It was the end of the Eighties, what seems to me now like a lifetime ago, and I had written Solomon King. Although now I look upon King as being just a little two-dimensional, I liked my fictional, idealized Thelemic magician and I wanted to involve him in more than a single adventure. And so, If Looks Could Kill came to mind. What if, I thought, looks could kill? Of course some time after writing and registering the copyright I discovered that the title I had chosen seems to be a popular one for books, short stories and even movies. However, I still like the title and I'm sticking with it.
I promise even more interesting, multi-dimensional characters in the future, but if you will, sit back and enjoy this second adventure of Solomon King and his assistant, his beautiful paramour and priestess, Kyoko, as they discover that the eyes are not only the windows to the soul, but in some cases lethal weapons.
Henry Massey did not appear to be a very extraordinary man as he drove down Interstate 66. He was bald and paunchy, yet his suit, which fit him perfectly, had obviously been tailor-made to conform to his rather ordinary form. Massey's face was of a rather dull type, but his eyes were quick and alert. And of course the average individual cannot usually afford to drive the latest model Cadillac hot off the assembly line.
As Massey drove through the light early morning mist he noticed another car coming along the access road that merged with the interstate. He gave it little thought. The other driver had a Yield sign. As Massey came to the point where the lanes merged, he casually glanced at the other automobile. A Rolls Royce. Silver grey. Chauffeur driven. Nothing very extraordinary about that. The rear window had been rolled down and from it stared a mature silver-haired woman, her eyes fixed on him. It all happened casually in the briefest of moments, yet in that moment their eyes met, Massey's and the silver-haired woman's. And there was something disquieting about it.
The moment passed. Henry Massey continued on with the Rolls lagging far behind. He dismissed the disquieting sensation and proceeded to light an expensive hand-rolled cigar.
It was while he was returning the lighter to its place in the dash that he seemed to freeze behind the wheel of the Caddy. His alert eyes opened wide and it was obvious that he was startled and frightened by what he saw ahead of him. "No! No!" he screamed. "Get out of my way! Get away from me! Leave me alone!" Massey jerked the wheel to the left and then the right, sharply, causing a the few other motorists on the interstate at that hour to swerve to the shoulder of the highway. "Get away! Get away from me!" he shouted. "What are you?" Try as he could, Massey could not escape that which was apparently in front of him, around him, even with him in the automobile. "This can't be happening!" he screamed. "This is impossible!" Again he swerved the car this way and that.
The other motorists angrily honked their horns and hurled obscenities his way. Henry Massey did not hear them. He did not care about them. His only thought was to escape from that which he saw, that which threatened his very existence--his sanity.
That which no one else on Interstate 66 saw.
Then Mr. Henry Massey, one of the richest men in the city, drove his Cadillac off of Interstate 66, through a chain-link fence, into the hillside, rolling the car over and over until it was once again on the highway, coming to a stop on its blown and shredded tires. The whole thing happened so quickly that many of the other motorists did not have much of a chance to react. Cars swerved to the left and the right to avoid the Cadillac with the crumpled roof and shattered windows. There were a few fender benders, but nothing serious. Even Henry Massey seemed little more than badly shaken, but he was still screaming and wildly fending off horrors that only he could see.
For a moment, after things had settled down, the other motorists watched the man who had apparently gone insane, wildly gesticulating behind the wheel of his damaged automobile. Massey screamed. He wrestled with the air. His expensive hand-rolled cigar flew from his fingers to land in a puddle alongside the Cadillac. Then the moment ended in an explosion of heat and flame as Mr. Henry Massey and his car suddenly became engulfed in a huge ball of fire. The puddle had its origins in the Caddy's ruptured gas tank.
In the distance, a safe way off, the silver grey Rolls was parked on the shoulder of the road. There was no look of surprise or alarm on the face of the black-suited chauffeur. In fact, there was no expression at all. It was almost as if the big man were made of stone. In the back seat the silver-haired woman sat. Upon her mature but aristocratic face there was a bored, slightly annoyed expression.
"Oh bother," she said, "how very annoying. We only wanted him to be certified insane."
"Will this turn of events be a problem, Madame?" The chauffeur's voice was deep and just as emotionless as his face.
"No. I don't think so. It will no doubt be considered an accident. And there were plenty of witnesses to attest to the fact that his actions before the explosion were irrational. It should work out just as well. Perhaps even better than planned." The woman sighed. "Let's be on our way, Grant. I have a perfectly dreadful schedule today."
The Rolls Royce eased back on to the road and at a moderate speed drove past the burning automobile just as a State Police car was entering the scene.
Neither the woman nor her chauffeur so much as glanced at the 'accident'.
"So what you're saying, then, is that the UFO abduction experiences that this fellow has written about in his book are all in his head?"
Solomon King smiled at the incorrect conclusion. "No," he said, lightly brushing his neat black mustache with a slender forefinger, "that is not at all what I am saying, Sidney." King's eyes flashed like emeralds in the sun. "Let me try to put it another way for you." Solomon King looked perfectly in place in the elegant French restaurant. He was tall and lithe with wide shoulders--as perfect looking in his expensive cream-coloured Armani as any model or movie star, but with a rugged and yet continental handsomeness that looked real, natural, not artificially cultivated. His hair was perfectly black, but for the striking ribbon of white that waved through it from his forehead back, adding a sense of mystery to this truly enigmatic man. "Scientists refer to that mental state between waking and sleep as the hypnopompic, the state just before falling asleep the hypnagogic, and it is in these states of consciousness that images are sometimes self-generated within the mind, perceived as if seen with the eyes, seeming so real, so concrete, that the person experiencing these states of consciousness is convinced that those images possess a physical reality."
"Then his experiences were only imaginary?"
"Not at all! I am convinced that the gentleman in question experienced something very real."
"I'm afraid you lost me again, Solomon."
"Sid, you have to stop thinking in either-or terms. Either it is real or it is not real. Reality is relative, my friend."
"But relative to what?"
"Primarily to one's point of view, as well as to one's level of consciousness."
"Oh oh," Sidney F. Mueller said, looking heavenward, "is this going to involved a lot of metaphysical mumbo jumbo?"
"Not a lot, Sid." The magician sat back in his chair, a smile in his eyes as well as on his face. "Most scientists have the same problem you have. They think in black and white terms when, in fact, one might say, everything is actually various shades of grey. A thing does not have to be either one thing or another. It can be both real and unreal, for instance, at the same time." Sidney shook his head of thinning hair. "Listen, Sid, between the waking state and the truly deep state of dreamless sleep there are various states or levels of consciousness. The hypnopompic and the hypnagogic are actually the same level in between the 'normal' waking state and what I refer to as the astral state of consciousness."
"Are we going to discuss the astral plane now?"
"In a way, Sid. The astral plane, or the astral light as some occultists refer to it, is not a physical plane of any kind that one enters with a body made of fine astral matter once one has left the physical body behind. The astral body is an illusion. A convenient construct for operating upon that particular level of consciousness. For that matter so is the physical body."
"But what an illusion!" Sidney was studying the curvatious hostess.
King chuckled then continued with what he was saying.
"Existence is really a matter of consciousness and the so-called 'out of body experience' or 'astral projection' is merely the projection of the mind, conscously, into the astral state of consciousness. Consciousness is, at least relatively speaking, made up of various, perhaps infinite, levels or states and when one enters a 'higher' level one is actually becoming consciously aware of that mental state and all that exists within it. People are, generally speaking, sleep-walkers, barely awake, basically unconscious of the full spectrum of the existence within which they have their being. The average 'out of body experience' is a glimpse of that which people are mostly unaware of in their waking or physical state. The sensation of leaving the body, flying, rising in an elevator, even that of being taken for a ride in a flying saucer, is the shifting from one state of consciousness to another--a 'higher' state." Solomon King glanced at the hostess who had been staring at him and smiled. She returned his smile with a blush and then looked away in embarrassment. "Having read this man's book, I am almost convinced that he has involuntarily slipped passed the hypnagogic and into the astral state of consciousness and while in that state he experienced a form of Dhyana, as it is called by Yogis. Dhyana is, more or less, a lesser form of Samadhi and it often confers absolute conviction upon the person experiencing it. For the well-grounded, properly educated magician or yogi who has acquired personal experience through the rigorous exercises of magick and yoga this absolute conviction can be most beneficial, removing all doubt and so allowing the man or woman to move more surely along his or her Way. However, for the person who is not well grounded, whose education is imperfect and who has not undergone the various practices and exercises of a well trained magician or yogi ... well ... as it is said, 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. Such is the beginning of many a fanatic who, from a sound idea, has strayed far from the truth of the matter. In this particular instance the gentleman in question has thus fallen prey to one of the commonest pitfalls of the Path of the Wise, that path of spiritual and intellectual evolution that everyone, not only the magician and yogi, follows. The fellow is mistaking the realities of the astral state or level of consciousness for physical realities. He is 'mixing the planes'."
"Then what he has experienced is real," Sidney said haltingly, "but only upon its natural level?"
"In a manner of speaking, Sid, but that is not to say that it is all in his head or has no reality whatsoever upon the physical or somatic level of consciousness. You might say that everything that is or happens in the outer planes of consciousnes, the physical plane, is a shadow of that which is or happens upon the inner planes of consciousness. Existence is far more complex and abstract than most people realize and the more aware you are of the nature of existence, the higher the level of consciousness, the more multidimensional you perceive existence to be. One of the biggest problems for the magician or mystic is not so much altering his or her state of consciousness, but rather trying to translate the abstract multidimensional realities of the 'higher' or 'inner' levels or planes of consciousness so that the reason can, at least a little, grasp and deal with it. However cautious the magician or mystic, something is inevitably lost in the translation, as is normal when anything, such as a language, is translated. Translation is a tricky business and in this particular case the man slipped into a 'higher' state of consciousness, the astral state, in which form is very fluid and determined by the mind of the observer, thus it is often called the 'desire plane', and therein he perceived certain 'inner' realities. Those realities would naturally tend to take on the forms that he would automatically mould for them, forms that would make some kind of sense to his reason. Looking at it another way, you will recall that upon returning to the physical state he had no memory of the events he experienced, at least not right away. Memory, it seemed, gradually returned, and he recalled most of his experiences through hypnotic regression. The reason for the temporary lack of memory is obvious. The reasoning part of the mind is like a computer and it took time for the bio-computer to process the information and translate it into terms that it could understand, at least enough to deal with it as efficiently as possible.
