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Archive for May, 2014

 

Samurai Warrior

Magic’s Assassin

 

I like to tell people I am an orphan. It makes things ever so much simpler than having to explain my relationship with my family.

There is a species of shark who gives birth to live pups. Not many at one time, mind you, because they break out of their embryos and begin to devour each other in the womb. What emerges at birth is the biggest, baddest sharks in the ocean. That was my family, a long lineage of violent predators, raising their children up to be the same. Me? I was the quiet one sitting in a corner, watching, learning, waiting, using all the magic I had to be invisible. But one cannot long stay invisible when you play with the powers of a planet as other children play with wooden blocks.

I look my scars as lessons. When I got big enough I became the biggest, baddest, craziest shark pup in the litter.

My mother was a witch as were all her daughters. She poisoned her womb to keep the male children out, did my mother. None ever took hold while she held her power close. But torture a witch long enough and her garden of magic will grow strange and twisted fruit. Her last act of magic, before her power turned to ash, was to give birth to me. Perhaps it took  my mother and all her six daughters to bring me through the Veil. In the darkest parts of the night I imagine them whispering their desperate, fevered wishes into the Void. Ach. The mischief makers on the other side of the Veil have perverse senses of humor and prayers such as these are always answered.

I was born, alien, strange, and out of place. Imagine your confusion if someone plucked you from your life and put you into an avatar form that could not walk or talk or feed itself. I did not have to learn how to fight. My skills were already well formed and in place. I was born a wizard warrior. But I had to learn how to be human. My magic kept me safe while I learned. Woe to any who mistook my silence as acquiescence or my deep meditations for dullness of mind. I think my mother suspected my nature but she was no more prepared to raise a wizard than is any other human mother cam be. By the time she realized what had walked into the world through the doorway of her womb there was nothing she could do about it except stay out of my way.

I had to hone my fighting skills early out of necessity. My father was a dry drunk who controlled his rages by swallowing them until they ate him from the inside out leaving him an empty and hollow shell at the end. Oh, do not be sad at his passing. I was not. He was a predator right up until his last breath, his illness only making him crueler. He would stalk me as a child, silent and swift as a lion. Because of him and his brothers, I learned to be quick of foot and creative in my hiding places. I knew every little nook and hollow in the woods around my house. Nooks that could fit a small body and keep the big bodies at bay. If my drunken uncle caught me, the consequences were deadly. But the game I played with my father was far more subtle. My magic was the lure and the bait. I seduced him away from the older sisters with it.  While the sisters learned to travel in packs, I was the loner. Vulnerable by all appearances. But appearances can be deceiving. My strangeness  and my magic tangled my father’s mind, blunting his desires, curbing his rages.

He was vulnerable and he knew it. I looked into his heart and saw his shame and it gave me power over him. He was not a stupid man. He saw it in my eyes and it angered him. Eventually the chases ended. The cruelty never did. He delighted in tormenting me, the old bastard. I like to think that it was my magic that killed him in the end, just as it caused my drunken uncle to blow his brains out and my grandfather to be crippled in his unfortunate accident that he might live his last days incontinent and bed ridden as payment for the delight he took in abusing the women of the family.

By the time I turned seven the visions and dreams had settled in, to become as real to me as what my other five senses told me. Perhaps even more so. Human ears could not hear the dark thoughts turn in your direction, warning you that the predators were coming. Human noses could not bring the whiff of the lion soon to be stalking your trail. Human eyes could not see the foul things inside the souls of the people who should have loved you as family but only lusted after you as if you were food.  I am sure in this day and age, if I had had a mother who was not blinded by her own burden, I would have been diagnose as being autistic because I did not have to look you in the eye to know what was in your heart nor hear your words to know what you were thinking.

While other seven-year-olds were connecting for the first time to the pattern of the Oneverse within themselves that they might know their place in the fabric of the world, I was building a multi-dimensional, pan-dimensional matrix inside my head of all the worlds and how they worked. Absolute Truth was the foundation of this matrix, for Absolute Truth has a color and a form and a feeling that nothing else has.  Adults do not appreciate being told they are wrong by children, I might add. I learned to hold my tongue.

