I rolled into Louisiana just after dusk. It was a small town that we’ll call Etham, right at the very precipice of the Wilderness. What was left of the Old World dangled like a fool from the edge of the night behind me.
On some level, I knew it would be my final “bon voyage” to the Old Paradigm. My complete separation. Many others in the world would continue to slumber in the corpse of the dead reality. They would, in fact, die there.
Dying in a dead world. Dig it?
That’s just the way of things. Not all are outfitted to evolve. It’s not species that advance. It’s individuals within species.
As the great Longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer said, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”
Radically so now, Mr. Hoffer. Fundamentally.
Some part of me simply knew that Etham would be where I said goodbye at last to the Third Dimension. That part of me that realized that I was cutting myself off from the Withering Tree was also the part that compelled me to walk into that motel lobby despite knowing that darkness waited for me there.
I was also simply dead tired. Setting the sigil trap for the Hell Hounds had meant I hadn’t slept in three days. Even a magus needs his rest.
Sure enough, as soon as I stepped into the motel lobby I heard the dread droning noise of television. Corporate news, nonetheless (brain slaughter). I could almost hear the scrubbing-brushes of their brainwashers at work.
The eyes of the woman at the counter told me at once that I’d been right to be apprehensive. They had that murderous emptiness that always gives away the causalities of the social-engineering wars.
She sensed at once that I didn’t belong to her tribe — that I didn’t belong to any tribe at all (gravest of sins). She hated me at once.
The dead always hate the living for the very fact that they are alive.
“Can I help you?” she asked threateningly.
I adjusted my mask to draw attention to the fact that I was wearing it and meant her no harm. “I’d like a room.”
Moment of silence.
Her eyes flicked back to the television. She didn’t even know she was looking and listening for commands from it, for help in making sense of the world. She didn’t know that, but I did, because it had once been my job to make sure that people like her did so.
I knew her better than she knew herself — literally. That’s not really saying much, of course. Self-awareness is as rare a commodity these days as attention spans.
Fear, hate, resent, the TV secretly said. FEAR. FEAR. FEAR.
There was more darkness in her than the usual Puppet Madness, though. It had been a mistake for me to have stepped into that place.
She was gone. Totally gone. In her primal state she smelled the Outsider on me, and I knew that as soon as I left she’d check social media and would find that the feds were hunting me. They were claiming I’d committed some vile crime or another. I knew they would the second I escaped.
I hurried my exchange with her, got my key to room 300, and brought all my bags up there. Once inside the room I stuffed all I could fit into my bug-out bag. The car was compromised. She’d have the plate on security camera.
It was time to head out on foot.
The motel room was old, which means it wasn’t one of those modern motel rooms with windows that don’t actually open (high-priced prison cells). I crawled outside. Moving out past the halo of the motel’s lights, I ran across the street and ducked into the foliage on the other side where I maneuvered to a concealed spot among some trees to watch my car.
Sure enough, about ten minutes passed before a sleek black car slid into the parking lot and stopped beside my car. Two agents stepped out, one male and one female, both dressed all in black just as their kind had been doing for hundreds of years.
They were accustomed to dealing with normies who had no idea what they were. That was another advantage I had in my private war. I was just at home in the Night as they were.
As the agents entered my motel room, my phone (which I’d long ago made impossible to trace) buzzed in my pocket. There was a message from a contact that I’d never programmed into my phone, named CCPKISSMYASS.
“Mr Cray,” the message read, “it appears you’ve got a problem with owl infestation. Luckily, you’ve got a friend in Etham. Head south two miles. You’ll come across a single-lane dirt road. I’ll find you there.”
I texted back. “Who is this?”
“Don’t be an artard just get down here. Oh and don’t let them gators snap hold of ur ass on the way LOL.”