Chapter One :Choices

Chapter One :Choices

A Chapter by Nelo Maxwell

First chapter in my 'urban' occult novel

Five months ago

Have you ever noticed that you come to certain points in your life, when it is no longer your own. When you hit that fork in the road and realize the car won’t make that right turn and goes left instead. Well that’s what it was like the day my grandfather died, but not for the reasons you might think. Don’t get me wrong I loved my granddad, but some familial obligations are more demanding than others are.

“So you’re coming back to New York right?” My cousin Ebony’s voice was teary and unsteady over the phone. “Mom and I have to sort out the estate and such.”

“Yeah I know I’ll be there.” My sigh was louder than I meant it to be.

“There’s also the other stuff, in the ‘will’ that needs to be discussed.”

This sigh made my last one seem like a whisper, there is always that one thing that a family has. Skeletons in the closet, that illegitimate child, the gay uncle the demented great aunt, things that back in the day no one would speak of lest they come to the fore. This wasn’t any of those things although now a day none of them would be looked down upon, my problem was in its nature larger than I was and in some cases my surviving family entirely.

“What’s the matter baby?” Téa sat up in the bed, cover to her bare chest, remote in hand.

I turned and looked at her, I felt that she was so much more than my girlfriend but my partner in a new life, my new life. Free from being duty bound to ancient patron Gods who happen to be long lost ancestors, or whatever it was my grandparents called the Celestial Arcana. I was living in Chicago, Rogers park to be exact, and had just finished my last year of college; no one from my family came to my graduation. The only congratulations I got were from a familiar looking kid in his teens named Blake and of course Téa. She was always behind me always beside, my rock in the shifting desert and I was determined to be the same for her. When we’d first met at a concert for some local rap acts at ISU, it was odd. I’d never been one to hit on girls in such crowded venues; the chance for a public rejection was too high. However, that night, in that place, something told me to say something and that if I didn’t it would affect the rest of my life. She stood at the bar causally sipping something and I ordered my favorite cranberry and ginger ale. I never drank alcohol; I didn’t like the idea of losing self-control.
I noticed that her hair was wrapped up and asked if she was cultivating locks, like I was. She smiled looked up at me and said “Don’t you know it’s not nice to ask a black woman about her hair.” Of course, I knew and in an attempt to cover my mistake I remarked, “We could talk about other things.” This set her laughing, and she replied “Ok why are you the only guy at the bar drinking, a cranberry and ginger ale, don’t you think that’s soft?” She looked at me with a smirk, she was waiting for me to defend my masculinity, I suppose if I did It’d prove I was insecure, so I answered honestly. “I don’t like the lack of control alcohol breeds.” She looked at me for a second and then smiled, “Nice answer.”
“It’s the truth.” I sipped my drink. From then on; we spent the whole night talking I learned that she was cultivating dreadlocks and we were both from New York, but her parents moved her to Chicago when she was 13 do to work. After several hours more of standard questioning, I finally got her number. The very next day we were an item, it was almost too good to be true. She was perfect, she was strong willed, and ambitious, she loved to read not to mention she was built with a frame praised by the Commodores. What we really connected on was the desire to help the Black community, she thought that by building them up, and teaching them their real history, they’d be able to progress. I thought that they could be more acclimated to it by creating fiction based on it. We’d talk about her plan to open up a restaurant to promote healthy eating among the people. Upon asking her why she was journalism major she remarked that her parents were both Journalists and pushed her to pursue it although her heart wasn’t really in it. We would then discuss my novel about an old legend in my family that I thought I’d write. The story started in Harlem, New York and was based on some old black occultists; it seemed to hit a nerve with her. She told me her estranged uncle had told her about a similar event when she was young, but she was convinced it was just a fairytale. I wish at the time that it was, because all those fairytales, those story book fantasies, that dream stuff was about to affect my life in very large, irreversible way. I dropped my phone, lay down next to Téa, and held her tightly, like a baby to its mother.
“What’s the matter baby?” She stroked my hair. “Who was that on the phone?”

