And though I had slain a thousand foes less one,
The thousandth knife found my liver;
The thousandth enemy said to me,
'Now you shall die,
Now none shall know.'
And the fool, looking down, believed this,
Not seeing, above his shoulders, the naked stars,
Each one remembering.
--John M. Ford, The Final Reflection

The Asylum Director

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"The only thing I was fit for was to be a writer, and this rested solely on my suspicion that I would never be fit for real work, and that writing didn't require any." - Russel Baker

Sunday, February 12, 2006

A Bit More Self-Reflection...

Alright now, children, I’m back and my insanity is more glaring than ever.

Now that I’m part of the corporate machine again, I don’t have nearly enough time to engage in my more enjoyable activities, nor research on topics of interest to me. However, I do admit that I’m forming ties with my new co-trainees that, unlike in the past, I don’t think I’d be able to shrug the loss of easily.

Anyone that knows me well enough and has known me long enough will know that I’m not exactly the most emotionally attached person in the world when it comes to people. I truly do tend to let friendships fade away and eventually die in time if I don’t see that person anymore or there’s no point in me maintaining contact with them. It even happens to people that I still have contact with – several of my high school and college classmates are easy examples that pop into my head. I’m not exactly all too fond of many of my classmates from high school and college – in the case of HS, it’s the guys and most of the girls that I really don’t want to get myself into anything resembling friendship again while for college, it’s the same feeling except that it applies to most of the people I know. There are exceptions, of course. Clearly, I’d rather forget my Filipino superiors from my stay in China Airlines and I started forgetting them even before I left. However, my call center buddies are proving to be an exception to my own personal rules.

Wave 3.3 of TeleTech for instance. I certainly don’t contact them as often as I should but, as all of us know, when you’re in a call center, you lose contact with the friends you have and keep the friends you meet at work. However, I’m not too keen on the thought of losing them. I still keep in contact every so often and try to catch them when I get the feeling that they’re not busy with work. If they answer, I make small talk with them and try to keep the old lines of communication and what traces of friendship and camaraderie remain going. I enjoy talking to them, as rarely as that happens, and they’re the first group I’ve ever been put into that I didn’t instantly find someone to dislike or want to avoid. There weren’t too many of them that I allowed to get very close to me and got to know me as more than a casual work-friend, save perhaps Thea, MG, Rami, Benjie and – after our untimely exit from TeleTech – Ivan, John and Jason. To an extent, Jenny and Brady too, if one thinks about it. Good people, all of them, if a little quirky for me every so often. And the time I spent there also decidedly marked the first time I felt comfortable hanging around with the guys since I left De La Salle and my two like-minded fellows there, Nico and Jon. I normally don’t even like talking to guys but I came to appreciate the guys in my TeleTech Wave but, truthfully, I still prefer to be in the company of girls. Years of Siena College can do that to a guy.

For my Circuit City buddies, I don’t have any beef with most of them either. Except perhaps for two of them; the first one because he’s an annoying idiot who acts like he knows everything and the other because he can be very, very annoying a lot of the time. The fact that most people actually like the latter guy is of little concern to me. It’s not that I don’t like him and more a matter of my own unwillingness to spend more time than I have to with his tendency to be annoying – whether or not it is intentional or merely some sort of quirk in his personality, something I can relate to as I have several personality quirks of my own. The first guy, however, nobody who’s spent any substantial amount of time with him likes and he is barely even tolerated. The fact that he was cut down as soon as peak sales season for Circuit City was over was a moment of almost psychologically sadistic pleasure for me. Seeing him gone felt so good. However, for the most part, I really, really liked my old buddies and if there’s one thing that I regretted upon leaving that company, it definitely has to be my buddies there. Rowan, Arnold, Jane, Joyce and Neil easily are the ones that I miss the most, though Fritzie, Cynvee and a few other notables I won’t mention here are people that I’d gladly spend long periods of time with. And yes, I intend to go drinking with them in the future.

