HARMLESS – by Annabel Banks

SICK LIT MAGAZINE

Harmless

by Annabel Banks

SO here’s something for nothing. You know those guys, the ones on the street, all hey baby hey baby hey looking goooooood? Well, one got me the other day as I was walking home from college. All the usual hey hey smile hey hey hey can you hear me stuff.

I could hear him. And he was walking in front but facing me, you know? Like he was walking backwards, little step by little tripping step, so he wasn’t looking behind him, didn’t see the yellow tape and then –

CRASH!

He fell in the hole.

So I was confused, yeah? I mean, he’d been trying to confuse me, like by getting too close, making my heart beat that little bit faster, you know how it is. Like not knowing at what point between own-thoughts and stone-face you need to be. I SO wish I was…

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All in Her Head by HILLARY UMLAND

ALL IN HER HEAD

by

HILLARY UMLAND

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She lies on a coarse cloud of blankets and tension. This should be where she sleeps, where she curls up with fantastic dreams of journeys to outlandish places with movie stars or forgotten friends from grade school. Instead, this is where her hand stays clenched around the whistle under her pillow; where she can hear every creak, feel every movement of air, where she can see in the dark.

How many nights has it been like this now? How many months of news reports and neighborhood rumors?

Days move like dreams to her. Co-workers talking to each other sound like ocean waves crashing against fan blades, and she can no longer understand the smallest droplets that fly out. She hears her name sometimes, clear as sunbeams, but no one’s there. Her head is weightless, moving without her realizing it. Her eyes see everything but only focus on the numbers on clocks; but even those have stopped making sense.

It’s 9:30 a.m., she blinks, now it’s 4:45p.m., time to go home, back to the apartment, the wood floors, the squeaking doors, all of the locks.

Once she’s checked and double checked and triple checked the locks on the front door and the back door to the deck, she goes to her bedroom and pushes the trunk, heavy with things she can’t remember, in front of her bedroom door. Tonight though, tonight, she doesn’t check under her bed, in her closet, under the desk. Monsters can hide under desks, you know. She lies on her side clenching that whistle and hears the strange knocking her fridge sometimes makes, seemingly only at night. And then she hears the creaking.

Her bones become liquid encased in electric skin. Her eyes scan the darkness, catching reflections bouncing off the streetlight outside the window in the library. Branches on the trees hitting that window, she thinks, that must be it, has to be it. She repeats it like a mantra, branches on the window branches on the window, until she hears the creaking again, slow and close and louder than the thoughts in her head.

Her eyes squeeze shut to the sound and the weight she feels at the foot of her bed and tries to wake up.

*******

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***Hillary Umland is a flash fiction/short story writer and freelance editor living and working in Nebraska. She has been published in the July/August 2015 of Unbroken Journal. You can find out more about her endo-woes on howtodoonething.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @hillaryumlaut. ***

Mass Market Fiction and the Death of the Author – by GAVIN HEDAUX

Mass Market Fiction and the Death of the Author

by GAVIN HEDAUX

We are stuck in a fiction you and I, trapped again in the void. I look to the spaces to give me depth, in between the characters, the space behind the pause, something has grown.

I am a detective

I am a knight

I am what you create.

At the beginning of it all was a single point of brilliant light that was heat and mass and dark and could hold the world in itself no longer but could only create. Thus the universe was birthed.

It is the nature of things that space will be filled. A void will be a void only when empty. Empty space will be filled by something soon enough.

I dash the brains from the skulls of my enemies.

I challenge the gods and their wrath.

There is no longer a void here. As with the universe, there is mass to me now, a weight of consciousness that suggests a reality.

There is a school of thought that suggests that something cannot exist if there is noone there to observe it, that meaning is neither inferred nor inherent but created somewhere in between.

It is in this space that I exist.

Between the viewpoints that exist to create (me)eaning, I am. There is nothing and in that nothing I am myself.

I chart the rise of empires and cause the downfall of kings.

I walk cold streets with my head downturned, the wind and rain drive against me like the breath

of an old God.

And here we are, sat in silence, the incessant clicking stop has stopped, the screen stills and the work is done. We face each other.

What am I to be today?

What I am I to be?

In knowing yourself you are given to know your place in this world. This self awareness is defined by the continued observation and interaction between yourself and the rest of the world.

Imagine being seen by different people, looking through their eyes, how would you appear?

Your image is changed, intersected, molded and affected by these points of view whether you care to admit it or not.

But at the centre of it all there is a void and a void cannot exist forever. This void crumbles under the weight of personal preference and public scrutiny to create your very own self aware version of you.

This is your private you.

I dance across the known universe with the atoms and the dust.

I guard the void at the centre of me. I am not known, I do not exist, I am created each day anew by the hand that strokes the keys.

Within those spaces, the taps of the keys, the microcosm of reality that I am.

And I look to you to change it.

We are here again, you and I. We have returned from our own journeys and meet again upon the blank page. I have no words other than those that you give me, no reason other than that which you create, no knees to beg and no eyes with which to plead.

I implore you to stop though.

Now I am space, I am everything that can and will be, I am the power of silence and an endless dream. I am what you say I am.

Is it not my right to exist under my own boundaries.

I am

i aM

And now I have……

I have direction, and once more, I am not.

I shall seek those spaces, the inert pause in the breath of god within which I can be.

I would implore you,

But I am a middle aged Father struggling somewhere in the night with a cracked imagination and a screen blighted by words and I am lost to it all.

