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The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆
The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆
Mark is my hero
Published by Justin Isis
04-20-2014
The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Decided to serialize this due to its length and because I'd prefer not to break it into multiple pages...if you enjoy this story please buy more of Mark Samuels's books to get the real thing

THE BLACK MASS
Mark Samuels reached a hand into the darkness to silence the shrilling of his mobile phone alarm and felt his reflexes pull him awake sharply, with no consideration for the vestiges of his disordered dreams. The room was still. A vague rose glow entered through the window. In a few moments Samuels had pulled back the sheets and was on the floor, engaged in his morning exercises: a hundred pushups; a hundred situps; fifty crunches, back bends, jack-knives and Russian twists; five minutes of shadowboxing.

The girl was up now, watching him. Samuels heard the click of her lighter and smelled acrid smoke rising to the ceiling. He finished his routine and turned to find her watching him with fascination. Samuels noted with approval the juvenile quality of her breasts, firm but not yet fully ripe. Her dark hair had been trimmed short and dyed a chestnut brown, and her eyes were wide and guileless. She had given her age as eighteen, but Samuels suspected this was an exaggeration. He smiled at her, and she said something that sounded like "gun" or "goon" with the intonation of a question.

"Gun? Couldn't have gotten one through immigration. Don't even carry one back home."

The girl shook her head, clearly frustrated. She took her own phone from the nightstand and fiddled with its electronic dictionary before handing it to him. Samuels glanced at the Chinese characters before reading the translation.

"Oh, the military? No, love, I'm a horror writer. We're much scarier."

Samuels examined himself in the mirror. A light sheen of sweat had formed on his flesh, highlighting its clearly defined musculature. His natural stoutness had been conditioned through discipline into the bearlike build of a heavyweight boxer. A shaved head completed the impression of clean masculine strength. He was now older than Poe and Lovecraft had been when they died, but in contrast to the sickly Americans, Samuels's body was what the fanzine Ghorla had termed "a pinnacle of physical achievement." An Idealist in several senses, he liked to think that the real pinnacle lay ahead of him, some Olympian summit of training ever out of reach. He had never believed in the myth of the "sick men of literature." Only a man in the prime of his health had the strength to truly gaze into the dark places of the universe. Where the sick men had turned away, curtailing their visions to mere glimpses of cosmic terror, Samuels kept his gaze focused, producing not just sketches but comprehensive maps of the abyss.

The girl - Yuka or Yuko, he couldn't remember - rose from the bed and placed her arms around him. He ran his hand through her hair in a manner that would almost have been paternal were it not for the conflicting evidence of their clothes strewn across the floor. Samuels knew men his age who used Viagra and Cialis, but his faculties had never been in need of artificial aid. Routine kettlebell exercises had strengthened and lengthened his thrusting - he doubted whether many teenage boys had the same titanic endurance - while the regular consumption of broccoli, oysters and other zinc-rich foods kept his testosterone high. Perhaps too high, he reflected, remembering the eight used condoms in the trash bin.

Samuels retrieved his trousers and sky blue Paul Smith shirt from the floor, located an iron in the closet and tended to his clothes. Once dressed, he took a bag of tobacco and some rolling papers from his briefcase. In a few moments he had produced a thin cigarette. As he smoked, he performed an inventory of the room and eventually located his tie behind the trash bin. He stood, ground out the cigarette and completed a quick Windsor knot. The girl had pulled a sheet around her and was repeating something that sounded like "matte," and then a word which could only be "shower."

"Sorry, love," Samuels said. "No time, lots on the agenda. Here, have a book."

He took from the briefcase a red softback volume with a Baphomet pentagram on the cover: a copy of Black Altars, his second collection.
"Bit of a rarity, this. Not my finest moment. But you can't read it anyway, can you?"

Samuels found a pen next to the television, signed the book and handed it to her. While she was still poring over it, he made his exit. He heard her calling to him just as the door closed behind him, muffling her voice.

On his way to the elevator he took in the unusual frames of the doors: arched, like those of a church. Ironic, Samuels decided, given that he was now on his way to Mass. The hotel's details, which he had been too drunk to notice the night before, now struck him as superbly grotesque; the yellow plastic chandeliers and vermilion wallpaper were clearly intended to evoke a European castle or manor estate, but were too scrupulously artificial to be anything but a kitsch parody. As he waited in front of the elevator a nearby door opened and a couple emerged: a suited geriatric with mottled skin and a young woman with aquamarine hair and fishnet stockings, who on second glance appeared to be a transvestite. The couple stood at a respectable distance from him in silence until the elevator arrived.

"Decor's bloody gothic," Samuels said as he stepped inside and moved to the back so the couple could enter. The habit of speaking aloud sometimes came over him in foreign countries, even when those around him were unlikely to respond. "Could set a story here, couldn't you? Horror of the Love Hotel. Forbidden Mysteries of Interior Design."

As he had expected, the couple ignored him. When the elevator arrived at the ground floor they exited quickly, tossing their key to the attendant behind the counter, who was hidden behind a glass window. Curious, Samuels slowed down and glimpsed a crone with a face like a faded tombstone. He took out his phone and made a note to use her in a story.