I looked up at her with all the moroseness my eyes could muster and I felt tears well up, tears for my grand father, tears for my family and tears for my own life as I knew it, which would very soon end. Lost to something that took away so many of the Ripley line, a life that made us exceptional and at the same time so very outcast. I thought about what this would mean for the future Téa and I planned to build and I wept, they said that fate was a cruel mistress, but magic was even crueler and she had decided my time had come…to lay down my life for a cause so old it didn’t have a singular name. “My grandfather died…uh…. the funeral is next week… in New York.” I must’ve sounded like a kid who skinned his knee for the first time.
“Oh baby, I’m sorry.” She pulled me close to her and we rocked. “What day is the funeral?”

“N-next…uh… Monday.” I tried to regain my composure, she didn’t know the real reason I cried and that made it all the harder.

“Well then we’d better get something to wear.” She held me closely and I did the same.

That week we went and purchased clothes fit for a funeral and on Friday, we flew into JFK airport, where my aunt Marie and my cousin Ebony picked us up.
“How was your flight, not to bad I hope?” Aunt Marie was always light hearted in spite of everything; I suppose my grandparents trained their children for things like this.

“Yeah it wasn’t too bad.” I said somberly.

Ebony turned back in the passenger’s seat of my Aunts SUV. “So Téa how long have you and Marcus been together?” Her face was calmer than I expected.

“We met about a year and six months ago, in our senior year.” She smiled.

“Has Marcus told you much about us?” Ebony looked at me and I shot her daggers.

“No not much just that his father left him when he was young and that his older brother passed away.” Téa looked down and rubbed my hand.

The look on my face must have said don’t you dare to Ebony because she said nothing else except, “that’s right.” She turned into her seat and sat back. I put my head on Téa’s shoulder and she held it there with her hand. I must have seemed so weak at that time, but honestly, I didn’t care.
The first stop we made was to my old home in Crown Heights Brooklyn right across the street from Windom High school. Before I could knock on the door, it opened. Behind it, my mother all 5’1 of her waited to welcome Téa and I in. The house smelled warm and inviting, permeated with the aroma of food cooking.
“Dinner’s almost ready, so we can talk for a few minutes.” She pulled me to the side to get a better look at Téa. “Hello, I’m Marcus’ mother Josephine, you must be Téa.” She spread her arms for a hug and Téa obliged. Although Téa was taller than my mother was, mom was wider than she was.
When dinner was ready we sat at the table, talked and ate, my mom had cooked something of a soul food, Caribbean feast. Meaning She only had fish, rice and some collard greens and I had the same.

I turned to my mother who was watching us and smiling. “So, are you coming to the funeral?” I sighed.

“He was my father-in-law, he’s helped me out, just because your father isn’t here doesn’t void our relationship.” She looked at me with thoughtful eyes.

Téa put down her fork. “Excuse me where’s the bathroom?”

“It’s upstairs at the end of the hall sweetie.” My mother motioned toward the stairs.

“Thank you.” Téa sat up, pushed her chair in, and walked up the stairs.

I waited till she was out of earshot. “Mom, I think they want me to…”

“I’m moving to Florida.” She cut me off, there was a certain finality in her voice, something that said, I know what this means and it’s your life.

“I…Ok, Well that’s good you do like the sun and the beach.” I laughed weakly.

She stared at me from across the table and in that, instant we shared the same dread. The same gnawing fear, the fear of what had shattered my family irrevocably, which had caused my father to leave and stolen my older brother, Magic a damnable consort of destiny, the forces of the universe wielded by men on behalf of Gods under the banner the all mother. Creation. I had tried for so long to escape this fate, to put it on the back burner. But I knew it wouldn’t be ignored, there is a price for everyone to pay when old powers are invoked for the betterment of others. My mother wanted no part of this, and even though I didn’t either, she didn’t deserve any part. She married into the clan Ripley and wasn’t supposed to share the burden because now, I her last child was about to be taken by it. I reached my hand across the table and grabbed hers.
“It won’t take me, I may be duty bound by some, damned spirit oath but It won’t take me away I promise.”

