Dreaming of Something More

Authors: Marshak fan

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1: Things Could Have Been Different

Sometimes I dream that I'm something more than I am, that my skills as a wizard are not limited to potions and a gift of meager psychic powers.

When I dream this, I am younger - before I joined the army. Sometimes I am much younger - a child. But usually, I'm a teenager.

My parents are as they always were, but I become something different from that which I was. There are different scenarios, but one appears in my dreams more often than all the others combined.

I find an old book, with yellowed and brittle pages, hand-printed and decorated. I find it at an estate auction of an old Catholic high-school, and I buy the whole box that I found it in, so no-one else gets a chance to see my find.

I drive home and drop off the keys to my parents' car on the kitchen counter. My father is at work, and my mother is out, at her weekly bridge group.

I take my box to my room, tuck my new-found treasure in my book-bag, and start out for a walk.

I walk to my favorite hide-away, an oak in the woods where I could climb up into its welcoming foliage and sit between two thick branches that form a natural seat.

I pull the book from my bag, and spend some time studying the cover. It is old, worn leather, and the binding is hand-sewn. It smells of dust and ink and the spicy smell of an old library, and now that I have it, I'm so nervous I can't stand to open it yet, and ruin the anticipation.

What if it's a disappointment, or worse, what if it's full of spells and potions of sorcery, and I will have to destroy what I just spent my last $3 on.

I finally feel brave enough to open the front cover, and read the preface.

This book is the property of Randall, Grand Magician of London's royalty and wealthy. I, Randall, will strive to notate and correct all the contents of this book in hopes of handing it down to a future apprentice.

Most of the content of this book have been copied from the book owned by Alexander the Conjurer, who had collected incantations and potions from others his entire life. I have also added many spells and potions I have learned from my contemporaries, as well as some of my own invention.

Each spell, each potion, I will note with usage information, and results of their use, as I test their worth. Pages with no usage notes have not been tested by myself or any trusted fellow magicians. Use these spells with utmost caution, and at your own risk.

I have no idea what happened to Randall, and there is no further history listed, so I feel it safe to assume that he never handed down his book to an apprentice. Although there is no specific date anywhere in the preface, I guess that the book was originally written in the late 18th century.

2: Spells, Incantations, and Potions

When I finally turn the pages to read what's inside, I find that the book contains spells, but there are also some potions, some incantations, and some pages where a complex process uses two or three of the methods in conjunction.

Many of them are not of interest to me at the time, and I skim them quickly so I can refer to them later if I need to.

About half-way through the book, I find a heavily notated potion-spell that promises to heighten one's awareness of the natural and unnatural world. This is of more interest to me than anything else. I spend a lot of time studying the notations, to learn what I need to know about how it works, and any side effects.

And there are side-effects. The heightened awareness is permanent and irreversible, and can be overwhelming. It has driven more than one wizard to madness. I decide to consider the spell, but I don't know if I'll want to risk using it in the future.

Further into the book, about two dozen pages later, is another casting that catches my attention.

This one offers extended natural life-span, well-beyond what would be considered plausible to most. This casting is notated almost as heavily as the other that had caught my attention.

A wizard should not undertake this lightly. This will change a person's mortality, and can cause adverse reactions to strong sunlight, and some herbs. It is also important to note that there may be a subtle change in perception, and it can become difficult to keep perspective on the value that others place on time.

This casting is elaborate, and has a high potential for failure. I decide that I may wish to consider this for future use, as well.

The rest of the spells in the book are of mild interest to me, and after perusing the remainder of the book, I place it carefully back in my bag, and go home.

3: Decisions Made

Over time, I use several of the potions and spells found within my prized book, and some I even share with my good friend Rashid.

But it isn't until I'm getting ready to be shipped off to war that I decide to use both of the riskier spells that caught my eye. The timing is close - I have to perform the first under a new moon, and the second under a full moon, just before I leave.

The first incantation and potion go very well, leaving me exhausted for days afterwards. Once I have recovered, I find that the ritual was a success - my senses are keen, and I have a new-found intuition for the world around me. I instinctively know what metaphysical elements are at work in my vicinity, and I even have a better sense of the balance of nature and humanity.

Both those balances are severely out of balance, and I am determined that my decision to join the army is the right one.

Things are amiss in the metaphysical world, as well, and I am certain it is at least in part due to the war - or more specifically the atrocities that had started the war.

