1 November 2005
Jackie went to the hospital to get her burn and cuts cleaned up, which was enough of an excuse to get her out of work, and she left her backpack of supplies in Alpha's trunk. While she was there, I slipped over to Lori's apartment, hoping that whatever Alethea had her doing would keep her busy elsewhere. I had to slightly break in, but no one seemed to notice, and I had time to look around for something useful. It didn't take long; in her broom closet I found a whole shrine to me, with some paraphernalia that was probably tied to some mystical origin or another. Deciding I should quit while I was ahead, I grabbed whatever I could carry and slipped out the fire escape without looking elsewhere.
We arrived at Buhl Park shortly before it was scheduled to close, and pulled Alpha behind some trees to hide in the dark. After we saw the patrol go through to check for people and lock up, we slipped out and made our way to one of the lesser-used fields and got to work. She had a pouch of something she had gotten from a friend in Chicago, and spent some time spreading it in a specific shape, hidden in the grass. I kept watch as she spent time in preparation, using various things from her backpack. She said she'd been burned by magical backlash too much recently, and wanted to make sure she had everything she would need in place to do what we came to do and then clean up with as little risk to herself as possible. We only had to dip back into the trees to hide once, but the need to be constantly ready for it slowed her down enough that we weren't ready until after midnight.
Once everything was ready, Jackie went over to the car and began her rites as I walked to the center of the ritual. She had told me specific places to set the things I had taken from Lori's apartment, and seemed very interested in some of it; she said we would need to talk about that later, though. I laid the things out, stood in the spot she told me to stand, and prepared to wait. It did not take long.
Near the perimeter of the ritual area, the air started to crackle shoot lightning into the grass. I watched as reality warped and bent at a spot about six feet off the ground, the source of the lightning, until Lori appeared with a loud crack. She was floating above the ground, her eyes glowing, her hair flowing out as though she was underwater. Her arm raised to point at me, first Alethea's spectral arm and then Lori's physical one. The lag told me Alethea was losing her hold on Lori, and the look on her face told me that battle was incredibly painful for her.
"Matteson!" both of their voiced cried out, as they floated closer. At the same time, Alethea cried out threats against me while Lori begged for help. I stayed in place and waited as they continued to approach. The wind around them picked up, quickly becoming a whirlwind that was lifting rocks and branches and tearing apart the blackberry bushes nearby. The edge of the whirlwind reached and then passed me, but everything within about five meet of me remained unaffected.
"Come on!" I yelled. "Is that all you've come to do?" She screamed, both of them screamed. The whirlwind picked up, ripping up dirt and cracking the trunks of the closest trees. Lightning shot out in every direction, setting small fires in the dry grass; and then she stopped floating and instead flew at me like a dart.
31 October 2005
"You couldn't request the night off?" I asked, setting the bags of liquor on the counter to begin unpacking from our run to the brew thru.
"It's Halloween, and I work at a haunted house," Jackie answered. She was setting up various sized glasses on a table we'd set up in my study, leaving room for the pizzas I had ordered for tonight. "Besides, if what I hear of your house parties is true, there will be plenty for me to enjoy when I get back." I agreed that was fair, and went to dig the paper plates out of the cabinet when I heard the front door open. I went out and found Lori, who looked like hell. She had clearly not slept, her makeup was smeared as though she'd been crying, her hair was wild and tangled, and she was barefoot. She snapped her attention to me with crazed eyes, then lunged forward.
The first punch caught me off guard, and I heard a rib crack as she made contact with my side. I started trying to dodge as she continued punching and kicking; I was slower than usual as the pain spread from my side and having trouble catching my breath, but she was obviously unskilled at what she was doing and I mostly avoided further contact as I tried to back away.
"You son of a bitch!" she yelled as she continued her onslaught. "You were supposed to fix this!"
"What are you on about?" I demanded. Jackie came out of the study and froze in the doorway, clearly unsure how to handle the situation. Lori's eyes started to glow, and then she buckled over and grabbed her gut as she stumbled backwards. I saw Alethea's head rise out of her back and scream, cracking the windows and forcing me to cover my ears. Lori's face tilted up slightly, tears streaming down her face, as she mouthed, "help me."
"Alethea!" I yelled. Lori snapped back upright and fell backwards against the wall as Alethea vanished back into her. Jackie stepped forward, calling out something in another language, and sent a bolt of energy at Lori. Lori ripped the front door off the hinges and blocked the shot with it, shattering the door. Her arms her shaking under the strain, and I saw cuts open in her clothes and skin as the pieces of the door flew against her. I ran toward her, not really thinking of what I would do when I got to her; but before I got very far she rose off the ground, screamed one more time, and sent out a shockwave through the room. My tv was destroyed, the windows blew out, and Jackie was thrown backwards into the study. I didn't feel it, and it didn't slow me down, so when she suddenly vanished from in front of me I was going too fast to stop. I slammed into the wall and blacked out.
