Right so where were we?

Demons smell like ass—nasty ass that slithers down your throat, finds your gag reflex, and sits on it with authority.

LAUGH, DAMNIT: 1

I’ve put off this count for way too long.

So in this chapter, Atticus fights a demon. Does he beat the demon? Of course not, he gets someone else to do it for him because otherwise he might break a nail.

At least something interesting happens in this chapter.

He explains to us that this is one of the demons that Aenghus Og summoned at the end of the last book. Some of them ran off, if you’ll remember, but even though we’re told that Flidais hunted them all down this book retcons it, with Atticus telling us “I knew a few must still be out there and they’d eventually come looking for me.”

I don’t quite understand how this works, because from what I understood the demons that Aenghus Og summoned that escaped were those that didn’t get bound by Aenghus Og, and didn’t have to listen to what he said. Atticus explains here that they were bound, they were just strong enough to resist it for a bit and are obligated to obey Aenghus’s commands, despite Aenghus being dead. It just so happens to track him down now because… Plot I guess.

Also he refers to Flidais as “Celtic goddess of the hunt” and I know we went over this last time, but to reiterate:

FIRST: She’s probably not. While she’s often believed in New Age circles as being the goddess of deer, hunting, and the wilds, as a sort of Irish Artemis/Diana, in real Irish literature she was more often associated with cattle than with deer, and there’s no indication that she was a hunting goddess.

Hearne just took a New Age concept and ran with it and acts like it’s genuine mythology. It’s not. This isn’t too egregious by itself, as there’s nothing wrong with taking liberties or basing your fantasy story off of New Age concepts. But Atticus is so condescending when explaining things we’re clearly meant to think that Hearne knows what he’s talking about when he clearly doesn’t. Hearne just figured he’d make Flidais a generic hunter goddess in the mold of Artemis/Diana (without that pesky chastity to get in the way of her sleeping with Atticus), took away what little personality was there, and called it a day.

SECOND: Once again, Hearne is using the word “Celtic” to mean “Irish.” Yes, the Celtic peoples were related, but that’s a bit like using the word ‘Mediterannean’ to describe Greek culture. Irish mythology is one of the best preserved of the different Celtic mythologies, but it IS Irish. The Britons/Welsh certainly didn’t worship the exact same pantheon (although again, they were related); theirs was a separate mythology altogether.

Let’s give it a

Did Not Do Homework: 2

All of this is the opening of the chapter, making you forget that right now Atticus is supposed to be running for his life. He tells Oberon that they don’t have a chance in a straight fight. He doesn’t have his sword on him, and unless he’s touching the ground he doesn’t have enough power to use Cold Fire, that neat demon-killing spell Brighid taught him in the last book. AND using Cold Fire wears him out, so he’d be vulnerable after using it.

Here’s the thing: Atticus is always telling us he’s so paranoid and that he’s prepared for everything. He told us this last chapter. And yet a demon shows up and what does he do? He runs, because he needs his sword and his earth magic, otherwise he’s defenseless. I wouldn’t mind this at all, the idea that there are some things that the main character isn’t equipped to deal with right away. But we’re constantly told over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again that Atticus is always ready for anything because he’s Oh So Paranoid.

But a demon appears and what is Atticus’s reaction? “I gotta run, I’m not prepared for this.”

You Keep Using That Word: 4

The earth is all too willing to help out with getting rid of demons: They don’t belong on the earth, are in fact anathema to it, and thus it takes very little coaxing to set up a demonic ward around one’s house.

Why would the Earth (if we’re referring to it as an entity, I should think that it’d be capitalized, Hearne) care more about demons than… I don’t know, say, gods or the undead? The Tuatha shouldn’t be a problem, because they’re based off of Druidic magic, but other gods are non-Earthly beings born of belief. But fine, let’s put that aside. Shouldn’t the Earth really hate something like Leif for subverting the natural cycle of life?

