Homunculus [Capstone First Draft]

I.

“So,” Jet said over a tall cup of Starbucks coffee, sitting opposite Jonathan Arturo at the small round coffee table. “I didn’t realize you guys knew each other,” Jet stared coldly into Arturo’s black eyes.

Jet had his usual indigo polo shirt on, blue jeans, and navy blue running shoes with neon green highlights. His long, bony fingers held the cup before his thin, brown-complexioned face, long bangs from his undercut-styled hair hanging over his eyes, the cup serving as a sort of shield behind which he stared at Arturo.

Arturo was the Aswang next in line to rule the Arturo Clan, one of the remaining three Aswang clans in the Philippines. He was also one of the few magick users among the Aswang; most everybody else were the plain, shapeshifting demon-beasts that the common man knew and feared. Arturo was dressed in a light blue, button-down dress shirt, light brown jeans, and black shoes. His hair was slicked back into a pony tail, his thin, light-complexioned face framed with a well-trimmed goatee. He had mestizo features, from his obvious colonial Spanish heritage, and looked not a day over his actual 41.

“C’mon, Jet,” Athena smiled uncomfortably, sitting off to Jet’s left. “You know the Philippines is a small country. Every mythical being and creature in the magick community knows everybody else.”

She had a white, off-shoulder blouse with long sleeves that were initially tight at the upper arm, then billowed into long, flowing, flower-like sleeves from the elbow to the wrist. Tied at the waist with a loose, chain-like belt, it made Athena look like a gypsy — especially with her long-curly black hair, and her jeans tucked into knee-high black leather boots.

“Well, yeah, sure,” Jet said, still staring down Arturo. “The secret mythical community got a lot smaller after I destroyed the entire Bernardo Clan.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Martinez,” Arturo said in a thick baritone voice, and stood up, nodding to Athena. “But this clearly isn’t going to work.”

There had been four Aswang Clans originally — Arturo, Marcial, Rodriguez, and Bernardo — but Jet hunted down the entire Bernardo Clan to extinction thirteen years ago, within only a year after the youngest son of the clan patriarch killed Jet’s parents in a drug-fueled frenzy at a formal event. The other clans had stayed out of Jet’s war with the Bernardos, and he generally stayed out of their way. Until now, apparently.

Athena glared at Jet.

“Mr. Arturo,” Athena reached out and touched Arturo’s forearm. “We’ve already tried everything, and nothing worked — you need Jet Lakan’s help.”

Okay, now Jet was curious. Athena was one of the most powerful mages in the Philippines, if not the world. She’d been a high-ranking mage in the Order of the White Star. She even had a prosthetic left arm and right leg made from magickally animated metal alloy; she was the magick equivalent of a cyborg, her prosthetics disguised under perfect illusory spells. If Arturo had a problem that even Athena couldn’t solve, then it must be a very interesting problem indeed!

“Listen,” Jet blurted out, standing abruptly. “Mr. Arturo — I apologize. That was uncalled for; I was rude, and I apologize. Athena is a good friend of mine, and I know she would not have called me here without a very good reason. I would be very happy to help out, if I could.”

The hard glint in Arturo’s eyes softened, and he sat back down to his coffee.

“Mr. Lakan,” Arturo began. “Thank you for taking the time to meet us. As Ms. Martinez has alluded to, I have a seemingly intractable problem that I had hoped you would be able to help me with.”

“Of course, sir,” Jet nodded. “Could you tell me more about this problem?”

Arturo and Athena exchanged glances.

“I think,” Athena said, “It would be best if we showed you.”

II.

“Ho-lee, crap!” Jet exclaimed, reflexively touching his forehead with his right hand, when he saw the creature lying motionless on the stainless steel operating table in the middle of the large, 20x20x20-feet steel cage, right smack in the middle of a huge, empty warehouse. The cage was lit from above by an old fluorescent light hanging from the bare ceiling, one among many in the warehouse. The warehouse itself sat in the middle of a large junkyard on 5th Avenue, in Kalookan City, nearly 15 kilometers north from the Starbucks in Glorietta 4, Makati City, where they had met.

