The young man sits on the damp earth floor, its moist chill penetrating his thin cotton robe. He has not noticed the cold for hours. The flickering of candles picks out random details of an unremarkable cellar. The candles, black to the left, white to the right, are seated on a makeshift altar: a trestle table with a simple white cloth thrown over it. On the cloth is an array of magical weapons, most of them improvised from household utensils. The air is harsh with incense.

The chant has gone on for most of the night. It was scripted to begin with, but has evolved into spontaneous devotions. Exhaustion is setting in and the effect of the sacrament the young man took earlier is peaking. His state of mind is drifting as far out from the mundane as it has ever been. After months of preparation he is finally prepared. He is ready to meet a god. He is calling Baphomet.

Baphomet is all things. To some, he/she is a god, to others, the devil; the fusion of human and animal, male and female, base and divine. Baphomet is the universe and all things in it, the mystical union of all the facets of creation into the one, indivisible whole. Tonight, the young man hopes, Baphomet will be the answerer of his prayers.

There is a clean, honest anger inside the young man. He knows it is just. His life has not turned out as it should, but now he is taking action. His friends have turned out to be frauds, willing to turn away at the first sign of adversity. Women have shunned him, preferring the company of shallower men. The success and attention that is his due has failed to materialise, no matter how hard he has tried. Baphomet will save him, though. His everyday form will be torn away from the world an replaced by something extraordinary. Everything will be made right. Baphomet will take his inner self and bring it out for all to see.

"What will it be, Baphomet? A tiger or leopard, with claws for the rending of flesh? Will I be given large, hungry teeth? My soul has such teeth."

He writhes and wails with anger. The brick walls echo with his cries and exaltations. Nothing happens.

A brief moment of calm insinuates itself into the young man's mind. He has not found the right emotional pitch yet. There is still work to be done.

He reaches inside himself and finds the channels of lust and longing that run through him like a nervous system. As he brings them up to the surface of his mind, he feels the eddies of loneliness that come in their wake. An empty, desperate erection pushes up the folds of his robe.

"Will it be my lust, Baphomet? Will it make me an embodiment of fantasy? Man or woman, angel or androgyne, I would be the focus of attention wherever I went. I could be desire itself. My soul is a well of desire."

Absently, the young man fondles his erection. Even in his fevered mind, the cellar is still a cellar. The bricks contain no divinity. Baphomet has not come.

The sheers emptiness of his being crashes in on the young man's mind. The purposelessness of thought mocks him. He feels his mind turning over, like a dying machine. Is this all it will ever be? Maybe the answer isn't to be the master of his reality, but to escape from it, to make it irrelevant to him.

"Will you free me from my mind, Baphomet? Is it just a prison? Will you change it to one of pure animal instinct? Will you make me inanimate, a stone effigy of myself? My soul is cold and empty."

This final deflation brings a peace to the young man. He slows down and breathes deeply. He has been trying too hard. The thoughts trickle from his mind like blood from a slit wrist. If the time is right, Baphomet will come.

The candles begin to flicker a bit faster, as if a small breeze has started within the cellar. The air warps in a heat haze without heat. The walls seems to push outwards, as if to make room for something unimaginably large. The young man feels a presence building around him - it is like being caught in a rush hour crowd. He puts his hands to his ears to block out sounds he cannot hear. "Baphomet?" he cries.

And then all is silence. The sudden normality of the room is like a cold slap. The young man's mind tumbles back down to the mundane. He looks himself over and sees no difference. It has failed. Baphomet has come and rejected him.

As he bows his head to weep, he feels a stirring deep within him. It builds outwards from his solar plexus, starting like a stomach cramp but building into a wrenching pain that fills him with joy. Baphomet has not forsaken him. He collapses forwards on the ground and writhes in agony. He can feel his skin being stretched by whatever is happening within him. With a flash of insight he knows exactly what he needs to do.

The young man crawls forward, every movement agony. Once at the altar he grabs blindly until he finds the ritual knife; it is simply a kitchen knife, but one that has become charged with meaning through its use. He forces himself as far upright as he can manage. Under his robe strange protrusions appear and disappear. Desperately, impossibly, he wriggles out of the robe. Looking down at his nakedness he sees his flesh wrenched and kneaded by unseen forces, as if something is trying to force its way out. He pauses for a last moment, so savour the wonder and exquisite agony of it all. And, when he is ready, he begins to cut.

The incision starts at the forehead, down the bridge of the nose and onward, past the throat and on to the trunk of the body. As it reaches the stomach it begins to split of its own volition. There is no blood, only a sense of peace and rightness that consumes the young man as his body and mind fall away from him like discarded husks.

All is still and silent in the cellar for a moment. The torn body of the young man lies still on the floor, his robe puddled under it like spilt blood. From the centre of the body comes a stirring, and then a gurgling sound. An infant fist pushes its way out of the viscera, followed by another. From the human wreckage crawls a baby, sleek and pink, smeared with gore. Its face wrinkles with hunger. It cries with longing and rage. Its mind is empty of thought.

Alone, the baby sits in the middle of the earth floor and screams. Someone will come to tend to it; this is its right. It has needs to be sated. Someone must come.

(c) 1998 XoYo

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