And now, I move on to Ambergris Solutions. I’m still there and still making observations on the people that I’m going to end up spending a lot of floor time with. So far, my observations have led me to see that I’m probably not going to spend so much time bonding with the guys in this group. They’re not the kind of guy that I dislike and don’t want to be around but they haven’t struck me as the kinds of guys I’d like to hang out with either. I can befriend them but I’m fairly certain at this point that I won’t be very close with any of them, though some I can relate to better than others. It’s the girls of the batch that I’m developing more than a casual fondness for and, as always, I want to get to know them better and try to endear myself to them, get in their good graces. Incidentally, I think there’s two of them named Grace in the class, so in my own little world, using the word ‘graces’ is comedic in a slightly askew way. It struck me that I am actually in a group that includes two former students of my alma mater, one of the aforementioned Graces – who is a batch ahead of me – and another who, I think, is several batches ahead of me. I’ve found my niche in the group fairly slowly, though I did find friends faster than I did in Circuit City – which didn’t happen until I actually found out who my teammates were, though Rowan is an exception since we have a common sense of nuttiness to us that made it easy for us to get along. I quite like this group and the fact that most of the people I spend most of my time with as of now there are older – and theoretically, wiser – I feel like I can pick up on little bits of life wisdom and become a – gasp! – better person and, in theory, a better writer at some point in the future.

Of course, as with every group I go to, I almost always end up finding a pretty face (or pretty faces) that I want to get to know better than the others. There were quite a number of them during the four years of HS I had (though I don’t think the numbers would have been affected much if the Philippines followed the US’s three years of HS). One I got to know a bit better after HS graduation but eventually lost contact with, another I became close with and almost ended up becoming related by adoption to in my mid-college days but the rest are as alien to me as they were before. In college, I hardly found any, except for one and she only really came into my attention during my final year. Beyond that, the people in college (pretty girls or not) I’d actually subconsciously avoided. In TeleTech, it was just Gracie but I never could bring myself to make a move. In Circuit City, there are three of them – well, technically two since one of them resigned from the company some time after I did. And here in Ambergris? Just two but it fluctuates from being that number to being three at times or just one during others. Their names? Well, as is my current practice with Circuit City, the girls I like at Ambergris aren’t going to be named yet. In the future, when the inevitable event of my leaving and the process of them forgetting about me begins, I’ll drop their names.

It’s better that way, I think.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ve wasted enough of your time. Oh wait, everyone knows nobody reads this blog anyway. So regardless of what I say, I’m safe and I shouldn’t worry. Bah, never mind. Here’s the next part for that project I put up a few weeks ago.

***

Entry#1

The First Day

Today, my servitude began and I admit I am afraid. I awoke in the small room that she had arranged for me to stay the night in above her shop, my personal effects at the foot of the bed, clothes in a closet. The first thing I was to do in her service was simple enough: I was to simply assist her in finding one item in the back of her shop. It seemed like a simple enough until I saw that what appeared to be a small backroom was somehow possessed of enough storage space that is roughly equivalent to one of those fancy walk-in closets you see in the homes of rich celebrities or other extravagant folks. The amount of items there was staggering and I immediately realized finding one item amidst all of it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack without a metal detector – or some stupidly elaborate rig designed to find the needle for me. It is, for sure, just a taste of what I must do as payment.

She also provided me with a handy little guidebook that has definitions on all the strange things she’s mentioned so far. I’ve decided to make copies of the important details of the text at the end of the entries, if only to provide a safer reference since the guidebook tends to bite – the book has teeth (actual teeth!) such that the covers form a makeshift jaw of sorts and when closed, the teeth interlock. It is difficult to truly put into words but just imagine a book with gnashing, sharp teeth with an appetite for the flesh of whoever makes the mistake of opening it wrong and you might get a picture of what the guidebook is like.

For the record, she was intent on finding what she called a summoning stone. A rather common item, she mentioned, but one that is far too expensive in most Sorcerii market places; expensive enough to force her customer to purchase from an unrecognized dealer such as herself.

First off, the oddities I noticed in the back were not of the variety in front. They weren’t old tomes or strange creature-like things but they were talismans, jewelry, weapons and assorted other items simply strewn about with no regard to their fragility, value or what-have-you. When I curiously approached one of the items, a sapphire ring that had the most unusual design of two serpents intertwining in a sort of double helix on the ring itself with the two heads in different directions, I earned an almost instant explanation of the ring from Tohya, who seemed all too pleased to speak on something she must think herself an expert on.