"UFOs, in most cases, and their occupants are the modern version of gods and discarnate masters. This writer's mind translated inner realities into that which his modern technologically programmed mind could best deal with. Had he had these experiences three or four hundred years earlier he may very well have been convinced that he had been contacted by God and the angels ... or perhaps Satan and his fallen angels. The experience is real. The interpretation, the translation, faulted and so very misleading."
"So this fellow did experience an aspect of reality. He encountered beings that were real and natural within the astral state of consciousness but who are alien to the physical state or possess a form or are of a nature that he cannot relate to them, and then he was unable to translate his experiences accurately, having only a limited and inefficient assortment of symbols at his mental disposal, which symbols he then confused with the abstract reality that they preresent?"
"That's about it, Sid!"
"So what did he experience then?"
Solomon King leaned back and smiled.
"The gentleman in question experienced things that at one time were only rarely experienced by the magician and the mystic, occasionally by the creative artist, which, in fact, he is as he is a novelist. Automatically, in full consciousness, although not in the physical state as it seemed to him, mistaking consciousness as a state of mind peculiar only to that level, he plumbed the very depths of his psyche and also experienced a momentary and imperfect glimpse of his fullest potential. The small 'aliens' that he encountered were facets of his subconscious mind, for the most part unresolved psychological complexes. Real individual beings, of sorts, within the astral state, but merely psychic manifestations of that which show up only in throught, word and deed upon the physical plane. They are, at least in part, the qliphoth or shells of the qabalist and the demons of ancient ceremonial magic. The larger, slender, large-eyed being, the one he felt he had an intimate relationship with, the one that to most so-called 'abductees' appears to be of the opposite sex, although basically it seems either sexless or androgynous, is the Supraconscious Mind or Self. It is given various names in different philosophical systems: the Augoeides, Zeitgeist, Holy Guardian Angel, even the Buddha nature. Jesus, in the New Testament, refers to the Supraconscious as 'the Father', 'the Son' often referring to the persona which was created by the Supraconscious by which it manifests upon the physical planes of consciousness and through which an understanding of the Supraconscious can be achieved. 'Know thyself!' The Supraconscious is also called the Atman, sometimes the Higher Self, the True Self, and so on. It is, in one sense, the complete unification of the conscious and the subconscious, those two aspects of self or mind which seem to be constantly at war. When they are finally united they cancel one another out, the so-called annihilation of the ego is achieved, and the Supraconscious is real-ized, the Knowledge and Conversation of and eventual Union with the Holy Guardian Angel, Genius or Daemon is accomplished."
Solomon King leaned back in his chair, concern making its mark on his face.
"Since the dawning of the present æon in 1904 E.V., when the world as John the Divine knew it 'ended', there have been some great if somewhat subtle changes taking place in human consciousness. Relatively new connections are being made, mental or psychic connections that are achieved through certain magical and mystical practices, but which are now being forged in the minds of so-called ordinary people due to the accumulative effect of various experiences gained throughout unaccountably numerous past incarnations. These subtle connections made between the conscious and the subconscious lead to altered states of consciousness and can lead to quantum leaps upon the evolutionary path. However, most of these 'ordinary people', experiencing these altered states of consciousness, these different levels of consciousness, are as yet undereducated, inexperienced, without guidance, and thus likely to succumb to fanaticism, or at the very least they will become obsessed to the point of absolute distraction. Contary to popular fundamentalist pseudo-christian belief, it is not involvement in the occult that is causing the problems, but rather a lack of enough knowledge of and guidence in the occult arts and sciences. People need to know the things that in the past were taught only to initiates of the various secret orders and fraternities. More than ever before people are experiencing realities beyond that which is commonly considered real and they are finding it difficult to deal with it as well as with the portion of society that has not as yet experienced these realities for themselves. They reach out for an understanding of the inner realities but due to their lack of knowledge and experience it eludes their grasp. It is something like knowing someone's name but being unable to remember it enough to verbalize it, only it is much more frustrating. At the same time the person who has experienced these realities is convinced that the fate of the entire world, perhaps the whole universe, depends upon remembering and translating these realities properly, and in fact the fate of the whole personal universe does depend upon this. The ego, tending to think of itself as the sum total of all experiences and thus everything that is, assumes that it is the universe. Remember the old question: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound? It illustrates the nature of ego and how ego thinks of itself as the sum total and centre of the universe. Thus the exaggerated importance of the 'messages' from the so-called 'space brothers'."
"Then the aliens encountered..."
"Are aspects of one's self, essentially. One's subconscious elements as well as the Supraconscious, which is, however, only fleetingly glimpsed due to a very brief and incomplete temporary unification of the subconscious and conscious aspects of self. The Supraconscious is also, viewed another way, one's self in the future ... one's potential fully realized. It is That which one will one day become when fully evolved, and in that sense one might rightly claim that these 'aliens' or 'visitors' are time-travellers ... or that you yourself travel through time. It depends upon your point of view ... and time is yet another illusion that we don't want to get into at this moment."
"Whew!" Sidney exhaled. "It gives a whole new meaning to 'facing one's self'. No wonder it is such a traumatic experience!"
"Exactly, Sid. What must now be done is a mass education of the general public, at least in the basics of magical and mystical philosophy, practices and exercises. What was once handed down only from guru to chela, sorcerer to apprentice, should now be taught in our schools along with the so-called orthodox sciences. Then when a person slips into an altered or 'higher' state of consciousness he or she will be more aware of what is actually going on, be better prepared to deal with it, and either make the most of it on their own or seek out the guidance of an experienced individual. Instead of misinterpreting what they perceive as a UFO they will recognize it as a vast Centre of Force, the smaller aliens typically encountered as aspects of the subconscious and the larger alien that they feel the peculiarly intimate relationship with as the Supraconscious which has been called by the qabalists Adonai, the Lord, as well as the Beloved. It is not through the shunning of the occult arts and sciences that humankind will be saved. Salvation, if one wishes to call it that, is achieved by treading the Path of the Wise, the path of evolution that everyone that lives travels, with knowledge and care. Casting aspersions upon the knowledge that one needs to deal with the realities of life just because it seems to contradict one's personal religious or agnostic belief system, or because a vast majority of charlatans seem to be representing those arts and sciences, is very foolish indeed ... especially now."
"Solomon," Sidney said with admiration, "it is amazing how simply you can explain these matters which seem to baffle everyone else. You are a true hierophant! You should contact that poor confused and bewildered writer and explain his experience to him."
"Due to his preprogrammed convictions he would find it difficult to accept the facts of the matter and give up his notion of physical aliens and 'flying disks'. However, you are right. The matter should be explained to him and as a matter of fact a bright student of mine, another writer by the way, has taken it upon himself to try and do just that in order to help the man out of his intellectual and emotional dilemma."
"Solomon," Sidney raised his glass as if in toast, "every time we meet for lunch it is a new and rewarding experience that forces my mind to stretch a little bit further. Thanks to you I am far more than the basic materialist I was when we first met."
"And ever the best damn lawyer in the city!"
Sidney was sincerely embarrassed and laughed to cover it.
For a moment Solomon King's eyes sparkled with laughter then suddenly they no longer smiled.
"What is it?" Sidney asked, noticing the instant change in his manner.
Sidney looked around the restaurant for King's lovely Japanese assistant. Lover? She was nowhere in sight.
The magician's eyes seemed somewhat distant.
"Out front. She should be entering the restaurant any moment now." King turned his eyes upon Sidney, expressing the deepest sympathy for the man. "I am truly sorry, Sid. I know he was your oldest friend."
"Solomon! You have me worried now. Just what..."
At that moment Kyoko entered the eating establishment, brushed passed the headwaiter and made directly for their table as if she knew exactly where they would be in that crowded restaurant.
"What's this all about?" Sidney looked from one to the other in an obvious state of confused concern.
"Mr. Mueller," Kyoko said in her beautifully musical voice, her face a mask of sorrow, "there was an automobile accident this morning and I am afraid that Mr. Henry Massey was killed."
"Henry?" Sidney fell back into his chair, shocked into disbelief. "Henry, dead?" Kyoko placed her hand on his shoulder and he seemed to buck up with renewed strength. "Solomon, Henry and I went to school together, college, everything. We even married around the same time, and, well, we have been close friends for such a very long time."
"I know, Sid. I'm sorry. Is there anything I can do?"
Sidney thought about it for a moment.
"Maybe. Later. Right now I think I should see Sarah, Henry's wife ... I mean ... widow. She will be devastated. They have always been so close. Much closer than Henry and his son." A fleeting look of complete disapproval passed over his features and it did not go unnoticed.
"Can I or Kyoko drive you there?"
"Huh? Oh. No thank you, Solomon. I'll take a taxi. I need a little time to myself anyway."
"Sure. I understand, Sid. Just go ahead. This one's on me anyway."
"Thanks." Sidney got up, still somewhat shaken by the news, started to walk away from the table and then turned back to King. "See you later?"
"Certainly, Sid. Any time you want. Just give a call. Are you going to be all right?"
Sidney nodded and then quickly left the restaurant to hail a cab.
"This will be tough on Sid," King said as Kyoko took the vacant chair across from him. He looked up into the beautiful woman's dark Oriental eyes. "You don't think it was an accident." It was not a question. He knew what she was thinking--at least the general tone of her thoughts.
"I don't think it was an accident. It happened earlier this morning. I was reading cards when the Ten of Swords came up."
"The Lord of Ruin," King said absently, "in some cases meaning death, much more so than the thirteenth trump, the traditional Death card."
"Yes. Very terrible card. I saw an image of the 'accident', made a few 'phone calls, obtained the few facts that are known and then I called Mr. Mueller's office and his secretary told me you were here."
"What is known about the accident?"
"Very little. Witnesses said he suddenly went mad. Swerved all over the road. Then he rolled his car over and it blew up."
"Yes. The witnesses said he seemed to be afraid of something, made movements with his hands like he was trying to fend off something so horrible that it was making him scream with fear the whole time."
