In an alley-alcove behind 36th Street in Baltimore stand two businesses. One is a porn and sex-toys shop called “Honey”, which does not concern us here. Next to it is an establishment named “The Cauldron”, a small witchcraft store selling, as one would suppose, crystals, candles, and cauldrons to the city’s would-be Wiccan community.
The shop’s proprietor, Mrs. Shelly Clem, is very much the stereotypical “white witch”: middle-aged, overweight, and with a constant look of abject fear on her flabby, aging face. A decidedly boring individual indeed.
Her daughter, on the other hand, is quite another story. Caitlyn Clem is seventeen, medium height, nice body, with dark green eyes and raven hair. She was adopted, which explains why she resembles neither Shelly nor the latter’s rather worthless working-class husband, Mark, in either looks or temperament. So it was an interesting surprise when Caitlyn called me one day asking to meet in order to discuss a matter which was troubling her. No, I do not spend every bloody day going around giving my phone number to teenage girls, no matter what you’ve read in the bleeding tabloids. Sod off.
So I met with the chick one afternoon in a local café to see what my particular expertise as Dr. Daniel Rumanos, Supernatural Swashbuckler and Intergalactic Man of Mystery and all of that, could do for her. It was no great stretch to assume that none of the regular patrons of her mother’s “occult” shop (which had previously been located in the hideously-decayed Dundalk area of Baltimore County until a local drug-dealer had forced Shelly at gunpoint to light a candle and cast a spell to help his business. A bit cheeky, that.) could be of any assistance in any issue concerning the authentically supernatural.
I must admit Caitlyn was really cute as she looked at me over her small caramel-vanilla hot latte, but my heart belongs only to my beautiful and eternally-youthful wife, Katrina, so I listened to Caitlyn’s odd story with a purely professional curiosity.
She said her mother had recently fallen under the spell of a strange woman called Meredith Moises, who had moved to Baltimore a few months previously, claiming to be a “shaman” and impressing all the rubes with her mysterious manner and Creole accent. Whether this individual was of any genuine occult power other than con-artistry Caitlyn couldn’t say, but it was obvious that the ever-gullible Shelly believed every word of Meredith’s grotesque spiel. The hideous woman had even talked Shelly into going in debt in order to buy an old church-building, the long-abandoned St. Sebastian’s Old Catholic Church in Baltimore’s Brooklyn neighbourhood. This place of worship, the legends concerning with which I was familiar, had never been authorized by the Vatican, and had been shuttered after its priest had been taken away to an insane asylum in the 1920s. He had died soon after under peculiar circumstances which had been kept rather quiet. Some claim that he had been inexplicably ripped to pieces whilst locked up alone in his padded cell.
Caitlyn then revealed to me that that very night the loathsomely bizarre Meredith Moises would be taking Shelly and her coven to that church for a “Witches’ Sabbath”, at which she promised them that an extraordinarily-powerful spirit would be evoked -- a spirit which would provide answers to all of their problems. But what particularly concerned Caitlyn was that her mother, under the enigmatically monstrous woman’s guidance, was insisting that she accompany them, and that this evening would see her daughter’s initiation into the most sacred “feminine mysteries”!
Talking Caitlyn out of going was not possible. She was still a minor, and her mother was so much under Meredith’s control that she was afraid not going would lead to even more dire consequences than her attendance. Fortunately, however, Caitlyn had already had the wisdom to secretly make a copy of her mother’s key to the church building, which she then gave to me with the request that I sneak into the back-entrance that night and observe the occult ritual surreptitiously. I was honoured that she so fully believed in my ability to protect and save her from whatever abysmal horror might be in store for her during the coming hours of darkness. Oy…
After our talk I proceeded immediately to the large public library downtown, in order to look up old newspapers and find out what I could about St. Sebastian’s Church and its scandals. It took awhile but I finally found something in some 1922 issues of The Baltimore Sun. The priest’s name was Father George LaMartina, and the story at the time was that he had secretly renamed his church as the Fane of the Deep Ones, and was using it to bring up some sort of monster from Hell. At least that’s what the people of the surrounding community had said at the time. Fr. LaMartina was shortly thereafter found to have become a raving madman when the police had gone to the church in order to question him concerning the corpses of several adolescent prostitutes which had been found buried in a nearby refuse dumpster. An autopsy had discovered communion wafers inserted in their vaginas.
