Of the ascent of the Abraxas, in whose godhood the forces of good and evil would be reconciled and free will ended, this is the only known account.
Of the War of All Gods, in which the Abraxas fell, also, this is the sole reckoning available to Earther eyes within the boundary of Sanctuary Rim.
At the centre of this history then is Sanctuary. A spherical speck of existence containing four planets rimmed by a belt of asteroids around a middling yellow star. Altogether unspectacular at a passing glance, Sanctuary, unbeknownst to its native inhabitants, was esteemed as the sacred jewel of the multiverse, for it was the one place in all existence where consciousness could not penetrate inward across the moebius bridge into the probability fields of the quantum vortices.
Few, if any, of the wisest sages in all reality suspected that the being who would become the Abraxas would be born on Sanctuary: the one place where magic did not work.
And so, on that warm day in June, when Ancaster (Andy) Crowley waded into the river behind his home to cast his first spell, a chill shuddered through the cosmos. And across a distance unfathomable, through the purple mist of the realm between realms, into the ear of one of only a few beings inclined to listen for it, the winds of Limbo whispered the name it was Andy’s destiny to bear…
“All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.”
1984 AC SR
There were only a handful of beings in all of existence who didn’t think Andy Crowley was an idiot. Of those beings, roughly half of them knew it was his destiny to become the most powerfully destructive being in the multiverse, and roughly the other half now straddled their bikes at the end of Dave and Ian’s driveway.
“Think of it as two swimming pools,” Andy said. His hands chopped the air emphatically indicating two divergent directions as he shifted on his bicycle seat trying to vanquish the discomfort caused by his wet bathing suit.
“The first pool is normal. The second is full of ice cubes.” He continued as he wiped a strand of hair, still wet from the river, off his face.
For dramatic effect, Andy straightened up and jerked his head in the direction of the cemetery across the River Road.
“Before you were born, you were the water in the normal swimming pool.” He kept his gaze on the cemetery. “After you die, you are the water in the normal swimming pool again.” He turned back to deliver the coup de grace. Nick, Ian and Dave leaned forward on their handlebars. Andy was worth listening to on all matters cosmological. He wasn’t just their Dungeon Master that summer. He was their philosopher in residence.
“But here, right now, in life, in the world, we are ice cubes in the other pool. We’re still the water but we’re separate and distinct from each other… kind of… for a while… while we are alive. Then, when we die, we just melt back into all the other potential living again.”
Dave and Ian looked over at the cemetery now. Nick swatted at a mosquito on his neck. As Andy’s next-door-neighbor he had heard the swimming pool metaphor for mortal existence possibly one too many times.
With the grinding drone of the cicada bugs that were born, lived and died in a single day – this day in particular – as their soundtrack, they quietly mulled over Andy’s notion. The twilight tinge of the setting sun complemented the metaphysical subject matter perfectly.
For Nick, the quiet stretched on too long. So he broke it.
“Have you ever thought about how the solar system is like a giant atom? He said, “The sun is the nucleus and the planets are the electrons.”
Andy, Dave and Ian all turned their heads to look at Nick now.
“What if we’re all on an electron in an atom on a giant toenail of a giant dude sitting on a giant bike talking about this stuff with his giant friends? And that giant is on an even bigger electron on an even bigger atom on a – ”
“Not bad,” Andy gave Nick an approving nod and Nick beamed with self-satisfaction. For even somewhat dismissive approval by Andy Crowley on these matters would be deemed high praise by his friends.
“It’s not as cut-and-dry as that. Of course the mechanics of solar systems and atoms are completely different, but the general idea is there,” Andy continued matter-of-factly.
To common sense, it was improbable that a 14-year-old could know the true nature of the grand architecture of the cosmos. But the way Andy spoke about these things with absolute certainty won him easy converts amongst teenage boys wallowing ecstatically in fantasy novels, comic books, role playing games and cinema space opera.
“Should we get back?” Nick said to Andy, slapping at another mosquito. They were still bad in August this close to the river.
Andy nodded to Nick and said to Ian. “So, we’re not playing tomorrow ‘cause Jim and Bill are away, right?”
“They’re back on Wednesday,” Ian said. Jimmy was away at the cottage with his family, and his neighbour Bill was with him.
“Alright it’s Wednesday then!” Andy said. “Roll and rock, gentlemen!” He shook a loose fist with the thumb up back-and-forth at about waist height. It was supposed to represent rolling dice, but to everyone’s amusement it always came off as representing something else altogether.
Andy and Nick launched onto their pedals and Dave and Ian solemnly walked their bikes down their driveway to the house to prepare supper, watch music videos, and quite possibly, to investigate the inventory of their father’s bar in the rec-room.
Though they had always lived next door to one another, Nick felt he would never really know Andy. He was a lot of things: peculiar, distant – but mostly he was clever. He was also a fantastic Dungeon Master. Even the kids from the city, who had played D&D with them on occasion, had said Andy was the very best.
