“Kevin, do you ever see strange things late at night?” Marge asks innocently as he signs in. “James always tells me about this weird redhead he sees sneaking around the Lifeguard Shack wearing nothing but a beach towel. – Rambles on and on about being Queen of Babylon – disoriented, poor thing. Others say they’ve seen her disappear into the fog flowing through the dunes. What do you make of it?”
“I don’t believe in that stuff,” Kevin replies. “I have friends that see UFO’s, ghosts, ‘grays’ – all sorts of stuff. Ghosts don’t bother me, ’cause they know I don’t believe in necromancy, as the Bible calls it. I count on the Lord to protect me and they know it,” he says with a confident smile, “one more reason not to drink at work!”
Their friendly banter always puts him in a good mood. He’s confident that faith protects him, driving alone all night, checking for young lovers seeking a tryst in the sand, young folks hoping to throw an impromptu beach party, or even an occasional hooker. “Sorry, we’re closed,” he has to say, “The park opens at sunrise. Come back then.”
Gassing up the truck, he sees “Granny”, a feral calico cat with red patches. Looking old and worn out after so many litters of kittens, she peeks out from under Kevin’s car, a bit standoffish, but hungry for a handout. Kevin always gives her a bowl of food when he’s done. Driving by later he checks to see if Granny has “stolen” it while he was away. By that time she’s sitting near the driveway, licking her paws. Later, she eventually disappears into the brush.
Not long ago, ago Kevin’s co-worker, Stan, saw Granny sitting in the truck during break. It was amusing to hear how she sat in the passenger seat with her front paws leaning on the dashboard, looking out the window towards the bay like she was expecting to ride along. She hopped out the window as he opened the door.
A few nights later Granny was sleeping in the truck when Kevin hopped in. She didn’t wake up and continued cat-napping as he drove away. He marveled at this breakthrough – good Karma, a payback for befriending the poor old thing. Off they went, Kevin and his new “partner”.
“Take me down to the Lifeguard Shack” he suddenly heard the cat say. Out of the corner of his eye Granny seemed to be getting bigger. Looking to his right he saw a naked redhead wrapped in a black beach-towel, just as James described. Granny had morphed into a full grown woman, commanding him to take her to the Lifeguard Shack. Kevin shook his head in confusion and disbelief, nearly frozen with fright.
“Granny is my familiar,” the redhead calmly explained. We work together. “The name’s Elaine. The shack is where I was introduced to the ‘Craft’ as we call it, by Jonesy, one of the old lifeguards. I know you’re searching for a new experience, just as I was. I wanna make a deal: ‘sleep’ with me tonight as the full moon rises over the bay and you will be richly compensated”
Kevin was puzzled. “What do you mean by experience?” he inquired. Elaine answered, “The entire coven has been spying on you. You’ve already fathered a few kids and your doctor’s report says your sperm count is adequate. I know all about your chats with “escorts” on those blogs you visit. My user name is SandWitch4U, remember? – Kevin, you’re looking for something more in life. You’re not satisfied. I have much more to offer, but we have to do ‘it’ tonight. It’s my last chance to become Regional Bride of Satan until next year. Only you have the power to help me become the new ‘Queen of Babylon’, as Satan’s bride…”
“Elaine,” he stammered, “you don’t attract me in the least. With all due respect, you’re old, fat, and ugly” he added trying not to tremble. “You’d just be wasting your time”
“That’s easy to fix, dear,” she replied, “Just think of someone you really love and I’ll show you”
He immediately exclaimed, “Kristen! My favorite candy striper!!! I remember ordering vanilla cokes at the lunch counter twice a day just to see you. That was so long ago, but I’ve never forgotten – You still look so young!”
“It’s me, ‘Elaine’ – remember? I merely downloaded her image from your memory, Kevin.” the familiar voice growled. Then, Kristen’s voice sweetly explained: “One of the powers you’ll receive is to create illusions and make them real. In everyday life you’ll learn to use this power in countless ways. Wanna take a walk in the dunes? The moonlight streaming across the water’s so romantic!”
Overcome by the powerful illusion of Kristen, his first love, Kevin was thrilled to do her bidding, walking hand in hand to a hollow between the dunes, devoid of any sense of reality – past or present.
The ritual didn’t take him long at all. Lying back in the cool sand afterwards, relaxing with Kristen was the ideal time to discuss his impending introduction to “the Craft”. Kristen slowly morphed back into Elaine as the conversation turned to business.
She began to explain: “Once you’re initiated into the coven by Master Dave and the others, you’ll be able to create and project images into other people’s minds. You can project new realities into a particular person’s mind or do it to an entire group all at once. True reality can stare them in the face, but they’ll sense only the images, sounds, tastes, feelings and aromas you project and remember the experience as absolute truth”
“But what’s the purpose of it?” Kevin inquired. Elaine elaborated, “The simplest example I can give off the top of my head is this: Say you’re buying a loaf of bread at a local convenience store. Invoking your new powers, you give the clerk a one dollar bill and ask if he can change a $100 dollar bill. He’ll actually see a $100 dollar bill and give you change for one hundred dollars with no questions asked. You’ll never go broke, but it gets even better!
“More advanced spells can work like this: You tell someone your boss gave you a black eye and punched your face in and you look like it just happened. Management freaks out at the ‘real’ photos and promotes you to avoid a scandal and protect them from a dragged-out lawsuit and media circus. If you can imagine it, you can make it happen! It’s that simple.
