by Janet Christian
Virgil Harris has a secret. And a problem. He was happily retired in a small Texas town until his mother’s near fatal beating during a home invasion. The wheels of justice moved too slowly for Virgil, whose once-vibrant mother languished in a nursing home. He broke his family's oath to never use their long-guarded ability to alter events against another person—he sent karmic vengeance to the burglars.
Encouraged by his success when the men are captured and convicted, Virgil turns his brand of cosmic retribution onto other unsavory folks in his little town who have escaped legal punishment. All goes well until Virgil's handiwork becomes coffee shop talk and arouses the interest of a secret organization of conspiracy watchdogs. Virgil and others like him become the group’s primary target, thanks to the organization’s leader, who has a secret of his own.
Genre: Paranormal FictionPurchase link(s): Amazon BAM iTunes B&N
Content/Theme(s): Vigilantism, Karma, Magic, Magical Realism, Supernatural, Metaphysics, Small Town
Release Date: August 15, 2016
Publisher: Plum Creek Publishing
Excerpt & More
Virgil Harris hadn’t planned to be a vigilante, it just sort of happened. And he was actually more a justice-deliverer or karma-balancer, but those didn’t have the elegant ring of vigilante. Regardless of what he called it, in the last three years he’d become quite adept at it. Tonight would be no exception.
Virgil sipped his morning tea as he sat at his breakfast table. He stared out the window at the sky, streaked with ever-changing patterns of crimson, orange, and yellow. Even the dirt of his barren backyard seemed to glow.
Red sky in the morning… he thought.
Perhaps any storm would hold off until later. He wanted to spend time during the day working in his antique rose garden, the dominant feature in his front yard. Since his retirement from the Post Office, he loved spending his Monday with his roses instead of delivering mail.
It wouldn’t even matter if a spring Texas thunderstorm took the power out tonight. His vigilante abilities didn’t need electricity, just great power and concentration from within. His mother called it his gift of symbols. She said her family had been gifted that way for as long as anyone could remember. Like many of his ancestors, he could use objects and symbols, and his own mind, to alter the course of events. He could make things happen the way he wanted them to.
In his youth, he’d been more interested in learning chemistry and biology, but his mother had insisted on teaching him about their gift. She showed him how to create a motif, a symbolic representation of a real thing. She also taught him Goidelic, the old tongue they used for their chants. Even his grandmother didn’t know how long his family had spoken it. It’d been passed down for generations.
When Virgil balked at the hours of study, his mother put her hands on her hips and scowled. “Some day you’ll thank me, and eventually you’ll teach your own children.”
“Yes, Mama.” He’d returned to his notes.
As his skills grew, he started calling his ability theurgy, the Egyptian word for those who could do what he did. There was nothing remotely Egyptian about his British-Celtic roots, but he liked the mystical-sounding word better than gift of symbols.
He actually didn’t often do motifs when he was young, because they took a lot of work and preparation. But during his teens, he occasionally used his theurgical abilities in small ways that didn’t require a complicated motif: a nudge toward a better test grade, a blind eye turned by a teacher on a poorly written essay, even getting out of gym on a regular basis because the wood shop teacher had a “sudden need” for his help in the shop.
And with each motif, he never broke his mother’s number one lesson, her most-repeated words seared into his memory. “Vee, never let others make you mad enough to use your gift to play God. Always let the heavens sort things out.”
“But what if someone deserves it?” he’d asked.
“It isn’t worth it. The price is too high.”
“What price?” Virgil was confused.
“It’s called karmic backlash. It’s the universe balancing the scales by sending you some of what you’ve done to others.”
“Don’t all motifs do something to others?” he’d asked.
“Yes, Vee, they do.” His mother had smiled and nodded. “But when you direct one purposely toward another person with the intention to harm them, be prepared for some of that to come back on you.”
“But what if it’s on accident? What if I just mess up a motif?”
“There’s a difference. If you mess up a motif by accident the result is called diffusion. You get caught up in the motif and some of the results of the motif also happen to you.”
“How’s that different from karmic backlash?”
“Only real difference is intention. One was on purpose and the other an accident. But the price you pay can be high in both cases.”
