Category Archives: The Underland Chronicles

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

Black Ring Society: (The Underland Chronicles) Chapter 1 (edited)

The Black Ring society (The Underland Chronicles)
By Ra’Chaun Rogers.
6/23/2010


Chapter One : Choices

Five months ago

Have you ever noticed that you come to certain points in your life, when it is no longer your own. When you hit that fork in the road and realize the car won’t make that right turn and goes left instead. Well that’s what it was like the day my grandfather died, but not for the reasons you might think. Don’t get me wrong I loved my granddad, but some familial obligations are more demanding than others are.

“So you’re coming back to New York right?” My cousin Ebony’s voice was teary and unsteady over the phone. “Mom and I have to sort out the estate and such.”

“Yeah I know I’ll be there.” My sigh was louder than I meant it to be.

“There’s also the other stuff, in the ‘will’ that needs to be discussed.”

This sigh made my last one seem like a whisper, there is always that one thing that a family has. Skeletons in the closet, that illegitimate child, the gay uncle the demented great aunt, things that back in the day no one would speak of lest they come to the fore. This wasn’t any of those things although now a days none of them would be looked down upon, my problem was in its nature larger than I was and in some cases my surviving family entirely.

“What’s the matter baby?” Tea sat up in the bed, cover to her bare chest, remote in hand.

I turned and looked at her, I felt that she was so much more than my girlfriend but my partner in a new life, my new life. Free from being duty bound to ancient patron Gods who happen to be long lost ancestors, or what ever it was my grandparents called the Loa. I was living in Chicago and had just finished my last year of college; no one from my family came to my graduation. The only congratulations I got were from a familiar looking kid in his teens named Blake and of course Tea. She was always behind me always beside, my rock in the shifting desert and I was determined to be the same for her. When we’d first met at a concert for Saga Asad and Aseer the Duke of Tiers at ISU, it was odd. I’d never been one to hit on girls in such crowded venues; the chance for a public rejection was too high. However, that night, in that place, something told me to say something and that if I didn’t it would affect the rest of my life. She stood at the bar causally sipping something and I ordered my favorite cranberry and ginger ale. I never drank alcohol; I didn’t like the idea of losing self-control.
I noticed that her hair was wrapped up and asked if she was cultivating locks, like I was. She smiled looked up at me and said “Don’t you know it’s not nice to ask a black woman about her hair.” Of course, I knew and in an attempt to cover my mistake I remarked, “We could talk about other things.” This set her laughing, and she replied “Ok why are you the only guy at the bar drinking, a cranberry and ginger ale, don’t you think that’s soft?” She looked at me with a smirk, she was waiting for me to defend my masculinity, I suppose if I did It’d prove I was insecure, so I answered honestly. “I don’t like the lack of control alcohol breeds.” She looked at me for a second and then smiled, “Nice answer.”
“It’s the truth.” I sipped my drink. From then on; we spent the whole night talking I learned that she was cultivating dreadlocks and we were both from New York, but her parents moved her to Chicago when she was 13 do to work. After several hours more of standard questioning, I finally got her number. The very next day we were an item, it was almost too good to be true. She was perfect, she was strong willed, and ambitious, she loved to read not to mention she was built with a frame praised by the Commodores. What we really connected on was the desire to help the Black community, she thought that by building them up, and teaching them their real history, they’d be able to progress. I thought that they could be more acclimated to it by creating fiction based on it. We’d talk about her plan to open up a restaurant to promote healthy eating among the people. Upon asking her why she was journalism major she remarked that her parents were both Journalists and pushed her to pursue it although her heart wasn’t really in it. We would then discuss my novel about an old legend in my family that I thought I’d write. The story started in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was based on some old black occultists; it seemed to hit a nerve with her. She told me her estranged uncle had told her about a similar event when she was young, but she was convinced it was just a fairytale. I wish at the time that it was, because all those fairytales, those story book fantasies, that dream stuff was about to affect my life in very large, irreversible way. I dropped my phone, lay down next to Tea, and held her tightly, like a baby to its mother.
“What’s the matter baby?” She stroked my hair. “Who was that on the phone?”