The creature looked like a nightmare. Its head looked like two heads had melted together, with two faces looking simultaneously at an odd, slight angle left and right, their two eyes at the sides between them melting into one white, unblinking blob with two black pupils, and their two mouths merging also at the sides, and not in a wide straight line, but in a crooked, off-kilter line that made their entire expression like that of a severely deformed Cheshire Cat. It’s one neck was as wide as two necks fused together. It had two left arms, and while one looked normal, the other one was red-skinned, and covered in shiny, smooth, metallic red scales, and ended with a hand with long black talons. It had one right arm, but another forearm seemed to have grown out of it below the elbow, the outcropping forearm being colored blue, and covered with a thin film of frost. The man-creature was clothed in tattered black robes, with torn sleeves and a torn hem, showing three legs sticking out from underneath, one of which, the second right leg, seemed made entirely of grey rock — and it had what looked like an upside-down face on its giant club foot. The creature had a faint smell, a subtle shade of week-old dead rat.

If the creature stood up now, by Jet’s estimation, it would probably be about six feet tall or more, much taller than Jet’s measly 5' 7'’.

Jet hesitantly reached down and touched the creature’s normal-looking left arm’s wrist to check for a pulse. The wrist felt like normal, warm, human flesh, much to Jet’s relief. But no sooner had he touched it, that the creature awakened with a gasp, and exclaimed “MAGIC!” — in more than one voice simultaneously.

“Ugh!” Jet’s eyes watered at the stench of the creature’s breath.

“Lucas!” Arturo called, but Athena held him back.

It sounded like at least three or four voices all at once — one deep and gravelly, one high pitched, almost female, and one almost childlike. The creature grabbed Jet’s arm just as he started reeling back from the stench, and its two faces turned to him and said “YOU! You’re a magician!” in that triple/quadruple voice. “SAVE US!” It tore open its robe and showed two more faces speaking on its chest and on its abdomen, all looking at Jet. Even the face on its grey rock foot was speaking now. “FREEEEE UUUUSSSSSSSS!” The creature hissed until it convulsed for a few seconds and collapsed into unconsciousness again, letting go of Jet’s arm as its own hands went limp.

“Phee-eew!” Jet stepped away coughing a little as he fanned the air around him, to dissipate the stench.

“So let me get this straight,” Jet took a breath as he walked to the side of the cage where Athena and Arturo were. “Your son Lucas” he began, gesticulating excitedly as he processed all this new information in his mind, “had a kind of Aswang cancer, and the elements in his body were basically eating themselves from the inside. So you decided to basically build an artificial body for your son, by binding Elemental Beings together, then transferring your son’s consciousness to that new body. Right?”

“That is correct,” Arturo nodded, glancing with concern over Jet’s shoulder and at the creature on the table.

“But the Elementals rebelled, as did your son’s spirit, and now you have this creature — this homunculus — lying on the table over here.”

“Correct.”

“That is so frickin’ cool!” Jet caught himself nerding out. “Sorry. I mean, it would’ve been cool if it had worked. It’s like the magick equivalent of building an android body, except with magick instead of science and robotics!”

“Ms. Martinez,” Arturo asked Athena in a low voice, an annoyed furrow on his brow, “are you sure Mr. Lakan is the right person for the job?”

“I’m sure of it, Mr. Arturo,” Athena nodded reassuringly. “Jet Lakan is a natural-born mage, a genius savant when it comes to magick.”

“If you say so,” Arturo said with still a very slight tinge of doubt.

Uh, I’m standing right here, guys, Jet thought, but kept silent.

“So can you help?” Athena turned to Jet.

“Where is Lucas’ original body?” Jet asked Arturo.

“Dead,” Arturo said flatly. “It died shortly after I’d bound Lucas’ spirit to the new body.”

“Oh… I’m sorry.

“I’ll need all your notes,” Jet took on a decisive, dead serious tone. “Bring me up to speed on everything you’ve done and tried so far. I’ll bring your son back, Mr. Arturo.”

III.

The cage was now gone, and the creature on the steel operating table — the kind used in mortuaries, which had shallow channels along the sides that would lead bodily fluids down a hole at one corner — now lay in the middle of a twenty-foot-wide pentagram traced with generous amounts of rock salt. At each point of the pentagram were five-foot wide circles, also traced in rock salt. Connecting all these circles was a larger circle enclosing the entire pentagram. Jutting out of the smaller circles were long triangles, like rays coming out of a star. Salt’s crystalline structure made it great for conducting, storing, and purifying magickal energy, and lent itself well to the construction of protective magick circles such as this one.

