Day three of NaNoWriMo and I’ve made word-count. Anyway, this is a very rough draft. Although I was trying to create a character arc, I came to the realization that my protagonist might not be a strong enough character for the genre. I attempted a slight course correction. Also, I write by the seat of my pants without an outline. I have no idea what’s going to happen from writing session to writing session. And as always, this is only a first draft with very light corrections. Feel free to let me know what you think. Don’t worry. I have a think skin.
BLACK MAGIC BULLETS
An Urban Fantasy
Working as an Inhuman Resources Recruiter is no walk through the cemetery, especially when you’ve been cursed and your head is filled with stollen secrets from one of the most powerful occult groups in Boston. To survive, you might just need a few…
BLACK MAGIC BULLETS.
“You’ll know what to do,” Stone assured me before we began. “I can tell you’re suffering a crisis of confidence. That’s not who you really are. I want you to think back to all the training you’ve had, not just in wizardry but also as a fighter”
Stone was right. I wasn’t feeling myself. I had let my life circumstances rob me of my mojo, let them make me feel less than. I knew who I was. I had fought full contact not just in the dojang martial arts school but on the streets, against bullies. Had I won all my fights? No, who could? But I had never backed down from a fight. Thinking back, I had logged plenty of ritual sessions, even if most of them took place in my parent’s unfinished basement.
Feeling better, I nodded my head.
Peal began the process, walking around the circle, lighting each colored candle with a matte-black Zippo, calling upon the creatures of each direction, invoking a pentagram by cutting each line in the air with an athame.
Voice booming, Peal uttered words of power, infusing his thoughts, and his words, with his actions.
When he had finished, We entered the center of the pentagram.
“Computer,” Stone uttered the wake word. “Protection.”
Tiny tubes in the circle of the pentacle released the creature of salt until the grove had completely filled.
She spoke the wake word again followed by the word undine, and I watched a tile on the floor slide open to reveal a hole in the floor filled with water. I knew why but thought it odd. Never in all the rites, I had observed, had anything like this been utilized.
“Ritual,” Stone said right after the wake word and the lights shut off leaving them with only the illumination and moving shadows cast by candlelight.
“It’s time to enter the Collective,” Stone said. “Are you ready?”
I took a deep breath to slow my heart.
Placing the mask over my nose and mouth, my other hand worked the valve releasing the gas. The seal was tight, the gas did not leak, and I closed my eyes, breathed in deeply.
When I opened my eyes, everything had changed.
The mundane world had been replaced by what Stone called the Collective.
I realized I was in the collective now. One foot in waking reality, the other in an interdimensional dream.
“Can you see it?” Stone asked when she opened her eyes. She hadn’t relied on the gas to enter and neither had Peal. A meditative state allowed them passage. I longed for the ability to transgress from one waking world to another naturally.
By the green candle stood a diminutive being, a gnome. His eyes black, staring, perhaps dreaming, lending power to our rite.
A sylph fluttered her wings as she circled the yellow candle in ecstatic flight.
A floating orb of light, an elemental of fire, referred to in medieval times as a salamander buzzed the red candle.
Finally, I looked to the small water pool which had been revealed by the blue candle. Up came the head and shoulders of a beautiful undine water elemental. I averted my eyes to keep from being transfixed by her radiance.
Never in all the rites, I had witnessed had I observed the manifestation of even one elemental. They had been called upon and believed to be there to protect and empower. Yet, they remained invisible. Only their presence could sometimes be felt. Seeing them in their natural or unnatural form, I couldn’t decide which, was somewhat disconcerting.
At each quarter a pentagram hung in the air. Peal had created each one expertly, the cuts as precise as any human could accomplish.
Peal used the athame to activate the sodium in the grooves of the circle, augmenting the natural protective qualities of the ordinary substance.
A blinding white energy beam shot down through Peals head and out the athame, alighting the salt as it burned like a white-hot fire.
“Welcome to the collective, Mr. Thorne,” Peal said as he placed the dagger on the floor. “The test is about to begin.”
“I don’t think I need to tell you,” Stone began. “Whatever you do, don’t break the circle.”
What did she think he was… new? That was the first rule of ritual magic. Breaking the circle could be dangerous, seeing into the collective sent the message home in a big way. All of this had been invisible to him for so long.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” Peal asked, concern wrinkling his brow and the skin under his eyes.
