Kitty squirmed slightly as she took the offered flesh and slowly, watched by all of the others, hugged it to her chest.
"Take. Go sleep."
Kitty turned her gaze nervously from Robin to Cap, seeking more reassurance.
"It'll be fine, Katherine. We're not far away if you need anything," the Captain asserted. "Now go and get some rest." He bounced on his feet and gave her a confident smile. "Sleep well."
It was true, with the neck slice by her side and the others nearby she sure did feel less afraid.
Chapter 4: 4 - Family
Pat turned to the others, a grimace on his face at the rather unwanted details Julian had just divulged. There was a stunned silence which he then broke. “Right then! On that note, I think it’s time we dispersed to the other room for Thomas’ choice of movie.”
The group nodded and rose to their feet, glad to draw a close to the discussion. Fanny in particular eagerly swept out in as dignified of a way as possible, looking thoroughly disgusted.
Kitty made it to the doorway as the last of the group to leave bar the Captain who was efficiently shepherding them all through, but then she turned and scurried back. She scooped up the neck slice and ran to catch up with the others. “Don’t forget him!” she cried, holding it aloft.
The Captain smiled and shook his head fondly as he followed her out of the room. Because, of course, the neck slice was part of the family.
Chapter 5: 5 - Poetry
“Oh neck slice, you are nice-”
“Yes, you’ve said that in the last 5 poems you’ve composed about my piece of neck.”
“Do you challenge my ability to construct verse, sir?!”
“No, I’m merely pointing out the repetition problem here. Perhaps it’s time for something a little different?”
“ Fine .”
The scene wasn’t unusual: Thomas having unwanted company as he sat by the window attempting to compose poetry. Humphrey’s head lay on the nearby table facing Thomas, his eyes occasionally flitting over to scan the other man’s facial expressions as he tried to make helpful suggestions.
The poet took on a thoughtful pose as he considered a new approach to the lyrical construction, one long finger resting upon his lips. After a long period of contemplation, he spoke again:
“There once was a piece of flesh, which wouldn’t be out of place as a pillow in a child’s creche-”
“Oh good, the age old ‘There was once…’ beginning.” Humphrey rolled his eyes, sarcasm tinting his tone. This was becoming tiresome. “And besides, the second line has too many syllabl-”
Thomas sprang to his feet in indignation causing Humphrey to promptly fall silent. “Why don’t you give it a go then, seeing as you know so much?!” he cried, gesticulating dramatically in a way which exaggerated the fluttery effect of his puffed sleeves.
"Because I don't feel the need to write poetry about my neck! What's so 'romantically inspiring' about it anyway?!"
"It's just unique. It's unprecedented, absurd , even. A fantastic muse for one's creativity. Now if only my curious thoughts would flow into alluring words which charm the mind of anyone who-"
"Well!" Thomas practically snorted through his nose striding from the window, "It's not every day you come across a slither of somebody's neck, the existence of which came about by an unfortunate two-bladed beheading."
"And it's not every day you come across a regency era poet so enchanted by such an object." Humphrey muttered, barely audible. But Thomas heard.
The poet huffed. It was going to be a long afternoon.
“It does look exactly like a slice of ham.” Alison agreed, giggling from the copious amounts of wine she’d just consumed to wind down from the busy week.
“Bet it’d make a scrummy sandwich.” Pat laughed, joining in on the cheer.
“It is nice chew.” Robin nodded.
Multiple pairs of concerned, wide eyes all turned to look at him. There was a prolonged silence.
“What? Sometimes get hungry…”
“ Well then .” Julian muttered, looking somewhat alarmed.
“Wait, guys, I’ve got an idea.” Alison grinned, sweeping out of the room towards the kitchen. She stumbled back in mere moments later holding two slices of bread. “Would you like a neck slice sandwich, madam?” she asked Kitty's direction with a mock service voice, holding the bread aloft.
“Oh goody!” Kitty gasped in excitement.
Alison laid down one slice of the bread, instructed Mary to place the piece of ghostly neck on top of it and then held the second slice so that it hovered atop the pile.
There was a noise of collective amusement amongst multiple members of the group. Fanny and the Captain shared a look of discontent: a neck slice sandwich, really?!
Pat smiled sadly. “If only we could take a picture of it."
Drop us a comment if you're still reading this cursery <3
Chapter 7: 7 - Secret
“Just another little secret. I know you won’t spill.” Cap looked at the pillow, a bemused expression spreading across his face. “Well, you can’t .”
