In 2014, I released my second novel, The Gods of Chaos Vol 2, Netherworld. In it, my main character Jackie Boy was given a lot of company. In fact, it was so much company, that the focus had been pulled away from the main story too far and I had to consider rethinking things.
First off, I had three short stories breaking up the flow. Two of which can be read here: Temujin and The Djinn Induction of Old Dirty Willie along with a third short, a teaser for Purgatory, which still remains at the end of Netherworld. They were good tales and worth reading on their own right, but they distracted from the core story.
On top of that, I tried to use a back and forth approach with the narrative. The story jumped from Jackie Boy's side of things (the narrator of The Gods of Chaos), and Johnny's side of things. At the end of 2015, I just couldn't avoid the issue anymore if I wanted to move forward with the series. At that point, I looked at what I had and made the decision to essentially cut the story in half. One half became the new version of Netherworld, which now focuses solely on Jack's side of the story. The other half is what you have here, Johnny's side of the story. Netherworld and Belial chronologically run side by side. They compliment each other, but can stand independently of each other.
The story of Johnny (Belial) is it's own tale from start to finish. It tells the story of a gang-banger being inducted into the Djinn ranks. It is wild, cruel, unrestrained, and violent, and is my best effort of showing off the epitome of an anti-hero that could literally smell the disgusting stench of guilt radiating off others. I always wanted to write such a story, and perhaps my thriller Azazel sorta helped curb that appetite, but this one really takes the cake. I was inspired to write it from what I have personally encountered throughout my time living in Kankakee, where little wannabe gangbangers start trouble for no reason. Johnny was one of these people, and his character was inspired by my real-life cousin who most of us have lost hope for. I always wanted him to change his ways, and maybe this story was my fictional attempt at his redemption.
So, without further ado, here it is, Belial. If you would like to read the entire story from start to finish, before it is available for purchase, please subscribe to my mailing list at the bottom of this, or any other page on this website.
Chap 1: The Gangbanger and the Goddess
Johnny was a bit of a trouble maker. An outgoing yet highly impressionable man, he did all he could to impress his peers. Throughout his teens, he took all the drugs he could find. He most often blew through his days while smoking dro, but occasionally tapped into the more destructive hallucinogens. He also tried to join the WD (Worshipers of Diabolos) gang, although the group he usually hung out with was on the far fringes of the mainly Latino-based Chicagoland sects. He stood out like a sore thumb, almost always the only white guy in the group. But they enjoyed his presence, as he was their joker, making them laugh, typically at his own expense. Eventually, he earned the nickname “Joker”.
His current stint within the correctional system at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin, Illinois was brought on due to a drive-by, performed in his inebriated state. His fellow gang buds persuaded him to retaliate to a previous attack that had been performed on one of their families just a few hours before. No proof was given, and none was needed. Johnny was willing to react without considering the consequences of his actions, typical behavior for him.
A month into his residence of the double occupied 6X8 cell, Johnny began experiencing strange occurrences. His mind would frequently drift mid-day to the point where he was losing large chunks of time. When the dazed-out spells initially began, they lasted no more than a minute. Eventually, they lengthened substantially and confusion became a side effect, leaving Johnny wondering what had happened. A few weeks into the incidences, he began to understand what was going on.
His cell mate, who acquired the name of Chester due to his unusual facial features which resembled those of the Cheetos Cheetah, began to worry for Johnny. Feeling like he could be the father figure that Johnny didn’t have growing up, Chester looked out for Johnny, helping him out many times. They quickly became friends, a rarity in the ranks of their cell block.
Early one Sunday, an hour before his weekly church service, Chester woke to find Johnny standing at attention, staring directly at the wall. Not paying much attention at first, he rubbed his eyes, yawned, then took a leak in the communal toilet. Johnny didn’t budge the entire time. Chester’s curiosity grew as he analyzed the wall, searching for anything that might pull someone’s attention, but found nothing. Looking back at Johnny, he noticed the glazed over stare.
