Category Archives: Prose

Quantum Prose.

Quantum Prose/Langauge Night.It rained.He stood in front of the brownstone. It was like a movie, he waited for her to come down and open the door. Let him in, like a wolf into the fold. That wasn’t him though he wished it were as Minus the Bear’s ‘White Mystery;’ played steadily in his ears. The clack clack of the door joslted him out of his reverie. ” You just gonna stand there and get wet.”
She stood in the doorway waiting for him. “I’d rather it were you then me.” He smirked. She smirked back “Get in here.” She pulled him by his moist leather jacket, as bass keys from Childish Gambino’s ‘Heartbeat’ began to play. They walked up the rickety stairs narrow stairs that sighed as pressure was applied from  the soles of his feet. The smell reminded him of his dads old apartment, old wood and maple syrup. The door was open and she motioned for him to take off his boots and hang up his jacket. He responded in kind as she walked into the kitchen and came back with two small white porcelain cups and a bottle of peach Sake. The only alcohol he ever touched, she wanted him loose, eased of tension. She poured the clear liquid into the cups and they toasted, to them. Taking a sip she put her cup down and went into her bedroom, returning a second later with a leather bound note book, an elastic band was keeping it closed and the tassel was wedge between two pages near the end. She opened it carefully ,sliding the elastic band off slowly, delicately. Prelude to a strip tease he thought. She leafed through the pages examining them intimately with her thumb and forefinger. He felt something rising in his chest, spinning clockwise, sliding slowly in all directions like light breaking across shadow. She slid her fingers between the binding and the tassel removing it carefully and slowly, the image of removing panties flashed across his frontal lobe and he was instantly ready. She locked eyes with him then began to read, a poem something long and sweet. He more felt it than heard it, he felt her intent. He shifted and took off his shocks, they were damp and uncomfortable as the air became hot.He hadn’t took his eyes off of her and even still she seemed less clothed she looked up at him, hunger there in her eyes, no not hunger something else. Something older, something primal sensual and knowing, inviting and subduing. “And it came like r-r-rapid fire,” She rolled her r’s Spanish girls he thought, while smiling. By the time she finished they were both sweating , there was a wave in the room that had been stuck on cresting permanently and it begged to crash, longed for it. She smiled her petite frame moving gracefully as she put down the book. “Well, don’t leave me in suspense.”She looked like a child waiting to be scolded. “It was… I felt it.” For a writer words failed him at the wrong times. Emotion took over, her weight on the couch broke his his thoughts up like a cookie in milk. Small girl with a legendary ass she told him once. He chuckled in spite of himself. “What’s so funny.” She looked at him perplexed and half expectant. He smiled .”You.” He said communicating lip to lip. He bit her bottom lip like a signature and she responded in kind. Her shirt was open in a moment and his hands massaged the small golden brown globes of her chest.He kneaded them and the nervousness that usually precluded the act had never appeared for him, there was something to be savored in the peach sake flavored kisses. Something smooth and bass ridden like a song that made you want to slide right in…to whatever it was you were doing. What he was doing or about to, just so happened to be her. His buttons snapped apart,she’d liked him in the shirt. Her pants slid off just as easy, the couch would do, the bed was too far at least he thought so, but he asked anyway. “Why ruin the mood Hero.” Her nickname for him on account that his main dish was comics. The dance ensued, the tangle of limbs the ‘beast with two backs’ Shakeaspeare called it. Didn’t seem like a beast to him, It was more like Sarte’s being and nothingness. The moment, movement and momentum, the wash of sensory perception, the oscillating angles and the staccato sound of joining again, again, againnnnnnn….she sang a high note so beautiful it cracked the sky. The wave crashed dashing the the thoughts of sadness and the mundane, but consequently crushing the same euphoria that washed away those negative thoughts. Numb they were shaking, numb they were sated, numb they were nothing. They sloughed to the bedroom, when they lie down the bed hummed lightly as if to say finally I’m being put to use. The Devil that was daybreak woke him. She slept on his chest, her favorite pillow. He shifted under her and lay her head down on the goose feathers, the bathroom like a walk in closet with a claw-foot bathtub. He looked at himself in the mirror, his dreadlocks were unkempt and he would need to shave soon. He’d been back home for a week and things had metamorphosed into a strange cocktail of physical intimacy and an atavistic need to immerse himself in the culture of his hometown. That coupled with the pursuit of his writing career sat on his shoulders like a specter that wouldn’t let go. All of this formed in his head spilling from his subconscious mind flowing one into the other, folding like the the language of photons forming into a sort of quantum prose.He didn’t want to feel like he failed for coming back home, but having lived on his own had made him hungry for an upgrade.Living at his mother’s house was not what he was trying to do for the remainder of his life. He splashed water on his face and tried to piece together the fragments of yesterday while contemplating tomorrow’s future. His mind worked like that. It was an montage of rolling words made of colors on a background of sounds. This was the difference between living, life, existing in it and surviving it. This was life for him and he would need to embrace it and enjoy it, like all tomorrow’s parties.

Scrawl of Dreams (Unedited)


Scrawl of Dreams

Ra’Chaun Rogers
03/08/05
 
Chapter I: The Concord. 
He walked, it was cold as usual, not blistering, but to him no cold was good. He wouldn’t be out here if he didn’t need to, but of course, he did. Walking with a cautious step, mindful that no one must see his face, not that any sane soul would travel this way. Still this was no consolation, for this was Winterbourne country and a Winterbourne he was not. They had taken everything and in doing so gained complete control although how they rose to prominence was a mystery, he was sure that his destination would provide a remedy to the cancer plaguing his world. The wilderness swirled around him in the torrent of snow; the howls of distant animals graced his ears. Slowly he entered a hollow wound in the earth. As he went deeper, the freezing cold gave way to a tingle. There was a dim light, which became brighter as he approached. There were rumors that this cave was guarded by something so horrible, the realm of nightmares wouldn’t dare conjure it up. Finally, he reached a cavern, illuminated by a translucent green fluid, hanging from stalagmites. They were like hesitant tear drops, cried by the cave long ago and along with the soft light they gave off there was also warmth. Below, a mirrored pool waited its surface calm, unmoving, beautiful, this was the ‘Fourth Wall’. He blinked at his reflection, his hair had grown, long black locks draping over his shoulders and his eyes, almost feral, were alien to him. How long had it been, since he’d been told about this place? He took a deep breath, pealing off his heavy clothes; he shed them for something lighter a white cloth over shirt and pants like something one would wear in a tropical climate. As he prepared to plunge into the liquid below, a sound reverberated through the cave, a sound much like that of water moving through strained metal pipes. Was this it, the horrible guardian of the fourth wall?  Jumping back he braced himself, a gale force wind slapped his locks back into his face, followed by a vertical wall of water. It spouted up from the pool and hit the ceiling, Where is it? The liquid hung in the air like a cloud of smoke, if formed a sphere as a light moved across its reflective surface. And then he heard it, the ear splitting screech, followed another gust. He covered his face and tried not to lose his balance, the wind stopped and standing directly across from him was something constructed of his childhood nightmares. It was a deathly gray, bent backward as its head spun around to observe him, its mouth or what counted for one appeared stitched shut, along with it’s eyes. It jerked around horribly as if it were on the verge of seizure, it’s elbows and knees were bent in the wrong angles, it stank of death, of violence. I’ve come too far to be stopped now.  The young man placed his hands at his sides, took in deep breathes, closed his eyes. The creature reared back ready to lunge toward him, it shook uncontrollably and launched itself over the hole.
Show time, the young man opened his eyes, which were now gleaming silver and a bright flash filled the room.  
Roderick stopped, saved his work, and logged off; he’d been writing this story for as week. It started as a project to relive stress and exercise recommended by his friend Sierra, but now he couldn’t stop as if something compelled him to write, as if he had a duty to tell this story. He walked over to his bed removed his glasses and laid down, it was as if his entire life force went his work, scrawling his dreams on to paper making them real, solid, dense. Sleep now hung on his eyelids; he’d write tomorrow, for now sleep.
He closed his eyes slowly dwelling between the point of reality and the rapid eye movements that awaited him in dreamtime. As his eyes closed he imagined himself in the story he wrote, nothing was different. Same town he lived in, nothing different except he could do what ever he felt like.  He was rattled awake by the sound of footsteps and his eyes shot open. “Who’s there?”  He waited for a reply but none came.
   It’s probably just Avery. He closed his eyes again and tried at a second attempt to go to sleep, and seemed to be succeeding.
   “Roderick”
   “Yes” he whispered. He shook his head.  
   Roderick got up out of his bed, opened the door, and walked into the hallway. “Avery did you call me?”
      “No.” said a loud voice from a door in the middle of the hallway.” You hearin’ things go to bed.”
  Roderick was about to ask his mother but stopped himself when he realized that she was at her boyfriend’s house across town. He closed his door and hit the bed, closed his eyes and hoped that he could get to sleep. And he did.
During the night he’d dreamt of a young man with dreadlocks like his swimming in a tunnel filled with water, no, not water; something else. He was woken up mid dream and seemed to be stricken by sleep paralysis. Of course, the only parts of his body that worked were his eyes and mouth. At the foot of his bed, he caught sight of a young man sitting down.
      “Hello Roderick” the young man dread locks that were covering his eyes.
       Roderick closed his eyes tight and utilizing the ostrich theory he hoped it would be gone when he opened them.
      “Open your eyes” the young man had a wide grin on his face too wide to be human. He wore a T-shirt with a soccer ball on it, blue jeans, and converse. “I’m not going anywhere just yet.”
     “What …I…I…Is it that you want?” Roderick broke into his nervous stutter. 
   “Only to talk”
     Roderick blinked and the young man was sitting in his computer chair. “I’m here to give you what you want.” The figure moved in the chair a bit.
    “What I want?” There were a couple of things that Roderick wanted.
       “I want to escape”
    “Great me too.” The Young man spun around in the chair playfully. “So do you want it or not, what am I saying, of course you do.”
     “How do I get it?”
        “Just shake my hand.” The young man smiled beneath his locks.
         “But I can’t move, sleep paralysis.” Roderick breathed.
         “Yes you can, get up.” The young man motioned for him to rise.
         Roderick bolted up immediately as if by some strange magnetism. “Ok… so we just shake and that’s it?”
         “That’s it, come on.”
       “What do I call you?” Roderick asked
       “It doesn’t really matter because by tomorrow, I’ll be you.” The Young man smiled and his eyes shown a bright silver.
———————————————————————————————————-
     Roderick lay in his bed staring at the ceiling. It was 7:00 AM.  A cold sweat coursed down his brow and caused his hair to stick to his face. He looked over at his alarm clock flashing 7:00 and buzzing loudly.
   Why do I keep this thing, all it does is make noise. He slammed his fist down on the snooze button and got up. It was Thursday and school was at 9:00. Roderick put his hair in a rubber band, put on his glasses, walked to his dresser, and stepped over the pile of clothes on the floor. Reaching for the drawer, he took out a pair of boxers and an undershirt.  Opening the second drawer he pulled out a pair of Levis, then shuffled through his bottom drawer looking for a shirt to wear. He picked out a shirt with a fox on it and threw it next to the pants; he then picked up a dirty towel with boxers and undershirt in hand and walked out of his room.
         A few seconds after Roderick left a man two inches shorter than him, but obviously older walked in quietly. Slowly picked up Roderick’s wallet, he removed twenty dollars and crept out again.   
          After ten minutes the door flew open and Roderick walked back in. “Damn it, my hair.” stepping in front of the mirror he attempted to move the wet, matted mess from its entanglement not noticing the small thin crack that formed as he stepped in front of it.
    He walked up to his stereo and hit the Power button as raging guitar riffs and screeching vocals roared from the speakers.
         “Turn that shit off.” A voice lumbered from behind his door and a body followed” Nigga you black. You can’t’ listen to that shit”
          Roderick cringed. The word Nigga cut him like barbed wire.  He hated that word. He also hated his brother Avery the living embodiment of It. Avery rushed through the door. He never approved of Roderick leading the lifestyle he did or the music that came with it. Avery was your typical black stereotype, thuggish, listened to rap, spoke improper English, and was generally negative.
            Roderick never liked Avery, not in sight or in mind. He’d often times wondered why his mother didn’t abort him. He was an accident. 
        Roderick put his clothes on with no hurry and hadn’t even turned to acknowledge his brother shuffling through his drawer for his keys, wallet chain, and MP3 player.
         “You hear me?” Avery’s tone was annoyed.
         “Yeah, but do I care?” Roderick still didn’t turn around.
          “Man whatever” Avery walked out the room slightly angered.
            All the while Roderick hadn’t noticed that his mirror was cracking nor did he notice his reflection moving of its own accord. He turned to get his cell phone from the dresser. He stopped to notice that his reflection was staring at him. Its gaze was cold and distant. 
  “What the hell!?” Roderick stepped forward
     It made no attempt to move, if only to watch him move forward.
      He raised an eyebrow and tried to touch the mirror. At this it moved to match him. The mirror rippled like water and as the reflection reached out the glass bent around its hand.
        “Oh shit!” Roderick Jumped back and hit his bed causing it to make contact with the wall.
        Avery ran into the room “What the fuck happened?”
       Roderick looked at the mirror. Nothing was out of place; his reflection was where it was supposed to be “Uh I slipped…” Roderick looked for something he could have slipped on, he wasn’t in the mood to deal with his brother calling him crazy. “On my socks”
        “Well keep it down.” Avery was attempting to sound like the adult he was supposed to be, rather than the Child he was. “You gonna wake da dog.” He slammed the door behind him.
           Asshole. Roderick got to his feet put on his sneakers then picked up his messenger bag lying on the left side of his bed near the window. He crept passed the mirror regarding it as a sleeping giant. He opened the door and glanced at the mirror quickly to see if anything had changed. But all stayed the same.
     He walked out his door ignoring the loud music and weed smoke coming from his brother’s room then continued down the long hall. Roderick stopped in front of his mother’s room. Natalie kept her room like any other woman. Lots of jewelry, too many clothes with an abundance of shoes. On her dresser was a five-year-old picture of her Roderick at 12 and Avery at 22, right next to the new photo of her and her boyfriend James. There was no indication that his father Malcolm and his mother had been together or that he had a father.  
         Roderick never liked the idea of his mother attempting to erase his father from the family’s collective memory. The methods she used to do so, included but were not limited to letting the phone ring out when ever Malcolm’s name appeared on the caller ID and calling Roderick a cab rather than risk a direct encounter when he visited his father.  
      He stepped out, jogged down the stairs, opened the front door, and left his house.
      Roderick read an old worn copy of the book Vigilance on the bus ride to school. That was coupled with a song rock, which was steadily damaging his eardrums so as not to be disturbed. He sat in one of the single seats to further make sure no one bothered him.  Despite his trying the book failed to hold his attention and his mind teetered between thoughts and dreams, the music as loud as it was only did to mesh both together.
       With heavy eyelids, he glimpsed something like a dog running beside the bus, and then he began to doze off, glasses hanging off of his face.
           “Where are you!?” a loud obnoxious voice behind him broke through the barrier of guitar riffs and into Roderick’s lucid dreaming. “Oh yeah well hurry up I ain’t got all day and I gotta meet Trina to go shopping.”
     Damn, please shut up. Roderick adjusted his glasses and turned his head to glare at the person only to realize it was his brother’s girlfriend Latisha. Roderick tried to look away quickly enough so as not to be noticed but had no luck.
  “Hey, you’re A’s brother right?” her voice was even louder although she sat behind him.    “Uh, yeah… hi” Roderick trailed off and looked away 
     “Yeah well tell him I’m going shopping, so I’m gonna need money.”  She said nonchalantly
       Guess that means he’ll be doing more illegal shit or stealing from mom … not that she’d notice. “Sure. I’ll tell him.” Roderick buried his head in his book.
      Latisha leaned over his shoulder and looked at the yellow pages of the book he was reading. “Damn that book looks old, what is it” she said loudly.
     Roderick winced at the sound of her voice and its volume. “It’s Vigilance; it’s about a young man who goes about saving a city in the mid-west, using the occult.”
     “Oh, that’s for school?”
“No. It’s for me”
“You know, you don’t seem weird” Latisha looked at him somewhat puzzled
   “Excuse me?” Roderick raised an eyebrow.
“Well Avery said you were weird, you’re trying to be white and shit”
  Son of a bitch. “Listen Avery’s a liar with a Peter Pan complex.”
 “What, does that mean?”
   Roderick turned around “It means he’s damn near 30 living with his mother”
  “Naw, you lying, he said he was 22”
    Roderick had enough sense in his head not to try and contest her. Who knows what his brother had said to make himself look good and credible. “You’re right. I am lying. I’m only his brother right?”
     Latisha was quiet for the rest of the ride to school.
       The day went as usual a blur of long speeches about the important part classical literature played in our daily lives, the fact that PIs are squared and not round, and the glory of the rock cycle. How do I endure this everyday?His thoughts time traveled to the figure of a young girl with braided hair, chestnut skin, and beautiful full lips. Oh yeah that’s why. Time was apparently knee deep in a swamp so; it took a considerable amount of time for the day to come to a close. It did however in spite of itself.    
      The hallways were barren except for the few who had tutoring or wanted to be out of the house. Roderick strolled along nodding to those he knew sitting and standing. It was 3:00 and with his classes finished he’d bum around for a while, locate a quite corner to read or a loud open space in which to get lost. Roderick dreaded his house, even its aura was oppressive, and his only alternative was to go to his father’s house. Like he’d be home or crash at Sierra’s and well, that wasn’t doing anything but causing trouble. 
                   “I’m sorry Randy, its over.” The familiar monotone yet feminine voice raised an octave. Roderick turned his head to see the tail end of a bad scene.
       “But Sierra, can’t we just talk a little, I mean, we can work this out.”
      
       “No, we can’t, you’re too jealous…first you start a fight at the movies, because a guy, who was obviously gay, said he liked my shoes and now you’re accusing me of sleeping with Roderick?”
       “What am I supposed to think, you go out like every night with the guy, to the arcade and then I found out that nigga’s spent the night at your crib?” Randy gave his best thuggish scowl. “I haven’t even spent the night with you.”
       “It’s not like that, his older brother attacked him with a bottle one night and he was afraid to go home.”
         “Well tell that bitch ass nigga to handle his own problems.” Randy yelled.
         “Randy , I don’t turn away friends and when we started dating you told me you had no problem with me having a male best friend.” Sierra crossed her arms and cocked her hip. “And since you’ve shown me you can’t do that, we’re over.”
         Randy turned and walked away, caught sight of Roderick and walked toward him, Randy was four inches tall than Roderick and about forty pounds heavier. “You’re real lucky there are people here right now, because I’d fuck you up.” He breathed heavily . “But if I catch you alone or outside of school, it’s on bitch ass nigga.” With that he pushed passed Roderick and down the hallway. 
         Sierra came up to Roderick and sighed. “Don’t worry about him Roderick he’s all talk.”
        
         “I’m sorry I was a party to that.” He replied, a melancholy expression plastered on his face. “Maybe we shouldn’t hang out for a while, at least until you two can sort things out.”
         “No, this has nothing to do with you.” She sighed again, her newly braided hair framing her angular mahogany face.  “It’s my bad choice in men, I don’t know why I can’t I ever find one that’s not a jealous, thug with violent tendencies.”
        
         Roderick shrugged, he didn’t like to think about why Sierra kept dating the wrong guys, mainly because he wasn’t one of them. “It’ll work out for you, look at me, I haven’t been with anyone in…forever.” He allowed himself a bitter laugh.
        
Sierra had been Roderick’s best friend since he’d first attended Endwater high school. Endwater was the second largest city on the eastern seaboard and had been a trading post for many years. It was divided into five districts; Roderick lived in Endwater Flats a suburb of Endwater city, which was the center of commerce. The three other districts were Endwater sound, which severed as a port fort the City, Endwater Fields which was literally a university island and Endwater Commons. The Commons as they were called was the most dangerous part of the City, where crime was a common occurrence and some people estimated that its residents perpetrated crimes committed outside of it. Sierra was born and raised in the Commons, she’d taken a liking to Roderick a right away enjoying his quit wit and sarcastic humor. Her environment had made her less of a lady and more of a survivor and Roderick respected that, even if it meant that she wouldn’t ever think of him as anything other than a friend. Her type was tall, athletic with broad shoulders, a voice like a base drum, and a carefree swagger. Roderick was 5’7 and as wide as a toothpick, not to mention that his voice was in a perpetual bout with puberty and thanks to a car accident, what could’ve been a carefree swagger was now a nervous shuffle. But she tolerated him, whether for entertainment or out of some slight emotional attachment he could only guess, but he hoped for the latter.
       Sierra looked apologetically at him and then swiftly changed the subject. “So what’s up?”
       “Not much, except I realized that seeing you here is the best part of my day. Roderick exhaled slowly. “I’m now deciding whether I should cry about that now or later.”
         Sierra smirked and slapped him on the shoulder. “Man, you always got jokes.”
        
         “Yeah, I was thinking of trying stand up.” Roderick said with a tinge of melancholy. She was the brightest part of his day.
         “So are we heading to the chest tonight or what?” The Cyber chest or the ‘Chest’ as it was called was a local arcade, she and Roderick liked to frequent.
        
“Sure I’m just gonna, take my stuff home, and meet you there.” Roderick adjusted his glasses nervously.
“Ok, I’ll be waiting for you.” She giggled and smiled with just a little seduction behind it. Maybe there was something to Randy’s assumptions.  “I’m going to head home and change.” With that she turned and walked away.
         Roderick stared at her, his forlorn eyes held until, a swift movement to his right caught his attention, a shadow on the periphery of his vision, Must be imagining things, that’s been happening a lot lately.  Traveling down the hall he turned right, making his way into the bathroom. It was cold, the smell of urine filled the air, the once white porcelain walls now marred with graffiti, and the steel stalls were riddled with fake phone numbers and scribbles. Standing in front of a urinal he emptied his bladder, Whew I needed that.  At that moment the hairs on Roderick’s neck stood like soldiers, something had moved past him, fast.
        
         “Hello.” He turned, zipped up his pants and looked around. What the hell is going on?
        
         There was no sign of who may have been behind him and if someone was there, I’ve gotta get out of here.  Turning on the sink Roderick lathered up his hands and splashed his face with cold water. Chill out man.  
         “Yeah relax.” The voice wasn’t behind him but in front of him, in the mirror.
         Roderick looked up and came face to face with himself, well a version of himself. His hair was long and he wore stylish wire frame glasses. He had on the same clothes but wore them differently, better. Roderick began to breathe heavily and he shook just a little bit, as his mind attempted to adjust to what it was seeing.
        
     “I’m losing it right?” Roderick put his hands over his eyes, shaking his head causing his pony tailed locks to bob. “This isn’t happening, a daylight hallucination, like in that movie I saw.”
       “Relax man, you know me, we spoke last night.” The reflection put it’s hands up in a calming motion. “I’m just here to let you know you’re about to be in some trouble.”
       “Trouble. What kind of trouble?” Roderick still cradled his head in his hands but looked up between his fingers. “From where, from whom?”
         At that moment a fist rammed in to Roderick’s jaw nearly lifting him off his feet and knocking his glasses off his face, spinning in slow motion he caught a glimpse of his attacker. Randy, I should’ve known.  He hit the floor with thud.
         “Think I’m gonna let a bitch made nigga like you take my girl.” Randy landed a boot to Roderick’s ribs.
         Tears streamed down his face, as he clutched his side, another followed lifting him off of the floor momentarily, he hit the ground and pathetically groped for his glasses.
         “Get up.” Randy yelled.
        
         Roderick rolled over to face Randy blood trickling from his mouth, You need help. The voice was so clear in Roderick’s mind so familiar even more so than the pain he felt right now.
         “Help Me,” Roderick whispered.
         “What?” Randy grabbed Roderick by his collar and hoisted him up. “what did you say bitch, You want help.” He delivered a cross to Roderick’s jaw but didn’t let him go, another punch came as Randy began to pummel him.
         You need my help I’m taking over. At that moment Roderick felt another presence enter his mind and then blacked out.
Chapter II: Blaq Prince
         “Huff.”
        
         “Huff.”
        
         “Huff.”
         Roderick sat up in his bed, cold sweat ran down his back like a serpent snaking across a desert. He looked at his surroundings; the bed room was cool and black. He put on his glasses, which were slightly cracked, the light from his alarm clock blinked 8:30. How did I get in my room.
         “Roddy?”  Natalie’s voice rang out through the hollow hall. “Are you up?”
         Roderick rubbed his eyes with is hands.  Of course I’m up who could sleep with you yelling like that? “Yeah mom I’m up.” Roderick stepped out of bed and ran his fingers through his hair. Walking out into the hallway he noticed his mother putting on her earrings in a hallway mirror. “What’s the matter why were you yelling?”
         “Well, your brother Avery didn’t come home last night, have you heard from him?” She maneuvered her earnings as if they were wires of a bomb, and one false move would set them off.
         “No mom sorry, can’t say that I have.” Roderick closed his door. He wouldn’t ask Avery for a molecule of air if he were drowning, so talking to him causally wasn’t going to happen. However, on the edges of his mind something told him that Avery was gone and may never come back.
         “Ok well, I’ll call him later I’m going out, love you honey.” Roderick heard her descend the stairs.
         Roderick swung his legs toward the edge of the bed, and felt a small tinge in his stomach. “How did I end up here, I was in school, getting my ass kicked by Randy.”
         “I made contact with you.” Roderick’s reflection began to speak. “That’s what happened.”
         “Contact, but that was a…?”
         “That thing in the bathroom earlier, I couldn’t let you get your ass kicked, there’s still so much to do, and my enemies from Scrawl are still on my trail.”
         “But Scrawl’s just at story I created.” Roderick plopped back onto his bed.        
         “Hate to break it to you but Scrawl existed long before you did, you were just taping into the Stasis, I’d tell you all about it, but it’d be better to show you.” 
         “How are you going to do that?” Roderick raised an eyebrow.
         His reflection sighed heavily, the glass stretched out like bubble gum. “I need your body.”
         Roderick crawled backward, a sinking fear framing his face.  “What’ll happen to me?”
         “Nothing, we’ll be sharing the same body.” He shrugged. “Look I can explain better to you once you’ve seen the Stasis.”
         “How do I do that?” Roderick’s face calmed a little bit.
         “Well you just Sleep” The last word was a voice in his head, and he was out.
They stood at the edge of a stream both on either side. Roderick walked toward the reflection that stood on the opposite side. With each step, he spun taking in the beauty of the new area. The sky was a powder blue and there was a thin haze all around, small green lights twinkled in the distance and the trees blew but there was no wind. Roderick noticed that his reflection didn’t wear, his eyes were silver, his locks were wild and untamed, and from what Roderick could tell, he was very athletic.
         “I thought you were supposed to be me.” Roderick raised an eyebrow. “You look different, better.”
        
         “Well I’m more of the other you, from Scrawl.” The smile was normal this time.
         “Right, do you have a name; I mean I don’t recall giving you one.” Roderick scratched his head. “I mean it’s mine but I assume you want your own.”
         “I have a name.”
         “You do, what is it?”
        