There was a pause as if he was expecting a response. Perhaps the best thing about speaking to his pillow was that it would never give him one. He’d never be placed in that situation where he had to have a proper back and forth conversation with it, rather he could let loose and say whatever he pleased.
“Goodnight, old thing.” It was a reflex at this point once he’d concluded that he’d finished giving the day’s brief. As always, he leant down to give it a small kiss.
But this time his lips were met with something slimy. He jolted backwards in alarm, the neck slice coming into focus in the dimly lit room. It was laid just over the edge of his pillow, having apparently crawled there without him noticing.
It seemed that there was now another secret for him to keep: one fine November evening at precisely 2308hrs he’d unwillingly smooched the neck slice. How unbecoming of an officer.
Chapter 8: 8 - Camping
It was nearing 11pm as Alison made the final adjustments to her tent which had been set up a few hours prior and was beginning to collapse, closely watched by Thomas who stood nearby in admiration. She’d caved in and agreed to camp outside with the ghosts again given how much they’d enjoyed it last time. Mike agreed to participate only because it was now May and considerably warmer.
“Fantastic work.” the poet smiled, large soft eyes turned towards her. “Now we rest ready for the gorgeous morrow.”
She crawled into the tent to find the ghosts already settled on the ground, her own sleeping bag courteously left empty in the middle of the dozy pile of spirits. Mike joined her, treading carefully, wary of standing on any ghost. With a loud yawn each, they settled down.
As everybody chorused their goodnights, Mary shuffled slightly. “Night, slice.” she murmured.
Slice? Alison turned to look. Sure enough, the neck slice was nestled under Mary’s head - a squidgy pillow. Charming.
Chapter 9: 9 - News
“Who even reads a newspaper anymore?!” Mike exclaimed, slapping the delivered paper onto the kitchen table in despair.
Alison sighed, flicking through the pile of bills that had arrived along with said paper. “Barclay, probably.”
“We’ll just use it for the fire - nothing of interest in here that I can’t find online.”
What Mike didn’t realise is that later that evening when he carelessly threw the newspaper whole onto the fire that it was no longer just a newspaper. Unbeknownst to him, a group of ghosts were currently jumping around, yelling that the neck slice had slithered between the pages for a nap and was now laid in the blaze. Of course, they knew no harm would come to it but it was “a matter of principle, Michael!” as bellowed by the Captain, outraged at the disrespect shown for Humphrey. The moment of panic had also caused them to disregard all ghost physics in terms of salvaging it.
“Ah yes, just poke the fire some more!” cried Thomas sarcastically, as Mike probed the paper with a toasting fork to push the newspaper further into the flames. The pages curled and blackened as the fire licked at them, revealing the unharmed neck slice the more they burned.
“Oh for heaven’s sake!” the Captain eventually shouted, regaining all abandoned logic and diving in heroically to extract the slice as Mike turned away from the fire. A cheer rippled through those watching.
“Hehe, smoked slicey.” Robin grinned, pointing to the slice which Cap held aloft in victory.
“What be smoked?” came the nervous voice of Mary as she morphed through the wall.
Chapter 10: 10 - Wait
Inspired by real life events.
“You’ll just have to sit there and wait until you can act with more decorum!” Fanny scolded, looking at the neck slice sat in what Mary had dubbed the ‘naughty corner’.
It’d been creeping up on them all morning, slithering all over the place as if it was on a sugar high. In particular, it’d alarmed the Captain when it’d rapidly crawled to sit at his feet as he’d been waiting for Alison to time his morning run. He’d jumped, moved into a defensive stance as per his quick reflexes and stood on it by accident, causing Humphrey to call across the house “Guys! I feel like I’m suffocating!” as his detached piece of neck was crushed against the gravel.
Fanny huffed with approval as she peered down her nose at the sorry-looking slice. “Good.” she said, satisfied that it was finally behaving itself before turning to sweep out of the room, Mary in tow.
And so it waited. For its entire timeout. Except everybody forgot to dismiss it.
Legend has it it’s still sat there today.
Chapter 11: 11 - Cry
(I’m crying writing about this neck slice for the 11th day in a row. Crying.)
“It’s okay, mate. We all miss people. But we have each other now.” Pat said gently.
“But you don’t understand !” Thomas exclaimed, throwing his arms into the air and almost hitting Pat in the face.
“Now steady on,” the Captain interjected, “we can’t let these things get to us. We must march on through the warzone despite the heavy gunfire. Soldier on.”
