The conjuror sat upright against the bay window that framed him into a profile as dark as the rest of the room. Beside his chair lay a book still warm to the touch after use, and it was one he kept in his possession for occasions like this. He stood up, his features almost indiscernible before the window where the light cast from the street below was the only source splitting the pervasive darkness. The room was unlit, dissuading midnight pedestrians roaming the streets from looking in, as the conjuror had planned. After a short pause, he clasped his hands together, holding them close to his chest and addressed his small audience.
“Let me say again, gentlemen, and to quote the oft said axiom ‘No good deed goes unpunished,’ that I have arrived at a loggerhead with human civility.” He cleared his throat and continued. “You might find yourselves at odds with the subject I'm about to tell, and that it’s incumbent upon me to emphatically discourage establishing ties with a race whose trust could best be stated as questionable. To me, our kind are better off siphoned from our split-tongued nature than spreading our perfidious influence, and all the inherent manifestations therein, to the unsuspecting. Hence, I hope you understand the reason as to why you were summoned.” The onlookers kept their focus, despite a few scrupulous gestures.
“What does my admonition mean, gentlemen, to which you scratch your heads and knit your brows?” In his excitation, he began to pace back and forth in front of the window. “Well, to be mocked, scoffed and bedraggled simply for extending my services to those who requested my succor can barely be ascribed to what we take for granted, to wit, civil order and morale. In essence, I cannot allow myself to lend a hand to those returning the favor in the form of a dagger aimed directly at my heart. What unequivocally rubbed salt in my wounds, however, was how their acts of betrayal were rewarded with success rather than retribution, promotion without quid pro quo, status and not shame, hence leaving good Samaritans, of whom I happen to be amongst, to reap only a foot in our mouths and the humiliation of becoming another’s footstool. For individuals of such outstanding eminence, the returns are interminable, falling into their palms like manna with as little effort on their part as opening a door, wherefore it has become equally impossible for those of a righteous mind to even be marginally edified in the public sphere as it is for a man to fly. The question you might ask is not how many of these contradictory outcomes are a breach of justice, but why they occur, haunting those of virtuous standing from time immemorial. The answer to that shall lie in your mission objective.”
The soft thud of his oxfords on the wood panel floor stood out in the general silence of the room as he continued to pace. The eyesight of some attendees adjusting to the dark were able to discern the conjuror’s look of determination as well as his immaculate mode of dress. He looked imposing, but was weighted by the issues on his mind.
“The following examples punctuate my argument, with which you can all agree are more than reprehensible. After a generous contribution to someone I took as a long-time friend who was financing a home in the outskirts of town, this patron decided it was in his best interest to sever ties with me a day after escrow closed. Since then, he mysteriously disappeared, never corresponding to any of my calls or messages, and leaving me in a dry spell from which I still recuperate to the very moment with whom I speak. As for securing my future with a home of my very own, well, it is without equivocation that what is attainable for most is a luxury now conveniently out of my reach. I humbly bow to the gods of cause and effect, a process of which I have become victim to.”
The others watched a silhouette passing in and out of view. The contours alone were immediately suggestive of someone slightly hunched deep in contemplation, but with a spark of optimism. It could also have been taken as a morbid sense of pleasure.
He continued, “In honoring a promise, I took an acquaintance across state to meet his significant other who moved to be closer to family. As fate would have it, I was met with a premature act of reciprocation when I stopped to wash my hands only to discover upon my return my car was missing in the stall where I left it. It must have been carjacked, as I originally conjectured. Indeed, the passenger was present during the incident, and I shuddered at what might have happened to him. After a minute of deliberation, however, the thought occurred to me that he must have found the opportunity to finish the trip alone. The tribulations I endured in making my way back have given me nightmares of public transport every day since! Bah! To worsen the matter, this strapping young fellow had the gall to trade in my car and, to shield himself from certain legality, filed an injunction against me through claims of harassment. As for me, I had no recourse, no case and no rights!” The tone of his voice showed a mark of frustration.
“However, in light of the Devil’s efforts to double down as always, both cases paled to what taunts me to the point that ripping me asunder and scattering my bowels to the far corners of the Earth was preferable to the humiliation I suffered since. A man I knew down on his luck was in need of employment while facing eviction and repossession with only the shirt on his back as his only companion. Yes, gentlemen, those were the exact words of his plea, and I should have known it was the telling sign of a grift from the start! Instead, my heart sank like a carrack hit square in the hull. At the same time, there was an opening at the company I worked at, and how serendipitous it was, so I offered him an opportunity that he could use to dig himself out of his financial grave. It was no later than a month that he flew up the ladder and became the manager, only he fired me soon after and replaced me with one of his ilk!”