The thick rumbly Cajun voice of Chester questioned, “Hey Joker, what ya doin’?”
“Yo, Joker, you alright?” Chester placed his hand on Johnny’s shoulder and gave him a gentle shake at first, followed by a forceful nudge.
Once again, no response.
“Guards, git over here!” Chester yelled.
A slender light-skinned Hispanic correctional officer named Martinez approached, rightfully concerned since Chester wasn’t the type to issue a false alarm. He had served his two-year sentence without incident, and was on track to receive an early release for good behavior. His call wasn’t typical, so the guard was genuinely curious, although he remained cautious. Taught to always expect the unexpected as anyone in the prison system would assume, Martinez remained outside the cell bars.
“What is it, Chester?” The nickname even caught on within the CO ranks.
“There’s sumtin’ wrong wit’ John. He ain’t respondin’ when I shake ‘im. I don’ know what to do.”
Officer Martinez chirped on his two-way radio, “Requesting assistance. Inmate X16669 unresponsive.”
A moment later, a larger black male named Officer Hardy approached with his baton in hand. “What’s the problem?” he asked, voice soft, but firm.
“I’m checking on John. Just be prepared for anything. Chester says something’s not right with him.”
Hardy nodded, shooting a look towards Chester who remained concerned.
Martinez slowly approached, holding his own baton. Not knowing what sort of response he’d receive once skin contact was made, the slightest bit of fear was grabbing hold. “John, what do you see?” Martinez waved his hand in front of Johnny and took a glance at the specific point that Chester had just examined. The baffling stance and lack of blinking unnerved Martinez even further.
“Dude has been actin’ weird as shit lately. Like his mind be driftin’ into ‘nother realm or sumtin’,” Chester stated.
Martinez touched Johnny’s skin, and it felt cool to the touch. Fearing that Johnny might have died standing up, Martinez felt his neck for a pulse. It was very slow, but consistent.
“Is he alive?” Hardy asked.
“Yes, but I’ve never felt a pulse this slow. I don’t understand.”
Just then, Johnny took a deep breath, scaring everyone. Martinez jumped back, ready to swing his baton. Johnny rubbed his eyes, then looked around at the group of three curiously staring back at him.
“Sup Martinez, why you looking spooked, man?”
“John, where were you mentally a moment ago?”
Johnny looked around, “What d’you mean?”
“Bro, you was standin’ there for like 10 minutes, just starin’ at dat wall. Sumtin’s wrong with ya,” Chester informed.
Johnny knew something had occurred, but he couldn’t explain it to the three men who were worried about him.
“Do we need to get him checked out?” Hardy asked.
“Na, just let us know if this happens again,” Martinez directed to Chester.
“Will do, Boss.”
The next few nights, Johnny’s dreams were filled to the brim with imagery of wars long ago. He experienced visions of inhabiting the lives of people he would never have encountered in real life. Each morning when he came to, he felt exhausted, as if he had participated in the battles. He felt real pain where he had been cut or stabbed in the vision, and the lingering neurological connection remained, sometimes hours later.
Word quickly got around about Johnny’s bizarre condition, especially after he apparently paused during breakfast at the chow hall. He had scooped a spoonful of grits and just before placing the corn meal into his mouth, all motion ceased. Five minutes elapsed as the surrounding inmates began taking bets on how long the strange freeze would last. When he came to, Johnny looked around and noticed the chorus of praise and disappointment between the gamblers.
“Mother fucker, you just cost me two packs.” A short, stocky black man named Jerry angrily slapped Johnny across the back of the neck as he left the cafeteria.
Johnny remained confused until Martinez approached. “Come with me, John.”
Martinez guided Johnny through several security doors towards the infirmary. A female Asian physician was waiting for him, although she didn’t acknowledge his presence at first.
Two minutes went by before she said, “Please take a seat, Inmate X16669.”
Her firm, cool demeanor revealed to Johnny that she had experience dealing with the correctional system for some time. He found it humorous that he could learn so much about someone with a single sentence. This had never happened before, at least nothing more than the typical first impression.
