Chapter One

I had everything I needed.

Piled on the side table, actually my brother's scarred and dented old Ikea table, was a pile of books. Aleister Crowley's Book Four, and Book of Lies, and the other Book of Lies, from Disinfo Press. I'd read and re-read and re-re-read Grant Morrison's Pop Magic fifteen times, taken copious notes, practiced. I made sigil after sigil. I built an altar that combined ancient gods with modern images.

Beneath the golden gleaming poster of a naked mother goddess I'd Photoshopped out of an image from a high-res porn site I kept rock for earth, a feather for air, a chalice for water and a candle for fire. I adorned the table with images of mother goddesses and cthonic goddesses, Hecate and the Morrigan and Aphrodite and Rei Ayanami to represent Lilith. The broke hand of an old Iron Man toy for strength, a silver Mjonir pendant for Thor. I made an offering to the Goddess in the form of M&Ms and Captain Morgan's Private Reserve, then took a swig for myself.

Years. This took years. I'd already made a hypersigil, seen the power it could bring into my being. Now it was time to take the next step. I'd been studying path work, visualization, Tulpa magic from Reddit, A Course in Miracles and the complete books of Theosophy. I'd created the ritual with elements from the Grimorium Verum, Liziewski's Power of Evocation, and a dozen other sources.

The most important element in my temple was the door and frame I'd set up on the wall. The frame was bolted to the floor, but the door just opened onto the wall. It didn't go anywhere, yet. Once I was deep inside my trance and could gather the energies needed the door would be opened from the other side and my dream would be complete. A door would open between two worlds, and the final chants would draw forth the tortured spirit on the other side and free her in the "real" world.

I had the circle marked out on the floor in advance. Red paint for power and warning, mixed with a miniscule amount of blood to link it to me. I bought gold foil at a craft store and shredded into the pain before I marked out the barrier and just outside of it I'd created secondary circles of power made from salt, flour, and a mixture of sandalwood, High John the Conqueror, and sea salt, all in concentric rings. Eleven candles ringed my circle where I sat cross-legged, staring at the door.

I began to chant. The words didn't matter, so long as I roughly matched the melody of Cruel Angel's Thesis. I raised my voice higher and higher, bellowing gibberish at the top of my lungs, turning the half-understood lyrics of a major keep pop tune in another language into a guttural string of barbarous names. My eyes unfocused and I let myself drift into the sound.

On cue, the laptop I'd set up in the corner began to play Cruel Angel's Thesis, then different remixes, covers, a dubstep version, all a few seconds apart, blending with my chant into a roiling dissonance, a storm of sound that carried the shape of Evangelion. I unfocused my mind as I unfocused my eyes and let feeling become sensation. I replayed scenes in my mind. I saw Asuka dying in Netflix DVD quality, saw Shinji's hand clutching Rei's breast, the same hand covered in semen, imagined it was mine, and then it was. The world was spinning, the closed off basement concentrating the scents from the candles and the incense and the tiny cup of gasoline I'd left out to flavor it all with it sulfurous stench.

Weaving back and forth on my knees, I drew my athame, an old kitchen knife from my grandfather's house, slowly across my palm. I held stones of power taken from game lands in my hands and let the blood flow over them, lifted it to my nose, smelled LCL, was immersed in it. I felt my gorge rising.

"How disgusting," I whispered.

I heard a bang, and I didn't know if it was my heart or the door in front of me, until the second bang shook it in its frame, the hinges creaking. The doorknob was turning, twisting as some invisible force grasped it and wrenched it from side to side.

It was working. This was actually happening. My chant wavered for a moment, then built up, flowing through me, an unconscious act. Someone was pounding on my door from the other side, rattling it with every blow. The knob twisted, turned, and the door flew open. It swung around like a flapping wing and hit the wall with a sharp crack, and through it I saw. I saw.

This was it, the moment. I only had to reach through and draw forth, pull her out of her grim world into safety, into my arms. Almost thereā€¦

Something hit me in the chest and pitched me backwards. The breath was crushed out of my lungs, and I felt a candle smash against my back. The soft wax spread and made my shirt heavy as the flame guttered and I felt it biting at the skin of the back of my neck.

From nowhere, a wind picked up, swirling around the room. I'd been pitched ass over teakettle, right through my circle, breaking it. I lay in a mix of salt and powders fanned out over the floor. My altar was shaking, the candles dancing over the surface. One by one, they fell. A blue-hot alcohol flame leapt up out of the chalice where I'd poured out my offering, lighting the basement chamber in harsh hues.

The door banged against the wall, standing open. With a wet tearing sound a torrent of orange liquid that stank of iron poured out in a wave, spreading everywhere, over everything. By the time I struggled to my feet it was already above my ankles and swirling in a whirlpool. There was another bank, hollow, something trying to crush through the opening I'd made. In a panic I tried to begin the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram but I couldn't remember how to start, the words flowing out of my mind like a sieve. The computer popped, shorted, and died, the music gone now, replaced with the hollow swirling sound of the liquid pouring into the room, up to my knees. I ran for the door, the real door, pulled it, but the thick goop that was now up to my waist pressed it shut.