Solomon King considered the possibilities. Henry Massey was not the kind of man to suddenly go insane. He was a hard-core materialist and rationalist--very down-to-earth and quite sane.
While King pondered this unlikely turn of events, Kyoko noticed that the hostess was looking at her with undisguised jealousy.
"She looks at me with daggers in her eyes."
"What?" King turned to see what Kyoko was referring to. "Oh. Yes." He turned back to the beautiful Asian woman. "What did you see, Kyoko?"
When Kyoko told him that which she had seen of the accident King knew that she was referring to a psychic impression that she'd had.
"Very strange. I saw Mr. Massey driving. Very normal. Then all of a sudden he was surrounded by terrible things. Monsters. Horrible things that seemed to be trying to hurt him. Then there was the accident and explosion."
"But you don't think it was an accident. Nor do you believe these 'monsters' were merely the impression that his thoughts made upon your mind?"
"I do not."
"Why not, Kyoko?"
"Because I saw something else. Someone else. A woman. Very ... how do you say it? ... very high class, but very horrible." King settled back in his chair, his wide shoulders drooping. "The woman had very terrible eyes. Cold eyes. Eyes that looked like..."
"They could kill."
"Yes! Just like that! Very hard, dangerous eyes." Kyoko showed concerned on her delicatedly featured face. "You are worried?"
"You know this woman?"
Solomon King looked up at the beautiful lady before him.
"I know her, Kyoko. I have heard of that woman, but I thought ... I thought that she was long dead."
"She is old?"
King's face took on an extremely serious expression.
"Yes, Kyoko. She is old. Very old. Too old to be alive."
As the man sat crosslegged on the stage, dressed in a loose fitting white shirt and baggy pants, the large audience was motionless, hardly breathing, waiting for the anticipated change. Jacq Zared Laine had been on stage earlier, dressed casually in tan slacks and a pastel yellow shirt, talking and joking with his audience as usual. He was lighthearted and good humoured. He had every right to be when you thought about it. Every person in that room, regardless of their station in life, had paid $300 apiece for their seats.
After taking the time to prove to everyone how nice and normal he is, Laine left the stage to return in his loose fitting pseudo-Hindu garb to sit in the middle of the stage floor with a spotlight strategically illuminating his form in the darkened auditorium. He was relaxing, he claimed, and inviting a certain entity to take possession of his body so that that entity could speak through him and impart the wisdom of ancient Lemuria, one of the so-called 'lost continents' of prehistoric times.
The concept of vacating one's body, the temple of the soul, the adytum of one's Indwelling God, Genius or Daemon, so that some wandering discarnate entity could take possession of it and use it for its purposes, dubious as they are, is most repulsive not only to the religionist, but also to the true magician. When this is actually occurring, although in most cases it is all a sham, it is as if, from the initiate's point of view, that temple were being desecrated, profaned, used as a public toilet--used even as a common house of prostitution. All forms of spiritism or "spiritualism" have long been held in justified contempt by those who are initiated in the esoteric mysteries. Generally the medium, when he or she is genuine, works with little or no protection and primarily attracts entities of a very low nature on the evolutionary scale. Contrary to what the mediums believe, most of these entities are not "the dearly departed" or "advanced spirits from a higher plane". Likewise, contrary to what the aggressively anti-occult religionists would have us believe, most of these discarnate, generally nonhuman, entities are also not "pure evil". The greatest "evil" in existence is ignorance--in this case the ignorance of the spiritualistic medium as well as that of the entities he or she contacts and to which his or her sacred temple is surrendered. In most cases these entities are merely psychic manifestations of the medium's subconscious mind and the complexes therein, or of the minds of those who are sitting with the medium. This is not to say that they are not real for truly they have a separate objective reality upon the astral plane of consciousness. However, basically their existence is dependent upon the consciousness of the medium or the others of the circle. Take that away and they dissolve into nothingness. There are, however, other discarnate entities which have been created by the thoughts, the emotions, the obsessions of others, which have over a period of time gained enough strength to become truly independent. And there are, of course, the astral aspects of those things which we take for granted in the physical state--the trees and moutains, streams and rivers, fire and the very air about us. In the majority of cases, when a genuine medium has made contact with such an entity it is not what he or she believes it to be, what it claims to be, and it has no wisdom to offer greater than that which the human intellect possesses. At the same time, such discarnate entities as nature spirits and so-called demons, to be distinguished from the Greek word Daemon which means "god, goddess, lot or fate", are not "pure evil". It is only that they are sometimes playful and mischievous and they wish to be as close to humanity as we humans desire closeness with God. Generally speaking, these discarnate entities may indeed harm people, but if so only inadvertantly, failing to understand human weaknesses, wishing only to be as close as possible to that which it perceives in the same way that we humans perceive God the Creator.
Thus it is that although few "spirits" are actually "evil" demons seeking to destroy the human soul and drag people down to hell, they can, and often do, harm the innocent and naive, the ignorant and uninitiated, inadvertantly, harming as well the spiritualistic medium. Certainly the average medium's mind is effected adversely, and very often it is obvious that the medium's body is weakened, giving way to disease, as that channeller is being drained by what is essentially a parasitic force that desires material existence and community with humankind.
Of course, such was not the case with Jacq Zared Laine.
"Ahhhh. Yes." Hushed sounds of wonder emanated from the audience as the voice issued from Laine's mouth. The voice, deeper and more abrupt than Laine's normal speaking voice, was said to be completely different. It was said to be the voice of Ezel Gath, a discarnate sage several thousand years old. Most people did not realize that the name was an unimaginative combination of proper names that could be found in the Judao-Christian Bible, and the believers completely dismissed the voice analysis a newspaper reporter had made that proved beyond question that the voice of Jacq Zared Laine and Ezel Gath were one and the same.  They claimed that the discarnate sage, in one of his playful moods, insulted by the test, had altered his voice to fool the sophisticated electronic voice analyzer, or that the voice would naturally be essentially the same as the same voice box was being used, the same vocal chords, and then compared this to two men using the same pen to write their messages. They had an answer for everything, never mind if it did not always hold up well under careful examination if it sounded good.
Laine, or Ezel Gath as the believers claimed, opened his eyes and looked over the wondering faces in the audience. The people were from all walks of life. There were even a handful of Hollywood celebrities and a few government officials present. Most of them were deeply religious people, dissatisfied with the established religions very often for legitimate reasons, and people who had an unrealistic concept of the occult, weary of the obvious chicanery and sham of the typical idiot cult. In most cases these believers were composed of people who were sick of modern technology, who felt threatened by it, and who were desperately seeking the mystical in life. They were, however, people with little time and patience, who sought mystical experience not through complicated and often tedious practices, but who thought that such experience could be obtained in some easy manner. Moreover, they were people who took for granted the infinite variety of miracles that occurred every blessed second in the world around them and eagerly sought miracles such as those Jesus was credited with in the New Testament. Such was the legacy of the Church's emphasis upon the alleged miracles that the Master Jesus himself explained in the simplest manner, such as when he had apparently raised the daughter of Jarius from the dead. Jesus declared, as it is recorded in the Gospel of Mark, chapter five, verse thirty-nine, "Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth." In a time when various comatose states were mistaken as death the initiates such as Jesus better understood matters and knew how to cure certain physical and psychological disorders. Building a religion around the teachings of the Master Jesus, the early church ignored those words of the Nazarene that either made no sense to them or ran contrary to what they wished to believe, and exaggerated the nature of the so-called miracles to prove the man's divinity, a divinity that Jesus himself, in many ways, said was no more and no less than the divinity that is to be found at the core of every human being. In an effort to convert the world to their belief system and to dominate their oppressors and eventually the world, the early church promoted these so-called miracles and reinforced greatly the masses desire for the miraculous. This in turn encouraged the manufacture of false miracles and hoaxes that individuals like Jacq Zared Laine capitalized upon.
"All of my brothers and sisters are here." Laine wore an expression of idiot pleasure on his rather average face. "I am so happy to see all of you. You are all sparks of the Infinite shinging in the dark night of materiality. You are all aspects of God, who is Love, and Peace, and Happiness, and Joy. I love you. I love you all! I, Ezel Gath."
That, of course, was another aspect of what was being called a "new age phenomenon". Whomever it was that said "no man is an island" did not know that most people actually felt as isolated as an island. Especially during these impersonal technological times, the vast majority felt alone, unloved, uncared for, while at the same time incapable of expressing love for others because of the psychological walls they and other individuals had built around themselves. People in high places especially, men and women in the government and celebrities, were even more susceptible to this approach as their positions tended to isolate them further from the rest of society, while they also grew cynical of the motivations and thus the kind words and deeds of others around them.
Then all of a sudden Ezel Gath and his kind comes along. Not only does Ezel Gath, in this instance, tell the people that they are aspects of God and so God "Him/Her/Itself", confirming the belief of the person with a superiority complex and cheering up the person suffering from an inferiority complex, but he tells the people who feel so alone and unloved that they are loved, deeply loved ... by Ezel Gath. The declaration of love breaks through the psychological barriers as if breaking a dike and an emotional flood is let loose. It has been said that religion is the opiate of the masses, and this opinion often holds up under examination. The religions, or more accurately, the pseudo-religions and pseudo-philosophies of the world tend to act and be employed like an addictive drug. In such a case as this, the believers attend a gathering to commune with an alleged Lemurian wiseman. There is a rush of pent-up emotions that are suddenly released, but soon after the momentary "high" is gone, the people fall back into their old unhealthy psychological habits, and another "fix" is needed--no matter what the cost. Individuals like Jacq Zared Laine prove to be, when objectively examined, no better than the average dealer in illegal and addictive drugs. Yet while the government prohibits marijuana and cocaine, it allows and protects these dangerous shams with the first article of the Bill of Rights.
And what can be done about it?
It is a problem that is not easily solved since the very Constitution that makes our freedom possible also invites the clever con artist and crass charlatan to pervert religious and esoteric philosophies, pick our pockets and make emotional slaves of the lonely and vulnerable. Freedom is truly a double-edged sword!
"Do you come to Ezel Gath in love?"
