The first short story I remember writing I had written when I was nine years old. I cannot now remember the title of it, but it was no doubt inspired by episodes of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which I watched on television with my "Granny", the late Mrs. Dorothy Martin. Of course the story was illustrated. I was, after all, only nine years old. However, there was also considerable text for a child of that age. This, of course, probably comes as no surprise to those of you who have come to recognize me as the Master of Verbosity.
This early effort was a tale of greed, murder and vengeance from beyond. A handsome but devilish rogue married a wealthy woman, secured his hold on her fortune in what was apparently record time, and upon their honeymoon at Niagara Falls he pushed her over the Falls. Later he was drawn back to the Falls, joined a tour group that travelled through the caves under the cascading water (presuming there are caves under the Falls!), was separated from his party and upon encountering the somewhat irritated spirit of his murdered wife was himself murdered by that vengeful spirit. Obviously my interest in the arcane and justice started at an early age.
The story was crude and simplistic, it is true, but again, remember, I was only nine years old at the time. Yet it revealed a good deal about my character and interests early on in my life, and whether or not I will ever be financially or critically successful as an author, I was and always will be a storyteller and writer. It was foreordained, I guess, raised as I was on a farm in a place called Mt. Nebo. Nebo, you see, or Nabu, was the Assyrio-Babylonian god of magick and writing, a mountain named after him indicating a place sacred to that god. Biblically, Mt. Nebo is the place from which Moses viewed the Promise Land that he himself would never live to enter. I only hope that my fate will be different than that of Moses.
The story you are about to read, Solomon King, was written when I was about thirty-five years of age. It is the first of a few stories written about a Thelemic magician, a prototype protagonist, in many ways like Adrian Castle. (You can find Castle elsewhere on this web site.) Over the years since I poured my soul into the old electric typewriter from which Solomon King sprang to life, I think my skill as a writer has improved. At least I hope it has. The crude and immature style with which this story was written is painfully obvious, however, I present it to you after only the most minimal editing for a reason. In the not too distant future you, my friend, will be able to judge for yourself if my skills as a writer have improved. But in the meantime, I hope you will find some enjoyment in the adventures of one of my first magical protagonists. He is rather different from the often annoying, apparently egotistical, frequently humorous and always competent Thelemic magician who has for some time now resided in my occipital womb, nagging to be born into the world. His time is nigh at hand. But today, while we wait for him to make his appearance, and before you can judge for yourself my writing skill at the age of fifty-two, let me introduce you to an old friend of mine ...
"Come to me, my child. Let me place my hands upon you so that by the power of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ you may be healed."
The young girl arose from her folding chair in the crowded, dimly lit auditorium and hesitantly approached the couple on stage. The crowd of hundreds watched on with wonder in their eyes. This man and woman, they believed, were most certainly emissaries of God. From their hands healing power flowed, curing the lame, the blind, those that the medical profession gave up on as incurable. These two, Samuel and Mina McGregor, travelled the country preaching 'God's word' and casting out the devils that brought sickness to God's faithful.
"A little closer, my child. Ah, yes. Yes. Come into the hands of the Lord."
The pretty little blonde shyly stepped closer and looked up into the eyes of the man before her.
"Don't be afraid, child." The woman by his side, his wife, smiled sweetly. Children always responded favourably to her when too shy to approach her husband.
McGregor gently took the young girl by the shoulder in his left hand and lightly placed his right hand on the crown of her head. He closed his sharp eyes and raised his face heavenward.
"God. God! Do you hear me? It is your servant in Christ. Please hear me, Lord. Here is a child, one of your loveliest children, but so possessed by a devil that she cannot speak, Lord. Please, God. Let your grace flow through me, your servant, and heal this girl. Heal this girl, Lord. Heal this girl!"
The people in the auditorium, who had seen many healed that day, sat silently, hardly breathing, waiting for the miracle of God. There came into that huge room a feeling of power that was overwhelming. Only the dullest sot would have been unable to feel it. Some people gasped at the almost electrical charge in the auditorium.
"My God, My God!" The healer's hand tightened on the girl's head. "I pray you ... please, please ... heal this girl. Heal this girl!" With those words McGregor opened his eyes and looked down at the girl's sweet face. His eyes cut into hers and pierced deeply, deeply into her very soul. The girl felt something she could not identify -- fear, but also something else -- something sensual that made her want to swoon. "Heal this girl, Lord! Heal her!" She was filled with a kind of invading energy. It thrilled her. It invigorated her. And then there was something else, something that she could not in the least explain or understand. It seemed to reach out and take her breath away -- to grasp her soul in an icy grip and then pull hard -- hard into the healer. Although she felt a rush of energy, a surge of vitality, it was almost as if, she thought fleetingly, she had paid a heavy price for the 'miracle' that was happening.
"Lord! Oh my God ... Sweet Jee-sus! I feel your power! I feel you working through me, God! This girl will be healed! She will speak again!" The skeletal-thin man took a deep breath, seeming to fill out his suit a little more than before, then he breathed out and smiled with intense satisfaction. Glancing at the audience before looking again upon the little girl before him, her face flushed, her eyes glowing, he said, "Speak, child! Praise the Lord!"
The girl moved her lips as if to speak, but there was not a sound.
"Praise the Lord!"
She tried again -- there was a rasp of air and then a faint sound.
"Praise the Lord," the healer repeated.
"P ... p ... pra ... praise ... the Lord," said the child in a shy, quiet little voice, as if by a Herculean effort.
"Hallelujah, child! Praise the Lord!"
"P ... praise the Lord," she repeated with more volume, more strength.
"Praise the Lord!"
"Praise the Lord!" She smiled wildly, tears in her large blue eyes. "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!"
"Hallelujah, little sister!" McGregor said, rising to his feet. He spread his long, thin arms out, snaky fingers seeming to stretch further than humanly possible, rays of light almost seeming to emanate from his fingertips. "Praise the Lord!"
His wife, the little girl and the entire assemblage joined in.
"Praise the Lord!"
"Hallelujah!" McGregor cried.
"Hallelujah!" everyone shouted.
And the little girl looked up at the unusually tall man with wonder and praise in her tear-filled eyes, worshipping him in her heart almost as if he were a god.
"Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! God bless you, Reverend McGregor. God bless you."
The surface of the pool was perfectly still. The water cool blue and absolutely clear. There was nothing for a long long while but perfect tranquility. Yet nothing lasts forever.
He felt the presence in the room and slowly began to rise to the surface. Up, up, up. His breathing became deeper, his chest under the white silk robe rising and falling at a more rapid pace than before when it did not seem to move with breath at all. The slender man's face remained perfectly calm as he opened his eyes.
"So sorry to interrupt, Solomonsan," she said to his back.
Solomon King stood up and turned towards her in one smooth graceful move. He was tall, slender and lithe. His shoulders were wide and every move he made was reminiscent of a jungle cat. Kyoko, his beautiful Japanese servant -- and some suspected more -- always looked upon King as if he were just that -- her king, her lord and master. There was something about this man with the brilliant green eyes, his black hair with the streak of white that ran from the centre of his forehead, waving a bit, to the back of his head, something that inspired awe and respect. He smiled and lightly ran his index finger over his neat black mustache.
"Kyoko, how long have you been with me?"
She smiled and blushed.
"Almost a year, Solomonsan."
"Then don't you think it is time for you to relax?"
Her smile widened and she bowed quickly and lightly.
King's smile also broadened. Kyoko was a precious jewel of a woman. She was so very old world and traditional in many respects, while at other times she would seem very modern indeed. They had planned to go out that evening and Kyoko would change from her modest kimono which exposed only her face, forearms and hands, to a white evening gown that left little to the imagination.
"Now, what is it that you wish to tell me?"
"Nurse Martin from the hospital ..."
"Ah, yes. I remember her. I hope her problem hasn't recurred?"
Oh no, Solomonsan. Everything is just fine with her. She call because of something else. She say she would like you to see her at the hospital tonight if you can make it."
"It would interfere with our evening, Kyoko."
She looked down for a moment, then back up again.
"It is most unfortunate, but Nurse Martin seems to think it is very important. There is someone very close to death."
"And she does not think anyone at the hospital can do anything about it?
"She is almost certain of it."
"Well then, I suppose I should not waste any time."
"I lay out your dark grey suit, Solomonsan. The one with the vest."
King touched Kyoko's cheek as he walked by, smiling and looking into her deep brown almond-shaped eyes.
"With the wine-red tie that you like so much?"
"Of course, Solomansan!" She laughed delightfully.
"Mr. King! I'm so glad you could come."
"It is my pleasure, Mrs. Martin. And how is Linda?"
"Just fine, Mr. King. Perfect, in fact. A little angel."
"No recurrence of the ... trouble?"
The slightly plump nurse's face clouded over briefly with the memory of a time not long ago when Linda, her adolescent daughter, was -- well -- not quite herself.
"No," she smiled brightly, "nothing at all. Thank you again, Mr. King. The psychiatrists cost me so much money, wasted so much of our time, and they only made matters much worse. I don't know what we would have done had Mary Lou not sent me to you."
"Yes, Mary Lou is a very nice person. But don't turn against psychiatrists just because this one time they could not help. In most cases they are the first stop and eventual cure. Linda was ... well ... a special case. Psychiatry is still a very young science, you must remember, and Linda's problem was a very old one. Science made a grave mistake in divorcing itself from magick and it will take a long time before the two are rejoined in the medical community. Possession is, in the eyes of science, nothing but pure bunk ... and of course in most cases they are right to think that. But sometimes ... well, Ann ... sometimes you and I both know that it is not pure bunk."
King looked swiftly around and then back at the nurse.
"Now, what is the problem here?"
"It's a patient of Dr. Mukoru's."
