Episode 04 - Midnight Sun
Two self-described wizards talked to each other quietly from the back, at the tail end of a long and drawn out initiation service. The Astrum Argentum, derided privately as the “Other AA”, was a century old game invented by the late madman Aleister Crowley, addict of marijuana and humiliating women. They wore red robes and pretended to knowledge of alchemy and numerology, but the fools were self-indulgent egotists who preyed on people’s superstitions and idolatry to achieve their effects.
“It’s going off in Oakland tonight. I’ve been wanting to experiment with this one for weeks”, one hooded white guy told another. “Barbatos is a strong demon who has been able to achieve many things for me.”
Crowley designed the Order of the Silver Star in the spirit of a kind of dark joke. It was a trap set for fools that occasionally resulted in knowledge and awakening for the participants. These young men wanted power and control in their lives and had far too much free time alone with the depths of the Internet. There they encountered his obtuse and cynical volumes on magic and mysticism, tucked away in arcane archives spread across the nanosphere.
Crowley had adored drugs and sadism, encouraging the worst sorts of behavior from those who followed his Thelemic religion. His techniques were Tantric in nature, imported from eastern Indian cults and the bizarre sexual rituals of the Knights Templar and other crusader brotherhoods. They were designed to shock and awe; there is some speculation in certain circles as to whether Bush’s pirate sect was indeed an offshoot of the primeval revelation. Of course, some say instead it was really just a college fraternity party gone wrong, but let us return to our plot line.
These red wizards of fantastic delusion, narcissism, and white privilege were getting ready for a night of chaos on the town, because they were not getting laid regularly and were frustrated with their sexual impotence. Crowley had also been severely disturbed sexually, but he developed a good sense of humor about the whole thing after awhile. Frater Thanatos, who knew a little Latin and a lot less common sense, had a vision of the old dark lord one day after experimenting with a mix of benzoin, myrrh and tobacco in his incense. With some calls to the heights of Olympus, a few enochian devotions, and an appeal to that one useful uncle in Hell that everyone has but whose name no one can ever remember, Crowley’s ghost manifested in the smoke and mirror.
“My, but aren’t you the most adorable little red wizard. Tell me, Brother Thanatos: what are your thoughts on forced anal intercourse?”
7 greater banishing hexagram rituals later, Thanatos, whose name was actually Fredrick Rojas, was rethinking his perspectives on magic, when his dark brother Barbiel of the Red October walked up.
“Ken Brennan became an Ipsisimus”, he reported.
“What? No fucking way!”
“No, he did it. Three of the little devils just reported it to me. I shall punish the one who is slowest, for I am a just God.”
“And so humble too. Know, will, dare, and remain silent my brother!” Thanatos asserted.
“There’s no way in Hell he’s going to remain silent about this.” Thanatos thought to himself. Brennan had never actually been involved with Thelema formally but only tangentially. Thanatos knew he was a Rosicrucian but had parted with the exoteric order after learning that there were no actual treasures hidden under San Jose, besides mercury and bank deposits on real estate. He had held on tight to an unsuccessful business in the most expensive part of town and exhausted most of his magic resources just to pay the rent. Folks snickered about him behind his back and made bets about what would go wrong for him next. It was strange to think he of all people would achieve the highest grade in ceremonial magic.
But Thanatos had bigger things to think about then some Right Hand Path goodnik bending over for God and country. He needed a sacrifice that would be big enough for Duke Barbatos to really run wild and help him make a name for himself. With a few spectacular splashes, who knew what would be possible? A profitable Hoodoo business, regular seminar sponsorship at OTO events, free tickets to the Renaissance Faire: the sky was the limit!
“What I need right now is some leverage” he reasoned. He had given many gifts to the useful demon over the years, including body fluids, childhood artifacts, and a Facebook page. But he sensed during their communications that the Duke of Hell longed for more than just sentimental offerings of incense, blood, and semen. He needed something to help him manifest physically; something that would allow him to pass through the Gates, past the archons and sentries, and into the limelight of humanity.
A vibration stirred from the deep, dark depths of his soul. No wait; it was just his cell phone. Thanatos picked up and greeted Dark Brother Melech with custom.
“Password?” he inquired.
“I want you to !¥$& me hard Francis.”
“Good evening Frater. How may I help you stumble?”
“The pyrotechnics are in place for tonight’s demonstrations. The anarchists are about to get a whiff of what real power is like.”
“Excellent work. I’ve been thinking, we need to offer something more substantial to his lordship and his legions. Lisewski outlined as much in his manuals if we wish to achieve full materialization.”
“Frater Thanatos, are you willing at this point to make… the ultimate sacrifice?”
“Indeed I am, Frater Melech: somebody else’s life.”
The phone had been ringing off the hook for 20 minutes consecutively when John Green finally picked up.
“Good God, what on Earth do you want at this hour? It better not be aluminum siding!”
