Next Stop Willoughby
Louis put his hands over his face and sobbed. The afternoon wasn’t going as planned, and he didn’t like the hallucination one little bit. He peeked out through his fingers to see the ebony man stand up and stretch. The man was still looking right at him and smiling.
“So you’re name is Louis Comeaux, right?” The black humanoid punctuated the question by bending over to touch his toes. Louis gurgled incoherently in response. The creature of darkness laughed and reiterated, “C’mon, champ, are you Louis Comeaux or not?”
“Yes, I am. Who are you? I mean, you’re not real… are you?”
“Oh, I’m real,” the demon said, holding up one of his own hands and examining it, “and my name is Sirius, like the satellite radio, champ, although I’m fairly serious as well.”
“What the hell is going on? Did I die?”
“Do you mind if I make myself a little more presentable before we talk?” Sirius gave a little sneer and swiveled his hips abruptly. His black genitals swung from side to side obscenely. He snapped his fingers, and suddenly he was dressed in a fine Armani suit, but he was still exposed because his fly was undone. He looked down with a little chuckle and said, “Silly me. Let me just put this away. There. That’s better.”
Louis choked and began hyperventilating again, muttering, “Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.”
“No, champ. I told you. My name is Sirius. God sent me here, though. Well, not just Yahweh. The powers that be had a big powwow about you, and a few other people. All the heavy hitters sat in on the meeting: Odin, Lucifer, Athena, Ishtar, and a bunch of the other big name deities. It seems your case has made quite an impression in the divine realm.”
“Oh, shit. I’ve lost my mind. This is just great. Like I wasn’t screwed enough already,” Louis giggled to himself neurotically.
Sirius walked over to Louis and slapped him hard across the face. The pain brought Louis back to his senses. He tasted blood in the corner of his mouth. Sirius looked at him closely, as if to determine whether a second slap would be necessary, but must have decided against it. He relaxed his stance and straightened his suit.
“I’m sorry about that, Louis, but you need to get a grip on yourself. This is extremely serious, or the powers that be would have sent someone else. Pun intended.”
“Okay, so you’re real. I’ll try to deal with that. Can you help me off of the floor? I’m not feeling too secure down here at crotch level.” Louis extended his right hand, and Sirius helped him to his feet. Louis had been telling the truth. He had felt very small and vulnerable down on the floor.
“We don’t have a lot of time, Louis, so I’ll try to make this as short and simple as I can.”
“Won’t you please sit down?” Louis asked as he plopped down in a straight-backed chair himself. The question sounded ludicrous, but then nothing about the situation made sense.
“If it will make you feel more comfortable,” Sirius responded as he sat down in the only other chair. “Now, then, let’s get down to business. I don’t get these kinds of missions very often, so I’m a little rusty on the briefing. Bear with me.
“This bungalow we’re sitting in was constructed on a location of power. Several lay lines intersect at this location, well, under your kitchen to be exact. You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
Louis shook his head. In his mind he was still worried that what was going on was the result of the drugs, regardless of how real everything seemed. The reality of the situation refuted everything he had ever learned. The laws of physics had been tossed out the window, and Louis was pretty sure that most religions didn't allow for such an occurrence either. His brief internal pondering was interrupted by the big dude sitting across from him.
“Let me start over,” Sirius said impatiently. “I was sent here by Yahweh and his council to take you to another dimension. It seems you were on the brink of obliterating your soul for all eternity. Gods don’t like that sort of thing. You’re soul is supposed to go to either a heaven or a hell...”
Louis was staring off into space, totally oblivious to what the demon was saying. Sirius took something out of a pocket and threw it at Louis. It hit the side of his head and bounced off. Louis rubbed the spot on his head where a bruise would later show up. The young man asked in an irritated tone, “Why did you do that?” He looked around on the floor but didn't see the object Sirius hit him with.
“This is important. Wait, you know what? Fuck it. I'm going to tell you this just one time, and after that it's sink or swim,” Sirius intoned angrily. “When a soul is completely destroyed everybody loses: you… good… evil… everybody. Now normally the gods would have intervened to either save you or take your life before something like that happens, but in your case that was impossible. A number of extenuating factors prevented divine intervention, and one of those is this house.
“The guy who built this house, John Fisher, was a man of enormous mystical power. Not only was he a Mason and a warlock, he was also a shaman. Few people knew those things about him. He told his pretty little wife, though. Boy was she a tasty number,” Sirius got a far away look in his eyes as he spoke, like he was remembering scenes once forgotten.
“I don’t mean to interrupt you, uh, Sirius, but you’re evil, aren’t you?” Louis had deep misgivings about the obsidian entity.
“What makes you think that? The color of my skin? A demon can't have black skin and be good and pure? Is that what you're saying?” the black man looked very testy, like he was about to stand up and do something to Louis. After a look of terror crossed Louis' features, Sirius smiled his frightening smile and chuckled, “Technically speaking, yes, I am evil.”
