The call goes out.
The year is 1946. The time is just after nine. The place is Pasadena, a rocket-fueled, citrus-tinted, nouveau riche cul-de-sac in Southern California. Every freak, fakir, and fringe dweller within a hundred mile radius knows with a whisper or a shudder or a ring that all arcs of decadence and destiny converge tonight…at The Solarium. Marvel Solaris is having a party. The kind of affair that approaches and embodies the Platonic ideal of “party” and its shrill shadow, the vertiginous Sabbat. His soirees are infamous. No guest who penetrates this revel’s depths will leave as who they were in the vestibule. Tonight was made for witching.
On Orange Grove Boulevard (known as millionaire’s row), amongst the chewing gum tycoons and the vacuum magnates and the flickering crepuscular movie stars, there sprawls a lavish complex of American Craftsman mansionettes, modernistic laboratory cylinders, elegant Art Deco electrified fences, and ghostly greenhouse gazebos that warp and glow behind the sigh of the sycamores and the wavering willows. This is the home and headquarters of world-famous rocket science prodigy Marvel Solaris. A sanctum sanctorum with the soul of a circus.
By ten, under the screaming galaxies of a sharper, blacker, and yet brighter night sky than the sky we know, a throng of wrong-headed weirdlings has already driven and hitched and slithered from dormitories and gutterscapes to the lightning-laced gates of this, The Unholy House of the Black Sun. Clusters of central casting bohemians bumping elbows and uglies with Nobel Prize winning physicists, witchy dancers and savage avant-gardians sharing flame and smoke and innuendo with heretical Bishops and edgy intellectuals and brilliant but bomb-haunted Atom Daddies.
They say that someone always goes mad at these Solarium parties. They say the intoxicants flow so freely, the minds at play conduct mad ideas so fluently, and inhibitions melt so ecstatically in these exotic and luxurious spaces that windows open into Otherness, into shadowy parodies and autopsies of every guest’s innermost menagerie of secret sins and psychodramas. They say that in-betweeners and haunted drifters get drawn to this place like moths to black flame, the angel in them snuffed and the meat of them missing the morning after and for always.
The moon hangs heavy tonight, as it must, swollen to cartoon dimensions, full of silver blood and sobbing like a mother does. Like she cried a cosmos over some mythic jilting or the loss of her spawn. In her gossamer dream-light, the celebrants file in and fan out across the grounds, ushered in and plied with an array of libations by the servants (mostly lodgers in this madhouse who are working off their back rent).
The affair will begin as an insouciant careening of alien sub-cultural galaxies, sliding into overlap with jigsaw precision, opportunities for iniquity assessed, projected, and harvested through an Enochian code of body language, pheromonal musk, and lashes gone batty like pretty black flags that say “surrender”. These frictions and fusions will then ooze into chaotic, almost desperate revelry. Many local deliriums will at this point achieve a metaphysical frequency and become contiguous. An ambience of shared hallucination will descend on the party like a carnivorous perfume. Then the churning pockets and wormholes of compulsive pleasure will coalesce as an orgiastic tapestry of ritual, emerging naturally from the wicked warp and weft of sleazy modern fun.
By eleven, the threshold into chaos has been crossed. There was a time when the host had to stir this pot in person to taste the broth change its flavor. Now it flows like a sideways kind of nature. What cracks and burns below is just fuel for the shattering of all that occludes the above. And there, above, above the din and the havoc of it all stands the conductor of tonight’s secret symphony, wherein every figment will slip from its skin and set fire to its sloughed dereliction.
In the attic study, with its lofty, constellation-studded ceiling and its queerly angled windows that spy upon the Solarium’s every quadrant, the dashing and diabolical Marvel Solaris emits a faintly chanted esoteric tone, strokes his ring with its throbbing moonstone, and meditates fiercely on a life-sized, ornately framed painting of his monstrous master, the blackest of magicians, the prince of villains, the MetaBeast: Oberon Cromley. Cromley wearing a dandy-tinted Edwardian suit and a domino mask, clutching a pearl-handled cane with a silver cobra at its tip, his corpulence angelic somehow as he hovers for want of a background. His head is lit with a pentecostal nimbus of abstract white triAngles. His face is a chilling pantomime of wickedness. Its cruel creases and laughlines delineate a mask worn by Eternity.
