The initial strike wasn’t quite what we expected.
We were so used to the cult’s reliance on magic that we weren’t even thinking about the possibility of them using mundane means. Thankfully, between having noticed movement outside and Akshainie’s preternatural reflexes, she was in position to stop the first bullet from hitting the bishop.
“I need my armor!” she called as we all hit the floor, her arm bleeding where the shot had hit. I grabbed the bishop and shoved him out of the room. We ran down the hall and I heard shots begin and things in the kitchen breaking, hopeful most of that noise was Akshainie taking on her larger and more well-defended form. We made our way through the stone house, avoiding windows as much as possible, until we found a secure room to wait. I waited by the door, clenching my fists and trying to think through my options.
“That woman!” he cried, pacing behind me. “Oh God, she’s probably dead and they’re on their way to kill us…”
“She’s fine,” I said, “ Akshainie can handle her own. Now shut up before they find you.”
“You came to protect me, surely you have a gun or something?”
“I don’t carry a gun.”
“But you’re an American!”
“I’m a black American. I decided having a gun wasn’t worth the hassle of being seen with a gun.”
“Then what do we do?”
“What you do is shut up! Let me try something.” I closed my eyes and thought hard about what I’d learned concerning my relationship to the Metaphysical Realm. If what I actually did was set the rules in a given place, maybe I could use that somehow? I quickly considered and dismissed a handful of ideas before I settled on one that seemed worth a shot. I focused, I tried really hard to define my space, to make something specific true of the area that hadn’t been true a moment before.
“What the hell is this?” Kastor demanded. I opened my eyes and looked down at him.
“What worked?” the bishop asked. I held up a finger, telling him to wait, and he grunted and slumped into a chair.
“Did you summon me?” Kastor asked, hands on his hips. “I didn’t think you could do that!”
“I think I get to decide what I can do, within reason.”
“This isn’t within reason! I was with this dryad, Johnny, you never saw—”
“Listen, this is important!” I grabbed him by the shoulders and gave him a good shake. “There are cultists here trying to kill us and I’m not really armed to deal with them. Akshainie is out there alone right now. Can you get her some backup?”
“I don’t know! Whoever’s around, get them to help her stop the cultists!”
“Why would they do that?” he asked, pushing my hands off him.
“The cultists were corrupting the ley network.”
“Is that why it’s so…weird, right now? It feels like it got fucked up.”
“It’s…related to that. I’ll explain later. Can you do this, or not?”
“Yeah, yeah, let me see what I can do. But you owe me big for this!”
“Are you talking to yourself!?” the bishop demanded. Kastor and I both looked at him.
“Oh for crying out loud, look,” I said. I shifted the rules a bit, and soon the bishop jumped up from his seat.
“Is that a demon!?”
“I’m a faun,” Kastor answered, before turning to me again. “You can make people see me?”
“I think I know how you’re going to pay me back for this.”
“I’m not paying you back for shit if you don’t get moving!”
Kastor grumbled as he ran off, and I slumped against the wall and held my head. It was starting to throb, and I considered the possibility I had pushed too much too quickly. The bishop was praying under his breath and trying to control the look of shock on his face, but I decided it was best to leave him to it. Pretty soon I heard thunder, and screaming, and then the door flew open and Akshainie, covered in small wounds and fully in her naga form, shoved her upper body in.
“There you are!” She said. “Are you aware there’s a small army of weather spirits and some kind of goat man killing the cultists?”
“I’m aware I owe the goat man one hell of a favor,” I answered.
“And what are you!?” the bishop screamed. Akshainie and I both looked at him.
“Busy!” she yelled, before slipping back out of the room and rushing down the hall. There was a brief burst of gunshots, which were quickly silenced. I shrugged.
“She knows what she’s doing,” I said. “You should work on the way you introduce yourself to spirits.” He stared at me for a minute, then went back to praying as I closed the door.
29 May 2005
Lori had finally agreed to move back into her apartment when I offered to let her keep the key she'd been using. She chose a number of things to leave behind for when she was spending the night, and I helped her carry the rest of her stuff home this morning. I'd been home, staring at the tv with Rick, for about an hour when I decided to start putting things back to normal. There was food I would never eat to check on, supplies in the bathroom to find homes for, a room I needed to make sure was clear for Jackie, books I had rearranged to make room for-
"Rick?" I called, looking at the books. "Have you seen my books on possession?"
"Why the hell would I have seen your books on possession. Are they exciting?"
"I guess that depends on what you want out of them."
"That's a no, man. Just say no when people ask you something like that."
"They're all gone! The ones on possession, a couple on ghosts, one that wasn't really about either but had a relevant chapter, everything!"
"Are they important?"
"Well, they're mine. But also I figured I should brush up on the topic, you know, since Jackie is gonna wanna talk about it."
"Oh, right! Hey, weren't you doing some of that research at your dad's place? Maybe you left them there?" I had been carrying stuff back and forth, I had to admit to myself, and it wasn't a completely unreasonable suggestion.
