Dead Name

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Brief heads up before we get started: this is both a long story and a slow burn! Just want to say that upfront. What can I say? Sometimes I need gender-affirming as much as I need trans porn. Hope you enjoy!


“The Penthouse? Are you sure?” Nick asked, staring up at the art deco skyscraper. He was no expert, but from the foot of its grand granite facade it looked like the alternate reality twin to the Empire State Building, if a little run down.

The portly realtor had been nothing but kind up to this point, so it was difficult for Nick to believe that this was some practical joke. Donald Moore was a kindly faced gent whose face could be seen on little billboards at bus stations all over town. In his sixties now, he was a bit of an institution in Toronto. His voice sounded just like the commercials you could see on at 2 AM on the local TV stations.

Donald chuckled. “I suppose it is the penthouse. The top floor is reserved for some kind of zeppelin mooring tower in the 1920s. Morris Farthingdale was a bit of a futurist, you see.”

Nick made an incredulous face, but received no hint that this was another part of the prank. The Farthingdale Building was the home of many legends in the city. Ever since Farthingdale Consumer Electronics dissolved in the 1970s and the holding company that had bought its assets turned out to be a front for a Triad, the building had sat abandoned with its rights placed in legal limbo.

They entered the lobby through a creaking revolving door. Nick could help but stare at the dated architecture that didn’t look like it had seen 40 years of decay. Huge, vaulting ceiling made each footstep on the faux marble floors echo. Sculpted bas-reliefs of great feats of technological progress lined the walls, with the participants depicted as Greek Gods: trains, the discovery of electricity, the telegraph, all done in Hellenistic glory. Light sconces bathed the room in dim, yellow light like only incandescent bulbs could. It felt like entering a painting from just before the Great Depression.

As they walked, Donald continued his explanation. “As I was explaining on the phone, the apartment was separate from the rest of the assets of the corporation as it was the personal property of Morris Farthingdale and thus not clustered in with the assets of the rest of the corporation upon the…dubiously legal sale. Once the rights reverted back to the Farthingdale family, we looked for the closest descendant. Morris died without children, placing all his assets in a trust to go to the estate of his best friend. That friend, Michael Van Allen, is your Great Grand Uncle.”

“Why would he leave his assets to his friend instead of his family?”

Donald stared at him. “He died in the 1940s. They were Very Good Friends.”

“Oh,” Nick said, catching the drift. “But I have plenty of living family on that side…I think. How come they didn’t get it first?”

“That’s something we can discuss after I show you the property. This is all laid out in the Will, you see. Very specific. Ah, they fixed it! I’d rather not take the stairs again.”

The elevator at the end of the hall opened as soon as the realtor pressed the Up button. To Nick’s amusement, it was actually operated by one of those old timey levers. The grin turned to a frown when he realised this was an ancient elevator, and he would have to go up eighteen floors.

“This is safe, right?” he asked.

Donald patted him on the shoulder. “Of course, son. The insurance people have been all over the building. If there would have been a fault, they would have found it.”

Son. The word made Nick twitch. Maybe his age? He was halfway through his twenties, but considering he was half the age of the other man, that wasn’t too out of line. The unusual familiarity? Perhaps. But there was something about how it was said that evoked a slight tightening of Nick’s chest.

Donald pushed in a brass key into a slot on the elevator’s control panel and pulled the lever. The doors slid shut, only for the car to shudder into motion. Nick braced himself for the ride. The knowledge that some city schlub had given the place a once-over did not make the rickety, bumpy ride up all eighteen floors to the penthouse any more pleasant. Nick clung to the brass metal handle along the wall of the elevator car on more than one occasion. Why was he doing this, he wondered to himself? Why didn’t he just sell off the damn apartment and move in somewhere sane?

For one, he was curious. It wasn’t every day that you inherit a part of a city landmark. In middle school his bus route took him down Front Street West and past the imposing, haunting edifice of a long-gone era. Ever since he had been a kid, he’d heard the stories. Some said it was cursed, others said it had been the site of a murder. One of the less coherent tales was that it was the secret lair of the infamous Cabbagetown Monster, though Nick had always assumed that was just a story told to cover up malatya escort for urban Bigfoot sightings.