         “I’m called Blaq Prince back in Scrawl.” he smiled.
         “So if I give you my body, what do I get?”
        
“I’ll make your life better, I’m an Ink Dweller, we have power. Not only that but, I’m charming, I’m witty and I kicked Randy’s ass although you weren’t awake to see that.” Blaq laughed
         “About that, what happened?”
         “When I’m awake you’re asleep, but you can see what I’m doing and vice versa, but that’s only for now.”

         “So will I be like schizophrenic?” Roderick gave a puzzled look.
         “No, once this happens I’m you, it’ll be like the conscious and the subconscious or two halves of the brain.” Blaq rubbed his onyx chin. “It’s not like two people in one body, it’s more like a synthesis.”  
          
         “Oh ok, so how do we do this?”          
        
         “You just walk to the edge of the Stasis and you’ll wake up.”
         “Oh ok, whose gonna be in control?” Roderick asked.
         “I’ll take over, as I recall you have to meet with Sierra at the arcade, and I know how you feel about her, just leave it to me.”
         “Oh ok.” Roderick and Blaq walked to the edge of the Stasis, looking back he watched Blaq Prince vanish. Breathing deeply he walked toward the infinite expanse before him. 
          
       The sounds of exploding cars and bloody fights filled the air. Lights flashed from machines that prompted their users to dance on time to a beat. He stood still adjusting to the sounds and light
People went head to head on steep highways and racetracks at break neck speeds. If you’d like to kill an hour of your life, take a walk in the park, if you’d like to waste it, hit the local arcade. The Cyber Chest was an arcade and video game retailer that had been around since anyone could remember. All of its patrons were what you expected the younger versions of seedy bar flies that rarely had sex and used date rape drugs to do so look like. Roderick pushed his way through the crowd lining the arcade machines, beyond the smoke and smell of unwashed bodies he’d hoped to find a bit of fun while trying not to get sucked in. Now arcades usually had a high male to female population, that being 99:1, the females that were regulars sometimes made you wonder whether it wasn’t a 100:0 ratio. On occasion, an attractive female did show up and if she wasn’t on someone’s arm, she fell into three categories, Shrew, Crazed, and Rare. Tonight Roderick was looking for one in particular 
         There she sat staring at the lights of the newest racing game cooling off, from having danced her heart to a screaming pace. Roderick had seen her when he walked in ,hips like you wouldn’t believe and an ass to go with it; her hair was braided in a way that reminded him of tree roots. She wore a fitting novelty t-shirt, and pant’s so tight, you could see the change in her pocket. He brushed his hair in front of his face, to imitate the fashion of the day, his locks perfectly framing his glasses. Adjusting his t-shirt so that the logo on it was clearly visible, he tightened the belt on his skinny jeans to make them look even tighter. Finally he dusted off his sneakers and walked over.
         “Mind if I join you?” Roderick stood next to her seat. 
         She looked up a bit annoyed, but then her eyes changed, lighting up like stars. “Roddy, you made it, I was worried.” She got up and hugged him tightly.
         “Why would you be worried?” He hugged her back a bit closer.
         “I heard you and Randy had a fight in the bathroom.” She looked at him with a hint of sadness. “And he’s bigger than you…so I was afraid…”
         “Well as you can see I’m ok, but enough about that, let’s play some Zero fist.”
        
         “Oh well I didn’t know you were in such a hurry to get your butt whooped.” She laughed.
         Zero Fist was a 3D fighting game that both Sierra and Roderick had become acquainted over. On Roderick’s first day, he’d come to the arcade to find some competition. Here he and Sierra ran into each other and preceded to a match, after realizing they went to the same school, they began hanging. They walked up to the game cabinet, slotted their coins and selected their characters, they both picked Caporeia fighters.
         “How about we make this interesting, the loser buys dinner.” Sierra smirked.
        
         “Oh, sure, I hope you have enough to spot me though.” Roderick laughed.
         The first round she beat him badly inciting combo after combo, but there were three rounds in a head-to-head match and he’d have two more to win. The second round he used a flurry of kicks and acrobatics to throw her off guard and win. The third round would be tough, she didn’t seem at all worried, but he knew she was. Roderick could read people and he’d known from experience Sierra’s little nervous ticks. He watched her lips twitch and knew she was as nervous as he was. She began a simple combo, a barrage of kicks coming for him, the trick to winning would be anticipating her final attack. He waited for her to charge up a finishing blow and attack at the exact same time.
         Double K.O.” The voice from the machine blared.  
         “I guess we’re going Dutch.” Sierra smiled.
         “Yeah well let’s go now.” Roderick wiped sweat off of his face.
         They exited the arcade out into the cool night air. “You know I’ve always loved nights like this.” Roderick said as they began to walk, the moon hung large in the sky closer than it had ever been.
         “Oh yeah, why’s that?” Sierra put her hair in a ponytail using a rubber band.
         “Well it’s one of those nights, that makes you want to fall in love.” He smiled taking off his glasses to wipe the fog off.
         Sierra looked at him vacantly, as if transfixed by his words. “Yeah, I guess so.” She forced a laugh.
         They arrived at a small, Asian restaurant and were seated immediately; the place was almost empty and very quiet. They picked up their menus and looked them over. Instinctively Roderick checked his pockets for the money his mother had given him. God damn it Avery you fuck.
         “I’ve gotta go, I just realized I don’t have any money on me.” Roderick got up.
         “No, sit, I’ll pay for you.” Sierra had a worried expression on her face.
         Roderick sat back down. “Are you sure?”
         “Yes now sit and order.” She smiled.
         The waiter walked up to them and took their orders, she had shrimp with garlic sauce, and he had broccoli in the same manner. One thing Roderick loved about Sierra, besides the other things, was that she never made fun of him for being a vegetarian. So you only eat plants, it could be worse you could eat people.  
         “Hey did my remark about the night make you uncomfortable?” Roderick adjusted his glasses.
         “What, no, why would it?” Sierra looked around.
         “Well you gave me this kind of vacant look.”
         “It kinda caught me off guard.” She smiled nervously.
         “Well you know I’ve always been a hopeless romantic.” He tented his fingers.
         “I know, just not around me.”
         “Sorry, I’ll try not to be it so often.” He sighed.
        
“No, no it’s ok just give a sista some warning before you do it.” She laughed again this one was lighter.
         Roderick took a deep breath and thought about, what he came here to do. He hadn’t realized it but once he began talking to Sierra, everything became easier and seemed less depressing. He knew how he felt about her and now thanks to the Blaq persona had the courage to let her know. He reached across the table and grabbed her hand.
         “Sierra, would I be wrong if I said I wanted to kiss you?”
         She sat stunned; with a look so vast, she could’ve been calculating the expanse of space itself. “N-no.” She said almost breathlessly.
         At that moment Roderick leaned across the table and kissed her, a hot bolt of warm electricity, shot from his heart to his brain and nether region at lighting speed. It was as if the longing built up in a two-year friendship had culminated in this kiss. Time stopped and it could’ve stayed that way for all Roderick cared. He pulled back and she stared at him.
         “Maybe you should sit next to me.” He smiled
        
         She shook her head slowly. “Y-yeah.” She went to get up, but their orders had arrived.
         They were both slow to start they just stared at each other from across the table, then began taking little bites of their food. Roderick had lost his appetite; the electricity had settled in his stomach and refused to leave. The only thing that could satisfy him now was her and he knew she felt the same way. They finally finished and began to walk Sierra’s building was a few blocks ahead and as they walked they said nothing, Roderick listened in the night, he’d thought someone had been following them but wasn’t sure. Looking ahead, he stopped and held her hand for her to do the same.
         “What’s wrong?” Sierra looked at him puzzled.
         “Shh, someone’s following us.”
         “So it’s true, you were cheating on me bitch.” Randy had stepped out from a door way behind them; he had a knife in his hand, his face was bruised and strangely pale. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked disheveled, his cornrows were undone and out of place.
         “Randy, what are you doing?” Sierra stood in front of Roderick.
         “Catching you and this nigga in the act, just like I knew I would.” Randy advanced toward them. “You may have gotten lucky last time but now, I’m gonna kill your ass.”
        
         Roderick moved Sierra behind him something about Randy was off; it was most likely the effects of their previous altercation. “If you want a rematch we can have it, I’m sending her home though.” “Run.” He whispered to her.
         Sierra cocked her eyebrow at him. “And leave you to get stabbed, hell no, we just started something and I’ll be damned if he finishes it.”
         “Sierra.” He cradled her face in his hands. “Trust me, we’ll have a lot more time together just get home.”
 
         She looked in his eyes for any sign of hesitation, but he was dead serious, what ever was going on it wasn’t anything she’d experienced before. “Ok, but you better not die.”
         “I won’t, I promise.” He kissed her passionately. “Now go.”
         She ran away from Roderick and Randy, down the block, toward her building hoping that this wouldn’t be the last time she saw Roderick. They had begun something new and though her last relationship had been bad, she knew Roderick would be different and she’d welcome it.  Please live.
        
Chapter III: The Unbound 
        
         It had dwelled in the corner of the eye, jumping from consciousness to consciousness; dream-to-dream in search of its prey it had been given a mission. Its mission was its purpose, if it had no mission it would not exist, could not exist. So it hunted and hunted, and suddenly, it found its prey. Though it had no eyes or ears to speak of, it could ‘see’ him clearly, there was a problem another being was in its way attempting to take its prize, its purpose away. Shouting loudly the other one waved a small weapon in its hand. Its prey seemed unwavering as always, its trip through the fourth wall had transformed it into a dog it was still as ferocious and steadfast as ever. From the rooftop, it crept down the building, proving that though it was confined to a form of the reality its laws did not confine it.
         “Put the knife down Randy.” Roderick relaxed, he was calm and oh so collected. “You wouldn’t want to hurt yourself now would you?”
         “Shut the fuck up, I don’t know what you did to me last time but it won’t happen again.” Randy’s voice cracked under his hysterical scream.
         Roderick put up his hands in a placating gesture. “Listen to me, there’s no need to do this. You and Sierra can sit down and talk.”
         “Fuck that.” Randy broke into a run, knife waving wildly in front of him.
         This isn’t going well; I have to stop him before this gets out of hand. Roderick breathed deeply and closed his eyes; a surge of electricity began to build in the center of his skull and shot straight down his spine. He formed an image in his mind and then called it forth. “Stop!”
         Randy’s eyes went white, his arms slapped to his sides causing him to drop the knife and his legs stopped mid run as if caught in a snare and tied together. He hit the ground and due to the inertia slid a few feet forward. Completely paralyzed, he lay there like a rock.
         “I’m sorry Randy but you forced me to do this, I’m going to leave you here and when I go you’ll regain your ability to move.” Roderick walked over to the knife, picked it up and put it in his pocket. “Just so you won’t get any ideas.” He adjust his glasses and began to walk away, but a loud thump stopped him in his tracks and slow, measured foot steps caused him to whirl around; he took a step forward attempting to peer into the darkness beyond Randy’s comatose body. Strange gleaming eyes peered at him and a sense a familiar dread washed over. It was a German Sheppard, lithe and muscular; it crouched into position ready to spring like a coiled serpent. It opened its mouth wide; its jaw unhinged and down its throat was an extra set of jagged teeth. Roderick knew what this was, or at least Blaq Prince did and he didn’t think it would find him so soon. He took off his glasses and his pupils began to glow like fireflies in the pale moonlight. Crouching in a defensive position, he watched as the animal’s eyes move from him to Randy. NoThe beast crept closer a glistening pink tongue more reptilian than canine extended from it’s mouth and wrapped around Randy’s leg. Roderick, reached into his pocket to retrieve Randy’s knife.
         She had come to a halt in a short time, her years of athletics, conditioned her to run for long periods without getting winded, but tonight’s happenings all but stole her breath. What the hell am I doing, I can’t let Roderick get hurt over me.  Stopping short of the entrance to her building, she spun on her heel and turned around. She thought about the day and didn’t think that breaking up with Randy would lead to this series of events. It wasn’t as if they were together for that long and it wasn’t like she considered him a serious suitor. They had slept together a couple of times and despite his begging, he never met her family. For the most part, they were in a physical relationship, with the title of boyfriend and girlfriend at his insistence. She was using him in a sense but wasn’t, she grew up around guys like Randy, or those he claimed to be like, guys who went from girl to girl no strings attached. So why was it when he landed on her he started to “catch feelings” as they say, or was it she who landed on him? Her thoughts jumped to Roderick, she was never sure of Roderick’s actual feelings for her until tonight. For a short while, she wasn’t even sure if he liked girls, and then once or twice she caught him staring at her ass out of the corner of her eye, mainly at the arcade, where she dressed her best. In hindsight she wondered why she dressed so attractively to go to such a place, it wasn’t like any of the guys there were her type. The only explanation was to catch Roderick’s eye, but she hadn’t been trying to, at least not consciously. She wasn’t even sure if she’d thought about Roderick in an amours way, sure she had a few fleeting fantasies of what kind of lover he’d be, though after tonight she’d love to make them come true.  I’ve got to stop them she took off like a bullet, sprinting down the four long blocks with ease and grace, her mind focused on saving Roderick’s life. Rounding the corner she stopped in her tracks awe struck and partly horrified, her eyes went wide and she jumped back.  
         Roderick’s eyes glowed wildly as he ran toward Randy’s unmoving body. “Move!” He called out coming to a halt just as the young man jostled to life.
         “What the hell is this, get it off of me.” Randy screamed, it appeared that while his body was unmoving he was conscious up to this point. “Gimme the knife.”
           Roderick crouched down and Randy snatched the blade away, taking the knife to the creatures tongue as it began to drag him toward its wide jaws. Metal touched flesh and an unearthly wail sounded in response, dragging its tongue back the beast shook unsteadily and darted forward, in two fluid leaps it was upon Randy locking it’s jaws around his leg. Not good Roderick’s eyes flashed brighter as he kicked the dog hard in the face. “Off!” It retreated back but not without leaving a nasty bite on Randy’s leg, he fell back and all but cried like a baby.
         “Call an ambulance…that shit might have rabies.” He rolled around clutching his leg.
         Roderick turned from Randy to the Sheppard, their eyes locked as it shook off his attack. Why hasn’t it come after me yet? He looked at it trying to figure out its motives. This was an Unbound any doubts he had about that, were thoroughly washed away when he met its otherworldly eyes. He thought of how he could kill it, in Scrawl he had the entire world at his command, his power granted him control over the forces of reality. Here in this reality, his abilities were greatly diminished, not knowing what he could and couldn’t do wasn’t going to help him, and the rules of the realm didn’t come with a manual. All he had was his ability to command, hoping that this would be enough to best the ferocious creature he took a gamble. It had moved before he finished his thought and if it weren’t for his otherworldly abilities the animal would’ve mauled him, but he hit the ground as it leapt at him causing the creature to fly clear over him. Sliding along the floor, he watched it turn around and was upon it before it could leap up again and although he couldn’t avoid its tongue, he didn’t stop and in one fluid motion grabbed the muscle, wrapped it around the dog’s throat and began to pull.
         “Roderick!”  Sierra stood with her eyes wide and her mouth open. “What the hell is that?”
         Damn it “A stray dog that attacked Randy, call an ambulance I think he’s hurt.” I don’t want her to see this. As Roderick contemplated his image in front of Sierra, he failed to notice the growing form below him until he was floating weightlessly eight feet in the air. The impact jarred his entire skeletal system, knocking the wind from him with great force, his mind worked frantically as his eyes caught sight of the creature in front of him, its form so hideous it was almost beautiful. The Unbound had cast off its disguise, and was now towering over Sierra and the fallen Randy who she sought to. It was at least eight feet in height, its gangling oddly angled limbs still had pieces of fur and flesh on them. Its twisting skull made one revolution making it impossible to tell which end was the top and which was the bottom. Its ashen skin had the texture of old leather and the strange X patterned stitching that served as a mouth opening made it look like something out of a marvelous horror film. How the hell is it able to manifest in this realm, If I need a body how come it doesn’t?Roderick turned to look at Sierra, she was frozen starting awe struck at the creature before her. Roderick figured she was in shock, and if he had to get her and Randy out of here safely, he’d have to act quickly. Dashing with greatest speed, he positioned himself between Sierra, Randy, and the Unbound.
         “I’m your prey, your purpose, leave them alone.” Roderick spread his arms in front of them. His eyes flared and his ponytail came undone draping his locks on his shoulders. “Sierra, Randy, move now!” His voice was low, but forceful, it carried with a persuasion that almost forcibly pried the shock from Sierra’s mind and the pain from Randy’s leg, they both scrambled back across the street.
         Sierra now in full control of her faculties pulled out her cell phone and dialed 911. “Yes hello, I’m at South window Avenue on the corner of Jones place my friend was bitten by a rabid dog.” She hung up as soon as the chatter on the other end subsided. “Are you ok?” She looked at Randy’s leg; it was bleeding but not profusely.
         “Mutha fuckin…what ever that is bit me, what do you think?” Randy snapped, his eyes were red from crying. “Tell them niggas to hurry, I could have rabies…I don’t wanna get no shot.” At that moment, Sierra wondered what she ever saw in him. As his heavy masculine façade fell away, she saw him as a little boy and not the charming type.
         Sierra’s eyes looked up to see Roderick stabbing the creature as its tongue held him in the air and slammed him into a wall. His skin showed darker in contrast to his now flaming silver eyes. As his body hit the red brick, she called out putting her hand to her heart. She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew whatever it was, wasn’t good not for her, or the city of Endwater. The creature darted toward Roderick, who had just gotten to his feet and was unarmed. These were the longest minutes of her life, she was terribly afraid for Roderick and that fear trumped the notion that none of what she was seeing could possibly be happening. Roderick rolled out of the way of the creatures tongue, got up and threw the recovered knife into its open mouth. It staggered, regained its balance, and then screamed at him, charging wildly. Roderick’s back was against a wall as he eyed the beast , Sierra stared wondering why he didn’t move out of the way and she then noticed he’s saying something, but what she couldn’t hear. A deafening yelp sounded from the creature as it tripped and hit the floor hard. It came to a stop right before Roderick and Sierra watched as the hideous form convulsed and with each movement, began to decay.
         Roderick’s breath slowed and as it did, the gleaming in his eyes subsided; he leaned against a wall slowly sliding down it as an ambulance’s sirens blared into the earshot. Klaxons bathed the block in red, temporarily blinding Sierra and Randy who had since  Seased crying. The paramedics hopped out of the van and opened the back doors where a third rolled out a stretcher; the first two gingerly helped Randy up on to it.
         “Will you be going with us?” The first paramedic turned to Sierra; he was a stocky man of Hispanic descent with short cropped black hair.
        
         She shook her head slowly, her eyes on Roderick leaning in the shadows across the street. “No, I’m ok, I wasn’t attacked.”
         “Oh he saved you eh?” The man smiled at her. “I guess chivalry isn’t dead huh?”
         Sierra flashed Randy a disdainful look as he was wheeled into the vehicle. “No…it’s not.”
         “Can you get home from here do you need a ride?” He offered.
        
         “I’m a few blocks up, I can manage.”
         The paramedic shrugged and walked back to the ambulance and then jumped into the driver’s seat. Sierra didn’t notice when the van pulled off, nor did she care about the on coming cars as she crossed the street. Her eyes were trying to adjust to the dark alcove in which moments ago Roderick Parker slouched, catching his breath after having fought with something that most certainly could not have been real.
         “Roderick?” She walked closer to the now shadowed area. “Are you there?” She crept closer and the sound of sudden movement made her jump back.
         “Stay there.” his still even voice shot back. He walked out of the shadows his hair tied back; he adjusted his glasses and looked up at her. All hints of silver were gone he smiled gently at her. “Everything’s ok.”
        
         “What was that?” She blinked rapidly. “What happened?” Her breathing began to increase. She wasn’t sure if it was the fact that she was seeing him after the maddening event that had just transpired, or because the need to help Randy was bigger than her need to quake, but now with no life or death situation and no buffers, shock set in like a run away freight train. Her pupils dilated and she began to tremble, Roderick put his hands on her shoulders to keep her standing and then looked at her hard. Her reality is crumbling came a voice in his head. Blaq Prince side of Roderick had some how known that this would happen, somehow being of two worlds a person intrinsically knew these things. He put her up against the wall, and thought, If everything I knew to be impossible started to happen right in front of me, how would I rationalize it? Roderick looked up at her vacant teary eyes and removed his glasses. His eyes were instantly alight. “This was a dream, nothing more!” His words bounced around her skull and flew up and down her nervous system; she stopped trembling and breathed in deeply as she came to.
         “Roderick, what’s the matter why am I leaning against this wall?” She said In even breaths.
         Putting his glasses back on, he looked at her. “You said you were feeling light headed, it might have been the food.” He smiled convincingly
         “Oh, yeah, that must have been it.” She blinked slowly.
         “I was just walking you home.” Roderick grabbed her hand and they headed toward her house. She looked at him as they walked to her stoop.
         “Thank you for, tonight.” Sierra’s words wrung in her own ears making her feel numb.
         He looked in her eyes and she was lost, again glowing in a bewilderment called romance. They kissed slowly tenderly, like lovers, old lovers Roderick thought. When they stopped he stepped backwards off of her stoop.
         “Please call me, let me know you got home ok.” She sighed and then smiled, she opened the door and went in as he waved goodbye.
        
