I could see him there, shuddering and trembling, massive and blacker than squid-ink-black, looking for all the world as though Aubrey Beardsley and
E.A. Poe had actually screwed and this thing before me was the result; I suppose it was just what I should have been expecting, considering my
proclivities. I will never cease to be amazed at how these things do that. The ancient and earnest thing tried desperately to assume more and more
obscene shapes as I approached. My feet kicked up voluminous, almost comical drifts of vermin, swarms of misshapen flying things buffeted me, it
smelled of road-kill and asphalt in summer; I let it happen so I could stay focused on the demon’s location in ‘space’. I knew I was in a
deserted-brand-new townhouse, in a ghost city at the edge of the Gobi desert in China, but the better
part of me was presently inhabiting the
same space as my wanna-be-ghastly target and it paid to pay attention.
“Orias!”, on good days I loved this part of the job, and so far today was going like clockwork.
He stopped showing off all at once and sort of froze, cocking one eye at me in profile, “Maybe”.
He looked ridiculous there, sort of reminding me of the black spy from Mad magazine, only massively huge and toothsome, garbed in a black Edwardian
evening frock, the great black felt and sable hat slowly sliding off of his head, peacock feather lolling to the ground, “I could be.”
He had a point, mistakes had been made before, but if the math-heads back at the NOOR had gotten their number crunching correct then this had to be
the place, “Well, this is
the Hour of Orias, isn’t it?”, “And I don’t see anyone else hanging around squatting on a grimoire”, I
was craning my neck sarcastically trying to look behind him and all around him for hidden Oriases. Orias allowed the cocked eye to slide a glance down
at the thick tome that he trod under one foot in almost heraldic fashion, an awful sight; to anyone but me, “Nope, just you.”
He just stood there for a moment, sort of a still–life of himself, some of the vermin had stopped wafting and they were now gathered in batches
looking on to see what would happen, ”Listen, you know who I am, so you can just drop the whole song and dance. I know who you are and I know what
you’ve got. Now give it me please so we can both be on our way.” I immediately cursed myself for being polite, “training!”, I thought,
clenching my teeth, I hated training.
His grin, as wretched as a cradle-scythe, dropped from his face and the whole mass of Orias collapsed, looking like a child’s inflatable
birthday-fun-jump that had been gashed with a screwdriver. The whole silly mess resolved itself to a bald old man that plunked down in what finally
became an old green corduroy recliner. There was a book shelf and a reading lamp. Orias looked just like Uncle Fester in a black snuggie. A great
horrid black cat like something from a Goya painting leapt from his lap revealing the Grimoire of The Moon clutched in his pudgy fingers, as expected.
I heard a tiny, comically high-pitched voice near my left foot screech, “OK boys take five! Smoke ‘em if ya got em”, and wished I had a
Orias, looking like a frustrated child now, glared, trying to sear me with his disappointment and spite as I thought to myself, “My god, how easy is
Orias looked off to one side as though addressing someone behind him, “And so you do, and so I am and yes, this is
the appointed Hour of
Orias, so aren’t you special
; the last bit coming out as though Orias were trying to expel something nasty from his mouth. Which was ironic,
I thought, considering how nasty he was; he was really broken up.
He turned back toward me in a snap, “Let’s look at you then, The Rooster, all wrapped up in your snazzy new T-suit”, spin around then, so I can
“There won’t be any spinning….”
“But oh yes, come! Look at you!”, he was spitting on my T-suit now, “Humans, Ha! We knew from the start you were worthless. Look at youuu!”,
shooting his gaze all over me now mockingly, “You come before me here, now, wrapped in a lie. Your presence here only made possible by deceit and
murder, No! Worse! You all let that man suffer in madness before you murdered him, poor Nikola”
Part of my brain wanted to stop there and start to try and figure out how this thing
, demon, whatever it was, could be spitting on the goggles
of my T-suit; and that would be the left hemisphere of my brain. But training, and the fact that my brain is special, which is why I got this job,
helped me to wrench my attention back to Orias.
It’s not the fangs and claws that’ll kill you in the interlunary zone, it’s little, solipsistic mind slips like that. But thanks to a complete
accident of genetic heritage (let’s just say for the moment that I’m a love child) and funky wiring in my corpus callosum, which the Army docs
say causes me to fall within the ‘autism disorder spectrum’, demons like Orias here are no problem.
Orias had stopped spitting and was waiting on my response, “You could just save it, you know, Orias? Just give me the grimoire”. I don’t know
where the patience came from in these moments, post-mission and in de-briefing, these moments were always the ones that haunted me, not the danger or
visions. It was as though a hand would settle on my head and I would become more serene and patient, despite the fact that there was still some small
human part of myself that was repulsed by this sympathy for the devil, “It won’t go well for you if I have to take it out of your mitts, hand it
to me like you’re supposed to, and we can just both get back to work”.
“And what work do you suppose that would be?”, Orias looked up at me now with a quizzical and challenging look, gentle but confident. Just as I
find some small pleasures in my work, these guys have theirs little joys as well. They always seemed amused to hear about what human beings thought
was ‘going on’, and ancient Orias was no different. I knew better than to engage in any lengthy dialogue, but I would have my fun as well, “You,
‘strangle’ men that prey on virgins, don’t you Orias?”
"Very well, yes…"
"Yeah. Well, I don’t know how far all that goes, but I know that they are having a surplus problem with female children in China, Orias. And the
vans with the clowns are beginning to appear again in American cities. While you’ve been tied up plumbing the depths of the Moon realm with that
Grimoire, given to you by the Chinese
, I might add, not gained by any power of your own, your work has gone undone."
Orias’ face went blank and slowly the blankness was replaced with a pleading look, “But this was so much nicer, to have something interesting to
read after all these other books, I’ve worn the flavor out of all of them; why, Rooster?
I was beginning to realize that he was not making some in-joke with the Rooster thing, I began to wonder if he really thought that was my name and as
I clamped down on that speculation he spoke again as though reading my mind,
“You may not know, Rooster-boy, but we all do”. “The Rooster"! "Ta Da!”, he says with a flourish of his hands, “Going anywhere he likes,
saying whatever he likes to whomever he pleases, taking other people’s books”. “Strike him down and another one is spawned”. "We used to be
able to escape you and you would go a whole lifetime not knowing who you are. But now you’ve got the damned suits
edit on 21-5-2012
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