"Yes!" the audience in near perfect unison answered.
"And what is love?"
"Love is God!" the people cried out, reversing the common biblical phrase.
"And you who come in love, what are you?"
"We are love! We are God!"
'Ezel Gath', now standing, looked out over the crowd and smiled. Crossing his arms over his chest, raising his chin, he said, "And that you are! That you are!"
For the rest of the evening, for several hours, 'Ezel Gath' paced up and down the stage, restating all of the old worn out platituides as if they were the purest wisdom never before heard by human ears, and the people forgot how many times they had heard it all before, accepting the idea that it was being spoken for the very first time.
'Ezel Gath' sometimes bent to one knee and took a man's hand in his own or held a woman's face in his hands, firmly but gently, and with tears in his eyes (produced with the assistance of a small tube of glycerine when he could not muster genuine tears) he would tell them that they were loved, that they were God-filled because they are That, and they would cry, men and women alike, and thank him, bless him, praise the name Ezel Gath which always sounded like "God" when they spoke it.
When 'Ezel Gath' invited the believers to The Retreat they eagerly trekked to the midwestern ranch to be with him, thinking little of the price of $2,000.00 for the weekend stay. The believers also thought nothing of it when the Lemurian wiseman advised them to invest in Jacq Zared Laine's pet projects, or asked them to remove all their money from a joint bank account, pack up and leave their families behind to follow him. They simply did as Ezel Gath advised, for, after all, it was as if God--"Him/Her/Itself"--had spoken directly to them. Never mind the fact that they too were God.
'Ezel Gath' spoke of the time when the world would succumb to nuclear holocaust and natural disasters, when all of civilization would be destroyed, just as it had happened, he assured them, with the technically advanced prehistoric civilization of Lemuria. He spoke of the coming of the intergalactic space brothers who, at this very minute, walked among them, sometimes taking men and women aboard their spacecraft to study and instruct them, to prepare them for their second coming--for 'Ezel Gath' also claimed that they had been here long before and that the space brothers were in fact responsible for the evolution of the human race. He told the believers that the visitors from space would rescue the chosen during the time of tribulation and that to be ready for their coming, to survive the cataclysm to come, 'Ezel Gath' told the people that they should seek high ground. A refuge was being developed in Colorado, he told them, at a high elevation, and all it took was money to build living quarters, strange buildings for food and the necessary materials for survival, small electrical plants and so forth. With just a little money it would not only be safe from nuclear fallout and the natural disasters on the way, but it would be a self-sufficient community inviting the intergalactic space brothers much as it once was for Machu-Picchu in South America. The Colorado Community would be, he claimed, a virtual utopian paradise. And all it took to build, to make the ideal become a reality, was just a little money, money which would soon mean nothing, but which could now build something of genuine worth: sanctuary.
Ezel Gath, or rather Jacq Zared Laine, formerly Jack Laine of Sedona, Arizona, would be in the fifty percent tax bracket if he had not had the foresight to incorporate himself as a religion and a non-profit organization. As such he was, naturally, tax-exempt.
Life is sweet, he thought as his eyes, tear-filled, caressed the crowd before him. Very sweet. A sound from behind stage caught his attention. He glanced back to see the stage manager pointing at his wristwatch. It was time for Ezel Gath to wrap things up. Can't give them too much for their money or they will expect more the next time! Laine nodded subtly, acknowledging the stage manager, and at the same time flashing a quick smile at the young man who stood beside him.
'Ezel Gath' explained that he had to go. He could stay no longer, although of course he wanted to very much. The astral vibrations, however, were growing more chaotic and it was becoming difficult for him to maintain the body of Jacq Zared Laine. Besides, Laine could not be parted from his body for too long for he could get lost upon the higher planes and never again take up residence in that body.
With terrific sadness 'Ezel Gath' said his farewells, promising to return next Wednesday, at exactly eight o'clock in the evening. Then the Lemurian wiseman sat down in the centre of the stage again, the spotlight very subtly and gradually changing, making the face of the man seem to alter, and after a little while his head rose up and Jacq Zared Laine had returned, completely unharmed and if anything better from his experience as a discarnate entity in the æthyrs between space and time.
"Great show!" the stage manager said as the curtains closed and Laine left the stage. The audience was still applauding. Laine did not correct the stage manager for there was no denying it among themselves that it was a masterful performance and great showmanship. Most of Laine's associates truly believed that he channelled an ancient Lemurian wiseman, but there were some, like Smitty, the stage manager, who knew better--and could care less so long as the pay cheque was never late.
The young man beside Smitty was also under no illusions as to the true nature of the business of which he had become a part. He was a rather ordinary looking young man, poorly but expensively dressed, yet with alert eyes that missed nothing. They were the eyes of a businessman, but a very cunning and unscrupulous businessman that never once stopped looking for ways to make, as well as spend, money.
"You were terrific, Jacq!"
"Thanks, kid." Laine smiled and with affection lightly slapped the side of his face. A thought crossed Laine's mind and he changed his expression to appear concerned. "You all right, kid?"
"Me? Oh. Yeah. I guess so. We weren't exactly close, you know. It's almost like hearing that someone that you never knew died. Know what I mean? Besides," he shrugged, "he wasn't very fond of me ... even though I am, or was, his only son."
"I'm glad to see that you're taking it so well, kid."
"Hey, Jacq, can we lay off that 'kid' stuff. I'm twenty-five, you know."
"Yeah, sure," Laine chuckled. "What'll it be? Craig or...?"
"Craig is just fine, Jacq."
"Then Craig it is, kid. Whoops! Sorry." Both men laughed at the feigned slip of the tongue and together they walked back stage to the dressing room, Jacq Zared Laine and Craig Massey.
For hours Solomon King sat in the dragon asana in the solitude of his meditation room--a room filled with exotic plants, a small man-made but natural looking pond in which exotic fish swam; a room whose thick frosted glass roof admitted the sunlight, but never the cold of a chilly day or evening. The magician knew that if he was going to face "that woman", as he so often referred to her, he would have to be at his best. The world was full of silly crackpot occultists and religionists, individuals that were no real threat magically although they did mislead the general public whom they fleeced as a matter of course, but this woman was one of the relatively few that could legitimately be called a "black magician"--perhaps worse.
Solomon King had begun his meditation by regulating his breathing with Pranayama. Over and over again, slowly at first and aloud and then more rapidly until he no longer verbalized, King repeated the simple mantra he had composed: "All is illusion. I master reality." The initial word of each phrase was drawn out to sound very much like the mystical word Aumgn. He concentrated upon the light reflecting upon the water until gradually his eyes closed and the dancing light remained visible to his mind's eyes.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
Like fireflies dancing on glass or infinite shifting reflections of a single spark of divine fire the light flashed and winked before his mind's eyes, viewed in the magick mirror of the mind, seen in the astral spaces between the physical and the purely spiritual.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
A great peace filled him and he knew the unity of illusion, that unity being the only true reality--reality being composed of the apparent opposites of illusion.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
All that is, every thing in existence, is but an aspect of the whole, incomplete in itself, lacking actual reality because of its incompleteness, and thus nothing but illusion. Illusion is that which we perceive while true reality is not perceived for it is the perfect union of the knower and the thing known, the one who perceives and that which is perceived.
One is thus the master of reality if one is master of oneself and so master of the event. If one is capable of recognizing illusion and uniting it through Love Under Will with its apparent opposite illusion both are cancelled out in that union. The one thing and the other thing are united as plus-one and minus-one are added together and the result of the union is no-thing or zero, absolute zero. Naught. It is within the Infinite Naught that true reality, Absolute Reality, can be found.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
The true magician, initiate of the sacred mysteries, does not reject the material world, nor does he embrace it rejecting the spiritual world or aspect of existence. The true magician accepts both the material and the spiritual and unites them within him- or herself to real-ize the Absolute.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
Like polished diamonds reflecting bright summer sunlight, moved about by a subtle sweet breeze, the light danced before Solomon King's "astral eyes" in the peculiar state of consciousness that he had placed his mind, his very being.
Two of the glittering jewels gradually took on a different character. Subtly they began to look less and less like gems and more like--eyes. Her eyes. The eyes of "that woman". Hideously cold eyes. Murderous eyes. Eyes that could alter one's perception of reality. Eyes that could kill.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
The light was gone. There was only a murky darkness--a disquieting darkness from which those eyes stared, invading Solomon King's magical defences and burning into his soul.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
Do not court death, the eyes seemed to say. Stay out of it. Remain in your pretty home and do not meddle in affairs that are none of your business. Play with your pretty Oriental concubine. Enjoy the things of this life. For if you interfere, if you come between me and my objective, most assuredly you will die, magician. These eyes will destroy you utterly and stop you forever from your interfering ways.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
Wherever you are, the eyes implied, I can see you. You cannot hide. You cannot surprise me. I know you, Solomon King. I know you.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
All is illusion.
I master reality.
It was no longer his mind that repeated the mantra over and over again. It was her mind. The mind of "that woman"!
All is illusion.
I master reality.
King opened his eyes, breaking his mantra and pranayama abruptly. He gasped for air. He was bathed in sweat. Nearby Kyoko sat, also in the dragon posture, buttocks resting on heels. She had silently entered the meditation room when she felt the presence that had invaded King's consciousness.
"It was her?"
"She is powerful. Terrible."
"Very much so."
"Please, Solomonsan, tell me who that woman is."
King looked at the lovely woman who then leaned forward to gently mop the perspiration from his brow.
"She is ... or was ... a member of a hermetic fraternity around the turn of the century, that very same fraternity that my Master had once belonged to before he recognized the perversion creeping into it and left after a valiant but futile struggle to save it from the Black Brotherhood. That woman remained with the fraternity while my Master went on to establish the most important physical aspect of what is commonly called the Great White Brotherhood, that which you and I refer to as the Argenteum Astrum or Silver Star. That woman became the head of one branch of the rotten tree when the schisms began, and her power increased. Unlike most of the original members of the hermetic fraternity, she sincerely travelled the Path of the Wise. She did not pursue magick as a harmless hobby nor did she play at it as a game for her amusement. However, that woman eventually came to the crucial ordeal known as the crossing of the abyss whereupon one must surrender the ego to successfully accomplish that task, pass through that ordeal, and attain the next grade, that of Magister Templi, Master of the Temple."