“Ah, you’ve noticed the Ring of Tolox, one of the most interesting items you can possibly find. It is supposed to bestow knowledge of the arcane arts to whoever wears it but at the cost of a two-fold curse.” She said as she took the ring carefully and placed it in one of the many boxes I saw littering the back area of the shop – none of which were marked. “It bestows a level or arcane knowledge, equivalent to an adept Magistra but the curse is that you both desire, lust after…require further knowledge, further arcane power and yet, the nature of the ring prevents you from actually retaining whatever you learn. Once the ring is removed, that minor detail is lifted but so it any knowledge you learn while the ring was on, regardless of the nature of it.”

“That doesn’t sound like a very useful thing to have.” I commented as I took a second look at the ring. I confess the sapphire alone was more than enough temptation to grab the ring and slip it on. “Who in their right mind would even want such a thing?”

“Well, the previous owner of it was an aged Technocrat with far too much time on his hands. He inevitably died when he attempted to use his talents to remove the curse but keep the benefits.” She said. I think she must have taken note of my looking at the gem based on what she said afterwards: “The gem is a later addition. That’s actually what became of the poor Technocrat after his experiment. I acquired it after his untimely transformation as stipulated in the contract he signed.”

“You sold it to him?” I asked, somewhat indignantly I might add.

She nodded. I asked why. When I did, she gave this explanation: “Well, I thought he might make more use of it than Tolox Metrenilius did. Evidently, I made an incorrect assessment on that matter. Oh well.”

I would have pressed the issue further but that was when she picked up the guidebook from the floor – it bit her as she did so but she slapped in on the jacket and it released her – and handed it to me and told me what exactly it was. I think she left out a few details on that though. I was careful to hold it at the jacket, where it had no teeth, and put it into the bag that she left by my bedside – a completely ordinary bag with no unusual effects or anything of the sort, thankfully.

For the next few minutes, we rummaged through all of the boxes and tried to look for the summoning stone, which she described as a stone that is perfectly spherical, solid purple in color save for three green dots. If I found one that had more or less, I either found a gem used to enter and manipulate other’s dreams or candy that, when eaten causes a form of highly suicidal depression. I tried my best to locate the summoning stone, keeping in mind the description she provided me along with her warnings on what I might get by mistake. I must have gone through seven or so boxes before a second artifact caught my eye.

It was a wood carving of what I assumed to be some sort of demon. It had a basic shape of a short cylinder, one end slowly thinning and forming a point which eventually split off into five directions, each one becoming what I can only call a tentacle. From the writhing, twisted form of it, I presumed that they were all prehensile and moved independently of one another. At the other end was a circular, gaping mouth filled with five rows of jagged teeth that lined the inside of it. An inch or two behind the last row was what looked to be another mouth, though I could see the upper and lower jaw on that, as well as less sharp teeth, more like the molars of a human. It had two pairs of legs, the rear pair larger than the front and had three grasping talons while the front legs were short, thin, bent backwards, looked unable to support the weight of it and had only two claws. It was painted, though it was fading. The claws were green; the appendages at the back were dark blue, like the rest of it, though the tips had some white paint splattered on them. The teeth were all yellow and the underbelly was the most disgusting mix of yellow and green I have ever seen. For a moment, I thought I saw the mouth inside actually move, as if biting. I dared not touch it since it just might.

I am not entirely sure of when she noticed my curiosity but she did say what she knew about the carving. “That is a statuette of Plthgryngn, a poor, poor Technocrat cursed by the Magistra for…well I recall it was for something they didn’t like. It is often used in fertility rituals since the five appendages at the back are actually prehensile reproductive organs. He has become a sort of a novelty creature to be summoned by mildly skilled Sorcerii who would rather spend their times with that thing rather than expanding on their arsenal of arts.”

For a moment, I pondered the possibility of actually experiencing what those five appendages were capable of doing to a female body but then I realized my train of thought and stopped myself.

“I haven’t tried summoning Plthgryngn myself but according to some of my colleagues, he’s an excellent lover. Personally, I don’t feel interest in such stimuli.” She mentioned casually before she took the carving in her hands. “However, for a price, I can summon him for your pleasures.”

