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Johnathan Bailes is a writer from Georgia who runs a computer help desk for a major company. This story is the first chapter of a novel that he hopes a publisher will be interested in.

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Into the Fray

by Johnathan Bailes


     Reality is a load of shit.
     That is the thought that echoes in my head. Those are the words my uncle used to introduce to me to the world that dominates my existence. I am still barely awake rubbing the sleep from my eyes. The tattoo that is my talisman aches on my shoulder. It wants a piece of me. So, I sing a song in Latin to it. It's an old tune that Tacitus loved, back in the day. The words take simple shape in the air before me and the strength of the words gives the talisman the power. My body has it own demands and I crave caffeine and nicotine bad. I can almost taste the combination of the coffee and the cigarette now. As I sing, my cat comes up with a purr and a gentle bite that says feed me.
     So, I trek across my one room studio apartment, past the summoning circle and wards of protection, over to the kitchen and pour the little sucker something to eat. I had to have a familiar. What was I thinking then?
     I look up at myself covered in runes and my talisman glowing in the soft florescent light of the lamps. I look different.
     Today is the beginning. It has been five years since my uncle shattered my idea of the universe. I remember the first time I could walk through the crowd and spot all the vampires and werewolves. The first time I heard a ghost wailing in the attic of an old house. At fifteen I didn't believe in God. Now He is absolutely mandatory. It is like being blind most of your life and suddenly being able to see.
     But it is more than that. Some folks just got the Sight. They can hear and see things that other people cannot. I learned the old way. I speak the spells in holy Latin in a soft chant and the lines of probability shift around me. I ride the astral waves to Avalon where the fairies roam. The old boys call it the Art. They can call it what they want -- it's all just magic to me.
     There are basically three aspects to the working of magic. There is the internal Gift that allows a wizard to manipulate other energies around him or herself. This internal source of power varies from individual to individual. Some are very strong in this aspect and some make up for it in other aspects. Also this first aspect of spell casting dictates the kind of natural forces a wizard can manipulate. It is said that someone has a Gift for manipulating time and space or illusions or something else. It is very important in the development of a mage to figure out where your talent lies.
     Another part of the formula is the natural energies you manipulate. Some people can manipulate energy like electricity or radiation. Some wizards can manipulate more than one force like the biological and psychological through sheer force for the drawing out of thoughts. More or less, they hold sway over the mind. Then there is me. I warp the natural forces of luck or probability. There is also the discipline of astral projection through my gift of walking without moving. This is also the power that the wizard uses to help coax those natural forces into doing what you want.
     Finally, the last aspect is the ritual. The rituals and traditions are intertwined in the working of the magic, especially in the Western model. The actual spells are the tools that allow the natural Gift to take some physical shape. Some spells use vocalization and movements. Other spells need more formalized forms like the summoning circles and objects to use in the making of the magic. This is a way of talking about the universe in a language it cannot ignore. The part to remember is that without the actual gift the knowledge is useless. This is evident with modern day Wiccans casting spells that have no effect beyond the psyche of the people that believe. Also, there are those with the Gift that have never been Awakened to their own potential who live their lives oblivious of their possibility.
     Everyone has the potential to see and channel the power. The thing is there are only a few that were truly made for it. That is where the Gift comes in. My family was always part of that select bunch. Some people are born to be bad. Hell, I was born weird. The Awakening is a very important ritual where a young wizard is introduced to the world of magic and the workers of magic, the mages. My uncle gave me a choice that day. I could sit on the sidelines like him, watching the world shape up and smile. I could ignore the weirdness and try to live like a Norm and marry some Norma and get a job and be boring and die. Or I could be a player.
     That was the choice I made. After couple of years of college, I knew. I was going nuts. I had to get into the shit. After all, it was 1999. The end of a thousand years always fucks the magic up. Something always happens. The contract of God changes hands. The vampires war. The werewolves go on killing sprees that last for years. The demons get pissed and heaven and hell always erupt. How could anyone pass up on that?
     I wanted in. I wanted to fight the good fight. There aren't many of us left that give a damn about the regular folks. Someone has to have the balls. It isn't like I have any ideals that are worth verbalizing. It just seemed like it's the thing to do and that is enough.
     My dad died putting up the good fight in the last Mage wars on the West Coast. The scene went down in LA and the media called it the riots, but then again they never could get that stuff right. He died saving the life of one kid. A little punk who could grow up to be nothing or, maybe, something. Who knows? His death was quick, at least, or so they say. I hope that when I go, I go that way.
     I am standing in my underwear with a cup of coffee in my hands thinking about all this and am still amazed by my reflection. What the hell was it that made me different? I am the same skinny little brown-haired Irish fuck I always was. But my cat sniffs me as if I'm a stranger. I still have the hungry look in my eye. I am still wanting in.
     Yet even as the water runs over me in the shower and the talisman's hum of energy wanes, something is strange. Even as I shave my face around my goatee and put on my old faded Levi jeans, something was out of place. I put on the old plain white T-shirt and brush my unilength brown hair that sits right above my shoulders. Then I throw on a black overcoat making sure to have my .45 and thinking to put my shotgun and bulletproof vest in the trunk. That was something I had never done before. Maybe it's the Sight working overtime. Maybe I just wanted something to happen so badly.
     I go back up and sit, waiting. Its noon and I just got up and the sun is reaching high in the Hotlanta sky. I just stare down on Euclid Avenue and think. I think about the punks shivering like little fucked-up leaves as they play hacky sack with the Melvins pumping loud out of that little box behind them. A couple of Rasta boys got the drum circle going in the background and the punks look a little annoyed. A couple of hippies sit on the other side of the tiny public circle and smoke shit and talk as the power lines above droop and swing under the weight of a pair of tennis shoes hanging by the tied strings. I take it all in. This is Little Five where my uncle has his antique shop. This is my neighborhood. My name is Finn. This is not my real name because true names have power. I am a wizard. I walk the crooked path condemned by God. I work the forbidden art. I am a Mage.
     The morning is a little chilly in January but it's not really cold. This is Atlanta after all. It ain't allowed. The sun hits just so that the rays stream over my face and through my sliding glass window onto my cat who knew that was going to happen somehow. The wind tickles my face as soon as the sun warms it so I take a sip of some Kenyan AA from Tete-a-Tete cafe. The coffee brew has this wine like acidic taste that makes me smile and I suck a little from the cigarette hanging between my fingertips. The smoke fills the air with a slight stench and the gravel hits the back of my throat and floats effortlessly into my lungs. It fits my mood.
     I can hardly believe that in a just a few hours I'll be in. It's hard enough to believe, but it was a Norm with a taste of the bizarre that was going to get me in. The deal is that a friend of mine, Chris, plays in a band. To tell the truth, the group was average enough. The sound was alternative with just enough punk to get the pre-pubescent boys pumped up to mosh. They sounded like a thousand other bands.