I’m reminded of the bit in Shadow of War (which is, admittedly, not a masterpiece of storytelling but it’s great fun) in which the nature spirit Carnan meets Talion, a dead man walking because he’s possessed by a wraith and wearing a Ring of Power. And even though she teams up with him to fight a Balrog, she’s confused and repulsed by Talion because unlike the mortal characters, she can tell he’s not alive, he’s an undead abomination. He doesn’t grow, he doesn’t change, he doesn’t even really heal. His body doesn’t change. It’s just… stuck with how it is, fixed enough to keep running.

The Earth, and by extension Druids, should have a similar reaction to vampires and other undead. But given that Hearne has put no effort whatsoever into his vampires, I can’t say it’s surprising that it doesn’t come up. The closest we get is that Flidais finds the undead distasteful and gross, but that’s treated more like a kind of bigotry than anything else (not that it stops Atticus from having sex with her).

The way Atticus explains: basically, the Earth can react to demons and destroy them, but the Earth is… a little slow on the uptake. The Earth doesn’t notice the passage of time the way humans do. So instead of the wards around his house calling up a demon-killing spell from the Earth, it calls up an elemental from the desert.

I know I just complained about Atticus not being prepared, and I feel as if someone would quickly point out that the spell around his house that calls an elemental in case of demon attack is some sort of preparation. But I still don’t accept this as preparation, because it relies on Atticus being close enough to his property for the spell to work. If Atticus had been unable to reach his yard, or going for a walk to his shop, this wouldn’t have worked.

Also this?

Every ten years I like to meditate for a week and commune with its spirit, which people like to call Gaia nowadays, and she chats fondly about the Cretacious period as if it were something that happened just last month.

Atticus talks to the spirit of the Earth? This is kind of dropped on us at one of the weirdest times. This sounds like the sort of thing you’d mention in the first book, when we’re establishing the character, his backstory, and his powers. And again, it’s not actually part of the Plot of this book, it’s just a thing he mentioned as part of his life that Hearne thinks isn’t important enough to actually be relevant to the story. It’s just “Oh, by the way, I talk to Gaia sometimes.” I understand that this is an early entry in a series, and he assumes that it’s something he can deliver later on, but Hearne does this so much that it reads more as if he’s just throwing nonsense into Atticus’s backstory and powers and hoping that he can pull a Plot Point out of it later on, rather than planning to.

Atticus having an abusive father, a kid, and once-a-decade chats with Gaia—none of these are Plot relevant! None of these are even that character-relevant. They’re just random things Hearne threw in because he thought they made Atticus sound cool, or funny.

Hey, is the spirit of the world Gaia? Because if all mythologies are true, then there should be a Gaia. A lot of people believe in a vague ‘Mother Earth’ too, so would that be the Greek Gaia, or would it be a separate version of Mother Earth? Is this like in Marvel comics where all the Mother Earth figures from various mythologies are all just different names for the same being?

[shrugs] I dunno.

Once Atticus steps onto his yard, he immediately starts getting some power and energy and he uses the spell “Coinnigh” to try to trap the bug demon’s leg in the ground, but it doesn’t work. Also worth noting from last book is that when TMary tried looking this up in an online Irish dictionary, she found that ‘coinnigh’ doesn’t mean ‘hold’ as in ‘grab’ as much as ‘keep’ or ‘maintain’. “To hold” in a figurative sense, really, rather than literally holding. Mind you, she also mentioned this is just from looking at a dictionary, but I bet you that’s more than Hearne did, given how well he does research.

The bug demon escapes the ground, it trips his wards, and a bunch of vines shoot out to grab the demon. The narration chooses now to explain that the demon isn’t actually grasshopper-like at all, but in fact it’s much closer to a wheel bug. Which doesn’t… really look like a grasshopper other than having long back legs, so I don’t know why a Druid, a magical being apparently in-touch with nature, would get the two confused.

Also if demons are so antithetical to nature, why would they look like creatures from nature? Wouldn’t they look more… unnatural? Something very strange? Like the Bosch paintings Hearne said demons looked like in the last book but never delivered on?

“O’Sullivan! What the fuck is that thing?”

I did promise that something interesting would happen in this chapter, didn’t I?