"Mukoru? Is he new?"
"Very. Dr. Kumo Mukoru is a brilliant man who left Africa when young to study medicine in Great Britain where he spent most of his life. Since then he has become quite a celebrity in medical circles. And he's so charming." Ann Martin leaned closer to King and said in a half-whisper, "Some of the nurses say he's a witchdoctor, but they don't mean it as an insult. Everyone likes him."
"Well then! Will you take me to this Dr. Mukoru and his patient? He won't mind my butting in, will he?"
She seemed to think about it for a moment. "I'm not sure. Dr. Mukoru is kind of funny about some things. Part of the reason the other nurses kid around by calling him a witchdoctor is because he seems so adamantly opposed to what he calls the 'superstitious magic tricks' of the African shamen he grew up around."
"Our good doctor does not believe in magick?"
"Very anti-occult. Could we tell him that you are a friend of the girl's family?"
"Do the parents seem to love their daughter?"
"Oh yes. Very much so."
"Then I am their friend and there is no lie. Certainly you may tell him that if it will make things go more smoothly."
"Then follow me, Mr. King!"
"Damn." The word coming from Dr. Mukoru seemed somehow sophisticated. "I just don't know what else to do. She responds to nothing. Everything we try fails. The girl is just wasting away in her coma and if we cannot do something to help her, and very soon, she will simply die."
The physician and the nurse beside him looked up as Nurse Martin spoke. Their eyes immediately focussed upon the tall, lean man who stood beside her.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, but this is a friend of the girl's family. Mr. Solomon King, Dr. Kumo Mukoru."
King held out his slender hand and the doctor took it in a firm, meaty grip. Mukoru was very dark-skinned and very big. He looked more like a defensive end than a world-renowned physician. Yet, after one got over the initial impression he made and looked into his black eyes, seeing all of the tender compassion in them, the role of healer and physician seemed to fit this man perfectly.
"Very good to meet you, Mr. King." Those black eyes looked deeply into King's. "I am sorry that we should meet under such unfortunate circumstances."
"Yes. It is most unfortunate." King looked towards the little girl in the hospital bed. "I heard you as we were coming in. How long has Amy been in this coma?" When King mentioned the patient's name Nurse Martin realized that she had not told him her name nor the name of the family whose friend he was supposed to be. At first she thought that King must also be a mind-reader, then she too glanced towards the doctor and noticed that he held the chart on which her name was naturally typed.
"It has been almost three weeks now. Normally we would not worry as much as we are ... some comas can last much longer ... however ... well, Mr. King, frankly I am very worried. I have tried to speak more positively to Amy's parents, but, well, Amy is dying very certainly and there seems to be nothing that we can do."
"What exactly is wrong with her?"
"Medically speaking ..."
"Please, doctor, could you tell me the problem in simple language. I am, of course, not a medical man." Nurse Martin looked at King curiously. She knew that he possessed a great deal of medical knowledge and that however Dr. Mukoru chose to explain the girl's condition King would have understood him. Her look of curiosity at King did not escape Mukoru. "Just tell me, doctor, what you feel is happening or has happened to this girl."
Mukoru studied King's face for a moment, looking shrewdly into his eyes, sizing him up.
"Mr. King, I would have to say then that I feel that in some way the life has been sucked out of this girl and that the small reserves of energy that are left are quickly waning."
King smiled warmly.
"Thank you very much, doctor. That is very helpful." He looked again towards the girl. "May I ...?"
"Certainly, Mr. King."
The three of them moved over to the bed while the other nurse left the room. In the bed, tubes running into her veins, laid what was once surely a very pretty little girl. Now, however, her cheeks were sunken, there were deep dark circles around her closed eyes, and her blonde hair was lank and lustreless. Mukoru looked down at the girl then up at Solomon King. King paid no attention to the doctor, every bit of his concentration focussed on the girl in the bed. His bright green eyes, Mukoru noted, seemed to change almost imperceptively, to refocus in some odd way as if to look a little more deeply than before. The pupils of his eyes widened as if to admit more light and Dr. Mukoru thought for a fleeting instant as if to take in more than was visible to most people -- then he shook off the superstitious nonsense that he had grown up with and learned to hate.
"There was no accident? No ... trauma of any kind?"
"Not according to the parents," the big African replied, "and there are no physical injuries to account for her condition."
King lightly touched her sunken cheek -- so tenderly, so lovingly. Mukoru found himself liking this slender man very much, then he looked again at those green eyes and felt something almost like superstitious dread and thus unreasonable hatred.
Solomon King's fingertips gently touched her eyelids.
His fingertips moved down to her cheek again, barely touching her parched lips.
"She was dumb? A mute?"
Dr. Mukoru's eyes hardened.
"You did not know?" King looked up at him but said nothing. "Yes. She could not speak. She had been taken to several specialists in the field over the years, according to her medical records, and each one pronounced her incurable. would you like the technical explanation?"
"It's not necessary, doctor." King looked back down at the little girl. "But she was cured, wasn't she"
Mukoru recognized that it was not a question, but a statement, and confirmed it with his silence.
"A miracle, doctor?"
"I do not believe in miracles and magic, Mr. King." The two men looked into each other's eyes. King's eyes were calm but penetrating. Mukoru's hard and angry.
"Dr. Mukoru, I understand, but frankly I think you do believe in miracles and magick, and I think you wish you did not ... that you try to convince yourself that there is a scientific and rational explanation for everything and that there is nothing scientific or rational about magick."
"Mr. King," there was a hard edge to Mukoru's voice, "who are you really? I know that you are no friend of this girl's family."
"I have never met her family, doctor, and this is the first time that I have laid eyes on Amy. But I assure you, I am a friend. And I would like to be your friend too, Dr. Mukoru."
There was something so very earnest in King's voice that the bitterness building up in the African seemed to melt away. After all, Mukoru had to admit, if only to himself, this man was right about him.
"So what do you think that you can do that medical science can't?"
King smiled. Mukoru was trying to be harsh and cynical, but he could sense that the man was responding favourably to him.
"Perhaps nothing, doctor. I have the highest regard for the medical sciences and would never begin to think of myself as more capable of dealing with a medical problem that I am sure you are more qualified to deal with. However ..." King glanced back towards the girl, "this may not be a medical problem."
"You had better explain yourself, Mr. King."
Nurse Martin, daring not to speak the whole time, looked from one man to the other, enthralled by the interplay between the two strong personalities.
Meanwhile King again touched the girl's face. His hand moved up to her forehead, touching the crown of her head. He flinched, then gently rested the palm of his slender but obviously strong hand on her head. The magician closed his eyes for a moment, a tiny shiver running up and down his spine.
"Mr. King ...?"
He removed his hand and vigorously rubbed the palm with his other hand.
"Pardon me? Oh! Yes. Quite. I said that Amy's problem might not be a medical one and now I am sure of it."
"Then what is her problem?" Mukoru's voice was getting that hard edge again.
"There is," King said cautiously, "a certain type of individual who ... who knows how to take from others what he needs to sustain his own life."
"I don't think I understand you, Mr. King. Are you talking about some kind of a thief?"
"A thief? Yes. That is exactly what I am talking about, Dr. Mukoru. A thief. A very special kind of thief. One who steals the most precious thing that anyone can possess."
"And that is?"
"Life, Dr. Mukoru. Lifeforce. The soul, if you will."
"This is beginning to sound like a paperback horror story." Mukoru frowned. "Next you will tell me that this poor unfortunate child is the victim of a vampire!"
King looked frankly into the doctor's eyes.
"That, doctor, is exactly what I am telling you."
"And the Lord said, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me', and the Lord healed the maimed and diseased."
The faithful, hundreds of mostly middle-class citizens, listened attentively to every word 'the messenger of the Lord' uttered, heedless of his biblical butchering and gross inconsistancies throughout. On their faces they wore their hope -- hope that they would be healed of all their woes, great and small, physical or otherwise -- hope that by becoming part of something that they imagined to be great they would not feel so small and helpless.
"Come now, my children, unto the hands of the Lord who works this day through my dear wife, Mina. Through her hands the power of Christ, the power of God, flows and by God's power alone may you be healed of the ills brought on by your sins and the minions of hell."
Mina, who stood beside her unnaturally tall, thin husband, also seemed unusually statuesque and slender. Her straight dark hair was artistically streaked with silver and she wore it long and unbound. Mina smiled brightly, invitingly, and stretched out her long, supple arms.
"In God's name," she said in a melodic voice that enchanted the listeners, "I beseech you to come and let me touch you, and through me may God's power and love flow unto you and heal you of whatever troubles you."
People began rising from their seats, their faces wearing expressions of adoration, drawn to the McGregors as metal filings to a magnet. One by one they reverently approached the stage and looked deeply into the large glinting eyes of the woman that they all believed to be a living saint. One by one she laid her hands on the faithful, prayed over them and told them that they were healed. In every instance the person touched by her proclaimed, so that all around them could hear as well as see, that they had indeed been healed -- and this was a thing that time and time again, by skeptical physicians, had been proven true. The McGregors did heal the people. True, most of those that came to them were ill only in the spirit or mind, and perhaps this did effect the body psychosomatically. It was also true that, as Jesus himself always said in the four Gospels, it was not the healer that healed but the people's belief in the healer that accomplished the 'miracle'. However, there were those who approached the McGregors, the minority of their followers to be sure, who actually were physically ill in some way and who unquestionably found healing through the McGregors. Some might argue that they had healed themselves, by the power of their own minds, by believing that the McGregors could heal them, but the evidence over the years seemed to indicate that there was some special agency at work, some power that did indeed come directly from Samuel and Mina McGregor to effect a reversal of illness and disease in others and begin a healing process that defied all common scientific explanation.
"Come, child. And what is your name?"
