All Gods High
Entry From the Dream Journal
I came to consciousness feeling like I’d just been getting yelled at… I have an image in my head of a man, my same height but built like a power lifter… all the exercise I’ve been doing makes my proportions like a ballet dancer… a MALE ballet dancer. The man’s words fading in my mind even as I try to cling to them… something was urgent. More doesn’t make sense, at least not in the waking world.
I’m at Harvard. Standing in Harvard. Did I get accepted here? I feel like I never got a reply… of course, I also feel like I was asleep a second ago, but I’m standing up. In my pockets, there’s no phone, wallet, or keys. I can feel Dauda Dagr, though, folded into the interior pocket I stitch into the shirts I make for myself… and my Ghostlight Lantern is on my belt. So… I probably didn’t get abducted… I just for some reason can’t remember how I got here.
I can’t do it, so you have to!
That’s one thing the guy said to me. He had yelled it, like he had some right to give me orders. I don’t think he was Grandpa, though… Grandpa prefers to get people to make a choice, not tell them what to do.
As I’m standing around checking my pockets like a dumbass, I realize a pretty girl is watching me. I make an attempt to play it off by straightening my sleeves, but a lion-claw ring on my left hand catches on one of my decorative buckle and I end up with my arm tangled in my own clothes.
The girl who was watching me starts laughing helplessly, trying to hold it back as I feel that horrible burning in my cheeks and ears, and no matter how many times I tell myself I’m not an awkward kid anymore, I feel just like I did as a high school freshman at All God’s.
“Are you okay?” the girl asks, and her tone of both amusement and pity just makes things so much worse. She’s probably nine inches shorter than me, and she twists her face to look up as mine even as I try to keep her from seeing me blush.
“I..it’s, uh…” my damn stutter. “New ring. I forget I’m uh… wearing it sometimes.”
I give up on unraveling the ring from my shirt and just slip my hand out of it. It stays dangling there, like a retarded ornament.
The girl, who’s been smiling at me the whole time, reaches out and disentangles the ring using both her hands. “Here,” she says, handing my ring back to me.
I just stand there, wishing I was somewhere else.
“Coming to a new school makes everything feel more awkward,” the girl says, and I try to figure out how she could tell I was new to the university. “I’ll be a freshman, but I was born in Boston so it doesn’t feel so… unusual to me. You’re from out of state, right?”
She has a kind, understanding tone to her voice, and I feel butterflies in my stomach. I feel instantly like I love her, that she’s an oasis of protection in what I’ve empirically proven multiple times to be a threatening and hostile world.
“Washington,” I say, and I’m super aware that my mouth opened again like I was going to say something else, but probably just looked like a fish trying to breathe.
“Do you know anyone in Massachusetts?”
“Uh, I’m not sure,” I answer. I have an IQ that probably measures off the charts, I swear.
The girl’s expression retains its smile, but adds a raise of the eyebrow which asks its own question.
“Wh… what I meant…” Goddamn stammer “…is, that I really don’t know anyone in Washington. What I meant is, like, really, I don’t know anyone. They don’t know me, I mean. I mean…”
The girl grabs my hand, which I had been frantically gesturing with. It’s like the stammer, it starts going off doing things I don’t want it to when I’m nervous.
“Hey,” she says reassuringly, protectively. Like a mother. “I’m Angela. You know me. You know someone in Boston.”
I know I’m smiling. Probably way wider than I usually do when I smile, which I don’t often do when I’m not with Yuki. In the back of my mind I wonder if Yuki is trying to call my phone, wherever it is.
“Yeah,” I say.
After waiting a really socially unacceptable amount of time for me to introduce myself, Angela says, “so, if somebody asks who my classmate from Washington is, I tell them…?”
“I don’t know,” I say stupidly. “I don’t know who comes from Washington.” Then, as she starts laughing, I frantically say “Oh! Bo! Bo Jensen!”
“Hi, Bo Jensen!” Angela says, still laughing. I kind of laugh too. I usually can’t ever laugh at myself, but it seems okay to do it now. Angela makes it okay.
“H-hi,” I manage.
“So listen, if you want to meet some people, I can probably introduce you around. My parents do a lot of social events.”
“I’m like, uh… not usually a guy who goes to social events,” I say.
“Okay,” Angela says. “Just if you want to.”
After an awkward silence, she waves and turns to leave.
I watch her leave, this girl I’m in love with after talking to for less than ten minutes. I guess I’ll be going to classes as the same institution as her. I wonder what her major is…
“Oh, hey!” I shout, and take off after Angela at a jog.
“Uh…” I’m already back to stuttering after a moment of blessed decisiveness. “…h-how should I get ahold of you? Like, if I did want to meet some people.”
“Use my school email,” she says, seeming like she already has the process of contacting other students down pat. “Anjudge. A-N-J-U-D-G-E.”
“Oh, uh… yeah,” I say. “Like, when I get my accounts set up, that’s what I’ll do.”
