12 May 2007
“Are you supposed to be doing that?” Benedict asked.
I groaned and set my mug down on the counter I was leaning against. “I can make my own tea once in a while, priest.”
“I didn’t ask if you can. I asked if you’re supposed to be.”
“I don’t know! They said to take it easy for a while. Are you suggesting this isn’t easy?”
“I’m just keeping an eye out.” He walked the rest of the way into the kitchen and started a pot of coffee as I resumed adding the sugar to my tea. “But since you’re up and we don’t have to focus on meeting needs for a moment, maybe we could talk.”
“Your father’s theories.”
“I thought maybe you wanted to talk about whether Jackie and Akshainie are okay.”
“I trust they’re fine. Akshainie is capable. Frustratingly so, at times. I get the impression Jackie is not an easy target, either.”
“Alright, fine. But I’m sitting down for this.”
“I would insist on it if you hadn’t,” he said as I made my way to the living room. I sat in the recliner and made myself as comfortable as I could. By the time he joined me with his cup of coffee in hand, I was halfway through a cigarette.
“So what did you want to know?” I asked as he sat on the couch.
“Well, when last we talked about it, I had informed you that he thought your power was more complex than simply breaking magic. And then we never explored that.”
“Okay, well, I have.” I adjusted my position to face him better. “I think he was right.”
So I told him about the first time I met Alice, how I managed to change the rules of the local Metaphysical Realm to make the echoes more visible and then clear them away. He sat silent as I spoke, his face only showing any change when he brought his coffee to his mouth.
“Fascinating,” he said, finally. “And Akshainie tells me you were able to close and then reopen a locus point while we were in Britain.”
“I fear what this means for us all, then.”
He sighed, then indicated he would be just a minute before making his way back to the kitchen. I lit another cigarette while he was gone, and he returned with more coffee. “Okay,” he said, before taking a sip and sitting down. “You said that the Barzai referred to you as ‘the omen?’ The sign their work was nearing completion?”
“Seemed to think I was the avenue through which their work would be concluded.”
“That’s a concern. Do you have any idea what they could do if they gained control over your power?”
“I don’t see how they would,” I said, adjusting again to avoid putting too much pressure on the stitches. “They’d have to gain some means of controlling me with magic, which I’m immune to.”
“Well. We assume you’re immune.”
“I seem pretty immune.”
“And yet you can do powerful magic effects, such as controlling the flow of a ley line and exorcising spirits.”
“What are you getting at?”
“If your power is more accurately described as setting the rules within an area, then it stands to reason you aren’t truly immune. It’s just very difficult to break the rules you enforce. With enough effort and a very clever approach, someone could slip a spell past you. Has that ever happened? Can you think of any time when someone found a way around your immunity?”
“Well. I didn’t really think about it in those terms…”
“Back in high school. I had broken a focusing crystal. The witch who owned it said I’d be cursed for doing so, which I didn’t think was a valid threat.”
“Well. I didn’t really get cursed. Whatever ill fate was supposed to befall me never happened. But, there was this supernatural beast that started following me around. I had to learn how to perform an exorcism just to get rid of it.”
“The curse bypassed your immunity by having a spirit act in your vicinity rather than directly affecting you.”
“Yeah, it was well played.”
“It also tells me there are ways around your magical resistance, if one approaches it properly. I don’t know what it would take to directly affect you, but we should probably operate on the assumption such an option exists. And that the Brood of Nachash is working on it.”
“So, what do I do about that? Add more protection? Avoid them? I don’t think I like any of this notion.”
“You’re too useful against them to ask you to stay on the side.” He sighed and leaned with his elbows on his knees. “We just need to be very mindful of how much access they have to you. Whatever it is they’re going to try, if you’re the key, they need to do something to or with you.” We sat in silence for a little bit as I considered that suggestion, and then after a few minutes he checked his watch. “Well, I better start making us some lunch. You don’t get up unless you absolutely have to.”
“Yes, mom,” I said as he made his way into the kitchen.
“No, I…ugh, nevermind.”
