beginning of something strange

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

the beginning of a novel. A man finds purpose and his true place in life in the blackest malice on this earth when something more than a man shows him that he is a weapon against the plight of man: man himself

1: Death of a Bus Driver

Silence is golden in the city of angels because it means that all the devils have gone to bed. Crumpled automobiles fight with heaps of garbage for space by the curb and cheap stucco buildings struggle against the smoke of industry for space in the sky, all lit by the tobacco stained moon that smiles, sinfully serene in the charcoal sky.

It is Sunday morning, in the wee hours and the silence is oppressive to the only man on the street that is walking with a stately stagger towards the only bus stop in the middle of the street wearing a cheap, though well fitted tuxedo and hard black dress shoes that echoed like blasphemous words in a cathedral. He looks to be around twenty four or twenty five years of age with good looks and the sleep-slimed eyes of early morning and you cannot help but wonder at the fact that he does not shiver even though there is a January frost in the air and he is wearing only his cheap silk jacket, or at his perfectly slicked auburn hair that is successfully defying the biting wind.

He stumbles gracefully up the curb and falls onto the plastic seat smeared with graffiti with style and the silence reigns supreme now that the dress shoes have come to a halt. He digs dreamily in his coat pocket for a cigarette, withdraws it in his long pale fingers and wrenches a silver Zippo lighter from his pants, hesitating before calling forth the flame, then, with a twirl and a snap, the sound of the lighter cuts the silence like a clap of thunder and the flame lights up the darkness like a bolt of lightning and with an exhale of blue smoke and a satisfied air he reclines and begins to gaze dreamily at a pair of mannequins skiing in the shop across the street, twirling the cigarette in his fingers like a baton .

It is 3:45 AM and his shot to the coast does not arrive until 4:00 AM, leaving just enough time to enjoy his first smoke before beginning his hellishly busy day; two jobs miles and miles away, two separate dead ends that never seem to make his own ends meet where he wants them to, but that is life for people like him; people without degrees, motivation, goals, etc., born shrugging their shoulders and making do with nothing.

The shot to the coast is a private joke for our man; a euphemism for his supreme aggravation every morning. It is hard for the only commuter on a sluggish bus to watch it stop every block for no one at all, making his ‘shot to the coast’ a mind-numbing snail crawl with nothing to see for miles but the closed doors of closed shops and gang-tagged walls in the ironically dubbed “City of Angels” where pedophiles, prostitutes, gangsters and crooks all come to settle like the muck on a filthy pond. One hell of a start to the day. Every day.

The shot to the coast comes into view, gasping and wheezing like a wounded war elephant towards him, making its standard, customary stops for no one, and as it makes its crippled approach our man sends the smoldering end of his cigarette to die in the gutter while he digs deep in his pockets for his last dollar and steps onto the bus. The till swallows the bill like medicine and the bus driver says “Good morning.” As if it was. “Meth or pure stupidity?” our man says to him, “What?” is the response to which the reply is “Nothing man, nothing.” And he goes off to find the back of the bus while the driver resumes the snail crawl with a confused expression on his face. No sooner had he found his seat in the very back when the clumsy thing lurched forward with all the trepidation of a student driver, almost as if the graffiti that covered its sides actually weighed it down enough to leave it gasping and wheezing at ten miles an hour.

“And out come the wolves.” He says to no one in particular, watching a black and white land shark throw on his screaming red and blue light special and zoom through an intersection on an early morning mission of apprehension. He notes a definite swerve in his driving and wonders vaguely how hard this buzz killer partied the night before with impunity. It is as it always has been when the shark had caught its prey, and you can tell that this guy is drunk too by the vomit streak on his driver door and the deafening clunking sound the poor car made as he drove it up the curb in attempt to pull over smoothly. The irony of a drunken policeman giving a D.U.I. was too much, and our man smiled to himself as the bus sidled on by this grisly scene. “It is always darkest before the dawn.” He muttered, painfully aware that this statement applied perfectly to his current situation.

It suddenly hit him, hard, that this particular morning was about to get weird. Nothing he heard or saw was the cause of it either; it was pure instinct. Everything surrounding him was completely ordinary: the crawling insect of a bus, the stops, the sights, and yet that dreadful feeling lingered that the wolves were closing in and his eyes snapped into focus while he surveyed his surroundings.

