Let the Light of Letting Go…

“Let the light of letting go shine from you.” The Banjoman, Lord of Limbo clutched his worn Derby hat to his breast.

“And so be the lamp on the way of no ways.”

The Lord of Limbo re-donned his hat and looked deep into Andy Crowley’s eyes. Andy was awestruck at the history he sensed in their purple depths.

“It is The Sole Law of Limbo. It inspires our creed to illumine the path to the bliss between all things.”

So we may burn like stars with the power of understanding that what one deems anarchy, another calls grace.”

Then he stood, slung his banjo across his back and made for the amethyst mist swirling beyond the archway of Limbo’s Ouroboros Gate.

Andy Crowley conjured an emerald green aetheric protective field he had taken to calling brainmail and followed The Banjoman into the mist.

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The rise of the ruler of all

A father fallen to whisky.

A mother fallen to church.

From magicless Earth he came.

His destiny to rule over all existence no less.

Andy Crowley was his name.

Black Friday is Black Magic

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FREE Andy Crowley Preview: Chapter 4!

The voice in Scott St. Pierre’s head was synthetic, like Max Headroom — except rather than being frenetic and disjointed it was melodious and soothing. It had a strange accent as well. Had Scott possessed even a modicum of life experience beyond hockey and the mall, he would have discerned that the accent was a bizarre hybrid of south-side London Queen’s English and midwestern American drawl.

To the football players gathering around the two opponents squared off for fisticuffs, the voice was so intoxicating it made them forget it was coming from Scott’s face.

“Ahhhhh look who it is, pet.” Whoever now occupied Scott’s mouth seemed to be talking to himself. “Do you recognize him?”

The words had a delicious vibration to them like the nigh imperceptible tinge of a rock synth melody.

The football team’s heads all swung to look at Nick. Anxious for his response. A mystery was unfolding.

Nick’s face had ceased to be his. In its place there was a seething mask that wore a hundred years of utter hatred for a bitter rival.

And Nick’s next words were no less alien to the huddle of football players now fully assembled than was the suddenly alien caste of his face.

Nick Morrison spat the words at St. Pierre.

“You will be vanquished by this hand! I swear it beast! Upon the thousand souls each, of the thousand children of Allfather Ra and by all the pharaohs of The Martian Solar Dynasty, I swear this!”

Then Scott St. Pierre and Nick Morrison both clutched at their chests in agony and collapsed unconscious to the ground.

“Everybody –” Coach Patterson started to say before he saw Andy Crowley running down the hill toward them. Then he and the entire football team also collapsed into unconscious heaps on the field.

As the haze of the spellcasting cleared “the blue mariner is coming” began to echo through Andy Crowley’s mind again.

“Nick!” he cried as he kneeled over the unconscious body of his friend –nay his brother.

“Omega Alpha. Alpha Omega.” He muttered repeatedly under his breath.

“Not yet, man. Not yet.”

Andy Crowley Saga

Chapter 3

“How could they see anything but the shadows if they were never allowed to move their heads?”

~ Plato

Deborah Holcroft rolled onto her back and stared at the Journey poster on the ceiling over her bed. She smiled to think of Andy calling them bubblegum even though he had admitted to her once that they were a guilty pleasure. She hadn’t stopped thinking about him since that thing with Steve St. Pierre on the bus.

She worried she had gone too far: that she had sent a signal about how she felt that she couldn’t take back. He had been her best friend for as long as they could remember, but lately (and very much to the dismay of Lori and Tracy) something had awakened in her. Andy Crowley had become her everything and she couldn’t help but suspect he felt the same way about her.

She couldn’t even bring herself to go to Club Cedars tonight. Her friends had nearly lost their minds about that. Cranked to eleven over a rumour that Nick Morrison had said he might be there, they had begged her to go. She smiled to think of their disappointment. She knew he wouldn’t be there. It was D&D night at the Grayson brothers’.