8 May 2007
When the phone rang, I almost didn’t answer. I had been half asleep, and I could ignore the noise of the phone vibrating on my night stand, and given how little I’d been able to sleep the last few days it was very tempting. Honestly, I only checked who it was out of some meager hope it was going to be Alice. It wasn’t, which wasn’t much of a surprise. I hadn’t heard from her since she asked for space and ran off to England. As if going halfway around the world wouldn’t be space enough if I didn’t know that that’s what it was. What did surprise me, however, was that it was Benedict. It shouldn’t have surprised me. I’d called him about the Brood of Nachash the day before we confronted them, hopeful that he and Akshainie would be able to help. But I had to leave a voice mail, and then everything happened, and I guess it wasn’t forefront in my mind anymore.
“Benedict,” I said, answering the call.
“You left me a voice mail that you had found the Brood preparing for a ritual?”
“That was a week ago, man.”
He cursed under his breath in German for a moment before returning to the call. “What happened?”
“We confronted them.”
“Me, Alice, Jackie, and Rick.”
“You met him at the funeral.”
“Oh, right. What happened?”
“We…I think we won.”
“What does that mean?”
“They opened a portal. The guy with the burned face was thrown into it. We…we lost Rick in the process.”
“What’s the closest body of water to you?”
“Uh…probably the Shenango River? It’s right downtown. But—”
“See you soon.” He hung up and I stared at the phone for a minute before rolling over.
I was nearly asleep when I heard a pounding on the front door. I grumbled and pulled one of the pillows over my head and tried to ignore it, until Jackie threw my door open a few minutes later.
“It’s Benedict and Akshainie,” she said. “Get dressed and come downstairs.”
“I’m supposed to be resting,” I reminded her.
“If you can come downstairs for a bottle of vodka you didn’t think I’d notice was missing, you can come down for this!” She slammed the door and I heard her go back down the stairs. She was right, of course. I was allowed to move around now, which is how I got up to my room in the first place, it just hurt like hell to be very active.
“You’re late,” I said when I was reaching the bottom of the stairs. “We had to fight the bastards without you.”
“We were dealing with a situation,” Benedict answered. In the time it’d taken me to get downstairs, he’d apparently managed to get his hands on a cup of coffee. He was alone in the living room.
“Where are the girls?”
“Downstairs, looking for information on a spell. What happened to you?”
“Got stabbed again. And some other shit.”
“I feel like you don’t take knives seriously enough until they’re in you.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” I sat down on my recliner and laid it back. “So what were you doing?”
“Something that wasn’t important enough to miss what you were doing, I’m afraid. I didn’t get your call until we were done. Tell me more about what happened. You said it was the Barzai?”
“It was the same guy that I saw at that warehouse. You’re the one who calls him the Barzai.”
“Me and his whole cult. Tell me about this portal.”
So I did. I told him about the ritual, and the things trying to come through the portal, and how Rick threw himself and the Barzai through and the portal closed behind them. He listened without interruption, and once I was done, he leaned back and thought for a little while.
“So we don’t know if the Barzai is actually neutralized?” he asked.
“Not unless we can find his body over wherever they landed,” I answered.
“I may have some thoughts on that,” Jackie said. I turned to look just as she entered the room from the kitchen carrying a book and her backpack. Akshainie was close behind. “Akshainie tells me there are paths through the metaphysical realm that we can use to reach the other end of the portal!”
“Really? And how will you know which road to take?”
“Roads,” Akshainie corrected. As Jackie sat down on the couch next to Benedict and checked the contents of her bag, Akshainie stood with her arms crossed and looked me over. “You look like shit.”
“I must be recovering, then.”
“Good. I’ll guide Jackie through the roads to the Deeper Realms. Benedict can stay here and keep an eye on you.”
“I don’t recall us discussing that,” Benedict said.
“We didn’t. But this is how it has to be. You would be hopelessly lost out there, and I’m told Matteson should not be alone.”
“I’m sure I’d manage,” I said.
“Barely. I’ll need two spells at least,” Jackie said. “One to step into the metaphysical realm, and another to track the energy signature of the portal spell.” She opened the book and showed me a page. “We found what we needed for those two already, and have them memorized. This one, and a couple others in this book, will keep me from starving or something if the realms get weird or we’re separated from crucial supplies.”
