IV. Cultists

 
 

We chant for the inhalation of truth. Not the illusion we know, but the truth we do not know, for all things move endlessly from ignorance to knowledge. As the morning is the revelation of light, so the evening is the revelation of darkness, and the only illusion is that which passes between. Transitory. Meaningless.

 

 

I remember what inspired my own interest in these matters for the first time. I was still in college, a freshman and an undergraduate, when my studies led me to visit the closed stacks in the school library. Those books, kept out of circulation under lock and key, showed me the oddest things. My mother was very pleased to hear that I was trying to go further than my professors had asked of me, and I was proud to have her approval.

 

Those who journey beyond, they talk of spiders and elves a great deal.

 

 

Do you not understand?

 

***

 

It probably can’t be called history.

 

History is a collection of records of past thoughts, words and deeds, and interpretation of those records. But history has one thread that runs through it all.

 

It’s human.

 

What we’re talking about now, this is pre-human. It’s older than the oldest faith, the longest memory. It has no monuments now but the dust. And the void, of course.

 

We will confine ourselves, for now to talking about why our spiritual society—our Cult—exists, and why we do what we do tonight.

 

Let us consider in broad terms…

 

***

 

There were, of course, the usual medieval grimoires and the standard-issue blasphemies. What is blasphemy, after all, but a transgression against dogma? And what is dogma, if not a body of spiritual norms, a set of homeowners’ association guidelines for the soul? So you will forgive me if I was unimpressed by tales of pacts with fallen angels and renunciations of belief in a god I wasn’t sure was even there. I thought my mother would be offended at such a change in my faith. But she approved!

 

They’re not exactly spiders and elves, actually.

 

Do you find this confusing?

 

You will pass from ignorance to knowledge. I do not need to promise this.

 

They promise it.

 

***

 

There are many beliefs in an Age of Darkness to come. It’s been described everywhere from Revelation to Ragnarok, Howard Lovecraft to the Kali Yuga. This many spirits, separated by time and space, cannot possibly all have dreamed falsely of the future. The Age of Darkness is coming—or should I say, returning.

 

You see, there are many other worlds, but one world is most important to ours. A world separated from us by an impossible gulf, yet nearer than our next heartbeat.

 

Some call it the Nemesis World.

 

This place, state of mind, time, whatever you might want to call it—your words can’t capture it!—is also widely described. There are fringe pseudo-scientists and charlatans who speak of Babylonian myth and strange artifacts in the astrophysical record, talking of a rogue planet that roars lifeless and cold through the stars and ravages Earth when a certain number of millennia have passed. These fairytales mask the reality of the Nemesis World.

 

***

 

All the interactions of the world seem to be woven, or at least moved upon, by many-legged things. If you see them—I seem them frequently!—they resemble spiders, but they are not spiders at all. More than eight legs, attached to a round radial featureless shape, a shadowy impression in light, and they crawl. They’re everywhere, you know.

 

Everywhere.

 

Do you feel the itch?

 

Sometimes I feel as if there is a small, questing worm, deep within the base of my skull. It burrows.

 

You can’t see them, you know.

 

But the sounds they make… an inhalation, small as a cellular wall, huge as a universe…

 

***

 

It is said that long ago, before humanity ever came into existence, gods of nature and the hidebound powers of order and pattern deliberated over the strange old Earth. In that time, when intelligences other than humans shone among the stars and ideas now lost were only being discovered, the deities of Earth looked upon their world with displeasure.

 

For there were beasts… and monsters. There were plants… and nightmares. Even minerals, fire, air and water, all were mutable and bizarre and random. Cause and effect were not perfectly ordered, memory and continuity were as in dreams. Darkness and light, life and death, all the familiar binary oppositions danced circles around one another and often merged hermaphrodite-like into weird and unnatural concepts, alien to ossified mentalities. “Undeath,” for one example, emerged from the chimerical wedding of life and death in this unthinkably remote past…

 

The gods and spirits did not agree easily on fixing change and pattern. There were many powerful entities that liked things as they were, strange and magickal, and had no love for the prison of order. But the faction that demanded natural order were devious and disloyal, and like all who demand arbitrary law, they had no honor except in their rules and promises. They betrayed the gods of chaos and bound them into the deep places of the world, and then they did a terrible thing.

 

The split the Earth into two.

 

***

 

But that is not where my studies stopped. There was more. In the margins of the texts and in between their lines, there were new truths that were hinted at—narratives unspoken because they had no normal context. They were like chapters in a novel that were cast adrift when a book’s spine was broken. You could read one or another, and each would indicate there was more, but all around them there was no foundation. They were tales of a universe adrift inside another universe. I remember talking with mother about these ideas, and she would only say, “So close. So close.”