         Walking down the block Roderick clenched his fists. He hated what he had to do to Sierra regardless if it was for her own good, he would have rather told her the truth then rearrange her thoughts. “I’m sorry.” He whispered in the night air, he continued on till he reached the train station, the last hour had been trying and if it was any indication of what was to come he’d need help and fast.
———————————————————————————————————–
         The moon hung out in distant space, the clouds framed it to look like the eye of some majestic god, like a child looking into a fish bowl. The windows of the mayoral mansion fogged as the heat from the room gathered with intensity.
         “Go faster.” A young woman moaned as she neared climax. “Faster.” Her tan skin glistened in the moonlight as sweat coursed down her neck, chest, and thighs.
         The young man between them smiled at her, his curly brown hair bounced as he pushed deeper, his skin was just a shade lighter than hers marking his mixed ancestry, he’d never felt at home with any group of people, a kid who looked black with green eyes and wavy hair, found it hard to relate to many people mayor’s son or not. That didn’t stop him from being popular with women of all colors, black women seemed to love green eyes for whatever reason, and white women seemed to love the extra edge his melanin gave him. He didn’t care for either particularly; none had seemed to peak his interest not even the girl he was with now. He couldn’t remember her name and at some point didn’t care she was a fun time, a shiny new toy that would lose its luster.
         “I’m in control, not you.” He whispered as his right hand shot out clasped around her neck. Despite his stature, he was quite strong and as a hand reached up and clawed his arm, he pushed faster.
         “Ack…ugh…eck.” The girl’s gasps came short and sharp as she fought to remove his hand. She began to turn red trying to pry his iron-clad grip from her neck. Finally he let go and she was greeted by the most powerful sensation she had ever felt, sliding from her brain stem down to her nether region. She convulsed around him as she felt something wet and warm enter her.
         He looked down and smiled. “Wasn’t that good?” He pulled out of her and got up.
         She shook her head to affirm his question she was breathless, shaking, and completely satisfied despite having been choked a few moments ago.  She looked up at him in the moonlight and found herself oddly fascinated, though she had been with a number of men all attracted to her wide hips and ample butt. It felt like something otherworldly.
         “You just gonna stand there staring up at me, or you gonna get on this?” He pointed to his dick.
         As she put her lips around his member and began to suck, she was surprised to feel his hand grasping her face. “Faster….”
         “Nahbia.” She mouthed around him, her name was Nadia and he probably didn’t remember, but she’d make him remember, a favor for a favor she always thought. Being a sycophant was how she’d ended up in this position and when she thought about it being on her knees sucking off the mayor’s son wasn’t half bad.
         He grew impatient thrusting himself down her throat faster than when he had been inside of her. His smile became a maddening deaths head grin as he took pleasure in the sound of her choking once again.  I could be a porn star, this is how they do it right?  He shuddered before climaxing down her throat.
         She coughed as the sticky fluid filled her esophagus. Pulling away, she spit on the floor. “Are you trying to kill me?”
         He smiled at her. “If you don’t swallow next time I just might.” He stepped off the bed and walked into his own bathroom located to the far wall of his enormous room. 
         “Next time.” She said wiping her mouth and looking for her clothes. “What makes you think they’re be a next time?” For a moment, she was filled with a sense of outrage.
         “Because I’m Ian Ellis, there’s always a next time.” He looked out at her from the bathroom.
         Her anger faded as soon as it came she dropped her clothes and stood up. “You’re right, you are.”
         He smiled at her. “You wanna join me?”
         “Yes, please let me.” Nadia ran into the bathroom and Ian closed the door behind them.  
         As the moon and the sun sat across from one another in the sky Ian lay alone in his bed, drifting between sleep and thought, Nadia lie next to him smiling, sleeping . The noises coming from down stairs shattered his beautiful solitude. Getting dressed he walked out of his room and down the snaking spiral staircase. His mother was drunk again and rambling about his philandering father and how she thought white men were different when she first met him. Ian would later realize that men were all the same most of the time. And being a man like his father he didn’t stay in one place too long. His dad’s latest take was barely out of high school but legal, and because his mother wanted to remain, the mayor’s wife and keep all of the nice things she’d gotten, she said nothing. Ian wandered off into the garden surrounding the mayoral mansion and had come across the pond at its center. There he heard a voice, calling him like as siren song to the edge of the pond. The strangest thing about it was the voice was coming from the pond, like some mystical talking fish of legend. Traveling to its edge Ian sat down in front of it, but when he looked over to see his reflection in the still water, he saw something else, something more mystifying and beautiful than he could imagine. It was a man, with ash gray skin; his short wavy hair reminded Ian of his own.
         “Where did you come from?” Ian was startled to here himself ask the question.  As if a reflection could answer back,
         “I’m not a reflection I assure you.” The man began to move, he wore a long blue coat, knitted of a strange material, his pants fluttered as wind swept the pond and his heavy vest seemed warm in these summer months.
         “You talk?” Ian didn’t move he stood still contemplating whether or not what he was seeing was the onset of some sort of insanity. “But how?”
         “I assure you I do.” The man smiled. “And you’re not crazy.”
         “Well coming from you, that helps.” Ian shifted.
         “Listen I need you to join me in the water. “ The young man reached his hand up toward the surface. “I’m here to rescue you from your life.” his gray lips split into a smile.
         “Really?” He looked toward his house.
         “Iannnnnnn!” Ian’s drunken mother called for him. “Come help me out of this chair.”
         Ian turned away from the house and toward the pond. “Tell me more.”
          “Take my hand.” The gray man gestured again.
         Oh what the hell. He reached his hand into the pool and was pulled into the water, but what he found on the other side was not water at all. It was a large stone cavern with a large pool of water in the middle. Ian looked across to see the gray man.
         “Welcome Ian, I am Pariah Gray, the crown prince of the planet of Scrawl. “
         “That’s a funny name for some one so important.” Ian thought about his own heritage and position in society and frowned. “So what happens now?”
         Pariah gray gestured to Ian to follow him. “I want to show you something.” He stopped and then turned. “Oh and be prepared it’s hot outside.”
         Ian followed him out of the cavern as the cool climate gave way to an increasing humidity. The winds blew black sand at the mouth of the cave, Pariah handed Ian a scarf and Ian wrapped it around his face and head. “So why do they call you Pariah, I mean I get the Gray part.”
         Pariah turned to him regarding him with red eyes. “I am like you.” he looked down. “Of dual parentage.”
         Ian said nothing but followed Pariah out into desert. “This is my world, it’s called Scrawl.” Pariah swept his hand across the expanse of black sand.
         Ian looked at the mounds in the distance and the sun ascending the sky. He saw birds flying across the sky. “Looks kinda nice except for the wind.”
         “It’s a dying world.” Pariah looks at Ian. “I need your help.”
         “With what?” Ian looks at Pariah.” What can I do?”
         Pariah smiled at him and extended his hand. “Take my hand.”          
         Ian stared at him, his smile causing any apprehension he had to be washed away in a sea that felt like familiarity. He took Pariah’s hand and was over come by a sensation so intense he lost consciousness. When Ian came to, he was beside the pond, the wind stirred around him. Getting to his feet he felt different, not as good as he did a second ago but savoring the glow, what ever had just happened, it had felt good and right. A smile crossed his lips, as his shoulders relaxed.  This is the feeling I’ve been searching for, this feeling of peace, of kinship, of self. As he turned back around he saw Nadia staring at him from behind one of the trees.
           “What was that?”
           “Why are you following me?” Ian walked up to her slowly.
           “You weren’t in bed so I…”
            “Are we dating?” Ian raised an eyebrow.
             “I don’t…we’ve been sleeping together a lot.” Nadia said with little conviction.
     “Yeah, we’re fucking. But are you my girlfriend?”
      “No…but I wouldn’t mind.”
      “Of course you wouldn’t, no one would mind.” Ian walked passed her “I’m the mayors son.”
             “Forget I asked.” She followed after him. “We can go back up stairs and cuddle.”
             “Naw I’m taking you home.”  He didn’t acknowledge her he just walked toward his car and got in
Chapter IV: The Way Home
         Scrawl, The Past
                     The black sun hung above his head, only four more days through the Onyx
Desert and he’d be at village of Abiola-Rey, the Inkdwellers there were visited less by the Winterborne because of the climate of the desert. Being born of the winter, their people could not take the direct contact of the black sun’s data. The Inkdwellers however have been absorbing its information for as long as Scrawl has been around; they have become the color and hue of the sun they at one time worshipped along with the other aspects of the land. Now the sun domes that were erected by the Winterborne and maintained by their Secondborne children block any high-level information from reaching the people, which is probably why their abilities no longer work. At least that’s what Blaq thought to himself, since his birth he’d been passed from person to person, no one could hold on to him for too long for fear of the Second-borne overseers finding him. Darr-Woolf and Black-Phoenyx, had told him that he was the true descendant of the Obsidian Empire and that he had to be kept safe to restore it and Scrawl to its rightful place. He had his doubts about his own lineage, however he did know one thing his existence was bad luck to those around him and everyone who helped him end up dead or exiled. Woolf and Phoenyx were his ideological parents meaning Woolf coded him and Phoenyx housed and birthed him after nine streams. He did have a number of spiritual parents most of whom had died protecting him throughout the years, rather than have his last family slaughtered he ran away, hearing a rumor he traveled north toward Winterborne country; to the very hands of those who wanted his life. The Fourth Wall was said to have existed from time immemorial, supposedly the Mother and Father had created it when everything was nothing and dawns were young, back when G.O.D first created them. That was his chance to escape that is if anything anyone said about the Wall was true, the legends said that the Fourth Wall was a gateway to other worlds. Several stories surrounding the Wall stemmed from the “Fall”, the little remembered war between the Inkdwellers royal families and the capitulation of their remaining power by the Winterborne that resulted in the current decaying state of Scrawl.
In Winterborne territory to the north, vegetation ceased growing and the animals that were herded need to be used as the main source of sustenance, they were processed, In the Winterborne capital city of Eventide. In the western cities of the United Bastions, Data from the Black sun had begun to turn much of the landscape to ash that coupled with the increasing number of Fantoms and Unbound appearing in the area it became less habitable every cycle.
         ‘If there is one thing that can save our world it’s you, but you must get through the Fourth Wall’. Phoenyx used to say, he believed her, which is why he risked life and limb now to travel to this place.
         A loud bang erupted to his left and as he turned to look at the dune there he saw a group of males, Inkdweller males, surrounding a female wrapped in an earth tone shawl.  His head told him to keep moving but his soul said that he had to help, he was not raised to pass by one of his people in need and so he turned and made his way toward the group.
Though he had no weapons to speak of, he possessed a special ability the vast majority of Inkdwellers still lacked.  Sea ran down the basin toward the group and then slid down a steep crevice. “Hey what are you doing to her?”
         The group all looked at him as he came sliding down, they were armed with sharp crystal weapons and a few had Ricochet spheres floating about them. The largest man in the group broke the circle and began to walk towards him. “Leave here boy, it’s not safe.” His voice filled with more worry than threat. Behind him the young woman turned to lock eyes with him she regarded him with a seductive smirk, then gestured that he put his hands over his ears and after he did, she screamed. The black sand around her began to kick up into an instant storm the leader of the group turned back toward her and they all charged in unison, Blaq crouched and closed his eyes, with his hands still covering his ears, and he heard or rather felt bodies or at least their parts flying past him. He felt weightless as the storm lifted him from his spot and a few more minutes he passed out. The feeling of warm, dark, bare skin sliding across his own jolted him awake, he looked up to see the young woman from the storm mounting him, she arched her back, licked her lips and ground her nails into the dirt beside him.
         “MMMMM.” She looked down and got off of him. “That’s a nice soul you have, interesting taste to it.
         She sat up and took a drink from a strange gourd to her right; it appeared to Prince that he was in a house or tent of some kind with a very high ceiling. Cool air blew in from the desert night. Black- Sea scrambled up to find himself naked and he instinctively put his back to the farthest wall he could find. “W-who are you?”
         She smiled at him and put the gourd away. “Don’t be afraid, I just had to see what kind of man you were.” She stood up and walked toward him. “I am known by many names, most call me Dear Daughter of the Onyx Desert, but you can call me Dee Dee.”
         “Why were you on top of me?” He stood up naked and looked around. “Where are my clothes?”
         “Like I said I was sampling what kind of man you were, don’t you know anything?” She walked over to one side of the structure, picked something up out of the darkness and threw it at him. “Here.”
         He caught a handful of clothes, which he realized were his. “Where are we?” He asked as he began to put his things on.
         Dee Dee picked up her shawl and it instantly wrapped itself into a dress around her. “We’re in my home, what does it look like.” She then looked him over from where she stood. “You’re not from the desert are you?”
         “No, I’m from Anoki-Can in the grassland region, to the south.” He finished dressing.
         “Oh ok, so that’s why you don’t know who I am, in that case.”  She walked up to him took his hand and led him to another section of the house. “Follow me.”
         He walked reluctantly, into the other room, which had candles all around it, she sat him down on the floor. “I will show you who I Am.” she sat down next to him and began to draw something on the floor. “I am the Daughter of the Desert Goddess Onyx, well the daughter of her descendant to be exact.”
         At his feet she drew the Black sun and the Silver moon in the vast sky, below it she drew a woman standing on top of an ocean on the firmament. “When Scrawl was still young, my mother was born along with the Great Black and Silver eyes, she covered it all. With the permission of the Great Mother and Father she allowed things to be born from her womb, from her came my father Earth Lord, he spewed flame across her surface to make land, and intern life was eventually created.” She finished her drawing. “Or at least that’s what I was told by my mother before she left.” She shrugged. “I could never get it completely straight.”
          Sea sat back “That had nothing to do with the desert.” He arched an eyebrow.
         “Well I can’t remember it all.” She put her hands on her hips.
        
         “So why did you tell me the story if you didn’t know it?”
        
         “It’s a tradition my mother made me remember it, I only told you because you’re not from around here.” She got up. “I personally don’t care for tradition, especially since the Winterborne tried to erase our history by destroying the Speaking sphere and the Talking Tree.”
         “Most Inkdwellers don’t know those two things existed at one time, I almost didn’t believe it myself.”
         “So how did you know about them?”
         “My parents Darr-Woolf and Phoenyx-Blac told me about them.” He looked down.
         She stared at him, with a knowing gaze, trying to recall something told to her as a child but unable to quite remember. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
         “Where are your parents, you said your mother left, where did she go?”  Sea ran his fingers through his hair nervously.
 “To pass on, when a daughter of the desert comes of age the daughter before her must travel out into the mouth of the desert and meet with the Goddess again.” Dee Dee looked down.
         “Oh, and what about your father, where is he?”
         Dee Dee looked down, at her hands. “He’s dead, remember the big guy in the desert, the leader of those men.” She looked out an open window into the night. “That was him.”
         “You killed your own father?”  Sea backed up from her. “Why?”
         “Well for starters he would have killed me.” She then looked at him. “But the real reason is because he blames me for my mother’s sacrifice.”
         Blaq looked down on the ground. “Must’ve been tough, killing your own father and all.”
         She smirked at him. “Not really he never loved me anyway.” She twirled a finger through one of her onyx locks. “So where were you headed?” she asked changing the subject.
         “To the Fourth wall.”
         She let out a loud laugh. “You believe in that place?”
         “What do you mean believe?” He adopted a serious expression. “It’s real.”
         “Sure it is; what did you plan to do when you got there?”
          Sea took a deep breath. “Use it to leave Scrawl.”
         “And go where?” She smiled and cocked an eyebrow.
         “Endwater.” He said solemnly.
        
         “Of course you believe that exists too.” She rolled her eyes.
         “It does.” He yelled. “It must.”
        
         “Oh yes and why must it?” She leaned back.
         “Because if it doesn’t I’m going to die.” He looked down at his hands.
         She moved closer to him. “Why, who are you?”
         He looked her in the eyes, his glinting sliver to her shinning gold. “I am the child of the Sun and the Moon.”
         She smirked she knew what that meant. The sun and the moon were one of the many analogies for the Empress and Emperor who had created their people’s first empire. The phrase was to denote those of Noble spiritual birth, but last she had heard all of the members of the Obsidian Empire had be exiled or killed, mostly the latter. However even if some were still alive could this young man be one of them? She did get that “interesting” feeling from him, that low hum, that steady vibration that hit the base of her spine and the center of her head at the same time, filling her with beautiful emotions. The more she focused on the sensations the easier it became to believe what this boy was saying. Smiling she looked upon him. “If you do make it to the Fourth wall, and to the other side, would you search for my other self and remind her of this?”
         Blaq smiled and his eyes shown brighter than ever. “Yes, of course.”
         She took his hand. “You promise?”
         He nodded to her. “Yes, I promise.”
         She picked up his hand and kissed it. “Thank you.” She then lay down next to him on her side and pulled him down to her. Her back was facing his stomach. “I’m tried; stay here tonight and in the morning I’ll send you to Abiola-Rey.”
         He lay down next to her. “O-ok.”  He rested his head behind hers.
         She smiled in the darkness and then turned her head slightly. “Put your arm around me would you; I don’t sleep alone if I can help it.”
         He obliged her and wrapped his hand around her waist. “Is this ok?”
         “Mmm, that’s perfect.” She closed her eyes and smiled. “Oh and if I start moving during the night, just hold me closer ok?”
         “Uh, o-ok.” Blaq stammered
         “Sleep well.” She said with a smile.
         “Y-you too.” Blaq exhaled slowly, closed his eyes and felt the weight of his body drop away.
Endwater, Now
        
          
         Roderick sat up; he was perspiring, his clothes and parts of his bed sheets clung to him. It’s like having a wet dream with your whole body. He peeled off his covers, got up and while he stretched his mind-attempted piece together the fading fragments of dream approaching the edges of his consciousness. Was it a dream or was it a memory He put on his glasses and walked to the bathroom groping for the lights in the pitch-black hallway, more out of habit than anything else. Coming up on the open door he flicked on the light and looked into the mirror, nothing out of the ordinary. No wide smile, no silver eyes nothing just plain old Roderick Parker. However he didn’t feel plain at all, on the contrary he felt quite extraordinary or at least better than normal. It was as if he couldn’t remember what thoughts currently depressed him and if he could the feelings of melancholy the thoughts brought with them were gone. Was this what Blaq meant when he said he’d make his life better? He did seem to have the courage to express his feelings to Sierra and she did seem to respond in kind. At least she returned both kisses. He was able to take on Randy twice, although he didn’t remember the first time. He smiled at his reflection and then remembered the Unbound, How can that exist in this world, in its true form. He ran his fingers through his hair, the thought that he had less time then he assumed ran through his mind. The shuffling from outside caused Roderick’s head to whip around to attention, he looked outside the bathroom door and saw a long shadow stretch across the floor. Leaning against the doorframe he peered around it and saw a figure shambling out of his mother’s room. Though he couldn’t make out the features he could tell it wasn’t his mother, the figures shoulders were broad and it was taller than her. It’s a man, must be James. His mother’s boyfriend never stayed at their house however she had been talking about having him spend the night. It didn’t matter to Roderick as long as he was safe down the hall with his nice sturdy walls. The figure cocked its head back at an odd angle and Roderick swore he heard the sound of loud sniffing. Roderick turned off the light and slinked out of the bathroom and back into his own room. After a moment he heard it stalking down the hallway toward his room and picked up his acoustic guitar, the one he never played and readied it for attack. He was certain that wasn’t James, what wasn’t sure of was if it was a human being at all. Since Blaq and I merged a lot of strange shit has been happening. A thought clicked in his head as if he was remembering something from another life, a memory that the other side of him had, of something grim and horrid. “Fantom.” Was the single word he whispered as the very thing came bursting through his door he swung with all his might smashing the polished wood against its head. He flicked on the switch and was face to pale, emaciated face with his brother Avery. His eyes were blood shot and he twitched uncontrollably, springing to his feet he lunged at Roderick and was on him in seconds. “Get off of me.” Roderick positioned his foot under Avery’s groin and kicked. Letting out a howl of pain he rolled off of him and curled into a fetal position. “Well your weak point was easy to find.” Roderick got up and took off his glasses as the air began to become thick and the hairs on his body stood up, his eyes became gleaming silver discs. “Now we can play, but not in here.” Roderick ran out of his room and past his mother’s noticing the crimson trail leading from her door. Mom The panic that began to flood his mind was quickly overcome by another calming force, something that made him stop at the stairs. The recovered Avery was now running toward him at a furious speed.  Roderick crouched into a defensive position and as Avery came upon him, Roderick shifted his weight and tossed Avery down the stairs, sending him through the banister and to the floor below. Roderick’s body moved on its own, he felt as if his muscles recalled prior fights of this nature and a way to handle them. So Blaq was a fighter? Roderick looked down at his brother’s body as it began to stir. This has to end leaping down the steps where the body was he was caught in mid-air by Avery’s iron grip. “Ack.” Clutching at his arm to relive the pressure he looked into Avery’s eyes, they were dead and vacant; nothing remained of his brother. His eyes began to glow and their silver sheen shown brightly causing Avery to drop him and shield his eyes.
         “You know, I was gonna waste my time thinking of some elaborate emotional speech before I ended this, but I know that wasn’t your thing, so I’m just going to kill you.” Roderick threw a kick to Avery’s side sending him rolling.
         “Argghhh” Avery let out a primal roar, picked up a chair and smashed it against Roderick’s head sending him flying into the kitchen.
         “Damn it.” Roderick hit the kitchen counter and cleared it of its contents. Rolling on his side he glimpsed a kitchen knife inches away from him.
         “Rahhhh.” Avery leapt onto the counter his movements were quick and primal. Gazing at the floor he grunted in frustration when he noticed Roderick was gone and then wailed in agony when he felt cold, sharp steel pierce his side.
         “Gotcha.” Roderick smiled and attempted to remove the knife but Avery, who proceeded to punch him in the face and then lift him over his head, seized his arm.
         Avery launched Roderick into the stove causing the mechanism to collapse and the gas line to be exposed. “Argh.” Roderick yelled at the pain. I’m lucky to be Alive but that hurt like hell.  Avery towered over him picked him up and tossed him back across the kitchen counter into the living room where he broke through the coffee table. Lying there in a haze he rolled to his feet he watched Avery come toward him slowly in the same manner a predator stalks its prey. Roderick shuffled over to his mothers well stocked liquor cabinet. He doubted that the bottles would stop him but he was sure that he could find something that would blind him until he could figure something out. Avery lunged at Roderick and was met by a bottle of scotch in the face, the glass and alcohol disoriented him as Roderick continued with various alcoholic beverages. Looking around frantically, Roderick spotted and auto lighter just as Avery was upon him. Pulling the trigger he threw it at Avery, setting him ablaze.
         “Arooooooh.” Avery spun in a circle as the flames engulfed him, the alcohol causing it to spread rapidly.
        
         Roderick made for the door and was almost out of it before he noticed Avery ‘dance’ into the kitchen and slam into the damaged stove with its open gas line. He felt more than heard the explosion as it rocketed him through the door; he felt the searing heat on the back of his neck and the bone jarring impact as he hit the pavement. That should’ve killed me; Blaq must give me a superhuman constitution. As his eyelids hung low he heard a distance voice calling to him, it wasn’t Blaq’s, it was a woman’s voice
            “I guess I got here too late.” The woman sounded worried but familiar. “At least you’re still breathing.” Roderick attempted to place it but wasn’t able to cycle through his memory and battle the wave of unconsciousness that threatened to over take him any moment. He fought it his body was limp and for the most part he could only hear and feel what was going on around him as his eyes were too weak to open. There was movement though and that woman’s voice, who she was he didn’t know but she didn’t seem to mean him any harm. Roderick realized then that he was losing his bout with the waking world and passed out again.
        
There was a dull ache in the base of his skull, but he was still alive. He opened his eyes for a moment and then immediately closed them as the piercing rays of the sun shot through the blinds. He didn’t know where he was but he felt that a familiar presence was near by. He got up off of the hot leather couch and in a haze stumbled over to the kitchen table where a glass of water was waiting for him. He downed it in one gulp.
         “I guess I found you instead huh?” He opened his eyes, looked up and their before him was the smiling face of a honey colored young woman. She had a ring in her lip and another one in her tongue. She walked over to a stove that had a number of things boiling over on top of it. “You want something to eat, I’m making rice and veggies.” He smiled this young woman had an air of familiar newness to her. Something he could use at the moment, with his mother having been murdered by his-possessed? He didn’t even know what to call it-brother; he had no home to go to. Especially since he had to kill the aforementioned brother in a fire that burned his house down and he was now in need of something different. He wanted to escape this craziness that had become his life Blaq had said it would make his life better, but now he’s homeless and alone.
                     “I’m gonna let this stuff sit and take a shower.” She walked into the bathroom. “The names Adriana by the way.”
Her apartment was your standard affair; he sat at the kitchen table made of some wood he hadn’t seen before. She had a half kitchen that connected to the dinning room. A leather couch parked in front of a dusty television set, a few potted plants and walls lined with bookshelves.          He sat in silence going over the past couple of hours in his head. What about Sierra he thought? Should I even bother to pursue a relationship with her? First the Unbound and then the stuff at my house, it seems like everything in my life ends suffering. I don’t think I can put her through that, he intoned. I should call her and tell her that we can’t be together, but it’s probably best if I just disappear.
         The sound of footsteps took him out of his head. Adriana walked back in wearing a towel. She was glistening and putting her tongue ring back in as she walked toward him. He gave her an odd look and she responded. “ I take it out when I’m brushing sometimes.”
         “Um It’s not that, You’re walking around in a towel and you barely know me.” Roderick was a bit flushed.
         “Of course I know you, wouldn’t have saved you if I didn’t.” She smiled. “ Scrawl, remember the desert?”
         Something clicked in Roderick’s mind. “Dee Dee?”
        
         “He remembers me.” She grinned.
        
         “I guess you saved me twice huh?”
         “Looks like it.” She walked over to the stove and he noticed the top of a tattoo on her shoulder blades. “You wanna eat?”
         “No thank you I’m not hungry.” He looked down at his hands. How could he be after killing his brother? The one he wanted dead anyway that was irony though.
         “ Okay.” She fixed herself a plate. “What were you doing in that rubble?”
        
         Roderick looked around; nervously he wasn’t ready to talk about this much less think about it. “Uh can we talk about something else please?”
        
         “Sure like what?” She looked up at him from her plate.
         “Your piercings did they hurt?”
        
         “The first couple did but after that nah.”
        
         “Well how many do you have?”
         “ Seven, one in each ear, one in my tongue, one in my lip and the rest are covered up by this towel.” She grinned lasciviously.
         Roderick blushed. “Oh.”
         She stood up and walked around to his side of the table and took his hand. “You wanna see the rest?”
         He looked into her eyes and they were a peculiar gold. “Yes, please.” She took him by the hand and led him into her bedroom.
          
        
        
Chapter V: Transitory
         Red eyes peered across the wind swept desert as black sand swirled as far as the eye could see. His father, the Winter-Lord had sent him to the south to investigate two rumors. The first was that there was another ‘Fourth Wall’ gate site in this region along with the others found in the north. However that wasn’t the real point of interest, that lie in the second rumor one so grand that it would completely overturn the seven hundred year rule his people had over the world of Scrawl. The rumor had it that there was still one descendent of the Obsidian Empire alive and that he was looking for a Fourth Wall gate. Pariah had heard legends about the Obsidian beings that once ruled Scrawl, one of his nanny’s was an old Ink-dweller woman who regaled him with tales of an empire so ancient that the entire planet forgot it existed. Of course when Pariah was a child he thought nothing of it, a fair tale spun by an old woman with nothing more to her life than taking care of a child who was half-Inkdweller half-Winterborne a child who would eventually look down on her due to her lineage
         “ Speaker.” Pariah directed his attention toward the young Secondborne woman standing behind him.
         Her face was downcast as she entered the room, she had been his advisor, attendant, confidante and on occasion lover. She was also a Secondborne however she favored her Indweller parentage in physicality; her complexion was her only conflicting feature.  Speaker Violet had known him all his life and in truth knew him better than anyone else including himself at times. “What is it you need Lord Gray?”
         “I’d like to go out to the Glass caverns. Now.” He began putting on his long linen coat. “Tell the Brig to watch the Vermillion Manor, It’ll give him a chance to feel like he owns something.” He chuckled and walked up to her, put his index finger under her chin and lifted it. “Dear Violet Why the forlorn look?”
         She met his gaze and her eyes held his in a vice like grip. “ You know that you’re not supposed to trek through the desert, what with the sun beaming so intensely, and there are other dangers. She referred to the dispossessed   Inkdweller’s who became a gang of bandits known as the Desert Scythes, a rumor had spread that one of the powers from old Scrawl an entity called Daughter of the Desert and both forces had made the desert a chaotic place to traverse.  “If word got out that that you were out there, you could be killed or accosted.”
         “Don’t be silly, I was there not two days ago talking with my other self.” He smiled and kissed her on the lips. “I’ve seen into his mind, I think I’ve found a place for you. If you wanted it.”
         “And where would that be?” She looked down cast.
        
         “By my side of course.”
        
         She smiled still looking down at him considering the idea. “But what about assuming your father’s role when he is gone?”
         “My father could care less about me, he just wants to make sure he has a seat of power to inhabit.” Gray grimaced. “I won’t be the vessel of anyone, I am my own man.”
         Violet walked up to him and draped her arms around his neck. “You always have been love.”
         “Ahem.” Brigadier Feist an Ink-dweller who had traded sides interrupted their embrace. He was hated by much of the populace and known for his staunch upholding of Winter-borne law. “Sorry to disturb you but I was told that you needed me to…”
         “Yes keep watch over the township. Violet and I are going for a walk.” He prepared the rest of his things. “ Where are the servants we’ll need water.”
         “I shall get them my lord.” Feist exited the room.
         Soon they were off outside the city gates. Walking on the hot black sands, set upon by the rays of the sun. Thankfully for them it was descending into the horizon. They were wrapped in fine bright linens that were lightweight. They each carried a stick to aid them “This is nice, you know?” Gray turned to Violet. “ To get away from all of that garbage.”
         “I have never met a prince who hated his title so much.” She chuckled.
         “I know it sounds selfish, but I never asked for this. None of it, I just don’t see the point in ruling over a land that hates us. I don’t just mean the people, I’m talking the planet.” They trekked on. “Sometimes I think we shouldn’t even be here.”
         “Is that why you want to find the Fourth Wall gate?” she looked up at him.
         “Was it that obvious?” He looked at her and smiled.
         “You forget how well I know you Lord Gray.” She laughed.
         “None of that out here we’re…” Both of them stopped in the tracks as a loud boom sounded for miles around. About a mile ahead of them a cloud of dust flew up into the air and then headed straight for them. “Sandstorm!” Gray quickly grabbed Violet and covered her with his body. It came over them like a wave of night and when it was finished they shrugged off the black stuff that fell from them like rainwater on oil. “I wonder what that was?” Violet began going towards the site of the storm. “It was coming from the direction we were heading in.” They shuffled along until they came to a crater about a mile wide. Below they could see bodies torn asunder by something, what however they didn’t know. “What could’ve done this, It obviously wasn’t a whyrm.” Violet looked down into the crater.  “There was a battle here, these men were the Deserts Scythes and they were destroyed by something much more powerful than themselves.” Gray didn’t even have to ask how she knew that, her speaker powers allowed her to see the last few minutes of a persons life by communing with their essence briefly. “So what was that thing?” Gray asked.
         “Not what but whom.” Violet sighed. “Looks like the rumors are true the Daughter of the Desert is stalking the dunes again.
         “That doesn’t effect us much, I’m sure we can take her.”
        
         “Gray, sometimes your ignorance is astounding.” She laughed.
         “What’s that supposed to mean?”
        