The bus driver began to whistle a cracked, off-key tune that sounded absurdly like Jeopardy as they cruised towards a lone bus-stop with a flashing light above it with no one in sight and our man felt his heart drop.  He knew that the driver absolutely had to pass it quickly. His life depended on it. Yet this dumb bastard was still whistling his stupid tune and slowing down to pick up his doom without the slightest idea. “Keep going!” he yelled startled at the deep commanding tone of the demand, “Trust me! Keep going!” the tune went false and the oblivious driver looked into the rearview mirror, “Hold your horses buddy. Other people have places to go too.”, before slowing to a halt in front of the flashing stop, muttering stupidly to himself as he pushed the button that threw open the doors. With a hiss they slid open.

They came out of nowhere, almost seemed to materialize out of the night itself, two tall black men in black suits built like kick boxers surged through the door with an impossible speed. One broke the neck of the bus driver like it was a match and the other flew down the aisle towards our man in the back. Our man was a man that had always been ready for anything, but he could do nothing but watch. “Those are the Devils eyes.” he gasped as the train hit him, then darkness fell, as black as ink and heavy as lead…

2: Kind Dreams

The coastline at twilight… is there a more entrancing scene? The moon, full and bright and full of celestial wisdom and antiquity shining down on a pitch black churning sea. Who could feel bright, wise and large when faced with this awesome scene? A glance alone would do more than disperse all arrogance and conceit. To think that anyone could feel that on the day they died their passing would be greater than a fish floating belly up in the sea, their glassy eyes reflecting a silver sickle moon, or that their death would hold more significance than a supernova in some far off expanse of the universe, shaking the cosmos like the bellow of a titan.

“Damn them” he said as he walked the glowing sands that bordered the lapping waves, “ Damn them all.” he repeated as he bent down to pull at the corner of some piece of garbage marring the shoreline, mocking purity with its shabby self. He tugged further, dislodging it from the sand and saw with a surprise that it was an old photograph of himself from high school with long hair and a wide grin in track gear, holding a second place trophy for a race. He stood there staring at it for some time while the wind fluttered the edge, giving an almost life like quality to the old photograph, before withdrawing his lighter and setting it on fire. The flame turned green as it ate away the ink on his smiling face before turning to ash on the breeze. “Gone.” A memory, a piece of his past floating as ashes on the wind. There was satisfaction in this. He felt like it was an offering to Luna on her throne of stars and she was pleased, for she shined all the brighter, revealing so many more shabby corners protruding from the platinum shore. He walked from piece to piece, memory to memory and turned them all to green flame and ash on the wind while Luna smiled her knowing smile and laughed with the waves.

Eventually there were no more memories to burn and he stood as the only remaining proof of his existence on the platinum shore bordering the obsidian sea smiling up at serenity herself. A warm glow of contentment grew inside him and he sat down to think. All superfluities, wants, needs and obligations were gone, just ashes on the wind, leaving him open to do anything and everything. He was at the start of his life’s struggle but he was ready and free, on the platinum shore that bordered the obsidian sea…

3: Rude Awakenings

“Scott O’Malley,” said a voice to a sleeping brain, “Wake up.” Scott woke up like a dragon disturbed, hurling and swinging fists that had never failed him before at the man with the Devils eyes but hit no mark no mattered how hard he tried before finally having to face the fact that the Devil was quicker.

Shame set in and it was with hateful submission that he fell back panting on his seat to wait for the Devil to speak. It was a comfortable seat of black leather in the back of an exquisite limousine parked, from all he could tell from the view out of the heavily tinted windows, in the absolute middle of nowhere. Rolling hills and sparse vegetation with no definite landmarks save for stones and parched bushes with no lights save for the full moon. “…and out come the wolves.” Scott repeated again under his breath fumbling for the cigarette/lighter combo and avoiding the Devils eyes. He lit one in silence and saw a drink, his favorite drink(whiskey on ice), sitting on the armrest to his left in a crystal glass; he took a sip and smiled; it was Powers whiskey and his favorite. “The Devil knows.” He said to the muscle bound kick boxer of a black man sitting cross-legged in front of him with a smile that chilled him to the bone; a predators smile that made you wonder how sharp those fangs were beneath the good looking, wise features straight out of a Hollywood movie. He couldn’t help but shiver at the eyes that were staring unblinking at him. The Arctic wolf was in those eyes and so was the voodoo priest aglow amidst hellish blasphemies in some dark swamp night with murder on his mind and the hottest flames of Hell in his heart, all mingled together in retinas ringed in emerald and he was sorry he beheld them while ashamed of the fear they inspired.

