Wednesday, After School
Quinn rubbed his arm still unable to look Paul in the eyes.
"Listen I was really stressed out. You don't need to apologize, I was really out of line too." Quinn sighed finally turning to look at Paul.
"Then I guess we're square," Paul added. "What'd you wanna talk about?" he asked.
"I know we didn't exactly get off on a great start, but I need..." Quinn cut himself off. He wasn't even entirely sure what he wanted. "I need to be around people who don't really know me right now. So... when you go on your next... acid trip, whatever the fuck, could I like, come with."
Paul nodded. "We'd be happy to have you. Another witness to all of this wild shit is welcomed." Paul's phone buzzed in his pocket. It was a text from Jason.
FROM: Jason G.
TIME: 3:59 p.m.
Yo. Mom will be picking me up to drop me off at your place...what's the address?
"Shit, sorry. One sec," Paul said as he quickly replied to Jason's text.
TIME: 4:00 p.m.
4600 Chrysler Street. I'm already omw. See you soon.
"Shit, I gotta book it," Paul said quickly. He opened up his settings and searched for nearby devices with bluetooth. "I'm sending you my contact info again. I'll let you know when we're ready to go on another 'acid trip'," Paul joked.
Quinn's phone would buzz with an incoming contact request.
"See you soon, Quinn. Get home safe," Paul said as he began to jog across Carrolton Avenue. A bus was barreling down the street and Paul was desperately waving his arms to flag down the driver. Thankfully, the driver saw him and slowed down, pulling into the next bus stop. As Paul stepped onto the bus, he could hear the bus driver mumbling something about "stupid kids". He chose to ignore it.
His phone buzzed again after he put in his fare. Jason texted him back.
FROM: Jason G.
TIME: 4:04 p.m.
Just left the campus, though it'll be a bit. Have to stop grab gas...ya know, the whole 9-yards...lol
Paul took a seat and sent Jason a reply.
TIME: 4:05 p.m.
When Paul arrived home, he had managed to be the first on the property that evening. His mother's car wasn't there and Jason was nowhere in sight.
Paul approached the front porch but was stopped in his tracks when he heard a whistle. Turning around, Cavo was standing on a nearby corner, waiting for Paul. Cavo's face was still partially bruised. How he managed to whistle with a broken jaw was another story.
Paul's keys were clenched in his hands. "Whatchu need, Cavo? I don't have time for your shit right now."
Cavo threw up his hands in surrender. "Be easy bro," he said through clenched teeth. "Iun want no smoke. I came to apologize."
Paul stared blankly at Cavo.
"Listen bruh. I ain't know you had them people outchea like that. And I damn shol' ain't know your brother was doin' the damn thing. So we square bruh. No beef. Just tryna get this paper." Cavo slowly backed away, heading down the street. He threw up a hand and waved to Paul before disappearing around the corner. But some of Cavo's words still lingered in Paul's ears.
"My brother," he said softly to himself. Paul balled a fist. How did Cavo know Randy was making moves? Unless he and Randy met. Paul unlocked the iron door to the house, stepped inside, and locked the place down. Randy was back in town and already moving on territory.
Jason exited the vehicle, waving his mom goodbye as she drove off. Guess he isn't home?? he thought, shrugging, heading towards the house's door, knocking on it. "Paul? You home? It's Jason!"
Paul peered out his window. It was Jason alright. On the other side, Jason was facing an iron door with two heavy locks. Behind it, the main door to the home. He would hear several clicks, the sounds of a security system, and a heavy thud behind the main door. Paul pulled it open slowly, trying not to laugh. With his best straight face, Paul stepped into view.
He was holding himself up with his grandfather's cane, and he put on his best hunchback impression and a scraggly voice. "Eh, what's that sonny? You lookin' fer somethin'?" Paul asked with squinted eyes through his spectacles.
Jason just looked at Paul for a good long moment, shaking his head as a smile started forming on his face. "Dude...you might need some work on your acting...my sister might actually be able to help you if you want." he chuckled, shaking his head.
