Psamurai #14

With a Little Help From My Friends

The news was calling it a comet, but Engelbert knew better. He imagined most people knew better but didn’t want to think what happened last year might happen again. If it did, most people felt secure in the notion that there was a  line of defense between them and annihilation. Engelbert was determined to prove he knew better on that account as well.

“There will always be the weak minded, ready to rationalize anything away,” he once said in a lecture to his A.I. and Ethics students, “That’s how Holocausts happen.”

These days Engelbert wasn’t lecturing anyone about anything, save for his cat who received the occasional admonition to not shit outside the box. His former student, Cheryl Ellers, had him ousted from academia years prior for misappropriating his Ph.D. candidates’ work. Every day since then he’s burned with hot rage and planned his revenge on his old protege. After tricking her, last year, into upgrading the Tabula Rasa protocol, he had almost all the pieces he needed to carry out his plot. Getting her to save the life of her arch nemesis, Simon Vyx, was just an extra insult to the injury.
He just needed to tie up some loose ends. Cheryl had a posse. They would need to be neutralized. For that he found himself trudging through poison ivy and thorn bushes in the middle of nowhere at three in the morning.

The beam of his flashlight swung through the dark and misty air in the dense woods off of the interstate. He knew the ‘comet’ had landed here. He was expecting it. He had invited it. His short, round body waddled through the underbrush, grunting and swearing with every step until he came upon a faint glow a bit deeper in. As he approached the glow, he noticed a small spacecraft parked and covered in hasty camouflage. It was crude cover, but sufficient enough this deep into the forest. Kneeling before a small glowing orb on a carpet of fallen leaves was a lithe figure, clad in leather, holding its hand before her in a way that Engelbert read as ceremonial or meditative. The figure seemed transfixed by the moon, as it stared up, unblinking.

“Devana the Mage Hunter?” Englebert croaked.

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Psamurai #12

Demiurge Overkill Pt. 1

“Sophie,” Now Ray said. “When you try to use your power on Yalda, is the problem that you aren’t able to get in?”

“His mind is surprisingly easy to get in,” she replied. “It’s just that there’s nothing there. No fear, no guilt, no remorse, no joy, there isn’t even boredom. Just a constant parade of thoughts.”

“You can see what he’s thinking?”

“No, I’m not a psychic. I go by feel. Conscious thoughts just feel a certain way. Like paperwork. I feel out emotions, then I swim down to their roots in the subconscious. And his subconscious is empty.”

“Empty?”

“There’s nothing there. There’s always something, like a psychic mass that is planted by early trauma or suffering that was never properly taken care of and grows, like a tumor into a beast. These beasts can unconsciously affect your behavior and everybody has a handful. Sometimes they manifest as a replica of a person who might have caused or is strongly connected to a traumatic event or suffering. But for Yalda, there’s nothing and no one…” Sophie paused and stared askance.

“What is it, Sophie?” Now Ray asked.

“Something Simon Vyx said to me before he died.”

“I wouldn’t take advice from Yalda’s prime stooge.”

“Well, he said Yalda is afraid of nothing and no one.”

“That sounds like some stupid shit he says to sound intimidating,” Wolf said, sipping a beer and reading a magazine.

“But, that’s exactly what I found in his subconscious. Nothing, and no one.”

“Sounds like Vyx was right about that,” Cheryl said.

“We’ll have to take another tack,” Now Ray said.

“Wait a second,” Sophie said. “I couldn’t find anything because I wasn’t looking for nothing or no one.”

“You want to try and manifest nothing and no one?”

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Psamurai #11

The Past Sure Is Tense

Wolf stood behind the bar and filled two shot glasses with a luminescent golden liquid. Ray stood watching, arms folded and smirking. Ray recognized this appetizer as a Parthi liquor known as Ichor, fermented from the glowing blossoms of the Idrasil tree that only grew in his home prefecture. Unlike the depressant effects of liquor, Ichor had a lifting effect, like strong wine without the crash. It was usually enjoyed for its energizing effects before dancing, sport, copulating, or creating art; incidentally, all activities that the Seraphim of Parthus use a single word for. Ray shuddered to think what it would do to a human body, but here was a human before him who seemed content to demonstrate.

