Allen had been working for a couple of weeks at the data entry job when he received a call at home. When he got a call from the office manager at Temps Anonymous. He was on the phone with Ophelia. He was just about to leave for work that morning, and he was surprised to be getting a call from them. She said, “I have the address you need for your next job. Do you have a pen and paper ready?”
Allen said, “I don’t need another job right now. You caught me on the way out the door to do the data entry work at Saxon and Sons.”
Ophelia said, “They didn’t tell you?”
Allen said, “They told me I was doing a great job and they would see me in the morning.”
Ophelia said, “Well they called me this morning asking me to send them a replacement for you.” Allen mumbled something of surprise. She said, “Don’t let it get you down. This happens sometimes. The good thing is that I’ve got you work this morning, and this job even pays a dollar more per hour. That is if you still want to work. You do want to work, right?”
Allen said, “Yes, of course. It just caught me off guard that is all.” Allen found a pen and paper and he wrote down the name and address of his new job. She had told him that it would only be a few days work, but she would probably have another job lined up for him as soon as he finished up this one.
The job was entering a shoebox full of food and bar receipts at the East Side Meeting Hall. He was given the address and the name Jim. The front door was unlocked, and the building was empty. Allen almost left, but the lights were on in the lobby. He walked and called out, “Hello!”
He heard a man’s voice from through the double doors into what was labeled: The Ball Room, so he walked in. The room had rugs on the side and hardwood floor in the center of the room. There was a stage on the far side of the room, and half of the room was laid out with rows of folding chairs. Jim had two chairs in each hand, and he folded them out and sat them in the unfinished row.
Jim pointed to the tiny office in the corner. He said, “The computer is over there. I would normally do it myself, but I’ve had more work than I can handle the last couple of weeks.” Allen shook his hand. Jim said, “I hope you can work with noise because I have a big group of religious nuts coming in in about thirty minutes.” Jim hunched his shoulders almost imperceptibly. He said, “You’re not one of them, are you? You’re not wearing red. I guess you are not. Look, don’t tell them I called them nuts. They pay and they want the room just about every morning. Go ahead and get to work. I have to finish this up before they start coming in.”
Allen got to work inputting receipt data onto the computer spreadsheet, and he was so deeply engaged in his work that he didn’t even notice the people in the ballroom until the preacher got up to speak. Allen was surprised to hear the words spoken in their sermon, but the story was very familiar.
The preacher got up onto the stage wearing a red button-down shirt, red pants, and dark sunglasses. Allen saw him through the little office’s window. Allen tried to ignore the preacher’s sermon to get as much work done as possible, but his productivity suffered anyway.
The preacher said, “Markey was a good kid, and he just wanted to please. In his previous life, in the other universe, he was his father’s son. Not that he had a choice. His mother had died. He did what his father asked despite him just wanting to go and play with the other children. His father had a job, so he had a job. His father had plans, so he had plans. It never really went the other way around.
“His father was Raul Botulin, The Emperor of Evil, and so Markey held the apprentice position by matter of birth. Raul was the most powerful source of evil in his universe with the power to raise armies of the dead and send them out to maim, kill, and destroy. If there were other verbs that could be used to describe the same actions, they would be used as well. As Markey knew well, his father was all about branding. You don’t come up with the title, The Emperor of Evil by accident.
“Raul was something of a different sort. He wasn’t one of these deities of death that just sat quietly by and waited for people to cross over the veil. He would tell Markey. He’d say, ‘You don’t want to be a grim reaper. Sure, the name sounds cool, and you get the black robe and the scythe. But really, who wants to just sit on their hands and wait for people’s time to go.’ He would get really excited and crouch down to his son’s level—when he still had knees to bend and a back to hunch. His spirit has since been held in that mirror in their floating castle—and he’d say, ‘No son. You got to get out there and bring the death to them. Cut them down in their prime.’
“Some would tell you that was the only reason that Raul ever had a body in the first place—back before the incident that is. They might say his body was only there to make the murdering more frightening. A disembodied consciousness is much less frightening than one standing right in front of you that you can reach out and touch and can reach out and touch you, is it not?
“Some believed that Raul’s body had coalesced form the gathering together of all the evil energy in the entire universe in one spot. That is almost certainly not how it happened because evil energy isn’t even a thing. It really is hard to tell with beings that transcend time and place because the reality is that there is no one story.
“But not with Markey. He knew where he came from. He was the son of two loving parents. Raul, his father, and Mistress Carla the Empress of Evil. Mistress Carla was at least as evil as Raul. Some say she was even worse. –See, I told you that those people had to be wrong about Raul, I mean how could Mistress Carla surpass Raul’s evil if all the evil energy had been used up to create his body. Can’t everything just make sense? Why does everything have to be so weird?– But this all happened back before they were joined together in the black cathedral downtown.