The scene in the car was an interesting one; the train that had just hit Scott and the Bus Driver Killer were perfectly at ease; the Devil with his legs crossed in the most perfect posture of peace you have ever seen regarding Scott with an amused smile as if he had just made a mildly funny joke that had not quite elicited laughter but was appreciated just the same  and the larger of the two who resembled a very well groomed, extraordinarily large gorilla with eyes that radiated intelligence and sadism sitting in his large leather seat that fit him like a glove reading an ancient leather bound copy of the Illiad, seeming completely unconcerned with the new arrival or the morning murder. For his part Scott retained an admirable amount of poise and dignity, having just become the Devils abductee he sat there as if this were an every day occurrence, drinking Powers and smoking while admiring the landscape outside the car, wondering all the while what on earth was going to happen to him; the Devils car, the Devils drinks and his abduction all led him to believe that whatever was going to happen would be hectic. The silence was thick, the future was murky, bartender toss over another whiskey on the rocks please, death is almost certainly around the corner.

“Allow me,” said the Devil as Scott made his way hesitantly towards the bar, “I know my Powers well enough and you need to relax. It has been a rough morning.” The Giant laughed through his teeth at this remark and Scotts head pounded where the train had hit him. “Are you religious Scott?” he said over the crackling of the fiery spirit as it enveloped the ice in the glass, “I would assume so, since you seem to think I am the Devil. It is my eyes that frighten you right? They do that to a great many people. They are old eyes I guess, and have seen a great deal more than the rest of your race, but I see much more of a Devil in your eyes and it is almost unnerving. You wonder at this remark, you ask how on earth could your eyes be the eyes of the Devil? The reason that the resemblance is so keen is because I see so much fear in your eyes, and what is the Devil but the absolute incarnation of fear? It is a box, Scott O’Malley, one that your entire scurrying little race is housed in, if not comfortably, at least securely. I see too much of this snare in your eyes Scott, and it has become my express responsibility to remove it. My name is Death, Death Sinclair, and my companion here is Stuart Williams. You could say we work for the people that built the box if we are still dealing in metaphors for easy conversation’s sake, but in order to explain further you will only need your eyes. The reason the bus driver needed to die and I knocked you out in order to kidnap you to this fabulous limousine in the middle of nowhere is that we need your eyes as well, along with the rest of you. Finish your drink. There is work to be done tonight .”

It was pure oasis, the scorching liquid he now poured down his throat, because the way things stood at the moment he was in the midst of some insane level of weirdness he had never known before and all signs pointed towards more unsettling scenes and situations. Time to take down the drink to blur these crazy edges and take it in with a smile; get those old sea legs working now that he was headed for those tempestuous waters off the edges of the map that guaranteed peril accompanied with the monsters themselves. The ice in the glass hit his teeth, signaling the end of his oasis and he looked at Death with the determined expression an infantryman wears when awaiting the orders to begin the first charge into enemy territory. The giant Stuart dog-eared his place in the Illiad and exchanged an almost inperceptable nod with Death, who rapped the drivers window three times before opening the door to allow first Stuart to exit at a low crouch, then himself to hold the door open for Scott, who got up and followed him out of the limousine.

Death bowed before shutting the door lightly and the car drove off into the night leaving the trio to their business in the middle of nowhere. The stars stared down and lit the scene. “Lets take a walk fellas,” Death said, beckoning with a commanding wave towards a large hill in the distance where they directed their feet, “Back to why you are here and the busdriver died,” he said clapping his hands together as if he had forgotten their previous conversation and had just now remembered, “ you have a new job now. This is not a job offer, because that would involve a choice. No, this is more of an orientation with yours truly and Stuart here as your welcoming committee.” Stuart laughed openly and said in a deep booming voice “Welcome to the team brother.” Scott kept his features in check but felt an acute thrill of alarm. This felt more like murder where his body would not be found for months, if not years. He thought back, trying to remember if he had somehow offended someone powerful enough to hire these two assassins, because it was obvious that when it came to the dance of death, they knew the steps damn well enough to have possibly wrote them, and this was the middle of nowhere where he was most likely headed to join the dead.