See, with all the fog gone (which wouldn’t actually obscure that much anyway), Mr. Semerdjian can now see Atticus battling a giant demon bug. Atticus tries to wave him off with “Uh, a little busy!” which is a lame thing to say, but admittedly he tells us he doesn’t know how he would try to explain this anyway.

“You’re going to need a damn big can of bug spray!” he called. “Or maybe a rocket-propelled grenade. I have one in the garage, you want it?”

Atticus, in the rare moment of acting like he actually cares about another human being, tells his neighbor to stay back and not get involved, though to be honest he does tell us it’s because if he lets Mr. Semerdjian distract him, Atticus will get himself killed. Always for the self-interest, this man. That his neighbor has explosive weapons in his garage doesn’t phase him in the slightest, because…Reasons.

Our hero is about to use the Cold Fire spell, but lo and behold “Behind the wheel bug, a huge saguaro cactus was growing from the churned sod of my lawn at a ridiculous rate.” Yes, a giant cactus has joined the fray! It’s a “Sonoran Desert” elemental that was called by his yard’s wards, and it grows right the fudge out of nowhere, and beats the snot out of the demon. When the demon smacks and injures it, the cactus don’t care because A) it’s an elemental spirit inhabiting a body, and B) it’s a magic cactus, which just regenerates. So the cactus wins, and rips the demon in two.

Also! “Saguaro” is a fun word.

I mean, a giant cactus pummeling a demon is actually kind of awesome; let’s give Hearne some credit for that. But let’s put this in context: Atticus had to have his butt saved by a cactus, one that came right the fudge out of nowhere and disappears right the fudge into nowhere again when it’s done. Basically, the narrative introduces someone/something to solve Atticus’s problems, and that’s it. It even decides to magically fix Atticus’s yard afterward! And clean up the demon carcass!

Make It Easy!: 2

It didn’t want to absorb the demon into the ground, but it seemed to realize I couldn’t stuff a giant wheel bug down the garbage disposal either.

[raises hand] Hey.

If Irish gods like Flidais don’t even know how electricity works, how the fudge does a desert elemental know what garbage disposal is? Maybe Atticus doesn’t literally mean that the elemental mentioned a garbage disposal, but it’s unclear.

Atticus tells the thing to have it all crushed, squeezed into liquid, and Atticus will give the demon juice to the ghouls Leif has on speed dial because “demon juice was like Jagermeister to them” and that’s horrifying, but neither Atticus nor Hearne care. So not only did the fight get resolved by someone fixing it for Atticus, the cleanup is fixed by that same someone too. Atticus’s only real contribution to this scene was running to his yard and setting off the alarm.

Figures.

Make It Easy!: 3

Surprisingly, Hearne hasn’t forgotten that Mr. Semerdjian is there. He witnessed everything, including the yard magically fixing itself, and asks “What are you?” A legit question. The answer is: an absolute bastard. But instead we get this:

I stuffed my hands in my pockets and grinned winningly at him. “Why, I’m the Antichrist, of course.”

If I lived in this universe, I would accept that answer.

I don’t know why Atticus says this, and he doesn’t offer any explanation. Mr. Semerdjian faints at this reply, which Atticus finds very strange, because Mr. Semerdjian isn’t even Christian—he’s Muslim. So not only does it not make sense for him to have such a reaction to the claim of Atticus being the Antichrist, there’s no reason for Atticus to even bring it up as a way to mess with his head.

The plan is to pretend none of this ever happened whenever Mr. Semerdjian wakes up, and since no one would believe it there’s not much risk in him telling anyone. Hooray for gaslighting the elderly?

If he woke up calling me the Antichrist, he’d get a strong dose of sedatives and maybe one of those snug little straitjackets to play around in.

You know Atticus reminds me of Gaston from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast sometimes.

That’s not a good thing.

The cactus sort of sinks back into the ground, Oberon comes back out into the open, and Atticus calls his werewolf lawyer Hal Hauk (his “daylight lawyer” as he puts it) to get the ghouls to drink demon drugs. Also, he thinks Leif is probably mad at him, and also “probably having an ASU student for breakfast.”

