Only ghosts remember. This thing in Detroit, though? Well, this was a bad one.
Yes, I do know what happened to those two and the other. Yes, I was there. Well, of course, you heard something about that.
Let me tell you this: when you are young, you count and tally; you rate your fuck-ups against each other like a drunkard's race. Me? I stopped bothering a long time ago. All fuck-ups, big or small, after enough time passes they are all the same, forgotten. Only ghosts remember. This thing in Detroit, though? Well, this was a bad one.
It started with the crack house, with the deaths of seven innocent people that I got there too late to stop. Seven more souls that are now bound to me by my mistakes.
I might have been able to do something about it the night before. I had already been arguing with them for so long, it was so very late, and I was so very tired. It is hard to take mass murder seriously, cloaked in pretentious bullshit, over three-in-the-morning diner pancakes and stale coffee. I honestly had thought they were all talk, but that isn't really any excuse for negligence.
Yes, of course they were narcissists, and I knew that. The art requires narcissism, at least at first. You can't hope to warp the world to your will, unless you first believe your will is more real than the world itself and everyone in it. You should have seen me when the bereginya first found me. I was a pretty terror. I would have eaten you alive, you lovely strong man, yes. I may yet, still.
By the time I got there, the working had already started. The circle was drawn, the altar was hallowed and laved in blood. The spirits of steel and concrete, of empty lot and blighted playground, spat and howled; all awakened, sentient and restless. My students had done this. They were fools, and foolishness was going to get them killed but I had made the mistake of teaching them what little they knew and I was responsible for them.
I found them on the roof of the condemned tenement. "What have you done?" I asked. Mother Morena, could I have been any more ineffectual and cliched?
Jake went on with the usual rehearsed rhetoric, the symbolic transformation of trash into art (those were people, you psychotic asshole), sending a message to the thrones of power, blah blah blah. Ty said that they needed to fuel the working, these people were as close to dead already as makes no difference, nobody would miss them, and the cops would never come to this neighborhood to investigate the murder of some black crack addicts (as though mundane police attention was our main worry). Petra … Petra just threw back her head and laughed.
I had to help them, they couldn't handle power on this scale. I thought I could keep the collateral damage to a minimum. Collateral damage? Who am I, some flunkie at a Pentagon press conference? These are human lives I'm casually discussing the destruction of! Even I could barely handle a working of this scale anymore. Nowadays, my art is a bright pebble worn smooth by time and I am very far from my places of power. So I helped, so help me.
Perhaps, with my help, it would have worked. It might have been a thing of beauty brought forth by craft and will into a world made better by its presence. It might have shouted a truth that shook the halls of the mighty, and brought presidents and kings weeping to their knees. It might have exalted art over celebrity, given wings to the imprisoned, shone as a lantern to the lost and birthed the Aquarian Age from the stinking corpse of the Age of Mammon. Then, just maybe, it might almost have been worth the cost.
Now, what Ty was too stupid to realize, was that when people find that the authorities won't help them, they help themselves. Some gang claimed that house, the drugs, and the addicts in it, and they had sent their soldiers to avenge this invasion. Kids really, three of them, probably 13 to 15 years old (although I was the same age when father dressed me in boy's clothes, the lord's men put a spear in my hand for the first time and I marched to avenge some similar insult).
So, these armed children burst onto the roof with machine pistols, and started spraying bullets everywhere. They couldn't possibly have hit me, of course, and it's probably dumb luck they hit anybody, but Jake took a bullet in his leg. I charmed one of them to sleep, as soon as I had my wits. I'm a foolish old woman, to let myself be ambushed by children in the first place! Ty fumbled for some petty defense that I had taught him but never got it off. Jake just screamed. Petra advanced on them, like a lioness, and smiled. They shot at her, but the bullets just passed through her like she wasn't really there (and of course, in a sense she wasn't). She picked them up one at a time and ripped their bodies apart with her bare hands, their souls feeding the working (now ravenous and insatiable).
It was ruined now, of course, all concentration lost and far too much blood spilled. It escaped into the sky and came crashing down in the city. I imagine there were hundreds killed. Then the air grew greasy and heavy, pregnant with power and, just like that, the giants were summoned forth. Hideous floating copies of Ty and Jake, hundreds of feet long and dressed in bi-colored harlequin costumes. They were grotesque, absurd human parade balloons with the minds of infants, and of course that ridiculous catch phrase was emblazoned on the sky in the color of dried blood. A farce skimmed from the idle thoughts of undisciplined minds. This wasn't just a senseless waste of human life, it was trite, it was a perversion of the art, it was gauche.
Jake, of course, claimed that it was a victory, that this clumsy and hideous mess was actually his plan all along. It was an ironic commentary on the ultimate uselessness of art for revolutionary means or some bullshit. Jake would never tally his fuck-ups, he always just simply redefined each one as a triumph. Such a simple strategy, to claim every failure as a victory, too bad you need to be a monstrous idiot to pull it off.
Ty shrugged and said, "Mistakes were made." As though this wasn't anything he did, just something that happened. As though there wouldn't be a price.
I told you I have stopped keeping score, but this was a monstrous fuck-up. So, I undid it. Yes, I imagine you'd like to know how. Your people would love a way to just unmake messes like this, wouldn't you? Well, I'll give you a hint, because you are my favorite great-great-something-great-grandson: God is a critic, and She hates bad art.
Nothing in my art is without cost, of course, all of those that died, are still dead. I imagine there was a train accident or gas-main explosion or terrorist attack or something instead. The ghosts are still mine. Jake still got shot somehow. He doesn't remember though, because I took care of him and Ty, after. They may, with therapy, eventually be able to talk, feed themselves and wipe their own asses again. They are young yet. Who knows? If he could, I'm sure Jake would claim this as his victory too.
That was the last of my power for awhile, I think, I'll need to save what I have left just to stay alive, for a hundred years at least.
Drink your tea, now, if you want me to read the leaves.
As for Petra, well she was the best working those two did, the best working I've seen since Jack Parson's Babalon, she was why I consented to teach them in the first place, after all. A masterpiece, by chance, from gifted apprentices. She is as perfect as they dreamed her and she has cut the umbilicus to them. She is out there now, a free thought, her will moving through the world and the world moving according to her will. What will she become? Woman, witch, goddess or monster? Or perhaps all of the above, eh? Who knows? She's young yet too.