15 September 2005
Charles remained in the car as promised, while the rest of us snuck up to the side of the building. We had parked on the far end, with the hopes that whoever was in there would be unable to hear Alpha driving over the gravel and the engine running. We found a man door that did not, itself, have light coming from under it, but was near the section that did. Rick and I were arguing about the best way to pop the lock when Jackie reached past us and opened the door, which was apparently never latched.
We entered a hallway and could hear what sounded like distant chanting, but couldn't make out any of what was being said. The floor was cracked and filthy, the walls covered in the remains of peeling paint and rusted signs. One door was hanging half off its hinges, and we slipped as quietly as we could into the room behind it. Here we found a few desks stacked up against one wall, papers and scraps of garbage and broken glass scattered across the floor. The glass, it turned out, was largely from a panel of windows on the far wall, looking out over a mill floor depressed into the ground by about ten feet from the level we were on. When we peeked through the windows, we saw about a dozen robed figures standing on a large spiral embedded into the floor, filled with blood, with a large stone altar in the center. On the altar was a naked woman, not moving, blood dripping from her wrists and throat into the spiral. The chanting was coming from that room, and there was a ball of light hovering over the altar. Jackie grabbed her head and slid down the wall to sit on the floor and take deep breaths.
"What is it?" Rick asked softly, kneeling down and putting his hand on her shoulder. "Is it the murder? I think they murdered someone, guys."
"The other side of that--" she started, then groaned and began rubbing her temples.
"Other side of what?" he asked, turning to me. I was scowling.
"The portal. I can see enough to know it isn't good," I said.
"What does that mean!?"
"They're trying to summon something. Whatever it is is coming from deeper in the Realm than I can see, but there's a lot of darkness involved in drawing it out."
"Holy shit," he muttered, sitting down beside Jackie. "Oh holy shit. Is this happening?" I nodded and sat down on Jackie's other side, lighting a cigarette and then putting my arm around her shoulder. She let go of her head and leaned on my chest.
"You can't keep blocking me from this," she said, "not if we're going in there."
"I'm sorry, did she say we were going in there?"
"You don't have to," I answered, "but she's right. As far as we know, we're the only people available to stop whatever it is they're trying to bring here, and I can promise you someone needs to stop it." He began breathing heavily and fiddling with his fingers.
"Okay! Okay. I can do this. I can help you guys."
"I don't see how. Look, maybe you should go tell Charles, figure out what to do if this goes wrong."
"Oh yeah, let me just call the fucking cops, tell them there's a demon they need to arrest!"
"Keep it down, and no, please don't call the cops."
"Because they'll think it's bullshit!?"
"Because they don't tend to respond well to a black man at a murder scene." Jackie punched me lightly, and then got up to crouching and headed back toward the hallway.
"Give me some space for a minute," she said, "so I can prep some defenses, and then I'll be set, okay?" I nodded and we watched her slip into the hall before Rick slid over to me.
"Hey, look, if we survive this, could you be a little less handsy? I think I have a shot with this girl, but you know, you two kinda have this thing--"
"Just asking! Just thought I'd ask." We sat in silence for a minute, before he whispered again, "is that a yes?"
"Go to the fucking car," I said, heading out to the hallway. I caught up to Jackie and we both watched as Rick slipped into the hallway, waved to her, and then left the building. I turned to Jackie.
"You think he knows I could hear him?" she asked.
"Nope. Does he really have a chance?"
"Well not tonight. Why, you want him to?" I chuckled and offered her a cigarette.
"I don't care."
"Mhm," she replied, flicking her lighter. Once she had her cigarette lit, we made our way down to the mill floor.
At the bottom of the stairs we found a small alcove with three other bodies in it, all cut open, none of them still bleeding. The pile startled both of us, and after we caught our breath again we rounded the corner to find ourselves looking directly across the room to the group. I went out along the wall a ways, to give her room, then stopped and watched for her to be ready. When she nodded to me, I took a deep breath, muttered something vaguely similar to a prayer, and rushed forward.
I drilled into the back of the closest robed figure and knocked them forward into another one, both of them crashing to the floor as I turned to close the distance and punch another. I felt their rib give way and stomped at their kneecap; by the time they screamed and went down, the chanting had stopped and the rest of the figures were moving toward me. The portal shifted and started to close slightly, when one of the figures suddenly turned to look in Jackie's direction and, without a word, threw a fireball toward where I knew she was. I reached my hand in its direction and closed my fist, and the fireball vanished in a puff of smoke. The figure who threw it recoiled and his hood fell, revealing a man with a massive burn mark over half his face. When he looked at me his eyes were like a snake's, and he growled and raised his hands, igniting all the air around me. None of it could get more than a few feet from me, so I charged forward through it and emerged from the edge of it just in time to drive a fist into his jaw. All of the fire vanished as he stumbled backward.