"As you have."
"Yes, Kyoko. As I have crossed the abyss. It is a terrible ordeal and not one to be taken lightly. Many have tried to pass from the relative to the absolute and very few indeed have succeeded in making the crossing. As you know, the mythical crucifixion is a representation of the crossing of the abyss, as is Homer's Odyssey and Wagner's opera libretto Parsifal. Failure is brought about by the inability of the adept to surrender his or her ego. If the ego is not annihilated, if the adept clings to ego, the only chance of any kind of ... survival, if you will, or ... redemption ... is to quickly turn away from the abyss, if indeed it is possible and the momentum of previous initiations does not push one forward into the abyss. Otherwise, clinging to ego, seeking power to gratify ego, plunging forward, the adept accepts the false crown of Daäth, Knowledge, worships ego as a god, and forever cuts him- or herself off from the Supernal Triad or Trinity of Understanding, Wisdom and the Crown, the Yechidah, one's True Self or Genius, being the Creative Unity of the highest planes of consciousness."
"Becoming something much worse than a black magician," Kyoko said.
"Yes. Much worse. A black brother. A creature locked up in a tower of ego. Shut up and cut off from the Highest. Incapable of understanding love. Totally selfish. Limited in many ways, and yet possibly more powerful than even the Exempt Adept of the Right-hand Path. A being that is gradually torn apart by its own destructive nature, but whose tormented existence may continue for a very long time, constantly destroying all that comes into contact with it while it seeks only complete ego-gratification at any expense."
"That woman is such a ... being?"
"I believe so. I thought she had died long ago. She should have. She would have to be at least ... well ... very very old. If she does still live then she can only maintain her life through the use of great power, and if this is so she has indeed plunged into the abyss clinging to her ego and become one with the Black Brotherhood. By comparison, thinking of the black magician as a sneak thief, the black brother is a Hitler."
"But what is her name, Solomonsan?"
"I do not like to say it as it feels too much like a perverse evocation to even utter the name. She used a different name as a member of the original hermetic fraternity that my Master also belonged to. She is not generally known to historians and students; only vaguely by some and then by her pseudonym alone.
"However," the magician reluctantly continued, "that woman's true name is Varina Velikazora."
A fierce cracking filled the air which at first sounded like thunder splitting the sky. Kyoko looked up but King moved instinctively, grabbing his companion and hurling their bodies to the far side of the meditation room. In almost the same instant huge shards of thick frosted glass sliced through the now stinking air and pierced deeply the artificial turf covering the floor. Like surrealistic daggers of various sizes the glass embedded itself in the area only moments ago inhabited by King and Kyoko. Had the magician not moved as quickly as he had both would have been horribly mutilated and impaled. Murdered.
Kyoko stared at the cutting death that had almost taken them, her dark eyes wide with surprise and fear, and she covered her mouth and nose in an effort to try and block out the stench of what seemed to be rotting meat that had suddenly permeated the usually sweetly scented atmosphere of the room.
"You see now why I do not like to mention that woman's name." Kyoko nodded, still all wide-eyed, as King held her in his arms. "Her eyes see everything and what she sees she knows and whenever her name is spoken her force is evoked. That woman is the greatest incarnate evil I have ever known in my life, Kyoko, and I am not ashamed to say that at this moment I am frightened."
The Asian beauty looked up at King's stony features, more surprised by his admission of fear than she was by recent deadly events Never before had this normally jovial, light-hearted man seemed so serious as he had then.
Jack Laine, alias Jacq Zared Laine, had had the toughest evening of his most recent career, although hardly tough at all by the standards of most working people, and he wanted very much to retire to his half-million-dollar home and have a good stiff drink. Several drinks.
Laine did not bother to turn on the lights as he entered his home. Knowing the house so well he walked in the dark, taking a direct route to his large book-lined study, filled primarily with impressive looking volumes he had never read, and to the bar hidden behind a section of bookshelves. Before he could switch on the lights something stopped him cold. Very cold. An icy chill ran the course of his spine and the tiny hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. She was in the room.
"Will you stand there all evening or are you coming in?"
It was that woman's voice in the dark, a voice that was frightening in its coldness, made even more frightening by being apparently disembodied.
"Perhaps you are afraid of the dark?" She turned on a table lamp next to her seated form. Laine stared at the dark silhouette and wondered how the lamp could be on right beside her and still fail to illuminate her face. "Please, Mr. Laine, take a seat and make yourself comfortable. Over there," she gestured to the easy chair across from her. There was a drink already mixed on the table next to the chair. "Make yourself comfortable. It is, after all, your home." Yet he felt like an intruder in this room, his room, his house, whenever the woman was present. Madam Velikazora automatically took possession of a place whenever she entered the scene. It was not so much what she said or did, but more so her very presence that gave people the feeling that all that was around her was hers to do with as she pleased, whether places, things or even people.
"W ... why are you here?"
"You have some questions."
Yes ... but how did ...?"
Madame Velikazora waved her hand and made a sound as if to say that the answer was obvious.
Laine was about to ask his questions, but before he could do so the woman answered them.
"Massey's death was not planned. I know you disapprove of such extreme measures ... although murder seems to be about the only thing at which you draw the line, Mr. Laine. You are thinking that I made a mistake. Perhaps I have. However, it is just possible that letting Massey live would have been the mistake, even if he had been certified insane, and it is entirely possible that even when about to make a mistake I am incapable of error. It is all, however you look at it, a moot point. Henry Massey is dead and control of his estate and assets will now go to his wife and son."
"But Sarah Massey..."
"Will still be in control of the estate. Yes. I know. And to obtain the Massey estate Craig Massey must gain complete control of it. What will we do about the widow?" The woman seemed to give it some thought, although her mind was already made up. "We will do what we had planned to do with the late Henry Massey. She will be driven mad ... or at least shown things she cannot deal with, made hysterical, and be considered mad by the psychiatric 'experts'. It will be believable. Husband and wife are close for a very long time. Husband dies in a terrible accident. Wife goes insane. Very believable indeed, and it all appears like bad luck, the hand of fate, to the authorities."
"When will you do this?"
"I think tonight," she answered in her coldly casual manner. "I can rush matters to a swift conclusion so that Craig Massey can take almost immediate possession of the Massey estate and assets and you then can obtain control through him just as quickly."
"And you will control me...," Laine said with sarcasm, taking a swig of his drink.
Madam Velikazora leaned into the light, or had the light suddenly been permitted to illuminate her features?
"Yes," the woman said with a smile on her face. "And I will control you, Mr. Laine."
Jack Laine decided that he liked it better when her features were hidden by the darkness.
"You have no more questions." The woman was not making an inquiry, she was making a statement of fact. "I have work to do now." She turned off the lamp and the room was plunged into darkness. For a long time the man sat in the dark silence. Finally he dared to walk over to the entrance way and turn on the overhead lights.
Madame Velikazora was nowhere in the room. The balcony doors were locked from the inside. She could not have possibly moved passed him in the dark and leave by way of the entrance way without being noticed. Had she even been there at all, he wondered, or had she merely sent a projection of herself--a very physical-appearing projection?
A shudder ran up and down his spine and Laine quickly gulped down the remainder of his drink. When she came to him he reluctantly accepted the uneasy alliance because she promised that she could make him rich. She did. With her coaching, her connections, the general climate of society, he soon became known as one of the most famous 'trance channellers' and 'new age teachers' in the country. His yearly tax-exempt income was staggering and although much of the money went into his personal account, the bulk of it was sent to a Swiss bank account that was no doubt the woman's.
As time went on, Laine also discovered that the woman had other uses for him and his ability to attract people, uses he did not care to think about. Things that sometimes involved believers who were later reported as missing and were never again seen. In every case the missing people were healthy young adults. The police were always stymied and seemed eager to list them simply as 'runaways', adolescents who drifted from one idiot cult to another. Missing children and teenagers had reached such staggering proportions in the country that very little effort was made to find them. Very little could actually be done to search for every single one of the missing for their numbers were quickly becoming more numerous than that of the individual members of the combined police departments of the United States.
Jack Laine, however, had a pretty good idea as to where some of the missing had gone. Sometimes he felt their tortured and tormented souls crying out for release--he almost heard them--every time Madame Velikazora spoke.
Kyoko, stylishly dressed in tight-fitting slacks and a very sheer, puffed out white blouse, her long straight black hair falling below her delicate waistline, glided into the room. There Solomon King sat, surrounded by dozens of books, some closed, some opened to specific chapters. The covers of those books were primarily red or blue, although there was an odd green or white covered tome. Among them there was a set of ten books with off-white and black covers, gold lettering and trim, which looked rather like a set of encyclopedias, which, in a way, they were.
"Some Crowley a day keeps the demons away?" Kyoko chirpped.
King looked up and smiled for the first time since the affair had begun.
"Something like that," he chuckled. "Actually, I was looking up every reference I could find in the Master's published and unpublished works," he nodded towards a stack of bound typescripts at his side, "references to the Black Brotherhood. It is not often that one comes into such direct contact with the Brotherhood. Besides ... you were right the first time. I find that reading the works of the Master Therion often bolsters my confidence, puts me in the correct cavalier frame of mind, and prepares me for the rough times ahead."
Kyoko smiled brilliantly, set her purse and jacket aside, then leaned over King's shoulder to gaze down at the book in his hand. Her luxurious soft hair gently tickled his cheek and he relished the almost electrical sensation of being touched, even so subtly, by this exquisite woman to whom he was totally devoted, and who was so completely devoted to him and his Work.
Of the Black Brothers, O my Son, will I write these things following. I have told thee already concerning Change, how it is the Law, because every Change is an Act of Love under Will. So then he that is Adept Exempt, whether in Our Holy Order or another, may not remain in the Pillar of Mercy, because it is not balanced, but is unstable. Therefore is the choice given unto him, whether he will destroy his Temple, and give up his life, extending it to Universal Life, or whether he will make a Fortress about that Temple and abide therein, in the false Sphere of Daäth, which is in the Abyss. And to the Adepts of Our Holy Order this choice is terrible, by cause that they must abandon even Him whose Knowledge and Conversation they have attained. Yet, O my Son, they have much help of Our Order in this Aeon, because the General Formula is Love, so that their Habit itself urgeth them to the Bed of Our Lady Babalon. Know then the Black Brothers by these True Signs of their Initiation of Iniquity, that they resist Change, restrict and deny Love, fear Death. Percutiantur.
