I : The Black Betties

Want to hear a cool story? What am I saying? Of course you do. Picture a young woman, around 23, walking out of the grocery store with her basket packed with food to last the next few weeks. She walks across a half empty, moonlit parking lot. She walks quickly, as women do at this hour, desperate to reach that security offered behind a locked door. She fumbles with the keys as she tries to open the trunk.
She throws the bags in, hearing footsteps somewhere nearby. She doesn't bother to return the cart, leaving it in a vacant space to the right of her car. More footsteps echo in the night, and the anxiety reaches a peak. She jumps in, locks the doors, and turns the ignition. She exhales slowly. Her body loosens, the tension drifting away. She reaches down to the gear shift and takes a look in the rear view mirror. She sees a snarling face staring at her from the back seat.
A pair of inhuman hands are thrust forward, grabbing her by the hair. She screams, tries to fight, but she can't even wrap her head around the fact that such a thing exists. The driver side door flies open, ripped off its hinges. Another woman stands there. This savior pulls the victim from the car, and the creature within dies soon after.
That young woman was me. My name is Beatrice, the legend in the flesh. Many have come and gone in sixty years, but I'm the latest make and model to run this rockabilly fashion show. That was the night I joined The Black Betties, though my memory isn't like it was, an occupational hazard. To this day, at least I think, I have never told a soul how I truly came to join The Black Betties. There are stories all over the place with conflicting information being told and exchanged. That is what we're all about. I'm not even sure I remember anymore, to be honest.
We... hunt monsters… I know, right? It's cliche. We come from all walks of life. We're here for all manner of reasons. It's just what we do. We get caught between normal life and the things that dwell just beyond it. The Betties began in the fifties, and the aesthetic shows. That blend of vintage and punk plays deep to our roots. It gives us power.
We use Rosies's Garage as a front, our base of operations, and a nice flow of secondary income. Famous for its work, the garage sits just outside of Shreveport, Louisiana. At night it really shines, the fancy lit up sign with Rosie the Riveter in her power pose and the name written beneath her in red letters.
"Sunset... Niflheim... eight... four... Opera." Heimdal's voice echoed through the garage with Beethoven's Fifth playing in the background.
Heimdal claims to be a "Spirit of Fair Warning" despite the fact that no such spirit exists. Heimdal defies all definition. He has been known to randomly phone those who are about to die, usually by some freak accident. He warns them, and they are saved if they listen.
This would be a breach of secrecy that some of The Web's organizations try to keep. If he was truly a spirit, he wouldn't stop. Spirits, if given the means to do so, will never cease to bring forth what they represent. A spirit of fire must burn. It has no choice in the matter. Heimdal, thankfully, has shown great restraint over his interference. He sends out a signal to all of us here in The Web. He warns us of impending doom at the hands of sleeping gods and common monsters.
He's such a playful thing. When I first found myself caught in The Web, he sent me a rather disturbing email. Elmer insisted it was merely a message of welcome and apologized profusely for the horrific sounds that played when I opened it. I laugh about it now, but it scared the hell out of me at the time.
I was sprawled out on a couch on the second floor, peering over the railing at those below. It was hot, Louisiana heat gets to you. My shoulder length hair, dyed black, stuck to my forehead with sweat.
Cash spent the better part of the day with his nose in a book as usual. His office was surrounded by bookshelves filled to the point of tipping over from the weight if they weren't fastened to the walls.
Adelaide worked with Rosie on a customer's '66 Corvette and I noticed Cherry listening to the HAM radio. She took it upon herself to decode Heimdal's broadcast every chance she could. We tried to keep cool while listening to calm music and the distorted voice we all grew to love. In short, We were lounging about, as we do from time to time.
A young woman came up the stairs. She looked fifteen years younger than me, somewhere in the mid-20s. She had long and wavy black hair, with brown skin and a deer-in-the-headlights look in her brown eyes. She was our latest member. We found her in a cave infested with a hard to kill species of carnivorous flora. She was next in a long line of victims if we hadn't intervened.
She stuck out to me when I met her. For the first time while running the organization she asked me how to "dress the part." I was not prepared for that.
"Well, Go for a typical feminine 50's look... don't hide those tattoos though. Consider some Converse All Stars, we do the running thing on occasion. Of course, if you can run in heels, you're more than welcome, and you'll have my immediate and undying respect." I let my words sink in, and Norma's face lit up with a smile
It takes a lot of will to be able to shrug off the sudden realization that all those things you were afraid of as a child, the things you were told didn't exist, were real.
We call it Candlelight. The Magicians of Carthage figured out that this does something to the brain. It's like a beacon. It changes how you view things, and changes how some of these things view you too.
"Maybe some animal prints, bandannas, and bright red lipstick... at least that's my shade. Make the style yours. Do what you think makes it you. It helps. trust me on that. It's not a uniform."
Looking at her now, she definitely made it hers. Her hair was pulled up in a bandanna with white skulls cast upon a sky blue background. She could, to my surprise, run in heels, and wore a pair that made my feet hurt just by looking at them. She wore skin tight denim jeans, with a flannel shirt of blue and green worn over a black tank top.
"Nice." I thought out loud.
The smile that lit up her heart-shaped face faded and left behind something that seemed like embarrassment.
"Norma Jean." She said, holding out her hand to shake. She wasn't sure how her new name sounded out loud. I remember that feeling.
"It suits you." I said, smiling, jumping up from the couch to shake her hand. I wasn't lying either.
"Personas are not picked by the person who carries them. It's a wand-chooses-wizard kind of thing." she nodded.
"It just seemed right. It was my grandmother's name." My eyes went wide.
"Exactly, my mother's name was Beatrice. It influenced my decision too." She gave the kind of genuine smile you don't get often. I love newbies.
"I'm still not sure what the point is, though." She said, s.
"Your persona is the only true defense you have. It puts you at the same level of what you hunt." I paused, clasped my hands together, and thought carefully. New recruits always find this part difficult.
Your persona is your own personal legend. As you grow in our organization, you may develop skills that you never had before. You are not the only Norma Jean, either. You have twins that share that legend. Other chapters exist throughout the world and what your twin knows, you will know. We will teach you how to cultivate your legend as you go." She didn't understand. It's something you feel, and get a feel for, as time goes on. She sat there silently, and I walked to the railing.
"Ladies, and gentleman," I began, and The Betties formed up below in a crowd like a rockabilly family photo. "I have someone for you to meet." I reached over and pulled Norma forward, she resisted at first, but complied as I whispered, "Watch this."
"Our newest member. We finally have a Norma." Norma looked uncomfortable, but I noticed a change almost immediately after the cheers and applause. Her posture wasn't as stiff, and she immediately smiled and could look me in the eye instead of the ground. "It begins." I said.
Norma was lost in thought. She was adjusting well enough, but It's hard to take a persona. It feels like who you are is changing. It feels like your personality has to shift to the side to make room for another.
I called Cash over. He was slender for a man at 25, with square framed glasses and blue eyes to go with his blonde hair. He always styled his hair by combing it back. He walked up the stairs, his book still in hand.
He took one look at Norma and went white as a sheet. She didn't notice, but I did. I thought it was adorable. He tried to be discreet as he rubbed the itching scruff that grew in patches on his face. He hid a small, almost unnoticeable, amount of acne. The treatments had side effects, and he was getting more self conscious by the day. Norma looked at him, and he looked at me. I shook my head, trying to stifle the laughter out of respect.
I noticed something. It stopped me from speaking. My smile faded. Cash noticed too. The radio was dead silent. The attention of everyone in the garage turned to the radio in response.
I felt a slight surge of adrenaline and the burn in the muscle as it entered the bloodstream. My heart raced in anticipation of what couldn't be good news. The first thing we heard was the typical coded message, a message I've never heard before.
"Rooster... Helheim… Twelve... One... Stars..." Cherry was the first to spring into action, her eyes wide as she dialed on her cell. I wasn't far behind her. I memorized Heimdal's Primer ages ago.
Rooster meant urgent, immediate action needed. Helheim meant a potentially apocalyptic scenario. Twelve meant many pseudo-paranormal entities are involved, maybe the proper supernatural ones as well, but when you hear all of that coupled with the final number of one, meaning the event is in motion, you drop your shit and move.
We were only stopped by a change in the broadcast, something Heimdal had never done before. What followed the code was a series of buzzers or sirens. This was followed by a string of recordings from what sounded like police scanners.
"Respond... Emergency... All units respond... Requesting backup... Need assistance... Please evacuate...Backup is on the way... Suspect is armed and on the scene... Shots fired... Requesting backup... Locked down." Heimdall routinely weaves together recordings to create concise messages, but that was in private. This was being broadcast across the globe. Any random guy with a HAM could pick it up. He was in a hurry. The mixture of voices didn't quite fit together but the message was still clear.
The final statement was a long tone like a TV set unable to receive a signal. Within this white noise I made out the final words before the broadcast was simply shut off for the first time in almost 40 years. He must have been straining himself, as the final words were in his own voice, and not something he has ever learned to say before. The voice quaked in fear. "Help...Me."