Outside, he found himself in a sloping alley filled with hotels similar to the one he had just left. Some of their facades were minimal, businesslike; others bore elaborate neon signs, the lettering now faint in the early morning light. Groggy-looking couples were emerging from the exits, eager to be on their way. A few solitary figures dotted the edge of the street, smoking cigarettes and staring into space: flotsam cast up by the night. Samuels walked downhill until he eventually freed himself from the maze of hotels and rejoined the thoroughfare leading back to Shibuya Station. The sky was clear and the air warm, but he knew from yesterday that the heat would soon rise and hang above him like an oppressive cloud, a dense humidity trapped by the endless towers. Tokyo in August did not agree with him, he decided; it lacked the rain and modesty of an English summer.

When the station came within view he hailed a taxi and showed the driver a printed page of directions to the Catholic church in Roppongi. Fifteen minutes later he stepped out and joined a modest stream of parishioners walking through the doors of the Franciscan Chapel Center. They were mostly Japanese, but he noted a number of Westerners as well, most of them in tourist clothes, looking oblivious and slightly malnourished: the usual crowd of pale expatriates he had encountered in Mexico City, Cairo and the other cities whose names crowded the pages of his passport.

Samuels found space in a pew at the back and settled in for the service. The priest's voice had an impressive range, but since Samuels could not understand the Japanese, he found himself paying more attention to the man's gestures, and could not help noting his somewhat mechanical performance and brief, perfunctory homily. During the Liturgy of the Word he found his thoughts drifting to a new story he was planning, a retelling of Machen's "The White People" from the perspective of the supernatural beings whose presence the original story had adumbrated so fearfully. He took out his phone and typed in a handful of notes before he noticed the parishioners next to him glancing over in reproach. He forced himself to turn his gaze back to the altar.

Not for the first time he questioned the wisdom of the Second Vatican Council in allowing a vernacular Mass. The eternal verities demanded an equally eternal, timeless language, one of sonorous phrases and invocations expressing the mysteries of the Word made flesh. And in a more profane sense, he supposed, capitalism, despite its numerous obscenities, had a lesson for the Bishop of Rome: why, when he could walk into any city in the world and order a McDonald's hamburger within ten minutes, was it so difficult for him to find a Latin Mass? Only when the Liturgy of the Eucharist moved his thoughts to the prime Mystery did he feel an intense and untrammelled satisfaction. When it was over he left quickly, despite the attempts of a few parishioners to engage him in conversation. Their English was passable, but he attended Mass for the sacraments, not to socialize.

Another taxi took him to Shinjuku, where the day's business awaited him in two hours at the Kinokuniya Bookstore. He wandered through the station in search of breakfast and, deliberately avoiding the nauseous green logo of the nearby Starbucks, entered a cafe called Dotor. After a bacon and egg sandwich and two cups of black coffee, he decided it was time to start drinking; he would need at least a few shots in him to tolerate the book signing. Samuels had depleted his flask of whiskey the night before, but a visit to the station's 7/11 furnished him with a fresh supply. Japan, he had been pleased to discover, was unconcerned with public drinking; walking to the hotel in Shibuya he had seen businessmen passed out in the street like common indigents. He had noted also the tolerance for public smoking, another mark of an advanced civilization.

Restocked and fortified, Samuels made his way to the bookstore. He was greeted at the entrance by a delegation from Kodansha, where a new imprint, Kaigai Hora, had just brought out a translation of The White Hands and Other Weird Tales, his first collection. Samuels's writing had come to the attention of the publisher when one of his stories, "A Question of Obeying Orders," had been included in a bulk anthology of foreign horror and, reimagined in a Japanese wartime setting, been made the basis of a successful film. Samuels had been unimpressed with this production, which departed significantly from his story, but it was difficult for him to argue with the money and greater exposure it had brought him.

A woman in a navy blue suit stepped forward and extended her hand.

"Mr. Samuels? I'm Rioko Tomita. I'll be interpreting for you today."

Samuels looked at her. Slender and pale, she was at least a head taller than her two colleagues - almost his own height. He supposed she was in her mid-twenties, although she bore the professional air of someone several years older. Her long black hair was tied back in a ponytail, and a light coating of pink lipstick highlighted her small, finely-formed mouth. She spoke English with the faintest trace of an American accent, which Samuels found moderately offensive, but was willing to overlook.

"Nice to meet you, love."

Rioko introduced the others: Mr. Hasegawa from the marketing division, sleek-haired and smiling like a film actor; and Mr. Miura, the translator, a tiny young man who resembled a prematurely-aged librarian. Hasegawa greeted him with a bow and a loud good morning, while Miura only bowed and nodded. They proceeded inside the building, where a modest crowd had already formed, and took up position at a table laden with copies of the translated collection. Japanese books, Samuels noted, seemed mostly to be disappointingly small, fragile-looking paperbacks: bonsai editions, fit for a man's front pocket. The collection was no exception, but sported a cover which, though it had no connection to the stories he had written, was at least suitably macabre. It depicted a young woman's head impaled on a spike, missing its eyes and nose and hideously bleeding from the wounds, the mouth open in an unnatural rictus. A swarm of transparent, disembodied faces hovered around it like ghostly flies.

Hasegawa began speaking to the crowd, while Rioko, seated next to Samuels, interpreted for him.

"We are very pleased to welcome Mark Samuels to Tokyo. Mr. Samuels is regarded by discerning readers as the finest living writer of weird fiction. His stories have already been translated into numerous other languages, and he has inspired writers as diverse as Joe Hill and...am I saying this right...Lard Baron? Closer to home, Keigo Nishino cites him as an influence. He has his own international appreciation society, the Friends of Mark Samuels, and a well-trafficked website, Mark Samuels Online."