Jet stood at the small circle at the top point of the pentagram. It was Wednesday, days after that Monday morning meeting at Starbucks Glorietta 4. He now had a fresh set of clothes — still an indigo shirt, jeans, and running shoes.

Jet had already thoroughly studied and discussed Arturo’s original notes and Athena’s later notes from when she’d previously tried to help, and scanned the creature with his Inner Sight. The homunculus was a very ambitious project indeed, taking months of painstaking research, and Jet could only imagine the desperation that had driven Jonathan Arturo to attempt it. Jet knew what to do now, though, and after some debate with Arturo and Athena, he was certain he could make it work in one go. Well, 75 to 85% certain anyway.

He closed his eyes as he stood, relaxed, with his arms hanging at his sides, palm outwards facing front. He regulated his breathing as he stilled his mind and entered the Great Silence, wherein lay God’s Greatest Power, as the sages of old say.

Arturo stood outside the circle with Athena, pacing anxiously as Jet remained still in the circle. He couldn’t participate in the magickal operation, but Jet had asked him and Athena to stand guard and protect them while Jet proceeded with the work. Arturo was now in a navy blue button-down shirt with gray pin stripes, jeans, and leather shoes, dark rings now forming around his eyes from worry and lack of sleep.

Athena on the other hand stood still as she looked on at Jet. She now had a green baby-tee polo shirt with yellow stripes on the shoulders and sides, and jeans tucked into black Doc Martens. She could probably help, but Jet had asked her to remain outside the circle as well, since what he was attempting to do was far outside anything being taught at the Order of the White Star. Besides, Jet needed her to watch his back — and keep an eye on Arturo — in case anything went sideways.

As Jet entered deeper into the Silence, the entire warehouse seemed to crackle and hum with ever-increasing Power. Seconds later, the entire Pentagram and magic circle burst into violet-colored ethereal flame.

“I AM here,” Jet said out loud, “I AM there. I AM Everywhere Present.” Four ghostly afterimages of Jet flew out of his body as he projected his consciousness to the remaining four points of the pentagram, drawing energy from the Universal and willing it into replicas of his physical form. It was an operation much like how saints like Padre Pio could seem to be at two places at once, except the Church would of course never understand such an operation.

As his projections coalesced and solidified in form, each body then took on properties of the Element represented at that point of the Pentagram, as if they were composed solely of that Element: while he physically stood at the top point representing Spirit or Akasha, the whole pentagram now appearing inverted from his perspective, the pentagram’s arm on his left corresponded to the Water Element, the pentagram’s leg on his left represented the Fire Element, while the pentagram’s arm on his right was the Air Element, and finally the pentagram’s leg to the right was the Earth Element.

“Damn,” Athena muttered to herself. All she could do was watch in amazement as she felt Jet’s enormous Power emanating from the circle.

Once he was settled in, Jet started the next step in the operation, which was the drawing out of the Beings of the Elements from the homunculus.

“Lucas Arturo,” Jet said from the head of the pentagram as he opened his eyes, and the ghostly form of a child arose from the creature and joined him upright in the small circle. The child stood in front of Jet with his eyes closed, and floated about an inch off the ground.

“Pyreus The Salamander,” Jet said at the circle for the Fire Element, his own body made of a blue core surrounded by yellow flame. A human-like figure fully six feet tall, made of bright golden flame, emerged from the multi-headed creature, and floated to the Fire Elemental Jet. It too had its eyes closed, even while a strand of ethereal flame still connected it to the creature.

Jet did the same at the other points of the pentagram, calling each of the corresponding Elemental by name: Altaeros the Sylph, a tall young man with long flowing hair, ghostly body and robes as light as air; Ydras the Undine, a young, shapely woman with long hair tied back into a knot, body and robes made entirely of blue water; and Greggon, a short, broad-shouldered man, made of pure gray rock, with blue diamonds for eyes, emeralds for teeth, and shiny sapphires for nails, and green grass for his hair and beard. Each of them went to the corresponding Elemental version of Jet at the points of the pentagram.

Arturo hadn’t been just screwing around — these were elite, high-level Elemental Beings, judging from the Power that Jet felt from them. If he didn’t know better, these were probably members of the royal families of their respective Elemental Kingdoms. Arturo just had to have the best for his son.

