Introducing The Cabal

Staring straight ahead, his eyes were pitch black. Rather than the table and chairs in the room, he only saw the patterns of power criss-crossing the room. The lines were the color of magik and extended beyond the walls. In several spots nearby, the lines clumped together, smelling of fate and fortune. With effort, he could divert power to or from someone, changing the shape of fortune surrounding him or her.

One of the bundles near him, on the same floor of the house they all shared, caught his attention. Fate suggested a great success was close. To get a better view, he drew power from the pattern to strengthen his own sight. There was nothing malicious in his actions; curiosity was simply stronger than anything even remotely resembling common sense. Fate tipped from almost certain success to failure.

After, he continued to study the patterns. Most of his time was spent this way. It was possible to learn, to uncover secrets by careful observation of the various patterns. Mostly, however, he just enjoyed watching them. A knock at the door interrupted him.

“Jason! Get out here!”

He blinked twice to return his vision to normal. Even then it took a few more seconds to adjust to seeing the mundane world. Meanwhile, the pounding on the door continued.

“Jason! Dammit! Open this door!”

He couldn’t remember why they called him ‘Jason.’ It wasn’t his name. On the other hand, he couldn’t remember his actual name, so he didn’t object. The man outside his door looked familiar. And angry.

“David?” He thought that was correct.

“You were doing that thing again, weren’t you? Remote viewing, or some such?”

“Of course. What else would I be doing?”

“Normal research, perhaps?”


“You messed up my incantation again. It had been proceeding just fine until you showed up.”

Another member of their cabal arrived. Sarah? That sounded right.

“What is going on? You guys are making quite a racket out here.”

“Jason messed up one of my projects. Again. I need to move rooms.”

Sarah shook her head. “Can’t. The reconstruction work has put a premium on space. And you’re the newest resident of the house.”

“This is intolerable.”

“Well, if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

He wasn’t really listening to the two of them. Instead, his eyes had blinked black again, and he was studying the bundle of power that was David. It was fluctuating wildly.

“Don’t go, David. Your fortuned doesn’t look good if you leave.”

“What are you talking . . .”

Sarah placed a hand on David’s arm to stop him. “Jason’s warnings should always be taken seriously. He may be difficult, but he isn’t often wrong.”

David fumed silently for a moment before capitulating. “Fine. But quit watching my lab!”

“Oh. Of course. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was bothering you.” With that, he closed the door and went back to his chair.

In the hall, David’s anger deflated. “Will he really stop? It can’t be that easy.”

Sarah laughed. “He’ll stop. Until he forgets. You might have a day or two. Use it wisely.” She turned and walked back to her own room, leaving David to mutter curses under his breath.

One Answer

A person called my name, and I stepped out of the line. How long had I been waiting? I could not say. On one hand, I had been there for all eternity, patiently listening for my turn. On the other hand, I had just arrived, and now I was being summoned ahead of all the others standing there. None of them objected.

No matter how hard I might try, I could not describe the person whose voice had pulled me from the line. I could see them as clearly as I could see my own hand, but I have no idea what they looked like. When they spoke, the words were the sound of crystal.

“You have been granted an audience. Inside, please.”

He gestured towards a door I hadn’t remembered seeing before that moment. Without hesitating, I approached, and the door swung wide. Inside was a clean, well-lit hallway. No one else was present, but I knew exactly where to go. After walking for only a moment, and forever, I found myself before another door and again walked through.

I was now in the presence of Everything. Before, I thought I knew what doubt was, but in that moment, there was no such thing anymore.

Speak. There was no voice, only the word.

“Others have been here longer, waiting.”

They, too, are being seen.

“So there’s more than one of you?”


The words were not angry or impatient. They just were. Perhaps there was kindness, but I suspect that is simply what I wanted to hear.

“I don’t want to take up too much time . . .”


“Okay… Can I ask… Why?”

For your own sake, be clearer.

“Why? Why put us through all of that. The pain and suffering. The fear and anger? The hatred and misery? It is overwhelming. Is there really some plan? Is it actually malice? Do you just not know? Or not care? Why . . .” At that moment, my voice gave out. All the horror of the world came pouring out in my tears, in a scream, in a shudder. There was no response until most of it had worked through my system and I recovered some measure of composure.

Would any answer satisfy you?

“Don’t you already know?”

Yes, but do you?

And I considered it, perhaps for the first time. I had heard so many answers and none of them had ever seemed even remotely plausible, let alone satisfactory.

Except one, which I thought precluded the Reality before me now.

“We did it to ourselves.”

Once more, perhaps it was simply what I wanted to hear, but there seemed to be compassion in the words.


