XIII. The Messengers and the Djinni
I used to believe in all this stuff, too!
In the Beginning
Of course, the monsters and mayhem are completely real. I was referring more to the cosmology behind them. I went from casual regular person who didn’t really believe any of it to wide-eyed, fervent believer in a whole supernatural order in the universe… and now to someone who’s really just there for the monsters and mayhem. I think you have to be there for them, because they are definitely there for you.
So having been on this trip from disinterest to faith to worriedly looking askance at a world I think is really without an Axis Mundi, I may be a good choice to talk to you—a friend thinking about turning Devotee—about the Djinni, the Messengers and the tangled, fucked-up disaster that the two sides perpetuate. It’s not a narrative that’s without potential controversy, so bear with me.
Seriously, bear with me. In these divided times, it’s really hard not to piss people off and make trouble for yourself, but I’m only going to offer up some truth for you. It’s easier than talking to Djinni or Messengers directly. They’d each demand you only listen to their version of things, and threaten you if you wanted to hear the opposing story. I’ve already been through all that. Believe me.
Since we are all sort of in the midst of their mess, it’s a good idea to know a little bit about them.
The People’s Republic of Who Really Knows, Anyway
We call it “faith” because you have to believe in it without any certainty that it’s true. Knowing it was true would replace faith with “not being stupid.” So I can talk to you about theology and cosmology and stuff without getting too detailed, while at the same time acknowledging that you might believe something without knowing it’s actually true. I realize that’s knowing but not knowing, but what can you do, right?
So, anyway, I can’t take faith off the table in your head or my head, but I can talk about what we know that doesn’t require any faith. And that’s both very little and a whole lot, at the same time. There is definitely a narrative about the world and its cosmology, even if it’s not the only story.
The Gods Must Be Off Their Meds
If you look at anthropology, they tell us that you’ve basically got ancestor and nature worship, and if you lump them together, the idea is that people and nature are more or less in the same boat and spiritually they interact a lot like they physically interact. Not a whole lot of Big King Human on a pedestal telling everything what to do. It goes pretty good with a world where little king human actually can’t tell everything what to do, because he doesn’t have the tools or the knowledge to do it. You don’t have any priestesses or priests yet, just part-time crazy magic people who do what everybody else in the tribe does, but also sometimes talk with dead people and rocks and so forth.
Then comes the time when people believe in gods, all kinds of gods—it matches up pretty good with start-up cultures that have written language, complex societies, specialized jobs, agriculture, increasingly sophisticated tool use, all those things. Gods can’t really do everything, but they’re Big King Human on a pedestal and they can each tell some part of the world what to do—just like a potter can tell the mud to become a clay tablet, but can’t tell the fish to get in his belly the way a fisherman can.
So there’s a potter god and a fisherman god and they live together in a god-society that works just like a human-society. Each one gets their own special priesthood and temple, but just like the potter needs fish and the fisherman needs a pot to cook fish in, worshippers can’t stick with just one god. You have to go to the god market and talk to whichever god has the goods you need at that time. That’s pretty inconvenient. Most people like convenience, like a supermarket or a Swiss pocketknife. You kind of have to be a hipster to want to go barter at the faire for each kind of food, milady, and then light incense at three different shrines for artisanal bespoke worship from locally sourced deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with it if you do!
After that, you get the one-stop-one-size-fits-all god. Some people think it’s a much more sophisticated idea than polytheism, but that really depends on your definition of sophistication. You’re still really just talking about Big Human Tells The Universe What To Do, only now it’s official and no longer pigeonholed into one “sphere of influence” apiece for two dozen different Big Humans.
You can go beyond this point by arguing that the uni-deity isn’t really a Big Human at all, but then you’re stuck with assuming it is either a) Super-nice non-human, b) Super-horrible non-human, or c) Cosmic Muffin Who Doesn’t Care About You non-human. The only one that’s really worth worshipping then is a), unless worshipping b) will make b) choose not to hurt you, but a great argument can be made that you should just avoid attracting b)’s notice altogether.