She exhaled heavily and then put her other hand on top of mine. “Don’t promise me baby. Promise her.” She motioned just as we heard footsteps begin to descend the stairs.

When Téa came down, she looked at us inquisitively. “Everything alright?”

“Yes, I was just telling Marcus that he better hold on to and not drive you away.” She shot me a glance that said I mean it.

“Awww, thank you Mrs. Ripley.” She sat back down and we continued to eat.

That night Téa and I stayed in my old room down the hall from my mothers.

“So does your mom like me?” Téa inquired as she slipped into a pair of old boxer shorts and a t-shirt.

“Of course she does.” I was taking off my shirt and preparing to share my old full sized bed.

“I’m glad.” She hit the bed like a weight. “Cause I was so nervous.”

“You didn’t show it.” I smiled climbing into bed.

“Well I try not to show everything, but I will show you something tonight.” She pulled me on top of her and we began to kiss.

“Aren’t you worried, my mom's down the hall?” I asked between kisses. “And you are kinda loud.

“Well maybe if you wouldn’t go in so hard, I wouldn’t be.” She pulled me closer.

“If I didn’t go in so hard it wouldn’t be fun.” I smiled.

“Good point, I’ll think of something.” She reached for a pillow. “This’ll do I guess.”

At that point, the worries of my day and my entire world fell away and I was engulfed in a sea of churning passion that was we. I kissed her frantically attacking her earlobe with ravenous efficiency extracting a sharp moan from her lips. She licked them and pulled me down to her shoving her tongue in my mouth probing it with a desperate hunger. My hands shot up her shirt to caress her double D’s, peeling it off I went to work with my tongue, wetting her n*****s with my saliva. She pushed me back slide off her shorts and prompted me to do the same, I followed suit she lie down on her back pulling me onto her. I moved inside like a hot rock through honey, we moaned together as she locked her legs at the base of my spine. We moved in unison slowly rocking on the slight waves of pleasure we garnered from each other, speeding up her legs tightened around me as did her grip on my shoulders. I pressed forward feeling lightness from the small of my back creating hot points along my spine. I exhaled and she leaned up and kissed me pulling me deeper in to her until the sea we were lost in became a rushing tide and we were caught in the undertow and dragged out into after glow.
Afterward the moon hung high in the crown of the metropolis that was New York City. I made a vow to myself then and to Téa sleeping gently on my chest, that I wouldn’t let the coming time ruin our future, I would fight tooth and nail for it.

The funeral was short and bitter, it took place at a non-denominational church. My family frequented Christian churches although they were not of the faith, when I once asked my grandmother why she said “Because black Christians, manifest the most amount of our soul without knowing that their doing it.”
During the service, several people had come up to Ebony, auntie Marie and I to tell us they were sorry. I couldn’t help but think if you only knew how sorry we were or would be. At the burial, there were fewer people, but most of them were faces I hadn’t seen before, the most peculiar of them was a short grinning man with a cane and a top hat. I squeezed Téa’s hand as the casket was lowered, a mixture of anger and melancholy twisted inside me to create a bleak distorted view of the future. I looked at Ebony and aunt Marie on the other side of the casket as they watched teary eyed but full of a strong sense of will, an air that said ‘we know what must be done’ and I couldn’t help but envy them. I saw my friend Roger Drake drop a rose on the casket, he and I hadn’t spoken since I’d been back, he was a cop now and I wasn’t sure I wanted to speak with him. I couldn’t understand his career choice and I didn’t agree with it, Ebony and I shared the same sentiment there; they were together since their teenage years and even when Roger first joined the force, she stood by him. But after a while, she couldn’t take the thought of being with someone who worked in league with those who helped denigrate our people and looked down on them as nothing more than animals. I looked at Téa who rubbed my hand and was thankful that she stood by my side and while my familial obligations were fast approaching, protecting the woman I love and preserving our future would be my first priority. I turned my head a bit to notice a woman with an amazing body, chestnut brown skin and long silver dread locks that contrasted it. She came up to my aunt and Ebony first, they hugged and she whispered to them words of comfort. Then she turned and caught sight of Téa and I. My aunt mouthed something and Ebony nodded, the woman smiled sadly as if remembering some by gone better days and then walked over to us.

