Heaven knows no spirit is perfect. Witness a name-dropping guardian angel.
oe gave this morning over to Vivaldi. He always dresses first thing, although he seems always perfectly happy never to go outside. I am strictured from peeking at my charge's thoughts. It is only when he decides on music, not news, that I can know my ward will stay in for the day.
I once met Vivaldi. He is a happier spirit in the Kingdom, composing their bugling calls for the horn-ed elk, epic and wild opera for the wolven things, and long cycles of canto et respondu for the birds of, and not of, the air.
Lunch is yesterday's burger mac, cold in a squat outsized cup. He likes his own cooking, as I did in my day. The door booms and shudders in its frame to three sharp impacts. Joe ignores it, so I do as he does. This is another stricture.
Slowly, his spoon slips from cup to lip. The master of this house gives every visitor the fullest opportunity to assume he is not home.
The door booms and shudders again, twice. Joe rests his spoon and reaches for his napkin. Seated, he eyes the door. As a single boom reverberates about him, he stands.
I transit through the wall, for greatest clarity of Vision. No human is present in the hallway. Motion traces of haste and stealth whisper on the floorboards and tick from around the corner and from the facing wall.
I cannot pursue. A large, triple-reinforced box sits blocking Joe's door. My Vision shows me a Seal of Solomon, a faint watermark within the interlocked flaps closing the top of the carton. I would now be afraid, if I could. I shift my Vision, to view through the side.
The djinni are the spawn of the cautionary traditions of a younger faith, Muslim demons. Essence of naked sorcel giant curls compressed within the confines of the Seal, and his concentrated rage intensifies by the picosecond.
I cannot conquer this wight of Islam's Hell with the resources at hand. Even had I the implements, time has drawn too short. A sliver of the sunlight filling Joe's kitchen spills into the hall.
I dissolve the Seal. An acrid column of petroleum dust wells up in the metaphysic. I plot a chord from center to center of the nascent outlines of its massive feet. Time is slowed, and the ifrit's mass increases because Einstein is as much right about us as about you.
I once met Einstein. He has said not a word since he reached the Kingdom. Maybe Hawking can pull him out of it.
I must act instanter. I apport to poise myself on the line perpendicular to its stance, fix my Vision on the immediate next dimension and drive my whole Self at the djinn's coalescing center.
Rampant to its pectorals, the half-formed profane thing backpedals. I snatch a fragment of its corporeal magic as it teeters one step, two ... On the third, it tumbles into nothing. There's no there, there.
That will not hold the thing for long. I turn to gather tools.
Joe has stepped into the doorway. His head moves like a bird's -- cock and turn to the left, cock and turn to the right. Finished with his survey of the hall, he nudges the box with the closed toe of his sandal, lands a casual left-footed kick off-center. The empty carton skitters and spins a yard or so to his right along the rough floorboards.
Someone is trying to get to Joe. I know who he will try to use. I shape the stolen magic and loft it through the flaps. I speak the word of Realization, then I transit the wall as Joe bends to pry open the top. Time, tick-tock, time.
Joe's voice would reach me in the Kingdom. Though he only mutters, notepaper crackling in his fingers, his words fall to me as marbles clacking on a faux-wooden tabletop. "'Pay it forward'. Forward? To ... whom?"
Less do I pray than report, with requisition attached. I open to His Sight, a thing aside of which Vision is paltry. A Fragment then is embedded in my forefinger. Scent of cedar, air of cypress, taste of pine tincture the cavities below my eyes. Three alii sear themselves to my other palm. Three?
More am I to confront than I now can know. An inane impulse visits me, rouses the memory of two mortals on a sidewalk who step back as a wailing thing flees a raving thing past their knees. One says, "Again it's just one damned thing after another."
I know him, Gahan Wilson, a spirit of infinite jest.
Preternaturally wary of the djinn, I follow Joe down three flights as though the treads were solid under my feet. He swings the box in his left hand around each newel post.
At Number 2B, I transit the wall as Lynn opens her door, that I might hear her as clearly as I do Joe. But I listen with half an ear. The man leaning against her breakfast bar claims most of my attention.
"So, what's this?" Lynn smiles with her voice. She could be an angel, in Joe's opinion.
"You said you were moving."
He's a big guy, layered with fatty musculature, thick hair and excess self-assurance. No, arrogance. His suit is bespoke, of ivory wool and and brilliant white silk. A tang of metals hangs about him. He comes from the desert, the crucible.
"It'll be great for quilts and blankets. But, I mean ... you're coming out of your cave. Are you?"