The three of them continued to walk to the hill in the distance in silence while Death looked at Scott incredulously, waiting for some kind of response, “Do you really not see the significance of this? Don’t you want to know anything about what it is that you are now a part of? We didn’t call through all that just to bring you here and kill you, on the contrary, we bring you a new life of actual purpose.” He gestured with a wave of his hand that would have shattered a brick wall, “Actual purpose. Scott, there is a hell of a lot more to this world than you could even imagine. Particularly in the mechanics behind the magnificent machine that makes things so orderly and efficient in this world. There is so much for you to learn about the world from when it began to today. I will say no more about it now but in time you will discover that your place is here with us. It is time you started training.”

With wonder Scott was swept away with them on a night breeze that seemed full of impending danger towards the largest hill in this wilderness of confusion accompanied by something more than a man that said his name was Death and a giant named Stuart who were both apparently his superiors at his new job, whatever that might be. All Death had said, though he said it well, had left him with no idea as to what he was exactly supposed to be doing, all he knew was that he was a part of it no matter what. Alice got the rabbit hole. This was the snake pit. Yet something in these circumstances felt right. It was strange, yes, and everything seemed to be leading to some horrifying culmination somewhere ahead, but there was something here. It was real. As if he had been enduring some crazy dream that never quite made itself understandable to him for his whole life. He was just along for the ride. Going through the motions that someone else made for someone else and hating the whole of it. This was the first time he felt truly alive in so long. The moonlight glints off the cheap silk of his jacket and his eyes retain the glow of the moon as he stares straight ahead, whether it’s the moon hanging above him or the glow of some new fire inside does not matter, because Death notices and smiles.

Nothing more is said in that subtle half mile they traverse to the pale hill that stood high and resolute with the pale light of the moon on its right shoulder and blackest shadow on its left and the sound is silence with the rustling of the wind in the brush. Scott raises no questions and prepares for the worst, Death remains as imperceptible as ever and Stuart just smiles and stares ahead.

At the bottom of the hill they stop as abruptly as if a solid wall stood in their path instead of the weak straggle of weeds around their ankles. Death looked back and smiled, his eyes glinting evilly in the moonlight, “Welcome home.” And  began to trump up a path that looked as if it was rarely tread upon with the impatience of a friend leading another friend to some new secret place he was eager to share while they trailed behind; Scott through trepidation and Stuart through boredom.

The large hill commanded a huge view of the miles of nowhere and Scott looked around, bewildered by so much wilderness. Where had they taken him? The air held a certain salty aroma that suggested that it was near the coast though he saw no ocean and the air he breathed was clean, untainted, leading him to believe wherever this was far from the city. The pale light glimmered over the are like mercury while the subtle breeze whispered in every direction, making the trees and bushes come alive in mock independent motion, making Scott feel as if he were treading lightly up the hill in some strange dreamscape. His monstrous companions alone could determine whether this was a dream of smiles or a terrible nightmare.

They reached the summit and Scott whistled in wonder at the sight of a weird monolithic alien shape with no definite angles, only suggestions of them that crowned the hill. A door was cut into its center that obviously came from a much more recent time.  Directly past it you could look down into a small, spectral cove that would be almost impossible to see from any vantage point other than the one they stood on looking down into it. The shadow thrown on the water from the high, jagged cliffs that surrounded it on either side would make the cove pitch black until that one particular hour of day or night when the sun would sit at the perfect place in the sky to shine through the small sliver of opened rock on its outside and make the cove shine like gold, or that time of night when the moon would cause it to shine like silver, like it was doing now. “Dream Cove,” Scott said aloud. Death smiled, “This has always been my favorite entrance to our compound. It reminds me that nothing is impossible. The craziest ideas, scenarios, plots and possibilities come floating through your head when you come up here; when you look down at that old cove next to this old rock at that particular when that water really shines; man, there is nothing like it. Have your fill now. It will be a long time before you will able to feel this old breeze playing on you again.”

They all stood in reverent silence, each man in his own thought thoughts. Scott had always been able to determine the significance of a moment in his life; to almost be able to see the way the heavy moments shaped his path in the times ahead and standing in this dreamscape with his formidable companions he felt that this particular one could be the most momentous occasion he had ever experienced; the most definitive landmark in the insane life that was his to lead. He felt no fear now. Why should he? A man he had believed to be the Devil had just shown him how wrong it was to fear evil and he felt that although his companions were destruction incarnate, they had shown almost nothing but benevolence towards him. That benevolence also showed that there was something in his character, something definite, that had led to this abduction and induction into the fold. What it was remained a mystery at this point, or rather an undiscovered fact, though its mere presence in himself made Scott glow with pride. Why not? A monster is only a monster amongst those who fear him, otherwise he is welcomed as something else. “He begins to see,” Death said with a laugh that would cow a starving wolf, “that he is one of us. You have had enough to drink of this scene for the evening, give it one last parting wave or if you’d like, blow it an affectionate kiss. Ill turn my head.”