Her girlfriends’ obsession with Nick Morrison grated on her. She often wondered if they only hung out with her because she lived two doors down from him.

Deb had known Nick as long as she had known Andy. The three of them were like family.

It traumatized Deb’s friends that she did not worship at the altar of glorious Nick Morrison with them. The only thing more ghastly to them than this were the rare moments when she hinted to them that she found Andy Crowley interesting.

She rolled over and closed her eyes. Conjuring Andy’s strange, different-coloured eyes, she searched them for even a glimpse of the mystery and marvel they had seen where others could see only the plain, everyday world. She tried to summon the charge to her heart she always felt on those occasions when he had gathered her hand in his to lead her to something outrageous she would never have thought to look for herself. She wondered if he only ever let his guard down for her and the corners of her mouth curled up into the relaxed smile of the face freed from being the mask held for others. Her eyes smiled along with her mouth and fell shut. The amethyst calm came upon her then. Her consciousness let go.

Then, in the starry amethyst expanse most think is merely the back of their eyelids, she was falling, slowly and peacefully, with no prospect of ever hitting the ground. After she had been falling for so long she wasn’t sure she was falling at all, there was the feeling of just hovering. Nebulae of purples and blues were all about her. Stars of every colour were everywhere. She had a flash of insight that she was a star too – a green one. And then she saw the Baku Gate.

To the fading consciousness that was Deborah Holcroft, the gate could have been miles high – or was it microns? She had no way of really knowing for she had no frame of reference here in the dream realm. Indeed she had no idea how large or small she would be when she would take on her other form.

She let herself drift toward the gate.

It consisted of two enormous columns, both in the form of the Baku, the eater of nightmares. The Baku had the head of an Asian elephant, save for the large, kind and gentle eyes of a cow. Its body was that of a powerful tiger. The enormous Baku columns were carved from what looked like the stuff of the moon – a luminous green-grey stone pitted and scarred with what must have been years stretching back through unknowable depths into an eternal past. At the feet of the Baku there were billions upon billions, of flowers, trees, mushrooms, and all manner of plants carved into the same stone. Above their heads, in the subtly sloping arch of the crosspiece, there were birds, butterflies, pegasi, bats, dragons, and all manner of flying beasts, uncountable in their numbers.

Just as she had done so many times before, she floated through the gate, which also floated in the void. At its threshold, the feeling of having a body gradually returned, and though she did not know it, for she had forgotten by this point that she was Deb Holcroft in her waking life in another place, this body was not at all like the one she had left sleeping in her bed in Corbyville.

First, she saw the leather boots and intricately engraved metal grieves of her legs. They were tinged with a fuschia coloured light, shimmering silver with the strangely warm crystalline frost of the dream realm. Then, her gauntleted hands. She reached back and wrapped grey-furred fingers into the flowing, swirling rich purple silk of her cloak and her other hand went to rest lightly and assuredly on the falcon-headed pommel of the sword that hung at her side.

She was mostly humanoid in appearance – a beautiful, stately woman, tall and strong. Some would say handsome – but in that way that does not compromise femininity. But she also had the features of a timber wolf. Her face was completely human save for her eyes, which were a piercing ice-blue with tightly dilated pupils, and her ears, which were pointed and sloped back. Her hair, a flowing mane of grey was braided in two strands tied at the back in the style of the Morphean Guard. Her body was generally humanoid as well, save for the transition to grey fur below her elbows and knees and her clawed hands and feet.

Having just awakened and dressed, she walked with the assured, purposeful gait of a military leader toward the Morphean Citadel to receive her orders. The more rapid passage of time in the dream realm meant she would live about a day for every hour Deb slept. She was determined to address the failure of their forces at the Jotunheim Intersection last week, but something was interfering with her train of thought. On this night something buzzed in her mind and prodded at her consciousness, pleading for its attention.