I looked up at her with all the moroseness my eyes could muster and I felt tears well up, tears for my grand father, tears for my family and tears for my own life as I knew it, which would very soon end. Lost to something that took away so many of the Ripley line, a life that made us exceptional and at the same time so very outcaste. I thought about what this would mean for the future Tea and I planned to build and I wept, they said that fate was a cruel mistress, but magick was even crueler and she had decided my time had come…to lay down my life for a cause so old it didn’t have a singular name. “My grandfather died…uh…. the funeral is next week… in New York.” I must’ve sounded like a kid who skinned his knee for the first time.
“Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She pulled me close to her and we rocked. “What day is the funeral?”

“N-next…uh… Monday.” I tried to regain my composure, she didn’t know the real reason I cried and that made it all the harder.

“Well then we’d better get something to wear.” She held me closely and I did the same.

That week we went and purchased clothes fit for a funeral and on Friday, we flew into JFK airport, where my aunt Marie and my cousin Ebony picked us up.
“How was your flight, not to bad I hope?” Aunt Marie was always light hearted in spite of everything; I suppose my grandparents trained their children for things like this.

“Yeah it wasn’t too bad.” I said somberly.

Ebony turned back in the passenger’s seat of my Aunts SUV. “So Tea how long have you and Marcus been together?” Her face was calmer than I expected.

“We met about a year and six months ago, in our senior year.” She smiled.

“Has Marcus told you much about us?” Ebony looked at me and I shot her daggers.

“No not much just that his father left him when he was young and that his older brother passed away.” Tea looked down and rubbed my hand.

The look on my face must have said don’t you dare to Ebony because she said nothing else except, that’s right. She turned into her seat and sat back. I put my head on Tea’s shoulder and she held it there with her hand. I must have seemed so weak at that time, but honestly, I didn’t care.
The first stop we made was to my old home in Crown Heights Brooklyn right across the street from Wingate High school. Before I could knock on the door, it opened. Behind it, my mother all 5’1 of her waited to welcome Tea and I in. The house smelled warm and inviting, permeated with the aroma of food cooking.
“Dinner’s almost ready, so we can talk for a few minutes.” She pulled me to the side to get a better look at Tea. “Hello, I’m Marcus’ mother Josephine, you must be Tea.” She spread her arms for a hug and Tea obliged. Although Tea was taller than my mother was, mom was wider than she was.
When dinner was ready we sat at the table, talked and ate, my mom had cooked something of a soul food, Caribbean feast. Meaning I couldn’t eat most of it, being a strict vegetarian, a life style whose benefits I relayed to Tea. She only had fish, rice and some steamed Kale, but as we ate, I saw her eyeing my mother’s fried chicken and gave up.
“Go ahead baby.” I sighed.

“I’m sorry, it’s not like I eat meat all of time babe.” She stuck her fork into a piece and pulled it to her.

“Don’t apologize, it’s ok, I shouldn’t try to control what you eat.” I chewed on some Kale

“But you’re right it is better for you.” She bit into the chicken.

I turned to my mother who was watching us and smiling. “So, are you coming to the funeral?” I sighed.

“He was my father-in-law, he’s helped me out, just because your father isn’t here doesn’t void our relationship.” She looked at me with thoughtful eyes.

Tea put down her fork. “Excuse me where’s the bathroom?”

“It’s upstairs at the end of the hall sweetie.” My mother motioned toward the stairs.

“Thank you.” Tea sat up, pushed her chair in, and walked up the stairs.

I waited till she was out of earshot. “Mom, I think they want me to…”

“I’m moving to Florida.” She cut me off, there was a certain finality in her voice, something that said, I know what this means and it’s your life.

“I…Ok, Well that’s good you do like the sun and the beach.” I laughed weakly.

