Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Ghostopia, Chapter 6: The Shifter

Darren couldn't help beaming. Now that Kat was here, he didn't quite feel so lost.
"Let's not stay here," she said. "This isn't a very good place for business."
"Huh? Why so?"
"Most of the newcomers sell their stuff here, if you notice. Everyone prefers to get their stuff elsewhere."
Darren looked around and true enough, none of the Ghosts seemed to be buying anything from the sellers near him. No wonder the kid had given him the job so easily. Sheesh.
"I'll go to that end of the street," Kat pointed to a far-off corner. "Meet me back here in an hour's time."
She heaved up the entire stack of papers.
"Uhh...want me to come along with you? You'll probably need help with that."
"Nah," she replied, steadying herself. "Let's go by shifts instead. Run along now, and come back in an hour."

Darren spent the next hour wandering around aimlessly, not daring to talk to anyone. There seemed to be hawkers in every nook and cranny of the place, screaming their weird promotions at the top of their lungs. Not exactly the sort of place he'd want to spent eternity in.
He kept walking and walking, but the marketplace never seemed to end. It didn't help that the afternoon sun was already on its way up. Wasn't there any place he could shut out the blistering heat and noise?
He plodded on for ten minutes before finally coming to a quieter hall. "Phew! I never knew silence could sound so sweet."
Interestingly, queues could be seen leading to a stand of some sort. His curiousity got the better of him when he tapped a well-dressed lady on the shoulder. "Pardon me, but what exactly are all of you lining up for?"
"What? You don't know what these are?" she squawked, making him go red. "Must be new here, tsk, tsk. See those stands over there? They're called Shifters, and they allow you to go to the different levels and places of Ghostopia."
"Different levels?"
"My, you're even more ignorant than I thought," she rolled her eyes. "This marketplace is just one of the hundreds of levels in this world."
Darren nodded in amazement. It all became clearer now. Little wonder the marketplace appeared never-ending.
"Umm...so which floor are you going to now?"
She shot him an utterly dirty look.
Whoops. What was that for? He checked out the queue. A dark man at the head laid a few fingers on the stand, and presto! He vanished before Darren's eyes. No one else even batted an eyelid. This Shifter thing was probably all the rage in Ghostopia, Darren deduced.
Going by his estimations, he would be able to reach that Shifter just in time to meet Kat. He felt like double-confirming with the lady whether it would really enable him to get back to the marketplace, but stopped just short. He sure sure didn't need a tight slap in the face.

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