II : Helheim

Heimdall was under attack, and for the first time in forty years, he was asking for a favor in return for all the work he has done for us. Not a second passed by before every one of us was up and moving. We left quick, cars packed exactly as they needed to be and every member armed with their weapon of choice. I was equally proud to see that Norma Jean did the same on instinct. She followed Cash and retrieved a Glock 17 from a safe. Cash preferred distance. He could work miracles with a rifle. His weapon of choice was a Mauser M18. I don't do firearms.
I walked to the edge of the couch and pulled out the magnificent knocker-outer of teeth that is our namesake.
This black Louisville Slugger is a living legend. Stakes of Oak, Blackthorn, Ash, Elder, and Cedar jutted out from its top joined by nails of steel, pure untempered iron, and silver. Another set of nails formed a ring circling the middle of the body. Razor blades and other sharp tools were embedded throughout the business end of the bat. The center of it was also wrapped in barbed wire, that little addition was mine. Teeth of various sizes and origins were each strung up to the handle. They mark the first kill of every wielder.
My mentor and predecessor, Batz, decorated the thing to make it even more special. She had a tattoo shop for a while, there. She painted images around the body, each depicting a monster she killed. Then you have the most beautiful script that covered where the logo used to be. The script was painted on both sides of a white heart and spelled out the name of the weapon: The Black Betty.
The stories could just be made up. My mentor may have been brewing up lies. The thing is. it doesn't matter if it's true or not. That's how we learned the power of a story. If I hit you with this bat at a full swing, it will hit you like a freight train. Over fifty years of stories being told and retold all across The Web have built such power, that it just hits that hard. Such is The Gift of Tall Tales.
We have our issues from time to time. There are disagreements with how we handle certain situations, but I will never cease to be proud of how quickly we can mobilize.
Cash and I opened the doors of the Shelby convertible and entered. Norma joined us and didn't even need to be told. We were on our way North within 15 minutes. That's got to be a new record.
Funny thing about Heimdall's messages: he always sends them before the event he is referring to occurs. We knew we had time to reach the tower, but we didn't know how much. Our phones buzzed constantly as we tried to gather and spread information. Without Heimdall doing so, efficiency is almost impossible.
It must have been a strange sight for the normals. A convoy of hot rods, both old and new, driving at high speed on the highway. We took great care to hide our weapons from prying eyes. For all they knew, we were on our way to some rally out of state.
On the final stretch of the trip we took a moment to breathe, a calm before the storm. Cash and I tried to pass the time by making light conversation. Norma looked nervous. She didn't have training yet and I couldn't rely on her incomplete persona to protect her properly.
"How you doin' there Norma?" I asked, tipping my head down so I could see her over the sunglasses in the rear view mirror.
"I don't know." She replied.
"Wiser words have yet to be spoken." Cash said smiling, never once looking up from his book.
"I was nervous the first time too. Don't worry. It's like riding a bike." She smiled, but lost herself in thought. The first time out is always scary.
"You wanna know how I joined The Betties?" Her eyes lit up and she straightened her posture, leaning forward to make it easier to listen. Cash slammed his book shut, casting me a knowing smile.
"What?" I asked.
"Go on, pray tell." He said. I couldn't tell if he was angry or being playful. His eyes narrowed but his tone was high, his voice cracking back momentarily to the more feminine voice I knew.
"Don't tell me your having weird mood swings now." I said and he shrugged in reply.
"Well I was walking to the grocery store, right? I didn't have a car. I lived in the big city with a health department horror show of a studio apartment. On my way back, I heard this weird sound, like raw meat slapping brick. I thought two crackheads were having a rough go in the alley. I looked. God, I didn't want to, but I did. What I saw was not two crackheads bumping uglies, oh no." I paused, thinking about what beastly foe should be my first this time. "It was what we call a Brolzieer. They have a really short temper and lots of sharp edges like a cat made of iron and glass."
"What did you do?" Norma asked. I took the exit off of the highway, and replied.
"I screamed like a little girl as it rushed toward me and then, for whatever reason, swung my cheap purse at it. Knocked it right across the jaw."
"A purse?" She said, raising an eyebrow.
"Horrible idea. If Batz, the leader before me, hadn't been tracking it, I'd be dead." She didn't believe me for a second. she was one of the smart ones.
"What about Cash?"
"Uh." he shifted his eyes to me, unsure if he wanted to reveal too much.
"Cash is a bit more complicated than me, Norma. I mean he wasn't a Betty until quite recently. He started as an honorary member then trained as a magician, dropped out, and then-"
"I didn't drop out." He laughed, turning around to face Norma. "It cost too much. To 'graduate' is to remove your own eyes and see the world for what it really is." Norma squinted and cocked her head.
"What's a magician?" She asked. Cash and I shared a look. It was easy to forget how new she was.
"Mediums... exorcists. They study Candlelight at The School Of Carthage." He replied.
"Why the eyes? Seems like overkill to me. Candlelight hurts, but removing eyes?" She leaned back as Cash responded.
"I don't get it either. They won't say why. That's why I refused. It used to be optional, but not anymore. So I quit. I happen to like my eyes, plus I couldn't imagine having to deal with braille. I learned the rite and everything, but couldn't bring myself to do it. I'd rather forget who I was before. I'm actually me now."
We were near the end. We got there before the US military could put up a quarantine. It's a twenty-nine hour drive from Shreveport to Maine, we made it in twenty-five.
We arrived on site to see the battle was already in full swing, and we were on the losing side. Same story, different day. Apparently a very large cult was involved and they had plenty of people to spare. They were not the only players on the field though. Many hands had a role in the attack. The cult just happened to be the enemy that wanted Heimdall dead.
One of The Troubleshooters told us that every morning, the dead would rise and assault the tower once more. They had gun toting maniacs to back them up. Those who arrived first never found the time to gather the bodies and burn them before another wave came. Every day the horde got bigger as the townsfolk from nearby added to their number. It was good we arrived when we did.