The passage was entitled De Fratribus Nigris, Filiis Iniquitatis, "On The Black Brothers, Sons of Iniquity", and in the book by the Master Therion entitled Liber Aleph vel CXI, The Book of Wisdom or Folly.
"Percutiantur?" Kyoko said, an inquisitive expression on her pretty face.
"Latin," King replied. "Roughly, 'Strike them down'."
"And will you?"
"I will try, Kyoko. I will try."
"Mr. Normal Vincent Peal would tell you not to try but to do it."
"Norman Vincent Peal, Kyoko. Norman. Not normal."
"I know. It not normal. You are usually so positive."
The magician laughed again, loving her accent, the little ways she sometimes seemed to misunderstand things and delightfully torture the language. Yet as he laughed King wondered, never really knowning for certain one way or the other, just how much of this was true misunderstanding and merry mix up and how much of it was calculated to amuse him. Kyoko was a wonderful blend of traditional Japan and the modern west, of great inconsistancies, or at least apparent inconsistancies of character. Yet there was no other person on the face of the earth whom he would trust as much as he did Kyoko--no one into whose hands he would so confidently place his very life.
"Tell me, my Little Phoenix, what have you discovered today?"
"Well, my Big Dragon," she sat on the edge of the desk next to him and produced a notebook which she consulted from time to time, "naturally the authorities believe Mr. Massey's death was an accident. He was a very rich man. Much money, stocks, bonds, all that sort of thing. His name was mentioned almost every day for one reason or another in the Wall Street Journal. All this of course now goes to his wife and son. And the son ... well ... he very spoiled and naughty. Too big to spank, but too small to worry about. His name Craig. Now this you will find interesting. Craig Massey is associated with a man named Jacq ..."
"Zared Laine, a.k.a. Jack Laine. Yes," King said, "I've heard of him. Another of those wearisome 'trance channellers' who supposedly manifests the discarnate entity called Ezel Gath. These people have no imagination when it comes to names. 'And when thou has stayed three days, then thou shalt go down quickly, and come to the place where thou didst hide thyself when the business was in hand, and shalt remain by the stone Ezel.' One Samuel, twenty, nineteen. Ezel basically means 'departure'. And ... hmm ... let's see ... Gath? Oh yes! I believe it means 'wine-press' and can be found in the Book of Joshua, chapter eleven, verse twenty-two, which goes something like this: 'There was none of the' ... ah ... 'Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod there remained.' I suppose with a little ingenuity one could come up with a meaning for Ezel Gath ... something like 'the departure of the wine-press', that which produces the intoxicating, god-inspiring fermented juice of the grape, or the nectar of the gods ... but in all probability Laine simply picked two interesting sounding names out of a list of proper names in scripture. There is a characteristic lack of imagination and scholarship about the vast majority of these 'channellers', previously referred to as 'mediums'. It's the same old nonsensical spiritualistic mediumistic con-game revamped and more efficiently marketed, and somehow Laine has managed to become one of the most well-known of them. Don't know how. He certainly lacks all the essential qualities to become the top of any heap." King turned once again to gaze into Kyoko's almond shaped eyes. "Massey's son is associated with Laine?"
"Yes, my big verbose Dragon. Now if I may continue." The frown on her pretty face and her feigned annoyance forced another smile upon King and he decided that when things looked bad his precious Oriental jewel was the best possible remedy for all of his worries.
"Very sorry, Little Phoenix." He bowed. "Pray continued."
Kyoko giggle and then continued reading from her notes.
"You wonder how such a mediocre man as Jack Laine could become so famous and wealthy almost over night. Maybe, my apologetic Dragon, it is because he is only a puppet and someone else pulls the strings."
The magician raised his eyebrows as if to say that that made sense.
"Much of this man's money goes into a Swiss bank account. I could not, of course, get any information on that account from the authorities ... at least from those authorities ... so I consulted the Tarot and the Queen of Wands figured prominently."
"Great attractive power, the power of command, adaptability, a mature woman who applies steady force to an objective and generally allows nothing to interfere with her plans."
"Yes," Kyoko agreed, "but very badly aspected. Nothing left that is good."
"Obstinate, unwilling to change. Domineering, tyrannical, revengeful and apt to turn against one without the least apparent cause for doing so."
"So it is, Big Dragon. Do you memorize I Ching as well as Tarot?"
"Try me," King smiled.
"I try you later," Kyoko retorted, "and we talk about I Ching later. Now back to work." She returned to her notebook. "One would have to be a witnit..."
"Nitwit," King smilingly corrected.
"Yes. Of course. I say that! One would have to be a ... a ... nitwit," Kyoko took a moment to smile smugly at her Big Dragon, "not to see that Laine, or the woman behind Laine, wants the Massey estate and expects to obtain this through the son."
"And neither of us are witnits!"
She frowned at him.
"Right. However, Mrs. Sarah Massey still holds the control over the estate and..."
"That means she is in danger." King sat up very straight in his chair. "Kyoko, do you have any idea where she might be at this moment?"
"A very good idea." There was no more time for joking. "I visited Sidney at his office today and he said that he was taking Mrs. Massey to the airport so that she could get away for a while."
"I will get the car," Kyoko said, "and meet you out front."
"You read my mind!"
"Don't I always?" she threw over her shoulder, smiling brilliantly, as she left the room to suit action to words.
Solomon King drove the Mercedes 450SL. It was not that he did not trust Kyoko's driving--she was, in fact, the better driver of the two!--but putting himself in control of the powerful machine helped him to regain control over himself, control which he felt he had somewhat lost when that woman had so easily invaded his consciousness during meditation. Having bathed in the words of the Master, behind the wheel of his automobile, with Kyoko at his side and headed into what he knew was very real danger, Solomon King felt at his best. He was ready to face anything.
Or at least he thought he was.
As was his habit, although exceeding the speed limit in an effort to get to the airport as quickly as possible, the magician often glanced at the rearview mirror. It was in the mirror that he saw the eyes ... the eyes of that woman. Quickly he glanced over his shoulder to reassure himself that the backseat was empty. Then glancing at the mirror again his eyes once more made contact with the eyes of Madame Velikazora.
"Kyoko." There was a desperate and very foreign tone of fear in his voice.
Kyoko glanced at him, saw that he was looking too much into the rearview mirror, looked at it, shuddered and then quickly reached out and turned it up.
"You saw it too?"
"I saw it."
"They were her eyes, Kyoko."
"She knows where we are ... what we are doing. She will try to stop us."
"She is not here." Kyoko was very worried. King was visibly shaken and this was quite unusual. Normally, even when unpleasantly surprised, Solomon King remained calm and jovial. It was one of his greatest strengths, that combination of self-control and his sense of humour.
"It doesn't matter, Kyoko. The harm is done. I saw her eyes."
Suddenly, for no apparent reason, King swerved radically. A nearby motorist forced to move out of his way angrily honked his horn.
"Yes. Of course." He took a few deep breaths and relaxed back into his seat.
Again he swerved, not so radically, but he swerved. It was an automatic reaction.
"Do you ...?"
"Yes, my Big Dragon, I see them too." She glanced nervously at King. Perspiration was pouring down his forehead and he shook some of the salty moisture out of his eyes. "Aren't they funny, Master? They look so fierce and yet they are like party balloons ... all filled with hot air!"
The magician was too distracted to realize it at the time but his companion was doing her best to invoke his sense of humour and remind him that he is a Master of the Temple, a Master of the Event. Certainly the things that they saw, the projections sent by the woman, were horrible, but they effected King's mind with much more impact than Kyoko's for the woman had already invaded his mind and made a subtle link with it.
King squinted his eyes, hunched over the wheel and tightened his jaw with determination. Out of nowhere horrible distortions of living creatures, but empty, soulless, seemed to materialize. They clung to the car, long talons seeming to pierce its metal body, claws scraping at and scratching the windshield and side windows. Foul saliva dribbled from their gaping, fang-lined maws and oozed down the glass in front of the magician. One horrible caricature of a living being actually licked the windshield in front of him with a large, thick, grossly disfigured tongue, then it laughed in his face as he continued to drive the car.
However fast King drove these creatures clung to the Mercedes while others flew alongside the car, matching their speed with the vehicle's.
"Party balloons," King said, repeating Kyoko's words. "Party balloons. I can see right through them. They are empty." He forced a chuckle. "Casper the Friendly Ghost!"
Kyoko laughed ... a little nervously.
"Yes. Casper. Boo!" she said, making an absurd face at the thing on the otherside of the windshield, then she laughed again, this time more sincerely.
Solomon King glanced over at her. How could such a lovely face look so damn silly? He laughed at her. He laughed at himself. Then King turned back to the things and laughed at them.
The creature clinging to his side of the car drove its claws into and through the safety glass of the side window. King was momentarily startled, then he lifted his hand and with his forefinger twanged one of the sharply pointed claws. "Boing!" he said and laughed. The thing on the other side of the glass looked at him with bewilderment, tilting its deformed head like a confused puppy. King turned towards it and stuck out his tongue.
The things around them began pounding upon the metal surface of the moving automobile.
King held the steering wheel with one hand and slid his free hand into Kyoko's on the seat between them.
"Aw, go away," King said to the things swarming over the car. "Go away," he said in his best W. C. Fields imitation, "ya bother me." King and Kyoko glanced at one another and laughed their bloody heads off. It was all so ridiculous, so absolutely absurd. Not exactly what one would be likely to see in a Hollywood movie! But self-confident and sincere laughter and love were two of the strongest forms of true magick, and the more they laughed, together, the more insubstantial the qliphothic entities became until finally they were gone altogether leaving not a trace of their presence behind.
King glanced up at the rearview mirror, which he left turned upward, and said defiantly, "You've got to do better than that ... old girl."
There was the smell of ozone in the air and the street lights along their way suddenly exploded one right after the other, leaving the road behind them in darkness.
