Warning: This poem contains some intense and controversial topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some which are spoilers. It includes a policeman investigating a noise complaint, a college student doing an occult ritual, arguing, both of them getting sucked into an alternate reality, angels and demons, threats, rude language, reference to a consensual but questionably ethical teacher-student relationship, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before moving onward.
"Cruel Intentions and Difficult Truths"
[Sunday, September 9, 2018]
Raymond Ivener was
walking the evening beat
in Oread Neighborhood.
It was far enough from
the University of Kansas
to have affordable rent, but
still close enough to attract
student renters, which made it
something of a trouble magnet.
They were always restless
in the early autumn, fresh from
summer break and full of mischief.
So when Raymond got a call
about smoke and noise in
somebody's back yard,
he put his hustle on.
He tracked the disturbance
to 1313 Tennessee Street,
a big white rental house with
a ridiculous red-and-blue porch
and a Jayhawk painted on the wall.
From the front Raymond could see
a thin column of oily black smoke,
and that definitely wasn't the trash
or leaves that folks were allowed
to burn inside the city limits.
He thought about banging
on the door, but that might or
might not actually do any good.
Since the yard had a chain-link fence,
he couldn't simply jump over it without
more probable cause than he had,
but he could cut around to the alley
and see if there was a way in --
or direct access to the culprit.
Raymond jogged around
the corner, grateful for
the cool autumn air.
He found a young man with
floppy brown hair throwing things
into a burn barrel, with a jar held
in one hand and a book in the other.
All around his feet, strange symbols
had been drawn on the scraggly grass
with sidewalk chalk or maybe spray paint.
"Police!" Raymond barked. "Put down
your things and let me see your hands."
The boy squawked in dismay, dropping
both jar and book into the smoky flames,
and thrust both of his hands in the air.
"Don't shoot!" he said. "I'm not
doing anything illegal, it's for
a class project, I swear!"
"I'm not going to shoot you.
My name is Raymond Ivener,
and I got a complaint about noise
and smoke around here. You're
not allowed to burn anything but
leaves or trash," the cop said.
"Now, what's your name?"
"Oh, uh, sorry," said the boy.
"I'm Gideon Lane. I'm doing
Studies in Ritual -- you can call
my teacher, she'll vouch for me."
He rattled off a number, and
Raymond dutifully wrote it down.
"I'll have to write you a ticket
for the fire, but I will make it
a warning ticket if you can
manage to clean up the graffiti
before I leave," Raymond said.
"It's not graffiti, it's just sidewalk chalk,
see, it comes right off!" Gideon babbled,
scuffing his shoe through the lines.
As promised, they broke up easily,
red and yellow chalk scattering into dust.
Suddenly the air began to warp.
It rippled, waves of distortion
spreading out from the burn barrel
and engulfing both of the men.
"Ohhh, fuck," moaned Gideon.
"This is not good, not good --!"
"What exactly did you drop
in there?" Raymond snapped.
"Because it's affecting me too!"
"It's just mint! I don't do anything
stronger than grass, man, and I didn't
put any in the barrel," Gideon said.
Then they were both falling.
They fell, and fell, through
layers of alternate realities
that riffled past them like
the pages of a comic book.
Everything blurred and swirled,
making it impossible to keep track.
They landed, hard, on the ground,
covered in soot and sidewalk chalk.
Raymond picked himself up and
slapped his hands down his front,
brushing off as much of the chalk,
dirt, and dead leaves as he could.
Beneath him, Gideon was still
whimpering on the ground.
But they hadn't gone anywhere.
Raymond was amazed to see
the same house above them,
its smaller back porch painted
the same ridiculous red-and-blue
as the front one, complete with
a black spiral staircase going up
to reach the attic bedrooms.
"Well, that could have been worse,"
Raymond said, nudging Gideon
with his boot. "Get up. You are
in so much more trouble now."
"I swear, if there was anything
psychoactive in the burn barrel,
I did not put it there," Gideon said.
"Though Monte does kinda have
that mushroom poster in his room ..."
"Never mind that now," Raymond said.
"Put out the damn fire. You and I are
taking a little walk down to the station."
"Aww, man!" Gideon said. "You
were gonna cut me a break!"
"That's before you dosed us both
with who-knows-what," Raymond said.
"Get the hose and douse it, now."
Gideon got the hose, still grumbling,
and poured water over the fire until
the black smoke turned white and
eventually faded away altogether.
"All right, that's enough," Raymond said.
"Grab your backpack. If you promise
to behave, I won't have to cuff you."
"Okay, okay," Gideon said, slumping
as he shouldered his backpack.
"Let's get it over with already."
They walked down the alley and
back toward Tennessee street.
As soon as they turned onto
the busier street, though, they
knew something was very wrong.
"What the fuck are those?"
Gideon whispered, staring.
The sidewalks were scattered
with people, but not all of them
actually looked like humans.
