Andy Crowley and the Grace of the Glass Grimoire

It’s 1986 and Andy Crowley is as much metalhead and Dungeon Master as he is sorcerer. Humble beginnings for one who – in thirty years – will rule all reality. From Corbyville to Mars, through the United Hells to Limbo, join Andy Crowley, sole sorcerer of Sanctuary; Captain Kipling Kilroy, Lord of the Sea of Tears; Reaper Jasco, banshee of the realm of Fey; and The Banjoman of Limbo as they race for the most feared relic in all reality – The Glass Grimoire. But of course, it’s easier said than done. In the robot body built for him by Nikola Tesla using stolen Atlantean schematics, Aleister Crowley, now called the Tin Prince, wants The Grimoire as well; and though feared and admired throughout the multiverse for his superiority with both sword and spell, he has problems of his own. For how much simpler would immortality be if he didn’t have to share his perfect new body with the nagging soul of Mark Twain, be hunted mercilessly by the ghost of Harry Houdini, or rely on the almost limi

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5. Chapter 4

"The eyes of the souls of the multitudes are unable to endure the vision of the divine."

~ Plato

 

Concerning the Practice of Sorcery

By synchronizing the body’s natural aetheric field, vibratory frequencies and bio-neuro-electrical field patterns in specific ways through refined vocalizations, postures, gestures and visual and auditory stimuli, a sorcerer can deploy the aetheric plasma transfer that occurs when a captive soul is released to incarnate to achieve very specific effects. For this reason, to a great degree, a sorcerer’s power depends not only upon the number of souls – and therefore the amount of potential aetheric plasma – they possess, but also upon the endemic amount of natural aether their body generates. Their knowledge of the triggering patterns of cues, thoughts and actions that will spell out the reorientation of reality they desire is also a factor.

Of course, because some beings naturally generate more aetheric resources than others, their capacity to wield more powerful spells – this is to say spells with greater range, longevity, substance and so on – is greater than a being with a weaker natural aetheric field. An Olympian, for example, has a much more robust aetheric field than does say a Valuvian human sorcerer, and so is capable of deploying the same quanta of aetheric plasma from a released soul to much greater magical effect.

The capacity for carrying bottled souls, which nest quietly and undetectably in the sorcerer’s natural aetheric field, is likewise contingent on the amount of aether the sorcerer’s body generates naturally. Beings possessing greater aetheric resources are capable of transporting more bottled souls and hence – more potential aetheric plasma.

It becomes obvious here that possessing the required souls is only part of the equation when it comes to determining the extent of the magical power of a given sorcerer. A strong naturally occurring aetheric field is also essential to the effective practice of sorcery. For this reason, it is imperative that a sorcerer strives to strengthen the production, free flow and replenishment capacity of their natural aetheric resources through mental and physical fitness.

Mental fitness is typically achieved by way of meditation to develop enhanced capacity for mystical awareness. This phenomenon is characterized not only by absence of sense of self and perception of oneness with reality, but also by both a surge in natural aetheric production and enhanced, unhindered flow of aether throughout the body and senses. For this reason, sorcerers are, to varying degrees, disciples of holism. They comprehend the arbitrariness of being in a way that transcends the average mind’s crippling tendency to perceive its reality in fictional and arbitrary categories, boundaries and delineations.

Physical fitness is also desirable in that it strengthens the bio-neuro-electrical output of the physical form, which is also beneficial to the generation of aether.

It should also be noted that, physical objects known as talismans, which possess a modicum of trapped aetheric plasma from an incarnating soul, can absorb natural occurring aether from their surroundings. While the nil-reality effect of aetheric plasma trapped in a talisman is weaker, magical items can be imprinted with one or two spells that can be used repeatedly – so long as they can absorb sufficient natural aether – without the typical time, energy and knowledge typical required to cast a spell.

These magical items, which can be items of any kind but are typically articles of clothing, swords, armour, rings, amulets, musical instruments, wands and staffs, are often very old, incredibly powerful, and highly sought after by mortal sorcerers.

The term talisman as used here to refer to magical items containing imprinted spells should not to be confused with the Martian talismans, which are ancient items that were constructed in the realization engines by alchemical means.