With that he opened the door cut into the rock with surprisingly little noise and hung at the entrance. Scott bowed to both moons; the one in the sky and the one shimmering in the cove and followed them to the door. They smiled like predators when he gained the threshold and simultaneously gave him the biggest shove of his life, sending him headfirst down a deep dark hole.

4: The Widow and Her Web

To be thrown down a staircase is horrible; the breath taking suspension in mid-air, the pounding of your heart in your eardrums, the doomed slow motion feel of the drop, but a flight down a staircase in pitch black darkness feels like the chaotic realm of limbo, and that trip is almost always one way. No sense of time, no knowledge of when the collision will happen, but the certainty is there that it will spell your doom. Scott felt all this with an acute clarity but did all he could when faced with the descent; he did a somersault and braced for impact. When it came it came unluckily; his feet hit the corner of a damp stair and he would have slipped back and smashed his head to pieces, but through some catlike reflex he spun around and caught the edge of another stair in his hands, leaving him amazingly uninjured. Had someone come along at that exact moment it would have looked like he was about to do some push-ups.

With a hiss a row of old fashioned gas lamps in a row along the ceiling came to life, illuminating a panting Scott O’Malley still clutching the dripping stair in a state of pure shock and Death and Stuart walking down towards him laughing like two proud uncles observing a favorite nephew that had just won a soccer game just moments after the sadistic shove that brought about all these strange subterranean acrobatics. “Look at that big cat land on his feet!” Death said loudly, “I have to say I was worried about our new little recruit for a moment there. Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” He said kneeling down and mockingly holding out his hand as if he was about to give out a treat. Stuart gave a booming laugh “A dog would be easier to train but why be ordinary? Lets get this little feline doing backflips next.”

They both fell down, screaming with laughter as Scott sprang at them, truly fearsome to behold. Fire almost seemed to blaze in his eyes in his rage and his face was a mask of pure hell-fury as he flew at them like a bullet with his fists swinging like pistons at his side. He went for Death first and within half a second he was thrust head first into the wall with his pistons bound behind him by one hand by Death. Stars erupted in his eyes and his vision almost dimmed to darkness again as Death hissed through his teeth,” Is that any way to treat your new superiors?” a small amount of saliva dripped from the corner of Scotts mouth that wasn’t smashed into the wall, “ IS IT!?” he roared with actual blue flame dancing in his eyes.

There was no laughter any more, only tension and silence. They hung this way for the longest minute of Scotts life, looking like a frozen scene from Dantes Inferno; two demons torturing a man, the only difference was that this particular man’s face was not transfigured in terror and pain but set in a concrete expression of determination and resolve. “Get your fucking hands off me.” Scott spluttered against the wall, “Or what?” Death said, rolling his eyes sarcastically, “you cant do shit. Either say to me  ‘ I am sorry Mr. Sinclair. I will never attack you like a wild animal again.’ Or I will kill you. You are worthless to me until you prove that I did not make a mistake in bringing you here. That was your first test. You passed, you squirmy violent bastard, you passed. Now, ill either hear you say those words or ill see your sorry ass dead. Understood?”

There was silence again as Deaths eyes blazed and Stuart withdrew a long silver knife from his coat and leveled it as naturally as a handshake at Scotts taught throat, centimeters away from the bulging jugular with a smile, as indifferent to his life as he was to his death. Scott was beaten; furious and capable, but beaten. With an enormous effort of will power he slackened his muscles, closed his eyes and said the requested words through gritted teeth; “I am sorry Mr. Sinclair. I will never attack you like a wild animal again.” placing emphasis on the words “…like a wild animal.” Death caught the meaning of the emphasis on those particular words but he just laughed and left that last little piece of rebellion to his new recruit and released him, brushing his shoulder off and throwing his arm around him. “Scott, you might hate me now but I feel like you and I will be close friends before long. You wanted a new life, here it is; you wanted direction, purpose and a whole new path and here I am giving it to you. All I ask from you is to be productive, appreciative and thankful because wherever I go is anything but ordinary and mundane. Keep in mind though, dear brother, that wherever I go is dangerous as fuck.”