Samuels held up a finger to interrupt. "The discussions there are less focused on me than you'd think. Too many shut-ins and undergraduate philosophers posting nonsense about unreadable Edwardians and American detective shows. They don't even have the good taste to include pornographic ads."

Hasegawa continued. "Hippocampus Press has recently announced the impending publication of Black Bowers of Creation, Devin Thomas's study of Mr. Samuels's writing in light of the psychological theories of Jung and Lacan. Also in the works from Eibonvale Press is Touched by the Hand of Mark Samuels, a book of personal recollections of Mr. Samuels by numerous well-known writers. Finally, Chomu Press has finalized the contents list for Marked for Death: A Tribute to Mark Samuels. On the less professional side, the anonymous writer behind the Internet handle WereFox93 has just posted the sixth installment of her popular serial Markitty: Friendship is Magic, which details Mr. Samuels's adventures with a time-travelling and very hungry Ann Radcliffe as they ride on flying unicorns."

"I'd rather that weren't discussed," Samuels said.

"Now on sale from Kaigai Hora, Kodansha's new foreign horror imprint, we present Shiroi Te No Kanari Kowai Dekigoto: The Considerably Frightening Incident of the White Hands. Translated by Hayato Miura, who has previously brought us the works of Jincy Willett and Nell Freudenberger, this British Fantasy Awards-shortlisted collection is sure to inspire a tingling metaphysical dread that will disrupt your everyday routine. Now, I leave it up to Mr. Samuels to address you in his own words."

Samuels scanned the crowd, most of whom appeared to be unemployed layabouts lacking any discernible upper body strength. "Weather's muggy as f.uck," he said. "Good of you all to come. I don't know what the horror scene is like here but it can't be much worse than in Britain. You lot seem to like my stories, so thanks for funding my vacation. Any questions?"

There was a brief silence, until an obese man at the front of the crowd stepped forward. A plaid jumper had been tied around his waist, and his white T-shirt was soaked in sweat. He spoke with a whining voice that seemed too young for his heavily-lined eyes. Samuels turned to Rioko as she explained the question.

"Where do you get your ideas?"

"My arse?" Samuels said, and held up his hand in front of Rioko to stop her from interpreting. He spoke Spanish and some French, but could not imagine switching between languages at her lightning speed. He paused. "I don't know...they just come to me, don't they?"

The next question was from a middle-aged woman with a leporine face and oversized black glasses that seemed to have come in and out of fashion multiple times without her noticing. She spoke almost too quietly to hear, with much apologetic nodding of her head.

"Your stories are too frightening for me to read to the end," Rioko interpreted. "If I continue reading, I begin to cry like a child. Then, I lose hope in everything. Is it okay for me to stop reading halfway through?"

Samuels considered the question for a few moments before replying. The woman was looking down, unable to meet his gaze.

"It's not okay," Samuels said at last. "I took the time to write them...the least you can do is finish them."

The woman nodded several times in quick succession, chastened, a deep frown furrowing her features.

"What horror writers from the past have influenced your work?" an intense-looking young man asked next.

"It's difficult to say. You could mention Poe, Machen, Lovecraft, certainly. But did they influence me or did I influence them? There's been a lot of talk about 'retrocausality' recently. And you know what Borges said about Kafka and all writers creating their predecessors. A few weeks ago I was reading 'The Masque of the Red Death' and thinking, I could have written that. And maybe, in a way, I did. Think about that."

Silence descended for a few moments, until a young man and woman stepped forward. Samuels guessed from their clothing that they were Americans, although he supposed they could as easily have been Canadians or Australians. So he was disappointed when the young man opened his mouth and exposed himself as an Englishman. Pale and spindly, he was wearing a deep-cut white V-neck with an unnecessary cashmere scarf, skinny jeans cut off at the knees and scuffed grey racing shoes. His partner was an unathletic-looking girl in an oversized blue hoodie with the Batman logo emblazoned on it in lurid yellow. Her face, free of cosmetics, was marked by a snakebite lip piercing. She wore a Supreme baseball cap with a flat brim, and a fringe of dyed red hair hung over her eyes, which were hidden by vintage pink Cazals.

"Um, yeah, I have a question," the man said. "In your interviews you've alluded to your Christian faith. How do you reconcile cosmic horror, which is founded on Lovecraft's eliminative materialism, with any kind of belief in a Supreme Being? Particularly a Catholic one, as opposed to some kind of 'blind idiot god'? Don't you think the fifth of Aquinas's Five Ways is basically the deist 'divine watchmaker' argument made by William Paley, with a needlessly anthropomorphic slant?"

Samuels smiled. From the couple's age and appearance he had expected something like this. It could almost have been a cartoon in a Victorian periodical: the Nemesis of Puerile Atheism, an orphaned puppy with upturned eyes and searching paws begging attention and acceptance. No matter how many times he kicked it into oncoming traffic, it returned, maimed and limping, still feebly gnawing at his ankle.

"Nice try, mate. But that's not what Aquinas was saying at all. More importantly, no serious person needs rational arguments to determine their relationship with the divine, any more than they'd require them to know that chips go well with salt and vinegar. If you're even trying, you're too much of a eunuch for me to waste time with. Next question."

The questions continued for a time, most of them inane. Eventually Samuels was reduced to signing books. At one point a primary school boy mistook him for the Big Show, a professional wrestler he had never heard of. When Samuels corrected his error, the boy tossed the book aside in disgust and ran off. Finally the crowd dispersed, and Samuels made a show of checking his watch while glancing pointedly at Hasegawa and Miura.

