– The Slave-Gods superseded.
The Vision of the Stl of Revealing,
abolishing the Aeon of the Slave-Gods1 –
“I smile ironically before my own lie.
I look at the world around me searching for someone that will be able to see beyond my make-believe act. But no one sees me... no one listens...
no one feels me... and so, in a mute scream, I fall in this dark precipice...
and I go insane.”
The rest of the week went on without incidents.
As time went by I started noticing the new established routine and begun counting on it. To tell the truth, I only saw Gabriel in the morning, at breakfast, and as we walked to school. During classes he was always at the back of the room, surrounded by girls, and I had Steph, Joanne and Kevin to keep me company. We met again at lunch time, when he joined our group. Everyone had grown accustomed to his presence and easily included him in our talks. Sometimes he’d change secret whispers with Steph, which always made me feel apprehensive, guessing they were probably talking about me. It looked like Steph had adopted him as her accomplice in the almost impossible task of making me look more feminine and attractive.
After lunch we always left together, walking in silence until we were outside. We walked side by side up to Michael’s group, and it was as if my day started there.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I had to concede that Stephanie was right. He really tried to keep the girls busy so that I could have Michael all to myself. Those were my special moments. Being able to be close to him, talk with him, look at him. In those brief moments there were just the two of us in the world and my chest was filled with enough warmth to keep me going for the next twenty-four hours, until I saw him again. When we were together, time went by unnoticed. We exchanged books and discussed ideas. We talked about Lea and I told him the news I had received from Paris.
To my relief, by the third day of my new look, I stopped attracting so much attention and everyone started passing by me without gaping or staring at me from head to toe.
When Friday came I said goodbye to Michael with a heavy heart, since I wouldn’t be able to see him for two whole days. The arrival of the weekend I’d always longed for, since it brought the promise of some well deserved peace and quiet, seemed like hellish torture. Firstly I wouldn’t have Michael to brighten my day. And secondly I didn’t know what to do, should Gabriel choose to stay at home.
Wanting to avoid the possibility of having to endure his presence, I took the chance to go and look for the store where I’d acquire the magic book.
After some search, since that afternoon I’d simply entered the first door I’d found, I finally saw the strange storefront with a heavy purple cloth in the back. On a small table, that looked more like an altar, was a chalice like the ones I recalled seeing inside, and two wooden candle holders with two dark-blue candles. There was also a silver dagger and rose petals everywhere. On the floor, near the table, was a hand mirror, its handle in the shape of a long snake, and a pile of books strategically placed so that one could read the titles from outside. Like the others inside, those were also about the occult, magic or alternative healing techniques. On the left corner of the storefront, in a shadowy area, was a human skull I hopped was plastic, and a long sword, with a deep red ribbon with bells at the ends, hanging from a handle.
I took a deep breath and pushed the glass door, entering. The bell rang, announcing my presence just like the first time I’d been there, and I took a quick look around.
Everything was still the same, I thought. The dream-catchers, the shelves full of small statues, the CD display. The counter, in front of me, still kept a wide variety of pendants and, on top of it, the candles arranged by colors. Behind it, the bookshelf was as attractive as before, although my previous experience with that kind of books had been the worst possible. However, the face that looked at me from behind the counter was neither old nor feminine. A middle-aged man with dark hair and brown eyes watched me expectantly, his strong hairy hands resting over the glass. He forced a smile, noticing my hesitation, and cleared his throat
“Hello there. May I help you?” His strong and hoarse voice broke the disappointment I’d felt for not having found the old woman, and I placed the heavy bag I’d carried all the way from home on the counter.
“Good afternoon,” I replied. “Hum, maybe you can help, yes,” I added, noticing that the old second-hand books I’d seen before were all gone.
I took the book out of the bag so he could see it but placed a protective hand over its soft leather cover.
“I came here, last week, and the lady who was here gave me this book,” I explained. “I’d really like to speak with her, if possible.”
He looked at the book with a critical expression and sighed heavily.