     The difference was that they come from nowhere to having an almost cult like following and getting some awesome reviews at their shows. Hell, it even looked like the dumb fucks might make it. That is when I get this note from Mike, the bike messenger, to call Chris at two in the morning. That is when Chris tells me their drummer just got gut shot. He tells me that he is in deep with a mystic edge and needs some help. He says he used this thing he found to sway the crowds. He said it made him a star and brought him luck. Yet it was also too much trouble than it was worth. So I tell him to meet me at the Neighbor's pub on Highland about nine, right before the crowd hits. I told the boy I would take care of him. Then I made some calls for help on my own.
     The hours dripped by slow and it was hard for me to concentrate. I think about Avalon, where the legends went after the Inquisitions both Catholic and Protestant in outlook. The church was stupid to think that they could be the only source of mystery and awe in the world. The funny thing is that it backfired. Without the constant contact with the miraculous, the people's faith in God began to fade. Science is no replacement for the sights there. The power wells up in me and I let it flow out it flying rivulets of luck.
     I meditate, letting the energy out and then in, like breaths of air in reverse. I dream of the Misty Mountains and the pixies, and I sit feeling the crisp electric flow of power. There are two sides to my power. I can walk without moving to places that others can't see like Fairyland. Then there is the manipulation of the lines of probability or luck. The lines contain the percentages or possibilities of all the different events in a person's life. My spells are hexes and charms, and there has to be a way for me to visualize what I am manipulating. Therefore, I touch the numbers and I can see the formulas that dictate luck in people's lives.
     I see chance flow about me. I see the numbers and percentages that control fate. Percentages drift and circle us. I call them the lines of probability, but labels don't really matter. The figures spiral about me, spinning and descending and rising again. It is beautiful in a way that is entirely impossible to explain to someone has never seen it for themselves. I can touch the formulas that control the random events in life. No matter what the event, there is a percentage chance that event will or will not happen. This is my domain of control. I am a walker that does not move. I travel the lines. I coax luck in an entirely unpredictable fashion. I lower the chances, but I don't control the lines. I just warp them about. I gather up the luck and I gobble the numbers floating about like a maniac account. I feel the flow of the lines about me and let the karma flow back inside me. I get up refreshed. Its only a five minute drive to Virginia-Highlands from where I live and I already feel edgy and nervous again. I have a knot in my gut and my throat feels dry. I check the gun at my side and contemplate pulling in somewhere and slipping on the bulletproof vest. I push aside the thought, because the parking lot of the Neighbor's Pub is just a quick turn away.
     The Highlands are different from Little Five completely. There are more houses and apartments and it has a more casual lived in feel, if you will. The crowds are just a little older and yet they all look like they just got out of college yesterday. Here it is impossible to just walk over the place in thirty or so minutes, because the stores are spread apart with so many houses in between. Here you go to find a place to sit and talk, instead of wandering just to hangout. Jazz slides smooth and floats in the air from an old black man's horn and I understand why a lot of the young workers of the Art like to live here.
     As I get out of the car Gordy and Jess walked up. I can't call them my backup because I've hung with them before. It might be my friend who is in trouble, but it was always Gordy's show. He walked across the lot with a Camel hanging from his lips peeking up from that screwed up Eastwood spaghetti western hat he had on. The Leather duster covered him and the Double Eagle Colt .45 underneath. His boots made a grating clank across the cement. He looks like a blond metal-head Texan with the long hair and the short beard. He has the Voice. He is a straightforward, no ritual, and no bullshit, Jedi-mind fuck mage with a touch of illusion for show and a rep as long as your arm. He had been mixed up in the Werewolf trouble in Dallas where he grew up. The guy had pissed off the ArchMage in Los Angeles. He had even posed as a stage magician on the David Letterman show in New York. "Hide in plain sight boy. It's the best way," he always used to say.
     He seemed to have the inherent ability to keep the right friends and get all the credit and infamy that went along with their actions. It seems like a nice little skill until you're the one they come after with a big fat hate-on. He was a good guy and great to have in a fight. He was always flamboyant. He always got shot at first.
     Walking beside Gordy was Jess. He was probably one of the most ordinary looking slack-asses in all of creation. He had on a plain tan trench coat that covered a dirty worn T-shirt, and old jeans that came to the tips of his cheap Converse hightop tennis shoes. If you passed him on the street, you would leave with the impression of an alternative schmuck who is young and too skinny for mere words. He wasn't nasty, let me tell you. He bathed and groomed himself you know. The deal is that he always looked a little unkempt. His hair was that short Caesar look and he always kept about two days of stubby growth on his face. It was like he just didn't give a damn. One could hear it even in his voice and his talks with that too slow French Cajun twang.
     The really out there part was his powers were opposite of his personality in a way. He manipulated energies. I have seen him do the telekinesis shit with coffee mugs and stuff. One always thinks of the hot heads and the flashy bastard with those kinds of powers, but he was as laid back as one could get without falling into a coma. Gordy always told me not to let that fool me because he was vicious in a fight, but I just couldn't even imagine.
     We walked into the Neighbor's Pub smiling at the barkeep as we pass by. He just pointed us past the jukebox to the middle space next to the hall. The whole place is done up in light colored wood and has a nice open feel with the bar running the entire length of one side of the Pub. There are two sets of booths, one in the middle of the room and one along one side. The outside patio is the main gathering place in the spring or summer though, and that is when the place really prospered. However, right near the back to one side of the hall that led to the bathrooms was one little side room. It was dark and had two couches and a coffee table in the middle. That was where we were going. We sat down to wait for a second.
     "Mon ami, he straight up?" Jess started, very unlike of him.
     "Yeah, he don't know what the hell he's doing but he's okay."
     "Well, do you know what kind of trouble he's mixed up in?" Gordy asked.
     "If I knew that, you'd already know. I ain't so paranoid as to not tell ya' the deal over the phone."
     "Alright then, I'll give ya' a bit of advice. Keep wary. He got some kind of trouble and he hopes to dump it on us."
     That is when Chris comes walking up, and the boy looked bad. He was far too skinny for starts, and his skin had a hue of gray to it. His eyes were glazed like Junkie-vile big time. His arms had no tracks, but the skin around his eyes was sunken and dark. His jeans were a size or two too large and his hair was fucked up as bad as Jess's. He came and sat down on the couch across from me and said, "Lord Finn, it has been awhile mutha fucker."
     "Yeah Chris, far too freakin' long man. This is Gordy and Jess, by the way. They know a lot about these sort of things."
     For a second, I thought that Gordy was going to let this be my show, but, of course, he had to take control.