Solaris himself is cast from the heroic mold, with a little grease and brimstone around its edges. In a certain light, he’s obviously a dapper initiate into mysteries of dark art, science, and commerce. In the attic’s shrine-like candlelight, , he might pass for a gigolo hypnotist or a stag film actor on the skids. Or a doomed genius who lives for pleasure and who has sworn a religious oath to go, in every sense, Beyond the Beyond. His hair is a semi-coiffed jet black brushfire. His eyes are flashing blue like the steel you stab kings with. His spiderleg fingers are festooned with sigil-scarred jewelry. His thin moustache is curled almost always in a grin of narcissistic mischief. But tonight his mouth is agape with dewey-lipped, trance-like reverence.
When the call goes out and his Master’s image is a dream-door that opens to admit a storm of revelations…
when a timespace has been ordained by the Lunar League of Magi as a time for flight, into Heavens and Hells yet unmapped and untasted by man…
when Solaris makes his home an orgone engine and emits this silky sluicing tone and the moonstone throbs in its setting…
in these moments he is in touch with a zone of wonders…
a zone at odds with the ordinary world we simple folk live in…
an ordinary world he has devoted his strange aptitudes to destroying utterly and forever. As the Master did. Only moreso.
From this zone of wonder, the moonstone emits its signal, and the agents are called forth. They’ve been scheming this atrocity for months.
Tonight the coven of like-minded fiends that Solaris has assembled will surpass itself. Tonight the Argenteum Astrum, this league of lethal lunatics, these ghost women and devil men, will slip the meshes of all that is known and kiss the Abyss of A-SPACE.
Unless something goes horribly wrong. As is typical when one moves in Solarium circles, one must hope for the least of a million evils.
Through the chant, through the moonstone, through the painting, through MetaTherion himself and a moon-based network of astral transceivers, the call…goes…OUT.
Rex Rage is shooting blue movies according to brutal ritual specifications in the backroom of a biker bar in San Bernadino. His ingénue is actually a rising star of primitive “wild youth” movies. But here at THE HAWK, everyone knows this troubled teen idol as the human ashtray. He’s writhing on a pentagram, tweaked off the Benzedrine, contorted in a channeled dance that prefigures his gruesome final pose in a car-crash, a few years in the future. Rex the director can feel the thanatos and the eros filling his frames in equal measure. He zooms in and smiles.
Then the moonstone throbs and the chant haunts the edge of his hearing and he says it’s a wrap and he’s back in his leather, on the hog, on the road again with his tattooed posse of unrepentant sodomites and hellbent snuff necromancers. Because despite the demon juju of his cinemagick, he’s a neophyte and he knows it. Solaris never fails to show his monkeybrain what pain is. While his angelbrain gets its cosmic kicks.
Damian Szandor is in the midst of bathing his beautiful daughters. He’s making a ceremony out of everything these days. Last night it was a full-blown Luciferian marriage of two minor celebrities, Szandor in his black cloak with a lifelike goat-head and snakeskin gloves made to grasp and sculpt and harness ancient evil. Chalices of chicken blood and Vatican-issue incense. Inverted crosses and bad poetry. The whole bit. Tonight is about grooming his little debutantes for their climactic splash at the Solarium. It’s Szandor’s intention to pimp out Ayesha and Drusilla to the Rocket man, to peddle them as vessels for Marvel’s infernal seed. In the antic, rapturous timeless time to come, grandfathering Antichrists will increase Szandor’s cache.