“I see ... The lady you’re referring to is my mother. And that book used to belong to her,” he informed me and I felt like I’d kept something that didn’t belong to me, after all. “I ask her to watch over the shop for one day and she immediately has to bring those things over,” he complained. “I am terribly sorry if she caused you any trouble. And, if you wish, I don’t mind getting rid of that thing, for you.”
I instinctively pulled the book closer to me and tried to clarify my situation.
“No, it’s nothing like that. She didn’t cause me any trouble.” Well, except for the fact that she’d given me a book containing a demoniac evocation, of course, I thought sarcastically. “I just wanted to talk with her about some of the .... spells ...” I said, lowering my tone as I pronounced the word. Any other person would have certainly found me insane, talking about things like that as if they were real. My hope was that the owner of that kind of shop would be open-minded enough to find it normal.
“Hum ... spells ...” he repeated pensively while tilting his head to read the book’s title. ”To tell you the truth it would really be better if you could talk with her. That book is really old and, like all the others she kept from her youth, must be considerably outdated, when compared to the Magic practiced nowadays,” he answered. Now I was the one staring at him as if he was crazy. Did he meant to say that not only there were people going around casting spells, there were also updates for that kind of thing? “Unfortunately, my mother went back home, in the North, the day before yesterday. But tell me. What would you like to know. Maybe I can be of assistance.”
Still I hesitated, fearing that my questions would sound too preposterous, or that they might hint at the unbelievable situation I found myself in. I wasn't about to let him know I had a demon living in my house and that I’d accepted a Contract with him in exchange for my life.
“Well, I was reading some of these spells ... and it’s like you said, they look pretty old,” I started, watching him closely, looking for clues that would tell me if I was saying anything too strange. “Some even use ancient words that I don’t know the meaning. And so I was a bit ... afraid.” I confessed, exposing my suppositions. Those strange words. No other spell contained anything even similar. And I clearly recalled that that had been the last thing I’d said, before the symbols in the Protection Circle exploded. “I’d like to know what they mean.”
“Ancient words?” he asked, looking intrigued, and I nodded as I opened the book on the right page. I’d never forget that page. Sometimes I even saw it in my dreams, where I relived the horror of that night.
“For example.” I pointed the right line, turning the book towards him, and he read it in silence. And I couldn’t help wondering what would have happened if had he read them out loud.
“You’re absolutely right. It does sound like some ancient language,” he confirmed. “Maybe Hebraic? I’m sorry, I don’t know how to translate it. But since this is a Love Spell I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Normally, when a spell is cast, it will release either positive or negative energies. And Love Spells are usually based on positive energy.”
“What about evocations?” I asked.
“Evocations are a completely different matter and are considered very dangerous. Nowadays very few Magic practitioners use either evocations or invocations, with exception, of course, of the evocations of the Guardians of the Cardinal Points needed to cast a Protection Circle. Invocations are, by nature, more related with the spirits’ realm, but even those are quite dangerous. After all, even though the practitioner may have a specific intention, when a portal to another dimension is opened no one really knows what may across it. It can be just some lost entity, but there are those that linger patiently near the border between dimensions just waiting for an opportunity to enter our realm,” he explained and I had to stop my skeptic thought from taking over. After all, who was I to be skeptic about other dimensions and occult entities? Me, who every morning had breakfast in the company of something evoked through a Magic spell?
He’d spoken about evocations and invocations. Those were terms that, by now, I was rather familiar with, after all the researches online I’d done in the last few days. According to most occultists, invocations referred to the process of bringing into our world a being or entity that would manifest itself through the summoner’s body. An evocation, on the other hand, meant that the entity invited would use its own body to manifest itself, be it visible or not. From that I’d concluded my ‘cousin’ Gabriel was clearly the result of an evocation.
“But why? Why would such entities want to come to our dimension?” I asked and he seemed to think about it for a moment.
“Many reasons, I suppose. Simply to have some fun? Sometimes to feed. Many of these entities feed on different types of energies and we, Humans, are a constant source of energy, be it vital, sexual, emotional, mental, spiritual and so on. It may also happen that they’re simply curious.”
“And can’t they be sent back?”
