With Every Heart And Spirit True by Joel Tagert | Art by Moon_Patrol

Dream Warriors Vs Giant Spider by Moon_Patrol

With Every Heart And Spirit True
By Joel Tagert
Art by Moon_Patrol
Published Issue 117, September 2023

“In shadows deep and light’s embrace,” sang Cassandra.

“We forge a bond, a sacred space,” sang Tom.

“With every heart and spirit true,” sang Phil.

“Our magic makes the world — fuck me!” spat Lys, ducking as a collie-sized spider leapt at her face. Tom took a quick step and smashed the arachnid with his baseball bat. 

“Should we retreat?” Phil suggested. “Considering there are about a hundred more of these little buggers, and, you know, that.” He pointed at the eighty-foot tall monstrosity down in the valley, the other-dimensional spider titan Urglash, from whose belly the smaller spiders were dropping like a wave of paratroopers. Fortunately Urglash was too occupied with spitting acid at the U.S. Army’s tanks and helicopters to pay attention to four puny humans. On the other hand, her spiderlings alone seemed more than capable of turning them into human juice boxes. 

“We don’t need to retreat, we just need to say the rhyme!” said Cassandra. “Try again!”

“Okay, on three. One. Two. In shadows deep— ”

“In shadows deep— ” Tom came in, a moment late.

“No, on three. One. Two. In shadows deep— ”

“Sorry, I thought it was like, one, two, three, then go.”

“No, that’s why I said ‘on three.’”

“It’s just usually like, one, two, three, mark. Like, you start on ‘mark.’”

“I didn’t say ‘on my mark.’ I said ‘on three.’”

“Can we just — curse it!” Cassandra said, doing as indicated, using her Arcanthalian magic to curse several spiderlings scuttling toward them. The arachnids slowed, frost and ice appearing on their joints. “Speak the rhyme and summon the Avatar!”

“Right! On three! One! Two! In shadows deep and light’s embrace— ”

“We forge a bond, a sacred place— ”

“With every heart and spirit true— ”

“Stop!” Cassandra said, clearly irritated. “It’s ‘sacred space,’ not ‘sacred place.’ We practiced this!”

“My bad,” Lys said. “Though it seems like kind of the same thing? I mean, space is the place, right?”

“We need to say the rhyme exactly, in unison, with our hearts and minds as one.”

“Okay, no problem. Although it’s not exactly Shakespeare, is it?”

Cassandra glared. “In Arcanthal, every child knows it.”

“So it’s like a kid’s song?”

“It was written by the mage Isolde Astralweft seven centuries ago, to ward against the Unraveling!”

“Guess being a great mage doesn’t necessarily make you a great poet.”

“We need to reconsider our position here!” yelled Phil, swinging wildly with his morningstar at more spiderlings. Fortunately the spiky ball was enchanted to always find its mark, or he would definitely have domed himself. “I’m running for that building!”

With no further consultation, that’s exactly what he did. Assessing the situation and coming to broad agreement with a glance, the other three turned tail and followed. 

The building was a public bathroom for the state park. Its high windows were paneless, but it still felt better than being outside. At least they could see where the spiders would come in. “Okay! Now!” urged Cassandra. “Hold hands, that usually helps.”

“Right!” And together they went again, ending triumphantly with “Our magic makes the world anew!”

An expectant pause followed, in which their eyes flicked toward the ceiling, the walls, waiting for a dragon of blue fire to burst from a glowing circle of runes. “Did we do it?” Lys asked. “Is it outside?”

“I’ll check,” Tom volunteered, and cracked open the door long enough for a peek. “No dragon.”

“What’s the deal? Do we need to be outdoors?”

“It doesn’t matter where we are,” Cassandra said. “We just need to be of one heart and mind.”

“Ah. So …”

Cassandra sighed in exasperation. “So we’re not.”

“My heart and mind were a hundred percent into avatar summoning. What were you guys thinking about?”