     "So, Finn told us that you are having a bit of trouble. What's going on and what do you want us to do about it?"
     "Well, you see." he starts to look a little fidgety at this point like an addict that needs a fix bad and who is getting more than a little paranoid about it.
     "We found this thing and it seemed to give us a lot of luck. I used this spell I learned when I was into the mystic, but now some people want this thing and I need to get rid of it. I just want to get rid of it."
     Gordy interrupts him, "Who wants it? What is it that you are talking about?"
     He reaches into a bag he brought with him and pulls out a small intricate bust of some old Polynesian looking god. The thing seems to be carved from a white rock, but it wasn't like anything I had ever seen before. Having the Sight has its disadvantages and this was one of those moments where that is apparent. The glow or aura about this thing was absolutely blinding. Gordy, Jess, and I recoiled instantly, and Jess even covered his eyes. The power given off by this thing was pure magic, the old kind. It was raw and potent and overwhelming. Jess could not even help himself, he screeched, "Put that fuckin' thang away!"
     This tripped Chris out. He put it in the bag all nervous like and just sat there dumbfounded. Gordy was in no mood to play at this point
     "Where the fuck did you get that? Do you have any clue what that is?"
     "I can't say where I got it, but no I haven't got a clue, that's why I came to you guys. Robert has already been shot for this and I could be next. We used it to sway the crowd. I was manipulating them using the spell I found back in the old days with Finn. It has brought us a lot of luck, but its trouble isn't it?" I blurt out, "I can't believe you used a god-totem to be a rock star. Jesus-fuckin' Christ boy!" Jess had to respond, "Yeah, it is a totem of some ass-ancient deity. It ain't gonna give you no luck boy, just suffering'."
     "Then you guys will take it off my hands?"
     "Sure," Gordy says smiling, "for a price I'll do just about anything guy. What you got? It sounds like you in a lot of trouble, and were the only souls around that can get your butt out of it."
     I hadn't even thought about this. Chris wasn't a good friend, but I had not even thought about making him pay for help. The worse part is he looks at me for backup. I just couldn't do it. Gordy and Jess had stood beside me through some deep shit, and I know they got to live. This is their bread and butter. If they don't get something for this, they don't eat tomorrow. I swallow my urge to reach out and protest. Chris looked deflated and hurt
     "I can get ten thousand quick. Is that enough?"
     "For each of us it is," Gordy responds with a cold bartering tone that bothers me more than a little bit
     "I can do it, but I'll have to make a call," he reaches into the bag and realizes what he is looking for is not there, "I got to get my cellular phone man. I'll be right back."
     He gets up and starts out of the bar. Gordy looks at him start out with a funny look in his eyes and as soon as he is out of ear-shot says, "Finn I ain't got to tell Jess this, but you new man. When he comes back, if he does, be ready. He knows how much that totem has fucked with him, but it won't be easy for him to give it up."
     "Yeah, you see how bad he looks," Jess says in addition, "He might not realize it, but he needs that bad. It got a lock on him tight. He hooked on it."
     That is when we heard the shots. If you live in any big city long enough, you are going to eventually hear that sound. All you got to do is get off in a place no self-respecting piece of white bread should be and drive. In time, you will hear the sound. It is gunfire. We start to rush full blast out of the place. Gordy and I are pulling out .45s and Jess is going for his pair of Glock 9mms. When we make it past the people all dodging for cover and get through the doors, Chris is already laying on the cement, shot. His blood is pooling about him and his chest is just a mess.
     The guys that shot Chris are all piling into a beat-up rental van. They look like minor hood types. They are dressed in black suits with sunglasses on in the middle of the night. Gordy peels off a shot at one hood, and I see a man shot before my eyes. I am holding one friend dying in my arms as another friend kills someone. I sat in the sidewalk covered in the blood of an old friend, looking out on my closest friend's fight with lethal force for vengeance and survival. The hood that Gordy shot clutches his side through his suit and falls like a cowboy out of an old movie. Then from the other side of the van, a man with a shotgun begins to fire at Gordy. Still, Gordy is no fool. Like I said, he knows the art of illusion and the car he is using for cover is riddled with the shots meant for him, as he ducks down. Jess fires back, but from his angle just couldn't get a clear shot at the man.
     I am still holding Chris at this point. I have my arm beneath his head and I can sense that he can't wait and he won't make it. We weren't the closest of friend's mind you, but I knew him. I knew him well. Hell, I had met his mom. I have seen him go through tough times playing around, and I know almost all his likes and dislikes. I hold him to my chest there in the street with bullets flying about me. I will not move. I keep telling myself this as I feel his spirit growing lighter in each growing second. His eyes are still open and he tries to speak but can't. He just gurgles out a bit of blood and fights. I promise him in a low whisper that he won't die alone.
     The men that shot Chris finally get in the van and begin to drive off. Gordy stands up and screams to Jess, "Do something! Fuckin' stop them!"
     Jess stands up from behind the car that he was using for cover, and drops his Glocks on the top of the trunk. He stretches out his hands in front of him, and through the thin air, someone with the Sight could almost see how he was grabbing the energy between the van and himself. All the time, he is muttering' his spell in archaic Cajun French, slow and deliberate. It sounds like a ballad passing through the war torn air about us. He closes his hands into fists and jerks his arms back towards his body. With that action, the whole back axle of the van rips off from the vehicle. Then it bounces down the other end of the street. The front end of the van lurches forward and then the back end pops down against the cement with a crash of metal and sparks as it drags for a few more feet. Even from our position, you could see the driver go hurtling through the front window and hit the ground with a splat. He did not move, ever. I couldn't believe it. I couldn't help but drop my jaw in awe. This skinny little slacker snot just ripped the back end off a van. Jess looks drained, like he was gonna pass out for a second, and then just turns and grins a little smart-ass grin at me.
     This is when we realize the guys coming after Chris were pros. The back doors of the van open up and two disheveled looking schmucks with Uzis stand abreast of each other and start laying down interlocking lines of fire that send Gordy and Jess scrambling. The guy on the passenger side of the cab jumps out as a car in front of him swerves to miss the still moving axle. That scumbag calmly but surely raises his pistol and fires at close range into the driver side window of the car. The window shatters and blood sprays everywhere. The man calmly opens up the car, dumps the body out falling limp against the road, and gets in. Two other guys from the back of the van get in and the two guys with Uzis back up nice and slow jumping in quick and firing out the window as they drive off.
