3 Faces of Jack

Gamaliel

Astral travel is real and with Terminus under quarantine it's the only way for a freelance mage to hustle up a buck in the gig economy. Control wants its outside consultants both on the job and properly engaged in the arts of social distancing. Which means all assignments are to be conducted strictly through the astral frequencies. The thing is, with a global pandemic going down, those frequencies are infested with the collective psychic dread of a population one meme away from using the social contract for shit tickets. 

What was once a simple jaunt across the frequencies is now a game of Dungeons & Dragons if your therapist had invented all of the monsters instead of Gary Gygax. 

Here, roll a six sided die.  

1-2: Nightmare Elementals. These are lumbering psychic juggernauts, stitched out of bad dreams, that have escaped the sleep realms to feed upon those wandering the astral frequencies. 

3-4: Sentient Suicide-Plagues. Fast breeding psi-viruses that incubate through isolation and the Internet to telepathically broadcast 24-7 self-hate speech in your own voice. 

5-6: Rage Parasites. Spectral hentai lampreys with flames for teeth that sink into the thoughts draining the host of memory and love while inducing an artificial sense of invulnerability. 

Fear. Depression. Anger. 

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3 Faces of Jack

Blood and Butterflies

Side hustle treating ghosts with PTSD and amateur monster boxing not cutting it. Broke down. Called this number that suddenly appeared on the back of a Tarot Card (The Devil, Thoth deck, a 1-800 number). Yeah that's right. I was ready to shake me some red right hands. What else can you do but sign a contract with the Devil when it feels like God's taken a contract out on you?  Pressed 2 for English. Pressed 3 for Soul Sales. Automated voice, between screams, informed me that an infernal representative would be on shortly to review my karma score and see what kind of pact I was qualified for. The hold music was Black Sabbath covers done by Abba. Yeah, I know. Devil Magick's weird that way. 

Finally got a rep on the line who meticulously recorded my info and scheduled a meet-up with a field agent. 

"I don't get to talk to the Big Guy downstairs?"

"No more than you would if you wanted to talk to the president of the bank about opening a savings account with a $20 bill."

"That's fair."

So took the evening off and met up with the sales rep at the Duke over in East Terminus. 

We met in a booth over by the dart board at the back corner of the bar. The rep had the scent of bullshit, easy money, and freshly eaten pussy all over his shit eaten grin. Dude looked like a rock star's manager ready to lay down a wicked TED talk on the miracles of cocaine. He offered me a cigarette. I accepted. 

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3 Faces of Jack

The One

She wasn't the one, my Uber driver insists recounting how she had to throw down on some fool here at the intersection of Memorial and Columbia. This was last, July, right? Maybe August. Rush hour anyway. She wasn't on duty. Doesn't take rides at rush hour no matter how tight the money gets. Anyway, this quote-unquote 'crazy bitch' in a Hyundai comes peeling out of the WalMart parking lot like the devil or the landlord was behind her. Cut off a MARTA Bus (Route 21 Memorial). Almost caused a wreck. Horns blaring, last minute swerves across the lanes before the Hyundai just barely brakes in time to avoid careening into a Xfinity van. My driver testifies she was portside at the light by said 'crazy bitch'. Crazy Bitch shot her the stink eye and got out of her car. Walked right up on my driver to demand what she was looking at. Unflappable when confronted by violent strangers, rolled down her window, and declared - she wasn't the one. 

Which is when she got punched in the face by said Crazy Bitch. 

My driver, to assert her denial of not being the 'one' pops open her door real quick to catch her opponent just under the ribs with it sending her reeling. She was out of her seat belt and out on Memorial throwing fives and tens to Crazy Bitch's face. Yanked off some jewelry in the process and flung it out Columbia traffic. At one point she got scratched in the neck and had to this Crazy Bitch in the 'You Know Where' for good measure. 

