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Continued from Part 2

The brick walls gray in the last trickle of moonlight. Weeds sprout wild through the cracks. Glassless windows pried open with iron bars. A hollow doorframe grows at his approach, waiting with the impenetrable patience of a coffin. Inside the cold glitter of shattered bottles. A train wails mournful in the distance. The wind shifts and hits in a sustained burst. Through the doorway a tumbling cascade of dead leaves sweep across the parking lot, crash against the shores of an invisible circle surrounding his steps and spark golden out of existence. When the train's dirge fades along with the passing gust, it drags from the building's depths the roar of some vast impossible beast. A bone rattling rumble that sounded somewhere between a whale's call and a jungle cat's growl; louder than thunder yet falling on his ears alone.

This would be his Adversary, anchored in another reality and telepathically screaming through a wound torn open in our own. A wound that just happened to also be the mind of the woman he was here to rescue.

Adam pushes on through the cacophony, until he reaches the doorway where he pauses. He closes his eyes. Relaxes his muscles. Narrows his focus into a single arrow sharp breath. Dives along its current and recedes from the extra-dimensional bellow of his opponent. He feels the pulse of the city throb beneath his veins and the steel purr of her traffic hum resounds from his belly. He stills the panic, allows himself to submerge into an immense web of random chances, vicious synchronicities and invisible absurdities that graft to his nervous system as gently as an old blanket on fresh sheets. The city drains his fear into her streets, disperses it across the dark canyons laying narrow between sleeping towers and leaves in its place the cool, gun fighter's confidence of every unforeseen hook-up still lingering from the long closed bars within her perimeter.

When he opens his eyes again it is with the Sight.

Before him his magick circle ignites red radiant and mutes the roar into cold silence. Along the walls of the circle's invisible shell four flaming sigils revolve around his center. Four secret names of his city with their letters compressed into a single symbol. He raises his hand and one of the sigils halts before him. Staring through its center his vision shifts spectrums.

Six Kirlian violet silhouettes light up and hover through a milky gray fog. Behind them a bright silver shadow paces around restlessly. He touches the sigil by its corner with the tips of his fingers and expands its width with a drag. The sigil burns fiercer now, hyper-luminescent shades of charged aerosol crackle through the air. When he does this the silver shadow magnifies into view. The glare is too much for him. He shifts spectrums. Dials it to the frequency he calls 'Chakra Vision'. The silver shadow is replaced with what appears to be one of those old 'Visible Woman' anatomy dolls you used to see sitting in the corner of a high school science class. Raw muscles interlaced with neural webbing, the bones of the skull prominent with two eyeballs floating in their sockets, arterial rivers flowing beneath the translucent flesh. The body emanates a steady infrared aura . Lined perfectly down the center of the body, lit up in Vajrayana hues and rotating with the psychedelic 'trails' of seven blistering suns. But connected behind these incandescent spheres are seven oil slick purple tentacles, dangling from the sky before vanishing into the mist. Adam shifts spectrums, and with a slow crane of his neck beholds the full width of his Adversary.

About two stories up, a jellyfish the size of a small cloud hovers above him. Its lucid shell has a milky orange sheen, containing within a radon green gas that flashes with occasional bursts of lightning. He drags the sigil a little wider and narrows his vision into the lower frequencies. The creature dissolves into a fractal spiral of grinding ebony fangs spinning perpetually into the depths of a bottomless black hole. From the arms of the spirals onyx bright tendrils weave and flutter in the gasp of incinerated universes yawning from the heart of its void.

Adam whistles appreciatively and defaults his vision back to 'reality'. Eyeball fuck the abyss... and apparently the abyss will eyeball fuck you right back.

Real sight adjusts clumsy, he can barely register the six murky figures waiting in the expanse of the dark. He doesn't have to see them however to know they're staring at him. Inside he can begin to hear a wounded animal shrieking hysterical, muffled significantly but still grinding to the ear. It takes Adam a moment to realize that it wasn't an animal he was hearing, no matter how much he might wish it to be otherwise, but rather a human throat being torn open with the chant of an impossible language.

He fires up his Bic and holds the flame high over his head.

Reluctantly, the memory of a light flickers into life from the ceiling, a pale ghost bulb burning from the center of the ceiling and casting a sick yellow gloom over what might have once been a lobby of some sort.

He lowers the flame and lights up a cigarette that has literally just appeared in his mouth. Inside his magick circle he is free to take small short-cuts with time. Like all young magicians, he thinks the seconds squandered for show will never add up and they never quite do the math until it's too late. This sadly is a lesson no sage has yet to be able to successfully impart to even the most earnest of adepts.

Before him the glare of six hard face. Some bruised, some cut, but all with that cruel acuity of someone who's about to kick your ass. Ronnie's Hate Patrol standing watch after a rough scrap. Adam notes the patrol seems a bit short on manpower. He matches up cars he recognized in the parking lot with missing faces and realizes that half of Ronnie's preferred muscle were most likely on their way to either the hospital or the morgue. Still, the survivors were clearly jacked-up, fucked-up and ready for more.

Meanwhile the Hate Patrol continue to size him up, take his number and are clearly not impressed. Not with the sudden phantom light crackling above, not with the hideous mockery of a voice that has been wailing incessantly behind them, and certainly not with the scrawny, ghetto punk wannabe posing all dramatic in the doorway allowing the wind to ruffle scraggly peroxide blond hair.

"You the 'specialist'?" The biggest one croaks while stepping forward menacingly. Adam couldn't help but note the baseball bat that seemed impatient in his massive fist, the sharp bouncer squint narrowing in on him nor the demented snarl dangling off a meat slab of chin.

"If you mean whether or not I'm the asshole dumb enough to walk into a room I should be clearly running away from? Then yeah, that'd be me." Adam shrugs and strolls on in.

What he sees is pretty much what he expected. Standard issue shit hole, top-to-bottom. Moss coated and jagged mounds of shattered dry wall, eviscerated office desks scattered about, amputee chairs hobbled in a pile, a heap of coverless paperback novels, water damaged magazines, brittle newspaper pages and fast food wrappers. Behind the Hate Patrol were two iron doors, painted a drab green and recently chained shut with a padlock. Behind it the basement he presumed, and down there was the job - ready whether he was or not.

But there was also something else in the gutted out office. Something of immense value to Adam. Sprayed across the brick wall bones - the gold. A series of bright vibrant graffiti tags in Anime style letters as big as a man. "ARSN", "FaDE", "DROP", "kNOw". There are others, but these four have been bombed across Terminus and resonate with the psychic charge of every set of eyes that has fallen upon them. The city has revealed to him another page from her grimorie. He grins at the graffiti and feels their power soaking into his will.

"So what'cha gonna do there, Mister Specialist?" One of the smaller mooks asks impatiently, standing at a mere 6 feet in his stomp boots and resting a crowbar over a broad shoulder.

Adam pries excited eyes off the wall and sneers towards Lil' Mook. "Alright, Rule #1 and that's the help don't talk to the talent while the talent's working."

"Th' fuck did he just say to us? " Lil' Mook grumbles and as one the Hate Patrol move in towards Adam. Specialist or not, it's been a long day followed by a longer night and there wasn't a man in their ranks ready to abide having some bitch-ass scarecrow run his mouth to them like they were a bunch of cunts.

Adam raises a single admonishing finger. "Rule #2... fuck with the talent and the talent will fuck with you."

The Hate Patrol trade dismissively baffled looks that say "this guy over here" and stare back at Adam with menacing grins. Before any of them can utter a word though... he beats them to the draw.

"DROP!" Adam barks and a split-second later the concrete floor chimes with discarded weapons.

The Hate Patrol stare dumbfounded at their crowbars and baseball bats, their brass knuckles and 'smileys' (an improvised flail made of thick chain and a bouquet of padlocks) laying at their boots. The biggest of the mooks bends down to pick his bat back up but finds he can't. Two hands and a lot of elbow grease prove to be of no help. He stands back up.

"How'd you...?" Big Mook mutters looking up perplexed from his weapon to Adam's smirk.

"See Rule #1" Adam winks smug. "Now if you boys'll excuse me. FaDE!"

At the utterance of that last word, he begins to dematerialize. Vanishing quickly, until only the faint wisp of a neon blue smoke outline remains before wafting gently away.

The mooks can't help but visibly shudder and more than one betrays a gasp. None of them notice that on the wall to their left the tags 'FaDE' and 'Drop' are gone, leaving behind only the dust of spent possibility. Above them the ghost light flickers out of being and plunges them back into the shadows to wait.

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Continued from Pt.1

It’s all business when the bastards have left you with no choice.