“The realms will absolutely get weird,” Akshainie added.
“Oh, good,” I said. “When are you doing this?”
“Rick can’t wait,” Jackie said, standing and closing the book. She slipped it into her backpack and put that on. “If we’re lucky, he landed or found his way to somewhere that had food and water, and got away from the Barzai. If not, he’s already going to be near death. Or worse.”
“We’re going to the river,” Akshainie said, “where your influence can’t ruin the spells. We’ll use the River Network to reach Iravati. I know the roads from there.”
“Be careful,” Benedict said.
“We will return.” With that, Akshainie and Jackie left, while Benedict and I sat in silence.
“Well,” I finally said, “what do you wanna do while they’re gone?”
“Worry,” Benedict answered. He knocked back the rest of his coffee and stood. “But I’m sure we can find a more productive use of our time.”
15 February 2007
We were all called to breakfast, and after we’d eaten Michael had Benedict, Akshainie, Alice, and me stay behind and sent the staff out. Once we were alone, he stood and addressed us.
“They’re after the Church of England,” he announced. None of us visibly reacted to that and I got the impression he was a bit surprised at that. There was a moment of silence where he seemed to be processing it.
“So you got them to talk?” I asked. “How’d you do that?”
“Runic circle of truth.”
“That’s awfully convenient.”
“What did you learn about their plan?” Akshainie asked.
“Sadly, very little. They are waiting for a signal and are getting into position to attack both the crown and Canterbury.”
“So first step is to get more information,” Benedict said, rising from his seat. “If you could show me the way to this circle of truth—”
“The cultists are dead,” Michael said, flatly. Benedict stopped, then leaned forward with his palms on the table.
“I must request a bit more information on that one.”
“It appears to have been a defense against interrogation. Not unlike a poison pill, but in this case, a self-immolation spell.”
“Self-immolation,” I said, leaning back and crossing my arms.
“We can discuss the matter more later. For now, we have a lot of work to do, and I think it would be best if we focused on that.” Michael looked around to each of us, and we grudgingly agreed. Michael produced identity cards he had made for each of us so we could split up and still operate with the authority of the estate, and included one for Alice. She was hesitant, but Michael reminded her that she had expressed a desire to get involved and that they needed someone who didn’t stand out as magical to check on a nearby church. He handed out assignments to each of us, and within the hour we were all on our way.
Once Alice told me the others were done inside, I released the pressure I was putting on the ley line and stepped aside. I was asked not to enter, and feeling pretty drained from the effort anyway, so I sat down on a large stone outside and smoked a cigarette while I waited. Eventually, Benedict, Akshainie, and Alice emerged from the house.
“Where’s everyone else?” I asked, flicking my smoke into the street and standing.
“Michael has taken the cultists in for questioning,” Benedict answered. He had a set of keys in his hand. “I’ll be driving us back to the estate. Would you two care for a ride?”
“Yes, please,” Alice answered. She looked a bit shaken, and I touched her arm to get her attention and give her a concerned look. She gave me a weak smile, shook her head, and made for the car. I followed. We took the back seat and let Akshainie ride up front with Benedict, and no one said much until we’d been driving for a couple minutes. Alice squeezed my hand a bit.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “What happened in there?”
“He took them to a secret dungeon under the estate through a magical door,” she said, softly. Then, louder and to the whole car, “Does that bother anyone else? That he can just…do that?”
“Wait he did what?” I demanded. Akshainie shrugged.
“I don’t see what else you expect him to do with them,” she said, turning to look at Alice and me.
“The police wouldn’t be able to handle them properly, and I’m not sure they actually broke any laws anyway,” Benedict said.
“That’s worse! Please tell me you see how that isn’t better!” Alice cried.
“It sounds an awful lot like kidnapping when you say it like that,” I said.
“I don’t trust the Hudson any more than you do, but this is the Brood of Nachash we’re talking about!” Akshainie was starting to sound tense.
“Okay but what about when it isn’t?” I asked. Alice pointed at me and nodded as I continued, “Is this just a thing they do? Take people whenever they feel justified about it? Do the people they take have any rights, is there any due process for people who deal with the supernatural? Isn’t that concerning to literally everyone in this car?” Akshainie turned back around and Alice leaned her head on my shoulder. There was silence in the car the rest of the way back.