“My name’s Johnny,” he stated flatly.
“And I am Dr. Hecate.” She didn’t offer a handshake or even a glance of the eyes during their introduction. “Inmate X16669, this report states that you’ve been blacking out, sometimes even while standing or sitting.”
Johnny glanced at her peculiarly, instantly recognizing the name, but he couldn’t recall from where. “Yeah, but the people around me also say that I’m kinda freezing in one spot, like someone snatched my soul out or some shit like that.”
Dr. Hecate didn’t react other than scribbling on her medical notes. “And when you black out, does your consciousness go somewhere else, or do you just have no recollection of the event?”
“I’m not really sure what you’re asking.” Johnny felt confused.
She reiterated, “Do you dream during these periods, or is your memory blank when returning to consciousness?”
His thoughts were a jumbled mess. When he tried to remember what happened, the entire episode blurred and the memory escaped just outside of his mental reach. “I think I recall where I go, but it drifts away, just like any other dream.”
Dr. Hecate nodded. “Sounds like you’re suffering from an acute form of narcolepsy.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Narcolepsy can happen when a person has low levels of hypocretin, a protein that helps people stay awake.”
“Protein makes people stay awake? So, I should just eat more meat?”
The doctor shook her head and presented the tiniest smirk. “No, this is a particular protein. Without this, you will continue to drift off. Perhaps even during high impact activities such as sports or exercising.”
Johnny looked worried. “Hold on, this shit can happen when I’m bench pressing? Is there anything you can do? I don’t need to fall asleep in the shower and have my assho…”
Dr. Hecate interrupted, finally looking up from her medical papers, “I understand your worry. I’ll have to explain to the warden that you require a treatment that cannot be provided within the confines of this institution. Narcolepsy is a rare disorder, not common enough for a prison system to keep the required medicine on hand. I also must look into this further for other experimental procedures that are being researched right now. Some of my colleagues are developing exciting new cutting edge science that just ten years ago would’ve been impossible to imagine. It is amazing how technology is moving so quickly, and the medical field is benefiting greatly. All we need are willing volunteers for the human trials.”
Johnny didn’t share her enthusiasm. “That sounds great and all, but is there anything you can suggest right now?”
“Don’t start any fights with other inmates until I call you back here,” she replied, referring to a note written in his medical record from a previous occurrence.
“Damn, that’s in there.” Johnny felt embarrassed, but secretly proud of his rambunctious history.
“Yes. You may leave now. I’ll be in touch soon.”
Johnny nodded, and was guided to his cell.
A day later, Chester discovered nearly the same scenario playing out.
“Joker, bro! Yo, man, come on,” Chester called. He was shaking Johnny’s body as it stood in front of the toilet. The lunch bell had just summoned the inmates to the chow hall. Minutes passed and Chester grew worried, but he took the chance of leaving Johnny by himself to get help after pulling his trousers up. “I can’t just leave you wit’ cha pecker hangin’ out.”
Chester found Martinez making his rounds while the rest of the cell block was eating.
“Hey Boss, John’s doin’ that zombie stance. I can’ shake’m outta it this time.”
“Again?” Martinez asked. “What did the medic say about him?”
“That lady tell him he got that narco foolishness. Real messed up stuff. Could you imagine if he got stuck in a cell wit’ Padre or Goose? This man’s lucky Chester is watchin’ his back.”
Martinez walked up behind Johnny and screamed, apparently loud enough to force his consciousness to return.
Johnny shook. “What the hell, man!”
Martinez commanded, “Follow me, John. I’m having the doc take another look at you.”
“I hope she gots somethin’ for ya, bro,” Chester consoled Johnny with a hand on his shoulder.
“Me too. Thank god I got the Cheetos logo looking out for me!”
“Ah!” Chester let out a good chuckle, fully embracing the ongoing joke. “You silly sum-bitch, go get your head fixed. I’ll have some Flamin’ Hots waitin’ for ya afterwards.”