Any other attitude boils down to either hyperbole or sentimentality and both will fuck up your night so bad there ain’t gonna be a tomorrow to follow. So, standing out there in the ass end of the hood and directly outside an abandoned office building with a ‘demonically’ possessed ghetto-punk locked inside its basement, Adam Last gets his shit together – stat.
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Ronnie’s sitting at the wheel, snorting blow off a hand-held mirror with two skinhead gorillas packing the backseat with 600 pounds of all business. And don’t think he’s doing that stepped on shit his crew push for him either. No fuck that. This is the sweet white those he reports directly use. The private stash, with each line inhaled demarcating a fragile boundary between keeping his shit and losing it. When he vacuums up the last grains off a jagged bump it leaves in its place the reflection of his swelling black eye blinking back at him. He shakes his head already feeling the numb of the blow recede and the anger roaring in to fill the void. He glances away from the damage and out the front window of his 1970 pimp white Coup de Ville. Directly ahead an abandoned print shop. Two story brick number from the 20’s. That’s where they had her locked down. In the basement with only one way out. Fuck only knows for how long though. He’s already got five of his boys heading to the hospital and another half dozen standing watch in there instead of making him money.

Worst of all this was going down in East Point. He fucking hates East Point. He can’t so much as take a shit in this part of town without having to call in favors and cash in debts just to get a sheet of toilet paper. He scans the parking lot and the adjacent road. He counts all the cars the crew have sitting parked there, his included, and arrives at a sum definitely worth the attention of a passing patrol car. He suckles the gums of his teeth nervously and checks his phone. It’s 4:02 am and exactly seven minutes since he called him.

The Specialist.

“Mother-fucker better get his ass up here sooner than later,” Ronnie mutters to himself, scraping a plump bump off the Mound of Kilimanjaro piled on the corner of the mirror.

The two skins remain stoic silent, scanning around for any traffic and checking the purple shadows draped over the decrepit factory across the street for movement. Ronnie crouches down in the front seat, with his stout bull-dog physique he resembles a question mark trying to swallow itself whole. But when he looks into the mirror he immediately notices the black eye’s gone.

No, not gone, replaced… along with the rest of his face.

A familiar wink fires up at him from the mirror.

“You called?” a voice speaks from directly behind him, the two skins jump in their seats with shock as a flame sparks up between them illuminating a hooded third person scrunched between them lighting a cigarette."S'up?"

The skins dive quick draws into matching black bombers pulling for their pistols but producing instead fistfuls of withered roses that they wave menacingly at the figure’s head.

The flame casts the lower half of the intruder’s face in an orange glow, a scythe of a grin flashes and truncates the light with a puff of smoke. From beneath the hood’s umbra a constellation of skylines burn in pin pricks of white and a demented giggle erupts between them. “Aw, for me? You guys are soooo sweet.”

The skin on his right stares dumbfounded at the roses with the petals crumbling off his grip. The one on the left however reacts without hesitation, yanking the stranger by the front of his black hoodie with his free hand and winding up for a withered bouquet laced punch with the other.

“Whoah, whoah, whoah, everyone calm the fuck down a second.” Ronnie barks leaning over the back seat to a lay a hand on the left skin’s forearm. “This is him. This is my ‘guy’.”

The skin with the initiative looks at Ronnie then back at the hooded figure then back at Ronnie. The strength of Ronnie’s glare is enough to cow the shaved ape, pry open his grasp from the intruder’s chest and produce more than sufficient gravity to lower his impending fist.

Ronnie juts his black, bearded chin up at Adam: “Alright, quit fuckin’ around, man. Give ‘em back their shit.”

“Pfff,” the figure shrugs and tugs his hoodie back down. “Whatever.”

With a dismissive roll of his free hand, beneath the slip of a blink the roses are replaced with two identical drop guns. In between the baffled grunts of the skins staring at their firearms as if for the first time, the figure has vanished from between them and is now sitting back all chill in the passenger seat next to Ronnie; arms folded behind head as if they were about to go out for a sunday ride.

“What’cha need? I was all up in bed and not alone if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I ‘know what you mean’…, “ and Ronnie pumps his fist lackadaisically over his lap a couple of times with rolled eyes. “But I’m calling in a favor so you’ll have to call off spank night for some other time.”

“Another one?” The figure snorts and stares out towards the building. “Didn’t I just take care of your snitch problem a coupla weeks back?

“Yeah, you did… and that was one less you owe me.”

“Well god damn there, brother. Just how many do I owe you?”

“I don’t know, Adam… exactly how many people are looking for your ass right now? How many people have you fucked over, screwed up or generally pissed off that keep coming to me or my associates asking questions about you? We got a number on that one? Because I'll tell you this for free, I've sure as fuck long lost count.”

Ronnie lays cool, steady eyes on Adam and Adam blinks ahead in silence with a bit lip.

“That’s what I thought.” Ronnie snorts dismissively before crouching down to snort decisively.

When he rises back up, grinding up sniffles in the back of his nostrils and lizard licking white flecks off his black beard, he offers the mirror over to Adam.

Adam declines with a flash of the flat of his hand. “Naw, y’know me. Never while on the job.”

“You might change your mind when I tell you what the job is.”

Adam bobs his chin across the lot. “Lemme guess, something weird, mean and bad is in the bottom of that building over there and you want me to deal with it.”

“Heh. Damn near enough, how'd you..."

“I can see it. Its aura at least. The signature reads ultraterrestial but it’s filtered… meaning whatever it is its inside someone”

“Yeah, now this would be the part where you pretend I have no fuckin’ idea what you’re talkin’ ‘bout!”

Adam takes a thoughtful drag off his smoke and frames his response slowly: “’Kay. So, you got what? Someone ‘possessed’ down there. Right?”

“Right.”

“Something like, I don’t know, a ‘demon’ maybe?”

“How the hell should I know?” Ronnie scrunches his attention on cutting off another bump of love. “But it don’t seem to be acting like it’s pitchin’ for the other team, if that's what you're asking?”

“Yeah. Well, the good news is is that there’s no such thing as angels or demons... least not how you understand them. Which leads to the bad news, that there's definitely things out there.” Adam sweeps the empty air with his hand, “ Invisible things. In a universe overlapping ours but at a different, um… think frequency than the one we’re set at. And though we can't see them they can see us and we make them hungry, man. We make them ravenous. And here's the really fucked up thing, the only way they have into our world is through a living human body and they'll gladly wear a halo or a pair of horns if it gets them through the back door.”

Ronnie nods and stares at the building thoughtfully, before finally speaking. “Okay, see that… that doesn’t tell anything I need to know right now.”

"Well what do you need to know?"

“What you’re gonna do about it?”

“Honestly?” Adam sighs and pulls his hood down before shrugging helplessly to Ronnie. “Nothing.”

"'Nothing'?” Ronnie accepts the word as if it were a slap, rubbing his palm over his shaved head with eyes bulging wider the deeper the reply drills into his pride.

“I don't mean no disrespect here, Ronnie. I know... I know you want me to walk my ass on down there, wave a wand around and chant some bad Latin until its gone but it don’t work that way.”

“What do you mean ‘it don’t work that way’, I thought this is what you did.”

“You’re thinking of a priest. I’m a magician, a metromancer technically and magick don’t quite work the way you think it does. It’s like… how do I explain this? It’s like the cheat codes in video games… but for real life. The problem is there’s consequences for using them. Bad consequences. A liftime's worth of luck gone in a single shot or it can boomerang back on you like a curse striking twice as hard as you threw it. And man, I kid you not when I tell you the more powerful the cheat code the worse the repercussions for using it. Ever wonder why there aren’t many millionaires in my line of work?”

Adam shakes his head sadly at his benefactor: “So brother, I don’t mean no harm, but this shit is wayyy out of my league.”

“Well then it looks like you’re about to up your game, ‘brother’.”

“Look, seriously, I’m not sure where you’re coming from with this or why you’re busting my balls about it. I know it sucks, but your best bet is to go down there and just put a bullet in whoever’s got that thing locked inside 'em. Believe me you’d be doing the poor fuck a favor at this point, the longer its in there the deeper the damage.”

“That’s not an option.”

“Well neither is my going down there and playing Exorcist. I’ve never done something like this before and there’s more than a good chance that shit’s gonna go wrong if I do. Not just for me but for whoever’s still locked inside with that thing.”

“Which sounds like a better chance than the one she's got now..."

"'She'?" Adam curls a self-satisfied smirk.

"Yeah, fuckin' 'she'. Now I don't give a shit what the odds are because I know they're zero if someone doesn't do something."

"Who is she, Ronnie?"

"Someone who better be sitting where you're sitting in the next hour if you plan on laying your hands on anything stronger than an aspirin in this town ever again. Someone who means the difference between you being able to walk out of here however the fuck you came in or crawling back with both legs broken... for a start. Someone, and I think we'll agree this is the biggie, who will keep my mouth shut the next time some evil looking bastard from the ‘Black Lodge’ comes by my place asking all sorts of fucked up questions.”

“Jesus…," Adam shakes his head rubbing the pronounced bridge of his aquiline nose. He’s tempted to call Ronnie’s bluff, the only problem is he damn well knows it isn’t one. Instead he shrugs helplessly and nods towards the mirror. “Well, in that case I guess I’ll be taking one of those bumps after all.”

***
To Be Continued
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Raw light incinerates the soothing black emptiness away, evaporating the last dew of dream into vapor ghosts wafting from recollection’s grave. Vision ignites with a searing white haze, yielding silhouettes that quickly shimmer around him into the details of an unfamiliar room. An instinctual panic jolts him upright and the effort spills him from a tattered couch sitting crooked off its last leg. He lays there nailed through the skull to the floor by the jagged edge of a fierce headache. Sprawled helpless amongst the discarded cans of cheap beer and spent dime bags, he stares up at a mucus green ceiling trying to navigate his emerging thoughts through a hazy labyrinth of questions. Where? When? How?