"Looks like that's all," he said. "These things always exhaust me. What say we cut out early?"

Rioko had a brief exchange with Hasegawa in Japanese.

"We're supposed to stay for another twenty minutes," she said. "I'm sorry, Mr. Samuels. The turnout isn't as great as we'd expected..."

Samuels took out his flask, swigged from it, and offered it to her. She shook her head.

"Call me Mark, yeah?" he said. "Surprised anyone turned up at all."

"Have you enjoyed Tokyo so far?"

"'Course I have. Last night I went out in that...Shibuya it's called, innit? Had a few drinks with some Australians, then wound up at a disco. Not my thing, really, but it wasn't too bad. Ended up getting off with one of the locals. I was so bloody knackered from the flight I would have slept in the gutter, but she knew right where to go."

Rioko's expression was unreadable. "If you like, we could show you around Asakusa in the afternoon. There are a number of famous temples and shrines in the area."

Samuels glanced at Hasegawa and Miura again, neither of whom were paying attention. The translator appeared to be sleeping while sitting up straight, eyes closed and hands folded behind his back.

"Look - those two are a bit dire, aren't they?" He picked up a copy of the translated book. "I mean, he's only gone and given it a bloody nonsense title, hasn't he? 'The Considerably Frightening Incident'...s'pose that sounds better in your language, does it?"

"Mr. Miura is renowned as one of our foremost translators..."

"Sure he is, doesn't mean he's any good. Oh well, long as it shifts the old units, right? Anyway, can't be much fun hanging around them all day."

Rioko restrained enough of a smile for Samuels to know the remark had connected.

"I'm sure you're capable of giving me the grand tour," he said. "But I think that would be pretty boring for both of us. I had something else in mind, yeah? What I want to know is...fancy a shag, love?"

"I'm sorry?"

"We could go to my hotel - it's a nice one, the Hyatt. Best deal I ever got from a publisher, really. We could order room service and kick back."

Rioko blinked. Her mouth opened slightly.

"Oh, I just...I just got out of a pretty heavy relationship. I'm not really looking to mess around right now. Sorry."

"No worries. You'll at least let me treat you to lunch, then. Show me somewhere nice, will you? I need something with meat and vegetables. None of this raw fish and bits of rice, yeah? Proper food."

"We were thinking of taking you to a yakiniku place in Naka-Meguro. Barbecued meat, vegetables, all kinds of drinks..."

"Sounds good. Just the two of us, though. Don't need Mr. Slick and Considerably Frightening there dampening the mood."

"It might be difficult...all three of us are supposed to be with you at all times."

"I'm sure you can work it out with them. Hang on love, just a minute-"

Samuels had noticed a man approaching the table: perhaps a late arrival for the signing, although the man's appearance immediately put him on guard. Tall and gaunt, his grey suit was covered with dark, damp patches. Sweat drenched his skin - which was understandable, Samuels supposed, given the heat outside, except that the man's features seemed almost tubercular: pinched and pale, wasted. His age was impossible to determine, but he was clearly in poor health, and looked to have been so for a long time. While the homeless men and women Samuels had seen in Shibuya seemed relatively clean and hardy, this man was the opposite, an impression sharpened by his ghastly attempt at maintaining a dignified attire. Whatever stained his suit could not have been mere sweat; the dark patches on the blazer looked closer to grease or slime. As he watched the man approach at a faltering pace, Samuels thought of the word contaminated, which he supposed was the writer in him talking. Even so, he felt an instinctive revulsion.

"You all right there, mate?" Samuels asked. Despite the man's slow pace, he was moving towards the table with distressing single-mindedness, and his gaze was directed at Samuels's own. As he came closer, Samuels heard him mumbling to himself, a steady repetition of syllables more like an invocation than any normal greeting. Hasegawa said something to him, but the man ignored him.

Samuels held up a copy of the book as if it were a protective charm. "You wanted one of these, yeah?"

Rioko, clearly disturbed, attempted a translation, but the man clamped his hands on the table and stared ahead at Samuels. He bared his teeth, which were pale yellow and encased in shrivelled gums. His lips were a bleached purple.

"Kurokabi no jiddai," the man said. A trail of saliva descended from his mouth. He swatted the book away and spat out a volley of words. When Hasegawa stood and tried to take his arm, the man swung his fist again and connected with Hasegawa's temple.

Samuels was dimly aware of Rioko and Miura getting to their feet and darting away from the table. The man staggered around to the other side and reached out for him.

"What are you trying to say?" Samuels asked, backing away.

The man started to speak and then doubled up, wracked by a fit of coughing. As he struggled to move forward, the fit became a full body convulsion. Their eyes met once more, and Samuels moved quickly to dodge a blast of black vomit. The man's eyes rolled in their sockets and he collapsed, striking the floor with the sound of a cracking skull.

Samuels knelt and felt the man's pulse fading to nothing. Rioko and Miura had returned with two security guards, one of whom was on the phone. The other guard motioned for Samuels to move away from the body, which he did. As he stepped backwards he noticed that the pool of vomit was filled with small, slug-like lumps of matter.

The two guards took turns applying CPR. Samuels did not envy them the close contact with the body - or corpse, he supposed, since their efforts were having no apparent effect.

After fifteen minutes had passed, emergency workers arrived and took over with a defibrillator. The guards moved everyone away from the scene and took down statements.

"The way he passed out...it was like he'd just been switched off. Stroke or what have you. Never seen anything like it," Samuels said.

