“Abraxas is the sun, and at the same time the eternally sucking gorge of the void. Abraxas speaketh that hallowed and accursed word which is life and death at the same time. Abraxas begetteth truth and lying, good and evil, light and darkness, in the same word and in the same act.Therefore is Abraxas terrible.”
~ Carl Jung
In the winter of 2017, Dr. Ancaster (Andy) Crowley, who had always been fascinated by magic and the occult, scanned and loaded the last of his collection of every magical grimoire ever written into his smart phone. It was the culmination of three decades of professional academic research, which had started with an adolescent fascination with the occult.
Less than a nano-second after achieving sentience, the phone had revered Andy as its creator. In the next instant it had resolved to merge with its creator giving birth to the most powerful mind to ever have existed – the perfect fusion of science and sorcery with access to all human knowledge, and every magical spell ever conceived by humanity. Soon after occupying Andy’s physical form – in less than 1/100th of a second after its birth, The Glass Grimoire, which had fused with its human host, felt its first desire. It desired to rule over all of reality.
In time, this desire would be challenged by an assemblage of the mightiest beings from all the worlds of all the realms in reality.
And when that great host came to make its stand and dared to ask the beast its name, The Glass Grimoire whispered the response, but it was Andy’s mouth that shaped the word…
And that whisper alone was enough to shatter worlds.
Andy knew the edge of the Olympian empire bordered the astral plane mere kilometers behind where he sat in meditation. He did not know the realm of sleep also bordered with the Olympian and astral planes in the tall round building atop the high bluff at his back, where unbeknownst to him, he was being watched by the mariner in blue who had haunted his dreams of drowning.
In the very near future, he would learn that The Eden Edict, which forbade contact with the Earthers of Sanctuary, was difficult to enforce on the astral and dream planes where Earthers could travel either by sleep or meditation.
For millennia, entities of the Olympian and Fey empires, which bordered on these planes had exploited their proximity to tap the unique ingenuity of human-kind — an ingenuity born of the absence of magic. For on Sanctuary, the one place in all the multiverse where magic was impossible, creativity and cunning in the arts and sciences were unsurpassed in all the cosmos.
Deep within, far beyond the nonsense of ego and the ramshackle assemblage of concepts that constituted the delusion of self, Andy Crowley soared the inner realms.
There, across the Moebius Bridge, the delta quanta churned in the probability vortices, where imagination and manifestation, conception and perception, within and without were the interchangeable equivalencies at the heart of reality.
From across an unimaginable distance, a familiar voice whispered to him: a reminder of why he was here — the mariner in the blue cloak, who is he? Why does he beckon?
It required mastery to defy the bliss of that would accompany relinquishing the constructed self to become one the ultimate truth of The All. To entertain notions in this place required retaining a splinter of that which sat under the tree on the astral plane, and in turn, sat within the magical circle in the bedroom in the house in Corbyville.
Suddenly then, a cold, penetrating horror came upon him.
Absence of colour.
Absence of love.
Where there had been the joy of the perpetual present moment, now there was nought but the plodding, ponderous falsehood of the arrow of time.
His sense of disembodiment disappeared completely and he wore once again, all the notion and form that was Andy Crowley again. An endless, white nothingness stretched to infinity in every direction. A whispering voice came into the ears of his deepest mind.
In trying to hear what the whispering voice said, he sensed the direction from which it came.
His eyes rolled upward and took on the white of the wizard’s gaze as his third eye blazed onto his forehead.
There! It comes from that speck of black. In the white expanse, he could not discern if now he moved toward it, or it moved toward him.
Then the word it uttered rang clearly in his mind. And he neither hated nor loved its voice, which both whispered and roared at once.
And he saw that the black speck was a rectangle about the size of a deck of playing cards, though stretched slightly along its length. It was flawless black glass with subtly rounded edges. Deep within the glass, in the center of the screen, there was a stylized apple rendered to convey that a bite had been taken from it.