Wolf placed the bottle on the table and turned it so the label faced Ray. The label came from a legendary distillery that had been closed for centuries, but whose product was still in demand to those who could pay the rising costs for the ever-dwindling supply. The distillery was run by Ray’s late father who was mortally wounded in  battle against the Draconians. This Ichor died with him. Ray kept a sizable stash and would give bottles to close friends.

“Nice touch,” Ray said. “Where did you get that?”

“You,” Wolf replied.

“When?”

“300 years from now,” Wolf lifted his shot.

“You know what this will do to human physiology?”

“I’m not exactly human.”

“What else are you?”

“Seraphim.”

“Humans and Seraphim are sexually incompatible.”

“It’s not because my mama had a-hankerin’ for a taste of paradise. I was born human.”

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Psamurai #10

The Shape I’m in

“I need to go to Earth,” shapeshifter Wolf said.

“Now?” Holly sighed and put her tools down. “I guess I could use a break. Why do you need to go to Earth?”

“I figured we could all use a bite. The food out of the processor is awful.”

“Yeah, it’s a little buggy. I haven’t had a chance to adjust it.”

“So it’s settled then. To Earth for…ah sandwiches or something.”

“Sandwiches? We’re going to Earth to pick up sandwiches?”

“Or…uh…bovine flesh?”

“Wow, that psilocybin is hitting you pretty hard.”

“Psilocybin?”

“Psamurai’s tincture,” Holly shook her head and frowned.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. The samurai’s tincture.”

“It must be pretty powerful stuff to catch out Wolfram Jones like that.”

“Very. Powerful, yeah,” he bobbed his head.

Holly regarded Wolf for moment then began scribbling a note on paper.

“What are you doing?”

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Psamurai #9

Bootstraps

Sophie, Hunter and Ian were standing in the middle of the street, blocking traffic. But so was Dr. Merv Spector, a clinical psychologist, and several abandoned cars. Also, all the ghosts milling about screaming at everything.

“Put the spooky gun down, Dr. Specter,” Sophie said. “Nobody else needs to be turned into a ghost.”

“Call me,” Dr. Spector lurched around to face Sophie, “Doctor Spector.”

“Isn’t that what I said?”

“You spelled it wrong.”

“Is it still homicide if the victim turns directly into a ghost?” Hunter accidentally said aloud.

“Well, I mean, they’re still dead, right?” Sophie replied.

“I imagine it would be prosecuted like one,” Ian added.

“Would there be extra charges for causing a public haunting?” Hunter asked.

“I don’t think the justice system is prepared for this,” Sophie said in a mock lament, shaking her head.

“Hey, what did I miss?” Cheryl called running toward them. “I just got your message. Who’s this asshole?” she said into her coffee.

“Dr. Spector,” said Sophie.

“Doctor Specter,” he shouted.

“That’s what I said.”

“Doctor Specter?” Cheryl looked askance.

“Thank you, ma’am,” Doctor Specter called to Cheryl.

“What’s his thing?”

“He’s got a gun that turns people into ghosts,” Sophie reported.

“So he has a gun?” Cheryl looked at Sophie, nonplussed. “Hunter can do maniac-with-a-gun in his pajamas. He does all the time. I was having a really nice chat. Her name was Maggie.”

“No, like no-shit ghosts,” Hunter said pointing to the withered, translucent wraiths that roamed the strip mall parking lot that.

“Dammit,” Cheryl sighed. “Brand new Starbucks and it’s already haunted.”

Cheryl trotted to one of the ghosts, waving her hands in its face. “Are they dangerous?”

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