In the black onyx bathroom of his cozy Church of Lucifer, he towels off his meal-tickets and directs them to the dressing room, where monstrous ball gowns are waiting to be slipped into and activated by their steaming adolescent flesh. But then the moonstone throbs and the chanted tone of summoning carves treble clefs in the steam and Szandor suddenly knows there are more dangerous games afoot tonight. Tonight is not a night for pimping. He curses everything the normals hold dear, but accepts this gravitas, and drags the cloak from his throne. The goat head fits in a bowling bag. The girls will be heartbroken, of course, but there’ll be time enough for love when all the membranes are slashed. Tonight the coven goes Beyond. Szandor will be heading out alone.
Samsara Zurn is staring at that swollen moon from the window of a garrett, moved to tears by the broken love that flows through every sorrow. The void of longing that expands between the stars is alive in her haunted heart. To know her is to love her back, and the strange boy she’s been tutoring has felt the kiss that Madame Erzulie gives through her. Samsara has from her beginnings been too weak or too deep to ever say “no” to love, and the lwa queen of ravishing tragedy has lived in the dollhouse dreamscapes of Samsara’s mind for a year almost and also forever. Erzulie needs priestesses to touch you with. Someone like a knife who will break your heart for her so she can briefly slake her thirst for human tears. Tomorrow, Samsara the dancer and dream photographer will find another heart to break. Maybe several. Her student, sadly, has learned too much. He’s sleeping still, blind to the ache of her vanishing, which draws nigh. He can’t hear the chant that rattles the pipes and ripples the silk in here. Her little moon throbs like always but with an undertone of urgency that she cannot resist. She gathers her clothes, throws a shawl around herself and takes to the seedy streets outside, imperious and untouchable as if there never was a sun.
Under the desert, thirty miles away from where the action is, in one of seventeen sub-basements that extend beneath an innocuous military outpost with no official name, Heinrich Von Eckhardt is burning the midnight oil, missing Austria, fiddling intermittently with a stack of dismal reports, but mostly daydreaming at this ungodly hour, getting wistful in a trance of child-like concentration as he builds complex plastic models of impossible rockets. Rockets he remembers flying in, unshackled from gravity in a holocaust of lightning bombs, setting fire to the stratosphere. But that may have been a dream.
The Thousand Year Reich went to pieces after a few mad seasons of “anything goes”. He pulled strings at the first signs of crumbling and had himself smuggled with wife and daughters through the Vatican and into the USA in a state of semi-luxury. Now he lives on their hideous commissary chicken, pining for the creature comforts of his aristocratic upbringing. Even the launch-pad labor camp kitchens could make a decent strudel.
Now one of his few remaining joys is in building these toys, these cartoon fetish objects that are so much closer to the dream of rocketry he was living during the war than any pale shadow of it welded together by the Americans. Their program is primitive and their bureaucracy seems designed to thwart Eckhardt’s innovations. There’s a natural prejudice against the former Nazi officer in their midst. He makes it clear to anyone who asks that his affiliation with the Reich was a matter of convenience. He’s not political. His driving dream has always been to take mankind beyond its territorial squabbles and into space. No matter how violent the applications of his work became, Eckhardt was always aiming for the stars. But sometimes he hit London.
The only hope for his hopelessly weaponized science seems to lie with this self-invented lunatic American, this Jack Solaris, a master of sciences both chemical and abstract, like so many of Eckhardt’s deranged overlords in the broken Reich. To draw fire from heaven, one must be acquainted with its engines. To draw fire from hell, one must traffic with the devil himself.
His moonstone throbs and he drops the tube of glue he was using. Apparently, Solaris made his mysterious breakthrough after all. The Argenteum Astrum is cleared for flight. Tonight, Eckhardt and his bizarre colleagues may very well taste the texture of deep space. He picks up the phone and dials for his expertly hypnotized bodyguards. These degenerate American technical trolls can’t put a rocket in the sky without a mushroom cloud, but the Space Nazi’s rocket car will get him to the Temple on time. In mere minutes, in fact. Eckhardt is an old hand at keeping miraculous secrets from greedy masters. It looks like a shiny black Packard. But the twist of a secret lever makes the engine shoot plumes of flame. Eckhardt savors the acceleration in the back seat, stroking his palpitating slice of moon.