     Through it all, I just sit there holding my friend, feeling each breath become lighter and more labored. I calmly recite a poem of luck underneath my breath and coax my talisman for extra strength to give it punch. It ain't a formal charm but it works. I see the gray marks that the bullets make as they skip and ricochet against the concrete. I hear the sounds of the same bullets squeaking through the air with a high shrill voice about me. I even hear the poor guy behind us going for his car. He gets snagged in the leg. Only one other person not involved was hit by the wanton gunfire, but that did not make me feel better. She was hit in the head. She never knew anything else. She didn't feel a thing. She just stopped, literally right there. There was no more existence. Just like Chris, who isn't holding out another second. There are no dramatic gasps or famous last words. I just simply felt him fade. One minute he was struggling and then he couldn't. Death was before me today, like the blood on my shirt, the pale shock in my face. Death was before me in the five people here that would never get up again. Death was before me in my friends that reacted to violence by killing two men in return. This is what it means when the others talk about being in the game? Is this what the old guys talk about when they swap spells at my Uncle's little shop? This isn't adventure. This is a fucking bloodbath.
     The young beat cop that ran from around the corner with his gun drawn freaks at the sight. His face contorts and the horror is gripping. I know how he feels, but Gordy intercepts him. He just looks at the young man and says four things. He uses the Voice that compels through the sheer strength of the acoustic tones. He reaches out with these tones to the young man's mind. Gordy needs no ritualized spell. All he needs is the Voice.
     "Calm down. Take control of the situation. The three of us are all just innocent bystanders. We can go."
     The young cop did calm down. He did take masterful control of the horrid situation and, of course, he did let us go. Jess was over at the van looking through the wreck while Gordy was doing this. He comes walking back with some documents stuffed in his fist. Gordy is the one that pulls me up from my dead friend. We go to my little Saturn and I just sit.
     I just sit there in the driver's seat dripping Chris's blood all over my car. Gordy isn't very soothing either about it
     "Listen, I am going easy on you since this your first time out. But sometime or another you gonna have to drive. I know you just seen a friend die and this is your first fire fight. However, boy, this is your life now. So, you better get use to it."
     "I don't know about that, man. I can't take this. This ain't what I thought it would be."
     "I don't care what you think when you start out. It ain't ever like you think it will be. Mon Dieu," Jess interjects
     "It ain't like you can really walk away now. You can try but the weirdness will just follow you. Didn't your uncle tell you this shit?" Gordy asks
     "Yeah, I just never believed him. Oh, my fuckin' god, I just watched my best friend waste someone and I had another friend die in my arms. Oh..My...Fuckin'....GOD."
     "He's gonna freak, Gordy."
     "He already has and that's normal. The boy is pale as a sheet and covered in blood so red. He gonna be freaking. He just has to remember everything he saw today. He got a choice. He can go home, whack off and stay freaked out for the rest of his days, or he can get his little piece of holy vengeance. You gonna let all that blood go to waste, Finn?"
     "Gordy's right, boy. You got a choice."
     I think about it for a second. I look down at the blood and something deep inside changes and hardens up. Tears are sucked up and I think about the men that killed Chris for nothing more than profit and power. Holy vengeance is what Gordy called it and maybe that is what I need. The totem can't go sliding into another novice's hands, but that has nothing really to do with it at this point. Something in my heart grows cold and vicious and I drive. I listen to Jess explain where the hoods got the rental van and we go there. My life changed at that very point. I realized that life and death is the game no matter what side you are on.
     I can almost understand why some wizards make such stupid choices. After all, when you see people dying all around you, it must pretty easy to go over to the side of a petty demon or become a megalomaniac damned and determined to crush everyone around you. It must also be damn easy, if your a good soul at heart, to kick ass for the Lord never once questioning why something all-powerful would need you to fight for him. I hang with those that make the tough choice. They fight for themselves and what they see as right.
     They haven't got any money in their pocket right now, and they could have easy dropped the whole thing. Yet that isn't their way. They will follow the totem till they get the guys that killed Chris and make sure that old piece of raw magic is in safe hands. They don't try to put in words why they do this shit. They just do. Not because they are forced to, but because they think it is the right thing to do.
     They never even stop or hesitate. The people caught in the crossfire are unfortunate to them. Yet they are not enough to stop them. That is what worries me. Isn't too early to know the end will justify the means? A cop wouldn't stop and not arrest a criminal on the outside chance that the guy will pull a gun and waste a bystander. Gordy and Jess were not fanatics ready to kill anyone that doesn't believe in morality the way they do. Gordy and Jess were not oblivious to the innocents. I would find that out later. Right now, I was just worried.
     We stopped at a little square stone building right off of Eighth Street. That is when I put on my bulletproof vest and tuck my shotgun under my vest tight. It was a one-story place encircled by a fence topped with razor wire and the one entrance had a big ass lock. This didn't keep our attention long though. The little aluminum building in the back had lights on. I grabbed the box my Uncle gave me at this point from out of my coat where I always keep it. I remember the things he taught me about the magic. There is a trick to traveling without actually moving.
     The key is the drawer inside you, like my uncle taught me. It is not about finding the key to the door of traveling, no. It is simpler than that. It is more difficult than that. You have to dismantle the door handle and put the parts inside the drawer. Then you say some words, make a sign and then open up the door. The drawer can't tell you more than how to deal with the door, but it doesn't matter. The door is there as I take out the box that acts in proxy of my drawer. The words and sign flows as I think about not being here and see the dismantled door fly open.
     Inside the aluminum building I am there, and I am outside, and I see the hoods that left in the car. In a moment my spirit returns to the body, we are ready to get past the gate and face them.
     "They are in there," I say.
     "Then all we have to worry about is the gate," Gordy remarks.
     Jess starts to push the gate in. I stop him. I feel on a roll. The gate is locked with a large padlock. The chance that the lock would simply fly open is small, but I touch the percentages circling it and I warp the numbers. It sends them spiraling into a free-fall and I smile. With a click and a clunk, the lock drops to the ground. The Latin on my lips flows for a second longer to put the numbers right before we continue.
     "Okay, guys. I'll handle the greeting," Gordy says walking ahead of us up to the door of the little aluminum building. He swaggers up with his gun out. I raise my shotgun from the trunk of my car and feel the bulletproof vest beneath my shirt. It was the Sight working overtime after all. A grin plastered on his face, Jess uses his telekinesis to rise in the air before us, up above the roof, right over the door. I still had no clue what Gordy would do next. To my utter surprise he politely knocks on the door.
     "Hey muther-fuckers let me in," Gordy says.
     A voice comes from the inside, "Who the hell is that?"
     "It's me bitch. I said open up the door."
     "Me, dammit. You better open up this door or you'll be sorry."
     That is when Gordy moves casually to the side of the door. Then bullets come in a vicious barrage through the cheap metal door. Gordy just smiles at me, "I knew they would do that."
     The door drops off its hinges but I am over to one side so I can't see in. I hear a voice on the other side say, "Ralph go out there and see what we splatted."
