Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nightmare Fuel Day 19 - The Heretic

Day 19, redux. The prompt was posted after I wrote the story, so I circled back. This deals with a theme I've been playing with in my head, but not in a way which I find entirely satisfactory. Anther one to revisit.

"The Heretic"
by L Czhorat Suskin

The warlock was drinking, more and faster than usual. His name was Chris, but we called him the warlock. The only man who'd stayed with the coven past learning that most of us were gay and no, we wouldn't let him watch. Nobody knew what he did or where he went between meetings; at first glance we'd thought him homeless with his wild, unkempt beard and yellowing teeth. At  a closer look, his clothes were always laundered, his body clean and well-nourished. So not homeless, but with his wild beard and wild eyes none of us could imagine him at a nine-to-five type of job. The one time Gail asked him what he did he'd shrugged it off with a wave of his hand and one word. "This."

"what do you mean, this? Are you a professional warlock? Is that a job?"

He gestured impatiently with his half-smoked cigar. He always had a cigar. "You asked what I do. Right now, I'm doing this with you. Other times I do other things."

This, at the time, was a blessing for the full moon. Strength and health for the month ahead, acknowledgement of our place on the great wheel of existence, all that kind of thing. It was one of those fall evenings when the dark sneaks up on you but it's still warm enough to be outside without a jacket, but just barely. It was the time of the harvest, or would have been if any of us didn't work in real estate offices or retail stores or law firms. Poor Gail sells real estate, and I think she believes this stuff for real with an intensity well beyond the rest of us. She doesn't just believe. She believes. For the rest of us - or at least for me - it was always half needing to get out of the house, half a lingering "fuck you" to the patriarchy after years ago women's studies classes and maybe the last sliver the idea that something must be out there, that the world has to be a bit more than we see it to be.

And no, we never saw the warlock as part of the patriarchy. He was always too harmless, to hapless, to much an outsider. Male, but not of the male structure.

Or so we thought.

This year's ritual was nighttime, nighttime outside of town at a small graveyard behind an old stone church. Or in front of. It doesn't matter. What mattered was hallowed ground, consecrated not by the church but by the restless spirits of those souls whose mortal remains rested beneath. Old markers, worn thin as cardboard, thin as the shadows cast in the moonlight.

Seated together we were, side-by-side-by-side, a ring of whatever we were a ring of. Gail between me and the warlock, her hand in mine dry and cool as always her voice dry and cool in the dry and cool fall night air, the words from her lips hot and wet and with the names of Goddesses and spirits and

her hand wrenched free from mine, Gail jumping up and spinning glaring her eyes on the warlock

"" Her words were ice, cold ice, her eyes burning on his.

"The same as you. Invoking the aspects of God."

Her voice was ice. "What are you talking about? We worship the goddess here in all her aspects and the great wheel of nature, and the spirits of all things."

His eyes were as bright as hers, almost glowing in the moonlight air.

The circle broke, we sat uncomfortably, angrily. The warlock pulled a hip flask from his pocket, took a long pull. He sketched a pentacle in the dirt with one grubby finger. At the points his fingers traced complicated symbols, unreadable in the dimly light earth, "Hagiel, Uriel, Saint Jerome, the virgin, the Christ. Aspects of the Godhead into which he poured his divinity."

Before Gail could speak, I cut  her off "The pentacle looks like the craft, but your words sound like the patriarchal Christian bullshit we're trying to get away from. Uh.. no offence."

The warlock jabbed a finger at me. "They all have names. This" he gestured expansively with the half-burned cigar, indicating the church, the graveyard, his earth-sketched symbols, "this was all old a thousand years ago. This would be our heritage, if we didn't forget."

He turned his back towards us, speaking quietly towards the church, towards hallowed ground, his voice in rough latin. The words were gibberish, but the cadence familiar, comfortable.


Through the flow of words we heard names. Uriel and Hagiel and Sameal. The Magdalene. The Virgin. Gail turned away, back towards her convertable and her apartment and real-estate listings.

I took a step closer to the warlock, felt my voice joining his, speaking words I didn't know I knew.

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