BUY

Prologue

What may seem to us as irreconcilable, the old ones took as complementary, and thus as confirmation of the manifold powers of the gods. Although ancient logic is not ours, it has its own consistency and integrity. Consequently, one must leave behind the world of rational and scientific causality in order to gain entrance to the world of magic.

The Knot of Eternity. A Commentary. T. Good. (Old Oaks Academy Press, 1963), 1.

 

Let me be clear, I am fully human.

Many of my opponents … not so much.

I’m the latest in a long line that has held the righteous title of Lictor of Magic. That makes me an actual demon slaying exorcist. The International Integrated Interface Society trained me for this gig and I have become … proficient. I still have a long way to go, in my mind, a long, long way.

From demon-possessed politicians to hellish fiends conjured by despicable practitioners, I have dispatched them all. Fortunately, these things are easily identified by their horrific auras, which are dark, black, and in the most hard-core cases, wriggle and squirm about like slimy obsidian eels.

I have a lot of work ahead of me. How much? At last count about eight hundred years’ worth of demons to hack through, ever since they began to illicitly seep into the mortal realm.

That leak was mended a year or so back. In truth, the soul I carry, the First Soul of Creation, actually performed all the fancy stitching, I just got us to the right place, at the right time. Now it’s up to us to put things back into balance once again. As I said, about eight hundred years’ worth of demons need slaying.

That’s lots of practice.

*          *          *

About two weeks earlier, the ever-venerable Mr. Henry and I sat under a weathered pine overhang at a scenic upland gas stop. Shaded from a cloudless New Mexican sun, we were frankly parched and hungry after our hike. Several guzzled beers later, we wolfed down some potato chips and a couple of god-awful microwaved hot dogs.

Then, in a burping, beery moment, the aged white haired man looked me in the eye and declared, “You’ve evolved. You’re now J.J. 2.0.”

Mr. Henry’s words launched me back several hours, to an obscure cave opening blocked with spider webbing. A swipe from a handy stick and we entered its split-rock opening, stepping over a tiny stream that dribbled out, mercury-like, into the sunshine.

Dark, quiet, and smelling vaguely moldy, we shined our flashlights within this narrow passage, skimming our beams over its towering walls. It then opened up into a chamber that swallowed our beams. Our shoes crunched on a dry, sandy floor.

“Well, J.J.,” Mr. Henry said, “we’re here. Can you feel it?” His voice echoed.

“Feel what?”

“A faint thrum … almost a harmonic that hits your inner ear.”

I concentrated. “Yeah. It sounds like a river flowing near us, in the rock, just beyond our reach.”

I reached out and touched the gently vibrating side wall. And that’s all she wrote, until I came to, on the floor, with Mr. Henry kneeling over me with a worried look on his face.

“J.J! J.J! Are you all right?”

“What happened?” I asked, dazed and confused. I won’t sugar-coat it, something had leveled me. I tasted copper in my mouth. I must have bitten my tongue.

Mr. Henry, clearly relieved at my return, said, “You’ve been out for a full minute. Boy, you gave me a fright. I even had to catch you before you cold-cocked yourself good on the floor.”

“I reached out to feel that wall. Never have felt anything like it before. It knocked me for a loop.”

“Oh,” the Fourth-Class Adept said laconically, as he hovered the palm of his hand over where I had pointed.

“That’s a powerful hot spot, got to be a side branch of the Silver Nile.”

I attempted to get up.

“J.J., stop. Take a good inventory. Are you okay?”

“I think so. But give me a hand. I don’t want to touch any more walls.”

Once up, I felt light-headed, but everything else seemed to work just fine.

“Jesus, Mr. Henry, you’re glowing. Your aura is really amped up.”

Looking down at his hands, then at me, Mr. Henry corrected. “No, it’s not me, it’s you. Your usual aura has become sparkly somehow. I think you’ve been charged up. Now, as a test, try to read my mind.”

I did, as easily as if I were looking into a beer cooler, and said so.

Well, now, that’s mighty interesting. I indeed had a frosty beer in mind, but I had my blocks on full. How hard did you try?”

“I didn’t. I just did it. This is really freaking me out. What else did the Silver Nile do to me?”

“There’s no telling, son. But just for safety, let’s get out of this god-forsaken cave. But take it slow.”