He can taste something electric (if not atomic) in the near future, like he would in those early years when it looked like the Fuehrer’s winter palace would be erected on the moon.
That feeling that tonight could change everything forever.
Charlie Munster is running errands all over town with the party in mind, visiting various chemists and criminal types, collecting party favors and trance facilitators with a swollen wad of bills at his disposal. He’s a teenage demon, the rocket man’s sidekick and orphan ward. He’s seventeen, short, wiry and ever restless, tricked out for bad business in the cuts and colors of a barely born beatnik sub-culture. Black turtleneck. Skinny black jeans. Light leather jacket. Insect shades. Carefully mussed hair. A funny cigarette hanging from the corner of his feral smirk, which widens into a jackal grin when there’s trouble in the air. All his little errands are gentle tonight, but Jack (as Solaris is known to his nearest and dearest) has taken Charlie under his iron wing with full knowledge of the skeletons in the crazy kid’s headspace. Charlie would kill for his mentor, and may have already, once or twice. But tonight it’s all commerce, all shucking, all jiving. Commerce and anticipation.
Things will get weird tonight, weird in a way that Charlie likes. The astrologers were wrong. The night sky has rippled to mirror the will of bad men with apocalyptic intentions. Charlie’s moonstone throbs, as expected. He laughs like a sick little girl, seals another deal, and gasses up Jack’s Tucker for a circling back to the Solarium at the speed of blitzkrieg.
Klaus Reichmann is loosening the buttons and zippers and flaps of his radiation suit to attach electrodes more deftly to his testicles. The discreetly hidden orgone engines that pepper the grounds of the Solarium have been on the blink. It’s been that long since the last party. They lack even the élan vital to repair themselves. The festivities, if properly slapped and tickled, will certainly generate enough raw power for tonight’s historic crime against nature, but the central engine, in the greenest gazebo, is strangely jealous of the thoughtforms Reichmann traffics with, up in the attic. The engine’s been sulking, and she needs a jump. The testicles won’t carry the current until his penis is engorged in her mechanics. All the hothouse flowers exhale a steam of fireflies. The voltage rips through his juices, through his member, through her reservations. She remembers her function in a squeal of liquid lightning.
In the midst of his frantic calibrations, the signal strikes his mind. All hands on deck. He allows himself one more hungry thrust before his flies are zipped and he swaggers through the throng. To the ritual room. Tonight’s plague of miracles is already in progress.
Helena Nordstrom Solaris Sloane is preparing herself for the grueling delights of tonight’s ceremony. Even before the moonstone throbs and the tone resonates in her elegant entrails, she knows that Solaris has been cleared for communion. She still has this rapport with him, despite everything jagged that has happened between them. She was his partner up and down the dog days of bitter struggle and poverty, before his conversion to Cromley’s cult, before the rituals and revelations, wherein his career-making scientific innovations unfolded in a storm of symbols and made his fortune. Everything changed so suddenly. She remembers the frightened child in him and the romantic sentimentalist. Before Cromley and the O.T.O. and the astral projections and the strange explosions, he was almost human and he loved her.
Then, she and her tormented dreamer flowed as one and she made his dreams her own.
Now he’s some kind of monster out of the pulp novels he reads so compulsively. He’s building rockets for the government and bombs for war criminals and terrorist cells, all to fund and fuel and facilitate these experiments, these parties, these rituals. These journeys. Things get deeper and stranger in that attic every time they get together.
Now he’s her ex-husband. The last of the infamous international supervillains. Now he’s shacked up with her kid sister Becky and blind to how vicious and fickle she is. Now the science fiction clubs and dinner parties and parlor games have degenerated into rabid bacchanals. Maenads included. Ripping every soft thing they see to bloody pieces.