“So why should I listen to you, or believe anything you say? Shouldn’t I run out into the street screaming for help?” Louis felt they were sensible questions.
“I’ll answer your questions, some of them anyway, but you have got to stop interrupting me. Listen to me. I could crush you like a bug, and I’m not giving you the option of blowing me off or running or screaming. As for believing me, well, that’s you’re decision, champ. You should know that my brand of evil doesn’t hinge on telling lies and spreading deceit. I’m more from the sadistic, soul-eating school of evil. That’s why they sent me, you see. If you fail, then your soul belongs to me. It'll eliminate the middle man.”
“What are you talking about? Fail at what?” Louis was becoming genuinely confused.
“Just shut the fuck up, Louis,” Sirius said, becoming more agitated by the minute. Louis opened his mouth to say something, but was caught off. “If you say one more thing I swear you'll never say anything else again.” Louis clammed up.
“When John Fisher built this bungalow he incorporated a number of high level wards and mystical barriers in the construction. Because of that and your reclusive nature (since you set off down the road to destroying your soul), none of the lesser gods have been able to change your fate. Only after Yahweh gave his approval at the council meeting was it agreed that I would be sent in to extract you.”
“I’m trying to understand. Really, I am. So you are here to take me somewhere. Why?”
Sirius was obviously angry that he had been interrupted again, and his answer sounded compelled. “You only had about another five minutes to live, Louis. Ms. Jackson acted in your best interest one visit too late. Bessie didn’t put anything in the heroin, but you did one shot too many. You killed yourself, or you would have if I hadn’t been sent in. But it wouldn’t have been a simple death. Like I said, you almost destroyed your soul.”
“Why does God care what I do?”
“Haven’t you heard? You’re one of his children, and Yahweh loves his children. Anyway, you got lucky in this situation. I’ve been trying to explain this to you. The magic bungalow bothered a lot of deities. All of the goody-goodies upstairs considered your case a tearjerker. The found it incredibly sad, the way you lost your parents. Then, when you decided to throw your life away, they couldn’t help you because of the house. They didn’t think it was fair. Us bad guys pointed out that we couldn’t influence you negatively either, but we lost the debate. Yahweh sided with good, like He always does. So I’ve been sent here to give you one last chance.”
Louis rubbed his eyes for a second. He didn’t want to keep them open, but the vivid hallucination had slapped him. In fact, he had the growing and sinking feeling that he wasn’t hallucinating at all. He looked at Sirius again and asked him tiredly, “You said you were sent here to extract me. Extract me to where?”
“Well, you were such a bad boy that Yahweh decided not to give you a free pass. I mean, you’re an incorrigible thief. You defiled your body on a daily basis, and your body is your temple,” Sirius said with pure contempt. “The only time you’ve thought about quitting heroin since you started was when you were overpowered by lust this morning, at the sight of that woman Paula. You’ve been a bad boy.”
“Extract me to where, Sirius?”
“This is my favorite part. I’m really enjoying the expression on your face. I live for these moments. Well, not exactly, but I do enjoy them,” Sirius put in smugly. He continued with the bad news, “The gods decided to send you to a place called Discordia. You aren’t permanently sentenced there, yet, but you’re going. You will never find your way out, unless you can complete a quest the gods lined up.”
“Are you serious? What’s Discordia? What kind of quest?” Louis was alarmed at the latest tidbit of information, and his series of questions betrayed his panic-stricken state of mind.
“You must realize I am answering your questions because I have absolutely no choice in the matter. My instructions from the council of deities were very clear. I have to tell you. It’s not because I want to,” Sirius betrayed a little of his genuine emotion in that sentence. He spoke more to the heavens, in way of a futile protest, than to Louis. “I so want to eat you right now. Leave it to Yahweh to torment me like this.”
Sirius continued, “The dimension called Discordia is a savage, primitive place. It will look a lot like the dimension you live in now, but it won’t be the same place at all. God installed checks and balances here in normal reality, to make the place livable for regular human beings. For example, while magic exists in this dimension it has been severely limited. In Discordia there are no limitations on the power of magic. Discordia is different in a lot of other ways, but you will find out all about those things on your own.
“In this dimension God often makes His presence felt. There are things of great beauty, and terrible things, but the presence of God make this dimension a wonderful, awe-inspiring place. God doesn’t bother making his presence felt in Discordia. God has turned his back on the place. You’ll be totally on your own there. Once you know what that feels like, you will want to come back here. You only get one last chance. If you blow it, then God will keep his back turned to you forever.” Sirius grinned. The image frightened Louis.
“I assume I don’t have any choice in the matter,” Louis quipped bitterly.
“Oh, you still have free will, even now. I will restart the clock here, if that’s what you prefer. You will die within a minute or two, and your soul will disintegrate.”
"You have a point. That does not sound like a good choice. So how do I do this?”