The young boy looked up into her large eyes wherein tiny sparks of light seemed to dance.
"My name is Stephen, ma'am."
"Stephen." The name seemed teased by her delicate pink tongue -- and then devoured by her naturally red lips. "The name of a saint. What is your problem, Stephen?"
"It's my leg. Didn't you notice when I walked up here? I'm a cripple. I was born with a defect that prevents me from walking without a limp and I can't run and play with the others." Tears began to form in his grey eyes. "I have no friends 'cause nobody wants a gimp hangin' around."
Mina smiled sweetly at the youth.
"I noticed no defect in you when you approached." The boy wiped away his tears and smiled up at her. "Doctors told you that this so-called defect was only curable by lots of expensive surgery?" The boy nodded. "And of course your parents cannot afford that surgery?"
She lightly patted the child's plump cheek.
"Doctors don't know everything, Stephen. Come a little closer so that I can lay my hand on you and look more deeply into your handsome eyes." He did as she had asked. Mina McGregor, now sitting in a chair, held the boy's right shoulder in her left hand and then rested her right hand upon the crown of his head. She looked deeply into his eyes.
"Stephen, do you trust me?" He nodded in the affirmative. "Do you wish me to touch your soul so that I may do that which I was born to do?" Again he nodded. She smiled -- but was there something wrong with that smile? "Then, Stephen, you will be healed. Praise the Lord."
"Praise the Lord," he repeated.
"God," the woman said, eyes closed, face turned heavenward, "I have here a child of yours who, for some sin he or his parents committed, you have sent into this world lame. Please, Lord, I ask you, I beg you to forgive the sinner so that his leg may heal and he may grow up to be a strong and sturdy man. God, heal this boy. Please, my Lord God Almighty, heal this boy. Heal this boy!"
Her hands tightened on the boy. She lowered her face, opened her eyes and gazed deeply into the boy's eyes again. Suddenly he felt as though he were going to faint. His head swam and he felt giddy and unsteady, but the woman held him up with her one cool hand -- that delicate, gentle looking hand that nonetheless held him in a vice-like grip of steel.
"Heal this boy, Lord. Heal him!"
Stephen was lost in those eyes which seemed to grow larger and larger. He felt a power, an alien force, permeate his being, touch his soul -- and then pull. The feeling was like that of being on a rollercoaster only the tugging sensation was not exactly at the pit of his stomach but in some indefinable part of his being. The boy felt short of breath for a long moment. There was a final tug as the woman before him, her hand tight and very warm now upon the crown of his head, inhaled deeply, deeply. Then suddenly he felt infused with life, his body generating and radiating heat. It was a terrific surge of energy and far more thrilling than any rollercoaster he had ever ridden. There were subtle changes in his body that he could actually feel. Bone was generated at a faster than normal rate and ligaments stretched. Stephen could actually feel his crippled leg grow, imperceptively to the observing eye, but growing at a tremendous rate of which the boy was quite aware.
The boy smiled hugely. Mina McGregor exhaled and also smiled, but in the boy's joy he did not notice the odd yet subtle twist to her smile. He gazed upon her almost glowing form and suddenly the whole world looked different to the boy. Even the woman before him looked different -- somehow slightly more fleshy, a little younger too perhaps.
Stephen tested his leg and found it perfect. He danced about in joy and laughed so that all in the auditorium looked on him with wonder. Of course the tiny microphone that Mrs. McGregor wore unobtrusively on her simple but elegant gown informed everyone there that the boy had entered the room crippled, and now he proved by his movements that he was no longer crippled.
"I could never do this!" he said excitedly. "And look! Look! I have no limp!" He walked about and indeed he walked perfectly, perhaps more perfectly than the average person. "You healed me, Mrs. McGregor! You healed me!"
"No, child," the tall woman said grandly. "You were healed by the power of God. Only God has the power to heal us -- to forgive us our sins."
"Praise the Lord," Reverend Samuel McGregor said.
"Praise the Lord," young Stephen said, almost dancing.
"Praise the Lord!" repeated Mina and the whole of the congregaton.
"Thank you, ma'am! Thank you! God bless you. I'll see you in my dreams. God bless you!"
"And God bless you too, Stephen." She smiled. She knew he would dream about her that night, and it would be the dream that all adolescent boys like best -- but unfortunately for Stephen it would be one of the last dreams he ever had.
"Vampires!" It was about the sixth time that Dr. Kumo Mukoru spat out the word in disgust. The first time, after Solomon King left the hospital room to make an important telephone call, Nurse Martin tried to rationalize the statement and calm the angry physician. That was a mistake. He only grew more angry to see that one of his nurses could accept such a silly, superstitious idea. Now she stood there, head down, afraid of angering Dr. Mukoru any more than she already had. After all, a nurse is at the mercy of the recommendations of the staff physicians, even now after the so-called sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies.
Solomon King reentered the room in which Amy lay in her coma.
"I'm sorry." His voice was calm as always but he took in the fuming anger of the big dark man. "I had to make an important telephone call. We need some information about Amy that is not in your files."
"Such as when was the last time she was visited by a vampire?" Mukoru was being angrily sarcastic.
"Precisely, Dr. Mukoru."
King's calm reply in such a matter-of-fact tone only further angered the physician.
"You wish me to believe that this girl," he gestured indicating Amy, "is the victim of a vampire?"
"I want you, doctor, to believe only what you choose to believe. I am telling you ... I am stating as a simple fact ... she is the victim of a vampire."
"Absurd! Insane!" Dr. Mukoru ran his hand through his short-cropped hair and then scratched his neat goatee. "If this child was attacked by a vampire, as you say, where are the marks on her neck? Why is there no loss of blood? How do you propose to explain that, Mr. King? Tell me ... how?"
Solomon King smiled in an understanding manner.
"Doctor, I know that you think me a superstitious barbarian or crank, but I assure you that I am not. I give you my full permission to check my credentials with whatever agency you choose to consult. I do not expect you to believe in nonsense that I myself do not believe in ... in fact, know to be untrue. There are no marks on her throat nor loss of blood because that is Hollywood nonsense based upon old myths and wives tales that were invented to explain that which the European peasant could not grasp." King looked sadly down at the girl in the bed. "However, doctor, there is no doubt in my mind that this girl is the victim of a vampire."
"Dr. Mukoru, if you search your mind I am sure you will recall other cases similar to Any's ... other times, both in your native Africa as well as right here in this city, perhaps not as dramatic but nonetheless essentially the same. The vampire does exist, doctor, and you may even know some of them."
"You are insane!"
"By your standards and from your point of view perhaps I am. I will not argue such relative terms with you as it is pointless. The fact of the matter is, however, that vampires do exist and this girl is dying as a result of an encounter with one of them."
"But it's so ... so ..."
"Barbaric? Yes, it is. Not the belief in, but the practice of vampirism. Please. Let me try to explain it to you." Mukoru stood there in the heat of anger, but he remained silent as if to say he would listen, reluctantly, but he would listen. "Good. Now doctor, we all know that there is some force in each and everyone of us that defies accurate description, that cannot be measured, analyzed or synthesized in any way. Surely you have encountered patients who should have died but somehow, by the power of their will alone, as it is usually said, fought their way back to health. The human spirit, some people say, is indomitable. And that is the key word ... 'spirit'. We can explain the various functions of the human mind and body, but in the end we must stand back in amazement for none of our knowledge can adequately explain any of it. The fact remains that there is this indefinable something that gives us life and may live on long after the body has perished. A something that gives us power when we need it most, defying and confounding our reason and logic. It generates an energy that can perform the miraculous. The something indefinable we have named the 'soul' among other things and the energy 'God's power' ... 'prana' in the Hindu system of philosophy, 'chi' to the Chinese, and so forth. It is the lifeforce that gives us our being and sustains us beyond the mere material substances that we consume to rebuild and regenerate physical body cells. Can you agree with me so far, doctor, that there is something special and indefinable that goes beyond present day science's ability to measure and explain?"
Dr. Mukoru thought for a moment then reluctantly agreed.
"But, Mr. King ... vampires?"
"You have already admitted your belief in the occult, doctor." Mukoru was about to vehemently protest, but was halted before speaking by King's raised hand. "The word 'occult' only means 'hidden' and implies that which we do not as yet fully understand and yet which still is. You have admitted to the 'soul', a word, by the way, that I myself do not enjoy using because of the way it has been misapplied over the centuries. Yet, it is only a word and we are at a loss with language to adequately describe and explain the occult side of nature, the hidden side of that which is around us and of which we are all a part.
"But vampires? Vampires!"
"You have met some, I am sure, doctor. Oh ... they are not obviously grotesque in appearance, not usually, and they can easily enchant those around them to see them as they would prefer to be seen. After all, we do not actually see with our eyes, we see with our minds, and the mind is very suggestible. No, doctor, the vampire may appear to be very much the same as anyone else in society, but he ... or she ... lacks the ability to generate the mysterious force, the 'prana', that most of us naturally and unconsciously generate ... or tap into ... thinking of it even less than we think about the beating of our heart or our breathing. To compensate for this inability to generate lifeforce, these people, often unconsciously and without any knowledge of their inability and their means of compensation, draw the lifeforce out of those around them. Usually imperfectly, only a little here and there. Not much. Not so much as anyone can really notice. Yet, doctor, have you not known people whom, after they have gone, have seemed to drain you in some way? Hasn't there ever been a time in your life during which you experienced a kind of weariness after meetings with certain people?"
"I was over-worked, tired, they were boring ... maybe they excited me with their ideas and my own excitement tired me out."