Some of them were wraith-pale and
glowed faintly in the evening shadows.
Some of them were pitch-black and
almost seemed to swallow the light.
"I don't know what they are, but
I don't like this," Raymond said.
"Stay behind me, kid, just in case."
"I don't think we're in Kansas
anymore," moaned Gideon.
"That's just it, we are,"
Raymond said. "Look
around you -- except
for the weirdoes, nothing
has actually changed."
"Okay, yeah, we're still on
Tennessee Street, but this
can't be our Tennessee Street,"
Gideon said. "This is fucked up."
He pointed to the street signs,
which had little squiggles on them
in addition to the ordinary text.
The street, too, and the sidewalks
in front of the houses had symbols
drawn in chalk or in spray paint.
As they watched, they noticed
that the light and dark figures
seemed to avoid some symbols
while being attracted to others.
The men were attracting
some unwanted attention too.
The closest two -- one of each --
immediately headed toward them.
"My, my, my, what have we here?"
said the curvaceous woman with
anthracite skin. "Looks like somebody
stepped out without any protection.
Looking for a good time, boys?"
"Oh, I'm sure they don't want
to risk hellfire and damnation
for your well-traveled ass,"
the slender man drawled.
"Take sanctuary with me,
little lambs, and I'll save you ...
whether you like it or not."
"Do you know what a clitoris is?"
the dark woman said, sauntering
toward Gideon with a smile. "I
could tell you all about it. Or
I could just show you mine."
"The cherubs will tear them apart
before you can get your panties off,"
said the bright man. "Let me have
them, and least they'll survive."
"N-no," Gideon whimpered,
plastering himself against
Raymond's back. "We don't
want any hellfire or salvation!"
"Then you shouldn't have come
out naked," the dark woman purred.
"You'll turn the head of every demon
and angel on the street like that."
"Demon?" Gideon said.
"Succubus, to be exact,"
she replied as she smoothed
her hands over her curves.
Gideon grabbed a piece of
sidewalk chalk from his pocket
and scribbled a pentacle on
himself, then on Raymond.
"Ah well, them's the breaks,"
the succubus said, and
strolled away from them.
"You -- you get away from us
too," Gideon stammered, pointing
the chalk at the bright man.
"Doesn't work on angels,"
the stranger drawled.
"Shit, shit, shit, shit,"
Gideon chanted, hurrying
to draw another symbol.
The angel sighed and left.
"You want to explain to me
what the fuck just happened?"
Raymond snarled at Gideon.
"I would if I could, but I can't,
so I won't. I don't actually know,"
Gideon said, looking down.
"Then guess," Raymond said.
"I might maybe somehow kind of
shifted us to an alternate reality?"
Gideon said. "One where demons
and angels are just walking around."
"Demons and angels? Really?"
Raymond said, crossing his arms.
"Looks like it," Gideon said.
"Though they were both scary."
"I suppose now we know why
the first thing angels always say
is 'Fear not,' when they meet
someone," Raymond said.
"Yeah," said Gideon, "but
"that is so much bullshit."
"How did you get rid of them?"
Raymond said. "That seems to be
important in a world where angels
hide cruel intentions behind smiles
and demons whisper difficult truths."
"I used symbols to banish them,"
Gideon said. "I wish I still had
my textbook, I could do more."
"Where did you get it?"
Raymond asked. "We can
go there and get another one."
"That funky little bookstore by
the Psych building," Gideon said.
"I hang out there a lot for my major."
"I thought that you were majoring
in Religious Studies," Raymond said.
"Shouldn't you know more about this?"
"No, my parents wanted me
to major in Religious Studies,"
Gideon said. "I talked them into
letting me take it as a stupid minor
so I could major in Philosophy."
"And how's that working out
for you?" Raymond drawled.
"Kiiiinda wish I could change
my major," Gideon said.
"Imagine that," Raymond said.
"I can make it work out," Gideon said.
"I just need to get another textbook.
Only it might take me a bit to figure out
exactly how to fix this mess, because
Religion 534 isn't really written with
sophomores in mind, you know."
"Gideon, how did you even get into
a 500-level class as a sophomore?"
Raymond asked him, frowning.
"The teacher there likes me,"
Gideon explained. "I had her
in Mysticism last semester."
"And for that she let you into
an upper class?" Raymond said.
"She likes me, likes me,"
Gideon said with a grin.
The cop rolled his eyes.
"You really should have
taken an ethics class."
"Nah, they all conflicted with
my other classes," Gideon said.
"Besides, I only need one for
Value Theory, and I'm already
torn between Aesthetics and
Rational Choice Theory."
"All right, funky bookstore it is,"
Raymond said. "And Gideon?"
"Yes, officer?" the boy said,
giving him wide puppy eyes.
"Keep your goddamn chalk handy."