Now their secret sacred society of magicians, their Argenteum Astrum, has opened its wormholes to admit lunatics like Reichmann and demons like Charlie and vipers like Criswell. Crafty Cornelius Criswell, the latest member of their dubious crew, Jack’s sudden cohort and closest confidante. The X-Factor whose palpable greed will surely see their souls threshed like wheat, out there in the Otherness. Even Charlie hates him and knows he has no code.
The moonstone sobs a summoning. She touches it with a little gasp, like she always does. All these casual miracles that her Jack has conjured from zones unknown. She’s jaded but content with her current husband, but he’s on some twisted pilgrimage and she keeps coming back here. Back to the Solarium.
Helena likes pretty things, you see, and she’s addicted to the pretty things they see up there. Out there. In there. Wherever. She pirouettes in a trimurti mirror, modeling her Deco Egyptian headdress and her star-kissed black chemise. She whistles at herself like Jack would before he was possessed by his Holy Guardian Angel and became the very Devil of his dreams. When his fire was hers to kindle or snuff.
Before he needed someone from an obsolete yesterday to save him from himself.
She locks the guest room behind her, takes a lit candelabra from a hallway table, and mounts the mahogany helix that leads to Jack and their shadows.
Becky Nordstrom, meanwhile, is licking her beautiful wounds in the music room, where Cornelius Criswell, the mysterious new houseguest, just had his way with her. He’s already gone, and she was asking for it, but she still needs a moment to contemplate the seismic echoes of what he did with her and does to her still. She’ll never look at that piano the same way again. They made a thundering, discordant mess of its acoustics. Criswell called it jazz.
Becky’s a bleach blonde nymphet type, but freshly twenty-one, with faint freckles and penciled femme fatale eyebrows and lips that seem to be a glossy shade of bubblegum. Bubblegum smeared from all the illicit kissing. She’s a little thing, crackling always with a hellraising energy, but shaking now. Taken aback. From turbulent girlhood to experimental love affair with her sister’s brilliant husband, she’s always wanted to feel too much of everything, all at once. But this kind of naked is new to her. Her pretty silk dress is everywhere, slashed to scarlet ribbons by an opportunely placed pair of scissors that Criswell seized when her posture said “come hither”. He shucked her wardrobe like skin from an ear of corn without missing a brutal beat. Despite his crucial position in the court of her dangerous boyfriend Marvel Solaris, Criswell peeled her like a peach because he felt like it. And maybe to trump his hero’s charms in a secret way that can be savored for days in cold sweats and silence by him and Becky both.
It’s the worst time to have done such a thing. The call hasn’t gone out yet, but she knows it’s coming. The party downstairs already troubles the floorboards and threatens to rise, but its diaphanous damage will be as nothing compared to the pleasures in play upstairs, in the attic, in the ceremony, in the phantasmagoric zones they’ve come to know under the arcane tutelage of Jack and his Beastly Guru.
Sex magick is the core technology and primal mystery of all occult traditions. Or so Jack and Cromley seem to think. Jack began Becky’s initiation on a night like this, under more modest circumstances, before the full flush of his fortune came. He showed her things the body can do that only Hindu scholars have names for. The cabbalistic correspondences and the Hebrew codes that draw the godforms forth from their ineffable habitations, these are things Becky can take or leave, knowing the scholarly types on her crew will pick up her shimmering slack. But the ritual sex element is something she’s good at. She took to Jack’s tutelage like a virtuoso waiting to happen. By the third time he rose again and put his elixir in Becky, his marriage to her sister was every kind of “over”.
Now she’s the de facto Queen of this strange scene that has cohered around Jack. His unquenchable ardor for her gives her this sparkling nimbus, like she’s been activated as a kind of Tinkerbell to the Pan in him. When she moves through the rooms of this crooked house, through a densely populated party scene of disfigured famous faces and sinister whispers or through its slightly more sparsely staffed daylight spaces, she can feel the guests and the lodgers and the magi falling for her. She knows how to work a room. She’s useful to Jack in that sense.