         “The Daughter of the Desert is a force of nature, the planet that you said hates us and the Winter-borne so much, and well she’s one of its avatars.” She wiped sweat from her brow. “She could have this whole desert swallow us up with out a trace.”
         “ Well then I guess we better get to the gate. Then shouldn’t we?” They continued to walk as the sun began its descent.
         “What do you plan for us once we’re on the otherside?”
         Gray turned and looked at her with hopeful eyes. “We’ll be free to do as we see fit.”
         “But you’re father will be angry.” Violet’s glance was more reprimanding.
         “My farther can’t reach us there.”
         “But his agents can and we don’t want him to send out anything like the….” Violet stopped and Gray was glad she did. There were some creatures that his father created as watchdogs, which lived to hunt down those who opposed his rule. He had been known to domesticate the Fantoms and use the animals of the north to create the Unbound, but neither of these monstrosities compared to the Nameless Blight. He had only seen it once but had heard his father talk about it enough as a child to give him nightmares for years. It was all but indescribable a falling tentacled mass of horns and eyes, skin the texture of gelatin. It’s initial form  or if it even had one was unknown it could change its shape for the most part and either favored the amoebic mass or a lumbering colossus with multiple arms, no face and spiked scaly skin.  The worst part of it was that the creature was directly controlled and possibly linked to his father.
         “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that, Violet. I mean he wouldn’t kill his oldest heir for taking a little trip would he?”
         “I don’t know my love. I should hope not though.” Violet looked at him with remorse, he was the oldest heir but not the only one and he was only really valuable at his southern post. As execution would go he never did find out how his mother actually died after she tried to flee the capital.
         “Let’s press on, we’ll figure something out.” He smiled as they walked toward the horizon.
Endwater
         Ian walked through the hall unhurried by the rushing masses of people and the ringing bells that reminded everyone that they had to be in class. Through the mass he caught site of Sierra Jones, a girl he had known of but not know for sometime now. She was on his ‘doesn’t care about me’ list, which was short so when a name showed up on it he took notice. She looked down in the mouth and that was a shame for such a pretty girl, so he walked over to her.
         “Hey are you alright?” Ian moved slowly and had his hands up in a placating gesture.
         Sierra shot him an icy glare but it softened. “You and Roderick are friends right?”
         Ian’s brow raised, five years ago that question would’ve been almost rhetorical. Friends, they were brothers, until High School dictated that the stations that life chooses for those and us we choose, as friends don’t always mix. “Uh, yeah why what’s up?
        
         “Well we went out last night, on a date and something happened something bad.” Worry colored her words.
         “What?” Ian almost jumped in anticipation.
        
         “Randy he well, he fought Roderick and well Roderick won but, he promised he’d call me when he got home but he didn’t and Randy had a knife.” She was tearing up now.
         “Wait what?” Ian began to get nervous, he and Roderick hadn’t spoken much anymore but they were still brothers in his eyes. “Look we can go to his house see what’s up okay?” Sierra shook her head slowly as they strode out of the building and into the parking lot. Ian unlocked his car with the remote and opened the door. “Get in, I know where he lives It’s a ways from here.” She got in reluctantly and as soon as she did they drove off. On the road they passed a few cars going here and there during midday, the silence between them was quite palpable and since Ian didn’t know her very well he decided if they were going to talk on the long ride over it would be about Roderick. “So how long have you known him?”
         Sierra stared through the windshield. “Four years I guess we met the first day of High School.” She smiled. “He asked me where the caf was and I led him there. Later we found out we frequented the same arcade.”
         “The Cyber Chest used to be our favorite hang out until…” Ian felt ashamed that he allowed the opinions of other people to separate him from his best friend. “We got to High School.” The cars on the road were thinning out as they passed through the tunnel up to Endwater Flats. They rode in silence until they got to the Flats the houses that mirrored each other lined up in rows along side them, which is why they came to a dead stop when they saw the smoking rubble that was once the home of Roderick Parker. Sierra stumbled out of the car with tears in her eyes. “No, no, no, no, no!” Ian followed after her mouth wide with disbelief. The entire thing was cordoned off and there were police and fire fighters everywhere. Ian walked up an officer who looked like he knew what he was doing. “I’m Mayor Ellis’s son, what’s happened here?”
         The cop looked at him and snorted. “ From what we can tell the gas main on the stove was leaking and some small spark or another blew it.”
        
                     “Was there anyone inside?”
                     “Two a male about 29 and a woman about 40 or so.”
                     Sierra walked up to the cop wiping her eyes. “Was that all?”
                     “ As far as we can tell, why do you know these people?” The officer raised an eyebrow.
         “That was our friends house, he went home last night and when I called he didn’t answer.” Sierra said frantically.
         “Well unless he was the young man we found then we don’t know where he is. If he wasn’t in the house when it went up that could mean he’s still alive.”  The officer pulled down his cap. “Now if you’ll excuse me.” With that he walked back over to the scene.
         “Okay so he could still be alive.” Sierra wiped her eyes. “Do you know where he might be?”
         “His dad lives in the commons but I don’t know if they speak much anymore.” Ian looked at her with pity.  “I guess we could go there, keep trying his cellphone.”
         The buzzing sound in Sierra’s pocket made her pause and fumble with her phone. “Hello?”
         “Sierra. It’s Roderick.” His voice was low over the phone.
        
         “Where are you, Ian and I are at what’s left of your house and…”
         “I’m calling you to tell you goodbye.”
         “What why, what happened?”
         “What happened at my house, that wasn’t an accident.” Roderick sighed and Sierra swore she heard another voice over the phone, a female’s voice. “There have been too many things that have been happening, weird things, dangerous things and I cannot and will not allow you to be hurt.”
        
         Sierra began to tear up. “Why are you saying this Roderick, why are you doing this?”
         “Because I love you Sierra, I have since the first night we met in the arcade and if anything happened to you because of me then well I couldn’t live with myself.”
         “Anything like what?” She said near hysterics.
         “Nothing you’d believe if I told you.” Roderick’s voice became heavy. “Please, tell Ian to take you home and forget about me, I can’t let them come after you too.”
         “Who?” Sierra yelled. “Does this have something to do with Randy?”
         “Goodbye.” The phone cut off.
         Ian walked up to Sierra. “Was that him, what happened?”
        
         “I think Roderick’s in some kind of trouble he said that the explosion wasn’t an accident. He mentioned a ‘them’ some people I don’t know who.” She looked down. “He told me he loved me but I had to stay away.”
         “We…we should find him.” Ian walked to his car. “We’ll start with his dads.”
         Roderick sat on the couch as Adriana brought him a cup of tea, he thought he could leave his old life and that by sleeping with her he’d be able to put himself mentally at least, in a position where he wouldn’t have the heart to go back. But he couldn’t just like he had to call Sierra one last time. He loved her dearly and anything that would jeopardize that relationship regardless to its stage was to him inherently wrong. Besides what’s carnal release to a lifetime of love he thought and he was sure he wouldn’t be anything special to Adriana.  “You’re wrong you know?”
         “About?” Roderick sat up straight
              “You not meaning anything to me.” She looked in his eyes. “There are very few people I am allowed to get close to on the other side by nature of my existence.” She put her hand on his causing him to almost drop the cup. “That night we spent together, just the cuddling was enough. I appreciate it.”
            “Y-you’re welcome.” Roderick looked away from her. “So uh whose trying to kill me?”
           
                    “ The Winter-Lord I suspect, but he’s not really trying to kill you so much as trying to get you out of the way.”
                    “ Why, I thought I was out of his way by being here.”
                       “No, You have to understand Scrawl is dying thanks to him and the other Winterborne and well they need a new place to live.” She stood up and sat next to him. “Endwater, isn’t real you know?”
                        “Come again?”
                          “Endwater is an extension of Scrawl, it was created as a safe Haven for those of us that escaped the subjugation.”
                           “So, We’re still in Scrawl, why can’t he just come get me?”
                             “Endwater is really a piece of Scrawl superimposed on this reality, it is only open to Inkdwellers. That being said he can’t crossover, he’ll likely send his son.
                           “ Why would his son be able to come through here if he can’t?” Roderick cocked an eyebrow.
                       “His son’s a half-breed, half-Inkdweller, Half-Winterborne.” She cocked her head to one side and though. “They go by Secondborne I believe.”
              Roderick downed the tea and stood up. “So how do I find this son and what do I do to get him and his father off my back?”
                “For guy who I just saved from a burning building you sure are in a hurry to rush into another one.” She smirked.
                Roderick walked to the kitchen and put his cup down in the sink. “Nice kitchen, I don’t have one anymore cause I don’t have a home. Or a family by the way.” Roderick turned toward her with conviction in his eyes. “ He’s been calling me out since Blaq and I merged, So why not bring the fight to him? He burned my home to the ground, so I should return the favor.”
              “I really like he way you think but I wouldn’t know where to find him, he could be anyone but he’d set up a beach head somewhere near others from his side.”
              Ian and Sierra are riding toward Roderick’s house as he hospital looms in front of them. “Can we stop here for just a second, Avery’s here and I wanna know if he did something to Roderick.” As the car stopped Ian got a strange feeling in the center of his stomach, it was as if there was something here that he needed to see, to witness. Making their way through the parking lot people smiled and nodded at him. Being the mayor’s son never gave him a moments rest, always entertaining even in transit .He wondered if this was how Pariah Gray felt, though he hadn’t thought about the encounter since it’d transpired, he remembered it in vivid detail. Everything about that night had felt like  dream, one that he didn’t truly want to wake up from and was not entirely sure that he had. This was starting to feel like that night, as they made their way into the lobby, Sierra had spoken to the clerk at the front desk and they were admitted in, they said he was being treated for rabies since he had been bitten by a stray. They entered the elevator and Ian was welcomed by more chatter by people he didn’t know, but who thought they knew him. They stepped into the sleeping Randy’s room, well Sierra did Ian was held up by a nurse who was trying to set him up with her daughter who went to school with him. She said her name was Yvonne and as it turns out Ian had slept with her before, she wasn’t spectacular nor was she an interesting person. He reminded her that he had limited time to see his sick friend and quickly slipped into the room. “How is he?”
            Sierra looked at him, teary eyed. “He’s fine thank God but he’ll be in here for a bit longer.”
           Ian and Randy had known each other in passing and as such never really engaged in a conversation so much of an exchange of head nods. Ian walked over to give Sierra some comfort and as he did Randy’s heart monitor began to beat faster. “I guess he does like me huh?” Ian laughed.
             “I didn’t much care for you until today.” Sierra smiled at him, It was the smile that said, I’m on her radar.
   
              Just then the monitor hit full tilt as Randy leaped up out of the bed. Sierra and Ian jumped back with a start as they stared at him or what used to be Randy. He was much thinner now, but his eyes were filled with a feral madness that could not belong to any human being. He let out a bone-chilling wail as doctors and nurses piled into the room. They were all mumbling something but it was cut short as Randy leapt down from the bed onto one of the nurses and tore her throat out with his teeth. Ian and Sierra had by that time run out of the room and were making there way out of the hospital. “What the hell is, going on?” Ian was holding Sierra by the hand and pulling her along through the corridors. He looked back at her to get her answer but only saw several creatures like Randy tearing down the hallway attacking everything they came across. They got to the car as people flooded out in panic some were trampled others mauled by the creatures and if they weren’t killed they became like their attackers.
             “We’ve got to get somewhere safe, somewhere far away.” Ian put the car into gear and peeled off.
                “My house is far away from here, I doubt those things will be able to make it to my ‘hood before we do.” Just then the roof buckled as something landed on in. Ian turned the wheel to compensate for the impact and slammed right into a tree. He blacked out just as the air bags deployed.
             “…Didn’t expect to see him on this side.” Ian heard a voice directly above him.
               “Is that him, I can see why you chose him he reminds me of you.” Ian opened his eyes and came face to face with Pariah and a beautiful young woman.
               “Where am I?” Ian sat up looking around the cool luminescent cave that separated his world from theirs.
               “This is the fourth wall” Pariah helped him up. “This is Violet by the way.”
          Violet smiled at him. “How did you come to be on this side of the wall?”
         “I was driving away from the hospital and…Sierra was in the car with me.” Ian looked frantic. “I have to go back, she’s in trouble.”
        “You companion is fine” Pariah put his hand on Ian’s shoulder. “But I’m was looking from behind your eyes and I think you’ll need help out there.”
       “What kind of help?” Ian looked at both of them sheepishly.
             “Go back through the pool, I’ll take care of the rest.” Gray motioned.
               “Uh, okay”
       Ian took the plunge and woke up in pain, inside a shell of twisted metal, he looked over to his right and saw an unconscious but living Sierra. He wondered how he would get out of this nightmarish steel coffin but then a voice very similar to his own recommended that he just power his way out and so he did kicking his door and most of the drivers side away he moved over to Sierra while noticing the body of a dead doctor which must’ve been what landed on his roof. To think that those things were so strong made him shudder, he removed Sierra from her side of the car and shook her a bit to wake her up.
    She gasped and came too wide-eyed. “W-what, happened?” She looked around frantically. “How are we still alive?”
“ Long story, we need to get out of here.” Ian helped her up. “ We need to find some way to get out of here.” Ian watched as police cars came in an attempt to bring order to the situation and watched with less horror than he expected as they could do nothing save fire at creatures that shrugged of the bullets effortlessly and then mauled them. The closest police car was right in front of a two officers being mauled by the creatures the had encountered. The voice in Ian’s head told him that he could stop these things If he really wanted to.
              “Hey, could you move we need that car.” Ian walked toward them with no intention of stopping.
               “What the hell are you doing?” Sierra stood back from him as she was now sure that he was going insane. “They’ll kill you.”
              “They can try.” He smiled filled with a confidence that came from somewhere else, a part of him that wasn’t there before. Then he remembered the deal with Pariah Gray and smiled even wider. The creatures rushed him and he responded in kind crashing into one of them running his hand through its sternum and tossing it at the other. “Fantom’s were no match for me back home and they will be no different here.”
          Sierra looked on at him “How are you doing that?”
          Ian in the process of crushing the skull of one of the Fantom’s with an axe kicked addressed her. “I’ve got our wheels and everything I think we’ve gotta find Roderick.” He completed his task and jumped in the car in question. “Let’s go we gotta get out here as fast as we can.” Sierra followed suit and they drove as fast as possible through the hordes of cop cars still coming.
         Adriana walked over to Roderick. “You can’t face anyone yet, not until you’ve fully accessed your powers.” She put her arms around his shoulders and kissed him.
         “And how do I do that?” He tried weakly to pull away from her.
        “Death and the little death.” She smiled at him. “Come on. You knew this was coming.” She led him out of the kitchen, into the bed room and closed the door. She pushed him down on to the bed. “If you don’t want to do this right now, we could wait but I figured you’d wanna get this done quick.”
               “Yeah. I guess.” Roderick began fidgeting nervously. It wasn’t his first time but it had been a while. “Could we go slow?”
              “Sorry I didn’t know if you were virgin or not.” She began to take off what little clothing she had on. He followed suit and then put his hands on her hips as she straddled him. They both gasped as he entered her and began to rock back and forth. “Keep your eyes on me.” She moaned. “We have to keep eye contact until till the point of climax.”
He began to match her rhythm and their breathing increased. He leaned up and kissed her and then did something neither of them excepted. He rolled her on her back and continued to thrust, their rhythm never changed and he never took his from her. She pulled him down closer to her and planted little kiss on his lips. They began to go faster and it was at that point that she became to much bare for him.  “I’m…”
             “Me too just…mmmm…keep looking at me.” She bit her lip and they both gasped as the reached climax. Then it was like time froze, like reality had slowly reconfigured itself. As the tattoos on Adriana’s body began to change position and at one point float off of her very skin. Something began to happen in Roderick’s brain his mind began to see and feel things differently as if it was everywhere at once. He felt like his brain had sprouted hands and was touching everything at the same time. He rolled off of her and exhaled heavily.
            “What was that?” He turned to look at her.
            “ You’re telepath.” She smiled. “Your abilities are based on your mind and how you shape the thoughts of others.” She kissed him and then turned on her side. “You were better than last time by the way.”
          “Uh, thanks.” He sat up. “Do you wanna, um?”
             “If you already know then don’t ask just do it.”
              He leaned over and put his arm around her. “When do we find the son of the Winter-lord?”
            “Chances are he’ll find you when he needs to.” As she whispered those words her doorbell rang. “You might want to get that.
            “O-okay.” Roderick put on his pants and walked outside to the front door upon getting to it he felt a familiar yet opposing energy on the other side. Ignoring it he opened the door and was nearly knocked over when Sierra hugged him.
                 “Thank God you’re alive. We went to your house and…” she let him up and her smile automatically turned into a frown when she saw Adriana walking out the bedroom wearing Roderick’s shirt. “I…I’m sorry didn’t know we were interrupting something. Now that we know you’re okay we should go.” She turned but walked directly into Ian who wasn’t budding.
             The stood their like statues, either sizing each other up or thinking of what to say or both. There was a palpable tension between the two of them. One that had not only their own but the thoughts and feelings of the part of themselves that they were now merged with. Roderick extended his hand and Ian took it. They shook for a brief bit then Roderick did something wholly uncharacteristic, he took the proverbial first swing hitting Ian with a telepathic blast that sent him reeling backward, while Sierra looked on in shock Adriana walked up behind Roderick with an amused look on her face. “Didn’t expect you to do that.”
               “I feel like he deserved that.” Roderick smiled.
               
                “Roderick, why would you do that?” Sierra unable to understand what was taking place grabbed Roderick’s arm but let go as soon as she felt whatever strange power it was that flowed through him. “What’s going on here?”
              “This’ll take a second.” Roderick walked out side to a face a smiling Ian.”
                “I was wondering if I had to swing first.” Ian put his hand on a car in front of the house as Adriana moved passed Sierra standing in the doorway. “This should be fun.” Ian punched his hand through the hood of the vehicle and retrieved the engine after a second or so he threw it at Roderick who had read his thoughts and dodge the mechanism. Ian rushed Roderick who began to dodge his blows and retaliate but to know avail.
                   “Why are you letting them fight?” Sierra screamed at Adriana. “Am I the only sane person here?”
                “They need to settle this.” Adriana smiled.
            Ian slammed back into the car totaling what was left. He got back up ready to mix it up again until the screaming started. Groups of people came tearing down the street chased by Fantom’s and the horrible unbound. “Not these things again.” Ian looked at Roderick. “Let’s postpone this we need to get out of here.” Ian went over to the cop car “We all need to get in.” They all followed suit.
         “Do we know where those things are coming from?” Roderick asked. “I mean I know your father sent them after me but…”
                Sierra looked at Ian incredulously. “The mayor…how would he even?” The car hitting something that had darted out in front of it stopped her inquiries. Ian halted the vehicle and got out.
       “Oh God!” Ian lifted the limp frame of a girl Roderick had only seen in passing through the halls. Nadia he thought her name was.
             “We should do something for her.” Ian said with worry melting his words.
             “You’ve got a passenger.” Roderick pointed to him. “When we fought I sensed her holding back your strength, maybe she can help you.”
                   Ian laid Nadia’s body down on the floor and looked into her half opened eyes. “Here goes nothing.” Something told Ian to try CPR and he did.”
        Nadia gasped as she awoke. “W-what, happened.”
   
          “The whole cities turned into a horror film and we’re trying to get the hell out of dodge.” Ian stood up and motioned for her to get into the car.
                “Hey, Sierra right?” Nadia smiled at her. “Good to see a familiar face.”
                “Y-yeah…good.” Sierra leaned on the window to her right in the passenger’s side. She wasn’t prepared for this level of crazy nor was she happy that it wasn’t explained to her but everyone else seemed to know what was going on. As they drove off her mind cycled through everything they had witness and it mad her even angrier. “Could some one please tell me what the hell is going on, since I’m the only one who doesn’t seem to know.”
         Roderick leaned up from the back seat. “Sorry about that.” Roderick took a deep breath and relayed the story, as they knew it so far. He slowed down and went back at parts that she didn’t seem to understand, Ian and Adriana also chimed in once in a while and even Nadia who had just recently been given contact the version of herself from Scrawl put her two sense in.
            “So basically everything’s gone crazy?”
              “Yes in a sense.” Roderick responded. “My question would be how do we stop these things, got any ideas, your highness?”
                “This all started at the hospital so I’m going to assume that , that is where we can end it.” They drove past the mad Fantom’s, wild Unbound creatures and screaming people up the road and on to the highway. Passing the school they saw the throngs of students being set upon by classmates that were now horribly disfigured and frightening creatures. They rode hard through the streets putting, Ian’s years of driving experience to the test as he swerved out the way oncoming monsters and pedestrians.
             “This is madness, why would the Winter-Lord unleash such carnage on a world he hopes to colonize?” Adriana directed her question at Ian.
            “ Probably to get rid of the populace, or get back at me.” Ian said sheepishly.
             “ Or to kill me.” Roderick chimed in.
               “Really it could be all three or none the task at hand is to stop it.” Sierra yelled. “This is my home town and unlike you I don’t have some other place to go back to.”
              “She makes a valid point” Nadia mused. “We’re the only ones who can escaped this unscathed and while Scrawl is on the verge of collapse there is no need for this world to suffer a similar fate” She said that as they approached the Hospital where droves of Fantom’s and the odd Unbound were lurking and in the center of them was something that could have only come from the twisted and fantastic nightmares of a lunatic. It was a sphere or at least what counted for its body was, where it should have had legs it had arms and tentacles where arms should’ve been. It had no face or sensory organs to speak of but when they arrived it became very active, pushing Fantom’s and Unbound creatures out of the way as it charged the car.
              “Everyone out now” Roderick screamed as they all scrambled away from the vehicle. Roderick stood in front of the car and used his telepathy to hold the creature back. His nose began to bleed and he shook from the pressure. It wasn’t that it was too large, it was some overbearing power that it had. He would’ve passed out had Ian not thrown the car at the beast causing it real back a bit.
              “We can’t beat this thing.” Ian yelled looking at Nadia. “You know what that is don’t you?” of course she knew they both knew but even after talking about it they never expected to encounter it.
               “We’ve never tried nor did we ever have to.” She was breathing heavily and her eyes took on the peculiar gold that Adriana’s did. As they did the few cars still left in the parking lot flew up and slammed into the creature. “We’ve got to hit it hard.” She yelled.
                 “Hard I can do.” Adriana smiled as her tattoos came to life in a sort of armor around her, clawed gauntlets covered her hands and her skin was overcome by gleaming metal. She rushed the creature with claws bared slashing rapidly.
               Roderick had taken hold of the minds of the Unbound and Fantom’s near by and had begun using them to attack the nameless blight. “”How are we going to stop it?” He yelled even as the creature devoured those under his control. It’s tentacles dissolving them instantly.
               “What is that thing?” Sierra ran for cover behind an ambulance that was still standing.”
              
              “It’s called the Nameless Blight.” Ian yelled looking around for something throw at the monstrosity. “It’s linked directly to my father it’s kinda like his version of an A-bomb.”  
             “That gives me an idea.” Roderick let go control of his temporary minions and focused his thoughts on the thing that with each fail of a tentacle attempted to kill them. He felt something a mind only full of the notions of subjugation and conquest. Then it noticed him and feelings of anger hatred and finally fear emerged, he grabbed onto that last one and stretched it as much as he could. The notion that no matter what the Winter-Lord had envisioned he could not win, for Roderick was a reckoning on the Winter-lord and all the Winterborne. The creature began to shake and tremble as its master’s conscious was driven out of it and then it began to collapse as it lost all source of animation. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”
                  “I’m glad it was and I’m glad it’s over.” Ian chimed in.
                  “What do we do now?” Nadia looked around at them.
            
                      “We’ve gotta save Scrawl, duh.” As Adriana spoke the creatures decomposing body melted a hole in the floor creating a luminescent pool similar to the fourth wall. “Ask and ye shall receive, let’s go.”
                      “What about me?” Sierra approached them as they prepared to enter the Fourth wall. “What do I do, what about the city?”
              Roderick walked up to her and planted a kiss upon her lips. “We’ll return, just be here when we get back.” He smiled as they all one by one jumped into the gate between this world and Scrawl. It almost immediately closed up behind them and Sierra was left there surrounded by carnage and filled with an anxious hope. “I’ll wait and when you get back Endwater will be a much different place. A better one, I promise.”
       

Shadow Guard: Malparctice

Shadow Guard: Malpractice

By Ra’Chaun Rogers

Part 1: Nights like these

It was quite a wet night. The kind of night that really makes you wanna curl up in bed and never wake. The kind of night that makes you down, melancholy, depressed. He loved these nights, melancholy made him feel poetic and he’s always found certain poetry in justice. He smiled behind his gas mask as they plunged down to the alley below on a drug deal in progress and he hates drug dealers. He landed right in front of them making as much noise as possible, he could have been silent but he wanted them to know he’s coming, the rain bounced off of his Kevlar armor. Their horrified looks say it all; they recognize the red and black costume and the haunting gas mask. How could they not, they’ve been all over the papers for the past year.

She landed silently on top of the buyer; she loved being silent, anything to defy him. She never liked the idea of striking fear, that’s why she wore blue and white, she didn’t care who could see her coming they wouldn’t be able to do her any harm anyway. She loved this stuff and she knew he did too, because as much as it’s been about cleaning up the streets, it had also become a game they played. By the time she looked up the dealer was already begging for mercy and Fearless was doing his dark and scary bit. It’s the mask she says it was always the mask, which is probably why she opted for her high collar, hood and goggles. For a guy whose name is Fearless he sure liked to instill it in people. But then again she was known as Thrill and that’s mainly why she did this, especially with him.

They leave the trash for the cops to pick up, he hates them but he doesn’t own his own prison. By the time she’s called it in they’re ascending into the midnight sky. They say nothing as they leap from one roof to the next, what they found today on the dealer was one in a disturbing new drug that has been popping up at all the parties around town. Fearless grimaced under his mask and as they entered the storm drain that lead to their home base he could only hope that they found who was manufacturing this stuff quick and hoped that it wasn’t what he feared it was.

“So what do we have?” She walked out of the bathroom into the living room. She wore a bathrobe and slippers; she toweled her hair as she approached him. She was only 5’7 but that didn’t matter in a fight, not with her abilities. “Is it the same stuff?”

He stood over the stove steam rising from a large pot, his 5’11 175lb frame looked awkward cooking dinner. His once white t-shirt had seen better days as had his black sweat pants. His dreadlocks draped over his face obscuring his troubled expression from her. “Yeah, unfortunately.”

“And what is that again?” She walked into her bedroom as the hallway lights danced off of her honey colored skin.

“Human Adrenal Gland.” He was annoyed, he had told her several times, but he swore she asked again just to annoy him. “Which may I remind you is a very bad thing.”

“All drugs are bad, for the most part.” She smiled and walked out of her room wearing boxer shorts, a t-shirt and slippers.

“Yes but this drug came from the body of a living person or a once living person.” He turned off the flame and strained the contents of the pot. Spaghetti and tomato sauce with mushrooms and onions. “Which means that someone is killing living people and harvesting their adrenal glands.”

She began to set the table. “Yeah can we talk about that after we eat?” She poured a glass of water for both of them as he piled spaghetti on her plate and the on his own.

“Yeah sure thing, but talking about it on a full stomach might make you vomit.” He smirked.

“Shush, lets eat.” They began to tear into their meals, protecting the city always made them hungry or her at least. She then stopped and looked across the able at him. “I might not be home tomorrow night.”

He stopped eating and looked up from his plate. “Yeah?” his question had an edge on it that he tried to hide but couldn’t. “So who is he?”

“Why must there be a he?” She pointed her fork at him. “You’re just waiting for me to up and quit aren’t you?”

“No it’s not that, It’s just that we patrol tomorrow night” That was a lie and they both knew it, true it was easier to patrol with two people but he could do it all by himself and had been up until he recruited her for his war on crime in this city. He was jealous, in spite of himself; and he had no right to be.