He’s got nothing. Nothing but the pain drilling just above and between the eyes.

Glancing around vainly in search of a clue, he’s dimly aware of being in a small room of some sort. That it’s abandoned is quickly obvious. Stained white wallpaper imprinted with the negative white Hiroshima shadows of absent furniture with faded blue flower patterns scrawled over in vandal’s poetry. Two windows with grime soaked blinds leaking with a dull gray glow. Hunkered in the corner a heap of discarded television sets with big black bugs flitting across the screens before vanishing into their cracks. He sighs deep in frustration.

And something mean, rotten and ugly awakens from the acidic waters of his belly, spreads black oily wings of nausea and…

… the gag reflex hits hard. Instinctively he bolts up and runs with fingers slapped over ballooned cheeks. He finds the bathroom by luck or instinct or something else entirely forgotten. Kneeling on chipped tiles, hugging the front of a leper yellow commode, he yawns ultraviolet and glow stick green chunks into its dank void. Each explosion is followed by an appalling coughing fit that ends with blood drooling from day-glow blue caked lips.

A fragment of memory slips through the fever heat.

The Beef Fartz show at the Cotton Mill Club. His first night back out on the Scene since… since the ‘incident’. He avoided the pit and clung to the bar in the back. Zero prospects for not going home alone, all potential contenders otherwise occupied or simply not worth the effort. Sure the alcohol softens up the standards some, but if you go home with any woman then the right ones never will. Instead he somehow ended up in a conversation with this cat from out of town. Scrawny blond bastard in a black hoodie with a leather jacket with sleeves painted with odd symbols. Yankee by the accent he tried to hide and the amplified hand gestures that gave it away. They talked about the old school punk shows from back in the day, when a show was actually a fucking show. Four drunks with nothing but fresh out of the pawn shop instruments and a fuck you attitude. Nothing like any of this arrhythmic noise bullshit they were listening to now. They traded war stories over the din of the band and it wasn’t long until the dude thought he was cool enough to join him for a bump in the bathroom real quick.

Funny thing was his name… what was it?

Aaron End or Alan Omega or something like that.

Anyway, it was the last thing he remembered.


Another vomit wave drowns out the memory , emptying the contents of his guts with a phosphorescent spray and turning up the heat on the fever to 10.

“It’ll pass. After all you know what they say, ” A familiar voice offers non-chalantly from over his shoulder, “’Magick before liquor never sicker. Liquor before magick now that’s the trick!’”

He turns around and no one’s there.

“Over here, Craig.” A voice speaks just to his right shoulder but no one is there.

“Stand up and look.” The words float around the room invisibly, but Craig finds himself obeying, balancing himself off the rim before realizing exactly what he’s done.

Standing there, wiping the glowing vomit on his sleeves off his pants, he looks around the bathroom with slow pivoting steps…

“You’re getting warmer, warmer… hot!”

Craig stops and stares into the mirror hovering cracked over the sink; directly behind his reflection the dude with the funny name from last night.

He spins around with a punch that would’ve done some serious damage if someone was standing there to greet it. Instead the empty air reverberates with a nasally laugh. That of a demented little boy borrowing a grown up’s throat to giggle with.

Craig looks back at the mirror directly into the reflection of the man who isn’t there. “Th’ fuck’d you do t’me, asshole?!?!”

The reflections smiles with all the cruelty of a joke whose punch line is you.

“What’d I do? Shiiiit, that’s not the real question now is it, Craig? The real question is what’d you do to deserve it? But to be fair you still have no idea what it is exactly I’ve done to you.” The reflection snickers and points a pistol finger directly towards Craig’s temple.

Following the barrel-finger’s jab, he glances back into the mirror. The last stand of a mohawk with drooping spikes creating an odd comb-over effect. Baggy eyes charcoal painted. Pronounced cheekbones flecked with black stubble and six letters, one word, boldly stamped in red from temple to temple across his forehead: SNITCH.

Craig slaps at the word and starts rubbing at it furiously with his palms. When the word doesn’t so much as smudge, he opens up the faucet’s full blast and begins washing frantic at the letters with tepid, rust brown water.

“True story,” the reflection muses, turning away inside the mirror to saunter over to the door less frame of the bathroom and prop himself with one knee up within it, “Carlos Chameleon, under whose tutelage I once had the privilege of serving under…”

“The fuck did’ja do to me!” Craig whimpers as the letters seem to only grow brighter and brighter with each scrub administered.

“I’m getting to that,” the reflection lights up a cigarette and the actual bathroom begins to fill slowly with unwinding spirals of blue smoke. “Anyway, Carlos taught me a few things about, well… stuff you’re probably not ready to believe in. Not yet anyway. But what you're seeing isn't everything, Craig. To really appreciate it we need to shed a little light on the subject… “

And the reflection reaches in offhandedly to throw on a switch and the bathroom bursts into a flickering amber haze. Craig looks up and though the room is lit up the single bulb hanging above him remains smashed in the socket.

The reflection nods to his left, Craig turns around and catches his shadow splayed amplified against a mold splattered white plastic shower curtain. Across the shadow’s forehead there is a symbol inscribed within a circle, one unrecognized by Craig, pulsating in hues of crimson and orange.

Craig begins chewing at the words that fail to express what he’s witnessing, they build instead to the drone of a mounting whine that explodes into a howl as he tears the shower curtain down, spins to the mirror and punches the reflection with a right hook.

Crash, animal scream and dozens of blood splattered reflections shaking their r heads dismissively.

“Now Craig, there are worse things that can happen. For example you could an 8 Ball fronted to you, when you’re already in the hole for one large, but it’s an old friend and he knows you’ve been having a tough since your woman left you. So you go out and try to get laid but can’t… even with some of the finest blow circulating Terminus. So, you decide to get drunk and drunk you get desperate and desperate you don’t call your ex, but instead drive directly to her place. But when you show up, instead of wanting to party, she’s got some other guy there, so you start to make a scene. You pick a fight. You sucker punch the guy and boot check him from there…

“No, no, no… that’s not how it happened. You weren’t there. “ Craig stammers almost incoherently and searches around the bathroom desperately. A puff of smoke streams into his face.

“Don’t try playing me… or yourself. I saw the whole thing go down. Watched it all reflected in the mirror we were doing bumps off of. You boot checked the poor fuck and when she tried pulling you off him you, well, then you really got mad didn’t you? Tough guy, you. But that’s not why I’m here, Craig. Naw, I’m here ‘cause of what you did when the cops found what was left of your 8 Ball after taking you down. I’m here ‘cause of the good man whose life you ruined to salvage what was left of your own. I’m here because of the first rule of magick… and that’s that all power resides in the name. So when you dropped your boy’s like a little bitch, you inadvertently summoned some very, very nasty people who live in the places you can’t see. “

“Yeah?” Craig hisses shaking the pain out of his fist, glass shards glittering on bloodied knuckles, “Then why don’t you step on up and face me like a man.”

The reflection smiles, snorts and shakes its head. “Oh, Craig… haven’t you figured out by now that I’m so much more than just a man.”

“Fuck you!”

“You’re not my type and I’d get used to hearing that if I were you. See here’s the thing. No one but you will be able to see that little word I tattooed across your shadow… but they’ll still be able to read it just fine. You’ll be broadcasting a shortwave telepathic subliminal message to the entire world. Long story short, from now on, wherever you go, no matter their word for it – everyone you ever meet will know you exactly for what you are. A ‘Snitch’. “

Craig stands there fuming at the mirror, no longer rubbing at the words but clawing at them with dirty finger nails.

“Now unfortunately, I have to get going. But don’t worry. I’ve arranged a ride for you. Some friends of the friend you fucked over, actually. Their right outside actually and ready to give you a ride out of town, because that’s where you’re living now, but not before they throw you a little going away party of their own I’m sure.”

“I’ll find you, mother fucker!” Craig barks at the reflection as it steps out of the hollow frame of the doorway and shrugs.
“I’m right here in front of your face and you can’t find me, Craig. Do you really think you’ll have better luck when I actually don’t want to be found? Besides, between you and me, it’s gonna be a long time before you can walk again, much less set foot in Terminus.”

Adam Last steps out of the corner of the mirror’s reflection and vanishes out of the dilapidated house the way an answer vanishes before the question’s truth.

The bathroom dims around Craig as blood begins to trickle down his forehead, mingling with the tears stinging his mascara dabbed eyes. He doesn’t even hear the stomping boots of two of Ronnie’s finest hired goons as they lumber into the mirror’s reflection behind him.
jack_babalon: (Default)
The constellations of the skyline glimmers, a swarm of phosphorescent white fireflies burning frozen in black amber. An impossible metropolis, a city embedded deep within the cartography of dreams and accessible only by such. Occasionally glimpsed briefly by two sleeping lovers who will never sleep again together, or spied perhaps from the distant shores of recreational hallucinations gone wrong. Which is when it becomes aware, realizes it is being watched and reacts. From her shadows a whisper is launched, rises from streets paved with ghosts, flows around a shifting architecture of silhouettes , soars over the still waters of a vast, empty night and lands across your thoughts to deliver a secret name. Yours. One long forgotten, abandoned shortly after you were born. One earned hard in the Lands of Death that waits one day to ask if you can recall it.
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Midnight, a West Side loft off Tango Boulevard.