“By the way, Mr. Henry, where’s your flashlight?”

“I must have dropped it somewhere.”

“I can see you clear as day. Now let me find the flashlight. It’s got to be around here somewhere near. I can feel it.”

*          *          *

That’s why Mr. Henry called me, J.J 2.0. I had accidentally tapped into the ley line of the American Southwest—the Silver Nile—and received a dose of its psychic energy. That alone explained why I conked out, and my amplified physical and paranormal senses.

What do I mean? Consider this. I was born with an Innate Paranormal Ability Rating of ten. The scale doesn’t go any higher. Sixth Class Adepts, the highest known by my society, typically are rated at five to six on the IPAR scale.

On top of that, my Soul Numeral was one, meaning, I carried the First Soul of Creation. So right out of the block, I grew up as a hyper-sensitive paranormal who routinely perceived and interpreted the auras of living creatures.

To be completely honest, I’m not sure what the Silver Nile did to me. Just that afterward, I found my senses and abilities highly enhanced.

Since that experience, I have noticed that auras appeared brighter, more detailed, even rippled with signs of strength or exhaustion. My sixth sense sharpened to a preternatural level where my intuition became so sure that reality sometimes got fuzzy; as in “did that happen yet?” My motor reflexes, much augmented, were altered to a cheetah-like twitch. My ability to exorcize a demon from an unfortunate mortal, by touch alone, came naturally. It was like I had become their Kryptonite.

Once again, I found myself in uncertain territory at the worst possible time. Unsure of myself and my newly augmented abilities, I rode my brand new bike like it had training wheels. Meanwhile, I was on the run—staying two steps ahead of an evil international paranormal organization bent on putting me in the ground.

Truth be told, I had earned the rapt attention of the Consilium magorum et sagarum. Yes, I single-handedly eliminated one of their hit squads in the Santa Fe National Forest. Yes, I ruined their North American headquarters in Manhattan. And yes, I assassinated their regional director and stole his much-coveted Book of Spells.

By all counts, I admit these deeds made me a high-priority target. Fortunately, they didn’t know I had assassinated their international chairman as well—a man whose own blood-sworn oracle wanted removed. As they say, “he was not greatly loved.”

On the other hand, and in my defense, never forget that since my birth, CMES had targeted me for destruction several times. Why you might ask? Chiefly because I carried the First Soul. Add to that, each and every one of my actions against CMES I undertook in response to one of their horrible atrocities—like infant human sacrifice, crucifixion, and assassination.

Seldom had the biblical adage, “an eye for an eye,” been more rigorously applied. Usually, the paranormal community smoothed over such injuries with the more peaceful concept of Wehrgeld, “man-money.” Yes, this tit-for-tat feud between my society and CMES had spiraled into a low-grade paranormal war between good and evil.

When I first signed up to be the muscle for the paranormal “good guys,” TIIIS, little did I know how rapidly I would get such a long rap sheet. So who were these good guys I work for? Think of them as Nature’s own counter balance that represented good versus evil, light versus darkness, freedom versus oppression. Without question, TIIIS was an odd anagram for an obscure paranormal society made up of sensitives, telepaths, telekinetic athletes, and outright gifted white witches and wizards. Were they perfect? Hardly.

Before I showed up, TIIIS’ external policy had been that of a box turtle—passive, and defensive, with precious little desire for anything offensive or retaliatory in nature. CMES would dish it out, and TIIIS was content to absorb it and survive.

However, when I became their Lictor of Magic—their enforcer of external policy—that all changed. Since I was a decorated U.S. Marine veteran and non-com officer, I knew what a battlefield smelled like. Crucially, I had killed—many times. TIIIS’ then president recognized the opportunity and turned me loose.

In spite of TIIIS’ many odd turns of tradition and policy, I remained a man of moral conscience, who stood apart and jealously held to my own true nature. I could say no, and often did. But throughout all the mayhem I was never truly alone, for I had an ally, the First Soul itself. This spiritual companion I conversed with quite often.

Given my role in shaping TIIIS’ external policy, President Silver Moon directed me to lay low and off the grid. I wasn’t really all that surprised. I had been busy giving CMES fits. At the same time, I was on call on a twenty-four/seven basis. Which sorta puts a crimp in your social life, though management didn’t see it that way.

Then things got really interesting.

BUY