     A big guy with a baseball bat comes roaring out the door and turns to face Gordy. He doesn't even flinch. He raises the bat as I raise my shotgun and Jess above raises his pistols. However, we both are worried about possibly shooting Gordy so we pause. Gordy just asks him a question, "Doesn't your life suck?"
     The voice is strong and clear. The big guy just stops cold in his tracks and looks puzzled for a second with that big bat in his hand. For a second, we aren't sure if it took. Then this huge mammoth individual breaks down and starts weeping like a baby. That is when we hear another voice from the building.
     "What the hell is going on out there?"
     Then we see a young man come out with a gun drawn. I have a spell already going for him. The chance that a perfectly healthy man would lose full control of bodily functions is minuscule. For me, that does not matter. I am already coaxing the numbers and twisting the lines of probability around him in pretzel-like knots. The words take shape outside me and the spell is a curse older than Jesus or the empire that threatened him. The Latin drifts about in the air; the words trap him. He collapses on the ground. The man shits, pisses, pukes and sneezes all at the same time, and he can't stop. There is body fluids coming out of every orifice. It isn't a pretty sight, but it isn't supposed to be. He can't even stop long enough to scream.
     The last two thugs with Uzis come out firing. Once again, Gordy is no man's fool. They riddle the big guy's body with bullets as he stands there and sobs over his fucked up life. Gordy just stands calm as hell bigger than shit to one side lighting a cigarette calmly. The illusion works like a charm as Jess up above shoots with two 9mms. One of the men finds his neck has just exploded at the same time that he takes another slug to the chest that blankets out in tapestry of red. The other man turns and points his weapon upward in a smooth flawless motion. Jess doesn't have a chance. I, however, will not let this happen.
     This is the first time I have ever killed a man. There wasn't much of a choice, but that didn't make it easier. It isn't like you hear in the movies. It wasn't a blur and did not happen in slow motion. It was strange and horrible. I knew exactly what I was doing. My shotgun was already raised. I just squeezed the trigger nice and slow. By the way, it happened in real time. I remember everything including the way the man's side exploded in a field of deep blackened red as the shot ripped into him, the impact taking him off his feet sending him to ground with a wet thud. I was absolutely amazed at how easy it is to kill another human being. It was not difficult at all. The frightening part is all I had to do is raise my arm and squeeze the trigger. I know why there is so much death in the world today. We have made it far too easy.
     At that moment, Gordy is standing over the big guy's corpse shaking his head. "Poor bastard, I told you that you should have let me in." He takes a puff of his cigarette as I reach into my overcoat for my Camels to light one of my own. My hands are shaking at this point as Jess floats to the ground behind me. Gordy walks up to the one thug left living on the ground before him, dry-heaving and hacking.
     "Damn, boy. You a mess," he says looking down at the guy. Then he looks at me and says, "He is in too much pain for the voice. I don't trust it to make it through that kind of agony. So, I am going to ask him directly," he turn back to the thug on the ground squirming. "Where is the totem?"
     The thug tries to bargain, "Stop it and I'll tell you...BlAAW!" as he tries to puke
     "You got it backwards ass boy," Gordy replies, "You tell us and then we'll make it stop," it is a lie since Gordy knows I can't reverse a curse in progress like that
     "O...ahhh...K. It's a guy named Brodin. He said he wanted it. We got it and he picked it up. He paid us one hundred thousand for the thing. It's all I know."
     Gordy comes over to me at this point, "I think he is telling the truth but I might be able to scare some details out of him."
     He walks over to the guy. When he does, he drags out of his own mind the most horrid vision of hell he can conjure and delivers it onto the thug. The illusion is gripping. The world about us turns into a post-apocalyptic hell scene. The sky turns red and the concrete spurts lava in places and the clouds turn black. Demons, horrific shaped, like members of the man's own family, rise out of the ground to grapple him. He screams louder than I have ever heard before, especially as the vision of a deformed mother figure grabs his leg. She rises up slightly with eyes full of puss and piss, and spurts come-sticky pink and purple puke on the man staring at him with misshapen head and black burnt features. That is when his eyes roll back in his head and his whole body goes limp.
     "Damn, he blew a lugnut," Gordy says cursing other things beneath his breath.
     Jess disgusted says, "Damn man, you fucked his world up," and then proceeds into the building.
     "We aren't going to just leave him here, are we," I ask.
     "Hell no. I ain't going to let him stay like this either. The boy hasn't got no life except as a vegetable. There is only one thing to do," he starts to take out his gun.
     "You're going to kill him?"
     "Would you leave him? Look with the Sight boy. He is already gone. Should I keep him here just to live on a slab in some hospital ward? I ain't no Doctor Death, bitch. But, I was raised better than that."
     His hands shake just a little as he grabs the guy by the hair of his head to lift him toward the barrel of the gun. One thing struck me hard though as he squeezed the trigger. I turned away and he did not. He did not have to. I hear the cold wet sound of his head hitting the ground. I hear Gordy as he sighs. His breath is heavy, showing his burden as he killed a man not in self-defense, but out of pity for a lost life that he himself caused. I get the feeling this is not the first hard decision he has had to make like this. I know it will not be his last.
     Jess contrasts this with a squeal of delight. It catches me off guard as he proclaims loudly, "Muther-Fuckers we have hit the jackpot!"
     Gordy and I turn to see Jess in the little aluminum building with fists full of money. He has a grin on his face that reaches ear to ear. The man that just died before us said they were paid one hundred thousand dollars to heist this totem. It was all there on the table they were gathered around when I looked in on them, except ten thousand dollars. Gordy couldn't muster a smile.
     "Let's get the fuck out of here," he said.
     We piled into my little Saturn as Jess counted the money. Gordy brightened up some at that point. I was still haunted by the whole experience. The shock really hadn't worn off. Then a thought hit me. We still didn't have the totem. We all knew what that meant.
     That totem was a direct link to that ancient Polynesian deity. Anybody that had the figure and knew the right spell could try to call the deity down and try to control its power. The problem is that no mage would ever really be able to do it. The deity would be pissed and out of place and definitely in no mood to play. It would be a holocaust in the streets as this thing threw a massive hissy. After all, this isn't its land or its people. Its focus of power had been kidnapped and transported somewhere else. An ass-ancient deity as Jess put it, this great big ticked off Tiki god, would kick ass all over Atlanta. We couldn't let it happen. Gordy must have been zoning in on my frame of thought because he says, "We have a name and there is one person that knows all the major players around."
     "Who the hell is that?" Jess asks peeking up from behind a wall of green bills.
     "Uncle Brent," I answer turning the car towards home.
