A Lower Deep

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Overview

A man known only as the Necromancer and his demonic familiar named Self wander the spectral highways of the countryside, incurring the wrath of both heaven and hell—and facing the curses of the damned. Jebediah DeLancre, the leader of the Necromancer's old coven, has now created a new coven, an evil band determined to use the black arts for their own hideous ends. The Necromancer is forced to return to his home, a place haunted by memories where years earlier his original coven was destroyed, and where Danielle, ...
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Bohatch, Mike (jacket art) North Webster, IN 2005 Hardcover First Edition New in New jacket Book. Signed by Author(s) HB-Signed & Numbered ltd. edition # 135 of 200-FINE/FINE ... (New)-Volume 3, Book 3 of Delirium Books' "Dark Essentials" Series-A man known only as the Necromancer, finds out that "Jebediah DeLancre, the leader of the Necromancer's destroyed coven, has now created a new one. An evil band determined to use the black arts for their own hideous ends."-Includes a bonus novella, "Eye-Biting and Other Displays of Affection"... Read more Show Less

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A Lower Deep

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Overview

A man known only as the Necromancer and his demonic familiar named Self wander the spectral highways of the countryside, incurring the wrath of both heaven and hell—and facing the curses of the damned. Jebediah DeLancre, the leader of the Necromancer's old coven, has now created a new coven, an evil band determined to use the black arts for their own hideous ends. The Necromancer is forced to return to his home, a place haunted by memories where years earlier his original coven was destroyed, and where Danielle, the only love of his life, met an awful death. The Necromancer and Self must battle not only his former master, but the members of the new coven and the jealous ghosts of his old one...all the while taunted by the possibility that Danielle may return from the dead.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A narrator known only as the Necromancer and his demonic spiritual companion, "Self," wander the spectral highways of this bizarre novel, which focuses on the narrator's attempt to prevent Armageddon. To do so, the Necromancer must battle the leader of his old coven, Jebediah DeLancre, who has created a new band of witches intent on forcing Christ to return to Earth prematurely. When Jebediah offers to raise Danielle, the Necromancer's only love, from the dead in exchange for his cooperation, he finds himself torn between good and evil. Images of Christianity dance on the same page with descriptions of satanic rituals, and Piccirilli's working knowledge of the Old and New Testaments equals his study of the black arts. That said, a stream of characters, spirits and demons wander in and out of this disturbing tale, including Michael the Archangel, who is wrested from the stomach of the Necromancer's father. Piccirilli (The Night Class) attempts to lighten the story up with Self's flippant one-liners, but a glut of gory details will keep readers squirming. This tale is not for the fainthearted; there's enough bloodletting and hellish savagery here to give even the most hardened horror fans the creeps. (Oct. 16) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781929653737
  • Publisher: Delirium Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/2005
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One


Despite the fiery omen of murder burning over their table, the couple seemed perfectly content. The woman's smile brought out the beautifully etched laugh lines around her eyes. Her lips parted to show a sexy, small overbite, and her dark hair glistened with melting snow. The husband stood a solid six feet, large scarred hands looming from inordinately thin wrists. They placed their infant son in a stroller between them and proceeded to laugh their way through appetizers. When the waiter named Jake arrived with their entrées, they shyly admitted it was their second anniversary. Fred and Kathy Rumsey introduced themselves and their son, Walt.

    His voice booming with a two-pack-a-day smoker's resonance, Jake bellowed and offered complementary champagne. The couple thanked him but chose a chateau instead, their baby giggling affectionately. Jake returned and poured wine that oozed from the bottle like black dotted blood.

    The Fetch-light spun over their table, whirling languorously before fading to a hazy nimbus of crimson. Flames drifted across Walt's face and he groped for the waves of red lapping at him. When his fingers touched it, the Fetch-light abruptly drew back like a startled animal and vanished. Walt started to scream.

    I groaned, finished my steak, and took a last sip of beer.

    Snow spattered against the windows in thick gouts while Kathy Rumsey quieted her child. Top-heavy trees leaned precariously, branches bogged like weary arms, and the surrounding fields were an empty range of wind and darkness. Downtown Billings, Montana, hadn't gone far in disproving the notion that this wasn't a nexus of social night life. I ordered coffee. Eidolons and shadows wove intricate patterns in the growing drifts surrounding the restaurant.

    The dinner crowd left and the blizzard kept other potential patrons at home. Soon only the Rumseys, a few people at the bar, and I remained in the place. One woman in a black slit-skirt appeared to have been stood up by her date. The bartender looked uncomfortable giving her more to drink. Surrounding men joked loudly and paid for another round. They got giddier and became more and more hopeful with every swallow she took. Music played softly above their laughter, and timbers settling in the rafters sounded like occasional hammer blows coming from the roof.

    The baby stared at me.

