Magick Man is sponsored by Marc Nocerino. Thanks, Marc!
I met Sam P. Fallwell in the moon-washed desert on Halloween. I don’t know if we were in Nevada or Utah then. Out there in the badlands human concepts such as state boarders don’t exist. There’s only unbroken expanses of hardpan, with ever distant mountains rising jagged into the dusty sky.
I’d been on the road since Green River. September 15. I caught a ride with a big burly trucker out of St. Louis and then hooked it south from Salt Lake. I spent three days working on a homestead east of town on a rural dirt track before I left again, my wallet and my stomach both full.
On the lonely black top traversing the arid plains, I encountered few cars and almost no human life besides. I slept in a hayloft for almost a week before I moved on. I think the old farmer and his wife knew about me. I don’t know how. Just a feeling.
Most nights I camped under the twinkling stars and listened to my old transistor radio, the one they gave me when I left the group home. I didn’t get many clear stations, I might as well have been on Mars, but even a crackling voice in the static was enough to keep me company. I didn’t sleep. I did that in the day when the sun was at its worst. I tried to walk as much as I could at night, but I was lazy…and desperate for down time. I could have been in California by the 31st, and never met that demon.
It happened near midnight. I was walking up the middle of US50 with my knapsack on and humming a ZZ Top song when, off the road to my right I caught a glimpse of fire. Looking at it, I paused, the bars dying on my lips. A camp. Much like the ones I’d been making for three years. Silhoutted against the flames, I saw a single dark form.
I don’t know why I went to him. I usually avoid strangers when I don’t have to deal with them, but I found my feet carrying me to him.
It all seems like a dream now. He was sitting cross-legged on a flat rock, clad in cowboy boots and a desert camo jacket, like the kind they wore in the Persian Gulf, just grinning like the Cheshire Cat. His face was dark and sharp.
“Hello, Kevin,” he said, his voice eerily hypnotic.
“How did you know my name?” I heard myself asking lethargically.
He shrugged, still grinning like a shark. “Lucky guess. You look like a Kevin. I’m Sam.” He didn’t offer his hand. “Have a seat.”
I sat on a rock across the fire from him.
“So, Kevin, where you headed?”
Where was I heading? My mind was numb, swaddled in warm wool. I couldn’t think.
I nodded heavily.
“Ah, the home of the Zodiac,” Fallwell’s smiled. “And the sixties. I like the latter one better.”
“Me too,” I blankly echoed. I wasn’t a fan of the sixties, but of the two choices it was undoubtedly the better.
“Everything was better then,” Fallwell sighed, “especially the music.”
I grunted. I felt drunk.
“I like Tommy James,” Sam said, passing a hand over the fire, which turned green and yellow. He grinned at my widening eyes. “Do you want to know something, Kevin?”
“Yes,” I said, though I didn’t.
“Magick is perceptive.”
“It’s all about perception. The human mind. Look.” He opened his hand, palm-side up, and after a moment a crackling ball of blue fire arose and hovered in the air. “You see it, but is it truly there? You see it, I see it, but does that make it real? It can burn you, it can burn this whole world, but does that make it real?”
“No, it isn’t. You see a movie, but it’s not real. In a natural chain of events, you’d expect to catch fire if this thing crashed into you.” He paused, seeming to consider. “But it’s really as harmless as a puff of smoke. There is no real world, only what the human mind conjures up. Colors aren’t colors until the mind makes them colors.”
My head ached. Fallwell sounded like some kind of idiot sage in a bad B-novel.
“To put it more simply: the mind projects reality onto the blankness around it. If you can manipulate the mind…” he closed his hand, shook his fist, raised it to his lips, and blew glitter into my face. He laughed at my coughing and waving.
That night seemed to last forever. Time froze, and Sam was my teacher. He ripped asunder the veil behind which lurked reality. He showed me things that night that terrified and fascinated me, told me things that filled me with hopelessness and wonder. He did magick and I worshiped him under the cruel, glowing moon. At some point we fucked, and his wisdom and his power filled me.
“You are the chosen one, Kevin,” he whispered into my ear, his breath hot on my neck and rancid in my nostrils. “There will come a time when I’ll need you, and you will come.”
I agreed, and slipped into unconsciousness, a deep chasm of blackness in which lurked monsters. I dreamt I was on a vast hill overlooking a rolling valley and the endless blue sky above it. I saw a small village huddled in a hollow, smoking curling from many chimneys. Then, with a crack of thunder, an army of skeletons poured over the hills like a swarm of ants, led by Fallwell, who sat astride a coal-black horse like a demonic Napoleon.
I woke in the milky light of dawn, panting and covered in sweat. Sam was already gone. I was his property.
I found my bag and left as day broke over the rugged hills in the west, a marked man, a latter-day Cain.
He’ll come for me. Soon, I think. I can feel his presence, dark and stiffing, and he’s close.
Things are coming together. The center cannot hold. He’s coming.
© Joseph Rubas
Joseph Rubas’ has been featured in a number of ‘zines and hardcopy publications, including: The Storyteller; Eschatology Journal; Infective Ink; Strange, Weird, and Wonderful; Horror Bound Online; Short Story.Me!; parABnormal digest; Shadowland, and various anthologies (Potter’s Field 4 by Sam’s Dot Publishing and Daily Bites of Flesh 2011 by Pill Hill Press just to name a few). In addition, his collection of mine, “Pocketful of Fear” was released in February while an anthology he edited (titled The Thorn of Death) followed in March. Currently, he writes for an online news site (The Golden Vanguard) and heads the marketing department at Firefly and Wisp Book Publishing.