 

The process was not painful so much as disorienting. It was kind of like that moment on a roller coaster after the clinking of the chain stops and you realize fully you are plummeting, possibly to your death, down the other side. Except in this case, the cart on the coaster is backwards and you have no idea that the stomach-in-the-throat sensation is coming.

On the astral plane, everyone has a silver cord that connects to their landmark, which is connected in-turn to their physical form on their native plane. In situations of egregious injury or extreme stress (Andy had postulated that it had something to do with elevated neurotransmitter levels and such) the cord would yank the astral body back into its physical form. It was a defence mechanism that was somehow infallible; and it made it virtually impossible to come to harm in the place called the quiet realm.

But consciousness can sometimes impose its own views on how dangerous a situation is – and at the moment, Andy was sure he was a goner.

He felt as though the lurch backward had folded him in half bringing his forehead to his knees. The pink-peachy warmth of the astral realm receded away to a pinprick and was replaced by rectangular sheets of muted, translucent red, yellow and blue that flew past in the vast, endless, nebulous starscape of inner space, which was discernible from outer space by the deep indigo hue of the void between stars.

Through the sate of panic, for it had been raw fear that had summoned the silver cord and incited this evacuation, Andy closed his eyes and determined to remember what would be important. He had been transported away to a high bluff overlooking what he was confident was the grand River Styx. He recalled the friendly smile of the fancy man in the blue cloak. And the worst of it: he had been called by someone by name – and not by the name he went by. They had not called him Andy. They had called him Ancaster. And no one, not even his parents or closest friends, ever called him that. Ever.

His consciousness slammed into his physical form, which lay sweating in his bed, with a force that caused him to spasm painfully. Dizziness and a cold sweat overtook him and he noted the familiar, nasty metallic taste in his mouth. He lay still for a moment to collect his thoughts.

“Apparently the answers do not always come easily on the astral plane,” he thought.

For now he had nothing but questions. He no longer cared that he did not have a plan for escaping from Mr. Jones today. All of a sudden, going to the arcade did not seem to be so important.

As he had done on so many other mornings before, Andy sat up in his bed sweating and shaking, trying to piece patchy memories together into a clear picture of what exactly had happened to him. He actually had a recovery protocol for this exact scenario. He grounded himself with a quick mindfulness meditation then went for an unbearably cold shower that would have killed a lesser being. It was an Ayurvedic therapy that always worked wonders.

As he brushed his teeth, he endeavoured to recollect what had happened in as much detail as he could summon to his conscious mind. It was important to muster all the imagery together now, for, like travel in the realm of dreams, recollections from astral excursions would fade away into oblivion over the course of the day.

For only the second time he could remember, he had lost control of his astral form, causing it to unconsciously invoke his silver cord to evacuate him to his physical body.

He was disconcerted by the fact that he could not remember much. Over the last few years in his trips to the realm of dreams and the astral plane, which what were known collectively as the proximal planes, he had developed a knack for remaining fully aware of what had transpired.

One did not need sorcerous training to access the proximal planes. The realm of dreams (also called the realm of sleep) was visited every night by every sleeping being. The degree to which a given being engaged through some manifestation of their consciousness there varied greatly between individuals, as did the amount those individuals could recall of what had transpired there after they awoke.

The astral plane was also accessible to some degree by most people, though many of them did not know it. Visits to the quiet realm, unlike those to the realm of dreams, required that a being be conscious. Meditation, prayer, trance, some chemical agents and even specific training to learn the process of astral projection were all means by which even people without sorcerous knowledge could travel to the astral plane. But remembering what transpired there could be difficult. The effects of phase variation sometimes made what was recorded by the neuro-chemistry of the astral body incompatible with what could be processed by neurological processes in the physical form. The skill of remembering could be learned though – and Andy had come a long way in that regard.

Andy got dressed quickly – jeans, high-tops, concert shirt (Pink Floyd today).

He recalled standing on the high bluff overlooking a wide section of the river (he was sure now it was the Styx) busy with a diverse variety of boats, watercraft, and sea creatures. The image was fleeting and unnerving. Styx, Hades, Charon, Cerberus: Andy knew his mythology and it was all creepy and intimidating enough – even without the prospect of actually experiencing all these things in concrete form.

As had happened so many times before, doubt descended upon him. It always did after a bad extra-planar experience.