Thomas huffed angrily, “Says the one who hasn’t so much as expressed a single emotion in his 80-year existence! Oh it’s easy for you! I am afflicted by my feelings.” He continued before Cap could counter this jibe, “And dear, dear Isabelle loved me! She loved me ! And neither of us got to express it to one another. We were robbed, I tell you. A more tragic tale than that of Romeo and Juliet, than Roger and Hermione...”
From its position on the floor, the neck slice wiped a slimy, metaphorical tear in appreciation of the dramatics. The Captain faltered as he tried to make a remark in response.
“Come on Thomas, mate. Who knows: maybe you’ll see her again.” Pat chirped.
“Oh I do hope so, but my romantic dreams never seem to transpire into reality, if it hasn’t escaped your notice!” To their utter horror, he burst into tears. Whilst Cap froze in alarm, Pat went to lay a hand on the poet's shoulder.
But Thomas dodged Pat’s comforting gesture. He dived to one side and - blindly consumed by emotions - picked up the slice, noisily blowing his nose onto it.
Pat squirmed. “Charming.”
“Oi! That’s my neck you’re filling with your snot!”
Chapter 12: 12 - Smile
The ghosts were sat in a semicircle, watching Julian and Robin play chess when Alison reached the doorway. She did a quick head count:
-oh, and the neck slice of course. It sat alongside Humphrey's head on the sofa. He looked content at having the additional fragment of himself close by.
In the few moments she was watching, she observed the Captain suggest quietly to Mary a tactical move that Julian could play, Fanny explain to Thomas and Kitty something about one of the many chess games she'd observed being played at the house, and the neck slice shuffle just a smidge closer to Humphrey's head, cuddling up to its other part.
A smile tugged at her lips. It was nice to see them all getting along.
Chapter 13: 13 - Wish
The chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ gradually died down, Robin holding the last note for the longest.
“Make a wish!”
Julian scowled. “I wish I had an actual cake, not a neck slice pretending to be one.” His eyes narrowed.
“He’s doing his best!” Humphrey called from his position on the kitchen table just a few feet from then ‘neck cake’.
“Just blow the slice already.” the Captain rolled his eyes at Julian’s tardiness extinguishing the imaginary candles.
But Julian didn’t move. Instead he stuck his tongue out impishly. “Now that’s something I’d much rather do on my birthday: be blo-”
Chapter 14: 14 - Chaos
Alison got up with a sigh and followed the source of the shouting through the hallways, suspicion over what was going down. She marched up the stairs, feeling somewhat like a tired mother hearing her unruly children causing mischief and dreading what she’d find upon further investigation.
As she entered the TV room, she was met with a cacophony of yelling. Fanny, Julian, Robin, Pat, the Captain and Kitty were standing spread out some distance away from Thomas and Mary, apparently having a violent row in the middle of the room.
“Be gone with ye, wicked poet boy!” Mary snarled, hands clawing at Thomas’ shoulders as she moved to push him away.
Rapidly analysing the situation she’d walked into, Alison became aware that Thomas was holding something. From his defensive stance, he raised his hand and slapped what turned out to be the neck slice across Mary’s face. A gasp rang through the observers, Fanny’s shout of “Outrageous!” audible above the turmoil.
Back and forth, back and forth Thomas repeatedly slapped Mary with the flesh, enraging her more with each repeated motion. Smoke appeared to puff from her ears - metaphorically, of course (although it quite possibly could literally have done).
“RIGHT!” the Captain yelled, moving to intervene between the two. “This sort of behaviour is completel-”
“Stands back! I can handles this!” Mary snapped, shoving the Captain whole-heartedly in the chest and causing him to overbalance backwards.
“Oh gosh!” Kitty gasped, rushing to check if the Captain was alright as he brushed down his uniform and hurried to regain dignity.
At the other side of the group, Robin and Julian were egging the two parties on with various fighting tactic suggestions, placing bets on who’d come off worse. And then Mary did something not unheard of for her, but still shocking all the same: she headbutted Thomas in the face.
The force of the blow caused Thomas to cringe backwards and fling a hand to his nose. As he did so, he let go of the neck slice which - propelled by the sudden motion - flew across the room and slapped into the opposite wall. All attention was turned away from the chaotic scene and towards the slice. They watched mesmerised as it slowly slid down the wallpaper, crumpling into a heap on the floor.
Alison breathed a sigh of relief as stillness washed over the room. That sure was one way to end a conflict.
Chapter 15: 15 - Echo
Robin cackled with satisfaction.
“No, no, give it here.” Julian insisted, bending down and scooping the slice up. "This is how you do it.”
With that he threw the neck slice at the floor like a chef might fling dough onto a kitchen table. It smacked the wooden floorboards with surprising force, a slapping noise resounding through the empty ballroom.