    Jake opened the front door and glanced down the highway, muttering that he saw no traffic, not even the usual truckers working the long haul out of North Dakota. He perused the rest of us with a noncommittal grin, face flat at the thought of his poor tips tonight. His twin brother had recently been murdered: An astral afterimage followed limply behind him strung on a silver psychic wire, the dead part of his shared soul tumbling like a corpse being dragged. As Jake wandered back to the kitchen he brushed past the lady at the bar, who finished her drink, spun in her seat, and approached my table.

    Her blond hair fell in a wild tangle about her shoulders, two sweeping curls crab-clawing into her mouth. Those dark eyebrows offset her features nicely. "Uhm—" she said. "Hey, listen—" Bleary green eyes scanned my coffee, the satchel at my feet, and the thin vase on the table filled with two freshly clipped ugly, half-dead wildflowers. Her gorgeous full lips were the kind that made men grimace in appreciation, that jaw set with a slight jut. "I'm Bridgett. Care to dance?"

    The other guys grumbled and glared. They'd spent their money, cajoled, and bent an ear only to watch her walk off. This might not get bad but it probably would. Her dress hugged her abundant chest as well as all the other nice curves, and she threw a pose to make a few more show up. Bridgett knew just how to kick a step forward so one leg appeared like paradise from the slit-skirt, giving us all a slow view of the entire ride up her knee to midthigh. I hoped nobody was drunk enough to go for a rifle.

    I told her, "Sure."

    We made our way to the small dance floor at the other side of the room. She dropped heavily into my arms as we clumsily slow-danced to melodies that were hot before the Japanese surrendered. Snow continued to violently pound the windows behind us, battering the glass like frantic children dying to be let in. It felt good to hold a woman again, her nails scratching lightly at my back. There was a scent to her, one I hadn't smelled so strongly on another person in years. Church. It reminded me of my mother. Church in its truest, deepest form. The fragrance pervaded her pores. An energy of hymns, whitewash sermons, and an unshakable faith in the scriptures—but beneath that, something dank and awful.

    She sobbed into my chest and murmured a name. Jerry. Terry, maybe. "So, I've got a question for you, okay?" She attempted to enunciate each word properly and did a pretty good job. "Why would a man not show up on the night he was supposed to make a surprise proposal except he talks too loud to his mother on the phone and let the secret out of the bag a few days ago?"

    "Give the guy a break," I said. "There's a blizzard. Maybe he just got stuck on the side of a road."

    "My ass! He's got a Dodge Big Red with a twenty-four-valve turbo diesel engine. I lent him the down payment. The thing could drive up Rushmore hauling two tons of cinder blocks." Bridgett suddenly dipped, jerking me to her. "Squeeze me," she whispered, and the provocative husky tone in there made my breath hitch. "Harder. I want you to hug me closer. Come on, at least let me feel you, if nobody else."

    Moonlight still managed to ignite the flowing November sky as it grew more alive with the surging snowfall. The roughnecks who'd failed with Bridgett gave one last sneer in my direction before leaving. Maybe this would be all right. She slumped farther in my arms until I had to shift my grip on her waist to keep her from falling.

    I caught another whiff of that blissfully sweet salvation and syrupy damnation church stink, and my second self trembled. He yipped a name I didn't quite recognize. I wondered how that odor came to be on her—whether Catholic school had invaded her life to such a great degree or her father was a Baptist preacher.

    "You're a good dancer," she said as I shuffled and box-stepped. "You're wonderful at holding a woman."

    I wasn't. I never had been, and my love Danielle had died because of it. Bridgett didn't look anything like Dani, but somehow I kept seeing hints of her and my brain began to twist. "Thanks, I appreciate the kind words."

    She chuckled, a low and ugly sound. "I like your voice too. There's no saccharine in it, none of that haughtiness or twang either. You're not into trucks, are you? You got a place to stay?" For the first time a grin creased her face, one composed of annoyance and worry, and perhaps the thought of further humiliation. "You don't, do you? I see that pack on the floor. Huh, now isn't that something. I've got plenty of room." She leaned in close and tried to lick my neck, but she ended up on my collar. "I suggest you take me up on that offer. No matter where you're from, I can teach you things the girls don't do there at all, or at least not half as well."

    The baby gazed about the restaurant with a cool reserve. Walt kept staring at me as his parents held hands and ate cheesecake. I worked Bridgett back into a nearby table just hard enough to knock its flower holder to the floor. Her heel crunched squarely on the oddly shaped wild roses, grinding them into the carpet. "Hey, honey, watch where you're swinging me," she said. "I already made you the offer. No need to get pushy now."

    "Sorry."

    I braced her against the seat and stooped to check the roses, interpreting their position using a Romany version of phyllorhodamancy—divination through crushed flowers—and saw in the petals something about worshipers of toads, worms, and the gnawers of the dead.

    The Rumseys gathered their toys, stroller, and diaper bag, and put Walt into his winter gear until he was packed up like a Power Ranger-loving Eskimo.

    "Come on," I told Bridgett. "Let's go."

    "Whoa, boy, you're a little slow out of the gate but you're a racehorse when you want to get moving. Give me a second here."