"Maybe, doctor, maybe, but if you look back on those times, think about those people, I am sure you will find that these rationalizations cannot explain your condition in every case. And remember that an interchange of energy between people is natural. Look to how full of energy and lifeforce children are and how low that energy seems to be in the elderly. Doctor, have you ever spent any time in nursing homes?" Mukoru replied that he had. "Haven't you noticed how the elderly, in an environment almost exclusively of their peers, people of their own age group, seem to worsen while those who are housed, say, near a playground or a school seem to be more chipper and alive? Children are natural powerhouses of energy ... lifeforce that flows out of them at a terrific rate ... while the older we become the less capable of generating that energy we become and naturally take to absorbing more of it from others than previously in our lives."
"So you are telling me that those people that leave one feeling drained ... some of them ... are vampires and draining me not of my blood but of my vital energy?"
"Yes, doctor. Precisely. It has always been said that 'The blood is the life', and so it became a symbol of this vital yet unmeasurable energy that is in all of us. The prana, for isntance, is identified with breath and yet is thought to circulate through our systems like blood. What I am telling you, Dr. Mukoru, is that there are people on this earth who are born with a deficiency. They cannot generate or tap into this source of vital energy that most of us can either generate or tap into naturally and they turn to vampirism to obtain that vital energy, that lifeforce. They soak it up as a sponge soaks up water. They inhale it as the cat is supposed to suck breath out of sleeping children. They drain off this force as some machines drain dynamos of electrical energy and if too much force is drained the dynamo will shut down. It will die, doctor. And that is what has happened, is happening here. Someone ... someone very unscrupulous who is aware of his or her vampirism ... has deliberately drained this little girl, once so full of vitality and youthful energy, a positive dynamo of energy, and she is now lingering only upon the slight power surge she would have experienced during the process but will most surely die when that is entirely exhausted."
Dr. Mukoru seemed no longer angry. The battle within him, between the experiences of his childhood in Africa and the knowledge that was drummed into him in school, was obvious on his face.
"It all seems to make sense, Mr. King, and certainly I am at a loss to explain her condition medically .. but vampires?"
"Psychic vampires, doctor. Not blood-sucking creatures of the night that must return to their coffins before dawn. Psychic vampires. They share some of the same characteristics that have been recorded in myth and folklore which are attributed to traditional vampires. They are usually, for instance, abnormally sensitive to sunlight ... a deficiency some say in the optic nerve due to their inability to generate energy, while others claim that the sensitivity is no deficiency at all, but a sign of optic sensitivity, a sign of their ability to perceive a greater range of light than most of us are capable of seeing. Sunlight does seem to tire them out and they seem to function better at night or in the dark. They walk by day and they will not burn up when touched by the rays of the sun, as the myth would have us believe ... but they do prefer darkness and dim light.
"Generally the vampire possesses distinguishing physical characteristics that gives him away, subtle to be sure, but nonetheless obvious to the trained eye. They are generally more finely cast than the average person and there is a hypnotic quality to their eyes."
"You could be describing yourself, Mr. King."
Solomon King smiled. "From your point of view, I agree with you, doctor, but if just once you can meet one of these creatures and know it for what it is you will see that there is a difference, subtle, but obvious, between them and myself." King was silent for a moment, then he said, "Would you like the opportunity, doctor?"
"The opportunity for what?" Mukoru was wary.
"The opportunity to meet a psychic vampire. To meet it and destroy it."
"You cannot be serious!"
"I am, doctor, very serious. For the sake of this girl, the creature must be found ... found and destroyed."
"By pounding a stake through its heart?"
"Nothing so crude," King chuckled. "There are other ways to do the job, doctor, and I would like you to be there when the vampire is found and stopped."
"Why? Why is it that you want me to be there? To prove yourself and these wild ideas to me?"
"In a way, doctor, yes. Not for myself, mind you, but for you." King's smile was warm and genuine and conveyed his sincerity. "There is a war going on within your mind, doctor, a contest, a battle between what you have grown up knowing to be true and what you have been taught to believe is true about the world around you. There was a time when magick was strong within you, but then when you were taught science you tried to cast aside magick ... and that was a great mistake. Between the two, science and magick, 'there is no difference'. The greatest mistake of modern day science has been to completely divorce itself from magick. Science is, after all, only the rational explanation and manipulation, mostly by artificial means, of magical principles."
"You seem to have quoted something when you spoke. What was it?" Dr. Mukoru asked.
"'There is no difference'? Ah, yes. I quoted The Book of the Law, technically called Liber AL vel Legis. That, my good doctor, is another matter and I will be glad to explain it to you at another time. Suffice it to say that it is the book I live by. I am," Solomon King admitted with calm pride, "a Thelemic Magician, and ... well ... you have already had to swallow a lot today. I will tell you more of myself and Thelema at another time.
"Will you come with me when I call?"
"To meet the vampire and destroy it?"
Mukoru thought for a moment. "If I can, Mr. King. If I am free at the time."
At that point Nurse Martin, who had slipped out while Dr. Mukoru's anger was reaching explosive proportions, reentered the room.
"Mr. King," the magician turned his green eyes upon her, "there is a call for you. You can take it on the 'phone in here."
"Thank you very much." He looked towards Dr. Mukoru. "It must be Kyoko. She is, you might say, my assistant." King walked over to the table beside Amy's bed and picked up the receiver. "Yes? Yes, Kyoko." He listened for a long moment. "I see. It is just as I suspected. Where are they now?" He listened again as Kyoko relayed the information he had earlier called her about and asked her to obtain. "Excellent. Most excellent. I am glad that they have not gotten away. How long have they been in the state, Kyoko?" Again he listened. "That long? Then I should be able to build my case with the good doctor here. Thank you very much, Kyoko. You are a treasure." After King replaced the receiver to its cradle he turned upon the physician. "Can you check and see if there have been any cases similar to Amy's in this state within the past three months?"
"Yes. Of course. With computers at our disposal such a thing is easily and quickly done." Mukoru turned to Nurse Martin but did not have to say a word.
"I'll get on it right away, doctor."
"Thank you." Mukoru turned back to Solomon King. "Now what?"
"Are you free tonight?"
"I suppose I can be. Why?"
"We are going to go vampire hunting!"
Nurse Martin had checked, by computer, to see if there were other cases in the city during the past three months of a mysterious coma and wasting illness like Amy's. There were. Dozens actually, and yet scattered all about the state so as not to raise a general alarm. Solomon King then asked her to check with hospitals in vairous other cities that he specifically named, city names given to him by Kyoko after her own investigation. Again other similar cases had been reported in those cities, but never enough to cause anyone to think that some form of disease was responsible. In each case it seemed like an isolated incident.
In each and every case the comatose patient died within seven days of being admitted to the hospital.
Amy had been hospitalized immediately -- five days ago.
"You have already identified the ... vampire?" It was difficult for Dr. Mukoru to use the word as if it were part of a rational sentence.
King turned a bit in the driver's seat of his Mercedes 450 SL and smiled at the physician then returned his gaze to the street before him.
"Perhaps." There was a pause. King avoided a typical city motorist who acted as if he were the only one with any right whatsoever to use the road. "In a fairly direct line ending with this city there have been reports of people, mostly children like Amy, falling into a coma in which they stay while wasting away until they die. Clearly it is a trail to follow."
"And what or who made that trail?"
"Why, the vampire of course!"
"Of course," Mukoru said dryly. "But how can you identify the vampire?"
"On that point I should make a correction." He glanced at the physician who raised his eyebrows. "We are not after a vampire. We are after two vampires who work as a team."
"This gets worse as we go along."
Solomon King chuckled.
"Worse? Better? More interesting; more challenging? Just relative terms, doctor. More complicated, surely. One psychic vampire of the calibre, cunning and power that I suspect is bad enough. Two, working as a team, could be very deadly indeed." Mukoru looked at the face of the self-proclaimed magician and noticed that the air of calm lightness had vanished. King's face had become very stern and serious with his last words and the doctor knew that there was real danger ahead for them. He no longer doubted that, although he still found it difficult to believe in vampires -- no matter how rationally King explained the matter.
After a period of silence, Dr. Mukoru asked, "Shouldn't we have some kind of apparatus or instruments or something with which to defeat these ... these people?"
Solomon King took his right hand off of the wheel and tapped the side of his head.
"We have the most powerful weapon there is, doctor. Guns and knives, magical spells, stakes and garlic, these are all supplemental. The real weapon, or tool if you prefer, is the human mind and the knowledge one accumulates and applies. If a person knows how to use his mind nothing else is ever needed ... usually."
"You make it sound so simple."
"It is simple, doctor. Very simple. And therein lies the trap for most people. The human brain seeks to complicate that which is essentially very simple ... or perhaps I should say the brain of the so-called 'civilized' person. All of this," he gestured as if to imply the entire range of subjects possible in life, especially the occult side of life, "is very simple to understand ... if approached from the right angle and with the right attitude. Have I not made sense of the subject of vampirism?" Dr. Mukoru agreed that he had. "And that is essentially the entire matter, simple as it sounds. However, and this is another part of that trap I mentioned, while the subject itself is basically very simple, there are subtleties which can confuse the average reasoning mind ... subtleties that cause people to jump to the wrong conclusions and begin complicating the essentially simple matter."
"I think, Mr. King, you missed your calling in life."
"You should have been a psychologist. Or maybe ..." but Mukoru did not finish his sentence.
King smiled widely.
"Or what? A 'new age teacher' like that actress or some of her friends ... the so-called 'trance channelers' ... telling people that you don't 'buy' these occult ideas, that you either accept them or you don't, while they themselves are selling it in so-called 'spiritual seminars' for three hundred to four hundred dollars a person per evening? A very unspiritual thing to be sure!"
"I didn't mean to offend you," Mukoru hurriedly said with some embarrassment.