While my slight reserve of psychic energy recovers, I work toward obtaining all the ingredients for the second spell I want to work. Some of the ingredients are quite commonplace, while others are extremely rare, and I have a difficult time getting some of them. Luckily, the last arrives in the mail the day of the full moon.

This casting is extremely complicated, and I find my heightened intuition to be of some small assistance in the process of creating drawings on the floor, casting complicated spells, and creating several potions.

It takes all night for me to finish the casting, and I find myself cleaning my room by the dawn's light. I set the alarm, and get an hour's sleep before rising for a cool shower. I race out the door and arrive just in time for my farewell breakfast with Grace, Rashid, and Lewis.

4: Discoveries

I sleep all the way to the base where we are settled in, clothes, given hair-cuts, and lined up for our orientation. And my time in training flies by.

But I am different. My muscles are stronger, my reactions are faster, and my mind is more alert. But I'm also more temperamental - my blood runs hot, and I have trouble keeping my words and actions in check.

I manage to keep my emotions in check. In training, we're all allies, all working together toward a common end. My awareness of that helps me treat my comrades with the respect they deserve. It is when we get deployed that I become fully aware of how different I have truly become.

The smell of the blood of my enemies on the battlefield drives me mad, and I cannot hep but think of it all the time. Killing my enemies give me a disturbing sense of satisfaction, and I find under the cover of darkness one night, after silently dragging away a nazi guard to hide his body, I've done something truly distressing.

I've bitten him, with elongated canines that I've never been aware of before. And I realize what I've done to myself, with one or both of those complicated and unknown spells.

Everything becomes clear - my temper, speed, and strength are easy to explain. In a panic, my hand finds the cross that rests against my skin, under my uniform, and I'm relieved that it's still there, causing me no discomfort.

Reassured that I haven't forfeited my soul, I look down at my victim. In my mind, I quickly rephrase - regardless of how I killed him, he was still the enemy. I would have killed him anyway.

I haven't yet harmed anyone who was not an enemy, and I vow to keep it that way. My enemy, dead though he may be, pulls my attention back to him. The wounds to his throat are small - two puncture wounds, much like I'd often seen in movies. I can only vaguely recall the act of having bitten him, and have no memory whatsoever of the time that lapsed between that act and the moment in which I realized what I have done - surely a span of more than a minute or two. His death, I am sure, was solely from loss of blood.

I'm a little distraught over this, but the reason I'm here is pressing - I'm to disable all the guards encircling a communication post. I leave my victim and get to my feet, recalling the location of the next guard my unit had located.

The night is dark, but I have no trouble quietly making my way to him. This one I am able to remove using more conventional methods, and I make my way to our rendezvous point with a lot more than our current mission on my mind.

5: Imprisoned

Over the next few days, I find that my hunger does not extend to my troop, and I am much relieved by this discovery. But my nightly scouting missions always include a victim from the enemy. And it is on a scouting mission that I am captured. Just like it really happened, in my waking life. My strength is not enough to change anything. I don't know how much injury my body is capable of surviving, so I relinquish myself to the gun pointed at me, and allow myself to be captured.

They don't seem to know that there's anything different about me, at first. But when the Butcher arrives, things change. I'm taken to a room apart from the other prisoners, and interrogated mercilessly. I learn exactly how much injury my body can survive as I am tortured in attempt to derive secrets of the Allied Forces. Although I feel my heart stop several times, it always starts back up again, my mind remaining active in the interim, aware of the pain my body is being subjected to.

This continues for days, and days turn to weeks - I'm not sure how many, my sense of time distorted by the windowless room I'm kept in, and the odd hours at which the Butcher chooses to visit me.

My sharp hearing picks up the sound of shouting, and I am both pleased and terrified that my squadron has found me, for the endless torture and repeated deaths have destroyed my self-control, and elongated canines rest against my bottom teeth constantly - I have no willpower to control them. I am afraid of being found out.

The Butcher comes in to watch over his prized prisoner, but my squadron's presence has given me new hope, and the will to fight. I have worked my hands free from the handcuffs of pure silver that I have allowed my captors to believe cause me great pain.

I let my head hang and my shoulders slump as I try to convey the attitude of a man almost broken.

The Butcher paces before me, his thick, heavy boots making the intimidating clockwork-like sound that I've come to associate with my torture. I wait, knowing that he will come closer, biding my time until I know he cannot escape my wrath.

While I wait, I let my mind wander a little, not wanting to appear too alert. Immediately, my thoughts go to my stomach.

