Attack on an Evil God
by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson
Chapter 2: Boy Meets Necromancer
Maggi was listening to the radio while driving to the university. A popular politician named Dora was speaking: “We celebrate diversity, and will bring unity and equality to all. Sadly there are always those who need to be different, it’s true, but in the future they won’t have to be. We will fund schools and health education and support sports and other mandatory physical education, and as a society we shall take care of the elderly and the frail, and...” so on and so forth.
To Maggi it sounded like so much foam. The political parties were all like little cults, completely unreasonable and hostile to outside influence, including reality. He had participated in two elections and had thus far just voted for the one least hostile to him.
He had forgotten all about the news when he got to lunch, and he sat beside a couple of people he had seen around but didn’t know: a man and a woman. They were about his age, maybe younger. The man was dressed casually; the woman eccentrically adhered to an almost WW2-era style. And she seemed to be explaining maths to the man. That is, until Maggi had listened to them for the duration of his meal.
Sure, it began like maths, with all those strange Greek and Latin words thrown about and the numbers and the spatial explanations and layouts. They were writing this all out on an A4 paper-notebook. But no...
“The sun-rune is supposed to turn this way,” said the girl, in a tone like she was teaching maths. “No, not like that. And the periorismós signs need to be evenly spaced — like this — around the perimeter. That’s like we have it, and it seems to work fine.”
“But how do you control it?” asked the man.
“That’s why we need you.”
“And we won’t be alone?”
“No, no. That’s not it at all.”
The man eyed her sideways. He noticed that Maggi was watching them and grinned at him, nodding toward the girl as he did, indicating to Maggi that he thought she was a bit of a loon.
The girl looked at the clock and hurried away to class. The man and Maggi stood up and walked to their respective classes, which happened to be in the same direction. He said to Maggi, in a friendly tone: “I thought she was hitting on me there for a moment, but she actually seems to want me to join her witches’ coven.”
“Yeah, apparently. It’s called the “Evil Beaver” or some such nonsense. They are in my class. There used to be four of them, but two of them were involved in a crash last week. Fun people, but weirdos.”
Maggi nodded. Witches. That was what the world needed.
He saw the girl again when he was going home. It was raining, and he offered her a ride. Figured she would at least be interesting company on the way home. And she was. Her name was Freyja and, after some initial chat, she warmed up and asked him if he wanted to join her coven, except she didn’t call it a coven. “We have a little club for the research of thaumaturgical qualities. We call it ‘Look Out Beaver!’ Such a good name for a club.”
Maggi raised an eyebrow, but nodded.
“Me and my friends — well, there used to be four of us, but Palli and Linda got hit by a car last week — you may have heard of it?” She looked like she was about to say something more on the topic but held her tongue.
Yes, Maggi had heard of it. They had been walking on the sidewalk, when a car had gone up over the grass median between the road and the sidewalk, run over them and accelerated away, never to be seen again. Nothing suspicious there. The media blamed speeding.
“We need one more. Hansi found a girl next door to him that he says is willing, and if you will do it...?” she eyed him hopefully.
Maggi thought about it. His parents had told him to go out more. But that usually meant going to the bars and getting drunk, and he was rather averse to that, even though there was nothing else to do, really. So here was a weirdo who wanted him for some cult ritual. Seemed harmless enough. He wondered if it would involve her getting naked and waving a snake around. He hoped so.
“Sure, I can come. What do I need to know?”
She lit up: “Oh great! When can you come?”
“Yes, I have class the day after tomorrow. That means I can come today.”
“Great!” she said, and fiddled some with her phone.
Maggi smiled to himself. He wondered what he had got himself into. Some sort of Life Action Role Playing, probably. He wondered if he could maintain a straight face through the whole ceremony but doubted it.
“Hansi says everything should be ready after eight. Can you come then?” asked Freyja after a couple of minutes of texting.
“Sure, I guess,” said Maggi. “Will it take long?”
“Sometimes we go on into the night, but I promise we’ll take it easy on you the first time.”
* * *
Maggi showed up at the address Freyja had given him at about ten past eight, with some snacks because he didn’t want to show up empty-handed and because he figured they’d all need some snacks. He also figured they’d already have snacks, but one can never have too many snacks.