Phil shrugged apologetically. “Honestly? Probably the smell in here. Like, obviously there’s urine, and soap, but then there’s this other smell, like rotting banana or something. Yuck.”

“Yeah, I smell it too. But can you maybe forget about it and concentrate for thirty fucking seconds on saving the world?”

“Easier said than done. And now it’s going to be harder than ever. You’re basically telling me not to think about a pink elephant.”

“Phil, I swear to God, if the world ends because you can’t stop thinking about whatever’s in that trash can, I’m going to fucking kill you.”

“Hey, hey,” Tom tried to intervene. “Aggression isn’t going to help. Look, I have an idea.”

“Can’t wait.”

“When we were first picked as summoners, it was a pretty exciting time. You and me and Phil got pulled into Arcanthal, and we were busy fighting the Naga King, there was a lot of fire and blood and lightning and whatnot. So it was like, do or die. And we did. 

“Then suddenly, we’re back in LA, and that was less than forty-eight hours ago. Point is, we haven’t really had time to get to know each other. To bond. And we don’t have a lot of time, so we need a way to bond quickly. Right?”

Lys’ eyes narrowed. “You want us to do trust falls or something?”

“Well, in my experience, the strongest bonds are physical. You know? You have to feel someone. Really see them, hear them, smell them, taste them. It’s the natural way.”

Lys scoffed, incredulous. “Are you suggesting we all fuck? It’s the end of the world and you want to have an orgy?

“I wouldn’t put it in those— ”

“Disgusting,” said Cassandra.

“If you think about it, what better time than the end of the world?” put in Phil.

“Fucking frat boys. Did you two talk about this beforehand?” Phil shook his head in half-hearted denial. “Come on Cass, let’s get out of here.”

Lys headed toward the door, but Cassandra hesitated. Seeing this, Lys’ mouth fell open. “You cannot be considering this.”

“It might work. I mean, would you rather have sex with these two dimwits— ”

“Thanks,” muttered Tom. 

“ —or have your insides sucked out by spiders?”

“Spiders, easily.” And to prove she meant it, she went back outside, door banging shut behind her. 

The three remaining exchanged glances. “Maybe we could still summon the Avatar with three people?” Tom said hopefully. 

The bathroom door swung open again to admit Lys’ head. “Hey jerkoffs, come outside. It’s all over.” Tom sighed.

Urglash was now a collapsed mess oozing goo onto the red dirt. The spiderlings had dispersed or been shot by the many troops closing in on the area. “But how?” Cassandra asked, baffled. “Only the Avatar could stop Urglash!”

“The Avatar and whatever missiles those helicopters were firing, I guess,” said Lys.

“Makes sense,” said Phil. “I mean, it’s basically just a big spider, right?”

“I’m going to find a ride downtown,” Lys said, turning toward the road. “See you all later. Or never.” 

“What? Just like that?” Tom cried. “What about the Avatar? What about saving the world?”

“You need better fantasies.” 

Joel Tagert is a fiction writer and artist, the author of A Bonfire in the Belly of the Beast and INFERENCE, and a longtime Zen practitioner living in Denver, Colorado. He is also currently the office manager for the Zen Center of Denver and the editorial proofreader for Westword.

Moon Patrol is a Northern California-based artist. Taking themes including 80s cartoons and video games, classic pulp illustrations, and comic book narratives, Moon Patrol remixes these many and varied cues using a collage technique he compares to “Kid Koala’s turntable albums, and in part by William Burroughs’ cut-up technique.” See more of his work on Instagram and snag prints at Outré Gallery.

Check out Joel’s August Birdy install, Blue Amber, and Moon_Patrol’s August Back Cover in case you missed it or head to our Explore section to see more from these talented artists.

2 thoughts on “With Every Heart And Spirit True by Joel Tagert | Art by Moon_Patrol”

  1. Pingback: Hunger Unto Him by Joel Tagert | Art by Caitlyn Grabenstein - BIRDY MAGAZINE

  2. Pingback: Fight Cloud by Moon_Patrol - BIRDY MAGAZINE

Comments are closed.