“Me do good echo! Look!” Robin snatched it back up, determined to win this mini competition they’d unwittingly found themselves in. He jumped in the air and slam dunked the flesh circle back at the ground, a slap even louder than the one Julian had created reverberating around the walls.
Julian gestured violently as he tried to defend his attempt. “No, it’s all in the wrist. It’s the technique that counts.”
Regardless of who won the competition, who knew the neck slice could create a slapping sound if you threw it forcefully enough at a hard surface? More to the point: how does one even discover that?
Well, I guess when you’re stuck somewhere for eternity...
Chapter 16: 16 - Trick
A voice with no owner was radiating across the room. It was a voice Thomas had never heard before. It sounded rough, menacing, terrifying - the sort of voice one expected to hear from a villain in a film, except it was here in reality in this very room, this very empty room. Where was everyone, anyway?
He decided to investigate. Balling his hands into fists and tucking them into his sleeves by means of self-protection he pulled himself together, rolling his shoulders in a manner he’d seen the Captain do on multiple occasions. Bracing himself, he listened carefully as the voice spoke again:
“I can see you, Thorne. Now all will be okay if you do as I say...”
It was ominous. Thomas couldn’t help but tremble a little, especially as the house was eerily quiet. He’d not seen another soul - living or dead - for a while now. Yet he felt both paralysed in fear and compelled to get to the bottom of this if only to reassure himself - a conflicting response.
Moving through the room with false confidence, he followed the sound of the voice to discover its source. It seemed to be coming from near the table against the wall. He crept closer, a nervous expression on his face, but upon reaching the table all he saw was the neck slice laid atop the surface where it’d been carelessly left by someone - forgotten as always. Well, neck slices couldn’t talk, could they?! He was pretty certain there wasn’t enough - if any - vocal cord in this small slither for it to be capable of making a sound resembling speech.
But indeed, as he decided to challenge this claim, leaning his ear closer to the circle of flesh. As he did so, the voice came booming into his ear. He jumped. His suspicions were confirmed: it was the neck slice.
As it continued to bellow at him, he noticed something a little strange: it sounded somewhat muffled. Perhaps that’s just how a neck slice sounded when it spoke? Above the pounding of his pulse in his ears it was difficult to tell too much, in all honesty. But he was abruptly struck with a sudden idea. He lunged forwards, sticking his head through the wall against which the table was pushed and peered into the hallway.
“Aha!” Thomas cried in triumph. The scene that met him made everything fall into place: Julian, the Captain and Robin were crouched down facing the wall.
Before he had chance to articulate a response, Fanny swooped through the hallway.
“Oh you didn’t !” she cried in outrage, looking in disgust at the three men all rolling around in mirth. It seemed she knew they’d been planning this trick. “For heaven's sake! When will these shenanigans stop?!”
Despite her scoldings, they continued to find it thoroughly amusing.
“Julian 1 - Thomas 0!” Julian cackled in gleeful triumph.
“Hey! You no do on own! We help!”
“Now listen here, you rascal - this was a joint effort, a battle fought as a team. Without us you’d have floundered. Why, one time-”
Thomas huffed. A talking neck slice, what a load of nonsense that he’d managed to fall for.
“Yeah, he deserves it.” Humphrey said warmly, looking across to where the neck slice was sitting.
Julian scowled. “And you don’t happen to be volunteering, do you? It is your neck, after all.”
“May’ve escaped your attention, but I don’t exactly have control of my hands to administer a relaxing massage to my piece of neck as much as I wish I could.”
“I do massage.” Robin said assertively, “No biggie.”
Julian shrugged in resignation - he wasn’t exactly going to argue.
Happily humming to himself, Robin laid the neck slice down on the bed like a maid would a dainty lace placemat. Then he got to work, gently pressing his fingers into the flesh and beginning to release any built-up tension. This process was aided by the fact that the slice came pre-moistened by its own juices - the slipperier the better!
Over the duration of 15 minutes, he worked away at the meat. It was strangely therapeutic for him too. Then, once he was satisfied that his work was done he quietly left the room, leaving his customer for a nap.
Because everyone deserves a treat from time to time, and that includes the neck slice.
Go and treat yourself. You deserve it for reading this fic! <3 If I could, I'd offer you a massage from Robin - I only apologise that so far I've not found a way to make this possible.
Chapter 18: 18 - Boo!
From his position behind the door, Robin heard movement. He rubbed his hands together cunningly. Here was his moment. He waited until the timing was right, until his victim was just outside the door and then stuck his head through.
