Never meet your heroes
Lives well lived and read
For there is a reason theirs ends in prison
And only lauded after they’re dead
Never meet your heroes
Lives well lived and read
For there is a reason theirs ends in prison
And only lauded after they’re dead
I carried her body out of the room. My left hand holding the pistol I had hidden earlier as the rest of my arm propped up her legs. I made a jog back to the elevator, but I didn’t make it so far as a few meters before I saw an angel rounding the corner after us.
“Magus!” he shouted, before raising his wings to fire a barb of sliver feathers into my chest.
Three sharp feathers pierced my body armor, nearly cutting into my heart. My growl echoed into the dark hallway. I gritted my teeth as I struggled to support the weight of Cassidy’s body. I stumbled for a moment, almost into a half-kneel, but I still managed to raise my longinus hand canon and squeeze off several pincer shots that pinned the angel to the wall. The angel scream was deafening with a wave of anger that nearly stopped me in my tracks. Not wanting to waste anymore time, I took a deep breath, held on tightly to Cassidy, and lifted off into a sprint around the corner. As I pasted the angel he continued to spit out a string of curses at me as he slowly died from his wounds. Finally, I made it to the elevator, and using the same enchantment once again, I transformed my hand into that of Agather’s and summoned the elevator via the palm print scanner. The elevator responded with banal, womanly approval in the lyrically brutal, ancient language of Sanctum-Lilim Orthodox. I looked behind me and saw that several portals within the corridor were forming down the hall as more angels warped to my location. I took cover with Cassidy behind one of the protruding walls.
“There’s no way out, James!” one of the angels called out to me, “you’re not going to make half a kilometer before we run you down! Give up Cassidy and we promise you a swift death.”
“Really good at negotiating, aren’t you?” I mumbled.
I switched my pistol to fully automatic and fired blindly from around my small corner as the elevator was in its last moments of descent. There was a moment of pause before I heard there counter offer.
“Say your prayers, half-blood whore!” one of them yelled back in my direction.
I pulled out another loginus grenade from inside my suit and activated the trigger.
“How original,” I said to myself.
Just as the elevator doors opened, I tossed the grenade towards the pack of angels and jumped into the elevator with Cassidy in my arms. I could feel several feathers piercing into my back like knives as I shielded her from the barrage. I could hear the shrapnel exploding behind us as the elevator doors closed and began its ascent up towards the surface to a shrill burst of torturous screams. I kneeled down, placing Cassidy gently down on the floor and pulling out one of the sharp, knife-like feathers from my back. I could feel myself bleeding under the layers of my clothes.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Cassidy slowly propped herself up and looked up at me. I could see that she was coming out of her fog, but her face told me that seeing me before her was a shock to her system.
“Is this a dream?” she asked.
“No, I’m getting you out of here.”
I smiled, but winced from the effort as I felt another sharp twinge of one of the feathers digging into me. Cassidy got up and held me by my head.
“Cassidy,” I said, gritting my teeth, “do the have the strength to heal me?”
“We’re going to need to help each other out of this if we want to get out of here alive,” I told her, “there’s going to be more of them waiting for us on the surface.”
“I’m sorry James, but I’m not going to heal you.”
I looked up at her. My mouth was open, nearly slack jawed over what I was hearing.
“Cassidy, what the fuck are you doing?”
“I wanted to look into your eyes and see the man that left me for dead,” she said, before grabbing one of the feathers and shoving it into my heart.
I doubled over, falling on my back as she looked down on me. I could hear the elevator screeching, sparks started to fly, and a massive inferno erupted inside the box car. As the fire quickly engulfed us, Cassidy bent down and looked at me, a sadistic smile spreading across her lips. Her beautiful eyes melted and in their place were embers of fire that slowly cracked the skin of her face as if her head was made of pottery.
“Come and die with me, James,” her voice echoed in the flames as the fire consumed us, “die like the cowardly traitor you are.”
I could feel my body shaking, unable to look away from her as the fire became hotter and more intense. Somewhere, I heard someone screaming, the wail becoming louder and louder until that’s all I could hear.
Once again, I found myself in the familiar position of being at least a kilometer underground This time, however, I was the buyer and not the product being sold inside this angel-controlled outpost of maximum security and imprisonment of my fellow mages. The spell that I had cast on myself was working so far. I had come in disguised as a well-dressed businessman. A respectable incubus looking to buy one of the several half-demon bred magi girls whose sole purpose or punishment was to have their essence drained. This ritual would be conducted through an act of sexual conquest that would provide a lifespan two-to-three times that compared to any normal human that fell victim to this routine act of life extension.