“How bad can they be?”
Virgil’s mother closed her eyes and shook her head. “Promise me, Vee, that you’ll never do motifs to hurt others. Or even to manipulate them to your will. And always take time so you don’t make mistakes.”
“Does it always happen, Mama? Every time?”
“Just promise, Vee.”
“Okay. I promise.”
The tea kettle’s piercing whistle snapped Virgil back to the present. He’d forgotten about relighting the burner after making his first cup. He crossed from the table, turned off the burner, and poured the boiling water over a raspberry-hibiscus tea bag.
The dark red tea bleeding from the bag reminded him again of the terrible ordeal that had nearly taken his mother’s life. He missed her so much. Or he missed who his mother had been.
That incident had led to the first time he’d broken his promise to his mother. To his first attempt at creating a motif to push someone’s karma a specific direction. To get even, or at least cause payback. It was the least he could do for his mother.
But she’d been right. He’d paid a price.
He watched his tea steep and thought about that motif. He’d realized after his mother’s house was burgled three years ago that the universe, or whatever was out there, sometimes took too long to sort things out.
When the burglars had discovered her hiding in a closet, they beat her nearly to death. His mother, left almost a vegetable, lingered in the absurdly named Oak Creek Estates in Pemberton Heights long-term care facility while the police dragged their feet looking for suspects. All the police managed to determine was that two men were involved. After months of frustration, and the police seemingly uninterested in tracking down her attackers, something in Virgil had snapped, and he took matters into his own hands.
Creating a proper motif was hindered by the fact that no one knew what the burglars looked like. He wasn’t sure what to use as the focalis, the focal item representing the person or situation, so he improvised.
First, he used a black marker to draw generic male figures on squares of heavy cardboard. He then took broken pieces of his mother’s favorite china, which he hoped included traces of body oils from the men who’d broken them, and glued them onto the figures.
He’d squeezed his china men into a dollhouse he’d found at Goodwill and set the whole thing on fire. As he watched it burn, he repeated the Goidelic chant he’d written, then doused the fire, removed the singed male figures, wound them up in chain, and locked them in an old metal ammo box. Then he waited.
He knew it had worked a week later when he saw the headline in the paper:
Two burglars apprehended trying to escape from burning house.
The house had been abandoned for years. It was their main hideout and where they’d stored stolen goods until they could fence them.
He’d followed every detail of their case, even sitting in the audience at their trial. They were ultimately found guilty of five burglaries, including his mother’s. Battery, with intent to kill, was added to the charges. They each got the maximum of twenty years in prison.
Virgil was pleased, although he’d have preferred an even harsher sentence. He’d attended the sentencing and watched as the men were escorted from the courtroom in chains. He almost wished he’d thrown that locked metal box into the lake, or let the dollhouse burn completely down, but killing the two men would have dishonored his mother. He didn’t want to break his promise that severely.
Virgil visited Pearl Harris the next day. As usual, she stared blankly at the ceiling, appearing unaware of his presence. He knew she probably couldn’t understand anything he said, but he told her about his motif and its results anyway.
“I hope you understand, Mama,” he’d said as he stroked her pale cheek. It was as soft as silk and looked as delicate as tissue paper. “I know I promised, but I still hope you can accept what I did. I love you and miss you.”
Her response was too mumbled to understand. He couldn’t tell if she was approving or disapproving. He decided not to dwell too much on what she’d tried to say to him. What was done was done.
He barely remembered driving home. The loss of his vibrant, loving mother raised a lump in his throat and burned his eyes. He knew in his heart he’d done right with the motif, but he’d likely never know how his mother felt.
When he turned into his driveway, three bright red cardinals, his mother’s favorite bird, were singing from the front porch rail. He smiled. Maybe his mother had found a way to tell him everything was all right.
His karmic backlash had come a week later. A roast in his oven had burned and caught fire. He’d had to repaint the kitchen and replace the stove. I’ll think long and hard before I do another motif directed against a person.
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Be on the lookout for Janet Christian's future release(s): Udder Confusion: The Case of Choreographed Cows and Alien Abductions coming Winter 2016
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