“All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.” -Edgar Allen Poe
3 – I hope I just stepped in water
The sunlight cut through the window slats and shone on my face. I rolled over in a pile of vomit, hungover. Elektra was nestled under eight naked male bodies on a tarpaulin mat. (Call me Don Juan, but I was the lucky ninth.) I groaned and got to my feet shakily. Fragments of the night flashed before my mind’s eye as I stumbled to the bathroom door in an open bathrobe now speckled with vomit and (Gods forbid) semen. (Jesus, I need to stop drinking.) I kneeled by the toilet and heaved whatever vodka I had left in my stomach—flush. I crawled into the shower and lay on my side.
Two hours later, I woke up, nearly choking on the steam. I put the same bathrobe on and walked to the kitchen. There, I found Elektra, naked, serving eggs and bacon to our eight guests. They munched on the breakfast items enthusiastically, like a platoon of overworked infantrymen, and traded banter about the evening I was still struggling to remember chronologically.
“Good morning!” Elektra said, in the turgid manner of a soccer mom. “How’s my little stud doing?”
“Fuck you,” I said, “Give me something to eat.”
“You did. But what do you say first?” she beamed.
“Jesus Christ, woman, you have to be the strangest person I’ve ever met.”
“That’s not it,” she said, coquettishly.
I hate headaches.
“Please…” I relented.
Marduk appeared in our midst in sports apparel holding a tennis racket.
“I surprise myself sometimes,” he said, “I’ve still got a good forearm and backward swing. You have a fine tennis court. Ooh, breakfast!’
So there we were eating breakfast, nine semi-naked men, a senile magickian masquerading as tennis player and naked woman with a burning skillet at my kitchen counter. Where’s Edward Hopper when you need him? This vignette could make for a compelling study in watercolors, I thought. But I was still groggy, and the morning, with the attendant import of a collective act of debauchery, had a strange idyllic quality I couldn’t help but contemplate. If I may say so, dear reader, I am the morning-after aesthete. I therefore promise to keep these unusual philosophical segues to a minimum, lest I reveal anything like substantial character psychology. (Although that will change later, all kidding aside.) Anyway, we had a crazed magus to find, so I unceremoniously announced that the eight guests had to, in my native patois, “fuck off.”
Just then my maid, Guadalupe, walked in with a bucket and a toilet brush through the hole that used to be my door. She stopped and gazed at the assembled group of weirdoes. The condo reeked of sexual fluids and a ceremonial altar stood in lieu of my trendy IKEA living room. “Satanicos,” she muttered beneath her breath.
“Meester Rod,” she said, “Should I leef now?”
“No, Guadalupe, I want you clean this up. My guests were just leaving.”
“I’ll pay you whatever you want, but I have business to take care of in town. And get someone to fix the door. Please.”
I coaxed Marduk and Elektra to shower, respectively. The former was sweaty from his tennis match and Elektra was still cum-encrusted. In retrospect, it almost seemed like the morning had cast a spell of amnesia over the two Magi, because nothing in their ostensible behavior this morning communicated the exigency that made them burst through my door the night before. Indeed, if anything, they seemed content to embrace the glitzy (and lurid) trappings of my life. But, fuck all; I wanted to get the mission underway, because California has a way of making people forget why they’re even here, and I wasn’t looking for roommates—especially these two. (Yeah, I was still groggy and irritable.)
The second step was to find suitable attire for the Magi. California is home to an impressive collection of misfits, but there was no way I was going to walk into O-Face studios with two latter-day Crowleyites in ceremonial regalia. Then again…
“Hey, John!” I spoke into the cell phone receiver, “Listen, I got this great idea for a film. Huh-uh, it’s really fucked up, and I think I found your leads—and old wizard and some nymphomaniac who likes it pouring, if you catch my drift. That’s right. No, I’ll drive there. Just make sure that asshole at the gate lets me in this time. Yeah, it won’t be anything too fancy, but I’d still like to take a look around the studio, if that’s okay. Size up your girls. All right. Thanks again. See you in a few.” Click.
I called the taxi service and waited for the driver at the gate. My partners winced in the Californian glare, sweating underneath their thick robes. They exchanged hushed words, undoubtedly about the task at hand, but I didn’t care for their thoughts at the moment. It occurred to me that I was the only practical-minded member of the troupe. My companions were cannon fodder—decoys, if you will—for an investigation I would have to spearhead myself. No doubt they believed themselves the center of a cosmic conflict, pitting the forces of a dubious good against those of a dubious evil, but they were foils in a masterful farce I was painfully becoming aware of. Farce never seemed so jejune.
