When I had my second run-in with the demon, pirated punk music was blasting into my ears, courtesy of the iPod on my hip. Thwarted by the wards the Cabal of the T had erected around the blocks surrounding Lark Street, he took to Lurking in Empire Plaza, a large, hypermodern office complex that housed a large number of the offices for New York State.
I was standing in the Concourse, the long, underground portion of the Plaza which served to connect all of the State buildings. It was long and white, and the walls were dotted with abstract works of art that were, apparently, produced by Kindergartners, but some famous artist signed thier name, and suddenly the tripe was art.
At any rate, the demon was standing outside of the McDonalds, waiting for me. He had no physical form this time; the last time I had seen him, the demon had possessed an officer worker from someplace in this complex. Of course, the last time I had seen the demon, I was an uninitiated n00b. Things change. I wondered, momentarially, what had happened to the anonymous officer worker who I had seen. When a demon finds a good host, they rarely give it up without a reason.
When I saw the demon, my new tattoo started pulsing painfully. Across the back of my neck and shoulderblades, I had a recently been marked with a stylized transistor symbol, a circle, with two angled lines, representing the emitter and the collector of the transistor, connecting to a T shape, representing the base. The foundation of all digital logic and all modern technology.
The demon spread its wings, which were thin sheets of what looked like glowing C++ code. Across its transluscent, corpse-like skin, ran sharp angled currents of light, tracing circuit like patterns. Its burly arms terminated in claws, each glowing at the tip like a laser-pointer. It snarled, and ran its tongue over its teeth, each one a sharp needle of metal.
Demons always overdid it when they chose their form.
No one else saw it, since no one else in the Concourse was really paying attention for the etherial manifestation of malevolent entities. This didn't change the fact that there was a large crowd moving through the large corridor, which meant anything I did was going to have to be subtle. The demon, unfortunately, didn't have any similar restrictions.
I took a breath, and without breaking stride, focused my will. In my mind's eye, I saw a blinking cursor at a linux command prompt. The computer name was displayed as "Anastasia", the name of the Beowulf cluster I kept in my apartment. Over the course of weeks, I had gently used variants of necromantic rituals to evoke a consiousness in my computer, and even more important, a strong connection that allowed me to interact with my computer remotely like this. It was always a bit fuzzy and limited, but it provided a fast and easy way to cast spells.
In this case, my mind saw the cursor move across the screen, leaving letters behind it:
[dresden@Anastasia]$ t_interpret start ~/spellbook/firewalld.sml
When I mentally stroked the enter key, I felt my Will extend out, touching Anastasia, and powering the calculations performed by the "t_interpret" program, shaping the commands in the firewalld.sml file, a specially designed XML document containing all of the needed instructions to cast the spell. A moment later a white bubble appeared around me. While none of the other passerby could see it, they could feel it. An almost perfectly circular gap in the crowd appeared around me.
A moment later, the demon's first salvo, which appeared to me as a glowing blue fireball, slammed into my shield. The firewall detected the malicious traffic coming towards me, and blocked it. Back in Anastasia's log, the transgression was logged, and there was a momentary spike in her processor usage. Surprised at seeing his attack turned aside so casually, the demon leapt forward, his wings out. He sailed over my head, and landed behind a sculpture created by someone with a great deal of enthusiasm, a welder, and questionable artistic taste.
I wasn't prepared for this fient, but I was quick to compensate. I whipped my PDA from my pocket, using it as a wand to focus my energies. The spellwork I had tied up into it started to feed me images of the Concourse but spelled out in terms I could understand. I saw it as UML diagrams and source code from a few dozen languages. It wasn't a real representation of what was around me- it was an abstracted, simplified form. It wasn't "true", in any literal sense- but it was a useful metaphor for me.
Again, I reached out with my will, this time feeling my way through the "digital essense" of the Concourse. I could feel the strands of information that held the demon in place in this reality. The "pointer reference" that told the Universe where he was. I couldn't just go and forcibly delete that information; the Universe protested against such gross, sloppy manipulations. It liked to keep up the myth of the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy. But you could trick the world.