Arturo knew what he was doing when he tried to create a new body out of the Four Elements. The adage, “As above, so below” was a key tenet in magick — as above in the macrocosm of the Universe, so below in the microcosm that was man; all Elements in the macrocosm were also in the microcosm of the human body. Arturo’s mistake had been trying to build a body by forcibly binding these particularly strong Elementals. Athena’s mistake, on the other hand, had been to try to make that binding even stronger. Jet was going to fix all this with the next step in his operation.

“As above, so below,” he said simultaneously from his five bodies, the Elementals and Lucas standing next to him in their respective circles. “As above in God, So Below in Man. As the God in this Man, in this Microcosm, I command:

“Let there be Fire!”

Energy from the Universal coalesced into a bright yellow fireball the size of a basketball, that hovered over the leg in the Pentagram corresponding to the Fire Element.

“Let there be Air!”

Energy from the Universal coalesced into a translucent ball of energy with tinges of blue and yellow dancing randomly across it. The ball of energy was also the size of a basketball, and hovered over the Pentagram arm corresponding to the Air Element.

“Let there be Water!”

The same thing happened over the arm for Water, and a blue marble of Water coalesced from the Universal, over the Pentagram arm corresponding to the Water Element.

“Let there be Earth!”

A ball of ethereal brown and gray rock formed over the Pentagram leg corresponding to the Earth Element.

“Let these Elements live in Harmony together in the physical form of Lucas Arturo,” Jet commanded in five voices, mentally guiding streams of energy from the Elemental spheres he had formed, into the homunculus. “Even as Pyreus, Altaero, Ydras, and Greggon are now set free from their binding.”

Two streams of energy formed along the four arms of the Pentagram: one leading into the homunculus from each of the Spheres, and one leading out from the homunculus and into the Elemental Beings standing in the circles at the points of each arm.

As the seconds turned into minutes, each of the Elemental Beings’ forms grew more solid, while the Elemental spheres grew smaller and smaller. The homunculus body’s shape also shrunk down, shifting shape into less monstrous form.

Finally, the homunculus was no longer a homunculus — it took on the shape of a fair-skinned Filipino mestizo 10-year-old boy, lying naked on the operating table.

The Elemental Beings stood physically solid now in their corresponding circles at the points of the Pentagram, each looking completely human, save for the hair and eyes — the blazing red hair and eyes of Pyreus, the white hair and grey eyes of Altaeros, the blue hair and eyes of Ydras, and the green hair and eyes of Greggon. Each of them were completely naked as well, but each with their eyes still closed.

Now came the most difficult part. For this he needed his entire consciousness in one place, and his four other bodies faded into ghostly forms and merged back to his physical body.

Jet went further into the Silence, stilling his mind, and turning his attention to the God in the Macrocosm. This was the God that all religions claimed to worship and know, but rarely ever understood. For all his innate magick power, skill, and knowledge, everything still came down to what amounted to prayer. Prayer that Lucas’ appointed time in this world should be extended, that he be allowed to live a long and fruitful life. For Jet alone had no power to anchor Lucas’ spirit into the body: the Macrocosm, the Universe — God — must agree to it.

Minutes passed. An Eternity. And still nothing. Jet opened his physical eyes, filled with a profound sadness.

The spirit of Lucas Arturo opened his eyes as well and turned to Jet, floating away backwards for about two feet.

“Many thanks for your help, great mage,” the boy said. “You have freed me from my Elemental prison. I can now heed the call of my God-Self, the God Presence Above to this lower self Below, and go on to the next life.”

“I understand,” Jet smiled.

“Lucas!” Arturo shouted. He tried to cross into the violet flaming pentagram, but found that he could not. “No! Don’t go! You must stay! You must live!”

“Listen, Dad,” Lucas said. “My time has truly come. You must let me go.”

“No,” Arturo broke down in tears. Athena put a hand on his shoulder.

“I love you, Dad. Be strong.” And with that, the ghost of Lucas Arturo rose into the air — and vanished.

IV.

Jet collapsed to his knees when he mentally dismissed the power from the circle, ending the ritual. The entire ceremony felt like it had taken place for hours, and Jet was utterly exhausted.

“You killed my son!” Arturo screamed. “You killed Lucas!”

“Mr. Arturo, please –“ Athena put her hand on Arturo’s arm.

