The Demon Makes An IntroductionDecember 5, 2010
In Chapter 5 Concourse, of Pazuzu – Emergence, the second book of myPazuzu Trilogy, the demon named Pazuzu finally introduces itself in person. Pazuzu meets its “ride,” Benedict Ishkott, face-to-face in a dream. The demon proposes what may be at stake, but Benedict knows it lies.
I’m currently writing the fourth edition of Pazuzu – Emergence, and have cleaned up the chapter where Pazuzu finally appears, albeit in a dream. I thought I’d take the excerpt and dangle it in front of readers. Enjoy!
Ben drifted, half awake. He did not remember retiring to his room, but he now found himself upstairs in bed. Night had fallen. Jumbled memories of the previous day were too surreal to believe, so Ben concentrated on nothingness.
The eager thirst returned, but Ben resisted leaving his bed. He wanted to fall back into slumber, but denied the grace while he lay on his back. Instead, Ben stayed awake and unable to change the pitiful fact. An orange glow from the street drifted like luminous fog through the lattice of the undraped windows. Ben did not want to fully open his eyes; even the faintest light stung.
Without recourse to argument, Ben blindly dressed in the clothes thrown over the armchair next to the bed. They were the same clothes he had selected after the Cortras brothers had confiscated the suitcase from the dead priest in the desert. Sweat stained the back of the shirt. A vest appeared mixed in the jumble of clothes. Ben’s hands established the oval openings for arms and buttons on the left flap. The article of clothing was new, but familiar. The vest must have been a part of the ensemble. Although, Ben did not remember ever wearing one. Still, he felt something missing if he did not now put on the accessory.
The vest at least covered the discoloration of the shirt. After slipping into his shoes, Ben cautiously blinked his eyes open and reached for the doorknob, but the door already stood open. Ben paused for a moment to retrace his steps, certain he had closed the door before undressing. Yet that recollection seemed misplace, considering he did not even remember making his way upstairs in the first place. The hall outside appeared pitch black, as if the glow from the street was amputated at the threshold of his room. This small discrepancy seemed unimportant. Ben stepped through the doorway.
Ben discovered a hall no longer existed outside his room. Thick shadows shaped this new place, so many that the blackness appeared carved from them. Impenetrable, tangible shadow clung from the upper corners like stalactites. Dark stalagmites rose from the floor, like misaligned teeth.
No room like this existed in Saint Erasmus. Ben entered a shack, walled with little more than wooden slats. The construction appeared incomplete, with long gaps running horizontally between roughly hewn beams. Ben suspected he still slept and dreamed.
A doorway of sorts stood nearby; Ben must have come through it. There were no other exits, and the opening actually shaped a dark maw without a firm edge. Like the shadows that served as mortar in the cracks of the walls, the darkness was solid. Ben expected the door to swing open into another dim room. Instead, a figure stepped through, growing as it entered the space.
A chalky and sour smell wafted in with the shape. The stench reeked like that of a long-overused chicken coop. The old and neglected stink increased as the figure inflated. Ben wrinkled his nose, but when that did not stifle the odor, he brought his hand over his face. Ben could not recall ever smelling anything in a dream, but he would now. This unmerciful olfactory figment made itself unforgettable. Whatever reservoir of experience from which this foulness came, thankfully remained deeply buried.
The being rose a foot taller than Ben. It wore a black brimmed hat and matching trench coat draped over thin shoulders. The figure jabbed back its long arms. The coat fell to the floor in a crumpled lump, which the shadow in the doorway drank up like brackish water down a drain. Watching the shadows feed prompted Ben to check he did not stand in the living blackness.
The being also dressed in a loose, unfastened black shirt and blue denim pants. It clutched an overly long red scarf in the claw of its left hand. Sharp silver points tipped the dowdy blue-stained boots the figure wore. It removed the hat to reveal a bald head with a beak of a nose. An impossibly long and toothless grin stretched beneath.
As it wrapped the scarf around its strangely angled neck, the being stepped forward. Ben recoiled when the figure extended a hand, thrusting its face forward in the same quick motion. It moved like a carrion bird over a carcass. This vulture debated to start dinner with either dulled eyeballs or a bloated belly.