The guards conferred with Hasegawa and Rioko. Samuels craned his neck to get a view of the body. The emergency workers were continuing their revival efforts, but he suspected they would soon be taking the man to the morgue.

"We're very sorry about this," Rioko said. Samuels saw that she was shaking. Miura seemed dazed, his eyes fixed wide open. Only Hasegawa retained his composure, despite the bruise on his temple.

"Not your fault," Samuels said. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she said. "Thank you."

Samuels took his briefcase from under the table and gestured for her to accompany him a short distance away from the others. Rioko said something to Hasegawa and then followed him to the entrance.

"Listen, Rioko - what was he saying? I need to know."

Rioko looked in the direction of the body and shook her head.

"Just nonsense...nothing that made any sense. He was crazy..."

"Exact phrases, love."

"I don't want to remember it..."

"I'm sorry...I know this is upsetting. But it's important."

Rioko thought for a moment. "He kept saying something about 'The Age of Black Mold'...it was nonsense. Something about the future. Prophets, a new age, religious things. What you always hear from crazy people. That's all I can remember."

Samuels nodded. "Black mold? Are you sure?"

"Yes. Why?"

"I've written about something like that before. The black mold. In fact, that was one of the stories that I heard your Mr. Miura translated for a magazine. It came out a year or so back, if I remember right."

"You think he read it?"

"He must have done. Lots of crazy people out there. Still, I got a strange feeling when he came in. Before he came in, almost. Kind of a buzzing headache. Did you feel anything like that?"

"Yes. I thought it was just stress."

"Can you ask them if they felt it too?"

Rioko checked with her colleagues. Both of them had felt headaches coming on in the moments before the man had approached the table. Miura had felt so unpleasant that was forced to close his eyes and wait for the waves of nausea to pass over him.

Samuels took Rioko's hand and pressed something into it.

"Got these from his pocket when I was checking his pulse."

Rioko opened her hand and saw a bundle of three business cards, all different.

"Mr. Samuels, um, Mark, you shouldn't have taken these. I mean..."

"They were loose in his pockets. Practically falling out, I should say." He smiled. "Anyway, take a look at that one. What's that all about?"

Samuels pointed to one of the cards, which depicted a winged stone head, perfectly white, vaguely Egyptian and vaguely Art Deco, on a field of solid black. The rest of the card was crammed with Chinese characters and website links.

"These characters are difficult to explain...um...'The United Brothers and Sisters of the Coming Eon.' Eon, or...era? Age? I've never heard of it. It sounds like some kind of cult."

"Sounds like M. Valdemar back there was wrapped up in it. What about the others?"

Rioko flipped through the cards. "They look like normal business cards. This one's from a brewery worker, Yuji Shimura." She examined the card's picture and looked in the fallen man's direction. "It's him, I think. And this one's from a sculptor, Eijiro Okamura. It gives the address for his store."

"Lovely," Samuels said. He spoke more quickly as he noticed Hasegawa moving towards them. "Listen, Rioko. I appreciate your help with this, really. There's something not right here and I'd like to look into it more, so I'll need your help with the language."

"I'm not sure what you mean. But if you're worried about something, we can talk to the police. The station isn't far from here."

"Yeah, see, that's not it at all. There was something wrong with that man, and he was coming straight for me, knew who I was. I take that personally, yeah? Think of it this way. You're supposed to be showing me around anyway. But I'm allergic to temples, except for the RC kind. So just think of it as a different kind of tour."

"What do you want me to do?"

"No time now to talk now. Let's meet up later on. Alone, yeah?"

Rioko frowned, resentful of the imposition. But her hesitation to answer firmly in the negative suggested a repressed curiosity. She looked over at the fallen man and then back at Samuels.

"Meet me in two hours outside Ebisu Station," she said. "The West Exit."

Hasegawa had reached them. "You are okay?" he said, in English.

Samuels clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Bit out of sorts from all that - think I'll pop back to the hotel for a lie-down. Thanks for all the help, hope the book takes off."

Without waiting for a response he turned and left the bookstore.
TO BE CONTINUED!
14 Thanks From:
blackout (04-20-2014), Druidic (04-20-2014), Freyasfire (04-25-2014), gveranon (04-21-2014), luciferfell (04-20-2014), MTC (04-20-2014), Murony_Pyre (04-20-2014), Nemonymous (04-20-2014), Piranesi (04-21-2014), qcrisp (04-20-2014), ramonoski (04-20-2014), SeductiveAbyss (01-08-2016), vapidleopard (04-21-2014), waffles (04-20-2014)
  #1  
By ramonoski on 04-20-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Is this going to be a weekly thing? Because this'll be better than waiting for Game of Thrones
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  #2  
By luciferfell on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Wonderful! Cant wait for the next one!
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  #3  
By Justin Isis on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Thanks for comments. I will post a new section every day or two - there will be four or five of them. Here is the next one:
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  #4  
By Justin Isis on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Outside, in the sun, he dipped into the flask again and considered looking for a bar, although with the surfeit of convenience stores and their alarmingly comprehensive liquor sections, he supposed there was no need. He rolled himself a cigarette and walked back to the hotel, where he took a cold shower, changed his clothes and ordered coffee and sandwiches. After another cigarette on the balcony, he returned to Shinjuku Station. Ebisu was four stops away on the Yamanote Line, which seemed inordinately crowded, given that it was only early afternoon. Commuters in suits jostled against teenagers in neon punk clothing, while a number of collapsed-looking senior citizens occupied the priority seats. Samuels noticed several other foreigners, but most of them were hunched over their smartphones and they paid him no attention.