We caught several Midnight Riders on the way up, biker gangs and truckers who are in the same business we are. I saw a plane flying in the distance, an old B-17, and smiled. Even the The Cabal couldn't say no. Magic helps.
Fun fact: there are less than a thousand people in the world who can use magic, or at least, the closest to true magic that's still around. The problem is, most of them are the baddies. Don't call it magic though, they hate that.
Our first priority: Protect the tower and establish a foothold in the region. It's important that Heimdall is allowed to continue his broadcast. People from all over the world were depending on us to keep him safe. Many couldn't come from overseas and remained in the dark. We went to work.
I hopped over the side of the car with The Betty in hand. Cash and Norma were right behind me. We spread out, each of The Black Betties leaving their cars and positioning themselves strategically as we supported those who had been fighting nonstop. The horde came running from the trees and we acted as a shield.
Gun fire spat from the treeline missing me as a mangled corpse attacked. I brought The Betty to bare, winding up for a swing. The body of the bat connected with the head. The skull caved in, the body flying to the left over a broken barricade.
I watched the body as Cash fired into the horde. Norma followed suit, missing every shot she took. My latest victim got up and I studied the pattern of damage on its skull. The skin sizzled as the dislocated jaw swayed, hanging by a single strip of skin and bone. I looked at the blood stained nails and saw the blood sizzle and burn on a nail of pure iron. Damn.
"Pure iron." I shouted, and the looks of irritation and groans echoed back to me./in]
"I hate magic." Cash said laughing and shaking his head. "I hate it so damn much." He pulled two magazines from his bag and replaced the half spend magazine in his rifle, giving Norma the second. He aimed, pulled the trigger, and Norma followed his lead.
The undead come in many flavors and smells. The worst of which being viral, where the corpses are not only hungry for flesh but spread a myriad of contagions, not just the one that zombifies. This is a rotting corpse were talking about, after all. They can spread diseases that don't need a bite to kill you, not to mention the things that feed on decay. Zombie flies... Try shooting that in the head. The second worst, however, involves arcane power, necromantic rituals are a great way of getting an instant army. I wasn't surprised when we found out the cult was much smaller than we thought.
Half the corpses looked like ordinary people. Their clothing didn't match modern trends but did match up with fads gone by. They planned this over many years. Why are they so bad? They don't die. They rise again after they are put down, which is nothing too exciting. Pure iron, iron that hasn't been heated in excess of five hundred degrees, is a bit quicker. In the end, though, it takes magic to fight magic effectively. Sometimes you need to fight fire with fire.
I heard a moment of silence from my right. I looked then darted forward on impulse. It wasn't just the undead we had to worry about. Norma was shaking, her gun nearly jostled from her hand as she peered into pitch black eyes. The creature was like an insect, but with a thin layer of gray flesh coating its carapace. It stood no more than 5 feet tall with a long slender body like a worm. It was quick, It's jaw reached for flesh as it leaped at her, taking advantage of her petrified state. I brought The Betty down on it, crushing it into a writhing heap.
"What the hell was that?" I asked, screaming at cash. He turned and tried to analyze the remains, then shrugged. I looked to the trees, trying to gauge how many secrets it still held. I saw a humanoid shape emerge. Large and bulky with webbed wings, It's skin was black and rubbery, its eyes a stark white. The needle like teeth were reminiscent of the angler fish you see on nature documentaries.
"Thane." Cash screamed. The creature rushed forward, knocking cars and barricades around like they weighed nothing. It stopped just short of Norma, meeting her eyes. The bullets that pelted its side did nothing as Cash rushed over. He dropped his rifle and brought his hands close together as if to pray. He spread his hands out and conjured a lavender light in his palm. It drew the beasts attention immediately. When it turned its head, the body staggered back, hit by a blast of the psionic force.
Gunshots rang out spreading bullets back and forth from the tower perimeter to the tree line about 56 meters away. Norma backed away, and I knocked her down to avoid the feral swing of a putrid claw. She and Cash moved to cover, but not me. I like to be in the thick of it. You tell one story of dodging bullets and all of sudden bullets have trouble hitting you. They split the air, whizzing by as I moved forward, meeting the oncoming storm of razor sharp nails and snarling teeth with a smile on my face. The thane lumbered over, not realizing I was at the ready.
I swing at full power, and all eyes were on me. My god, that sound is perfection. The collision at a full swing lets out such a satisfying crack. It's the sound you hear on those old Babe Ruth clips, but louder, with a shock-wave that follows, kicking up a ring of dirt around me. The finish comes in a roar like rolling thunder. The thane who's, now nonexistent, skull contributed to such a melody, fell to the ground and twitched as I took the base of the handle and drove into the incoming horde. I swung the bat in a wide arc, cutting into flesh with steam rising from the wounds.
Some ran past me to meet their end elsewhere. I heard the heavy shout from Gertrude as she swung her family sword, cleaving one in half. Norma continued to miss every shot she took, I'm sure, but was in good hands. Ada tended to the wounded, covered by Cash who unloaded into those who ran past me. I took another swing into a rib cage which collapsed beneath the force of the blow, and the body flew back. Several were knocked down and I took a moment to look up eagerly at the plane flying overhead. Our magic was here.
From where I was, it was hard to see, but there's no mistaking the patch of red hair that jumped from the plane and dived straight down, her overcoat flowing in the wind as she clasped to her bucket hat and cane for dear life. Other men and women followed, flying to the ground at various points of the field, but Morrigan is a kindred spirit. She liked to be in the thick of it too.
The clouds over head followed her, or at least the moisture within them. Streams of the artificial rain formed an orb in front of her. She reached out and it began to glow, transforming into a ball of vibrant jade strata that shot down to the ground with several others orbs bursting forth from it. They rushed to the ground in perfect spirals.
The stray orbs reached the ground along the tree line and burst into waves of boiling water. The screams were not pleasant to hear. The final orb hit the ground moments before she did with the sound of rushing ocean waves. The liquid moved and rolled within, breaking the surface tension which, in turn, broke her fall.