"Boo!" he yelled.
But the subject of his scare wasn't Alison. It wasn't Fanny, Thomas or Mary. It wasn't any of the ghostly companions he spoke to on a day-to-day basis. It was, in fact, the neck slice.
Like a startled puppy, the slice leapt backwards in alarm and then rapidly began scooting in the opposite direction.
"No! Slicey!! Me sorry!" Robin shouted, scampering after it.
It hadn't expected such a fright during its morning wal- slither, poor thing.
Chapter 19: 19 - Autumn
Button House found itself engulfed in a haze of orange and yellow as October rapidly rolled in. Leaves silently fell from the trees, occasional gusts of air sweeping them across the stretched lawns and rustling them against various corners of the building. Gentle sunlight glistened on the morning dew, laid gracefully atop any external surface it could find, and the unforgiving icy air gnawed at the reddening fingers of anyone who dared try and rake the garden into some state of order.
But most beautiful of all was the neck slice, laid at the bottom of a slowly balding tree, framed perfectly in the centre of a tranquil autumn scene. It smiled as a leaf settled on top of it: a well-deserved little hat.
Chapter 20: 20 - Lost
"Oh for bally hell's sake, it can't have gone far!"
"The lake!! Check the lake!" Kitty shouted.
They all turned and looked at Thomas expectantly.
“Well?” The Captain asked.
Thomas looked as though he’d been slapped. "I think not, sir!"
"Yeah, go on, Thomas. Do it for the slice. Go and retrieve him! His knight in shining armour." Grinned Julian impishly.
"We don't even know if he's definitely down there!!" Cried Thomas in exasperation.
And where, I hear you ask, actually was our meaty mate? Tucked under the edge of the rug in front of the fire. It'd likely only be discovered if a ghost stepped on said rug and heard a little wet squish from the flesh yielding underneath. It was nice and cosy under there. Warm. Toasty. Toasted slicey, anyone?
The truth is that whilst the neck slice was technically the lost one, the ghosts all found themselves lost without it.
Chapter 21: 21 - Ghost Story
Alison fought to not roll her eyes as Barclay listed off all of the ghostly happenings he'd already told her about multiple times before, and that unbeknownst to him she experienced first-hand in a rather blatant way on a daily basis.
"...and then there's the mysterious dragging noise…"
Alison snapped out of her trance. "Sorry?"
"The dragging sound! Haven't you heard of it? Or even heard it yourself, I suppose!" He gave a short laugh. "You see, many have reported that sometimes when it's very quiet - often in the dead of night - the faint dragging of feet can be heard through the hallways of the house… Some tortured soul is clearly unable to move efficiently, either through an injury they sustained in their lifetime or owing to being weighed down in some way. Now, rumour has it that it's-"
But as Alison glanced slightly to one side, she made eye contact with Humphrey's head. Humphrey smiled grimly, and Alison knew.
It wasn't the dragging of feet people were hearing: it was the slithering of the slice.
Chapter 22: 22 - Rules
“Right. I think we need to instigate some rules around here.” the Captain snapped, standing at the front of the room and pointing his swagger stick at all those seated.
Thomas rolled his eyes from his position on the arm of the sofa. “Oh, spare me.” he sighed.
“We all know the situation and the effects it's been having, and I propose we find a way to mitigate the impact on us as a collective.” He scanned the bored-looking crowd. Silence met his opening statement, so he continued with his drafted speech. “Beginning promptly with point number one on the agenda - and I think we can all agree that this is the most important - no leaving the neck slice where it could catch someone off-guard. That includes anyone’s bedroom.” He eyed Robin suspiciously. “I, for one, have had several nights where I’ve retreated to my room for some much needed R&R, only to discover the slimy item desecrating my pill-”
“It can move by itself.” It was Fanny’s turn to roll her eyes. She rose to her feet. “Heavens, as much as I wish we could solve this situation, it doesn’t seem the slightest bit possible when the neck slice has a mind of its own.”
“Yes, well, that is beside the point!” The Captain floundered. This wasn’t going in the direction he was hoping.
In sudden inspiration, Pat raised a finger to share an idea. “What if we never left the neck slice alone? I mean, one of us could be watching it at all times! That way, it can’t escape without at least one person being aware of its whereabouts. Why, when Daley used to get up to mischie-”
“But what about when we sleep?” Thomas groaned.
Fanny huffed in annoyance. “Yes, I’d rather like an undisturbed night's sleep without ‘neck slice sitting’, thank you very much! A lady needs her beauty sleep!”
Julian muttered something discourteous under his breath.