Isn’t it cute that our lead has a serial killer as one of his best friends?

So then he calls Malina Sokolowski, the friendly witch Atticus is convinced is evil. For Reasons.

“Hello Malina,” I said with relish when she answered the phone. “I’m still around. Your little spell didn’t work.”

“You were attacked too? Those bitches!” she spat. “Damn them!” She was clearly upset; she’d never used anything but the politest, formal language with me. “It makes me wonder who else got hit tonight and who else is dead now.”

That wasn’t the response I expected at all.

Yup. Turns out that the friendly witch who had no reason to want him dead wasn’t the one who tried to kill him! Who could have guessed? (Answer: anyone other than Atticus). For a guy who talks about how careful and clever he is all the time, he’s all too happy to accuse someone of attempted murder with the flimsiest of evidence. And again, we’re supposed to think of Atticus as the Smartest Smart Man to Ever Smart.

You Keep Using That Word: 5

So he asks what’s going on, and she tells him “You’d better get over here.” Thus ends our chapter!

But really, the thing that surprises him most in the chapter isn’t that his (in his eyes anyway) nosy, annoying neighbor is barely phased by a giant demon and has an RPG in his garage, but that the person who has shown no ill will towards him…has no ill will towards him. Yes, that’s the bit that shocks him.

Atticus is such an idiot.

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Comment

  1. The Smith of Lies on 21 March 2021, 15:30 said:

    Demons smell like ass

    This line was terrible in the previous book and it is still terrible here. Except here it is worse, because the fact that Hearne had to repeat it means he feels like it is such a witty and amusing line, that it bears repeating.

    No. No it does not.

    “I knew a few must still be out there and they’d eventually come looking for me.”

    Why? No, really. Why? I mean Aenghus is dead and there was no indication (though that might be the second hand reading via medium of spork) that the summoning overcame whatever equivalent of free will demons have. I mean if they were compelled to attack Atticus they wouldn’t run.

    So why would they come after him? If I were a demon I could come up with about 1000 things I’d rather be doing. And that is not accounting for Atticus Mary Sue status, that makes it an obvious suicide to go after him.

    Atticus explains here that they were bound, they were just strong enough to resist it for a bit and are obligated to obey Aenghus’s commands, despite Aenghus being dead. It just so happens to track him down now because… Plot I guess.

    Ah yes, the universal answer to “Why?” in Iron Druid. Auhtorial Fiat.

    FIRST: She’s probably not.

    I mean… It is not like mythological accurace stopped Hearne before (or later). And if someone ever pointed it out I’m sure Atticus would chime in with “Oh you silly modern mortals, thinking that Flidais is cattle goddes, how stupid of you to completely mistake her character and purview. If only you had my knowledge you would have known she was a hunter. Idiots.”

    He tells Oberon that they don’t have a chance in a straight fight. He doesn’t have his sword on him, and unless he’s touching the ground he doesn’t have enough power to use Cold Fire, that neat demon-killing spell Brighid taught him in the last book. AND using Cold Fire wears him out, so he’d be vulnerable after using it.

    Notice how he actually needs to make excuses for why he won’t just curb stomp the demon like he did with the ones in the previous book. Maybe, just maybe, propely pacing the power scaling could just make an appearance of a demon feel like actual threat. Right now I just feel like Hearne is pulling stuff out of his ass to allow Atticus pretend to be in danger.

    Probably wants to get our hopes of the prick getting murdered up before disappointing us again.

    But a demon appears and what is Atticus’s reaction? “I gotta run, I’m not prepared for this.”

    I wouldn’t mind this too much if not for how little regard he has shown for danger in book one (that and fake paranoia). Because seriously, the man couldn’t be bothered to do any prep when he had forewarning. And now suddenly he complains about not being preapred? Boo, freaking, hoo.

    Why would the Earth (if we’re referring to it as an entity, I should think that it’d be capitalized, Hearne) care more about demons than… I don’t know, say, gods or the undead? The Tuatha shouldn’t be a problem, because they’re based off of Druidic magic, but other gods are non-Earthly beings born of belief. But fine, let’s put that aside. Shouldn’t the Earth really hate something like Leif for subverting the natural cycle of life?