“Marcus?” She spoke with air of age far older than her looks. “You don’t know me but I’m a good friend of you fathers, my name is Rena.”

“Rena? Well maybe you can tell me why he’s not here; I half expected to see him.” As I awaited her reply, I was almost certain that my father had slept with this woman on more than one occasion, possibly even when he was with my mother, but I pushed the thought out of my head.

“Your father is ‘away’ on important matters.” She sighed

“Yes more important than his own father’s burial.” I sneered and then looked at Téa “Babe, remind me to be ‘away’ when he dies.”

Téa squeezed my hand and shot me a glance that said, ‘that wasn’t right’. I knew this but I couldn’t stop the venom that laced my words, my very thoughts at this moment.
Rena then turned her attention toward Téa and something caught her eyes as if she could see something about and around her that no one else could. “You favor him so much.” She whispered.

“Excuse me.” Téa cocked an eyebrow.

“I’m sorry, you just remind me of someone I met.” She cocked her head. “Anthony.”

“Uncle Ant.”
The words barely slipped out of her mouth and she seemed breathless and mystified.

I cut in. “Anyway thank you Rena but we’ve got to go, will reading and all tell my dad…”

She cradled my chin with her hand, as if examining me, she looked me from left to right. If she hadn’t been so attractive I’d probably had swatted her hand away. Her eyes now had a hard focus, she then looked at Téa and ran the back of her hand across her cheek and down into her locks. She then cradled Téa’s chin, she tried to pull away but was also locked in Rena’s gaze, I couldn’t move and I don’t think I wanted to. I felt like a mouse being charmed by a snake, the whole world fell away and it seemed that it only consisted of the three of us. And then she kissed us both on the cheek, Téa and I exhaled in unison, we had come back to our senses but didn’t know what had happened.

“Well I’ll be seeing you all, sooner than later.” She turned and walked away from us swaying her voluptuous hips from side to side. “Be well.”

Téa looked at me curiously. “What just happened?”

I wanted to answer her but I was still watching Rena make her way to a car waiting on the road. “I.”

Téa grabbed my hand and pulled me toward her. “Eyes front Marcus.” There was a touch of agitation in her voice.

“Sorry babe.” My aunt and Ebony walked over to us, they were no longer teary eyed.

“We should head to the law office and then the grill.” My aunt motioned us toward the waiting limo.

We drove to the law office in Harlem, which at the time was more than two blocks. Here we went over the will, and it ended with my cousin and me inheriting all of the property in New York, my grandparents owned and my Aunt inheriting the estate in Florida. I now had more money than I had previously and intern knew what to do with, but that still didn’t change the fact that my life was about to be altered into something, I may not like but was determined to handle for the future, both mine and Téa’s. I thought about this as we drove to the ‘Sankofa Grill’, a restaurant my grandparents had bought when things were cheap and Brooklyn still had culture. When we parked and got out Téa pulled me forward after my Aunt and cousin, I should’ve guessed that a black owned and operated restaurant would be of interest to her. My Aunt and cousin unlocked and opened the shutters with a loud roar. As we stepped inside, and were greeted by the images of black leaders throughout the ages, both known and unknown, I felt a strange sensation. I couldn’t place what it was but it extinguished my somber mood. I knew my aunt and cousin felt it too, as Ebony let out a sigh of relief. Téa’s eyes were scanning the room rapidly, and she too showed signs of the calming wave of elation taking her over. She stepped forward smile plastered on her face.

“This is beautiful.” She sighed, she began to wander around as if, possessed by a strange spirit.

My aunt looked at my cousin and I, “We should go to the basement.”

I walked over to Téa and held her hand. “We’re going into the basement for a bit we’ll be back ok?”