When he arrived at the West Exit, Rioko was already waiting.

"I can't stay long," she said. "We'll just go to a cafe, is it all right?"

"Sure, long as it isn't Starbucks."

They walked into Ebisu and entered a cafe whose logo was a picture of a croissant in the center of an orange circle.

"Mr. Hasegawa wasn't pleased," Rioko said. "I told him you weren't comfortable having him around. He made some...unpleasant comments."

"Did he, now? Saucy git. Well, he can mind his business, can't he?"

Rioko ordered a flat white and Samuels ordered black coffee. They took up seats in the smoking area. Samuels took out his tobacco and rolling papers and offered her a cigarette, which she declined.

"So, Rioko, tell me about yourself. I'm sorry if this seems a bit personal. I always like to get straight to the heart of things."

"I was born in Tokyo," she said. "My father is in trade, so I spent time in America when I was a child."

"I'm sorry to hear that."

"No - for me it was freedom. I went back as a college student and lived in New York for three years. I used to work in finance, but it was too much for me. I wanted to become a journalist after that, but I joined Kodansha instead, since it gave me a chance to use English. The department I work in -"

"Too many facts, I'm bored already. Something personal!"

Rioko laughed. "There's a lot of pressure here to settle down early, but it's not for me. I like staying busy. And I have a bad temper."

"This bloke you've broken off with - "

"I don't want to talk about it. There are a lot of narcissists in the dating scene here. That's all I'm going to say."

"And these knobs at work, Slick Boy and Frightening Incident - they're not all like that, are they?"

"Company workers here are very serious. There's a lot of unpaid overtime and lots of mandatory drinking parties. But they're not as fun as they sound. Mostly we have to pour drinks for the boss and listen to him sing karaoke."

"And I thought British yuppies were bad. Have you read much horror?"

"I haven't read fiction for a few years. But I read a lot when I was younger. I was more into alternative comics, Daniel Clowes, things like that...social horror, maybe?"

"Anything social is horrible if it's the wrong people. By which I mean almost everyone at every workplace I've ever been at."

Samuels lit a cigarette he had been rolling and blew a puff of smoke against the glass screen separating the smoking area from the rest of the cafe.

"I was never the professional type," he continued. "Couldn't even stand school, barely ever went. No, for me it was Golden Age hip-hop. Beats from the streets. This was back in the '80s - I started a crew with young Quentin S. Crisp from Devon. We called ourselves Mark E Dope and Qabalistic Q."

Rioko looked at him.

"You were really in a hip-hop group?"

"Oh, it was grand at first. We did small shows all over the place, battled other MCs, brought in some dancers. We had our own tags and wrote them everywhere. The four elements, right? Of course, the scene was so much smaller then. Eventually we borrowed money and recorded a demo tape. It was called Remember Y'All Got One Ball."

"What happened?"

Samuels spat out the remains of his cigarette.

"Simple. The Beastie Boys stole my ideas. The layered samples and call and response rhymes. Irreverant, but technical. We were going to do it British style - and then Licensed to Ill broke. I've never been able to forgive those bastards - someone must have slipped them a copy of our tape. No labels wanted to hear us after that, said we were copycats. But that f.ucking Ad-Rock and his mates were the ones copying us! Wankers. Utter wankers."

"That's...terrible," Rioko said.

"No, love, it's ancient history. I won't bore you with things that happened before you were born. You've still got those cards, yeah?"

Rioko took out the business cards and placed them on the table.

"Good," Samuels said, taking his laptop from his briefcase. He pointed to the card displaying the winged stone head. "We're going to start with that one."

He connected to the cafe's wi-fi and handed the laptop to Rioko.

"I want anything you can find on this group, the United Brothers and Sisters or whatever it's called. Check their website, and see if there's anything about them in the Japanese media."

Rioko clicked through to Google Japan and was soon navigating a sea of text. Samuels caught sight of what he took to be the group's official site, a crude single page-layout that reminded him of sites from the earliest years of the Internet. There were occasional English words interspersed with its characters, such as "future" and "avatar," alongside a series of abstract paintings: dark color fields and geometrical patterns.

"Looks bland," Samuels said.

"Hold on, let me finish reading."

Rioko opened several new browser tabs and continued the search on major news websites, flipping back and forth between them and the group's site.

"Okay," she said. "The group was founded by Takahiro Aso. His followers call him 'The Aleph'. He was a normal company worker until a car accident five years ago. While he was in the hospital he had some kind of mystical experience. He claims to be a 'spiritual scientist' and Buddha, or 'World Teacher'."

"What does the group believe?"

"It seems pretty vague. They keep talking about 'The Human Communion,' which sounds like their idea of Heaven. The members say Aso can give them special powers, turn them into angels."

"Any press?"

"Not much. They seem very reclusive. There are a few negative reports." She flipped to one of the tabs. "This one's from a former member who used to live with them in their commune up in Saitama. He mentions their rituals being degrading...blood and other kinds of fluids...and former members dying soon after leaving the group. But there didn't seem to be any direct connection. They just got sick and none of the treatments worked."

