Kindred: A Teaser

*taps microphone*

Is this thing on?

For you blog readers, the origin story of SumDood is now a novel!

Introducing, “Kindred: Book 1 of the SumDood Chronicles.”

Should be available on Kindle within the next couple of days, and in paperback and hardcover by January 1, 2023. Until then, here’s a teaser!

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I suppose if I am to tell you my tale, first you should know my name. People put a lot of stock in names; they allow us to connect, grant us some degree of familiarity with one another. Names move you out of the shadows and into the light. There’s comfort in that, knowing a name. People crave comfort. They fear the unknown.

But what’s in a name, really? I have been known by so many. Some have faded from knowledge, those who uttered them lost to history, the words themselves lost because they had no written language. Others are still whispered in awe and reverence… and by some, fear.

But… no. I will not give you my Name. It is mine, known but to God and the people with whom I share consciousness, and there have been precious few of those. In the end, it is less important that you know who I am than what I am. So, my Name I will keep to myself. Call it pride if you must. Pride and willfulness are the defining traits of my kind. You might even say they’re the reason I have a kind at all. Still, you must call me something. Very well. You may call me… Kindred.

Yes, Kindred. I rather like the sound of that. It fits.

As to what I am, well that is a long tale, both complicated and simple. The simple part is, I am a guide, a teacher, a partner of sorts. I am a… a… a symbiont. Forgive me if I stumble over the language. I usually communicate without words. But symbiont describes it nicely. Your scholar Noah Webster defined it as a party in “a relationship between two different kinds of living things that live together and depend on each other.” That describes me and my host well enough, I suppose. Such a brilliant mind was Webster’s; logical and orderly, always ordering and categorizing things. Pity that the world around him was never so orderly, that so many things defied categorization.

But I digress. We were talking about what I am. As to how I became a symbiont, that is the longer, more complicated part of the tale. I and my kind are timeless. We were the first beings of the Creator. When the Creator wrought His will on this plane, our eyes were the first to be dazzled by the light. We felt the rumble as the mountains erupted from the seas. As man drew his first breath, we marveled at what the Creator had wrought.

So like us, yet so much more. The first word out of the mouth of your kind was, “Why?” Always questioning, you humans. Never accepting, always seeking… something. That is so foreign to my kind. It is not in our nature to question. We did not understand man, did not understand his eternal seeking was the price of free will. To be honest, I struggle to understand it even now. Ever unquiet are the souls of men. They never know peace, as long as men are alive.

Yet we loved man. How could we not, as fellow beings of the Creator? My brothers and I knelt at his side as he slept, we cupped our hands and caught his breath as he exhaled, we kept watch over him as he grew. We brought the Creator’s word to him, bringing prophecy, guidance and understanding. We were messengers, protectors, tutors. We watched as he peopled the Earth.  

Yet there were those among the Host who did more than watch. The Watchers grew enamored of human women. Looking back, it was easy to understand why. Fascinating creatures, women; so unlike us in form, so like us in nature. They are nurturing, protective, kindness couched in quiet strength and resilience, all wrapped in intoxicating curves and heady scent. The Watchers were so enraptured that they ignored the Creator and coupled with human women. Emboldened by that singular act of defiance, they began to question everything. Their one act of defiance grew into outright rebellion.

Man has long been driven mad by the charms of women, but frankly I expected better of angels.

The war threatened to rip Heaven apart. Eventually, fully a third of the Host, the followers of the Morning Star, were cast out. For their hubris and defiance, they were banished to Earth to walk among the humans that held such fascination for them. Denied the Creator’s grace, their forms dwindled until they became incorporeal. When your entire being is essentially an embodiment of the Creator’s grace, being denied it doesn’t leave you with much.

Except rage. And hate.

Couple with human women? Ha! The Fallen couldn’t even touch them. Couldn’t be seen by them. Only the strongest among us could even talk to them. They wandered, lost, nursing their hate and resentment. And then one day, Lucifer discovered a way to recapture our grace: steal someone else’s.

The strongest among us whispered to humans, women mostly, the humans most like us before the Fall. And the more we led them away from the word of the Creator, they grew weaker and we grew stronger. Eventually, even lesser Fallen could speak to humans, men and women alike. Tempting them was so easy. And when man fell, we rejoiced.

Yes, I said we.

I was a Watcher once. I too was enraptured with human women, though unbeknownst to my brothers, I stopped short of actually coupling with one. One of my hosts had a rather unique expression for it: “Led around by the dick.” It feels vaguely blasphemous to me, but I must admit it is descriptive. So rich and varied, the languages of you modern humans. New words created every day. Still, I managed not to be led around by the dick like the rest of the Fallen. I confessed my temptation and doubt to the Creator and was forgiven. I was given a legion to command in the War, and I did so with honor. I fought, and slew, numbers of my brothers beyond reckoning, and soon ascended to the rank of Archangel, one of eight.

Yes, I know various scriptures counted us as seven. Do not interrupt. We were eight.

When it became apparent that we would win, that the rebellious angels among us would be cast out, the Creator gave me another task as penance for my doubt. I was to betray my command and be cast out with the Fallen, to keep watch among them, to track their movements, to thwart them whenever I could.