Was he cut out for all this?

He was still inexperienced as a sorcerer and sometimes it terrified him that he was self-taught.

Or was he?

How had he started down this road? Why had the runes, the hieroglyphs, the skills, the voices just come to him?

He had grappled with these things since the first time he had dreamt about strange runes. Was he an instrument of some other entity? Did he have a destiny?

Having meditated intensely on all these things, he had concluded simply – as one in a mystical state often does – that he was not special, and that these things were not pertinent concerns. For all of these questions could just as easily have been asked by any other being. And he had quickly concluded that, just as was the case for anyone else, there were no simple answers. He thought of a Buddhist saying he had heard in a group training session he had participated in on the astral plane with a group of monks from Nepal.

“If you have a problem for which there is a solution, what is the point of worrying about it? If you have a problem for which there is no solution, what is the point of worrying about it?”

But, while Andy had accepted that he would continue with his magical training, he constantly worried about how to gauge when he was in over his head or not. He had no perspective or context beyond his experiences in the physical realm and the proximal planes, and he had been wary, to say the least, of pursuing encounters with other creatures beyond the sphere of material existence. Frankly, he had no idea what was really out there; and it terrified him – sometimes to resulting in a state of shock that rendered him incapable of reacting to a threat, as had happened last night.

What if he had been standing three feet from where he had been: on the plane of Olympus rather than the astral plane? What if the man in blue had been a hydra, or a gorgon? There was no silver cord there to extract him. On the outer planes beyond the proximal ones, the danger was real. There were no do-overs. One played for keeps out there. He was genuinely frightened by this realization.

The busy waterway he had seen from the bluff had been frightening to him for a few reasons: the vast number of beings he had seen there for one. These were not the faerie creatures and petty demons he had encountered, and on occasion bantered and sparred with, on the fringes of the proximal planes. These were demigods, angels, demons, reapers and all manner of creatures of potentially terrible power. And not just Olympian beings – Norse, Heliopolian, Indian, Chinese, and a number of other extra-planar cultures he had not even recognized had been present there as well.

But for Andy, the most frightening thing of all was the fact that someone had called him by name, and when they had, he had been transported, seemingly against his will from the quiet, familiar nook under his tree to the River Styx.

The man who had used his name – his real name – had frightened him, not so much because he was strange, but more so because he was familiar. Andy recalled the feeling that he could trust the man, but that this had paradoxically made him not trust him all the more.

He remembered that he had looked to be a man of the sea of some sort, he even wore a British navy sword. His dark blue cloak was embroidered with silver runes. Andy could not read them but he sensed charm magic in them, a glamour of some sort, which did not help at all to resolve the trust paradox!

Andy also recalled that the man had stood on the other side of the threshold between the astral and Olympian planes. This suggested he could not project his astral form, so he had somehow brought Andy to the precise point of transition between the astral and Olympian realms to talk to him.

With an ease and familiarity Andy had found disturbing he had addressed him directly, looking unflinchingly into his eyes.

“I am deeply honoured to finally make your acquaintance, Ancaster.”

He had never experienced any engagement this intimate before. He had dispatched petty demons. He had tamed minor elementals. He had even had conversations with fey creatures. But he had never experienced another being this fully realized. This encounter, perhaps because it had occurred at the intersection of the astral and Olympian realms had been substantial to a degree that he was not unaccustomed to.

All of this, combined with the fact that he had been called by the given name no one used for him, had been too much. He had panicked and his silver cord had ended his misadventure.

There was no getting out of physics today it seemed. Today he would submit to this small, dark fate and use the time in class to think through what had happened last night – and maybe to work on a dungeon he was putting together for Friday’s D&D session. Then after school, he would dig into the works of Besant, Leidbeater, Heindal, Yogananda and Bruce and meditate on fortifying the integrity of his astral form. He needed to be more confident. He needed to be able to both feel more secure and be sure he could recall everything that happened next time.

His early hypothesis was that he had merely been shocked at a type of encounter that was entirely new to him, and that his astral consciousness had recoiled defensively. With some preparation and effort, perhaps tonight he could be more present in the encounter. He was terrified by the prospect of going back there, but his curiosity was building by the minute. Where had he been taken? Who was the man in blue? What was the place where the ships had gathered? If it was indeed the Styx, why had he been brought there? He was not comforted in the least that it was well known that the Styx was the gateway to the Olympian underworld, Hades, the realm of the dead in Greek mythology.