“Jacob, I don’t hassle you when you’re out with, well…” Erica stopped herself. Malcolm hadn’t been on a social outing since his fiancée Michelle died two years ago. She felt sorry for him and sometimes put off going out to stay around and keep an eye on him. The air of melancholy was constant and very apparent to those who knew him.

“Right, I’m sorry, have fun.” Melancholy must have been plastered all over his face because he moved just in time to avoid a slipper from hitting it.

“Hey, don’t beat yourself up about it, that’s my job.” She grinned at him and he couldn’t help but smile back. They continued their meal together unaware that half a mile away someone would be enjoying their last.

Leroy Harper had been homeless for the last two years, he and his wife had become victims of predatory lending and when she moved back in with her mother, he ended up on the street. That was until last month when Dr. Felix Holder opened up a new homeless shelter funded by his own private foundation. Dr. Holder was a successful surgeon who extended his healers hands to the ills of society and sponsored several programs to help those less fortunate. A few months ago Dr.Holder was embroiled in a scandal involving his secretary, his wife divorced him and took his kids. He closed down his private practice and almost vanished from the medical world. The city was given control of his various public works projects. At the Holder House as it was called Leroy enjoyed job training a warm bed, clean clothes and three square meals a day. He had some rough times but things were looking up, nights like these gave him hope. He thought this as he bit into the nights Saul-berry steak, devouring it as he did most of the food there he decided to go to the bathroom and brush his teeth before going to bed. When he got there he noticed that the light was abnormally bright and that the white walls irritated his eyes. He splashed some cold water on his face and took a look in the mirror his own tired reflection was the last thing he saw before everything faded to black.

When Leroy woke up he was lying down and a bright light was pouring into this eyes, he couldn’t feel anything his arms or legs or even his face but he knew something was wrong. He attempted to move and succeeded in moving his head a bit however at that moment he wished he hadn’t because what he saw when looked down was his own stomach opened and on display like a diorama. Though he didn’t feel pain he screamed or attempted to he wasn’t sure if he did, all he heard was the movement of bodies beyond his vision.

“The donor has woken up, put him under.” That was the last Leroy heard before sleeping gas was put over his mouth and administered.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 7 (edited)


Chapter Seven : The House of 1000 Eyes

Mirage and the Geist were in a large plane with no up and no down, no left and no right; they floated in a null space relaxed and weightless. The world was black and formless with pulsing colors all around, they were in the void, peace, the crossing, the after. The scene abruptly changed into a room inside of a house with many, many doors

“What the hell is this?” Mirage looked around the room. “Where did we end up?”

“The House of One Thousand Eyes, I visited it once as a child, thought it was a dream.” He looked at her and smiled. “I told grandma about it and she told me its name and showed me how to navigate it, sort of.”

“What do you mean sort of?”

“Well the thing about it is, there are beings that were given governance over the infinite dimensions that exist here and so they can alter which doors in the house lead to the their domains.” The Geist turned away from Mirage and frowned. “And the doors kind of act like two way mirrors so they can see us but we can’t see them.”

“Ugh we don’t need this.” Mirage put her hands on her hips. “We got side tracked to go on wild goose chase?”

“Well you can leave if you want to, I can send you back the way we came in although I can’t help the train schedules.” The Geist walked toward one of the doors. “It’s your call.”

Mirage sighed. “No, no what kind of cousin would I be if I left you here, alone?”

“I’m not sure, but I can understand not wanting to be here.” He put his hand on the door and moved it across the face.

“What are you doing?” She followed behind him looking over his shoulder.

“Grandma taught me about gate frequency and how I can determine where gates have opened up based on those frequencies.”

Mirage leaned back and thought out loud. “How is it that you could do all of this as a kid when you were given grandpa’s egun five months ago?”

Still studying the door the Geist addressed her. “ I always wondered the same thing, and then grandma of course told me that I have an ancestral gift. Since egun’s are ubiquitous and not one spirit in particular but the spirits of all our ancestors they can bestow special abilities upon us during our lives.”

“And yours is?”

He stood up and looked at her. “I can open gates, that’s what I’ve always done, the only thing is without an egun I could end up anywhere without a way to get out.”

“So what about your shadow magic?”

He thought for a moment. “The way I see it, shadow magic works better with my gift, I open gates to other dimensions and the shadow is itself in the second dimension.”

“Oh ok.” She pouted under her hood. “Why don’t I have a gift?”

“You’re asking the wrong person. Incidentally this is the door we’re looking to go through, you ready?”

Mirage let out a heavy sigh. “Yeah sure let’s go.”

The Geist pressed his and against the door and for a brief moment ancient symbols flashed across it’s face. The sound of gigantic pressure releasing came from the doorframe and it slowly creaked open. “Let’s go.” He walked in the door ahead of her and she picked up the rear. When they entered the door shut silently behind them.

She awoke to the dry cackles of hyena’s, not that she’d ever heard a hyena cackle or seen one for that matter. She tried to move and then stopped when she realized her body was bound in a slimy membrane that went from her neck to her toes. All around her were sickly pink walls that pulsated red like a diseased heart beat. Her thoughts began to race as she recalled the events that led her here, wherever here was. What the hell is going on she thought, this wasn’t your everyday shit hell it wasn’t even your once in a blue moon shit, this was craziness pure and simple there was no way this could be going down not in the real world. She decided she had to be dreaming at least until the large hulking creature with the head of a jackal and the body of a man walked in surrounded by several other creatures that looked like it. Tea’s eyes became saucers, she struggled to get out of the sack hurling curses left and right. Somewhere along the way the large hideous creature took the shape of a man, as he walked over to her, it was Calvin’s face and build he wore the same suit from the restaurant.

“Hello, it seems you’re finally awake.” His elongated canines peeked behind his lips.

“Where the hell am I, what is going on?” She cringed at his smile. “Why do you look like my boss?”

“You’re in the land of Baka, that is to say the land of lower world entities.” His expression became a mask of amusement. “ And technically I am your boss.”

“What do you mean?”

“Eh it would take too long to explain, for now don’t worry about it.”

“What are you going to do to me?” Tea still tried to move.

“Just take a little something from you.”

Tea felt pressure on her stomach for a brief moment and then it subsided. “ What was that, what did you do?”

“Nothing serious.” He touched the membrane and it began to slide away. “You’re free to take a look around, you might find something that interests you.” As the final parts of her binding fell away Tea began to move on unsteady ground. The creatures that were surrounding her made a path to walk through. She looked ahead of her and then behind where ‘Calvin’ was standing only to find him gone. This is too much, I have to get out of here she thought walking toward a fleshy causeway in front of her. Hideous purple veins coursed through the mass, creeping through it she came upon what passed for a clearing in the land of the Baka where strange uvula like objects sprouted from the ground. There was no wind here and the sounds of scuttling could be heard all around the odd fixtures of the world. It was humid and the air was thick with hostility and despair and trepidation, it all made Tea sick but she couldn’t worry about that at the moment her aim was to get out of here and that was what she would do. As she walked she heard movement behind her, whirling around all she saw was a large lump and the uvula like objects. She thought that finding an exit fast would do her good right now and since she didn’t know the terrain not being alert would be a dangerous thing. The shuffling behind her sounded again and she turned around with furious speed, her pulse was pounding like a Congo drum as adrenaline filtered into her blood stream in a short burst. To her relief and surprise there was nothing behind her, if the things that lived here didn’t kill her, those false alarms would surely give her a heart attack. She realized the former might happen first as she turned around and came face to ‘face’ with a creature that sprouted from the ground, it had small jagged teeth where it’s eyes were supposed to be, they extended from the sockets and the hole where it’s mouth was had tentacles that extended forward toward her. It screamed, she did too, she then took off running in another direction toward more of strange organ like growths that resembled hearts connected to brain stems sprouting from the ground. All around her was the sound of movement and figures from beyond the shadow of the fixtures, they were following her and she ran harder until something dropped in front of her, it wasn’t one of the jackal creatures, but something else like a bird with the body of a woman. The sound it let out was frightening, Tea covered her ears and ran to her right she didn’t know where she was going but she hoped it was leading her out. She ran until she came into another clearing, where a large glowing membrane plastered to appeared to be a mountain wall. The movement stopped behind her and it was then that she understood they were leading her here.

Tea moved closer drawn to the light, as she drew nearer she saw something not with her eyes but with her mind, a myriad of images flooded her mental vision. She saw a number of souls screaming out in torment tearing a hole through reality into New York City, she didn’t know how she knew they were souls but she did. The worst of it was yet to come she saw something large and menacing coming behind them, it carried with it the most intense feeling of dread she had ever experienced. She saw a man in a hood battling something larger than the previous creature, and losing. She saw a woman similar to the man in appearance with tears streaming down her face as she held someone’s head in her lap. She witnessed a small group of men and women stand fast against horde of inhuman creatures set to the backdrop of a ruined city. She saw a man brought back from the dead by strangers and another put in his grave for the sake of those he loved, she saw a number of deaths perpetrated by one woman and a precious life born from another. The last image nearly took her breath away as realized who was in it and what it meant, she staggered grasping her head, there was no pain but the rush of it all made her dizzy. Spinning she caught a glimpse of something behind her and quickly passed out into the persons arms. The figure was hooded, wore black blanket, and carried a clubbed walking stick with strange symbols on it on his back hung a leather satchel.

“I’ve finally found you and none to soon.” as he spoke a number of creatures crept from various hiding places and surrounded him. “Look I’m just gonna take her and go, there’s no need to move, just passing through.” The creatures growled and salivated bearing razor sharp teeth, clawed hand and spiked tentacles as they closed in. “Ok fine let’s do it this way, haven’t slain a devil in a long time and believe you me, I’ve mastered the teaching to do so.” He gently laid Tea down on the floor, put his bag under her head and raised his stick. “Aight, who’s first?” The creatures came charging at him as he held his staff to the sky and from it came a blinding light. “Papa Legba open the gate so that we may pass.” the ground began to shake and the rumbling brought Tea to for a moment just long enough to see a kind and gentle face long lost but not forgotten under a black hood. Looking down he smiled at her and whispered, “I’ll be done in a minute, for now sleep little girl.” and she did.

The Geist was alone sky was jet black above his head and no moon hung from it. Illumination was produced from four lamplights at four corners of the area. Looking about himself he noticed that he was at a crossroads. Outside of the one of the fences was a withered tree. Taking stock of the area he noticed no wind blew and his own movements barely registered as sound. Geist took his hood off to reveal the red markings on his face and his pale pupils for the most part he resembled his host; his hair gravitated in different directions. His expression was set in a warriors mask whose face told the story of many lives lived and many hard choices made. Assessing the environment he finally decided he was in a vacuum or some kind of quantum singularity. Despite being a spirit Geist had only traveled through the Underland dimensions a handful of times and even though he mounted someone with a natural affinity for it he was at a loss to convey it’s myriad of complexities to his host.

“We’re in his realm.” A voice responded to his thought. Whirling around he saw no one. However he sensed the figure in the black and white suit behind him. “His, whose?” He turned to face the figure.

“Yours, The Geists.” The figure removed his cloak and the Geist found himself staring face to face with his host’s late brother Seth. He stood at 5’11 two inches taller than Marcus, his shoulders were broader and his hair was cut close. He wore the same face markings that Geist did but they were in different patterns. The Geist looked at him incredulously and for a moment Marcus broke through the composite state and became completely dominant. Tears began to well up in his eyes and his warriors mask melted into the mask of a young boy who had spent too much time away from family. “Seth?” Marcus’ trembling voice broke. “ You’re here, how?”

“This is the realm of gates little brother, those who’ve passed on are able to come and go as they please, remember?” Seth’s face-hardened. “But this isn’t the time for a reunion I need you to follow me. Seth drifted toward the north exit of the crossroads Geist stared at him for a second then followed behind. They were bathed in light as their shadows were thrown to either side of them. It seemed to envelop them, the vacuum stood around them absorbing their sounds as soon their foot falls made contact with the floor. Although this world had a different affect and it seemed that sound was replaced by memories. Every footstep he took behind Seth he memories came like little bursts in the front of his mind. The time when Marcus was five and after a nightmare was welcomed to sleep in Seth’s bed for protection, a bed which he ended up peeing in later that night. He chuckled in his mind and felt bit by bit the Geist presence being lulled into his subconscious. He recalled another time Seth and his girlfriend Ana-Lisa took him to the park and she taught Marcus how to swing by himself, he thought she was the prettiest girl in the world and knew that only his brother could have deserved someone like her. At the edges of his mind the Geists voice was whispering something to something that sounded like be prepared.. All he could remember was the good times and how they abruptly began to go sour, as he got older. The fights between Seth and their grandfather between he and Seth, Marcus didn’t know where the tension came from and wondered if he’d ever find out.

They ended up at the doorstep of a small house whose windows had shown light. Seth led him in and welcomed him to sit. It was a modest shack; there were lanterns at the corners of the room. One more gas lantern sat on a table with two chairs. Beyond that there was nothing else but a trunk, the four windows and a back door. “Before we go any further you need to know about the Black Ring Society.”

“What is that?” The Geist had now reverted back to Marcus and was now listening intently.

Seth let out deep sigh and looked into his brother’s eyes. “ They are the reason for everything our family has endured up to this point.”

“The demon that killed you, they summoned it?”

“Yes, they also killed our grandfather.”

“Where are they, who are they?” Marcus’ balled his fists causing the shadow below them to jump uncontrollably.

“Before you go out and do anything you need to know who and what you’re up against. Time is short so you’ll have to get back to the physical plane soon but when you do go to your brownstone and in the study you’ll find old notebooks stashed in the closet behind a false backing. Read the ones label 1921 and the one labeled 1979.”

Marcus stood up. “Wait I can’t leave yet there are things we need to talk about and I still need to find Tea.”

“We will talk in time little…no you’re no longer my little brother, you’re a grown man.” Seth smiled. It was the same smile he’d give when he was proud of him, or had something for Marcus. “Your woman will be fine, trust me. However there is still one matter that must be clear of before you leave.”

“What’s that?” Marcus asked just before he was flung out of the house into the vacuum.

Stepping through the hole that Marcus’ impact made Seth grimaced and threw off his cloak revealing the flowing dashiki and pants of a mage. “I need to see if you can beat me. If you can then I’ll send you home.”

“And if not.” Marcus got to his feet he fired up his aura and drew a symbol in the air, but nothing happened. “What?”

“No, the egun won’t work here. The spirit has ordained this. You’ve got to rely on your own gifts, your own magic.” Seth glared he drew a symbol in the air and was surrounded by red energy. “If can’t beat me then I will take your place and leave you here, sound fair?”

Marcus cursed himself for his constant running and dodging his heritage. However there was no way he could’ve anticipated an event like this transpiring. While he only knew a few basic spells like shielding and the blade of la place he did have one advantage that his brother didn’t his ancestral gift of shadow warping although without the spirit to enhance I he’d have no real offensives skills besides the blade. “Ok if it gets me home then I’m game.” Marcus’ shadow jumped to life around his legs and his hands were enveloped in black energy. He drew a symbol in the air and the blade of la place manifested as crackling black electricity at the edge of his fingers. Seth approached him with a speed possessed only by those beings from the House of a 1000 Eyes, he was on Marcus in an instant with a powerful wave of destructive magical energy. Marcus warped as quickly as he could, leaving behind an afterimage and the electrical discharge from the ‘blade’ which sliced at his brother to minimal effect.

“It’s very important that you do better than this, if our family is to survive.” Seth appeared behind Marcus’ point of entry and blasted him in the back causing him to fly across the void. “Then again you never wanted this, so maybe is should take if from you. I gave up a lot for this family, the woman I love left me when she found out about our lineage, I couldn’t keep my veterinary practice open and there was also that little bit about me losing my life.” Seth grinned bitterly as he approached his younger bother who struggled to get up. “The sad thing is I hate this more than you do, but it’s the only thing I’ve got to live for.” He grabbed Marcus by his black shirt and lifted him up on his feet. “I guess that’s irony huh?” Marcus felt a sharp pain in his abdomen, he was airborne then falling, falling, and falling. It all came rushing back the, arguments the anger the bitterness. It was as if Seth’s energy was charged by events that took place the year before Marcus left for college. Their voices raised inside his mind. Most of their fights revolved around Marcus’ desire to leave his family and its legacy behind. Marcus hit the ground with a dull thud but instead of struggling to get up this time he waited for Seth to get close enough to him. He walked slowly toward the fallen Marcus. “You keep reinforcing any arguments against your being sent back to the world of the living.” As Seth came upon him he was stopped in mid motion. He attempted to move his legs but couldn’t. Marcus had extended his shadow under his brother’s feet and was now holding him in place. Seth looked down at his feet then at Marcus and let out what would’ve been a long hard laugh had his voice not been absorbed by their surroundings. Seth began to sink into the shadow and in minutes was gone within it. Marcus stood up looking about himself frantically he was grabbed from behind by the throat and held up into the air. “You’re making this too easy little brother.” He slammed Marcus into the ground knocking the air out of him. Marcus’ mind went blurry. “You know Marcus it’s both sad and funny. You’re in the same position I was in around your age about to lose everything to this legacy. It’s a real shame you never got to tell Tea why you’ll never come home to her again.” Marcus’ eyes blazed and his shadow pulled him into it, he vanished in an instant and in the next ended up behind Seth. “You don’t think that will work do you?” as he extended his hands to blast Marcus his aura started to fade as it seeped from him into the hole that Marcus created. Seth looked incredulous; he’d never thought that Marcus would be able to siphon his energy. He also didn’t except Marcus to be able to use the energy he collected from his brother and attack him with the ‘blade’ this paralyzed him and he fell over soundlessly. Marcus stood above him no longer the worried or awe inspired younger brother. His eyes were twin coals in his head and his hair was floating wildly. “You know that always seems to do the trick.” As thoughts of Tea spiraled about his mind and extended from each lock of his hair.

Seth smiled this was what he was waiting for his brother had arrived. “Alright show me some shit then.” He fired up his aura illuminating the area for what would have been miles around. Seth drew a symbol in the air and a crimson pulse was projected at Marcus but it swatted aside by his shade. The shadow launched it self at Seth a clawed arm pushing through past the expanding red aura blasting its bearer back. “You know Seth, I realize that none of us wanted this.” Marcus’ voice was reverberating through the area. “ And the fact that it’s somewhat necessary not withstanding, the reason we fail at this is because we’re ready to die for this instead of being ready to live for what needs protecting.” Marcus’ voice was surprising in his own ears. He warped in front of Seth and extended a hand. “This fight is pointless and we both know it.” Seth took his hand and Marcus pulled him up. “ I’m proud of you.” Seth pulled him into a hug. “ Hurry up and get home to that woman of yours.” Seth motioned forward and in an instant Marcus’ shadow engulfed him. Seth sighed and walked back into the house and sat down. The door behind him creaked open. “He did well.” Seth didn’t turn around he closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. “Of course he did, he’s the only one of us with the sense enough to know that he shouldn’t be a martyr. Do you think it was wise to summon those things?”

Hannibal Ripley sat down next to his grandson. “It’s was a necessary thing. It’s the only way he’d actually grow.”

“And Bruce’s taking control of them?” Seth sneered.

“I knew he’d do it, he can sense his kind, it is why he is here.”

“Another necessity huh?” Seth laughed bitterly. “Well you may need to rethink what is necessary and what isn’t or you won’t have anymore heirs.”

It was Hannibal’s turn to laugh. “Do you think I hadn’t accounted for everything, Marcus will be fine.”

“And what of Tea?”

“I have someone taking care of her, she’ll be safe.” Hannibal leaned back.

“You know, it’s funny, that even after we die, we cling to the images of our bodies.” Seth looked at Hannibal. “You’d think we’d know better being higher beings and all.”

“You would think so, but then again, who said we got any higher?” The old man got up. “I think it’s time I go, have a nice afterlife grandson, it can only get better from here.”

“How would you know?” Seth grimaced. “I’ve been dead longer than you.”

“And yet it is surprising how little you still know.” Hannibal walked out.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 6 (edited)

Chapter Six: The Keeper

Ever since Leon could remember his older brother Kenny was his hero. While other kids idolized and emulated rappers and sports stars from afar, he got to learn from his idol up close. It did help that Kenny kept his nose clean most of the time, learning early that traveling down roads leading to death or jail at the end was no way to lead life. When Leon was about thirteen, Kenny began giving him books about various black leaders, some of them well-known most of little known and still other completely unknown to the general public. At first he read them because he thought it’d make Kenny proud of him and then one day he was handed the ‘Spook Who Sat By the Door’. The ideas in this book gripped him, however unfeasible or feasible they were. Afterward he went back and read the other books with a new set of eyes, and he began to understand. The day his brother met Marcus Ripley was a day that seemed to change everything.
Marcus was a teacher at his high school Windom, and he’d seen him around but had never talked to him. Marcus and Kenny crossed paths for the first time on the train. While Kenny was heading to work, Marcus was heading home; Kenny was reading a book written by Marcus Garvey. The conversation was brief mainly due to the fact that Kenny had to get off the train, but those that followed were storied and powerful. Kenny wanted to be a rapper all his life and had done a few things but after meeting Marcus his style changed. The lyrics and of course the content was altered on a level of frequency. It was as if the vibrations in the air would become charged with his intent upon delivery.

Leon sat on his bed reading The African Origins of Civilization when his older brother Kenny walked into his room.

“Hey Lee guess what?” Kenny’s face was a glow and he wore a smile from ear to ear.

Looking up from his book, he laid back. “Whadup?”

“I’m going to On the Grind tonight.”

Leon frowned he’d read the newspaper and heard of the suicides that went on in the past couple of months. “Why, isn’t it kinda dangerous there?”

“I’m not suicidal, and well, Jae Banks heard my mixtape and wants to talk to me about signing, with Black Ring Records.”

Leon’s face exploded into a smile. “Word, for real.” He leapt up from his be and gave his brother the handshake to the hug. “That’s dope.”

“Yeah, you wanna come?” Kenny cocked his fitted cap to the side.

“Yeah man, gimme a minute to put something on.” Leon went to his closet looking for something fitting to wear.

“You’re not going anywhere, especially some dangerous ass nightclub and especially not on a school night.” Kenny and Leon’s mother Ester came down the hall wearing a robe and a head wrap. She had been thin all her life and having two kids wasn’t going to change that. ‘I’d be damned, if I let you two ruin my figure.’ she’d joke. Her walnut colored skin was in stark contrast to her bright yellow bathrobe. “ My boys aren’t going to some club like a pair of hoodlums.”

“Mom, I’m 22 and this could be my chance, I’m not getting anywhere working at my current job.” Kenny worked as a mechanic at a local garage and though he could fix cars and enjoyed doing it, it was little more than a hobby.

“Well you ain’t grown till you can move out an support yourself.” She retorted with her hands on her hips.

“This might give me the chance to do that.” He looked at her seriously his mind was made up.

“O-ok, if this is what you really wanna do then go ahead.” She glanced at Leon. “But my baby stays.”

Leon’s face melted like candle wax, he wanted to see his brother’s success, but when his mother put her foot down it came down hard. “But mom, if he becomes a superstar, I’ll never get to hang out with him again.”

“That’s nonsense” She crossed her arms. “You’re not going to some rap club, where girls are half naked shakin their asses and the men all carry guns with their pants below their ankles.

“Sorry Lee mom’s right, it’s not really the environment for you.” Kenny shrugged. “But maybe I’ll bring you to the studio, when I’m recording.”

Ester glared at Kenny. “Well not tonight because school’s tomorrow.”

Leon put his book away and turned off the light. “Yeah, yeah.” Leon fumed; his mother never let him do anything. “It’s not like I do much of anything else, I read a lot, do my homework on time. My grades are probably the highest on the block.”

“That’s true baby and we want to keep it that way.” She looked maudlin. “Your father was an honest man a good man. Worked for the city did a good job, didn’t stop some punk who didn’t want to pay his fair from shooting him.”

Leon sighed every time he tried to make a case for his socializing at certain times or venues his mother would practically throw his fathers death at him. He was too young to remember and afterward Kenny assumed role as head male of the household. It was strange however that he never once heard his mother give the speech to Kenny maybe because he knew, he lived through it and it changed his life more than it did Leon’s. “Mom please can you please just this once trust that I’ll be ok. You all raised me right I know when to get out of dodge and plus Kenny’s gonna be there.”

Ester thought about it for a second. “ Well when you put it that way, it’d make sense to let you but your brother’s probably on the train already and it’s not safe to go out in this neighborhood at this time. This was another tactic of hers if the reminder of tragedy didn’t work then she would delay him until he was unable to get anywhere he needed to be. Leon let out a heavy sigh. “You always do this mom.”

“Good night Lee. Go. To. Bed.” She walked out of his room. He Sat angry and frustrated. He rested his head on his pillow breathing heavily as if trying to exhale his anger this of course didn’t work so he tried to sleep. After thirty minutes had passed he realized that he had to be out of the house. He got up, rifled through his closet and picked out jeans and a stylish button down to wear. Slipping on his sneakers and leather jacket he crept down the hall, the radio was on the jazz station his mother used to lull her to sleep and the sounds of snoring accompanied furious horns. He exited the house and before going down stairs he sent a text to Malik saying I’m about to have the dopest night ever. Leaving the building he looked down the street turned up his collar and shuffled toward the train station. His head low he heard the whirring of police klaxons a block away and frowned at the thought of brotha’s being killed by other brotha’s because neither one knows that they’re family. Things shouldn’t be like this. He recalled his brother’s reason for becoming an emcee. A lot of people tell their “life story” using rap most of which turn out to be more ‘story’ than life, but Kenny wanted to tell their story, the story of a people whose history started before slave ships and before the C.E.’s and the A.D.’s no one mainstream ever talked about that stuff. Leon chuckled to himself mainly because few people knew about it and those that did weren’t interested in giving it up. The sound of rustling behind him made Leon snap to attention but upon turning around he saw nothing. Chill out he thought to himself the neighborhood was getting better, well in some parts, in others the crime rates were steadily increasing thanks to the rescission and the rising prices of the cost of living. Funny this mostly went on in the poor sections of the area, meaning the black sections, as he got closer to his destination he couldn’t shake the feeling he was being followed, but whoever it was did a good job of concealing themselves because every time he look out the corner of his eye a strange shadow would move out of his line of sight. He walked into the station he passed a man selling Transit pass swipes.

“Yo, you need a swipe, two dollas.”

“Nah, I’m good man I got my own.” Leon continued to walk down the stairs. As he descended and reached into his pocket, he heard a shuffling coming from the top of the stairs, which was followed by a muffled sound. As he went to pay his fair at the turnstile he felt an impact hit his back. Stumbling onto the turnstile he turned around and looked into the blood shot eyes of the man who was selling transit pass swipes.

“I really need that two dollas man.” He lunged at Leon, with murderous speed.

“Hup.” Falling flat on his back Leon tossed him over into the Transit-pass machines. Thank goodness for karate classes at the rec-center he thought.