“Sure, sure, I’ll be fine.” She wasn’t paying attention to me; she was studying a picture of Marcus Garvey. It was as if her dream had come true and I had led her to it. “I’ll wait up here baby.”
I let go of her hand and we started down stairs, into the supply basement where all of the fresh fruits and vegetables were kept, to our right was a large freezer. The draft spewing from it dropped the room temperature. To the left were the regular supplies, cleaning supplies, paper products, tablecloths, silverware, and utensils. There was a metal refrigerator against the left wall opposite the larger freezer. In the front of the room was a vacant wall, a picture of Timothy Drew hung there above a light switch. My aunt walked over to switch and slid it to the side to reveal a handprint. My aunt placed her hand on the indentation mumble a few words and the wall became a door. Ebony moved ahead of me, I followed and my aunt picked up the rear, closing the door behind us. We descended for a few minutes and then reached a landing. It was pitch black, I heard a snapping sound, and the lights flickered on. We stood in a large room filled with what I knew to be altars to the various spirits. My grandmother once told me that all the peoples of Africa were descended from these Loa and that through various pacts and agreements were allowed to wield their power for the sake of a greater cause. She would tell me that protecting our people from self-destruction and outward oppression was our family’s duty and that there would be many who would oppose us.

“We should get started.” My Aunt had walked over to a particularly large altar and had brought a bowl filled with herbs of some kind. “Marcus, you’ll have to go through the ritual of invocation, so you can collect the ancestral spirit.”

I sighed I didn’t want to do this, because it would mean that I’d be signing my life away to something I didn’t want to. I must have been too loud because Ebony gave me a strange look.

“Why the sigh, we all had to do it.” Ebony put her hands on her hips.

“It’s just …nothing.” I didn’t want to argue and I knew that is where this would surely lead.

“No what, spit it out.” Her tone was challenging, she knew me well enough to know that I enjoyed those.

“Well, I figured that since I lost my father and my brother to this, maybe I should just leave well enough alone.”

Ebony exploded, as I knew she would, there were a lot of things she didn’t tolerate, and neglecting family was one of them. It made me wonder what she thought of my father. “Listen here, we’ve all had to sacrifice something as a family, you think I don’t miss Seth, he was as much of a brother to you as he was to me.” She continued. “My mother is enough of a lady to not mention this, but you need to stop being a punk.”

“A punk!” I yelled. “What the hell do you know; this whole legacy bullshit ruined my immediate family.” My voice raised an octave. “Yeah Seth was like your brother, but he was my brother, the closest thing I had to a father.”

“Marcus.” Ebony’s expression immediately morphed from anger to pity.

“No you wanted to get into it, so let’s do it.” I was mad at myself for losing control, but some part of me needed this. “My dad for instance, if the question on everyone’s mind’s is why did Marcus run away to Chicago, then why does no one question him?”

My aunt had heard enough she stepped in front of me and fixed me with a hard gaze. “That’s enough Marcus, I admit as Joshua’s son you have a right to know, but when he gets back he will tell you.”

I felt my mouth hang open and my mind go blank, at that moment I had the sudden and unreasonable urge to cry. “When he get’s back!?”

She put her arms up in a placating gesture. “I know what scares you Marcus, you’re scared that you’ll be torn away from her or she’ll be torn away from you. She rested her hands on my shoulders. “But let me tell you this, because of our family’s status as protectors we’ve made enemies and just because you don’t become a threat to them doesn’t mean they won’t see you as one.”

A wave of understanding hit me and shot down from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. My grand mother would do this to me whenever I was afraid, she called it speaking to the higher self. “You need to do this, not for us not even for you, but for her.” She exhaled. “They will go through her to get through you, even if you leave her, they’ll still try to use her because they’ll know how much you love her.”

“How?” I managed to say. “How will they know?”

“Honey, you know how the Occult world works, they have ways.” She dropped her hands from my shoulder.

I sighed and then picked up the bowl as she lit a match and dropped it in. “Who are our enemies, the ones that would do Téa harm?”

“Those who have forsaken the path of righteousness for the path of power there are many of them. Unfortunately there are many of our people who would sell their souls for materialism or to materialism.” She said it with an air of disgust.