I guess you could say I was Heaven’s double agent. My brother Archangels mourned my betrayal and shunned me, my Name was stricken from the books, my existence lost to history. But the Fallen welcomed me as one of their own. After all, had I not tasted the fruit of women as they had? When Lucifer became strong enough to create a realm of our own, I dwelt there for a millennium.

One of the dangers of being under deep cover is that you start to identify with those you’re supposed to be investigating. Try long and hard enough to be seen as one of them, you start to become one of them. Vengeance dwelt within my heart. Forgiveness became a distant memory. I knew hate, and bitterness, and resentment. Intimately. Like your philosopher Nietzsche said, the abyss stared back at me hard.

But I never forgot my mission.

When a confluence of natural events and the machinations of one exceptionally deranged human allowed one of the Fallen to escape, I broke cover and followed him. Shunned by Heaven and Hell alike, I’ve been pursing him for thousands of years.

Give me a break, okay? I’m pacing myself.

Plus, my brother among the Fallen is rather slippery. What he lacks in direct strength, he makes up for in subtlety and cunning. He also operates without constraint, whereas I have rules of engagement I must follow. When dwelling in Hell, it’s all well and good to behave as the other demons, kind of like spring break in Cancun. But here on Earth, on this plane, I have to operate by the rules of the Creator.

That means I can’t interfere with free will.

I cannot manifest. Neither can my brother. We can only operate through hosts. Where we differ is how we go about it.

I can only influence man when he is at his weakest, when the soul is ready to separate from flesh. In this tenuous state between life and death, I make myself known to them. I tell them my Name, and my purpose. I offer them healing, and knowledge, and guidance. In return, they give me physical form and dedicate the rest of their lives to helping me in pursuit of my brother. Once The Bargain is struck, we return to their vessel.

I heal their bodies and minds – nothing mystical about it, just an accelerated healing process, and knowledge of biology beyond the current understanding of science – via biofeedback. I teach them to make use of certain portions of their brain to circumvent certain feedback loops. I can inhibit – or augment – the clotting process. I can reverse inflammation or give it a boost where needed to fight off infection. I can halt the ischemic cascade of cellular death in its tracks. Stroke? Just a little matter of activating fibrinogen at the precise location of the clot. Likewise for heart attacks.

All of this is to say that my hosts are generally healthier than they’ve ever been and live a good span of years longer than is the norm. Not immortal, by any means, but say, a hundred and fifty years, give or take. This is problematic. They tend to outlive their families and friends. It’s a lonely existence with me living in your head. More than one of my hosts has laid down the burden when it became too great. I bade them all well and beseeched the Creator for their salvation.

I’m pretty sure they get it. There’s much to be said for fighting evil, and I pick men with good hearts in the first place. Their goodness lends me inspiration and strength, and I can augment their natural gifts in small, subtle ways. I tend to favor healers and protectors – my brother Raphael would smile at that, them being so unlike me before my fall – people like firemen, doctors, nurses, paramedics, cops.

Nothing like spending a millennium in Hell to make you appreciate the better angels of our nature. And before you go saying I cribbed that line from Lincoln, it was actually mine. Abe was my host once, but that is a tale to be told later.

The cops become better lie detectors, the medics, nurses, and doctors gain a far greater insight into the workings of the human body, the firefighters gain a greater sense of awareness, almost a precognition of danger. It really all depends on what I must work with.

I don’t do soldiers. Don’t get me wrong, I admire them. Among the angels, I was known as a mighty warrior indeed, and any host of mine is a fearsome adversary in a fight. But soldiers… well, when the thrill of combat starts singing in my blood, let’s just say I’m closer to Hell than I prefer to be. I try not to remember what I was in Hell. I won’t drag a good man closer to that. Some gifts are not meant to be shared.

But my brother, now, that’s his thing. That’s what he does. His voice has forever been the one to teach men of war, and subjugation, and violence. He teaches them to fashion armor, and cunning ways to fashion weapons. Women, he taught to tart themselves up, to paint their bodies and fashion their clothes to appeal to the baser notions of men. He wanted them to make objects of themselves.

Mikhail Kalashnikov? He thought he was inventing a rifle to defend his Motherland. My brother was his muse, whispering to him noble notions of patriotism and fealty to his people. My brother cared not a whit for Kalashnikov or his nobility. He envisioned a future of ten-year-old boys in Africa slaughtering each other with that rifle, for little other than vague tribal rivalries and quirks of geography.

He moves from host to host by mere touch. He cares not a whit about free will, or the physical well-being of his vessel. He regards them as expendable commodities, and his stigma is not easily erased. A soul tainted by his touch will never make it into Heaven if the vessel dies while inhabited. He takes special glee in taking over the body of a good person, wreaking all sorts of havoc while inhabiting their vessel, and then abandoning them to face the consequences –both on this plane and the next. In fact, he was the origin of the term “scapegoat.”

He has been known by many names –Azazel, Samael, Rasputin, Hitler, Pol Pot, a thousand others. Dante Alighieri knew him as Guido da Montefeltro. The ancient peoples named him in a series of hoots and grunts. Today, in this age, you call him Sumdood.

And I cannot rest, or return to God’s presence, until he is banished back to Hell.