     Like every Friday night about this time, Uncle Brent and a couple of his buddies were sitting in the store in my Uncles attached apartment drinking and playing cards and talking about the old days. We walk through the store filled with antiques and odd objects of limited magical worth. The smell of old things like the odd mix of mothballs and history fill the air. There is something inherently warm about the room with its clutter and dark wood. He deals in two things, antiques and magic items. He trades and barters and makes a fair living. This is his place filled with relics of other times. Each has its worth of the moment tattooed across it in the form of a tag. Two dollars or thirteen, the price, the value is right there for all to see. It is obvious and subtle because you never really know if you're being taken. The worth is right there, but are the tags right? What is the worth of old things after all?
     After I go and change clothes and get the blood of me we go over to my Uncle's place. His two-room apartment is sparsely decorated. The main room is decorated in prints from old '40s movies and artists from Picasso to Klimt to Chagall. There is always the Chagall. There is something so very feminine about the work in the soft swirl of light colors, but at the same time harsh, vicious and masculine. My uncle can never escape his Chagall. The pictures are all just prints but the frames add the touch of grace that lets the whole room flow well. He sits there in the dimly lit place drinking with two old buds.
     One is Colonel Stone. He looks like an old Civil War general from the history books. His gray suit is topped off with black boots. His white beard flows around a pale lined face that has always looked the same. He isn't natural at all. He even always wears the same gray suits and wears his hair the same way. His skin tone matches the suit, a pale gray. His eyes are a constant blood red, spooky. The long beard and the frazzled hairdo always made me think of a more dignified Colonel Sanders. He is gruff and different from my uncle and the rest of his friends. He is more ruthless than either of them, but not unfeeling. The word is brutal. He is more brutal and cold. Cold as if the blood running through his veins were not his own. Cold like an undead thing. The strange part is he could also be charming. There is something suave about the old guy like he has seen everything there was to see, twice. There is a knowing quality that is uneasy and appealing all at once.
     Timothy is a bit older, like my uncle, with a knowing smile and a fresh story of the old days for any time we meet. He has on a much brighter blue suit that fits his brighter outlook and tone. He has the wisdom and was more active than Uncle. He fought the fight for awhile and retired hard. There are a lot of stories circulating around the different mystic circles about the man. The guy is basically a celebrity among the younger neophytes in the Art. Of course, he doesn't give a whit about all that. He is much too relaxed and unassuming for all the idea of being popular. In a world of grandstanders, that made him an even bigger man in the young folk's sights. They talk about him and all the things that he did, like fighting ghosts and demons. Most of it is pure bullshit, but that is okay. Perception is much more important than reality. They say he came to Atlanta to retire. I know the truth. He saw most everyone he cared about killed in the Mage wars, and it nearly killed him. I saw him as he came to my Uncle after years of self-imposed exile. He went through hell. It doesn't get to him on the outside, though. He still wears a smile like a badge of honor for his pain. He has turned it all, the fame and heartache, into a mission of sorts. He has become something of a guru, a leader, and a wise man to the rank and file of those gifted in the Art. He is the philosopher that the others follow two or three at a time down Highland Avenue.
     My Uncle has the gray hair and a bit of bulge about the waist, but his arms still have strength enough to lift boxes that make me sweat and strain. Every line is a bit of wisdom about the Art of the game and I am always amazed by the fact he never became a player. He was always the man on the side. He could give you information. He could lend you just the thing you needed for the situation. Yet, the man never stood knee deep in the shit. Sure, he has been attacked and had to defend himself. That isn't the same. To be frank, guys like Gordy and Jess go looking for trouble everyday. The idea wouldn't even pass through Uncle Brent's mind. He is standing there in front of me in baggy khakis and an old-ass arrow button down. He is the ultimate portrait of a man of his times right down to his old Florsheims that suddenly become casual shoes when they are too worn to wear out on "occasions." I admit a bit of that has even rubbed off on me. After all, in my mind, real men wear Brook Brothers and Hart, Schafner and Mark's suits. Actors, fakers and drug dealers wear Armani. I know that Gangsters wore Brook Brother's suits. However, I would much rather look like a gangster than a drug dealer any day. He looks up from the plain round wooden table and says, "Well, son. What you need?" Gordy replies smiling, "I tell you what I need Brent...a beer."
     "I always got your favorite right there in the fridge," I know, by the way, that he has no beer in the fridge, but by the time Gordy opens the door to the Fridge the beer is there.
     "Thanks, man."
     Jess looks a little nervous and stays quiet looking at Stone like he has the plague. I always thought Stone was weird to mind you but he was being downright impolite.
     I answer my Uncle that, "We got a problem." That is the way I start as I explain the situation and what has happened so far. My Uncle smiles a big shit-eating grin at me and states, "Well, you got in the tough way boy. I know Brodin. Hell, he should have been here tonight. It sounds like the old boy been busy."
     "Why the hell would he want that thing?" Jess asks as Gordy sucks down an IceHouse in the background.
     Timothy answers calmly, "It's the ArchMage boy. He got plans on Atlanta. He ain't happy with just the West Coast and he wants a way in on this side of the continent. Brodin been complaining that Horus, mister big of the Cabal, is sitting on his ass about this and he was going to have to do something about the situation."
     The ArchMage is the top wizard on the West Coast. I mean the whole West Coast from San Francisco to Seattle and everything in between. He took the whole thing by force when he destroyed his only real opposition in Los Angeles. This is what people talk about when they speak of the last Mage Wars. The news people called it the LA riots. The whole thing was a horrible mess. Mordred, the ArchMage's rival, had gone completely mad. He thought it was his mission to destroy everything, the idiot. So a lot of good wizards stood beside the ArchMage in his battle, even though Demons were being let loose by both sides and neither of the two had any idea of morality. Now, after the Archmage has consolidated his power out there, he is looking to make inroads out in the East. The old boys in New York, Boston and Charleston are waiting, doing nothing, hoping to merely survive. Horus, the leader of the Atlanta organization of Mages or our Cabal, as we like to call it, is doing the same.
     "The problem is that he is going to need a lot of sacrifices to get that thing to awaken in the first place. What the hell was he thinking?" Colonel Stone starts in.
     Timothy shudders, "Yeah, he gonna need a lot of young people ritualistically mutilated before he can get this thing down. I knew Brodin was worried but, my God, this is nuts. I should have seen it coming ever since his trip to Seattle. I should have seen it coming, but he was so guarded. He has been so obsessed."
     Uncle Brent finishes the thought, "When he does he ain't gonna be able to control it and the place he is at will be toast when this thing realizes it ain't been summoned to whatever little island it fell in love and called home. It shall be pissed."
     I just could not stand it anymore, "This is crazy. I mean two bit mobsters hired by an old man obsessed with magic killed one of my buds. Now, I'm going out to kill the old man and possibly fight some freakin' old ass Tiki god! This is fuckin' nuts."
