Essence of Andrew
By Roy Dorman
A spirited adventure begun
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
“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
“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
“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
“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.”
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
“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
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
“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
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
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, email@example.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.