In several senses.
But he needs her too much now, more than a mad scientist should need anyone, and the wounds in his spacesuit make her go cold on him sometimes. Especially now that Criswell lives here. Criswell the pulp writer, the hustler, the hypnotic conversationalist. Jack’s best friend as far as Jack knows. But men like Criswell have no friends. Only tools and instruments. Jack is becoming Criswell’s tool, she thinks. At the moment, she feels like his instrument, her strings still vibrating from his expert plucking and the sidling of his bow.
Criswell says there’s a science of seduction. He says she’s a natural. He says he can make her a master. She believes him.
Jack’s hunger for power gets flooded sometimes by a leak in his secret reservoir of compassion. In their ritualized couplings, they flow into strange spaces, dense and restless with lethal ecologies no taxonomy has touched. She just doesn’t feel safe with a man in love. She only ever loved his cruelty. So it’s Criswell pushing her buttons, now. If she makes herself indispensable to whatever he’s up to, his unwavering self-interest might somehow save her from the fire they’re playing with. The fire they’re summoning.
At the thought of “summoning”, the moonstone throbs. Tonight might be tricky. Jack knows that she and Cris have tasted each other’s aptitudes. The Cromley creed decrees openness and shamelessness about such things. Love is free or love is nothing. But there’s been a triangulated sense of unborn trouble between them since that day when they were fencing in the library and Criswell cut her face (ever so slightly) and Becky just couldn’t help but show her sudden supplication.
Becky has, of course, sown the seeds of love all over the Solarium and its associated principalities. She’s the grail of choice for all elixirs when the Argenteum Astrum convenes. But Jack doesn’t yet know how crucial Criswell has become to the exfluorescence of her sexual circuitry. When they utter the invocations and connect their kinesthetic tentacles in revolving 5d yoga-spheres and all their essences are obvious in the sky-wide strobes and glitterbombs of A-Space, she half-hopes this precious sin will somehow stay secret. She half-hopes it doesn’t. It’s the fire that she loves. Always the fire.
The throbbing is audible now. She should thoroughly bathe before the ceremony, but she won’t. She gets so bored with the things she should do. All the lofty lunatics and war criminals and psycho-killers and even her silly sister, they’ll all be having sloppy seconds when she surrenders to their voodoo. They’ll be entering eternity through gates already marked and musked by a wicked ginger alleycat that drives her crazier than Hell.
She leaves behind the scraps of her defilement and struts like Venus down the guest-glutted corridor, naked and glossy and burning, almost, from the touch of so much hunger and gossip. She wonders where her dapper doom ran off to, her Criswell. Jack can wait. They can all wait. They can froth and boil over with their mystical piss and vinegar. Becky is the vessel, after all. The star attraction, forever and always. Eternal because they know how to kill the future. No tomorrow can wither her. It happens tonight.
Cornelius Criswell has slithered out of the music room (the site of his latest desecration) and up a second floor corridor that’s alive with the quarrels and kisses and little white riots of the party in progress, all of them extras in the mad film he’s living. His shock of red hair is tousled, his pale freckled face flushed from half an hour of Becky. He’s obviously guilty of a fresh transgression. Not emotionally guilty. Guilty on paper. His canary-eating grin must be tamed into solemnity. He makes it to his room at last. His four-poster bed and his three typewriters (three novels in progress). His carefully catalogued stacks of science fiction paperbacks and pulp magazines, many of them emblazoned with his byline. Sharp suits he’s scammed from a shameful array of convenient lovers and abruptly abandoned benefactors. Shameful to the layman, of course. Criswell is a philosophical man, beyond good and evil and loving it.