Looking like she’s weighing the consequences of an action, Angela takes out her phone. “Hey, we might as well exchange numbers.”
“I… uh, think I lost my phone,” I admit.
“What?” Angela looks truly horrified, the way someone would look if you’d announced you had ingested poison and had hours left to live. “Oh my god! And you don’t even know anyone in the city! What are you going to do?”
“It’s… uh, not a big deal,” I say. “I mean, I grew up in a trailer park… like, being without a phone isn’t the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with.”
Angela looks at me admiringly, the look of someone who has just heard that a double amputee still intends to live out his dream of competing in the Boston Marathon.
“I’m going to call my mom,” she says. “We can probably help you out for a while, at least until you get things figured out. Are you going back to Washington soon?”
Rather than sounding stupid with another honest answer, I just say that I am. I figure I can just dodge Angela for the rest of my life if it turns out I already live in Boston or something.
“Do you know how to get around the city?” Angela asks, and in spite of my best efforts I can’t even fake that I know what the hell she means. She responds with a sympathetic look.
Over the next hour, as the sun goes down, I learn what she means. Angela doesn’t own a car, and gets by with a complicated knowledge of public transportation. She explains to me, slowly, how difficult it is to drive through Boston.
As we ride a bus line Angela tells me she has used every day for the last three months, I see three men get on. They catch my eye because I know, looking at them, that they all died of blood loss. Unnatural blood loss. And they’re watching Angela.
“What made you choose Harvard?” Angela asks me.
“Uh…” I have so few answers to that. “I just sent out a ton of applications. Harvard, Oxford, Johns Hopkins… I guess Harvard just responded first.”
For the first time since she met me, Angela looks impressed. “Well, holy shit!” She smiles. “Look at you!”
I feel that burning sensation in my cheeks and ears again. “No big deal,” I say, then realize how dumb that sounds. “How about you?”
“An alumni helped me get admitted,” Angela says. “Harvard was my first choice, and my dad… my biological dad, had a reputation that helped.”
“How does a reputation help?” I ask. “I mean, if he left your mom… was he a big donor or something?”
“No,” Angela says easily, then looks like she isn’t sure how to continue. “He didn’t leave my mom, by the way. He was a cop. People say he was a hero. He died in the line of duty, and a lot of important citizens still remember him. Some of them try to make sure his offspring have advantages.”
“Fffffff-ffff…” like air leaking out of a balloon, I can’t stop myself from spraying out the wrong thing to say. “….uuuuuck I’m sorry… like, yeah, I mean… I’m sure he deserved… I mean, you deserve…”
“Don’t worry about it,” Angela says. “I never knew him. He was in my life for a few months, I don’t remember any of them. What I know of my dad is just what other people tell me.”
“It’s good in a way,” the air keeps leaking out, even though I know it ought to stop. “Because the legend is bound to be way better than the person actually was, you know? If you’d actually known your dad, you’d know that he was just a flawed person. This way, you get him as like, a legend.”
Angela looks away. “I’d rather have just known him as my dad.”
The three dead men stand up before the bus has stopped. They line up in front of the door and step out the instant the bus stops.
“This is us,” Angela says, discreetly wiping her eyes as she picks up her things.
“Stay on,” I tell her, imposing my will over hers. She has to do what I tell her, it’s just a thing I learned how to do. It never feels right to use it… especially not after Joan. But, it’s part of what I am. Just part of the horrible miracle that is Bo Jensen. “Get off at the next stop and walk back. If you see any signs of danger, call the police.”
As Angela sinks down into her seat, a lack of understanding on her face, I slip out the bus doors as they slide closed.
The dead men are nearby, looking my way as their heads bob up and down, the way a bird’s does as it searches for food that should be present.
“Expecting someone?” I ask, striding casually over to them. This part has always been easy for me… I just decide to be James Bond, or Philip Marlowe, or Dracula, or some other person I could play who would never be afraid and would always know what to do. It’s not hard, like being myself.
The three focus on me instantly, predators recognizing a rival. The smallest of the three, a man with red hair and piercing green eyes, takes the initiative and advances on me.
“Who are you with?!” The small man snarls, “the Steels? You seem pretty willing to die for them!”
“I am unaccompanied,” I say, drawing Duada Dagr from its scabbard, and deciding that at the moment I am, in fact, Musashi Miyamoto, “and I don’t die for anyone else.”
The line lands, like a great dramatic line from a movie. All three men exchange nervous looks, not understanding what they’ve stumbled into or why.
A second man, shorter than me and of perhaps middle-eastern descent, shouts at me “You will leave this place, and remember nothing!”
I almost believe him, a force inherent in his speech running like a tickle along the inside of my skull. His influence doesn’t even necessitate my active resistance, though… it’s less than what’s required to bind me.
“She’s still on the bus,” the biggest of the dead men hisses in a language he probably expects I don’t understand.