But in the blink of an eye, Arturo shapeshifted into a giant brown wolf on hind legs, ripping his clothes in the process. He looked like a werewolf, but with six-inch saber teeth sticking out from his upper jaw, long, mountain goat-like horns growing out of his temples, and long bony spikes along his forearms. These spikes struck Athena as Arturo swatted her away like a fly with a backhanded strike.

“YOU KILLED LUCAS!” Arturo lunged forward, crossing into the now-inert pentagram.

A tall, red-haired, naked man stepped forward and blocked Arturo’s way. He raised a hand, and an enormous yellow fireball shot forth from it. The fireball exploded as it hit Arturo in the chest, hurling the Aswang backwards several feet.

Jet slowly stood back up on his feet, and found that the four Elemental beings, led by Pyreus the Salamander, had placed themselves between him and Arturo.

“Vile creature!” Pyreus spoke in a thunderous voice that easily filled the warehouse. “Thou shalt not harm one hair on he who hast freed us from thy slavery!”

“Now begone from our sight!” Ydras stepped forward. “And consider thyself fortunate that we shalt not end thy life this day!”

There was a momentary bewildered look on Arturo’s face as he patted himself down and doused the flames from his fur. He extended his right arm, and seemed surprised to see his hand. “The Ring! Gone!” he screamed. He turned away, ran a few steps, and shifted into a giant man-sized bat — arms elongating into batwings, nose upturned like a bat’s, large, pointed ears like a bat’s, and legs ending in claws. He leapt into the air, and flew out of the warehouse, ramming through the closed warehouse gates with a loud crash and shooting up into the night sky outside.

V.

“My thanks, your Highnesses,” Jet bowed.

Pyreus and the others seemed surprised. “You knew?”

“You knew we were Princes — “ Altaeros said, then nodded to Ydras, “ — and Princess of the Elemental Kingdoms?”

“I wasn’t sure at first,” Jet shrugged, smiling, “but I had an idea you were all royalty. Only Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses could have resisted such strong binding magick.”

“Thou art a great magician, indeed, Jet Lakan,” Pyreus said. “Thou hast our Eternal Gratitude.”

“But what of the accursed Ring of Ma’azek?” Greggon asked in a gravelly voice.

“Right here,” a woman’s voice echoed in the warehouse, somewhere off to Jet’s right.

“You got it?” Jet asked as Athena.

“Yep,” Athena said as she approached, holding up a golden ring with a large blood-red gem on it. The Four Elementals clearly became uneasy at the sight of the ring. “I stole it while Arturo was too busy looking at you do your ritual.”

Ma’azek was a black magician back in ancient Lemuria. He’d made the ring to control beings of the Elements and conquer the Elemental Kingdoms, and through them, the world. Or so Athena had told Jet when she first brought him in on this case.

“But — “ Altaeros mirrored the confused looks on the other Elemental’s faces. “ — you helped Arturo bind us more strongly!”

“I had to,” Athena said, “to gain his trust enough for me to be able to bring Jet in later.”

“It’s true,” Jet smiled. “Though I only found out about her plan after Arturo had accepted my help.

“But still,” he turned somber, “we had planned to really save Lucas as well. Arturo himself wasn’t really so bad; he just wanted to let his boy live.”

“But enslaving us — !” Pyreus said.

“Is not cool,” Jet said. “We know. We just wanted to see if we could have a win-win for everyone.”

“Speaking of,” Athena said, nodding towards the lifeless body of a 10-year-old boy on the operating table. “What about him?”

“We give him a proper burial, I guess,” Jet said. “It’s the least we can do.”

“The boy never wanted to enslave you, you know,” Jet said.

“Yes, we are aware,” Ydras said.

“He was also the reason we were able to resist the binding as well,“ Altaeros added, “If the boy had agreed to it, then the father might have successfully subjugated us.”

“But again,” Greggon said, “what shall happen to Ma’azek’s Ring?”

“We’ll destroy it,” Jet said. “You have our word.”

“Thy word is enough, great mage,” Greggon nodded, smiling. “Thank you.”

“Come, come!” Pyreus interjected. “Enough talk — our respective Elemental Kingdoms await us! Let us be off!”

“Hear, hear!” the other three smiled as they all started to fade into ghostly forms.

“Arrange for the boy’s burial, “ Pyreus said. “We shall be there to honor him.”

“And with proper clothes!” Altaeros said, to everyone’s laughter.

“Sure thing,” Jet nodded.

“Thank you both. We shall never forget your kindness,” Pyreus said as they all vanished.