Vex checked her mental map while reading off the street signs in
her head. Wilson was somewhere between Priest and Mill: Beck Ave, McKenny
Street, Roosevelt Street…and finally Wilson. She lit her signal, slowed up by
letting off on the gas, and turned right onto Wilson. Blue skies crested over
dully painted houses on either side of the street, the black asphalt of the
road continued ahead, and terminated at a white house with a slightly browned
yard. A large river-rock and cement wall blocked the very front of the house
from view. As Vex drove into the curved driveway, she noticed that the wall
seemed to be some sort of planter, just without any plants.
Patrick exited the cab at the same moment as Vex; she
locked both doors behind him. In tandem they closed their sides and approached
“So, who lives here again?” he asked as they passed into
the shade near the front door.
“A friend,” Vex said.
The door opened before she even knocked. A very pale stick
of young man, half-wearing a white button-down shirt, stood just beyond the
threshold. His brown hair shagged down to his shoulders and a few strands stuck
to his forehead, just above his glasses. Cold air breathed out of the house in
a gust, displacing the sweltering heat of the day for a blissful moment. He
nodded and smiled when he recognized Vex.
“I had expected you earlier,” he said, “do come in out of
Patrick shook his hand and introduced himself as he walked
inside. The young man introduced himself as Brent.
A large table dominated one side of the room and shelves
upon shelves of books decked the walls. The carpet looked worse for wear, but
the furniture and books were in immaculate condition. In a room set like an
alcove to the side two computer monitors glimmered, one with code and text, the
other displayed a shifting starscape with tiny spaceships flying past, firing lasers,
and exploding in bursts of light. The place had all the smells of an old house,
plus the chemical smells of detergent and acrylic paint.
Patrick’s attention caught on the table the moment he
walked through the door. It was covered with a large plastic map dotted with
small silver and painted figurines of bipedal machines. While a great number of
the books set in the shelves were books on magic and other esoteric subjects,
Patrick noticed peppered among them were also a good number of role playing
“A-yup,” Brent said. “I was just trying out some rule
change ideas that I had for Battletech.”
Patrick found a supplement book lying on the couch, he
picked it up. “I haven’t seen this before. May I look at this? I used to play.
I promise that I won’t damage the book.”
“Sure, sure,” Brent said then turned to Vex. “What can I
do for you?”
Vex removed the Tarot card with the silver runic writing
and handed it to Brent.
Patrick had become fully immersed in the Battletech manual.
Vex had seen him do the same thing at a bookstore before; at least he wouldn’t
be getting in the way as long as he was distracted.
“It’s Enochian,” Brent said. “But I think we already know
that. I’ve never seen this strange configuration before; the spiral is new, but
interesting. Give me just a moment to clean up.”
Cleaning up turned out to be arm raking all the figurines
into the center of the table like a pile of leaves, lifting the plastic map by
its corners, and carrying it gingerly out of the room. A minute later, Brent
returned with an armful of books that he unloaded onto the table. He then
darted between the shelves for a few more minutes and selected three more
books, also adding them to the growing mound. Soon a pad of yellow ruled paper
joined the books as well as four mechanical pencils.
“Let’s see what we have shall we? I am thinking maybe
Golden Dawn, very likely Dee,” he said and went to work.
Two of the books displayed tables of text and letters, and
one of them in particular had a strange colored table with four major squares
surrounding a small white central one. He referred back to that one repeatedly
while writing notes down onto the yellow pad. After almost five minutes of
writing and consulting the books Brent beckoned Vex.
“These angels that you noticed are Edlprnaa, Adoeoct,
Aaetpio and finally, in the center here is Zedekiel. This
construction is unheard of, and all of those angels, except the last, are from
the Great Watchtower of the South: the tablet that governs fire. Zedekiel is
air, and is connected to Jupiter.
“There are one…two…three other angels at these angles,
and—” Brent ran his fingers over the diagram, tracing and following symbols on
the reddish table of letters in the lower-right. “—they are all on the fire
Vex nodded. “Okay, so there’s a lot of fire and one
Jupiter on the whole thing, can you give me an idea as to what hell that
“Well, fire is a powerful sign of activity or action or
destruction. No telling. The presence of the King of the fire
tablet—Edlprnaa—means that it has strong effects on all the rest, but Zedekiel,
I think is a balancer. Probably the patron of the person who wrote this.” Brent
paused and shook his head. He stabbed his finger at the card on the table
meaningfully. “I don’t think the angels are the important part of this; I think
they’re to prove to someone that the message is authentic.”
Vex shrugged her shoulders. “Okay, so what does the message
“Four chalices are poured into one. The city on
fire—no…the city of fire—builds a new Babel: a tower of bones. Stars fall from
the sky counting three and four. The seal at the Mountain Un shatters. The old
formulas are undone… Then there’s some gibberish and—odd.”
