“Bitefighter, we got a case! We’re going Naraka-side! Fire up the Pentaportal and let’s get cracking!”
Bitefighter squiggles out of his little doggy trench coat, holds it in his teeth, and hangs it up on his pint-size coat rack. Bitefighter’s my best bud; not only is he a good friend, he performs double duty as a 10 lb. Terrier Extraordinaire and my private eye partner. Our firm is called Astral Investigations, and when you’re stuck with an out-of-body conundrum, we’re the ones you hire. Most of our work consists of catching lucid dreamer perverts trying to leer into girls’ locker rooms. Typically, we frighten the piss out of ’em, rattle their psyches, then boot ’em back to their bodies. But today is different; we’re going into the Buddhist hell known as Naraka. Naraka is partitioned into two levels; one hot, one cold. I’ve made a few trips into its sub-realms during my younger years, but that was back when I was a Metaphysical Marine and had an armed battalion of psychic gunslingers watching my six. I’ve never gone there as an investigator.
I turn to Bitefighter and ask, “You ready little buddy?” I put my hands on my knees and say, “Who’s a good dog? WHO’S a good little mutt???”
He accelerates and leaps off the floor, transforming all ten lbs. of his doggy body into a weighted missile that rockets into my nuts.
“OOOWWW!!! FUCK!” I clutch my junk and turtle up on the floor, breathing in pained gasps.
Bitefighter gives me a disdainful look and says, “Roof.”
I rise to my knees and wince in pain, keeping both hands cupped around my enormous scrotum. (It may be a hit with the ladies when it’s providing extra slappy stimulation, but I gotta say, it’s not really an advantage in a fistfight.)
“Jeez I was just messing around,” I mutter. “You don’t have to call me a racist.”
“Arf McBark.” (That’s his way of saying “Whatever.”)
I take my seat in the middle the Pentaportal and don Crowley’s Helm, an energetic nexus that’s comprised of bleached dracolich bones and thrice-blessed unicorn horns. Bitefighter hops onto my lap. I visualize a mix of string theory akindras and Enochian diagrams, and suddenly we’re flying through a whirlwind tunnel of blazing colors, silvery cords trailing down from our navels.
On the astral plane, Bitefighter appears as a werewolf dressed in a trench coat and fedora. He wrinkles his brow at me as we blast through hyperspace.
“Yog-sothoth’s tentacles, Kent—could you pick a form that’s any more conspicuous?” (He can speak English when we’re out of body.)
I look down at my thought-form. On the astral plane, I appear as a super muscular dude who’s rocking a bulging speedo with a big ol’ happy face centered over my you-know-what. Ever hear of side-boob? Well I’ve got side-shaft.
I look up at him and ask, “What? What’s wrong with my spirit-suit?”
He rolls his eyes. “If you have to ask, you’ll never know. What’s the case?”
I glance down at my upturned palm. Symbols and images crawl across it, incepting my psyche with data substrate. I look up at him again. “Three days ago, Kalasutra—one of Naraka’s hot sub-realms—was encased in conceptual mycelium. No one’s been able to get in or out, and the sinners awaiting entry are backed up; their line is now eons-long. The demons in charge are getting antsy; they’re afraid the sinners will get wise to the fact that they outnumber the fiends a googol to one, and band together and attempt a revolt.”
Bitefighter furrows his massive canine brow. “Kalasutra…’the Black Thread,’ right? Fiery saws and sharp axes?”
He blows out between pursed lips. “Can’t say I’m happy doing favors for demons…but we’ve gotta maintain the Balance, right?”
I nod again. The dirty secret behind hell-realms is that anyone who ends up in them actually signed a causal contract where they volunteered to be roasted or frozen or sawed apart or what-the-hell-ever. I know it sounds weird, but every sinner VOLUNTEERS to be punished, even though they don’t remember the volunteering part (makes it more visceral). It’s all part of the experience they’ve chosen as a fragment of the Great Void. Once they fulfill the terms of their contract, they either merge back with the Void or sign another contract. Typically, once sinners spend a few eternities in a hell-realm and get all the S&M out of their system, they go for a lifetime in Elysium, Valhalla, Paradise…you get the idea. Wondrous sighs, puppies and bunnies, a Jackson Pollock sunset at seven PM every night, sex without the stank…heaven-realms are all pretty much the same.
