I thought this was an interesting article. Only because it’s still going on. I mean I believe that if fans wanna segregate comics by race, gender, religion ect. Then there should be a push for the people who are poorly or unrepresented in comics to write and self publish there own stuff for others in those poorly or unrepresented groups.
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.
I’ve been thinking lately as is common for me. Ra’Chaun I said what does it take to be an author who other people will read? Is it marketing, Opportunities, actually finishing your novel. Yes all of the above. Then I get to thinking, Should I put my picture on the back cover of my book? If people find out that I’m black will they feel they cannot relate to the character? (Let’s think about the Majority of the Urban Fantasy audience here). Will I actually have to write an “Urban” novel to actually attract an audience that looks like me? I’ve been searching around the blog-o-sphere and Amazon for authors of this Genre and I’ve come away with two things. I’m probably the wrong color and wrong gender to be doing this (Not counting The Brits). But still I write and edit and add and expand and try to finish a work that may or may not prove fruitful. But then I realize that I’m writing this to wear down the walls of this reality so that My own can spill in and I say okay I’ll keep on moving. This kinda went no where I know. But something good will come of this thinking. I’m sure.
I walked, along the riverbanks. I watched the silver sky illuminate its path, or was that the path that illuminated the sky. I was looking for something, waiting, but for what I knew not. However I knew I must wait, there was something here that required patience. I sat down on the muddy bank and looked at the river, after a while a young woman came with a small gleaming jar a little ways down from me. She regarded me with curious eyes, eyes that knew things that I did not. I lie down on the bank and closed my eyes. The voice said ‘Wait by the river’. I awoke to the sound of approaching footsteps. I sat up and our eyes met.
“Why are you waiting by the river?” She asked.
“I’m not sure, something told me to wait here, but for what I don’t know.”
She looked around her and then asked “Would you like some water?” I looked at the river and then back at her. “Sure why not, I’m sure what I’m waiting for will show up.” she put down her ornate jar and sat beside me. From a leather bag she pulled out two cups. She poured me a drink and then poured one for herself. As I put the cup to my lips our eyes again met and when I drank I knew what she knew. I saw lifetimes, I had lived and she was in all of them. Friend, Confidante, Partner, Teacher, Lover. At that moment the oddest sensation came over me. “Would I be wrong to kiss you?” I asked. This was not my normal way of doing this, I was never forward. And she replied. “No you wouldn’t, you’d be perfectly right.” When our lips met I had known intimacy water shared with fish or birds shared with the sky, or flowers shared with the sun. When we stopped I asked her. “Would you mind staying with me for a while until I find what I’m looking for?” She patted my hand and smiled. “Sure, I could use the company.” I smiled at her and looked back at the river. “Thank you.” she patted my hand again and said ” No thank you.” The night came cold and deep and l looked at her and asked “Would you like me to keep you warm?” She inched closer to me and said “Let’s keep each other warm.” I smiled and she smiled back, we slept there that night on the bank. A sleep so peaceful so serene so familiar, that I was sure I had done it many times before and hoped to do it many times again. When the day broke I sat up and stared at the silvery sky, I looked down at my companion and felt something so profound it nearly brought me to tears. Then out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of it. Gleaming in the river, floating slowly down ward. Kissing her on the forehead , I dove head first into the water, this was it I was sure. I grabbed it and found it to be a crown, it was battered and tarnished in some places but it was still a crown, as I began my trek back to the shore I was pulled under, the river had become violent and turbulent I couldn’t get to shore, not back to her, until I felt a hand grab mine. I looked up and she said “Come on pull.” I struggled against the current and then heaved myself out. The crown and I sprawled on the floor, she helped me up and said “You made it, I knew you would.” I gave her a puzzled look as she walked over to the crown and dusted it off. “I have been waiting for this for a long time.” She placed it on top of my head. “What do you mean?” I asked as she picked up her jar, reversed it and placed it on top of her head. I had not noticed it before but it appeared to be a crown of sorts like mine. “Come I’ll will explain everything to you once we get home.” She laced her fingers in mine and led me to a far structure jutting out of the earth like an odd triangle. “Home?” I said and then looked at her and she at me. and we both remarked “Home.”
By Ra’Chaun Rogers
The light of the new sun cut a path across the quilt. They slumbered beneath a dark warm world all their own; such was the womb of love. He opened his eyes recalling the name ‘Black Sea’ from dreams, dreams that reflected his life as it had been and now was. Dreams of past consorts most helpful some harmful but thankful for each one because without them he would not be with her. He looked at her in his arms, her back against his chest, As they lay on their sides completely content after a night of steaming love that cooled in the evening air, cooled, but not extinguished like stars in the night sky. He had felt apprehensive about her at first her nature was secretive and that troubled him until he learned that is was not her intention just her disposition. He had hoped one day to learn all of her secrets and in doing so the nature of the Universe itself. He descended under the covers, tracing small kisses at the small of her back, pulling moan from her lips and causing a quick chill to be sent up her spine. He moved back up and kissed her shoulders, light air string instruments played in the approaching sunlight, as music filled the room. He didn’t want to leave that spot, didn’t need to, his desire to stay there with her in his arms- warm quilt around him and her scent gracing his nostrils- was like that of a drowning man to breath. He smiled at this thought; this was it, the world he had dreamed of as a boy playing adventure with his brother and friends. That never ending world of fantasy and a romance that transcended the language he spoke, where nothing could go wrong and if it did, he could brave it. She rolled over to face him, eyes hazy but loving and kissed him sweetly on the lips, it was the good morning of lovers, a greeting that didn’t need words. It was as if the intent had been passed through the look and the lips. This was magick he thought kissing her back. She laid her head on his chest and kissed his cheek; she then took his hand and laced her fingers between his. He held it up and kissed it and she did the same, this was their ritual, familiar and old but never tiring, never faltering. Soft lyrics filled the room intensifying the feel of warmth, the as a bright sensation expanded in his heart. He looked at her again and kissed her forehead. She looked up smiled and kissed him on the lips again. Grabbing the covers, he enveloped them in the darkness of the womb of love. This was the world between Light and Song, This was the place of peace, of darkness and safety of love and acceptance, passion and joy, The world between Light and Song. This was Heaven and its many layers.
My brother Is preforming at the African Poetry Theater in Queens this Friday the 7th. Support come through and have fun.
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?