“You know the cathedral, or rather, you don’t. It is downtown. You pass it all the time, but it exists out of existence. It is just outside the periphery of time and space. If you thought it was weird for someone to exist everywhere at once, then try to wrap your head around a place that exists nowhere and never except only sometimes. The black cathedral is just that kind of place. It showed up at the union of Mistress Carla and Raul Botulin, it showed up to christen Markey after his birth, and it showed up at Mistress Carla’s death when her body was entombed at the base of the statue in the courtyard.
“You know the statue I’m talking about, or you would when it existed—if it existed. It is the one that shows Raul standing alone in his conqueror’s pose, one foot up on a rock and eyes fixed on the horizon. Or it shows the happy couple fingers entwined and eyes locked on each other. Or it shows them looking over their newborn son. Or it shows Markey at his coming of age transitioning to his father’s throne taking his rightful place as the next Emperor of Evil. Or it shows his transcendence to something else entirely. The truth is that no one really knows what it shows because it doesn’t exist but only sometimes.
“The same is the case with Mistress Carla’s death. No one knows exactly how it happened or why. After her death, Raul was no longer the same happy go lucky Emperor of Evil that he once was. He was no longer content with going out and destroying life as fast as it could spring up. No, evil was no longer enough.
“He wasn’t about to let people go on and live happy lives to old age, but he had grown beyond simply leading armies of death. He left his armies to his son. Markey was eight years old. He didn’t know everything there was about being an Emperor of Evil, but it was something that Raul was sure he could figure out with a little on the job training. Raul sent out Markey in his place to destroy all living things and bring evil and death to all corners of the universe starting with the Midwest. First Chicago and then on from there. Raul had more important things to do. He needed to figure out how to bring a Goddess back from the dead if you really could call Mistress Carla a Goddess if a Goddess really could die.
“It was Markey who first saw through the vortex of space and time to see Linda watching him. Markey was the first to mistake her for his mother. It was a strange image as if seen through reflection not too unlike the vision of his father in the throne room mirror radiating darkness if such a thing could be said to occur. But Linda’s was a darkness circled in white. It emitted a warmth that rose up to him like steam. There was a fluidity to her image as if her mirror was not made of glass.
“Markey had seen how distant his father had become in his search for how to get his mother back. It was only after Raul had started to build his machine that his soul had become bound to the mirror. Some say Raul had simply ignored his bodies needs and let it wither away and die. Others believe that there was an intervention. Some say that someone had seen the destructive power of the machine that Raul had branded as the Portal of Souls. Some say Markey had figured out what his father was up to and had to step in to stop the destruction the machine was sure to cause. Of course, this is all speculation, and all answers are wrong when it comes to the things that humans cannot understand. Whatever the case, Raul was in no way quiet about the existence of the machine, or his intentions to use it.
“He let it be known that he had his machine, and he would be using it to bring Mistress Carla back from the dead. All he had to do was harvest the souls from the people that he sent Markey to kill. Most of the Portal of Souls was a battery to power the rest of the machine. And the portal wasn’t even a portal for anyone but Mistress Carla. In fact, it wasn’t even a portal because it wasn’t designed as a doorway of any kind. It was a device designed to bring together all the powers of evil and death. The souls required to start the machine were only just the spark required to set things into motion. Raul only cared that he bring back his wife. He didn’t concern himself with the completely real possibility that it could bring about the end of all things, his universe and all those beyond.
“In fact, the existence of other planes of existence was a new and novel concept for him. It wasn’t until Markey had showed him the image of Linda looking through the veil that he even knew that there was one there. He had thought that existence through all of time and space before and after was all there was. It would seem that even a God, if that was what Raul was, couldn’t be expected to understand the true nature of things. Seeing as how he was tapping into the basic unifying forces of all being in all universes—and all includes even the ones that we are unaware of the existence of—you can see that there are plenty of other entities that could have stepped in to stop Raul than his own son. It was Markey himself that recaptured Raul’s soul and bound it to that mirror. Hoping himself to find a way—a better way to save his father’s life. A way that wouldn’t bring about the destruction of the universe and everything, but he was only and eight year old boy and what could a little boy be expected to do?
“We must find the boy. We must help him return the Mother Goddess. Only she can stop him. Only she can put an end to the destruction Raul has planned.”
After the preacher finished up, they broke into smaller groups to plan out who was going to hand out what pamphlets on which street corner. They made other plans as well, but Allen was able to tune most of that out. He had gotten through two thirds of the receipts in the shoebox. Jim was surprised with the amount of work Allen was able to get done in one day.
He said, “You bet I’m asking for you back tomorrow. I only wish I had more work for you than I do.” He shook Allen’s hand. He said, “I’ll tell you what. When you get finished tomorrow, I will find you some more work for you so you can get paid for a full day. Your company made me sign something that said I couldn’t steal you away from them until you have worked for me for at least six months. But if you quit them and start looking for a different job you go ahead and use me as a reference.” Jim wrote his name, phone number, and address. He said, “You use this, and I will tell them that I knew you for the last two years.” He held out the piece of paper and Allen took it and put it in his pocket.
Allen decided he would wait and see how things turned out at the end of the next day before he decided if he was going to keep the man’s phone number for a reference or not.