The call will go out soon. He has grooming to do. He’s still considered green in matters of magick by the pompous ghouls upstairs. He must be slick for the ceremony. He must seem to be in command (while deferring always to his best buddy Jack’s supreme authority, of course). He can still smell Becky on his fingers. Fresh raspberries and a spice he cannot identify add up to her, his whiplash girl-child, his secret trophy, his secret weapon. Jack said “have her” without knowing how deft Criswell can be about owning things. He’ll have as much of her as he needs and leave the rest for the insects. So much to do and so many to do it to.
As he showers, he’s narrating the closing page of his latest space opera to a slick bakelite Dictaphone that Solaris designed himself. As an afterthought. The narrative masterstroke came to him in the flashbulb of orgasm, as it sometimes does. There’s a part of him (a complete part, like a fractal snapshot that contains the whole) that is purely a pulp writer with projects in play, for whom all of this is material, pure and simple. Jack and Becky and the Solarium and Doctor Greenbaum and the mission and the strange ceremonies and every other impossible thing that happens in this House every day, it’s all just grist for the mill. You can’t make this stuff up. And if you did, it would come true.
There’s another part of him, another Self, who was put there by Dr. Greenbaum in that naval hospital, just after the war. That’s the part with a job to do, above and beyond the womanizing and the pulpsmithing. The part that’s an undercover G-Man, hypnotized into effortless espionage, busting black science sex cult cabals all over Southern California. This is his first operation, actually. And it seems to be going smoothly. Unless the whole spy scenario is an unwritten but crystallized thriller unspooling in his undermind and tainting his reality. What’s left of his reality. Everything he thought he knew to be true has gone soft and prismatic since he moved in and grew roots in this Schizoid Cathedral cum Grand Hotel. This temple to the genius and ambition of Marvel Solaris.
The last line of Criswell’s book is “Every dog will have his day.”
He towels, shaves, coiffs, powders and gels himself, slipping into something more comfortable than nudity just as the moonstone starts its throbbing. They can wait a moment or two. They can’t take flight without their Scribe. Jack has appointed crafty Criswell as their narrator, just because his outrageous rhythms ring true to jack’s experience. Coincidence and a rush of good luck for Dr. Greenbaum and MK0 or a stroke of destiny in the Oberon Cromley sense? Criswell always profits most by keeping an open mind. All the ghouls and the witches need to know how important Criswell is to their venture. Their ranklings will be smoothed by some snappy patter and they will hate themselves for succumbing as always to his facile charms.
With his shields up and his faces calibrated, Criswell wiggles a mirror by the window until it catches the moonlight and transmits morse messages to the MK0 agents who are almost certainly outside the gates, discreetly vigilant, ready to come busting in if things get too weird even for Criswell. The truth is, the more often they perform these rituals and experience these hallucinations in tandem, the weaker Criswell’s reptile certainties get and the more susceptible he feels to Jack’s delusions of cosmic grandeur. Who’s brainwashing who? That question could be asked of any relationship, Criswell supposes. He gets a flashback or seems to from the dark. Message acknowledged. It happens tonight.
Everytime they go deep, there’s a risk that his finely polished diamond mind will crack from the pressures of those depths. He’s the third scribe this year. Even more so than other members of the crew, the Scribes tend to go buggy. But Criswell has a futuristic streamlined mind. He can handle anything and everything. He’s looking out for number one and number two is no one. He’s not really taunting his comrades, after all, he realizes. He’s malingering at the threshold. This is all just a game, but he’s some kind of terrified. Maybe because there seem to be so MANY games in play tonight, under the surface and behind the curtains of things. So many balls in the air. And he, the most daring of jongleurs. A magician after all, unless he’s just a fool.
He gambles on grace, puts the mirror away, and dictates “the end” to his latest masterpiece. He lights a cigarette, gets in character and saunters towards the helix as if a cataclysm doesn’t hinge on his arrival, like devils may care but he couldn’t be bothered.
That’s the way a wizard walks.
He perfected it this morning.
To be continued…