Monday, December 13, 2010

Return – Chapter 1

In Massachusetts, there is an old port town called Salem. During the nineteenth century, it flourished as a fishing harbor, but its fate fluctuated along with the American fishing industry. Currently, less than a tenth of the population from the apex of its prosperity lived there, eking out a meager existence in the food processing industry. In the center of the town, the boat-free canal filled with muddy water flowed out into the bay. Along the canal, the summer sun’s rays reflected off the white paint peeling off the boards of old houses, relics of the town in more prosperous times.

On one block stood a cheap brick hotel, built before the First World War, yet still standing despite never having been renovated. On the second floor, there was a room devoid of furniture other than a bed and telephone, and the only sound to be heard was the rattling of an ancient GE air conditioner's compressor. The man in this room ignored it and focused on the handheld computer in front of him. He was probably close to fifty years old, wore a black cloak over a yellowed old flaxen robe, and worn leather boots on his feet. His shoulder-length silver hair fit his medieval sorcerer's garb perfectly.

The man's name was Isma Feed. He was the younger brother of Charles Feed, the famous engineer and magical researcher of MIT. In contrast to his elder brother, who had founded his organization, the International Satanist Garden, so that alchemy and magic could further science and society, Isma's purpose in life was to master dark sorcery and the black arts for nefarious ends. People who knew Isma were deathly afraid of him. As he hunched over the display, his eyes darting across the screen like a hawk, Isma resembled a demon in demeanor.

Isma's handheld computer was connected to the telephone jack, and was communicating with ISG's AI, Craft, online. Scrutinizing the latest data Craft had given him, Isma narrowed his eyes in thought, and his long, bony fingers tapped the keyboard.

> IS THAT TRUE?

The artificial intelligence responded immediately.

> MAYBE.

With a deep breath, Isma cut the connection to the AI.

"It's tough to believe at face value, but there doesn't seem to be any doubt that a young boy in Asia really did succeed in summoning a demon with a computer." As he murmured, somebody knocked on the door.

"Come in."

Turning off his handheld computer, Isma turned his head toward the door, still leaning against the back of his chair. The elderly innkeeper opened the door with an awkward, bitter smile on his face.

"Please excuse me. There is someone here who insists on seeing you..."

Not letting the old man finish, a huge sharp-eyed man entered the room, motioning the old man to leave with the barrel of his drawn handgun.

"The great magician Isma Feed. I've finally found you." The man's voice was thick with barely concealed hatred.

"You're...James, from the FBI, are you not? I applaud your efforts in finding my whereabouts, but this is certainly a rude manner in which to greet me. I presume you intend to arrest me--on what charges, may I ask?" Isma stood up slowly, a sarcastic smile on his face.

"As you may know, we're not famous for our subtlety down at the FBI. And if I were to cite each and every one of your crimes, it would take all day."

Despite the strength of his words, the man's voice trembled ever so slightly, as if intimidated by Isma's stare.

"Come quietly. I don't want to have to drag your corpse around." Bluffing, the man cocked his pistol and pointed the barrel at Isma's chest.

"Well, dealing with your corpse wouldn't bother me one bit..." Isma's pale blue eyes glittered with cold light as he stared at the man.

Despite his seemingly overwhelming advantage, the man could not speak, and simply met Isma's gaze. Silence filled the room; a large bead of sweat trickled down his temple. Presently, Isma started walking toward the man, his robe dragging behind him like it was wiping the floor clean.

"Stop! Don't come one step closer!" Crying out in a dry voice, the man readied his handgun and took a step backwards.

"James, if you wanted to take me on, you should have called for backup first. Of course, one person or three people, the result would still be the same."

Isma's cold eyes glimmered. As they did, the barrel of the gun slowly started to move on its own, sliding along the filthy wall as if to wipe it clean.

The man grabbed his right hand with his left, trying his utmost to stop it. As if it were being twisted by a powerful, invisible force, his right hand slowly but surely pointed the gun at his face.

"Stop, please stop. Argh..."

The sour, chilly taste of the gun barrel filled his mouth, forcing his saliva and cries down his throat. As both his hands fought each other for control of the gun, the man bent backward and looked up at the ceiling.

The low sound of the gunshot shook the room, and the man fell backward, his blood and brains spilling on the floor through the hole in the back of his head.

"Joseph, as usual, please clean up afterwards.” Taking a glance at the mangled body, Isma spoke to the elderly innkeeper cowering in the corner. “I am going to Japan. This time, it may end up being a long trip."

Crushing globs of brain and blood under his leather boots, Isma disappeared through the door, leaving reddish-black footprints behind him.


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