The door opened onto a movie set from some cautionary tale of avarice run amok. A miniature mirror of the lobby at the bottom of the tower greeted them. Black marble walls and gold-painted doorframes led into expansive living rooms, lavish bedrooms, a kitchen that looked like it needed regular staff, a library fit for a kleptomaniacal professor, and a closet bigger than Nick’s entire apartment. He said nothing while Donald led him through room after room, wordlessly gawking at the extravagance around him. Above it all on the far wall sat the portrait of Morris Farthingdale, Captain of Industry. His mustachioed face and gaze set off into some distant point in the sky gave him that misunderstood genius look that he must have paid extra for the portrait artist to capture.

Not only was it beyond Nick’s feeble imagination, but there had been no perceivable decay here either. No water damage, no vandalism. Only a thin layer of dust indicated that it had not been regularly occupied. The only other unusual aspect was the lack of any windows in the entire lavish residence. With what would have been undoubtedly a fantastic view, Nick couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. But that twinge was vastly outweighed by the opulence of the rest of the penthouse.

“How do you like it?” Donald asked. It took half a minute to conjure the words to respond.


Donald laughed again, then tossed the heavy brass key over to Nick. “Is that real enough for you?”

Nick stared at the heavy hunk of metal in his hand. “This is really happening. I can’t…so it’s mine now?”

“Well, not quite,” the realtor fished around his pockets until he found a folded up scrap of yellow paper. “We still have a metric ton of paperwork for you to sign, several waivers, and some other odds and ends to clear up. But…there was an addendum to the will. You are the inheritor, but you may only keep the inheritance if you stay for one week entirely within the apartment.”

“Oh. Well, alright, I can probably swing that.” Nick was between jobs and not having particular success fixing that. Not something he was willing to publically admit to someone who held the potential for financial restitution in his hands. “When’s good for you?”

Donald shook his head. “The Will is quite clear, I’m afraid, that you are to begin this week-long period immediately. And that you be only person allowed for the duration.”

“Wait, what? I need food to live, man.”

“The pantry is fully stocked, the water and power works, and you should have everything you might need in terms of comforts. Unfortunately, the penthouse is something called a…Friday Cage? Telecommunications are strictly impossible.”

“Faraday,” Nick corrected before pulling out his phone. Sure enough, zero bars. The complete absence of windows made sense. “The hell am I going to do for a week?”

“That is, I’m afraid, your problem. You can leave at any time, of course, but the alarms on the elevator and the staircase door will tell me if you break the terms of the contract. Breaking the contract will forfeit your inheritance. That is why I have come for you, in fact. All the others on the list before you have not been able to last the week.”

Nick looked around at the extravagant appointment around him. “How is that possible? They gave up on a place worth millions because they couldn’t go a week without Netflix?”

The realtor cleared his throat, parsing his next words carefully. “There have been…rumours that this apartment is haunted.”

“Really,” Nick deadpanned, waiting for the punchline. When none arrived, he repeated. “Really?”

Donald shrugged. “I’ve no idea if it’s true, but seven of your distant relations have all tried to stay the week. One lasted four days before barging out of the building. Could have sworn his hair wasn’t white before he went in…”

Nick had never believed in ghosts. But that information certainly didn’t help. “And I can leave at any time?”

“Of course. Like I said, you aren’t locked in. All you need to do is stay in the apartment for 168 hours, starting from the moment I leave. So…what do you say?”


Nick spent most of the afternoon in his new digs going over just what he had access to. There had to have been a dozen more rooms than the tour Donald had given him had revealed. A nook with an easel and art supplies, a second living room with a piano, even a small theatre with a film projector! Unfortunately, he had neither the experience using film or the desire to see the apartment’s collection of newsreels. He’d have to find out how the Spanish Civil War ended some other time.

The pantry was indeed filled to the ceiling with ingredients. As was the small walk-in freezer and the three (3!) refrigerators. He almost called them ice boxes they were so old, but malatya escort bayan they worked. So long as nobody cracked them open and spilled out all the freon.