Several of the risen found themselves absorbed into the final sphere as it glowed an even more vibrant green. It ate them to nothing when she fell in. She floated for a moment, placing her hat on and giving a smile as broken bones and cuts received from the fall sealed up and snapped back into place. The smile on her face was that of madness.
Morrigan and I have known each other for nearly 10 years. We have fought many times and every time I find myself upset it ends so soon. While she is much older, she doesn't look a day over 20, with wide hips and a thin, but full figure. Her hair was always short, usually styled in a finger waved bob. She was blind, an accident of some kind. Her eyes always give a blank stare and glow the same shade of green as her many displays of power.
The orb dissipated as she gently drifted to the ground. Her clothes were loose and surprisingly dry, flowing as she approached. We assaulted the horde with alarming grace. It's a special thing to fight beside those who possess the prestige, what they call magic. It's arcane talent given to those who undergo an often lethal ritual. The way they fought was like music, a symphony where every blow adds a note.
I darted forward, with Morrigan not far behind. She pulled out a zippo lighter, and ignited the gas. I took a swing, the sound ringing in my ears as a shower of bullets rushed between us from our allies. The bodies were pushed back, the bullets hitting their marks, but they still came, snarling ceaselessly no matter how hard we fought.
She took the flame into the palm of her hand and it grew larger as it gravitated towards her call. It began to glow green as she closed the lighter and swung the cane behind. The flame traveled and expanded, following the tip of the cane to a nearby brush, igniting it, and many of the unsuspecting victims near it. The sudden heat and flash of green light as the bodies burned had a strange beauty to it. Music and creepy candlelight, if we were not meant to be the main course I'd call it a date.
I took another swing, then another, almost like a rhythm. With each attack, Morrigan gave her own. Charged bolts of energetic light were sent out, cascading a permanent death over the horde like light show with each collision. As I took out those who got to close, she made short work of those that got past.
She raised the cane then drove it down on one of the risen running toward her. It survived the flames and was engulfed in the green fire. The force sent it head first into the dirt and she willed the flames to burn quicker. By this point I was feeling a bit outdone. Behind me I saw two large chunks of earth burst from the ground and slam together, taking a group of the risen six feet under where they belong in one swift motion of her hand while she sent happily bouncing torrents of green flames out to others. I stopped at this point, awestruck.
She danced around them, her movements like a ballet. She pulled what was left of the blood from their bodies in a crimson mist. The mist formed into small red spheres that hovered to friend and foe alike. Some healed the wounds of the injured while others inflicted them in kind to those who meant us harm. Tendrils sprang from them and burned the skin of every victim it touched.
With all this going on, she was still able to fight on her own, maintaining perfect awareness as she dodged and countered with quick blows from the cane. Every time the cane made contact, a dim flash of white light would pop and the body would be sent flying back into the trees. I just stared, we all did. By the end of the fight there wasn't much we could do but watch. She made short work of them and did so without effort in a wave of power we could only dream of. Jealousy doesn't quite cover it.
The bodies burnt to cinders and ash, unable to rise again. Heimdall was saved and now we would take the fight to them. It was shaping up to be just another day.
"How the hell did she do that?" Norma said with wide eyes.
"Don't ask." I responded, laughing. "More importantly. You know you missed every shot right?" She nodded, and then looked to the ground. "Let me see here. You shoot a gun before?" She nodded again.
"Yeah, my dad was a cop. He insisted. I'm a great shot."
"Are you?" I teased. She brought her hand up to her nose and looked down the side of her palm. She closed her left eye and the look on her face was priceless.
"I… what?"
"Norma jeans are always left eye dominant. You were firing crooked." I smiled "It's rare for a persona to work so quick." She wasn't amused and tried to shy away as Morrigan approached. "Don't worry. It's part of the process." I put my hand on her shoulder. "Morrigan." I shouted. "This here is our latest." I looked to Norma. She glared at me before introducing herself.
"Norma Jean."
"Oh, you have a Norma now." Morrigan said, the thick Irish accent heavy on her tongue. "Pleasure to meet you. Holding up ok?" Norma nodded, and Morrigan tilted her head toward the treeline. After a moment she spoke in a low voice. "Beatrice, That one is alive."
In the treeline, close to death due to bloodloss, one of the cultists sat on a tree stump smoking a cigarette. He didn't care how close we came. He looked up to us and smiled when we approached, clutching his wound as if to hide it out of decency.
"Hello there." He said. He spoke with magnetic charm that led me to believe he could have been the leader of the movement, or at least a high ranking member.
"Hold on, " Morrigan said as she waved her hand and one the spheres of blood drifted over. A thin stream erupted from it, sliding through his skin and into the vein. The man winced, but was too weak to resist. Another stream burst from the skin and back into the sphere.
"There. Just enough to stay alive."
"My thanks." The man said. He stared at Cash for a moments squinting his eyes, and finally smiled. He turned his gaze to the tower, and the yard below, littered with bodies from both sides. The bodies were being recovered little by little and blood stains were left behind where some had already been removed.
It was rare for us to handle prisoners. We don't do interrogation, but the others were occupied with the many problems about the town. Me and Cash sat across from him and Morrigan wandered off to help the wounded. Cash immediately worked into the man's mind. A magician's tactic, Cash can often discern whether someone is lying or not, and his training has granted him the ability to pick up thoughts on the surface. While true magicians are better at it, he's usually more than enough.
Throughout the interview I routinely looked over to Cash, who eyed the man with fascination. The man looked genuinely happy to see us. Even while sitting, the man looked tall. His clothes were practically rags at this point, and he had several tattoos on his exposed skin that looked religious in nature. His brown hair was shaved to the point of being bald. The only way one could tell the color was a long and very well kept beard. Despite his clothing, he was clean, and there was a malicious intelligence lingering behind his dark eyes. I didn't even bother to introduce myself.