So it was said by Death and so it was that the trio continued their path, walking down a steep, narrow subterranean stone tunnel that looked all the more sinister beneath the flickering, pale lights on the ceiling that hung above them like the vertebrae of some massive snakes spine. Death led with a light step and amused smile on his face, Scott followed closely behind with brimstone in his eyes and Stuart brought up the rear, checking his giant strides so as not to tread on this newly tamed cobra, deftly twirling his knife as they wended their way further on into the belly of the beast.

They passed nothing of note; the twists and turns of the passageway made it impossible to see anything but walls ahead and walls behind, bringing limbo to mind again until without warning there was a door. It was black, wooden and set in stone with no definitive markings other than a tarnished brass knob and a keyhole. It was locked. Death withdrew a ring of keys from his coat pocket and Scott noted that it was a motley assortment from obviously modern nickel plated things with brand names on them to huge ancient metal ones, elaborately carved; too big or too small and everything else in between leaving Scott in awe. There was one that immediately drew his attention; it was large and made of something that looked akin to iron, but burnt, obviously burnt, and at its head was the North Star, which somehow seemed to shine as if it were in the sky where it belonged; it was upon this key that all the others were fastened. Death noticed Scotts interest in this particular key and smiled his chilling smile, “You’re just like me Scott, you like your keys like you like your women; hot, black and nasty.”

Roaring with laughter he inserted a small silver key into the lock and threw the door open. He and Stuart, both laughing, led the way across the threshold and into a long hall of stone, straight and rectangular in shape with thick rugs of great antiquity covering the whole floor. Light came from dim lamps hanging above paintings  that hung upon the walls and the number of paintings set at regular intervals on either side the entire length of this odd hall made the lighting more than ample; it actually felt warm and welcoming in comparison to the damp serpent of a passage they had so recently left behind. The paintings themselves were enough to make this hall an experience that would take days if you put in the effort to really take it in. each strange oil painted landscape were like a window to some other time and place, all so realistic that you had to wonder that some of them contained creatures and scenes that anything on Earth could never conceive, and yet they were there as if some genius sat with his easel and put them on canvas, merely illustrating what he saw before his eyes with bold strokes and perfect color. The effect of all this was to make this hall a powerful sight to behold. They walked at a pace that was too swift to take in each painting but Scott did his best, keeping his head on a swivel and shifting from side to side in an attempt to really note and appreciate all that was visually assaulting his vision. It was like a dream that positively bled significance; the kind you wake up from in cold sweats, wide-eyed and enervated; he was not about to just pass through this hall at the same pace as the other two who gazed respectfully but with obvious boredom and familiarity at the wondrous dreamscapes in the frames. “Look at this guy,” Death said, “he is hooked already and all we did was kick him down some stairs and show him a few old paintings.” He turned and put a hand on Scotts shoulder paternally, “you haven’t seen shit yet.”

Though he was no less concerned with the odd, beautiful portals to strange worlds on the walls, he tore his eyes away from them to look ahead instead, seeing that they had almost reached the end of the hall. The door was unlocked and opened inward.

Upon opening the door an almost inaudible hum that sounded like heavy machinery droning somewhere far in the depths below now overtook complete silence and they walked through the door onto a long metal balcony that jutted out over a vast white marble hall. The trio went to the railing and Scott tried to hide the awe he felt at seeing such a sight as this hall.

Though they were more than fifty feet above the polished marble floor, the ceiling was nowhere in sight and supported by vast marble pillars. It seemed almost beyond time itself in its antiquity though immaculate and gleaming. The only things that seemed recent were the balcony they stood on with its stairs winding down the rounded curve of this magnificent structure and the bright lights that hung, suspended in mid-air on a giant chain web that stretched the entire length of the hall, making it shine. What drew Scotts eyes most was a motif in the center of the floor of a giant black widow spider made from what appeared to be ebony with a massive ruby hourglass in its center facing a short stone staircase to a small platform and the only door in sight, a vast, arch shaped double wooden door flanked by two men in suits of grey that were the only living souls in sight other than the trio upon the platform.