But curiosity, which it has been said is the fuel of both science and sorcery, had already trumped the fear he felt.

He bounded down the stairs. His mother and father were both in the kitchen. She was canning stewed tomatoes and he was making breakfast.

“Some brain food for summer school?” his dad asked with an excitement Andy did not share. He was making an omelet.

“Sure. Thanks dad. Could you put spinach in mine?”

“Ughh,” his father feigned disgust. “Why can’t you kids just do cheese and ketchup like sensible people,” He shot Andy a big smile.

The discipline of sorcery required a healthy body and mind. Diet was important to Andy. Impeccable memory, concentration, visualization, processing speed, senses and agility were all essential on a good day. On a bad day, possessing them could mean the difference between life, death – or worse.

Though Andy would rather eat goblin entrails than lower himself to participating in the condoned barbarism of sports and the delineation of social status based on athletic prowess, he secretly possessed a level of physical fitness and ability far in excess of the peers that mocked him for his perceived disinterest in athletic pursuits. Healthy eating, mastery of Ayurvedic principles, years of various forms of meditation, and martial arts training in the realm he called the decagon – where time moved slower and gravity was more intense – all meant that, all the way down to the sub-cellular-level, Andy was perhaps the ideal human physical specimen.

“And definitely no ketchup,” he added.

“Oh no. Of course not!” said his dad.

Andy had been happy to see his dad so much lately. Craig “Crease” Crowley was a pilot in the Air Force, and was away from home a lot. But this summer he had been doing administration work at an airbase in a neighbouring town, so Andy had been seeing a lot more of him. They talked a lot about big things: life, death, politics, religion, and such. He thought of his dad as the embodiment of cool. He had an even temper and never got worked up. He also never got down. He just listened mostly and only spoke when he needed to, and always quietly, and always with that subtle smile. He reminded Andy of the Buddhist monks in his astral mediation group, except of course for the fact that he was a fighter pilot.

“Your physics homework is done, right?” it was Andy’s mother. She was filling a big stewing kettle with water.

“Of course,” Andy gave an appreciative nod to his dad who handed him a glass of orange juice.

Andy’s mom, Joan, was a no-nonsense straight-shooter and manager, she and Andy differed on a lot of issues, but she respected him and celebrated his strengths more than she fussed over what she perceived to be his shortcomings. He loved her unconditionally despite torturing her mercilessly – usually to make his father laugh. But despite being on the receiving end of Andy’s sense of humour, his mother took great joy from the cleverness of her Panda Bear (a back-handed term of endearment for him that doubled to cover off her disdain for the black and white concert shirts he always wore) and she especially enjoyed his sense of humour.

Andy had hypothesized once to his dad that he had likely made his mom roar with fury and roar with laughter in equal measure. This was likely close to the truth.

She looked over at him “Joanne says that Debbie is starting calculus today. She’s trying to get her grades up. If you want, you can get a ride with them.”

“You look like you haven’t slept,” she added quickly as an after thought. Andy just ignored this.

“Get her grades up?” he said. “Pffft. She probably already had the highest mark in the class! Deb’s a nerd!”

“She wants to get into a good university – ”

His mom looked over at him and smiled. “Like you,” she added. It was not a mean-spirited smile – though it was intended to reinforce her sarcasm.

Andy’s parents were long past pushing him on school and sports and girls. They had accepted that he was going to do his own thing and he always seemed to get by well enough.

They knew he was bright and motivated about things he was interested in. His mom thought he would be a filmmaker or a writer some day. His dad imagined he would be a mad scientist or inventor of some sort. They both knew that when he cared about something he went all in and they both his felt that this was good enough. They knew he did not care much about school. The fact that he was in summer school for physics was Exhibit A. He had skipped so many classes they could not pass him even though he had done well enough on every test. In Andy’s assessment, Mr. Jones was just one of those petty old men who hated students like him: the one’s who could always just get by without trying.

Besides he had the high score on both Super Mario Bros. and Xevious at the arcade; and hand-eye and twitch muscle reflex training won out over science class and naïve human reality-butchering every time.