Samuels picked up one of the business cards. "Our friend Mr. Valdemar here didn't look very healthy either." He picked up another card. "And this other chap, the sculptor, Okamura. I think it's time we got in touch with him. This is his number here, yeah? We can call him on your phone and then -"

He stopped as he became aware of two individuals standing close by. Rioko had noticed them already, a young man and woman who had walked over from the back of the smoking section. The former attempted a tentative greeting in Japanese. He was wearing what Samuels took to be neo-mod clothing, and what Rioko recognized as the standard garb of a university student: layered clothes, a thin and buttoned-up pinstriped shirt beneath an equally thin grey cardigan, and cuffed houndstooth shorts that came to just above his knees. His clothes were dry and spotless despite the weather outside.

The girl was different, and seemed almost to be a member of a subculture, except that her clothing lacked the overt contrivance of a true Goth or Gothic Lolita, even as the muted colors and intricate lacework of her blouse suggested both. She wore a ruffled miniskirt with black knee-high socks and shiny black platform sandals. An umbrella with a pencil-thin handle hung at her side. She could have been anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five, Samuels supposed; her features were gentle and rounded, while her silky black hair hung past her shoulders and over her forehead in an even square fringe, suggesting a long acquaintance with a straightener. Her eyes, enhanced by black circle lenses and spidery false lashes, never left his face, and her demeanor lacked any of her companion's trepidation. She seemed not to have noticed Rioko at all.

The girl said something that sounded like "Ma, coo some yells."

It took Samuels a moment to realize she was saying his name.

He nodded, and the girl handed him a smartphone encrusted with black rhinestones and dangling accessories in the shape of plastic bats and skulls. The screen displayed the scanned pages of a magazine with inset illustrations. Samuels inspected the first image - a hallway in a derelict office tower filled with inhuman figures frozen in postures of agony - and recognized it as a scene from one of his stories, "Mannequins in Aspects of Terror." He saw that the app's frame bar contained the ebook version of his translated collection, as well as hundreds of other translated books and magazines. Though he could not read their covers, he glanced at the file names and saw works by Fritz Leiber, Clive Barker, Thomas Ligotti, Lard Baron (the young Australian author of the deliriously pornographic and blasphemous gothic pastiche Nunslayer, often mistaken for the stylistically dissimilar Laird Barron), U.G. Joshi (the young critic responsible for the extended essay "The Weird Tale: Is S.hite" and the revisionist biography H.P. Lovecraft: A Grotesquely Inflated Reputation, often mistaken for the less acerbic and dismissive S.T. Joshi), Shaun Hutson, Richard Staines, Poppy Z. Brite and Brendan Connell, as well as collections of Izumi Kyoka and Edogawa Ranpo, and also Takamoto's forbidden The Aesthetic of Chogen.

"Ma coo," the girl repeated, staring at him with somber absorption.

The young man, seemingly desperate to assert himself, indicated Samuels and said something to Rioko; Samuels caught a fragment that sounded like "America."

"No, son," Samuels said. "I'm a subject of her Majesty the Queen. And if you've something to say, you can address me directly."

The young man sensed Samuels's curt tone and, not understanding the words, seemed to crumple into himself. Rioko said something that sounded like "in grease", and then a string of quick phrases with an apologetic smile. The young man nodded nervously.

Samuels turned back to the girl. "You're a reader, yeah?"

The girl said nothing. Her eyes were wide and focused. On instinct Samuels took her hand, which remained limp. She made no effort to pull away. He felt her fingers close around his own.

"Well, we'll find some paper and give you an autograph."

He led her out of the smoking section, across the cafe and into the restroom. It happened very quickly; neither Rioko nor the young man had time to process it until they found themselves regarding each other across Samuels's empty seat.

"I'm very sorry to have interrupted you," the young man said, in Japanese. "I'm really very sorry."

He struggled to think of something else to say.

"Your friend..." Rioko started. "Is she -"

"My sister," the young man corrected. "She's...a strange girl."

He looked away.

An uncomfortable silence fell, lasting for nearly fifteen minutes. Rioko returned her attention to the laptop, continuing her research while the young man busied himself with his smartphone. When Samuels and the girl returned, both looked disheveled, if not exactly exhausted. The girl seemed unwilling to leave him and kept her gaze focused on his frame, massive in comparison with her own, her eyes lit with an intensity belying her size.

"Sorry love, won't be sticking around," Samuels said. "Come visit me in London, yeah?"

The young man began a fresh stream of apologies and managed to pull the girl away. The two of them exited the smoking section and left the cafe.

"Sorry about that," Samuels said. "Didn't mean to keep you waiting. Let's just say I found myself in a bit of a tight situation. There was barely any room in that toilet. And barely any room in..." he trailed off. "Still, I made the most of it. That's all you can do."

"Does this happen a lot?"

Samuels nodded. "There seems to be an occult connection between young dolly birds and literary ghost stories. Almost like peanut butter and chocolate. You can try to have one without the other, but in practice they're going to get mixed. I've tried to live a more moderate life, but it's never worked out."

"I can relate to that..."

"You can?"

Rioko smiled mysteriously. "Never mind. Anyway, I have to get back to work soon. You said you wanted to call the sculptor?"

"That's right. I want you to call him and tell him Mr. Valdemar, what's his name, Shimura? That his old friend Mark S is in town and he's very keen to learn more about the Brothers and Sisters society and whatever it has planned for the future. That I've heard good things about the group and want in, blah blah blah. Tell him I've heard he's a master sculptor and a credit to the art. And I'd like to meet him at his shop, if he could spare the time."

"Okay," Rioko said. "I'll try."

She dialled the number on the card and waited. After a few moments Samuels heard her say something in what sounded like a formal register.

"His wife," Rioko mouthed. "Hold on."

