Black Petals Issue #77 Fall, 2016

Essence of Andrew
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Mars-News, Views and Commentary
Archangel-Fiction by BP Editor, A. M. Stickel
Drop-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
Essence of Andrew-Fiction by Roy Dorman
Lupine Savagery-Fiction by Michael Mulvihill
Smith's Emporium-Fiction by Tony Lukas
Spider Line-Fiction by Paul Strickland
Surviving Montezuma, Chapters 3 and 4-Continuing Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
The Apsara-Fiction by Jessie Johnson

Fiction by Roy Dorman

andrew.jpg

Essence of Andrew

 

By Roy Dorman

 

A spirited adventure begun

 

Part 1

 

 

 Mrs. Taylor placed the small blue bottle containing the essence of Andrew into the gnarled hands of the psychic she had rented from the Baltimore agency. She loathed spending the money, but had failed to rid the house of its evil using her own powers.

 Within the bottle, Andrew shuddered, fearful the uncertain grip would loosen and he would be lost should the bottle shatter on the sidewalk.

“Be careful with him,” warned Mrs. Taylor. “He’d not last long outside the bottle.”

Psychic Edgar Hill favored her with a small smile and nod of assent before saying, “I’ve handled the likes of him before, Madam. He’ll be safe enough with me. I’ll be using his spirit like a broom you’d use to sweep cobwebs from the rafters.”

“I’ve need of you to rid my house of the evil infesting it,” said Mrs. Taylor, “not lecturing me on my craft.”

Edgar Hill nodded again and walked slowly up the sidewalk toward the old house. As he reached the top of the front steps and was then on the porch, the gaslights beside the door winked out as if telling him they wanted no part in aiding him in his mission.

Andrew shuddered once more, hoping this agent was up to the task ahead of them.

Edgar put his hand on the knob and turned it to the right. He slowly pushed the door open a crack and waited. When whatever he might have been expecting did not happen, he threw the door wide open and raised the blue bottle containing Andrew over his head like a lantern and shouted, “Be gone, devil and merchant of evil; I call upon you to leave this site!”

He had closed his eyes while addressing whatever had taken up residence. Now, squinting through half-closed eyes, he was deciding whether to enter the house or call upon higher powers for assistance.

A deep chuckle sounded from within the dark interior of the sitting room. The darkness was so complete that even the moonlight from behind him stopped at the door’s frame. With the hand that held Andrew, Edgar tentatively reached into that blackness and then cried out when his hand was severed at the wrist! The bottle containing Andrew made no sound as it was captured by the room and Edgar turned in horror to show Mrs. Taylor his bloody stump.

“You fool!” Mrs. Taylor shouted. “You’ve lost my Andrew!”

Edgar staggered down the front steps toward the horse and buggy he had left in the street. He got about halfway to it before collapsing on the sidewalk due to blood loss.

Mrs. Taylor stood over him berating his incompetence, “You’ll get no pay from me, lout! I’ll take your agency to court for damages. My poor Andrew is in there alone with that horrid beast.”

Mrs. Taylor, still cursing him, went to the neighbor’s house to use their phone. Edgar groaned in pain and went into shock. He would be dead before a doctor could get to him.

 

The blue glow of Andrew’s spirit managed to displace the darkness surrounding the bottle, but the light only reached about two feet in all directions around him. As he checked the perimeter, his phantasmal breath caught in his phantasmal throat as a large hairy foot with thick discolored toenails appeared at the edge of that glow. An equally large hand then reached out of the darkness and scooped up the bottle from the floor.  

Andrew prepared for oblivion; he had already survived death and was sure he was about to enter the void he speculated to be the next step. He stared out of the bottle into a hideous face, and met the gaze of two enormous bloodshot eyes with dirty yellow irises. Then the thing spoke in a raspy voice.