There was so much that I never talked about. I could barely speak. I had been practicing how to be invisible since before I was born. Who could I tell? I had taken the story of The Ugly Duckling to heart and become convinced I was a misplaced egg. My parents and siblings were strange and alien creatures without an ounce of compassion or empathy. What would you do with a child who told you with her soft lisp that the dead came to her at night, in hoards so large they stretched to the horizon? Hungry, yearning, dark souls, they were, wishing for release from the half life between the human world and transcended wholeness of the Oneverse, recognizing the wizardling growing in power inside me.

But silence is the studied skill of every good warrior wizard. I said nothing.

One can learn only so much as an outsider looking in. I needed the human world explained to me. I hungered for good teachers. My family was rabidly religious but I had already realized that the Truth was far more beautifully intricate than a picture of a child with a halo or the body of a despoiled prophet hanging from a cross. The priests knew less than nothing and the nuns were the Catholic version of sexually mutilated women. Their ignorance drove me mad.

School saved me from a steady downward spiral into that silence, although it took a while for me to understand its complexities. I was branded as slow witted right from the start. But can you blame them? I was an assassin in training. Every adult male in my extended family was a predatorial monster. Every female was a lioness with a tongue as sharp as teeth and claws ever ready to disembowel you. Until that moment on the first day of kindergarten, I had spent every ounce of my skills trying to survive. These poor, innocent, vacuous women wanted me to learn to sit quietly and color inside the lines. Really?

It was not until the middle of first grade that I realized school was more than nap rugs and milk breaks. Books. Doors into other  places created by minds just as technicolor as my own. No one had ever read me a story and yet, here, at last, was a magic I could understand. Perhaps these soft, silly creatures had something to teach me after all. I let them teach me how to read. Perhaps I let my control slip, in my enthusiasm for this new game. Ach! Horror of horrors. Glimpsing the fire of the warrior wizard inside me, they snatched me from the class of little idiots with the beautiful young teacher and gave me into the hands of the old hag with the perpetual scowl on her brow who insisted on correct pronunciation and clear diction. Cursed schools. Never let them see how smart you are. I learned to distrust their intentions ever after.

I learned some very important things in my times at school. Not every adult, at first glance, is a murderous bastard in need of assassination. Some are, but they save their appetites to dine on their own young.

I learned that everyone is your teacher. One must have the patience to discover what it is that they were meant to teach you before you kill them.

I learned that not every occasion is one worthy of the full power of a warrior wizard, making subtlety and finesse qualities of great value. A little goes a long way when it come to true magic, wielded by an expert hand.

I learned that no good deed ever goes unpunished and that do-gooders are the most reviled people on the planet right up there with lawyers and hedge fund managers. Telling people you are a wizard is worse than telling people you are a doctor. They start expecting you to do flashy magic or worse, demanding your services for free.

Mostly, I have learned to trust the magic. It is the magic that tells me where it wants to go. It is the magic that wakes the sleeping dragon inside me, the one that comes out when I encounter true evil. It is this magic that pushes me to the edge of the killing rage, the one that allows me to kill with a word or a thought or the blades of power that can slice through the fabric of the world, ending the things that need ending. (I said my father was a cruel bastard but he did teach me everything I know about rage.)

I have learned I can kill with a thought.

I like to tell people I am an orphan because I do not willingly return to the shark womb of my birth for fear that my rages will wake the dragon. These humans, who assume a familiarity with me that does not exist, do not understand what they risk. I am magic’s assassin. Were you fool enough to cross blades with me, I would instinctively destroy you.

Oh, I would be sorry, afterwards, but you would still be justifiably dead.

It is not that I do not want their deaths on my hands. It is just that I would never hear the end of it when I refused to show up for their funeral. Having six older sisters can be very burdensome.

