Osiris O’Cyrus, Egyptian-Irish occult investigator was originally a joke posted on a writers’ group, but I was encouraged to actually document his adventures. Here’s a brief one.)
O’Cyrus Osiris and the Nexus of Hells
…From a recorded conversation with O’Cyrus Osiris, occult investigator, at the Grand Maccaw Pub in India, 1919. The recording was done by my own manservant, Haffa, and notations have been made wherein my memory differs from what was put on the page. It has been re-written as a narrative in order to preserve the flow of the conversation, as well as to better provide details.
The Grand Maccaw was the home for half-a-dozen expatriates from the King that night. It was monsoon season, and the rain was coming down harder than if you’d decided to simply dump the Thames on its side. I’d met Mr. Osiris two nights previous there. He’d been drinking away his small purse, and, after taking a liking to the gentleman, I started buying him drinks myself.
On the second night, Mr. Osiris had told me such a hair-raising tale (about a matter involving the Parliament of France and a series of ghastly, spectral murders) that I resolved myself to take notes the following evening, not only for my own edification, but perhaps to publish some day.
I managed to get myself some rum, and a little bit of whiskey for Mr. Osiris. Haffa and I settled in to the table across from him, and the investigator put down that queer little notebook he always seemed to be scribbling in.
“I hope you don’t mind that I’m keeping notes myself tonight.” I said.
He gestured amicably. “Not at all, Lord Alistair.”
“Please, just Alistair.”
“As you like.”
He sipped his whiskey and sighed like a man having his first real breath of air in months. He stared at the glass as if it were an old friend. “It’ll be quite a story tonight if you keep me in this, I’ll tell you that for nothing.”
“Good, good.” I said. I turned to indicate Haffa should start writing, but, jewel that he is, he’d already been recording every word. I nodded appreciatively, then turned back to Mr. Osiris.
“So, what’s it to be tonight then? Barghests? Elves? Shellycoats?”
The detective chuckled, and motioned for more whiskey. I nodded to the barkeep, who came over and furnished another glass.
“Nothing so homey, I’m afraid.” O’Cyrus said after another long drink. “No, tonight I feel I should give you something with a bit more meat upon the bones, as they say. Tonight, I’ll talk of Hell.”
To my own credit, I didn’t flinch. Haffa said some small prayer to his pagan ghods, though, and for a moment, I felt like perhaps I should give a little entreaty to Jesus.
But I kept a stiff upper lip. O’Cyrus looked at me approvingly over the rim of his glass, then put it down and nodded. The indication was clear enough; I did not object or shy away from the topic, so it would be the matter for the evening.
“Have you read Milton?” He asked.
I nodded, “’Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself / In dark woods, the right road lost.’ I suspect we all feel that way from time to time.”
“Some more than others,” He quipped. “And while Dante had some basic parts right, he was writing of something he knew very little about. What he did know, however… and I won’t get into how he knew this… was that there are many different Hells. He saw them as ‘levels’ of a great chasm. In truth, there are sixty one different Hells.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Sixty one? And you’ve been to them all?”
He shook his head, “No. No one could survive that. But I did, at one point, get to the nexus, the center-point, of all of the hells. Sinu-Shin-Bravat.”
Note that the wording here is how Haffa wrote it. I remember the pronunciation very differently. I know that means something, but I’m not certain as to what.
Thunder rolled, rather dramatically, as he said it, and I’ll admit, that alone set a little chill down my spine. In my peripheral vision, I saw what was likely a similar effect on the few other people in the club; it was as if someone had walked over everyone’s collective grave at once.
Everyone except Osiris’, of course. He gave a little smile, as if acknowledging his own steadfastness in this matter, and motioned for another drink. He then spoke again.
“The place isn’t easy to find, which surprised me at first; with all the work men do that would lead them to hell in the first place, you’d think getting there would be a sinful little walk in the park.”
“Now see here,” I said, trying to get my footing again, “You’re jesting about man’s immortal soul!”
“Only mine, sir, only mine.” The detective said, holding up a hand to indicate I should calm down. I grumbled, but I sipped my rum and tried to focus on the tale at hand.
“I was in Malaysia,” Osiris said, “In the temple of the great priest Dhra-Benzaiten. The entire thing had fallen to ruin two centuries earlier, but the priest himself? Still there. He’d been waiting, you see.”