“If you have choose to undertake this quest, rather than die and lose your eternal soul, then I will open a portal here in your bedroom. Once you step through you’ll be there.”
“And how do I get back?”
“You have to find true love. God was very clear about that. If you don’t find true love, you’re damned, champ.”
“That’s it? That’s all I have to do? What a relief. I was worried this was going to be difficult.”
“Are you serious? I have trouble with human humor at times. Are you making a joke?” When the blank expression persisted on Louis' face the demon decided it was time to stop playing games. “Look, everything you need to know you’ll find out when you get there. Are you ready?”
“I can’t say that I am, but the alternative sounds a lot worse.”
“So be it,” said Sirius.
Sirius stood up and began tracing symbols in the air, while at the same time chanting in a language Louis had never heard before. Sirius raised his voice until the chant became a strange combination of singing and shouting. He raised his arms to the sky, and electricity crackled from his fingertips down the lengths of his arms. A huge clap of thunder shook the foundations of the bungalow.
Louis could see a small swirling patch of red light directly in front of the black demon. The area grew in size until Louis could see vague shapes on the other side, and it definitely wasn’t the other side of the bedroom. The house began to shake, and Sirius’ chanting took on a life of its own. Louis thought it sounded familiar, as if he knew the words but they wouldn’t come to him. Suddenly all of the noise and rumbling stopped, and the silence that followed it was palpable. A large red hole in reality turned clockwise in the air in front of the humanoid creature.
“The portal lies open for you to step through,” Sirius said guardedly.
Louis noticed the demon’s brusque demeanor. He wondered if Sirius hid any helpful information from him. He sat there thinking for a minute. Because the demon didn’t rush him he knew that there was more information to be had. There was something Sirius didn’t have to tell him, but that he could ask about.
“Can I take anything with me?”
Sirius looked to be on the brink of rage, but he answered, “Yes. You can take whatever you like through to the other side, but you can’t step out of sight of the portal, now that it is open.” The demon’s smug look indicated that Louis lost certain advantages by not asking more questions before the portal opened.
Louis sprang up out of the chair and said, “Luckily I keep everything useful in this room, where I can find it.”
Sirius muttered out loud, just loud enough to be heard, “You know, you should have kept your electricity on, Louis. It’s hot as hell in here.” Keeping the dimensional gateway open was taking a toll on the dark being.
Louis ignored him. He grabbed his flashlight, his Swiss Army knife, a rain poncho, a couple of lighters and a bottle of insect repellent, being careful to skirt the area of the portal as he collected the items. He snatched up his backpack and shoved the items inside. He paused to think for a second, and then he gathered a change of clothes. Hydrogen peroxide and rubbing alcohol were the last things he added to the backpack, which was just as well since the pack was full. He sighed and turned to face Sirius.
“Are you ready now, champ?” Sirius asked him impatiently.
“Not quite. Is there anything else you can tell me?”
“I have told you everything I was required to tell you,” Sirius replied evasively.
Louis knew he was missing something, but he couldn’t think of anything else to ask the demon. Reluctantly he stepped forward and indicated that he was ready. Sirius grabbed him by the shoulders. Evidently the plan was to shove him through bodily. Just as Sirius pushed him, Louis thought of a question.
“Wait. You said there were others…”
“Too late,” Sirius laughed as Louis tumbled through the portal.
Louis experienced the sensation of falling, and the colors of the world seemed to turn inside out. Far in the distance the image of his bedroom faded into nothingness. He wondered why it took so long to cross through the gateway, considering he thought he could see the other side before he started. The answer wouldn’t have made any sense to him. Reality twisted back into right side out. Louis’ stomach convulsed, and he started dry heaving once more. All of a sudden he fell to his knees, for whatever had held him aloft ceased to exist. Behind him a sucking sound followed by a loud clap signaled the dissolution of the portal. An overwhelming dizziness spun around in Louis’ head for long moments, and then subsided. The trip to Discordia was finished.
Louis felt grass beneath his knees. He didn’t remember closing his eyes, but they were. When he opened them he saw that he was under an odd looking tree, and looking around he knew exactly where he was. He was in the park by Capital Lake, but nothing was quite the same. He noticed the State Capital was nowhere to be seen, and then he noticed that Capital Lake looked very small. That observation shook him, but not so much as the sight of the man looking at him from under the next closest tree. Louis hoped he wasn’t in any danger, because he wasn’t sure he could stand up.
“I died and went to Baton Rouge,” Louis lamented as the man approached. “The demon lied to me. I knew it; a fate worse than death.”
The man approached him purposefully, and Louis’ could hear his heart beating in his ears. He had never experienced such fright before in his life. The man stopped a few feet from him and squatted down. He looked normal enough, but Louis said a quick prayer anyway.
“You must be Louis. I’ve been waiting for you,” the man said in a kindly tone. “Let’s get you someplace a little more comfortable.”
This would be good material, if it were for a radio show in the 1930's.