Then I saw a photograph which had been taken after the priest had been put away. It was of the church’s nave, and the strange defacements that had been done to it. The crucifix had been inverted, and below it had been painted, in what appeared to be blood, a horrible name in a rare medieval Latin font. Apparently, the dreadful name of the hellishly eldritch creature the insane Fr. LaMartina had been attempting to call forth from the deepest depths of Satanic perdition. I couldn’t suppress a shudder as my body filled with cold dread at the sight of it. It was the name of an infernal being I had encountered before, in some of the most dangerous and unspeakably hazardous adventures of my long career -- and now it threatened to return and devil another day. It was the name of the destroyer demon, evil spirit of lust, rape, and unspeakable debauchery. An immensely powerful alien devil whom this new coven was going to use innocent young Caitlyn to call forth into full, ravening and horrendous sexual depravity.
The name was ASMODEUS!!
I practically ran all the way to the former St. Sebastian’s Church, now the Fane of the Deep Ones, only stopping at Cross Street Market to purchase a certain item which I then concealed in an inside pocket of my long, leathern greatcoat.
Darkness had fallen by the time I got to the “church”, its ominous neo-gothic architecture looming down out of the city night. I slipped quietly into the back entrance, listening closely to hear if the “Witches’ Sabbath” had begun. Indeed, it had! As I entered the nave area and hid myself behind a column to observe, I saw the numerous black candles that had been lit, and the small but grotesque company that had assembled. Caitlyn’s mother, Shelly, was there, along with two regular patrons of her store, one a morbidly obese woman and the other a grotesquely effeminate young man. Caitlyn was there as well, and the short, nearly-transparent bridal dress they had made her wear would have been quite charming under other circumstances. As it was, the hideousness of the situation was paramount. A nice day for a white wedding, indeed. Blooming Hell.
But dominating the room was the repulsive figure of Meredith Moises, deathly-thin with utterly disgusting facial features as if the worst elements of every human type had been thrown together in one ugly eldritch amalgamation. Her head was shaved bald, and leprous white patches of vitiligo marked her winkled black skin. I was glad that the hideous old hag’s shapeless ritual robe kept me from seeing more of her. She turned to Caitlyn with a look of utterly revolting religious ecstasy.
“You have been chosen for the greatest honour, my lovely!” she cackled in her bizarre accent at the poor, trembling girl, “Humankind shall now accept their insignificance before the Cult of the Deep Ones, and the mighty Asmodeus himself has chosen you… and tonight you shall conceive his child!”
With that, the other worshippers took Caitlyn and laid her on the altar before the inverted crucifix, as the close proximity of the copious narcotic incense smoke shattered the last remains of her already-weakened resistance.
Meredith began the unholy evocation in her uncanny intonation: “We call upon the chief devil Asmodeus the Destroyer, Creature of Judgment, Enemy of All Life, Lord of Suffocation, demonic spirit of lust who seduced Eve! Appear before us now and manifest our desires…”
As she continued, the whirlwind of infernal energy grew in the room and the horrible form of Asmodeus began to manifest, huge, three-headed, its appearance a mixture of distorted humanity and grotesque animal forms. The stench was terrible, and the cacophonous howling beyond mortal description.
The creature hovered over Caitlyn, it’s gigantic essence engorged as it approached her. Already she was gasping and moaning as if in the throes of vigorous pain, yet unable to escape as if her very self were held down and bound by invisible iron chains.
Seeing there was no time to lose, I stepped forward and removed the object I had hidden in my pocket. It was the liver of a fish. I threw it upon the burning coals of the incense burner and spoke the ancient words of exorcism as its scent filled the air, being as they are a form of the science of my people, the Watchers of Algol. The demon screamed and the building quaked with the unholy force of its wicked, malevolent rage. It looked at me with its six dreadfully glowing crimson eyes and wailed, “Rumanos! Daemon-Star! Hell Hell Hell Hell Hell Hell!” before suddenly vanishing as if it had never been.