 

 

 

 

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The Tomb

The Tomb

The Tomb

 

The sack on his head stank of sweat and fear and the despair of the dozen or so previous wearers. Pierre tried to keep his breathing calm and not use up the minimal amount of clean air the tight weave of the material let into the space around his face. It was hard to walk and breath and do what his captors wanted him to do, especially with his hands tied behind his back. The plastic cuffs were too tight and he had lost the feeling in his fingers hours ago. It had worried him then, but not anymore. What were hands if you did not have a head?

The longer this torment lasted the more Pierre became convinced that there was no possible way he would walk away free, whole, and alive. These were stupid men. There would be negotiating with stupid.

Someone shoved him from behind, growling an order that he did not quite understand.

“Sit,” the beefy-fisted man said again in his heavily accented school boy English, the fists pinching painfully into the flesh of Pierre’s arm as it pushed him down into a hard chair.

The sack was removed roughly. Pierre coughed and squinted up into the glare of the one dim bulb in the room. Three shaped were visible in front of him. Two more men glowered at him behind his back. Pierre could feel them there, angry and full of blood lust. The revolution was weeks old, the soccer stadium awash in blood, its lower levels piled high with drifts of rotting corpses and still they had not quenched their desire for violence and death.

These kinds of men would never stop killing until someone killed them. Pierre, at seventy one, had been alive on the planet long enough to know that. The revolution would progress, the men in the inner circles of power would shift their operations away from destruction and purging, and move more towards making peace with the populace. Then the assassins would be too dangerous to be allowed to live. Pierre took some comfort in the thought that the men in this room would be dead before the year was done. He smiled at that thought.

The man with the beefy fists hit him. Pierre nearly fell from the chair but hands held him from behind now.

“No smiling. Do you think this is a joke?” screamed Fist Man.

Pierre spat blood from his mouth. The inside of his cheek was a mess where flesh had met teeth. He did not let his tongue explore the new damage, steeling himself against the morbid curiosity. The time for assessing the physical damage would come later, when he was free and on a plane back home.

A man pulled up a chair and sat in front of him. Pierre studied him from under his lashes, afraid that a direct gaze would only bring more fists. This man was cleaner than the others.

“Why are you here, Professor Montenard?” Clean Man asked, his English perfect.

“You brought me here,” Pierre said. “I am your guest.”

A fist hit his ear. As blows go, it was almost gentle. Pierre shook the tears of pain from his eyes and met the Clean Man’s gaze directly.

“Why are you here, in my country? Are you a spy?”

“I am a professor of Anthropology on leave from Cambridge. I was investigating a dig in the mountains of Eritrea.”

“This is Sudan. You have strayed far. What does the CIA want in Sudan? You cannot destabilize this revolution. It had been a long time coming.”

“CIA? I am not American,” Pierre said, trying to stay calm. The paranoia of rebels took their minds into dangerous, stupid places.

“What were you looking for in Kassala?

“I had heard rumors about an artifact in the tomb of Khatmiyya Hasan. I came across the border to investigate.”

“What rumors? It is a derelict building. It is on the list of places to be destroyed.

Pierre flinched as the very air shuddered around him. It was the presence, the hint of sentience that had been getting stronger as he traveled towards the ancient site. Whoever it was, whatever it was, it did not like the idea of someone destroying its resting place.

“It is a holy place,” Pierre implored. “They say the rain does not fall upon its stone floors even though it has no roof.”

“Religion and magic! Pah!” the Clean Man spat. “The unwashed and the illiterate embrace their ignorance by believing in such things. The Ruling Council will purge this weakness from our collective souls that we may better serve our brothers. You are a man of science. Why would you believe the tales of children and old mothers?”

“Magic is only science that has not been explained yet,” Pierre shrugged.

The Clean Man slapped him. Pierre blinked away the darkness encroaching on the edge of his vision and spat the blood from his mouth. He decided he was getting tired of getting hit.

“You know what I think,” Clean Man was saying. “I think you are a liar. I think your great education has only made you a consummate liar. Why are you in Kassala? Who told you the Revolutionary Guard controlled the University here?”

