Condemnation of the Wraith by Corey Nyhus


i.


You are to assess the fate of the diaphanant, Ellexybaster (EL-eks-EYE-bah-ster), and, if you see fit, condemn it to death. Ellexybaster stands accused of influencing its host, *REDACTED*, to perform a reckless and malicious criminal act. Our nation’s future hangs on your good judgement.

At the end of our session, your answers will be a simple “yes” or “no.” That deceptive, elegant, simplicity will be the culmination of the data-driven context that we of the CTPCC shall impart to you shortly. Good evening. The CTPCC has designated me as your presiding counselor for tonight. My role is that of a legal expert, both on the case at hand, and on the growing phenomena of diaphanants at large. We are joined as well by an observing CTPCC medical professional, seated behind me, who will be monitoring our exchange for quality control, and lending his voice when necessary.

For those of you without prior misdemeanors relating to Transplanar Psychiatrics, a diaphanant is a wraith born from botched suicide. They take on a variety of challenging appearances, typically walk upright, and cannot be harmed independent of their human hosts. It is largely agreed that diaphanants are willed into existence with an intrinsic purpose—a drive and a process. Though their rationales have varying degrees of nuance in any given case study, all diaphanants are fundamentally driven by one of two core goals, and are therefore officially classified into one of two categories.

Drowner Diaphanants. There are diaphanants that are heckling shadows, which encourage their hosts to—and here I quote one of them directly—”have another try, actually show some commitment for once, and kill themselves properly.” A diaphanant is obliterated following the death of its host, so it is likely that this first gender of diaphanant wishes to die from the moment of its birth. Often possessing a flair for the dramatic, they have been known to make the relapsed suicide into a spectacle. Control Ordinance LOW-2 has been upheld in our state, and so the hosts of drowner diaphanants require registration, routine surveillance, asylum accommodations, and the seizure of any and all surplus autonomy. Some registered hosts of drowner diaphanants may be permitted work papers, dependent on the drowner diaphanant’s severity index.

Caretaker Diaphanants. On the so-called opposite end of the spectrum, there are diaphanants who want their host to never again attempt another suicide. They are said to have a strong empathic bond with their host, as well as an acute sensitivity to pain. Many reported instances show these wraiths taking on the role of a therapist or a life partner, and 35 percent of caretaker hosts have gone on to live lives well beyond the national average life expectancy. Typically, these wraiths are able to coexist without broader threats to institutional stability. Caretaker diaphanant hosts are in no way legally required to maintain asylum presence, however they may opt into formal registry and annual surveillance on a voluntary basis.


ii.


Out of the two, the caretaker temperament may seem more favorable for the host at a glance. However, emerging studies conclude that many of these diaphanants manifest their empathy in ways more akin to a kidnapper than a babysitter. It follows then, that the Corporation of Transplanar Psychiatrics and Crisis Control have been offering cash incentives for caretaker hosts who publicly disclose and register their condition, and open their homes to more routine monitoring.

Consider the following case study. A woman by the name of *REDACTED* bound to her bed by a series of knotted sheets and belts, her caretaker diaphanant a tall urn with an orchestra of insect legs. It bore the name Kentaviev (KEN-tah-VEEV), and feared its host, a retired politician, might try drowning in her pool’s deep end once more.

Upon its birth the wraith suffocated and thrashed alongside its host in that chlorinated water. Without a moment to spare, *REDACTED* was found and rescued by her athletic daughter and only housemate. The trembling teenager then laid her mother on the nearby patio and embraced her, but soon found *REDACTED* to be inseparably bound to the barely-tangible Kentaviev, who moved as rapidly as the human eye can blink. The wraith had a shaky cough, as though it were clearing the water out of its organs. It would retain this cough for the rest of its existence, always trying its best to stifle it.

Contrary to the nomenclature, the attempted act of drowning does not yield a higher chance of spawning a drowner diaphanant.

After three years in the constant shadow of that “tall and unhuman thing,” the daughter, without any notice, left the family mansion on her 22nd birthday. By then, the inground swimming pool was viscous, teeming with algae and long-legged mosquitoes.

“I’d try to call her,” Kentaviev has said. “But every time she would tell me she was moving somewhere else. Better coaching opportunities, she’d say. She loved fitness. She loved filming her life. But she also loved to lie. So, one day, after she refused to pick up, I ripped the phone apart like it was a little turtle carcass. A woman useless to the woman I loved most had no place in our home. I’d have to do it all on my own.”