    I left Jake a tip that would lighten his heart and when the psychic cord leading from the back of his head came around toward me I caught it in my concentration and snipped it with my mental teeth, allowing his dead brother's portion of their soul to at last let go.

    Bridgett drew on a leather coat loaded with studs and buckles that clashed with her evening dress. She laughed humorlessly at nothing, grinning wildly and weaving with little excited steps as if imagining what her fiancé might do after finding us together in the morning. I pictured a guy in a large red truck backing over me a couple of times and it didn't put a smile on my face.

    The parking lot was a blinding swirl of thrashing snow, and the few cars still remaining were almost buried by four-foot drifts. Rumsey carefully brushed off his station wagon.

    "The blue Mazda's mine," she said. "It's not very practical in winter but I like it and ... well, anyway—" She made a fluttery motion with her hand. "It's over there someplace, I think."

    We got in just as Rumsey turned east onto the highway. It took me a minute or two to rock the Mazda out of its spot where the snow had bunched high around the tires. I followed at a fair distance with no other traffic in view. Bridgett kept trying to fondle me, still muttering about Jerry Terry, his Dodge, and broken promises. His mother would be pissed too—the old lady liked Bridgett and wanted grandkids soon before her bad hip completely gave out.

    With her face planted in the side of my throat, those lips were like passionate razors cutting deep that reminded me of another lady from the dead past. I put my arm around her and listened to her sighs, until at last she slept.

    The Mazda handled poorly on the slippery highway, fishtailing and skidding all over. One headlight was out and the other pointed under the grille. I had trouble keeping Rumsey's station wagon in sight. We drove for twenty minutes before he pulled into a sparse hillside area and backed into a lengthy driveway, the house secluded by acres of brush on either side. I turned around and parked at the far edge of their property.

    Even with the fierce wind blowing, a stench of blood and burned flesh bloomed over the house. Between that and the heady aroma of church I had barely enough time, as the nausea hit, to open the door and vomit outside the car. Spasms wracked me and I reached down to get a handful of snow and washed my face with it.

    My second self uncoiled at the pungency in the air and pranced up my back. His mouth watered for bonemeal, Bridgett's sexuality, and the Fetch-lit doomed. Self nuzzled my neck, his tongue working at my skin the way Bridgett's never could, his breath warm in my ear and mind. He plucked at her coat, claws clinking rhythmically on the metal studs. Hot-chee Mama. Nice winnebagos. Now you're thinking, boy!

    We've got problems.

    He scrambled back and forth across the dash, his arousal overpowering. Hey, no problem here!

    Finally he wheeled from her and splayed himself against the passenger window, sniffing and mewling. His eyes could pick up the Fetch-light glowing where mine no longer could, the flaming portent of murder spinning lazily in the night. Warmed in his blood lust, growls of ecstasy escaped him as he dreamed of what might be shuddering, pleading, or eviscerated inside. His thoughts pounded vindictively at me, showing images that made my already queasy stomach tumble further. Cold sweat exploded across my body. Quit it.

    Good stuff going on in there, he said, but weird.

    How so?

    Can't tell yet.

    You yipped a name before. What was it?

    Did I?

    I got out and left the car running, heater going full blast to keep Bridgett warm. The woods were filled with tree branches so heavy with ice that they blocked my passage as I stumbled through hip-deep snow.

    The first floor was brightly lit, every room blazing. Smoke rose from the chimney but no fire burned in the living-room fireplace. Two calico cats slinked across colonial furniture made by Sears. The Rumseys were nowhere to be seen. I tried the front and back doors and found them both dead-bolted. At the other side of the house, grades in the snow showed a few inches of shuttered windows at the stone foundation. I got on my belly and dug a corner of the shutter free, planted my feet, and pulled. The wood splintered and enough came away for me to see the painted black glass of a cellar. Self spat on the window and the paint on the inside bubbled and ran.

    "Holy God," I whispered.

    Self guffawed at the sight. You've got to be kidding me. This? In Billings, Montana?

    Burning coals in a circular brick pit at the center of the cellar threw fingerlicks of shadow along the walls. A teenage girl lay gagged, naked, and tied spread-eagled to an old-fashioned metal box spring standing against one wall. Thin and gangly, her ribs pressed out sharply beneath her small breasts. It looked as if she'd been holed up here for at least a week. Intricate braids of lengthy red hair had come loose and curled down past the butterfly tattoo on her left thigh and the blackly emboldened name MEL on the right. She was covered with gashes, bruises, and burns from melted wax.

    Gouged patterns of cabalistic symbols confirmed she'd never wear a bikini again. Copper wire had been strung so tightly around her wrists and ankles that the crusty skin had sealed over the wounds and her extremities had turned blue. She might not ever have the use of her hands or feet again. Self slurped and jitterbugged beside me, in his element now and wanting a taste of everything. He crooned, begging for entry. Mel—or Mel's girl—looked up. She spotted me and moaned, unsure of whether to cry out from beneath her gag, half expecting me to be just another form of agony.