I did this, collaborating with Dave when we were just kids working at a branch of the Gold Coast Country Club. We made a deal together and put on a great act. I was promoted to Assistant Director and given a magnificent office suite at Headquarters. Management couldn’t do enough to keep me happy. Dave was promoted to Director of the Country Club with a hefty raise according to the Peter Principle. Sundry “realities” were doled out to lower ranking employees, leaving everyone confused about what really happened and it worked like a charm!
“Which brings up my next topic. Dave is officiating at our ceremony next week. The ash grove behind the cemetery on Meeting House Road is the perfect setting! You already know where it is. As surrogate groom, you’ll stand in for Mr. ‘D’ as proxy.
Puzzled, Kevin asked: “Is this that Regional Bride of Satan thing you were talking about?”
“Precisely” Elaine answered “Right now, I’m only an ‘Attending Officer’ in Babylon as they say, but it’s the final stepping stone to Regional Bride. Afterwards, your nascent powers will activate and mine will increase exponentially once they crown me ‘Queen’.
“What do you mean, Elaine?” He asked in a worried tone.
“I’ll have powers to control government officials” she exclaimed. “I’ll be able to inject ideas and visions into the minds of commissioners, congressmen, senators, judges and more. My pet project is to invade Norway. They have more oil than they know what to do with. All I have to do is get Homeland Security to discover those nasty vikings are amassing Weapons of Mass Destruction and embarking on a Breivik-inspired program of ethnic purity. Our congressmen will be outraged, other officials and the press will join the bandwagon and the illusion will go viral with press coverage of Norway’s outrageous abuse of Human Rights. The whole US will support the invasion, gas prices will drop as soon as our forces take over their oil production, and our economy will take off. Those dumb blondes won’t even know what hit ‘em!!! I’ts almost like what ‘W’ did to Sadam Hussein, only easier.
Crazed with fantasies of power and glory, Elaine began laughing, cursing and shrieking so hysterically that Kevin backed off to give her some space. He began thinking about his first love, Kristen Andersen, and how she amused the guys mimicking her dad’s heavy accent and broken English, “Norvonics” she called it. “Sammen i Himlen” (together in heaven) she’d sometimes say to him, quoting from “Days of Wine and Roses”, her dad’s favorite movie.
Kevin never told anyone about their secret trysts and Kristen’s hidden pregnancy. He grew remorseful and wept thinking about the botched procedure he arranged with an intern at the hospital and how the cause of death was covered up by colleagues, so her father would never know. The image of the dying fetus’ frail hand reaching out to him was sheer torment. He hated himself for letting Elaine conjure Kristen up from the grave. Now he had to face images he tried so hard to forget. It was the only way he could ever move on with his life after the tragedy.
His face twisted in confusion, conflicted about his commitment to marry Elaine. What first sounded like mischievous fun was clearly pure evil. He was abandoning everything and everyone he ever loved for the sake of a wanton adventure. Oblivious to Kevin’s deep remorse, Elaine continued laughing and ranting insanely about the power she craved and soon will have. She never noticed him slowly edging his way back to the truck.
He kept the lights turned off as he slowly drove away towards the bridge to the main road, planning his escape, while praying continuously. Not far from away heavy fog suddenly appeared flowing from the bay across the road. Used to this, he turned on the fog lights, illuminating the fluorescent lines painted on the asphalt to mark the way. Soon, his prayers would be answered, he thought to himself as he approached the bridge. Confidently, he hit the gas speeding up to the top, when suddenly he saw Kristen and the baby directly in his path.
He slammed on the brakes only to swerve and crash into the cement barricade between the narrow traffic lanes. The powerful jolt immediately ejected his soul from his body, although he had no awareness of it, fixated as he was on Kristen’s sudden appearance.
Looking like a ghostly rendition of “Madonna and Child”, he gravitated automatically in their direction to join them. Seemingly reunited in some indescribable ectoplasmic phenomenon, the ghostly entities intertwined, flowing together and through one another, creating a beautiful, almost sacred vision, invisible to human eyes.
Countless police cars and ambulances arrived illuminating the scene with flashing strobes, and spotlights. Elaine arrived too with media in tow. Jaws of life were employed to extricate Kevin from the truck which was bashed in on all sides. Remarkably, the airbag appeared to have saved him. They strapped him to the backboard, while others checked for respiration, pulse and any overlooked injuries. Still, something just wasn’t right and Elaine knew it.
Dressed in silks and scarves and wearing a large, mysterious looking amulet on an ancient beaded chain, she played the role of “psychic” pleading with the spirit world from the crest of the bridge to let “our” Kevin return. Elaine’s kind intentions bothered no one and kept the media involved in the action without getting in the way too much. Eventually, Elaine came to realize that the Earth Goddess, the four winds, the elements, or whatever powers that be, can never bring back an unwilling “rebel” soul.
Three years later, a comatose man lies in a local hospice. Occasional visitors include a tearful wife, his children, and former co-workers. A mysterious red-haired woman and a male companion, Dave, also stop by now and then, attempting to call him back from the spirit world where they say he’s “hiding”. Annoying as the red head is, she’s the only one who ever gets a response from him. “Kristen… sammen i himlen” he mutters softly, ” smiling in seemingly endless sleep far from the real world.
“Sorry Elaine, but according to the Rule, you have to wait ’til he dies of natural causes to break your engagement. Next time pick a proxy with less baggage.” Dave says crassly.