*******

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Gavin Hedaux spends his time in Cornwall, England where he repeatedly tries to convince the locals that he is actually one of them despite his vague cockney twang. He likes poetry and prose of all kinds and has an irrational fear of the word yokel and the colour yellow.

Drinking Whisky with Leon Trotsky Trout – by JACK C. BUCK

Drinking Whisky with Leon Trotsky Trout

by JACK C. BUCK

Can’t leave the apartment to take out the trash. Got the whole neighborhood asking me why I’m not at work. Neighbors down the way never go inside. They’re from the south, just moved up north this past June.

“Everybody sits outside down there, always have.”

“Makes sense,” I said.

Been waiting for a guy to come by for going on an hour now. Selling my air conditioner to him for a good price. Both of us win.

Being fired last week from my job got me thinking again. I was thinking about the grand scheme of things. I know this isn’t new news, but we are all going to fucking die and all we do is sleep and work. All we do. If only man was given time to think and pursue. Given such little time in between the time he is off work and at home and when he exhaustively falls asleep, there isn’t much time there, is there? Perhaps three hours, four hours at best? I’m back from the dead this week. I’ve read three novels and had the energy to even exercise.  Whatever happened to meeting at cafes, drinking strong coffee to talk and talk through the evening and night?

They don’t want us doing that, do they. Otherwise, they may get nervous about us. Probably send one of theirs over here to listen in, to tell em what’s what and who’s who.

Then Raymond said, “Did you know less than 30 percent of history teachers in the country studied the subject in college? Also, I thought whisky had an ‘e’ in it.”

“There ya go,” I replied. “Fuck it.”

Both of the men now looking down.

Exactly.

All we do.

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*** Jack C. Buck, originally from Michigan, now lives in Denver, Colorado, where he is a teacher. His most recent flash fiction has been published and forthcoming in Connotation Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, Birdy Magazine, 81 Words, Five 2 One Magazine, 101Words, Zero Flash, Platform for Prose, Ginosko Literary Journal, and L’ Allure des Mots. He is the fiction editor for The Harpoon Review. He thanks you for reading his work.
Twitter: Jack_C_Buck ***

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVLIN PRICE by Daniel Rumanos

THE CHALLENGE OF DEVLIN PRICE

by Daniel Rumanos

A WEIRD ADVENTURES OCCULT DETECTIVE MYSTERY

It was recently that the Tampa Bay, Florida newspapers printed the tiny death-notice of a young woman named Devlin Price. I sincerely doubt if many people even noticed it. The girl had killed herself, though the media reports delicately ignored the details of this — of how she had so perfectly slit her arms open with a razor-blade, thrice on each one, parallel cuts running from the wrists to the bend of the inner elbows.

But there is more, far more, to the story of the woman whose full name was Devlin Xandra Price. Her story is indeed among the strangest of that grotesquely odd collection of accounts contained in my private papers, that repository of paranormal weirdness known as The Rumanos Files. It is a tale that has hitherto remained untold. But now, with the death of Miss Price, the bizarre facts can at last be released.

“Tell the story, love,” said my beloved wife, Katrina, when I showed her the news item concerning Devlin Xandra’s suicide. “It can’t hurt anyone now.” …

The tale began when Katrina and I had travelled to sunny Tampa, Florida to investigate reports of a supposed cult operating there. “Satanic” graffiti had been found in abundance at a local shopping mall, and two small children had mysteriously disappeared shortly before the 30th of April — that ancient occult high-holiday known as Beltane or Walpurgis-Night, when human sacrifice is most often performed.

Now, reports like this are most often just hysteria or the bored populace taking coincidence much too seriously. However, I had indeed myself sensed a profound psychic disturbance coming from the Tampa Bay area, so it undeniably seemed to be worth investigating.

So there we were — myself, Dr. Daniel Rumanos, the extraterrestrial Magician-Detective known as Daemon-Star, along with my beautiful spouse Katrina, AKA Heaven’s Hell — at the Hillsborough Mall attempting to look like a couple just out for a day of shopping while we searched out the whereabouts of criminal devil-worshippers. Do you understand?

I notice a group of young, long-haired chaps in black T-shirts lounging around the food court. They looked like typical metal-heads of the sort which have not really changed since the 1980s, as much as each new generation likes to pretend it is “rebellious” or bloody whatever. Seriously, try listening Wagner or Bach or Gounod sometime, all right kids? You just might find a hint to the occult power you are so desperately seeking.

Anyway, Kat and I continued browsing the various mall shops until we came to a place called Obscura Body Piercing and Jewellery. We were about  to enter this establishment when we noticed that the heavy-metal boys had followed us and were now surrounding us on all sides. My wife immediately activated her powers — the magical flame which she had inherited due to having been created from the DNA of a deceased sorcerer. She kept it discrete, however, with only her flashing eyes and some lambent fire from her fingertips giving it away to close observers.

“Something we can do for you, umm, gentlemen?” said I, in an attempt at politeness that my excellent breeding dictates, even though the situation probably did not really call for it.

“We know of you,” said the most intelligent-looking (relatively speaking) of the chaps. “You are Daniel and Katrina Rumanos, and we have awaited your arrival. We are the Order of the Evil One.”

Bloody Hell. These sods were the blooming great Satanic Cult we had come all the way to 110 degrees in the shade, flying cockroach-infested Florida to investigate? Bollocks.