“It’s good Deb’s going,” Andy said. “Maybe I can take her out for lunch or something?”

Andy’s dad put the spinach omelet on the table in front of him and reached into his pocket. He pulled a twenty-dollar bill out of his wallet and put it on the table beside the omelet.

Andy nodded again at his dad, “Thank you sir. More than enough to show a lady a good time.”

“And she probably doesn’t want to go to the arcade, Andy.” His mom was a huge fan and perpetual booster of the sensible Deborah Holcroft.

“What kind of cretin do you take me for?” Andy having already finished his eggs, chugged his orange juice, and got up from the table. He slapped his dad on the shoulder and thanked him for the omelet. He kissed his mom and said thanks.

“Be nice to Mrs. Holcroft.” She said. Andy smiled widely and shot an eye-roll at his dad. “Of course ma,” Andy said. “You can’t win a girl over without winning over her mom, eh dad?”

And with the creak and thwack of the spring-loaded screen door that started and ended Andy’s days in the only world most of us know, he was gone.

Usually on a bike ride up the River Road Andy would soak in the sounds of the wind and the birds. As a mystic, he knew the benefits of engaging in the spontaneity and organic randomness of nature. But today, he wanted to feel out the magical ley lines in the area. He was pretty sure he would find nothing, but he wanted to rule out the possibility that magic was used in the vicinity of his home on the material plane.

In his experience as a sorcerer, he had never met another like himself. In all his research, he had never come across even a suggestion that there was someone else like him anywhere. In his historical research he had discovered the usual suspects. Solomon, Aleister Crowley (no relation to his adoptive parents), Sir Francis Bacon, Rasputin, Merlyn, but even there he had difficulty finding anything that suggested the practice of true sorcery as he understood it.

He was confident he would find no evidence of magic on this plane, and that the events of last night had either manifested on the astral plane or from Olympus where he had seen the mariner in blue, but he wanted to rule it out.

He flicked the switch on his Walkman to FM where it was always set to The WOLF, 101.5.

Whenever he entered walking (or in this case, bike-riding) meditation, Andy used music to preoccupy, distract, and functionally shut down the incessant internal chatter of the sliver of consciousness we call self. And the random offering of radio was often better for this purpose than a chosen and predictable lineup of tracks.

King of Pain by The Police was on. Appropriate for the circumstances considering its mystical message. Synchronicity indeed, he thought.

Like most other creatures on Earth, human beings had once enjoyed the mystical state as their primary mode of awareness. But this was not to last.

By way of some glitch over the course of human evolution, the state of waking consciousness, which originally functioned as a sort of environment scanning-warning-defence system, became confused with mind as a whole. This fault in the wiring over time begot contrivances such as language, mathematics, and various processes of symbolism, delineation and categorization. In time these contrivances superseded and replaced the sensing and processing of reality as it actually was.

As a result, humans spiralled into a detached and hyper-quantified processing of their existence that essentially shut off the capabilities of their wider mind. In essence, they began to confuse their environmental scanning mechanism with the totality of their being. And having perceived a separation from the completeness of reality, they began to erroneously identify as something distinct from it.

Andy, as a sorcerer, was familiar with symbols, allegories and metaphors used across a number of cultures. He thought of the whole distinct-self-delusion phenomenon as the literary inspiration for the Garden of Eden allegory in Genesis.

The neurological glitch that resulted in ego-driven, self-oriented consciousness was the forbidden fruit that lead to language and categorization, which in turn led to the naïve notion that we are aware of and have control over nature and reality merely by measuring and naming it.

This was humanity’s fall from grace. This was humanity’s separation from divinity. This was humanity’s exile from paradise.

Indeed, Andy saw that every religion – at its beginning – was an attempt to return humanity to Eden, to grace, to the mystical, divine, holistic state of awareness humanity had known before the nagging, perpetual inner voice of consciousness had shoved true awareness into obscurity. He thought of every prophet or would-be messiah as a mystic attempting to teach humanity how to return to mysticism. Whether they called this state paradise, ascension, communion, enlightenment or salvation was entirely beside the point.