Then a rather curious thing occurred. The gruesome, horrific Meredith Moises, as if her only existence had been as an agent to bring forth the demonic spirit, simply exploded into shreds of flesh and blood, splattering against the walls of the cultic church. By now the other worshippers were cowering in the corner, having been driven irrevocably insane by the sight of the hellish fiend they had helped to evoke.
Caitlyn had by now mercifully fainted, and I swiftly but gently picked her up and carried her to safety away from the unsanctified Fane of the Deep Ones.
Yes, that is the story of how I, well, “blocked” the demon Asmodeus with a fish-liver. It is an Arabian Nights thing. You would not understand. The city of Baltimore once again shuttered the old church building. When the police analyzed the blood-stains sprayed around the nave, they found that they were not from a human being at all, but were a previously unheard-of hybrid of canine and swine DNA. Such was the evil Meredith Moises.
Shelly and the other two demon-worshippers were committed to Spring Grove State Psychiatric Hospital. Caitlyn recovered as well as could be expected, and now runs The Cauldron witchcraft shop herself. You may see it if you are ever in Baltimore, if for some damned reason you would want to do so. Its sign features a “dragon” which would actually look more at home in a Chinese restaurant, and declares the establishment “A New Type of New Age Shop”, whatever the hell that means.
But Caitlyn’s idiot adoptive father, Mark, misunderstood the whole thing when he heard of it, and made it quite clear that I would be meeting with his assault rifle if he ever heard of me attempting to enter his store or his daughter. I say, there is bloody gratitude for you, eh?
The snow was just beginning to fall as young Mr. Antony Minutella turned up the Stony Run Nature Trail in northern Baltimore. He pulled his coat closer around him against the winter cold, but otherwise ignored the weather. He had other things to think about; things that profoundly troubled him, and he rather hoped that taking a walk would aid him to clear his mind.
Mr. Minutella, a student at the nearby campus of Loyola University, was undergoing a crisis of faith. He had entered that great Jesuit institution as a divinity major, and hoped to soon join the local seminary and study for the priesthood. But Antony had been quite upset and shocked when his dormitory roommate had attempted to coerce him into an homosexual relationship. Antony Minutella knew full well that this was condemned as an abomination by the Catholic Church, and so did nobly refuse and resist the unwanted advances of the sodomite.
However, it is when Minutella reported the activities of the boy to the administration that he obtained the first real setback to his Christian faith. They completely refused to take action against the homophile student, only instead transferring Minutella to a different dorm-room and warning him against mentioning the matter further. It could easily be ascertained that the problem was not that the university was in any way accepting of such activity, but that they were afraid of reprisals should it become known that they religiously disapproved of homosexuality -- the “LGBT Community” being a singularly powerful influence on local (and indeed, national) politicians. There could even be some possibility of Loyola’s tax-exempt status being put to the question should the institution become branded as “homophobic”, and for not supporting “same-gendered relationships” (or whatever the current euphemism for buggery might happen to be).
Antony Minutella pondered deeply on these matters as he walked down the otherwise-deserted nature trail that cold, wintry day. He did not even notice the snow beginning to accumulate in the leafless trees and on the ground beside the stone pathway of the trail.
But then, all of a sudden, young Minutella did indeed notice something -- or somebody. For standing a few yards in front of him was a beautiful nude girl. She was very young-looking and slender, with long, blonde hair and skin as white as the snowfall itself. Her eyes were a pale, Nordic blue, and she smiled a beguiling grin at Antony as she beckoned to him.
It was then that Antony Minutella knew that he wanted the girl beyond anything he had ever known before. He lusted for her, he needed her, he had to have her, to touch her, to hold her, to ravish her in his arms. He immediately, impulsively, unthinkingly began to move towards her.
The young woman then began to move away from Minutella, whilst continuing to smile and beckon to him. She did not walk upon the earth, even with her long and perfectly smooth legs, but seemed to float a few inches above it. The snow swirled around her lovely body as if it were a slight gossamer garment loosely draping her otherwise-naked, gorgeous and fantastical figure. A mirthful girlish giggle escaped her luscious lips as she winked at Antony and caressed her firm white breasts in her hands.