“Get after her!” The short guy hisses back, and draws a knife. I’m standing in the way the dead men will need to go if they mean to follow Angela.
The big guy blurs past me, moving with a speed beyond human. I have enough time to realize how easily he evaded me when the short guy lodges his knife in my chest. The third man seems to think I’m done for, already moving away to follow the big guy.
“Hold still,” I tell the short man, pushing my will out to overtake his. Then I push Duada Dagr out, into his body. The scream he lets out as his face contorts is the stuff of nightmares, my holy weapon fulfilling its purpose in ensuring the dead stay dead. Fangs protrude from his mouth just before his body burns into wisps of black smoke.
I turn, trying to see where the remaining two men… vampires, are. They’ve stopped in their immediate pursuit, staring at me in horror. I pull Shorty’s knife out of my body, letting my super healing speak a message to them as my voice speaks a prayer to my mother.
“Lupine!” the creature closest to me shouts as he draws a gun, and I can hear various other screams from darkened parts of the street, probably innocent people who looked this way at Shorty’s death knell.
The guy thinks I’m a werewolf. That’s cool, I guess. I mean, I prefer vampires to werewolves, but whatever. I kind of wish I could introduce myself, tell him what I actually am in a big dramatic speech, but the rapidity with which he starts just spraying bullets at me tells me that I won’t have the chance. Instead, I call on the protective cold of the underworld to surround my skin and protect me. The bullets flatten out on me, looking like little coins. I wonder if they’re silver.
The biggest vampire, the one with the super-speed, careens towards me holding a knife. The gunman is reloading.
I sing. It’s a very special song, one that enchants the minds of mortals and immortals alike. Both vampires freeze, one mid-reload, the other looking like an action figure posed in a battle. I decide the big guy is more a threat than the gunman, and Dauda Dagr ends forever his presence in the world. I slice him in half, looking like something out of Japanese Anime as I sing my prayer.
Fear allows the gunman to overcome my song’s beauty, and he centers a careful shot from his pistol into my chest. This bullet flattens out much, much wider than the others, and I realize this must be what an actual silver bullet looks like when it strikes supernatural auras of protection.
“What ARE you?!” the gunman’s voice expresses fear, but also anger and frustration. I think he must have been the brains of the operation… and there’s no possible way he could have accounted for me. That’s what it feels like, anyway. He had this plan, and it just got ruined, and he wants to know why. He wants to know where this all went wrong.
“Son of Hel,” I answer, supernaturally coaxing the world to accept what I’m doing as cool. I can’t explain it better than that… if I concentrate, I can make everything I do cool. I try not to abuse the privilege. “Grandson of Loki. Charged with protecting the world of the living from things which belong in the world of the dead.”
“You FUCK!” He shoots me right in the face as I lash out with Duada Dagr, catching him in the neck. There is no scream this time, just a head separating from body and wisps of smoke as the body dissolves.
I hear something else in the aftermath, as the ringing in my ears starts to fade.
It’s applause. Cheers and applause, from those people who had been afraid at the start of the fight. They’ve obviously mistaken my actual life-and-death struggle with some kind of performance art. A crowd is forming, people are telling latecomers what they think they saw.
I flourish my holy weapon and speak a prayer as I return Dauda Dagr to its sheath, prompting another round of applause. Cars are stopped in the street, passengers trying to get pictures on their phones.
Far off, I can see Angela’s bus coming to a stop. I try to spot her, but it’s too much of a distance and not enough light. I wish I could’ve looked cool at a time when she could actually see me. Maybe I can get somebody in the crowd to tell her about it.
I start moving my way through my adoring fans, people asking if I do parties and occasional squeals of “Take it off!” and “You’re so hot!”
I catch a glimpse of Angela, illuminated by a streetlight. She looks like she’s trying to spot me, so I wave to her but I don’t think she can see me clearly because of the crowd and the darkness. Between her and myself, a group of five people get out of a car which is still on the road and still has a driver.
Four of the five are dead by means of blood loss. One of them, a girl with an eyepatch, looks at me eagerly. If she just saw me eradicate three vampires in as many minutes, I feel like she’s either tough or crazy. A man, dressed like me but with less style, looks at me with… envy? It’s not an emotion I see often, so I’m not sure. A delicate-looking, beautiful blonde and an also beautiful but shy-looking Japanese girl both stand behind the only member of the group who remains alive, a woman who stares me down like she’s daring me to challenge her.
I stop in my tracks, then step back. I meant to just give myself some distance, but as I move I realize I’m stepping back through a golden doorway, Boston fading from my sight as I try to get one last look at Angela.
Then I wake up, in bed with Yuki at All God’s.
Yuki stirs, still mostly asleep. “You okay?” she murmurs.
“Had a dream,” I say. “I’m putting it in the journal.”
“Mmmkay,” Yuki says. Then, suspiciously, “It wasn’t about another girl, was it?”
“Nah,” I say.