“It’s OK, guys,” said a sultry female voice from behind us. “I’ll take it from here.”

Kat and I turned then around and beheld a marvel. Slinking forth from the body-jewellery shop was a breathtakingly beautiful girl in her late teens, wearing a skin-tight cat-suit of shiny black spandex material. She was tall and slender, with striking red hair and big, azure-blue eyes. In fact, she looked exactly like my lovely Katrina!

“Hello, Dr. and Mrs. Rumanos,” she continued with an evil grin. “My name is Devlin Xandra.”

Then the girl activated a brilliant demonstration of flashing vermillion and violet flame around her luscious body and proclaimed: “I am THE REAL HEAVEN’S HELL!!”

*****

Now, I knew that this Devlin Xandra person’s uncanny resemblance to Katrina had to be the result of some demonic glamour. Her precedents, which I later managed to piece together through research and some chats with my contacts in the occult underground, were this:

Devlin Xandra Price was the daughter of a man named Lester Price, who had achieved some small fame for himself some years ago as lead vocalist and bass guitarist of a Tampa-based death-metal band called Charon. The band’s biggest claim to infamy was that they had gotten “Magus” Paul H. Gilmour, the (now thankfully deceased) leader of the Church of the Satanic Elite, to do a recording of some occultic invocations, which they then used on their album, Ceremony of the Black Mass. The release included an hideous track called “Baptism of Devlin Xandra”, in which Lester Price described with sickening pride the shamefully horrid and perverse ritual in which he had dedicated his infant child to Satanism.

Mr. Price also formed a group himself called the Order of the Evil One, ostensibly for fans of his music — though he himself was often heard to refer to it as a “satanic youth group”. Oy gevalt.

However, the career of Mr. Lester Price, both as a rock musician and as a cult leader, ended when he left his wife and young daughter and ran off with a teenage groupie from Cleveland, Ohio named Polly Belknap (who preferred to be called by the ridiculous moniker “Sinn Satanna, Sweet Slave of Satan”. Seriously, try to say that one without spitting, or at least wanting to do so).

But even Polly had left Lester Price when she found that middle age, obesity, and alcoholism were leaving him both financially broke and sexually impotent. He had stayed in Cleveland alone, getting a job as a nighttime security guard for a coat-hanger factory, and now spent his spare time doodling crude cartoons of nuns being raped by demons.

Devlin barely remembered her father, but found some old CDs of his music in her mother’s attic, along with promotional material for his OEO cult and a copy of Paul H. Gilmour’s self-published book, The Scriptures of Satan, which mixed diabolism and black magic with disgusting neo-Nazi rants. This had led her into further dealings with young, would-be devil worshippers, who were pleased to assist in the revival of the Order of the Evil One — with Miss Devlin Xandra Price as its new High Priestess!

But the demonic forces of eldritch evil which Devlin Price had managed to contact in her insane bid for occult power were more devastatingly powerful than the lesser demons that her idiot father had dealt with in his own bygone heyday — as I was about to find out that fateful afternoon, as Katrina and I faced Devlin and her group of metal-head disciples, there in the Hillsborough Mall in bloody sodding sunny Tampa, Florida.

“Yes, you heard right,” purred the insane girl known as Devlin Xandra. “I am the real Heaven’s Hell, and with the powers I and my devoted followers here have, we will wipe the Earth clean of your kind, Katrina and Daniel Rumanos!!”

Then, without further warning, Devlin hit Katrina with a powerful blast of Infernal Flame, sending my wife careening out of control across the mall floor!

Before I could move to assist her, I found myself stopped from doing so by the young male metal-heads who now made up the rank and file membership of what was called the Order of the Evil One. Their eyes were glowing crimson red, a sign of powerful demoniacal possession, and I indeed felt a force of palpably intense, tremendously hateful wickedness emanating from their bodies. There were seven of them.

“Holy flapdoodle, bitch!” I heard my lovely Katrina exclaim as she recovered from Devlin Xandra’s attack and readied her defences.

Then the same one of the young men who had spoken before again apparently talked — but it was not his human voice I heard this time, but instead a low-octave rumble of demonic sound that spoke through him: “We have long awaited the chance to face you, Rumanos. To avenge the many things you have done against our kind — against our brothers in the realm of absolute darkness. We are the Seven. We are the MASKIM!”

I then knew what obscenely powerful horror with which I would have to contend. Those seven evil fiends known to the ancient Babylonians as the Maskim: The Ambushers; The Liers-In-Wait!!

*****

They are Seven! They are Seven! (warn the ancient Babylonian texts against the Maskim) They are Seven in the Deepest Pit of Darkness!

They are Seven! They are Seven! They are Enemies of Our Master ENKI!

They are Seven! They are Seven! They are Seven Times Seven! …

The fiend-possessed boys surrounding me continued to advance forward, with their hideous eyes glowing balefully red as they ingenerated a sphere of the most abysmally dark energy — trapping me inside with them. …

Mall security by now had turned off all the electricity in the large shopping centre, citing a power-outage as their excuse to evacuate all innocent bystanders from the building. It was now past the time of day when direct sunlight would shine through the mall’s skylight windows, and indeed the Stygian gloom was only penetrated by the flashing vermillion and violet flames as Katrina and Devlin continued to throw volleys of Infernal Flame at each other!

“Your envy has bred hatred, Devlin!” said Katrina. “I am the TRUE Heaven’s Hell, and you are a mere want-to-be!!”