Veronica, with the ‘r’ purred like the revving of an engine, steps barefooted across the hardwood floors littered with questionably tasteful black and white nude photographs folded into a menagerie of origami animals. As she steps towards the photographer, she slips her thumbs under the straps of her dress, tugs them over the shoulder and lets it slip off her stride. Naked, she crouches down on all fours and snatches a folded swan by a provocatively decorated wing between her teeth. The camera whirrs, clicks and fires. She crawls towards the photographer slowly, muttering the incantation beneath her breath.

The photographer doesn’t move.

He’s crucified to the white stucco wall of his studio, with the snapped off legs of his tripod pinned through both palms and one spiked through overlapped ankles. A very expensive digital camera sits in the hollow of where the photographer’s face had been caved in.

Despite this, the zoom lens telescopes and illuminates Veronica’s advance with a bombardment of flash strobes. When she reaches the photographer, she slithers up and rises off her knees in an impossible fluid motion. The camera ceases fire. She glances into the lens and catches her reflection.

With a grin that marks the line where seduction ends and dementia begins, she throws back her head, spits up the glossy gray swan and snatches it back out of the air with a swallow.

Veronica chews away at the swan, never taking her eyes off her funhouse reflection, swallows…

… and spits forth a word in the language of flames.

From between her lips an incendiary butterfly flutters free from the mangled paper shell of the swan. It circles around the cameras lens precisely three and a ½ times before landing on its center. The camera whirrs, extends, retreats, and fires. The shot extinguishes the fiery butterfly in a puff of cold lightning.

Only a violet luminescent film remains, caked and glittering across the surface of the lens.

Veronica stands up, takes the photographer by the cheeks, straightens his head so the camera’s eye faces her and he leans in and kisses the lens; carving with the tip of a lick the sigil of her true will’s intent.

Tongue numb and crackling with the taste of electrified candy, she leisurely reels it back in between her grin.

The camera whirrs, clicks and fires…

… but when it does it bathes the studio in an arcane radiance of ultraviolet and fluorescent green that preternaturally lingers long after Veronica blinks.

The grin tightens into a satisfied smile that pouts and speaks:

“Adam Last – by shadow, blood and flame – I summon you to come forth before me!”

The violet and green haze fades. Reality begins to drip back in. The oblivious footsteps of the upstairs neighbors and the muffled laugh track of a sitcom hums through the walls. The central A/C kicks in. A floor vent blasts frigid air and sends the origami animals skittering a few inches in flight before resettling. Blood trickles off the tripod stigmata, splattering a steady cadence across the floorboards.

Veronica scans the room, wide eyes drifting over every cracked door, every shadow, every corner, each space between the shelves, around the stairway and then, finally behind her where she knows he’ll think she won’t think to look.

Nothing.

She stands there with blood caked rubbing her face in disbelief. Several minutes pass. Nothing, just the dripping blood and dampened late show guffaws.

Veronica puffs out her cheeks and sighs frustrated.

Maybe next time she figures, maybe a group shoot instead of a one-on-one session. Still, she felt… something. A seismic nudge in the nebulous country of intuition and a sense that she…

… the camera whirrs, clicks and fires from behind her.

She spins around.

Adam is leaning on the wall next to the photographer, so that it appears that the photographer is draping his right arm over his shoulder. He’s got a cigarette dangling by the hook of a smirk and the camera plucked out of the cavernous remains of the photographer’s face pressed up to eyes cloaked under a pulled up black hoodie.

“Give me…,” Adam snarls through the smirk, “fierce!”

“Sonuvabitch!” Veronica spits startled and takes a step back clenching her fists.

“Yeah, sorry I’m late…,” Adam lowers the camera and through the mask of shade cast by his hood the reflection of the Terminus skyline burns back at her, “had to stop off for some smokes first. Which, by the way, is the thing about invocations. They usually ends with a ‘now’... otherwise you get some smartass demon showing up some twenty odd years later after you call them.”

She laughs despite herself and unclenches her fists.

“It’s been awhile, Veronica.” Adam takes the smoke between his fingers and puffs out a stream of smoke towards her, “S’up?”

“You perfectly know why I called you here.” She snorts dismissively and steps towards him. She opens her right hand and twists her wrist ventral side forward. There, tattooed along her veins, are thorn speckled vines that end in a red rose’s bloom across her palm. The petals ignite with a crimson glow and from its center an ebony blade extends out.

“Y’know, technically speaking, by the rules of invocation you have to answer three questions before I’m obliged to meet your challenge?”

“Yes,” she sneers through the curve of her grin, “and now you’re down to one.”

“Heh,” Adam chuckles with a conceding nod, “good point. So, besides the obvious, why do you want me dead?”

“I don’t.” She raises the blade to thrust towards Adam, flattened parallel to the floor and aimed for his stubble flecked jugular. “The Lie does.”
“Now, y’see that’s what I never get about the magick scene here,” Adam takes a thoughtful drag off his cigarette completely indifferent to his impending rendezvous with a slit throat, “why do y’all follow something that calls itself – ‘The Heart’s Beautiful Lie’?”

“Your three questions are up, 'ghettomancer'…”

“… yeah, but y’gotta admit it’s a good one.”

Veronica goes to growl, goes to attack, but instead, pride pricked, she indulges him: “Hir name is a cage. Nothing more. It binds the light of hir truth so it does not blind us. Hir name is a cage, yes true, but one we, the vigilant, are so very close to unlocking. And when we do…”

“Yeah, yeah…, “ Adam interrupts with a yawn and flicks his cigarette into the hollowed out head of the photographer, “… y’all will rise up and magick will flow like rivers again. Alright, let’s do this then.”

Veronica snorts and lunges for Adam.

In that collapsing space between blade and throat, Adam holds up the camera.

Whirr, click and…

… bang!

Veronica’s face evaporates into a mist of blood that splatters across Adam, as a muffled bullet explodes through the back of her skull and impacts into the stucco with a thud just inches from his right cheek. The shot’s momentum sends Veronica sprawling off course to crash lifelessly into the Photographer and slide off his corpse.

Adam lights up another cigarette and watches the mystical blade recede back into Veronica’s hand. “Cutting it a bit close aren’t you?”

Adam lights up another cigarette and watches the mystical blade recede back into Veronica’s hand. “Cutting it a bit close aren’t you?”

On the other side of the studio, through a haze of lingering gun smoke a silhouette manifests and Sarah K comes stepping out of the space between nowhere with her pistol drawn. “Well, I wanted to hear what she had to say for herself.”

“The same as the last seven…”

“Eight.” Sarah corrects willing the pistol to vanish into subspace with a flick of her hand.

“…eight who tried summoning me. The Lie wants us dead before he leads the city’s covens out of the closet. Only thing I don’t get is why they call me all the time and not you?”

Sarah answers with a bob of her chin to Veronica.

“Good point,” Adam nods and fishes from his pocket a sharpie marked only with a small black pentagram across its tubing. He walks up to a framed photograph of a chained up and blindfolded model. In the background of the shot there is a skyline of Terminus through a window. Adam draws a small circle over a single building in the photograph. The ink seeps through and a black oval portal appears in the center of the room.

“Ladies first.” Adam bows and gestures to the portal.

“Appreciate ya.” Sarah giggles with a mock southern accent and steps into the portal before vanishing from the loft.

Adam steps up to the portal, pauses and looks back over at Veronica. “And that’d be the other thing about invocations. Always insist that those you summon come before you alone or you never know who'll show up.”

Satisfied, he steps through the portal and it closes instantly behind.

Nature rushes to fill the void, a light breeze rushes into the space where the portal was, sending origami porn animals to scrape against the floorboards in advance. Veronica says nothing. Blood drips from the photographer’s palms as a faint sizzle of televised applause seeps through the wall behind them.
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Burnview, Terminus: Somewhere between an epilogue’s smug satisfaction and the ambitious flirtations of a prelude.

***


Immediately south of the State Capital Building, separated from Downtown proper by the moat of I-285, is the neighborhood of Burnview. Its name is derived from the Battle of Terminus, being the area where citizens fleeing the Long March to the Sea paused in their flight, turned and watched as the proud city was razed in flames. One hundred and fifty years have passed and the area now finds itself serving as an economic refugee camp nestled inside an industrial cemetery for abandoned plants, mills and factories. Rows of foreclosed homes mixed with the occasional gray slab of apartment complex. It is one of ‘those’ neighborhoods; the kind where no one delivers after dark… especially the cops.

Not much but vacant lots to look at along the winding two mile stretch that is Foxbourne Road, offering little more than a rolling view of rusted chain link fences and feral kudzu patches. However, should you persist, and reach the dead end just over the tracks, you’ll come face to face with the ruins of the Douglas T. Foxbourne Building. There you will be greeted silently by three stories of boarded up windows on a weathered brick wall (acting as canvas to a gallery of bombastic graffiti tags). Move closer. From the frame of a single naked doorway a chthonic dark spills, laps at the golden glow cast by the day’s end and beckons you forward with a groaning whisper.

