ARGENTEUM ASTRUM: “BEYOND THE BEYOND!”
by JASON SQUAMATA
The call goes out.
The year is 1946. The time is just after nine. The place is Pasadena, a rocket-fueled, citrus-tinted, nouveau riche cul-de-sac in Southern California. Every freak, fakir, and fringe dweller within a hundred mile radius knows with a whisper or a shudder or a ring that all arcs of decadence and destiny converge tonight…at The Solarium. Marvel Solaris is having a party. The kind of affair that approaches and embodies the Platonic ideal of “party” and its shrill shadow, the vertiginous Sabbat. His soirees are infamous. No guest who penetrates this revel’s depths will leave as who they were in the vestibule. Tonight was made for witching.
On Orange Grove Boulevard (known as millionaire’s row), amongst the chewing gum tycoons and the vacuum magnates and the flickering crepuscular movie stars, there sprawls a lavish complex of American Craftsman mansionettes, modernistic laboratory cylinders, elegant Art Deco electrified fences, and ghostly greenhouse gazebos that warp and glow behind the sigh of the sycamores and the wavering willows. This is the home and headquarters of world-famous rocket science prodigy Marvel Solaris. A sanctum sanctorum with the soul of a circus.
By ten, under the screaming galaxies of a sharper, blacker, and yet brighter night sky than the sky we know, a throng of wrong-headed weirdlings has already driven and hitched and slithered from dormitories and gutterscapes to the lightning-laced gates of this, The Unholy House of the Black Sun. Clusters of central casting bohemians bumping elbows and uglies with Nobel Prize winning physicists, witchy dancers and savage avant-gardians sharing flame and smoke and innuendo with heretical Bishops and edgy intellectuals and brilliant but bomb-haunted Atom Daddies.
They say that someone always goes mad at these Solarium parties. They say the intoxicants flow so freely, the minds at play conduct mad ideas so fluently, and inhibitions melt so ecstatically in these exotic and luxurious spaces that windows open into Otherness, into shadowy parodies and autopsies of every guest’s innermost menagerie of secret sins and psychodramas. They say that in-betweeners and haunted drifters get drawn to this place like moths to black flame, the angel in them snuffed and the meat of them missing the morning after and for always.
The moon hangs heavy tonight, as it must, swollen to cartoon dimensions, full of silver blood and sobbing like a mother does. Like she cried a cosmos over some mythic jilting or the loss of her spawn. In her gossamer dream-light, the celebrants file in and fan out across the grounds, ushered in and plied with an array of libations by the servants (mostly lodgers in this madhouse who are working off their back rent).
The affair will begin as an insouciant careening of alien sub-cultural galaxies, sliding into overlap with jigsaw precision, opportunities for iniquity assessed, projected, and harvested through an Enochian code of body language, pheromonal musk, and lashes gone batty like pretty black flags that say “surrender”. These frictions and fusions will then ooze into chaotic, almost desperate revelry. Many local deliriums will at this point achieve a metaphysical frequency and become contiguous. An ambiance of shared hallucination will descend on the party like a carnivorous perfume. Then the churning pockets and wormholes of compulsive pleasure will coalesce as an orgiastic tapestry of ritual, emerging naturally from the wicked warp and weft of sleazy modern fun.
By eleven, the threshold into chaos has been crossed. There was a time when the host had to stir this pot in person to taste the broth change its flavor. Now it flows like a sideways kind of nature. What cracks and burns below is just fuel for the shattering of all that occludes the above. And there, above, above the din and the havoc of it all stands the conductor of tonight’s secret symphony, wherein every figment will slip from its skin and set fire to its sloughed dereliction.
In the attic study, with its lofty, constellation-studded ceiling and its queerly angled windows that spy upon the Solarium’s every quadrant, the dashing and diabolical Marvel Solaris emits a faintly chanted esoteric tone, strokes his ring with its throbbing moonstone, and meditates fiercely on a life-sized, ornately framed painting of his monstrous master, the blackest of magicians, the prince of villains, the MetaBeast: Oberon Cromley. Cromley wearing a dandy-tinted Edwardian suit and a domino mask, clutching a pearl-handled cane with a silver cobra at its tip, his corpulence angelic somehow as he hovers for want of a background. His head is lit with a pentecostal nimbus of abstract white triAngles. His face is a chilling pantomime of wickedness. Its cruel creases and laughlines delineate a mask worn by Eternity.
Solaris himself is cast from the heroic mold, with a little grease and brimstone around its edges. In a certain light, he’s obviously a dapper initiate into mysteries of dark art, science, and commerce. In the attic’s shrine-like candlelight, , he might pass for a gigolo hypnotist or a stag film actor on the skids. Or a doomed genius who lives for pleasure and who has sworn a religious oath to go, in every sense, Beyond the Beyond. His hair is a semi-coiffed jet black brushfire. His eyes are flashing blue like the steel you stab kings with. His spiderleg fingers are festooned with sigil-scarred jewelry. His thin mustache is curled almost always in a grin of narcissistic mischief. But tonight his mouth is agape with dewey-lipped, trance-like reverence.
When the call goes out and his Master’s image is a dream-door that opens to admit a storm of revelations…
when a timespace has been ordained by the Lunar League of Magi as a time for flight, into Heavens and Hells yet unmapped and untasted by man…
when Solaris makes his home an orgone engine and emits this silky sluicing tone and the moonstone throbs in its setting…
in these moments he is in touch with a zone of wonders…
a zone at odds with the ordinary world we simple folk live in…
an ordinary world he has devoted his strange aptitudes to destroying utterly and forever. As the Master did. Only moreso.
From this zone of wonder, the moonstone emits its signal, and the agents are called forth. They’ve been scheming this atrocity for months.
Tonight the coven of like-minded fiends that Solaris has assembled will surpass itself. Tonight the Argenteum Astrum, this league of lethal lunatics, these ghost women and devil men, will slip the meshes of all that is known and kiss the Abyss of A-SPACE.
Unless something goes horribly wrong. As is typical when one moves in Solarium circles, one must hope for the least of a million evils.
Through the chant, through the moonstone, through the painting, through MetaTherion himself and a moon-based network of astral tranceivers, the call…goes…OUT.
For more of Marvel Solaris and the Argenteum Astrum buy “Beyond the Beyond!” Episode Zero from the Pulp Store.
Argenteum Astrum Beyond the Beyond is copyright Jason Squamata 2013