Whether you think the One True Cosmology is animistic and lets you talk to your dead grandma and the uncle-of-all-frogs, or is polytheistic and sets up department heads for arbitrary categories of natural phenomena, or is monotheistic and lets you put everything in one basket, you’re still forced to confront the fact that you’re putting a humanly comprehensible idea in charge of everything in reality, which is slightly nuts. We know a lot and we can learn a lot, but maybe we can’t know everything? I mean, maybe, just a little?
I’d bring up the atheist-materialist argument, but you and I have seen ghosts and met Vampires, so I think that boat sailed around the world, stopped for a shipment of champagne at Monaco and returned to New York Harbor in a cloud of confetti. We’re only wrestling with cosmology here because we have to, otherwise we could be fighting about superhero movies, which is what’s really worth life and limb. Anyway.
What’s true and not true is at the heart of the Djinni and the Messengers, and they don’t make it any easier to be sure. They definitely have a narrative, but they barely stick to it and they default to faith whenever they can.
The Faith of A Little Child Walking Alone Down A Dark And Terrifying Alley Alone At Midnight
Let’s eliminate the obvious first. Animists don’t need any faith because anybody who’s really looked into the supernatural here in San Cipriano has probably already met the Unquiet Dead or even conjured some kind of elemental or notional spirit. That means that the simplest answer is true, but it doesn’t mean it’s the exclusive truth.
Then there’s polytheism. Setting aside the ancient argument that polytheistic deities are actually evil spirits promoting fake cosmology, because that’s pretty much what somebody would say if they didn’t like polytheistic deities, a deep survey of the supernatural in our world finds some reason to accept their claims. There are ghosts that haven’t gone to any afterlife. There are holdovers from ancient “myths” that seem to be real to some degree. It’s not a slam-dunk like animism, but a compelling argument can be made that something hears you when sing an ancient hymn to Zeus. I don’t know what it is, but the fact that something might happen—you know, under the right circumstances, just like the potter can’t pot without good clay and the fisherman can’t fish when they’re not biting—says something about that cosmology. So let’s call that one half-true and only needs half-faith.
What’s left is the single-deity spirit-care system, so to speak, and no matter which version of it you adopt, they all have one thing in common: You’ve gotta have faith. Generally speaking, you will not get the word from the Big Human directly, as even the most devout will argue that you have to listen for a subliminal voice in your mind or watch for obscure and vague symbols in everyday life or whatever. Miracles on demand are not forthcoming.
This is a very tall demand. You live in a world where monsters and sorcery are real, but you can’t count on direct intervention? Is this a test or something? It’s a lot for people to wrestle! When I was in their shoes, I struggled endlessly with this problem. How can I sleep at night without knowing for sure that my cosmology—the cosmology where a benevolent human-like all-powerful being keeps order and everything turns out okay in the end (no matter how horrible the beginning and middle have been)—is really true?
Well, that question led me to an answer that I didn’t expect. You’re probably expecting religious zealots with guns and bombs, or snake-oil-selling preachers or something. But no, I got a real sign of… something.
Because it was at that phase of my life, somewhere between art school, theological school and drug rehab, that I had my first visitation from the Messengers… and the Djinn.
Mutilated And Left For Dead By An Angel
I will get this out of the way first: The Messengers are not pudgy babies with wings or sexy androgynes with wings. (Sexy androgynes? WTF?) They come in a lot of varieties, but they usually look human, sometimes so human you can’t tell what they really are. That’s not all that impressive in a world of bizarre magical things like Vampires and Shapeshifters, who also look human, but it says something about Messenger cosmology.
Messengers are spiritual entities that claim to work for something they call the Demiurge. They say the Demiurge is the Minister of Order in the Universe. Not the creator, not the destroyer, just the one who keeps it all going according to plan… and if you tell them you’d like to talk to the creator, as I did, the answer is basically, “You can’t meet the Wizard, he’s very busy, you’ll have to talk to me.”
Which is even the answer when you just want to see the Demiurge, who is also too busy to see you. The best you can hope for, ever, is maybe a glimpse of the Messenger Regent, who is the leader of the Messengers in our world. I did get that glimpse. It was very odd. Ageless, fluid appearance in every way, stern and hard aura… even thinking about it, I feel like someone who had a near-death experience and can’t remember the details. What was the Messenger Regent actually like? I don’t know.