Certainly no sorcerer by any measure, she felt safe enough from any would-be malicious eldritch influences this close to the citadel’s mages and so she heeded the call of the quiet, persistent voice. Telepathy was a common mode of communication in the dream realm, and though she did not recognize the voice in her head – her soldiers’ training in the use of telepathy told here enough to know it meant her no harm. It was feminine, kind, even somehow familiar.

“You know full well that it is not the way of the dreamer to recall what transpires in sleep – but you will remember this. You must,” it said to her.

She felt no fear. She was powerful here. She addressed the voice with conviction.

“Do not dawdle. I conduct the essential business of the Morphean Guard and tolerate your intrusion into my mind for only this moment,” she said it firmly, in the manner of one experienced in the finer points of leadership and military command. “I have urgent affairs to address in the short time afforded me. Be brief!”

“Yes of course,” the voice said. “You must remember this when you awaken —

Beyond rational explanation, the words that followed felt important and reverberated deeply into the mind of the one who heard them.

“Nick Morrison will die. Andy Crowley will know what to do.”

She noted this, though in the life she knew here, she did not know who Andy or Nick was. She simply knew that whoever she was in the waking realm would likely know them. And though she had sensed that this must indeed be a matter of some import, she was a dream warrior with a more urgent calling than any of the petty things she knew in her other life. From her perspective here, the other world was the dream she forgot every evening – just as this life was the dream she forgot every morning.

The other realm was a warless, bloodless, happiness she knew nothing about. For here she was Sherle-Peregrinus of the Morphean Guard, commander in the vanguard force at the Siege of Dreams – defender of all souls within the realm of Sanctuary from the entroloper hordes that would see them subdued and beholden to the Abraxas.

“I will remember this,” she swore and meant it. For she was true to her word. She even pulled the legendary falcon sword at her side from the lip of its scabbard as she said this: a gesture of her order that assured dedication to the keeping of an oath.

“Considering the matter at rest then,” and with her patience spent, she topped the steps to Morphean Citadel and entered the grand hall that had become the impromptu throne room of the queen of the dream realm herself.

The Holcroft’s was the oldest house on the River Road. A bungalow covered completely in climbing ivy, it was the kind of place that was creepy and haunted to more modern sentiments but earthy and magical to those one might call old souls.

A wide veranda ran the whole span of its face and the property was covered with trees that shaded it even from the barest light of the bright country stars.

Andy had transitioned fully into the emotionless, detached state of Mushin (no-mind) by the time his bike skidded through the darkness into the Holcroft’s driveway. In a maneuver he had perfected in the variable gravity of the astral plane, he forcefully braked his speeding bike, went into a handstand that became a somersault over his handlebars and soared into a running landing. He had cleared the stairs onto the front porch before his bike hit the ground. Deb’s white cat, Aleister, slept in a chair on the covered porch. As he knew it would be, the light in Deb’s room was on. He tapped on the window. She would know it was him.

The window flew up. Deb was wearing an oversized, white Platinum Blonde T-shirt. Any other time, Andy would have rolled his eyes at the shirt.

“Andy! It’s game night! Why are you here?”

He had to think fast. He couldn’t tell her he had been inside her head and had seen what had frightened her. His greatest fear was having her discover he could do such things.

“I saw your light on and wondered why you aren’t at Cedars.”

“I had homework and didn’t feel like it. The girls were getting to me.”

Andy smiled. “I’ll bet,” he said. To him, Tracy and Lori epitomized blind, sleepwalking submission to conformity and conspicuous consumption. It was bad enough in people in general, but systemic forces of oppression seemed intent on making it obnoxiously acute in teenage women.

Andy was anxious to get to the matter of the vision that had frightened Deb. He had a suspicion that it was serious. And if he was correct in his hypothesis — it was a matter of life and death.

“Are you okay though, Bear?” Only Andy used this nickname for her. It was his own mispronunciation of Deborah from way back when they had shared a playpen. “You don’t seem yourself.”

“I just had a really bad dream.”