 

The elves aren’t pixies or fantasy figures. They’re little shapes, like faces with arms and legs, and they wait in the deep places of the mind. Or perhaps they’re somewhere else, but you won’t see them outside the abyss of your thoughts. Their huge, staring eyes are like the ghostly gaze of a dead owl. Their voices only exist as a tickling in your thoughts. The elves are there, cryptic and strange.

 

They seem to judge us.

 

They’re watching us now.

 

No, not outside of ourselves. That’s the secret trick.

 

They’re watching from within.

 

***

 

Into the natural universe, the place of life and death, seasons and cycles, was reborn the blue and green Earth that we know. The evolution of human life may even have arisen from this division, but that is also a history we are not privileged to know.

 

The other, the dark twin of Earth, was the Nemesis World. In it were bound spirits, great and small, who loved change and novelty, and to whom one choice was not inherently always better than the other. Darkness could as easily replace light as torture could replace pleasure. One could find joy in hunger, sorrow in satiation. The Nemesis World holds in it all that the Earth could be… but “should not” be. The forbidden and the damned dwell in the Nemesis World, for it is itself forbidden and damned.

 

Earth’s twin is forgotten and denied, as if in shame, thanks to this rebirth. But the division is imperfect.

 

Tied together by a vast tether of energy through the Navels of the Two Worlds, Earth and the Nemesis World are linked inextricably. Try though the gods might, they could not drive the Nemesis World completely away and “perfect” the Earth. Instead, the Nemesis World sank into the fabric of spacetime, warping it deeply around itself and yielding a sunless pocket universe—a plane of time, space, spirit and substance that obeys its own non-rules and exists without existing in any natural sense.

 

And bound as they are, the two worlds keep being drawn together and pulled apart. It is said that many humans visit the Nemesis World in their dreams, when they ponder their own dark potentials. It is said that cats and other beasts can see into the Nemesis World. It is even said that in the right times and places, the barrier between Earth and the Nemesis World becomes thinner than gossamer.

 

There are other spirit realms than the Nemesis World, and they are often trapped between the twin worlds when Earth is drawn together with her sister. But all of them are subordinate to the Nemesis World, unable to outweigh the gravity of its reality. The power of the Nemesis World is its rebuke to conventional truth: It tells us THOU ART NOT THE ONLY ANSWER.

 

***

 

The books are never enough. Even tutors and mentors aren’t, not unless they’re the right sort of teachers. The practicum always awaits. You must commit yourself to our way of thinking before you can finish the thoughts themselves.

 

What do the… the Things Beyond want? The spiders and elves are the familiar faces on the roads between our world and the other worlds, but what does it all mean? So much depends on a human brain infused with darkness more palpable than rain.

 

I dreamt of climbing back inside my mother’s womb when I was little. I didn’t like it outside in the light.

 

The darkness is home.

 

***

 

It is the approach of the Nemesis World’s dark strangeness that inspires fringe thinkers to believe in rogue planets endangering the Earth. Their tiny minds cannot encapsulate what we know. They cannot accept that the Age of Darkness approaches when Earth and the Nemesis World can no longer be kept apart. The two sister worlds, who are truly only the suffering halves of a single perfect realm, occulted half in shadow… they will at last be one again.

 

And when they are, everything will be possible once again.

 

We ask the aid of the many spirit-peoples of the Nemesis World in our quest to aid the reunion of Earth and her dark twin sister. Call them demons, rakshasas, djinn, fae, tulpas, shadow people, citizens of the Goblin Universe, figments, hallucinations, whatever you like. But they are there, and they hear us scratching on our side of the wall that was built to keep us apart. They scratch, too.

 

We call upon the great powers and the small ones alike, and we use the power of mortality—the energy of escaping life and inflowing death, not just one or the other—to give strength to our vital work. We must destroy the wall. We must make the Earth and her twin one again.

 

There is no time for any more secrecy than necessary. There is no energy for non-essential things. The question is not one of time, for in a maddeningly orderly universe, you have eternity in pure tedium. The question is of patience and of fervor. We want change and we want it now. We will not waste any more years in its pursuit than we must.

 

***

 

All of these things—the reading, the learning, the mentorships, the practical knowledge—they stood me in good stead. But they were not enough. The only way forward is to join with the group and to commune with the infinite. And that is what I have done. I have become part of something greater than myself, and mother says she’s so proud. She never stops smiling now.

 

Dead now since I was such a little boy, but still smiling and proud of me… my mother.

 

They tell me this is insanity. But that would imply that there is also sanity.

 

And we know better, don’t we?

 

What passes between the two places is nothing, it is only a road. Arbitrary, meaningless, a line on a map.

 

We move from ignorance to knowledge…

 

***

 

We are accused of trafficking with the unnatural, but this is a disgusting lie. In truth, we are the only human supporters left of the true natural way. In the beginning there was darkness and light, form and substance and malleability and nonexistence. All things were possible. Now, only those things the gods permit are real. That is the true foreignness. That is the true perversion.