We wandered into town, taking the time to have our first real look at the place and talk about the things we liked in the area. It was actually a pretty nice little town, bunch of buildings (and spirits) that looked older than my country. I needed to use the restroom after a bit, and she spotted some restaurant and suggested we dip in and she could ask if they had a table open while I handled that. They did, apparently, and by the time I got back to her they had pulled out a suit jacket that I needed to put on if we expected to eat there. I wasn’t super excited about the idea, but she seemed to be, so I accepted the jacket and we were led to our table.
“I thought places with rules like this take reservations,” I said, adjusting the jacket after we sat down and glancing around the room. It was nice, real nice, ‘blow my whole income from the trip on our dinner’ nice. I was having regrets.
“Yeah, well, they generally do,” she answered. She was beaming, and I suddenly realized how little time we spent in her world and how much time we spent in…or, I suppose is more accurate, adjacent to mine. This was probably a rare treat for her, which I should probably fix, and while I was pretty sure she had made arrangements ahead of time—no place like this just gives up a table to people walking in off the street, sure as hell not on Valentine’s Day—I decided to let her play her game and dropped the subject. God, she was beautiful when she smiled like that.
So dinner went well. When she realized that I was skipping past the most expensive parts of the menu she finally confessed that the whole thing, including the tab, had already been arranged and I didn’t have to worry about it. So we had a nice dinner and some wine and dessert and spent some time talking about something other than cults and magic, and it was really nice. By the time we left the restaurant, I had been able to completely clear my mind of the reason we were in Britain to begin with. Then, as we were walking kind of the long way back to look for souvenirs or something, I felt a surge in the air and dead stopped.
“John? Are you okay?” She asked, resting her hand on my shoulder. I stood for a moment, trying to parse what I was feeling, before it clicked.
“It’s the magic from that site,” I said. “I can feel it. It’s being activated.” We made our way to a park bench and I called the others.
“Matteson,” Benedict answered.
“The site’s been activated. I can track it. Where are you?” There was a sudden clinking sound and then I heard Benedict repeating what I’d said, but muffled as if he was trying and failing to cover the receiver, and then his voice dominated the background chatter and shuffling.
“We’re at a pub in town. Where are you?”
“In town. Heading,” I paused and pulled out my keys, which had a little compass ball on them, “Southwest, probably along a ley line.” He informed me they would head in that direction, and I promised to tell them if I had to change direction or where I ended up.
14 February 2007
The problem with knowing, or at least being pretty certain, that the Brood of Nachash is working in an area is that you then have to figure out what they’re doing there. And where they’re doing it.
I had only directly engaged with the cult either during a summoning or in the wake of a summoning, and Benedict had similar experiences but with the addition of that lost town. Akshainie knew more about their day-to-day operations, having spent a couple years hunting, and finding, them before meeting Benedict. We knew their larger goals involved the eradication of religion, or at least had that on good authority, but had never seen what that really looked like in action. So if they were doing a summoning, we had to figure out where. If they weren’t, we had to figure out what they were doing and what that would look like in time to stop it.
For the first time in a while, I really felt out of my depth.
But I was there partly as an investigator, so I was going to do my best with it. Alice helped on and off, sometimes slipping off to do something with family or call home. I spent the whole time in the library, even eating in there when I didn’t realize how long it had been and a servant showed up with a lunch for me. It felt weird having servants around, but I tried to not disrupt them too much with my concerns.
I had a map of the British Isles where I was attempting to draw a map that would hopefully show a target, but didn’t have enough to go on for that yet. The Church of England seemed a sensible target, but how would you even take that down? There was the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Queen, but it didn’t seem like just killing one of them outright would do the trick, and I didn’t even know what they would need to have in place to aim for a larger scale attack than that.