    At the opposite end of the basement, Fred and Kathy Rumsey sat in a poorly drawn chalk majik circle, a variation of Baphomet's inverted pentagram: The customary nine-feet of circumference had been whittled to five, and titles of the Infernal hierarchy had been misplaced between the tetragrammaton of Jehovah's holy name along the inner edge; along the outer ring Hebraic figures at each point of the pentagram incorrectly spelled out Corozon instead of Leviathan.

    The Rumseys wore cheaply sewn, hooded gray robes, turning pages of a book and reading aloud in badly accented French. I recognized passages from the eighteenth-century grimoire called La Petite Grossetete written by Emile la Duc, a charlatan hoping to cash in on the depravity of certain French nobility of the time. His wife had killed him with a broom handle.

    Walt sat in his stroller, still silently staring.

    If not for the girl, it would have been laughable. Another couple of ridiculous modern satanists, and poorly adept ones at that, wearing Halloween costumes and humping books on the occult back from the library. Not too uncommon a sight in the Manhattan or LA underground club scenes, with parlor games, group sex, blood fetish, and a modicum of Anton La Vey's Satanic Bible special effects tossed in for good measure. Shops in Greenwich Village and on the Sunset Strip stocked eyes of newt and devil's chalices, catering to the social fringe. But ... Christ, in Billings, Montana? None of this accounted for the signs I'd seen in the roses. The Rumseys weren't witches, only perverts, kidnappers, and possibly killers.

    The two-sided blade Rumsey used proved to be a true athame—a witch's knife—sharply honed as he stood facing his wife from across the circle, chanting an invocation so garbled I couldn't make any sense out of it. They approached and kissed, taking turns pricking their wrists, licking the droplets, and smearing each other's face with blood. The flames wavered as a real hint of sex majik filled the room. I held my hand to the glass. Bursts of yellow sparks popped painfully around my fingers, and the girl writhed as though I'd scratched her. Walt continued watching. Nothing fit together.

    Something's wrong, Self said. You know what I mean?

    Yes.

    This reminds me of ...

    Me too. Neither of us liked talking about the beginning.

    His breath cracked the remaining paint. I'm getting bad vibes. Let's get out of here.

    No.

    Quickly. Now.

    First, the girl.

    Forget her, we've already got one in the car! I leaned back ready to smash the glass and he hissed, Do that shit and you're so dead, as if daring me. Variant majiks are in motion. She's no one to care about. Just bait, a thing on the floor lying in the open trap. You've got to let this debacle play out.

    Fred Rumsey untied the teenager and dragged her stumbling into the Baphomet pentagram. She sobbed and struggled wearily until he dumped her into the circle, scuffing the chalk marks and erasing all-important characters—her head cracked against the floor and she fell over semiconscious and groaning for Mel. The arcana intensified until the hair at the back of my neck crawled, electrified.

    The Rumseys took off their robes and continued sharing the knife, cutting at each other's naked flesh, getting into it now, wielding the blade high and drawing it down fast and slicing, tittering all the while. They dragged it deeply across bodies, first one and then the other, politely handing the sticky athame back and forth, soon chopping and slashing through muscle and bone.

    They were insane and they had no real style. True masters at the art of mutilation would have frowned at the waste. Their blood arched and splashed madly across the room. With a final thrust Fred Rumsey shoved the blade into his wife's heart—as she grinned and mumbled, giving up one last bark of delight—then turned the knife on himself, and with a careful flick opened his carotid. He dropped heavily over his wife, and their blood pooled across the pentagram and ran around the girl. It was only going to get worse.

    "Enough of this crap."

    I kicked in the window and dropped inside, the storm following as Self jabbered in the snow, the trap closing. Walt drooled and shook his head happily at me, arms filled with toys. I pulled his stroller out of the way. In the pentagram the Rumseys' corpses vibrated, eyes bulging and blinking, teeth bared.

    Invisible daggers flayed them as I watched, skin tipping back from bone. Veins, nerves, and organs danced little shimmies as the viscera smoked, yanked free from the bodies like corn being shucked. Coagulating, the blood withdrew, and all that spineless flesh slid across the floor and began merging into one large mass that hunched before the teenager like a giant toad.

    Get the girl, I said.

    Nuh-huh, I'm not stepping into that screwy circle. You don't know her or owe her anything. She's got no character, no soul you can see. Why do you keep doing this? You can't care about her.

    I just—

    You don't, no one does. She's only meat on the floor, intended for the moment. She doesn't mean anything.

    Shut up already.

    Will you ever listen?

    Nothing else to do but get it done. Conjuring Babylonian wards of protection—head back and arms out, pinkies precisely placed to cover the lifelines of my palms—I crossed the outer boundary of the Baphomet circle. Connecting with it was like tying into a conduit of fathomless anguish—and an overwhelming love of that anguish—as red mist reared about me.

    Jaws of the corpses dropped open and cackled as the charnel beast formed of their flesh started sprouting heads now. Three semihuman, insectoid faces sprang from the belly of the eight-foot toad. Two pairs of arms extended from its viscous torso, those chitinous heads excitedly stirring. I picked up Mel's girl and backed away, feeling the majik trying to chew my skin off too. I dragged her outside the pentagram and wondered if running would do me any good.

