February 3rd, 2011
323 Anderson Street
Liddell was a small town in south central Wisconsin – a region mostly untouched since 1947, which contained primarily “slaves”, in the Thelemite vocabulary. The Book of the Law stated that “the slaves shall serve”, and serve they did, grumbling about their Enlightened masters while clinging to old, tired, dead ways…just like wage slaves throughout history had. See…nothing had really changed. Democratic elections were not held now – but under the old system, Crowley had observed that they achieved nothing anyway. So people with no power ran the backbone of the American continent, fueling the Kingdom of Man with dairy products and other farm goods, blue-collar beings lost in their own miasma of hopeless fear. Why Maria Conley had moved here was any of her neighbor’s guess…from a small house on one of the main streets in downtown Liddell, she and her children kept quiet vigil over the dead and dying town. She was a weird type…her daughter was still living at home with her, age 23, and she herself was known to spend a lot of time alone. The Conleys didn’t go out much, observed their neighbors with a rueful eye…and when they did they didn’t even wear Thillumite pendants like everyone else. They wore those chaostar things like the weirdos from Madison that were always doing blood magic and showing up to rallies for that no-good rich snob Feingold…the tool of the godless establishment.
Jay never really did appreciate his mother’s decision to move here…he understood now why his father had died, and how. He knew every day he’d have to look at the ridiculous ruins of the HadNu Towers, still waiting to be rebuilt after all this time…and that that would remind him of his dad. A dad he barely remembered, to be honest…except for the stuff in the briefcase, half of it still undeciphered, and the reams of papers and computer files they’d found in a mad search during the months after 5/6. Robin told him stories, sometimes…how her dad had been the awesomest person ever, how Jay had his dad’s face, hair and eyes…how Dad had used to speak of a great discovery he was on the verge of making. Then they’d go and watch Sliders together, and ponder that maybe Dad was out there somewhere, doing awesomeness unto other universes…
It was probably a forlorn hope. But every so often, he’d just sit and meditate, and the smell of bacon and eggs would float across his nostrils with a sense of the ethereal, a sense of dark wonder, and he’d think that maybe his dad was still hanging around. Thelemites often didn’t believe in ghosts – but he did. And if anyone’s ghost could hold on for ten years after a traumatizing event like that…it was a Conley. He might not know his father well, but he knew his own genes. They were epic-level badass genes…Mom had taken him hunting once, just to fit in with the neighbors. Yeah right…just to blow the living daylights out of some deer with gigantic weapons. It was fun – and venison was quite tasty. Robin wasn’t bad with a gun herself – her exploits at the shooting ranges in the local area were legendary. And his grandpa had been a pilot during the Second Great War…he’d seen some Foo Fighters. So yeah…death couldn’t stop the coolest family ever. Thoughts like that comforted Jay, as his mom and big sis trained him in all the magical arts you could name, and a few that no one could. Those were the most important kind, and he sort of had a head for them.
It was almost as if he was in touch with the Tao…but instead of the Tao, it was this big chaosy thing, a purple miasma of whopping awesomeness that he couldn’t understand, but which understood him perfectly and guided his actions. Today it was guiding him out of the quiet bed where he lay at 11 AM (early for a Saturday), down the stairs to a quick breakfast of peanut butter and jelly, then to the computer to work on some forums he was a member of while he waited for Robin to come back from…wherever she’d gone to. She was always going places, now…off on adventures to the local haunts to find cool stuff for their magical experiments, and sometimes cross-country to meet with gods knew who. Maybe she was a magical secret agent…given Mom’s skill with guns and Dad’s innovative magical sensibility, it wouldn’t surprise him in the least. So unfair…she got to have all the fun.
Clicking “post” on a particularly smart rebuttal of some idiot who thought that he was half-Great Old One or some random thing like that, Jay turned on some Metallica, loudly. Just then, the door opened. “Of WOLF….and GIRL!” Robin bapped Jay upside the head, grinning as she sang along. Her long brown hair flailed to the guitar riffs, yet another wild moment of abandon. Probably the thirteenth since waking that morning, Jay figured…his sister really knew how to rock her life up, even without music. “Turn that down, bro. You and I got some things to discuss.”
“Yup yup…I found the key to our next big break.”
“Where were you?” Jay looked at her curiously. Grocery bags didn’t really bode well for finding arcane clues…especially grocery bags full of Dr. Pepper and sandwich goods. Looks like she was planning another party.
“Pick and Save…duh….” Robin smiled. “I was walking down the aisle and sorta – y’know – meditating and being all spacey in between the deli counter and the fruit, and I had the coolest idea ever.”