Alice tried to teach me a trick for sensing magic she had learned from Jackie. She felt it was a logical option, given that I’d been learning how to recognize the trail of things like ghosts and that I was built to work against magic, I should be able to sense it in a way that allows tracking. So if I could track the network of power being amplified by the site we’d found, maybe I could find points of interest along it. We spent most of the afternoon working on that, and I finally did start to sense something, but the house itself was so loud with magic that I couldn’t make out anything else. So we had to drop that for the time being, and by that time we realized it was coming up on evening and we hadn’t even settled plans for Valentine’s Day, so we left the work behind and headed out to find somewhere we could do dinner and maybe have some time on the town.
13 February 2007
We had taken the rest of that first day off to get situated in the estate and adjust to the time difference. We had rooms in the Guest Wing, because these people have an entire fucking Guest Wing, and Alice and I slept in a room that looked like it had as much stuff in it as my entire house. I could barely sleep, the bed was so soft. Benedict and Akshainie were given different rooms, but kind of nearish each other and down a different hall than our room, but Lord knows if they even used them. They were still in the library when we went to bed, and by the time I saw them the next morning they were coming from the library.
So now we were in the car again, sans Alice who stayed behind from our “field trip,” as she called it, to talk to her family. Which makes sense, she hasn’t seen them in years, and didn’t think she had anything to offer for what we were doing. This time there wasn’t some staff driver taking us there, though. Michael was at the wheel, and I had shotgun. At least he let me smoke in the car. I don’t know if I was allowed to in that room or not, but I know for damn sure I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it if they got pissy about the sheets smelling like smoke and trying to charge me to replace some million threadcount Egyptian silk bullshit, so I refrained.
When we arrived, he led us through a work site and down through a hole in a wall that led to a chamber awfully similar to the one where I first met Benedict and Akshainie.
“We have got to stop having all our social functions in places like this,” I told them as I pulled out a flashlight. Michael moved his hand like he expected something to happen, looked at his hand confused for a moment, then glanced at me and sighed.
“What’s your radius?” he asked me.
“How far must I stand from you to use magic?”
“Oh,” I said, then thought for a moment and shrugged. “I dunno. Never really thought about it. Jackie can usually cast something if she’s like ten feet away or so?”
“You can restrain that, though, can you not?” Benedict asked.
“I mean, yeah, but it’s tiring.”
“I’m not paying you to come here and keep your power restrained,” Michael said, stepping away from me and trying the spell again every couple steps until it worked.
“How do you do that? Everyone I’ve known who does magic needs a focus.”
“Well, there is a certain family advantage to being in a line of powerful sorcerers, but also, I have tattoos that serve as foci for certain common spells.” He explained to us what he knew so far, about how the site was active and seemed to be connected to the Brood of Nachash, but he didn’t know what it was for. While he talked, I walked around looking at the symbols and taking pictures of them. They weren’t like the ones I’d seen in Ohio, but they looked familiar.
“What do you know about the Brood?” Benedict asked.
“Not much, I’m afraid. I only got the name when I got yours.”
“Well then,” Benedict said, summoning a large fire hovering in the center of the chamber, illuminating the whole place. I grumbled and turned my flashlight off. “Let’s not focus too much energy on your spell there.”
“I didn’t know the Pope was so permissive of magic,” Michael said, dispelling his light.
“It is debatable if what I do is magic.”
“It’s magic,” I said.
“Do you think everything a spirit does is magic?” Akshainie asked. “Do you think it’s magic when I use my swords?”
“Can I dispel your swords?” I asked. She grumbled and I smiled.
“Anyway,” Benedict continued, “in short, the Brood of Nachash is a cult devoted to their idea of the serpent of Eden. They believe mankind is enslaved to God or the gods, and that the freedom they began to receive in rebellion is just and incomplete. They use sites like this to summon and bind powerful entities, and then siphon off that power for their own purposes in attempting to remake mankind into a fully fallen race.”
“And you oppose them on, primarily, religious grounds, I presume?” Michael asked.
“That is a significant factor. But I fundamentally believe they are not only wrong, but dangerously so.”
“They are a danger to all spirits who use serpent iconography,” Akshainie said. “By associating their actions with serpents, they create an image in the minds of mankind that affects us.”
“And you?” Michael called over to me.
“They’re assholes,” I answered.
“I suppose that will do. What are you doing over there, anyway?”