“I’d rather pay off what I owe you now before I get any more debts.”

With that, we went back to silence and resumed our searching. It didn’t take long for her to actually find it whereas I somehow got lost in the impossible numbers of boxes and items that she kept in what looked like little more than a back room. When she found it, she told me to hold on to it as we left the back room. We left the room and she proceeded to the phone on her desk that I swear wasn’t there yesterday. She dialed a number I didn’t catch and she began speaking to someone that I assume is the one who is buying the stone. As I waited for her to finish, I saw a little trinket that looked harmless enough: a small, blue marble. Just as I was about to touch it and examine it, I heard the door open and, for the first time since I stepped into the shop, I caught a glimpse of someone other than myself and Tohya.

He looked human enough but so did Tohya. Some of me, by that point, had already adjusted to the idea everything can literally be an illusion but unlike Tohya, he didn’t have that air of otherworldliness about him that I got from her after a while. He had a nice business suit on, the kind I expect to see on the CEO of a major corporation, or at least someone high up on the corporate ladder. He looked presentable, respectable and very crisp, very business-like in hiss Gucci shoes, Brooks Brothers suit and two Rolex watches, one on each wrist. The only thing about him that made no sense was the fedora he wore on the top of his head, though he took that off as he approached Tohya, revealing dark auburn hair that was well-combed and had a silky sheen to it. He had a chiseled face with pronounced cheek bones, a slightly feminine brow line, a solid chin and a pair of piercing, sharp emerald green eyes. He has a muscular build that matched well with the suave, sophisticated persona that he seemed to naturally have. I personally find him to be quite handsome.

The two of them talked for a while, exchanged smiles and then Tohya made a sign for me to approach her.

“Do you remember that Ring of Tolox you saw earlier? Do you remember where I put it?” she asked. I nodded. I did recall. “Good. Go get it.”

I got it, returned back and handed it to her. I was intent on leaving them to their conversation but she signaled for me to stay.

“So, Anderson-san, are you certain of this? You are aware of what this ring is capable of and its limitations, correct?” she asked. “I will not sell this to you in good conscience if you are unaware of the problems that this ring has been known to bestow upon its wearers.”

“I know of the history of Tolox Metrenilius and the curse that his ring bears. I would not even consider it at any other time but I am in need of the powers that this ring can grant me.” He said worriedly. I could tell he was afraid of something and he was desperate.

“What exactly do you need it for?” I asked. I was afraid I had made some sort of mistake opening my mouth but apparently, I hadn’t.

He took a deep breath before he responded. “I sort of have trouble with a rough crowd; a really rough crowd.” He paused. I could see how afraid he was just to talk about it. “I’m sure magical folks like you don’t have any problems with that. I mean, you’ve got spells and things…”

“You’d be surprised how difficult the ‘magical’ counterpart of the mafia can be to deal with, but that’s not important.” Tohya said with a slight look of concern. I can only guess what she was thinking. “If all you’re dealing with is the mob, I can recommend some slightly less drastic and potentially destructive artifacts for you to use. The Ring is a little…”

“I don’t care how drastic it is. I need that kind of power.”

Tohya sighed. “Very well, you seem to want it so much. I will expect the transfer to the Swiss account within the day, Anderson-san.” She then pulled out a contract and a pen from the sleeve of her kimono – which was light blue with crane designs for today – and laid it out. “Before we go to anything, you must naturally sign this contract.”

I tried to pour over the contract at the same time he did. It looked like a simple enough document; hardly any legalese written in. But there were parts that strike me even now as highly unusual. There was a clause that effectively meant that the Ring of Tolox was once again Tohya’s in the event of the customer’s death within two years of the purchase. That wasn’t the only odd thing there, for it also included a clause that set a seemingly minor detail to the use of the ring. It wasn’t anything that would hinder anyone using it to the fullest, nor would it even be fatal or disastrous in the right circumstances; it simply bound him to seek her out again in the event that, somehow, the ring proves to be unable to meet his needs or unsuited to his purposes. It bound him to her on so many possible avenues, yet all of them were subtle and certainly, I had not thought of them too deeply or seriously then but now…

Tohya is a manipulative businesswoman, to be certain.