But you won’t have to travel long through the labyrinth of dusty hallways. Only a stagger down the first passage on the left, followed by a quick tip-toe of a right… carefully, now… along a corridor filled with scattered desks and overturned office chairs (resembling a makeshift, if not shattered, rampart that fell under the wave of an invisible attack). Then it’s up three floors of huff along the stairs of a claustrophobic fire exit, before stumbling blindly out into the vast expanse of a single loft… lit up by dust speckled shafts of auburn light that slice crisply through the open wounds of the roof to illuminate the fresh corpses dispersed amongst the trash below.

Thirteen total - no discrimination between sex nor race, but none of them look old enough to drink, much less kill. Most simply bullet riddled but some with slit throats from which blood splattered puddles bloom slowly into Rorschach flowers. In their death grips a modest arsenal of baseball bats, pipe wrenches, chains with flails of padlocks along with more than a handful’s worth of fully automatic firearms. All of the thirteen, save one, wear an identical uniform – red hoodies marked with crudely drawn black Magic Marker runes along the left sleeve and black urban commando camo with matching t-shirts. The exception is the body of a much older man in a remarkably cheap brown business suit, clutching not a weapon but rather a cell phone pressed to his ear postmortem.

Within the ink black patches between the radiant shafts, two pairs of red discs ignite from the shadow’s depth. Twin silhouettes melt out of gloom. Katherine Wheeler and Nikki Ice make the scene. The two Gun Valkyries rising from crouches, literally out of nowhere.
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Previously: “Okay…” Adam steps forward as his magical circle, (with bubble lettered glyphs and wild style sigils flowing throughout its perimeter), follows him in perfect synch so he never ventures outside of it, “my turn.”

Last Stand



In the absence of fear, it is not courage Adam feels but rather the single minded devotion of a lover, one who successfully strangles death back past the moment of surrender’s rapture. His face is the face of a man who stands naked on the roof during the worst of storms, outshouting the thunder to demand lightning’s immolation. Standing on the precipice of his death blindfolded, his enemies marshalling around the wake of his ambush and gathering strength in their numbers, he can truly say he has never felt so alive.

From inside his magickal circle everything’s filtered through “epiphany’s terror”. It’s like tripping on quality ‘shrooms, but only in the way being stoned is like tripping on quality ‘shrooms. Every color radiates with a secret significance on the cusp of revelation, every detail magnified around him to become the center of the universe’s perpetual bloom, every sigh a rumble, every breath the whispering echo of approaching angels. His thoughts have become an incendiary whirlwind raging around the depths of a suddenly bottomless skull, yet his resolve does not burn and the heat only serves to crystallize his attention upon his opponents.

In slow motion he watches Dent empty the clips on his 9’s, through memory’s grimorie he peels a graffiti tag from a snapshot of a distant wall. Three miles away the corresponding tag vanishes from the brick wall.

Adam mutters…

ARSN


…snaps his fingers into a pistol that points bulls eye at the young mage’s face.

Time speeds back up as Dent is rapidly consumed in a wave of phosphorescent violet flames. No scream, no gasp, no time. Through the shimmering haze of the relentless blaze, the wavering silhouette of a diminutive figure drops to its knees and falls face down into a puddle of inferno.

Outside the factory – the ring of fire evaporates and vanishes.

Three to go.
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Adam Last steps forward, hood thrown up and the shadow’s veil it casts over the top of his face ignites with the silver embers of a vast alien skyline. High above his head he bears a severed hand, whose necrotic gray skin flakes off in patches that flutter behind his stride. Within the petrified clutch of its brittle fingers, a red candle burns steadily with an ethereal green flame. Walking across a page-pure splash of white oblivion, Adam traverses through the grave of a long forgotten Sephiroth. Deep within the belly of a Kabalistic black-hole, with only the glow of the Hand of Glory to keep his memories from unraveling into the void, guided by the distant murmur of voices across that land without horizon’s measure.
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There are two sides to every story... and therefore two beginnings as well. The first is over here. The second directly below...

Magick (much like her older sister Drugs and younger sister Art), has long served as a crucial, if not misunderstood, catalyst in the development of human consciousness.

However, magick soon received the same fate as her sisters, finding herself demonized by the Cult of the Little Death that had rose to power from the graves of the conquered Fertile Crescent. As history’s architects this cult has secretly built in their rule an empire of prisons and barracks. Magick, was a threat, even if only by example and was amongst the first to be cast out from respectable society. Reduced to scrounging out a meager existence in the back alleys behind Eden, toiling in desperate servitude to the criminal sub-cultures of the cities.

Over the millennia her disciples have taken sanctuary in the debt of cut-throats or at the beck and call of bandits. Those who refuse have either banished themselves to the diminishing wilderness outside the cities’ reach… or were soon marginalized, starved, institutionalized, reduced to poverty, driven to madness or excess until the wonder had been successfully hammered, electrocuted, drained, trepanated or medicated from their lives.

So it was in Terminus, the de facto capital of the New South. Even back before the city was put to the torch of war, the antebellum witches and fugitive Loas aligned themselves with those forbidden yet vital principalities festering in the city’s South Side – the underworld empire known as ‘Snake Nation’.

Decades later, when Terminus phoenix hatched from her nest of ashes, the magicians found themselves obliged once again to enlist their services in the society of pimps, dealers and racketeers for mutual protection.

As the zeitgeists shifted across the city, so did the magick wielded within her borders. It wasn’t long, relatively speaking, before hermetic orders gave way to brash chaos raves. Everything was speeding up. The Law was for all. Nothing was true. Soon jealously guarded grimorie were replaced with downloadable shareware sigils. Every man and every woman, now living under the perpetual stare of the city’s perched camera drones, had indeed become ‘stars’ just as the Great Beast once prophesized.

The only thing that remained the same was the company they were forced to keep.

That is until tonight.
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Continued from I am the Song that my Enemy Sings

Magick in
Fury & Practice:
Preludes & Predictions.



Sarah K. sits dead center in a circle of gunned down men. Black blood oozes from immaculately starched white shirts. Designer sports jackets bullet perforated and stuffed with fists frozen against sleeping holsters. Raw gore exposed in well coifed nests of cornrows and pompadours. Eyes bulged in perpetual rage with a third eye, a bulls-eye, drilled grave deep above and in between.

Sarah’s physique can best be described as pixie, but only if one imagines a pixie that had been raised by hornets. She sits erect in her asana, torso erect and rising from lap and legs origami folded into an upside down lotus. Two automatic pistols lay before her. Smoke coils off the barrels into a flowing serpent geometry that crowns the bangs of her ash white bob with a halo of phantasmagoric runes. In long delicate hands she shuffles one of the twenty-three surviving copies of the Deck of Shells, the once only a rumor Qlippoth Tarot. Blue eyes, pale as ghosts, roll back into marble whites while around bared teeth frenzied black painted lips spit mute incantations.

The blood of the corpses begins to trickle together until a rough circle is formed. From along eleven points of the circumference sanguine a flow of spokes slides towards Sarah’s center. Moments before colliding into Sarah’s center they burst against an invisible barrier to spread into a second inner ring around the lotus. The blood hisses and bubbles. Crimson steam wavers around the circle and through its veil the room began to shift.

She was, only moments ago, sitting Southside of Terminus in an Outfit owned warehouse. One, that at the moment, could boast a well stocked inventory of recently deceased gang representatives and Outfit consiglieres (along with a literal smattering of their myriad bodyguards).
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METROMANCER


Being a brief introduction to the world of Adam Last


Once upon a time monsters really did lurk under your bed and wishes really did come true (though often at a terrible price). So it was, long ago, a frightened and nascent humanity united to banish magick from their lives... and all they had to do in return was simply not believe in it anymore.


Remember believing that there was something horrible lurking in the darkened corner of your room as a child. It was there. Summoned from the depths of a great primordial fear, a condensed leviathan stalking around your bed. Waiting for you to be careless enough to risk a peek out from under the blankets where, by the rules of its enchanted nature, it would then be allowed to devour you whole.

But then you were taught a powerful mantra, a great spell handed down across the ages to protect you from those collective horrors marshaling to cross that fragile boundary between fear and reality: “There’s no such thing!”

And with that statement, or variation of, gradually you realized there was nothing there and in time you found you were no longer afraid to sleep alone.

It really was that simple... or so they thought.

But in the aegis of that repeated mantra, that spell blindly cast from desperation… came one last Faustian toll to be exacted.

The monsters did indeed disappear but so did the wonder of the world.

The Wishing Moon peeking in your window was now merely a pale reflection of herself. The companionship of Invisible Friends withered quick along with your interest in toys and impulsive bursts of play. The Gates of Forever shut themselves off and no more would you travel their paths to impossible adventure and kingdoms of fantastic peril. All that remained of that world were vague dreams and crayon snapshots now buried lost somewhere in parents keepsake.

Reason carved truth into Fact and fed the remaining scraps to Faith. What remained was a razor sharp dagger constantly trying to cut itself open.
Magick was no more… or so we thought.