Never really understood it, but then again, I never had to. I’m just a private dick that enjoys flitting through dimensions.
We arrive at the gates of Kalasutra, and sure enough, there’s a line of sinners dozens of miles long waiting at the hundred-foot tall, double-doored, gargoyle-faced entrance. They all look like Gollum after a particularly hard day of Ring withdrawal.
“Careful,” I mutter to Bitefighter. “Blaze up your protective sigils.”
Bitefighter’s eyes shine with green fire. A glimmering flotilla of symbols appear around him. They’re all doggy-oriented; I see bones, rope-toys, squeakies… I close my eyes and follow suit. My symbolic armor consists of katanas, laser guns, comics, kettlebells…
Bitefighter breaks my reverie with a dry question: “Really, Kent? REALLY?”
I open my eyes and give him an irritated look. “What?”
He points a paw toward a floating Martha Stewart head which is licking and gnawing on my right trapezius muscle.
“Don’t knock it,” I reply. “That’s my deadliest weapon.”
He shakes his head in disgust, and we walk up to Kalasutra’s gate. The gargoyle-head guardian mounted on the black-metaled gates gives us a baleful, suspicious glare.
“WHO DARES APPROACH KALASUTRA? THIS HELL-REALM HAS BEEN DECLARED OFF-LIMITS!”
Bitefighter opens his trench coat, displaying his psychogenic identification: a golden badge with a dog’s head embossed on it. “We are duly appointed marshals of the Psycho-Physical Regulatory Department. We may not be on duty right now, but our authority will NOT be denied.”
“THE PPRD HAS NO JURISDICTION HERE!” the gargoyle-head bellows. “ONLY ONE MAN HAS ACCESS BEYOND THESE GATES!”
“Who might that be?” I ask.
The head turns to me. “KENT WAYNE, AND NO OTHER!”
“What a coincidence,” I reply. “MY name is Kent Wa—”
And before I finish speaking, the gargoyle-head screeches at me and the doors blow open. Bitefighter and I go tumbling backward, propelled by an explosion filled with fragments of thoughts, emotions, and half-formed concepts. We both dial up our etheromorphic skins (colloquially known as “auras” to flesh-bound mouth-breathers) to protect our psyches from becoming unraveled by the whirlwind blast of raw energy. Then I see something that makes my heart skip. My piece turtles into itself like a frightened baby scallop.
My exes. In their true form.
Bat-winged daemons emerge from the gates, coming at me in a hellish flutter of taloned hands, hooved feet, and curly-horned heads. They fling a series of furious spells at me, and in the space of an instant, I’m engaged in a soul-harrowing bout of symbol-to-symbol combat.
“WARDS UP!” I scream at Bitefighter. “IT’S A TRAP! THESE BITCHES ARE NO JO—”
One of them wraps her wings around me and we tumble like lovers across the aetheric landscape. I manage to kick her off and get to my feet. My Martha-ward is working overtime, biting and ripping into legions of ladies that may be hot in person, but house the spiritual nastiness of your least favorite politician (take your pick; I choose the fat guy from Jersey that’s always yelling at people). I see Bitefighter flailing desperately away, and I know that we’re done for. Our thought-forms are about to be torn to shreds unless…
I reach deep into my imagination and conjure up the story of Echo. Magic flash.
This being the astral plane, I see Atriya, Verus, Dake, and all those characters you know and love pour from a shining rip that forms in the air. Legions of cyborg-soldiers, future-wizards, and hairy rowr-beasts pour out with them (don’t forget the plasma-wrist-bladed battle-mechs—those are the COOLEST!). The themes from Voltron, the A-team, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and whatever other badass music you can think of trumpet through the air. My fictional army start slicing, dicing, pkewpkewing, and laying glorious waste to all my past lovers whose primary aim is to cut off my Godzilla-shaming johnson before having me drawn and quartered. When it’s all said and done, my exes are gone, and my phantom forces fades into the aether, giving each other power handshakes and claps on the back.
I look at Bitefighter. In between heavy gasps I ask, “70s high five?”
A grin spreads on his face. We both leap up and—
*freeze frame as Bitefighter and Kent Wayne high five. Cue cheesy cop-buddy music*
Are you an astral private eye that’s fallen into a psychic trap in one of the Buddhist hell-realms? Not to worry! 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 #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book