"You seem awfully pleased." I said.
"Naturally. I knew we couldn't win. Damn, we got close though."
"Why bother if you knew you couldn't win?" Cash asked.
"Hmm. I'm not sure." Was the man's reply.
"You don't know? Are you the leader behind this?" Cash seemed uneasy, he was focused on the man with such intensity. I've never seen him work so hard. Again, a look of confusion came as the man answered his question.
"The idea of a religion having a leader seems paradoxical to me. I am a servant of my god, how could I be a leader?"
"Get to the point please. I'd like to finish my book." Cash said, waving his hand to further illustrate his point.
"You like to read? Tragic. Not a good pass time for a magician."
"How do you know-"
"You stink of it. That's okay though. We need someone like you." The man smiled, and tried to speak up again but Cash interrupted him.
"Who are you?"
"I'm The Collector. At least that's what it calls me. I oversee the recruitment of our little movement."
"It?" I asked, and the man smiled.
"Oh..." the man said, giving a devious smile. "You want to know my master?"
"You know we aim to kill it?" Cash replied.
"I could introduce you." The man said, nodding as he leaned back. "There is a hotel on the other side of town. I own it. It's called The Shut-Eye Inn. I found my calling in Room 8."
"Well that was easy." I said, and cash stood up.
"Lets go kill it. Let the others handle the mad man." Cash said, and jumped as the man raised his voice with a sudden rage that had even me on my toes.
"Madman?" He said and Cash nodded.
"Sit." the man commanded. Strangely, Cash did. Cash looked at me, as if trying to ease my tension. "What makes me insane?" The man asked with wide eyes as if the question alone would blow our minds. He was completely serious.
"To have no grasp on reality in some cases. To have no way of determining what is real or otherwise, to lose touch with oneself, or one's self preservation, maybe, to discern right from wrong." Cash spoke with controlled flow in his words. "Should I go on?" The man rolled his eyes.
"Before I was..." The man paused and smiled, "...born again. I worked as a psychiatrist in Chicago. That used to be my calling. I came to this backwater town when my brother left me the hotel. Tell me, did you know that the term insanity is never used in a formal and official way save for the legal system?" Cash narrowed his eyes and shook his head. The man nodded and continued. "Now, psychology has a whole slew of things that many see as insanity. You have acute schizophrenia, extreme cases of psychosis, you have various behavior that stem from the use of narcotics, particularly the more powerful hallucinogens, and the list goes on. Hell, even psychopathy is regarded as a form of Insanity by many." The man leaned forward and while he spoke his attention shifted between us as he spoke. He was a performer, capable of capturing one's attention and keeping it. "Most people don't realize that almost everyone knows a psychopath that is living among them in their everyday life. You may see them every single day, you might even be married to one. The thing is most psychopaths aren't serial killers, most schizophrenics know what is real and what is not. There are medications and therapies designed to target these problems and mitigate their symptoms." He paused again with a smile. His tone shifted to accusation.
"Sometimes they can almost completely alleviate them. You, and I mean the collective you in The Web," he pointed his finger to each of us as he spoke, "actually possess a cure. Bliss, the psychic drug, can specifically target problematic memories and erase them from the mind or at least repair the damage those memories did. The magicians, though." He shook his head and focused on Cash.
"The School of Carthage requires alumni to remove their eyes. We have a name for that in psychology. Oedipism. It comes in many forms but the desire to remove your eyes isn't enlightenment. It's a mental disorder." He stopped for a moment. Cash shifted his position. The Collector's hands moved, dancing as he spoke.
"On top of that, how does one determine insanity? I mean how can you prove to me that anything is real?" Cash spoke up, all too ready to give the response.
"Perception. This rock is real. I can feel it. I can see it and so can you." The man looked as serious and as sure of himself as he could possibly be when he replied.
"What rock?" He said, leaning back. The silence was unbearable. Both stared intently at the other. Cash with rage and the man with smug satisfaction that his point was well taken.
"Of course, I can see the rock. You get my point though. It's perceptive. You all know monsters exist, and yet, if you walked up to anyone who does not know, and told them, they would call you insane. How in the hell could I amass such a movement if I spent my days in a corner at my house with the lights off cackling maniacally? How could we maintain secrecy for all this time? This took years, little girl."
Cash screamed, stood up, and threw the rock at him. The man burst into a fit of laughter. Fast would have torn him apart if I hadn't stepped in. I placed my hand on Cash's chest.
"Cash." I tried to force his eyes to meet mine, "Don't. Leave it be."
"It doesn't matter, he'll figure it out." The man said. "I hope to see you again..." The man said, looking at Cash with endearment. He paused and gave Cash a suggestive look before finishing his sentence with profound respect. "brother. In another life though, in a more appropriate body too, if luck be kind." The man laughed. "Remember now: Room 8."
Cash looked the man in the eye and jumped forward, tackling him to the ground, desperately reaching into his mouth to keep the jaw from clenching down. The deed was already done. The man crushed the capsule located under a cap on his left incisor. He was dead in moments. I helped Cash up.
"What the hell?" He whispered, more to himself than anything else.
"You were having trouble with this one. What happened?"
"What? No, I wasn't. That's the problem, he knew what I was doing and didn't even try to shut me out. He didn't tell a single lie.
"Well yeah, but why?"
By this point, The Magicians should be on the field and would be more than capable of providing backup if we needed it, but something was off. The hotel mentioned was on the east side of a nearby town. Springing the trap would be easy, but since we had no idea what we were dealing with, we hesitated. We assumed it was some minor deity, some eldritch thing locked away till the stars are oefectly aligned, so the saying goes.
The hotel itself was small and run down with only 10 rooms. The neon sign out front glowed a faint blue and red with the words "Shut-Eye Inn" displayed under two feminine eyes. We parked in the lot and there was nothing in sight. There were no monsters, no animals, nor were there any survivors. We found that strange, as no one had reached this part of the town yet to purge it of the incursion. Whatever it was, it was alone.