“It will soon be common knowledge that I’m in this house which was once home to a great evil. I’ve no patience for dealing with every bumbler who attempts to master me. Having absorbed the residual power left by the one who shall not be named, I’ll now return to my own realm. I can leave you here in your bottle, destroy you, or if you so desire, take you with me. I feel magnanimous; you may choose.

It took Andrew but a second to decide. “I’ll go with you, but not as slave or servant; I’ll join you as advisor and confidante. You seem to be in need of decision-making assistance.”

“Hah!” snorted the beast. “Your very words tell me I should destroy you now, rather than later rue the fact that I didn’t.”

 

The closest neighbors were now standing on the lawn murmuring to one another. Mrs. Taylor was working up the courage to go up to her own front door to discern Andrew’s fate when she heard a collective gasp from them.

Two lights had appeared in the house, one blue and one crimson, and could be seen through the windows, moving from room to room. They appeared to be seeking, or possibly gathering, something; then, combining into one, they exploded in a royal purple flash through an upstairs bedroom window and shot into the sky.

Mrs. Taylor, silently cursing the psychic from Baltimore, went to bid farewell to her Andrew. As she strode up the front walk, intending to at least retrieve his bottle, she saw the gaslights flicker and then brighten. It was going to be a while before the light came back into her life, but she knew Andrew was clever, and hoped he would find happiness wherever he was going.

“May powerful spirits be with you, Andrew Taylor,” said Mrs. Taylor to the sky. “In bodily form you were never much company, being always more concerned with the goings-on of other realms. But those few times our spirits were one I shall never forget. Don’t forget me, Andrew. Come back for me when you can. I’ll be waiting.”

 

 

Part 2

 

 

The dimension holding the Taylor house closed. As a replacement for the blue bottle, Andrew found space for his essence within the caverns of his host’s mind. This mind contained eldritch knowledge, some of it quite valuable, but rarely used and in messy disarray.

His fragile spirit had quailed at the force of faster-than-light flight between dimensions, but it was just a few minutes before they re-entered physical space—and blinding light. He beheld a vast physical plain dotted with small settlements. A web of dirt roads connected everything; the distance held a large walled city.

The surrounding countryside was arid. Stunted weedy plants covered in fine dust struggled for life along the roadway. Andrew conjured up moisture from the air in the immediate area and dumped it as rain on one of the plants. The cleansed leaves became a glistening shamrock green and the plant shot up two or three inches in the time it took for its roots to absorb the small amount of water. His host either didn’t discern Andrew’s experiment or pretended not to notice it for reasons of his own.

“I, Javid the Most Powerful, am native to this land of Shattered Dreams and Broken Promises,” he said. “It’s a bitter land, where only my kind can flourish. Stay within me at all times or your end will be a swift one.”

“Are we going to that city?” asked Andrew, unimpressed by the pompous tone of the introduction and the unnecessary warning. “Don’t you have methods of transportation? Are we going to have to walk all that way? How long….”

“Advisors are supposed to answer questions, not ask them,” said Javid. “But, yes, we’re going to the city. No, we don’t have methods of transportation because both animals and machinery require upkeep. We don’t have a worker caste. So, yes, we’ll walk and it’ll take until sunset. Now, be quiet until I need advising on something….”

“Behind you!” shouted Andrew.

Javid wheeled around, pulling a short sword from a sheath on his hip as he did so. He plunged the sword into the chest of a mirror image of himself as this double was whirling a spiked mace on a chain toward his head. Javid dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding having his head bashed in. Getting up, he placed his foot on his would-be assassin’s stomach, pulled out his sword, and wiped the blood on one of his leather chaps.

“You distracted me with your questions and allowed one of my enemies to sneak up on me,” scolded Javid.

“Well, your gratitude for my saving your life appears to know no bounds,” Andrew responded dryly. “He looked enough like you to be you. Do you all look the same here?”

“More questions. We’ve dallied too long already; we move out.”

Javid’s long strides soon had them making good time. The city was a long way off, but at this pace Andrew thought they would surely make it before nightfall.