    Ah, I see how you could come to that conclusion. And it would be a valid one if you haven’t made an error in assuming that concepts such as “Logic” and “Consistancy” apply to the world of Iron Druid chronicles. If you instead take that the axiom is “whatever bullshit that serves Atticus’s interests” it is perfectly sensible situation.

    I’m glad we have that clarified.

    Every ten years I like to meditate for a week and commune with its spirit, which people like to call Gaia nowadays, and she chats fondly about the Cretacious period as if it were something that happened just last month.

    And once again the level of shoddy world building on display makes me take sanity damage.

    So, is Gaia an independent entity or is she another of the beings created by human belief? Because if the former, she throws a giant wrench into the whole concept of gods being creation of the humanity (also, if she existed as an idependent entity she should be alien beyond comprehension and communication, especially given the way Atticus describes her time perception; Atticus could just as well try to chat with her as an ant could try to chat with any of us). But if she was believed into being by humanity it’d imply some kind of retroactive continuity with future events creating the past. And that way the madness lies…

    Hey, is the spirit of the world Gaia? Because if all mythologies are true, then there should be a Gaia. A lot of people believe in a vague ‘Mother Earth’ too, so would that be the Greek Gaia, or would it be a separate version of Mother Earth? Is this like in Marvel comics where all the Mother Earth figures from various mythologies are all just different names for the same being?

    Good point. For all we know (and it is my head canon) the Gaia that Atticus talks to is the one from Captain Planet. Cause that is about the level of dignity and subtlety I am willing to give him.

    Also if demons are so antithetical to nature, why would they look like creatures from nature?

    Oh, oh! Let me make a guess! Because author is a talentless hack who couldn’t deliver on the description of an alien and unnatural creature even if it slithered right at him on its innumerable pseudopods, dragging its bulbous, amorphic torso on the ground and shrieking eternal damntation from ten thousands ever hungry mouths, each full of black, oozing tongoues, writhing and entwining with each other in a timeless all consuming spiral?

    See, with all the fog gone (which wouldn’t actually obscure that much anyway), Mr. Semerdjian can now see Atticus battling a giant demon bug. Atticus tries to wave him off with “Uh, a little busy!”

    Ok, I will admit – if this wasn’t Atticus, who fouls and corrupts everything by his very involvment, I’d like that line. Because, while it is a bit of a played-out joke, I am still very amused by the idea of characters acting completely deadpan and unimpressed by various supernatural/weird situations.

    A character in a middle of life and death battle with a demon just giving “Uh, a little busy!” answer creates the juxtaposition between the dramatic and mundane, which is inherently humorous to me.

    But then I remember that this is Atticus, who acts bored at all times, is a lazy asshole and who actually spent most of the mentions of the neighbour being kinda bigoted towards him. And all the humor dissipates and juxtaposition actually breaks, because Atticus actually always acts blase, it is his default setting.

    “You’re going to need a damn big can of bug spray!” he called. “Or maybe a rocket-propelled grenade. I have one in the garage, you want it?”

    See! This is what I am talking about! This is unintentional absurdist masterpiece. Semerdjian is a normal person, his reaction to seeing demon should be somewhere between gibbering terror, overwhelming confusion and utter disbelief. And here not only is he discussing it in a tone you would take for an unusually large spider, he actually pushes the line of the absurd by admitting that he has rocket propelled grenade in his garage.

    On its own this fact wouldn’t be funny, but the matter of fact framing of it, as if he was offering to loan Atticus his lawn mower makes it for me.

    Honestly, this small scene is way too good to be in this book. Still, I am deducing all the points because given their previous interactions Semerdjian should be calling animal control on Atticus for bringing some weird and presumably dangerous insect home.

    he does tell us it’s because if he lets Mr. Semerdjian distract him, Atticus will get himself killed. Always for the self-interest, this man. That his neighbor has explosive weapons in his garage doesn’t phase him in the slightest, because…Reasons.