     Jess starts in on me at this point, "Yeah, it is. We guard the gate man. I do it for fun. Hell, I like this shit. Oh yeah, also I would follow Gordy to my grave. He is my compadre, my friend. Those are my reasons. Think about it, you find your own." Gordy puts it another way, "If we didn't stop shit like this, if there weren't others just like us out there, Norm and Norma would rise out of their cozy beds, gather arms and fuckin' slaughter the lot of us. You studied history in college boy. Remember? That was what the inquisition was really about. Stamping out the weirdness so the populace feels cozy in the fact that if they just learn enough they can know every-freakin'-thing. So do it because you don't want a city block or so of innocent people to die. Do it because of your dad or your heritage. Do it because you are a warrior or maybe you like the word hero better."
     "I ain't no fuckin' hero." My uncle corrects me, "Not yet. Not until you face up to what you are."
     "Y'all are going to have to kill him ain't you?" Timothy asks sheepishly.
     Nobody up to this point had brought up the fact that we had our sights bearing down on an old friend of my own uncle's. We all just looked at each other. I had said it a minute ago and it just sunk in. Gordy straightened up from behind his beer and tensed. Jess kind of paused in mid movement. My uncle lowers his head.
     Stone just says, "I hardly know the fellow. Brent..Tim... Y'all have to decide on this."
     My uncle just says, "It ain't right. I can't do it and neither can Tim. Friends don't kill a friend, mind you. Tim is right. The boy ain't been right since he went to the West Coast. He has gone mad. I still can't believe it has gone this far."
     Stone just looks about almost aimlessly. Then Brent and Timothy look at each other with quivering eyes filled with the recognition of the fact they were silently damning a friend. My uncle's hands shook as he grabbed the chair in front of him. You could see the strength in his Chagall like face, the blood swishes across a dark blue canvas.
     Timothy goes gray for a second. He has the Sight double time and sometimes he just picks up stuff. He knows. "About one hundred young people will disappear from bars all over Buckhead and the other hot spots of Atlanta tonight, maybe right now. The police will be baffled. Did the person who had this before talk of... What did he use it for?"
     I chimed in; "He used it to sway the crowds at concerts. He used it to become a rock star."
     Stone smiles and shakes his head, "A rock star? Kids."
     "That means the bastard is playing pied piper," Gordy says stating the obvious.
     "Where can they find him, Brent," Stone says smiling at our alarm as if he had seen much worse in his day and as if he knows the answer to his own question.
     "He has a secluded place near the airport. A little two story building that was the offices for car lot parking business."
     We all go white at once. Timothy gets green in the face like he is about to be sick. Gordy starts loading his gun and Jess just shakes his head in disbelief. Poor people in low rent housing live near the airport. Richies getting off their flights get rooms in fancy hotels near the airport. The airplanes are packed with every kind of folk alive. Too many fuckin' people would die if the airport went down. I can already see in my head the picture of flights crashing and apartment complexes crushed. Its like some scary scene out of one of those cheap Japanese monster flicks where Godzilla crushes Tokyo just one more time. Except this is my town, I live here and I can't let it happen.
     Stone looks concerned for the first time and says to us all, "This ain't my kind of fight. I got to go and make sure none of my folks are prowling around the airport," he walks up to the big window to one side of my uncle's apartment and walks out into thin air. None of us even get up to look down. We don't have to.
     Timothy is white. The vision has knocked him on his psychic ass so to speak. Brent is pacing and shaking his head in disbelief. It is their call and Stone made it clear by leaving. I remember Brodin now from when I was a kid. He used to come and talk business with my uncle. He was a too skinny schmuck that always seemed a bit nervous with a little bit harried white hair at the top of a too thin and narrow face. Not enough room to adjust and move between those ears. Timothy is just out of it hit in the face by the news.
     My uncle is the one to speak, "I can't tell ya' it is okay to kill a friend. I can't tell ya' not go and do what ya' got to do, either. We can't stand beside you boys while you do it. It's different for us old folks. There are bonds between us old wizards that insanity and bloodshed won't break. Do it and be quick about it. You got the advantage of surprise. If you are going to take him down, it better be quick because he is good. God, help you boys."
     No words have to be spoken after this news. We all just reload our weapons and get ourselves together. My uncle does not wish me luck. He casts a charm on me. Timothy just sits there thinking about how a friend could go so wrong. We walk out the door and go to the car with the directions my uncle scrawled across the back of a power bill.
     My uncle's old friend is powerful and I don't think any of us had any ideas about coming back. We rode like a mini light brigade, not for God and country, but for our city. We were doing it for our people. My father died for the life of one boy. Can I do less? The poor black folks living in apartments shaken by regular flights. The richie businessmen are getting off their planes. The tourists and the working guy coming back from visiting. Everyone would be dead. I had seen enough death today. I had no idea that what I had seen so far was nothing next to what I was about to see.
     I had no idea of what carnage was until today. Sure, I was a history major. After all, it was a good way to study the old Art and say I was studying folk tales or something. I heard about the World Wars, the inquisition, and the torture of Christians by the Romans, the holocaust and the ethnic cleansing. None of it prepared me. You like to think that you are not naive. No one likes to think they are unprepared or sheltered. God, I was. I was sheltered. I was as uninformed as any schmuck of the street. We walked up to that squat red brick two-story building and I had no clue.
     Gordy walked up but this time he doesn't knock on the door. There is too much to lose. I work it with a little hex and, even then, I can feel the old magic tugging and screwing with me. It doesn't matter; the door comes open anyway. There are no wards of protection. It is if he was in a hurry. It is if he didn't expect anyone to mess with him.
     The minute the door comes open the heat pours out. He has the heat in the place turned up to full blast. The steam rolls out as we walk in. That is when I know the meaning of the word, carnage. The floor is littered with bodies. The stench smacks you in the face like a sharp bitch slap. Gordy and I can keep it together but Jess starts to puke right there. Jess's senses are heightened like an animal. He is more in tune with the sights and smells and textures about him.
     Each person has been ritualistically murdered in the exact same fashion. They are each cut open from their belly button to their neck with their heart ripped out. You can see where he took them down the stairs to dump them down here. It is hot and the bodies had already started to bloat slightly. Their eyes stare up at me, into me. I will never forget the eyes cold and glazed, fixed. The entrails lay this way and that. I can say it was horrible and repulsive and it was. However, I can't ever go far enough. What ever I will say will seem trite. They are dead. They are my age, young and strong. Death is before us like the end of a long day. Death is before us in blinding hot Technicolor splattered across and at my feet.
     We start up the slick stairs cautiously. I can hear my feet splat with each step through the blood and shit and tears of the dead. It all lies before us like the afterbirth of destruction, like the death in rebirth. We get up to the top of the stairs and stare down the hall in front of us to a door. We follow the trail, a golden brick road of horror. We know where it would lead us, straight to the wizard.
