Here’s the piece I read at Ivan Hernandez’s lovely short story showcase, Gimme Fiction. The theme was “POWER” (Ivan’s capitals, not mine).
Plum dipped the blade into the sacrificial altar. “Eksu dogma ituneh”, he and the other members of The Order chanted, be-robed and be-hooded. The Boy Scouts were tied in the shape of an immense pentagram, tracing the one carved into the damp sandstone of the floor. “Haffa tiku nomineh!”, Plum continued. He could feel the Old God, Dingdong, rising within him. He found blood sacrifices very exciting. It was one of the best ways to spend a Sunday afternoon. Definitely much better than tea with his mother. The A-2 to Ipswitch was always backed-up, and plus there was hardly any screaming, nothing like these Boy Scouts.
Plum was good at leading the chants, the blood sacrifices. His mind had an enormous bandwidth, and he could experience and enjoy everything in the room at once: the dull glow of the small fires set into the eyes of the horned cat skull, the whimpering and screaming of the Boy Scouts, the smell of the ancient London catacombs, and the cinnamon votive candles. “I should make a banana bread when I get home tonight”, he thought, mid-chant, “Dingdong will get twenty boys and I’ll get a nice banana bread. This is a great Sunday”.
Plum prided himself on his banana breads. Sometimes he added walnuts, but today there were none. He did still have some of the good butter his sister had sent from Wales, the stuff you can tell is good because the color is inconsistent, and it’s more white than yellowy. “Yeah, melt a big pat of butter on top of it, right after it’s out of the oven. Maybe I’ll watch House of Cards.”
One of the Boy Scouts, apparently at a loss in situations not outlined in the Boy Scout Handbook, began to scream the Scout Code. “TRUSTWORTHY, LOYAL, HELPFUL, FRIENDLY…”, he yauped, his throat breaking and rattling with fear-spittle, “COURTEOUS, KIND, OBEDIENT, CHEERFUL—”, and at this, the word cheerful, he broke and began to sob, and for a second, the corner of Plum’s lip twisted up into a smirk.
Plum had risen quickly in the secret order known as “The Secret Order”, which like all things named by the mega-mega-rich, was so blunt and obvious it was almost rude. He had received a tea-stained invitation, sealed with a heavy chunk of maroon wax, just after he had earned his first ten-million pounds.
He was initially reluctant to join as he had never taken well to clubs. They always sounded great when you read about them in a pamphlet in the Community Center, “Oh look, Plummy, they have a group for children interested in stop-motion animation!”, his mother would say, or “Plummy, dear, there’s a group on Tuesdays that meets and talks about World War II figurines, just like the ones you collect!”, and Plum would attend, his lunchbox filled with little hand-painted commandos and Panzer tanks, and bombers, anticipating like minds, and inevitably find the other members sorely lacking in both World War II knowledge and hygiene.
But as an adult, in The Secret Order, he finally found kinship.
The sobbing Boy Scout renewed his recitation “THRIFTY, BRAVE, CLEAN…”, hoping to be saved by some Patron God of Scouting, Plum presumed. It would be like a big, sturdy elk with a sash laid across its mighty breast, its skin a tough-but-soft patchwork of badges. “I hear your call, young Scout, and I answer!” and then he’d gallop down some trail from a woody mountaintop, carefully following the painted blazes and picking up litter, and stopping to volunteer at a soup kitchen before rescuing the child, taking him away to a safe church meeting room, etc, etc. What a fucking bore. Plum hated Boy Scouts, they were the worst club of all.
Plum tried to put them out of his mind, to concentrate on the ancient symbols in front of him, but his competition grew louder.
The chanting Boy Scout, having reached the end of his litany of virtues, now began to sing a campfire hymn. It was a mopey old tune, and it was legitimately sad, not just funny-sad.
Plum, not wanting to let the song bring down the mood of the afternoon, picked up the pace of his own chanting “ikbar, sabalu, tanto, bondray…”, his finger raced across the rows of ancient symbols. He had come to know them by heart, but he was careful anyway; a missed syllable would mean an incorrect summoning spell, and no one wanted a grumpy demon on their hands.