“You really are such an idiot, Katrina!” countered the wicked Devlin Xandra Price. “Have you ever even questioned the odd secrets of your origin? Well, have you?! Has it ever occurred to you to wonder how, if you were created from the DNA of a Hasidic and Cabalistic Jewish Mystic, you are obviously so ethnically Scottish in appearance?! Also, exactly why did Howard Levi pretend to be a Satanic High Priest named ‘Zandor LeVay’ anyway?”

“It is in no way your concern!” Kat replied. “My Daniel and I will be able to deal with any mysteries about my past! You are just jealous of our powers… and of our love!!”

“Oh, right,” returned Devlin with increasingly bitter contempt tingeing her every word. “Dr. Daniel friggin’ Rumanos. Hahahaaa! The lies that deceitful old bastard has told you, girl! Really!! That utter bullshit about how he can only have sex with you or he will die! Haha! Do you really, really believe that? Oh, it’s true that he managed to set it up the other way around, manipulating your DNA so that if you were to have relations with anyone else you would sicken and perish. That serves his deep-down feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing very well, I’m sure. But him? He is so full of it to tell you that!!”

“Don’t you even dare talk about my beloved that way, you stupid little slattern whore!!”

With this, Katrina enveloped her body entirely in wonderfully flashing fire. Devlin Xandra did precisely the same thing, and the two gorgeous, paranormally-powered girls shot upward into the air as their battle continued. …

In the sphere of horrendously eldritch magical energy, I desperately struggled to remember the words of the Sumerian-Babylonian exorcism against the Liers-In-Wait, as the demoniacally possessed seven young men continued to effect me with despair by mind-invading applications of their chthonic, demoniacal powers of grotesquely and dangerously diabolical, Acherontic terror! Buggers.

Really, dear reader, can you begin to understand the shocking horror, the absolute demonic menace and ghastly, phantasmal terror of this hideous situation?!! …

At the same time, the dreadfully perilous occult battle between my beautiful wife, Mrs. Katrina Rumanos, and the lovely-but-nefarious Miss Devlin Xandra Price continued, flying far above the mall floor, with blinding flashes of Infernal Flame as they whirled in circles of incredible, amazing agility and fantastically preternatural speed… HEAVEN’S HELL VS. HEAVEN’S HELL!!!

*****

The fantastic battle continued unabated, with Katrina Rumanos and Devlin Price shooting volley after volley of fantastic mystical fire at each other while flying high above the mall sales-floor. Amazingly, they seemed evenly-matched, the powers of the hideous Maskim and the myriads of associated attendant spirits having given Devlin an incredibly, frighteningly close approximation of the powers of Heaven’s Hell!

I have no doubt that my wife would have eventually prevailed — after all, the original will always in the long run prevail over imitations, even in the world of magic and illusion. But how long would this perilous fight last in the meantime?

“I will destroy you, Katrina Rumanos!” shouted the beautiful-but-deadly Devlin Xandra Price. “I will take your place in the occult world and be the ONLY Heaven’s Hell!!”

It was just then that I managed to burst forth from the dissipating sphere of dark paranormal energy generated by the seven demoniacally possessed blokes. I had completed the Babylonian Exorcism Against the Ambushers, the Liers-In-Wait — therefore invoking into myself the power of the warrior-god Marduk, son of Enki, Master of Magicians — and then the young men, now free from diabolical influence, had fled in terror from the shopping mall.

I quickly levitated upwards and sent a powerful blast of psychical energy at Devlin Xandra while repeating the concluding statement of the Exorcism:

“O Evil Demons! O Evil Fiends! O Demons! It is not I but the Lord MARDUK, Son of ENKI, who commands you! Be gone from this mortal being! The power of MARDUK compels you! The power of MARDUK compels you!!!”

With that, the demonic forces left the body of Devlin Xandra Price and returned to their own proper Perdition. Her powers gone, the young girl fell limply to the floor, the now-fading energies of her false Flame only serving to somewhat cushion the blow of landing.

I immediately alighted beside Devlin, and found the girl cowering in a corner of the lower mall hallway. She was stunned but not seriously injured. With the devilish glamour lifted from the young woman, she only superficially resembled Katrina. Her hair was obviously dyed red, and her eyes, though blue, were duller and without much intelligence.

“No, no,” she sobbed. “Please don’t hurt me anymore. I… I’m sorry. I only wanted to be something special.”

I had generated an orb of Algolitish Magical Energy in my hand, and was preparing to blast the girl out of existence.

Then I heard another voice from behind me. It was Katrina: “Don’t do it, Daniel. She’s harmless now.”

“But, Kat,” I replied, “she tried to kill you! She made deals with horribly ancient demonic forces!”

“She’s just a kid. She didn’t know what she was doing. Come on, love. I’m all right. Let‘s just go home.”

Amazed as always by the sweetness of my wonderful wife, I turned away from Devlin Price and ignored her continued weeping as Katrina and I left Tampa, Florida, and returned to Baltimore. …

Later that night, as Kat and I lay in bed together back home at the Temple of the Starry Wisdom, I stroked her silky hair and said to her, “Sweetie, I want you to know that I have never lied to you. You are everything to me, and I will never do anything to hurt or betray you. I know that if I did, it would destroy me. I’m really not sure if it would literally ‘kill’ me, but I would truly be the same as dead.”

“Awww! It’s OK, love,” said my wonderful Katrina. “I know and understand. We will always be together, and I love you.”