“No John, I want justice and affordable bathroom tissue. But for now I will settle for justice.”
It wasn’t really about bathroom tissue, but he hoped at least it did concern Justice. John sighed and responded.
“Ken, what are you doing? You know you’re not welcome in Oakland anymore, you white trash piece of shit!”
“How can I be white trash? I have VIP status at the most illustrious yacht clubs on the Central Coast!”
“Brady’s is not illustrious, Frater Emeth. Seriously, what’s going on now?”
Ken sighed. “John, you remember the Saint Catherine’s Day Fire?”
“Remember it?!! I lost three of my best friends that day Brennan! Why the hell would you bring that up now, at this point? Are you making late night prank calls like a teenager merely to torture me with memories of my dead friends?!!”
“No sir. That is not my intention at all. But what if I told you that one of the fools responsible for that disaster could be held responsible, before he does more damage?”
Green was upset. This was his style; he always made light of the serious, even death. But Green had watched the politics of tragedy play out for himself, while Brennan was out vacationing on the beach, living off of cheap venerial magic and the trust funds of whatever novitiate he was working with these days.
“Brennan, you are a fucking parasite! I am tired of your games and manipulation! I really don’t give a fuck about what exalted role you think you’re going to play in our business; it doesn’t concern you in the slightest!”
“John, I have fucked up tremendous, but I’m sincere bro. You know that wanker Thanatos, right? You know what he’s capable of in the name of the petty and superficial. “
“To Hell with you and your lazy assessments! Stay out of Oakland or you’ll be dealing with more than irate bikers and tourists this time!” Green threatened, then hung up.
Ken took some time out to regroup, collect his chi, find his center, and notify his accountant that he was going on an extended leave of absence. She was not pleased.
“Mr. Brennan, your business remains unprofitable after 3 quarters, sir. If you don’t intend to keep it operational and functional, you had better consider the generous offer from The Gap affiliate.”
“I would; it’s just every time I think about a former church being converted into an atrocious clothing store, I’m filled with deep existential angst.”
Doris the accountant remained unsympathetic. “You are in no position to be picky sir. I have given you my professional opinion and advice; take it or leave it, but I don’t think you’ll get a better deal. The people of San Jose are too old and miserable to waste any more time and money on Solomonic sympathy and backwoods redneck superstition.”
“Well when you put it that way, of course it sounds unprofitable. But yes, I see your point.”
“The gist is this Mr. Brennan: put up or shut up.”
“Man, you are cold sometimes lady.”
“You don’t pay me to flatter you with falsehood sir. Good day.”
Brennan concluded the call and sat back for a minute to exhale and focus. Now what? He’d used up the last of his magic squares to pay for the travel costs of social networking and patronizing the arts. He had allies and enemies scattered here and there, but it wasn’t clear what the next move should be.
‘It’s the weekend,” he thought. It was time to go into angelic mode.
Ken spent an hour cleaning up his dirty and disrepair altar space, consoling himself that it was better late than never to restore some consecrated room in his life for temple work and healing. After he scrubbed off his seals and furniture, he fumigated the space with sage, myrrh, saffron, and copal oro to create a heady but light intoxication. Reciting Hebrew, Latin, Greek and Chaldean prayers, he called upon God to send him the blessing of his holy guardian angel and to open the Way with his Strength and Mercy. The good LORD was patient and kind and so he cut Brennan some slack and allowed Shamsiel to manifest in brilliant light, smoke and odor upon Ken’s veranda in the hills of Saratoga.
Shams, however, was still pissed at Ken for his demeanor of disrespect. “I serve the Lord Brennan, not your pot-addled brain and its fantasies of power and prestige. Why have you called me again? The last time I showed myself to you, you told me you were resigned to live a sober and moderate life. Now here you are getting involved in the intrigues of red wizards and Thelemite fools. Have you learned nothing, Son of God?”
“Hey, don’t be so harsh Shams; evolution takes time! Even you messed up back in your day. And really: aren’t you just my future self anyway? These things are not ideal but they work out with support!”
“You are missing the point Ken. You are supposed to serve your community, not get entangled in pagan games and superstitions. Leave Justice to God and focus on what is really important right now: a respectable income. I’ve given you all the money you’re going to get supernaturally; any more income will have to come through your laboratory, alchemical or otherwise.”
“The demons are still choking me Shams. I have faith in God but I need you to get them off my neck. You know how people have cursed me over the years with their petty hate and cruelty. My own body doesn’t even believe me anymore when I tell it I want the best for it. How am I supposed to be a temple?”
“Not my problem human! Get to work! Um, tomorrow, because it’s Saturday, but GET TO WORK!”
Having obtained the advice and wisdom of his angel in blunt and direct manner, Ken was left to implement the sacred knowledge he had been given. Carefully avoiding alcohol but succumbing to a few cigarettes, he resolved to whip some of his daemons into shape and send them out for supplies and information. He had many spirits at his disposal from the legions of Dionysos the Damned, and he called up a young duke named Irasomin who had only been serving the Throne for a mere 430 years.