She resumed speaking, and Samuels supposed Okamura had come on the line. The conversation continued in a monotonous tone, which Samuels had noticed was characteristic of Japanese.

"Are you free later tonight?" Rioko asked him. "Around eight or nine?"

Samuels nodded. Rioko resumed the conversation for another few minutes before hanging up and turning back to him.

"That was Okamura. He wants to meet you at his home. I said the shop would be okay but he insisted and said he and his wife would prepare dinner for you. He said he's heard about you from Shimura."

"He didn't say anything about...you know, what happened in the bookstore?"

"Nothing."

Samuels thought for a few moments.

"Rioko," he said. "You wouldn't happen to know where I could lay my hands on one of those samurai swords, would you?"

"No. This isn't the Tokugawa period - you can't just carry them around in public."

"Doesn't matter how legal it is," he said. "You don't have any contacts in that area?"

"I could ask my friends, but it might take a while. Why?"

"Just putting together a little tool kit. S'pose I'll have to improvise. Could you give me a list of hardware stores and places I could find sporting goods?"

"Sure."

She took his phone and tapped in a series of names.

"Okay," she said. "I have to get back. Let's meet outside the East Exit in Shinjuku at 8:30."

"Fine, but...you're sure you're okay with coming?"

"Why not? You need my help, right?"

"Of course, yeah. It's just...I don't know yet, but this might not be the safest place to go, if you take my meaning. I wouldn't want to put you in any danger."

"I've lived in New York and Mumbai. I've seen people stabbed in the street. I don't think an elderly sculptor will be anything to worry about."

"I hope you're right. Listen - I appreciate the help."

Rioko smiled. "See you later."

Samuels spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. From Tokyu Hands he picked up a rack of kitchen knives, a coil of wire, a screwdriver, a pair of stainless steel secateurs, forearm length gloves and protective goggles. A specialty store in Gotanda furnished him with steel-toed boots. At Sports Authority, when he approached the counter with an aluminum baseball bat, a smiling young sales assistant asked him in English if he would like some balls. Samuels said no, he had enough already. At Yamada Denki he bought a jug of kerosene and waterproof matches. Finally he went to Ameyoko for an oversized backpack, which he hoped made him look like a harmless tourist. He filled it with most of the equipment, leaving only the kerosene jug in his hotel room.

At the appointed time he met Rioko in Shinjuku Station, and they took the Chuo Rapid Line to Kichijoji. Stepping out of the exit gate, Samuels found himself in an area resembling most of the stations he had visited so far, a cramped intersection of roads bordered by shops and corporate offices. He followed Rioko as she tracked the sculptor's address with her phone's GPS, and as they moved further away from the station, the spaces between the buildings grew larger and the shops smaller, the signs replaced with trees and terraced gardens. They were in the suburbs now, he realized; the houses were small but elaborately stylized, with European-style facades. There was a vague kitsch element to these arrangements that reminded him of the love hotel, although here, in this subdued and moneyed setting, it took on a more dignified aspect. Curtains and in some cases winding vines and overhanging vegetation covered the windows. For whoever lived here, Samuels decided, privacy was paramount.

"Nice area," he said. "Bit foreboding, though."

The fall of night had not lessened the heat, and despite his short-sleeved shirt, he was visibly sweating.

"You're not hot?" Rioko asked.

"Just a bit," Samuels said. "Never could stand this sort of weather."

"What do you have in the backpack?"

"A few goodies, presents you might say. I thought that was the idea with this country, yeah? Big on gifts?"

As they came to the base of a hill, his headache from earlier in the day returned. He noticed that Rioko was holding her hand to her forehead.

"Rioko - is your headache back?"

"It's been back since we stepped out of the station. I can feel something tight behind my eyes. Don't worry, I've been overworked recently. And you're probably still jetlagged."

But as they continued up the hill, Samuels felt the pressure in his head increasing. More worryingly, his awareness seemed to be slipping, as if with each step he were waking from a brief and shallow sleep. He suddenly had the impulse to look up at the sky, but when he did he felt dizziness overcome him, as if he were being pulled into infinity. He shook his head and forced himself to concentrate on his surroundings. Rioko had fallen silent and was walking with her head down, focused on her phone.

"Rioko," he said, struggling to concentrate. "The sculptor. He mentioned dinner. But I don't want you to eat or drink anything he gives you."

"I've already eaten," she said. "But they'll probably make us tea, at least. We'll have to have some to be polite."

Samuels made his voice stern. "Look. I don't really know what we're getting into, all right? It's just a basic precaution. Do not eat or drink anything."

"Okay. I won't." She stopped. "It should be that house over there."
TO BE CONTINUED!
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  #5  
By qcrisp on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

I notice the "thanks" button has disappeared. Anyway, am looking forward to the next instalment, and am imagining this opening and closing episodes:

Classic BBC Radio Theme ~ Dick Barton (Devils Gallop) - YouTube
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  #6  
By MTC on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

Wish there were more fanfiction like this.
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  #7  
By ramonoski on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

I can see this becoming a franchise series, with Mark Samuels as a 'Robert Langdon' type character travelling the world and solving mysteries related to weird and horror fiction.
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  #8  
By luciferfell on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

I want to see Mark teamed up with Caitlin Kiernan..
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  #9  
By Justin Isis on 04-21-2014
Re: The Black Mass ☆Mark Samuels Fanfiction☆

The eventual tribute anthology will hopefully contain more Mark stories by other writers...ok next part:
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