“We sleeps ons it!” Mary cried gleefully. “Then it can’ts escapes.”
Kitty was ever-enthusiastic. "How wonderful! A neck slice sleepover!"
Cap pointed at each of them with his swagger stick, satisfied that they had a flawless solution. “Fantastic idea. I shall draw up a rota... mentally, of course. Perhaps I could get Alison to write it down.” he paused in contemplation as he considered this. “You can have the first shift, Patrick!” And with that, he turned sharply on his heel and left.
Pat’s eyes grew wide. Oh no, what had he done?
Chapter 23: 23 - Unfair
"But it's not fair!" Kitty exclaimed.
Fanny looked annoyed. "Kitty, life isn't fair."
"But we don'ts bes livings." Mary pointed out.
"Well then death isn't fair." Fanny corrected, sounding even more irritated.
The Captain jumped in as mediator. "Now, Katherine. We all get our turn with the neck slice," he grimaced slightly, "those of us who desperately want its attention, that is; but it's currently Frisbee time until 1500hrs, so Robin has commandeered it. Though I'm sure you're more than welcome to go and join Robin, Julian, Thomas and Patrick playing Frisbee with the slice: they're always looking for more people to get involved." he was gentle and paternal in his tone, offering a solution with both authority and tenderness.
Kitty considered his words. "Maybe it would be nice to let it finish being Frisbeed before playing 'what fashion accessory can I make out of Humphrey's slice today'... Yes, you're right Captain."
The Captain smiled fondly. Fanny merely wrinkled her nose at the thought of neck flesh being anything wearable in any form. Surely at best it could only be a hat or folded into a clutch bag? She didn't really want to think about it. As long as Kitty was happy though.
And she was. Kitty was happy. Better yet: she still had her and Pat showing the neck slice some of their latest dance moves to look forward to. Lord knows how it'd fare being slapped around in their hands as part of the Macarena. It seemed only time would tell…
Chapter 24: 24 - Movie
It wasn't unusual, an argument erupting about what should be shown during film club that evening.
"Absolutely not! I vote for 'Saving Private Ryan'!"
"What about 'Grease'? I quite liked it the second time Alison put it on for me. It had a different ending - much happier!"
"'Downton Abbey'. Always 'Downton Abbey', if you please."
"That's not even a movie, mate. Unless you mean the actua-"
"A gentleman doesn't 'mate' a lady!"
"Oh I 'mated' many ladies in my time. In fact, there was this one time at the Bramptons that I mated fifte-"
Robin yelled. Silence befell the room.
Fanny huffed. "Something to say, Robin?"
"There someone who not have vote yet."
They all looked between them trying to work out who it was. Robin answered wordlessly for them. He crouched down on and leant his ear to the edge of the rug. What was he doing?
On closer inspection, it transpired that the neck slice had been laid there the entire time. After a few seconds, Robin rose again and looked at the group.
"He want watch 'Dirty Dancing'."
"Good heavens, 'Dirty Dancing'? Unseemly!"
Chapter 25: 25 - Feelings
"Does it have feelings, do you think?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Fanny looked at Pat incredulously. There had been an awkwardly long silence between the two of them alone in the room, broken by Pat making this remark whilst he maintained eye contact with the neck slice laid on the floor in front of them.
"I'm just saying, do you reckon it does?"
"Well, how do you expect me to know?"
“Maybe we should find out.”
“Uh-” he hesitated. “Knock, knock.”
The neck slice didn’t respond.
Pat grimaced. “That’s not gonna work, is it?” He thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers, “This is a good one, made Daley laugh once: I went to see the optician the other day and found out I was colourblind. That came right out of the orange!”
Once again he was met with silence. Fanny didn’t look all too impressed either.
“What emotion was that supposed to spark other than disappointment which I imagine is difficult to observe on a neck slice?” she asked drily.
“Well, it was s’pposed to be funny. Didn’t laugh though, did it? Perhaps we should see if it can cry.”
He squatted down beside it so that they were mere inches away, and in a mournful voice he spoke again. “One day when I was but a boy my father came back from work with a goldfish from the shop for me. Very little he was, very sweet little thing. It didn’t take long for me to name him: I called him Goldie - not very original, I know. Little did I know that poor Goldie wasn’t very well. So when I returned home from school one day, my parents had to sit me down and break it to me that poor little Goldie had died that morning. I was absolutely distraught, and that evening we had to flush him down the toilet.”
He stopped speaking and watched the slice expectantly.
Fanny looked impatient. “Well, I see no tears.”