“Hey, I’m calling the cops.” The station attendant yelled behind his booth as he dialed the number for police.

I’ve got to get out of here, the roar of the approaching train filled Leon’s ears as the man shambled to his feet, his open mouth revealed a set of razor sharp teeth and crimson gums. Leon went through the turnstile as the train came to a halt and the doors opened. The man came at him leaping over the turnstile and was met by two boots to the chest from Leon who had pulled himself up by the turnstile arch to perform the attack. The transit-pass peddler hit the attendant both with a thud and Leon jumped back and ran into the train car as the doors closed. Dropping into a seat he noticed the car was empty. His breathing was rapid and heavy, leaning his head back he dozed off as the train car rolled forward. Lolling somewhere between sleep and waking he caught site of another train across the tracks, the lights flickered inside and when they came back the other trains cars were enveloped in a red light. Rubbing his eyes he caught sight of a woman running to one end of a car being chased by a man or at least what appeared to be a man and something else, an animal of some kind. It was too big to be a dog, or a normal sized one and it moved like a monkey with its knuckles on the ground. The lights flickered in the car again and just then it vanished. Leon sat up and peered out the other window and as he did the car was bathed in crimson and an intense roaring filled his ears, the lights went dim and the entire train began to tremble. The lights returned and the car started into the 125th street train station. Leon got out as the doors opened and raced up the stairs the night was getting too weird he needed to find his brother. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Kenny’s number.

“Lee, what are you doing up?” Kenny’s concerned voice answered. “Mom’s gonna have your butt if she hears you.”

“I’m not at home.” Leon walked toward the entrance to the club.

“What, where are you?”

“I’m outside.” Leon stood before a large mound of flesh with a clean-cut fade that was watching the door intently.

“Outside where the house?” Kenny questioned

“Nah man, the club and this bouncer don’t look like he’s letting me in.” Leon turned his back to the man in question.

Kenny let out an annoyed sigh. “Aight man let me come and get you.”

“Thanks man.” Leon put his phone back in his pocket turned and smiled at the bouncer.

Leon casually walked toward the door as the large man took a step to bar his way. “You going somewhere sonny?” The bass in the bouncer’s voice reverberated in Leon’s ears.

“Yeah just waiting for him.” Leon looked passed the mountain of a man and pointed to his older brother who was walking out of the door.

“Yo, it’s ok D he’s with me.” Kenny slapped his hand down on Leon’s shoulder more in a disciplinary manner than anything else.

“Aight, but I think I should check with Jae I mean he looks kinda young and we serve liquor.” D took out his cell phone and made a call.

“It’s good D, he can join us.” The aforementioned Jae Banks stepped out of the club and put his arm on the bouncer’s shoulder. “This place is also a restaurant we can get the little homie something to eat.” He led both Leon and Kenny inside the club where in Leon’s eyes lit, it was wall-to-wall celebrity. Every famous person from the black community just about, in one corner eating fire grilled ribs sat famous activist and preacher Geoffrey October. Across the room the well-known former professor and current congressman Craver Abrams sat between two video vixens two weeks after his divorce. Leon looked at the ceiling and noticed a strange symbol with three number sevens etched in it just between the hanging chandlers.

“Yo, is that who I think it is and…” Leon looked on a bit wide-eyed

“They’re all who you think they are.” Kenny went to sit down at a table with Jae Banks and a large man named Bruce.

“Yeah they’re my peoples.” Jae called over a waiter. “And you are?”

“Peace, I’m Leon.” Leon reached over and gave Banks a pound.

“Cool, you want something to eat?”

“Is there a menu?” Leon raised his eyebrow.

The waiter walked over and handed Leon the menu, he scanned it and then looked up. “Lemme get some buffalo wings with the fries.”

The waiter took the menu, and walked away; Jae smiled at him and leaned back. “So, Leon do you spit too.”

“Yeah a little bit, I was on the fourth track on the mix tape, Revolutionary. War .Fear”

“Word that was you, I was feeling it, maybe we should have you come up to the studio, hook you up.”

“Word that would be hot.” Leon nearly leapt out of his seat.

Bruce cleared his throat, prompting everyone to look at him. Jae sat up and looked at Kenny. “Aight back to business, as we mentioned before we heard your mix tape, got the streets on fire.”

“Yeah, so you wanna sign me or…” Kenny tented his fingers

“Well what we’d like to do is put you on Black Rings up coming Young Jewels compilation.” Jae sipped a glass of champagne he had near by. “And yeah of course sign you.” He slid a portfolio across the table with a contract in it.

Kenny picked it up and began to read it, scanning it thoughtfully. “I’m gonna have to think about this.”

“Hey, we’re offering a once in a life time deal, very few would just throw it away.” Jae smiled.

“I’m not throwing it away, I’m being cautious, I’ve heard less than savory stories about the industry and I’m not looking to be one of them. He put the contract down on the table.

Jae looked at Bruce who gave him a grimace; he then turned back to Kenny. “Well how about you come to a little party I’m throwing tomorrow, you could bring Leon, let the homie get a feel for the industry as a young up and comer.”

The waiter returned with Leon’s food as the teenager looked at his older brother wide eyed. “We… I mean you should at least see what it’s about.”

Kenny looked at his brother with a scowl. “Eat your food.” He then turned back to Jae. “Listen I know this is how you WOW those other street dudes but…”

“Listen, Kenny I like your music, my whole camp does you add an extra flare for the underground market.” He sighed. “We don’t want to pressure you, as a matter of fact forget the contract for now, and just come as my guest to the party out here Saturday.” Jae mustered up all the sincerity he his face could display.

Kenny moved the contract to the middle of the table. “Ok, I’ll come.”

Leon jumped up beaming from ear to ear. “Yes.”

“But you’re staying home.”

“Why, I’m a rapper too.” Leon yelled.

“You know why.” Kenny exhaled deeply. Kenny didn’t want his brother to be a rapper, with a high demand on rappers have a credible reputation and Leon’s attitude he feared the young man might end up in dangerous situations in attempts to keep himself relevant and from appearing soft.

“Psht.” Leon waved at his brother and began to eat his food.

“Aight that’s cool, that’s cool, wear your best clothes gonna be a lot of video vixen’s there and a number of important people.” Jae smiled.

Leon finished his food and the two brothers exited the club and began to walk to the train station. Leon’s shoulders were slumped as he moved. “Why don’t you want me to rap?”

“You already know why.” Kenny sped up.

“Because you think I’ll get caught up in some bullshit.” Leon walked up to him. “You teach me well, I know not to deal with the knucklehead niggas.”

Kenny let out a long sigh. “I know it’s just that…”

At that moment the roaring above their heads caused them to look up. “Oh my God.” Leon stared in amazement as the cities urban legends the Geist and Mirage flew past them through the sky and into the train station. “Yo we gotta follow them.” Leon bolted down the block and into the train station.

“Damn it Lee.” Kenny raced after him down the steps. Upon arrival they were greeted by a pungent odor the smell of final breaths and frightened prayers. They both covered their noses. “What the hell is that?”

Leon turned, caught sight of the mangled body in the information booth and jumped back.” K-Kenny? Do you think we should be following those… people that came in here?”

Kenny gave Leon a quick slap on the back of his head. “You’re the one who ran in here, I was just…” At moment the temperature dropped drastically and a loud booming sound filled the station, at first they thought it was a train that was until the sound became vacuum sucking in all sound and a cascade of red light exploded from the train tracks. The brothers looked at each other and then leapt over the turnstiles to check out the scene. What they came upon was unprecedented, there stood a man and a woman both shrouded and robed. Crimson light shown in front of them illuminating their silhouettes. With the vacuum absorbing the sound around them they could only look on in wonderment as they realized that the light was coming from a hole in the darkness of the tunnel, in the fabric of space itself created by the man. Just then a distant light came closer to the station at rapid speed. The two brothers turned their attention toward the on coming train for a moment as it pulled into the station and then back to realize that the man and the woman were no longer there. The train came to a stop and as the doors opened up the two brothers turned to each other in disbelief as they boarded.

The matte black limousine cruised along the street with all the smoothness of paten leather. Two men sat in the back talking about the night’s events or rather one talked and the other listened.

“…See the only thing I asked you to do was sign him, we get his brother fine but him we can use.” Bruce sat back swirling a red glass of brandy, while a young woman worked face down in his lap. “mmmm…And you couldn’t even do that.”

“Well it’s not like I’ve gotten a grade a deal from you, what the fuck am I supposed to do with all these niggas and bitches killin’ themselves at my club man?” Jae Banks yelled.

Bruce narrowed his eyes and the young woman stopped her work, wiped her mouth and looked at Jae, Bruce gave her a glance and then smiled. “I’m going to assume you had a momentary lapse of sanity due to my companions striking beauty.” The young lady was obviously a video vixen who appeared to have had her breast, backside and lips done, that was if she was human. Her inhumanly long fingers nails dug into Jae’s leg, he stifled a grunt; she giggled and revealed strangely sharp canines. Bruce gave her another glare and she moved her hands to her lap. “Because if that wasn’t the case I’d have to think you forgot who saved you from that night club shoot out two years ago, or that lawsuit from the family of the artist who said you got him killed because he was trying to leave your label.
Jae rubbed his leg, and sucked his teeth. “But that last part wasn’t my fault, you…”

Bruce waved him away. “Details, details.” Bruce smiled “Listen, just get yourself together, come Saturday I want that kid to sign with us, with you.”

Jae looked at him sheepishly. “If you don’t mind me asking what’s so important about him anyway?”

Bruce began to stroke his chin and thought for a moment then pointed at him. “His music is positive his message sincere, however if he truly wants to be famous he’ll have to abandon all of that and do what we say.” The young woman laughed and Bruce grinned. “And there’s nothing sweeter than corruption of the righteous.” The two began to laugh as Jae sank into his chair wondering what made him make any deals with this man and was it all worth it in the end.

The car pulled up to the Black Diamond recording studio, the doors flipped open and Bruce’s female companion slid out followed by the man himself. Jason ‘Jae’ Banks trailed apprehensively looking at the duo with a shamefaced contempt. They entered the building, whisked passed the night watchman with brief nods and entered the elevator to the basement below. The ride seemed to go on forever as the female shot lascivious glances at Jason causing his stomach to turn. Her name was Tatiana, was being the operative word she used to be a video girl who signed to Jason’s label a few years back she had come from North Carolina to the city to model. She was a nice down south girl with a nice body and a pleasant enough personality. Jason was pleased to find that her southern hospitality extended to the bedroom as well, she remained pleasant even after other girls came through. Then Bruce caught sight of her demanding that she be left to him and him alone. It wasn’t much skin off Jason’s back she’d ran her course he thought; at first at least, until one day after two months of her not coming to video shoots she turned up on Bruce’s arm at the grand opening of ‘On the Grind’. She had changed she wasn’t any less polite; however it was almost if it were just a memory of how she once behaved, like a tick she couldn’t get rid of. He swore if he looked hard enough he could see where the parts of her soul were stripped away and replaced with something else, something not at all human. That very week she was on the cover of several magazines and even posing for various make up and clothing ads, her dream had come true but was it worth whatever it had obviously cost her, was she even aware of what was going on he wondered?

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 5 (edited)

Chapter Five: Business

As soon as Tea walked in to ‘On the Grind’ she got a bad feeling, she remembered reading that several suicides had taken place here and wondered why it was still open. The entire place seemed like a normal urban club, long bar, cabaret tables and a dance floor as big as an apartment. Here the many new and old faces in the neighborhood, danced, whined and dubbed under sweltering lights. Looking around she noticed a few of the industry faces, various rappers and R&B singers who had come and gone, as well as club owner Jason ‘Jae’ Banks, he sat with a young man who had twists and a slightly older bald man with broad shoulders. They sat in a booth a piece of paper between them with a pen next to it. Probably some knew young thug, rapping about nonsense. Upon looking closer, she noted that the man in question looked familiar, but couldn’t place him. Oh well

“Hey, Tea.” Calvin sat at a table at the other end of the room; he wore a causal gray suit, with a red tie and topsiders.

Tea thought he looked over dressed for a friendly meeting with an employee; she was wearing a red and white plaid shirt, with black jeans, and a wool trench coat. “Hello is this where we’re sitting?”

“Yeah, it’s all us.” He smiled as she sat down. “Order anything you want, I’m buying.”

Tea sat down uneasily, something small in the back of her head told her to leave. It wasn’t just Calvin, but the overall vibe of the place. “I’m not really hungry.”

“Come on, you said you were supposed to cook for Marcus but he had to go.” He hid a grin.

“Yeah.” She looked down at her hands. “I’ll just have a cranberry and ginger ale.”

“That’s a little odd, you sure you don’t want some wine or something?”

“No, that’s fine.”

Calvin hailed the waiter and placed their orders. “As steak rare for me and a cranberry ginger ale for the lady.”

“So when will I be doing the Janelle Brown interview, has she flown in from Chicago yet?” Tea sat up business was all that was on her mind and a panging feeling that she had to talk to Marcus.

“Well, she’ll be here next week, and don’t worry I’m sure you’ll nail it.” He smiled at her and leaned across the table. “And then you’ll be riding the wave of success that follows.”

Under the table, Tea felt something brush across her leg she moved back in her seat abruptly, she didn’t like the way he was talking everything seemed like innuendo. “Excuse me.” She got up from her seat and went into the ladies room; inside she ran the water and washed her hands and her face. What am I doing here; I should be home finishing dinner. Her exhalation was loud after she opened her eyes; she caught a glimpse of something in the corner of her eye. I have to go. Shaking her head she walked out of the bathroom. When she emerged her drink was being set down on the table, she grabbed it from the waiters hand, downed it and then picked up her coat.

“I’m sorry boss but I have to get home and finish dinner, before Marcus gets back.” There was urgency in her voice even she was not prepared for. The panging again told her to leave quickly.

“But who’s to say he’ll even appreciate it.” Calvin shrugs. “I mean he did leave, after all.”

“Well when he gets back we’ll talk about that.” She put on her coat in a hurry and turned to him. “Goodnight.” and walked toward the door.

Calvin’s eyes were hard on her back; he stood up looked in Jae-Banks’ direction then toward the empty stage. He grunted in frustration and then put on his coat.

Tea walked out of the restaurant and on to the street wearing her wool trench coat. She snuggled up against it in the winter air; it was a gift from Marcus for her birthday. Her heart sank, she didn’t want to be out here and she didn’t need to be, but as soon as her mind changed, a hand touched her back causing to whirl around in a defensive position so quickly Calvin almost fell.

“Sorry, sorry.” He put up his hands in a placating gesture. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“You should damn sure know better than to sneak up on a black woman in the street.” She frowned.

“Shees, I wonder how you would’ve reacted if I was Marcus” He cocked his eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t have because he knows better than to sneak up on me.” She put her hand on her forehead. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I shouldn’t be out here.”

“Well, since you are why waste the evening; I’m sure Marcus won’t mind.” He smiled. “Busy as he is.”

Tea exhaled slowly and loudly, she was angry now, she didn’t know why but Calvin’s jabs about Marcus’ absents made her mad. “Excuse me, Sir, I have to leave, I’ll see you Monday about that Janelle Brown piece.” She began to walk back to the train station. Why did I even come out here…? Just because Marcus left, doesn’t mean he’s creepin’ I’ll ask him what’s going on when he gets home. I know he loves me so what ever he’s doing he can tell me.

“That’s if it’s not taken when you get in.” Calvin’s voice had an annoyed tinge to it.
“Excuse me?” Tea swung around, hands on her hips. If Calvin was trying to bring the sistah out of her, he was succeeding. “What does that mean?”

“It means that you should come back and have dinner with me.” His grin was like a Cheshire. “Please.”

Was this guy serious he’d threaten to take her big story away if she didn’t let him romance her? This asshole. “Look, you’ve been hitting on me for months and I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to make any waves but now you’ve crossed the line, I’m reporting you to the company EEO.” She started down the stairs again.

“You’re making a very big mistake Ms. Stewart.” The emotion left his voice and fell into a matter of fact tone.

She got down the steps passed the station attendant in the booth, paid her fare, and walked to the end of the platform to wait for her train. The station was empty for a Friday night; it was also hotter than it should’ve been in the winter. She looked down the tunnel for signs of an oncoming train but there were none. Letting out a sigh she began to peel off her coat, at that moment she caught a sign of movement out of the corner of her eye. Snapping her head to the right she saw nothing out of the ordinary. Probably just a rat. She shuddered a bit at the thought and then looked back to see the lights of a train coming through the tunnel. Finally. Just as she sighed relief, the train stopped, still in the tunnel and the lights on it went dead. She looked hard at the train and then ran up to the turnstile to look for a station attendant, but there was no one in the booth. Wasn’t there a guy here when I first came down? The sound of the train moving through the tunnel made her turn her head as it came barreling into the station lights on and glaring. Hmm that was odd.
She boarded the nearly empty train as soon as it stopped. Now to get home and have that over due talk with Marcus she bit her nails at the thought took a deep breath and exhaled. It’s going to be all right girl, relax, you don’t think he’s cheating you’re just worried about him. As she told herself this, the train’s lights flickered oddly, and then the conductor’s voice sounded.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen, it seems that we’re having technical difficulties, please be patient.” As the voice went off the train began tremble. There was another person in the car with her, a sleeping man, who seemed undisturbed by the motion of the Train. Hmm I guess some people can sleep anywhere.

Must be another train Tea sat calmly fanning her self as the temperature in the car increased and with it the trembling. She looked out of the window expecting to the lights of a passing train but instead saw a pinkish light pulsing outside. What the hell? Shooting up from her chair, she walked over to call button, which happened to be directly above the man.

“Excuse me.” Pressing the button down, she spoke. “Hello, is something going on outside?” The tremors continued causing Tea to bump into the man. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry.” She stepped back, brushed off her clothes, and upon looking at the man put her hand over her mouth in horror. The body slumped on the seat, lifeless, its eyes sucked out of the sockets blood running down the corpses face.

“Oh my God.” Tea backed away and then noticed the crimson liquid standing out on her onyx shirt.

“Please be patient the train will be moving shortly.” The automated voice boomed over the loud speaker.

“I’ve got to get out of here.” She ran toward the conductor’s door but froze in her tracks once the lights switched off. The door before her slid open and in the darkness two red lights stood steadily behind it. Approaching with caution, she attempted to get a better look inside the booth. “Hello?”

A myriad of red lights began to flicker on and then blink. Tea stepped back; she had a terrible feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was as if someone dropped a stone of pure fear in a lake and ripples began to course through her, odd clicking rasps came from the conductor’s booth and the red lights poured out like roaches from a crack in the wall. She gasped and ran to the train car doors attempting to escape this torrent of unseen menace. Finding it to be locked she turned back around, the lights flickered on and she was face to face with something not at all human, save for it’s shape.

It came close to her, beady red eyes and sharp jagged teeth, a smile too wide for a human jaw. It was completely bald no hair or eyebrows, however the face was strangely familiar even for its warped state. And then it spoke. “I told you, you’d be sorry.”
The lights flickered off again and a scream echoed through the empty train.

The Geist clutched his heart, something had happened, he didn’t know what it was yet or where but it wasn’t good. Mirage and he stopped short of the Black Diamond recording studio and emerged near the ‘On the Grind’ nightclub.

“Why are we here?” Mirage looked at him. “I thought the studio was a couple of blocks down.”

“I don’t know, during our transfer something stopped me here.” He looked around. There was a pang in his chest and a voice whispering in his head. He clenched his fists and looked around rapidly.

“What’s wrong?” Mirage put her hand on his shoulder.

“I hear something, I don’t know from where but it’s near by.” The voice got louder ‘Help’ it called.

“What do you hear?”

“A voice, once still and small now it’s alarming.” His voice began to crack as the second speaker faded. “I can’t concentrate.” His eyes moved in a myriad of directions until they caught site of a train station and with out hesitation he leapt off of the building, and on to the streets. No one stopped to look at him but they all gave him plenty of space when he ran hands cradling head into the train station.

“Oh goodness.” Mirage headed down after him, moving through the air as if she owned it. Her graceful motions led her onto a lamppost and then somersaulting into the station after her partner.

Underground they noticed the station attendant was dead in his booth, the stench of the other worldly hung heavy in the air. “Something’s down here.” The Geist grunted. Well a lot of something’s.” He was kneeling and clutching his heart now, while the voice stopped the churning in his breast became more intense.

“That’s obvious, what I’m worried about is you?” Mirage helped him up. “What’s the matter is this some new magick you’ve been working with?”

“N-no it’s like an urgency, there’s something here I need to find” And then the familiar image of mocha and chocolate hit his minds eye like a brick. “Tea.”

“What, what about her?” Mirage finally got him to his feet. “Isn’t she at home?”

“I…I don’t know, No she’s here in these tunnels.” He stumbled forward. “I feel it.”

“Are you sure?” Mirage ran to his side.

He looked at her, with eyes hard and heavy with conviction. “As sure as I know that I love her with everything that I have.”

Mirage exhaled and stood up. “The lovers bond is a kind of Magick too it seems.”

He started forward again. “If you recall all Loa have a significant other.” He exhaled heavily and let go of his chest. “And they are bonded through all.”

“Are you implying that…” He cut her off.

“I’m not implying anything, but I’m telling you I can feel her.”

She walked in step with him. “Ok…So what was she doing down here and what is she in danger from?”

“Well my guess is she was trying to catch a train, as it is a train station”

“Wise ass.” She murmured

He suddenly. “And as for second question I’m sure we’ll find out, if we head down this tunnel.”
They jumped onto the train tracks as their boots sloshed in the muck, rats and other denizens of the underground stepped out of their way. With each movement, a new sticky wet sound became audible.

“Oh God what are we doing here?” Mirage whined

“We’re looking for Tea and hunting whatever is down in the tunnels.” He turned his head toward her. “Now keep forward and don’t look down.”

“Shut up.” She pushed him forward.

They continued to walk avoiding the third rail and the creatures that scuttled by until they came to a stop; the Geist put his hands in front of him as if an invisible wall blocked his path. “There’s a tear here, it was opened and closed recently.”

“Can you open it up again?” Mirage put her hands on her hips

The Geist gave a dismissing wave as darkness spilled from his fingertips. “I’m gonna pretend you didn’t ask me that.” He slapped his hands together in a sign of prayer, mumble something and then thrust his hands forward. “Ashe!” red lines appeared in the fabric of reality bathing the entire station in crimson. As he pulled apart the tear, the unmistakable rumble of an oncoming train caused Mirage to lurch forward into a foul smelling puddle.

“Hurry, or we’ll be killed.”

“Patience, is a virtue.” He whispered, still prying open the doorway which was almost big enough to admit them both.

Two blaring lights approached their position. “Patience, is a virtue cultivated by those with time.”

The Doorway was now a large wound in reality, red mist seeped out like blood. “Hurry, get in.” He yelled.

Mirage, dove into the fissure, The Geist spun around and followed, the train sped past with no knowledge what other realms inhabited the same space.

The black impala hit the streets as stealthy as a ton of metal and plastic could. Detective Roger Drake had the windows rolled down for a cross breeze, the events during the earlier part of the night had him spooked him royally and the fact that the Geist claimed that the suicides were in fact murders haunted his thoughts. He didn’t want to believe that something other than the norm was going on despite that the amount of suicides most definitely pointed toward something strange. He stopped in front of ‘ On the Grind’ and got out. It looked like your typical black nightclub, rap music spewed from the open doors as he walked toward the door, the bouncer a broad shoulder man with a decidedly surly disposition stood in his way.

“Name?” he asked in a baritone voice.

“Detective Roger Drake, NYPD.” Roger flashed his badge. “I’m heading the investigation of the suicides.”

The bouncer looked at him thoughtfully and then removed the velvet rope granting him entry. That shouldn’t have taken that long; they usually see the badge and cooperate. Walking in, he noticed the major players in the black community, reveling in their fame…or infamy. He walked over to the club owner, rapper, producer, Jason ‘Jae’ Banks. Banks spotted him right away and walked over calmly. “Hello detective back to ruin everyone’s fun?”

Roger gave him an angry glare. “Only if some ones idea of fun is murder.”

“What?” Banks snapped to attention.

“I got a tip from an anonymous source that one of your ‘suicides’ may have been a murder.” Roger didn’t want to bring up the assumption that they were all murders that would’ve been insane.

“You’re telling me that you think that someone could be killed in my club and I wouldn’t report it?” Banks scowled. “Or anyone else for that matter?”

Roger smirked. “Well I know how you all get down, ‘no snitching’ and all that.”

Banks stiffened and raised his voice. “I’m a business man before anything else, I left that street shit back in Bedstuy where I grew up and waving around false accusations can get you sued for slander.”

“All I wanna do is have a look in your VIP area.

Banks looked past Roger at a couple sitting at a table not too far from them. The man a bald broad shouldered gent with a goatee nodded at him. Banks looked at Roger and began to lead him to the VIP area. “Take your time detective”

Roger walked through the door into the alcove with all the accoutrements for a private party, circular couch large table in the middle, several buckets for champagne, it was odd that a place so nice had seen such death, it was a wonder the club was still open and even stranger still that the area was still used. Those thoughts rolled over in his mind as he looked at the carpet, the number seven was embroidered on it, he didn’t even here the two sets of footsteps enter the area.

“I’ve always wondered how they made the carpets this soft.” Came a voice full of jovial confidence.

Roger whirled around to see the couple that had sat at the table earlier, the man was a head taller than Roger and much broader, his age was hard to place but he did look familiar. The woman was amazing, every rappers dream. Caramel complexion, breasts that could feed every starving child in Africa, lips that could suck the life from you and a back side that could be used as a shelf. Roger shook his head and tried to get back to himself but couldn’t, it was as if she was the most beautiful woman in he had ever seen.

“You know if I were a jealous man, we’d be fighting right now.” The man smiled. “But I know my baby belongs to me alone so it’s cool.”

The young woman’s smile beamed at Roger and he could see or rather feel something sad in it that made him shiver. “That’s right baby I’m all yours.”

“I’m sorry you are?” Roger finally said coming to his senses.

The man extended a hand. “Bruce, Bruce Armstrong co-owner of this fine establishment, this is Tatiana Greaves. Tatiana smiled wider at him showing perfect white teeth. “And you’re detective Drake yes?”

Roger shook his and nodded. “Yeah, I’m here on a tip that one of your suicides may have been a murder.”

“Oh, wonder who told you that and I wonder why?” Bruce looked at Tatiana who shrugged. “Well check if you like the cops were already up here at the beginning of the month and found nothing that suggested murder.”

“I bet, but I’ll have to look at these rooms just to be sure.” Roger took out a pocket forensics kit and began investigating the rooms looking for anything that was out of the ordinary; the rugs were completely spotless despite the fact that people had died here. “These carpets are spotless.” Roger said looking at a strange pattern that was formed in the carpet around three number sevens.

“We have a very reliable cleaner.” Bruce said from behind him.

“Why the sevens?” Roger turned toward him.

“It’s a lucky number for me.” Bruce nodded. “A holy one too.”

Roger smiled. “You’re a good Christian man then.”