And they’re very vague about what “Order in the Universe” means, and very coy about their whole story. If you come right out with questions about which religion is true and which is not true, they have only one answer: Shut up and believe. You can call it what you like, but I call that direct and honest. They’re called Messengers, you know? Not Listeners.
I know this makes them sound ominously like some kind of cosmic fraud, but everything sounds like that when you’re cynical and suspicious and want everybody to show you their bona fides. It could also be true, but… who knows? The thing is, these creatures are tired and angry and they’re sick of us asking them questions and demanding proofs.
Which I think is why they are conducting a secret war on our Earth that involves plenty of blood and violence, but I’ll get to that.
An Order of Battle In The Struggle For Hearts And Minds
If you’re curious about what varieties of Messenger there are, and possibly how many of each kind can dance on the head of a pin, I’ll set out a little bit of what I know.
The main Messengers you will ever encounter are called Yazatas. They’re the human-like ones, and even though they sometimes have four wings and a voice like thunder, they usually resemble people of every age, gender, ethnicity, nationality, ability and all that jazz… but with an eerie atmosphere around them, and a variety of tattoos and scars that I can only describe as “stigmata.” They claim that words in their flesh are holy texts that are written in a language no human can understand. I know I didn’t.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Yazatas are a military force. They’re structured like an army, with powerful leaders and a vast legion of rank and file. My friend, now deceased, called them, “The occupying army from Heaven.” This makes sense, because even with weird supernatural powers at their disposal (I’ve seen them interrogate plants and get useful answers!), they still carry an absolute boatload of guns, knives, you name it. And they do know how to use all that hardware and more.
They do have a subtle side, too. Especially in the form of these hot girls (and guys) who try to tempt people into doing good with supernatural sexuality. I’m not sure how that can still be doing good, but you know, shut up and believe!
There’s a whole zoo of quasi-animal Messengers—giant winged lions with freaky human heads, human-headed bulls, and I would tell you I loved the flying rainbow goat if it wasn’t something out of a terrifying acid trip. If you ever meet one of these Beast Messengers, do not ask it if it can talk to you. I did. And they can. In a very bad way.
The weirdest Messengers are called the Drala Marut, which are invisible… things, that whisper in the voice of the wind and perform all kinds of tasks on behalf of their Demiurge. These ones are really disturbing, and I do not recommend trying to see them clearly. If you do, you may see something you won’t forget, no matter how hard you try.
What about the traditional “divine messenger spirits” you read about? Swords for tongues and stuff? The Messengers told me that those entities no longer physically visit the earthly plane, but work in more subtle ways. They also told me to shut up and believe, and sometimes you have to just shut up, whether you believe or not.
Onward, Vaguely Monotheistic Soldiers, Marching To War
There are only so many Messengers in the world at any time. They don’t like questions about the exact number. They say there are too many ways to read numbers to learn secrets, and we already know too many secrets as it is. One side effect of a limited (but unknown) number of Messengers is that Messengers want recruits in their great cosmological war. They call those recruits Devotees. I was one of them for some years, myself.
Devotees are people who know about the Messengers and the Djinni, accept the Message and take part in the endless war between their two sides. They come from all over the world and every walk of life. If you think you know who will turn out to be a Devotee, you’re probably wrong. I’ll put it this way: One of those big TV debunker guys who’s always showing up to laugh at Flat Earthers and show people the wonders of the universe? I saw him gun down a room full of Djinni and drug dealers in Chicago once. You never, ever know.
Story of my life, with these guys!
Anyway, the process of becoming a Devotee is pretty simple. First, shut up and believe. Second, undergo the ordeal of purifying suffering without losing your belief. For me, that was watching my grandpa die of cancer, my pet bearded dragon get his leg torn off by a stray dog, losing my job, and about 18 more months of living like Job. I got absolutely no peace or joy out of believing… but I believed.
As a result, I was added to a thing the Messengers call The Paradise List. That really sounds nice, doesn’t it? Like a list of nice boys and girls who get presents? It’s actually the enlistment roll for Devotees of the Messengers. If you look up the etymology of “paradise,” it doesn’t mean “happy place where everything goes well.” It means “the enclosed place,” or even “royal game preserve.”