"Oh, you haven't. I understand perfectly. And don't think I did not give the temptation a thought or two back in my less fortunate days ... and mind you, my present financial status is not the result of 'spiritual seminars' or anything of the sort. I also write. Fiction mostly. One can have a great deal of fun writing and reading fiction ... and a properly written story can also educate a person whether he seeks education or not.
"As for psychology, doctor, it may interest you to know that I was, for a time, a practicing certified psychoanalyst. I made quite a lot of money at my practice too, but I began to feel as if that was all that I was doing ... making money and practicing ... and relying exclusively upon the acceptable theories of psychology seemed to be of little help to my patients. I went into research but soon found that just as sterile. It wasn't until after that that I began to write seriously and concentrate completely upon my most loved science and art."
"You are referring to magic?"
"I am referring to magick .. yes, doctor." King pulled off of the city street and up to a booth. "Here we are!" He handed a five dollar bill to a big man at the booth. King noticed that under his jacket he wore a firearm in a shoulder holster.
"Where are we?" Mukoru asked as they pulled into the parking lot and King found a place to stable his car.
"Why it's show time, Dr. Mukoru! This is where we will find our vampires!"
Mukoru looked around.
"But this is an auditorium."
"Did you expect a graveyard, a forbidding decaying castle or at the very least a grey and dismal Victorian-style house?"
Solomon King looked at the black man's puzzled face and laughed.
"Why, I think you did!" Of course he could not detect a change in skin colour, but King knew that inwardly at least Mukoru was blushing. "I'm sorry, doctor. I did not mean to make fun of you. It is just that it has been so long since I've been with someone who doesn't take such things as this for granted. Your ... expectations ... well ... frankly, they amuse me. But I mean no offense."
"Thank you," Mukoru said with dry sarcasm as he stepped out of the car, "I'm happy I could amuse you." He looked about and noted the huge lighted sign advertising the appearance of two world-renown evangelists and spiritual healers. "Are you certain you have the right place?"
"Absolutely." King locked his car door behind him.
"And the right people?"
The magician gazed up at the sign advertising Samuel and Mina McGregor.
"Almost without a doubt."
"If I am wrong I will know immediately."
"And if you are right?"
"We shall both know that immediately as well!"
"And how," the doctor asked in his deep, gruff voice, "will I know? Does our vampire suddenly change into a bat and flee from the gaze of the great magician?"
King again laughed.
"I certainly hope not! Catching a bat without a net is just about impossible."
Mukoru could not understand how this 'magician' could be so flippant just before confronting a dangerous foe -- strike that -- two dangerous foes.
"By the way," King said, leaning into the doctor as they approached the entrance, "did you notice the man at the booth?"
"The gun hidden under his jacket?"
"Good!" King said with great pleasure. "You don't miss much, do you! Yes. I mean that exactly."
"What about it?"
"Well, Dr. Mukoru, as the old myths about vampires have it ... and as you will even see in the worst Christopher Lee Hammer films ... the vampire always has at least one mortal servant, a slave, to guard and protect him during the daylight hours when he is at rest in his coffin, more or less helpless."
"But you said that real vampires ... psychic vampires ... don't rest in coffins!"
"And they don't." He thought for a second. "Well, mostly they don't. I suppose there must be some who take the legends about their condition too seriously and actually try to live them out as much as possible. Afer all," he smiled, "vampires are people too! And they are subject to the same complexes and phobias, the same psychological misconceptions that the rest of us are susceptible to. No. Generally speaking they don't sleep in coffins, but they do seem to need long periods of deep sleep. And not only to act as guardians, they also employ normal mortals for ... how should I say it? ... for other, more intimate reasons."
They entered the auditorium and were asked to give a small donation at the door. The woman frowned at the doctor's five dollar bill, but took it. Solomon King held his twenty tightly for a moment with eyes closed, kissed the bill and handed it to the woman. She gave him a funny look as if he were some kind of a flake, but then shrugged thinking that he could not be any worse than most of the people that passed by her.
"They should get a little charge out of that twenty if they ever touch it."
Mukoru regarded the magician, wondering just what he meant, but then remembered what he had said outside regarding the 'mortal' employees of the vampire.
"Do you expect trouble?"
"From possibly armed ruffians?"
King gave it some thought. "Possibly." Then he smiled hugely at the doctor as they walked across to the next door leading into the auditorium proper. "That's one of the reasons I wanted a big strong fellow like you to come along!"
Dr. Mukoru grunted.
"You said that these fellows, these guards, were 'mortal'. Does that mean ...?"
"That the vampires are immortal? No. An unfortune choice of terms culled from myth to differentiate them from the vampire. In this universe, doctor, there is nothing supernatural or outside of nature. Anything in nature is natural ... whether we understand its nature or not ... and must abide by the laws of nature, laws that we do not as yet fully understand. Anything or anyone that is created or born must inevitably be destroyed or die. There is no escaping that. The psychic vampire, however, can extend his life beyond common limits and retain an appearance of youth even well into his sixties and seventies ... or older ... but he must sooner or later die of old age like the rest of us."
"There goes another myth!"
It was the first trace of humour King had noticed in the physician. He liked it.
"Yes. In a way. But there is some validation to the myth as well, don't forget."
They stepped into the auditorium, filled with people, the atmosphere charged as if with electricity.
Mukoru leaned over to the magician and whispered.
"You said that I would know one way or the other if what you have told me about these people is true or not. How will I know? You never answered my question, Mr. King."
Solomon King looked frankly at the doctor and smiled.
"You have been trying to ignore it all your life, Kumo .... to deny it." It was the first time the magician had been so informal with the physician. "However, the fact of the matter is, you are a sensitive."
King shrugged. "Words. Call it what you will. Trust me. You will soon know whether I am right about these people or mad as a hatter." Out of the corner of his jade-green eyes King spied the big burly man from the booth moving around the seated people -- moving in their direction. "Keep your wits about you, doctor. Have you ever played football?"
"Even better. That man," he motioned to the burly fellow with a nod of his head, "is the opponent."
"And what are you going to be doing?"
He smiled at the doctor with that absurd grin of his.
"I am going to get myself healed!"
With that he rose up from the seat he had taken with the physician and walked down the aisle to join the believers in their woeful yet hopeful slow procession up to the stage. Mukoru watched King, but glanced every now and then to check the progress of the armed guard. By the time King got to the end of the line in the front of the auditorium, the burly man had taken up a stationary position behind Mukoru at the end of the aisle and blocking the entrance. He stood his ground like a seasoned bouncer and the doctor was not sure he was ready for action if it was necessary. It had been a long time since his rugby days.
The line of people progressed and the hopeful rejoiced -- Praise the Lord! -- with each healing. King looked at all of the people around him and noted the wonder and tears of hope and praise in their eyes. It saddened him greatly to see these people -- to see their need, real or imagined -- and to know that they were being fleeced like so many witless sheep, duped into believing that the McGregors were sent by God to help them when in fact they were nothing but cattle to the vampires; slaves providing them with great material wealth for healing power that may indeed exist, for the psychic vampires can transmit as well as absorb energy, but which was usually only a very temporary cure at best.
Solomon King glanced down at a boy seated in the front row. His big grey eyes were looking up tearfully with wonder and amazement, fixed on the slender woman on the stage, adoring her without shame or embarrassment. King refocussed his flashing eyes and looked more closely at the boy.
Stephen. The name came to him in a nonchalant way, without fanfare, as was usually the case.
He saw the lifeforce radiating around the boy in a bright aura, but it was not his lifeforce. It would not last. The boy would not last. The most vital part of the boy had been drawn out of him and that which was left would soon fade until he too fell into a coma and ended up in a hospital bed like little Amy.
Until then Solomon King had been calm and indifferent. Now he felt a very hot flash of anger surge through him and he had to fight it. It would do no good to lose his head now and submit to anger. He had to remain calm and unshakable. He had to remain cold and indifferent. He had to approach this situation without 'the lust of result'.
"Sir. Sir?" It was the melodic voice of the woman on stage. "What can the Lord do for you?"
King tore his eyes away from the young boy and looked up at the woman. Instantly their eyes locked. Fear struck the glinting eyes of the woman and was immediately transmitted to the man standing by her side. There was now no doubt in the magician's mind. Unfortunately, he too was instantly recognized for what he was. They were powerful. Perceptive. Dangerous.
The woman sat there transfixed by King's steady gaze. There was a long moment of silence while McGregor stood his ground uncertain as to what should be done.
Dr. Mukoru suddenly forgot about the man behind him. Intently he watched the unfolding of a drama that enthralled him. There were the two people on the stage, man and woman, both unusually tall and slender, seeming relatively normal nonetheless, yet somehow subtly different from eveyrone else in the large room. And there was Solomon King standing tall and straight, looking quite professional and self-assured in his three-piece grey suit. Normal -- right? Perhaps to the people around him, but that is not all Dr. Mukoru saw. Childhood memories crowded his mind as he looked on at the event transpiring before his amazed eyes. All those things that he had felt and actually seen when he was a boy in Africa. How long had he suppressed those memories? And now -- now -- there they were again. More importantly, here they were happening all over again.
A pulsating light seemed to emanate from the three individuals on the stage, its intensity growing. Mukoru felt the light as a terrific energy. Although bright to his apparently extra keen eyes, while unseen to at least the vast majority of people in the audience and perhaps only slightly perceived by some, the light surrounding and interpenetrating the McGregors seemed somehow dark, filthy and disgusting. The light surrounding and emanating from Solomon King's body, however, was golden and brilliant -- like the rays of the sun. The physician could almost feel heat from the radiating light -- the golden energy he perceived.
And there was more.