“As much as anyone else.” Bruce smiled back. “Used to go to Bethesda Baptist in Brooklyn. Till my wife left me.”

“That’s my church.”

“Well maybe I’ll see you around then, I just started going back.” Bruce smiled wider.

Good to know Roger thought, his eyes followed the pattern and then his heart began to drop and the strangest feeling of dread enveloped him. It was as if the dread of those who had killed themselves were now visiting him and beckoning him to join them. He bolted up with a start and his stomach did a 180.

“Something wrong detective?” Bruce cocked an eyebrow.

“I don’t know, I just…” Roger stopped mid sentence and vomited on the floor.

“Oh goodness.” Tatiana stepped back wearing a disgusted look.

Bruce rushed over to him. “Detective are you ok, would you like some water?”

Bruce placed his hand on Rogers shoulder and when he did Roger felt the most indescribable need to flee. It was as if every feeling of reproach he’d ever had came crashing down on him like a waterfall. He flinched away from Bruce and turned toward him and the door. “Sorry, no…I have to leave.” Roger stumbled a bit on wobbly legs, the edges of his vision were going black and he desperately needed leave despite finding it increasingly hard to stand up.

Bruce put his hand on Roger’s back and all at once he collapsed like a rag doll.

Inside Bruce smirked at Tatiana. “Get him up.”

“You’re the big strong man, why can’t you pick him up?” She pouted.

He gave her a hard glare and she got to the task of lifting Roger up with little effort. “Well did you have to make him vomit, you ruined the rug.”

“I didn’t do anything, the true nature of this area is not for the weak of will or the faint of hearts.”

“ But he bugged out when you touched him.”

“Never said I was for the weak of will or the faint of heart either.” He laughed.

“So what does that say about me?” She smiled.

“It means that I spent a lot of time working on you.” He turned toward the door. “Now let’s get back out there, we’ve gotta convince that kid Kenny to sign with us.”

“You want me to sit with you all?” she asked, hope in her voice.

“No. I want you to work on our friend here.” Bruce rubbed looked at Roger and for a moment his thoughts turned in ward and then. “Deal with him accordingly.”

Tatiana pouted again. “Why do I have to do all the work?”

Bruce turned toward her and cradled her chin. “Because I need to concentrate on the boy we’re trying to sign is a pure one and therefore harder to corrupt.” Despite the fact that he owned her, Bruce was in actuality highly attracted to and fond of Tatiana although he’d never admit it to her; a turning of the tables would be bad.

“That’s what you said about me.”

“He’s also smart, so he’s got one…no two up on you now, you’re not exactly pure anymore are you he grinned.”

She scowled. “Whatever.” Then she crossed her arms. “What about the vomit, shouldn’t someone clean it up?”

Bruce was exiting the area. “What vomit?”

“The vomit right ther…” She turned saw it was gone and followed after him to the doorway. “Where did it go?”

He stopped at the door. “It’s been a while since anything’s happened here, so the club will take any bit of fear and despair it can get.” He turned his back on her again. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have business.” He walked out leaving her holding Rogers unconscious body.

When Roger came to he was in a strange room, there was a strong smell of incense and strange distance music coming from somewhere. He could barely keep his eyes open let alone move. In front of him was the girl Tatiana he had seen previously, she was doing a strange dance, moving her hips and working her curves her back was facing him and it mesmerized him. She turned around and regarded him with a smile.
“You like what you see?” she said sensually.

He cracked a wide smile, he loved what he saw she was beautiful undeniably so. “Y-yes.” He flinched at his voice, it was ragged and somewhat alien.

She scowled at him and the anger in her eyes made his head hurt. “Men, all the fucking same….” Her voice became menacing. “I can’t believe I wasted my life trying to attract you, how stupid was I?”

“W-hat are you…?”

“Good thing I know how to play the game now.” She smiled wryly. “ Instead of letting you tell me what I should be, I’m going to tell you what you should be.”

Roger cringed under its weight. “W-what are you going to…”

She smiled mischievously. “Nothing that will hurt you, I was just told to deal with you.” She came closer to him reached her hands toward his pants and took them off. She took him in her hand pulled up her dress and mounted him. Roger exhaled in pleasure, she began to move and as she did she spoke in his ear. “I am the lady from the deepest abyss; I give you fortune at the cost of your heart and pleasure at the cost of your soul. There is nothing you can deny me, nothing you won’t do if asked of you, I am your mistress and you shall obey me.”

A moan escaped Rogers lips. “Yessss.”

“You will never come to this place again, in fact you will not be able to think about it without being made ill.” She cooed.

Roger grunted in response as she began to rock faster. “Anyone who asks you about it you will disregard them.” She continued. “You will however focus on a particular a duo who roams the city, those clad in magic.”

“The Geis-t and Mir-age.” Roger groaned as she clamped around him.

“You will hunt them as perpetrators of crimes against the cites homeless, you will kill them if you can.” She smiled. “You will go to your friend Marcus he knows something question him, do you understand?”

“Why would Marcus…?” he moaned.

“Do you understand?”

“Yesss

“Yes who?” her smile widened

“Yes, mistress.”

“Good, now I grant you release.” She arched her back sending Roger into convulsions. He cried out and then lay still. She climbed off of him, pulled down her dressed and looked at him in disgust. “Light weight, guess something’s are just too good.”

When Roger woke up it was 3 am and he was in his apartment, the night’s events a vague memory. He thought about where he needed to be, the image of a club flashed in his head and then flew out of it. His heart sped up and his stomach turned. He decided that it was a nightmare and got out of bed but stopped upon realizing his sheets were soaked throughout with sweat and other bodily fluids. He thought about what wet dreams at his age said about his psychological state and then stood up slowly. He pulled out a fresh pair of clothes and headed to the shower then stopped on his way at the living room coffee table. On it was a copy of the local newspaper and one of the stories depicted the mutilation of a homeless man in a park in Bushwick and then something clicked in his head, he knew where he needed to be. Marcus knows something about this he thought, he lives out there, he knows something and I’m gonna find out what.” He walked into his bathroom and shut the door.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 4 (edited)

Chapter Four: Grindin’

Detective Roger Drake sat at his desk in the 30th precinct mulling over paper work, an envelop with several news clippings related to suicides in a new night club and restaurant, ‘On the Grind’, sprawled on his desk. This is going to be one long ass night. He let out a sigh, he’d been a detective for only a week, and this was not a case he expected to be covering. I’m a Detective not a psychologist, who knows why these people committed suicide? He would rather be doing work on the cocaine sales that still went on in Harlem even though the landscape and inhabitants had changed. And thinking about the amount of people who killed themselves inside of a two month span was spooky. The thought sent a slight chill down his spine and reminded him vaguely of conversations he and his best friend Marcus would have before he went away to college in Chicago, Roger decided to stay in New York and help the community. It was funny, in his younger days, being a cop would be seen as selling out, but he tried, always in the pursuit of fairness and always attempting to sympathize with youngsters who ran the streets. He was one of them once. He’d rather show them a better way, and was thankful that Marcus’ grandfather took time out to teach him and Marcus about their people, their true history, things like the Willie lynch letter and the writings of Timothy Drew. This helped him understand his people and at the same time gain self respect, It also allowed him to realize that the gang members and drug dealers were as guilty of destroying the ‘hood as the cops in those days. Don’t shit where you eat. He thought and then Marcus popped into his head, he’d only seen him once or twice after he and Ebony, Marcus’ cousin broke up Maybe I should give him a call, we could hang out. Just then, the lights in his office began to flicker and the temperature dropped, when they came back on Roger jumped back. He sat there face to face with the city’s urban legend, no one had ever seen him this close and he was scarier than the stories said. Dread locks projected from his hood like the tentacles of a nautilus, red energy pulsed around his body. His long coat waved in a wind that wasn’t there, and the heat from his exhalations denoted the void of cold that hung around him. Roger reached for his gun, but it wasn’t there what the hell, where’s my… his thoughts stopped in his head as hands slid themselves onto his shoulders and placed the gun in his holster.

“You know I could’ve killed you, so play nice.” A feminine voice whispered, in a ghostly doubled speech.

“Now that we have your attention, we need to ask a favor.” The voice that spoke could have been human at one time, but not now. “You know who we are correct?”

“T-the Geist and Mirage, right.” Roger’s voice nearly shattered. “W-what, do you need?”

The red eyes narrowed at the papers on his desk. “The night club suicides, we need all of the information you have on them.”

“Well it’s not, much but…this is what I have.” Roger blinked regaining his composure. “I do need it to continue my investigation though.”

“You won’t be able to make any headway in this area.” The female voice behind him whispered, something in it was familiar to him.

“Mirage is right; this is out of your league.” The Geist added

“Excuse me but who are you to tell me what’s out of my league?” Roger stood up but the clawed hands on his shoulders forced him back down.

“Sit still and before you think about calling for help, know that no one can see or hear you, to those outside this looks like an empty room.” Mirage whispered.

Roger looked out side and noticed people walking past his office, no one seemed to pay it any mind. One of the officers checked his door, saw it was locked and slipped something under it. “How are you doing this?”

“Magick.” The Geist accentuated the end of the word.

Roger’s breathing sped up, raised by his Christian mother he was subconsciously fearful of anything supernatural even though he told himself he didn’t believe in it. “What are you?”

“I’m a lot of things, but right now I am a person seeking to stop the deaths of others.” The Geist moved forward putting onyx hand on Roger’s desk. “Will you help me?”

Roger met his gaze and whatever was in it made Roger trust him, like the eyes of an old friend. “What do you need exactly?”

“We need the dates of the earliest killings as well as the times.”

Roger picked up a copy of the dates, times and names of the people and slid them across the table.

“Thank you.” The Geists hand extended, to touch the list and just as he did, it was gone. “We appreciate this.” He looked at Mirage “Let’s got”

The fingers slid from Rogers’s shoulders and he finally saw her as she walked around him toward the Geist. She wore tight black with gold lines coursing through it, she wore a shawl that became a hood enveloping her head. She was beautiful he thought, even if she was a semi-horrifying urban legend. She does have a nice booty. She walked slowly as if she knew he was looking at her and was soaking up his gaze.

“Like what you see.” She laughed, hauntingly.

Roger snapped out of his haze and sat up. “ Ummm…uh, before you said that these were killings, but they’re suicides, self inflicted.”

“Were they now?” The Geists eyes widened and a thin slit where a mouth should’ve been grinned. “We’ll see about that.”

“What do you mean?” Roger cocked an eyebrow. “What reason or proof do you have that they weren’t, what do you know?” Roger’s detective instinct kicked in.

“We’ll be in touch.” Mirage said as the room went dark again; when the lights came on they were gone.

Roger sighed Great, just what I need some, what ever they’re supposed to be sending me emails. He got up and walked to the door to pick up a report that read “Body of homeless man found in Tompkins park missing organs.” He sighed again, more heavily this time. More weird shit, this day just gets better and better.

The wind had picked up visibly as the Geists jacket moved away from him, the rooftops of the new condos in Brooklyn shot into the sky in an attempt to turn the borough into Manhattan. “Why don’t they just leave it alone, Brooklyn was beautiful before.” Mirage put her hands on her hips. “These condos are ugly.”

“What’s ugly is this wind; could you make it go around us?” The Geist turned toward her.

“Oh, right sorry.” She moved her hand under her shawl and everything was still. “You know it was kind of funny how the cops know who we are.”

“Not really.” The Geist walked to the edge of the building. “My dad and aunty did do this before us grandpa and grandma before them, neither group was very discreet.”

“Yeah I guess you’re right, at least it makes it easier for us to get info out of people, being urban legends and all.” Mirage laughed.

“Yeah, people scare easy when myths become reality.” He pulled out the sheet of paper he’d gotten from Roger. “Dad and grandpa sure paved the way for us.”

“So what’s our next stop?”

“We’re going to go see Kenny.”

“You mean your protégé?” she quipped.

The Geist gave her a glare; it was true that he’d hoped to take the young man under his wing. He’d sensed innate magickal ability in him and his brother and since Kenny’s love had been rapping, he hoped to help lace his lyrics with positive magickal energy and an enlightening message that his people so desperately needed. Hey, it worked for the other rappers, drugs, guns, and what not. There was another reason he’d hoped to teach Kenny something, for protection. Magick for all purposes was 50-40 will and intent, give or take 10 percent faith, and the will and intent used in modern music was as malicious and corrupted as it came. Save for emcees like Saga Asad, Aseer the Duke of Tiers and a handful of others, modern music was casting one hell of a spell; rap especially.

“Yeah, My protégé.” He turned toward her. “I need to locate him, make sure we’re not shadowed.”

“I thought shadow’s was your job.” She chuckled.

“Very funny, just keep your eyes open.” He closed his eyes and turned his thoughts inward, into the primordial blackness of creation. Using this spell always put out a tremendous amount of energy depending on how far it went, so any magical being within a 20-block radius would be able to track its flow right to him.

“You’re completely defenseless while using this spell right?”

“Yes, it requires complete concentration; I have to reach out to every shadow in the city, so please be quiet.”

“I just wanted to know what I’m supposed to do if we’re attacked by Kishi or something that travels in packs, how will I defend us both?”

The Geist was silent his eyes closed tightly the red lines vanished; he blended in with the night. They then flashed open.

“Did you find him?”

“He’s uptown at the Black Diamond recording studio.” Darkness swirled around him. “Come on let’s go.”

“Black Diamond isn’t that the recording studio of J-Banks” she cocked her head.

“I think so; I guess we might be able to wrap this one up fairly quickly.”

“If only life were that easy.” She walked into the swirling darkness.

“Here’s hoping.” The gate way swirled on either side of them then began to shrink like a whirlpool and vanished. As it did, eyes watched from the rooftop of an unfinished condo. A smile too wide for the human mouth revealed two rows small jagged teeth. A dark green hood was pulled over the face shadowing it except of the little blue coals that burned within. Its earthen colored clothes seemed darker than they were, like the Geist, it blended with the dark as well as the smoked glass paneling on the build as it leapt off into the night.

The lights above JFK airport made a slow decent as those in the terminal awaited the arrival of loved ones and friends. The voice over the PA system informed everyone that the flight from Florida to New York city had just made touch down.
Bruce stood next to media mogul Thomas Haven they said nothing as they waited at the arrival gate. Celestine emerged carrying a large handbag her she wore designer sunglasses; her hair was premed and cascaded around her shoulders. Her brown trench coat did little to hide her long mahogany legs.

She stopped in front of them regarding them with a smirk. “Ok so which one of you made all of this possible?”

Bruce and Thomas both turned toward her and Thomas responded. “Does it matter?”
Her smirk turned into a sneer. “Well I’d just like to know who I have to sleep with in return for it.” Sarcasm coated the sentence.

Bruce burst out laughing. “Oh darling, it’s nothing like that.” His face became abruptly serious. “ Unless you want it to be.” Celestine scowled at him.

“Uh-un, I’m not that easy thanks.” Bruce looked at her and smiled. “Sweetie I’ve heard that a million times and it really does get old.”

Thomas interjected. “You’ll be coming with me to Haven towers, I’ll set you up with a room.”

Two men in black suits came up to her and with her luggage from the carousel. Celenstine nodded at them.

“Ok I’ll play along, but I’d like to know what this is about, I’ve killed people for keeping secrets from me.” She began to follow the two men. When she left Thomas turned to Bruce. “Volatile isn’t she?”

Bruce smirked. “She’s just what our organization is looking for trust me.”

Thomas looked at his watch. “I’ve got to go, call me the next time you need my money.” Thomas let out a bitter laugh and began to walk off.

Bruce took out his cell phone and dialed a number. “Yeah, did you make that phone call yet?” Bruce arched an eyebrow. “Good, I’m going to swing by in about an hour or so. Have a plate ready for us.” Bruce closed the phone and exited the terminal a smile plastered on his face.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 3 (edited)


Chapter Three: Family Secrets

Marcus walked down the street, collar up clenching his jacket closed, His destination was one train stop away, but he decided to walk. He hated the winter months and always wished they would leave as soon as they came. Heading again towards Tompkins Park he passed myriad of hipsters that now inhabited the area. He noted the changes in the neighborhood, the influx of people coming into Brooklyn for some kind of cultural experience only to find they had chased it away. As he entered, he paid no mind to the light footfalls that followed him, he was well aware that the homeless residence of the park had been disappearing for about a week now. The only thing he didn’t know was how those responsible came to this part of the city, or for that matter this plane of existence.

He stopped square in the middle of the park, took a look around and noted that it was vacant. “Ok, you can come out now.” Marcus grinned, under the dim lights.

The clicking growls of something other worldly responded, out of the shadows a homeless man dragged himself along as if one side of his body were paralyzed. A terrible smell of rot wafted in the breeze and his bloodshot eyes did little to hide the otherworldly influence in them. Then it spoke, a horrible rasp that sounded like locusts in the throat of a dead man. “How did you find me?”

“Are you really surprised?” Marcus smirked. “I mean it wasn’t that hard to find you, this place reeks of magic.”

“I didn’t think, that there were any real mages left, let alone up here.” It turned its head at an inhuman angle.

“I wasn’t aware there were any Kishi this far away from the ‘continent’.” Marcus crouched in a defensive position. “But enough with the banter, I have other places to be tonight.” It began to grow dark around him as the street lamps flickered weakly.

“The only place you have to be is in my bowels slowly digesting.” It rasped a sickening laugh.

Marcus clenched his fists and somewhere on the Kishi’s person was a wet breaking sound, and then it lunged at him. Its finger bones now broken out of the skin, terribly long and sharp, they would have torn Marcus in two had he been there when the Kishi landed. Marcus rolled side ways and slid behind a tree.

“Hiding mage?” The Kishi rasped out a laugh again. “I’ve been very hungry since I took this one and you’re skin will make a fine suit.”

“But I just had it cleaned, and I’m sure you’ll get it dirty.” Marcus picked up a rock and threw it at the Kishi.

The creature sliced it clean in two. “A rock honestly, do you know what I am composed of under this?” The creature darted behind the tree to attack Marcus, but he wasn’t there.

“I know what you’re composed of and I’m well aware a brain isn’t included in that make up.” Marcus leapt down from a branch planting a kick square in the Kishi’s jaw.

The monster staggered and hit the ground. It rasped something in its native tongue, a curse. “You can’t run away forever human.”

Marcus turned to face the creature as it got up and planted a roundhouse kick on the nape of its neck, followed by an elbow to its sternum. “I don’t plan on doing so.”

As soon as it hit the ground, the Kishi leapt back up, rushing Marcus, and knocking him into a patch of night. It began to thrash at him with murderous fury, laughing the whole time. After a while, it raised claws to its mouth to taste his blood and it then spit. “This is dirt.” It stood up looking around with inhuman twitches. “Where are you mage? Did you run, attempting to escape the same fate that befell your brother?” It rasped out a laugh. “His death is celebrated by my kind, just as you celebrate holidays.” “So hurry up and come out so I can send you to him.”

The Kishi never heard Marcus’ reentry rising from the shadows like a creature of the majestic deep, wrapped matte black armor. “You’re really wasting my time.” Marcus’ voice was colored with anger and now doubled as if something were speaking through him, plunging his hand into the darkness. “I’m sending you back now.”

“Hell you are.” The Kishi leapt claws first, teeth bared, but stopped suddenly. “What?”

Strands of shadow pulled at the creature’s arms and legs, it struggled to free itself but couldn’t, it began to sink. “What is this?” The creature began to flail about pathetically. “How can you control the dark?”

“I can do more than that.” His eyes widened and flashed with crimson tinted intent. The strands of night pulled at the demon every which way like hands of greedy children. Had he been new to this it would’ve been a terrifying sight, but at that moment, nothing-terrified Marcus, not even his own vicious rage.

The Kishi gargled in pain as the hands tore pieces of it into the mini gateways of night. “My kind will find you….and end you.” It’s voice grated, trying to hold on to the material world. The strands finished their job tearing the Kishi from the mortal coil back to its own corrupt existence.

“They’ll have to wait their turn.” Marcus exhaled and with that, his shadow shroud was gone. The wound of his brothers sacrifice was still fresh and he’d be damned if a base life form such as that celebrated it. He looked at his watch; it was 7:30 better, take the express to my destination. The lights flickered on, hearing the sound of approaching footsteps; he stepped into the shade of a tree and vanished.

Ebony sat at the bar sipping an apple martini, she watched the door, her eyes like a lioness on a gazelle. People walked to and fro admiring her mahogany skin and short natural hair; she wore blue painted on jeans and a black blouse. She’d often come to the Sankofa Grill or the ‘Grill’ as the neighborhoods original inhabitants called it, it was now a hang out for the new ones, looking to get a crash course in black culture. Pictures of Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, Miles Davis, Elijah Muhammad, Marcus Garvey, and a host of black leaders lined the walls, Old school hip-hop bumped in the speakers filling the area with a mood, smoother than roses on crushed velvet. She smiled between sips of her drink, he’d arrived, the brown leather jacket she got him matched well with his boots, and the fitting jeans he wore would have looked ridiculous on anyone but him. He caught sight of her and smiled, his dark brown dreads draping over his face, he sauntered toward her as if he owned the place; it probably helped that he did. Taking a seat next to her, he ordered a Cranberry juice and Ginger ale; as long as she’d known him, he’d never touched alcohol. He leaned against the bar smiling slightly at her, when they were younger she’d loved for him to smile at her, it filled her with a kind of hope that young dreamers have and she loved him for it.

He moved his hand over hers patted it and smiled a little wider. “It’s been a while.”

Yes It has she thought, though it had only been five months since they buried their grandfather. Seeing him now you wouldn’t think he was nervous earlier over the phone, but that was Marcus for you, quite calm even when it was hard. He’d always told her it ran in his family, but if it had, it was from his mother’s side because unlike her cousin, Ebony was more nervous than she’d ever been in her life. She smiled in spite of it though, staying cool on the exterior if only for her own reassurance. It’s not everyday one risks life and limb to fight, demons, and various other worldly forces, but then again most people’s families hadn’t trained them to do so. “It’s getting late, we should head down stairs.” She exhaled, but his drink had arrived.

“One moment, battling demons makes me thirsty.” He whispered raising the glass of sparkling liquid to his mouth.

“What demons, what happened?” She moved into his direct field of vision.

“There are Kishi in this city now, they’ve been eating the homeless folks in Tompkins Park and wearing them like suits.”

“Oh great, now we’ve got another thing to take care of.” She sighed. “Anyway hurry up and finish we’ve got to take to the streets, I’m not sure you’ve noticed being out of the loop and all but there is a new club that was opened up by J-Banks…”

“The rapper, yeah what about it?” Marcus put down his glass and wiped his mouth with the napkin under it.

“People have been dying there.”

Marcus almost laughed. “A night club owned by a rapper, where people get killed, I’m shocked.”

“Yeah well this’ll shock you; two people died in the V.I.P room in the past month, and counting the death’s of the regular patrons that’s four in a month and a half.”

“Okay, so?” Marcus knew his cousin had a flare for the dramatic, but thought that she delayed the point too long.

“They were all suicides.” She paused for dramatic effect. “…Now you and I both know, black clubs can get hectic, hell they can be violent.”

“I suppose one could say that going to one could be seen as form of suicide.” He let out a bitter laugh and then sighed. Marcus worried about his people sometimes. “ But yeah you’re right, it smacks of ritual?”

“ And since last I heard the age of magick changed, who knows what it’s toward or what kind it is.” Ebony sighed.

“You’ve said that before, but where’d you get it from?”

“Grandpa, he still visits me in my dreams from time to time and since Grandma taught me how to read dreams when we were little, it was easy to interpret.”

Marcus was silent, it had always seemed to him like his Grandparents loved Ebony more, and intern focused on her occult training more intensely. Then he thought when you try to divorce yourself from your family legacy I suppose that’s what’ll happen. “Ok so we’re going to attack this club?”

“No dummy.” She playfully rapped him on the head with her knuckles. “We’re going to ask around, talk to your contacts, and learn the lay of the land.”

“Well I suppose we could talk to Roger, the cops should have something on this.”

“If only.” Ebony rolled her eyes. Roger Drake was Marcus’ best friend and Ebony’s ex. When the three of them got together, the resulting incidents made for interesting table talk.

“Be nice, he’s my best friend.”

“Yeah and he makes a living locking up his own people.” She shot him a glance, Marcus couldn’t argue, even though he’d tried to diffuse as many situations as he could, Marcus often wondered at his friend’s career choice.

“Well let’s head downstairs, and get this over with.” If there was one thing, Marcus didn’t like it was ritual, in the basement of the restaurant lie Altars to the Loa. This is where they called forward the bulk of their Ashe, magical energy, Marcus’ run in with the Kishi had drained him and he’d need all of the energy he could get. They walked toward the back of the employees only section and through a door, traveling down the steps into the dark sub-basement always reminded him of the Bat-cave, without the hot car and giant super computer of course. They walked through one level of the basement and arrived at the bottom. It was pitch black until Ebony snapped her fingers and the lights flicked on. The area was large, on each of the four walls was a symbol and an altar with various items on them, a mask here a bowl there and candles everywhere. In the middle of the floor was another symbol.

“Last stop, veve’s, ancestral masks and offerings everyone off.” Ebony laughed.

“Can we just get this over with and leave?” Marcus stood in the middle; Ebony walked over to one of the altars and brought a bowl with smoke rising from it. It smelled of Jasmine, Frank incense and another scent he couldn’t place, but it didn’t matter he had already felt the ground become soft below him. He convulsed once and then hunched over, Ebony made no move to help him she only backed away. Darkness crept from beneath his feet slowly pulling him in and wrapping him in it.

Ebony put the bowl back walked to another altar and picked up a bottle of curious liquid, she opened it, closed her eyes, and downed the liquid after a few moments, here eyes shot open, glowing a strange gold. At that moment it was as if she’d vanished and in her place appeared a tall feminine figure in black and gold, her face hooded as smoking coals burned in her eyes. She turned toward the tall figure who red aura illuminated the dimly lit room. He wore a long black robe with red trim; his head is like a black hole with blazing suns for eyes, his dreadlocks danced in the air like medusas snakes with reckless abandon. He turned to her as his shadowed flesh coursed with red lines of energy. “Can we leave now?” His voice was doubled eerie and inhuman possessed by the ancient spirit, bestowed upon the males of his family.

“Now we can leave.” Ebony spoke, her voice doubled.

Marcus breathed in slowly and all at once, the light dimmed, flickered, and finally went out. They were hugged by the darkness; it spiraled around them and formed a door in the very fabric of reality. “Ladies first.” Marcus’ dual voice made his humor sound strange almost inhuman. He gestured toward the door.

“You’re too kind.” She walked through and he followed, the candles in the room flickered back on waving in the black.

Thomas Haven sat in his office, head back enjoying the peace and quite of the spacious dwelling, as the setting sun bathed his walnut brown skin in its glow. Here he felt more at home than anywhere else. A knock on the door prompted him to sigh heavily. “Come in.” A young woman with a caramel complexion and a mousy disposition crept in. “Sir some one’s here to…aiee.” The young woman jumped as a hand made contact with her backside Bruce walked through the door with an arrogant smile. The young woman flushed and ran out of the office. Haven sighed and sat up. “God damn it Bruce you want her to bring a sexual harassment suit up against me?”