As a Devotee, you are a hunter of souls. Screw fishing, we’re not sitting in a boat drinking beer.
It’s a hard life as a Devotee. You sleep on a hard floor just a few hours a night, train brutally and inure yourself to pain. You scrub your skin raw in ice cold showers and you can say goodbye to all the vices you ever knew, because they’ll just “get in your way.” You have special clothes, a special diet, special jargon you use. You learn how to fight, kill, destroy, disguise yourself, track people, avoid being tracked, all the things you see in the movies—but now it’s real and you’re doing it on a mission for… well, shut up and believe.
There is an ordeal and a vigil. People die during these things, just from the hardship.
When you’re ready and your soul is prepared, you are given the badge of your office: The Sacred Ligature of the Stranglers. They take you to meet The Old Man of the Skyscraper, and he leads you in the shout to the sky: YOUR WILL BE DONE! And he shows you a great secret—the dossiers the Messengers give him on the Thirty Righteous People in the world whose good character keeps the whole planet from being annihilated by divine wrath. You memorize their names, faces and everything else you can, because you must not ever, ever, ever, under any circumstances kill one of them during your work. The consequences would be dire for everyone.
Hey… you don’t think this whole thing was a cult, do you? L.O.L.
After we were brought into the fold, we had a probationary period to demonstrate our merit, which is different from worth. (Worth is just being worthy of the title of Devotee. Merit is actually being good at the job.) When you achieved merit, there were special weapons you got.
You’re probably expecting fiery righteous swords and things, but no, those were for actual Messengers and stuff. You wouldn’t believe the arsenals they’ve got. But we did okay: We got each got our own Seal of Suleiman and Magic Cube.
The Seal of Suleiman is a modified six-pointed star, for obvious reasons, and it gives the user power over Djinni and other evil spirits.
The Magic Cube is a ballistic glass sculpture that works like a magic square formula does in sacred thaumaturgy, but in 3D—the mystic, sacred number strings go in every direction: Up, down, right, left, diagonal, inward, upward—many wards and powers wrapped up in a single elegant object of mathematical perfection.
They don’t tell you this at first, but the Djinni side also has Devotees, Magic Cubes, and—crazy enough—the Seal of Suleiman. I didn’t understand it at first. Why would Djinni use the Seal of Suleiman? My Elder Sister in the Devotees just gave me a hard look and said, “People don’t just use guns on animals. They use them on each other, too.”
I got the point.
We went on a lot of different missions over the years. Some were shady spy-like stuff, others were violent paramilitary ops, and there was a lot of straight-up crime. Or maybe it was all really in the same category, a monotheism of violence. Because you know what? I couldn’t honestly be sure if we were killing good people or bad people, stealing from crooks or from citizens, lying and cheating the righteous or the wrong.
Whenever I questioned anything… “shut up and believe.”
So maybe the ordeal of purifying never really ended, because after enough blood was on my hands, my faith began to falter. I wasn’t sure about anything anymore. And I think that’s why they changed my missions. I was no longer just hunting souls for the Old Man of the Skyscraper. There was Hell to pay.
I Have Night Terrors of Genie
At the time, I thought that they just didn’t know my faith was wobbling. Now I’m sure they did know. And back then, when I thought they knew, I believed that they had arranged for me to go on supernatural missions because they wanted me to see the real face of evil and go through the fire, come out on the other side a true believer.
Now I’m 99% convinced that they figured I was expendable and might as well go face monsters.
They started me out small. We did a grab-and-bag on some Blood Dolls on a side street in the Promenade, just some stupid people out for another night of their endless party. They smelled like liquor, cigarettes and sex, which made me sick to my stomach at the time. We kept them in a van with us for three hours while our elders negotiated with some Vampire boss. In the end, the bloodsucker only cared about two of them surviving, so we kicked them out and took the rest to an alley in the Industrial Slums.
They begged for their lives before we beat them to death with lengths of steel rebar and left them there.
I felt even sicker to my stomach, and the team leader got pissed at me and told me to focus up and get in the van. So I was the slow guy who held us up just a second too late.