“I suppose they can. But it’s not that easy. First the entity must be visible, or at least localizable. If we can’t know where it is it will be practically impossible to send it back, since the Magic has no target to act upon. Then we’d have to know the entity's nature and possess the right ritual to cast it away. That would probably be the most difficult part, since most entities that cross into our dimension do it without being invited. Since they’re like accidents we normally don’t have all the needed information to banish them effectively. And finally we’d have to be able to execute the ritual to perfection. A simple mistake could risk everything, enraging the entity instead of banishing it as intended. Besides, some Magic spells require such a high degree of concentration and energy that not every practitioner is able to cast them. And that’s why, generally speaking, the Magic community stopped summoning other entities,” he added and smiled. “But you have nothing to worry about,” he assured me. “That book only contains simple spells and enchantments. I’m sure it doesn’t include something as dangerous as rituals of evocation.”
I smiled wearily. If only that were true ... !
“And ... what about ... demons?” I asked, fearing I might reveal too much. “Can they also be evoked through Magic?”
“Oh, that’s even more complicated. Both evoking and banishing. Those kinds of rituals are all practically lost, and thank God. As far as I know, only Secret Societies still keep that kind of thing in their archives. In the old days Humans used to evoke demons and used them to do their bidding. In exchange for a life of luxury and riches, they’d pledge their Soul, or their remaining life time. These were exchanges that might seem profitable, in a short term, but that ended up condemning the summoner to eternal damnation. It is said that a Soul marked through a Contract with a demon is forever excluded from the eternal cycle of death and rebirth. Its eternity, as a Soul, becomes that demon’s property. When you see it like that it doesn’t sound like such a good deal anymore, don’t you agree? As it seems, people started to think like that too, and that’s why most demonic evocations were eradicated from the practice of Magic.”
“But even so, they cross to our world,” I supposed.
“Sure. Because unlike other minor entities, those we know as demons have their own Magic, one much stronger and powerful than that of any Human Being. They have the ability to open the dimensional gates and walk between dimensions. The only entities equal to them are the angels.”
Angels! The word crashed against my brain in the sudden revelation of something that had always been right there, in front of my eyes.
It had never crossed my mind, the possibility that angels might really exist, and the image of the statues that adorned the school’s chapel came into my mind. But wasn’t it logical? If evil things like him existed, why couldn’t there be others, similar, but good?
“And angels? Can we also evoke them?” I asked with a ray of hope and he laughed lightly.
“Yes, and no. Evoke, one can evoke. If they’ll listen and obey the evocation that’s an entire different matter. Apparently, unlike demons, angels have no interest in establishing direct contact with Humans, rather preferring to protect us at a distance. I suppose that’s why angelic evocations are rare, even as part of the ancient Magic, unlike demonic ones.”
I carefully committed all he’d told me to memory. I’d assumed, as a starting point, that Gabriel was a demon. I didn’t know if it was correct to define him according to such ancient stereotype. However, after much research about creatures and magical beings, I had no other way to classify him. After all, what else could he be? And, if I was willing to accept the existence of demons I might as well accept that angels existed too.
When I left the small store with my heavy book, which allegedly could not contain any kind of dangerous spells such as evocations, it was late, and night had taken over the world. I tucked the coat around my neck and grumbled against the thin stockings that allowed the cold wind to freeze my legs.
Being used to him arriving after I’d already gone to bed, I didn’t even think twice before turning the key to the front door. However, the moment I opened the door a delicious smell greeted me at the entrance, making me immediately nervous. Of all the nights, he’d chosen that one to arrive earlier.
I closed the door and went to the kitchen, my steps as silent as possible, peering inside.
I was stunned for a moment. He was ... cooking. There was a pot on the stove, fuming and filling the air with that delicious smell. Over the kitchen counter were a series of ingredients and, in the sink, a receptacle with some washed vegetables. Lea was close by, rubbing his black head against his heels in a cautious circuit that allowed him to escape Gabriel’s feet every time he moved from his place.
“So? Did you find what you were looking for?” he asked me in a seemingly indifferent tone, not even turning to look at me, and continued chopping a carrot into thin slices.