“Waiting for what?” I asked. O’Cyrus looked over his shoulder and muttered, “Waiting for another whiskey, at the moment.”
The bartender apologized as he gave O’Cyrus another glass, and scuttled back off to the bar. The Irishman finished off the whole drink in a single gulp, then, looking rather satisfied, put down the glass and continued his tale.
“The old man had been waiting for me, it turned out. Or someone like me, I suppose. He was the guardian of the great jade hamsa; the relic that could transport a man to whatever hell or heaven they chose.”
He held up a hand, knowing I was about to object to the idea of multiple heavens. I kept my mouth shut. Haffa kept taking notes. The rain continued to fall, now even more heavily.
“Dhra-Benzaiten was seven hundred and sixty six years old. He had been the guardian of the jade figurine since he was a lad. He’d faced soldiers, warriors, scholars, and diplomats from every nation on the earth… Or so the legend went. Frankly, I had no reason to disbelieve it. As I was wearing a soldier’s uniform when I finally found the temple… A tale for another day… Dhra-Benzaiten settled himself into a pose of battle at our meeting. His spear was long, but looked as old as he was.
“I steadied my pistol, like so!”
Mr. Osiris reached across the table and, unexpectedly, took the pistol from my holster. To his credit, he checked to see if it was loaded before standing and bracing himself, firing position, aiming at the far wall. His stance said military, but not the King’s.
He muttered an odd phrase in Latin, then, lowering the pistol, imitated what I could only assume was Dhra-Benzaiten’s voice.
“Put down your weapon, sir. I have no desire to kill you here on holy ground, but I have killed many men in the discharge of my duties, and you are not immortal.”
Osiris turned the pistol around and offered it back to me. I put it back in my holster, and listened with rapt attention as he sat back in his chair.
“I put the pistol away, sat, and unpacked my food. I lit a fire and began to make tea. I offered him some.
“Even at seven hundred and sixty six years old, Dhra-Benzaiten was a gentleman. He sat down across from me and together we ate a brief meal. It was then we began to talk.”
“’What is it you seek?’ He said. ‘Where is it that you believe the jade hamsa can take you that you cannot go on your own?’”
“I seek Sinu-Shin-Bravat”, I said.
And again, I know I heard this name differently. But I will go with Haffa’s transliteration. Also, as if on cue, the thunder rumbled louder as Mr. Osiris said this; the walls verily shook, and I trembled as well!
“’Ah,’ Dhra-Benzaiten said, ‘The center-point of all Hells. No man of your kind that has made the journey here has ever mentioned this place. Your knowledge is great. Yet I must know… Who is it you intend to try to ransom from this place?’”
“I shook my head. ‘No one,’ I said, ‘Ransoming a soul from hell is against the natural order of things. I go for other reasons.’”
“The ancient priest raised an eyebrow. ‘Ah, then you are not as great a fool as you seem. Yet, I cannot let you have the jade hamsa.’”
“’Then I will battle you for it.’”
“The old man began to reach for his spear, but I waved it off, ‘I do not wish to die at your hands, venerable one.’”
“’Then what do you suggest?’”
“The old man smiled. I had learned much in my days in Malaysia, not the least of which was this; the ancient priest Dhra-Benzaiten had never been bested in a trial of arms, of endurance, of knowledge… But his most favorite trials, according to legend, were ones of wit. He set down his spear, and said simply, ‘Let us begin.’”
“I started with an easy one. ‘I saw outside before the doors of day, white they whirl, strike as stone, and bury themselves in the black sand, gone in the sun.’”
“’You think, because of our climate, I have never seen hailstones before, young one? I know many things from around the world, even though I have not walked from this place. So, tell me this. A house based on a foundation like the skies. A house one has covered with a veil like a secret box. A house set on a base like a goose. One enters it blind, leaves it seeing. What is it?’”
“Now it was my turn to smile. ‘A school, reverend elder. Or, perhaps… This place?’”
“’I will not chide you for two answers, for both are correct.’ Dhra-Benzaiten said. ‘Perhaps this will be a place where we both leave, seeing.’”