It turned out that one of the Blood Dolls had supernatural powers. I don’t know how their thing works, but this one was not dead, and they should have been. When I say we beat them to death, I mean the black bags over their heads were sagging pretty funny when we were done—and this one was not dead. The Doll’s hands were on my leg and he was making weird noises with whatever was happening inside that bag. I panicked and popped three rounds into the bag, but he didn’t let go.
Team leader used a tactical blade to chop off the Doll’s hand and the guys yanked me in and we drove away.
That was the first insane thing that I experienced, but not the last. It got worse. There were more Blood Dolls. Then a Vampire. (A weak one, they told me. God.) Half my team was killed by a Shapeshifter, and I don’t even know what kind of animal that thing was turned into.
When I didn’t die easily enough, I met the enemy we’d been trained to fight. And it was not a fight at all. It was a truce party, way down in the tunnels under San Cipriano, just so different groups could meet up (if they weren’t on bad terms at that time). Me and my team were undercover doing recon at this event, disguised as regular Slayers. (The weird people who go out on their own to go chase and kill monsters.) Nobody knew we were working for the Messengers at all. But we knew what Djinni were and what they were like—in theory.
Yes, I have met some Djinni, and yes, there was one that looked like a young Barbara Eden, another one that looked like a big blue trademarked cartoon character, and another one that looked like that guy from the 1940 fantasy movie. It was their idea of a joke. They were there talking with other creeps (I was told one was a Loa Master, and I did not like her eyes at all) and just acting like it was a normal night way down here in the deep tunnels.
What followed isn’t something I’m very proud of. I was undercover, so I could excuse it all, but what’s an excuse but an admission of guilt?
We had fun. I caroused with evil spirits. It wasn’t a Black Mass, but you know, six of one, right?
The Djinni indulge your vices to befriend you, although they say only the most special friends get to have “wishes granted.” But they know how to have fun in the raunchiest, filthiest, most decadent and most sophisticated ways. They don’t do it just anywhere, so we never went as far as things would have gone in one of their stately pleasure domes, but for an open-air market and hangout, it was surprisingly lewd, chemically abusive and full of laughter and vulgar honesty. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves, and one or two of the other humans present left with Djinni, presumably never to be seen again. But I wasn’t even worried. I was put at ease with the Djinni in a way I’d never felt around my fellow Devotees or the Messengers. I realized I hadn’t let myself feel any pleasure or relaxation in years.
They felt like friends. So I wanted to know a little bit more about them. I asked one of the Djinni, “Are you fallen angels?”
“We are if you are,” she laughed. And that was all the cosmology they got into that night. They kept making sly references to me possibly being there to spy on them, and I just laughed along and made what I thought were sly jokes about how maybe I was. In retrospect, I know I was a complete fucking idiot, but… you had to be there. All that flesh and laughter and the drugs and stuff… it felt normal and human, like I was a stupid college kid at a party with my friends. How could these creatures be evil spirits that wanted to ruin everything good and decent in the world? I’d just snorted lines off of one of them and done body shots with another. And they’d told me this was the tame fun!
When I dream about that night, I get flashes of something else that happened, but I can never quite remember what it was. There were faces. Something like a mutated, diseased animal… something like a rotting human corpse with crazed, staring eyes. It’s very hard to describe. I don’t know if what I remember from that night is what I really saw and did, or if these moments in my dreams that make me wake up with vomit in my mouth are what I really saw and did.
But at the time, it was different. I kept expecting the Djinni to sprout horns and red eyes and stuff, but they never did any “Vault of the Crypt” twist ending on me. We enjoyed ourselves for a few hours, the other horrible creatures kept their distance, and I realized I was going to be too wasted to even leave these tunnels if I stayed any longer. I thanked them, said my goodbyes, swore I’d be back and staggered away. The other monsters in those tunnels.. I knew they were monsters. If they guessed my vulnerability, there was no telling what might happen to me. So I started my ascent from the underworld.
But as I started upward and I tried to leave the tunnels, an impossibly strong grip took hold of my arm and stopped me. I turned and saw a Messenger staring me in the face. I looked directly into his eyes. I shouldn’t have done that.