“Cool,” Andy said excitedly. His eyes widened under raised eyebrows. It didn’t come off as insensitive. He wanted to stay in character. He was worried it was already suspicious enough that he had just appeared here at this precise moment.

“Not cool at all!” there was no anger in the words, she knew Andy would be curious. Dreams and nightmares were right in his whacky wheelhouse of wild, way-out and weird.

“Andy –” her eyes filled with tears.

“A beautiful girl that looked like she was made from moonlight told me something terrible.”

“If it was just a dream Deb, why are you so upset?” He had seen the girl too — and though he had only seen her second-hand, as though through smoky, carnival glass, he had surmised as well that she was beautiful — like Jane Weidlin from the Go-Gos he thought. The absence of colour in the luminous dream-girl’s nature hinted at something to Andy — something altogether terrible.

But he had not heard what the moonlight girl had said. Curiosity consumed his attention and he was ill-prepared for what happened next.

The tears in Deb’s eyes burst forth and she threw herself into Andy’s arms.

“She told me Nick is going to die.” Deb had found refuge from her fear — just as she knew she would — in Andy Crowley’s embrace. The relief she felt was complete and as though to fill the void left by that fear departed, another feeling swept over her then.

But in that same moment, a dark chill ran through Andy.

“Nick!” His mind roared. “No!”

Instinctively, he put his fingers into the dark curls of Deb’s short hair and held her close. He did not have the presence of mind to know it, but he had re-entered the state of Mushin.

No-mind.

Love.

Love is the ocean in which the mystic, entirely immersed, swims like a fish. Acknowledging another so completely that attention on the fabrication of self ceases entirely is why love and bliss are one and the same.

Andy felt the physical unity between him and Deb now — and in defiance of all his mystical training, he felt an irresistible longing to succumb to attachment. His biological nature, his adolescence, took him.

The preeminent compulsion of The All — the drive to create and procreate, whether it be of art or life, in that moment become manifest in these two.

Every paradox Andy Crowley had ever explored was dwarfed by this one.

Was not his desire to not desire Deb Holcroft a desire as well?

She was flawless and beautiful to him in every conceivable way. Her raven black hair, too curly to part and feather like the other girls, was cut short and perfectly contrasted her untanned face. Her small, kind mouth and thin perfect nose submitted to the primacy of the soul of her eyes, timber-wolf-blue and wise, shining into the world and seeking out naught other than that same light, which shone from him.

“I love you, Andy,” she whispered into the pentacle on his RUSH concert shirt. Reflexively, he pulled her closer.

He loved her too. But he could not say the words. Fear caught them in his throat just shy of his lips.

“And I know you love me,” she said.

For an eternity that straddled joy and terror, they hovered beyond the world like this. Silent and uncertain upon that crossroads, theirs then was that timeless tortured blessing and glorious curse.

Eventually, “Don’t be afraid,” were the words that wound through Andy’s confusion out into their world of two.

Those words were enough for Deb today and Andy felt her smile through his shirt.

“It was just a bad dream,” he sounded genuine, though, increasingly, he did not believe they were true. Having dodged a bullet with Deb, his mind returned in earnest to the matter of Nick. He felt a pang of guilt that what had transpired between him and Deb had shoved the matter of his best friend’s death into the background.

Though Deb could not see it, the indigo light of his third eye came upon his brow and penetrated the veil between the planes of existence. Resting his chin upon the curls of her head and savouring the fragrance of her hair he struggled mightily to interpret the mythical references spelled out in Ogham: the Druid runes. Across the planes in a glade upon the realm of Fey, he read them now. They were carved into a birch tree, likely, he surmised, by the ancient and powerful Tuatha de Danan.

When he found what he sought, his soul froze. His fear was confirmed.