I looked away from my corner of the elevator and towards the white-haired angel who stared back at me with unblinking, golden eyes. He had a face so pale that I almost thought he might be an underfed vampire. As an almost fitting bit of contrast to my black, three-piece suit, he wore a white blazer and tie, along with white leather shoes. In fact, it’d be easier to describe him as being white from head-to-toe, as if accentuating the purity of his supernatural lineage. He was holding a tablet in front of me with a stylus, the screen fixed on a set of digital paper work that needed to be co-signed. I smiled, hoping the horns on my head looked real enough to pass as an ancient looking demon who often made these sorts of transactions on a regular basis.
“Yes, of course,” I said, taking the stylus and signing the name of the old demon baron that I was impersonating before handing it back to him, “you didn’t expect to see me so soon, I suppose?”
“No,” said the angel, who sounded polite, but with a twinge of annoyance, “you’re back again much earlier than we had anticipated.”
I smiled apologetically and shrugged in an attempt at dispersing the cloud of suspicion that was beginning to form around me, but I could see that he was already trying to look into my mind. However, the additional spell that I had cast upon myself was just going to give him a series of memories that I had crafted based on ones I had pulled from the incubus in question. Most angels wouldn’t doubt my identity after doing this kind of cursory view of my mind, but this was no ordinary facility, and I wasn’t the first magus to try to break into such a place.
“Now the secondary audit,” droned the angel, as he glanced back at his tablet.
“Yes, let’s finish this,” I said, with perhaps too much eagerness.
“Your sister’s name?”
“Trick question: no siblings,”
“Private herd count and mistresses?”
“Three herd members, one mistress,”
“Herd is human stock, the mistress is another succubus,”
“Genevieve would be a very sorry demoness if she knew your extramarital appetites,”
“False: she knows and accepts these lifestyle choices,”
“Your date of birth and place of birth?”
“Name three emotions from your childhood,”
“Fear, desire, and…” I paused for a moment, as did Agather from the countless video logs I managed to procure of these conversations in order to analyze his speech patterns, “…happiness.”
I waited as the angel finished whatever notes he was taking before he looking back up at me and handed the tablet back for another signature.
“Very good,” he said, “once again you passed, but then again I wouldn’t dream of some magus crazy enough at trying to disguise themselves as you anyway.”
“That would be a bit full hearty of them, wouldn’t it?” I answered back, as I concentrated on making Agather’s signature look as authentic as possible.
“What brings you back, Baron Agather?”
“Well,” I said, handing the tablet and stylus back to the angel, “a recent scare has prompted me to make another request for your services. I know this is one of the busier times of the year for people like yourself.”
“Yes,” the angel answered somberly as he looked down at the tablet, the lids of his eyes drooping a fraction, “you also requested a specific half-breed magus to source from, a Ms. Cassidy Wells?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“A little old, don’t you agree, Mr. Agather?”
“My proclivities are none of your business, angel,”
“True, but there are plenty of eighteen-year-olds you can harvest from if it’s simply life-extension you’re seeking. You do understand that there is a rate of diminishing returns as these magi get older.”
I bit my lower lip and wondered how this conversation would go if he knew who he was really talking to, or that I was packing — optically and magically camouflaged — “angel killer” equipped grenades and pistols inside my suit. I changed tactics in order the steer the conversation away from the current subject, but looking back, I realized then that this slight loose in composure would mark the beginning of a series of fatal blunders.
“My good friend Carmilla wants this one gone as quickly as possible,” I said, “this Cassidy did a lot of damage to my friend’s assets in Europe and in turn my own. I know she sold Cassidy to your organization, but this is also a personal favor from me to an old friend of mine. I get my allotment early and help tie up some loose ends.”
The additional name dropping of the infamous succubus, Camilla, added the weight I needed to expedite this process.
“Very well,” said the angel, reverting back to the dull professionalism he displayed earlier, “we’ll take you to her.”
When the elevator stopped, we were met by a small entourage of three other angels waiting to escort us down the dark, neon-blue lit cell block. One of these angels, a woman, greeted me with a slight bow.
“Mr. Agather,” she said, “so good to see you again!”
“And you as well, Abby,” I said, recalling her name and face in a dossier I looked over prior to coming here, “still purifying the wicked?”
“Only the ones that transgress the natural order,” she said with reverence.
“And what about me?” I asked, gesturing at myself with a half-cocked smile.
“Your kind were once angels too, you know,” she said, raising an eyebrow. “You exist because God allows it.”
“Hence why we’re all here today,” I mocked, as I clasped my hands and rubbed them together, “so, let’s see Ms. Wells, shall we?”
As we started our walk towards our destination, I continued to make conversation.
“I’ve noticed that the prices in magi essence and blood has spiked recently in the past month or so,” I continued, “I take it the commodities market has been favoring your recent change in live stock?”
“Oh yes,” said Abby, excited, “our investors are very happy. These magus farms of ours have seen an increase in business over the last year. Even vampires are ordering from us now.”
We rounded a corner and down another hallway.