“Deal’s done.” Tohya said with a soft, serene smile as she handed him the Ring of Tolox, wrapped in a white silk handkerchief, and took back the signed contract for safe-keeping. “Well, I hope you find the Ring of Tolox suitable. Should you ever think you might need actual instruction, or perhaps spell components, you know how to find my little shop.”

After he left, she stood up and pulled out a small, black notebook from her sleeve. She proceeded to scribble something onto it and then put it back into her sleeve before she turned to me. “Well, that’s a good sale for the day. His payment would cover the costs of maintaining this end of my business for the day as well as have plenty left over to obtain a few odd little trinkets here and there.” She giggled.

“Do you think he’ll be alright?” I asked her worriedly.

“Jason Anderson-san is an old client. He first brought a unique poison that is undetectable and creates a perfect duplication of natural death. I assume it was to cash in the insurance policy of his mother-in-law and before that, he wanted a potion that would turn him into a man. A pity, really; Jeanette was such a delicious lover while she was here.” She explained while she was giving me a look. “Oh, he can handle himself but I do miss the old him, Jeanette, most dearly.”

I must have trembled; I remember doing so. “You slept with him…her?”

“Why, yes. I found Jeanette pleasing, she found me attractive, we had no trouble negotiating the terms of payment for the potion while we had our little liaison upstairs.” She said with a smile and, briefly, she passed me a naughty look that hinted that she considered having me negotiate terms for my purchase in much the same way. “I don’t particularly have any problems negotiating with women in my bed. On the contrary, I quite enjoy it. I could see I didn’t need to do that in your case, though I’d be lying if I said that didn’t disappoint me.”

I wasn’t quite sure how to take that. It was dawning on me that it was not a stretch of the imagination to think she had me drink a potion that would, in time, turn me into some sort of love-slave of hers.

“Moving beyond that, we’ve covered the costs for the day. You can spend the day as you like, though I suggest that you read the guidebook.”

I was relieved at the change of topic. “What about you?”

She put a finger to her chin and looked up, as if thinking. “I think I’ll be spending some time preparing a few potions that I’m low on stock on, like the ever-popular love potion.” Then, with a giggle she turned back to me. “If a pretty Spanish girl dressed all in black and carrying a broadsword and katana comes, just tell her I’m in the back.”

“You’re expecting a guest?”

“I’m expecting Elena to come back here soon so I can go back to running my business in the kagerokai. This mortal world is entertaining and all but I miss my chambers in Castle Malevolo.” She said. “You’ll like it there. Or rather, you better learn to like it there quickly. We Demons are not patient when it comes to those who do not like our homes.”

And with that, my services for the day to Tohya ended and I went up to the room I was given last night to read up on a few terms, though it is no stretch to say that my mind is preoccupied with other matters.

My Notes: (I’ve attempted to cut them down to short descriptions but still keep what I view to be the core of the guide’s description.)

A melabrothax is a creature native to the Sorcerii populated regions of the kagerokai. Common legend holds that the creatures were created by the potent nightmares of a young Sorcerii prodigy. The creatures quickly became common familiars, created from previously used summoning stones and a little donation of the Sorcerii’s blood to bind the creature. The rare wild ones are prized for the relaxing mist that their blood creates when evaporated over hot coals. The creatures generally feed on blood and, in times of starvation, will feed on their own blood.

A bleeding Venus blossom is a predatory plant, similar to what we might recognize as a Venus fly trap. Apparently, rather than attract insects, the bleeding Venus secrets a strange, blood-like liquid that acts as a sort of lure to unsuspecting male victims. The bleeding Venus is often a small flower but the blossom hides a female-like figure within, naked and of varying degrees of attraction that becomes more alluring with the combination of the secretion’s aroma and, if ingested, taste. Once lured in, the blossom’s vines become active and proceed to constrict any fool trapped by the lures. Once the body is dead or at least immobile, the female figure is encircled again by the petals while the vines begin to liquefy and absorb the nutrients of the prey with special organs at the tips of the vines. The petals of the blossom are prized because they are known to increase the potency of other mystical ingredients. To date, no female victim has apparently been slain by a bleeding Venus blossom.