* * *
Raymond Ivener -- He has tawny-fair skin, brown eyes, and straight black hair buzzed short. He is tall and sturdy. He is 29 years old when he winds up in an alternate reality. Raymond lives in Lawrence, Kansas where he works as a police officer (in his home dimension, not the alternate one).
Gideon Lane -- He has pinkish-fair skin, hazel eyes, and short straight hair of ash brown. He is short and skinny. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas. He is 19 years old when he winds up in an alternate reality. Gideon is a sophomore at the University of Kansas with a major in Philosophy and a minor in Religious Studies (in the original dimension, not the alternate one). Since the minor was chosen by his parents, he has snuck in a couple of classes for the one he really wanted, History with a focus in Political Thought, Religion, and Culture.
Requirements for the B.A. or B.G.S. Major
Philosophy Major Core Knowledge and Skills (3) 3
Majors must complete a course in one of the following areas:
History of Philosophy. Satisfied by either one of the following areas
PHIL 384 Ancient Philosophy
Philosophy Major Required Electives (24)
Symbolic Logic. Satisfied by one of the following:
PHIL 310 Introduction to Symbolic Logic 3
Value Theory. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses: 3
Theoretical Philosophy. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses:
History. Satisfied by completing one of the following courses:
PHIL 590 Phenomenology 3
Additional Electives (12)
Satisfied by completing 12 additional hours of PHIL courses, not more than 3 credit hours can be below 300 and at least 3 credit hours must be at the 500-level or above.
Requirements for the Religious Studies Minor
Students interested in declaring a minor in Religious Studies should schedule an appointment with the Religious Studies Undergraduate Director.
Religious Studies Minor Course Requirements
Students selecting this minor must complete a course in each of the following areas:
Introduction to Religious Studies (3)
Satisfied by one of the following: 3
REL 104 Introduction to Religious Studies
Specific Religious Traditions (3)
Satisfied by 1 course (3 hours) chosen from the following:
Religion in Specific Regions (3)
Satisfied by 1 course (3 hours) chosen from the following:
Thematic Approaches to Religion (3)
Satisfied by 1 course (3 hours) chosen from the following:
REL 341 Mysticism
REL 534 Studies in Ritual: _____
Religious Studies Minor Required Elective (6)
Satisfied by completing 6 additional hours in REL courses at the 300 level or above.
Requirements for the History Minor
The Department of History department is organized into 10 fields of study. For the purposes of the undergraduate minor, these fields are divided into two categories, reflecting a Western or non-Western orientation. Minoring in History can add depth and breadth to your undergraduate major, whatever department you may be in. Requirements are 18 hours (or 6 courses) in History; at least 12 hours (or 4 courses) must be at the 300 level or above; two courses in category I, two courses in category II, and two electives. Some courses can provide credit in either category.
• Africa and Middle East (planned)
• Latin America (planned)
Classes offered by the Department of History touch on a variety of themes that transcend the division between Western and Non-Western History. Students are encouraged to select courses that examine areas of interest to them. Choosing courses from the same thematic area allows students to consider historical questions and problems across time and space and can help students gain an awareness for how Western and Non-Western societies have experienced similar historical issues. The following themes reflect concentrations in the department’s undergraduate curriculum that may be of interest to students.
Political Thought, Religion, and Culture
* * *
See an aerial overview of Lawrence, Kansas.
The Oread Hotel is a famous feature of the Oread Neighborhood. This is an old neighborhood characterized by many historic buildings and features. Read about the neighborhood and see a crime map of it. The Neighborhood Plan includes a usage map showing the density of different districts.
The Oread Neighborhood is old and colorful. Some districts have big old houses owned by large families or rented by groups of students. In the background, you can see the tall buildings in the University of Kansas. Several different types of house are common.
Gideon Lane's house has a colorful front porch with a jayhawk by the front door. The back of the house has a matching porch that overlooks the back yard.
The basement features a rec room. In one corner of the basement, a mattress has been thrown down to provide a guest bed. The bathroom down there includes a shower stall.
The first floor holds the living room. The dining room has a tiny table and a window. Here is the view looking into the kitchen, and a long view of the kitchen. This is the kitchen nook. The back hallway leads to Bedroom 1, Keesha's room. The first-floor bathroom includes a bathtub. The laundry room has its own sink, along with an upright piano and a huge whiteboard.
On the second floor, Bedroom 2 belongs to Gideon. The second-floor bathroom includes a bathtub. See Bedroom 3 and Bedroom 4.
Stairs lead up from the second floor to the attic. Bedroom 5 belongs to Monte. Here is Bedroom 6. This door leads to the fire escape. The attic includes a dormer with a closet. See the left and right views of the attic. The powder room has a sink and a toilet.
See a map showing the house's location.
Oread Neighborhood is southwest of the bend in the Kansas River as shown on this crime map.
Mint is among the magical herbs used for travel spells.
A pentacle can provide protection against demons.
Very little has been written about protection against angels. For the purposes of this series, a knotwork angel serves the purpose.