It was all still there. Patient. Waiting. The glow of the Wishing Moon still shines, the Gates of Forever stand locked but not vanished and the monsters followed you across the bedroom shuffle of your life’s progress - their howls muffled into dull nightmares and ominous bad feelings.

Rare though they may be, there are also Those who Know as they are called. The dwindling few souls who, by some quirk of nature or nurture, can step beyond the veil of doubt to behold the terrors of the fantastic. Scattered, marginalized, hounded by the madness that is reality’s shadow; most with the ‘gift’ have self-anesthetized themselves into a numb semblance of normality. Some channel their visions towards art or the voices into song. Others, unable to function, invoke the terrible muses of suicide.

Fewer still are the ones that learn the forbidden rules of the Great Game offered beyond the veil. A dying breed of magicians and shamen, witches and psychics born of two contrasting universes simultaneously, belonging to neither whole.

Be aware (and beware) that these are not the magicians found in the New Age section of your local book store nor are they the wizened sorcerers of popular culture. These are the Riott Covens, Chaosphages, the Alchematrixes, the Narcomages, Gun-Valkyries and Metromancers who populate the shifting board of the Great Game.

However, for whatever reason governs this occult social dynamic, the Great Game creates what we call 'drama' nowadays amongst its players; with neither side completely agreeing on the same interpretation of the rules and easily provoked into combat to establish dominance.

It is in this secret landscape, waiting behind sinister alleyways and within abandoned buildings, that we discover the unfolding story of Adam Last - an ex-scumbag and coward who happens to be one of the most powerful metromancers the world will never know.

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Continued from here.

Earlier:

The Clairmont Hotel has been recently abandoned and put on the real-estate altar as an offering to the powers of gentrification. Only the hotel’s lounge remains open, eking by on a life-support economy of sleaze kitsch, occasional punk shows and a rowdy karaoke night. Yet there are two guests occupying a single room in the hotel. Cloaked from the uninitiated, the space is actually a memory of itself, a frozen moment plucked from the hotel’s recent past and made accessible only to its sole two inhabitants.

This particular room, in fact, was once rented by G.G. Allin and its status as such lends a mystique of scene legend that powers the magick that keeps it hidden.

Pollen green carpet, mottled with stains whose origins were best left free from speculation. Dust gray walls and peeling wallpaper. The carcass of a television set whose screen has been painted over with white geometric patterns and sigil scrawls. Cramped single bed that could double as a CDC field trip. Scattered vodka and energy drink bottles abound.

Air ripe with spent sex-electricity and a conversation already in progress -

"I know you like to think of yourself as this big bad urban trickster-spirit." Sarah's silhouette, crisp against a stagnant splash of dull russet street light, stretches before the lone window. “But the truth is you’re just a joke nobody gets.”
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Continued from...
4:Walk into Hell with a joke on your lips
3:Strawberry Mansion
2:Crusty Pete
1:Enochian Acid & Other Distractions


Big Bob the Eunuch. A walking tower of a man, fortified with chiseled muscle and stone eyes narrowed into crenellations through which the bolts of his stare takes aim. Skin of burnt terracotta, as if tanned by the blaze of an inner sun. Bare chest exposed under an unbuttoned fur-lined brown corduroy coat just one size too small. Purple camo parachute pants tucked into scuffed up steel toed jack boots. Scalp shaved to a dull shine, as well as throat, brow and face. Smooth forehead with a tattooed purple circle, one baring an upside down triangle within its belly and coin wide circumference flanked by a pair of petal-wings. A Mardi Gras commando, dressed somewhere between Sanskrit pimp and rave thug chic.

Word is Bob was once one of the more powerful tantric magickians operating on the East Coast Current. Hung not by the inch but by the foot and blessed with that rarest gift to be found amongst magickians of any grade – a sense of humor. All was well on Planet Bob until the day he got caught dipping the lingam into some jail bait flavored yoni by his old lady. Naturally pissed his woman retaliated. Feigning all was forgiven at first, she lured him into bed under pretenses of some good hard makeup sex but instead had in mind one last grudge fuck to end all grudge fucks. She rode Bob’s Kundalini Express for a three day tour de force, fueled by equal doses of chemicals and electric anger. When the astral sea began to steam off their skin with a burnt ectoplasmic funk, when the masks of their god forms ignited into shrouds of flame and her final orgasm collapsed around them quiet as a black hole... Bob finally let go, unbeknownst that this would his last time.

Emerging from the thirty-seven hour coma his (by now) ex-wifey had left him in, Bob quickly discovered the fresh Ajna chakra inked into a third eye. He knew then that she was gone for good but it wouldn’t be until much later that he would realize that she had left more than just the tattoo as a Memento Mori of their relationship. That night when he failed to perform before one of his willing adepts the true nature of her absence began to reveal itself. Follow up attempts with different partners yielded the same result – girls, bois and whatever no different. Even manual over ride didn’t do shit. Next thing you know Bob is popping Viagra like it’s fucking candy and he still can’t perform the basic miracle of turning a worm into a serpent. The ex-wifey had laid down a seriously fucked-up hex on the man, a dose of that old blood-voodoo trouble from which there ain’t no cure. In the simplest of terms, she had arranged it so that Bob could only now get it up for one woman and one woman only… the one that ain’t coming back.

Kundalini neutered. Seeing red and blue balled 24-7. Wasn’t long before enforced chastity began to corrode away at the core of his self. In compensation muscle and disposition hardened into rigid steel. He quickly became consumed with a relentless violence. He picked fights frequently as possible. At first just with those stupid enough to give him shit about the third eye. Then just for looking at it. Eventually he began throwing down with anyone who might be able to put up a decent fight. The bigger the better. The damage exchange was only thing he could feel anymore. It wasn’t long before Bob (who dares you, just dares you to call him ‘The Eunuch’) was recruited as road agent and general attitude adjuster for Carlos the Chameleon.

Of course that’s just the word… but words do have power in the mouths of the wise.

Needless to say, in all the years Bob the Eunuch had served as the Chameleon’s implacable rook he has seen, if not committed, more than his fair share of unspeakably gruesome shit. Whether this was strictly business or pleasure, who can say? But standing there in that derelict apartment on the edge of the Strawberry Mansion district, he felt something stir in the distant waters of his memory, an old feeling, one he had almost forgotten the name of – horror.
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Continued from
3:Strawberry Mansion

2:Crusty Pete
1:Enochian Acid & Other Distractions

The license plate on the Coup Deville is nothing more than a piece of cardboard with a homemade sigil drawn in the center. The seemingly arbitrary slashes, curves and horizontal lines of the symbol are actually a composite of letters to a very simple command – “You Do Not See This Car!” On its own the stunt would probably get you pulled over on general principle alone and is one not recommended to the casual enthusiast of the occult arts. However when charged with a purity of Will and mixed in with a potent amalgamation of blessings and charms the vehicle is practically invisible on the streets. It takes a very skilled driver to navigate her through the surge of accidents invoked by such a work though. People often forget the peril of invisibility is that it makes you a broad target to the unintentional. Admittedly though, a price well worth the ability to drive through police blocks with impunity and knowing the sirens in the rear view mirror are never for you.

It also meant the Deville was safe in even the worst of neighborhoods. Even without direct eye contact on the plate the old Coup reeked of an unidentifiable dread. There’s a lot of bad ghosts still trapped in the trunk and sometimes you can hear them banging around for escape. Passengers in the back seat are often seen, mouthing the words for ‘help’, in and only in the rear view mirror. Sometimes, if you listen close enough, you can hear them weeping.
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A hot August dusk, humid and gray. The Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, east of Fairmount Park in North Philadelphia. 4125 Albert Pike Avenue to be precise... just a quick stroll from the John Coltrane House. Right there - the corner building on that row of disrepaired brick homes sitting on the intersection of North 31st Street. Two floors deep and going nowhere. Last patches of a coat of dull red-brown paint hug darkened window frames. Tufts of dead weeds sprout from the granite cracks before a two-step front stoop leading to a gaunt white wooden door. No sign of life within or without - no trash bags on the curb, no graffiti tags on the wall, no tell-tale television glare seeping through the empty frames. This is unquestionably a grave for many a story with a decidedly unhappy ending.

Never-Know lurches through the opening between passenger and driver of the cramped Coupe deVille parked right outside the property. He takes the space in with a glance, bites his lower lip thoughtfully (a habit frequently indulged in) and just has to ask - "So, you sure this is the place?"

Adam sighs a plume of cigarette smoke in response. Never-Know doesn't see its coiling tendrils solidify briefly into a disembodied floating hand flipping him the Finger before dispersing out the rolled down window.

Never-Know continues, rancid breath wafting through the bloodied nubs of meth ravaged teeth - "I mean I'm jes sayin' it don't exactly look like no one's home from where we're sittin'."

"This is the place" Adam huffs squirming uncomfortably in the passenger seat, leaning his face towards the window in hopes of gasping some fresh air.

"What, because the ghost of some gutter punk told ya so?"

"Nnnnoooo... because the City's Dreaming told me so" Adam corrects through a repressed gag, "Crusty Pete's ghost was just a vessel for me to contact her with..."