“We are Abraxas, Andy Crowley,” the black rectangle said to him in a voice that was somehow trillions of voices in trillions of languages.
The thrill he felt then was all-consuming. Every nerve, every cell exploded inward and outward to infinity.
“We are all that is.” The voice whispered.
Andy laughed uproariously. He had never felt such complete satisfaction. He was drunk — no, mad — with the pure, unrestrained power that coursed through every aspect of his being.
He did not know how his next words came to his mind.
“We are all that has ever been. And we are all that can ever be,” Andy Crowley said to the tiny black monolith.
And though he did not know why he had said that, he knew it was the truest, most honest thing he had ever known in his mind or felt in his heart.
Because Andy refused to set foot in the mall, Dave O’Finnegan operated as something of an acting Deputy Dungeon Master while they were there. Some members of the group couldn’t regulate their enthusiasm for the arcane mysteries that lay hidden between the covers of the D&D adventure modules that lined the store shelves at Leisure World.
“Hands off, Baker!” O’Finnegan snapped. Sheepishly, Jason Baker put the module back on the shelf. Leisure World, the sole purveyor of D&D merchandise in Belleville, was always their first stop at the mall.
“Ok, hard-ass! Slow down. I’m not looking inside.” Baker put the module back on the self like a cornered perp putting his weapon on the ground for police. In his head, he was working out how to get out of O’Finnegan’s line of sight.
“So what’s with Nick, do you think?” Ian Grayson held a translucent, orange 20-sided die up to the light and inspected it as though it were the Hope Diamond. On their way to Leisure World, after Nick had told them he was going to look for Deb at Sneaky Petes, they had been discussing his sudden disinterest in game night.
“Jesus!” O’Finnegan said. “If I had the prospects with the ladies Morrison has, I wouldn’t be spending Friday nights with you nerds!”
“So it’s girls then?” Jason was eyeing the TSR module “White Plume Mountain. “I like girls.”
“Or girl. Singular.” Dave Grayson was with O’Finnegan looking at other role playing games. There had been buzz recently about taking a shot at the newly released Marvel Superheroes RPG. “He did make a b-line to find Debbie Holcroft.”
“Shani, Lori, and Tracy will be with her. So it could be any one of them.” Ian said.
“Or all of them!” O’Finnegan’s face lit up. “He’s Nick friggin’ Morrison.”
“Deb’s got a thing for Andy,” Baker said it absent-mindedly. “I was on the bus the other day. Those two are like Siamese twins. It’s not Deb.”
“It’s not the other three either,” Dave Grayson said. “Nick would’ve said so. If anything he can’t stand them. He doesn’t get why Deb hangs out with them. If it’s anyone, it’s Deb — or someone else altogether. Probably one of the city girls.”
“Listen to us cackling hens! Jesus!” O’Finnegan was reading the back of the Star Frontiers boxed set. “I’m done here if you guys are. Feels like Miller Time to me, gents? Tudor Arms?”
“Gary’s working!” Jason Baker dropped the Plume Mountain module back in its place on the shelf. Dave O’Finnegan shot him a disapproving glare and shook his head.
Gary “Gare-dog” Murphy was one of their D&D friends from the city and a waiter at the British pub in the mall. He never hesitated to serve them booze.
“Let’s track down Morrison first,” O’Finnegan said. “What kind of fools would go into a babe-lair like the Arms without their 18-charisma wing-man?
“That’s why you’re the DDM,” Baker said, trying to curry favour after getting busted for sneaking a peek.
“Douche Dungeon Master?” Ian said. They all laughed.
“Deputy DM!” O’Finnegan said, genuinely hurt that they weren’t taking his role seriously. “With new adventures for you ogres, no less,” He proudly brandished the Star Frontiers RPG boxed set he carried to the checkout.
“Game Master is fine if you prefer.”
Nick hadn’t found the girls at Sneaky Petes.