“Taking pictures of this script.”
“Ah, yes. We’ve not been able to interpret that. It seems there are no surviving records that use it.”
“Well, not in your collection anyway. I’ve seen this before.”
“You must be joking.”
“His family has amassed quite the occult library,” Benedict said. “Its size is not comparable to your own, but I would argue its importance may be.”
“What, exactly, is the nature of your family’s involvement in the occult, Mr. Matteson?”
“It won’t leave us alone,” I said.
“You have a very peculiar manner of approaching these things,” Michael said. Akshainie laughed.
“At any rate, I can’t do anything with this information right now. I’ll have to send it to Jackie and ask her to check the books at the house, and she won’t be up for a couple hours yet.”
“Very well. Father de Monte, you said sites like this would be used for summoning and binding?”
“That has been my, admittedly limited, experience so far,” Benedict answered.
“So there is some chance we have a great spirit locked away somewhere on this site?”
“Some chance, yes.” Benedict pointed toward the collapsed remains of a large archway. “My guess would be down there.” We all walked over to the archway, and then Michael asked me to step a bit further from him. He produced a bit of pelt from his pack, pressed it to the stone as he closed his eyes, and began speaking in Latin or something very close to Latin. When his eyes opened again, they were glowing, and he lifted his hand to reveal a little blue mole. Its eyes were also glowing, and it looked around briefly before slipping between the rubble and vanishing. We all stood in silence for a few minutes, until the mole emerged again. Michael’s eyes returned to normal and the mole vanished, the bit of pelt dropping back into his hand from where the creature had been.
“Well. There certainly is a chamber that looks to have been intended for that purpose,” he said, putting the fur away, “but whatever it was meant to house either never arrived or eventually escaped. But then, how is this site still active?”
“It’s likely part of a network,” I said. “They can’t exactly have one of these things in every town, right? They probably cycle power around, and sites that lose their power generator would still be on the grid.”
“Well. Unless anyone else has anything to note,” Michael said, walking back toward the entrance, “I suppose we should regroup at the estate and discuss what we know so far.” We all agreed and followed, the fire in the center of the room disappearing as I went to pass through it.
I was laying on the couch, finishing off a fifth of Jack and staring at the ceiling, when the phone rang.
“Yeah?” I said, then checked the screen, hit the answer button again, and repeated myself.
“Matteson.” It was Benedict. “Are you free this week?”
“Depends on what you need.”
“Are you drunk? You sound drunk.”
“I’m sober enough. What do you need, priest?” I heard him sigh.
“I have a case that I think could use your particular skills. But it’s in England.”
“What the hell makes you think I can just up and fly to England? I don’t, like, own a plane.”
“No, but our benefactor does. And he can pay for your services.”
“Did he say that?”
“Would I tell you there will be payment if that was not true?” I had no idea what he’d say. But, to his credit, he had never promised me money before.
“And when would I be needing to do this?”
“We would leave in two days. I’m told his plane is occupied with something else this evening.”
“Yes, well. Look, Matteson, it’s the Brood. I get the impression they’re active, and I need to make sure we have whatever tools we need to shut them down. Are you in?”
“Let me talk to my boss. Can I call you back at this number?”
He said that I could, so we ended the conversation and I lit a cigarette. And then I realized that I was probably going to be out of the country for Valentine’s Day, and here I just picked up a new girlfriend. I grumbled for a bit and rolled off the couch, went to wash my face, and then made some coffee. Once I’d downed that, I went for the phone. First, the boss. No use getting Alice mad at me for leaving and then find out I couldn’t even go.
31 December 2006
The music was throbbing through the whole house, Alice was having a great time meeting the rest of my friends and no one was walking on eggshells around me as if they were trying to avoid reminding me of my father, which was a nice change. Jackie’s theater people were here and pitching the idea that some improv show they apparently did the year before could be a tradition. The New Year’s Eve party was going really well, and I was glad for it, but I was outside with a beer and a smoke, leaning on the porch railing that Dad and I had built, staring up at the stars.
