Authors: John Shirley
Tags: #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #General
Table of Contents
ALSO BY JOHN SHIRLEY
The Other End
A Splendid Chaos
In Darkness Waiting
City Come A-Walkin'
But the darkness pulls in everything—shapes and fires,
animals and myself, how easily it gathers them!
Powers and people—
and it is possible a great presence is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.
From: Dr. Helman
To: General Forsythe
Re Subject: Gabriel Bleak
As per your request, here are a few highlights from our case file on Gabriel Bleak. Some of these notations stem from our observation of the subject in childhood, while others relate to his service (US Army Rangers, see his Service File attached) in Afghanistan. He is now a civilian working intermittently as a tracer of bail jumpers.
He was one of the first among the young subjects in our prototype study to show a clear-cut response to the new release of AS energies (“AS” is a new term:
as a result of the diminution of the [words excised from file for security purposes]. Bleak remains one of the most impressive. We suspect that there are entity-based forces who may have moved him into place for a key role in their agenda. He seems unaware of this possibility and, as a civilian, uses his paranormal capabilities largely for personal gain.
Bleak seems to have the ability to manipulate certain of the planet's inherent energy fields, and to use same to communicate with UBEs, e.g., so-called “ghosts” and certain other entities inhabiting the Hidden, though this does not appear to be a consistent capability. The inconsistency may be explained by the fluctuation of the intensity of his power. While he is not precisely telepathic he does seem to have an extraordinary level of “psychic feel” sensitivity, and, according to one unconfirmed report, may well be able to psychically sense an observer any time he is being observed, even if it is done through a concealed camera. If Bleak is being observed, he can see himself through the eyes of the observer, and sense certain general facts about the observer; e.g., their gender, their level of hostility. We suspect he has other AS skills, including extraordinary offensive capabilities, but these have not been confirmed.
He may indeed be one of those people chosen to unite with a symmetrical Astral Other, a union which could produce an especially powerful PES (psychic-energy-symmetry) pulse, that might be useful, or dangerous to our interests, depending [redaction].
As our failure to usefully connect with him while he was with the Rangers demonstrates, Bleak is a problematic subject. His psychological profile suggests he is prone to dogged independence, sudden changes of direction in life, and, when provoked, proactive aggression. Caution is urged....
CCA Auto-Insert Terminology Footnote:
A consciousness-inflected energy field connecting all life on Earth, the Hidden is, according to a supposed ShadowComm website (shut down by CCA), “the medium that provides a living environment for a spiritual ecology; for the disembodied: ghosts not yet gone on to reincarnation or the higher planes, elementals, predatory spirits, the evolved spirits that served the Light. If you have the gift to contact it, the Hidden provides a medium for summoning; for psychically affecting matter.”
“Don't you just feel...
today?” Gulcher said to Jock.
“I dunno,” Jock rumbled. “Bottled up in here, I dunno how I feel.”
Troy Gulcher looked up at the clock in the aluminum mesh on the wall of the lockup.
They even try to cage time,
he liked to say.
The guards for Securimax Cell Block 5, a New Jersey high-security penal institution, were most of the time behind the glass of the bulletproof booths looking down on the cellblock from the second-floor tier. Gulcher could see their silhouettes up there, but you couldn't see their faces most of the time, what with the light being behind them. Like being watched by ghosts.
Jock, a tall, blond man with a heavy jaw and Aryan Army tattoos—real name Rudolph Simpson —and Gulcher, a stocky, dark man with a short black beard, heavy black brows. Both convicts were in coveralls, prison yellows, standing by the Ping-Pong table. Just toying with the paddles. Jock bounced the ball under the paddle, but didn't try to serve it.
It was almost lights out. Pretty soon the guards would tell them through the public address to “put paddle on table” and go back to their cells; it being Monday, three guards would come to each cell, unlock them one at a time, doing a quick check to see if anyone had managed to make some pruno or tucked away some other contraband.
Same old same old, for almost a year now. No movement on getting Gulcher transferred to State Medium Security, where it was so much easier, roomier, a man could hustle some drugs. “You shouldn't have busted up that security guard's shins,” his court-appointed lady lawyer had told him. Snooty bitch. Like to get her alone, once he was out. Have her out of that pants suit lickety-split.
Restless. Nervous. “How about serving that fucking ball, there, Jock?”