"Oh!" Kyoko said excitedly, a beautiful childlike smile on her face. "Fireworks! Just like New Year!"
And the rest of the ride was uneventful ... uneventful but filled with the warmth of their shared love and good humour.
Carelessly King parked the car and like a shot he and Kyoko dashed from it leaving the doors unlocked. The lot attendant called after them but they ignored him.
"They are at the gate," Kyoko announced breathlessly as they ran side by side. "We must run even faster."
They ran through the revolving door of the airport terminal, one poor man nearly shot out of it like a bullet from a gun, then they were running through the crowded building, knocking people out of their way if they had to. Down they ran on the escalator, pushing past the people who had a few choice words for them.
"There!" Kyoko pointed ahead of them and there stood Sidney and Mrs. Massey, the widow about to pass through the metal detector.
"No! Wait!" They turned to see the magician and his priestess running towards them. "Stay right there!" King commanded.
Kyoko was first to notice the tainted air.
"I know, Kyoko, I know!"
Then all hell broke loose.
The lights in the airport terminal flickered a few times, some of them exploding. Sidney backed up and into the metal detector. There was the sound of snapping electricity, a sizzle, then the lawyer fell to the ground stunned by the electrical shock. Mrs. Massey dropped her purse and carry-on bag and began screaming at something horrible she saw in the air directly above and before her--something that no one else in the terminal could see--no one else but Mrs. Massey, King and Kyoko that is.
The thing before the window was quite indescribable in its gruesomeness. Blood, puss and internal organs oozed out of its butchered, burned and distorted body, and the worst thing of all was the fact that, in a horrible kind of way, the thing strongly resembled the late Henry Massey, somehow twisted and infused with the power of sheer evil.
King and Kyoko moved with perfect precision. The woman took Mrs. Massey, turned her away from the thing she saw and held her tightly, soothing her with soft words. At the same time King quickly bent to check for Sidney's pulse. He was still alive. Merely stunned. Thank Horus he has a strong heart! Then he rose up and confronted the astral creature before him.
"A stupid cartoon monster, Varina. Stupid and ineffective." The thing rushed at King but was stopped cold when, with his right hand, the first two fingers extended with the others folded over his palm, the magician drew in the air before him a pentagram, a five-pointed star, starting at his left hip, moving his arm stiffly and swiftly to the point before him parallel to the top of his head, down to his right hip and so on until the star was complete. The banishing pentagram of the earth. Upon completion of the symnbol King jabbed his hand forward into its centre and forcefully called out what people would later say sounded something like "I was". It was, in fact, the name of the Angel of the Æon that he had invoked for protection--Aiwass.
The qliphothic force was repelled by the burning pentagram that only it, King and Kyoko could see. The whole affair was quite bewildering to the rest of the people in the terminal.
King remained standing firm with his arm outstretched, then he thrust his body forward, bringing his left arm up to clasp his hands before him, the first two fingers of each hand projecting forward, and with all of the inner strength he could muster the magician projected a powerful beam of magical force and it struck the thing squarely in the region of its solar plexus. There was a brilliant light that only the magician and his assistant could see, then the tormented scream of the entity that others in the terminal heard but would later describe as "the wind" or "jet engines", until finally, in a burst of light that some actually witnessed but assumed to be from a camera's flash, the thing exploded into nothingness and was gone.
Solomon King, with the calm grace of a ballet dancer, pulled back his right foot which he had thrust forward, straightening his back, bringing his one arm down to his side and touching his lips with the forefinger of his other hand, following the Sign of Horus, the Enterer, with the appropriate Sign of Harpocrates, the Sign of Silence, reabsorbing the force that he had projected only moments ago and resealing the electromagnetic field around his body which is commonly called the aura.
Then a truly remarkable thing happened.
Nearly everyone in the terminal lost interst in King and Kyoko. They acted as if something very strange had just happened but they could not quite remember what it was or where the centre of the activity had been. King and Kyoko straightened themselves and acted incredibly normal and nonplussed. Quickly and smoothly Solomon King straightened his suit and tie and helped Sidney to his feet while Kyoko led Mrs. Massey off as if she had just had a mild fainting spell.
The sky marshal standing next to the metal detector scratched his head. "Damn funny electrical failure there." The lights were more or less back on. "Hope that fellow was not too badly hurt by the overload."
Things in the airport terminal quickly returned to normal.
When confronted by the bizzare and apparently irrational the human mind often rejects what it cannot understand, rationalizing what can be rationalized by the standards to which it is accustomed. With a little help, a touch of psychology, people could be made to forget the most astounding experiences.
Making Mrs. Massey forget her experience, however, was not going to be so easy, but for the sake of her sanity that was exactly what King had to do. The experience, at least, had to be temporarily submerged in the subconscious until gradually, carefully, the magician could help her to deal with the memory of it.
"How is she, Kyoko?"
The magician's assistant, wearied by their magical warfare, dropped into the chair next to him.
"Sleeping peacefully in the special room."
The 'special room' was one that was especially fortified against the possibility of psychic attack. Perhaps Madame Velikazora was one of the few people who could break through the magical defenses of that room, but even she would not find it easy and both King and Kyoko would be alerted by the astral guardians, giving them plenty of time to fight back and protect the beleagured widow of the late Henry Massey.
"I wish I could have seen it," Sidney said. He was sipping a brandy that King had poured for him.
"No, Sid, you don't. You were much better off unconscious. Believe me."
"I believe you, Solomon. I believe you." The lawyer took another sip of his drink, allowing the amber warmth to flow into him. "What do you think this Var..." King gave him a warning look, "this woman tried to do?"
Solomon King shrugged. "She probably only wanted to drive Mrs. Massey mad, or at least scare the hell out of her so that she would act mad, or perhaps go temporarily insane in public."
"And if that had failed to unhinge Sarah's mind?"
"Well, Sid, then she probably would have settled for simply killing Mrs. Massey."
"How on earth could she have done that without being physically present?"
"Sidney, haven't you learned anything about the nature of reality from all of our chats? The reality is that that woman was there. There was no need for her physical presence. Her ... essence ... her consciousness had been projected into our sphere of consciousness and in a sense what she evoked had reality only upon the inner planes of our minds. That is why no one else saw that which we saw. Their conscious minds were not upon the same level and so from their point of view there was no reality to perceive. Although physically that woman was not present with us and the other people in the airport, although physically we and the others in the airport were together, we were conscious upon different levels of existence. Kyoko, Mrs. Massey and myself, while still functioning upon the physical level were also aware of and functioning upon an astral level of consciousness, the same level upon which that woman was operating, although elsewhere on the physical plane. The others in the airport were not aware of the astral level of consciousness and that which was occurring at that level, hence they saw nothing and have only the dimmest impressions of anything that went on in that state of consciousness."
"Could that thing have killed Mrs. Massey?"
The magician gave it some thought. Before he could speak, Kyoko answered the question for him.
"Only if Mrs. Massey allowed it to." Sidney looked at her as if she were mad. "She was, in fact, permitting it to effect her. If she would have been left alone she might have accepted its reality and the entity could have...", she looked towards King for help and he shrugged and said, "Entered her?" "Yes," the beautiful Oriental continued, "it could have entered her sphere of consciousness and from within sought to destroy Mrs. Massey. Maybe give her a heart attack or cerebral hemorrhage. Manipulate her phsical structure. Maybe just plague her mind with a million horrible phantasms until she was driven insane and sought relief in suicide."
"Incredible," the lawyer remarked. "And that's how that woman would have killed Mrs. Massey if she had boarded the plane after you defeated the thing?"
"Couldn't have if the thing had been defeated, Sid. Probably," King shrugged, "she wold have attacked the minds of the pilot and co-pilot as she did my mind and Henry Massey's, resulting in the crash of the airplane."
"Killing all those people just to get Sarah out of the way." Sidney was astrounded that someone could be so ruthless. "At least you destroyed that ... that thing."
"Destroyed it, Sid? Heavens no! I disrupted its form but in fact I repelled it. Sent it back to its point of origin."
King and Kyoko exchanged smiles.
"That woman, Sid. I sent it back to that woman, and I am sure she was none too pleased about it."
"Kyoko," King said, turning to his companion, his priestess, "you do have Laine's address, don't you?"
"Yes. Of course I do."
"Good. Give it to me."
Kyoko picked up her notebook and tore a page from it which she then handed to her high priest. "I will drive this time."
"No," the magician said. "You will stay here this time."
"But you need me, my big stupid Dragon!"
"Yes," he chuckled, "I do need you, but this time I need you to stay with Mrs. Massey just in case that woman makes another try for her. Besides, I have to handle this alone. I cannot allow that woman to manipulate me again and there is only one way to deal with the problem and that is to meet it head on and alone."
King raised his hand palm outward and Kyoko closed her mouth and pouted. She pouted so beautifully. The magician smiled and kissed her lightly on the cheek, but before he could pull away she wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly for a moment.
Pulling away, Kyoko said, "Be a fire-breathing dragon and burn her to a crisp!"
"I'll burn her to ashes," he laughed.
"Then blow the ashes away."
"I'll blow the ashes away."
The woman and the man looked into each other's eyes for a moment, the silence between them saying far more than words could ever convey, so much so that even Sidney could read the quiet between them.
Without another word King turned on his heel and left the room. Before leaving the house, remembering something Kyoko had said in the restaurant and the impression the fallen glass from the roof had made, Solomon King took something from an antique chest that he had locked away in a drawer. He slipped the treasured object up his sleeve and walked out the door.
The first thing King did upon entering the Mercedes was to readjust the rearview mirror and look into it.
"I'm coming for you ... bitch."
The drive to Laine's massive home was uneventful--deceptively uneventful. Solomon King realized it was the calm before the storm intended to lull him into a false sense of security. He wasn't buying it.
Three blocks before he reached the house the engine of the Mercedes began to knock. It sputtered and then died completely. As he came to a coasting stop at the curb, there was the faint scent of rotting meat and ozone in the air. These are often the first signs of a psychic attack. The magician readied himself for the inevitable.