What a fucking year. It seemed like the whole thing had been overshadowed by Dad’s cancer and death. I could barely put half of what happened this year in order in my head, and I knew that part of it was simply the fact that I hadn’t even had time to process what happened with Lori, or Alethea, or whatever before I was dealing with Dad, and I wasn’t entirely sure now that I ever did process it. And now some goddess is on my ass? I’d’ve completely forgotten that bit if Jackie hadn’t reminded me. What kind of a mess has this year been, that something like that would seem like a minor issue? I heard the door open and glanced over to see Alice peeking out.
“You okay?” she asked.
“Do you need to do that alone?” I smiled to her.
“I’ll be back inside in just a minute.” She gave me a weak smile back, but went inside. I flicked the butt of my cigarette into the street and finished off my beer. Hey, whatever else happened, this year also brought me into contact with proper allies in Benedict and Akshainie, and helped me learn more about my power and what my dad was training me for, and now there’s Alice. I don’t know where that’s going, but it feels good so far. I looked up to the stars again. “Let’s do this,” I muttered, before heading back inside.
5 November 2006
I finally got around to the guest book from Dad’s funeral. I’ve always felt awkward about these things. I sign them when I go to funerals, of course, but I’m never sure why. Is it just a record of how many people bothered to show up? Am I supposed to take some comfort from it somehow? Is it more for them? I kinda always assumed other people knew why they were doing it, but it never seemed appropriate to ask. But now that I had one, I didn’t know what to do with it. I skimmed through the names and short messages, hoping I would get a sense of what everyone else thought it was for, when I noticed the one from Benedict.
“When you’re ready, call me,” it said. “We need to talk.” I decided that I might as well be ready, set the book aside, and stepped away to call him. I don’t know why I still do that. It’s not like I have roommates anymore, except Jackie, and she’s never going to give me weird looks for talking about spirits.
“Matteson,” he said, by way of a greeting. “I expected it to take you a little longer.”
“Is this a good time?” I asked.
“Might as well be. Sprichst du Deutsch?”
“Yeah. Dad was very keen on teaching me a few languages.” He continued in German, so I did the same, and it took me a minute to figure out why.
“Your father and I were working on a case. Well, I brought him a case, and he gave me the information I needed to move on it. He said something very interesting, though, and I need to know if he ever told you.”
“I will need you to be a bit more specific.”
“Did your father ever tell you that you do more than break magic?” I sat down, thinking about that for a moment.
“No. He did not. What do you mean?” I heard some conversation in the background, sounded probably English. It grew more distant, as if Benedict was slipping away from a group.
“If he took notes, they may be more” here he said a word I didn’t understand, and when I repeated it back as a question, he said, “ah…helpful, I suppose. Clear.”
“Like ‘enlightening?’” I asked, in English.
“Yes, much like that,” he continued in German. “But what I know of it is this: your power is not just a passive breaking of magic, or at least it does not have to be. I searched that town you told me about, in Ohio. What they were doing there is something you can do, maybe by nature, maybe with some work.”
“What is it?” I slipped back into German.
“He said it as ‘enforcing a version of reality,’” that last bit in English, “as if you set rules on spirits, or on the world of spirits. That town was…separated from the rest of the world of spirits. It was a dead zone, and they were trying to create a new form of spirit world there that they liked. We have been searching for others.”
“I will see if he left notes.”
“Good. I have to go. We should talk more about this.” I agreed, and then he was gone. I sat in the chair for a few moments, tapping the arm of it, before I finally got up and went to the basement. I dug around the books on the shelves, until I found one out of place. It was in with the texts in a language I hadn’t learned, so I had never looked there before, but it was definitely I English. I opened it to find that it was a text on how the worlds meet, and as I flipped through the pages a note fell out. I sat down and opened it.
“There is no doubt now that Johnny is a door between the worlds,” it said, in Dad’s handwriting. “The things he sees and knows line up with too much of this research. The question is whether he is an open door, or a closed one; if open, I must keep him away from these things for his own safety. But if closed, he may be exactly what can stop Jeremiah.” There were no other notes in the book, but I gathered that a ‘closed’ door must be what I turned out to be, given the way he didn’t try to keep me away from these things. I turned back to the beginning of the book and began reading.
The blog of John Matteson.