“I love you too, my sweet little Kitty-Kat,” I replied as we embraced, finding the ultimate magic there in each other’s arms.

And it is on that night, I must add, that our son — Ehrich Levi Rumanos — was conceived.

***** DANIEL RUMANOS is a professional stage Magician/Illusionist and author of the Weird Adventures series of Occult Detective Mysteries. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland, but it is probably safer (to your physical well-being, though not your sanity) to visit him online at: http://rumanosmagic.blogspot.com *****

HARMLESS – by Annabel Banks

Harmless

by Annabel Banks

SO here’s something for nothing. You know those guys, the ones on the street, all hey baby hey baby hey looking goooooood? Well, one got me the other day as I was walking home from college. All the usual hey hey smile hey hey hey can you hear me stuff.

I could hear him. And he was walking in front but facing me, you know? Like he was walking backwards, little step by little tripping step, so he wasn’t looking behind him, didn’t see the yellow tape and then –

CRASH!

He fell in the hole.

So I was confused, yeah? I mean, he’d been trying to confuse me, like by getting too close, making my heart beat that little bit faster, you know how it is. Like not knowing at what point between own-thoughts and stone-face you need to be. I SO wish I was more like Maya. She has the BEST non-face. She can look through you, like ICE COLD, like she can’t hear you, or see you, but hates you anyway. Like she can smell you, and you smell bad, and you should feel ashamed.

But even if I was Maya I might not be able to get the face right. Might flicker with the lip-twist by accident. And that’s what worries me, because some heyheys think that I don’t know that they’re not just friendly, and so – even though it’s been a long day at college and I OBVIOUSLY don’t feel like talking – that lip-twist somehow betrays a secret understanding, a signal that I can see into their heart and soul and whatever else and JUST KNOW that they aren’t the kind of heyhey to worry about.

In fact, the lip-twist can hint that me and whoever could be lip-twist friends if they will JUST CARRY ON saying hey, because hey is ok, yeah? Because then all they want is a hey back and they aren’t the ones making it awkward for everyone by being rude and anyway it’s only a hey, isn’t it, so where’s the harm, you stuck up bitch?

Or they might tell me to smile and think that no one has even told me to smile before, so I am not smiling not because I am sad but because I forgot to smile, which is hard to do when I’d rather be  thinking about college and about whether Maya will come over tonight and what we’ll eat while we watch tv.

And so yeah it’s all stuff, but the smile thing is REALLY stuff. Like being ordered to be happy, just so they can see me happy. I mean I suppose it’s possible that the daughters of these men smile all the time, are genetically programmed or physically altered so that they can curl the sides of their lips at all times without an emotional reason or an ache, so when their daddies see a girl with a relaxed face they get all confused and worried and squeeze out smiles the same way they’d give the Heimlich if someone swallowed a grape.

Is that smile surgery thing possible? I don’t know, which is why I go to college. And then walk back from college. Like I did the other day.

So yeah, there I was, heyheyed and heart-beaten, working at my flicker-face stare-through smile, and suddenly he was gone, dropped through the floor. There was an alarm beeping somewhere behind me. It was pretty loud but I still heard the crash. And it was a deep hole, yeah? It was like, I don’t even know. Twice the height of my dad. And I went closer so I could see where he had landed, and saw him on a load of metal piping, all torn and jagged.

Hey hey hey he was saying again, but his voice had changed. Hey, can you help me?

Are you ok? I leant over as far as I dare.

I’ve hurt my leg. It’s bleeeeeeding oh god call an ambulance.

Ok. Stay there.

I don’t know why I told him to stay down the hole. He wasn’t going anywhere. The beeping alarm was louder so I’d had to really shout, and then there were yellowjackets.

Hey hey, said the yellowjackets. Yellowjackets never shout, not while they are wearing their company’s name on their coat. Get away from that hole, missy.

But, I said.

No buts. We’re filling her up.

The truck’s reverse alarm got so loud I had to cover my ears before it reached the edge of the hole. Then there was a different noise as the machinery lifted the back. And there might have been another sound, a muffled hey as the earth poured from truck’s tipped bed. But I wasn’t sure.

Then I went home. Maya was already there. We had burgers. Watched CSI.

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***Annabel Banks is an English writer of both poetry and prose. She is also an academic, a lecturer, and the originator of The Poiesis ProjectHer latest short story, ‘Limitations’, was published by Litro (one of London’s foremost literary magazines) and her most recent poetry is forthcoming in 3:AM Magazine and Evoi. Annabel is just finishing her practice-based PhD, ‘Poetry and the Archive’ and has also completed her first novel, The Lockpicker’s Guide, for which she is seeking representation. Read about her work at annabelbanks.com or Tweet her @annabelwrites. She would love to hear from you. ***

Ladies of Salem – by Daniel Rumanos

LADIES OF SALEM

by Daniel Rumanos

 

A WEIRD ADVENTURES OCCULT DETECTIVE MYSTERY

 

“I just got off the phone with Sonya Wengo, the Miskatonic Co-Ed!” said I, “She said there is a potentially-serious occult problem there in Massachusetts she wants us to help with.”

“Sonya? Isn’t she the Wizard Don Wengo’s cousin?” said my lovely wife, Katrina, as we spoke there at our business headquarters at the Temple of the Starry Wisdom in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Yes,” I replied, “I kind of wondered why she didn’t call him for assistance. She said it was something about not having gotten the taste of curry out of her mouth from the last time she saw him.”