“We riddled far into the night, and I will admit, he was quicker than me on every answer. I had to delve into my storehouses of ancient Greek and the Norse, but at each turn, it was as if my best efforts were as child’s nursery rhymes. At dawn, as the sun was rising, I stumbled over the one about ravens and writing desks, which he solved almost before I finished it.”
“The old man chuckled at me. ‘What is it, then, that takes two and makes one, and takes one and makes two.’”
The bartender, realizing he’d given Osiris the last clean glass he had, came over with the bottle and began to pour. The detective smiled.
I pondered, “Love? Passion?”
Osiris nodded, “And that is what I said to him. But there is another answer to that sage riddle. A wise man, and a devil.”
The detective moved more quickly than I could see, and clamped his hand down hard on the bartender’s wrist. He glared at the hindoo. “And that is why Dhra-Benzaiten taught me the words ‘Sinu Shin Bravat‘!”
The bartender tugged furiously, trying to free his arm from Osiris’ grip, but the Irishman would have none of it. “The words bind you, don’t they? Said thrice, you’re bound more than you’ve been in seven centuries!”
“Let me go!” The bartender shrieked. He looked imploringly at me, “The man has gone mad!”
“I shouldn’t think so. One more incantation and you’ll be banished back home-”
Suddenly, the bartender wailed with a sound like a ships’ steam whistle. His free hand grabbed Osiris by the throat and lifted him from his chair! “Puny meddler!” The worker spat. His voice was distorted, however, by the enormous fangs that began protruding from his lips! Fangs? No! More like tusks! His skin, too, was changing, becoming as black as the jungle night!
Osiris was turning red, and hissed between his teeth, “No more human meat for you, rakshasa! You’re going back to hell!”
I stood and grabbed for my revolver, but I was a moment too slow. The bartender, or rakshasa, or whatever beast it actually was, had freed his other hand from Osiris and slapped my weapon across the floor. I winced at the pain and saw the ragged gash in my forearm; the hand he used now had claws!
I danced backward as he took another swipe at me, still choking the struggling Osiris with seemingly no effort at all. Another swipe almost opened me from nave to chops, but, bless his soul to whatever heaven he’d like to reside in, Haffa leaped in the way of the savage blow, his flesh yielding to save my own!
I was on the floor, and my pistol was finally in my hand. It roared once, and the horrid monster-thing grinned with a gaping wound in its head. “Your tricks-of-man cannot harm me. They never have.”
“The heart!” I heard Osiris choke out, “The heart!”
The beast looked at Osiris and shook his head. “You will be a fine feast, and when you die, your bonding magic will fade. I will walk out into the shadows, and I will feed on your kind for centuries. But I do like to understand the despair of those I feast upon. So…”
He turned, slowly, to face me, and tore open his shirt. His skin underneath was black as tar and covered with warts and tufts of fur.
“By all means, Englishman. Right in the heart.”
I realized I had no other choice. My gun sounded once more.
The beast’s eyes went wide, and he dropped Osiris.
“What in the…” He began to choke, then he turned and stumbled towards the door.
Osiris grinned, “The incantation of Sinu Shin Bravat has closed the ways out for you, rakshasa. No escape. No more hunting. No more.”
The devil-creature clawed at his chest, and then at something unseen in the air. It let out a howl of desperation and pain. It towards me, and I saw more hatred and fury in his eyes than I’d seen in all my years in the military.
“Curse… Curse…” he choked, then fell, and lay very, very still.
I looked towards Osiris, who was quickly on his feet and performing some manner of chant over the demon-thing’s body. “What in the world-”
He raised a hand for my pause, and, once done with the chant, he stepped over the now-steaming body to help me to my feet.
“The Rakshasa have a very specific weakness. A shot in the heart from one of noble lineage, done with a blessed bullet.”
“I don’t cary-” I said, then stopped. “You did it when I lent you my gun.”
Osiris nodded. He looked to Haffa. “Brave man. You should get him tended to, post-haste. Meanwhile, this Rakshasa had a mate. I need to take care of that.”
With that, he picked up his little notebook, thought about it for a moment, and grabbed the mostly-empty whiskey bottle. He then turned and walked out into the storm.
And that, my dear readers, was the first time I crossed paths with Osiris O’Cyrus, Occult Investigator.