For the last several years, I’ve been working as an occult physician and esoteric trauma specialist. Along the way, I’ve trekked into numerous realms and planes, warred with the forces of Baphomet and Pan, and acquired a familiar as well: his name is Bitefighter—he’s a two-foot tall humanoid with an oversized head (mohawked with something that looks like green hair but upon closer inspection reveals itself to be a stripe of solid matter), a mouth that takes up half his face and always seems to be drooling, as well as eyes that seem to be devoid of iris or whites; they seem to be all pupil. Right now I’m in an extradimensional wing of the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose (a parallel reality that serves as an emergency care facility catering to all manner of magically-afflicted patients), operating on a hot soccer mom whose etheromorph (that’s astral body to all of you uninitiated folk) is covered by giant blotches of bruise-colored haze.
Tim Burton has the rights to my life story. Naturally, Danny Elfman has been hired to compose the film score.
I hold out my hand, keeping my eyes fixed on the unconscious woman lying on the operating table. “Dagger of Rostam.”
Bitefighter slaps a weighty, foot-long knife into my hand. Its haft is formed by intricate curls of burnished gold, the blade is pitch-black and gives off a faint purple glow, and in the center of its crosspiece is a shiny red orb that swirls with Eleusinian mists.
Bitefighter blurts, “BOWSER!” (Despite having an 83rd-level intellect, he’s not exactly what you’d call articulate, but he does love all things mushroom-related; lately he’s been using terminology from Super Mario games to punctuate or explain all that he does).
“Thank you,” I reply distractedly, adjusting the enchanted headlamp that rests over my brow. (It’s been blessed with a bit of Enochian bioluminescence due to an infusion of ground angel-feather and Pegasi mane; I know, I know—aren’t you jealous). I bring the dagger closer to the soccer mom’s astral epidermis (commonly called an “aura” by mouth-breathers) and her etheromorphic infection protests with vehemence; giant blotches of color let off a squeal and race across her subtle body, trying to avoid the glowing edge of my enchanted knife.
I hiss through my teeth. This won’t do—this won’t do at all.
I hold out my other hand. “Ravenna’s Tincture.”
Bitefighter: “KOOPA TROOPA!”
The radiant vial that he slips into my hand is a mix of deadly nightshade, a pit fiend’s nocturnal emissions, as well as one of Merlin’s eyebrow-hairs. I uncap the banyan tree cork (Yep, a dollop off the same one Siddhartha sat under when he experienced the Big E) and sprinkle three drops onto the lady before me. A nacreous flash undulates outward as each of the drops hit, freezing her infections in place. I hand the vial back to my familiar.
Here it comes. I take a deep breath and lower my dagger toward the prone woman. A few quick slices and her astral form should be as good as new. Two weeks’ bedrest and no spicy food for three months, but a small price to pay for—
Suddenly the auric blotches jump to life and begin converging. I stumble back in shock. This isn’t possible; every first-year occultist intern knows that Ravenna’s Tincture is more than capable of—
And than it hits me: this is no ordinary etheromorphic infection. This is—
“KENT WAYNE!” The exclamation is a hideous, testicle-shriveling screech seasoned with an accent that’s mainly from Sheol, but also possessive of an Azazelic lilt. It’s composed of multiple voices, each one intimately recognizable to my Man Child ears.
Slimy tentacles of plasm begin flowing off the soccer mom’s aura, merging above her and instantiating into something that sports a set of reptilian features, but is predominantly insectile. A mess of slavering mandibles chitters and gnashes, and my thousand-times bifurcated reflection stares back at me from multi-sectioned eyes that would be perfectly at home on a giant fly.
“YOU WILL PAY!” the insect-thing buzzes. “ YOU WILL PAY FOR YOUR CRIMES AGAINST HALLMARK: THE DEMON PROGENITOR OF THE CONTAINER STORE, THE OXYGEN NETWORK, AS WELL AS ALL SUBURBIA-FLAVORED NOTIONS OF HAPPILY EVER AFTER! HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE YOUR ORGANS, KENT? I CAN COOK THEM IN A WEIRD SISTERS-STYLE SOUP DE JOUR, OR FRICASSEE THEM IN A MODERN DAY DISH INVENTED BY THE BEAST HIMSELF—THAT CODGERY OLD PRETENDER CROWLEY!” A fresh spate of buzzing chuckles erupts from the hideous ex-girlfriend/wife composite that’s writhing in front of me.