    And he is an ingrateful bastard while at it. I mean, do you have any ideas how much Rocket Propelled Grenades cost? The fact that Smerdijan is offering to use one on Atticus behalf speaks well about the man.

    Yes, a giant cactus has joined the fray! It’s a “Sonoran Desert” elemental that was called by his yard’s wards, and it grows right the fudge out of nowhere, and beats the snot out of the demon.

    Sounds like someone has been playing Final Fantasy before coming up with this scene…

    Atticus tells the thing to have it all crushed, squeezed into liquid, and Atticus will give the demon juice to the ghouls Leif has on speed dial because “demon juice was like Jagermeister to them” and that’s horrifying, but neither Atticus nor Hearne care.

    Man, Hearne is getting his mileage from establishing those ghouls. So many possible plot conflicts contrived away with a single plot device! Give this man his due, he is efficent.

    The plan is to pretend none of this ever happened whenever Mr. Semerdjian wakes up, and since no one would believe it there’s not much risk in him telling anyone. Hooray for gaslighting the elderly?

    And this is after the man actually offered him help in distress. Talk about Atticus being an asshole. I wish Smerdijan actually used his RPG on Atticus.

    Yes, that’s the bit that shocks him.

    To be perfectly honest, I can get this. I mean, aren’t you shocked that there is someone who does not bear Atticus any ill will despite knowing him? I know I am.

  2. LoneWolf on 25 March 2021, 19:07 said:

    Minor revengefic suggestion: the story from Semerdjian’s point of view, where he finally gets to launch his grenade on Atticus.

  3. Juracan on 26 March 2021, 20:20 said:

    This line was terrible in the previous book and it is still terrible here. Except here it is worse, because the fact that Hearne had to repeat it means he feels like it is such a witty and amusing line, that it bears repeating.

    No. No it does not.

    It REALLY doesn’t. So much of these books is Hearne patting himself on the back for how “clever” he is and it’s infuriating.

    Ah yes, the universal answer to “Why?” in Iron Druid. Auhtorial Fiat.

    Pretty much, yeah.

    Notice how he actually needs to make excuses for why he won’t just curb stomp the demon like he did with the ones in the previous book. Maybe, just maybe, propely pacing the power scaling could just make an appearance of a demon feel like actual threat. Right now I just feel like Hearne is pulling stuff out of his ass to allow Atticus pretend to be in danger.

    Yes, again this story starts at exactly the wrong point? Atticus is already leveled up all the way at the beginning of the first book so the story has to jump through awkward hoops as to why he doesn’t just snap his fingers and resolve the Plot. Sometimes it doesn’t go through those hoops at all, Atticus just doesn’t care enough to bother.

    Ah, I see how you could come to that conclusion. And it would be a valid one if you haven’t made an error in assuming that concepts such as “Logic” and “Consistancy” apply to the world of Iron Druid chronicles. If you instead take that the axiom is “whatever bullshit that serves Atticus’s interests” it is perfectly sensible situation.

    I mean… yeah, but if I just accept that I don’t know if we’d have that much of a sporking. I’d just telling you what happens, and you can read the book for that. But I don’t want more people to read the book, so…here we are.

    For all we know (and it is my head canon) the Gaia that Atticus talks to is the one from Captain Planet. Cause that is about the level of dignity and subtlety I am willing to give him.

    [snaps fingers] I’ll take it. This headcanon is now accepted.

    Oh, oh! Let me make a guess! Because author is a talentless hack who couldn’t deliver on the description of an alien and unnatural creature even if it slithered right at him on its innumerable pseudopods, dragging its bulbous, amorphic torso on the ground and shrieking eternal damntation from ten thousands ever hungry mouths, each full of black, oozing tongoues, writhing and entwining with each other in a timeless all consuming spiral?

    I know that was the point, but this is actually really good description? Compared to anything I’d come up with anyway. Anything Hearne would come up with? This is miles ahead.

    See! This is what I am talking about! This is unintentional absurdist masterpiece. Semerdjian is a normal person, his reaction to seeing demon should be somewhere between gibbering terror, overwhelming confusion and utter disbelief. And here not only is he discussing it in a tone you would take for an unusually large spider, he actually pushes the line of the absurd by admitting that he has rocket propelled grenade in his garage.