The taxi arrived minutes later. We embarked. I directed the driver to O-Face Studios, which he had no problem locating. “I couldn’t get enough of that—what was it? The King & I & His Wives,” he said. “Weren’t you in that?” Evidently the driver recognized me and promised us free fare. He said the film salvaged his nearly defunct marriage by igniting latent sexual passions in his wife. I felt Elektra’s hand press my thigh. I looked at her and she smiled as her hand moved closer to my crotch. Marduk looked on in astonishment. What had endeared this woman to me? I could only guess, but I felt last night’s misadventure had ignited her latent sexual passions and, through me, discovered a world more frivolously exciting than the “mysteries” of the occult. She promptly peered into the front seat and asked the driver to pull into a back alley. Marduk was curiously silent.
“Woah!” the driver said, as his eyes flashed across the rearview mirror. Elektra had pulled her robe open and revealed supple, white breasts, gently teasing the nipples.
The taxicab veered perilously across four street lanes and pulled into an alley behind a cheap motel. Elektra pushed me out of the back seat and pinioned me against the car’s exterior. She unzipped my pants and pulled them down to my ankles. With a few swift strokes I was erect and my member was in her mouth. The driver was present with a camera phone in his hands. “This is fucking unbelievable!” he said, documenting the act. Marduk then appeared and watched with detached interest. My head fell back on my shoulders and I surrendered myself to the moment, until…
Back en route, the driver kept looking at us in the rearview mirror with an idiotic grin.
“You guys don’t play around,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I said, “It’s all play.”
When we arrived at the studio, the driver thanked us for best shift he’d ever had to work. I acknowledged the dubious honor and waved him off as the taxi joined the dense queue of cars at the stoplight. Elektra bounced with joy, grabbing my hand as we approached the gate. Marduk, however, walked behind us slowly as if he were debating something internally. His physical, as well as emotional, distance was not lost on me. I turned to him.
“Is there something on your mind?” I said.
He hesitated for a moment, but spoke at length with some trepidation.
“I know he’s here,” he said.
“Father Thule?” I said.
“Yes. I sense his presence, so we should proceed cautiously. Did you have a plan?”
I explained that I spoke to John Dickson, executive producer for O-Face Studios, about a potential idea for a film. Of course, the solicitation was a pretense to search the property for any traces of Frater Thule and to question the on-site performers about any strange phenomena such as floating penises and physical apparitions. Naturally, Marduk and Elektra would play the part of potential leads for the film; so I needed them to play it cool and not act out of place.
“Are we understood?”
“Yes,” they said.
We walked to the gate, a small box-like tollhouse complete with a guardrail. The man inside was an out-sourced officer for a security agency wearing a bronze badge and a flashlight. I knocked on the plastic partition and waved at him as if to say, “Remember me?” He sighed and raised the guardrail, scrutinizing my companions with a look that bespoke a history of admitting freaks into the small compound. Sadly, Marduk and Elektra weren’t the first people to cross the checkpoint in what would normally pass for Halloween costumes.
“That guard,” Marduk said, “doesn’t seem to like you.”
“He doesn’t, but that’s a story for later.”
The “corporate” office was a small trailer sitting on the edges of the actual studio. I climbed the steps and invited my companions inside. No sooner had I stepped through the flimsy panel door than I saw John leaning over his cheap Formica desk snorting lines of cocaine cut on a small mirror. The intrusion, however, didn’t deter him in the slightest, as he hungrily siphoned the neat, white lines with a rolled-up Benjamin. He sprang back in his leather swivel chair and beat his fist on the table’s surface.
“Snnff. Damn it! I was wondering when you would show up!” he said. “I was talking to these lame-brain writers about a new film, but all they could give me was mediocre shit. I told ’em, ‘I want to see more cock and cunt and less poetry!’ But these motherfuckers are running on empty. You want to know something, Rod? The King & I & His Wives is still our top-selling feature. So when you called, I said, hey, maybe my boy genius has something up his sleeve. So what do have for me, Rod? I see you did some casting.”
I introduced Marduk and Elektra.
“A wizard and a tramp,” John said, “I like it already. So what did you have in mind? Oh, but excuse me! Where are my manners?”
John pushed the mirror across his desk. “Go ahead,” he said.
I leaned over the desk, ready to siphon a line.
“John, I have this crazy—I mean far out—idea. But I want my two leads to take a look around, you know, get a feel for where the magic happens. Talk to the ladies before…”
“Oh, of course,” John said.
“So…” I snorted the powder, “Snnff. Shit that’s good. I’m going to walk them around and, uh, see if your old brood mares are up to it, and I’ll get back to you in a few.”
“You better, you sonofabitch,” John said, laughing, “I don’t like teases. I told ol’ Hef that at the Mansion, and he called me a prick!”