I didn’t know what to answer, my heart beating against my chest as if I were a child caught doing something wrong. He put down the knife for a moment and went to the stove to stir what was cooking inside the pot. Something sauteed, I thought, certain that it included tomatoes and onions.
Trying to reinforce my self-confidence I told myself I could do whatever I pleased and had no obligation to give him any satisfactions.
“And what could that be?” I asked, raising my head, and he took the pot from the stove. I followed his calm and precise movements with some fascination, while he put the raw vegetables in the smoking pot.
“A way to Seal me again, right?”
I stood silent, once more. There was nothing in his voice, no shadow of anger or displeasure. He spoke in the same casual way he used to discuss musical genres with Joe. Did that mean he was certain that there was no way to do it? Was he that confident in his abilities, or better yet, in my inability to do it?
“I never hoped to find anything like that,” I replied abrasively. I’d learned that only anger and fury could help me overcome the irrational fear I felt in his presence, and I welcomed them. “It’s just that ... there’s too many things I don’t understand.”
“There’s nothing you need to understand. I’ve already told you. All you need to know are the terms of our Contract,” he told me and placed the pot back on the stove.
“That’s your opinion!” I retorted brusquely and for a moment all that could be heard was the sound of something boiling.
“And? What did that Human tell you about me?” he finally asked.
Suddenly the implications of those questions hit me and I couldn’t help stare at him in outrage.
“Did you ... follow me?” I asked under my breath and he turned off the stove placing the pot on the table where he’d already set two places, meaning we would have dinner together.
I saw him grab a few lettuce leaves, rolling them and cutting them into thin slices, and couldn’t help stare at the graceful but firm movements of his pale fingers. I asked myself what would happen if he cut himself. If the knife would simply slide over his skin without leaving a mark. Or, if like all Human Beings, he would bleed, and if his blood would be the same color as mine.
“Of course,” he answered calmly. “It’s too dangerous for you to leave Lewisham on your own.” His matter of fact tone only made me angrier.
“What do you mean dangerous?” he stopped what he was doing and turned to face me for the first time since I’d arrived. I instinctively hugged the bag caring the heavy book as if it could protect me.
“It’s dangerous. That should be enough.” And he went back to slicing lettuce leaves. Then he placed the bowl on the table, opened the fridge, and took out the peach juice I normally drank.
“What’s that?” I asked in a low tone, as my initial courage quickly slipped away, and he followed my gaze towards the pot.
“Dinner,” he simply replied and went around the table to pass as far as possible from me and take his place. “You eating? Or are you just going to stand there and think I’m trying to poison you like last time?”
I recalled the baked fish he’d cooked for Rachel and me and how delicious it had been, regardless of my distrust. My mouth watered before that delicious smell and, unwilling to do so, but wishing to prove him wrong, I took my place at the table on the opposite side of his. I placed the heavy bag on the floor, next to my chair, and Lea sniffed at it curiously, his bell ringing softly.
“I’m the one who should try to poison you,” I grumbled between clench teeth and he laughed.
“True. Can’t even imagine why you still haven’t tried.”
“Would it work?”
“Probably not in what you’re expecting.” I lowered my head and clenched the table cloth under the table.
In the last few days I’d started to notice that, in truth, he normally avoided coming too close to me or looking me in the eye. Just like he did now, fixing his gaze on the empty glass in front of him. It was a behavior that I couldn’t help appreciate, since it made my life much easier. But it also meant many other things I really didn’t want to think about. It meant he was all too aware of the devastating effect his presence had on me, and that either he resented it or he felt sorry for me. And finally, that he worried enough to try and spare me, a thought that bothered me more than I could tell.
To erase those ideas from my head I reached a brave hand towards the pot and filled my plate - sauteed vegetables in tomato and onions with small pasta bows. Then I unceremoniously attacked the salad and drove a forkful into my mouth. It was annoyingly delicious.