“I’ll keep watch for more enemies,” said Andrew.

“Right,” Javid harrumphed. He was suffering from buyer’s remorse for agreeing to allow Andrew to come with him. Still, he hoped Andrew’s foreign insights would prove to be of some value in the future.

What looked like human bones littered the roadway, and Andrew remembered that Javid had said there was no worker class. There would be no maintenance crew coming along to take care of that body. 

“So, no worker caste, huh?” said Andrew. “Just a warrior caste? Does everybody just go around trying to kill everybody else all the time? And what do you do for food—eat each other?”

 “Questions, questions!” shouted Javid. “We eat what we want, when we want! Now you’ll be quiet or I’ll dash your spirit against the rocks!”

 “Must have hit a sore spot,” Andrew mumbled. He thought it might be best if he didn’t do anything else to anger Javid. However, unless Javid proved to be of some value, Andrew planned to lose him once they got to the city. Out of his protective bottle, he was very vulnerable to heat, cold, dryness, wetness, and even strong winds. Extremes of any sort could be the end of him. He would have to find an alternative way to survive in the city.

 

About halfway to the city, Andrew decided to try prying a little more information out of Javid. “So if you have no worker class, who built the roads, the settlements, and the city?”

“This land was inhabited when our kind arrived here some time ago. Everything you see that is not part of the natural landscape was built by those who were here before us.”

“Why didn’t you keep them as a working class? The buildings must require some maintenance,” said Andrew.

“We tried to get them to serve us, but they made poor slaves—always plotting and scheming in an effort to loosen our grip on them. Finally, we just exterminated them down to the last being. I have talked to some of my kind who claim that natives escaped into those mountains off to our right. Some even claim to have seen natives in the city. I don’t bother with silly speculation; as long as they stay out of my way, I don’t care if a few survived.”

Andrew thought this very interesting indeed. If there was other intelligent life here, he would seek it out. If Javid was a fair sample of the rest of his kind, even if they could shape-shift and travel between dimensions, he felt throwing his lot in with the native group instead could be to his advantage. 

As he pondered the possibility of what life could be like on this desolate world, his thoughts turned to Julia Taylor. They had been married for almost fifty years before one of his spells had gone wrong and his physical life had been lost. He was grateful that Julia knew enough of the arts to rescue his spirit from the maleficent powers Andrew had been courting.

“I miss you, Julia,” Andrew said inside the mind of Javid.

“Quiet, advisor,” said Javid. “We are nearing the city and your thoughts will be heard. Though you will eventually be detected, we must keep you a secret as long as possible.”

Andrew would allow himself to be part of Javid’s plans only until something better came along. Once again surveying the dusty mess of Javid’s mind, he didn’t think the wait for something better would be very long.

 

Maybe Not the End 

 

 

 

Roy Dorman, roydorman@yahoo.com, of Madison, Wisconsin, who wrote BP #77’s “Essence of Andrew” (+ BP #76’s “Flirting with the Alley,” BP #75’s “The Enemy of My Enemy,” BP #74’s “Doesn’t Play Well with Others,” BP #73’s “A Journey Starts with a Flower,” BP #72’s “The Beach House,” BP #71’s “The Big Apple Bites,” BP #70’s “Borrowing Some Love,” and BP #69’s “Back in Town” and “Finding Good Help…”), is retired from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Benefits Office and has been a voracious reader for 60 years. At the prompting of an old high school friend, himself a retired English teacher, Roy is now a voracious writer. He has had poetry and flash fiction published in Apocrypha and Abstractions, Birds Piled Loosely, Burningword Literary Journal, Cease Cows, Cheapjack Pulp, Crack The Spine, Drunk Monkeys, Every Day Fiction, Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Fiction Press, Gap-Toothed Madness, Gravel, Lake City Lights, Near To The Knuckle, Shotgun Honey, The Creativity Webzine, Theme of Absence, The Screech Owl, The Story Shack, & Yellow Mama.

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