“So I take it you get complaints from the Warlock Human Rights Organization everyday then?” I asked with a laugh.
“Those half-breed, spawns of whores at the W.H.R.O can send as many petitions as they want,” seethed Abby as we continued our stroll down the hall, “as long as they all stay in Geneva and Stockholm where they belong, it won’t hurt our bottom line.”
Our pace began to slow as we approached what I assumed to be Cassidy’s cell; a black cement rectangle of a door with no windows and a blue-neon keypad that kept it locked.
“Sometimes I wonder if a member of my herd birthed something like one of those mages, but didn’t tell me,” I mused, “it’s a scary thought.”
“Your kind still executes incubi who procreate with humans, don’t they?” asked Abby, as she started to punch in the code to unlock the cell.
“The laws are changing what with the business community lobbying to build more magus farms,” I answered, pulling the facts from reading business quarterly I remembered reading a month or so back, “but yes, that’s still a common practice.”
“That’s too bad,” said Abby somberly, as the cell doors slid open and a fog of cool mist greeted us from inside, “we’d make a killing with the profits that would bring.”
A shiver went down my spine as she said this to me and I became reacquainted with the fear I thought I’d left behind in a place like this.
Cassidy was strapped into a leather chair that protruded from the ceiling wrapped up with cords, and hooked into a virtual reality headset. The chair that Cassidy was sitting on looked like it had sprouted from the ceiling like a post-modern fungus of furniture and wires. Her clothes were basic, white inmate fatigues that had long since been yellowed and dirtied by years of neglect. Her hair was a blond mess that fell over her shoulders and chest as she remained slumped forward, tuned into whatever program the VR simulation was running. She appeared to be in a vegetative state as she drooled all over herself, lost in her world of forced media coma. I felt myself clearing my throat, trying to stifle the urge end this quickly and risk getting sloppy for just a few moments longer.
“Tell me something,” I asked the four angels in the room with me, “how long has she been in this state?”
The angels looked at each other confused.
“How is this relevant to…” one of them started to say, but I interrupted them.
“Indulge me,” I insisted, holding up a hand to counter their protests.
“Almost a year,” one of them finally answered, “we feed them well, of course, and keep them on a steady media diet so that they remain docile.”
“What kind of media diet are we talking about?” I asked. I could feel my jaw tightening as I struggled to maintain composure.
“Nothing that would violate any current treaties, I assure you,” answered Abby, her sales pitch straddling the border between offering a clean conscience and client happiness, “we can pull images from their mind. Previous lovers or crushes can be used to implant fantasies into them while they sleep. On the rare occasion that they are woken up, they often choose to go back into VR, but the fantasies themselves use digital actors. Approximations of their ideal man or woman that are tailored to their preferences.”
As she stated this, Abby got a better look at my face and paused mid lecture.
“I have to say, you of look like one of the men Cassidy fantasies about the most,” she said.
While Abby’s comment proved that my face and memory enchantment had worked further in disguising myself from her, I still felt the unconscious need to glance up at Cassidy in an attempt to avoid eye contact.
“And you’ll collect her soul…after I’m done with her?”
“After it’s husked, yes,” answered Abby, “tainted or not, it’s still a useful byproduct and can be refined later for us to use in our ongoing quest for eternal life.”
All this so a few can live forever, I thought.
I could feel myself starting to sweat despite the chill within the dark chamber while the other angels watched me. My heart was pounding as the pressure began to mount. I remembered how this other mover sight proved to be another fatal error, but at the time I was too nervous knowing that my window of opportunity was starting to close.
“Do I hear….” it was the first male angel that I had met in the elevator, “your heart beating?”
I turned to him and smiled. The bastard had asked this knowing that Cassidy’s should be the only beating heart human in the room right now.
“Perhaps its my aura giving off palpitations of excitement?” I said hopefully.
“No, an incubus does not have a beating heart,” said the angel, his voice becoming more threatening.
I turned away from the angels and looked up a Cassidy. Worse case scenario I can at least say I made it this far. I took a breath and allowed myself to succumb to the anger festering within me.
“I know,” I responded softly, “but it’s not for lack of trying.”
Silence filled the room before the first one responded.
As soon as the first angel swore, I was already crouching towards the floor to avoid the longinus shrapnel grenade that I had activated. The grenade’s cylindrical chassis popped up from the floor and fired a series of demonic-tipped knives that fired an even circle towards all targets. When I activated the grenade I made sure that I was low enough and Cassidy was high enough to avoid the blast arc as each pincer found their mark and turned the angels into combustible, blue embers of ash.
I snapped my fingers, which deactivated all of my enchantments that maintained my incubus disguise, and scrambled up the platform that Cassidy was hanging from. From here on out, I knew I was going to need every ounce of my energy if I was going to use magic to get her and myself out of here alive. I removed the wires wrapped around Cassidy and pulled the VR headset off of her. The pupils of her eyes looked like square, white cataracts of digital haze from hours of media bombardment as she slumped into my arms. I patted her cheek softly, trying to break her from her trance. I could already hear the alarm going off.