Pat looked back up at her. “Yeah, apparently not that either. I got a new fish anyway, so it wasn’t that sad,” he said in a chirpier voice. Looking back down at it still in close proximity, he was struck by sudden inspiration. "Well aren't you an ugly little creature?"
He wasn't prepared for what came next.
The neck slice reared.
It hurled itself through the air at Pat's face in anger and stuck to him.
Fanny let out a sharp laugh as he peeled the seething slice off in disgust. Fighting to regain composure, she pointed out the obvious: "It seems it does indeed have feelings."
Chapter 26: 26 - Quiet
“You’ve not got much to say for yourself, Robin.” Fanny noted, eyeing him suspiciously.
“Yeah, you have been a bit quiet, mate - you alright?” Pat added in concern.
Wordlessly Robin opened his mouth. From his lips, out slid the neck slice, slimier than usual thanks to the added saliva. It flopped onto the carpet at his feet and the excess lubrication materialised into thin air.
“Me just having little think.”
And with that he calmly exited the room, leaving a scene of absolute shock horror behind him.
Chapter 27: 27 - Open
“Why’s this door open, Alison?! I wanted it closed!” Fanny cried, sweeping down the hallway after her living counterpart.
“Half an hour ago you wanted it open. You want me to shut it again now? How am I supposed to keep up?”
“Well don’t ask me! You’re the one with the power to open and close the doors around here!”
Alison stopped dead in her tracks. “Right. And that makes sense how exactly?”
Fanny’s eyes widened as she contorted her face into a frustrated yet thoughtful expression.
Alison sighed. “You know what, perhaps we need a system. Perhaps we need a way of you indicating when you want the doors open or shut. Like a doorstop!”
“I can’t exactly use a doorstop can I, young lady?”
“Well, how about the neck slice? When you want the door left open, put the neck slice next to it as if it’s a doorstop and I’ll leave it that way. If you want it shut… just don’t put the neck slice there.”
Fanny considered this, nostrils flaring. “I suppose it could work.”
“There’s our answer, then.”
Alison turned to leave, content that Fanny was satisfied.
“Good luck getting it to stay there though,” she muttered under her breath as she walked away.
Chapter 28: 28 - Games
Thomas was aghast. "But that’s cheating, sir!"
"I don’t know what you’re talking about!" the Captain huffed.
"He’s clearly helping you in some way!"
"What?! The neck slice?" Cap scoffed. "Don't be daft, he can't help in any way! He's useless!"
"Oi!" Came Humphrey’s yell from across the room.
Thomas continued. "He's - I don't know - slapping the answers to you!"
Fanny looked alarmed. "Outrageous!"
"How exactly?! What on God's green earth are you on about?!" The Captain spluttered, gesturing in denial.
Pat adjusted his glasses. "It did sound a bit like morse code, mate."
Robin came bounding over. "He teach slicey morse code! See! I say slicey smart!" he squatted down slightly to stroke the neck slice on the table next to him. "Good boy, slicey."
The slice slapped again, making a wet sound against the polished surface: ".. .----. -- / .- / --. --- --- -.. / -... --- -.--"
"Yes, well." The Captain cleared his throat. "Ahem. Carry on."
And with that he marched from the room, swagger stick tucked under his arm, abandoning the game of 'I spy'. A deserter. A cheating deserter, even. Nobody likes a cheating deserter, except perhaps the neck slice - cheeky little blighter encouraged the dishonest play, after all.
Chapter 29: 29 - Years
Over the years, the neck slice had seen many things and been subject to many usages, not many of which it wanted to reflect too deeply on for the sake of its own sanity.
It’s seen a lot. That’s all. Carry on.
Chapter 30: 30 - Party
"Oh, a party! How lovely!" Kitty exclaimed in glee, completely forgetting the rejection she’d felt last time Alison had had guests over.
"Hopefully with less mess than last time…" Fanny said, peering at Alison in disapproval before turning to look at the Captain beside her, seeking his back-up.
The Captain tucked the swagger stick under his arm. "Indeed I do hope this one will be considerably more orderly." His eyes narrowed.
"I'm sure it will," Alison hastily responded, boredom in her tone.
"And we're all invited?!" Kitty asked.
"Of course." Alison technically couldn't stop them even if she wanted to. "Provided that you behave yourselves." She gave Julian an especially suspicious look which he caught and then pretended to look behind himself.
Kitty clapped her hands together. "Oh goodie!"
A yell came from the top of the stairs, followed by Robin flying past her at unprecedented speed.