“It’s all right, Benedict. You see, I don’t bite.” It was the voice! It took a wretched form to haunt his dreams. The figure stepped forward again with more of a hop and arms outstretched. It smiled. “Did you think I’d look like you, too? The similarity of our voices may be nothing more than a coincidence, don’t you think? Like your name?”
Ben became accustomed to the smell, but he still did not want to breathe deep. He feared sucking in the foulness that accompanied the figure. He maintained a defensible distance between them. The hovering question went unanswered.
“You never do talk to me, or to anyone for that matter.” Being toothless, the voice sounded incredibly articulate. “Is it because you’ve never been much of a conversationalist?”
The creature wrinkled its forehead, without eyebrows. Long lashes almost hid the omission. The pause for effect ended. “That’s how conversation works. Questions are asked and answers are delivered. Let’s have you try it. Or is it you just don’t like the sound of your own voice?”
“Are you Satan?” Ben ventured the abrupt question, but came to the point. He could not think of anything else to ask. The response will be something Hen Cortras will want to learn. So the inquiry seemed best, given the things Ben already knew or suspected. Ben will tell the younger Cortras when he awoke. Dil may already know the identity of the voice.
“Lucifer, the devil?” the figure replied. The question obviously pleased tangible voice. “That would depend on one’s faith. Or in your case, lack thereof. Satan is actually more of a title passed between the likes of Lucifer and Ahura Mazda. I never fit into that organization. I am an elemental, a primal force. In fact, I’m older than them all.”
“If that is so, where are the others, the devils you named?” Ben felt primed. His dream twisted into a course about demonology. The education seemed relevant, but he did not know why he asked. Ben recognized uncontrolled questions like these were automatically asked in dreams, so he inquired. His subconscious mind denied him true choice.
“I hoped tonight’s meeting would be about me.” The tall figure feigned dejection, but the expression mocked and deliberately appeared abominable.
Ben felt like running away, but the creature barred the only escape, if the apparent doorway offered an exit. Confinement seemed often in bad dreams. Given the scene and the content, this dream steered toward nightmare.
As soon as the most terrible part arrived, Ben will wake with a jolt. He wanted to avoid reaching that point, that and imagining what the terrible part could be. In dreams, as soon as something horrendous formed in a dreamer’s mind, that became the regrettable reality. Ben suspected he could conjure truly dreadful things, as most had roots in his dark, waking life.
“I imagine they are sleeping, petrified in their slumber. Incorporeal, if your mind can overcome the contradiction.”
The figure’s hat suddenly went missing, even though no place had appeared for the voice to lay or hang the accent. Ben watched carefully the whole time. The hat had disappeared before his eyes, without his awareness. Ben had never been a lucid dreamer. He could never navigate the choppy stream of subconscious images. If he could not control the uninvited dreams, he would rather forget them. Nothing but ordinary, easily dismissed reflections followed him to waking, most of the time, but little details like a vanishing hat will now make him feel uneasy well into the day.
“That is what gods do,” the figure continued. “They sleep and dream. Most of the time, they just sleep.”
“Who are you, exactly? Do you have a name?” Ben bluntly asked. The inevitable question should have been the first.
“Back to introductions, I see. Then for the sake of civility, I’ll tell you. My name for the ages is Pazuzu. You may have heard of me. I hope time has not worn away my name entirely.”
“You’re a demon,” Ben dryly proclaimed. He felt unafraid. Familiarity with the voice allowed him to overcome fear, as well as perceiving this meeting as unreal.
“No, nothing so common.” The figure’s pale face flushed around its eyes, as the pupils fell like stones into bloody pools. The figure calling itself Pazuzu cleared its crooked throat. “As I’ve told you, I am an elemental being. Please, pay attention. This conversation, as pleasant as it could be, has been repeated many times. I’d rather speed through it and discuss more ambitious matters.”
“What were you doing in my head? What do you want?” Ben didn’t like the way the demon’s face shifted. The changes implied restrained frustration, bound by rusted and weakened chains. Ben now felt the prickle of fear.
“I was never in your head, Benedict.”
“What about now?” Ben looked around the primitive coop. He didn’t want to believe the place was a dank hollow in his mind. His presence would feel analogous to walking through an undiagnosed brain tumor.
