The Den

Stepney made his way through the Den once more. Each time he entered, as the door closed it was as though the world outside had simply ceased to be, all that was and all that could be suddenly being contained in this one room alone. Clouds of smoke billowed around him, incense from unseen censers, exhalations from bodies beyond number, dissolving themselves into a trance. Seeking. Escaping.

He took in the scene. Each of these men and women seemed young, healthy, respectable. Outside of this place they could be professionals, experts, applying their wisdom to this or that problem. They made Celestis what it was. Yet here they lay, without dignity, without grace, clouding their minds with one narcotic or another. And once this was done, they would return to life, the picture of control. It was a strange world to live in.

Stepney spied Harlow and made his way over. It occurred to him that while the young mystic presumably had a home of his own, he could only be found in Dens such as this. Or at my front door, he added to himself.

Harlow sat cross-legged on a cushion of some exotic design. His eyes were closed. Before him, the folder Stepney had handed him lay open, statements from friends and family of the missing girls spilling out before him. At his side lay a pipe, its contents still smouldering. Cannabis, mixed with one of the herbal concoctions designed to help those like himself. Or to drive them mad – more mad, thought Stepney.

Harlow’s eyes remained closed. He raised a hand in a welcoming gesture. “Stepney, my dear fellow. A pleasure as always.”

“Indeed.”

“I take it you have seen…that woman?”

Stepney sighed inwardly. They were both invaluable to him, yet despised one another with a passion which went beyond the rational. “Calvin. Yes.”

“And?”

“The usual. Nobody knows anything. She was young, happy, enthusiastic. Well-adjusted, dedicated to her work. Then one day she simply disappears.”

“I thought as much. Calvin is of little use. Her mind is attuned to logic and reason alone. We are so much more than that.”

“Be that as it may. While the interviews may have yielded little, I did obtain one item of interest.” Stepney reached into his pocket and withdrew the projection cube. Harlow’s eyes blinked open and he activated it, watching the hologram thoughtfully as it played through its message.

“You have obtained the details of the meeting, I trust?”

“I have. It is tonight. We must attend.”

“We?” Harlow raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“I do not pretend to understand what you do or how. But it would be helpful to have you there.”

“Calvin won’t approve.” Harlow’s expression was partly reproachful, partly amused.

“To hell with Calvin.” Stepney didn’t mean it, but it seemed the right thing to say.

Harlow’s face broke into a wide grin. He gestured at the pipe to his side. “Do you mind if I…”

Stepney shrugged. “Go ahead. We have some time before the meeting.” He turned to raise the attention of one of the young women who waited on the men and women of the Den, every night seeing them turn from respectable adults to what he saw around him. As he turned, he noticed a piece of paper among the records from the file. He took it from the pile. A woman, her hair a deep, flowing crimson, her eyes like burning rubies. She stared from the page at him, as though probing him, searching him, his soul lit by the fire sparking from her gaze.

“Who is she?”

Harlow’s eyes fluttered open. He glanced at the paper in Stepney’s hand. “Her name is Omega. She….talks to me. Dreams, visions, that kind of thing.” His mouth was opened in a blissful smile. Behind his eyes lay a sense of complete peace, of compassion, of honesty. “She cares for me. I care for her.”

And with that he returned to his contemplations, his eyes closed, his legs folded. Yet Stepney remained, gazing at the picture, entranced.

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Published in: on May 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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