The monochromatic luminosity, the friendly, alluring feminine voice Deb had described, he had seen too. He wondered if she had noticed the other hallmarks. If she had, he assumed, she would not have discerned their significance. Even having seen the seven-pointed star broach, the fly-plaid, and the silver megaphone he had needed more to be sure. The Ogham of Fey had confirmed it. Deb had indeed seen a banshee: the Fey realm’s harbinger of certain death.

He swallowed hard.

“Nick will be fine,” Andy Crowley lied to the one he had just now discovered for certain was the love of his life — or rather, the one who would be were that possible for one committed to the ancient arcane disciplines.

“I know,” said Deb. She trusted him and was afraid of how much she had just risked sharing with the most important person in her life.

“I’m sorry,” suddenly and awkwardly she pushed him away and rolled her eyes in an attempt to make light of everything that had just happened between them.

Andy knew she was embarrassed about telling him how she felt and it made him feel that much worse for not telling her he loved her too.

“It’s cool Deb.” The smile he forced looked ridiculous.

“Totally,” he added only to fill the awkward silence that followed — and to add cover to the fact that now, he had lied to her twice.

It wasn’t cool at all that Deb had told him she loved him.

And it wasn’t cool at all that a banshee of Fey had told her his best friend was about to die.

To be continued

What is the Glass Grimoire?

”Just like the prophecy said he would, he came from magicless Earth…

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‘It was a rectangle of light that could tell him anything anyone could ever want to know. The fruit of Eden, dreaded in prophecy from the dawn of the multiverse.”

The Banjoman, was solemn as he pondered the implications of What he was about to say. His bright eyes dimmed and he parted his red gunslinger mustache with the fingers of one hand. Then he whispered the words as though they were an affront to reality and should not have been uttered.

“It was The Glass Grimoire.”

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What is Art?

Fully realized, art is the practice of mysticism

 

The reality we know is the thoughts of the only consciousness there is. Call it Brahma. Call it God. Call it Eden. Call it The All. Call it whatever you will. When you understand what is told here, words and labels and names are beside the point

Each being that is born, is one splintered aspect of this consciousness that has forgotten it is — at its core — an aspect of the mind of The All.

As we grow from children to adults we are conditioned to focus on being the part — not the whole — for this delusion: the delusion of the distinct self is what empowers those who would use us to serve them. Divide and conquer is their modus operandi.

So deluded, we seek to define and embellish the masks and costumes of self we have constructed. This is the nonsense of races and nations, of religions and philosophies, of political parties and social causes. All of it is engineered to compel us to feed the artificial beast of ego so we will remain oblivious to our true nature and so submit willingly to war and toil for our masters in exchange for baubles and trinkets proffered by the idol of the false god they have erected — the economy.

The creative impulse, the impulse to art, is the most direct expression of our true nature. It is love not just for the splinter of The All we initially perceive ourselves to be, but it is an expression of the intent of The All itself through that splinter.

And so it is said, “starving artist!”, “You can not make a living doing that!” “Math is better than writing — and writing is better than art!”

Indeed, the opposite of all these statements is true!

But we are imprisoned by those who would use us to grow their power and wealth.

So we in-turn imprison and subdue the artists within us submitting instead to the pressure to assemble piecemeal the patchwork costumes of self we think will win us favour and fortune from others likewise writhing in the pit of drudgery and delusion.

Each must come to discover by what means they will light within others the lamp that withers that ancient, accursed fruit and shines brightly upon the many paths back to Eden.

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Andy Crowley Saga: Chapter 2

“I’ve never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

~ Mark Twain

 

From the kitchen table, Nick Morrison watched leaves all the colours of roaring flames meander down to settle like Viking funeral boats onto the river.

He had made short work of his book report for Mr. Latimer and pretended he was still at it for the benefit of his mother in the living room. He and Andy had read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit way back in Grade 2. There was likely no book either of them knew better. It – along with The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion – had been something of a religion to them in their adventures across the forests of Foxboro and Corbyville. Indeed, painted in elegant silver strokes on the dark blue mailbox at the end of the Morrison’s driveway was the word Imladris. It meant Rivendell in the Sindarin tongue of Tolkien’s elves: a place of refuge and reflection for weary travelers.