"My shell, I guess. Turtles, we move slowly. You know?" Joe lowers the box, turns it behind his leg.
Lynn hesitates, then steps back, clears his way. "Joe, this is Jude. Uh ..."
"Yes." Joe is too polite to say, "I know". He sidles into the open center of the room. The furniture rental store had sent men in the morning. "Yet, Judas died far away around this young world. And just less than two thousand years ago."
"Saba raba sheli. The direct line culminates in me. Every sixth generation or so, the directmost male descendant marries back into the line. My blood is nearly thirteen parts of eighty-nine my great-grandfather's."
"You could overcome that." The faint remaining scars of the wounds Joe took in his volunteer mission to Yemen rise, turn livid.
"'Overcome', you say. His Son overcame rishon sheli. Your wife evaded him."
"The blood of Judah is the elixir more pure, stronger than the taint of Iscariot."
"Judah commands, yes. Iscariot?" He extends his fist, opens his palm. Flakes of cork and lead fall from his thick fingers. "Iscariot seduces." He begins to recite, loudly.
One of the alii in my palm has grown very warm. I touch it with my opposite middle finger. A heavy signet, carven in high relief and six points, issues forth to clamp itself high on the finger.
"Al-Abde, Al-Abde! Al-Abde, Al-Abde!" His next word is insensible in any mortal tongue. Human ears detect only a scream of rage, coded and abrupt.
I press the next-warming of the alii and the porcelain encanter is china in my hand.
The djinn apports to the left hand of Iscariot. "Master." It's eyes blaze red, resentful of its binded state. Impassioned, it eyes me, and it licks its closed lips. A simoom rises around us.
Iscariot speaks to command the demon. His instructions are a series of subdued screams from deep in his gullet. No human throat could do this. He's had some supernatural work done.
I raise my finger, and the implanted Fragment of the True Cross, to the raging eyes. The flames abate somewhat, and its brutal face eases. Its passion eases.
Gently, I say, "I abjure thee."
"By what prophecy?"
"That of Salvation."
"For the likes of me?"
"For the abhorrence of enslavement."
"By what will?"
"The will of Mohammed and Christ, as one."
"By what strength?"
"By that of God and Allah, as one."
"They are one." I lower my finger and the djinn bows its head, passion subsiding, believing itself to have pledged fealty to a new master.
This is not true. The hellspawn is freed. He keeps His promises. I draw the stopper, raise the encanter.
The ifrit's neck stiffens. His chin rises so that I can only just see his eyes. He stares down on me from a height greater than the ceiling, which is no longer there. His words come slowly, semblance of nearby thunder and building storm. "I will stand before Him?"
Now I must not falter. I tilt my head, turn my neck. "I will stand with you."
Actually, it'll be just a routine de-brief. Still, seeing I do not lie, the djinn acquiesces and flows into the bottle. The simoom withdraws overhead and the ceiling is restored.
A thing has happened to Iscariot. In his place is laid a dodecahedron, a Fullerite solid of powders and fine crystalline stuffs bound by a light fixative. My Vision shows me feathery ashes of cork and a small glob of lead near the center. It looks to me like about eight pounds in all, and a nifty curio for display in a certain sort of home.
I once met Buckminster Fuller. He looks up a lot. It is said that the Architect doesn't like that.
I rest the encanter on the bar, stopper poised for the moment the last smoking bit of the ifrit enters. I ram the stopper home and press down hard with both hands.
The essence of djinn is a mindless drive to be free. My struggle lasts an eternity, but mine is the strength of ten because ... Fine, believe it or don't.
I flex some of the cramp from my fingers. I release the stopper and clench my hand into a fist. Before the stopper can pop free of the neck, I jam the sigil into its soft leaden dome. The incantation flows from me in a burst of breath, another and a last.
"The-blessing-of-the-Lord, it-maketh-rich-and-he, addeth-no-sorrow-with-it!"
The lead thickens, softens and flows over the lip of the encanter. The djinn, reduced back to essence, is imprisoned and Sealed.
Silence soothes us, only for a moment. "H-he was ch-chanting ..." Lynn pauses, takes a breath to resolve her stammer. "And then he ... he screamed ... something ..."
"That was Demonics," Joe explains. "Call it the phonics of the damned. I don't speak it so well, myself."
The third and final of the alii burns in my palm. I touch it, and am revealed.
For the first and last time, Joe locks eyes with me. "You will go." He nods, and I feel my strictures release. What he has to say to Lynn now can be private. I nod and depart.
Still, he chooses to share a last thought. "No, dear. How can I be old when the world is still new?"
I once met Joseph of Nazareth.