I felt a malediction forming around the demon- since the normal stuff wasn't going to dent my firewall spell, he was going to try for something more complex and nasty. There was a good chance that it would work too; I hadn't fully tested the firewall software, and there was very likely exploitable bugs that a carefully designed malediction could exploit. Of course, such a working took time.
I wasn't going to give the demon that time.
I felt for the "pointer reference" again, which, in computer terms, was a variable that stored the location in memory of some actual data. In this case, the data was the demon. In C++, to destroy the demon, I would type the command:
But, the Universe would hate that. It would work to prevent that from happening, as would the demon's will- and the two of them against me in a battle of sheer will wasn't going to end happily. If I had the "true name" of the demon- the actual name of the pointer reference variable, I might stand a chance. But I didn't, and wasn't going to take the time to find it out, when there was a simple, elegant solution.
demon_ptr = new Demon(*nullDemon)
Using my will as a lever to pry into the fabric of reality, I made enough room to slip the idea of that code, and let reality close back into it. A moment later, the demon was gone, replaced with nothing at all. The "new Demon(*nullDemon)" is representative of a generic summoning- but a summoning that summons nothing at all- the idea of a demon, without actually activating any of the things that make it a demon. By putting that value into demon_ptr, I removed the pointer reference to the demon for this space in reality. Hence the "poof". He still existed, he was "still in memory", but there was no pointer referencing him, giving him a location in this world. He was, for all intents and purposes, in limbo.
Happy with a job well done, I continued through the Concourse.
Two weeks ago, that demon would have eaten me alive. Three weeks ago, and we wouldn't have even bothered to note each other's existance, because three weeks ago, I was, what the Ts call, a Mundie. A Norm. A Straight. My only experience with the occult had been an ex-girlfriend who read the tarot and wore a pentacle.
Two weeks ago, I had my mind rather forcibly opened.
The morning after I got "booted", as the Ts put it, I woke up in the early afternoon, feeling the mental blitzkrieg that usually accompianies the wrong kind of drugs. My mind felt like it had been attacked with a jigsaw, cut into bits, scattered around the room, and hastily reassembled, with duct tape covering the gaps. For a good five minutes after I gained consiousness, I couldn't focus my eyes. All I could feel was a vague tingling all over my skin, and a sheet of white noise over my ears.
A moment's concentration and I managed to get my eyes under control. I was in my bedroom, which was at least something. The other side of the bed was warm, which was the first thing I felt as the tingling faded. I also had apparently not spent the night alone. Again, not a bad start to the day. I sent my nerves the command to sit up, which they stubbornly refused until I had issued the command a half dozen times. I should have listened to my nerves, as the act of sitting up made my head split open again, scattering brain goo all over the room.
Or so it felt.
The white noise sound wasn't fading. I put both hands on my head and shook it very slowly, trying to confirm whether or not I was actually leaking brain goo. Satisfied that my skull was intact, I started listening, and discovered that the white-noise was coming from the bathroom. Using bits of furniture for support, I waded my way through the layers of dirty laundry and empty donut boxes on the floor. The noise stopped just as I stepped into the bathroom.
There was a pert, naked redhead with my toothbrush in her mouth. At this point, I realized that I too was naked- something I normally would be aware of rather quickly, save for the fact that I couldn't see straight and my skin still tingled. Even so, upon seeing this attractive young woman, I discovered that at least _one_ set of nerves was working properly. I also made a mental note of the fact that she was a natural redhead.
She smirked at my growing tumescence, but simply continued brushing her teeth. After a few more strokes, she pulled her hair back, spat into the sink, and began to rinse the toothbrush, and then her mouth. When she was finished- and I watched the entire time, this was entertainment, she smirked again. "Why is it, whenever I put something of yours in my mouth, I end up spitting out a load of white shit?" She poked me in the stomach and slipped past me, back into the bedroom.
"Um... good morning. I'd offer you breakfast," I said, "but all I've got is a ten-pack of those Drake's Fruit Pies." I followed her back into the bedroom, where she was pulling on a skintight pair of jeans, covered in marker, full of holes, and more or less held together with safety pins.