As the three firmly held their ground, moving not an inch, speaking not a word, a battle seemed to be going on. The dark light pushed at the brilliant light emanating from King and his light pushed it back. Back and forth, the idea of a great strain upon both fields of energy somehow making itself known to the doctor. The battle of wills was waged. There was, all of a sudden, a bright flash between the two fields of energy like a terrific spark and the sound of crackling electricity. Mukoru looked around but apparently no one else noticed any of this and he was completely amazed. Looking back at the trio it was obvious to him that the contest of wills had ended. Light still seemed to surround them, but radiating only a few inches from their individual physical forms. Somehow the light around the couple seemed wounded, while King's aura was even brighter than before.
"You know who I am." King's voice was calm but in possession of a deadly tone. "You know what I am and why I have come."
Neither of the McGregors answered him. They merely held his look with hatefilled baleful eyes.
"The charade is ended now. Enough people have been harmed. I give you one last chance to retire and harm no one ever again."
There was a moment of silence. No one was within earshot of what was transpiring on the stage, so while the audience knew that something unusual was happening they had no idea what exactly it was.
Finally Samuel McGregor spoke -- his voice was sinister and chilling.
"We know who you are ... Mr. Solomon King. Your mind is as an open book to us. We know who you are and what you are. However, if you think that that is going to convince us to slink off somewhere and die you are very much mistaken. Go away now and leave us alone or we will devour your soul. We may allow you to live. It may amuse us to make you our slave. Yes. I would enjoy that. I would enjoy that very much, Mr. King."
Solomon King smiled.
"I cannot serve two masters, McGregor, and while I admit that you seem to be a master of your particular species, you are not the master to which I devote my life. My master is not easily influenced by one such as you."
"You speak of God?"
King shrugged and continued to smile.
"Call IT what you will. I prefer True Self or Holy Guardian Angel when I am feeling more inspired and artistic. Perhaps the Supraconscious Self or Mind may appeal to you more. It doesn't matter what you call IT, That is my master, the master you abandoned long ago, catering to ego at the expense of others."
"And what choice did we have?" McGregor was angry and not trying to hide it. "We were born this way, magician, and there's nothing that we can do about it."
"You are wrong. You may have been born the way you are but instead of seeking a cure ... and there is a cure ... you have sought to use your abnormality, to enhance it, to capitalize upon your disability in a way that is most unfair to others."
"Disability? Disability!" McGregor gave a short, sinister laugh, heedless of the many eyes watching. "We are superior to you and the rest of these sheep in every way. We are stronger, faster, smarter, with sharper senses and greater psychic awareness and ability than anyone you have likely met. We are superior to you in every way, magician ... charlatan."
King took a step forward and the couple on stage flinched.
"Are you, McGregor? Are you?"
The man behind Dr. Mukoru finally realized that there was trouble on the stage and slipping his hand under his jacket he proceeded to move quickly forward. Some long buried instinct in the physician awoke and took his attention away from the event at the front of the room. He noticed the movement of the burly man and without thinking rose quickly from his seat and darted into the aisle. His large body, angled just so, caught the burly man in the chest and knocked him back. As he fell into the laps of the spectators on the other side of the aisle, his hand flew out and the automatic pistol that he had had a hold of flew out of his fingers and skid down the aisle much to the surprise of the people who could see it.
"Dreadfuly sorry," Mukoru said.
For a second King's attention went from the couple before him to the little show that was being put on in the back of the auditorium. That was a mistake. When he turned his gaze back to the stage the McGregors were gone. With a speed and grace unnatural for the average person they crossed the huge floor space of the stage and were now out of sight.
"Damn!" King hissed.
Dr. Mukoru, as he walked down the aisle to join Solomon King, casually, as if he did not even see it, kicked the automatic far under the spectators' seats.
"Aren't we going after them?"
King looked towards the stage then back at Mukoru. "We?" he smiled.
Mukoru flashed a wide grin at the magician.
"You were right. About everything, apparently. I saw what you had expected me to see."
"Very good. Excellent." King glanced towards the back and noticed that the burly man was being helped out of his awkward position by two more big men. "But I think we had better make a hasty exit." They started to leave via the back stage entrance, but before King took more than a few steps on the stage he suddenly halted as if remembering something, told Mukoru to go on without him -- Mukoru, of course stood his ground and waited for the magician -- then he stepped off the stage and approached the little boy with the grey eyes.
"Stephen." The boy was startled when the stranger called him by name.
"Take my hand." The boy was uncertain. King glanced up and noticed the three men walking swiftly down the aisle. "Go ahead. I won't hurt you, son. Take my hand." The boy placed his hand in King's. "Both of them." He put his other hand in the magician's much larger hand, then King covered the small appendages with his other hand and looked deeply into the boy's eyes. "This belongs to you, Stephen. It is very precious and you should be more careful with it. You will understand when I return it to you and you will also understand the danger you just escaped and something of those who placed you in that mortal danger." There was a silent moment. King concentrated completely upon the boy, looking very deeply into his eyes, ignoring the three men hurridly approaching him.
Dr. Mukoru was becoming anxious and about to descend the stage to help defend the magician against the three ruffians, then his sensitive mind saw something that so filled him with awe that he could not move. The auric field around the magician again made a definite impression upon his mind, the light seeming to surround him flaring up even more brilliantly than before. To his sensitive sight it was as if the entire room were filled with an intense white light -- an almost blinding light -- a light which only lasted for a brief instant and then seemed to rush into the boy, leaving only the golden aura around King which his body then seemed to absorb.
The boy smiled with bright health and happiness. Impulsively he took his hands out of King's and hugged him with all of his strength -- considerable strength at that moment! The magician felt almost crushed in the quick embrace, but even the pain brought him pleasure as it assured him that this boy would live and be healthier and wiser than ever before.
"Remember what you've learned this day, Stephen."
"I will, sir."
The three men were upon King now. One grabbed his left arm while the other grabbed his right. Before the burly man could strike him so as to make dragging him outside easier, Mukoru was on him. The burly man had raised his meaty fist to strike the slender man with the streak of white in his hair and then suddenly found his arm apparently paralyzed in mid-air. He looked up at it and saw instead the big black grinning face of Kumo Mukoru. The burly man's fist was held in the large hand of the doctor as if in a vice of cast iron. "I hope this doesn't hurt my hand," Mukoru said, raising his own clenched fist, and that was the last thing that the burly man remembered for a long time.
Turning to be of further assistance to Solomon King he was halted in his tracks by a most amazing display he could not even afterwards quite put into a sequential series of movements. The overall impression was of calm flowing upon King's part, while suddenly one big man was no longer holding his right arm but instead sliding up the aisle on his backside to eventually come to a stop and sit there with the most laughably dazed expression on his face. At the same time the fellow on King's left arm was suddenly propelled towards the stage which he then bounced off of as if it were made of rubber. He too ended up in a sitting position with a semi-conscious confused look on his ugly face.
King gazed down at the fallen men and then smiled up at Mukoru.
"We make a hell of a good team, Kumo!" He glanced around at the surprised audience. "But I think we have overstayed our welcome."
Dr. Mukoru followed him back up to the stage and before they walked past the curtains in the back and exited through the stage door Solomon King turned and addressed the audience with a smile on his face.
"Show's over, folks. I'd demand my money back if I were you. Trust me, next time go see a good movie instead. It will cost you a lot less!"
Back in the Mercedes Mukoru breathed a sign of relief.
"At least we are out of that!"
"Don't count your blessings too soon, doctor."
Mukoru looked to where King indicated as the engine roared into life. Two more men, drawing pistols from under their coats, were coming out of the front of the building and heading their way. To their left, to block the entrance and exit, a car and a van moved, driven by two more hirelings who owed their allegience to the McGregors.
"You told me that vampires usually have a servant." Mukoru looked around again. "I count a total of seven so far."
"Obviously," King replied, shifting gears, "the McGregors are not as confident in themselves as they would like me to believe."
"Well what the hell are we going to do?"
King did not take the time to look at the big man. He was too busy planning his maneuver. "Relax, doctor. These men are not the problem."
One of the men who was not the problem fired his weapon three times -- one bullet glancing off of the roof directly above their heads.
"Damn! That'll cost me a pretty penny!"
King rammed the car into second and peeled out of the parking stall. He shifted again and the car thrust forward with more power.
"Do you have a gun?"
"Doctor! What about your Hippocratic oath?" The two men from the auditorium dashed out with guns raised. King drove straight at them then swerved at the last possible moment, just barely hitting them with the rear quarter panel of the car. They were hurled up and over a parked car. Badly damaged but alive. "That'll teach them for shooting at us!" King downshifted. "We can't go around shooting people, doctor. We are not detectives or spies and this is not a James Bond movie." But it certainly seemed like one to Mukoru! "You are a doctor and I am ... well ... the authorities might take a dim view of matters when I explain that I am a magician chasing two vampires that I intend to dispose of."
"But there are men out there with guns shooting at us!"
"And we walked into a religious service and disturbed it. There are hundreds of witnesses who would need little urging to testify that we somehow frightened the McGregors, perhaps with a death threat ... not very far from the truth, actually. The McGregors, don't forget, have a reputation too, and they represent religion, or so most people think, and a big black African that the nurses call a witchdoctor and a Thelemic Magician at this point in the game who goes against such people as the McGregors could easily end up either in jail or the funny farm."
"Oh." King glanced at Mukoru. "Sorry. I guess that just sort of slipped out." King shifted gears again and the automobile surged forward. "Hold on!"
There stood in front of the car and van blocking both the entrance and exit on both sides of the flimsy booth two men with arms extended and pistols in their hands. They did not stand there long. A couple of wild shots were fired, missing the car entirely, one of which hit the tall lighted sign that announced the McGregors, darkening it in a shower of sparks, and then the two men leapt out of the way.
"We'll be killed!"
