Speaking With Your Demons
20: Resistance is ... Never Mind
If I got rid of my demons,
I’d lose my angels.
The camera zoomed in, focusing on a crowd of reporters and onlookers, a stage full of prestigious city officials, and a single overweight plumber, occasionally talking to himself. The image focused on the Mayor and Police Commissioner, holding hands over their heads in a show of strength. The mayor backed off, conceding the stage to Commissioner Malcolm, who approached the microphone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a most unusual press conference. Since there’s bound to be a lot of national attention focused on Seattle in the coming days, we wanted to report to you, the citizens of this great city and state, before questions start flying.
As many of you already know, I asked Mr. Phillip Walker—who’s taken up residence in the city—to speak to a few of our officers who were having issues. While those issues didn’t affect their job performance, they often caused strained reactions which have been an ongoing problem for police departments across the nation. Wanting to get ahead of the curve, Mr. Walker spoke to the officers—after a highly publicized incident in front of Police Headquarters, where he was almost shot—which highlights the problems we faced.
Whereas anyone else would question the circumstances behind the event, Mr. Walker knew the details intimately—in a way few, if any of us, can grasp. Instead of asking for criminal prosecution, he treated the officer, producing a complete cure. The experts can debate the merits of his treatment protocol all they want, but we’d rather put Mr. Walker’s services to use in helping the city become a more peaceful place for all its citizens. However, several of the beings which Mr. Walker has been working with are now in open revolt, trying to harm him. He has been attacked three separate times in the past day by various rogue factions. This afternoon, he called upon us to help track and coordinate the ongoing conflict. Since he’s helped the city in so many important ways, and stands to promote it for decades to come, I felt happy to offer whatever assistance we could—especially as his life was at stake.
I’ll admit, I’m hardly qualified to describe what occurred. You won’t believe what I find difficult to accept, so I’ll allow the illustrious Mr. Walker to explain exactly what happened. Including what may continue to unfold for the next few days.”
Phil stood, straightening his borrowed suit—since his was at the dry cleaners removing the blood stains—and approached the dais.
“Citizens of Seattle, Washington State, the United States of America and the rest of the world, I’m pleased to address you, today. As Commissioner Malcolm mentioned, it’s been an incredibly complex and confusing afternoon, so I’d like to explain, as best I can, what’s been occurring.
As I explained the other day in a Seattle Times interview, I’ve recently regained my abilities. However, rather than continue blundering forward as I have in the past, I’ve sought to find a better solution by quietly studying my options. The inquiries of a certain television reporter compromised those studies and forced me to publicize them ahead of schedule. As was also reported, I’ve changed from battling these creatures to negotiating with them. I’m convincing them to stop fighting us and to assist us, as they once did, so that together we can all become better and healthier individuals.
However, as in any great struggle, there are always those who prefer the old way over the new, and who resort to violence when reason doesn’t appeal to them. While the vast majority of these creatures have seen the wisdom of my advice, and are actively working with us, a small sect has engaged in all-out war. They are trying not only to disturb our efforts, but to assassinate me, ending our actions entirely.
Let me assure everyone, no matter the outcome, they will NOT succeed. Even if they topple me, I’ve already trained many who can carry on my mission, even without my ability to see and physically interact with these creatures. In a series of experiments conducted at UW, a coworker of mine by the name of Meg Whiting is teaching others to communicate with these beings.”
Phil turned, motioning for Meg to rise.
“Meg, if you’d be so kind as to stand so the public can see the kinds of intellectual might I’m bringing to bear on this front?”
As she stood, there was a gasp from the audience at her young age—even though many already knew of her work. She cutsied, which won over even the most skeptical critics, before sitting again.
“Meg has personally convinced dragons, demons, devils and sundry otherworldly creatures to assist us, including defending me from attacks from those few rogue beings. She, like many others, already possesses a full repertoire of alien assistants, who work with her to convince other species of the wisdom of our advice. With or without me, the efforts of individuals like her, the staff of the University of Washington, and the Walker Institute in Philadelphia, will continue unabated. We will persevere!
But that’s not the point of this news conference. Instead, I’m here to detail our actions over the past day which involved many of you in this great city. After the last attack, a group of our dragons, assisted by a single flying Viking Berserker—associated with PTSD victims—set out across Seattle to isolate these rogue elements. They flew from one individual to another, asking their creatures for any information, as well as seeking to convince others to join our efforts. Any dragons or berserkers they met, they demanded a fealty oath. The dragons have mostly agreed—after we explained our positions. But the berserkers who led this rebellion, confusing the stronger dragons with their lies, refused to surrender. So, we’ve been combating them on an almost street-by-street basis.”
Phil paused, making waving motions he never interpreted to his audience. Those observing glanced around, curious about what he was intimating, but saw no one he was motioning to.
“And the citizens of Seattle have responded to our calls. Simply by standing outside, waiting for our team of creatures to communicate with theirs, we relayed instructions for them to convey to the tactical unit the Commissioner tasked with tracking their activities. Due to those endeavors, we’ve already converted dozens of critters well ahead of schedule, as well as ensuring they won’t fall victim to these lies and fabrications.
These efforts resulted in a tormented individual, equipped with a gun, laying it aside and working with the police, despite the proddings of his tormenters. Let me tell you folks, this is rare. Previously, these were the individuals who would seemingly ‘go off’ with little warning. But because of what he’d heard of my work, he knew better than to listen to their taunts, recognizing them for the delusions they were.