Looking down upon all of this Scott felt as though he had traveled back to a time where beauty reigned in place of function and smiled the smile of Apollo as he beheld what he was actually beginning to believe was his new home. It felt as though it had been his home before and he was returning to it after a grim sojourn to the bleak maze above that swarmed with things that he could never call his contemporaries. The familiarity he felt with each sight was alarmingly acute and he relished this moment as his new beginning; finally convinced that Death had brought him down from Hell and into reality. Strange that such a place as this could be so welcoming. So sinister and so endearing. The walls emanated an aura of elder mastery and elder Daemons; the hall stood as testament to their might and cool intellect with pillars still upholding their virtues and values in a degraded, morbidly mechanically minded age that devours all things old and passionate to make way for more poisonous structures and ideals to take hold like weeds born of black smoke and decay killing all roses of intellectual beauty and feeding feverishly on their falling petals to survive. It was not good triumphing over evil because what are good and evil but elaborate ploys to trap individual, progressive thought? They are darts of death to the young and free wandering this barren earth in search of purpose and reason, trying all molds and despairing because they fit none until eventually they are choked to death by the weeds of this ruling stagnant decay and the gears of the machine continue to turn as if they never existed at all. Here was something else; here was venom, seemingly slumbering, yet poised and ready and as the dropping of the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima was a vicious and conclusive reaction, this venom needed only an action before it sprang forth and brought ruin on wherever or whomever foolish enough to spark such a terrible chain of events. “Home is where the heart is,” Scott though as they walked down the stairs and with echoing steps made their way towards the door flanked by the two silent warders who might have been taken for statues if it wasn’t for the gleam in their eyes.

Death side-stepped the giant spider motif and bowed low with a flourish, motioning Scott to do the same, “Mind the Queen,” he said with that ever present smile, “ she bites.” Stuart chuckled and sank his massive frame into a bow towards the giant spider motioning for Scott to do the same before straitening up to traverse the stairs to where the only other beating hearts stood vigil over the door.

They nodded to Death and Stuart with obvious reverence and looked at Scott with curiosity, wondering, as Scott did, what on earth he was doing here and why was he flanked by two things as great as Death and Stuart? “this is Scott O’Malley boys, he is our newest and most promising recruit,” Death said, placing emphasis on the words ‘most promising’ while the two men opened the doors for them and as Scott passed them he detected an odd, savage malice in their eyes and smoked seemed to curl from the corners or their mouths as they smiled him past, closing the door behind them with a snap.  “Those two are some of your new brothers. I think they liked you right off the bat Scott! Expect some love from them tomorrow, hell, they might just show you the ropes!”  Their laughter echoed through the new hall.

It was a sort of entrance hall made of marble, with a total of ten doors including the ones they just entered through, all oak save for the one opposite them at the very end which was matte black. Two steps led up to each door from the rectangular floor. Already the one at the end drew his eye, he thought of that burnt black key on Deaths ring on which all others were fastened and wondered.

“About time for you to turn in young master Scott,” Death said, drawing himself up pompously and adopting a fake British accent, grabbing Scott by the shoulders and steering him in a creeping manner of mock servitude towards the first door on his left with an odd smile, “You have a long day tomorrow and our little sunshine needs his rest!” Scott eyed them both in disbelief while they walked away; pausing only to motion him to go through the door they left him in front of with a commanding air that could not be disobeyed. He bowed sarcastically to them before turning the brass knob and going through the door, shutting it behind him, leaving him alone for the first time.

The contrast between the cold marble hall and this warm oaken room he now stood in was startling; a gold embroidered ancient rug stretched across the entire length of the floor and it was lit by a giant crystal chandelier that cast a warm reddish glow on this oval chamber, making it feel like the entrance hall of an old hunting lodge, or the entrance to Valhalla itself for that matter, with the dim light from the chandelier illuminating the wooden, tapestry strewn walls(some were so ancient that their symbols and dialects were completely unrecognizable) and a single door at the other end with words burned onto it in large block letters. Scott stepped forward to examine these with a thrill of excitement. It seemed as though there were profound secrets around every corner and wonders behind every door and he was not disappointed, for here was where he first read the Soldiers Main

We soldiers

Emancipated

From the chains of man

As His black wings

First beat the stars

We soar without fear over time

Panthers in the night, death unseen

Doom from the dark punishing

All things that would stand in our way

We are the beginning,

The end,

And the triumphant

forever

 