She stared at me from across the table and in that, instant we shared the same dread. The same gnawing fear, the fear of what had shattered my family irrevocably, which had caused my father to leave and stolen my older brother, Magick a damnable consort of destiny, the forces of the universe wielded by men on behalf of Gods under the banner the all mother, the triple stage darkness herself. Creation. I had tried for so long to escape this fate, to put it on the back burner. But I knew it wouldn’t be ignored, there is a price for everyone to pay when old powers are invoked for the betterment of others. My mother wanted no part of this, and even though I didn’t either, she didn’t deserve any part. She married into the clan Ripley and wasn’t supposed to share the burden because now, I her last child was about to be taken by it. I reached my hand across the table and grabbed hers.
“It won’t take me, I maybe duty bound by some, damned spirit oath but It won’t take me away I promise.”

She exhaled heavily and then put her other hand on top of mine. “Don’t promise me baby. Promise her.” She motioned just as we heard foots steps begin to descend the stairs.

When Tea came down, she looked at us inquisitively. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, I was just telling Marcus that he better hold on to and not drive you away.” She shot me a glance that said I mean it.

“Awww, thank you Mrs. Ripley.” She sat back down and we continued to eat.

That night Tea and I stayed in my old room down the hall from my mothers.

“So does your mom like me?” Tea inquired as she slipped into a pair of old boxer shorts and a t-shirt.

“Of course she does.” I was taking off my shirt and preparing to share my old full sized bed.

“I’m glad.” She hit the bed like a weight. “Cause I was so nervous.”

“You didn’t show it.” I smiled climbing into bed.

“Well I try not to show everything, but I will show you something tonight.” She pulled me on top of her and we began to kiss.

“Aren’t you worried, my moms down the hall?” I asked between kisses. “And you are kinda loud.

“Well maybe if you wouldn’t go in so hard, I wouldn’t be.” She pulled me closer.

“If I didn’t go in so hard it wouldn’t be fun.” I smiled.

“Good point, I’ll think of something.” She reached for a pillow. “This’ll do I guess.”

At that point, the worries of my day and my entire world fell away and I was engulfed in a sea of churning passion that was we. I kissed her frantically attacking her earlobe with ravenous efficiency extracting a sharp moan from her lips. She licked them and pulled me down to her shoving her tongue in my mouth probing it with a desperate hunger. My hands shot up her shirt to caress her double D’s, peeling it off I went to work with my tongue, wetting her nipples with my saliva. She pushed me back slide off her shorts and prompted me to do the same, I followed suit she lie down on her back pulling me onto her. I moved inside like a hot rock through honey, we moaned together as she locked her legs at the base of my spine. We moved in unison slowly rocking on the slight waves of pleasure we garnered from each other, speeding up her legs tightened around me as did her grip on my shoulders. I pressed forward feeling lightness from the small of my back creating hot points along my spine. I exhaled and she leaned up and kissed me pulling me deeper in to her until the sea we were lost in became a rushing tide and we were caught in the undertow and dragged out into after glow.
Afterward the moon hung high in the crown of the metropolis that was New York City. I made a vow to myself then and to Tea sleeping gently on my chest, that I wouldn’t let the coming time ruin our future, I would fight tooth and nail for it.

The funeral was short and bitter, it took place at a non-denominational church. My family frequented Christian churches although they were not of the faith, when I once asked my grandmother why she said “Because black Christians, manifest the most amount of our soul without knowing that their doing it.”
During the service, several people had come up to Ebony, auntie Marie and I to tell us they were sorry. I couldn’t help but think if you only knew how sorry we were or would be. At the burial, there were fewer people, but most of them were faces I hadn’t seen before, the most peculiar of them was a short grinning man with a cane and a top hat. I squeezed Tea’s hand as the casket was lowered, a mixture of anger and melancholy twisted inside me to create a bleak distorted view of the future. I looked at Ebony and aunt Marie on the other side of the casket as they watched teary eyed but full of a strong sense of will, an air that said ‘we know what must be done’ and I couldn’t help but envy them. I saw my friend Roger Drake drop a rose on the casket, he and I hadn’t spoken since I’d been back, he was a cop now and I wasn’t sure I wanted to speak with him. I couldn’t understand his career choice and I didn’t agree with it, Ebony and I shared the same sentiment there; they were together since their teenage years and even when Roger first joined the force, she stood by him. But after a while, she couldn’t take the thought of being with someone who worked in league with those who helped denigrate our people and looked down on them as nothing more than animals. I looked at Tea who rubbed my hand and was thankful that she stood by my side and while my familial obligations were fast approaching, protecting the woman I love and preserving our future would be my first priority. I turned my head a bit to notice a woman with an amazing body, chestnut brown skin and long silver dread locks that contrasted it. She came up to my aunt and Ebony first, they hugged and she whispered to them words of comfort. Then she turned and caught sight of Tea and I. My aunt mouthed something and Ebony nodded, the woman smiled sadly as if remembering some by gone better days and then walked over to us.