Bruce still wore the smile. “She’ll be fine I’ll talk to her after we’re finished talking.” He walked over to his desk and sat down in an empty chair. “I just came from Geoffrey’s place.”

“Didn’t think you were able to set foot in a church.” Haven chuckled.

“It’s practically mine so why can’t I?” Bruce’s face became serious. “When does the flight arrive?”

“In about an hour.” Haven tented his fingers. “I’m curious as to why this one considering her history, one would assume you’d just want to kill her.

“Oh no, a black sheep is always useful.” Bruce went on. “Speaking of which, how’s the kid?”

Haven grimaced. “ Olivia is fine and of little concern to you.”

“I’m sure although, I was talking about the boy.” Bruce crossed his legs.

“I…I don’t know what…”

“Oh you don’t, well let me ask you a question.” Bruce pause. “What’s the price you pay for killing another persons child?”

Haven’s face went hard and sweat began to form on it. Bruce looked at him, amused. “You have to supply them with something equal in value.”

“What do you know?” Haven was angry. “Tell me!” He demanded.

“They say the sun always sets on the west coast.” Bruce smiled and got up. “Get your coat on, we’ve got a guest to entertain.”

Haven was seething but complied. “Right, you’re right.” As they headed for the door Bruce turned around. “Oh and Tommy, don’t raise your voice to me, I’m not a child and you’re not a parent.” Haven hung his head as he put his long wool coat on. As they headed to the elevator Bruce stopped to address the receptionist who was watching him wearily. “Sorry about earlier, It’s just that you reminded me so much of a video model from the back.” She grimaced at him. She knew his type he saw women as objects and nothing more. Little did she know he saw everyone that way. “Let me tell you something, I don’t care what I look like to you, you have no goddamned right to touch me.” Bruce smiled at her looked at Haven who scowled and then leaned in close to her. “You’re right and I’m sorry, now may I tell you something?” Before she could respond Bruce was whispering in her ear, the words were in audible to Haven but by the young woman’s glazing expression he knew what it was. She let out a yelp and pushed away from him, flushed and breathing heavily. Bruce slipped his card on the table. “Give me a call we can talk about your career.” He bowed a little bit then followed Haven into the elevator. On their way down Bruce looked at Thomas. “Nice staff you’ve got here strong willed.”

“Didn’t think you like that, figured sheep were more your style.” Thomas said without looking at him.

“No, no what I enjoy is breaking the strong willed. That’s why I hang around you so much. October is pathetic and Banks is too easy.”

“So if I folded I’d get rid of you eh?” Haven allowed himself a smile.

“Look I know you don’t like me Thomas but I like you and lets be honest, I was chosen to lead our little club, when everyone else from the younger generation left.” Bruce smiled like John Shaft. “ So lets try and be friends okay?”

“Yes don’t remind me.” The elevator continued down uninterrupted. “It is a shame though that we couldn’t recruit any of the older families to help us.”

“No it’s not we already had one incident, one I had to clean up myself we don’t need another.”

Haven sighed, the elevator kept moving however it never actually got to the bottom. He made a mental note to change the location of his office to a lower floor. “I don’t think it’ll be like that, we could at least extend the invitation.”

“Listen Thomas some traits are hereditary and in this case idealism is one of them, our best and only course of action should be to eliminate the problem before it becomes to big to handle. As it is I can’t do it alone so get with the program already.”

“And I thought I was supposed to be the doubting one.” Haven allowed himself a laugh.

“Very funny Thomas, but let me tell you something that is not so funny.” For the first time Haven had noticed a tinge of something like fear in Bruce’s voice. “The old families are more trouble than they are worth, which is why we started recruiting new ones in the 80’s.”

“But they pale in comparison to the older ones, especially the…” Bruce cut him off just as the doors opened.

“The Ripley family is the reason we’re in this mess, so do not bring them up again. The best thing for us would be to do away with them, we already put one in the dirt.” Bruce began to walk out of the elevator followed by Thomas whose face was now plastered with a forlorn expression. He couldn’t believe how so much had changed in what seemed like such a short while, for there was a time when Bruce spoke of one of the Ripley’s with such admiration. They walked out of the building passing on lookers and headed out into the street where a Cadillac limousine waited for them. The chauffer opened the door and they climbed in. They were greeted by two large body guards in smart black suits each of them wore sunglasses, however even if he couldn’t see their eyes Thomas could still feel the other world energy they exuded.
The front door slammed and Bruce called out. “Driver, take us to JFK air port.” The cars lights flickered on as did the radio, the song by up and coming rapper Kenny Maxwell AKA Seventh Circle blasted from the speakers.

“I like this kid.” Bruce sat back and closed his eyes. “He’s got a really righteous feel to him.”

Another soul to foul Thomas thought as he sneered at Bruce in unhidden disgust. He let a thought play in the back of his mind, If Han were here we wouldn’t have to work with this monster. Then again if it weren’t for Han, there would be no monster in the first place. His face turned maudlin as he took a bottle of vodka from the ice bucket poured it into a glass and drank. People outside watched as the sleek black vehicle cruised passed them as if from another world.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 2 (edited)

Chapter Two: Reasons.

The hallway was a buzz of students scuttling to-and-fro it was 3 o’clock in Windom High School in Crown Heights and they were all on their way home. Marcus walked out of his classroom after everyone had funneled out; finally just go to check my mailbox, clock out and then I’m home free. Marcus had been a teacher for three months and still had the same desire to vacate the state institutions that he did when attended them. As he walked into the main office, a head of raven hair shot up. Megan Pearson was a history teacher and had been all over Marcus since day one. Her parents had been apart of the civil rights movement and introduced her to racial tolerance very early. She once told him that they bought her a black doll along with her white doll to show her that they were not really different. She wore wire frame glasses and her skin was pale making her hauntingly beautiful to most. She wore ankh earrings and her nails were a black lacquer. She still swung her hips as she walked toward him, but her face held a hint of nervousness in it, the reason being wasn’t clear to him. Maybe she got up enough courage to ask me out, poor girl he laughed to himself.

“Marcus, um I’m just giving you the info before you find out from someone else. She looked around to see who was watching. “I heard from the secretaries that Vice-principal Eckstein was talking to Principal Spaulding about…”

At that moment, the aforementioned vice-principal walked up to them “Mr. Ripley I need to see you in my office, excuse us Miss Pearson.”

“Sure.” Marcus followed the vice-principal to the frosted glass door of his office; behind him, Megan made a face that said ‘I’m sorry’.

Inside Marcus sat down in the chair across from the VP; he exhaled slightly and then folded his hands. The VP walked from one side of the room to the other and then sat down. “I’ve gotten a call from a parent about the literature you’ve assigned.”

“Have you, what seemed to be the problem?”

“They say that the material is too…graphic for their child.” The VP leaned on his desk and tented his fingers. “Now we’ve been trying this new culturally inclusive, English curriculum and so far it hasn’t been terrible we have a few more people writing better book reports and testing better but…”

“It’s not enough to actually warrant the change.” Marcus smirked. “I don’t think that’s true, there are a lot of kids in my class who are becoming more interested in cultures outside of the…Euro-American frame work.” He sat up. “And I think that it’s mainly because they can now see themselves in the work we’re covering, it gives them a point of reference and a sense of belonging.”

“That may very well be, however the literature is still risqué.” The VP exhaled. “Now I’m sure the ‘Ghost man on third’…”

Marcus cut him off, annoyance in his throat. “It’s The Spook who sat by the door, sir.”

“Right, is a good read if you’re into that sort of thing; however I think it’d be best if you added some more classical pieces to your syllabus?”

“Such as?” Marcus’ eyebrow twitched.

“I’ve always been a fan of Hardy’s ‘Jude the Obscure’”

Marcus stared at him and cracked a slight grin Does he think I’m stupid, that book makes the one I choose seem like ‘See Spot Run’ well maybe not that innocent. He leaned forward. The room seemed to become dim and cooler. “Actually I think that the students here would benefit more from my selection.”

“Well as your employer I’m suggesting that you substitute the reading for something else.” The VP rubbed his arms. “At the request of the parents of course.”

Marcus’ eyes widened slightly and so did his grin, this must have surprised the Eckstein because he moved back abruptly. “Sir, with all do respect I choose this piece because my students relate to it.” He continued. “And since it’s been proven that students who relate to the material, will do better because they see its relevance to them.”

“Well that is true…”

“That ultimately means that they’ll be less dropouts, drug dealers and inmates and more writers, philosophers, teachers and activists.” Marcus was laying it on thick, in truth he hated activists, but he was on a role. “Better the urban youth teach your kids than steal your wife’s purse right?” Maybe that was pushing it he thought, but if it got his point across then why not?”

“Y-yes, you make a valid point.” Eckstein cleared his throat. “Sorry I gave you a hard time about it.”

Marcus raised a hand in protest. “No need, you’re my employer and you have to make sure I’m doing right by the students.” Marcus leaned back in his chair, the temperature returned to normal, as did the lights. “May I go now?”

“Oh, Yes of course.” Eckstein got up and showed him to the door.

“Thank you.” Marcus began to walk out and stopped. “Oh and please ask that concerned parent, to call me so that we can discuss more acceptable pieces to read in the future.” He smiled.

Eckstein looked puzzled for a second and then. “Oh yes right I will, I will.”

Marcus walked outside and Megan nearly jumped out of his way as he exited. “Is everything ok?” she stammered.

“You tell me.” He smiled walking over to his mailbox. In it sat notices about school events. “Well I’m off.” He turned, threw the notices in the trash, punched the time clock, and began to exit.

“You know if you’re free my friends having this party in Bushwick tonight.” She smiled at him. “You know we could go, it’d be cool, two friends…”

“Not my kind of scene Megan sorry.” He turned and looked at her but you already knew that.

“You can call me Meg.”

“Right Meg, also Tea’s waiting at home for me.”

Her smile went from frown to a slight grimace, she knew he was with someone or at least she’d known a month ago. And although she was a nice girl, she really wasn’t Marcus’ type, for a few reasons, one of them was her constant attempt to convince him that she was down with some sort of external ‘struggle’ that his people faced when all of it was internal. Yes, we’re all noble savages he thought; please civilize us so we can be protected from this harsh new world. Maybe he was being too critical, but that’s what it felt like. “I’m flattered though.” He took her hand in a claming gesture “That you’d ask me and all, but how about one of these days you come to my family’s restaurant…”

“The Sankofa grill?” Her eyes lit up so fast Marcus thought they would explode.

“Yes, and we can hang out and talk ok?” He smiled and let go of her hand.

“Great, you have my number right?” She was smiling from ear to ear.

“I do, and I’ll utilize it, I promise.” He turned around and exited the office; he felt her eyes on his back the whole way. What she was thinking he didn’t know and at that moment it didn’t matter she could keep thinking it.

The train car rattled through the tunnel, its speed created a vacuum suffocating the very darkness it charged through. Marcus’ mind swam in the motion like a fish. Being in transit had made him feel at ease especially after his job had put him on such edge.
His boss was nice enough, but prone to outbursts, so he bordered on comedian and drill sergeant. This caused tension, however it didn’t bother Marcus much.
While it wasn’t said, it was felt, his employers were afraid of him, or at least made uneasy by him. One could assume that because Marcus was black his bosses were always weary of him. Although he wasn’t the only black person employed, nothing was more off putting than one with locks who liked all wearing black. While this seemed like a somewhat valid reason, it wasn’t the cause of weary looks and soft tones in angered throats. For Marcus had a secret, one that had one hundred years of anger behind it had been what told Nat Turner to free his people. What Timothy Drew discovered in Atlanta; it was what taught Clarence Thirteen X Supreme Mathematics. Now it was presenting itself to the Ripley bloodline. To his grandfather it had been an honor, to his father a weapon and to his brother a duty. Marcus hadn’t felt that way; he’d spent his whole life up until this point running from it, but it caught up to him. When it did he couldn’t figure out what he was running from. It was the wings of a bird in flight, the legs of a stallion on the plane, a song whose melody rang out to space. This was freedom and it was a power, which allowed him to vigilantly protect. The Geist. At least that’s what it had been called since W.W.II… How long had it been since he had embrace this gift, this second self?
He had come back home to New York from Illinois State University. Hannibal David Ripley had passed on to meet his wife Nina Jasmine Ripley in the world after this one, Nina passed some years earlier settling a family debt in her native Florida. This left the Ripley family without any patriarch except for Marcus. With his older brother Seth giving his life to preventing something unearthly from engulfing NYC in riotous flames fueled by racial tension and his father MIA, he was last in line; that he knew of. With dad’s disappearance who knows?

The loud speaker interrupted the train of thought, the odyssey into history, the history of a legacy.
This stop Nostrand Avenue.
Marcus stood up and exited; as he walked up the steps the wind greeted him with a slap. What did I do to you? He thought to Mother Nature. Traveling across Tompkins park a shout was directed his way.
]
” Yo teach, whadup?” The tone wasn’t menacing, not in the least but to those who were of the wrong persuasion it would’ve been an invitation to panic. Brief case in hand he walked toward the voice, what he came upon was two young men sitting on a park bench. Kenny a young man with twists got up and greeted Marcus with a handshake and hug.
“Peace young brother.” Marcus smiled.

“Peace teach, what’s going on?”

“Heading home, what are you doing out here?”

Kenny looked back and nodded to the, child behind him. “Just building with my little bro Leon. Get up and greet the brother Lee.”
Leon stood up and swaggered over to Marcus with an extended hand. His mannerisms reflected the cult of streets, but he had the makings of one with knowledge of self. “Whadup.” His hair was corn rowed and stray strands blew in the wind.

Marcus raised his brow remembering something. “Oh, I’ve got a book my grandfather wrote.” Marcus reached into his bag and retrieved a book.

“Souls of the Perfect Black” Kenny took the book. “This looks dope; I wish people in our family wrote stuff like this, or anything at all.”

“Well I’ve got a couple of copies, you can have that one.” Marcus started to walk out of the park. “I’ve got to get going, you boys should do the same, and just because, white folks are moving into the neighborhood doesn’t mean that it’s safe.”

“Right, oh before I forget, Lee’s gonna be transferring to your school coming semester so look out for him teach.” Kenny smiled patting his brother’s shoulder. Leon gave a forced smile.
“If he’s as hungry as you are I won’t have to.” Marcus smiled back.

“Well he will be I’ll make sure of it.” The wind began to blow furiously, Kenny put his hood on, and Leon did the same. “Well see ya teach.”

“Peace.” Marcus walked off across the park, seemingly pushed forward by the wind. At least some of the youth want to learn. His shoes clapped loudly on the concrete as he looked toward the row of apartment buildings. It’ll be nice to get out of this wind boy. He made his way to a nice brownstone. After his grandfather had gotten home from the war he and his grandmother bought several properties in New York City, an apartment building in Harlem, two brownstones in Brooklyn and two vacant lot’s which had been turned into a Book store/botanica and a restaurant. His grandparents had ‘flipped the script’ as they say in an era where black folks could only get so far, but then again they had that ‘lucky mojo’. Walking up the steps and opening the door a voice called to him from somewhere above.

“Marcus is that you?”

“Yeah baby it’s me.” Marcus had been living with his girlfriend Tea for since his grandfather passed; they were now staying in one of the Brownstones he’d inherited from his Grandparents. They had met senior year at Illinois State University at a Neo soul/Hip-hop concert and after a few days became an item. She double Majored in Journalism and minored in business, and he in Creative writing with a minor in literature studies. She decided to leave Chicago to go with him to her native New York after nine years Marcus always appreciated that. I’d hate to lose a relationship because of distance. It helped a great deal that a popular urban music magazine decided to hire her a week before, they arrived. Since then she had been out smoozing with music personalities in the world of R&B and Hip-hop, and he was a simple teacher. Sometimes in the waking hours of the morning he’d wonder how long they could last in a world of flashy men with ‘long money’, however the something about him that attracted her was deeper than that, as deep as the roots of the Acacia tree. Even if she didn’t know it, he’d smile in spite of himself.

The clatter of footfalls coming down the steps greeted him as he met Tea half way for a tight embrace. “I missed you baby.” she whispered.

“I just stopped in Tompkins to talk to Kenny and his little brother.”

“Always with the hoodlums aren’t we.” She smiled at him.

“I am a teacher babe; it’s my job to…”

“I know ‘educate the youth’, I was just teasing.” She said. “Maybe instead of buying that new lingerie I should’ve bought you a sense of humor.”

Marcus wrapped his arms around her waste and kissed her full on the lips. “No, the lingerie can stay baby, I’m sure the High School teaches a humor class.” They both laughed.

“Well it’s my night to cook, Calvin set me up to interview that new R&B singer Janelle Brown so I figured we’d celebrate and don’t worry I didn’t buy any meat, because I know you can’t eat it.”

Marcus smiled, she knew him so well, even his responses. “That’s great hun, your editor sure has been handing you all the prime talent.”

“Well he knows I can get the juicy details and well…” Tea hesitated.

“It doesn’t hurt that he’s attracted to you.” Marcus frowned.

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it, I mean not really.” She put her hands on her hips. “Maybe he recognizes a hungry intelligent black woman when he sees one.”

“I’m not saying that as a woman, you couldn’t get these interviews on your own merit.” Marcus put his hands up in a calming motion, which seemed to work because she lowered her arms.

“Then what are you saying?”

“It’s just, that those very same attributes are some of the reasons I find you attractive, just saying.”

“Thanks, I think.”

He grabbed her hand and kissed it. “But then again, I’m usually wrong about things like this.” He smiled.

“Yes you are.” She laughed.

Just then, Marcus felt a buzzing in his pocket; he reached in and pulled out his cell phone. The number said ‘private’. “I have to take this honey.”

“Ok, I’ll be in the kitchen.” Tea looked at him forlornly, every night at least once a week he’d get calls and leave the house in a hurry directly afterward. She didn’t want to think about where he’d been going, if only for the sake of her own peace of mind.

Marcus stalked up the stairs, cradling the phone closely. “Hello.” He whispered.

“Where are you?” An inviting female voice responded.

“I just got home, what’s up?”

“We need to meet tonight, it’s important.” The voice sounded slightly seductive.

Marcus peeked below to see if Tea was still on the landing, but she had gone. He sighed heavily. “Where and when?”

“In an hour, same place as usual.”

“Are you sure?” Marcus said with a tinge of being on edge.

“Yes I’m sure, why what’s wrong?”

“Aren’t you worried about getting caught?” Marcus whispered.

“No and you shouldn’t be either, what we’re doing isn’t wrong.” She laughed. “And the sooner you realize that, the easier things will be.”

“Yeah ok, see you.” Marcus sighed.

“Right, love ya.” The phone clicked off.

Marcus walked down stairs and they moaned under his weight. Making his way into the kitchen, it was getting darker one of the many reasons he hated winter, and although he was very much at home in the dark , the sheer amount of people coming out, things happening and deals going down with the sun made him hate it.

“Baby…I’ve got to head out; they need me at my granddads restaurant.” Marcus sighed, his head slightly hanging. He wished he didn’t have to lie, but he had his reasons, a secret silent was a secret safe. “I’ll be back in a couple of hours you don’t have to wait for me.”

“Oh, well I could go with you. We could eat there instead.” Tea said with a hint of desperation.

“I’ll be washing dishes and busing tables, you wouldn’t like it.” Marcus dropped his brief case near the door. “I’ll be back baby.”

“Ok.” He kissed her on the forehead and left.

On the kitchen table, her cell phone began to sound and she went to pick it up. The name said ‘Calvin’. “Hello.”

“Hey there’s my top journalist, I’ve got good news.” His smile was apparent through the phone.

Tea let out a sigh. “What is it?”

“Well I was thinking after you nail this, Janelle Brown story, which I know you will I figure I’d reward you.” He paused for effect. “How does your own column sound?”

“Oh that sounds great.” She said half-heartedly.

“What’s the matter?” His smile faded.

“Nothing, it’s just.” She paused.

“Marcus isn’t treating you right again is he?” His smile returned, but his voice denoted that it was that of a fox, stealing a chicken egg.

“Well…” Tea hated to talk to Calvin about her relationship with Marcus, if only because he always seemed to try and convince her it wasn’t a good one. “We were supposed to have dinner at home tonight and…”

“He left, well you know I know of a nice new restaurant that opened just up town, you and I could go, celebrate, and discuss the interview.”

Tea began to bite her nails, she wanted to be home when Marcus got back, if only to welcome him, but she wondered if he’d even care. He felt so distant lately and she was so lonely, of course, they made love regularly but the intimacy seemed gone. And it wasn’t as if she was cheating, it was just an employer, employee celebration. That’s what she told herself, but she knew something very bad could come of it, if she allowed it.

“Tea are you there?” Calvin’s voice belied a hint of worry.

“Yeah I’m here.” She said in a somber tone.

“So what do you say?”

She sighed again, heavily, more heavily than she had ever done. It was as if this one breath would some how expel everything that she and Marcus had ever built. “I’ll be ready by seven.” She quickly hung up the phone not waiting for a reply and instinctively brought her hand down her cheek, it was wet.

The voices of the choir rang out in a harmony unmatched by any other place save the heavens. People clapped and shuffled behind the wood and concrete frame and were visible through its stained glass eyes. Inside Geoffrey October the great minister of Brooklyn’s very own Bethesda Baptist church was preaching up a storm today and he had the congregation eating out of the palm his hand. “…And today there are new dangers, dangers that attack our less fortunate-a .”

“Preach!.” came a voice from the crowd.

“Devil worshipin’ evil souls have come to our city and have been killin’ and hurtin in the name of Satan-ah.” He pounded the pulpit. “But I’ll tell ya, the lord, yes I said the lawd has shown me that his people will prevail-a I said they will prevail-a.”

“Yes Lawd.” came a shout from the back row.

“ And now I know there is an evil spirit descending on this city, and when it shows its self it will claim that it is here to help, but brothers and sisters let us remember ,the enemy will beg, borrow and steal to get your soul.”

“Tell em!”

“ So when that time comes, brothas and sistahs remember that Jesus died on the cross for you and that you should worship non but him. Can I get I get an Amen.”

Hallelujah’s and amen’s broke out all over the church as minister October made his way to the back of the church. After the service he sat in his office on the phone. “Yes, when do you need …Tonight…that’s…I mean it’s sudden you know. No I don’t have a problem with it. Yes I’ll be there. Thank You.” October leaned back in his chair when he first began preaching in the eighties he had one run down factory building in Bushwick converted into a church back then Brooklyn was much more dangerous and due to crime and overall violence a number of members left during the first week. That all changed when he went to his father’s funeral and met a man named Bruce or at least he appeared to be. Maybe it was the overwhelming desire to do good, or the notion that his intention was pure but when Bruce offered to help finance his struggling church and move it to a newer, safer location he couldn’t refuse. When he was originally asked to join the Black Ring Society he was apprehensive, but when he was introduced to the media mogul Thomas Haven he decided it couldn’t be that bad. In one month his members tripled and in three he was opening two more churches. Everything was fine until he learned the history of the Black Ring Society, however the knowledge didn’t come from Bruce or Haven but from his fathers own journals. He learned that his father a famous jazz musician named Maurice October had enjoyed a great bit of fame in his day at the cost of other peoples souls. Or at least that’s how he understood it, he learned his fame was tied to the ring he wore, which had similar properties to that of Solomon, it controlled entities that to Geoffrey sounded like demons. He couldn’t believe his father would have been a party to demon summoning and possible human sacrifices. When he confronted Bruce about it to renounce his member ship the man threatened to reveal Geoffrey’s affiliations with the group to his congregation. After the cars had pulled out from in front of the church a smooth black limousine slid into a parking space. The door nearest the curb flung open and a tall black man stepped out, Bruce. He had short-cropped hair and the shoulders of a linebacker; he wore a black suit that reminded one of the Harlem Renaissance. A young woman in a tight black dress and glossy black heels exited the car behind him and shut the door, one hand holding an expensive purse the other adorned with a glimmering bracelet.
Geoffrey watched them from the entrance way as they swaggered toward him. “Nice to see you Geoffrey, what’s the good word?” The man smirked as he walked past the minister into the chapel. “The congregation still singin’ your praises.” The young woman giggled as she followed. Geoffrey closed the door behind them. “Can I get you all anything?” Bruce walked toward the pulpit followed by the woman. “No this will be quick I have two more stops to make tonight.” He turned with a look of knowing. “The time has arrived when I ask you to do something for me. A variable has shown up in the equation and I want you to take it out before it becomes a problem.
Geoffrey looked apprehensive he had committed a number of sins under this man and before this night was done he feared he’d have to do much worse. However he owed a debt and regardless of his intentions they both knew they paved the road to hell. “What do you need me to do?” He let out a sigh.

“Nothing much.” He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a ring with a six-pointed star on it. “ Just take this ring and put it on.”

“What does it do?” Geoffrey raised an eyebrow.

“You’re man of god, it should look familiar.” Bruce smiled and turned toward him.
Geoffrey’s breath caught in his throat. “This is the…” .Bruce, who put his finger up, cut him off. “Right so you know what it does, as for what I need you to do it’s simple. There are a few ‘people’ I have invited to the city they got in a week ago. They’re problem solvers, make sure they’re taken care of, fed and clothed they’ll do the rest.” It was more of a command than anything else.

“Right, but what do they need?”

“Like I said food and clothing, I mean you help the homeless here right, you should be fine.” Bruce looked up at the image of Christ on the cross in stained glass and made the sign of the crucifix. “Always did like that picture.” He turned motioned to the young lady and exited the church. Geoffrey watched them leave. When he heard the car pull off he looked at the ring then at the image of Jesus. He sighed and weighed the ring in his hand. He put his head down, put the ring on and went toward the door behind the pulpit stopping only briefly to glimpse the image again and then he left.

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Prologue

The Black Ring society
By Ra’Chaun Rogers.
6/23/2010

Prologue

Every story has not two, but multiple sides to it. Some span lifetimes others generations and some very rare ones span realities. It all depends on how many dimensions you can see it in. This is one such story, a story of family, of secrets and the duty that goes along with it. This story has and is being played out on multiple planes of existence, sometimes one after the other, sometimes simultaneously. The details of the story and how it relates to itself among the various realities is complicated but needless to say this chapter of it, which will probably be a long one, should help to elaborate on the intricacies of the grander picture in both depth and scope. I’m am aware that in this reality there is a tendency to reject or block out things which the mind cannot comprehend, but I assure you that this is not only comprehensible but completely understandable. However that is only for the few who would understand this sort of thing. A myth wrapped in a legend packaged in a good bit of lore. But like any other story, there is some truth to it, some irrefutable fact. A fact that makes it seems so much more real than the mundane realities and eventually supercedes it. The fact is of course that no story is just a story and so they are all in actuality real somewhere. So sit back, enjoy and pay attention cause your reality might be next on the totem pole.
-The Geist, Prince at the Gateway