The beings known as Forsaki are spirits of war and battle. They exist as personifications of various warriors, be they bloodthirsty and brutal or chivalric and noble. Forsaki are often inefficient in any task, as they are mainly focused on maintaining their armor, weapons and their skills but in a combat situation, they are regarded as the deadliest beings in existence. As a race, they are mercenary and bind themselves to being in the service of one of the other major groups, most often to the Demons or the Magistra. While lifetime contracts are rare, they do occur and, regardless of their nature and degree of blood thirst, Forsaki keep their word and abide by the letter of their agreements.

Sorcerii are genetic cousins of the human race, though the origins are unknown. They are natural conjurers, able to alter the laws and precepts of nature and reality to their will temporarily through sheer willpower, though the aid of certain items and tools are appreciated and required for some less talented Sorcerii. A small group had once cross-bred with humans and the latent powers manifest in the minor forms, commonly called by the unaware as psychic powers. However, the mixing of Sorcerii blood and that of a human’s dilutes the potency and extended use can be detrimental to their health, possibly even lethal.

According to the guide, Tolox Metrenilius was a mid-ranked Magistra with an impossible-to-satisfy need to attain more power. He was limited by his natural limitations and his own lack of discipline. He eventually developed a ring that learned the spells for him and it allowed him to rise up the ranks rapidly until he attempted to cast the wrong spell on the wrong Sorcerii, who cunningly turned the spell around on him. That, combined with the miscasting of it in the first place, ended the life of Tolox Metrenilius and also caused the curse on his ring to take root.

Magistra are humans native to the kagerokai and have distant ancestry linking them to both the Sorcerii and the Demons. They do not possess the natural abilities of the Sorcerii and Demons but are capable, with a lot of disciplined study and strict training, can harness limited forms of abilities of both sides. While a Magistra’s arsenal has no chance to defeat a Magistra or a Harkon in their respective fields, they are more than capable jacks-of-all-trades, as it were. A bitter rivalry between them and two other groups, the Techno-Mages and the Technocracy, became the focus of their combined efforts, rather than ousting the Sorcerii as the dominant mystical faction in kagerokai politics.

The Technocracy, with their individual ranks known as Technocrats, is a faction that infuses mystical energies into technological items such as computers and guns. They also manipulate aforementioned energies through using technology. Due to the nature of their methods and abilities, the effects they can create are limited in variety and are subject to limits imposed by the laws of nature and reality, though more powerful and more experienced Technocrats can at least bend those limits with effects and manipulations that border on the truly mystical spells of the Sorcerii, Demons and the Magistra. They are, under no circumstances, to be called Techno-Mages, as the two groups are distinct and are age-old enemies.

Techno-Mages, in contrast, are numerous and also weak. They simply use highly advanced technology to give the appearance of using magic. Their ranks are filled with beings that have no true mystical talent or lack the necessary discipline to actually learn anything, be they Sorcerii, the Magistra, Demons or Technocracy. They are looked down upon but their numbers and the potency of their highly prized and heavily guarded tools and machines in direct combat against the inherent limitations of other groups have quickly made them a force to be reckoned with. Their moves in the political arena have earned them enemies in the form of both the Magistra and the Technocracy. That threatens to be their undoing.

And finally, Tohya’s self-claimed race, the Demons claim to have been of the lineage of a woman named Lilith, who was supposedly half-god. They all possess an aura of mystical entropy that negates any mystical effects of whatever touches them. Through training, most Demons learn to control it such that they can select what becomes affected by it and what isn’t. Demons have a long list of potions and elixirs that are able to duplicate any number of mystical effects and rarer ones actually are able to do things that nothing else can – such as bestow immortality. As they age, they slowly come into possession of an array of abilities that range from enhanced physical attributes such as strength to the ability to bind a soul to a certain services of the Demon’s choice provided the Demon has performed a service or provided them something they desire prior to such a binding. Demons are rare and highly individualistic so it limits any political and military power they might have.

The description of a Demon, if Tohya truly is one as she claimed to me earlier, is making me think on the possibilities of just how powerful she is and what she might have done to me – or is doing to me.

1 comment:

shierwincathydarwintina said...

hello.You write so long... and so well. Am from ambergris myself.a newbie such as yourself.can somehow relate with the entry.