He paused for a moment then and squinted. “That’s not an
Enochian symbol, at least not one that I’ve ever seen. It is very similar to…
Perhaps it’s something from the Ge’ez alphabet…”
More pages fluttered under his swift fingertips. Several
books had been laid open across the table, and the card seemed to have been
forgotten for the moment. He mumbled to himself while running his fingers down
various tables, diagrams, and paragraphs. All of the books had numerous notes
in various colors of ink in the margins; he consulted those more often than he
did the actual text.
He mumbled strange verses and phrases in between No’s
Idly, Vex slid the Tarot card from the table and looked at
“Where is the strange symbol?” she asked.
“Near the center. Five characters out,” replied Brent, absently
thumbing through another book full of notes and symbols.
Vex’s eyes followed the characters out from the center in
their spiral pattern. When she found the symbol she didn’t need to recount to
know it was the one that he had gotten stuck on.
“You won’t find this one in your books,” she said. “It’s
not Enochian. I know what it is.”
“What?” he said, looking at her over his spectacles.
“It’s an at-sign.”
“Ridiculous,” Brent said, snatching the card away from
her. “How can that—no, it is an at-sign… How weird. But, if that’s an at-sign
then this must be an e-mail address: bxxtr at asu.”
“A student at the University? I don’t get it,” Vex said,
trying her best not to sound incredulous.
“Well, there is only one way to find out,” was Brent’s
reply. He walked over to a computer with the yellow pad, and opened up an
I found your e-mail address on a Tarot card written in
the language of Enoch. I think the message is for you, Brent typed in. He
added the e-mail address and hit send.
Vex waited. She didn’t use computers very often, and
e-mail even less, even though she had an account with Hotmail and had learned
how to sync her digital camera with a computer to get the pictures out. So when
Brent patiently watched the computer and it did nothing after he had sent his
e-mail, Vex kept a hushed silence too.
“Well, at least it didn’t bounce,” he said. “It could take
hours for this person to check their e-mail and get back to us.”
Presently the computer beeped. An e-mail had been received
from the address on the Tarot card. It contained five words: Who gave you
“What should we say?” Brent wondered aloud.
“Zedikiel,” Vex said.
He typed that into the reply and hit send.
The reply returned in less than a minute: Meet me
tomorrow, Sunday, at 10 a.m. in the center of the Social Sciences
building. Bring the message with you. Don’t be late.
“Do you know where that is?” Brent asked. “Looks like you
have an appointment.”
“Yes,” Vex said. “It’s that strange building north of the
library entrance that has a big, square courtyard and a tarp for shade.”
“Well that’s settled,” he said, leaning back in his chair.
“Is there anything else that I can do for you? This has been truly illuminating.”
“There is another place that I’ve seen Enochian recently.
If I were to bring you a photograph of it would you be able to translate it for
me? The kids who drew it had mixed it with olde witch’s script. I can translate
what was in the witch’s script, but I can’t translate Enochian.”
Brent nodded. “Yes, yes, of course. Though, I’ll have you
know that witch’s script, Theban, is actually one of the Enochian Angelic
Alphabets. It’s one of Agrippa’s ciphers that he published in the Libri Tres de Occulta Philosophia.” Brent
gestured to one of the larger, dustier tomes opened on the table. “Chances are
the entire incantation written was following Enochian rules.”
Vex frowned and rubbed her finger on the table. “I did not
know that,” she said slowly. “I’ve been assuming that the kids who wrote the sigils
had no idea what they were doing—you know how it is. A group of kids get it
into their heads that they want to do magick, they pick up some trash book on
Wicca or Enochain for Dummies and off they go.
“Draw a few circles, chant a few words, dance a little
dance and viola…nothing happens. At least, most of the time.” She
glanced over at Patrick to see if he was paying attention. With his nose buried
in the game manual she guessed that he was probably oblivious, but the quirk of
a smile on his lips belied his silence. She could tell that he was staying out
of the discussion for her benefit. That probably wouldn’t last long.
She continued anyway, “But now… Now this seems a bit more
sinister. I had a feeling that one of them knew what she was doing, our culprit,
the one who is trying to steal the others’ souls. And, I’ll bet that she
inscribed the runes and sigils using both alphabets to hide the incantation.
Maybe I underestimated her and she’s been one step ahead of me the entire
Patrick looked up from the Battletech manual. “She? Is it
female intuition that you’re automatically guessing that the bad guy is a girl?
Weren’t two of the kids at that ceremony guys? Doesn’t that make it a
“That’s not it,” Vex said. “I’m sorry to tell you this,
buck-o, but girls are just naturally more apt to use magic as a weapon to
commit murder, gain power, and subvert nature. Most of the mages that I’ve
actually run into that knew and meant what they were doing were women, equally
so for the bad ones.”
“I don’t get it. Men and women have an equal talent for
evil. I don’t think that it’s fair to assume a gender.”
She took an exasperated sigh. “Yes. Men and women have an
equal talent for evil, Patrick. I’m not saying that women are more evil than
men. I’m just saying that women are more likely than men to use magic to do
evil… Look, just trust me on this one. Or just assume that I’m assuming that my
culprit here is a woman because I myself am a woman and it comforts me to think
that I know the mind of my prey.”