“Marcus?” She spoke with air of age far older than her looks. “You don’t know me but I’m a good friend of you fathers, my name is Rena.”

“Rena? Well maybe you can tell me why he’s not here; I half expected to see him.” As I awaited her reply, I was almost certain that my father had slept with this woman on more than one occasion, possibly even when he was with my mother, but I pushed the thought out of my head.

“Your father is ‘away’ on important matters.” She sighed

“Yes more important than his own father’s burial.” I sneered and then looked at Tea “Babe, remind me to be ‘away’ when he dies.”

Tea squeezed my hand and shot me a glance that said, ‘that wasn’t right’. I knew this but I couldn’t stop the venom that laced my words, my very thoughts at this moment.
Rena then turned her attention toward Tea and something caught her eyes as if she could see something about and around her that no one else could. “You favor him so much.” She whispered.

“Excuse me.” Tea cocked an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, you just remind me of someone I met.” She cocked her head. “Anthony.”

“Uncle Anty.” The words barely slipped out of her mouth and she seemed breathless and mystified.

I cut in. “Anyway thank you Rena but we’ve got to go, will reading and all tell my dad…”

She cradled my chin with her hand, as if examining me, she looked me from left to right. If she hadn’t been so attractive I’d probably had swatted her hand away. Her eyes now had a hard focus, she then looked at Tea and ran the back of her hand across her cheek and down into her locks. She then cradled Tea’s chin, she tried to pull away but was also locked in Rena’s gaze, I couldn’t move and I don’t think I wanted to. I felt like a mouse being charmed by a snake, the whole world fell away and it seemed that it only consisted of the three of us. And then she kissed us both on the cheek, Tea and I exhaled in unison, we had come back to our senses but didn’t know what had happened.

“Well I’ll be seeing you all, sooner than later.” She turned and walked away from us swaying her voluptuous hips from side to side. “Be well.”

Tea looked at me curiously. “What just happened?”

I wanted to answer her but I was still watching Rena make her way to a car waiting on the road. “I.”

Tea grabbed my hand and pulled me toward her. “Eyes front Marcus.” There was a touch of agitation in her voice.

“Sorry babe.” My aunt and Ebony walked over to us, they were no longer teary eyed.

“We should head to the law office and then the grill.” My aunt motioned us toward the waiting limo.

We drove to the law office in Harlem, which at the time was more than two blocks. Here we went over the will, and it ended with my cousin and me inheriting all of the property in New York, my grandparents owned and my Aunt inheriting the estate in Florida. I now had more money than I had previously and intern knew what to do with, but that still didn’t change the fact that my life was about to be altered into something, I may not like but was determined to handle for the future, both mine and Tea’s. I thought about this as we drove to the ‘Sankofa Grill’, a restaurant my grandparents had bought when things were cheap and Brooklyn still had culture. When we parked and got out Tea pulled me forward after my Aunt and cousin, I should’ve guessed that a black owned and operated restaurant would be of interest to her. My Aunt and cousin unlocked and opened the shutters with a loud roar. As we stepped inside, and were greeted by the images of black leaders throughout the ages, both known and unknown, I felt a strange sensation. I couldn’t place what it was but it extinguished my somber mood. I knew my aunt and cousin felt it too, as Ebony let out a sigh of relief. Tea’s eyes were scanning the room rapidly, and she too showed signs of the calming wave of elation taking her over. She stepped forward smile plastered on her face.

