Hello, all. I’m sorry to report that I’ve been held captive in an alternate dimension for [checks date on last blog post] about a year now; hence the dramatic reduction in frequency of posts on this blog. But! I managed to escape once I learned that in my captors’ world, their currency looks almost exactly like ordinary toenail clippings. A few well-placed bribes and I was able to hop the next portal home!
It’s good to be back and to share with you that I’m starting a new feature on this blog, called D Street Stories. In this series of short oral histories, a Ph.D. student in the folklore program at Georgia State University is interviewing people and asking them to tell how their lives have been affected by D Street, a strange little neighborhood in downtown Atlanta with a lot of unlikely stories and rumors swirling around it. (D Street features prominently in my novel, Blood Family). The first D Street Story is below.
The Magician Next Door
Interview subject: Richie C., marketer, 31 years old
The story I want to tell you is about my neighbor, Clyde. We live—well, used to live in the same apartment building on D Street. Thing is, Clyde disappeared a couple of months ago, and nobody around here seems to know where he went or what happened to him. So now he’s my ex-neighbor. Last week the landlord taped an eviction notice to his door. I guess all his stuff’s still inside his apartment. No telling what might be in there, given what he does for a living.
See—there’s no easy way to say this, but Clyde’s a necromancer. At least that’s what people say about him on D Street. His website’s more discreet; it just says he provides “magickal services,” including “spells, conjures, and talismans.” Before I moved to D Street the closest I ever got to any of that stuff was in New Orleans when I walked by Marie LaVeau’s House of Voodoo on Bourbon Street. My girlfriend at the time and I were spending the weekend there, going to jazz shows and day drinking and having that good hotel sex, and we were walking around the Quarter one afternoon when we saw the sign for Marie LaVeau’s. My girlfriend, Carla, said hey, that place looks cool, let’s go inside. Something about the girlish enthusiasm in her voice made me say no thanks. I just couldn’t believe that some trinket you can buy off a shelf might be the key that unlocks your life.
Which is why it’s kind of weird that I wound up moving to D Street. What happened was, me and Carla broke up, and I needed a new place to live. It was something about that trip to New Orleans; after that is when things started going south with us. Anyway, I told my buddy Dan I was having a hard time finding something I could afford without moving to Bumfuck Trumpland outside the Perimeter. And Dan said, well, there’s this neighborhood downtown that’s always more affordable. And I’m like, what do you mean, “neighborhood downtown”? There are no neighborhoods downtown. Dan gave me a funny look and said, well, there is this one neighborhood. I’ll take you down there. I said, well, you can just tell me where it is, and I’ll check it out. He said, that’s not how it works. I have to take you.
You do know about that, right? If you haven’t been to D Street before, you can’t find it on your own; someone who’s already been there has to take you first. After that you can go back whenever you want. I know that sounds like bullshit in the era of the smartphone, but I’m telling you, GPS will not find this place. When you first started doing these interviews, did you try to find D Street on your own? And it didn’t work, did it? That’s what I’m talking about. D Street has a way of changing your mind about things.
Anyway, Dan brought me down here, and I looked around, found an apartment, signed a lease, and moved in. And you want to know the kicker? I found the apartment listing on a bulletin board in a fucking magic shop on D Street. I almost called Carla and told her because I knew she would appreciate the poetic justice of it, but I didn’t want her to think I was trying to get her back. She was the one who broke up with me. Apparently I’m not curious enough about the world. When she said that, I didn’t try to prove how curious I am. I just said I thought curiosity was overrated. You see how well that worked out.
When I told Dan where my new apartment was, he said, “There’s supposedly a necromancer who lives in that building.”
I said, “What, like a wizard or something? Like Harry Potter?”
He shook his head. “All I know is it’s got something to do with death.”
“Death,” I said.
“Yeah. You know, like necrophilia?”
“Wait a minute. Are you saying I’m living in the same building with a corpse-fucker?”
“No, I’m just saying that necro- is the Greek root meaning dead. So a necro-mancer is a magician who specializes in death-related magic. If you believe in that sort of thing.”
I started to wonder how my old buddy Dan knew so much about necromancy, and about D Street itself. I figured he had an interesting story to tell about that—one I might get to hear someday. In the meantime I now had a necromancer for a neighbor. And according to the address on his website, his apartment was right next door to mine.
I was torn between two impulses: knocking on Clyde’s door and introducing myself, so I could see what a real live necromancer looked like; and steering clear of him so I wouldn’t find out what a necromancer does to a nosy neighbor. I was hoping to run into him in the hallways, but he didn’t seem to keep a regular schedule, and we never crossed paths. Nothing much happened for the first couple of weeks.
Then came an unremarkable Tuesday morning when I was getting ready for work and out of nowhere the most strangest sound I’ve ever heard came from Clyde’s apartment: this deep, long, drawn-out groan that made the hardwood floor vibrate beneath my feet. It wasn’t a human groan; a human being could not have made that noise. I know this is corny to say, but it sounded like what a ghost is supposed to sound like. Or maybe like a massive iron door slowly swinging open. I stopped getting dressed and listened. Nothing . . . and then Clyde’s voice spoke rapidly, saying words I couldn’t understand. I wanted to tiptoe closer to the wall we shared, but the creaking floorboards would have given me away. A few more seconds of silence; then there was one loud thwack as something hard slammed into the floor in Clyde’s apartment: a hammer, maybe . . . or a meat cleaver?
For the next few days that groan was all I could think about. I felt a little panicky all the time, like whatever made that sound might be waiting for me around every corner. I even started having dreams where I heard the groaning but I couldn’t tell where it was coming from because it was all around me. Sometimes it was even inside me, as if I was the one groaning. The urge to knock on Clyde’s door was stronger than ever. So was the urge to stay away.
That weekend I heard a man come to Clyde’s apartment in the evening. They talked for a minute and then left together. Clyde sounded excited, like he did on Tuesday morning. I heard a car start up in front of the building and drive away. And that was the last that I or anyone here ever heard of Clyde. I never even laid eyes on the guy.
That’s the end of the story as far as your research is concerned. But I’ll tell you one more thing that I don’t want you to put in your dissertation. There’s a hardware store a couple of blocks down D Street. They’ve got a locksmith who supposedly can open any lock on earth. I’m going to ask him if he wants to do a job for me off the books. And one night at about two in the morning we’re gonna go next door, and I’m gonna do a little research of my own. Because I’m sick of lying awake at night, listening for a sound that never quite comes. I want to see if I can find out what there is in this world, or not in this world, that can make a noise like that. If I turn up anything interesting, I’ll give you a call. And if you don’t hear from me, maybe my curiosity got the best of me.
If you want to learn what became of Clyde—where he went that night, and why he never came back—check out my novel, Blood Family, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound.org. You can also read the first three chapters for free here.