"Yeah, alright. I guess I'll check there."
"Speaking of, how's Lori handling the idea of you living with a woman?"
"I haven't really mentioned it yet." I heard the tv turn off, and then Rick walked into the room.
"Run that one by me again."
"Well, she isn't living here, it was hardly her decision."
"Are you fucking kidding me? You invited some hot Latina chick-"
"I never said she was hot."
"You showed me pics from that Halloween party. And you invited her to live here, in your house, where you live, and it never occurred to you that your actual real-life girlfriend might like to know about that?"
"What's your issue here?"
"She...you...you're so dense sometimes! You spend too much time worrying about what dead people think about you and not enough dealing with the living ones! Look, she's gonna feel threatened, and she's gonna feel hurt when she finds out, and only you can stop this particular forest fire."
"He's right," Kastor said, sitting on my armchair. I pointed at him.
"You stay out of this!"
"Yeah!" Rick yelled to, what I assume to him was, an empty armchair. "Unless you're agreeing with me!" He turned to me. "Is it agreeing with me?"
"Is there any good way for me to answer this?"
"Probably not," they both said. I put my face in my hands for a moment, then looked between them.
"Okay, okay! I'll talk to her later. I just, you know, she was pretty occupied with everything going on, and Jackie isn't going to be here for a bit yet, I figured I had a little time to wait for an opening."
"Do what you want, man," Rick said, leaving the room, "just know none of us you leave behind can talk to you after she kills you."
"I can," Kastor said.
"Greeeaaaaat," I muttered as I returned to my work.
23 March 2005
"Why are we sitting in an Applebee's, anyway?" Kastor asked. He's a 4-foot tall faun that I met when I was a kid, and had never really been able to get out of my life since. He was sitting across from me in the booth while I waited for Lori to show up. I'd offered her a ride, but she said she had some other stuff to do first and would meet me here.
"Because white girls like Applebee's," I muttered, looking through the menu and trying not to draw attention to myself. Kastor hopped up and smelled the food as a waitress walked by, then scowled.
"I don't think I like Applebee's. Why don't you take me anywhere fun?"
"I don't take you anywhere at all. You just kinda show up."
"And it's a good thing I do! Where would you be without me?"
"I should be so lucky to find out." He gave a sarcastic laugh as I looked up and saw Lori checking with the hostess. I waved, and she started walking over. Kastor scampered over the table and sat down next to me. "Must you stay?" I hissed.
"And miss whatever this is?" I sighed, and then smiled as I got out of the booth to greet her. We were having a nice time talking and deciding what to order, and I found that Kastor was much more quiet than I expected. It was nice, made it easier to ignore him. She called me Matteson, and when I asked why she showed me that that's how she had listed me in her phone.
"Everyone knows a dozen Johns," she said, putting the phone away. "I think this makes you more distinct."
"I suppose I can take distinct," I chuckled. "Better than what some people call me."
When I slipped out to use the bathroom, he came with me. I glanced over at him as I entered the room, and noticed his eyes were darting around a lot and his ears were down like a frightened dog's. I looked around the bathroom to make sure we were alone, then made my way to the urinal.
"What's your issue, Kastor?"
"Her," he said, looking back as though she was going to come bursting through the door. "Something's off about her. Did you see the way she looked at me?"
"I have serious doubts she was looking at you. You know people like me are rare."
"I mean, sure, statistically, but there are an awful lot of humans out there..."
"So you don't like her because you think she gave you a weird look?" He sidled over to me, and leaned his back against mine. "That is incredibly uncomfortable while I'm doing this."
"So stop." I groaned and rolled my eyes. "But no, listen. Something is...off about her. You didn't notice?"
"I'll bite," I said, zipping my pants and flushing. I pushed him aside and went to the sink. "The ripples she leaves in the Realm are different than anyone else I've seen."
"Yes! Yes, that!"
"But so are everyone else's. It's almost like a signature." I started washing my hands. "The differences in hers are more pronounced than other people I know, but that's it. It's not like they read as inhuman."
"Well I don't think you should be dating her," he said, crossing his arms.
"I'm not taking dating advice from a faun." I turned off the water, grabbed some paper towels, and turned to face him while I dried my hands. "You lot are known for a very different romantic lifestyle than I'm interested in."
"You can't believe everything you hear about us!"
"So you don't go frolic with nymphs when you're not bugging me?" He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it and waved his hands around as he looked for the words. I raised an eyebrow at him.
"Okay! So you can believe some of what you hear about us. But don't go buying into stereotypes all willy-nilly on me!" he yelled, pointing.
"Noted. Look, I'm going back to my date. If you have a problem with her, just leave. We can talk later."
"I could introduce you to some of those nymphs, you know."
"Good night, Kastor," I said, before heading for the door and back to the table. He did not follow.
The blog of John Matteson.