“This is beautiful.” She sighed, she began to wander around as if, possessed by a strange spirit.

My aunt looked at my cousin and I, “We should go to the basement.”

I walked over to Tea and held her hand. “We’re going into the basement for a bit we’ll be back ok?”

“Sure, sure, I’ll be fine.” She wasn’t paying attention to me; she was studying a picture of Marcus Garvey. It was as if her dream had come true and I had led her to it. “I’ll wait up here baby.”
I let go of her hand and we started down stairs, into the supply basement where all of the fresh fruits and vegetables were kept, to our right was a large freezer. The draft spewing from it dropped the room temperature. To the left were the regular supplies, cleaning supplies, paper products, table clothes, silver ware, and utensils. There was a metal refrigerator against the left wall opposite the larger freezer. In the front of the room was a vacant wall, a picture of Timothy Drew hung there above a light switch. My aunt walked over to switch and slid it to the side to reveal a handprint. My aunt placed her hand on the indentation mumble a few words and the wall became a door. Ebony moved ahead of me, I followed and my aunt picked up the rear, closing the door behind us. We descended for a few minutes and then reached a landing. It was pitch black, I heard a snapping sound, and the lights flickered on. We stood in a large room filled with what I knew to be altars to the various Loa or axionic spirits. My grandmother once told me that all the peoples of Africa were descended from these Loa and that through various pacts and agreements were allowed to wield their power for the sake of a greater cause. She would tell me that protecting our people from self-destruction and outward oppression was our family’s duty and that there would be many who would oppose us.

“We should get started.” My Aunt had walked over to a particularly large altar and had brought a bowl filled with herbs of some kind. “Marcus, you’ll have to go through the ritual of invocation, so you can collect the ancestral spirit.”

I sighed I didn’t want to do this, because it would mean that I’d be signing my life away to something I didn’t want to. I must have been too loud because Ebony gave me a strange look.

“Why the sigh, we all had to do it.” Ebony put her hands on her hips.

“It’s just …nothing.” I didn’t want to argue and I knew that is where this would surely lead.

“No what, spit it out.” Her tone was challenging, she knew me well enough to know that I enjoyed those.

“Well, I figured that since I lost my father and my brother to this, maybe I should just leave well enough alone.”

Ebony exploded, as I knew she would, there were a lot of things she didn’t tolerate, and neglecting family was one of them. It made me wonder what she thought of my father. “Listen here, we’ve all had to sacrifice something as a family, you think I don’t miss Seth, he was as much of a brother to you as he was to me.” She continued. “My mother is enough of a lady to not mention this, but you need to stop being a punk.”

“A punk!” I yelled. “What the hell do you know; this whole legacy bullshit ruined my immediate family.” My voice raised an octave. “Yeah Seth was like your brother, but he was my brother, the closest thing I had to a father.”

“Marcus.” Ebony’s expression immediately morphed from anger to pity.

“No you wanted to get into it, so let’s do it.” I was mad at myself for losing control, but some part of me needed this. “My dad for instance, if the question on everyone’s mind’s is why did Marcus run away to Chicago, then why does no one question him?”

My aunt had heard enough she stepped in front of me and fixed me with a hard gaze. “That’s enough Marcus, I admit as Joshua’s son you have a right to know, but when he gets back he will tell you.”

I felt my mouth hang open and my mind go blank, at that moment I had the sudden and unreasonable urge to cry. “When he get’s back!?”

She put her arms up in a placating gesture. “I know what scares you Marcus, you’re scared that you’ll be torn away from her or she’ll be torn away from you. She rested her hands on my shoulders. “But let me tell you this, because of our family’s status as protectors we’ve made enemies and just because you don’t become a threat to them doesn’t mean they won’t see you as one.”

A wave of understanding hit me and shot down from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. My grand mother would do this to me whenever I was afraid, she called it speaking to the higher self. “You need to do this, not for us not even for you, but for her.” She exhaled. “They will go through her to get through you, even if you leave her, they’ll still try to use her because they’ll know how much you love her.”