Nick looked at his friend, riding his bike in that way of his: that way that made you think he was all alone in the world, and that this was precisely the way it should be. His long, straw-coloured hair whipped in the wind as he pumped his bike toward home. Nick often thought Andy looked like Alex Lifeson from Rush or Rick Emmet from Triumph. His signature black-and-white concert shirt (Black Sabbath today) was wet from swimming in the river and it clung to his skinny but well-muscled frame. Three-striped track shorts and white high-tops with laces loose and the tongues hanging out were his summer uniform – invariably. Soon, when the weather cooled, they would be switched out for the winter uniform: baseball-style concert shirt, worn jeans, combat boots, and when necessary, either the jean jacket or the black leather one. And that was that. It never changed. It was a dated look for a teenager in 1984, and Andy took a lot of heat for it at school. But he didn’t care.
Andy dressed for the music he felt in his blood and it was as much a part of who he was as was his natural affinity for the arcane arts – an aspect of Andy’s life that Nick knew nothing about.
For Andy, music and magic were the two sides of the same coin. A sizzling riff could be a mantra; an album cover, a mandala; a soaring solo, a vehicle into trance. Often, he would use lyrics as the invocations necessary to create the vibratory interactions with his aetheric field that triggered access to the null-point: the deep inner realm where he could torque probability and reshape reality itself in accordance with his will.
Andy’s unwavering fidelity to his uniform made it tough for Nick to be his friend at school.
Going into Grade 10, handsome, athletic, straight-A Nick, would in a few weeks be a debutante among junior high school nobility. In the company of his other friends, in their shaker-knit sweaters, acid-wash jeans, and popped-collar polo shirts, it was nearly impossible to avoid deriding Andy at school. But he did his best and it helped immensely that Andy never showed any sign of caring at all about what people thought of how he dressed.
Nick was secretly embarrassed about his own need to fit in with his peers and he respected that, more than just an expression of his love for music, Andy’s uniform was also an altogether purposeful expression of his disdain for the notion of fashion. Andy had even lectured him once on how fashion was a form of contrived obsolescence that helped drive the conspicuous consumption economic growth paradigm, but Nick hadn’t really listened. Unlike Andy, he was less interested in politics, philosophy and cosmology than he was in sports, getting good grades, holding down a job, and of course – meeting girls. Nick preferred conversing about those kinds of things – and he dressed for the social circles where that could happen.
“What are you doing after supper?” Andy slowed down and rode alongside Nick.
“Archon?” Nick said. He loved the fantasy computer chess game but his parents wouldn’t get a Commodore 64 because they thought the idea of having a computer in the house was ridiculous. Nick marvelled at how Andy always had the best stuff; and surmised that it was his parents’ way of compensating for him being adopted. Aside from Andy’s parents, Nick thought he might be the only person that new Andy was adopted. Andy had told him when they had gotten drunk on gin sonics on Halloween about three years ago, when Andy also told him his real name was Ancaster, not Andy. Neither of those things had been brought up by either of them since.
“Cool! Come over whenever.” Andy shot ahead and turned down his driveway.
As Nick turned down his own driveway, he watched Andy go and thought about how he would play Archon tonight and lose. It used to frustrate him, but it didn’t anymore. Andy couldn’t wound his pride. They had a kind of arrangement. In all the ways that mattered – sports, academics, and girls – Nick, though humble enough about it, felt he was probably the smartest kid in school. In all the ways that supposedly didn’t matter – skipping class, video games, sci-fi novels, blowing stuff up with cherry bombs, and rock and roll – Andy was quite possibly the greatest genius that had ever lived
Andy never felt bad about beating Nick at Archon. The way he saw it he was only helping him learn how to win. He saw himself as a mentor to Nick. Beyond trivialities like how to win at computer games, Andy had also taken on the responsibility of trying to help his best friend circumvent these new and unfortunate obsessions with the social superficialities that had started to manifest in his life. Andy felt obligated to guide Nick toward the enlightenment he knew – but only up to a certain point. There were of course, so many things Nick could never know.
For though he thought of him as a brother, and in many ways, as an equal, Andy could never share that he was a sorcerer with Nick. The prospect of that was wrought with danger and Andy had committed himself to keeping those he cared about entirely in the dark for their own safety.
He had always dabbled in arcane knowledge. At three-years-old, he started seeing Norse runes and Egyptian hieroglyphs in his dreams. He had taught himself Latin by the time he was seven. Of course, at the time, he had thought it was just a child’s fascination, and that magic wasn’t real.
Then, he started dreaming in Atlantean.
First, he had heard the language being spoken in his dreams. Later, he had started to see the strange Atlantean pictographs as well. It got really serious when he had stayed at his Uncle Wendell and Aunt Joyce’s for a summer. There was a good library near their metropolitan apartment where he could study deeply and earnestly. And when he discovered that he had not only been seeing and hearing the symbols, but actually comprehending them – and that they were indeed from the ancient lost kingdom of Atlantis, magic ceased to be a child’s game to him. It became his purpose.
Until the profound realization of that summer, Andy had been flippant about sharing his curiosity on the subject of magic. After he had confirmed the nature of the symbols he had been seeing, his cavalier attitude ended instantly. About a year later, after he used the Atlantean symbols to inform the gestures and invocations required to summon (but not to control) a water elemental, and had almost drowned in the process, he swore to himself he would never tell anyone what he could do.