    It’s a surprisingly good bit, isn’t it?

    Sounds like someone has been playing Final Fantasy before coming up with this scene…

    Maybe, but if you called him out on it I suspect Hearne would mock you for knowing what Final Fantasy is, given how Atticus talks about anything not incredibly mainstream.

    I wish Smerdijan actually used his RPG on Atticus.

    I wish there was a line for using an RPG on Atticus.

    To be perfectly honest, I can get this. I mean, aren’t you shocked that there is someone who does not bear Atticus any ill will despite knowing him? I know I am.

    Fair.

    Minor revengefic suggestion: the story from Semerdjian’s point of view, where he finally gets to launch his grenade on Atticus.

    [slams gavel on table] It is law. Someone write this spitefic!

  4. The Smith of Lies on 27 March 2021, 04:46 said:

    Minor revengefic suggestion: the story from Semerdjian’s point of view, where he finally gets to launch his grenade on Atticus.

    [slams gavel on table] It is law. Someone write this spitefic!

    Well, I guess… I mean if it’s law I have no choice.

    July 1970, outskirts of Amman, Jordan

    The heat of summer sun is beating upon us mercilessly. We’ve been in the training field since before the dawn and now the noon is getting closer. But none of us complains, it wouldn’t do to show weakness in front of the ferenghi from Moscow. They call him Carlos and he’s allegedly an expert in guerrilla warfare. So we continue the exercises under his watchful eye.

    October 1983, Ankara, Turkey

    The plan is working out perfectly. We knew the security at the bank will be lax, Omar scouted the place thoroughly before. And then all hell breaks loose. The weird European looking woman points at us and shouts something in her foreign tongue. Before anyone can shut her up or even react in any way those creatures start appearing out of thin air.

    There’s one with limbs long and spindly, they don’t look like they should be able to hold its weight, even though its torso isn’t much larger than a dog. But then it grabs Ali and rips him in half. Another one is a mass of writhing flesh, lying flat on the floor. It shouldn’t be able to even crawl, now with its weird, ungainly shape, without discernable limbs. But it does. It shoots through the air, flapping wildly and engulfs Omar head. If I survive I will hear the wet, squelching sound of his skull being crushed in the nightmares for the rest of my life.

    I let loose with my AK. Even in the state of panic all the training with PFLP does its job. I direct short bursts towards closest creature. The bullets hit what I presume is its centre of mass, it is hard to tell what is what within the tangle of branchlike limbs, sputtering holes and undulating spikes. The force of impact throws it back, it must be lighter than it looks.

    In the time it took me to shoot it Yousef is dead too, his entrails spilled on the floor by what looks like a ball of claws, talons and knives spinning around madly and rolling all over his corpse. I send a burst of bullets its way and start running.

    January 1999, London, England

    I light another cigarette. The man in front of me looks almost as weary as I feel. “So let me get this straight, an amnesty and US citizenship if I take that woman” I point to the picture lying on the table between us “down?” He nods. “Correct. Assuming that you survive. She killed three teams we’ve sent after her already.” I nod. Of course she did, they wouldn’t come to me if she wasn’t a witch. “You people need to learn to respect all that magic bullshit if you want to ever succeed.” Just like I did, the hard way.

    June 2011, Tempe, USA

    I thought I left my old life behind. That here in the US I can finally forget about all the supernatural creatures and just retire. I was wrong. It was that motherfucker O’Sullivan. I have no idea what he is, but he isn’t human, I’ve seen enough of them to know that.

    And now he is fighting some kind of demon right in his front yard. With all the brazen disregard I’ve learned to expect from him. But I am done taking it lying down. I am not getting dragged back into the cesspit by that Irish bastard. Not again. Never again.

    I close my eyes and take couple deep breaths. It has been decades since I’ve last done it. Since London 99. But it is like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it. I go into my garage and push the tool cabinet. I open the hatch in the floor and enter the secondary basement. I thought I was paranoid and clinging to the old life when I had it built and when I gathered an arsenal. Turns out I wasn’t.