III : Room 8

Room 8 was listed as a maintenance storage room but the door didn't seem any different from the others. Cash and I, along with several of our number, approached the door. We opened it, walked in and were met with a plain hotel room. I turned to Norma.
"See if you can find an arcane or metaphysical scholar. Morrigan is working on the wards with Heimdall. Start there." She left while The Betties patrolled the surroundings. When me and Cash turned to leave the room, the door slammed shut, locking us inside. The door seemed to fall apart, breaking into dust in my hands.
"What 's that-" Cash began, but what followed was almost a scream that couldn't quite get out. I turned and saw him facing the wall, covering the sides of his face like he was shielding his eyes from something. I heard a strange sound, like a whisper, from across the room and turned to see the source.
"Don't look." Cash commanded. I didn't see anything, just a plain hotel room.
"At what? What the hell are you doing?"
"Do what I say... please." He commanded once more, and I faced the wall.
"I can't fight something if I'm not looking at it."
"I don't think this is going to be a fight."
"What does that mean?" He didn't reply. "If we can't fight it, Then why are we involved." I snapped.
"Minor deities are nothing... but that..." he broke off, his voice wavering between the deep voice I was getting used to and the more feminine voice I knew. I saw tears well up in his eyes. "What the hell was that?"
"Is it just going to sit there or what?" I asked. He shrugged in reply. "Does it want us alive?" Again he shrugged. I noticed a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned my head slightly and squinted my eyes. I saw something, a faint outline of near transparent tendrils, or maybe fingers, reached out around him. He froze, inhaling sharp as his voice started trembling, breaking between the stoic demeanor he tried to maintain and the brief flashes of how he truly felt.
"I think it wants me." He whimpered. I racked my brain trying to figure it out. What the hell was he so afraid of? Cash was always calm. He has always been the bravest of us. He started whispering phrases and repeated them over and over. "No! Don't look, keep your head down... God, no, I'm not ready, I.. I don't want to die."
His voice cracked as his expression faded to something new with tears running down his face.
"No," he wailed, elongating the word as the tears fell, "I'm not ready to die." My voice snapped him out of it, if only for a moment.
"Cash, what is it were fighting?"
"Fighting?" He asked, rolling his eyes as he wiped the tears away. "There is no fighting."
"Bullshit." I said, spitting the words out through clenched teeth.
"Ignorance is bliss. You can't kill everything."
"We have put many sleeping gods on ice, Cash. We've faced terrors a plenty. Ancient beings beyond our understanding happen to be a forte by this point." He shook his head and laughed. I've never seen him not take me seriously, and to be honest, it kind of hurt. He sighed and rubbed his temples.
"Eldritch beings... creatures from beyond the stars, beyond time and space? Sure, but old gods are a dime a dozen, Bee. It's the new ones you should worry about."
I wanted to turn, I wanted to see this monster, but I knew better. I went to work, putting the pieces together. Whatever it was, it wanted to be seen. I could feel that. It was an urge that got stronger the more I stared at the drab wallpaper on the wall. If Cash was right, and I turn my head, maybe it could do something I couldn't defend against, but what if he was wrong? Maybe the creature feeds on fear and uses your darkest fears against you? Then again... that very argument could be a fabrication of its own design, probing the subconscious. Those who practice among The Magicians shine brighter than most, and they don't scare this easy. Cash still rambled on. I assumed he was fighting his own urges to see. The only thing stronger than fear is curiosity.
I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I felt something brush on my skin. It was a touch so light, it may have been the sudden rush of air, but the room was too still, and so quiet. The air was stale.
The more I thought about it, the more I pictured a presence leaning in, as if to whisper in my ear. I froze, and cash nodded. I didn't speak, part of me wondered whether I even could. I clutched The Betty in my hand, gripping tighter, but couldn't bring myself to turn and swing. My heart was pounding. For a single moment there, I almost gave up.
I kept thinking that this was it, but it never attacked.
It waited, switching back and forth. My nerves would calm and I'd suddenly hear Cash whine, and take a sharp breath. There was a look of anguish on his face. It affected him worse than me. I have no idea how long we stayed like that, but eventually I felt my gaze pull to the side and I saw the door. I almost screamed.
"There's the-" I began, but cut myself short when I realized that Cash was gone. On instinct, I turned around, screaming his name. The room was empty. There was no monster to kill, no friend to save. I felt a sinking feeling, like when you drive over a hill too fast.
I'll admit it, Cash was special... He never had a choice. He was forced to look and see more than he should have. It's hard to imagine, even now, what it's like to be born in a body that's just... wrong. His parents called it his condition, and attributed it to his latent abilities. I was content to have him remain at Rosie's, to help us from a distance, but he didn't want that. He said he wouldn't feel like a Betty otherwise.
My mind raced as I realized I may have lost someone I dearly loved. Sure I feel similar every time we lose a Betty, but this was a new feeling for me. This was panic.
I screamed his name as the memories ran through my mind. Guilt, rage, hate, and fear, emotions i'm not used to, took over. I found him on the streets of Dallas. His parents cast him out. He was 16. I remember he used to cover his ears all the time. Too many thoughts on the surface of too many minds.