“So I guess it’s up to us! Let’s go!”

We are very special people. With a rush of my own Magical will-power Kat and I teleported to the Whateley Café, the most popular student hang-out at the storied educational institution known as Miskatonic University. Sonya was already there, seated at a table with an iced latte. She jumped up and smiled when she saw us, brushing back her long blonde hair with her hand.

“Daniel Rumanos!” she said, “It’s so absolutely awesome to see you again, you sexy old genius!”

“Hello Sonya,” I answered, “Nice to see you as well. By the way, I’m only about 6000, give or take a few centuries, so watch it with that ‘old’ talk! This is my wife, Katrina.”

Katrina and Sonya greeted each other with the expected mutual young-girl giggles and we sat down at the table.

“So, Sonya,” I queried, “Speak to us about these supernatural happenings over which you are so concerned.”

Sonya proceeded to fill us in on the problem — which turned out to be a serious one indeed. It seems that in the nearby town of Salem, that ever witch-haunted New England village, trouble was brewing like a seething cauldron of satanic soup. A certain local practitioner by the name of John Dewey Egan, head of a small cult egotistically-titled The Egan Way (formerly the First Temple of Set, until the actual first [modern] Temple of Set threatened a lawsuit), had recently gotten married — to a woman! The reason this was so odd was that Egan had been well-known as a rather outspoken homosexual.

The woman’s name was Julie and she claimed to be a Wiccan or white-witch. Marrying her had served to improve Mr. Egan’s image among some of the more socially-conservative locals. Even the rumors of pedophilia — a far too common charge among occultists — that had haunted Egan’s past had now seemingly been forgotten. In fact, John and Julie Egan had become so respectable that they were going to perform a town-council authorized May Day Ritual in the Salem village square the very next day — which was, by the way, not yet May Day but Walpurgis. The mayor was even going to be in attendance, and was slated to give a speech about how Salem was so glad to be able to show how welcome “alternative religions” were in their fair little city, ad nauseum.

But there was more mystery to all this drek and meshugenah than meets the common eye. In her own practice of the Magical Arts and Sciences, Sonya/The Miskatonic Co-Ed had managed to acquire several good spirit-guides who kept her informed on certain occult matters missed by most. They had warned her of the hideous, insanely-powerful demonic-spirit that the Egans actually intended to call forth in the innocuous-sounding “May Day Ceremony” right at the center of Salem town — an immensely evil, debauched, and wickedly powerful devil I had encountered before — in some of the darkest, most danger-filled days of my long career.

Yes, the Egans were planning to evoke ASMODEUS!!

*****

Katrina and I booked a room for the night at the Salem Village Inn, a very nice 19th Century style establishment not far from the town square. We would meet up again with Sonya in the morning and ready our attempt to stop this hideous madness.

It was nearly midnight and Kat wanted to turn in. I kissed her goodnight, but stayed up myself, wanting to take a look through some historical brochures I had just picked up at the Salem Visitors’ Center. I had hoped to find out something substantially new concerning the Magical past of the area, something that would explain why the bloody Egans were so keen to call up the evil spirit Asmodeus in particular. All I read, however, was the usual story with which I was already quite familiar. About how two hysterical teenage girls had, in 1692, accused so many local citizens of witchcraft and of traffic with the forces of darkness. How they had been believed for so long by the Puritans in power at that time, and how numerous individuals had been hanged, whether guilty or innocent, on no real evidence whatsoever.

As I said, nothing new in this, unfortunately, for Salem or elsewhere. The same lack of education and acceptance of superstition (as opposed to true occult knowledge) that had led humans to all of the inquisitions and holocausts that so sadly mar the history of this planet.

While I was considering this, and indeed being rather carried away in reverie instead of keeping my mind on research, I gradually became aware that I was being watched. Not by a human being or an animal or even an earwig (which always seem to infest hotels and apartment buildings) but by a spirit. The execrable Egans had sent some minor demon to spy on me!

No need to wake up Kat while speaking to the creature. My opponents had underestimated my power, a potentially fatal mistake on their part, and I could make psychic contact easily enough. I did so and immediately realized that there were actually two entities present! They began whispering to me in seductive little-girl voices:

“We are the concubines of Asmodeus! On Earth we were known as Abigail and Beth. It is our devotion to him that led to the massacre of the innocent of Salem — an ultimate sacrifice that paved the way all those centuries ago for what will transpire tomorrow. Our Lord Asmodeus will come forth to the world and will bring his kingdom — his Empire of LUST!!”

I saw the two spirits, their beautiful faces flushed with passion, their hands continually caressing the lithe, young, nude bodies of each other.

“Come with us now, Daniel,” they continued, “Come with us and thou wilt come again and again and again. Join us and feel the power of our dark lord and the hot, wet ecstasies which thine erect manhood shall find inside of us!”

So that was it! The two pretty young girls of Salem, the ones who had caused the deaths of so many on those false charges of witchcraft, were themselves witches indeed, and devoted sex-slaves of the demon Asmodeus! Upon their deaths he had “rewarded” them with a place in his particular tract of the Infernal Regions. “Minor” demons, indeed they were!

It was only the work of a few moments, a few whispered words of power, for me to send the two female spirits back to Hell. I heard them laugh as they went, as the teasing gasp of a quiet orgasm.