“None of the above,” I reply tightly. “How about a steaming plate of ass instead?” With the rhetorical setup now in place, I let loose with a colonic fanfare facilitated by Subway’s top sandwich artists (hey, I know fart-jokes are low-brow, but they’re perfectly excusable when faced with a demonic composite formed from your exes).
The fly-thing recoils in horror. “HELL’S BELLS! YOU WITH YOUR DUTCH OVENS—I STILL HAVE PTSD FROM THEM, YOU MUSCLE-BOUND IGNORAMUS!” The ex-composite twitches its spiny, tarsi-covered limbs and presses them against the aura of its soccer mom host, then proceeds to squirm into physical life. The last thing that emerges from its etheromorphic embryo is a slick, three-foot-long, eagerly wriggling ovipositor. Gross.
I look over to Bitefighter, who’s in a fetal position, cowering in the corner. I’ve seen him fight poltergeists, vampires, and a variety of cryptids, but thus far nothing has unnerved him to the point where he’s completely inoperable—this is a first. I look back at the buzzing horror that’s now rubbing her giant-fly hands together over my soccer mom patient.
I can’t really blame him—this bitch is hideous as fuck.
She comes at me and I manage to invoke a quick incantation I learned when I attended an exchange program run by John Dee and Nicholas Flamel. It carves an archaic, electrified series of runes into the air—roughly in the shape of a circle—which are intended to act as an all-purpose ward against a variety of hellspawn. No use—the ex-composite busts right through it. Her attack is accompanied by the musical tinkle of shattering glass, and as I grip her forelegs and barrel-roll across the floor, I see pieces of my ward floating in a glimmering scatter of half-formed symbols and letters. Goddamn—she cracked my ward apart like it was a discount enchantment made by a Walmagic hedge-witch.
“BITEFIGHTER!” I scream, darting my head left and right in order to avoid darting stabs from her razor-sharp proboscis. “FUCKING HELP ME!”
Bitefighter starts scrambling through the operating room, rummaging through a variety of odds and ends. “Buzzy-beetle! Hammer-Koopa!” He steals a line from Michael Scott in Season 4, Episode 2 of The Office: “Where’s the turtles where are the turtles…WHERE ARE THE TURTLES! WHERE ARE THEY!!!!!”
“Bitefighter!” I gasp, narrowly avoiding a swipe from a spiny foreleg that’s intended to take out my eyes. “There’s no fucking turtles! Just get me—”
And then it comes arcing toward me: a paperback copy of Echo.
It’s only an astral projection at this point, but when my latex-gloved hand touches its luminescent cover, substance and color floods across its surface, erasing its transparency and darkening its shadows as it gains weight and mass.
The soccer mom on the table wakes up. She flings her hand toward the Ex-composite, and three ninja stars made of psychic energy dart out from her fingers, burying themselves in the chitinous backside of my would-be killer. The soccer mom leaps from the table, unsheathing a katana laying diagonally across her spine, and blurs past the Ex-thing in a tight crouch, slicing deeply into its thorax at the same time.
The Ex-composite abruptly stiffens, its mouthparts twitching in reflexive death-shudders.
Behind it, the soccer mom slowly rises, performing chiburi with her blade and flicking off the disgusting hellspawn residue that coats her katana. The ex-composite jerks, coughs, then disappears in a flutter of violet-limned bats.
“Thanks for saving me,” I wheeze.
The soccer mom sheaths her psionic katana, looks at the clock, and her eyes widen. “Oh my god—I have to pick up my kids from a sleepover.”
She helps me up. I straighten my lab coat with both hands, clear my throat, and give her my most charming smile. “What are you doing after that?”
She cocks an eyebrow at me and smiles back. “Justice League Unlimited marathon. That up your alley?”
Ninja training? The ability to manifest psychic weaponry AND a fan of Justice League Unlimited???
I think I’m in love.
But I play it cool and say, “I consider Bruce Timm a modern day Shakespeare.”
Her smile widens, then she casts a glance around the operating room and comments, “This is a pretty cool setup you have here. Very impressive.”
I decide to go with one of my more risqué repartees: “You think THIS is impressive? You should see my penis.”
When she laughs and curls a lock of hair behind an ear, I know I’m in.
*70s porn music*
What if you’re performing occult surgery on a future hot date and the psychic equivalent of a giant bot-fly arises from his/her torso and tries to eat your motherfucking face? Not a problem—Echo can save you! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle #kindle #kindleunlimited