Andy had learned quickly, mostly from short excursions across the edges of the astral plane, the realm of sleep, and once, terrifyingly and by accident, to the Stygian fringe of Olympus, that he could not tell anyone what he could do for fear of unraveling their sanity. The problem wasn’t so much that the existence of magic would disturb them. It wasn’t a matter of the medium.
What concerned him was the content. This was not the stuff of pulling rabbits out of hats or summoning unicorns.
He quickly ascertained that coming face-to-face with the likes of a neon-pink, blinky, black-orb-eyed Chaktou of Karnog with tentacles that terminated alternately in melting cat heads and human hands with fanged lamprey mouths in the palms would be problematic for most people in terms of reorientation of context and fundamental sanity-maintenance. The first time he had stumbled haphazardly beyond the relative safety of the astral plane, his sanity had almost broken. He learned very quickly that, when it comes to sorcery, the possibility of physical injury is actually the very least of your worries.
So, as much as Andy desired to share his vocation and his life’s purpose with his friends, especially Nick, he did not. The risk of them coming to harm was too great.
He put the B-side of Led Zeppelin IV on his record player, slid his headphones on, reclined in his bed, and fixed his third eye, called the pineal gland by Earther science, on a spot on the ceiling.
As he began to replay another summer day of doing nothing really in his mind, his memories gave way to thoughts about how he needed to try to pay more attention to more important things. He did this a lot. There was a part of him that wanted to be more like Nick. More normal. He felt guilty. Then, he stopped himself from going down that line of thought. He was a sorcerer. He could manage his emotions. Discipline was everything.
Not only did Andy have relatively good control of his emotions, especially for an adolescent human, he had also learned how to disassociate himself from the arbitrary reductionist distinctions that shackled typical human thought. This was the key to traversing the reality threshold into the probability vortices deep within the mind that is at once both the deepest within and the most distant without, which are paradoxically the same. Andy could drill down within his own consciousness to depths no other human ever had. His level of inherent physiological, and metaphysical capacity for wielding magic had only ever been seen twice before in all of human history.
Gesturing absent-mindedly with his fingers, he mumbled one of the first Atlantean incantations he had taught himself, and gathered his body’s natural aetheric field, packing it tightly into the thin, hard suit of invisible brainmail that would protect his physical body while his astral form wandered one of the more idyllic and uneventful corners of the astral plane near its boundary with the realm of sleep.
His determination to skip physics tomorrow took hold. He would go to the arcade instead. But how would he pull it off? Mr. Jones had proven himself a worthy nemesis.
Envisioning the necessary magic circles and reciting the required mantras, Andy transferred his consciousness from his physical form to his astral one and stepped onto the spongy surface of the astral plane. The soft-edged, peach, pink and pastel ambience of the place immediately set his mind at ease.
As he walked through golden grass beneath the sunless, perpetual pink daytime of the place known as the quiet realm, he once again marvelled at now familiar towns, cities and villages on enormous chunks of earth like uprooted, upside-down mountains drifting lazily in the air. He had never been to any of them. He had yet to master the process of focusing and projecting his aether in order to fly in this place.
For now, he was content to just rest and think. He still lacked confidence in his skills and was not ready to risk engaging the other beings he could meet here.
Andy enjoyed the springy surface of the astral realm. It was a hallmark of this particular plane that all the surfaces had a kind of spongy give to them. The grass was pale gold. The earth was the colour of wine. In all his travels so far, this was his favorite place beyond the threshold of the everyday plane of waking, material existence.
He looked up at the grassy ridge he had been walking toward, and there it was – his tree! A “splinter of Yggdrasil“ he liked to think. He had often imagined that every mind had a tree at its center; and that in-turn, every one of those trees was but a branch of a single tree – the Asgardian life-tree – winding through all the minds of all the realms in the multiverse.
He made his way up the ridge, placed his palm on the tree’s bark and invited its strength to enter him. The sphere of his awareness began to stretch out and he felt calm. He did not see it, but he knew his silver chord was there, connecting him to the tree, which in turn connected him to his physical form back in his bedroom.
Every being has a silver cord that connects to a touchstone on the astral plane – part base of operations on the quiet realm – part gateway back to the physical body. It was impossible to truly come to harm on the astral plane. One’s silver cord would always pull them back to their body in their native realm should the astral body be sufficiently shocked or wounded. Andy’s touchstone was this tree, with its branches, mostly unseen, stretching out across the planes and throughout the cosmos.
How would he get out of physics tomorrow? He nestled in between roots that felt as though they had been tailored specifically for the purpose of helping him relax. Then he closed his eyes, envisioned the enso (brushed circle of Zen), focused his attention on his breathing, and repeated his stillness mantra.
“Aum Namu Narayanaya”.
The chatter of his waking mind receded quickly and the quiet came with an ease – and to a depth – that was only possible on the astral plane.
The answer would come to him here.
The answers always came so easily in this place.
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