Magic

Genevier’s Special Power

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The angel Genevier stood with her back against the engraved cathedral wall, eyes wide. She could hear the demon approaching, could hear its wet chuffing breaths, its low malicious snarl. Like a lion stalking a lone gazelle, it followed her scent, and though she couldn’t see it, though the expansive cathedral lay blanketed in near total darkness, she could feel it closing in.

It was no easy feat to kill an angel, but this particular demon was strong, and Genevier was still young.

Her chest heaved with the effort of breathing. In and out, in and out. Sweat popped from her ebony skin like tiny sequin pearls, contributing to the scent that drew the creature closer.

The demon’s snarl rose in volume, and the cobbled floor began to tremble.

This is it, she thought. Just shy of a hundred years old, she hadn’t yet discovered her special power. Every angel had one, a defense mechanism that kicked in whenever they were at their most vulnerable. If she’d waited to enter the world until she was ready, if she’d given herself time to grow into her abilities, then perhaps she wouldn’t be in this position now.

A side door shattered in a spray of wood chips and metal. A moment later, a pair of smoldering red eyes appeared, flooding the abandoned nave with an unholy light. The demon’s breath hitched, then deepened, a sickly, baritone rumble that shook the stone walls, sending portraits of long-dead saints raining to the floor.

“No,” Genevier breathed. “I will not let you take me. This is holy ground.”

But the demon paid her no mind, only crept forward toward the altar, anxious for the kill.

Genevier tipped her head toward the arched ceiling, not wanting to look that horrible creature in the eye, and closed her eyes to pray.

All at once, a quiet stillness filled her heart, carving out a space where she could take refuge. Within this unexpected sanctuary, Genevier discovered something she hadn’t experienced before, an interior light that, once seen, could not be unseen. It smothered the darkness, and though the demon was nearly upon her, she couldn’t help but marvel, fascinated by the power she perceived in this otherworldly glow.

Tentative, not because she was afraid but because the noble light demanded reverence, Genevier reached out to touch it.

That was when the song overtook her.

Genevier had no idea where it came from, only that it took shape within the deepest part of herself and radiated outward like the astral light of a star. It flowed through her heart, her mind, and finally through her lips.

Transcendent. Unearthly. Beatific. The sound was like nothing Genevier had heard before. It was all at once a part of her and not, a composition of distinct selves that shook the foundation of the cathedral.

The demon stopped inches from her face, cocking its grotesque and bulbous head. Its noxious stink rolled over Genevier like a poisonous cloud, but her song cut through it. Rising in both pitch and volume, the cathedral was soon trembling not only in time with the demon’s fetid breathing, but to the empyrean strains of Genevier’s song.

A dialog took shape between herself and the world surrounding her, an imperative that neither the living nor the non-living could ignore. A melancholy twang, and the stone cobbles rose from the ground to bind the demon’s feet. A desperate trill, and a series of pews flung free from the nave to form a makeshift cage.

The demon roared in a feral rage, but no matter how hard it struggled, it was stuck and couldn’t reach her.

The song reached a passionate, Earth-shattering crescendo, and with it, the most potent of commands was formed: a summoning.

Where there had once been only cold and lifeless stone, there was now fire. It surged into being inside the demon’s prison, just as hungry and eager to feed as the demon itself. The creature cried out, no longer out of rage but out of a blind and animalistic fear. The hunter had become the prey, and as the fire grew, as it made a holy sacrifice of an unholy beast, Genevier could only watch with mute astonishment.

Genevier had found her special power.

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Simon

Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock.com

This post was originally published through Patreon on April 24, 2018.

I am trapped, and I am afraid.

Once I thought myself invincible. The world was a great shining wonder, a rich and sumptuous banquet of which I partook every day. I loved the world, and for a time, I thought the world loved me. Now I take stock of the suffocating darkness surrounding me, of the narrow, moldering walls that keep me penned inside, and I realize, as Jesus of Nazareth must have realized the night he was betrayed, that this love is a lie, that the world will use you up until it’s sucked you dry and then crucify you for your troubles.

I kneel before a barren stone floor, search it with feral, calloused hands, and pick up a loose stone. I close my fingers around it as if it were a crown jewel, then lash out, striking the wall.

Flecks of light pierce the darkness. They are something for my eyes to grab onto, something to anchor me in this world of everlasting night.

I strike the wall again.

Again.

Again.

I scrape and scratch until I’m gasping for breath. Then I sink to the ground, suddenly silent and languid, a hollow, hopeless shell of the man I had once been.

Just before I fall into a fitful sleep, light once more enters my vision. At first I shake it off—just another dream, I think, or perhaps I’ve gone mad—but the light blossoms, expands, until my closed eyelids glow like bright red coals.

I try to open my eyes, but the light is too painful. My heart beats faster, and I turn inward with fear.

“Simon.”

The name echoes through my prison like a bullhorn. My name. Long has it been since I’ve heard its syllables uttered, and I feel myself pulled to it like a moth to the light.

“I summon you, Simon the Banished, for the world has need of you once more.”

How many times had I myself called on forbidden powers to accomplish my bidding? Now, it seems, the tables have turned, and as the words of a stranger’s spell ensnare me, I try once more to open my eyes.

The light still hurts, but not so much as it did before. At last, I manage to squint. I am surrounded by bright, blinding gold. It illuminates the cold stone hell whose walls I’d never actually seen before today.

My eyes widen, and my pupils adjust. My prison has faded, and in its place I see first an outline, then shapes, then finally colors: an entire world outside the dark, a world of living, thriving things.

“I call on thee, Simon. Come and be part of the world once more.”

I do not know who’s summoned me or why, only that I will soon be free, that the place where I was imprisoned no longer holds any power over me.

I break into an exultant grin.

I gave much to the people of the world, yet they bound me in chains. Now, they will learn to regret it.

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I Only Had To Bleed

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This post was originally published through Patreon on July 12, 2017.

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
—Ernest Hemingway

I huddle over my desk beneath the soft light of an incandescent lamp, brow furrowed, and stare down at the empty pages of my notebook. There’s a world out there somewhere, waiting for me to give it life. But I cannot find the words, and without them this other world can remain only a pale shadow, suspended in the half-life of the imagination.

I hear a thousand screams, a million, all from denizens of this other world. “We want life,” they say. “Please, give it to us.” Their cries have become a fire that burns me from the inside out, until my soul can bear the pain no longer.

“All right,” I say. “I’ll try,” and the screams die down to an expectant whisper.

I tremble. I know the words will come if I ask them to, but they require a sacrifice, an offering as old as humanity, and I am afraid. I glance around the dim surroundings of my study, bite my lip, and turn back to the notebook at my desk. Resolved not to stall any longer, I pick up the pen, and in a single practiced motion I stab downward and break open an emotional artery.

The pain is tremendous, and at first, the words come in fits and starts. I have to drag each of them from my head kicking and screaming, sharp, sticking barbs that tear skin and flesh as I pull them out into the light. I want to stop and lick my wound. But if I do then it will heal, and my sacrifice will have been in vain.

So I toil through the night, through ice and fire, dredging up the best and the worst of myself as an offering, a vessel into which that other world might enjoy the coveted fruits of existence.

Just before dawn I finish, bloodied and bruised. The inhabitants of that world whisper their thanks. Tears well at the corners of my eyes.

It was nothing, I think. I only had to bleed.

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