We still haven’t isolated the originator of this rebellion—someone I’d recruited and who witnessed the benefits of working with us—but who turned his back on our mission. So we ask for your continued dedication. We’ll begin again tomorrow morning, with an even larger force of flying critters, who’ll interview anyone they encounter by the side of the road. In exchange for this, the creatures they contact will be instructed on how to communicate with their humans. This means they’ll no longer try to destroy their human hosts, but will instead work with us, so we’ll get better and they can return home victoriously. With luck, we can settle this matter once and for all in only a few days time. But your work continues to be essential.”
When Phil left the stage, most were too befuddled by his announcement to respond. They instead glanced at one another, scratching their heads, heading off to the nearby bars to discuss it over a drink. The few mentally ill who managed to make it to the impromptu news conference, decided they and their demons were going to have a little talk, long before Phil ever got around to them.
“Okay,” Phil said, once he was safely inside and out of the public eye, “I need more detail on what happened.”
Phil held his palm up, silencing Meg, who only belatedly noted he wasn’t looking at her.
“We brought the new berserkers and dragons back with us,” she explained, realizing what he was referring to.
“First, you berserkers: are you here because you were forced to come, or do you understand what we’re trying to do and agree with us?”
The creatures glanced at one another, silently authorizing one to speak for the group.
“We understand, though withhold decision. We wait and see if you treat fairly or no.”
“That’s perfectly reasonable, but you appreciate my caution. I’d prefer if you didn’t assault me as soon as I turn my back. As you can see, I honor those working with me, but we’ve had some ... problems with many berserker’s actions.”
The lead berserker nodded sagely. “We understand. Desttr not talk true. We promise not attack. You pledge let us return if no agree?”
“I do, with one caveat, if you attack me again, we’ll defend ourselves. If that involves your deaths, I won’t hesitate. I’m giving you a chance to see what we’re up to, so you can decide for yourselves whether we’re legit. However, I won’t ignore open hostility. That said, I welcome criticism if you feel I deserve it. Frankly, it would be a relief if you tell me when I screw up, rather than blaming me for things I don’t even comprehend.”
“Bah,” one said, waving his words off. “You talk mean nothing. Actions speak. Humans say anything.”
Phil turned, regarding the new dragons. “I understand that you’re in the same situation: that you were among those who haven’t pledged support yet?”
“We zoo withhold pledge. We hear horrible things, and not used to trusting humans.”
“You’re all free to ask any of the creatures supporting us what they think, either in front of me or privately. I want you to be honest, and to trust that we’re being truthful, too. We can’t do that if we’re keeping secrets or not speaking our minds.” Phil paused, glancing at both groups. “Did Desttr mention those he saw return early because of the work they did for us?”
“No, he not,” one of the lead dragons admitted.
“I thought not.”
“He do!” Dezpik asserted, indicating Phil. “He talk with creators, argue with them. They speak with his new dragon aides and fairy queen, too. He no lie!”
“We see. We watch action. You no treat fair, we no support.”
“We allow return?” one asked. “Or only under guard?”
“No, you’re allowed to return to your human, hopefully to help, rather than hinder. However, if you choose not to assist them, we’ll only teach them your whisperings aren’t their own thoughts. In the end, the old ways won’t be as effective, while the new ones—which are the same as the ancient ways—are simply more efficient.”
One of the dragons started to say something when one of the tactical unit officers entered. “Excuse me, sir, but we have a lead we think you’ll be interested in.”
Phil turned his complete attention on the policeman. “What is it?”
“Someone claims to have Desttr captive.”
“You’re shittin’ me,” Abe said, which cause Meg to giggle.
“Do you think this might be a trap?” Emma asked.
“It’s entirely possible, but since their human host wouldn’t know about them, I doubt he’d call with such specific information. Instead, it sounds like what we’ve been teaching these creatures how to respond, by speaking directly to their humans. Either Desttr and his pals have become extremely clever—duplicating our strategies—or it’s legit.” Phil glanced at the officer. “What’s the location?”
“We’ll take you. There’s an officer bringing a squad car around as we speak.”
“That means there won’t be enough room for all of us,” Ethan observed.
“No, but there’s room for me, possibly Meg, and a shitload of backup critters!”
Despite the armed officer in a flak jacket behind them, the door opened quietly, revealing a small, meek and balding man.
“Mr. Walker? Please, come in.”
“Uh, your dragons aren’t with you?”
The man glanced around, as if noticing for the first time his invisible tormentors weren’t hanging around. “I guess not.”
Phil, still cautious, paused, but followed the man into the room, keeping his hand around his cane. What he saw surprised even him. Sitting at the edge of the man’s dining room table, were three dragons, quietly watching them. The largest one, in the center, had a struggling berserker in its claw, as if that were the most natural thing in the world. They stood beside the cup of tea and the book the man had been reading, waiting for them. The dragon must have been holding the berserker for at least the past hour.
“So what happened?” Phil asked the room in general.
“They spoke my name and then said ‘Desttr’. Having heard your broadcasts, I realized they’d somehow found the creature you were looking for.”
Phil nodded, turning to the trio. “Greetings, brethren,” he said in Dragon, continuing in English so everyone could understand. “How about you?”
“We has gif you,” the smaller of the three said.
“I see, and I’m most appreciative. That little mouse has scampered through the cracks time and again.” Phil glanced around the room, estimating distances. “This should work perfectly.”
He turned to Meg and the photographer they’d selected from the collection of reporters outside the press conference. “Are you ready?”
“I’ve been ready for this for a while,” Meg assured him. “I haven’t done this since I played softball years ago. Not many homeless centers sponsor teams.”
y homeless centers sponsor teams.”There is more of this chapter...