As a student of history, Andy also understood that the corrupt ruling class had learned how to mitigate these intrinsically mystical movements by simply co-opting them and transforming them into the names, symbols, rituals, temples, and costumes of the institutionalized dogma we know as religion: the exact opposite of what they were intended to be. In this way, all throughout history, the aristocracy had transformed the means to liberation of the masses into the means to imprisoning them.

In this manner, the loss of mystical awareness to the poison fruit of hyper-quantifying egoism run amuck was worse than just separation from nature – from divinity. Much worse. For it was the beginning of all the misbegotten notions that deepen the suffering of humanity: racism, sexism, religious fanaticism, nationalism and patriotism, and capitalism and communism. All of these entirely arbitrary constructs were not only totally nonsensical fabrications conceived almost entirely for the benefit of the wealthy, powerful few, they were also the shackles that confined the deeper and better sensibilities and inclinations of humanity.

The notion of money especially, which people had come to confuse with the wealth it had been conceived of to represent, was the height of this form of human misperception. Andy often joked about how the notion that people surrounded by food could starve because they didn’t have dollars was the same as saying people surrounded by lumber and tools couldn't build a wooden box because they didn’t have inches.

That which is used to measure is not that which is measured.

Humanity had lost its connection to truth-reality-nature-divinity-oneness and, not be satisfied with jus that, had built a nigh-impenetrable wall of symbolic constructs to close off the way back to grace.

Mystical awareness was simply the process of, dispatching the delusion of the distinct self, eliminating the misperception of multiplicity, and obliterating the conceptual constructs we impose onto reality at the expense of seeing reality for what it actually is.

All this though, was easier said than done.

All through history, meditation was the process used to achieve the mystical state of awareness untainted by purposeless segmentation. Andy, who was accomplished in a number of forms of mediation, had settled on using music to occupy the incessant babbling of that shred of consciousness that hijacked and usurped his total awareness in his normal waking life.

Every sorcerer, or for that matter, monk, shaman, artist or athlete, had their own way of getting into the zone. Music was Andy’s way. It was the scent of a delicious meal wafting to the nostrils of the hungry jailor luring him away from the door of the cell that contained the totality of his being.

With the watchman distracted and mystical awareness in play, his body’s naturally generated pool of aetheric energy could flow freely and unhindered around and through his body and senses.

Paradoxically, for a sorcerer, turning on the mystical awareness was almost the same thing as flicking off the safety on a firearm.

The peace of the mystical state of mind rolled over him and he reached out across the autumn landscaped feeling/looking/listening (for they were all the same thing now) for abberations in the flow of probability across the landscape. He felt about for any kinks or snags that would suggest magical activity.

And just as he had expected, there were none.

Andy stopped at the end of the Holcroft’s driveway and walked his bike into their garage. He didn’t need his mother to tell him to up his game around Mrs. Holcroft. He was compelled to do that on his own. Truth be known, in his most private thoughts, he had a bit of a crush on her.

She didn’t have all the crazy hang-ups most other adults had. She wasn’t always trying to elevate herself by spotlighting all the nonsensical culturally constructed notions she had mastered. She didn’t drone on about wars, or politics, or interest rates or stock markets. She talked about music and gardening, and woodworking. Things that were real: things Andy himself respected. Not all the superficial and imprisoning concepts foisted upon her by the system.

Andy stood a little taller when he was at the Holcroft homestead. He tried a little harder.

Joanne Holcroft came out of the house carrying her purse on one arm, a gym bag on her shoulder, and a potted plant in her hands.

Andy rushed over to her.

“Dypsis lutescens,” he said. “Lovely.” He reached to take the plant from her and lighten her burden.

Mrs. Holcroft smiled. Her shining presence made Andy love Debbie all the more. He knew she would grow up to be just like her mom.

“Andy is botanist too!” she said smiling at him. “What’s a smart guy like you doing in summer school, Mr. Crowley?” She was joking.

“Oh, it’s just a bit of bureaucracy, Joanne. They don’t dig my rock-and-roll get-up-and-go.”

She laughed and commented on his shirt. “Pink Floyd today. An excellent choice.”

“I thought Mr. Jones would like it. I like to make a good impression.”

“Look at us going to summer school,” Debbie had just come out of the house.