“Do you think this is your dream?” the demon asked. “We share this place. You might say, we create a common ground from common experience; you really need to explore more pleasant places. Relax occasionally and take in the sights. The surroundings of our overdue meeting could have been much more elaborate if you had more elegance to work with. I could show you wonderful things, if you only possessed the foundation.”
“I’ll be sure to tour Capital when I get a chance,” Ben said with sarcasm. “Why am I here, in this place, now?”
“You’re nearly filled. That means it’s more difficult to talk to you, whenever there is need. I’d wager that comforts you, doesn’t it?”
“What about Dil?” Ben pressed. The vehicle of their encounter impressed Ben, but made an unbelievable dream. In dreams, the demon could say anything, and dreams could take any shape, without need of explanation. “I’ve heard you inside him.”
“Yes,” the demon affirmed. “That is different, and it’s not going very well. His inclinations are getting the better of me. Most of the time, the path inside is full of briar and tangles. But still, his service has been more conducive than that priest who administered your church before you.”
“Does that mean you’re going to kill him, like you did the priest?” Ben remarked with accusation. The demon all but confessed with the little information it revealed.
“No, that has never been my intention. It’s obvious, your friend will not do. The priest was insane and disagreeable, and my disappointment made me somewhat rash. There were other ways to deal with him, but expediency was necessary. We don’t have much time.”
“You want a body,” Ben concluded. Dil’s alcoholism impacted the demon. The host’s habits and lusts were amplified. If the priest was mad, the chaos would have probably been unmanageable. The assumption made sense, but Ben only surmised the goal of the demon.
Ben could not help but imagine how the priest died. The man must have tried to fight the demon. All those feathers carried some shamanistic significance, an obscure reference to pagan wards. Rare, present-day pagan nomads still believed in beings such as the one that conversed with Ben. Their knowledge may be his escape. Pagans were said to have numerous protections against, and appeasements for, the pantheon of the underworld. The priest died because he came too close to freeing himself. Only, the effort came too late or provided too little relief. The priest ended up tearing himself apart with his own hands, the demon’s final act of possession.
“You wanted my body,” Ben recoiled from the realization. The demon had found him lost and wandering. His mind had room to spare, given the gap in his memory. The demon was going to roost in the void, but then something made the plan impossible. Ben needed to know. If nothing else, the knowledge would help keep the demon out.
“Why didn’t you take mine?”
“I’ve been honest with you, Benedict. You were filling up faster than I could make my accommodations. You have untapped determination and purpose you have denied yourself. Your energies have been misplaced in the belief that there is a higher power watching over you. I believed I required that strength, given the weakness of the priest before you. But alas, it was not meant to be. But now that you know what you know, I’d rather have you as a partner in my grand design. We would do well, together.”
“What do you mean, filling up? My memory?”
“There is still a piece missing. You sense it.” The demon calling itself Pazuzu wove its elongated dead-twigs of fingers together into an impossible tangle of witches’ broom. “It is part of the message I am unable to tell you. Once you recover that, you’ll know why following me is imperative.”
“If I ask you again what you are planning to do, you won’t tell me, will you?” Ben asked. His free converse with the demon puzzled him, yet the words seemed scripted. Ben asked questions for which Pazuzu had prepared answers. “But, because you can’t take me or Dil, you plan to use that woman, Sarah. What do you need a body for, anyways? You obviously have power without one. I would think having flesh diminished you.”
“That is very perceptive of you, Benedict.” Pazuzu smiled with toothless horror again. “And you may be correct. But a messiah must have a mortal form. Masses do not follow a voice in their heads. Even if it is more intimate, it is too slow and has been demonstratively unnerving. As I’ve tried to impart, we are rushed.”
“Why is that?”
Pazuzu unknotted its fingers. Ben imagined he heard the creak of bark scraping against bark. The demon wagged its finger.
“I am already pushing the limit of your acceptance, Benedict. You would be of no use to anyone if you shocked yourself into denial. There is no return to the slumber of humanity. You walk in the footsteps of a wakeful god. If you turn your back now, you embrace slow insanity.”
“Why are you telling me these things?”
