"Ghost in the Machine": While watching a series of midnight movies, John Constantine becomes preoccupied with finding the mysteries that Zed hides about her past. This preoccupation manifests itself in the form of sexual explora
- The big part of the problem, buddy, is that you're too interested in satisfying your sexual appetites. You're just a dirty old man and you're gonna screw up because of it.
- — Emma
Synopsis for "Ghost in the Machine"
While watching a series of midnight movies, John Constantine becomes preoccupied with finding the mysteries that Zed hides about her past. This preoccupation manifests itself in the form of sexual exploration, and he peels off her clothes and makes love to her there in the theatre. He digs deeper and deeper for secrets, peeling away her flesh to her very skeleton. Moments later, he is awakened from this vivid dream by the engineer on the train he fell asleep on.
Having slept til the train hit the end of the line, John has a cab take him to the Weetiebrix factory where his friend Ritchie Simpson has worked for ten years. Ritchie works nights running the computer systems, and secretly abusing his position to do hacking with the computers' superior hardware. Ritchie has managed to dig up some info on the Resurrection Crusaders, a typical fundamentalist missionary group who does high-profile fundraising. He has uncovered a splinter group called the Tongues of Fire, who have managed as yet to block his attempts to find out more about them. At John's urging, Ritchie tokes some hallucinogenics and uses some special technology to project himself into cyberspace.
Meanwhile, Zed is being looked after by John's old friend Ray Monde. Unbeknownst to them, a gang of thugs has assembled outside. In the course of their getting to know one another, Ray admits that his heart was given long ago to a certain man. He had lost his lover in the Falklands War. Meanwhile, he is now dying of AIDS. Suddenly, they are interrupted by members of the Tongues of Fire who have come for Zed. Among them is her own father, an elder of the Resurrection Crusade. He wrenches Zed away, while his young companions begin to violently beat Ray, justifying it by condemning his homosexuality.
In cyberspace, Ritchie traces a Pyramid of Prayer donation from Liberty, Ohio to Glastonbury, England. While he may have found his way to the Resurrection Crusaders' systems, the Tongues of Fire offshoot is booby-trapped. He knows that one false move could be fatal, and it isn't long before he makes one. In the real world, John Constantine realizes that something's wrong when Ritchie's beard starts to smoulder. In less than one minute, all that is left of Ritchie are charred remains. John thinks his friend dead, until he hears Ritchie's voice over the computer's speakers. Unfortunately, Ritchie is unaware of his physical body's fate, and John is left worrying about how to tell his friend that he can't come back. Awkwardly John listens as his friend tries to return, before muttering a goodbye, and unplugging the computer.
On his way home, John feels guilt over the fact that every last member of his old Newcastle Crew has been killed, and in each case he shared some of the responsibility in causing it. Ritchie was the last of the crew, and though it was the Tongues of Fire who killed him, it was John who sent him to them. He wonders when he will ever stop paying for the Newcastle debacle. Again, he is plagued by the ghosts of his dead friends, and he challenges them to show him, once again, that it is all his fault. Instead, the ghosts explain that they are actually there to help him resolve things. Emma accuses that part of his problem is that his interest in satisfying his sexual appetites is going to lead him to screw something up, soon. Uncomfortably, John gets up, and throws himself from the train.
In medical operating room, somewhere, Zed senses that John is falling, and sends him some strength. She knows that if she loses him, she may as well give up. She needs a friend like him to help her cheat her destiny. Regretfully, she worries that she should have told him about the danger of getting involved with her, but now it's too late.
Nearby, Zed's father consults with the doctors about whether his plans for her will still be possible, given that she has given her virginity to John Constantine. The doctors explain that while virginity would be preferable, there is no better psychological profile, and she will need to be brainwashed into aiding them, beginning tomorrow.
Appearing in "Ghost in the Machine"
- Benjamin Cox (As a spirit)
- Emma (As a spirit)
- Frank North (As a spirit)
- Gary Lester (As a spirit)
- Sister Anne-Marie (As a spirit)
- Fifth Dimension
- This issue is reprinted in the Hellblazer: Original Sins trade paperback.
- Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy provide the artwork for pages 1-3 only. The remainder of the issue is penciled by John Ridgway.
- Ritchie Simpson calls the internal virtual reality of computers the Fifth Dimension. What, if any connection this version of the Fifth Dimension has to the reality occupied by Mister Mxyzptlk remains unknown.
- After falling from the train, the unconscious Constantine next appears in Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #74.
- This issue includes case file letters written by John Constantine during his time spent at the Ravenscar Institute following the botched Newcastle exorcism 1978. One of the letters makes reference to John's sister Cheryl. The collected letters are counter-signed by Ravenscar administrator Dr. Roger Huntoon.
- Constantine makes reference to once witnessing spontaneous human combustion at Baron Winters' Wintersgate Manor. The incident he is referring to is when both John Zatara and Sargon the Sorcerer were incinerated by the Great Darkness in Swamp Thing (Volume 2) #50.
- Swamp Thing (Volume 2)
- Hellblazer (Volume 1)
- Hellblazer: Bad Blood (Volume 1)
- Hellblazer: Lady Constantine (Volume 1)
- Hellblazer: Papa Midnite (Volume 1)
- Hellblazer Special: Chas (Volume 1)