Stepping out of the car he glanced about him before leaving the vehicle completely and closing the door. It was evening, the darkness relieved by street lamps. It was a pleasant suburban area of the upper middle class, just on the outskirts of the Heights, where Jack Laine, alias Jacq Zared Laine, lived at the expense of his following. Except for a harmless little dog and what appeared to be an old woman walking down the sidewalk towards him, the street was empty.
It felt very empty indeed. Somehow hollow. Dangerously lacking every sensation of life and habitation that one would expect even on a silent suburban street. The emptiness was haunting.
King stepped on to the sidewalk. "Hi, pooch". The dog gave him a little responding bark and he bent to pet it. The dog moved into his hand and accepted his friendship. "Good boy. Whoops! Sorry, girl." Then he moved on, casually walking up the sidewalk towards Laine's house as if he did not have a care in the world, while inwardly alert for whatever might happen.
As Solomon King walked up the sidewalk of the tree-lined road the old woman walking in his direction became more visible. She appeared to be a nun, a Catholic nun. Could there be anything more harmless? he thought, then snickered at the memory of his childhood days when he saw the sexually repressed nuns more than once slapping his naughtier classmates and seemingly taking pleasure in viciously paddling their tender little behinds. What could be more harmless than a nun? Maybe a great white shark...
"Good evening, sir," the nun said in passing. She was a plump little old lady.
"Evening ma'am," King replied.
They passed one another. There was a rumble in the dark, cloud-thick sky. A breeze arose out of nowhere and quickly grew in intensity until it was blowing the leaves of the trees inside out.
From behind him King heard the old woman say, "Having a pleasant stroll, Mr. King?"
He froze in his tracks, felt icy fingers run up and down his spine, then braced himself and turned to face the woman.
The nun stood there in the dim light, hunched over and chuckling nastily. Slowly she straightened her back until her true statuesque height was revealed. Suddenly the woman raised both of her arms to form a V. Lightning shattered the darkness and thunder destroyed all sense of peace and calm. As the woman laughed the wind increased to gale intensity and all aspect of the nun vanished. That which stood before the magician no longer resembled anything that could in any way be considered harmless.
"Varina Velikazora," King hissed. Lightning flashed and thunder sounded.
Madame Velikazora laughed.
"Yes, Solomon King, and how easy it was for me to fool you!"
The magician smiled, acting as casual as he could while fighting a wind that threatened to blow him across the street.
Madame Velikazora stopped laughing.
"Why do you grin so idiotically?" she snapped.
"Because your tricks are as antiquated as you are ... old girl. Doesn't anything about you ever change?"
"Why you..." The woman bared her teeth, clawed her hands and looked as if she were about to pounce on King. King's eyes caught the woman's and held them with a fierce intensity, then suddenly something flashed in his right hand, something that fell from his sleeve. His hand moved with blurring speed, there was a flash of something in the air between them, then suddenly there was a shiny silver-bladed dagger planted squarely in the old woman's breast. With a stunned, incredulous look, Madame Velikazora stared down at the dagger, around which red blood began to stain her tunic. Eyes wide with surprise and mouth agape, Varina Velikazora looked at the magician who smiled and shrugged.
"There's magick, and there's magick! Sometimes the direct approach is best. I just thought that a properly charged silver dagger would do the trick. Get the point?"
Madame Velikazora growled like an enraged animal, grasped the hilt of the knife and with both hands and while it burned her claw-like appendages, smoke rising from between her fingers, with what appeared to be a terrific effort, she pulled the enchanted blade from her breast and tossed it aside. King was truly surprised and stunned. He had not expected that. He had no idea that she could reject death with such apparent ease.
Madame Velikazora cackled wildly and then screamed like a hundred enraged banshees, the wind screaming right along with her as it ripped through the once peaceful suburban area, tearing out bushes, ripping limbs from trees. The woman turned as she screamed, thrusting her burned, blood-stained hands towards the little dog cowaring under a bush. Thunder boomed. The dog howled and the howl became deeper, resounding as if in a deep cavern. Before King's startled eyes the little dog expanded, inflated, grew heavier, meatier, fiercer, until it no longer resembled any dog he had ever seen. The thing that now stood there before him was a gigantic and evil caricature of a dog, bigger than any normal dog could ever be, and fiercer than any living thing should be.
"KILL HIM!" Madame Velikazora screamed manically. "KILL THE STUPID LITTLE MAGICIAN!"
The creature snarled and snapped at the air. Saliva ran from its mouth, between its long, sharp, bared fangs. The thing's eyes glowed with a horrible light in the dark night. Overhead electrical wires were torn loose from poles and street lights exploded in showers of sparks before going out.
"KILL HIM, MY PET! KILL THE PETTY LITTLE MORTAL!"
And the thing bounded into the air intent upon ripping out King's throat with its dagger-like teeth.
Solomon King stood his ground, silently calling upon his Angel, the Genius or Supraconscious Self that is called by some the Holy Guardian Angel. King invoked the True Self by a name known only to him, that unification of the conscious and subconscious which every true magician of the Right-hand Path seeks the knowledge and conversation of--that Silver Star that is the core of being which the Exempt Adept must travel without when crossing the abyss to be reunited with on the other side should his crossing be successful. The magician, in his own private way, called upon the Beloved, Adonai, the Lord, the Daemon or God that is his particular Genius, and he stood his ground as the monstrosity hurled its fierce insane bulk through the air at him.
"KILL HIM! KILL HIM!" Madame Velikazora screamed.
And suddenly it was upon him!
Actually King caught the creature and within moments it was safely nestled within his arms, a cute cuddly little puppy lovingly held by a human that it had quickly learned to trust.
The wind died down faster than it had arisen.
The thunder became a distant rumble and with that the lightning soon disappeared altogether.
Some of the street lights sizzled, flickered, and came back to life, shedding illumination over the battle ground, returning things to normal.
A housewife glanced out of her window. She failed to notice the people on the sidewalk. Glad that's over, she thought. I hate those sudden summer storms. Then she closed her curtains and returned to her card game with her husband and the neighbours.
Solomon King stood there cradling the puppy in the crook of his arm, petting it with his free hand, and smiling widely at the woman before him.
"If you had loved it," he said in reference to the dog, "just a little, maybe it would have killed me at your command ... but I guess you couldn't do that, could you, old girl? Your power may be great, old girl, perhaps you can even kill with a look, but you are incredibly limited, don't you now."
Madame Velikazora grasped her chest and with her now emaciated hands tried to stop the blood that was pumping through her boney fingers at an alarming rate. She looked back up at the magician who had just set the dog down so that it could run home and it was a look of pure unadulterated hatred.
"My my, old girl. If looks could kill..."
Varina Velikazora raised her now skull-like head heavenward on a neck so thin it looked as if it would snap with the effort. Her once aristocratic figure had sunken almost to skeletal proportions, making even the victims of the Holocaust look healthier by comparison. Like a wounded animal she howled in anguish as the blood continued to pump through her fingers. There arose, only around her, in a peculiar kind of isolation, a very strange misty wind in which Solomon King could see hundreds of faces, young faces, lost faces, and in that whirlwind that whipped about Madame Velikazora's wasted body he could hear the wails of a hundred voices, a hundred hundred voices, first crying out piteously, and then, finding release, crying with joy.
In moments the strange misty blue whirlwind died down and disappeared. A skeletal-like figure, so wasted that its sex was impossible to determine, stood dejectedly on the sidewalk. The thing did not look real, and yet it still clung tenaciously to life. Slowly, painfully, it raised its head which tilted to one side, then raised its chin imperiously as its glowing eyes looked into King's.
"I am not beaten," the thing croaked. "I shall live within my servant, magicain, until such time that I may return ... and destroy you!"
There came a brief piercing wail as the thing flung back its skull on its feeble neck, then it fell to the ground, bones separating as flesh rapidly decomposed, until in moments all that was left was a pile of ashes-- greyish-white ashes.
Solomon King leaned forward and blew, sympathetically creating a little magical wind that scattered the ashes to the four quarters of the earth, a simple, dull letter opener revealed, not sharp enough to penetrate human flesh, not a single bloodstain on it--the 'magical dagger' Madame Velikazora had believed pierced her chest. It was shaped like a dagger. A gift from Kyoko.
The magician took a deep breath, standing erect.
"All is illusion," he said with calm self-assurance. "I master reality."
Only anti-climax remained.
Solomon King discovered, upon retrieving the 'enchanted silver dagger' and getting back into his Mercedes 450SL, that the car's engine started right up. Calmly he drove to Laine's house, found the front gate torn off of its heavy metal hinges, and drove up to the front door. That too was torn from its hinges, wood splinters being all that remained of the once heavy oaken door. Cautiously King entered the house. The double doors leading to the study were shattered beyond recognition so there was no doubt as to which direction he should take. Once in the book lined study King turned on the light and there on the floor laid what remained of Jack Laine, alias Jacq Zared Laine. He imagined Ezel Gath had died with him or returned to his home upon the 'higher planes'. Lemurian wisemen seldom hung about after their channellers were decapitated and torn to bloody shreds.
That was bad, but what was almost comical was the way he found Craig Massey. The son of the late Henry Massey had been stuffed into the bar feet first, his upper torso hanging down, arms dangling, a look of terror frozen on his face, and wads of paper money crammed in his mouth and down his throat, which, obviously enough, had choked him to death.
"I wonder," Solomon King said aloud, "had she simply turned on them in her rage or was she covering her tracks?" He shrugged. "Oh well, I suppose it really doesn't matter. It's a neat finish to a complicated story and I shouldn't complain. But I wonder ... what was that she had said about her servant?"
The sign went on warning the passengers to extinguish their cigarettes and fasten their seatbelts. The massive plane began to taxi out onto the field. One of the passengers in particular seemed decidedly calm--as if he were completely devoid of all emotion. He was a big man seemingly carved from living rock. As the airplane began to lift off the runway the big man turned to look out the small window beside him.
"Cripes!" the passenger beside the big man exclaimed. "I hate these goddamn take offs. You seem pretty comfortable. Fly a lot?"
Grant turned to look at the little balding man. In his lifeless face two horribly piercing, malevolent eyes stared out with pure hatred.
"N ... never mind," the little man said, nervously turning away from those eyes. "I'm sorry if I bothered you."
And he thought: If looks could kill...