Friday, April 16, 2010

The Perpendiculars, excerpt cont'd

Work in progress, etc. Part one is HERE

As sanctums go, Sekhemkhet’s prairie pad had never been much to look at on the surface, but now it was a full-on dump, human trash mixed in with the garbage. Breathing shallow through my mouth and damping down other senses I couldn't lose if I tried, I still gagged on the flophouse stench, the corruption of decayed and eroded enchantments.

The place was filled with people and the shells of people, a wall-to-wall, room-to-room carpet of bodies in various states of narcosis, drunkenness, withdrawal, unconsciousness. In dim light refracted between heavy curtains I counted six people leaning against the stained walls of the dining-room, in the centre of which a big table buried in reeking food containers tilted on two legs. Nobody cared, was able to care, that I was there. Another morning after in three years of mornings after, thralls rocking a sick and stolen party. How could they know Daddy was coming home?

On the livingroom loveseat, under an obscenely daubed diagram that made my sloppy glyphwork look like the Seventh Seal, a jaundiced teenager lay passed out with her mouth slack around her scabby lover’s limp dick. Beyond this charming tableau, a greasy dude in ancient Ocean Pacific surfer shorts lay with his head propped up against a charred Ottoman, playing Grand Theft Auto with the sound off, bashing a virtual bag-lady with a golf club over and over again, digital bloodspatter replacing itself as fast as it faded from the screen. I knew that if I opened up I’d see the sick loops circling around his head; dude was in the zone.

Honestly? I was disappointed. I mean, what a waste – an ancient archbeing’s undying power usurped, a treasure trove of physical and mystic power free for the fucking around with, and all you can come up with is drink, drugs and whoring? I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of angry jealousy at this failure of imagination, knowing that if my buddies and I had dared to run a grift like this we’d have done so much better. Just thinking like that must’ve been the taint of the place getting to me, but... seriously. Even if we hedged fully half the money and mojo on spooky insurance and cosmic bribes we’d still manage a hundred years of wonder, maybe a millennium of might and majesty, before that inevitable, inexorable somebody showed up at our door to do exactly what I was about to do.

I hoped Shafiq had something more interesting set up downstairs in the vault. If a man might be judged by the caliber of his opponents, I was coming out of this operation looking pretty low-rent. Stepping over a pasty jerk with PRAIZE SATAN 666 branded on his distended belly, I clickety-clacked through an unbelievably tacky chicken-bone bead curtain and headed down down down into the dirty earth.


* * *

I’d almost bailed a half-dozen times on the way down, slipping on not-so-mysterious fluids and stumbling over zonked-out bodies, but at last, 76 steep steps later, mathematically perfect steps crafted by tectonic elementals at near-genocidal expense, I stood on the grand landing before the massive beaten-brass doors that led into the inner sanctum. Here, a measure of respect had been preserved: the fly-swarmed pile of empties was stacked more-or-less neatly around the metal-shod feet of the pharaoh’s great Stone Guardian. The statue’s blazing green eyelights flared up and swiveled toward me.

That Shafiq had bothered to keep the old machine running was surprising, given the way he’d gladly turned everything else to shit. I guess having his own giant limestone robot was too cool an opportunity to pass up. And, man, it was and is indeed cool. Nine feet of articulated antediluvian rock, already ancient when the pharaoh inherited the keys. Atlantean technology: user-friendly, maintenance-free, deadly as hell.

How a lazy little fuck like Shafiq had managed to pool together the power to juice up its dozens of maintenance spells, though… I had a run of angry goosebumps, up arms and down back, when I thought about how he’d filled those thirsty circuits. Coursing with blood and pain it lumbered toward me, shattering its way through a four-foot drift of Kristal bottles.

There was no reason to fool around with this thing, no reason to stay cloaked and clandestine, not when the end of this whole shitty business lay just behind those shining doors. I was tired, and I wanted to go home. I let that little knot inside me relax, blanking my shoddy masking spell, feeling its hooks tear out of my being, noting the wounds for later first aid and forgiveness. The little wobble in the fabric of everything that’d kept my bag under wraps straightened itself out, and the sacred aroma of eleven super-old-school herbs n’ spices powered out the bottle-depot stench. With a crunch of glass and a grind of stone on stone, nine tons of paleotechnical deathbot knelt at my feet. The doors to the sanctum breathed open at my touch.

What can I say about the room beyond? It was cliché upon cliché, a caricature of debauchery, pimp-hop excess meets Caligula in the Playboy grotto after picking up a busload of dorks from a Stargate convention. What happened to all the classy sex cults?

In the middle of the muddle of bongs and bodies sprawled Shafiq. Shafiq the Weasel, Shafiq the Clever, Shafiq the Betrayer… Shafiq the sleeping stoner with about a minute of pain-free existence left to him. Above him, on a dais that once supported a throne of sunwood and inkjet, a plywood coffin was propped. In it, displayed like Dillinger, its right arm snapped off just below the elbow, was the dry and desiccated mummy of pharaoh Sekhemkhet.

My precious passenger began to sing inside its bag, a rising whine beginning below sound; the mummy began to sing back. Astral glow spread its spectrum into the visual, into the infrared, into the ultraviolet… shone straight through quality cardboard and fifteen-year-old German pleather. In case Shafiq was far gone enough to sleep through what was coming, I gave the special whistle I’d learned in Secret Scouts, the one we called the Deadwaker. Shafiq and every other living person in the room – only about three quarters of the party – spasmed into consciousness, unready eyes snapping open against their will.

“Hey, asshole!” I yelled. The weasel managed to focus on me, saw the light, gave me the look I’d put in two months of no-expenses bullshit detective work to see.

“Your boss wants a word with you!”

I pulled the Hand from my bag. The whine came up into a scream. My astral body got a transdimensional sunburn.

Continue to pt. 3

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