Terror flooded me. I felt everything I’d ever been or done that was wrong. All my doubts and anger and spite and… all my flaws and failures crowded into my brain. I wanted to die screaming for forgiveness. The Messenger was judging me, but no one could possibly hate me more than I hated myself in that moment.
I thought I was shrieking uncontrollably, but I was just trapped in the Messenger’s gaze. It had only been a moment. I was instantly sober, and I felt like I’d just taken a swim in a sewer.
“You seek knowledge of the enemy,” the Messenger said. I looked at him. He was so close I could see all the human features he had—the facial stubble, the pores on his forehead. But none of it seemed human to me at all. There was nothing there but righteous fury given a shape.
All I could do was nod.
“Walk with me and I will give you a Message. It will be a Message of wisdom.”
What I share with you now about the Djinni is what I learned that night, both from my “conversation” with the Djinni and from my encounter with the Messenger.
A Legion of Hell’s Monsters
There is an order to what the Djinni are, and what they do, just as there is among the Messengers. Now, keep in mind that these things can mimic any version of human magical cosmology you can think of… so whatever your precious demonology book tells you is true… from some perspective. But among their own kind, they have a much simpler hierarchy, and unlike the Messengers, they’re happy to tell you what it is.
There are three orders of the Djinni:
The Ifreeti, who are the most human-like and talk to us the most—talk to us, bargain with us, seduce us, addict us, destroy us, all that. They have all kinds of abilities and can exist indefinitely in the earthly plane, but they have a terrible problem with their egos. Apparently having that much access to power can make you insanely proud and arrogant and gives you fits of grandeur, and if you’re “made of fire” (as the Djinni claim to be, and I don’t know what that really means) that means you can basically blow yourself up and stop existing for… well, maybe forever, I don’t know. So apparently their conflict with an ancient wizard-king of the Old World taught them that they could use their prisons and chains to keep from going crazy and exploding. They figure out that they could link themselves to an object (yes, like a bottle or something) or a person (someone they could call “master”) and use that to siphon off their excess pride and keep from spontaneously detonating. (Djinni Devotees cannot be their Pride anchors, by the way.) This isn’t something they’d need to do if they could only keep out of the earthly plane, but well, they do have evil plans to pursue…
The Oni, who are bestial and endlessly violent, and really only semi-intelligent… some people also call them “trolls” and such. They supposedly have a “rationalist-materialist analog” called a “dimension shambler” or something, but I don’t anything about that. They can only manifest for a short time in the earthly plane.
The Pani, who are the least human-like, and are associated with natural forces gone berserk. The one who told me about them claimed they were neighboring powers to elementals, Platonic Ideals and “Faeries,” but this was also somebody who believed that shoelaces had souls and that Santa had “a kind of reality,” so take that with a grain of salt. It’s understood that the Pani can only appear for a fraction of a second in the earthly plane, and are often the power that carries out a magical spell that “unleashes negative energies.”
Who’s Who In Pandemonium
There are seven siblings, called the Seven Deadly Ones, who organize the Djinni in the earthly plane. They are family, rivals, incestuous lovers and just about anything else you could imagine. They care about earthly things directly, so they’re in charge of this place… if that really means anything. Each lives in a temple that has their own idol largest and the other six idols, too. That’s apparently how they keep tabs on one another. Call it “Demonbook.”
They have definite personalities (I’m glad to say I never met any of them) and incredible power that apparently is kept mostly in check by some sort of unfathomable cosmic laws. There are those who argue that the Seven Deadly Ones invested most of their own power into the earthly Djinni and take action through the Djinni, but I don’t know about that.
The Seven Deadly Ones are…
The three Brothers of Tyranny:
The one who is Hatred, and makes you feel anger with loathing and without forgiveness;
The one who is Pride, and makes you arrogant, over-important, pompous and vain;
And Mr. Patel
The one who is Lust, and makes you demand selfish, loveless sexual pleasure.
Then there are the three Sisters of Demand:
The one who is Jealousy, and makes you fear losing something to another person;
The one who is Envy, and makes you wish to take something from another person;
And Ms. Haddad
The one who is Greed, and makes you want to be richest of all.