Paul laughed and unlocked the door. He ushered Jason inside and waved to Mrs. Garrett politely before shutting the door. "Glad you could make it." Paul showed Jason to his room upstairs. "You can take my bed for the night. Already talked to my mom so you can crash for as long as you like."
That was true and false. Paul knew how his mom was about visitors. But this was a special case. He was sure she'd understand. He had texted her about two hours ago. It was now 6:00 p.m. She and Ann would be home soon.
For Paul, however, the night would come quickly, and last far too long.
The Fool and the Magician
When did he fall asleep? Paul had crashed on a hand made cot beside his bed where Jason was sleeping. He was back in the blue room. The Velvet Room. It had been a few days since he had last been here. Paul approached the bars of his cell, trying to ignore the large weight around his ankle. The large dark skinned man from before, appeared at Paul's cell. "The master has been waiting patiently for you," he said with emphasis.
Paul nodded as the large man stepped aside.
"Paul," Igor said, addressing the young man. "I see your journey has come into fruition. How do you fare?"
Paul wasn't quite sure how to answer that. "Well... I'm not dead. And I'm learning a lot about... whatever that place is."
"It has a name, Paul. The Substitute Plain. It is a place where many evils frolic about. It is a place that you will find answers questions to some of your many woes. It brings to light the actions of the selfish and the souls in which they have chained," Igor said.
Paul shook his head. "I don't understand. Chained souls?"
Igor nodded. "There are unique shadows in the Substitute Plain. Those shadows which have suffered greatly and have been captured. They belong to the souls of the people in your world. And you have the opportunity to free them and learn some new truths. Or," Igor said, raising a finger. "You may squander this, and allow your world to crumble into the darkness."
Paul leaned closer to the bars of his cell. "Igor. What do you want from me?"
Igor smiled. "I'm here only as a means of direction, Paul. You may choose which direction you take. I only want you to choose."
Paul frowned. "So," Paul began. "If I keep going back to the 'Substitute Plain', I'll have a chance to save the world, right?"
"If I refuse, my world will 'crumble into darkness'. Things are gonna get bad if I don't do something, right?" Paul asked.
Igor nodded again.
Paul paused. He did have a unique interest in finding the owner of the hotel on the first island. He also wanted to learn more about Shango, Grendel, and Personas. Not to mention, he had already promised Quinn that when they returned, he would bring Quinn along. He had to go back.
"Okay then, Igor. I'll go back. It's a deal," Paul announced.
Igor's smile widened, almost sinisterly so. Paul and Igor have formed a pact.
And while Paul could not hear it or see it, the winds of change were blowing in his favor. The Fool Arcana had been formed, and a weak fire burned at its feet.
Paul had one last question, however. "But Igor... why me? Why was I picked to do this?"
Igor's smile faded. "That is a question you can only answer on your journey, Paul. It is the one question I will never have an answer for." Igor turned his chair around so that he was facing the velvet fire of the Velvet Room, his back to Paul. The large dark-skinned man from before stood in front of Paul's cell now.
"Time to go, prisoner," he said.
While the night went on, Jason may or may not have noticed Paul turning anxiously in his sleep. His body would twitch and jerk uncontrollably, but Paul would not make a sound.
The next day would be mostly uneventful, except for the last hour of school. An assembly was called, where the school's student body was gathered in the auditorium. There was a city wide event being planned for New Orleans: the New Age Satchmo Summerfest, sponsored most notably by the New Orleans Catholic Association and their very own head priest. He reportedly, "wanted to give back to the city in more than one way".
"Life is a game. Play it." - Mother Theresa
Those were the words splashed in bold, red lettering across a white banner hanging in the auditorium.
Father Tiverly proudly stood before the students gathered, to announce that he was giving away nine tickets to the New Age Satchmo Summerfest, and students had a chance to win them. Anyone of any class or year could enter, so long as they were present and placed a paper entry into a brown wooden box at the center of the stage with their name and phone number provided.
- Attend the assembly.
- Make an entry for the New Age Satchmo Summerfest