He paused momentarily to let his words sink into the minds of the attendees. "And, by and by, it so happened that he was never under threat of losing his residence, but had a silver spoon stuck in his mouth and a lofty trust fund to boot!"
The tension grew as he spoke. “I think of human life as a thermodynamic system; everything affects everything else. You can’t have the microcosmic without the macro, and vice versa. It is my habit of manners to open the door for every passing woman, yet every time I wave my hand and give them ingress, they threaten me in return. Perhaps, if they cast a spell and levied a curse upon my soul, only then would I be exonerated of my transgressions. My question on the issue is whether I would be given the choice between a pox, injury, death or generational imbrication, that is, if I were foolish enough to expect a modicum of generosity from those who relish the idea of lodging a bullet between my eyes. How silly is the gumption to spare them from having the door swing back and knock them from here to Kingdom Come! Courtesy, you see gentlemen, is a cardinal sin nowadays. According to contemporary customs, one is expected to respond to random acts of kindness with random acts of warfare. It’s a case of wagging the dog, where the majority must be amenable to the one who wails louder than a siren. I can assure you fine fellows that ipse dixit is now admissible in court!"
Each minute gone by was steeped in the hope no one heard him in the tenement next door. And so, he went on.
“Take, for instance, the neighbors’ offense at a friendly nod as we gambol along the streets hoping to strike up casual banter or perhaps trade barbs over a few brandies or ryes. In the event of a collapse, would civil strife boil down to your next-door neighbor? The future, henceforth, would most certainly be determined by who’s left on the block! Preparations, I say. Seize every contingency! A Glock? Perhaps a few makeshift pipe bombs? I’ve always preferred semi-automatics!"
He stopped in his tracks and cleared his throat a second time. The others wondered if it was congestion or a nervous tick. “And by the way, please excuse the tangents with which I use to underpin a few of my pet peeves, that is if you can actually refer to them as pets by definition!”
The book was still warm when he placed two fingers on it, the posture of which being more of a statement on how he carried his presentation to the others than by curiosity.
“How can it be possible for a civilization whose endearing traits valuing erudition and the rule of law to paradoxically give precedence to the elements that would otherwise demean its worth and drag it through the mud? Can civil society only stay afloat through treachery and deception lying underneath its veneer of nominal virtues, or can there be solace in knowing there are cracks in the façade with every infraction against the innocent? Would it not preclude the reason on why societies eventually crumble, to be superseded by another culture that, if not necessarily superior, was bold enough to face off their predecessor, especially one caught in Thucydides Trap? Must I conclude that altruism and all its upstanding iterations are consequently excuses for the self-loathing and suicidal?
“In no uncertain terms, gentlemen, I say fie upon those who’ve brazenly availed my provisions while leaving me, and to phrase the vulgar idiom, eating their dust. It is with deepest regret that I had no other choice in the matter and why you were summoned during my time of need.”
Deep in the recesses of the room, he could make out the subtle reflections glinting off each set of eyes that looked as though they had been placed at random heights. What would have startled anyone else was how they varied in size, shape and color. The row of eyes in the center suddenly blocked out as the Conjuror stepped into the light, his limbless torso a result of how he clasped his hands behind his back.
“Now, as a token of my appreciation for all the burdens placed upon my back, I hereby return the favor to a world hellbent on advancing the least of its kind over the best, to inject a mutual serving of its own medicine and stamp it out of its misery! And as your master, take heed, my soldiers, your deeds shall be duly rewarded with the flesh of those who defile the sacred and crush the innocent!”
He lifted a level pair of hands up to his head. “Now, please stand and be accounted!”
In the back of the room, a flurry of eyes rose to the ceiling. Through the pale lighting, pelts of fur ruffled as giant maws flashed their fangs and claws sliced the air. Fierce creatures from a dimension beyond filled the room with their ghastly presence, having been evoked from a passage in the Kosmic Kodex still simmering on the conjuror’s desk. Each unearthly beast was at the whim of this man, waiting to be unleashed upon a race of apes steeped in their own filth.
“And now, gentlemen,” he concluded, traipsing over to the window and throwing it wide open, “the night is yours to avenge the inflictions waged against me, to right the wrongs that have plagued the progress of mankind and to forge a victory for those who stand before you! Now, fly! Fly and reap the harvest of lowly offenders!”
In a flurry of scuttling limbs and beating wings, the creatures, revealing themselves to be hideous moth-like scavengers unleashed by the Kodex, lunged through the window and out into the starless night. The conjuror could hear their savage shrieks and moans fade into the distance where they would seek his vengeance on the unsuspecting fools who would spite their last.