So Kentaviev forbade *REDACTED* from going outside, threw all of her clothing into a trash incinerator, and insisted she need never cook for herself again, nor access any screens which might otherwise stir passionate urges. Kentaviev gagged her with a rag most hours out of the week. Chewing and swallowing were also forbidden, as the caretaker diaphanant criticized “the ill-conceived biology of the human throat—its windpipe and esophagus always perilous neighbors. How it invites the undignified choking death with every swallowing tic.” Instead, it would restrain her head with its chattering legs, run thin siphons down her nostrils and force-feed her a nacreous yogurt from one of its exposed organs. In years to come, a similar setup would be arranged to more safely dispose of her excrement.

“Yet what a gentle neck you have. Fit only for breathing the purest air.” With great delicacy and intention, it played with *REDACTED* platinum hair with a quivering, many-jointed limb. Every time Kentaviev sighed, it secreted a glassy perfume that reduced libido and adrenaline levels, and triggered a minor dissociative response. In her only known interview with a Transplanar Psychiatric Official, *REDACTED* recounted the daydream she’d often have in this hazy state. Her entire family were applauding her in a coliseum of steam, for she had just been appointed senator, having won 97 percent of the popular vote. It always made her cry, no matter how many times she lived it. Hallucinated courthouses from miles away would sigh out reformed citizens, crying along with her.

Tears were the one secretion Kentaviev allowed to remain unregulated, and its host cried for most of the interview. As Kentaviev’s steam plumed outward, wafted through the rest of the estate, it also proved effective as an insecticide. Years of accumulated mosquito bodies and the crumpled spiders that would have preyed on them, lay obliterated around the manor grounds to this day. “I do get bored,” was the last thing Kentaviev is known to have said. “I do get a little bored.”

*REDACTED* lived to be 136 years old—outliving her daughter by 72 years—and an extensive autopsy found no conclusive cause of death.


iii.


Councillor, I’ve never so much as looked at that autopsy and I don’t intend to.

Such granular details are of little interest to me as an observing psychiatrist.

They should certainly be of no relevance to our captive audience of jurors.

In justice, like any urgent operation, we’ve not a moment to spare.

Consider that my “expert medical opinion.”

Now to return to the task at hand.

Ellexybaster falls into the former, pro-suicide camp.

Ellexybaster is a drowner diaphanant.

He came to be when *REDACTED* attempted to set himself on fire near his old office.

You jurors are free to dismiss its ravings if you wish.

But know that for every diaphanant left unexamined,

another human life grows colder,

for in your selective ignorance,

the contradictory frictions between wraith and host

will fuel nothing beyond their uneasy little existences.

Fulfil your civic role.


iv.


[Transcription of Ellexybaster speaking to its host, *REDACTED*.]

God on fire, give our species peace,

so though our brains will sink, our love may breach unbridled.

White foxes swimming in a hungry pack.

Warm water their kingdom. Tragic we can’t be as they.

Your libido is as quiet

as a shredded pillow

and a closed mouth

against a wall.

You could stand to charge it more.

You could stand to shatter me.

Your owners allow you to transport weak medicine

and they let you take some home for free.

The medicinal cream’s casing depicts a toothy

Caucasian woman in a field. Her smile is a dysphoric beam,

because you’re a man

with a stomach and face overloaded with cysts.

Scabs cover you like chitin.

No advertisement reflects your visage.

Who else but I would consume you?

Another saturnine fox escapes from the oil spill, expected to sleep

or else be drowned at night by a cabal of private mercenaries on government payroll.

The oil rig assassins. The market police. Suicide by cop was how you came to me.

Don’t lie. Any suicide attempt for any reason is suicide by cop these days, friend.

They put you in the prettier jail but who knows if they’re hunting you still?

I do. They are.

You should steal the truck. I steal your attention of every hour of every day—

Their screens and cameras steal even more—

But they’d only cry foul if we stole the truck.

Could get a good look at the oil spill on top of a flood rushing beside a forest fire.

Can’t get a kingdom, might as well get a good view. Drive and cry and die for it.

Love can put you to sleep behind an abandoned temple.

See love walk away from us down the mountain trail,

having already covered you up to the neck in warming snow.