And the androgynous Seventh:
The one who is Dissipation, who makes you lazy, gluttonous, self-medicated, over-stimulated, hateful of your own body and mind.
These human names are just what they call themselves here and now, in the earthly world. It’s what they look like to the uninitiated who can’t see what they actually are, or would prefer to see them as they pretend to be. If they wanted to, they could look like any sort of person from anywhere. The human names are only labels—Kamau would really be Pride and Haddad would actually be Greed, but they don’t like it if mortals ignore their disguises.
Ruling in Perdition
There’s one more step up in the chain of command, or maybe it’s really a step down: The Three Who Are Wormwood. They are concerned with more than just the aspects of the universe we know, but they aren’t absent from here, either. They are:
There’s the Gaunab Shayateen, the Cold Voice, the Horror Within; which I think is like some kind of universal consciousness connecting the dark side of every mind and soul… or something.
Then there’s the Ymir Xing Tian, the Bleak Day, the Might of Cruelty; which I can’t really understand but might be some sort of evil titan or something… they call it Anti-Creation.
And finally there’s the Mara Satnasya, the Night Star, the Great Liar; it’s supposed to be the Mind of Evil, the Great Planner Who Is Also The Great Plan.
It’s not clear to me if they actually give orders to the Seven and the lesser Djinni, or if they influence them like the stars in astrology. The Messenger told me I was splitting hairs, which I also don’t understand. Remember the part about the Seven Deadly Ones being more attuned to earthly things and ways of thinking than the Three Who Are Wormwood? This incomprehensible stuff is what I was talking about!
And that’s The Three Who Are Wormwood. If there’s anything “above them” in the Djinni High Command, I don’t know what it could be.
Devil’s Little Helpers
I didn’t want to know how to become a Djinni Devotee, so I didn’t ask and nobody told me. Djinni Devotees are so close to Cultists that there’s plenty of crossover, and there’s way more human and animal sacrifice than I can stomach in that particular category. Also, I never did learn to enjoy Norwegian black metal. Still, over time, I did pick up one piece of information against my will: The test to join their number is called the Pithos Jar. It’s an urn (usually) that’s closed up and has… evil, I guess… sealed inside it.
You pass the test by opening the Pithos Jar and letting it out.
Like I say, there might be more, but I don’t want to know what it is, so please don’t tell me.
Virgil and Me and the Inferno Make Three
The worst thing that happened in learning about the Djinni was that the Messenger took me away from the earthly plane on Dante’s nickel tour of a place… a mindset… a condition… I don’t know. It’s called The Burning Darkness. The Burning Darkness is the vibrational plane of the universe that the Djinni come from and go to—you can call it Hell if you want to, they’re fine with that. It’s also a very apt description of it. If you wanted to imagine something very slightly like it, imagine being trapped in a coma with a lethal fever and screaming delirium. “Night terror” doesn’t begin to describe the experience.
It’s a very odd “place.” If you go there with a connection to someone whose spirit is trapped in it, you can see it as they see it, because it really can be anything you think it should be. If you go there with a connection to the earthly plane (I don’t recommend going there without one!), you’ll have a weird, shifting perspective, seeing it one way and then another, but in an orderly fashion… an earthly way of thinking.
If you lack both, even for a split second, you will see and hear what the Burning Darkness means to you. And if you become trapped there… you’ll do more than see and hear it. Much more.
The Messenger took me there and returned me to our world, and I knew I could never survive another night like that one. My mind would snap… at the very least.
He thought he’d shown me the way, but he’d shown me the flashing red light that said THIS WAY TO THE EXIT.
How I Left the Devotees, or How I Learned to Stop Trembling and Hide From the Burning Darkness
I woke up in my room at the Devotee compound, naked and covered in cold sweat. My body ached against the hard floor. My weapons were laid out around me in perfect ritual display but I didn’t feel any strength from them. All I knew was that I had to get out. Get out, go back to the normal world. I never wanted to see the night come again.
It was surprisingly anticlimactic. I knew if I took any of my gear it would be easy for the others to find me again and pull me back. I washed and dressed myself and ate some of the communal oatmeal and water. I took a little money from the petty cash box and walked out. No one stopped me. They knew I’d been doing undercover work for the Messengers and I was probably going out to do something important.