Of all the things Alison could have predicted that might have happened at the party that night whilst surrounded by the loud music and shouting guests, she certainly hadn't anticipated this. She'd been prepared for drunken antics, romantic advances, ill effects from the alcohol and had even allowed for potential broken property (though don't let Fanny hear that) from her living counterparts. She hadn't, however, planned for having to ignore Robin, Julian, Mary and Thomas in front of her guests as the group of ghosts got caught up in the excitement of the event and proceeded to slide down the stairs on the neck slice as if it were a skateboard - the slipperiest skateboard the world had ever seen, mind you - leaving a trail of lubricious juices behind it.
Averting her eyes from the shocking scene, she poured herself another drink with a double measure of spirits. This, she told herself, was a conversation for the morning.
Chapter 31: 31 - Friends
"It's Halloween tomorrow!" Pat cried, looking at the calendar in the kitchen which read 'October 30th'. "You know what that means, don't you?"
"I'm not sure I do, Pat," Alison said, glancing up from her evening meal.
"On Halloween, at exactly midnight a disturbance occurs." He glanced around at the others. Kitty, despite having seen many Halloweens of this sort, looked terrified.
"Oh no!" She gasped.
"It's alright, Katherine," the Captain reassured her.
Pat continued. "As soon as the last stroke of midnight has finished, there's a movement through the house. If you're quiet enough, you can just hear it." Alison still looked stumped. With no warning, Pat suddenly exclaimed. "The flesh friends come out to play!"
"Fleshy friends!" Robin repeated in excitement.
"Flesh friends?" She asked, slightly alarmed.
"Just you wait and see."
Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. The final stroke of midnight chimed.
At first, as the resounding ring died, it appeared that nothing happened. Silence reigned through the group of anticipating people, both dead and alive, who stood in the dark room. Then, there was a distant sound.
As the soft dragging noise grew closer, the awaiting audience drew nearer to one another in fear. Into the room, like a discoid caterpillar, came Humphrey's neck slice.
Alison breathed a sigh of relief. "But that's just-"
"Just you wait." Pat cut her off.
"Hush, hush!" Thomas gestured violently for them all to remain quiet and listened intently.
Another distant disturbance could be heard. It was quieter than the neck slice, which had now come to a standstill in front of them several feet away, but there was a similarity in the noise it made.
"Heres it comes." Mary murmured into the tense silence.
Julian glanced at Alison sideways with a sly expression. "Get ready."
Something Alison had never seen rounded the corner. It was smaller than the neck slice, but bore resemblance to it. It was, however, cylindrical and rolled to move rather than slithered.
In the dark next to her, Thomas clapped a hand dramatically to his side. To his bullet hole. Was that-?
"Thomas' bullet sausage." Pat explained, as matter-of-factly as if he'd just declared his favourite colour.
"His what?" Alison asked.
"The matter displaced from my abdomen when that musket ball pierced me so brutally. Oh how I-"
Pat gently quietened him. "Shh, mate. The others are still coming."
The group watched as the bullet sausage came to rest next to the slice.
"Good to see the troops are falling into line," the Captain approved with a nod. Though nobody saw him shiver slightly, unnerved as the third faraway noise started up.
"Oh God," Alison groaned. Another slither of meat was now in the doorway, gradually inching its way across the room towards them. "And whose-"
Pat looked solemn as this piece of flesh came closer, slowly raising a hand to where the arrow pierced his neck. Alison understood his wordless reply.
Pat's own neck bit joined the slice and bullet sausage in their neat line.
Humphrey's voice spoke quietly from where Kitty was clutching his head tightly in fear. "Ooh, there's my slice's fellow neck buddy. Hello, little guy."
There was still silence for a few seconds. A quick analysis of the ghosts' deaths told Alison that there shouldn't be any other additions.
The Captain spoke. "Not quite."
Alison braced herself. Sure enough, another vague dragging sound began. Sound? Sounds. There was definitely more than one. It- they appeared to be moving as a group.
From the doorway, a number of small, fleshy objects of various shapes came creeping in. Alison felt her jaw drop as they all edged closer to the line-up of meat pieces. She was too afraid to ask until they also came to an eventual stop, sat in a small line themselves alongside the other flesh bits. Even Fanny looked mournful.
"Well, there they are," Pat said in a voice barely above a whisper.
The Captain raised his hand in a sad salute.
Alison found her voice to speak. It came out slightly hoarse. "Dare I ask whose those last pieces are?"
There was a moment of quiet and Alison found she was holding her breath in anticipation.
An unexpected voice spoke - Fanny's slightly disgusted yet hurt voice: "The plague ghosts."