Jay raised an eyebrow, turning down the music as ordered. It was too loud to hear her anyway. “Oh yeah?”
“I love it…I’m about to explode from breakthrough awesomeness and he goes ‘Oh yeah?’ like I just told him I found a cool picture on Flickr.” Robin rolled her eyes. “Bro..you know the vortexes? The ones in Dad’s notes, that had all the energy-like runes next to them?”
Jay nodded. “I can’t figure those things out to save my life.”
Robin’s eyes shone with an incandescence that bordered on crazy…in fact, knowing her she’d probably flipped right there in the middle of the grocery store. Jay smiled as she spoke. “I figured them out. Been doing some research on a few odd forums, like Mystikos…it seems that the chaos current comes from those vortexes. Like ley lines, sorta. And if you stand on one you get to this alternate dimension…it’s called Wonderland.”
Oh god she’s finally flipped. Jay sighed. “Sis…that’s preposterous.”
“No it’s not…load up the scan. You gotta see this.”
Jay dutifully went into the Recent Documents folder and pulled up the image file…then waited. “Dumb computer…way too slow.”
“Yeah I know, right?” Robin chuckled, pointing at the freshly loaded scan. “See those spirals, then the 23 at the bottom?”
Jay looked for the thirteen thousandth time, expression neutral. “Yeah. So? It means enigma…any fool knows that.”
Robin shook her head. “Nope – that right there is a redonkulous misconception. See…we always thought the Wonderland people were crazy, being as they were IOT dorks and all, right? Well that’s the whole point. You’re supposed to think it’s crazy…” She paused dramatically.
“Jay. What is the 23rd letter of the alphabet?”
“W. Could be West, then…or Where? Or Walk…or Wizard.”
“Or Wise Guy.” Robin thwapped Jay on the nose. “Pay attention…I’m not there yet.”
“It’s almost Valentine’s Day, bro…you know how certain things set your mind wandering and you come up with killer new ideas?” Well, her mind anyway. Jay was far more linear. Which sucked, because sometimes she wanted someone to be “redonkulous” with. Robin continued, unperturbed by the lack of redonkulosity in her closest companion’s brain. “I was looking at a Valentine’s Day cake display in the bakery…they had all these little small cakes there, like tarts. And for some reason looking at them out of the corner of my eye brought to mind the Queen of Hearts and the tarts she made, right?”
“One day when they examine your brain for science they’ll figure out where you get this stuff, Robs.”
Robin grinned. “I know…isn’t it great? Now the 23 enigma can be connected to the 5 Ws…Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Well I propose an answer…Wisconsin, Walk, Winter, Wonderland and Win.” Her grin widened.
“That…doesn’t even make sense. You didn’t answer the five Ws. At. All.” It was Jay’s turn to deliver a thwap.
“Oh, like I care…I reached the goal I wanted and it only took me a little bit of unthink.” Unthink was Robin’s term for letting her mind run free, what a psychologist would call “free association”…the problem, as Jay saw it, was that if you let Robin’s mind run free it ended up in a china shop smashing things, and your running of the bullcrap turned into a disaster.
Jay rolled his eyes. “Sis…not that I hate your methods or anything, but you’re quite mad.” He always tended towards far more structured magic…he was like a slightly more innovative Thelemite. But maybe since she was older, she knew what was going on…his senses weren’t the best, because he always questioned the stuff he saw and heard. Was it real? Was the person talking to him the one that he meant to contact? Not so with Robin…she didn’t care in the slightest, and she got a lot more done. He had to hand that to her.
“I know. Isn’t it great?” Robin smiled. “So are we going to the woods out on 69 or not? I was scrying a map when I got out to the car and I found just the place.”
“It’d totally be just like you to scry a road map in the middle of the grocery store parking lot, wouldn’t it?” Jay grinned. “All right…let’s go with your goofy plan. We’ll see if it works…and if it doesn’t I’m gonna pulverize you.”
“You bet you are, scrawnypuff.” Robin ruffled her little brother’s black hair, her blue eyes meeting his. “But first…I got sammich fixings and Dr. Pepper right here…hard-rockin’ subs and 23-flavored magic juice. Whaddya say?”
Jay smiled widely. “I do not think you could convince me away from sammiches too easily.”
“Yeah…teenage boys eat a ridiculous amount of food.” Robin gave him the metal horns and pulled out bread, veggies, meat, dijon mustard, mayonnaise and oregano…it was time for lunch. After lunch, the adventure could begin…maybe they’d get even further on their quest than they expected.
Or, Jay surmised, they might be eaten by a grue or something. It could be a total disaster. But then again, he had an awesome sister on his side, who was also totally bonkers.
All the best people were!