He got lightheaded the same way every time he saw her. Her perfectly shaped nose and pale wolf-blue eyes had captured his interest from the time they had started taking the bus together in Kindergarten. Her fair complexion contrasted her shiny, black curly hair. Already, Andy was almost giddy just trying to imagine the smell of it. But mostly he couldn’t resist her voice. Not only was there maturity about her articulation and annunciation, there was also a strange resonance to the sound of it. It was like it wasn’t coming out of her mouth, but rather it was emanating from all around her. The effect made her seem like a woman – no a goddess. She made him think of Athena or maybe Wonder Woman: stately, sophisticated and wise. She was, to Andy’s mind, the best of the best that, not only Corbyville, but the material plane and the mortal realm, could put forward as a representative of womankind.

“ ‘Morning Deb. I got you this!” He held the plant he was holding out the full lengths of his arms and shot a grin at Mrs. Holcroft. He saw her smile as she put her things in the trunk. Mrs. Holcroft liked Andy, mostly for all the reasons other parents didn’t like Andy.

Debbie laughed. “How sweet!” she said. “Mom was taking one just like it to work today.”

After he put the plant in the trunk, Andy opened the front passenger car door for Debbie. Opening the door to the back seat, he tossed his back and silver leather Adidas bag to the other side and climbed in.

Then Andy asked Debbie why she was going to summer school and proceeded to not really listen to her answer as he basked in the trance being so close to her placed him in. Slowly at first, then all at once in an avalanche, the sadness came.

The sadness always came.

To Andy, Debbie was the one he wanted to be with, and he was sure that he truly, deeply loved her. But, as he saw it, Hollywood and English class had lied to him – had lied to us all. For love wasn’t the most powerful force in the universe. Curiosity was. And with the access he had to the sorcerous wonders of a much wider, wilder world than possibly any other human being had ever known, how could he not heed the call to exploration and discovery.

The beauty he found in the depths of her pale blue eyes echoed for him the beauty one sees when they look upon the vastness of the cosmos in the the probability vortices deep within the mind. He had taken this as a sign. His inherent inclination to mystical awareness was actually deepened when he was with Deb. There was a painful irony in this: in the notion that the one person who could make him an even better sorcerer was the same person who made him not want to be one at all.

But he was a sorcerer. He possessed the ability to unravel and reshape reality itself with the force of his will. It was a calling and a vocation that demanded the pinnacle of both athleticism and scholarship. He was a Jenner, a Gretzky, a da Vinci or an Einstein. The gifts he had required him to go all in. Half-measures, distractions were not possible. More than that, they were not responsible.

Anything less than complete commitment was, in his mind, morally wrong. For all he knew he had a destiny of some sort. For all he knew he had been granted the gifts he had to save humanity from some threat, or itself. He had know way of knowing these things for sure, but absent any confirmation one way or the other, he felt obligated to pursue the passion that had grown from his unique circumstances.

He was required to place no love before his first, deepest, truest love: the love of discovery, which in many ways was also the love of achievement. And this love was powerful. It had provided him with the discipline to succeed in what was ultimately a thankless endeavour. For while most people thought him a slouch and a n’er-do-well, he was anything but. And despite wanting to so badly, he could never let anyone know what he had already succeeded at.

Especially Debbie. For he would never risk the harm that could come to her from the realms beyond the only one – as far as he knew – she would ever know.

And so, though Andy loved Debbie as much as he imagined he could love another being, he could not have what he wanted with her. He had to accept that she would be his friend, that she would be his, and that it would be wrong in so many ways for it to be any other way.

At this point in this line of thinking he always drifted toward thinking about which guys at school Debbie might be interested in, or which guys might be interested in her. And here, he always stopped himself. It was not a place he ever liked to go.

His attention returned to the present moment where he picked up the conversation and answered Debbie’s question about why he had to take physics.

“I just think Ray couldn’t go all summer without me. There was a gaping hole in his life without me around.” Andy always called Mr. Jones by his first name – but never to Mr. Jones.

Debbie laughed her twinkling laugh in that strangely echoing voice and Andy beamed. For a while he had forgotten all about the terror and confusion on the astral plane, the bluff overlooking the River Styx and the mysterious man in blue standing at Olympus’s fringe.

And suddenly he felt like the last few weeks of summer school weren’t going to be so bad after all.

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