Archive for Astral Projection

NaNoWriMo: Day 2

Posted in Words with tags , , , on November 3, 2011 by bradellison

Another day’s wordcount met.

Austin

Phil Warner’s hand spidered over to his alarm clock and flipped the switch to shut it off entirely, since the thing hadn’t taken the hint from the snooze button five or ten minutes ago.

Two minutes later, his cell phone alarm went off, and this one he couldn’t find without opening his eyes and rolling off the bed. He did these things, making an incoherent moaning noise that was meant to be profanity, found the phone in the pocket of yesterday’s jeans, and blindly pawed at it until he got it to shut up. By that point he was on his knees on the floor, eyes squinted and gunky but technically open, and he concluded that it was too late to turn back now. Phil lurched into the bathroom, splashed some water into his face, studied himself in the mirror and decided he could go another day without really needing to shave.

Phil brushed his teeth, rinsed his mouth out with water, then swished some mouthwash around and spit it back into the bottle. Payday was a week off and there wasn’t any room for new Listerine in the budget until then. He set the cheap CD player on the bathroom counter to playing some Pogues, and dragged his scrawny body into the shower.

Ten minutes later he smelled and felt a good deal better, and after toweling off he put his pants on and headed to the kitchen of his apartment.

Morning, Amir,” he said to his roommate, who was already well-dressed, clean-shaven, and most of the way through a delicious-looking egg and ham sandwich. Amir nodded, then turned back to his newspaper. Phil poured himself a bowl of corn flakes, got himself some coffee, and snagged the comics section.

Fucking Family Circus,” he said. Amir made a non-commital humming sound.

Amir Khouri was the better looking, more stylish, and better paid of the pair. They’d roomed together for about seventeen months, and got along well, but aside from their love of Sylvester Stallone films they didn’t have too much in common. Amir was gainfully employed as a clerk or secretary or something of that nature in a fancy office building with a nice view of the Capital, and his egg sandwich finished he now got up and headed out the door on his way to that office. Phil, on the other hand, generally answered “galley slave,” when asked what he did, and he worked in a cubicle in a large windowless room in an anonymous business park up north. After finished his corn flakes and his coffee, he found the opinion page so he could read Doonesbury, then found a black t-shirt that didn’t smell like anything, slipped his feet into his flip-flops, and climbed into his ’94 Honda to drive to work.

As he started the car he thought he smelled something unusual, like leather and maybe a little smoke, but he decided it was his imagination after a minute. He tuned the radio to 93.7, and found they were playing Ozzy, “Bark at the Moon.” Phil decided that was a fairly good omen for the day, and sang along as he headed for US 183. As he turned onto 620 headed for Parmer, however, the Eagles started playing, and Phil called the radio a son of a bitch and turned it off.

The building Phil worked in was a big two-story block with a tan paint job, big parking lot and insufficient windows. He found a space upwind of the smoking porch, parked in it, walked up to the unlabeled door and swiped his badge to unlock it.

More veteran employees, who’d been around for two or three years, claimed that there used to be signs outside declaring whose offices these were, but that a more discreetly anonymous fashion was mandated after multiple irate callers threatened to show up in person to strangle the representative they were talking to, or firebomb the whole damn place. Phil and probably the majority of his coworkers could sympathize, but would have preferred being in the parking lot throwing Molotovs themselves, rather than being inside when the inevitable happened. This was a tech support call center, for a company that manufactured mediocre computer peripherals and had a sideline in crappy software. They maintained a reputation for reasonable affordability, substantial profitability, and abysmal customer service. And since Phil now had goddamn “Tequila Sunrise” stuck in his head, he felt even less happy to be here that usual.

That feeling didn’t subside any when he got to his cubicle and found the night-shift guy who shared it with him was once again working overtime past the point where he was supposed to have already left. By the time the inconsiderate prick had signed out of everything and Phil managed to sign it, he was on the edge of clocking in tardy. Looking down to the end of the row where his supervisor’s cubicle was, he saw that Charlie had noticed.

Charlie Petersen wasn’t a horrible boss, but God knew he wasn’t a particularly good one, and he was a stickler for schedule adherence. Last month’s mild bout of stomach flu had come at a time when Phil had no sick time available, and rather than get fired he had opted to come in and make a lot of trips to the bathroom to squeeze out anything that might still be in his digestive system. That hadn’t been good for his schedule adherence, his productivity, or the health of his coworkers, but so it goes.

Tequila Sunrise” remained stuck in his head the entire morning.

On his first break, Phil thought he heard someone call his name in the faintest of voices as he walked to the bathroom. He turned around and looked, saw nothing, and might have thought he heard that same ghostly whisper of a voice call him a stupid son of a bitch, but he figured it was just the air vent.

He was just a hired hand…Dammit!”

Phil washed his hands, looked himself in the mirror noticing the redness of his eyes and the bags underneath them, not really registering the tall pale spectral figure that seemed to be reflected behind him until he blinked.