Count how many hands I have hidden, friend.

The night in my stomach is unrelenting and don’t worry, I’ve dozens of hands—

more now than ever. They ring each other raw. And I’m coaxing you

to strangle the sink shut,

and fold on the floor of a dry bathtub.

Make it slow. Rest those hands for driving.

I, of many hands onyx-black, am superior to a shadow or nagging conscience.

I hiss without wind. You feel my name in stings to the brain,

and the tides displace from melting ice.

Do you think I intend to let any of this go?

What a disgusting complexion

you introduce to the world

every time you undress.

A bleeding golem made of cysts.

My ever-leaking progenitor.

Steal the fucking car.

Your skin is healing. Futile.

Anyway, as your final authority, I’ll coax you to warmth

when your abrasions reopen by themselves.

No cyst can be static. Let its rancid jets free

and follow love out the door.

The sick tide will wash elsewhere while you recede. So, for now,

I just need you to give up on medicine.


v.


Our allotted time together has just about expired. In a moment I will yield the floor once more to my colleague, as the doctor wishes to offer a closing statement. But first, I must present to you the final details of the crime that transpired.

Ellexybaster is currently charged for compelling *REDACTED* to intoxicate himself with a Class B1 controlled substance, and drive his employer’s pharmaceutical delivery vehicle into a water purification plant. Over the course of the drunken night drive, the vehicle also swerved through three private residences, an electrocuted chain link fence, and an illegal gathering of minors in possession of unlicensed fireworks, injuring two, and causing an as of yet untotalled amount of property damage.

In an evaluation two weeks before the incident, *REDACTED* was asked about Ellexybaster. His response? “He’s the only one that tells me like it is. My skin condition. My pathetic life. I can do better.”


vi.


Before arriving at the Corporation of Transplanar Psychiatrics and Crisis Control, before I secured my PHD in Clinical Psychology, I was an Ethics major. And I can’t help but love this pitiable game. I’ve been consulting my notes, and it appears my subordinate has neglected to remind you of one crucial reality—the reason why you have been permitted to gather here. Perhaps some of you already knew.

No matter how you vote, the CTPCC has already decided the fate of the accused.

A fate that shall remain confidential until you leave this room.

A fate as certain as fire.

This vote therefore can only alter your

own outcomes. In casting your vote to EXECUTE

or NOT EXECUTE, we can more accurately determine

if your values on sovereign property rights and human

dignity, are in line with our own. With your help, we

can better reevaluate the length and severity

of your remaining sentences.

Thank you, and good luck.


vii.


[Alleged eye-witness account of the incident.]

Following the crash there was a blur of sirens, and gunpowder

scent hung in the air. One irreverent loiterer was still trying to

set off fireworks on a dare from her friends, and ran when a

Crisis Mercenary barked that she was endangering an active

crime scene. She scrambled and bolted, and the armored

CM chased her into the suburban woods.

The smoking vehicle had overturned. The old airbag had failed

to deploy, and the collision’s force shattered the pockmarked Edgar

Wooten, leaving him with a series of neurological and spinal maladies.

These new medical conditions would endure for the rest of his life,

however brief. As always, his raw skin stung. He spat rivulets of blood

and beaded glass. If he was able to turn his hell of a head, he would have

sought out Ellexybaster’s gaze for guidance.

From the woods, a scream. Force was being exercised.

Puce-eyed Ellexybaster let out a wheezing sob more shrill than the

vehicle’s alarm. Gold lights bloomed overhead. The scattering fireworks

like a weeping willow tree. A helicopter’s LED searchlights. The diaphanant

discharged a nacreous fluid from its eyes, which captured all the garish

interplay in its prisms.

“Why do we still look the same?” it begged.

A crowd was gathering to stare.

An early warning shot was fired to disperse it.

More screaming. More gunpowder.

“Why can I

still see?”

COREY NYHUS is a narrative artist and writer currently living and drawing in New York. An avid lover of fantasy and occult horror, his work is full of stark inks, eldritch dreamscapes and sympathetic monsters. Corey is currently earning his MFA in illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. His forthcoming dark fantasy comic, Bloombreather, is slated for release in the spring of 2020. His work can be seen on Instagram @coma.nydus and on his website at coreynyhus.com.

Artwork by Novel Noctule team.

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