IV : Vacancy

I pressed myself against the wall and slowly fell to the floor, crying. I screamed, I don't know why but it seemed to ease the shock. The door slammed open and I saw Norma with Morrigan close behind. Norma rushed over to me and took a knee. The look on her face matched mine, panic.
"Are you okay?" She asked. I shook my head, and fought the tears, but there was no way I was going to say it. Norma was acting a bit strange. The way she moved her hands and her body as she went to hug me, then pulled away like she didn't know what she should be doing.
Morrigan stared with what looked like anger and cocked her head. It was always hard to gauge what she sees and what she doesn't. She got down on one knee, focusing her face on the opposite side of the room as if she was watching something.
"Cash?" She asked, not moving an inch. She didn't even wait for a reply. She sighed and stood up. Never turning her back to the room. "We need to leave." She said, cautiously. "Now."
Norma tried to help me up, but I pushed her away. I felt guilty for a moment, but the look of understanding was enough. She sat patiently as I sobbed. I tried to stand, but I was dead weight. Morrigan still looked at the room, appraising every ordinary object by what senses she still had. She stood like a sentinel, statuesque with her hands placed firmly on the top of her cane. It was strange. I've never seen her so animated. Her very expression seemed to convey a message. She backed out of the room, me and Norma following just behind, and then I stopped.
I supported myself on the doorframe, confused. The sounds of gunfire rang out in the distance as I came to a realization. Wanting to take Cash was reason enough. A magician, even untrained, can be useful, but why the hell was I being allowed to leave? Why didn't it just kill me? Why create an escape?
"Wait." I said, and Morrigan was quick to shut me down.
"Beatrice," she began, the thick Irish cadence turning my name into music. "Please just get out of that room. You have no idea what's in there." I lashed out at her, raising my voice.
"Well, would you care to enlighten me?" I sobbed. Her face twitched, displaying a series of emotions like hurt, anger, and quickly resting on indifference.
"I don't know."
"You don't know?" I screamed. "How could you not know?" Her reply came with a nod.
"Exactly... How could I not know. Whatever it is, it doesn't play by the rules. Do you know how important that is? Do you know what that means?" Sadly I did. There are laws that even the most powerful entities in existence must adhere too. Gods both old and new, spirits, the souls of the dead... they have no say in the matter. Something that can break the rules is a game changer. A monster without limits is the worst kind.
"Is it a god?" I asked, and she shook her head.
"No idea, but I doubt it. This is something new." My heart sank. Norma started fiddling with her fingers. She seemed worried, but not for herself. She had no idea how dangerous her position was. If I wasn't so upset, I likely would have smiled.
"It let me leave." I said, "Morrigan, It literally showed me the door as if to say 'don't let it hit your ass on the way out' and I don't think it did so out of kindness." Her brow lowered and she tilted her head. After a moment of thinking, she rested her hand on her cane and thought about what that could mean.
"You think it needed you to leave." She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "You're going back in?" She asked and I nodded.
"Get a magician. They may be able to shed some more light, on this or at least have a way of getting him out."
"If he's still alive..." she said, "Carthage won't come within a hundred yards of the room."
"Too risky." I laughed at this, then gestured broadly to everything around us.
"Are you serious?" Her face didn't change. She shrugged.
"What aren't you telling me?" I demanded. She sighed.
"It's not that they can't do anything. They won't."
"Thanks." I scoffed. "They didn't give any information to go on?"
"I approached them the moment Norma told me what happened. They've lost almost a hundred students to it in the last year. Whatever it is, it hunts them. Please don't make me tell you what it does to them."
"Don't look." I gasped and turned to slam the door shut. Norma ran to the door and Morrigan simply shook her head in anger. My decision was made, and they wouldn't reach the lock set before the door shattered into dust and I found myself in total darkness.
I called out to cash, but was met with only an otherworldly scream of rage. It pierced the ears as I tried to navigate the room. The walls seemed to close in, turning it into a narrow corridor. I kept my eyes closed, trying to feel with my hands. The walls felt soft, like flesh, the air was humid and the smell of decay was so strong you could taste it.
"Cash." I screamed again, and the quick and labored breathing of a man struck with fear was my reply. the room lit up, and suddenly we were no longer surrounded by the living walls. We found ourselves in the same hotel room as before and I felt a presence behind me on the opposite side of the room.
"Cash?" He was muttering to himself again. I dared to open my eyes and saw him sitting on the ground, rocking back and forth against the wall.
"Don't look, don't look. It's a trick... she's gone. Don't trust it... Don't look." I got down on my knees and tried to reach him.
"Cash. I need you to hear me now."
"Go away." He snapped, snarling through clenched teeth with his eyes slammed shut.
"Boy, watch your mouth. I'm trying to help you." I snapped right back. This forced him to pause a moment and he cracked open an eye.
"Bee" he whimpered, partly out of fear, and partly out of the hurt his words may have caused.
"I'm here, close your eyes. Don't look." I said, covering his eyes with one hand and bringing him close with the other. "It hunts the students of Carthage. Does that tell you anything?"
"Nothing I don't already know." He replied, shuddering in my embrace. "It plays tricks. The eyes are the easiest way to break a person. I'm not a magician, Bee."
"Maybe, but you almost were. You can't look at it, but surely they prepared you." I said, standing up. I offered my hand to him. "I'm sure you can think of something. What does a full magician have tha-"
I was cut off and I wasn't sure why. I couldn't speak and I felt my hairs rise on the back of my neck like before but this was different. This was anger, malice. It was violating and invasive. I tried to say his name. I tried to call for help but I could only utter a stuttered repetition of syllables. I felt something wrap around my ankle, my arm, and my chest like tendrils, or was it tiny hands? I felt one placed firmly in the center of my back and what came next will never cease to haunt me.
Cash knew something was wrong, and I saw him crack open an eye and slam it back shut when he saw me. I felt my life was being ripped from me through the pores of my skin where the little hands clung to me. I felt weak and brittle. I felt old. I was scared.
"No," cash said, shaking his head and rocking violently as he pondered his next move. "No, no, no." I was stuck, constantly trying to utter what would have been my last word. It was like being electrocuted in a way. I was frozen in that moment like a skipping record, my brain unable to communicate with the rest of me. Cash let out a cry of frustration and I saw him open his eyes and stare at his hands.
"Damn it." he cried. A strange purple mist began to radiate from his hands. He looked me in the eye, and I saw a sadness I haven't seen since I found him on the side of the road. If I had known, I would have been okay with dying so he could escape, if that was even possible. I saw his eye flick to the side, peering just over my shoulder. Impossibly thin needles formed from the luminous lavender mist. He winced, anticipating the pain as he slammed his hands onto his face and over his eyes.
I expected to see something violent. What could be more brutal than the removal of one's eyes? Strangely I watched and saw not one drop of blood. In a twisted sort of way it was kind of pretty. A wave of purple light burst forth. He screamed in pain, but within fractions of a second, he stopped. The pain was gone, and he seemed fine, no complications and no recovery time needed. His eyes vaporized in the light, and all that was left was the melted flash of his eyelids which opened to empty sockets.
He fell over and rolled on the ground. His body was in shock trying to comprehend what had just happened to it. I felt a release, the hands retreated from me and I retained my strength a little at a time. I fell down and tried to crawl to him but he met me in the middle. I looked around and saw the door had reappeared. We could leave, but he fixed my gaze on his face.
"Don't look." He commanded.
"The door." I gasped and "I know." Was his reply.
"Let's go, we can get out of here, let the big shots handle-"
"No." He screamed. It took me a moment to realize he wasn't screaming at me. I don't think he even heard me. I looked at him and saw that he was staring at something across the room. His eyes narrowed, and his face went red. I saw the veins in his neck pulse as the rage built up.
"No way." He said, shaking his head as he stood up. "This is another trick." He rubbed the back of his head and then he laughed, nodding. He paced back and forth as if trying to figure out what to do next. Then and walked towards it.
"I'm gonna rip you apart." He began, " fucking... piece." I tried to stand, but found myself pushed back. The door swung open and It was all I could do to catch myself mid stride as I was thrown from the room. "Do not come back here." He snarled and silence followed as the door slammed shut behind me.
He emerged just a few minutes later with a cloth torn from his shirt wrapped around his head. He was drenched in a viscous black fluid, blood. Norma saw him, and thought she tried to resist, she broke down, tears flowing. There was a look of confusion on her face. She had no idea why she was crying.
He sat on the stairwell with the look of defeat. I honestly didn't know what to say but, I went over anyway and sat beside him.
"Cash..." I began, then hesitated. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't want someone talking to me either. I continued after a moment. He needed to know that I was grateful. "Thank you." I said softly while lowering my head and resting my fingers on my temples as if to hide my face. He didn't reply at first. He only nodded. After an uncomfortable silence he finally spoke up.
"What a waste." he said, fighting tears. He then turned to me and shook his head rapidly, stuttering as he spoke. "Not you. I'd never waste an opportunity to save you, Bee. I'm talking about my eyes."
"I gave my sight to see what no one is meant to see and... how could it be so small?" The tears came, soaking the cloth and dripping down his cheeks. His voice rattled, and the sorrow behind them was beyond words, as was the sheer desperation in his voice. "How could it be so helpless against me? How could it be so insignificant? I gave up so much."
I turned to him, appalled at the very thought. "Excuse me?" I began and stood up. "We won. Our organization is still full. We haven't lost a single member, and you... you were able to do something that no magician on the field was willing to do. How dare you call it a waste."
"It doesn't matter." he said giving me the most half-hearted smile I've ever seen.
"What does that even mean?" I said. I was pacing at this point. He turned to me, and gave me a smile again. This time it was genuine.
"Ignorance is bliss, Bee." He began, but the smile faded as he tried to stand.
"Damn..." He said, "Now I won't get to finish the book."