     We know right off, the door is the key to this. With the Sight, the magic is all-encompassing and blinding. We start down the hall and can see the door bulge. It is a white painted thick wood and it pokes out like a bloated tummy towards us. Jess gives it a tug from afar with his gift as I shoot at it with my shotgun. The door bulging outward explodes when we hit it. The wood is like shrapnel but the blast knocks us all on our asses so it flies above us.
     There standing in the blinding light is a thin; old man in a white shirt, slacks and blood crusted work apron. He stands there chanting away with two hearts clutched in his fist squeezing. The blood runs down his arms. He is oblivious to us but not for long. Still, we realize that the old man was never really our goal or our challenge. The little white totem is our goal, bloated and ripe with souls. The old man is merely in our way. My uncle and Timothy knew that. Maybe that hurt as well. We didn't go after Brodin for revenge. We went after him to get the totem. That is when we made our move. That is when we all acted at once.
     My spell is tough. The magic all about us is ancient and alien to me. My magic is old but very formal. The Latin gives it a sense of structure that the old magic defied. I could have fought but I didn't. I let the old magic fly into me and I redirect it and give it my purpose as I stand there in my own little world cursing this old man. I watch as the numbers tumble and the percentages race about me. I tug at the lines of chance and praise the Three Sisters of Greek lore for help. At that moment as I finish, the old man gurgles out a cry but he can not speak. After all, what are the chances that his voice box would just quit on him?
     Jess is less subtle, but nearly as effective. He just absorbs the old energies. As he did his whole body expands like he just gained twenty pounds in the span of seconds and he rises at least a foot off the floor. I think for a moment that he might not be able to handle it. His hair stands on end. His eyes pops out a bit from their sockets. I think he will just pop like a balloon filled with too much air. When he lets the power loose, the pedestal the totem is on explodes and the totem itself smashes against the wall with enough force to put a hole in the dry wall behind it. The damnable Tiki totem is out of his reach and he can not finish his spell. He turns to us with a peculiar mix of surprise and anger. That is when Gordy acts.
     Gordy's reaction is probably the simplest of all. He simply takes his .45 out of his jacket and with one easy fluid motion fires his gun. There is no magic or ceremony to it. He just becomes an extension of his weapon and strikes the old man, viciously. There is a strange grace to it. It is like watching a swordsman make the perfect blow. It is like watching a true master of the bow fire that one shot that becomes an extension of everything he is. The years of using a weapon culminate in that one perfect shot that one exact blow of death. It is frightening and beautiful all at the same time. Death is before me easy as the passing of the breath between my lips. Death is before me horrid and natural like the process of birth, in reverse. The bullet passes through the eye of the wizard and exploded out the other side spraying the man's brains across the already blood covered walls.
     Jess murmurs, "Head wound fuckin' Harry."
     I don't know what to say. Then the totem of the ass-old Tiki god begins to quiver and shake. With the Sight again, we can see the soul of the old guy being sucked into the thing. The totem starts shaking violently and we all know what was about to happen. The spell Brodin was using called for one hundred souls, no more and no less. The extra soul is too much. The disturbance in the spell of summoning did something to it. The thing dances about the floor cracking in places, when it was supposed to be unbreakable. The magic screams out from the totem like a mother in the last throes of delivery. The power thrashes out around us. Gordy screeches, "Let's get the fuck out of here!"
     We go running across the hall and down the stairs. We fall over each other like some kind of perverse comedy sketch trying to make it down with all that slick carnage under us. We are the Three-gory-Stooges trapped in a cheap horror flick. It is as terrible a feeling as I have ever had. We are tumbling and sliding through the refuse remains of human beings. The blood and gore is real. The blood and shit covering everything stinks of its origin. Death is upon me in a way that I had never felt before. I will never forget it as long as I live. As we come rushing out, though, I feel our alarm was perhaps unwarranted. It is almost like the magic was waiting for us to leave. It is almost like no living thing was allowed.
     The whole second story of the building is covered in light. The whole building just quakes and trembles. Then the most amazing thing happens. The whole bloody building implodes on itself. Every piece of brick and glass and human remains all comes crashing down to one small spot. The impact still knocks us back and the wind goes rushing around us. The spot is as big as your fist, a brilliant white and blue light. Then all the energy all the souls of all one hundred and one dead people in that building explodes in a line straight up. The beam is magnificent and blinding, pure white.
     You can see the soul forces of all those murdered flowing upward. Each person is reaching for their ultimate goal up there in the air with only the remnants of a tired black sky to see them. The ascension is, of course, the promised delivery of life unto death. I am there to see it like few before or after me. In the background, you can almost see the folding like a black cape coming down, or black wings folding together. However, that is not over-whelming. What is so over-whelming is the gossamer and angel's breath thick in the air like you can touch it all around and The sound of
     We gather ourselves up in silence and get into the car. As I drive off, I can not help to feel in awe of it all. It is amazing and silly all at the same time. We fought gangsters in the perfectly peaceful place of Virginia Highlands. We sat down with wizards and discussed the ramifications of an ancient deity going on a rampage through the airport. We fought an old man who had just murdered a hundred of our peers and shot him through the head. I can't believe it. This kind of thing doesn't happen. That is when Jess says finally, " How do you think the papers will write this one up? Terrorist attack?"
     Gordy's retort was, "Nah, too many complications. They'll call it a gas main break. They'll say the kids had gone there for a party if they find any remains after the blast. We got damn lucky tonight boys that old wizard was wrapped up tight in the middle of the heaviest spell of his life. If he had not been so distracted by that shit we would all be fucking dead right now."
     "Yeah I feel real fucking lucky right now," I reply.
     That sets me thinking that maybe this does happen more than most folks think. After all, common folk, the Norms and Normas Gordy talks of, don't want to believe. Science has too much of a sway. They want to believe that everything can be explained or if it can't then we just don't know enough. Of course, they are wrong. Science is a way of talking about the universe in a manner anyone can understand. Our way is different and much stronger. Magic is a way of talking to the universe in its own language in a manner it can not ignore. That is the difference that many of my own kind cannot even begin to grasp. This is going to become my world. The things that others aren't brave enough to believe in. I have entered a world of the strange.
     The young folk call it the game. The old folks called it the life. I thought my awakening came at age fifteen when my uncle told me the deal and introduced me to the crooked path. I was wrong. I was awakened just today. I was reborn in that wound, that womb of blood and gore back there. That place was my delivery point into this bizarre little world. I had been thrust through the horror of the afterbirth and saw the face of God. I just watched my mother implode and explode up to heaven and hell all at once. I have become what I wanted for so long. God, help me.