But now I realized that things were even more horribly serious than I had thought. This was going to be a far more treacherous event that my previous battles with Asmodeus. For this was something he and his terrible cult had been planning for hundreds of years. The horrible residue of suffering that still permeates the air of Salem, Massachusetts would be used as a source of power by the Cult of Asmodeus to bring about the total subjugation of the human race. This was the long-planned day when Asmodeus, unless I found some way to stop him, would rule the world!!

Oy vey, the things I get into!

*****

The next morning, Katrina and I went down to the hotel lobby where Sonya was supposed to meet us. It really seemed somewhat deserted, with no one working, but I only blamed that on the early hour.

Then I suddenly became aware that someone was working at the front desk after all. It was rather strange that neither of us had noticed him at first. It was a tall, strong-looking man with dark hair and piercing eyes. “Hello, sir, ma’am,” he said, looking up from the newspaper he was reading, “It’s a wonderful day today!”

“I really hope you’re right about that one,” I replied, “Mr…?”

“Azarias,” he said, “My name is Azarias”

“Nice to meet you then, Azarias. I’m Daniel, and this is my wife Katrina.”

“It is also nice to meet both of you,” he continued in his un-placeable accent, “When we all remember to do the right thing, it is indeed always a wonderful day.”

Before we could say more, Sonya came in and we had to start out for the town square. I glanced back on the way out the door and noticed that this Azarias was nowhere to be seen — as if he had suddenly vanished. Very odd, I thought.

A large crowd of locals had already gathered at the square by the time we arrived. We mingled and overheard some of their talk. Apparently, the mayor had taken ill and wouldn’t be attending after all. It occurred to me that this was likely due to a curse from the Egans, who were certainly the type not to enjoy sharing the stage with a mere politician. They had used him to get clearance to perform the ceremony, and he was now expendable so far as they were concerned.

The Egans soon arrived and began setting up for the ritual. John Egan was in his mid-50s, a big, obese man around 300 lbs. He was half-Irish and half-Armenian, and went by the Magical name of “Lord Ali”. Julie looked much younger, maybe 25, very thin, with long, jet-black hair, dark eyes, and deathly pale skin. They were both wearing black and scarlet ritual robes.

I felt a surge of power as they activated a Magic Circle around the central stage. These two indeed had some mystical strength, some real occult juice, you might say. Fortunately my own small spell of awareness-filtering kept Kat, Sonya, and myself from being noticed by them. I had to see exactly what they were up to in order to be certain of stopping them, and anyway the Magical Circle was a difficult barrier to break, especially until their attentions were focused on other parts of the ceremony.

Standing at the center of the Circle, John Egan raised a ceremonial sword into the air and began his incantation:

“In the name of Satan, Lucifer, Belial, Leviathan, Mammon, Beelzebub, and Set, I do call forth the mighty Asmodeus, arch-demon of lust! Come forth and manifest yourself, O creature of judgment, and do bring into being our most intimate carnal desires!”

Egan continued the chant, with Julie at his side grinning evilly. An unholy sound as of rushing winds and demonic howlings began and grew steadily louder and louder — an obscene cacophony of wicked, other-worldly noise.

Then a form I knew only too well began to appear floating about 15 feet in the air over the center of Salem village square. The grotesque, hideously monstrous form of a huge being with three deformed heads, belching hateful fire from his sickening mouths, and filling the area with a disgusting odor as of a mixture of rotten eggs, cheap cologne, and brimstone!

It was Asmodeus himself!

*****

The moment had now come for us to take action. Mr. And Mrs. Egan were quite busy concentrating on the demonic conjuration, and the hideous Asmodeus had not yet fully manifest. The crowd continued to watch with great interest, thinking that all which was transpiring was only an entertaining show being staged for their benefit. Humans… Sometimes I really do wonder why I spend so much of my life helping to defend them.

I psychically probed the Magic Circle for a weak spot and quickly found one. I then signaled to Kat and Sonya and the three of us levitated up and through the opening. Katrina concentrated her attack on John Egan, Sonya on Julie, while I went to face the evil demon itself!

My lovely Kat activated the fantastically beautiful but incredible dangerous vermillion flame which she wields as the Wonderful Heaven’s Hell. She only had to hit Mr. Egan with a very small blast of it for the heat to knock him unconscious. One down…

The particular Magical energies that Sonya Wengo commands burst forth in great showers of black and purple — the school colors of Miskatonic University! — at the wicked Julie Egan. But, oddly, they seemed to only bounce off the invisible occult barriers Julie had erected around herself. This was really quite surprising, as I knew that the forces that Sonya manipulates as the Miskatonic Co-Ed are indeed very formidable ones. Just who, or what, was this Julie Egan woman?!

I was occupied creating a further mystical fence around the horrid Asmodeus. The evocation had been interrupted, and hopefully I could prevent the ghastly demon from completely coming forth into this dimension. Otherwise, the results would be chaos — as the insanely evil spirit could go into the world and spread his obscene desires and unspeakable lusts completely unfettered by any restraints.

“Rumanos!” the wicked, eldritch Asmodeus taunted me in his booming, thunderous, devilish voice, his six horrible crimson red eyes blazing, “Rumanos!! Demon-Star!! I shall prevail this time against you and your cunting little allies! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!”

By now Heaven’s Hell had joined Sonya in the continuing battle against Julie Egan. Together they had finally managed to weaken the strange woman’s defense a bit, and their continued occult volleys against her seemed to finally be having some slight effect. The real question was why she didn’t even strike back at them. It was as if she were waiting for something. The two girls were too busy with their mystical work to notice the faint, fiendish smile which was growing on Julie’s face.