"Only if we take the righthand or lefthand path, doctor." The Mercedes crashed through the booth in between the car and the van and continued on, swerving wildly for a moment as King turned to take the highway back the way they had come. Solomon King gave Mukoru, who sat bolt-upright in his seat, a quick smile. "I've always tended towards the Middle Path myself, doctor, and stayed away from the extremes." The magician decreased his speed so that he was just within the limit -- it would not do to attract the attention of the police now -- then he glanced down at the hood of his car. "I bet that just about ruined the paint job."
After a while of driving in silence, Dr. Mukoru turned his attention back to the magician at the wheel.
"Well, now what? Back to the hospital?"
"And do what? Amy is dying, doctor. If she follows the patterns of the others before her she's only got about a day left to live ... maybe less. We have to keep going. We must put a stop to the McGregors right here and now."
"But they are gone, King. Face it! Gone!"
Solomon King was grinning. "Gone but not forgotten." He glanced at the mountainous doctor. "Kyoko, my assistant, remember? She told me over the telephone where they were staying while in town. She is a very efficient lady. As a matter of fact," King began to slow down, craning his neck to the left, "I think I see her car now. Yes. That's Kyoko's car. She must be somewhere nearby and that ..." at the end of an ill-kept road there was just visible in the darkness of night the silhouette of a house, "that must be where they have gone."
Mukoru could only make out the shape of the house but it was noting that the Hollywood films had led him to expect. This was no rambling and sinister gothic mansion, complete with secret passages and a dungeon. The house was very modern and streamlined. Mukoru felt certain that there would be plenty of glass and chromium -- plenty of windows although he was equally certain curtains would be drawn most of the time.
"They are just renting it during the duration of their stay in our fair city, doctor. I'm sure they would prefer an old Victorian mansion."
Dr. Mukoru gave him a look as if to sarcastically reply Very funny, Mr. Solomon Pull-the-rabbit-out-of-the-hat King, very funny.
The magician turned the headlights off and coasted down the rough road a while and then pulled off to the side, behind some bushes, next to Kyoko's car, visible from that direction but not from the house.
"That is Kyoko's car." He peered through the windshield, straining to pierce the darkness and search the vicinity. "But where's my little Japanese pearl of great price?"
Kyoko was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly King jerked straight in his seat, a look of sheer terror on his face.
"What is it? What's wrong, King?"
"Kyoko," the magician hissed. "She's calling me. She's in danger."
"I don't hear anything! Are you sure?"
"You are listening with your ears. Listen with your mind, doctor. It is with her mind that she is calling." King listened for a second. "Not calling ... screaming! Come on, doctor, we haven't a moment to lose!"
Solomon King was out of the car and heading for the house so fast that he was halfway there before Mukoru knew what was happening. Quickly the physician jumped out of the Mercedes and dashed after King, trying to catch up to him.
Without a moment's hesitation King hurled himself at the front door and burst into the house. He stood there for a moment fixed by the scene before him. In a moment Mukoru stood behind him, gasping for air, startled by what he saw.
Kyoko, the doctor assumed that it must be she, was tied to a chair and over her stood the McGregors. No. Not the McGregors he had seen in the auditorium, and yet he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that these were the same two people. They were still tall and thin, unnaturally so, but when King burst through the door they turned towards them and the faces that the two men looked upon were hardly human. Ghastly white with bulging red-glowing eyes and very sharp, pointed teeth such as those Mukoru once noticed when a wandering cannibal passed through his village.
Mukoru was horrified.
Around them pulsated a great energy and it was obvious that they were draining the lovely young woman of her vital lifeforce -- a lifeforce so very strong that they found an almost infinite store of it impossible to quickly drain. That is what had kept them long enough for King to get there. They did not expect the woman to be such a tremendous source of energy and they were lost in their vampirism, becoming intoxicated on Kyoko's lifeforce.
"They're hideous!" the doctor gasped.
"They are vampires, doctor, and you are seeing a reflection of their minds and souls. Look at them and see how hideous they are, how inhuman they have become."
"King!" It was the male that spoke. His voice had an ugly hissing quality to it. "Stay where you are." His glowing eyes commanded stillness. "First we will drain the last particle of life out of your woman and then we will turn to you and the doctor you have dragged into your foolish crusade. We are superior to you, magician, and to use force against us is useless."
McGregor turned again towards Kyoko and proceeded to siphon off her lifeforce.
Without turning his attention away from the woman he said to his companion, "Take the magician, my dear. Tear him to pieces. Bring him to the very brink of death, and then we will absorb all that he is and leave nothing behind but the empty husk of his body." Mina McGregor hesitated. She was unwilling to leave the girl, such a vital source of energy, but her consort screamed, "Go! Do what I say!" and she hesitated no longer.
Screaming like a banshee, her hair streaming wildly behind her, her long slender fingers stretching forth, nails like talons, the female vampire leaped towards the men. Mukoru was in a panic. He found that he could not move a muscle. McGregor's command had had a devastating effect upon him. At first he thought King had been transfixed by the same command, perhaps, he thought later, he was for a time, but if so he broke the spell because just when the vampire was about to sink her talons into his throat, King moved. He grasped her slender wrists in each of his hands and held her claws away from his throat and face. She was thin and a woman, but her strength was incredible. She was by her nature stronger than the average human being, but after absorbing so much of Kyoko's energy she was stronger still. Much too much for the magician to handle with physical strength alone. This was, after all, not some comic book story where the hero is always stronger than the villian. This was all too real.
The magician and the vampire struggled for a time, she trying to reach his throat with either clawed hands or demonically sharp teeth, while he did his best to not only hold her at bay, but protect his more sensitive areas from her flailing feet. All the time Dr. Mukoru watched on in frustrated fear as he could not move even his little finger.
For a moment it looked as though the female vampire would not only rip out King's throat, but actually bite fiercely into his face -- his eyes -- then he managed, with great effort, to push her back and away from him. It was then that she began to glow with that eerie light that indicated the beginning of the process of absorbing an individual's lifeforce. King was taken by surprise. His anger and fear had given her entry, had opened a way through his defences, and the creature was invading his being, digging down deep and laying her psychic hooks into his soul.
The vampire laughed wildly as the magician weakened and began to falter.
"I have you now, human! You are mine! Did not my husband tell you that we are superior! You should have heeded his warning and left us alone! You should have listened!"
Solomon King fell to one knee and her fingers touched his throat. Sharp nails began to draw blood. Her hideously contorted face was so close to his that he felt her fetid breath and the drool as it fell from her twisted lips.
Mukoru stood helpless. Every muscle of his great body was strained against the spell put upon it. He was soaked in perspiration from the effort of trying to move. He had no idea that the spell was like a Chinese bamboo finger trap -- the harder one struggled against it, the more securely it held. Dr. Mukoru, who had long avoided occult subjects, was ignorant about what was going on and had no idea that if he could but relax, the spell cast on him would be broken and he would be free to act. And so he stood as a statue -- a statue that could but helplessly look on while a man he had grown to like and respect and his lovely lady friend were destroyed in ways he never thought possible.
"Stupid mortal! Stupid, stupid mortal!" The creature's clawed hands were getting a better hold on King's throat. His strength was nearly gone and it would not be long before he was completely within her power. Then he began to think more clearly. His thoughts touched upon Mukoru and he cursed him for not realizing that it was his own struggle against the spell that held him fast. Then King realized that he too was making the very same mistake. He was engaged in a hopeless physical struggle when he should be doing just the opposite thing. He was hating when he should be loving!
He knew better and yet here he was hating and thinking of the McGregors as an absolute evil. There is, on this material and relative plane, no such thing as an absolute. There is no absolute good or evil. They are both relative to one's point of view. To the McGregors, so long lost to their vampireism, he was the evil that threatened their existence! They were sick creatures -- sick and lost in the darkness of ignorance. Not absolutely evil. Not devils, demons or minions of hell. They were just very sick people, driven mad by their sickness. How could he hate those who were sick, who were -- insane -- and no longer knew any better? How could he hate such unfortunate creatures as these who had lost all reason, no longer knew love, no longer cherished life in all of its forms? Such sad creatures these were. Yet, while Solomon King empathized with them, he would not pity them, for that would be an insult to their essential divinity, however lost It seemed.
The magician remembered the words of The Book of the Law, "compassion is the vice of kings", meaning that if there is one thing that could be considered a 'vice' in a superior or kingly man it was his capacity to be compassionate, to love even his enemies, and that was no vice at all, not in the normal sense of the word.
King thought about what his earthly master, Therion, would have done. Of course! What else? Fiction, he told Dr. Mukoru, could be instructive, and Solomon King found himself remembering the incident in a novel entitled Moonchild where the master magician Simon Iff encountered a 'watcher'.
Unexpectedly, Solomon King relaxed in the grip of the vampire. She knew that it was not because he was finally exhausted and she was taken aback by his sudden surrender.
King looked up at the creature who hardly appeared human, the hate absolutely exorcised from him, the anger replaced by compassion, and with the utmost sincerity he said, "I love you."
The creature did not know what to make of this, then he repeated himself.
"I love you."
At the same moment, Kyoko, being drained of the last reserves of her lifeforce, in one heroic gesture surrendered what was left of her vital energy and the sudden surge was too much for the male vampire to take. He was literally and violently thrown back against the wall and away from the woman, cracking the plaster with the impact.
Mina turned to look in his direction, and it was then that King let go of her wrists entirely and instead of backing away from her he embraced the vampire in his arms. Mukoru, still locked in his spell, was appalled. Horrified. First the lovely Japanese woman apparently gave up the ghost and now King was embracing the hideous creature as if he were its lover!