Something brushed my leg and I began climbing the cheap Wal-Mart shelving where I kept my grimoires. The board snapped and the books fluttered out into the liquid like dead bugs, caught in the rotating current. The stuff was both pouring out and drawing back in, and I was caught in the current now. It ripped the doorknob out of my hand and I splashed face-down, gripped by the ankles in the clutches of something I could not see.

It flooded up my nose, this foul smelling, overly thick sludge, wet but oily and heavy at the same time. I reached for the surface, for the last few flickering candles that hovered just out of reach, beyond the surface, but my hand would not find them. It was cold, so cold, and I was lifted bodily and swept back towards the door.

My hands hit the door frame. My left scraped painfully over the bare wood and opened my cuticles, and blood swirled around my fingers in a small cloud, strangely undisturbed by the enormous drawing force. I was in my wall now, my legs stretched out behind me into some infinite cold that I pointedly refused to look at. My lungs were burning, the crushing need to breathe clawing at my throat.

The door whipped around, and closed. The hinges bit into my hand and I screamed, the last gasp of stale air in my lungs bubbling in my face before the dark liquid forced its way down my throat. My body lurched and I gagged and my gorge rose, but it was forced dows as the taste of blood consumed me and my grip was lost and I fell backwards, lifted into a place without walls where the sea of not blood went on forever in darkness, the silvery outline of the door the last light I saw.

Until again, I opened my eyes.

Something was wrong. I couldn't move. There was pain everywhere, dug into my arms and legs and hips. I tried to breath but my lungs refused to move. I felt as though I was constantly on the edge of drowning, the feeling that I was just about to need a breath constant, and crushing. The feeling of something in my neck, jammed against the bones and grinding into my body, almost distracted me from the simple fact that I was blind.

I tried to move, but couldn't. All I could feel was the pain, all else was numb, neither heat nor cold. I couldn't even feel a sensation of space- it was like being buried alive in something so soft I couldn't feel it. I could feel my mouth, bound shut. I could feel screws and bolts in my jaw, feel wires dug into my gums, running through my teeth, squeezing them together. Why couldn't I see?

Something moved. My head kicked forward, the feeling of movement the first sensation since pain. Suddenly all feeling from my neck down was gone, just gone, and I would have felt tears well in my eyes if I could feel them at all. I heard something moving, something inside my body, and then my head tilted back.

There was something in my throat, like I'd swallowed a bug. It reached down into my chest, constantly on the verge of being swallowed. Something was happening. My back burned hot in the middle of my spine, and as the heat spread through my body the pain from the stabbing, impaling intrusions into my flesh grew greater and greater, until I wanted to scream through my frozen, locked mouth.

I could move! I started to, just clenched my first, but something wouldn't let me. It was like my thoughts went somewhere else and something was moving my limbs for me. I felt my fingers move, tried to stop them, and failed.

Sight slammed back into my skull, driving everything else out. The world was a gray blur. I was in some kind of coffin, chained down. What happened? Where was I? Did I forget some vital element, open a door to some hell? Had I been taken by Cenobites, or sucked into the Warp? Would I feel this forever?

I heard voices, but I couldn't understand them. Something flickered in my vision. The feeling spreading from my throat burned, and I heard more voices, louder. Whatever was controlling me wasn't strong enough, wasn't enough to hold me back. I barely realized that I was moving before I was trying to tear free of my bonds. The agony of feeling the screws tearing at my flesh as I pulled at the bindings on the wall behind me only kindled my rage from a flame into a white hot blast, and I pulled free.

My head, there was something on my head, stuck in my eye, blinding, like an eyelash under my eyelid but a thousand thousand times worse. If I could ge the helmet off I could breath, I knew it. I clutched at it, flailed, slammed my fists into the wall and felt it buckle. I saw a bar of light, some kind of window. I wanted to scream my rage but my mouth was bound, frozen, so I slammed my first into it instead, a feeling of primal satisfaction rippling through me as I felt it fold under the impact, felt the jarring pain of my knuckles hitting something confirming sensation like the wiggling of a sore, loose tooth.

The helmet, the helmet, the helmet. I grabbed it and pulled, no longer caring if I ripped my own skull out by the root, and when that failed I rammed my head into the wall again, and again, and again, digging deeper. Someone was screaming, and I felt the heat in my back torn away, cold spreading behind it, but I had myself now, I could move. I pounded and pounded.

My neck cracked with the force of an axe blow and my head hung between my shoulders. I flailed around, collapsing into the corner, and then as my vision finally cleared I saw it. The metal tube, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, crashed into the ceiling and skimmed along its surface, pushed by rockets, spiraling. It scraped to the corner where the walls met and then plunged straight down, stood on its end, and fell, rolling to expose the hatch.

Locked, frozen, I could only watch, my vision fading as the burning energy slid out of my limbs and the freezing ice of some great weight slid over my body, numbing the pain but locking me in a prison of my own flesh.

I saw a man like an ant twist open a hatch, and a tiny girl in white collapse into his shoulder. My hearing went first and I was in a numb ringing void and darkness circled in, swallowing the tiny, scrabbling figures below me.


Oh God.