“You don’t need to worry about me,” I said. I had once again found my place of strength Let it rip. Get this thing over with.
Peal said the invocation. Nothing happened.
For some reason, I turned. I can’t remember if I had some objective or reason, but I immediately regretted it.
Just beyond the circle stood a being not quite dead, not quite alive. A state of being sometimes described as undead.
The thing stared at me with dead malevolent eyes. I gasped, stumbled back. I heard Peal’s sharp call too late. I had stumbled outside the circle taking the ethereal fire and the elementals with it.
The thing was upon me then constricting my throat with powerful hands, lifting me into the air as it screamed banshee-like, a primal fit of rage.
Tunnel vision set in. The constriction deprived me of both blood and oxygen. Below, Stone and Peal screamed for me to do something, anything. The life was draining out of me along with my strength as the creature screamed, tossing me around.
With only seconds left before I blacked out, I hissed words of power between clenched teeth allowing the white light glow into the crown of my head and into my hands filling them with what the Chinese sages call chi.
I hit the blasted thing with a double hand palm strike, releasing stored energy, blasting the creature into the opposite wall.
Free from constriction, I plummeted back to the floor. Peal dragged me back inside the circle.
Picking up the athame, Stone summoned energy, and then closed the circle–walling us off from the evil being.
“What the hell was that?” I managed to ask. My whole body hurt and I rubbed at my throat.
“Lemur,” Stone said. “And she hasn’t left yet. Can’t leave until we release her.”
I looked across the circle and saw the lemur crouched, ready to pounce if given the chance.
“I’ve never heard that name,” I said, and I hoped never to have to deal with one again.
“The lemur is an angry spirit,” Peal said. “One who wanders without reason.”
“We give them purpose,” Stone said, crawling to the edge of the circle to confront the lemur.
Tentatively, I followed, careful to stay well away from the edge of the circle. If there was a next time with this thing, I might wind up dead.
“Observe me while I negotiate,” Stone said.
The lemur looked like some form a wraith to me, like she had clawed her way out of an early grave. Her clothing, what was left of it, hung off her body, reduced to rags, and her long hair appeared matted and as dirty as her clothing.
A once handsome face had succumbed to sharp angels and distorted features. Bulging eyes accented milky white sclera as if the iris and pupils had sunk below the surface.
“What was your name in life,” Stone asked, uncharacteristic compassion warming her voice.
“Dedra,” the lemur said her voice raspy, her eyes vacant as if she could see back to another time before the endless cold and perpetual darkness.
“Dedra,” Stone said. “A very pretty name. Would you like to be called that name again?
“We would like you to do something for us, Dedra,” Stone said, licking her lips before speaking.
“A client of the Dreadstone Corporation needs someone like you to guard their property. They would address you as Dedra. You must leave the client and their guests alone, but you can kill anyone not authorized to be on the property. Would you like that?”
“Yes…” A cock of Dedra’s head let me know she wanted something in return. Stone picked up on this as well.
“Name your price?” Stone asked.
“My body…’ Dedra hissed.
“If you’re willing to start now,” Stone said looking up at me. “You have a corpse to find.”
Full death-cycle recruiting, from the grave to all eternity. That was the responsibility of an Inhuman Resources Recruiter. I wondered if I was up to all this. My whole perspective changed when the brunette who had given me a once-over walked into the conference room.
I was immediately struck by her beauty, her sophistication. Her graceful confidence made me believe there was something more to her, something hidden under the surface.
I had known men who exuded this type of confidence but rarely a woman. The look in her eyes was both alluring as it was dangerous.
“Meet Kenzi Harper,” Stone said as we all stood in greeting. “During your probationary period you’ll be working together.”
“You’ll follow my lead,” Kenzi said by way of greeting. “This is a dangerous business and I don’t need a wet behind the ears newbie getting me killed.”
I didn’t like the idea of taking orders in the field. It had nothing to do with her gender. Perhaps I had a deep-seated distrust and dislike for authority. My poor grades in high school certainly spoke to that. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work, I just chose not to listen to those who considered themselves above me.
I nodded, held my tongue. There would be plenty of time later to test my boundaries. Discretion, after all, has been called the better part of valor.
“We’ll see about that,” I said under my breath. How about that? My mojo had returned.
“What was that?” Harper asked.
Well, at least somewhat.
I said nothing.
“Good,” Harper said. “Let’s get you to the storeroom. You’re going to need a shovel.