Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
A fictional interview.

The first thing I noticed about him were the tattoos.

It wasn't something I'd expected, really, not at all in keeping with the way I'd originally imagined him. Sure, he was still tall, and broad, and had a way of looking at you from over his silver-rimmed glasses that seemed like a strange cross between a professorial lecture and a "did you get the joke yet" look. Those parts were all in place. But I hadn't expected him to be quite so muscular. He was supposed to be bookish, for crying out loud, a mixture of Caleb Carr and the Cranberries' Fergal Lawlor. I hadn't expected his black T-shirt to be so tight, or the long, winding snakes that wound up his arms between scatterings of strange symbols.

I also hadn't expected his voice to be so smooth. When he spoke it was deep, not a rumble but an old sound, full of rum and butter. "You see, that's the way it goes sometimes," he said, leaning back in his chair and drumming his knuckles on the table. "You get this expectation, this two-dimensional role that you want someone to play, and then they show up and refuse to play by the rules."

I nodded. It was true.

He reached a huge hand behind his head and fiddled with his ponytail. His hair was long and black – I'd gotten that part right too – and he had it tied back with a tight gold band. In a weird sort of way, he looked like a young Steven Seagal, but without all the zen-master bullshit. "So what do you want to talk about?"

"Um. Right. Okay." I fiddled with my notebook for a second, then gave up and set my pen down, clicking on my microcassette recorder instead. "All right. Tell me about where you grew up."

"Ah. That." He leaned forward and picked up his coffee. He stared into it for a second, then did that thing, looking over his glasses at me. "My folks died in a plane crash. You knew that much. And I grew up with my aunt, a nun in New York. You knew that too. What you didn't know was that I wasn't sent off to boarding school because my aunt didn't know what to do with kids. I was sent off because I kept terrorizing her. By the time she sent me off to the Academy, she was convinced I was a devil worshipper." He grinned and pointed to his arms. "And I was."

I blinked. "You were a Satanist?"

He chuckled. "Sure. I studied all the black magic books I could get my hands on. Aleister Crowley, John Dee, and a whole bunch of guys I guarantee you've never heard of. They were the interesting ones. They were the ones who got it right." His eyes sparkled. "I'll bet you didn't know that one night in August, back in 1989, my friends and I got a dead crow to stand up and dance in circles. Missed that in your notes, didn't you? It was the creepiest fucking thing I'd ever seen – rigor mortis had already set in, and you know how crows just kind of hop anyway, so this thing was doing this really herky-jerky half-walk around the fire. It looked like a spaz trying to work a marionette. It was incredible. It only made it about fifteen seconds or so before it keeled over again, and nothing we did could get it back up again, but it was intense."

"Oh, come on. Are you sure it wasn't just some nerves spasming or something? You know, like how chickens can still run around after their heads have been chopped off?"

"Positive. We found it dead on the side of the road, half-eaten by something. I was amazed enough of the tendons were left for it to move at all."


"Tell me about it."

"So where'd you find the spell?"

"What do you mean, were'd we find the spell? In a book, of course."

"Some moldy old thing, stashed away in a trunk or something?"

"Hardly. We found it in the New York Public Library. Fuckin' great occult section in there. The best stuff is in the books that look like utter horse shit. All those 'moldy old things,' as you so poetically put it, are only good for doorstops. You've got to look for the not obvious things if you want the good stuff."

"So... Ever do anything nasty to anyone?"

"Me? No. I was tempted, though. You know the story about how my advisor at Harvard was screwing my girlfriend. When I found out about that, I spent an entire afternoon surfing the Net looking for human immolation spells. I wanted to set them both on fire, from the inside out. I didn't find anything, though, and after a while I realized how foolish it all was. So I transferred instead."

"But wasn't that just as foolish? You know, just as overdramatic?"

"Nah. I hated it there anyway. I didn't have any friends, the place was full of preening bastards all getting ready for sparkling careers in inheriting. I needed someplace a little more low-profile. That's why I came to Beckett."

I nodded. "Good choice for that."

"Yeah." He grinned. "That, and all the ghost stories this place has goin' on. Ohio's got so many doors to hell, it's not even funny."

I laughed. "I had a professor back at Kenyon that you would have loved. He would give these great ghost tours every Halloween, and his delivery was always perfect. Dude was amazing."

Michael leaned back in his chair. "See, that's what I'm talking about. I want to get a degree in folklore or something and do that kind of shit for a living. Write down all these great stories that are just getting lost, you know?"

"Yeah. Or make some up."

"Hell, yeah. All the great old stories have to come from somewhere, right?"

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