    Is that Arioch? I asked.

    Yes, Self said, much calmer now than he should've been. That meant running wasn't going to work. A smile tugged his lips apart. The Bishop of Worms. I haven't seen it since the goblin market in Sepharvain.

    Maybe you can reminisce.

    An ally of thoughtful Adramelech, Chancellor of Hades, Keeper of the Wardrobe. Watch out for the wings. It doesn't use them For flying.

    Get over here and help me.

    I am here and helping you, Self said. I always am.

    Arioch. Impossible—these simpleton satanists couldn't have called Lord Arioch from its sixty regions. I scanned the badly drawn chalk circle again for signs of hidden names of power, a subliminal commandment of the Infernal, or some obscure or coincidental incantation of the Light-bringer's echelon. I couldn't spot anything. The Bishop of Worms hopped forward with great scraping noises, four flaming hands stuffed with killing strokes.

    Every eye on those three heads gazed at me in fury, each mouth working at once. Its voice contained multitudes, composed of the voices of half a million human and animal souls—I heard kids and women in there, dogs, cattle, and impaled ravens, the elderly evil and misbegotten, wailing beyond its words.

    "And so," it said. "Am I a piece to be moved about in mortal games now, Necromancer?"

    "There's been a mistake. I have no quarrel with you, Prince Arioch."

    Something like a snicker—myriads of whines and yelps—escaped its throats. Razor-sharp wings sprouted from its sides, expanding to the entire width of the cellar and leaving gouges in the stone walls, buzzing as those four hands worked spells I couldn't comprehend. "I'll not be party to your gambit."

    "I—"

    "Why have you tried my patience so? You


Excerpted from A LOWER DEEP by Tom Piccirilli. Copyright © 2001 by Tom Piccirilli. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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First Chapter

Chapter One

Despite the fiery omen of murder burning over their table, the couple seemed perfectly content. The woman's smile brought out the beautifully etched laugh lines around her eyes. Her lips parted to show a sexy, small overbite, and her dark hair glistened with melting snow. The husband stood a solid six feet, large scarred hands looming from inordinately thin wrists. They placed their infant son in a stroller between them and proceeded to laugh their way through appetizers. When the waiter named Jake arrived with their entrées, they shyly admitted it was their second anniversary. Fred and Kathy Rumsey introduced themselves and their son, Walt.

His voice booming with a two-pack-a-day smoker's resonance, Jake bellowed and offered complementary champagne. The couple thanked him but chose a chateau instead, their baby giggling affectionately. Jake returned and poured wine that oozed from the bottle like black clotted blood.

The Fetch-light spun over their table, whirling languorously before fading to a hazy nimbus of crimson. Flames drifted across Walt's face and he groped for the waves of red lapping at him. When his fingers touched it, the Fetch-light abruptly drew back like a startled animal and vanished. Walt started to scream.

I groaned, finished my steak, and took a last sip of beer.

Snow spattered against the windows in thick gouts while Kathy Rumsey quieted her child. Top-heavy trees leaned precariously, branches bogged like weary arms, and the surrounding fields were an empty range of wind and darkness. Downtown Billings, Montana, hadn't gone far in disproving the notion that this wasn't a nexus of social night life. I ordered coffee. Eidolons and shadows wove intricate patterns in the growing drifts surrounding the restaurant.

The dinner crowd left and the blizzard kept other potential patrons at home. Soon only the Rumseys, a few people at the bar, and I remained in the place. One woman in a black slit-skirt appeared to have been stood up by her date. The bartender looked uncomfortable giving her more to drink. Surrounding men joked loudly and paid for another round. They got giddier and became more and more hopeful with every swallow she took. Music played softly above their laughter, and timbers settling in the rafters sounded like occasional hammer blows coming from the roof.

The baby stared at me.

Jake opened the front door and glanced down the highway, muttering that he saw no traffic, not even the usual truckers working the long haul out of North Dakota. He perused the rest of us with a noncommittal grin, face flat at the thought of his poor tips tonight. His twin brother had recently been murdered: An astral afterimage followed limply behind him strung on a silver psychic wire, the dead part of his shared soul tumbling like a corpse being dragged. As Jake wandered back to the kitchen he brushed past the lady at the bar, who finished her drink, spun in her seat, and approached my table.

Her blond hair fell in a wild tangle about her shoulders, two sweeping curls crab-clawing into her mouth. Those dark eyebrows offset her features nicely. "Uhm — " she said. "Hey, listen — " Bleary green eyes scanned my coffee, the satchel at my feet, and the thin vase on the table filled with two freshly clipped ugly, half-dead wildflowers. Her gorgeous full lips were the kind that made men grimace in appreciation, that jaw set with a slight jut. "I'm Bridgett. Care to dance?"