I haven't eaten in weeks, not a drop of food, water, or blood having passed my lips, and I hunger for the Butcher's plasma.

But my sense of smell tells me that his blood, tainted with so very many crimes against humanity, would taste sour and putrid. Although I cannot identify the scent, I can smell pain on him, as well as suffering, mental anguish, and loss - so much death has he caused.

When he walks closer, I glance up at him, and he chuckles, an evil sound that sends shivers up my spine. "Herr Marshak, you persist as my most difficult subject. And yet, I believe I have found the thing to tempt you from your misguided convictions."

I shake my head, "I will not betray my country."

"I think I can make you change your mind." He kicks me, squarely in the chest, knocking my chair over backward. I land with the full weight of the chair and my body on my hands, and I think I hear the crack of a broken wrist, accompanied by shooting pain. I grasp the back of the chair tightly so as to appear to still be bound to it as the Butcher kicks my chair again so I am lain sideways on the ground.

He kneels beside me, grabs me by the hair, and looks me in the eyes, "Herr Marshak, your soul is mine."

He stands, and opens the door. I watch a soldier's boots enter, and a frightened woman is thrown to the floor before me. I can smell her blood, the wonderful fragrance strong and sweet. It takes all my self-control not to betray myself.

I mutter the first spell I can remember to prevent the door from latching fully as the soldier leaves. Before I can finish, I am kicked in the chest. I barely manage to finish the spell, my breath knocked from my lungs. Luckily for me, the Butcher does not speak Latin, and could not understand my words.

I feel myself lifted, chair and all, to an upright position. I force myself to look into my captor's cold eyes, and I speak, though my words lack the conviction I wish they did, "My soul is my own, Butcher, and my loyalty will never die. She does not tempt me."

The Butcher picks her up, holding her upright by her shoulders. She is about my age, her emaciated body tiny and weak. Her neck has been cut shallowly, but the blood that flows from the injury is significant in her poor health. She'll die if nothing is done.

I look at him, and I see in his eyes that everything is exactly as he planned. He thinks that if I know she'll die anyway, I'll take her blood and start down that steep slope of excusable sins.

He doesn't know me at all. I lick my lips hungrily, but shake my head, "No."

The Butcher shakes the poor girl, and the way she looks at me, I know she can see the hunger in my eyes. "Look at her, Marshak! You're starved. She will die anyway. Let her feed you."

He pushes her closer to me. She smells of blood and sweat and filth, and I know she came from the camps. He pushes her even closer, so close that if I leaned forward, I could sink my fangs into her tender flesh.

I inhale deeply and lick my lips, although I have no saliva to moisten them. I lean forward and close my eyes. I hear her breath catch in her throat, and I can smell her terror. My lips pull back, and I hear what I've been waiting for. The Butcher starts to laugh.

I release my grip on the chair, and before the Butcher has a chance to react, I have the pleasure of hearing his neck snap beneath my hands.

6: Escape

He falls away from the girl, his body useless without the head to control it, and I grasp her shoulders to keep her from falling with him, "Do you speak English?"

Fear in her eyes, she shakes her head. My German isn't as fluent as I would like, but I can certainly communicate with her sufficiently. I ask her if she speaks German, and she nods her response. I tell her I'm a zauberer, magician, and I can heal her injury.

She stares at the sharp fangs that I can't control, but concedes to let me place my hands on her neck. Devoid of my herbs and other potion ingredients, I am forced to use another spell. I manage to stop to blood-loss, although the wound to her neck looks as ugly as before, and will surely scar. I doubt she would be concerned if I told her.

I briefly explain that I intend to help her escape before I join my squadron in releasing the other prisoners, and she nods acquiescence. But when I tell her to wait while I scout the hallway, she refuses to be left alone. Against my better judgment, I allow her to come with me.

In spite of her presence, I cannot restrain myself when the first Nazi soldier steps into my line of sight. His blood fails to sate my hunger, but the terrified girl at my side no longer tempts me.

Elongated canines now under control, I apologize for my behavior. While trying to find a way out of this prison, we find my squadron, and to my relief, she mentions my wizardry, but not my unnatural hunger.

During our liberation of the prison, I manage to slip away and sate my hunger on a few more soldiers, allowing me to fully concentrate on the task at hand.

My tour of duty continues, essentially the same as it was in my real history, and my home-coming is no different. After returning to my civilian life, my hunger, my condition, is abated, and practically forgotten. I prefer it that way.