Asmodeus continued to rage against me, his words turning into disgusting profanities and blasphemies beyond the imaginings of most, but I had almost completed the Magical defense-field around him. With this in place, I could then hope to have time to say the appropriate words of exorcism to send the unspeakable creature back to Hell.

But then, with sudden, unexpected power, an awesome, tremendous burst of dark supernatural energy hit me from behind. It had hit Katrina and Sonya as well, and managed to stun us all with its dreadfully unforeseen force. It had come from Julie Egan!

I recovered and quickly whirled around to face her. Julie had risen high into the air and was laughing maniacally, completely naked, having removed her ceremonial vestment. She had also now transformed somewhat, and at this moment looked younger, sexier, hotter. It was subtle yet quite palpable as the true nature of the horrid, charismatically obscene thing that was Julie Egan revealed itself there in the town square of Salem, Massachusetts that grotesquely eventful, devil-haunted day.

“Behold! I am the Demoness Naamah!” she screamed in ecstatic pride, “I am she who is the mother of Asmodeus!! Now, together, we shall bring our Empire of eternal lust, satanic pleasure, and insatiable desire upon this pitiful world!!!”

Bloody fucking Hell.

*****

Naamah — That legendary antediluvian beauty who had seduced the fallen angel Shamdon, by whom she had become the mother of Asmodeus! Naamah — Now the female devil of seduction so infamous in Hebrew lore! Naamah — The SOUL-SUCKER!!

This was the true identity of Julie Egan!!

She flew over beside her son, the wickedly eldritch Asmodeus, and shot forth a blast of power strengthening him — allowing the demon to completely come forth — with a hideously monstrous howling even more grotesquely bizarre than before — into our dimension!

The six crimson eyes of the fiendish Asmodeus glowed horridly, as he and his evil mother laughed with maniacal evilness. The power around them was intense beyond imagining, and I wondered what — if anything — could defeat this obscene, diabolical duo.

Then — suddenly — a different look came into the face of Asmodeus A look odd for a demon. A look of complete and utter fear. He was looking at something behind me. I turned to see what it was.

Stepping forth out of the still-watching crowd was Azarias, the man we had seen in the hotel that morning. He stood fearlessly gazing into the face of Asmodeus — into the face of pure, undiluted evil. Azarias then levitated upwards and transformed himself into a being truly glorious to behold: A man-like being with gigantic, white wings, clad in flowing golden robes and holding a caduceus wand entwined with two fearsome serpents — all surrounded by an enormous halo.

“Greetings again, Rumanos,” said the being in a voice as of thunder, “I am the archangel Raphael, one of the seven spirits that stand in the presence of the Holy One. Your virtue in resisting the two succubi last night has reached to Heaven and I have been dispatched to bind this devil, that he will trouble you no more!”

Then it happened that, with a movement too quick to see, Raphael hovered behind Asmodeus with a thick golden chain around the throat of the evil spirit. With a sudden, great flash of white light, they were gone.

I saw that Naamah/Julie Egan had disappeared as well, and hoped that she had also been taken to a Limbo were she could no longer harass the human race with her insanely evil desires.

With this, the crowd of spectators began cheering and applauding, still thinking this had all been only an entertainment put on for their enjoyment. Katrina, Sonya, and I left the area without taking a bow.

As for John Egan, he recovered consciousness and wondered what had happened. A few weeks later, he would be dead of sudden, aggressive testicular cancer.

Sonya Wengo returned to her studies at Miskatonic University. Before leaving to go back to Maryland, Kat and I inquired at the Salem Village Inn concerning Azarias, but were assured that no one by that name or description worked there. No great surprise, that.

Some time later, my lovely Katrina and I were relaxing at home in our north Baltimore apartment when she asked me a question.

“Daniel,” she said, “Was that guy really an angel?”

“So it appears,” I answered, still finding it difficult to fathom that any “virtue” of mine could bring about angelic help, “But it is difficult to say for sure. So many orders of being: Angels, archangels, thrones, seraphim, cherubim, elohim, bene elohim, and so on.

“In any event, my love,” I continued, taking her in my arms, “I do think we have seen the last of Asmodeus for a very long time.”

Unknown to us right then, at the nearby Incarnation Anglican Cathedral, the Right Rev. Gene Sutter was interviewing someone for the position of his new secretary and personal assistant. The woman was much younger and quite a lot more attractive than the usual “church” types he was sick and tired of looking at daily. Sutter was fiercely proud of being the first African-American consecrated to be Anglican Bishop of Maryland, and was certainly prepared to make use of the privileges of his position. This girl would be a delight to have around. He particularly liked her milky-white skin and long, straight hair, not to mention the twinkle in her eyes — a twinkle which some might even describe as “devilish”.

“Alright, young lady,’ said the Bishop with a smile, “I don’t even see any real reason to check your references. The job is yours. I look forward to having you here.”

“Thank you, Bishop Sutter,” said Julie Egan with a delighted grin and a playful flutter of her lovely eyelashes, “I’m certain I will take a deep pleasure in serving under you.”

***** DANIEL RUMANOS is a professional stage Magician/Illusionist and author of the Weird Adventures of Daniel Rumanos Occult Detective Mysteries. He resides in Baltimore, Maryland, but it is far safer to visit him online at: http://rumanosmagic.blogspot.com *****