    I walk past the wall holding variety of firearms, from side-arms to anti-materiel rifles. But I’ve seen how quickly O’Sullivan healed when the cop shot him, bless the poor man’s soul. I need something bigger. So I open the armoured locker tucked in the corner of the room. I grab the RPG-29 lying inside. It is an old Soviet design, but still deadly, especially when loaded with TBG-29 thermobaric rocket. I grab few white phosphorous grenades, just to be certain. Those regenerating types tend to die hard.

    I walk into my backyard. The demon is nowhere to be seen, but O’Sullivan stands there with a smug expression on his stupid mug. I sling the launcher over my shoulder, it is heavier than I remember. I take aim and fire, the rocket takes him straight into chest. It is probably the most gruesome sight I’ve witnessed since that day back in Ankara.

    I am lucky that it is a launch break time and no one stuck around to witness what happened. I use a rake to move the larger chunks of O’Sullivan inside his house. From there it was a quick and easy work to set up a stove to explode. For the good measure I drop one of the phosphorous charges on the bloody mess in the middle of the room.

    It is late evening when the Police comes to me, asking questions about the fire. But I’m just a harmless old man and I know nothing about what happened. Must have been an accident.

  5. LoneWolf on 27 March 2021, 15:10 said:

    This was much more exciting than the book so far.

  6. TMary on 6 April 2021, 21:40 said:

    I’m going to come back here someday with more in-depth thoughts, but there’s one line that’s just been under my skin ever since I read this sporking and I just realized what bothers me about it.

    the Earth is… a little slow on the uptake. The Earth doesn’t notice the passage of time the way humans do.

    Every ten years I like to meditate for a week and commune with its spirit, which people like to call Gaia nowadays, and she chats fondly about the Cretacious period as if it were something that happened just last month.

    deep breath

    If the Earth thinks of the Cretaceous as just last month, that means time is passing much faster for her than it is for us, not slower! If all sixty-six million years from the Cretaceous until now were squashed together into one month…even if that month has thirty-one days in it, that’s a lotta time! A century must go by every time she blinks! Millenia must feel like days! Atticus was born maybe when she got up this morning!

    Which, you know, actually makes sense for a being that can measure its…lifespan, I guess?…in literal eons. I’m reminded of T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, specifically, the bits where Arthur is…I can’t remember if he was actually turned into a tree and a stone, but Merlin definitely gave him the ability to understand them and see the world from their point of view for a little while. The first thing he noticed from the trees’ perspective was that everything seemed to be moving a lot faster than it had when he was a human. People walked by at top speed, their voices were so fast they were just a buzz, they seemed to grow old in just a few years, that kind of thing.

    Then he saw the world the way the rocks saw it. And suddenly humans all but disappeared, they were going by so fast. People and animals and even trees just sort of melted into this blur that was going by much too fast to even comprehend. And that was all because trees and rocks were aging so much more slowly than humans do. It was a bit that left an impression on me when I was about twelve years old and read it for the first time.

    But my point is that the Earth is “aging”, to use the metaphor, even more slowly than the stones. It is already unbelievably old, and will “live” to be much, much older. The Earth should barely notice the passage of time, not because it goes by too slowly, but because it goes by too quickly. This demon flying around should feel like one of those little phantom itches you get for a brief second before it disappears, if that. Atticus should barely even warrant her attention (for more than the usual reasons, I mean).

    Unless, of course, what he meant was not that time passes more slowly for her, but that she literally doesn’t notice time passing at all. Which…is stupid, because why should the Earth, of all things, not notice time passing? It’s the spirit of the planet! Why shouldn’t she know what is happening to her own self? But I guess that is par for the course in a series where the gods have no idea what the world is like today, except when it’s funny. Grumble grumble shoddy worldbuilding missed opportunities grumble.

    Also, Smith, that might be my favorite of your spitefics to date.

    I have more thoughts – of course – but they can wait for a while. Hope you’re well, Juracan! :)