The other guys grumbled and glared. They'd spent their money, cajoled, and bent an ear only to watch her walk off. This might not get back but it probably would. Her dress hugged her abundant chest as well as all the other nice curves, and she threw a pose to make a few more show up. Bridgett knew just how to kick a step forward so one leg appeared like paradise from the slit-skirt, giving us all a slow view of the entire ride up her knee to midthigh. I hoped nobody was drunk enough to go for a rifle. I told her, "Sure."

We made our way to the small dance floor at the other side of the room. She dropped heavily into my arms as we clumsily slow-danced to melodies that were hot before the Japanese surrendered. Snow continued to violently pound the windows behind us, battering the glass like frantic children dying to be let in. It felt good to hold a woman again, her nails scratching lightly at my back.There was a scent to her, one I hadn't smelled so strongly on another person in years. Church. It reminded me of my mother. Church in its truest, deepest form. The fragrance pervaded her pores. An energy of hymns, whitewash sermons, and an unshakable faith in the scriptures — but beneath that, something dank and awful.

She sobbed into my chest and murmured a name. Jerry. Terry, maybe. "So, I've got a question for you, okay?" She attempted to enunciate each word properly and did a pretty good job. "Why would a man not show up on the night he was supposed to make a surprise proposal except he talks too loud to his mother on the phone and let the secret out of the bag a few days ago?"

"Give the guy a break," I said. "There's a blizzard. Maybe he just got stuck on the side of a road."

"My ass! He's got a Dodge Big Red with a twenty-four-valve turbo diesel engine. I lent him the down payment. The thing could drive up Rushmore hauling two tons of cinder blocks." Bridgett suddenly dipped, jerking me to her. "Squeeze me," she whispered, and the provocative husky tone in there made my breath hitch. "Harder. I want you to hug me closer. Come on, at least let me feel you, if nobody else."

Moonlight still managed to ignite the flowing November sky as it grew more alive with the surging snowfall. The roughnecks who'd failed with Bridgett gave one last sneer in my direction before leaving. Maybe this would be all right. She slumped farther in my arms until I had to shift my grip on her waist to keep her from falling.

I caught another whiff of that blissfully sweet salvation and syrupy damnation church stink, and my second self trembled. He yipped a name I didn't quite recognize. I wondered how that odor came to be on her — whether Catholic school had invaded her life to such a great degree or her father was a Baptist preacher.

"You're a good dancer," she said as I shuffled and box-stepped. "You're wonderful at holding a woman."

I wasn't. I never had been, and my love Danielle had died because of it. Bridgett didn't look anything like Dani, but somehow I kept seeing hints of her and my brain began to twist. "Thanks, I appreciate the kind words."

She chuckled, a low and ugly sound. "I like your voice too. There's no saccharine in it, none of that haughtiness or twang either. You're not into trucks, are you? You got a place to stay?" For the first time a grin creased her face, one composed of annoyance and worry, and perhaps the thought of further humiliation. "You don't, do you? I see that pack on the floor. Huh, now isn't that something. I've got plenty of room." She leaned in close and tried to lick my neck, but she ended up on my collar. "I suggest you take me up on that offer. No matter where you're from, I can teach you things the girls don't do there at all, or at least not half as well."

The baby gazed about the restaurant with a cool reserve. Walt kept staring at me as his parents held hands and ate cheesecake. I worked Bridgett back into a nearby table just hard enough to knock its flower holder to the floor. Her heel crunched squarely on the oddly shaped wild roses, grinding them into the carpet. "Hey, honey, watch where you're swinging me," she said. "I already made you the offer. No need to get pushy now."

"Sorry."

I braced her against the seat and stooped to check the roses, interpreting their position using a Romany version of phyllorhodamancy — divination through crushed flowers — and saw in the petals something about worshipers of toads, worms, and the gnawers of the dead.

The Rumseys gathered their toys, stroller, and diaper bag, and put Walt into his winter gear until he was packed up like a Power Ranger-loving Eskimo.

"Come on," I told Bridgett. "Let's go."

"Whoa, boy, you're a little slow out of the gate but you're a race horse when you want to get moving. Give me a second here."

I left Jake a tip that would lighten his heart and when the psychic cord leading from the back of his head came around toward me I caught it in my concentration and snipped it with my mental teeth, allowing his dead brother's portion of their soul to at last let go.

Bridgett drew on a leather coat loaded with studs and buckles that clashed with her evening dress. She laughed humorlessly at nothing, grinning wildly and weaving with little excited steps as if imagining what her fiancée might do after finding us together in the morning. I pictured a guy in a large red truck backing over me a couple of times and it didn't put a smile on my face.

The parking lot was a blinding swirl of thrashing snow, and the few cars still remaining were almost buried by four-foot drifts. Rumsey carefully brushed off his station wagon.

"The blue Mazda's mine," she said. "It's not very practical in winter but I like it and... well, anyway — " She made a fluttery motion with her hand. "It's over someplace there, I think."

We got in just as Rumsey turned east onto the highway. It took me a minute or two to rock the Mazda out of its spot where the snow had bunched high around the tires. I followed at a fair distance with no other traffic in view. Bridgett kept trying to fondle me, still muttering about Jerry Terry, his Dodge, and broken promises. His mother would be pissed too — the old lady liked Bridgett and wanted grandkids soon before her bad hip completely gave out.