The enchanted young man known as Antony Minutella continued to reach out towards the seductive nymph, his mind and body now completely overcome with desire for her. Nothing else mattered to him. Not life, not safety, not pain. Only her and the pleasures he would enjoy in ravishing the beautiful, stunningly-formed being that now danced in the air before him, ever just barely out of his lustful reach.
It seemed forever to Minutella that he had desired the exquisite female apparition, there in the falling snow, and that they had somehow traversed endless reaches of arctic wilderness, the snow growing ever deeper, the cold more intense, whilst his only cognisant thoughts were of the mesmeric young woman, the beautiful dancing Frost Girl who beckoned and laughed her beguiling laughter and as she continually eluded his needful, passionate grasp.
In time, the cold began to overcome Antony Minutella, though he never truly perceived it. He sank to his knees as the youthfully delectable dryad continued to flit playfully about before him. He fell down prone in the freezing ice and snow as consciousness, and perhaps life itself, began to pass way.
Nevertheless, young Antony Minutella has but one further vague memory before he became fully unconscious. One final impression before fully falling into the seemingly insentient blackness from which he would awaken several hours later in an hospital bed. He remembers perceiving a tall, dark figure suddenly appearing before him, silhouetted in the icy whiteness of that horrible winter’s day.
He then heard a commanding, masculine voice issuing forth from the figure:
“Be gone, thou foul temptress and sluttish spirit! I exorcise thee from this place by the Mighty Power of Algol! I do cast thee out! So it is done!!”
This imperious statement was followed by a snarling shriek of distinctly feminine rage and disdain -- and then, silence. …
As you know, my name is DR. DANIEL RUMANOS, Supernatural Swashbuckler and Intergalactic Man of Mystery. Even though I have the appearance of an human being, I am actually far more than any mere mortal. For I do carry within my blood the superior genetic material of that mysterious and enigmatic race of extraterrestrial beings known as the Watchers of ALGOL. This heritage grants me numerous powers and abilities that appear as “magical” and “miraculous” to the people of planet Earth. Indeed, it is even rumoured that the science of the Algolites is actually the very source behind all of the Judeo-Christian/Islamic beliefs and traditions of this planet.
Whilst the majority of Algolites live in elitist isolation from the lesser peoples of the universe, it has become my mission, as an agent of a secret service organisation known as the KOSMIKOS, to utilise my gifts in order to defend and assist the innocent against all forces that would enslave, oppress, exploit, or otherwise molest them.
I had sensed the presence of that being, known as “The Frost Girl”, in the Baltimore area. This hazardously-beautiful nymph (one of the myriads of eldritch beings that populate the “spirit-world” whilst usually remaining unseen to humans), who is remembered in legendry and lore as the very daughter or granddaughter of Jack Frost or “Old Man Winter” himself, has become a form of lust-elemental, luring men to their demise amid the ice and snowstorms of wintertime. She is the personification of that bizarre sense of warmth that is said by some to be experienced by those who freeze to death.
In reality, Antony Minutella was only a few hundred yards along the Stony Run Nature Trail that day, though the nympholeptic effect of the presence of the Frost Girl had made him feel as if he had been pursuing this unattainable ideal for countless miles and for an incalculable length of time. As the snow had by then commenced to accumulating rather deeply, however, it is indeed likely that he would have died that grotesque day -- yet another victim of the lustful enticements of that hot yet frosty femme fatale of the phantom realm.
Fortunately, I arrived just in time to properly exorcise the alluring creature, using an appropriate invocation of the Highest.
Young Antony Minutella recovered well from his experience, and -- wonderful to relate! -- it all actually had a positive effect on him in due course, serving to cure the doubts, the crisis of faith that he had been experiencing. Knowing now of the spiritual evils that exist alongside the purely human ones he had experienced up till then, he afterwards diligently applied himself to his divinity studies!
DANIEL RUMANOS SHALL RETURN