Hansi greeted him at the door. “You must be Maggi,”
Maggi nodded. “I brought snacks.”
“Yes, welcome to the Lookout Beaver Club, for thaumaturgical research.”
They shook hands.
“Why is it called the Lookout Beaver Club?”
Hansi grinned as he explained. “I was listening to Venom with a friend of mine once when we were kids, and one of the lyrics went: ‘Look out, beware,’ and we thought it was: ‘look out, beaver!’ for the longest time. Until we got older and thought it very strange that anyone would want anyone to be on the lookout for a beaver, so I looked it up. But I thought my mondegreen was funny, so I used it for my club.”
“Too bad this isn’t a wildlife observation club.”
“Eh, there aren’t any beavers here anyway.”
“But thaumaturgy is?”
They went into the living room, where the girls were chatting away.
“Hey! Maggi!” said Freyja, excited. “Here, this is Anna from next door.”
“Hello, Anna from next door,” said Maggi, and shook hands with the ordinary-looking dark-haired girl. He recognized her from the university, had seen her in the Philosophy section. She looked like a schoolteacher, and he found himself wondering if she’d become one after graduation.
Anna looked like she was saying something, and Maggi was pretty sure he sensed something subliminally.
“Now that we’re all here, I’d better explain what we do,” said Freyja.
“You already know we are a magic club, in a word,” said Hansi.
“Yes, we collect magic: runes and symbols and magical artifacts and try to figure out how they work.”
“And we have plans on how to make monsters, and one of our former club-mates even went so far as to try to make one.”
“And we have managed to catch a monster.”
“And we have a goat.”
Maggi and Anna gaped.
“No, really,” said Freyja, “we’ll show you it later.”
“No, the monster. And the goat. If you want.”
“How...?” asked Maggi, now completely disbelieving.
Freyja and Hans were silent for a breath. Then Freyja said to Hansi, “Maybe we went a bit too fast.”
“I think so, yes,” said Hansi.
“You just told us magic exists and that you have a monster stashed in your basement somewhere,” said Maggi. “Trust me, we picked that much up.”
“No, we were too fast. We can show you all this, prove it to you,” said Hansi.
“You see,” Freyja picked up, speaking deliberately and clearly, “there is old magic, and there is new magic.” She motioned with her hands for emphasis. “The new magic comes from technology — or with it — we cannot say which. And some of it destroys or interrupts old magic.”
“Yeah, that’s how we caught the mara,” said Hansi.
“That what now?” asked Maggi.
“Mara. It’s a monster. Long story,” said Hansi.
“We’ll get to the monster later. I have to explain the magic first.”
“Do tell,” said Maggi. Anna looked stunned.
Freyja ignored their disbelief. “In the old times, the world was full of ghosts and magic. Then came electricity, and it pushed the ghosts and faded the magic away, and has been evolving into new magic.”
“Exactly, electric magic. We don’t know how it works, not completely, we have found only a few uses.”
“You can do magic. And you have a goat.”
“This isn’t working,” said Freyja. “Hansi, we need to show them.”
“We can begin with the goat, that’s easy,” said Hansi, and got up.
They all followed him. The goat could be easily seen out the kitchen window, where it was standing tied to a pole via a length of chain, and munching on grass. Anna wanted to go and pet the goat, so they did, and spent a good quarter of an hour in the back yard, looking at the goat, petting it, and generally examining the back yard.
“Now we go down to the basement,” said Hansi, “to look at the mara. We caught the mara after a few tries. Our forerunners in the club — it was called ‘The Magic Club’ back then — they had already found out that the electric field from transmitting apparatus can interrupt the mara as it manifests. The transmitting apparatus being a radio or telephone.
“This was the time when everybody was getting cellulars. A mara was harassing a friend of ours, and we figured we could maybe catch it before it trod him to death. He agreed to help. We constructed a box to put it in. He told us the mara was more or less human-shaped, so we built a sort of Faraday-cage coffin, lined with lead. Just a thin layer, to be able to transport the thing at all, and some iron straps. Construction sort, galvanized.
“We had to feed him sedatives to get him to sleep, with us there, and then we drank a lot of energy drink to stay awake. But then the mara appeared. It was invisible, but we knew it was there because it trod on our friend. He was gasping for air; we heard his ribs begin to creak.