He smiled almost imperceptibly, avoiding having to face me, and mimicked me with much slower and planned gestures. As I watched his long fingers flexed around the spoon handle, and I couldn’t help noticing how, since that terrifying night, his every movement had become unusually slow and calculated. Even his steps, when we walked to school, were all taken carefully. Now that I thought about it, he even looked slower than the rest of us, Humans. Of course the difference was easily masked by his height, making our human minds believe it was normal for such a tall body to move slower than the rest.
The food in my mouth became suddenly bitter. That was also because of me, wasn’t it? Because I’d fall into a terrified frenzy every time he made an abrupt gesture. Because my fear ran deep and was irrational to the point I completely lost control over my body becoming unable to move, breathe or even think.
“And? What did he tell you about me?” he insisted, resuming our previous conversation in that neutral tone that showed neither curiosity nor displease, and I looked at him for a moment, watching as he ate.
“We talked about the different types of Magic ...” I replied, unwilling to give him a straight answer, and he kept silent as if waiting for me to go on. “Does it bother you that much what he might have said?”
“No. Just curious.” He shrugged.
“Curious ...” I whispered. Did he really feel those things? Or simply used the words he knew to be more appropriate according to the situation? “He told me the book was not supposed to contain any evocations.” I tried to take advantage of the moment to gather more information.
“Then ... why ...?"
“Do you always need reasons for everything?” He looked at me from under his dark eyelashes so he wouldn’t have to raise his head and my hand shook, making the fork tinkle against the plate.
“Of course ...” I answered, my voice breaking down. “You would too, if you didn’t know the answers. Knowing the reasons behind the facts helps us accept them."
“Accept?!” He sounded surprised. “Is that what you want?”
“I want to understand. I need to understand! Why me?!”
He sat quietly and lowered his gaze again. Filling his fork he chewed slowly, savoring the food. I waited unmoving.
“There are many questions for which I have no answers,” he finally told me, his voice even lower than usual, as if he was sharing a secret. “However, I’ve never worried about them. I’m only interested in things I can control. What’s the use of knowing all the answers when there’s nothing you can do about it?”
Annoyingly I understood his logic. He was right. Knowing why he was there, why was that evocation in my book, why it had to be me reading it and not someone else. None of those answers could help me in any way.
“That’s your way of thinking. We think differently,” I stubbornly stated and he stopped chewing for a moment. And I knew exactly why. Those words had also struck something deep inside me. It had been the first time I’d admitted in front of him that he wasn’t like us, that he wasn’t a Human Being.
“All right,” he conceded, putting down the fork, and placed an elbow on the table leaning his head on his hand. Lea’s bell sounded through the kitchen and the little kitten swiftly jumped onto his lap becoming the center of his attention. “The answer to your question can be given in different levels,” he said, softly caressing Lea’s ears, and the cat purred closing his eyes. “Why was an evocation in a book where it shouldn’t be? Simple. Because someone sacrificed himself in order to be so. The book must have been the closest object imbued of some power, at the moment. Thus the words ended up being inscribed on its pages. The page you read was probably the one where it was opened at that precise instant.”
“Sacrificed ... ?” I muttered in an almost inaudible tone, my mind filled with bloody rituals like the ones I'd seen on horror movies.
“You have nothing to worry about. The sacrifice was from one of us,” he added and his voice sounded ragged for a moment, conveying a grief that I’d never thought he’d be able to feel, much less express. “He was a ... companion. If not for him I’d be forever ...” He suddenly grew silent and looked at Lea who watched him seriously, as if he could empathize with his words. Gabriel smiled softly and went back to caressing his pointy ears. “If you want to know why you decided to read that spell and not any other, you may as well say it was a random thing. Or you can blame it on the selfishness of your feelings. Or on the skepticism of your mind that though that nothing would happen. Or on the faith of your heart that desired it would actually work.”
“In other words ... the responsibility is mine,” I concluded voicing the words I repeated to myself on a daily basis, and he smiled sarcastically.
“Why? Did you think you were just a poor innocent victim, blameless for the situation you’re in?”
“No. I know it very well, that I’m the only one responsible for your presence here,” I admitted and his hand went still again. Maybe he hadn’t expected that I’d admitted so clearly, but I’d long given up making up excuses and trying to escape reality. “It wasn’t easy to accept, but I can hardly deny it.”