"Pffft... 'her'!" Never-Know leans back in his seat with smug triumph, "C'mon guys, the kid's obviously trippin'!"

"Hey, man..." Adam starts to protest but Never-Know cuts him off as if he wasn't even there.

"I mean what? We're s'posed to buy that some asshole's been dealin' fucked-up magick acid out here in the heart of Shit Hole Central without Carlos or any of the other Covens hearin' so much as a 'boo' until today? Meanwhile, Adam-fuckin'-Last here, fresh off a three day coke and pussy binge, pops into an alleyway and the talkin' fuckin' city hands him the right address just like that. Yeah, okay... that makes sense."

"Tim..." Skinhead Dan turns around in the driver's seat and with visibly willed calm addresses Never-Know by his rarely used real name, "enough already, okay? I'm not goin' to tell you twice."

"I got a quessstion..." Phil Fuck's syrupy rasp trickles through the ensuing awkward silence, "... shouldn't one of usss have seen something by now? I mean realllly seen something. I've checked the place out for the last twenty minutes now and I'm not picking up anything. No auras, no lingering energy patterns, no orgone stink... nothing. My guess is neither are you guys, am I wrong?"

No one answers, not even Never-Know who begins to... but thinks better of it catching the wise, old skin's single brow arching up at him in clear warning through the rear view mirror.

"So?" Adam snorts frustrated, unable to see their point.

"Sssooo..." Phil hisses in a way unique only to iguanas and their human hybrids - an old cassette tape that slows down and speeds up intermittently whenever played - "...wouldn't you think that cookin' up several batchesss of Enochian grade LSD would leave ssssome kind of sssignature in the air? I mean from what weee know this ain't your typical fucking dealer... there's a plan here, a ritual at work. A big one from what Carlos wassss tellin' us... and I dunno, it doesn't seem the sssort of thing that would go down without leaving some kind of trace to those of us who know how to look."

Dan takes in Phil Fuck, sprawled lethargically across his corner of the back seat with his face flatened against the side of the window. If not for the periodic blink a casual observer might mistake him for passed out or at worst in the creeping stages of a post-mortem nap. Dan looks back over at the address Adam provided them. His eyes roll into the back of his skull and the milky white sclera begins to mist over into a sheen of blue topaz. Dan blinks once and the pupils return, immediately darting over towards Adam - "He's got a point."

Adam stares down passively into his lap. His face registers defeat through a poor facade of apathy. It occurs that maybe the City's Dreaming had just been fucking with him the whole time. After all the city was just a little over two hundred years and change. A hatchling compared to some of her European and Asian brethren. Probably not above steering a common 'gutter-mage' wrong for shits and giggles. Recollects old war stories the other metromancers wove around the bar to whoever was buying. Tales of senile old London drunk on ghosts or bat-shit crazy New Amsterdam devouring amateur 'mancers whole in her shifting alleyways. There was no shortage of the hallowed and broken walking the streets, babbling incoherently the secrets of the cities they had sought at a great price to their sanity.

And it is with that thought that the corners of his lips slowly tighten into a smile - the first faint rays of realization dawning upon him.

"Hnh... of course" he mutters.

"What?" Dan demands with cautious optimism for the apprentice. Adam could be a precocious little shit at the best of times... but he was blessed with an almost accidental charm that often made him if not likable, at least a tolerable curiosity worth keeping around... all despite the best efforts of his proudly worn caustic personality.

"So what you guys are saying is that you don't see anything, right? Nothing magickal with a 'k' about the place. Least not according to your special warlock sight or whatever the fuck you call it?"

"Uh-huh" Dan agrees waiting patiently for a point to be made.

"There you go then..." Adam smirks savoring the point his wizened elders have failed to grasp, "... ain't no such thing as a 'non-magickal' part of this city. Any city for that matter."

"I don't follow" Dan's patience is wearing thin - rubbed to the raw by equal parts mission grind and the company it's forcing him to keep.

Adam pulls out his black sharpie. He quickly dawdles a poorly drawn eyeball on the top of his left hand. He goes to place it over Dan's eyes, pauses for a moment when he catches the look this gestures elicits from Dan and with a diplomatic cool, offers - "Here, see for yer'self!"

Dan the Skinhead nods only after a roll of his eyes. Adam ignores Never-Know's muffled snickering and cautiously masks his palm over the big skin's face. The doodle eye sizzles with an arcane crimson phosphorescence (stink of burnt bacon and aerosol) before the black dot of a pupil begins to roll side to side in awareness.

"Okay, now look at the building cross the street and tell me what'cha see."

Dan pivots his head with an exhausted sigh. He peers over Adam's shoulder towards the opposite street. A faint outline of the building's structure burns from within with wavering shades of Kirlian purple and astral red. Flocks of radioactive green silhouettes film flow from the doorway - vanishing and re-appearing on an endless tape loop. Amoeba graffiti blobs migrate along the walls, bumping into and devouring one another whole. The darkness of the windows is not the static darkness of graves and tunnels, but rather seem to whorl in currents of shadow that suckles off the light that falls upon it. The bricks of the building's shell are a shifting pattern when observed long enough, a constant shuffle of code that seems to be signaling something... a song or a story perhaps. Luminescent orbs of electric white drift and bubble off the roof, before dispersing into the ultraviolet glare of the sky above.

"Alright... now look back over at our building" Adam comes dangerously close to ordering.

Dan obliges.

The house sits there cast in a gray outline almost resembling a meticulous pencil sketch of itself. A lifeless husk in contrast to the phantasmagorical light show of the neighborhood around them.

"Nothing, right?" Adam removes the hand suddenly, carelessly so, as the readjustment leaves Dan momentarily blinded before knuckle rubbing his vision back into focus. "Which is straight up impossible. Even the newest building's gonna have some sort of spark to it, an ember of the life to come..."

"Meaaaning...?" Phil Fuck begins to catch on.

"Meaning... someone's trying to hide the place from us. Well maybe not 'us'... but you know what I'm saying. Did a real good job apparently... too good in fact... which was where they fucked up. It's like someone tried hiding a bank from getting robbed by draping the place over with a giant blanket. If you weren't looking for it you probably wouldn't notice anything... even with the whole crazy warlock x-ray vision you guys got going... but the absence of magick up close makes it almost painfully obvious."

"Couldn't you just have told us that in the first place?" the big Skin grunts, impatiently strangling the steering wheel in place of the apprentice's neck.

"Seeing is believing..." Adam snickers.

"I don't get it!" Never-Know interrupts.

"Nah, you wouldn't now would ya..." Adam sneers, "...clever thing that y'are!"

"Yeah, well we can always jes' step on outside and see how fuckin' 'clever' you feel when you're not hiding behind Carlos' rep!" Never-Know growls - all signs of his usual stoner drawl gone.

"Kids! You don't want Daddy to have to pull this car over and whip both your asses now, do you?" Dan barks cutting short the pissing fest before it can start.

When Adam and Never-Know capitulate with brooding quiet, the big Skin gives the order: "Right, then... everyone out! We got a job to do."

Doors open. The five exit the deVille as one. Huddle around the trunk with a sense of begrudging duty reminiscent of office drones assembling listlessly around a time clock. Dan hammers his flattened fist across the trunk, popping it open with practiced ease. He doles out the arsenal. Three wooden baseball bats for Phil Fuck, Never-Know and Bob the Eunuch. The bats are banded with three copper rings apiece at their handle and each possess eleven copper nails driven into their sides touching the steel rod burrowed through their center. Polished in blood and chipped with use, a single ruby is embedded into their tips - sparkling in the last dregs of light. The three men take practice swings slicing through the air or carrying them over the shoulders in the manner of lumber jacks and axes.

Skinhead Dan clicks open a compartment concealed under the floor of the trunk. From it he withdraws a bundled object wrapped in white silk. Folding it open his magickian's wand is revealed - a .500 Smith & Wesson Magnum, known as 'the Vest Buster' by law enforcement officials everywhere. The revolver's grip has a golden Unicursal Hexagram engraved into the side of the handle. The Lothar-Walther Custom German rifle barrel is painted with a series of personalized sigils that luminate with a soft red glow when placed in the meaty fist of the skinhead's hand.

Finally Dan withdraws a S&W Sigma 9VE double action 9mm from the inside of his bomber and tosses it to Adam.

"The fuck, man?" the apprentice asks, catching the pistol with exaggerated urgency, as if the barrel would bark at the slightest provocation.

"You'll need it if you're going in there with us... and make no mistake, you are going in there with us."

"Aw hell no, Dan!" Adam steps back instinctively, "Carlos told me to help you find this guy and that's exactly what I've done."

"Yeah, well we ain't found him yet..." Dan snorts slamming the trunk closed, "and as far as I know and don't know Carlos didn't say shit about you getting to sit in the car while we do all the shit work. You got a problem with it? Take it up with the Big Man when we get back... meantime your ass in on my clock and I say we're going in. That means everybody."

Adam breathes in a protest but exhales surrender instead. He buries the 9 down the back of his drawers the way he's seen them do in the movies.

"Okay, you guys know the drill... Adam you stick by me. Keep your mouth shut and try not to do anything too stupid. Everyone got it?"