He closed his English binder and put his pen in his pencil case.

“All done! And exquisitely reasoned and presented as usual. I’m off to the Grayson’s for D&D,” he yelled into the living room. He was sure to amplify the D&D part for his mother.

A monotone “Have fun,” came back from his dad. Nothing from mom. Her disapproval of the game was well known and Nick reveled in it.

Pulling on his new Quinte Saints football jacket, he grabbed his set of red translucent dice off of the Players Handbook on the bench by the door. They were marvellous to him — like sacred gems from the dawn of time. With effort, he worked them down into the pocket of his too-tight Jordache jeans. He checked to make sure his player character sheet was still tucked inside the book.

He hollered over his shoulder as he left.

“I’ll leave the axe I’ve been sharpening in the garage. Demonic possessions and all. Can’t be too careful.”

His father’s laugh made Nick smilewhiskeyand he savoured how much that laughing would irritate his mother.

The Morrison’s porch door opened onto the same gravel driveway the Crowleys used. Andy was there strapping his Adidas bag to the crossbar of his BMX bike with Bungie cords. Nick’s eyes seized immediately on the purple, velvet bag at Andy’s hip. Its gold cord was threaded through a belt loop in his jeans. The bag, which had once held a bottle of expensive Canadian whiskey, now held the Dungeon Master’s dice. Nick looked quickly away. He didn’t want to think about them, for those dice would determine the fortune and fate of Argwain Cirth, His eighth-level, half-elf ranger.

Faded, pockmarked and rounded at the edges, they were from the first basic D&D set TSR released in 1977 and they were the only dice Andy Crowley had ever owned. Andy had gibbered on to him once — in that way of his — about how they were The Platonic Solids: the fundamental geometric forms of all reality. As usual, he hadn’t really listened to Andy. All he knew was Argwain Cirth’s destiny would be decided by them — and that made them the most fearsome artifacts conceivable.

He didn’t want to think about that.

“Did you get your Bilbo-ography done?” He said, knowing full well what Andy’s answer would be.

“Bother burgling and book reports and everything to do with both of them,” Andy said in his best Bilbo Baggins Shire accent. “I’ll write it Monday morning.”

Nick frowned. He knew Andy better than anyone except maybe Deb, and had always lamented his best friend’s unwillingness to play along — to fit in. He had tried for years to get him to give a shit about his marks at school; to wear something other than concert shirts and Levis, and to take some sort of interest in girls and sports. All of his efforts had been to no avail. After Andy had quit smoking and lost weight last summer, Nick had hoped high school might spur some kind of change. But two weeks in, Nick worried now more than ever about what kind of future his best friend was setting himself up for. Even worse, he had taken to thinking they were doomed to grow farther and farther apart.

Andy had been through a lot. His dad’s drinking, His mom’s church-thing. Who in Hell left their kid to be raised by his older sister? Nick thought. Mr. and Mrs. Crowley had been like parents to him too. It made him sad to hate them. The whole thing was a mess. Was it any wonder Andy was such a malcontent? It was all made worse by the fact he was the smartest person Nick knew. “Smart all the way back ’round to stupid,” his mom always said. And she loved Andy like another son.

Nick thought better of challenging him to do his school work again. After all these years it had never gotten him anywhere. He thought of bringing up what had happened on the bus with Scott St. Pierre. Deb had told him at the mall. Funny he thought. He and Deb always seemed to talk about Andy at the mall — a place he refused to step foot in.

It was game night after all. Why pontificate on homework. But Nick could not quell the creeping sadness that swelled in the back of his mind. The chill in the air, the earlier dusk and the fallen leaves swirling about them didn’t help.

All things end, a voice inside him said — though he felt the words more than heard them.