He opened the cryptic door into a long low wooden hall, narrow and lit by old fashioned gas lamps hung between black doors extending for at least a hundred feet with one long, threadbare carpet on the floor. As he walked down the hall he saw that each door had a brass plaque on it at eye level with names on them ranging from French to Norwegian, Japanese and every other nationality imaginable, some in symbol dialects he could not even recognize. He walked the entire length of the hall before finally seeing the name ‘O’Malley’ emblazoned upon the last door on the right. He grasped the handle with a trembling hand, hardly daring to believe that this was it at last, his new home; it was too good to be true, yet he felt the scrapes on his bleeding palms and the dull ache where his head had hit the wall when Death attacked so he knew it was real and despite the malevolent weirdness of it all it felt right. He opened his new door with satisfaction of knowing that it was his and his alone.

The carpet was soft and brown in his room and the walls were smooth, white and cold to the touch. It was moderately spacious, fifteen by twenty feet, a simple brass bedstead stood in the corner with a spotless white woolen blanket and sheets, a large wardrobe and dresser rested against the far wall, an open doorway led to his bathroom on his left and it all smelled faintly of frankincense. He sat down heavily on his bed and put his head in his hands, smiling to himself and enjoying this pleasant safety and quiet that was now his at the end of his brutal day. He sat up with difficulty from his soft mattress, went to his new bathroom and turned on the light.

The floor was marble with an old Victorian shower, a toilet, a steel sink with a straight razor, a bar of white soap, a toothbrush and a large mirror above it. It was the mirror that caught Scott’s eye, or the cracks in its center directly at eye level in the shape of a fist. Odd for a place that was so spotlessly new to have such a thing as a rage-cracked mirror in it, yet cracked as it was it still functioned well enough for Scott to see the strange expression of excitement and intensity that had not been on his face since childhood, when everything was incredible. His blue eyes glinted and started from their sockets, purple tinged from lack of sleep and the red tinge of fervor touched his cheeks that had been pale for so long. He looked happy; he felt happy; he felt at home. Strange that this ancient subterranean lair could feel so much like home; strange that age old secrets and malice could be so endearing. He was in the stronghold of evil, he was sure of that, but couldn’t evil be subjective? Couldn’t any concrete concepts solidity depend on who sets them in stone? He looked deep into his eyes and saw how alien he was from them, the rest of the world along with the book and god they worshiped. He never belonged because he had never been able to shake the belief that it was all so blatantly false and transparent.

Why should dead men govern centuries of live men when their principles had only ever taught fear, blind worship and servitude? Evil was to exist as they did; to voluntarily suffer from blindness, deafness and dumbness; to comport oneself as a shambling corpse marionette for some unseen deity to manipulate and force to dance the dance of supposed ‘holiness’. Truly, a God fearing man shuts his eyes tight and stumbles through life, hitting walls and tripping over other God fearing men all so he doesn’t have to face himself and his own sins in some unlucky mirror. Perfection is the unattainable Heaven he yearns for, imperfection is the Hell that is reality, so he looks to the solace of the blindfold and trusts the crafty hand of his shepherd to lead him to those golden vistas that are promised him that does not ask questions; him that does not lead. Scott saw the clergy for what they really were: morbid, soiled lepers that lurch and wheeze behind beautiful masks of ‘Godliness’; poisonous and fiendish moral degradation festering beneath the guise of purity.

He had always dreamed of fire. He had always dreamed of watching these ‘holy enlightened’ wreathed in flames that touched the sky. In his dreams he stoked the mask melting flames with their foul propaganda; their pretense-worship, and the smoke that curled up amid the demonic shrieks of fury, jackal snarls, and the snapping and cracking of so many masks sounding like so much war and gunfire the noonday sun shone through like the moon and the cancerous true identity of it all would be revealed. Scott dreamed of casting the match on the fuel; incineration for all creation; Scott dreamt of fire. For this he had always believed himself to be evil, but gazing into his keen blue eyes in the rage-cracked mirror deep within the blackest malice known to man he saw how very wrong he was to label himself as such. He gripped the steel of the sink and observed the two flaming blue chips of ice staring back at him in that mirror and saw that he was a fierce and deadly weapon against the plight of man: man himself.

He tore himself away from this electrified revelation and stumbled like a drunkard beneath the weight of it all but mastered himself and walked cool and tall, showering before going to sleep. He smiled as he dreamed.


Submitted: August 22, 2013

© Copyright 2022 Irony Is King. All rights reserved.

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