Mina's arms were trapped in his embrace. Her face was very close to King's and she tried to pull away from him. He smiled and looked on her with sincere love, honest compassion, the compassion one would have for a suffering sister. Love under will. "I love you." The words seemed to sting her like a cat-o-nine-tails. She squirmed wildly to get out of his embrace but could not escape. Suddenly King's arms seemed to be made of steel cables and there was again the sudden surge of energy which appeared as light to the paralyzed doctor.
"Leave me alone, magician! Leave me alone!"
"I can't, dear sister. I was wrong. I should never have hated you. I was lost in the darkness of ignorance for a time, but I am in the light again. You are ill and I wish to help you ... to heal you. I'm sorry for not understanding you. I made a mistake. I ... I..."
"DON'T SAY IT AGAIN!!!"
"I love you."
She screamed as if suffering the most horrendous torture. The field of radiating energy around them increased, the light burned brightly, flared up and then so quickly that it startled Mukoru, that light, that energy, seemed to be sucked into Solomon King. He swelled with the force absorbed.
At the same moment the female vampire fell limp in his arms. He let her body gently to the floor and in the moment of stillness that then existed the doctor noticed that Mina McGregor looked perfectly human, even more than when he had first seen her in the auditorium, and perfectly at peace as well.
King gazed down upon the lifeless form on the floor with sincere sadness in his eyes. Mukoru managed to make a slight sound and King remembered him. Without looking up, his eyes still fixed on the body of Mina McGregor, King quietly said, "Relax, doctor. Relax and the spell you are under will be broken." It took a while but Dr. Mukoru began to relax and as he did, he felt the bonds of the spell loosening.
"You ... you killed her." The magician looked up to see the vampire standing nearby staring down at the lifeless woman that was his wife, his only companion in a very lonely life. He was utterly alone now, and even one who does not understand love cannot stand to be so completely alone in life as McGregor now considered himself to be. "You killed her."
Solomon King turned his gaze upon the vampire with sincere fraternal compassion.
"No. I loved her."
"Love can kill?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes, it can. But McGregor, there is no such thing as death. Too long and too hard have you clung to this life. It is fitting to live in this state of consciousness, on this plane of being, for as long as you can, but never at the expense of the lives of others. Death? It is only a transition from one form of life to another.
McGregor, a creature of terror hardly resembling a human being, looked upon the magician's face with the most pitiful expression imaginable. He was desolate.
"She is gone."
"From here? Yes. But you can join her, McGregor. And perhaps the next time," King shrugged, "who knows? Perhaps the next time around things will be different for the two of you."
"I want to go where she went." McGregor, a piteous monster, looked into Solomon King's jade eyes. "I want to be with her. I can't stand to be alone in this world."
"Then come to me, my brother. Let me embrace you."
On weak, wooden legs Samuel McGregor approached Solomon King. The man took the creature in his arms and embraced him as a brother. "I love you, brother. And I release you from your mortal prison. Go now. Join the only person in life you ever came near to loving." Suddenly that light began to glow around them and quickly brighten. The vampire stiffened. There was a flash. The lifeforce stored in the vampire was tremendous but in a brief moment it was absorbed by Solomon King.
Samuel McGregor's went limp and King gently laid his body, transformed as the body of his wife, on the floor next to the woman's corpse.
King was, after a few moments, aware of Dr. Mukoru's presence beside him. He had finally relaxed enough to break the spell.
"I'm sorry that I could not ..."
"There is no need to apologize, Kumo. You knew no better."
"But your friend. Kyoko."
The magician quickly walked over to the chair and the bound figure of the woman. His fingers felt for a pulse in her neck. Nothing. Nothing! Wait... Yes. There it was. Faint ... very faint. But there was a pulse!
"Remember the boy, doctor?"
Yes. You mean ...?"
But King had no time to answer. That which had been taken from the woman had been absorbed by the magician. It was important for him, not only the most efficient means of defeating the vampires, that he absorb that lifeforce, for if he had just killed the vampires by normal means that energy would have been freed and it would have immediately returned to its natural and ultimate source -- and that was not the persona of Kyoko!
With a strength the doctor did not suspect King possessed, the slender man literally broke the strong nylon ropes that bound the woman. Perhaps, he thought at a later date, he was able to do so because of all the energy he had absorbed from the McGregors. However he managed it, the magician soon had the woman unbound so that her blood could flow more freely. Then he knelt on the foor before her and took her hands in his. Intently he focussed upon her lovely still face and at her closed eyes. Once more Mukoru began to see and feel the energy emanating from Solomon King. The force was so great and he was so near to the man and woman that his nose began to bleed as if he were in a pressurized room. He felt dizzy and had to step back away from them.
"Kyoko," King said gently. "Kyoko. Come back to me. Come back, my precious pearl. Don't leave me now. You have much yet to accomplish in this incarnation and you cannot leave now. Your act was very brave and very noble, to give your life for mine, but you must not leave this plane of consciousness now." The magician's face showed great concern and even fear as the energy radiated from him and seemed to almost be force-fed into the limp figure of the woman in the chair. "Kyoko ... Kyoko?"
Her pulse grew weaker.
She was going to ...
Kyoko jerked as if touched by an electrical current. Her chest heaved once, twice, and then she began to breathe deeply, regularly.
"I not try to save your careless life," she said just above a whisper, her eyes hardly opened. "I just want to kick ass."
Solomon King laughed as her eyes opened wider, and as the doctor laughed along with him he found, much to his amazement, tears in his eyes.
"Look here, you Nipponese nymph," King laughed, "get smart with me and I'll turn you over my knee and spank your pretty little bottom."
"Oh yeah," she replied with little imagination but bundles of cuteness. "You and what army?"
And her smile had a light of its own.
No one said a word.
Around the hospital bed in which Amy laid on the verge of death stood Dr. Kumo Mukoru, Nurse Ann Martin, lovely Kyoko, and of course Solomon King.
"I can't help those who have already died," he said sadly, "but I can still do something ... I hope ... for Amy."
Solomon King took the girl's hands in his. So small. So soft. So pale and so very very cold. His handsome face was full of compassion for this innocent child as he looked upon her deathly white face, her heart barely beating in her sunken chest.
"Amy," the magician whispered. "I have what was stolen from you. I was very careful not to lose it so that I could bring it back to you. Do you hear me, Amy? If you want, if you really want to, you can come back to us. You should come back to us. You must come back to us. You must return to your parents, Amy. They miss you and they love you."
"Amy?" The energy began to emanate from the magician and to everyone in the room except Nurse Martin it was visible as a brilliant light. Yet even the nurse felt the force of that energy and it thrilled her to the marrow.
"Come back, Amy. Come back stronger, healthier and wiser than before."
The little girl's eyelids flickered. Eyelashes fluttered. Then slowly, a little painfully, her eyes opened until finally, her vision slightly blurred, she looked upon the people around her bed with those big blue eyes.
"W ... who are you? Where's my mommy and daddy?"
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.
Nurse Martin, out of habit, replied, "They are outside, honey. I'll get them for you. Everything is going to be just fine now." She glanced at the magician. "Thanks to Mr. Solomon King here."
"And everyone else you see here, Amy," King added.
The child looked up into the magician's green eyes and as her parents entered the room she said, "I love you, Mr. King."
King, Mukoru and Kyoko stood together in the hospital waiting room. After a moment a nurse came over, handed the doctor a clipboard, he studied it, smiled -- it was Amy's chart and everything was indeed just fine -- signed it and handed it back to the nurse who then left the three alone.
"Well, Dr. Mukoru ..."
"Please, Solomon, I think after the rollercoaster ride we've all just been on we should be on a first name basis."
"You are absolutely right, Kumo." The three of them smiled. There sure seemed to be a lot of smiling going on around this man, Mukoru observed.
"So tell me, Solomon, what is this Thelema you mentioned and this Book of the Law and who the hell is Therion?"
"When did you hear that name?" King was sure he had never uttered it.
Dr. Mukoru then realized that King had not mentioned it.
"I don't know ... actually ... but I do indeed want to know more about him and everything else!"
"No longer anti-occult?"
"Let's just say," Kumo replied, "that my mind is now a little more open to the subject."
"Then we have some interesting conversations ahead of us."
"I'm looking forward to it!"
"Well then, doctor," the magician put his arm around the physician's broad shoulders and they began to walk out of the waiting room with Kyoko close on their heels, her face beaming pleasure. "Thelema is the Greek word for 'Will', implying 'purpose for existing', and one of the most important phrases in Thelema; the philosophy of Thelema, is 'Do what thou wilt'. Now this does not mean 'do as you bloody well please,' but rather it is the strictest of all possible bonds that nevertheless leads to the only freedom possible in existence. It simply means to find your True Will, your purpose for existing, and to accomplish that Will to the best of your ability."
"I see," the doctor said thoughtfully as they moved down the hall.
"Now the phrase 'Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law' ... that's the full Thelemic salutation, by the way ... is completed by its companion phrase, 'Love is the law, love under will'."
"And this Therion you spoke of ...?"
Solomon King laughed.
"Have you ever read the Revelation of John the Divine at the end of the New Testament?" Mukoru nodded as if to say 'of course'. "Well, my brother, almost everyone who has tried to translate that mysterious book has gotten it all wrong. And the infamous alleged arch-fiend in that book, the Beast, is anything but. Remember ... 'Let him who has wisdom and understanding count the number of the beast for it is the number of a man', not the devil or anything like that ..."
"And did you know that the Greek prefix 'anti' also means 'in behalf of', 'in place of' or even 'like' and not simply 'opposed to'?"
"As a matter of fact, now that you jog my memory, yes, and it certainly sheds new light on the term 'antichrist' ... but I've been so conditioned to think of it in only that one way I'd forgotten!"
"Well ... we certainly do have a lot to talk about!"
And they did, all night, with Kyoko eventually falling asleep all curled up like a kitten on a couch.