With her face planted in the side of my throat, those lips were like passionate razors cutting deep that reminded me of another lady from the dead past. I put my arm around her and listened to her sighs, until at last she slept.

The Mazda handled poorly on the slippery highway, fishtailing and skidding all over. One headlight was out and the other pointed under the grille. I had trouble keeping Rumsey's station wagon in sight. We drove for twenty minutes before he pulled into a sparse hillside area and backed into a lengthy driveway, the house secluded by acres of brush on either side. I turned around and parked at the far edge of their property.

Even with the fierce wind blowing, a stench of blood and burned flesh bloomed over the house. Between that and the heady aroma of church I had barely enough time, as the nausea hit, to open the door and vomit outside the car. Spasms wracked me and I reached down to get a handful of snow and washed my face with it.

My second self uncoiled at the pungency in the air and pranced up my back. His mouth watered for bonemeal, Bridgett's sexuality, and the Fetch-lit doomed. Self nuzzled my neck, his tongue working at my skin the way Bridgett's never could, his breath warm in my ear and mind. He plucked at her coat, claws clinking rhythmically on the metal studs. Hot-chee Mama. Nice winnebagos. Now you're thinking, boy!

We've got problems.


He scrambled back and forth across the dash, his arousal overpowering. Hey, no problem here

Finally he wheeled from her and splayed himself against the passenger window, sniffing and mewling. His eyes could pick up the Fetch-light glowing where mine no longer could, the flaming portent of murder spinning lazily in the night. Warmed in his blood lust, growls of ecstasy escaped him as he dreamed of what might be shuddering, pleading, or eviscerated inside. His thoughts pounded vindictively at me, showing images that made my already queasy stomach tumble further. Cold sweat exploded across my body. Quit it.

Good stuff going on in there, he said, but weird.

How so?

Can't tell yet.

You yipped a name before. What was it?

Did I?


I got out and left the car running, heater going full blast to keep Bridgett warm. The woods were filled with tree branches so heavy with ice that they blocked my passage as I stumbled through hip-deep snow.

The first floor was brightly lit, every room blazing. Smoke rose from the chimney but no fire burned in the living-room fireplace. Two calico cats slinked across colonial furniture made by Sears. The Rumseys were nowhere to be seen. I tried the front and back doors and found them both dead- bolted. At the other side of the house, grades in the snow showed a few inches of shuttered windows at the stone foundation. I got on my belly and dug a corner of the shutter free, planted my feet, and pulled. The wood splintered and enough came away for me to see the painted black glass of a cellar. Self spat on the window and the paint on the inside bubbled and ran.

"Holy God," I whispered.

Self guffawed at the sight. You've got to be kidding me. This? In Billings, Montana?

Burning coals in a circular brick pit at the center of the cellar threw fingerlicks of shadow along the walls. A teenage girl lay gagged, naked, and tied spread-eagled to an old-fashioned metal box spring standing against one wall. Thin and gangly, her ribs pressed out sharply beneath her small breasts. It looked as if she'd been holed up here for at least a week. Intricate braids of lengthy red hair had come loose and curled down past the butterfly tattoo on her left thigh and the blackly emboldened name mel on the right. She was covered with gashes, bruises, and burns from melted wax.

Gouged patterns of cabalistic symbols confirmed she'd never wear a bikini again. Copper wire had been strung so tightly around her wrists and ankles that the crusty skin had sealed overthe wounds and her extremities had turned blue. She might not ever have the use of her hands or feet again. Self slurped and jitterbugged beside me, in his element now and wanting a taste of everything. He crooned, begging for entry. Mel — or Mel's girl — looked up. She spotted me and moaned, unsure of whether to cry out from beneath her gag, half expecting me to be just another form of agony.

At the opposite end of the basement, Fred and Kathy Rumsey sat in a poorly drawn chalk majik circle, a variation of Baphomet's inverted pentagram: The customary nine-feet of circumference had been whittled to five, and titles of the Infernal hierarchy had been misplaced between the tetragrammaton of Jehovah's holy name along the inner edge; along the outer ring Hebraic figures at each point of the pentagram incorrectly spelled out Corozon instead of Leviathan.

The Rumseys wore cheaply sewn, hooded gray robes, turning pages of a book and reading aloud in badly accented French. I recognized passages from the eighteenth-century grimoire called La Petite Grossetete written by Emile la Duc, a charlatan hoping to cash in on the depravity of certain French nobility of the time. His wife had killed him with a broom handle.

Walt sat in his stroller, still silently staring.