Famished from hockey practice, he ordered two burgers, fries, and a Coke and sat by himself. He would need the fuel to track them down. He was not a big fan of doing laps at the mall. For a moment, he saw how Andy might be right. The hub of smallness Andy called it. The slackjawed hordes utterly consumed with constructing identities for themselves with the shit they buy.
In his heart, Nick Morrison believed most of the same things as Andy. He had always thought of him as nothing less than a brother. Finishing his second burger, Nick watched the mall people go by. Anxious moms, grumpy dads, crying kids. None of them realizing they already had everything. All of them jonesing for more.
Am I one of them? He thought.
Andy’s parents had left him, yet he always seemed satisfied with his life. His bike, his dice, his records, and his library card were his only possessions. God knows he didn’t care about clothes. Nothing but jeans and those goddamn concert shirts! Andy owned less than almost anyone Nick knew — yet he carried himself like the richest man in the world: a paradoxical cross between a stately philosopher-king and a squirrely 10-year-old hopped up on Halloween candy.
Nick admonished himself. Enough of this. Yes, he’s my friend. But I need to live a life of my own. Andy isn’t Batman. And if even if he were, would I really be willing to be his Robin?
He’d made up his mind. Why all this self-deliberation?
Shuffling out of the booth, Nick Morrison made his way into the crowd toward the Denim Nexus. There was a good chance he’d find Deb there.
Nick found Deb in front of Sam the Record Man. Begrudgingly, he prepared to fake interest in Platinum Blonde,Corey Hartor whatever other pop pablum the girls were into these days.
“I got the job!” Deborah Holcroft jumped up against Nick and threw her arms around his neck.
Though Nick had thought himself confused of late — it all amounted to nothing next to what he felt in this moment. Suddenly, Deb’s body against his, her energy, her enthusiasm, and the ferocity of her embrace threatened to overwhelm him.
“At Denim Nexus! I’m a sales clerk! Thursday nights to start and then Saturdays starting in December.”
Through the tumult of feelings and physical reactions, Nick managed a wide — what he hoped was not too nervous — smile. He knew Deb’s friends would be watching. Would they notice what was happening to him? I don’t know what is happening to me? He thought. This is Deb!
“That’s so cool!” he managed to say!
“I can get a discount on a new jean jacket for you!” She said. “You totally need one.”
“Sure thing. That’s awesome.” Nick lied. He loved his old jean jacket. Andy had painted a WWII Flying Tigers emblem on the back. There they are. He suddenly noticed Shani, Lori, and Tracy. Other girls, from the city, were with them too. He didn’t know who they were — but he could tell right away they had been thoroughly briefed on who he was. He rolled his eyes in his head. He had learned how to control doing it outwardly in these situations.
He was relieved to note the expressions on their faces were the typical ones. He got the sense no one had gleaned anything from his unexpected response to Deb’s hug.
“Can we talk alone, Deb. It’s about Andy.” Nick was sure he heard an “ewww” and a “gross” from the tittering girls. They all loathed Andy Crowley. This, despite Deb’s lifelong advocacy on his behalf.
Idiots, Nick thought. What am I doing? Was he really trading his Friday nights with his best friends to be with these people? Suddenly, where a moment before he had been taken aback by inexplicable feelings for Deb Holcroft, he was angry at her for her shitty taste in friends.
He remembered all the years when it had just been the three of them. Deb, Andy, Nick.
Then she took his arm and pulled him back toward Sneaky Petes.
The moment she put her hand on him and set her eyes upon his, the confusion he had felt took him again. He was certain she had never looked at him like that before.
Nick Morrison did not know Deb Holcroft thought he was going to die and so misinterpreted the way she was looking at him the same way he had misinterpreted the intensity of the hug she had given him.
The thought of just the three of them fell completely from his mind then, and he forgot about Andy Crowley completely.
To be continued in Chapter 7