Thankfully, the ingredients were not from the 1920s. Donald or someone assigned to the estate must have stocked them up.

Cooking was something Nick had learned from his mother, much to his father’s chagrin. His dad had been of the ancient school that somehow the capacity to feed yourself without help was unmanly. That was but one of the many, Many reasons why he hadn’t talked to him in years. Even still, twinges of getting ridiculed while standing at the stove came back in flashes that made him wince.

“Be a man,” his father had said. What the hell did that mean? What was being a man about? Being aggressive? Hate-filled? Bitterly resentful at being blocked from certain feelings and desires? He hadn’t thought about his terrible relationship with his dad for a while…and hoped it would be another while before it would rear its ugly head again.

The lunch completed (and consumed), Nick went looking for some pastime. If he was trapped in the apartment for a whole week, he couldn’t very well just wander around the halls. The library he’d seen on the tour had caught his eye, so he made his way back there, hopeful that there might be a book worth reading.

The room was well lit, with a number of sconces and fringed table lamps with pull strings in strategic locations to leave nothing in shadow. Dozens of bookshelves filled from floor to ceiling with bound books of all description. A fiction section containing many pristine pieces of the Western canon was sandwiched between a large selection of technical publications and a vast array of historical non-fiction. It was all pretty dry, but Nick supposed he could try to get cultured…for a while at least.

Along with a large wooden table with a typewriter, the room features a pair of comfortably cushioned reading chairs. Nick sat down with a book on the Black Death and settled in for some cheery afternoon reading.

A thumping noise jolted him out of 13th Century Italy. Not a strange to living in old buildings, he’d chalked it up to central heating or somesuch. But the second thud made it hard to ignore. He bookmarked his book with a fancy looking pen on the desk and went searching for the source of the noise.

Stalking around the apartment like an indecisive burglar, he couldn’t locate the sound. Even when it reoccurred, it happened in the opposite direction of the original two noises.

Was someone fucking with him?

The rest of the day passed slowly as he tried to focus on other things but could shake the feeling that he wasn’t alone in the apartment. Maybe that’s why his relatives had not lasted the night. Surely couldn’t be an actual ghost. Likely some kind of psychological test derived by a maniac to see if he was worthy of the inheritance or some shit.

That night, in the apartment’s master bedroom, he placed a heavy wooden chair underneath the door handle to keep it from being opened, and took a fire poker from the hearth in the largest living room and kept it next to his bed. Even still, Nick didn’t sleep well.


Waking up groggy, Nick batted at the fragments of dreams that slipped from his memory by the time he was out of bed. If there really was some lunatic in the apartment with him to freak him out of his inheritance, they were doing a good job.

The bedroom had four doors leading off into different rooms, with the only exit being the main door he’d barricaded for the night. There was the master bathroom, which had a shower that Nick would definitely need. There was the cavernous closet, vacant save for a few coat hangers. And then there was a small study, with just enough room for a desk, a small shelf full of leather-bound books, an actual candelabra, and sheaves of paper. Why someone needed a separate study when they already had a giant library was beyond Nick, but he hadn’t been a fabulously wealthy 1920s robber-baron either.

Unwilling, at least for the moment, to go back into the main part of the residence, Nick nosed around the study nook. The books turned out to be volumes of Morris Farthingdale’s journals. A part of him was reluctant to leaf around the life of another person, but with nothing better to do and considering he’d died decades before Nick had even been born, he thought it was worth the invasion of privacy. After all, it was this dude’s twisted Will that had him stuck in this apartment for a week.

Though the penmanship was impeccable, the first journals offered little in the way of explanation. They seemed to be the recollections of a young man on the cusp of some great endeavour, nervous but anticipating the future. Not something Nick could relate to particularly. His life had been windblown and directionless after college. With a useless degree and no real job prospects, he thought about what escort malatya it would be like to be in a position where your whole life was actually ahead of you, rather than behind.