“How?” I managed to say. “How will they know?”

“Honey, you know how the Occult world works, they have ways.” She dropped her hands from my shoulder.

I sighed and then picked up the bowl as she lit a match and dropped it in. “Who are our enemies, the ones that would do Tea harm?”

“Those who have forsaken the path of righteousness for the path of power there are many of them. Unfortunately there are many of our people who would sell their souls for materialism or to materialism.” She said it with an air of disgust.

The aroma from the herbs had caught my nostrils and I was instantly falling, not physically but mentally. I didn’t feel my body as I closed my eyes, but I saw something approaching me on the edge of my mind. It was moving out of a hole in the fabric of the reality I currently resided in and even from the far off distance, I could tell it wasn’t good. It was like a Hyena with scales, large and grotesque as drool rolled form its snout. It walked on two legs like a man, but it was so misshapen and hideous that being bipedal was the only thing it shared with humans. It looked up from the pit, its beady blood shot eyes fixed on me and I cringed. It moved toward me with greater speed, I wanted to run but couldn’t move. Then I heard a sound like water rapidly through old pipes, it was a massive black cloud approaching me, it washed over the creature and it howled in pain. I tried to run harder than ever but realized I didn’t have any hands or feet or body to speak of, I suppose I was just a floating mass of consciousness held together by my own will. As the black cloud drew nearer, I noticed it wasn’t a cloud at all but had more properties of shadow than anything. It began to take form, first it was an old man with a cane, and a straw brimmed hat, which smiled at me benevolently. It then charged forward as a large black dog with its mouth wide open lapping at the air. Then it became something else, my first instinct was to be afraid, however I found I couldn’t summon up the necessary mind state to do so. The figure was hooded and cloaked in black with red lines coursing about its vestments, two eyes like smoking coals burned in its faceless head. Jet-black dreadlocks, writhed forward from the hoods opening as it settled in front of me. It regarded me with grave eyes and then a wide line broke out from the blackness of the hood and curved upward. It was smiling at me, I don’t know why but it was. The entity spread its arms in a welcoming gesture as I felt myself flow towards it like a pebble in a stream. The closer I got the calmer I became, I understood at some level that not only was I not in danger, but I was in the safest possible place. I sank into it and saw a vastness that rivaled that of space, I marveled as the entire mass wrapped around me like a suit of armor. I was awake.

“How are you feeling?” Ebony supported me as I began to feel my legs again. “You ok?”

“Numb but fine” I looked around for my aunt who was standing a little ways away from me. “What was that?”

“It has had many names, you known one of them.” She smiled

The Geist I thought, an old tale my grandfather told me about growing up. He used the powers of an otherworldly entity to survive, being captured by the Nazi’s during World War two. At the time he said that they would’ve executed a black soldier on sight, but something made them let him live and he later killed his captors with that something’s help and escaped. “Wow, that’s something.” At that moment, I recalled the creature. “Auntie, I saw something, an ugly thing that looked like a Hyena with scales before the Geist swallowed it up, what was that?”

She put her hand under her chin and thought, then her brow raised in recognition. “A Kishi, a lower demon, they’re always trying to break into this reality, but they’re nothing to worry over.”

“Oh, ok” I put the thought out of my head remembering my duty to Tea.

“Let’s head upstairs.” Ebony said. “I’m hungry.”

“I am too.” My aunt agreed.

Making our way upstairs we were greeted by Tea who was standing by the door. After my aunt and Ebony passed by us I grabbed her, looked her in the eyes and kissed her. My tongue prodded her throat and she responded in kind, I knew what I was fighting for and I now had the wherewithal and the courage to do so. “I love you baby.” I whispered in her ear.

“I love you too.” She said breathlessly.

“Ok you two break it up, let’s go.” Ebony laughed. “Unless one of you wants to fire up the grill and cook.”

“We’re coming.” I said lacing my fingers between Tea’s, we walked out of the restaurant locked it up and drove off.