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3 Faces of Jack

Psychic Vomitorium

Had me a rage party at the Psychic Vomitorium today. The Psychic Vomitorium is where you go when you can't afford a proper round of the Talking Cure with a licensed therapist. So instead you find yourself outside a small office on the second floor of a Stone Mountain Baptist church. Kill a few minutes in the waiting room flipping through mugshot books of absentee fathers or standard issue bibles. Eventually you get buzzed into the Psychic Vomitorium. By who? Beats me.  Been coming here for the better part of six months and still have zero clue. Once inside the door locks, a single bulb flickers the yellow of an ancient page, and you are surrounded by shelves of skulls with all the windows replaced with image distorting mirrors. One part ossuary, one part fun house. In the middle of the room there's a single desk with a built in chair straight out of some high school somewhere. You take a seat. You wait. Eventually one of the skulls will begin to whisper. If you wait a little longer other skulls will join in. Listen. They are the voices of your family's ghosts, your ex's nightmares, your lost friends prayers in the dark. When the moment is right you get up from your seat, select the skull that sings for you, examine it as if you were vamping Hamlet, pop open the jaw, hold it up to your mouth, and then scream. 

For as long as you can and straight into its mouth. 

When you're done screaming you usually feel - 'clean', 'awake', 'at peace'. 

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3 Faces of Jack

Blue Light

Trying not to wig out but I got some highway patrol car with their blue cruise lights lit but not flashing. I'm clocking just a mile or two above limit, all my tickets are paid, and I just renewed the registration this afternoon. Probably nothing but I swallow the roach I'm hitting just in case. A mile passes slow; each inch of it grinds at my nerves with the cop riding my ass the whole way. Know I shouldn't tap the magick unless it's an emergency but the joint I smoked after Krav's got me paranoid. 

"Hey Google," I shout to my phone, "open the Grimorie app." 

Got me a glamourflage spell downloaded on it. Good for one activation. Renders me not invisible but as harmlessly dull to the eyes of guards and enemies alike. That is it will if my app will ever open. My phone's silent for a moment longer than comfortable when suddenly it responds - "Extreme psychological distress detected. Activating Emergency Holographic Therapist. Please standby. Help is on the way."

"No, no, no, no, no, you fucking cunt," I scream at my phone while forcing steadiness into the grip on the wheel, "not now. Not. Fucking. Now." 

Too late. 

"Hello Jack," a Jedi force-ghost of my first therapist shimmers translucent and radon blue in the passenger seat. "It's been just over six months since your last emergency Talking Cure session."

Great. If this pig following me sees a ghost or hologram pop up in my Toyota Escape Pod then I'm definitely getting pulled over. 

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3 Faces of Jack

The Adolescent Action Assassin Amphibians

Descartes! Kierkegaard! Kant! Crazy Nietzsche! Together they were the Gen X phenomenon known as the Adolescent Action Assassin Amphibians - "fighting crime from the grime!" But who were these highly radioactive subterranean human-frogs with black belts in murder and the hearts of heroes? To answer that question we go back to the late 1980s when, thanks to steady deregulation of the energy industry, toxic waste dumps proliferated across the land. The result, besides a spike in national cancer deaths, was a population explosion in the anthropomorphic vermin community. It was a time of reptile ninjas, shao-lin cockroaches, exceptionally stabby pigeon men, but none could match the intensity of the Adolescent Action Assassin Amphibians. 

Close your eyes and remember... wait, what are you doing? no don't literally close 'em. Jesus how're you gonna read this otherwise. Ahem, one more time, close your eyes, figuratively, and remember. First comes the drum fury of their beloved theme song (consisting of the words "Adolescent Action Assassin Amphibians" chanted monotone until the ears bled and the tentacled face of the one true under-god appeared in children's cereal).

 

Now one by one the announcer calls out their name as they explode across the screen clad only in different colored loin clothes and acrobatic fury.

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3 Faces of Jack

Virtue Vespula

I'm in the backyard engulfed in a swarm of yellow-jackets. This was last Saturday, I was mowing the lawn which had grown to knee-tickling heights due to my negligence. At some point in my passes with the old red Toro I rumbled over a subterranean nest and roused up a tribe of the stabby bastards. I only became cognizant of my predicament when a text message pinged off my Android through the Cypress Hill cranked on the headphones. I released my grip on the Toro and the engine rumbled off. It was a message from the Princess. As I thumbed in a response a yellow-jacket scout landed on the screen. It crawled around the letters before taking off. Raising my eyes from phone back to yard I could see a squadron of them rising out of the brambles and zigzagging through the air. I muted the boasts of Insane in the Membrane. The buzz sounded like a frantic crowd from miles away. 