I went out and found a bus stop. I didn’t care where I was going, but I had to go away. I rode it until I was as far away as I could be, and then I found a place to rent a room.
I had personal ID materials for several possible identities, but the others knew about all those versions of me. I knew where to get new fakes, and I got them. I changed my looks and I found bad temporary jobs. I blended in and I forced myself not to try and self-medicate. I carved things out of broken furniture from the alleys to keep my mind occupied. After enough time, the fear died down to a faint hum in my mind. I don’t think it will ever completely go silent.
The other Devotees must have given up on me, and maybe the Messengers, too. I think that if I keep from thinking about the Messengers and the Djinni they won’t notice me. I can go back to a normal life, sort of normal, anyway.
I did think about ending myself to escape. But I remember the Burning Darkness. If that’s what’s waiting for me in death… no.
One Last Thing
I don’t have a belief anymore, which might mean anything. I could be wise and knowing or just a lost idiot. I couldn’t tell you. All the wisdom I’ve seen and heard has failed me. But I do have something to tell you that you need to understand, since you’re thinking about this stuff. And it might change your mind about finding the Messengers and their way, or maybe it won’t.
I won’t bore you with mainstream theology or its offshoots. So I’ll just say that a certain famous “demon name” really just means “adversary,” and another one really just means “against the true teacher.” So when you talk about them, you might mean a big horror-thing with red horns and a pointed tail, but you’re wrong, because that’s not what those words ever meant…
You see, good and evil are inside us. When you and I turn against the light, we are the adversary. When we do what’s wrong, and know it, and do it anyway out of pride or selfishness, we are “against the true teacher.” There isn’t a Fall, there’s just us, falling in a Burning Darkness. It’s not someone else. We are responsible, and the Djinni aren’t lying when they agree with Shakespeare:
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”
In case you do decide to take up the big struggle, here’s how the Messengers and Djinni generally see the other “supernatural factions” that I know about.
Messengers: Proud spiritual criminals defying the righteous natural order.
Djinni: Clever little monkeys that make for a very good game of chess.
Messengers: They seem so much like providential figures, but they’re worrisome…
Djinni: There’s chaos and then there’s Chaos, and the Asuras are CHAOS.
The Blood Dolls—
Messengers: Poor stray creatures ready to be rescued.
Djinni: Servants of the servants, but that’s sometimes where you find the best bargains.
Messengers: Degenerate scum for the most part, but some could be helpful.
Djinni: Like a spiritual ATM if you have the right PIN number.
The Dream Masters—
Messengers: Intriguing visitors from beyond the farthest reaches; possible allies.
Djinni: Hated outsiders who must never be allowed to go too far with their plans.
The Loa Masters—
Messengers: Puny enemies whose machinations are unworthy of much attention.
Djinni: Upstart mortals that think they will be the ones to blot out the light. Fuck them!
The Lords of the Ukhu Pacha—
Messengers: Enemies of truth and light who must be destroyed on sight.
Djinni: The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Messengers: Monstrous evil that lacks humility and sanity.
Djinni: They have great style. Their plans are completely crazy, but they’re stylish.
Messengers: Fascinating potential friends… a possible new start for the earthly world.
Djinni: Counterfeit money that walks and talks!
Messengers: HERESY INCARNATE THAT MUST BE DESTROYED!
Djinni: A verrrrrrrrry interesting cosmological puzzle inside a riddle inside a mystery.
Messengers: Messenger Devotees who just don’t know they’re Messenger Devotees yet.
Djinni: Djinni Devotees who just don’t know they’re Djinni Devotees yet.
The Time Engineers and the Benevolent Society—
Messengers: If they learn to receive the Message, welcome friends. If not—enemies.
Djinni: Something really wrong here, but those Benevolent Society Yokai look familiar…
The Unquiet Dead—
Messengers: Lost souls who are only waiting for eternal punishment.
Djinni: Useless dross that nobody wanted. Pointless.
Messengers: Slaves of a mysterious enemy—walking, talking weapons.
Djinni: Potentially very good friends, especially whatever “sponsors” them.