God, he needed a vacation. That was clear. He needed to get out of this place, lie out on a beach getting some sun, drink something with no tequila in it whatsoever, maybe meet a girl, hit it off, dance the night away, generally live a little.

Instead of doing that, he went back to his cubicle, put his headset back on, and spent 17 minutes trying to walk an elderly man through the process of turning his computer off and then back on again. He wanted to put a gun in his mouth after minute three. Once this was done the problem wasn’t solved, but the old man had had enough and was demanding his money back, so Phil got to transfer him to Billing and Retention. Senile bastard had called Phil a goddamn pencil-dick in a fit of pique by the end of things, but Phil still felt a brief swell of pity knowing that he’d be facing at least twenty of the most frustrating minutes of his life on the phone before even having a prayer of getting his money back. So it goes.

Lunch. Phil got a slightly sinister barbeque sandwich out of the break room vending machine, ate it, went out to his car, and went to sleep for fifty of the best minutes of his working day.

Oklahoma

In a small room on the first floor of the cheapest motel in a one-horse town, the Driver’s body lay on top of the undisturbed covers of the narrow bed. He was naked, with whorled symbols and angular markings that might have been Phoenician or literal chicken scratches scribed up and across his torso, neck and face. He lay spread-eagle, a hunting knife in his right hand, a bundle of assorted feathers in his left. His breathing, heart rate and body temperature were all low enough to convince a layman that he was dead as all hell, which was part of why he’d been very careful about closing the curtains, putting out the do not disturb sign, chaining the door and jamming it shut with a chair before getting started.

The Driver himself, of course, was not home. The secrets he’d painstakingly scribed on himself were the keys to unlock his fetters, and also the road map to guide him back home into his flesh when it was time, which was far more sensitive work. Mishandle the former, and you’re stuck in your body same as before, feeling a fool. Fail in the latter, and your flesh withers on the vine while your animus is tossed on the wind until the sunrise burns it into nothing, unable to get back to shelter.

The Sun was freshly set just now, the Moon barely a sliver, and the Driver rode the wings of the night.

It is said that magic is a form of bondage, that every scrap of power a magician gets comes with its own link of chain, binding him in debt or obligation or other hindrance on his freedom. It is so said, and it is true. But to fly bodiless under a new moon is to feel freer than any man alive, no matter what price you’ll pay later for it. The whole countryside lay spread out before him, and his vision was not restricted by the limitations of his eyes. Dark nor distance hindered his gaze. He could see secrets. He was above all others.

Take heed of me,boy.”

As if it had read the course of his thoughts and deliberately contradicted them, his master’s voice came from above and behind him. The student turned his attention up and did as he was told.

To the flesh, the master was little to nothing. A cloud of bloody mist at most. To the unfettered mind, though, the truth of him could be perceived. It wasn’t the first time he had seen this truth, but being under its shadow still made him shudder, a ripple passing through his ethereal presence.

Take heed. Ye’ve got a taste of it now, what it means to be one of the marked. Ye’ve seen what’s offered by the Lords of the Dark. Ye stand with me now looking down on the ants below. In my time I soared over Lawrence, and St. Louis, and Richmond and Washington, and felt the surety of my power.

But ye don’t know a damn thing yet, boy. Ye don’t yet have the strength for true knowledge. And I’m not yet whole enough to pass it to ye.”

We have a bargain,” said the Driver.

We have a bargain. And yer side of it is to keep me fed, and also to see my business settled. Look ye to the southwest, boy. Follow me.”

Where the shadow of those black wings passed, grass wilted. A pregnant cat lost her litter when it went over her crossing the panhandle, seven unborn kittens stilled in the womb. In Denton a drunk husband felt a flicker of resentment flare up enough that he reached out and slapped his angry wife for the first time, and it felt good enough in the moment that he knew it wouldn’t be the last. In Fort Worth, a homeless drunk sleeping in an alley had what little warmth was left in his body flow out, and he never woke up in this world again. In this way the shadow of the master came at last to Austin, apprentice trailing after him.

Here, boy. In this city. There’s just one left of the cursed blood, one left to be punished. And this one, he’s the one I’m most after. I can still taste his forefather’s blood, and that taste, that scent in the nostrils, it draws me to him now.”

Take him, then. You got the juice.”

Ye know nothing, boy, like I told ye. I aim to make him suffer on his way out. I aim to use him to end my misery. Through him I’ll have flesh again, and for that I yet need the aid of flesh.”

And that’s why the road trip. I get you.”

That is why. Come here. Bring me here. I will teach ye how to bring living damnation, and how to steal living bones. High time ye learned some real magic. Serve me well in Austin, and ye get all that I have promised and more.”

I better.”

Moments later, the Driver opened his eyes, coming back into himself in a rush. After taking a moment to get used to his limbs and organs once more, he acknowledged the dreadful ravenous emptiness at his core, and went into the tiny bathroom, stood over the drugged hooker he’d sent for earlier and then wrapped in duct tape to keep her still and silent, and he proceeded to fill that emptiness, temporarily.

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