Relax. 

Eyes closed. 

Breathe not so much deep as slow.

A hand grabs me by the back of the neck and starts pushing me forward.

Eyes opened. 

Back in class two hours before the swarm.

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3 Faces of Jack

A Witch's Tear

Each tear caught from a witch's eye is a seed that, when midnight planted, blooms into a ghost.  Once summoned, this apparition will be bound to the seed from which it has grown and be rendered visible to the conjurer alone for the duration of three questions or three hundred seconds. Whichever comes first. But let aspiring necromancer or thaumaturge beware - the type of ghost you get depends on the nature of the witch's tear shed. For example, to speak with the ghost of a slain friend then the tear the witch surrenders must come from the dust of a haunted house. To speak with the spectral remains of a great leader of men then the witch's tear has to be born in response to a joke that has made them cry. 

But if the invocation be performed with sole intent to commune one final time with a lover lost then those tears absolutely have to be derived from a broken heart.  

All this Rosa Surfs explains over bourbons at the Admiral's Grave right before she informs me that I don't deserve a single one of her tears. 

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3 Faces of Jack

Impostor Syndrome

1. My Impostor Syndrome escaped again so now I'm dealing with a shitfaced doppelganger of yours truly singing Nick Cave's Thirsty Dog off key into the barrel of a loaded gun: "I’m sorry about all your friends/I hope they’ll speak to me again/I said before I’d pay for all the damage..." 

We're at the Admiral's Grave, because of course that's where my spitting image would hole up. It's a rained out school night here in Vampire Country so the crowd's minimal. Down the bar a few regulars gargoyle lurch over drinks and phones as the bartender catches the play of the day. All the booths are empty save one where a young couple make out ignoring their basket of tots and cheap pitcher. 

No one notices either one of us staring each other down the narrow passage between bar and booths connecting the Grave's shitter to Euclid Avenue behind me. That's because the body my impostor syndrome weaved itself doesn't fully exist on our frequency of reality yet and I'm glamoured incognito. 

Good. 

Don't want to be seen. Not here and not now. I'm haunted and hunted at the Grave which sucks because my glamour's not strong enough to work on anyone who can match a face to my name. The magick is ebbing, I'm exhausted from care-giving and therapy and yard work and work-work and working out. I haven't slept deep since Sunday night with the Wolf Angel. I can't afford to risk a fight in this shape, psychic or physical. 

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3 Faces of Jack

A Head of the Game

1."Well here's your problem," I pat the workstation sitting on the office drone's desk, "it appears the monitor's been gutted out and now there's a severed human head right where all the important wire-y stuff should be."

The monitor is aged beige plastic, bulky as the TV set in your grandmother's bedroom, with the human head stuffed inside bulging eyes and howling silent. 

"Uh-huh," the office drone shrugs, tapping away on their phone in dollar store casual Friday khakis. It's almost 3:30 before the weekend and they've checked out sometime before lunch. 

"Did you recently open any suspicious e-mails?" I ask testing the absence of a screen by waving my hand inside the monitor's frame just to the side of the screaming severed head. 

"No," the office drone shrugs, hits send on their phone, rolls eyes, "maybe. I don't know."

"Yeah," I shake my head and curious lean across the desk to turn on the workstation speakers. 

There's a crackle followed by the distinct wail of someone whose soul is being devoured by giant centipedes from another dimension. Just underneath that you can hear agonized prayers in foreign languages as some old timey carnival tune pipes off a calliope. 

I turn off the workstation speakers and leaning up from the desk peer out over the rows of gray interlocking cubicles. "Excuse me," I shout through cupped hands, "but does anyone else have a chopped off but still very much alive human head inside their monitors?"

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