“The mara ignored us. We had three phones; I got one, Freyja had two. And I called her on one, and she called me on another, and the effects were immediate. The signal field from the phone moved the mara away from us, and we could herd it into the box and seal it in. And now it is in the basement.”
They arrived in the basement, Hansi flung open the door, and there it was, an ugly grey box propped up on some cinderblocks.
Maggi looked at it. The box resembled a coffin in outward dimensions, but looked rather atrocious, just grey plywood painted grey, with some snowflake runes surrounding a massive swastika on the lid, and the sides with evenly spaced Greek letters. Underneath it lay three cellphones, so evenly spaced as to be obviously placed there deliberately. He asked, “You claim there’s a monster in there?”
“There is, you’ll see,” said Hansi.
“You’ll open the box?”
“And let the monster out? Don’t think so.”
“I will explain this,” said Freyja walking past them to the box.
Maggi and Anna looked at each other. Anna shrugged. “Hansi told me some of this before...” To which Maggi nodded.
Freyja began her short lecture on the box, pointing at its features as she mentioned them: “The Faraday cage is inside this lead-lined box, the mara is inside that. That on the top is the sun-rune, to keep the mara thinking it is day regardless of what time of day it actually is. Those are wards against thieves and the curious, respectively, and those on the side are the periorismós, signs to keep the mara or the signal rays from escaping out the sides.
“Those phones underneath are to keep the mara inside under constant stress. They always emit a faint signal-field. We have three more which we use while those are being recharged. You see they are quite old. That’s an original iPhone.”
Maggi looked around. Hansi interrupted his musings. “We also have the killer robot.”
They were led to a broom closet, on which was a sign which read: “This machine kills fascists.”
“You see, that’s literal in this case... or that’s what we’re told,” said Freyja. “The thing inside was meticulously crafted by our predecessors to kill fascists.”
“Why didn’t it?” asked Maggi.
“I’ll tell you,” Hansi said, opening the closet, revealing a humanoid-shaped, and very deadly-looking robot. It featured simple limbs on a simple body, all well articulated, feet padded with rubber and hands featuring three long and sharp claws, a foot long each. The head had an eye on it.
“The guy who made this spent a year on the body with a couple of friends of his, then hardwired the “kill fascists” command into it, both into the brain-scanning apparatus between its eyes and into the pseudo-organic matter, which he always called “ectoplasm” when talking to me about it. Completley the wrong term, if you ask me.
“He spent a whole summer researching what fascism is to be able to do that. The only thing needed really was to feed it some pure blood and meld flesh onto it to hold a sacrificial soul to animate it.”
“You need human sacrifice to turn that thing on?”
“Nah, just a sheep or a dog or some other higher mammal.”
“But how come he didn’t turn it on, then?”
“He woke up one day and looked in the mirror.”
Maggi and Anna stood and stared.
“He realized he’d be first on the kill list. Then his friends.”
“He’s a fascist?”
“Like about a third of the nation, but at least he had the presence of mind to find out and freely admit it.”
Hansi went into more detail about the individual parts of the metal-monster and the history of each, which in some cases reached back more than ten years. He also explained the basics of fascism, and how and why very few people actually know what it is.
“It is now our secret weapon,” he concluded.
“That’s why we have the mantra every morning,” said Freyja, and she began. “We don’t care about regional suffrage. We don’t care about minimum wage, we don’t want progressive taxation to flatten out wages. We are happy with or without a senate, we think anybody should be able to produce weapons and explosives, anybody should be able to work for their own interest or profit without government interruption. We don’t care for compulsory sports as individuals’ health is their own business. Churches and religious establishments are none of our business.”
“That’s the anti-fascist mantra,” said Freyja. “We looked up the primary fascist establishments of the 20th century and just intone the opposite until we believe it.”
“If we want to be able to use our secret weapon, we have to live by that code.”
“How much can you deviate?”
“I don’t know.”
Hansi said, “We’d better be on the safe side and assume this thing doesn’t differentiate between communists, socialists and fascists.”
Maggi looked at Anna again. Anna looked amused.
“I thought we’d play cards,” she said.
“Me too,” said Maggi.
Proceed to Chapter 3...
Copyright © 2017 by Ásgrímur Hartmannsson