 

As we stand on this hill tonight, smelling the hot blood of our victims on the stone, we feel the immediacy of our thoughts and belief.

 

As we chant, most of what we say is of little consequence. There are tonal qualities in our voices and our minds that do matter, though. Resonance that reaches through matter, energy, space and time, connecting our spiritual nature to that which we seek… the path to the Nemesis World and the Princes of Darkness.

 

Look up, brothers and sisters! LOOK UP!

 

The Darkness Breathes!

 

IT BREATHES!

 

 

 

 

Vampires

It is unfortunate that most human spirits that continue their existence in other forms—such as the many varieties of vampires in the world—are usually not much less narrow-minded than they were in life. Technically, the transformation into vampires is only their first step in a metamorphosis that can make them much more than human. But the power of the vampire curse fossilizes most of their minds and hearts, and they only change… very gradually… into more enlightened beings. To be blunt, unless a vampire has the right kind of insight and intuition, they’re usually “slow students” in the great cosmic classroom of reality. Most Cultists will have little patience for their dusty traditions and narrow viewpoints.

 

 

Blood Dolls

Silly, vain creatures chasing after vampires, the Blood Dolls are basically willing pawns in any struggle. Since even vampires consider them disposable, Blood Dolls are an excellent source of nourishment for the otherworldly entities that Cultists seek out.

 

 

Unquiet Dead

Always a pleasure for Cultists to encounter, the ghosts of the human (and other) dead show tremendous potential to the Cultist. If one imagines a Cultist to be a sailor venturing out into the murky waters of the spirit world, then surely the unquiet dead must be like enchanted merfolk who already live there. A Cultist waits through years of struggle to hear a voice from the shadows or to feel the touch of a disembodied claw passing through the veil between worlds. But the spirits of the dead are already there on the other side, and they can quickly and directly experience the advent of other, older spiritual entities. Even their screams when the faceless and unhallowed things of old darkness emerge from the void and into their ghostly realm are music to a Cultist’s ears.

 

 

Loa Masters

Boring and irritating, the Loa Masters are themselves cultists who deal with spirits—but their devotions are slow and stodgy, even when they are bloody and bizarre, and they do not tolerate Cultists and their more exotic spiritual allies. This intolerance is mutual, for Cultists do not wish their studies and rituals to be halted by Loa Masters trying to “purify the spiritual atmosphere of the area” or “destroy profane altars to loathsome demons.” Cultists take great pleasure in bargaining with dark spirits to act as assassins against Loa Masters—inexperienced members of the Masters’ order may think that they have called up a powerful demigod or ancestor spirit, only to discover that they’ve really opened the doorway for a friend of the Cultists…

 

 

Slayers

Using weird and suppressed technologies, as well as more old-fashioned methods of destroying and banishing people and spirits, the Slayers are truly banes of Cultists’ existences. These deadly mortal men and women have “upped their game” greatly in the 21st century, undertaking ruthless methods to infiltrate and destroy Cults from within or without. No Cult can be truly great without a sufficient number of dedicated Cultists, but there is always the risk that new recruits are actually Slayers—and one mistake will lead to disaster for the Cult. As a result, every Cult is somewhat paranoid of new recruits, and clever Slayers have been known to destroy entire Cults by pitting their members against one another in a grisly game of “find the traitor.”

 

 

Necromancers

Incredibly, sometimes these scientists-turned-spiritualists are actually good and willing allies. Like Cultists, they seek to address the power of the spirit world (if generally only in the world of the human dead), and like Cultists, they are impatient with tedious “safety measures.” The great lure for Necromancers is results, which advanced Cultists can provide immediately, versus years of laboring over arcane machinery and logging countless failures. A fair number of Necromancers have become Cultists over the years, and even a few Cultists have become Necromancers. In any event, both Necromancers and Cultists do not want a thicker veil to bar the spirit world, and they can readily be neighbors even in the worst of times.

 

 

The Lunar Covenant

Like all of the more conventional religious groups, the weird were-creature shapeshifters of the Lunar Covenant do not embrace change and disruption. Instead, they imagine that their own terrifying metamorphoses reflect the cycle of seasons in nature, and similar concepts. This is a dull-witted philosophy to any Cultist, as the nature of the Cult is to seek immediate, eschaton-like change. For creatures that are so often predators, like wolf-men and lion-men and bear-men (oh my), the Lunar Covenant behave more like herd animals. They docilely placate nature spirits and ancestor spirits, and honor the points of the four winds and the solstices and equinoxes and—well, it is all very boring, very rote and very anonymous. They plod along in the footsteps of countless generations, and smile placidly at the idea of countless more generations wearing the groove of their path even deeper. Cultists are anathema to the Lunar Covenant and vice versa, because Cultists are not satisfied with the way things are. Cultists are the allies of the bringers of universal change.