Patrick only shrugged in reply.
“Brent,” Vex said. “Thank you for your time. Would you
like a copy of the script on the Tarot card? I think that I may need it for my
“Yuh?” said Brent. His head snapped up from the
book that he was poring over. “Oh, of course—hmm—let me scan it. Just a
moment.” He flicked the card up from the table and walked it over to his
computer. A few keystrokes later, the whirr of the scanner filled the room, and
bright light shimmered across the ceiling. A perfectly rendered image of the
card and its lettering appeared on the screen. “Done.”
“Thanks,” Vex said, taking the Tarot card back from Brent.
“It was nice meeting you, sir,” Patrick said and shook
Brent’s hand briskly. “Thank you for letting me look through that Battletech
supplement. Maybe we can play together someday.”
“Anytime,” Brent said. “Yeah, that’d be neat.”
“How do I get those pictures of the sigils to you?” Vex
“E-mail them to me,” replied Brent, passing her a piece of
paper with an e-mail address on it. She stuffed it into a hidden pocket.
“Can do,” she said. “Thanks again.”
The midday sun and heat broiled like an open oven when Vex
stepped out of the house’s air conditioned interior and into the grip of the
desert. She could feel the sunlight on her back, searing into her back through
the black material as she quickly made her way to the cab. She pulled open the
door, slid inside, and unlocked the passenger side door while turning the ignition.
Even though the cab had only been under the Arizona sun
for less than half-an-hour, already the interior was hotter than outside.
Fortunately, the compressor in the A/C hadn’t yet given up the ghost and Vex
luxuriated in the sudden billow of chilly air that gusted out of the vents. She
could almost imagine that the air from the vents had a foggy frost compared
with the stagnant heat of the day.
“So, what does the card have to do with those kids?” Patrick
asked as he clicked his seatbelt on.
“They’re not related,” Vex said, pulling the cabby into reverse.
“Oh,” he said. “Then why did we come here?”
“Because I was asked to set something in motion by the
person who wrote the message on the Tarot card.”
“But why?” he pressed. “Why are you doing all of this?
It’s something that I’ve been meaning to ask. What favor do you owe to those
kids who were playing with magic?”
“It’s the same favor that I owed you.”
“It’s my job.”
“You drive a taxi,” he countered. “I know, that’s how I
met you the first time. That’s your job. Not this running around trying to make
sense of magical incantations, voodoo, and meeting strange guys in their houses
to look at Tarot cards.”
Vex smiled. Patrick was so cute when he was confused. She
knew the day would come she would have to explain everything to him, and she
worried that he wouldn’t understand. Actually, she mused, it was really a
miracle that he had stuck around as long as he had. She said: “It was no
coincidence that I was at your door the night that your ex-girlfriend tried to
“You were there because I called a cab.”
“I suppose that you didn’t notice that the first swing she
took with that knife cut the phone cord?” Vex replied. She turned the cab down 13th
street headed toward ASU. “Dispatch had received half of your pick-up address
and it was cut off.”
She could recall the incident like it happened yesterday.
When the squawk had come in from dispatch Vex already knew
what was going on. Gary was pinging her radio to alert her that she might have
a fare in her general vicinity at the same moment that She was hairpinning a
turn from a major thoroughfare onto a frontage road. Dust and gravel flew, the
radio squawked, brakes shrieked, and the taxi came to a violent stop in front
of Patrick’s soon-to-be-ex’s house. She jumped out of the cab before the engine
had finished stalling and rushed into the cloud of dust cut by the bright taxi
The door unlocked with a simple incantation, she stormed
into the house like a summer haboob, followed closely by a choking cloud of
dust and dead grass. Patrick’s ex nearly had him down on the bed, he was
struggling, the knife was raised. Vex recalled yelling something witty like, “Hey
bitch!” and knocking her cold with a solid punch to the side of her head.
Perhaps a little too solid. Vex also recalled her hand smarting for the rest of
“I remember,” Patrick said, hanging his head. “You said:
did someone here call for a cab? I was too shocked by what you’d just done to
say no when you dragged me out of the house. I never thought Denny’s food could
ever taste so good. But, if the dispatch hadn’t gotten the entire address how
did you know where—”
“Remember that snark you made about women’s intuition
earlier?” Vex said. “Well, I’ve got buttloads of it.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” he said. “I apologize for that comment,
it was short of me.”
“I forgive you and don’t stop snarking; I need a skeptic
to keep my on my toes.”
Patrick grinned at that. Vex glanced at him out of the
corner of her eye and enjoyed the view, she wished that he would smile more
“So, where are we headed?” he asked, pressing a hand
against the dash as she turned off of Apache onto a smaller road on ASU campus.
“The Hayden Library Stacks,” Vex said. “I need to get pictures
of that ceremonial sigil.”