Jock shrugged and served and they batted it listlessly back and forth till it bounced from the table and Jock went to chase it down. Gulcher waiting tensely.
Gulcher was feeling more than his usual restlessness. Something in the air about to bust open like's a lightning storm. Ought to try to explain to Jock again. But it was hard to explain the hunches he got.
Gulcher and Jock had become allies, since the Jersey guys came into the cellblock; Chellini and Doloro, trying to throw their weight around. “When you get out, this t'ing's going to get you, you don't gimme what I want in here,” Chellini said. “Cigarettes, whatever.”
Gulcher doubted that fat bastard Chellini was really a made man. If he was, he would probably have had a better lawyer. Doing any time to speak of just for stealing a car, with the jails so crowded, meant you had a bad lawyer. It was strange Chellini had ended up in high security for stealing cars. Maybe it was his record. Maybe he'd pissed off the cops. Or maybe he was a plant, made a deal with the warden to catch the others with contraband.
“You really don't feel something, like, in the air?” Gulcher asked softly, as Jock came back with the Ping-Pong ball.
“I dunno, Troy, hey, could be I do feel funny.” Jock paused, bounced the ball on the table. “Could be they put something in the dinner, one of them experiments they do on prisoners.”
Jock was prone to paranoia. Craziness in your block boys was one of the things you put up with. Gulcher sighed and glanced up at the clock again.
“ a voice whispered.
“Don't waste what...
“ The voice faded before it quite finished. “What'd you say?” Gulcher asked, looking sharply at Jock. “Didn't say nothing,” Jock said, returning the look, eyes narrowed. “Thought I heard a...”
“Long ago, you called my name. The wave has risen. Now you can hear my reply. Reach out... use the red vitality... don't wait... “
There it was again. A whispering. Something about calling a name? A wave “risen”? Red vitality?
Someone whispering—not Jock. But no one else was standing close enough. Just the two of them standing at the Ping-Pong table. Whose voice was that? Sounded like it was coming from right behind him.
Gulcher looked—nobody there.
Whispering...but what was the voice saying? Couldn't quite make it out. “You didn't hear “ somebody whispering?” Gulcher asked.
Jock frowned at him. “You fucking with me? 'Cause I don't like that.”
“The wave rises...let it guide you... “
Was that what it was saying? The wave rises, let it guide you? And there was a feeling with it....
The whispering went with a rise in that strange, restless feeling. Like years ago. He'd never forgotten it. Started with that Aleister Crowley book he'd got, as a teen, from that crazy-stoned old friend of his Pop. Old dude with the long white hair, used to run with Charlie Manson. That strange feeling Gulcher got when he'd read the book. Not understanding all of it.... But when he'd drawn the diagrams, called the “Names of Power” listed in
Magick in Theory and Practice...
Nothing definite had happened that night, years before; just that feeling of something unusual in the air. A tingling that seemed to want to talk to you. But—nothing that you could actually see. Next morning, 5 a.m., his father had got himself paralyzed. Slid his Harley under a truck. Which was a good thing for his son, a “blessing”—as that old drunk Father Lawrence liked to say—because it meant no more beatings from the old man and because it meant that eventually Gulcher could get his pop alone, with the old son of a bitch stuck in his bed. Could take his time ending the old prick's life. Smothering him good and slow. Which Gulcher did within six months of the accident.
Now, in Securimax Cell Block 5, the feeling grew and grew in his chest, as the whispering got louder and louder. A
feeling. Strong! Like when he did Dexedrine to get through a night of jacking trucks, getting them over the Penn border. You got a rise, a sensation of power inside, like no one could sneak up on you, no one could bust you, no one could stand in your way.
Another voice from nowhere—but this was the guards, talking through the PA.
“Okay, guests of the State, back to your cells for inspection, chop-chop. “
Gulcher tossed the Ping-Pong paddle onto the table and they walked back to their cells, each just a little bigger than a motel bathroom. Usually you had to share, but here in Securimax, Jock and Gulcher each had a cell, side by side. The cell doors were open but they'd be automatically closed in a few minutes, once the cons were inside.
The whispering again.
“The wave rises, no longer is it held back. Open and be guided...
“ And something else lost in the echoes of Chellini and the other ginney shouting at one another from their cells. “Shut up so I can hear,” Gulcher muttered.