If not for the girl, it would have been laughable. Another couple of ridiculous modern satanists, and poorly adept ones at that, wearing Halloween costumes and humping books on the occult back from the library. Not too uncommon a sight in the Manhattan or LA underground club scenes, with parlor games, group sex, blood fetish, and a modicum of Anton La Vey's Satanic Bible special effects tossed in for good measure. Shops in Greenwich Village and on the Sunset Strip stocked eyes of newt and devil's chalices, catering to the social fringe. But...Christ, in Billings, Montana? None of this accounted for the signs I'd seen in the roses. The Rumseys weren't witches, only perverts, kidnappers, and possibly killers.

The two-sided blade Rumsey used proved to be a true athame — a witch's knife — sharply honed as he stood facing his wife from across the circle, chanting an invocation so garbled I couldn't make anysense out of it. They approached and kissed, taking turns pricking their wrists, licking the droplets, and smearing each other's face with blood. The flames wavered as a real hint of sex majik filled the room. I held my hand to the glass. Bursts of yellow sparks popped painfully around my fingers, and the girl writhed as though I'd scratched her. Walt continued watching. Nothing fit together.

Something's wrong, Self said. You know what I mean?

Yes.

This reminds me of...


Me too. Neither of us liked talking about the beginning.

His breath cracked the remaining paint. I'm getting bad vibes. Let's get out of here.

No.

Quickly. Now.

First, the girl.


Forget her, we've already got one in the car! I leaned back ready to smash the glass and he hissed, Do that shit and you're so dead, as if daring me. Variant majiks are in motion. She's no one to care about. Just bait, a thing on the floor lying in the open trap. You've got to let this debacle play out.

Fred Rumsey untied the teenager and dragged her stumbling into the Baphomet pentagram. She sobbed and struggled wearily until he dumped her into the circle, scuffing the chalk marks and erasing all-important characters — her head cracked against the floor and she fell over semiconscious and groaning for Mel. The arcana intensified until the hair at the back of my neck crawled, electrified.

The Rumseys took off their robes and continued sharing the knife, cutting at each other's naked flesh, getting into it now, wielding the blade high and drawing it down fast and slicing, tittering all the while. They dragged it deeply across bodies, first one and then the other, politely handing the sticky athame back and forth, soon chopping and slashing through muscle and bone.

They were insane and they had no real style. True masters at the art of mutilation would have frowned at the waste. Their blood arched and splashed madly across the room. With a final thrust Fred Rumsey shoved the blade into his wife's heart — as she grinned and mumbled, giving up one last bark of delight — then turned the knife on himself, and with a careful flick opened his carotid. He dropped heavily over his wife, and their blood pooled across the pentagram and ran around the girl. It was only going to get worse.
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 26, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    The Necromancer is an unnamed Summoner who criss-crosses the mag

    The Necromancer is an unnamed Summoner who criss-crosses the magical and mystical byways of the land with his impulsive demonic familiar, Self.

    A clash of a decades old conflict and his old Coven forces our unlikely heroes to follow a darkly designed path whilst trying to unravel the devious plots of Jebediah DeLancre that threaten to break the firmament and unleash Armageddon.

    Mixing the deeply powerful magics and metaphysical colours of mysticism with religious sensibilities - you're presented with a fantastic ride through a tortured landscape that mirrors the fractured existence of the Necromancer and the ghosts of his past.

    A triumph of storytelling, this is epic Dark Fiction.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    Lower Deep

    I first read Piccirrilli's "Self" stories back when they appeared in small press magazines in the horror genre. I was always enthralled with how he managed to blend so many elements together and yet still offer up a remarkably smooth story. In A Lower Deep, the author takes three novellas with one overall arcing story line and gives a rip-snorting dark fantasy tale of a modern day warlock driven by a vague morality to try to save the world. The warlock (or "Necromancer", as he's known here) is trapped between a world of black magic, his own demonic "Self's" constant urgings for him to give in to lust and murder, his love for his dead girlfriend, and his struggle with understanding God's greater plan. A wonderfully ambitious, unsettling, and moving book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    Lower Deep

    A narrator known only as the Necromancer and his demonic sidekick, "Self," wander through the book all across America and eventually to the Middle East, where they attempt to stop a misled coven in Jerusalem. The Necromancer struggles with the ghosts of his dead comrades and battles the leader of his former coven, Jebediah DeLancre, who is intending to resurrect Christ before God wills it so. This novel is heavy with a crackling atmosphere and filled with an amalgam of Judeo-Christian history, other myths, and well-researched facts about the Old City of Jerusalem and other Biblical settings. This is a powerful tale told by an ingenious writer.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2002

    Lower Deep

    A LOWER DEEP is a wonderful occult horror novel where research into mythology, religion, the black arts and history has paid off in a fine way. This book reads with a particular sense of realism no matter how bizarre the situation. We follow a nameless man known only as the Necromancer as he and his demonic and sarcastic companion "Self" travel across the world battling evil abroad and the evil within themselves. From an unholy mansion where a witches' coven attempts the premature resurrection of the messiah, to a haunted monestary where insane monks roam, to the city of Jerusalem itself where the protagonist must fight the ghosts of his past as Armageddon approaches. This is top-notch horror fantasy that brings the concepts of belief, sacrifice, faith and antiquity to a unique life. Highly recommended.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

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