aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 60: O Rose, Thou Art Sick

There is free memory available into which we can design our programs, to increase the trespass of Israel.

September 3, 1999
Magdalena, New Mexico

It could have been that she was pretty once. Now her face was sunken, her head hairless. Her arm was hung in a cast, and she looked terribly frail.

“You’re the ritual magician?” she asked. “But you look so…”

“So young? Twenty. And that’s ‘apprentice ritual magician’ to you. Technically I’m not even allowed to do consultations on my own. And yet here we are.”

“I asked a friend for the best ritualist in Greater Colorado who was, you know…”

“Unencumbered by ethics? Well, like I said, here we are.”

“Yes, that.” The young lady wrinkled her nostrils. Typical stuck-up rich girl, he thought to himself, wanting his decidedly black-market services but still holding him in contempt for providing them. “What’s your name?”

“Lola Rivers.”

It sounded fake, but he didn’t care. Anyone who gave their real name in a business like this was either a fool, or else so arrogant as to defy belief.

“And I’m Dylan Alvarez. Nice to meet you, Ms. Rivers. What can I do for you?”

Not that he didn’t know. Head as smooth as an apple, frame that looked like she could stand to gain forty pounds or so, desperate look in her eyes. And here she was, seeking illicit magical help. Cancer, that was what it was. He could see it from a mile away.

“I want you to teach me to summon demons.”

Well, that was unexpected. He always liked a change of pace.

“Which demon, exactly, are we talking about?”

“Thamiel. The Lord of Demons.”

“Hoo boy, lady, you go all the way to the top. Or bottom, as the case may be. Look, I’m as unencumbered by ethics as the next guy, but I gotta ask you – you sure you want to do that?”


She looked familiar. Alvarez squinted. If she had a little more flesh on her bones, a bit more hair, then…he still wouldn’t be able to place her. Damn.

“I understand a summoning doesn’t really bring him here, right? Not in a way where he could destroy anything later, or infiltrate the city?”

“That’s mostly true.” He took a copy of the Greater Key Of Solomon off his shelf. Then a few other grimoires. The Goetia. The Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage. The Antichrist’s Cookbook. None were relevant to the issue at hand, but he was a ritualist; he played to an audience. Opening a grimoire was a way of saying hey, I’m serious about this demonology thing.

“Demons of that caliber are in Yetzirah or Briah already; for all we know Thamiel projects into Atziluth. Hell, they say he’s a facet of God. When you’re at that level, space is just a big game. They’ll play by the rules, but a summoning changes those rules a little. You get an aspect. You could think of it as a shade. It’s not like Thamiel starts off in Siberia or Hell and then you summon him and he’s in Colorado. You allow the parts of him that are everywhere to take on a little more shape.”

“And how dangerous is that?”

“The good news is that technically he has no power except that which you give him. The bad news is that there’s a crack in everything. Just like there’s no unpickable lock, there’s no flawless soul. If you’re escalating all the way up to Thamiel himself, there will be holes in you big enough to let him in, and from there he’ll do what he wants.”

“But other people, bystanders, they’ll be safe?”

“God no. They’ll be safe from Thamiel. They won’t be safe from you when he’s done with you.”

“I appreciate your candor.”

“At your service. Dylan Alvarez, the West’s greatest expert in demonology, demononomy, and demonography. Tell all your friends.”

She didn’t smile. The two word phrase he would have used was “steely resolve”. Someone who seemed like she always knew what she was doing. And yet someone thinking about summoning Thamiel. Very curious.

“Can you give me a ritual that will work?”

“Lady, I can give you twenty. The bottleneck to summoning Thamiel isn’t that it’s difficult, it’s that you would have to be a freaking moron to try.”

He watched for a reaction. She didn’t give him one.

“Look, Ms. Rivers, I’m not blind. You’ve got cancer. People with cancer do some desperate things. So go see the quack who says he can cure you with mushrooms and dried beetle legs. Drink a homeopathic solution or two. But don’t summon Thamiel.”

“Again, I appreciate your candor.”

“You’ve already paid me. I get the same amount either way.”

“Send me the ritual by Monday. I’ll give you a PO box you can use. In fact, if there are twenty, send me extras, in case the first doesn’t work. I can pay you more.”

“I’ll send you the paperwork. But Ms. Rivers. I’m serious. Don’t do this. Your health, your life, whatever it is you want from him – it’s not worth it.”

“I think it will be,” said Ms. Rivers. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Alvarez.”

Before he could respond, the lady was gone.

“Well, that was the least boring thing to happen to me today,” said Dylan, and he started copying summoning rituals.

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