"Actually, you don't. We killed those last night." Still topless, she fished around in her jeans pockets, pulled out a black pack of cigarettes. "But I need caffeine. Hit the Daily Grind? My treat." She pulled out a pair of cigarettes, and tossed me one. They were wrapped in black paper and smelled of clove oil. She grabbed my lighter off of the nightstand, lit hers, tossed it to me, and I did the same.
I flopped down next to her on the bed. The sudden movement completely unbalanced me, and I ended up falling off onto the floor, and landing on my head. Fortunately, there was half a foot of dirty clothing to break my fall. "Jeezus... what did we take last night?"
She pulled a long drag off of her cigarette, tossed her long, curly hair back over her shoulder, and looked down at me in a demure, Audrey Hepburn sort of way. I pulled myself back up onto the bed, hand over hand, like scaling a mountain. I burned the sheets with the tip of the cigarette as I did so. This was not the first, and wouldn't be the last such burn in my sheets.
Looking over at her, with my head at about chest level, I noticed that both of her nipples were pierced. And between her breasts, at the flat area just above the clevage, was a tattoo that was some sort of deco-styled remake of a transistor symbol from electrical diagrams.
"Get your ass dressed." She said, slowly dragging on the cigarette.
So I did. A few times my eyes went out of focus, and once I had to stop just because I thought my head was going to explode. But I got it done. She also dressed, throwing on a shirt that had been made by taking an actual army surplus shirt and cutting it up, putting it back together in a smaller size using dental floss for thread. The neck was low, and showed off her tattoo. The chest was tight, showing off her piercings through the fabric.
"My, oh my," I wondered to myself, "what did you bring home last night?"
I lived on Lark Street in Albany. As Greenwich Village is to New York city, Lark Street is to Albany. It's a half-mile long strip, featuring head shops, trendy botiques, quirky restuarants, and the requisite indie coffee bar, which was where we were headed. On the weekend, Lark Street is usually pretty packed, with pedestrians taking over the street and ignoring traffic. On some weekends, Lark Street gets swarmed over when they have a street festival. This would be one of those weekends.
At first, I couldn't tell whether or not it was a Community Solidarity weekend, a Gay Pride weekend, or a Summer Festival. You see basically the same people. Besides, when I stepped outside, into the sun, the noise, and the smell of too many people crowding into a handful of blocks, coupled with the smell of street vendors selling fried dough and hotdogs, I was pretty overwhelmed. I spent a few moments holding onto the railing that seperated the stairs down to my apartment from the sidewalk, trying to gather my wits. The unnamed girl watched me wordlessly, looking vaguely sympathetic.
Maybe even a little guilty?
The noise started to resolve itself into actual distinguishable sounds. The moving blobs of color turned into people and clothing. Rainbows. I made out the band that was playing and cringed. The Indigo Girls. Apparently this was a Gay Pride weekend. Could have sworn we already had one this month. Maybe that was the Beltane festival? Wait, that was in May.
I stopped trying to puzzle it out. Instead, I realized there was only one solution to this. Caffine, and in mass quantity. "Is it always like this?" the girl asked, shouting to be heard.
"Nah, just one day a month usually. Summer is actually usually pretty quiet, they try and get this crap in while the college students are around."
"The college students are around! It's the first weeked in September."
"Oh. I need coffee. Let's move, and don't let anything get in your way." She nodded, and fell in behind me. Between the pounding headache threatening to pound my eyeballs into jelly and the fact that I absolutely loathe the Indigo Girls with an unholy passion rivalled only by my hate for Microsoft and the mayor of Albany, I was spurred to move quickly through the crowd, and without any polite nicities. I just forced my way through, pushing people out of my way- they were between me and my only salvation this morning. The only thing more vile than the Indigo Girls themselves was the fans. Normally, I just avoid them, but they were in my way goddammit! So I added verbal assaults to my crowd navigating repitoire. "Clear the way you fucking shamu of a dyke," and "Out of my way before I break that wrist!" and so on.
Great thing about these liberal types though- they hate violent conflict. They obligingly moved, and then muttered nasty things about me behind my back.
I kept that last line to keep taufell happy. That toasterkin thing kills me every time. As for "Why Dresden"- it was a tip of the hat to the "Harry Dresden Files", a modern day occult mystery series by Jim Butcher.