“We chose it. All of it. And you let us.”

It is not my place to choose for you. Perhaps you would prefer to be eliminated from reality . . .

“Sometimes I wonder.”

I know. But it is not possible. You are sentient. You are a locus of reality. Where you are, so is everything. You can no more be eliminated than I can, than reality can.

It wasn’t what I had come looking for, but despite myself, I did feel a sort of comfort in those words, in that truth.

“So what now?”

There was an atmosphere of a smile. 

Whatever you choose.

Some Help

“Can you see that?”

My friend turned around in his chair. “See what?”

We were sitting in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning. I was looking at a woman who was dressed like she was on her way to a medieval festival: long grey robe, leaves placed strategically in her hair, and holding a staff. Even before I had asked, I knew my friend couldn’t see her.

“What am I looking for?”

“Nothing. Never mind.”

“Are you seeing things again?”


“That sounded pretty defensive. If you are, we can get you some help. Better to catch it early.”

“I”m not hallucinating. Just forget it.”

The woman walked over to our table and sat in an empty chair without moving it. She wore a sad, wistful smile but said nothing, though she continued to stare at me. Making an effort to ignore her, I focused on my friend.

“Look, no judgment. I just want to support you. If you’re having problems again, I will help, but you have to trust me.”

“I thought I saw something on that table. I realized it was the way the light reflected off of it. There is nothing to worry about; I’m fine. Can we drop it now?” I could still see the woman out of the corner of my eye.

“Okay, okay.” My friend threw up his hands defensively. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. Just don’t need everyone always thinking of me in terms of the lowest point in my life. I had a breakdown; it’s not the whole of who I am.”

“You’re right. I am sorry. I will try to do better.”

The woman reached out and touched my arm. “You know I’m real, right?”

I ignored her and continued to give my friend all of my attention. “Should we get going?”

He checked his watch. “Soon. Wait here, will you? I’m going to run to the restroom.”

I tried to think of some reason to stop him, but nothing came to mind. As soon as he was out of sight, the woman spoke again.

“Now we can talk.”

Looking in any direction but hers, I said nothing.

“I need your help. No one else can see or hear me. There’s nowhere else I can turn. Please.”

I desperately did not want to sink back into madness, and I knew that if I acknowledged her at all, I would be starting down a dangerous path. I had to ignore her, even as her pleas grew more urgent.

“I need you to do something for me. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important, or if there was any other way. I need to get a message to someone. You’re the only person who I can reach.”

Tuning out this new “voice” in my head was getting increasingly difficult. I found myself tapping my fingers impatiently on the table.

“I don’t think I have anything of value to give you, but I’m begging you to help me. My friend… She doesn’t know the danger she is in. I know it’s cliché, but this really is a life or death situation.”

“Finally,” I muttered when I saw my friend returning.

“Ready to go?” he asked.

“Definitely.” Relieved to finally get away from this woman only I could see, I stood up and followed him to the door. Before walking out, I stole a glance back and saw the woman still sitting at the table. That was my only mistake, but it was plenty.

“Hey,” I said to my friend. “I just remembered something I have to take care of. I’ll catch up to you later?”

“Are you sure?” Suspicion was evident in his voice.

“Yeah. I’ll talk to you later.”

I made sure he walked away before going back inside and sitting down at the table.

“Okay. What’s the message? Who is it for?”

The Taste of Garlic

Many years ago, a woman, the daughter of a long line of garlic farmers, married a man who hated the taste of garlic. Out of her love for him, she refrained from using garlic when cooking even though she missed it. However, he became very ill, and the apothecary told her that garlic was the only thing that might cure him. 

Despite the severity of his sickness, he refused. So she came up with a plan. The woman, knowing of her husband’s fear of ghosts, told him that garlic was effective in warding off demons and evil spirits. The village elder, out of respect for the woman and her family, supported her claims. The husband reluctantly agreed to eat some garlic. Even after he was better, she worried he might relapse and convinced him to continue to eat the root.

One night, on her way back home from a trip to the village, she was cornered by a vampire. She grew fearful that, if the beast fed on her, her husband would realize that the garlic she ate had not warded off the attack and discover her deception. He would then stop eating garlic and fall back into his illness. She explained all of this to the creature and begged that, even if he were to kill her, he not drink her blood so that her husband would continue to eat his garlic.

The vampire was moved by the woman’s concern for her husband rather than herself, and he agreed, going so far as to spare her life altogether. Further, he spread word of the woman’s story and her love for her husband amongst the others of his kind. That is why, to this day, vampires shy away from garlic.