“Hey,” I whispered, “hey, hey! It’s James. Remember? I promised you. I’m getting you out.”
Cassidy’s eyes fluttered as she looked at me. “I don’t,” she moaned, “I can’t feel my legs.”
“I’ll help you, but we have to leave now.”
70,882 words. That’s how far I’ve gotten in revising the 85,000 word novel that was once zero words when I started it on one spring night in early 2016. And the crazy part? There’s a possibility that the final draft might go on longer than the initial 85k I ended with after the first go-around. What I’m really trying to say is that it’s now May 1st, and I did not meet my promise to finish the second draft of Spymancer.
The last I parted ways with my protagonist, James, he had conned his way into a nightclub and started shooting vampires in search of a demon who had done the bad thing. James hated the bad thing this demon did and decided that said demon needs to die. James thinks he might be close to death, too, but alas, it is not meant to be. Or is it? Probably. Can’t really pin that down right now.
However, what I can pin down, and probably should of had sorted already as early as a month ago was that my expectations for finishing this thing before my self-imposed deadline was ridiculous. As stated in an earlier post I made weeks ago, I was at the 45k mark and decided to dump the latter 40,000 words in order to do a complete re-write. That 85k which took 12 months to write, and 4 months of hard copy editing and post-draft outlining was grueling. To think I could pull off a 40k feat in a month was total hubris on my part. I thought it’d be more straight forward than this, but I was an idiot to think that I could pull this off while living on my own and pulling down a 40 hour per week day job on top of that.
So, here’s what happening: as promised, I’ll post the first chapter of Spymancer on this website within the next week or so (split into two parts). After that, I’m taking the rest of May off. This is mainly because I’m burned out on writing the novel and would like to actually sit down and read or watch thing somebody else made for a change. It’s been a few months, so I’m overdue.
During this time I’m going to look over and re-evaluate the content I’ve been posting on Nocturnal Muse Sessions. Things have been pretty inconsistent around here, and with Austin By Night on the permanent back burner, I want to shift to a posting schedule that’s more manageable. That way you can get a decent stream of posts from me and you’re not left wondering if I got bored running this website and quit or simply died and forgot to let everyone know about it.
By June I’ll be back writing (and finishing) Spymancer, with, hopefully, a new posting schedule to boot! I’m glad you’ve stuck with me so far, and I hope to see that you continue to stick around. Be sure to follow me on twitter and I can’t wait to see how you like the first chapter!
Philip N.R Hauser
This happened a few weeks back, but iMorpheus wanted me to do an actual author interview with him because — apparently — I was that cool? It’s pretty much me answering questions he e-mailed me, but still, it was awesome! So here’s my “That Was A Good Read” podcast interview (last half of the podcast). Really enjoyed doing it! Link below.
C Scott Frank is one of several #redditwriters that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on twitter. Of course, he’s a writer, but Scott also does interviewing on the side with his blog series After Words. In this interview, I was asked about writing processes, listening to others, and overcoming adversities in this really cool, digital sit fire side chat! Link provided below:
In another cool twist, iMorpheus came into my life again by featuring a video I did back in February where I did a poetry review of Altered Carbon (currently on Netflix). He was very kind to give my almost two minute video its chance at fifteen minutes of fame! You can find it towards the end of the podcast on his latest episode of “That Was A Good Read.” but listen to the whole thing! You are in for a literary treat! Link is below:
You may not know iMorphus, but I do. This may be considered old news, but over the past several months some of my work has been featured on his podcast. One in particular incorporated something really cool where they got a voice actress — Amanda Berthot — to read one of my flash fictions. You can hear it in the podcast I’ll be linking below (it’s towards the end). You should also follow their work on twitter where they’re also in the process of releasing a new game on steam! Seriously, if you love horror, check their game out! Also listen to the podcast!
(I remember on Thursday saying that I’d have something to post on Friday and it’s Sunday night. Hopefully, I won’t make the same mistake again. Haha!)
What was once an excerpt is now a full blown short story! I posted this teaser last fall after completing it and began shopping this particular piece around to get published. I’m excited to announce that it finally found a home! You can now read the full story of Catherine and the Wasteland here on the #redditwriters anthology TL;DR. Myself and thirty other talented new writers are featured here in this awesome bundle of eclectic short stories spanning several genres!
All proceeds of the anthology will be going to Doctors Without Borders, so it’s more than just your typical books promotion. Special thanks goes to Callum Colback, the editor; C. Scott Frank, for formatting; and Joe Butler, the publisher!
Thanks readers for your clicks, your likes, your comments, and I hope you enjoy this anthology! Amazon link below.
Philip N.R Hauser