“Nothing too mind-bendy, for poor Mr. Latimer if you can manage it,” He said. His sympathy for Andy’s teachers was genuine. “No comparing Beorn’s lodge to the night you spent on astral plane with the mayor-of-hyena-people-town’s harem.”

“Gnolls,” Andy muttered matter-of-factly as he straddled his bike. A C-3P0 Star Wars card clothes-pinned to the forks chattered over the spokes as he started up the driveway.

“Hyena-people? Shameful!” Andy admonished over his shoulder. “Read your Monster Manual son.”

Smiling at his best friend and his Dungeon Master, Nick launched onto his pedals in a standing drive into the wake of flaming leaves Andy Crowley tore down the driveway to the River Road.

 

Andy thought of Nick as a brother and was sure he always would. The two of them, along with Deb, had grown up together on the River Road. But he knew Nick was struggling with their friendship lately.

He had always known Nick would be successful in the way society measure success. Nick Morrison was handsome, athletic, smart, and disciplined. The girls loved him. The coaches loved him. The teachers loved him. That their fork in the road would appear on the horizon had been as certain as the return of a Canadian winter.

Andy recalled the time they raided Mr. Morrison’s liquor cabinet and he had told Nick how much he was enjoying Michael Moorcock. Nick had cried blasphemy against Tolkien — a betrayal of their sacred brotherhood. The alcohol escalated things to the edge of a drunken brawl. The whole matter — especially considering what he’d seen booze do to his father — had unsettled Andy so much, he hadn’t drunk since.

High school seemed to be accelerating the inevitable, and Andy had been meditating on this frequently. There was no point in grasping. Attachments were the bars of the prison that kept us from truth.

If you have a problem that has a solution, what is achieved by worrying about it? If you have a problem that has no solution, what is achieved by worrying about it?

Besides. It was game night.

 

“Total bullshit!” Dave slammed the palms of both his hands down onto the flimsy, green card table. His freckled face was as red as his hair. “I sneak in, AGAIN; set off a trap, AGAIN; barely make a saving throw AGAIN — he lunged for the Marvel superheroes thermos on the floor by his chair and took a gulp from it. Then he winced and bellowed, “Then it’s all big people treasure. ALL THE GODDAMN TIME!”

Every one recoiled from the spray of rye whiskey and ginger ale that delivered his angry words. For a moment, the musty, teenage boy smell of the Grayson brothers’ rec room took on a tinge of gingery rocket fuel.

“Say it! Don’t spray it, asshole!” Jason Baker yelled. “And slow down!” Dave was notoriously obnoxious on an average day — exponentially so when he was drinking.

“Treasure is not everything, halfling,” A calm suddenly came over everyone at the table and they turned to revere the words of the Dungeon Master. “For Brudo Thornshrike of Moonsmoor has learned much in the grey arts of stealth and lockpicking. And despite his incorrigible demeanour and frequent pettiness, he has more than shown his worth to his companions of late,” Andy paused for dramatic effect.

“Brudo Thornshrike’s small stature may limit his access to the spoils of war, but experience is a treasure in-and-of-itself — and so our halfling thief has risen a level.”

Dave’s expression went blank and everyone at the table braced for what they new came next. Jay and Dave Grayson (there always seemed to be more than one Dave) seized the opportunity the pause presented to reach for their drinks on the floor, and in so doing, avoid getting sprayed again.

“Seriously?” he asked. His disbelief was genuine. “10th level already?”

Ian Grayson hoisted a beer over the center of the table. “To Brudo Thornshrike!” he hollered and the party cheered.

“Weasel, snake, creeper, swine and drunkard!” Ian embellished. Another roar went up from the group. Brudo’s was the most enthusiastic of all. He drained his thermos and slammed it upside down on the table. Polyhedral dice and lead miniatures of a thief, a ranger, a cleric, a druid, a magic-user, and three fighters were sent every which way.