The aroma from the herbs had caught my nostrils and I was instantly falling, not physically but mentally. I didn’t feel my body as I closed my eyes, but I saw something approaching me on the edge of my mind. It was moving out of a hole in the fabric of the reality I currently resided in and even from the far off distance, I could tell it wasn’t good. It was like a Hyena with scales, large and grotesque as drool rolled from its snout. It walked on two legs like a man, but it was so misshapen and hideous that being bipedal was the only thing it shared with humans. It looked up from the pit, its beady bloodshot eyes fixed on me and I cringed. It moved toward me with greater speed, I wanted to run but couldn’t move. Then I heard a sound like water rapidly through old pipes, it was a massive black cloud approaching me, it washed over the creature and it howled in pain. I tried to run harder than ever but realized I didn’t have any hands or feet or body to speak of, I suppose I was just a floating mass of consciousness held together by my own will. As the black cloud drew nearer, I noticed it wasn’t a cloud at all but had more properties of shadow than anything. It began to take form, first it was an old man with a cane, and a straw brimmed hat, which smiled at me benevolently. It then charged forward as a large black dog with its mouth wide open lapping at the air. Then it became something else, my first instinct was to be afraid, however I found I couldn’t summon up the necessary mind state to do so. The figure was hooded and cloaked in black with red lines coursing about its vestments, two eyes like smoking coals burned in its faceless head. Jet-black dreadlocks, writhed forward from the hoods opening as it settled in front of me. It regarded me with grave eyes and then a wide line broke out from the blackness of the hood and curved upward. It was smiling at me, I don’t know why but it was. The entity spread its arms in a welcoming gesture as I felt myself flow towards it like a pebble in a stream. The closer I got the calmer I became, I understood at some level that not only was I not in danger, but I was in the safest possible place. I sank into it and saw a vastness that rivaled that of space, I marveled as the entire mass wrapped around me like a suit of armor. I was awake.

“How are you feeling?” Ebony supported me as I began to feel my legs again. “You ok?”

“Numb but fine” I looked around for my aunt who was standing a little ways away from me. “What was that?”

“It has had many names, you known one of them.” She smiled

The Geist I thought, an old tale my grandfather told me about growing up. He used the powers of an otherworldly entity to survive, being captured by the Nazi’s during World War two. At the time he said that they would’ve executed a black soldier on sight, but something made them let him live and he later killed his captors with that something’s help and escaped. “Wow, that’s something.” At that moment, I recalled the creature. “Auntie, I saw something, an ugly thing that looked like a Hyena with scales before the Geist swallowed it up, what was that?”

She put her hand under her chin and thought, then her brow raised in recognition. “A Kishi, a lower demon, they’re always trying to break into this reality, but they’re nothing to worry over.”

“ But it seemed pretty malevolent….”

“It’s not a threat.” She spoke sternly.

“ Okay.” I wanted to press the issue but her look made me table it for later.” Alright.”

“Let’s head upstairs.” Ebony said. “I’m hungry.”

“I am too.” My aunt agreed.

Making our way upstairs we were greeted by Téa who was standing by the door. After my aunt and Ebony passed by us I grabbed her, looked her in the eyes and kissed her. My tongue prodded her throat and she responded in kind, I knew what I was fighting for and I now had the wherewithal and the courage to do so. “I love you baby.” I whispered in her ear.

“I love you too.” She said breathlessly.

“Ok you two break it up, let’s go.” Ebony laughed. “Unless one of you wants to fire up the grill and cook.”

“We’re coming.” I said lacing my fingers between Téa’s, we walked out of the restaurant locked it up and drove off.

© 2017 Nelo Maxwell

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Added on January 8, 2010
Last Updated on August 16, 2017


Nelo Maxwell
Nelo Maxwell

Brooklyn,, NY

My real name isn't Nelo Maxwell, It's Ra'Chaun Rogers. I'm a comic book writer, singer, guitarist, sometimes mc and all around artist. I had an account here before and i forgot the password so i decid.. more..