The cheeky, arrogant, powerful demon threw up all over Ken’s deck fighting to get loose, but it was nothing that couldn’t be cleaned up later. Brennan was far enough away from prying eyes that he could deal with his dark side pragmatically, without the interference of muggly fuggly bystanders. Using his rainbow wand, a hexagram of Solomon, and a few calls into the aether, he had a strong servant at his disposal. The fight was stronger than he anticipated, and by the end of it he had more ambition and determination running through his blood. Ancient cries for revenge and justice erupted inside his consciousness, and he knew the demon would take far more from these foolish magi then their confessions. He commanded Irasomin to go to Oakland, and unleash Hell on the Astrum Argentum.
Irasomin approached Lake Merritt from the air, eyeing a suitable hippie moron for his purposes, and possessing him with little to no resistance. The wannabe Rasta, who had his hair chemically altered for dreads, knew the AA contact for the city and proceeded downtown to the temple lodge to execute his master’s plans. Brennan felt a tinge of guilt at throwing away the young rebel on politics, but told himself the burnout wouldn’t have much to look forward to anyways.
The demon arrived at the lodge, made short work of the lazy and self-indulgent guards, and was inside for the ceremony. The hell link was strong and Barbatos of the Europeans was shouting his way out of the sick dimensions and into America with ease. The first few sorcerers were already dead and the remaining fools were dispatched simply. Irasomin commended them for their loyal service to Stupidity, and confronted the duke.
“Barbatos, the Lord and his knight inquire of you your position.”
The greedy demon, who had already killed off 90% of the Astrum Argentum and was going out for dessert later, eyed the newcomer.
“A familiar? How quaint! You never see such things anymore! I remember Mephistopheles rebellion in 1611 and the annihilation of 1000 German familiars. Have you come to sate my hunger, Duke of Hell?”
“No.” he replied. Then fire came from above.
Brennan had a few tricks up his sleeve from his decades of esoteric study, including divine secrets passed from God to the Navi Eliyahu. Ken didn’t have Jesus’ purity, but he did have Elijah’s tenacity, and what divinity he did hold was doled out that day on the unbelievers.
Barbatos was wiped off the map and blotted out of the record.
The Astrum Argentum elders knew their lodges were being systematically eliminated, but had almost no details on the subject. They knew Irasomin the cruel, previously a minor devil in the infernal hierarchy, had been promoted to the title of Marquis, and acquired all the sadomasochistic powers and authorities. They knew their hold in the Bay was endangered, and that Konstantinos was a chronic masturbator whose Llewelyn books were of little use in this situation. New Age Chaos had reached its natural conclusion, and they were unprepared.
Frightened, exposed children, stripped of their arrogance and pretension, they were thrown into discord and internal bickering. The great dragons of the Eastern Star blamed each other, and deepened their game of limbo, going to lower and lower depths to outdo in depravity and evil. Dozens more died over the next few weeks as the guild war began amongst the surviving factions, and allies and contacts were drawn into the mess.
Shams had been yelling into Brennan’s brain that week, but he was largely muted by the high concentration of THC running through his blood. Although the supposedly Native American Church of San Jose had since been unfrocked and defuncted, Ken still smoked some of the old stash from time to time. This annoyed his guardian angel to no end, who found it nearly impossible to communicate with him through his dreams, which was one of the most basic prerequisites of prophetic consciousness and the Way of the Neviim. He resolved to have Ken hit his head on metal bars several times over the next week until the old mage got the message.
Ken lived life in fire. Rather than fear Hell and its empire from a distance, he actively courted danger and risk to cultivate a sense of bravery and adventure. In the old days, when he had learned magic from the Metatron and made contact with the Seraphim, he had a kind of natural naïveté that angels found cute and charming. But as the years went by and his magic was turned to more personal and selfish ends, they watched his life take turns for the worst. Most humans couldn’t handle the magic game. The Jewish elders knew this: the spirits of the Earth plane corrupted humanity with all sorts of narcissism and futility. It was the battle of a lifetime to keep the accusers at bay; they were always tempting poor young Jews and goys into their paths off of cliffs and into the darkness of the shattered worlds.
Brennan’s problem, in short, was that he lacked wisdom commensurate with his power. He also knew that he was beyond the need to pretend to be normal anymore. He saw through America’s illusions, and he made those demons serve him. But he still lacked Mercy to a great degree.
When he sat alone to meditate, allowed his mind and being to be clouds clearing off a mountain, he was different. He rested, he relaxed: he was at peace. But he also felt the loss of personal control, identity, destiny, and fate. He felt his connection to the forbidden; he knew that even the people he called enemies were actually brothers and sisters in their human family. Deep within his blood, he felt old dragons stirring.
Ken was a fool in many ways, but he had not really succumbed to the devil yet.
And the Devil knew his time was short.