“I did not know,” Pierre said, shaking his head. “If I had known about the unrest here I would have never crossed the border.” That was not true. He would have come no matter what. The thing he had been searching for all his life beckoned him onward. He was a fool on a fool’s errand but he was not to be turned from his prize by a revolution or its murderous followers.

“But you did cross and we caught you spying. Do you know what the Guard does to spies?”

“I am sure it is quite gruesome,” Pierre said tiredly.

“We crucify them. Did you not see the garden of bodies I have planted along the road into the city?”

“Unfortunately, no. I came overland from Eritrea,” Pierre said, trying not to sound condescending by repeating facts. “I thought you did not believe in religion. Why crucifixion?”

“The Roman were great killers. They were artists who worked in pain and suffering.”

“You admire them?”

“Of course. Look around you. They built this city on the bodies of the ones who lived here before them. I mean to do the same.”

“The Romans burned the world to the ground and destroyed themselves in the process. Do not doom yourself by following in their footsteps.”

The Clean Man punched him, hard, in the gut. Pierre would have fallen to the floor but for the rough hands that held him in place. Something whispered in the back of his mind, soft, incoherent sounds meant to comfort and soother. He tried to reassure it, but it did not believe his false optimism. Something shifted under his feet. Electricity prickled up and down his skin. The air smelled of lightning and cordite.

When he could speak again, he looked up. “Please don’t do that again.”

“Why?” Clean Man asked scornfully. “Will you kill me? Forgive me if do not feel afraid. You are old and frail. I could kill you with a single blow.”

“You stand upon a power site. There is a thing that lives in its heart and it is not happy with you.”

The Clean Man hit him again.

Pierre shook the angry buzzing out of his ears and glared up at his tormentor.

“This is the land of my ancestors,” Clean Man said. “All that I do, I do in their honor. The ghosts of my fathers will keep me safe.”

“Things far older than humans have walked this planet,” Pierre groaned. “You risk all our lives by this action. Take me far from Kassala. Kill me out in the desert. The anger of the being that holds this place in her heart will not suffer my death in her presence.”

“You are mad,” breathed the Clean Man. He pulled his pistol out of the holster on his hip. “Or a zealot. I have decided. No crucifixion. You would probably enjoy it.”

Clean Man put the muzzle of the pistol against his forehead. Pierre closed his eyes and prepared to die. She was there, behind his eyelids, smiling at him. Pierre smiled back.

“I have found you at long last,” he whispered.

“And I you, Husband. Come. Embrace me. It is time to take back this planet from its human plague.”

Pierre felt her crawl into his heart. Felt the change ignite inside him. Felt the power explode out of his core. Felt the light fill his mind. Star light. Sun Light. Dark Light. This was what his colleagues spoke of when they talked of stars being born. He felt her around him, controlling the explosion. Too quick and they would go out like a candle in high wind. She coiled in his mind, psychic and empathic, and used it to touch the men around him. Pierre heard them scream as their bodies burst into flame. In an instant the parts that she did not need had turned to ash and the part she need, she incorporated into their communal body. Taking that new strength, she used it to consume the city. Kassala became molten slag.

She looked outward.

“Stop,” he begged, as city after city fell to her touch.

“It is too late. Your body is gone as mine was taken from me long ago. We must move forward.”

Africa became hers. She leapt into Arabia and Europe.

“You are killing everyone!”

“Oh, they are not dead. Just transformed. They are yours to do with as you please. I do not care.”

Pierre looked down. His body was nothing but light now. Inside his translucent form a billion shapes wriggled in his distended belly.

“I am pregnant?” Pierre asked in wonder.

She met herself coming around the planet and recoiled, fountaining out into space. She took Earth’s moon and then took Mars and Venus. She ate the sun as an appetizer.

“Well, we have to populate our new world of Light somehow, don’t we?” she said reasonably.

Pierre smiled and rubbed his ever growing belly.

“Yes,” he whispered, letting her take all that she needed. When she was done, a new star burned hot in the heavens and Pierre’s children were already planning their new existence.

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