Andy was happiest in these moments. He looked at the dice scattered across the hexagonal map — a yellow four-sided, red six-sided, green eight-sided, blue twelve-sided, and a white twenty-sided.

Though few knew it, these dice were modeled on The Platonic Solids, the fundamental forms of reality. Andy wondered if, when used in the manner he used them every Friday night, they were generating new realities on planes within the mind. He wondered if, at the very least, they functioned to dissolve — even to a minuscule degree — the constructed everyday identities of his friends around this table as they shifted their energies into other selves experiencing the inner planes.

Was he a missionary of mysticism? Were his friend’s unwitting disciples toeing the thinnest edge of a wedge into the realm of the only true faith possible: the Eden of belief in no belief where transcendence of dogma and delineation alike bestowed ultimate grace. A realm of peace and a joy beyond the relative confinement of this realm’s nonsensical conceptualizations: countries and races, political affiliations and religions, letters and numbers — self and other?

His dice were his witch’s wand, his wizard’s staff — the veritable keys to — call it Nirvana, call it Valhalla, call it the Kingdom of God, found just the other side of the putting away of childish things.

Then, suddenly, his mind exploded. Something was wrong with Deb. The terror she felt assailed his wits. And in flash, he saw through her eyes what frightened her.

Frantically, he gathered his dice and dropped them into the purple bag at his hip.

“Nick, you should stay,” He said it like a command and Nick’s face darkened.

“See you guys,” He managed as he bolted for the door.

They’d seen it all before.

Rolling his eyes, Nick drained another bottle of Black Label. With Andy gone this would be the perfect opportunity to pitch the guys on changing game night from Fridays so they could go to the dances held at Club Cedars just down the road. He knew Andy wouldn’t like it, but in that very instant, like a damn that had restrained more river than was possible for far too long, he let go. For the first time in his life, he felt the relief of not considering what Andy Crowley thought.

He liked it.

They’ll see it my way, he thought.

Then, with a confidence and deftness that amazed everyone there, Nick Morrison, slammed the cap off another beer with the edge of the rickety card table.

 

TO BE CONTINUED
in Chapter 3
Friday, October 5
7:00 p.m. EST

Venus Stollers

We walk a dirt-road sunset

‘Gainst a jagged gold cornfield

There! Venus shines again

Into the pink of rising night

“I wonder,” she says

“If the people walking there

Ponder us

Up here in their sky.”

The Creed of the Council of High Midwives of Atlantis

“We are fortunate,” said High Midwife 12. “Our government and our religion share our only laws, or commandments if you will. There are only two.”

And she bowed her regal head.

“Never harm

Never deceive

And by so doing

Exist as God

As Love.”

“Never Harm. Never Deceive.” the crowd in the room echoed back. It startled Andy, and the twenty-sided in his hand pulsed its desire for battle into his palm as a dull wave of painful cold. “CEASE!” he roared at it. He wanted to fully soak in the life-altering beauty of this place.

The Atlantean matriarchy, the Midwife Council, was rabidly environmentalist, and their sole agenda, spiritually, intellectually and academically, was to ensure the most vigorous, enriched, joyous lives possible for their society’s children. They had perfected the art of nurturing a wonderful, fulfilling life in harmony with one’s environment.

The most beautiful, moving music he had ever heard filled the streets of doomed Atlantis. The colours were magnificent! Exotic hybrids of Ancient Venusian and plant life and aquatic life of Earth decorated the streets of living coral. The glow of the Oxygen producing Venusian lichen on the walls of the enormous cavern. The grace, the soul-felt kindness, the genuine empathy, all of it stole Andy’s heart. Tears welled in his eyes.

And all of this, they had shared with Plato.

Rivendell by Rush came upon his mind then. He opened his third eye to soak it all in.

What a contrast, it seemed to Andy Crowley in that moment, to Pharaoh Mhotunkhamen IV’s approach to ruling the Martian Solar Dynasty.

Yin and Yang, man. Yin and Yang.