The journal occasionally brushes onto something that Morris refers to as “my other self”. That caught Nick’s eye more than anything, but there’s no further exploration of the idea. Skimming the journals forward in time into the 20th century offers no clarity, though the tone becomes more melancholy

Just as he put down the final journal, he caught movement in the corner of his eye. Nick turned his head just in time to see the end of a long, flowing skirt fly past.

Nick’s heart hammered in his chest. He stumbled out of the chair and rushed back into the bedroom. Nothing. The door was still barred, there was no hint of another human being in the room or the adjoining rooms.


There was someone else in the apartment with him.

The morning of the third day was spent roaming up and down the hall, looking in each corner, each crevice, each tiny part of the residence. He found nothing. His fear compounded his frustration, and slowly the words of warning from Donald the realtor wormed their way back to his mind.

A haunting.

That was impossible, of course! There was no such thing as ghosts. Whatever this was, it couldn’t be the supernatural. It had to be either a trick, or the isolation getting to him. He went looking for some alcohol to chill his nerves, but while he might be harangued by a phantom, there were no spirits to help. Morris must have been teetotal. Or the realtor made off with the good stuff.

During his search, he returned to the library. Only something was different. His book on the Black Death had been placed back into its place on the shelf. In its stead waited another book…one he hadn’t seen before.

Its cover was bible black, unlike most of the volumes in the library. On its front the words “Spiritualism: A Practical Approach” in white typeface. Nick looked around for where the book could have fallen onto the table but, as he suspected, there was no chance that could have happened. He was dealing with something, person or not, and it seemed to be trying to communicate.

The book was a manual from the late 19th century Spiritualism boom, purporting to discuss the various ways one may interact with the spirit world and those that dwell within. It was fascinating if a little unbelievable.

A single dog-eared page near the end was for a ritual, if that was the right word, to bring an ethereal entity into corporeal form. The reagents for such a spell were all fairly common: salt, charcoal for drawing sigils, five candles to place on the corners of a pentagram. Attention was to be paid, the book continued, to the design of the sigils. And the ritual could only work to bring through spirits that wanted to manifest. He couldn’t drag someone unwillingly into the material world.

Nick set down the book and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Was this something he was really contemplating? For the first time, he thought about walking out. He’d lose his chance to inherit this beautiful place (and the price it would fetch) but…he shook off his doubts. He didn’t need to believe that this magic stuff was real. Whatever had placed the book here obviously wanted him to do something with it, probably this silly ritual. If there was some goofball harassing him, then this may be the next step into coaxing him out of hiding.

If not…

If there really was a ghost…

The largest room without carpet was the bedroom closet. There, he went about setting up the ritual, feeling like a fool the entire time. If he was going to be an idiot, however, he was going to do it right. He poured the circle of salt, drew the pentagram with charcoal from the fireplace, and set up the candles from the study’s candelabra. Nick hoped he wouldn’t have to explain the ancient symbols written into the antique hardwood flooring. If anything compelled him to stay, it was the urge to avoid that awkward conversation.

The ritual called for the Witching Hour to start the summoning process. So Nick waited.


“Are you awake?”

Nick blinked the sleep out of his eyes. He checked his phone for the time, but it must have died at some point. Only when placing it back into his side pocket did he realize that the voice that had woken him hadn’t been a part of his dream. His blurry vision focused on the ethereal shape in front of him.

Before him stood a woman, maybe 5’6 tall in her pair of ivory heel. Her translucent, phantasmal features were slight, like a stiff breeze could blow her away. She wore a white dress with a beaded skirt that looked like it was from a Silent Film he’d once seen. A band of white lace held in place gorgeous brunette hair.

“Holy Fuckballs,” he said. “Are you a ghost?”

“Is that any way to speak in front of a lady?” she asked. There was a slight hollowness to her voice, but it was high and sugary sweet. She placed her hands on her hips, waiting for her answer. When none came, she laughed. “I’m kidding, of course. If I saw someone brought back from the veil, I’d likely react in a similar fashion. Though, perhaps, not so colourfully.” She mouthed the word ‘fuckballs’ as if feeling it out.

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