Martinez guided Johnny back to the infirmary and then had to wait until the previous inmate left the office.
“I never met anyone with your problem, Joker. It’s crazy, like looking at someone who just got frozen in time by God.”
“Gods, perhaps.” Johnny recalled all the recent supernatural activity that his cousin Jack had gone through before Johnny’s incarceration. He even had the chance to participate in much of the mayhem that had surrounded Jack’s induction into this Djinn World. The Djinn frequently referred to themselves by the names of ancient deities including the Greek and Roman pantheons, but other polytheistic and monotheistic religion’s structures were not off limits. But it had been Johnny’s drug-fueled activities outside of the Djinn’s interaction that landed him in prison. The memories of his good times with Jack reminded him of the reason that Dr. Hecate’s name had sounded familiar. He couldn’t wait to confront her this time.
“You think there’s multiple gods?” Martinez chuckled. “This isn’t ancient Egypt.”
Johnny smiled widely. “If you saw the wild shit that I’ve seen, you wouldn’t be so sure.”
Martinez didn’t know how to counter such a comment, so he left it at that.
Ten minutes elapsed before Dr. Hecate allowed Johnny’s entrance into the room. “Welcome back, Inmate X1…”
“Cut the shit, Hecate. I recall where I heard your name before.”
“You do?” She replied disingenuously, still not looking up from her notebook.
“Ain’t cha one of the New Gods?”
She smiled. “You’re not as intellectually doltish as I’ve been led to believe.” Her gorgeous emerald eyes lifted from the notebook finally, and her piercing gaze focused on Johnny.
Johnny felt instantly unnerved. Although he couldn’t see anything physically, Hecate’s presence changed, and Johnny experienced an unusual shift in the air around him. Hecate stood up from the steel desk, and her black high heels clicked against the cement floor as she approached Johnny. She leaned against the front of the desk and looked him up and down. He felt petrified with fear, thinking that maybe he overstepped his boundaries by confronting a New God about her true identity in such a direct way. Johnny timidly looked at her, noticing her grey dress-suit garments weren’t entirely solid. Somehow they were translucent, but not quite see through. They shifted and his surroundings darkened. He was drifting again.
Hecate snapped her fingers. “Johnny, come back to Reality.”
His heart raced as if he had just been woken. “It happened again, didn’t it? I just phased out?”
She nodded. “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I think I may have a solution.” She pulled a small vial filled with a clear liquid out of her pocket. “John, are you willing to go through a transformation?”
He shrugged. “What kind of transformation?”
“Do you remember what I told you yesterday?”
“You want me to be a guinea pig?”
“Precisely.” She nodded.
“You’re probably gonna tell me that if I don’t do this, then I ain’t gonna get better.”
Hecate hesitated. “Knowing your personality, I’m sure my authoritative presence holds no control over your actions. You base your decisions on the peers around you, not those who are here to control. So, that being said, I’m not recommending anything. It’s your decision. Either choose this and see what happens, or take your chances with blacking out in prison.”
“Man, y’all got this shit twisted.” Johnny felt uneasy about the proposition, but knowing his fate inside the prison could be far worse, he decided. “Fine. I’ll take your miracle serum.”
“What this?” Hecate held up the vial. “No, this is just a sleeping agent. You will be immobilized and transferred to an external facility. That will be where the conversion will occur, as long as your body allows the metamorphosis to take place. You have the genes required, but this doesn’t work for everyone that we’ve attempted it on.”
Johnny shrugged. “Look, I’ll do this, but just don’t put me in some shit like Deadpool and make my face look like a burnt nut sack.”
Hecate ignored the comment and handed the vial to Johnny. “Bottoms up.”
He shook his head. “I can’t believe I’m doing this…” Placing the glass tube to his lips, he expected a bitter substance, but it was flavorless. “When’s this stuff supposed to kick…” And he was out.
This is the end of Chapter 1 of Belial. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe below to gain access to the rest of the story. Leave a comment if you wish, bookmark the page, or email me at JackThanatos@thedjinntrials.com for any additional information.