Nods and bobbing heads all around.

"Good. Now let's go see if the doctor is 'in'!" the old skinhead grimaces and the five men make their way as one over to 4125 Albert Pike.
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Crusty Pete was tired of waiting. He had been leaning against the brick wall for what felt like forever now. There was no one else on the street besides him and it was seriously starting to freak him out. It was the middle of the day - ('But what day?' he asked himself without an answer ) - and he should at least have seen some foot traffic passing by. Maybe it wasn't day. The river of sky that flowed above the alley he occupied was overcast with a gray indifferent of time. Morning? Dusk? The strain of noon before a heavy storm? He couldn't tell. Huddling himself to reduce the shivering, he debated leaving when he caught from the corner of his eye a shadow flicker into the alley's opening.

"Hey Pete", the voice sounded distorted, as if being shouted from a great distance but yet arrived at the ear with the intimate breath of a whisper.

Crusty Pete felt a surge of heat run through his body, a warmth that seemed to emanate and seep from the blood to thaw the chill that had seized his heart. He turned around to face the stranger who stood before him. Skinny kid in a hoodie pulled up to cover his face in ink black shadows.

"I know you?" Crusty Pete snarled throwing up his arms with a gesture of open challenge.

"Yeah you do..." the stranger stepped closer, lowering his hood with a practiced flourish and allowing a sharp bastard's smile to emerge from the gloom, "...it's me. Remember!"
Read more... )
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Eleven years ago in another city, in another life*:

Shit was going down.

Carlos Chameleon had gotten Intel that over the course of the last month; some fuck-head had been selling triple dipped hits of blotter at every occult night club, underground fetish party and psycho-orgy in Philadelphia. That this rogue dealer was operating in the Chameleon's exclusive territory with neither his permission nor having paid a minor cut of the profits to his crew was enough to piss him off on general principle alone. Still all this would be a minor offense at best to the easy going Chameleon. Kids will be kids after all. A broken wrist or ankle would normally suffice to correct this narco-faux-pas and serve to remind an ignorant dealer of the penalty for unapproved sales in his quadrant. It was only fair after all - by bullet and ritual - much blood had been spilt to win the sparse cut of territory from the competing coven-cartels. But what really sent the alarm bells ringing for the Chameleon was when a trusted road agent brought in one of the highly sought after sheets of blotter for his inspection.

Carlos knew what it was in a glance:



This went beyond some schmuck trying to make a quick buck and score themselves some righteous college pussy. This was straight up Enochian Acid Magick, the beginnings of some dangerous ritual work, utilizing the four watchtowers and artificially expanded consciousnesses to summon something big, bad and scary. The whole scheme came together in the Chameleon's head. So far there had only been three sheets of watchtower blotter sold - the north, west and south - each sold at events that corresponded map wise to the cardinal directions of his quadrant. Putting two and two together it only stood to reason that the fourth watchtower would be the east and most likely would show up at the annual Blitzkrieg Ball over at Club Never. That was only two days away. Word on the street said that the mystery dealer was going by the nom de plum of "Doctor Ellis Dee" and that no one had ever heard of this cat prior to a month ago.

The Chameleon put a new word on the street: Bring him the head of Doctor Dee in the next 48 hours and receive a reward "worthy of a king's remembrance". He also put together a 'maniac squad' of his own - comprised of his most loyal muscle and led by his apprentice and top dealer, Adam Last for a search and destroy mission. When the whole gang was summoned his men balked at the idea but only one, Skinhead Dan - Carlos' oldest and most trusted ally, voiced their concerns out loud. He laid it out and pulled no punches: Adam was smart no doubt, but had more balls than brains as most young men his age are prone to possess. Besides that it was no secret that Adam had been on a Hunter Thompson diet for the last three days. The kid was geeked out and serotonin dry and in no condition to be leading a maniac squad much less be on one.

Carlos knew all this and stated the opportunity would be as good a test of Adam's character as any. Besides, Dan would be there to keep an eye on his admittedly reckless apprentice.

Adam smirked at this news. With a confidence that exceeded his experience he told Skinhead Dan not to worry. That he'd work slow so the old man could keep up. Adam boasted about possessing a few contacts that had even eluded the Chameleon's almost omniscient knowledge of the Philadelphia underworld.

Big Dan the Skinhead laid a heavy hand on Adam's shoulder and gave it a squeeze that was anything but reassuring. The big skin only had seven fingers. Four on the right (missing a pinky) and three on the left (minus a pinky and ring finger). His surviving knuckles bore faded tattoo's of alchemical symbols - one for each of the seven planets. No one knew what happened to the missing three fingers - only that their cost had rendered the man as one of the best gunmen on the east coast. When that hand landed on Adam's shoulders a fierce chill went down his spine and froze the spin of his chakras in their cycle.

"You better be right, kid!" Dan sneered, "You ain't Carlos' first apprentice... and you won't be his last. Don't think your training gives you shit talking privileges to those who've proved themselves the hard way. We clear?"

Adam looked nervously to his mentor. Carlos only cocked an eyebrow at him and turned away to make some calls. Adam dry gulped and nodded meekly. Skinhead Dan removed his hand and Adam felt several dozen pounds of invisible weight lift from his shoulder.

"Good" Skinhead Dan grunted. "Alright, enough fuckin' around... let's get the Squad together and see about these contacts of yours."

***





* - This Adam story takes place over a decade before the other one currently running on my blog (which you may or may not have read). This is before Adam was banished from Philly and forced to hide out in Terminus. I did this as a sort of fast-fiction thing while I wait for a ride. I hope to continue one of these plot lines when time and inspiration make themselves available.
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Continued from Eye spy with my little "I"

Five representatives of the recently united magickal cartels have gathered tonight in the heart of the historic Gallows Town district. Deep within the basement of the abandoned Brush Factory on Abigail Cain Road, under the wax yellow light of a lone flickering bulb, the Five wait for the arrival of the other delegates. These being the envoys of murderous and clandestine principalities, whose rule of 'the law is a free-for-all' has long enslaved the shadow markets of forbidden fruits to their will. From the ranks of the machiavellian crime dynasties to the inner city wolf tribes, a stoic platoon of diplomats have been dispatched to meet with the Five. When the last of these emmisaries arrive, the Five will collectively deliver their message to those gathered: No longer will the magickal community barter their gifts out to the criminal underworld for piecemeal rewards. No longer will they serve in silence from the sidelines. No longer will they stand back and watch the lifeblood of the cities night needlessly drained away in hollow sacrifice to the vampire tyrants. No. What they will do instead is stand as One under the aegis of a new order and as such will accept only complete obedience from their former masters.
Read more... )
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Prototropolis, whose architecture is memory and cartography dream, exists within all cities but is solely accessible by the secret paths to be found deep within Prosperity’s Ruin. There - buried in the brick shells of factories, the deserted and vandal raped offices, or even perhaps the corner of a light starved room reeking of piss and mold – are the hidden doorways to a city that is all the cities that are or have ever been dreamt of.

The population is comprised primarily of dreamers and ghosts, who drift along the shifting streets before vanishing down lonely alleys or hungry doorways into either death or waking.

But there are a few ‘outsiders’ here, those who travel by arcane roads into the heart of Prototropolis. These are mostly ‘Astral Tourists’; amateur mystics who have stumbled lost, on their way to the higher planes, into the Great Ur-Ban Wild. Occasionally though you’ll find a metromancer strolling along, a mere extra in someone else’s anxiety dream, who are easily marked by their air of indistinguishable confidence in the ambulations across the vast protean labyrinth.

For the experienced metromancer, the endless permutations of the vast Prototropolis are not used so much as a short-cut. (Though traveling ‘in’ and ‘out’ of reality is possible by such methods, the metromancer will normally employ a city map, with which s/he can ‘hop’ along at will in a rough approximation of teleportation). What they are however, are invaluable places to hide, to heal, to watch, to wait in fear or ambush within a sanctuary that few others can navigate much less access. Some mages, like Adam Last, prefer the long way around though... and will use the Prototropolis as a way station between capers.
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Terminus is not so much a city but rather a dream of one.
Read more... )
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He coughed and shock his crumpled wings,
Closed his eyes and moved his lips
"It's time we should be going."


FIVE YEARS LATER

"It's almost over... right?"

"Almost."

"You promised!"

"Brother Seducer" The Hearts Beautiful Lie sighs, "I forget neither my obligations nor yours. Tonight you will be free from the chains that bind you. I am after all, a man of my word."

"You are a man of many words... but like me, none of them are your own. How long?"

"Soon."

"How long's that?"

"As long as it needs be." The Hearts Beautiful Lie offers a cautionary smile, "now then, where were we?"

"At the end."

"Well yours at least... but please... continue."

A very, very long last chapter )

Continued from Chapter 6
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continued from chapter 5:"The speaker was an angel"

Trish knows that the greatest lie ever told was that the world was anything but wonderful. That it was faith alone that haunted this universe. There were no monsters under the bed and there were no angels looking over our shoulders. Nothing new was under the sun. After all magick was a dead myth, God was nothing but the math of chance and the rest was best left as guess. After all seeing is believing... even if there's nothing left to see here.
Read more... )

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