He took a deep breath and started caressing Lea’s neck when the cat raised his small head to grant him full access to his black fur.
“Yes ... and no,” he told me, his low voice sliding to that disturbing velvet tone. “Yes, in the ways I told you before. No because there were other factors in play that you didn’t know about and that were completely out of your control. In the end, your mental skepticism was right. Any other Human could have read that spell and nothing special would have happened.“ For a moment I recalled his words, that night. Even he had looked surprised when he’d realized I’d been able to evoke him without even being a Magic user.
“What do you mean?” I wanted to know and he seemed to ponder for a moment if he should answer.
“Let’s just say you’re ... special.”
I was stunned for a moment, his words taking their time to make any sense.
“Special?! Me?” I, who had never been able to do anything on my own? Who was too timid and unsightly? Who would easily go unnoticed in a crowd? Where could I be special? But he didn’t elaborate and so I changed the question. “Was that the reason why you didn’t kill me?”
“And why you made this Contract with me?”
“Yes,” he replied without a hint of hesitation
“Would you rather I had killed you?” he asked me softly and I frowned, annoyed.
“That’s hardly the question! Why! Why did you change your mind?” I insisted, unwilling to allow him to change the subject.
“Because you possess something I want,” he finally replied and I shuddered. That voice wasn’t Gabriel’s voice any longer; not the voice from the boy that practically looked my age. Even so I didn’t allow myself to give up. Now that I’d started, I’d go till the end, even if there was nothing I could do to change things as they were.
“You want something ... from me?”
“Yes,” he confirmed once more in his neutral tone and I asked myself what was worse - if that voice that reminded me of who he really was or that unperturbed tone, as if he were indifferent to the whole world, me included.
“Is that why ... you want to sleep with me?” I managed to ask and the blood froze in my veins at the mere thought of it. I’d never said that out loud. In truth, I didn’t even recall saying it in thoughts. The terms of our Contract, that he apparently thought were the only things I should worry about, had been stuffed somewhere deep inside my memory.
He slowly raised his gaze to face me and my body became painfully stiff.
“Yes. It’s the only way I can get what I want,” he admitted and my anger burned, reddening my cheeks.
“What do you mean? What do you want from me?”
“It’s not what I want from you,” he told me calmly as if studying my every reaction. “I want you.”
“M... me...?” My voice broke and my brain had to, once more, try hard to follow what he was saying. “I don’t understand!! Didn’t you tell me that once the Contract was fulfilled you’d disappear from my life?” I demanded even angrier and he nodded.
“That I’d never see you again! That it would be as if you’d never existed!”
“That I’d be able to go on with my life!”
“That you wouldn’t take my Soul!”
“That’s also right.”
“What then?!” I argued raising my voice. Unnoticing I was clenching my fists so tight that my hands shook, my fingers too pale due to the lack of blood. “What do you want from me?” I demanded, scared and frustrated, and deeply enraged with his passive indifference towards such important questions.
“What I want from you is nothing like that.”
I stared at him for a moment, shaking everywhere, my teeth clenched so I wouldn’t bite my own tongue, and fell into despair. I covered my face with my hands, feeling how cold and moist they were. I couldn’t deal with it ... I couldn’t understand anything, anymore ... And, in that short instant, even the things that had made some sense before, seemed confusing and incoherent.
“I’m... I’m losing my mind ...” I whispered to myself standing once more at the edge of that precipice.
“I’m sorry ...“ His voice froze me in place. “However, unlike you Human Beings, we have no choice ... There’s no other way.”
His low voice echoed in my mind for some time. I felt especially shocked by his honesty. And, when I finally recovered some measure of control, enough to be able to raise my head and look at him, he’d disappeared. I lowered my hands in disbelief and my gaze fell upon Lea, sitting on his chair, watching me attentively. His plate had been left on the table, still full with the food he had hardly touched. I wished I could cry since my heart was crying, but, once more not even a single tear touched my face. And so I sat there, motionless, like a doll whose wind-up had reached the end.