The portal quivered and contracted again as the man wiped a spot of blood from the corner of his mouth. The rest of the figures backed away, watching us. I flexed my hand a couple times in an attempt to ignore the pain of the last punch, and the man's eyes glowed for a moment before he started to laugh.
"It's you!" He screamed, cackling. "The Omen!"
"What are you on about?" I asked, stepping forward.
"Your coming has been foretold, Omen. You are the key, the end of our quest comes through you!" The rest of the figures gasped and started whispering among themselves as they slowly made their way forward again.
"Nobody move!" Rick yelled, stepping out of the shadows on the other side of the room. He was holding a gun, pointed at the crowd, but his hands were shaking.
"Motherfucker," I muttered.
15 September 2005
I maintain that I did not know Rick had lied to Charles in order to get him back into Alpha to go look for that town again, but it probably should have been suspicious when he agreed to come. I had reattached my mirror and Jackie had grabbed supplies to help her casting if we needed to hide again or, God forbid, fight. Rick said he was ready for whatever, but all he seemed to bring was snacks. Which were appreciated, but hardly seemed special in any way.
I made a point of memorizing the path we took to get to the town, and the path out of it again, so we could hopefully get there quickly and have some time to poke around and see if we could find any explanation for it. I decided to try the way we had gotten out first, since it was easier, but as soon as Charles figured out what we were doing he started arguing about it. We had to actually pull over just off 224 to calm him down before continuing. Once we resumed, however, we found the path not as easy as before. I was certain we were going the right way, and we all recognized things we were passing for a while, but then we were certain we'd gone to far and never saw it. We tried another pass, and again knew exactly when we were driving through an area we had been in before, but there was no sign of the town on the road and no large empty area where the town could have been.
After those two passes, we decided to try the dirt path we were on when we found the town in the first place. By this point it was starting to get dark, and Charles was growing more impatient with us. We found the dirt road and turned down it, right around the time he decided to stop running his mouth and just ignore us in favor of looking out the window. I asked Rick, who by now had confessed to lying to Charles, why he put in that effort when it would have just been better not to, and he just laughed.
I'm beginning to suspect Rick is a legitimate asshole.
It was about a mile down that road when we suddenly came to a barrier line blocking the entire road, in front of a large dirt hill. The path curved slightly into a haggard garage, marked with faded railroad signs. I stopped Alpha and we all got out, except Charles, and walked up to the top of the hill.
"Did they make this overnight or something?" Rick asked.
"Did who make it?" I asked.
"I dunno! Some...villager? With a backhoe?"
"Well the answer is no either way," Jackie said, pointing ahead. Where the road should have continued was just a field, with grass that looked like it hadn't been mowed all summer.
"Was this magic?" Rick asked, excitedly. "Can you see if it's magic?"
"Well I can't," I said, "unless it's an ongoing effect I could interrupt."
"Like an illusion!"
"Yes. Like an illusion." I turned and looked at Jackie, who looked at me and shrugged. I sighed and walked down the hill and into the grass, and once I was about five feet deep into the field I turned around and threw my arms out. Nothing changed around me. Rick turned to Jackie.
"Can you check?"
"You seem really excited about this," she said.
"It's exciting stuff!" She reached into her bag and pulled out a pair of glasses. I could see her eyes close and her mouth moving while she put them on, but couldn't hear what she was saying. Once she was done, she opened her eyes, screamed, and grabbed her face as she stumbled backward. Rick caught her and started asking if she was okay while I ran up the hill toward them.
"Jackie!" I called. "What's going on?" Rick helped her sit down, and she pulled the glasses off. When I got to about ten feet from them she visibly relaxed, and when I got closer I could see tears of blood trailing from her closed eyes. She was rubbing her temples.
"I never thought I'd be so glad for you to suddenly end one of my own spells," she whispered.
"What did you see?" She opened her eyes and Rick and I both gasped as we realized one was now blue.
"What? What is it?" she asked. I opened my mouth to answer, but happened to glance up and notice and cloud of dust coming closer on the road. I stood up and focused on it, and realized that it was coming from a black, roughly garbage truck sized block heading down the road toward us.
"Back to Alpha! Now!" Rick looked back and swore under his breath, and we both helped Jackie to her feet and ran down the hill. I hadn't turned the car off, so as soon as we all dove in I threw Alpha into gear and punched the gas, cutting the wheel to turn around half in the grass while Rick was still pulling his door closed.
The blog of John Matteson.