“Because you are about to gather the last of your missing pieces. I thought you were prepared, but as you have recovered more of yourself, you’ve teetered on denying me. You cannot question what you are about to learn again. Accept it for what it is, or perish with this world. This is the only home I know, and I personally would not like to lose a friend, such as you’ve been.”
“You’re talking about the end of the world. Are you telling me Armageddon is here?”
“That begs the question, where is THE God? Let me first define him, as mankind in the Shur dictates two ideas that promote their own assumptions. He is a force of creation, the impetus and spark. Mortal perception of omniscience and omnipotence is merely a reflection of age and having remained awake to watch creation grow. The act of creation forces upon one a great deal of unappreciated responsibility. This world, more than any other, is guilty of forsaking thanks. So, as we both know, God is gone. Vanished from an undeserving progeny. That leaves this world quite alone and unguarded.”
“Full of sleeping devils.”
“Tsk, Benedict,” Pazuzu ticked between his dry and scaly gums. “This is what your mind can conceive. When you receive your vision, it will take the shape of something you can accept, in the order of the world you know. Then you will know the truth of what I cannot say. You will believe and your knowledge will set you apart from every living soul. We will share a most terrible secret.”
This discussion eluded offering the uncovered portion of Ben’s past. The demon’s secret plan wrapped Ben’s history into a tight, mysterious package. Persistent questioning would not spill it, either, although impossible, cryptic clues may be awarded. The demon enjoyed playing games in which it knew something Ben did not. Ben’s feeble feints and guesses amused Pazuzu. Providing that pleasure frustrated Ben. He could only vainly will himself to stop participating.
“Assuming I learn your secret and decide to help you, why will the woman’s body be any better than mine or Dil’s? Won’t her flaws foil you just the same?”
“That is a very good question.” The ruby color around the demon’s eyes finally cooled. “And I’m glad we came to that. I will need you to have faith. What is about to happen will bring about your realization, and my, for lack of a better word, resurrection.”
“Or a second coming.”
“You are assuming there was ever a first.” Pazuzu winked. “But let’s remain focused on the important matter. As Dil, or I, have told you, you may not agree with what is necessary. But you must not hinder me. There is too much at stake for you, this world, and me. I won’t ask you to help me. I don’t need assistance.”
“Just Sarah. That’s the cost,” Ben contemplated. “But it could have been any of us.”
“So who better than a stranger? I gave you a chance with her, Benedict. It will be better this way. Trust me. The two of you would have never made a happy couple. She is as vile as every other animal on this planet.”
“What about Hen, Dil’s brother?” The desire to protect the younger Cortras again crept over Ben. The gap through which the impulse found its way must be discovered and stopped.
“He’s nearly useless to us, but he has strong conviction. I wish he could be made to see the truth. The false indoctrination of those dubbing themselves as Chosen has grown like a weed. Sadly, the root can never be pulled from his heart. The poor fellow will forever be an unbeliever and forgotten with his misplaced beliefs. Don’t concern yourself with him. As long as he keeps to his place, he’ll be fine. I don’t believe he is capable of anything more than his station in faith.”
The hat materialized again, as did the coat, hooked onto each of the demon’s hands. Ben resisted acknowledging their sudden appearance. He told himself they were plucked from the shadow that formed the room. The belief seemed marginally more acceptable.
“There is one last thing I regret I must say.” Pazuzu flipped the hat on his head. The brim momentarily concealed his face. The demon’s nose reflected the sourceless, ambient light in the room. The highlight made Pazuzu appear to sprout a hooked beak. “I feel so crass to say this to a friend, but I must. In danger of sounding as if I resort to threats, I warn you; don’t interfere, Benedict, or I’ll strip the meat from your bones. I’ll see you soon.”
Pazuzu turned. He did not bother to step through the doorway. The shadow moved to drink up the demon, as it had the coat. The blackness of the hat and coat flowed out of sight, seamlessly. The shining silver heels of the blue boots sparkled a moment longer, then were gone. An unseen force jerked Ben backwards off his feet. Now that the demon the kept the shadows at bay had vanished, the shadows snatched Ben. Instead of falling into the maw of an undefined monster, Ben awoke.
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