When he first joined The Secret Order, he’d thought it was just a bunch of eccentrics, a networking group, for like if you needed a good building contractor or an accountant. That they wore hoods and carried runed knives struck him as just a bit of fun. “Well, I’m sure they’re very nice”, his mother had said, “I’m just glad you have some friends, don’t worry about me, you go have fun”.
And he did have fun. With his newfound millionaire buddies, he learned how to hunt whales from a helicopter, and how to incite a revolution in a South Asian country. Real old-world Illuminati stuff, except that this was real, and they got to get drunk while doing it. It was better than high school, it was better than college, and, on New Years Eve, the orgies couldn’t be beat.
When you are mega-mega-rich, the sky is the limit, and so they sought to undo the sky, crack it open, and fill it with blood. They pursued the patronage of Dingdong the Ancient Destroyer, the unfortunately named, but nonetheless the powerful, horned-cat deity. Plum and his friends were so rich now that they could buy and sell nations, but they could never purchase souls, could never cheat Death, and Dingdong was the answer.
The pursuit of great power is a dangerous game. Plum and the other Orderarians knew the risks. Dingdong could easily turn on them, as it had with Matthew Broderick. One minute you’re literally and figuratively dancing on a float in a parade, the next you’re playing a supporting role in Bee Movie, which was the lesser of the two insect-based computer animated movies that year. And your wife is mostly known for people making jokes about her appearance. Classic Dingdong. Get on his bad side and you might as well kiss your unflappability good-bye.
But now all the Scouts had joined in to the song, singing woefully about campfires and nightfall, and their words mixed with Plum’s ancient utterances and the room reverberated with oaths both sacred and profane.
Plum raised his voice as he came to the end of the fleshy page, “Koloth shimahn tuktu balek!” and punctuated his sentence by raising his blade to the cat skull. The fire in its eyes pulsed like a great throbbing infinite cock, unseen for generations, except by Nikolai Tesla and Benjamin Franklin and Ferris Buehller.
The cat’s jawbone began to move, and Plum felt that no thing could go wrong, but, visions of ultimate power and banana bread and infinite DVD rentals dancing in his head, he was distracted. He and the others failed to consider the Boy Scouts’ greatest skill, their own ancient knowledge. Their patron God wasn’t some fucking soup kitchen Elk, it was a salty sailor, and he had gifted the Boy Scouts with his own carnal knowledge: that of knots.
Plum and the Orderarians watched, enraptured, as the skull spoke its ancient words. They drew close as the spirit began to manifest. They failed to see one of the Boy Scouts, at the far end of the pentacle, free one arm and then the other, and then his feet, and then another Boy Scout, and another. Plum and the Orderarians, awed by their own imminent glory, failed to hear the movement of swift little feet, honed to silence by avoiding branches in the dark forest, they failed to hear the sound of Swiss Army knives being drawn from little leather pouches, the clicking-open of blades and corkscrews and fish-scalers and those little pliers that kind of fold out from the middle.
For the Boy Scouts knew there was no giant, khaki-skinned Elk to save them, the Scout Handbook teaches self-reliance and preparedness. Every Scout should know how to survive in the wild, how to fix a car, and, if necessary, how to kill a bunch of deranged billionaire cultists in an ancient catacomb beneath London.
Plum first realized something was wrong when his ankles ceased holding him erect, because gravity acts faster than your body tells you someone has severed your Achilles tendon.
But he definitely felt his throat open up in real-time, and saw, to his utmost horror, a gaggle of boys standing over him, their green olive shorts spattered his rapidly escaping blood. He saw the traffic flying down the A-2, spraying all over the suburbs of Exeter and Norwich.
As his vision faded, Plum could hear the trenchlike voice of Dingdong the Cat-Deity. “Who so summons the Ancient God Dingdong?”
“It’s us, sir. Boy Scout troop 212, from Essex.”
“These fallen mortals are a most excellent sacrifice. So begins the Age of Boy Scout Troop 212.”