The operation was a resounding success. The battle was over and everything was contained. We were told that there were 473 distinct psuedo-paranormal entities involved in the incident and one supernatural entity. They called it "room 8" and I never want to speak of it again.
We went back home. It was just as hot as it was when we left it. There I was laying on my couch doing everything I could to stay cool. I'd pay bills and glance over in between them to see how Cash was getting along. The electric bill got higher, who knows why. My kitchen needed to be restocked. The bill for my hospital stay after the incident, plus the payment for Cash's T-treatments. Then I had to deal with this outrageous A/C quote to get the place cool again.
The first day back Cash sat in his chair with a book in his hands for almost twenty minutes. Eventually he simply threw the book in anger at a nearby wall. He was trying to learn braille, but it seemed impossible for him to do so. He kept staring at the words as if it would spark some power of sight. I wanted to go down there and console him, but someone beat me to it. I'm normally not one to eavesdrop, but I must admit, the moment was rather touching.
Norma Jean approached his little corner of the garage and looked down at the book on the floor. She picked it up. She looked confused, like she didn't quite know what she was doing but finally, it went away. The empathy Norma Jeans are known for was still kicking in, course I imagine it was always there to begin with.
She looked at the cover and began to speak. I'm not ashamed that I heard. The acoustics of the garage make my couch an excellent listening post.
"Shakespeare?" She said with a light-hearted giggle.
"My sister's favorite, before she passed a couple months back." Norma walked to sit across from him on the other side of his desk. she opened the book to a bookmarked page.
"Never did much reading." She began, then proceeded to read out loud. He looked almost mesmerized by the sound of her voice. "This underlined bit, Is that where you left off? '...The beauty of the world, this paragon of animals, and yet, what is this quintessence of dust?"

Cover image: by Liza Trinidad Pixabay
This article has no secrets.


Author's Notes

While the story is written I need to make some heavy edits to critical places. The draft is in the spoiler if you want to gander. You can also listen to the Helheim broadcast here!

Using Adobe stock and audition, I created this back in February for the Tower of Power challenge.

Please Login in order to comment!
14 Aug, 2019 16:29

Names and stories having actual magical power, beautiful. There is a lot of thought here and it shows! I am looking forward to reading more.

Lead Author of Vazdimet.
Necromancy is a Wholesome Science.
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
14 Aug, 2019 17:06

Thanks so much! I appreciate it. I'll be reading yours very soon.

27 Jan, 2020 18:52

"She was next in a long line of victims if we hadn't intervened." should probably be "she would have been next"   Your persona is your own personal legend. should start with a quote I think   "I'm still not sure what the point is, though." She said, s. Not sure what that 's' is.   The first time out is always scary. should be in quotes   "the thane who's, now nonexistent, skull contributed to such a melody," I think you can remove the commas around 'now nonexistent' and it might improve readability.   "It ate them to nothing when she fell in." Do you mean when 'they' fell in?   "if we were not meant to be the main course I'd call it a date." Nothing wrong here. It's just a fun line.   "Not a good pass time for a magician." It's actually 'pastime'   "You have acute schizophrenia," I thought he was saying that these people actually had all these things, which was interesting until I realized that he was just saying these things existed. maybe say "you have YOUR acute schizophrenia?"   "The magicians, though." should probably end in an elipsis to indicate he's not done with the sentence.   "some eldritch thing locked away till the stars are oefectly aligned, so the saying goes." did you mean 'perfectly'?   It's wonderful how ominous 'shut-eye inn' can be once you know it was run by a necromancer cult.   "The door seemed to fall apart, breaking into dust in my hands." Wait... then couldn't they just leave? is there a new wall behind the door now? also, you never said that she tried to get out. the door suddenly being in her hands is a bit jarring.   "I'll admit it, Cash was special... He never had a choice. " starting here those last few paragraphs of the section were a bit confusing to me. I'm not sure what you're talking about as far as cash's 'condition'. Are you referring to his magic or something else?   '"My sister's favorite, before she passed a couple months back." Norma walked to sit across from him on the other side of his desk. she opened the book to a bookmarked page.' Maybe make a paragraph break between the quote and the next sentence to make it clearer who is speaking.   The ending is beautiful; Probably would be more so if I knew the context of the poem. Maybe lay some of that down beforehand?   Overall, very interesting. I love the persona mechanics. My PI could be detective-noir style just to tap into his persona. (And yes, I know this isn't an RPG setting but I just can't help myself.)

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
27 Jan, 2020 19:58

Ooooo ok so one of the biggest complaints I got with this was the barring nature of the narrative. I really gotta fix it. This is second person. Beatrice is literally telling you this story and that's alarmingly difficult to make works to my overwhelming shame lol thanks for pointing these out! Also... it is an rog setting! ;)

Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
27 Jan, 2020 19:59

Also good lord. Thanks for all these comments !

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