Saturday, August 10, 2019

Forging Ahead (Or At Least Sideways)

What a year. 

Since my last post here, I have gained so many wonderful things in my life, but also tragically lost the most important ones. The world itself has also seemed to become an ever sadder, darker place. My art and creations are my only real outlet for collating the rage and alienation born of these occurrences.

I considered abandoning this blog completely, but have decided to keep it up indefinitely as a place to discuss things that won't fit into what will now be my main blog: 

Henry Covert's Flicker Street 
               "Blake & Shine" by Henry Zeo Covert, sharpie and computer, 2019.

- still under construction; I've also purchased the domain names henrycovertsflickerstreet and therealflickerstreet). Everything I wish to share, report, and advertise, regarding my "magnum opus" will be found on that official blog/ website, and I will share its posts on my social media outlets pertaining to Flicker Street. 

This blog will still be here, to report on personal events (as i feel comfortable); projects outside the purview of Flicker Street; art of others that I wish to share; and occasional musings on the state of the world as seen through my eyes. My YouTube channel will also be a place for me to discuss such things, on-camera. 

Please feel free to follow the new site. It's a bit threadbare at the moment, but that will change as the Summer waxes and wanes. It will be the one-stop nerve center of all things Flicker Street - the place where one can learn all about the stories and characters, take in the designs and illustrations, and hopefully get lost in the world-building. And, of course, keep up on what tangible forms the opus will assume, and where, how, and for how much, such items are. 

It may be a week, it may be another year, before I post here again. Thanx everyone who's followed me here over the last decade.

Henry Covert 
August 10, 2019

* Thanx especially to Sean, Scott, Jon, Tim, Delphine, JoAnn, and, with all my being, thanx to Miss Kelli Lynn Overby.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

FLICKER STREET Update, Recent Art, and Special Thanx

Checking in with a new blog after 5 months away from it. My personal fortunes have had an upturn - improvements in my health, renewing ties with lifelong friends, achieving closure with my last lady love, and beginning a new regular job. Regarding my comix opus, Flicker Street: the first few months after my last post here were extremely productive. Daily writing, new scenarios and characters, reviving older aspects of my story and bringing them up to date and using them to expand previous ideas into new story points - all have transpired and been extremely exciting and fruitful. 
I was especially productive in continuing a series of character portraits inspired by my latest story arc, "Ellinger". After an ill-fated trip to Florida in January, I nursed a broken heart by succumbing to a frenzy of illustrating the most prominent characters I was devising material for. In mid April, I began a new job, and my output of visual art slowed tremendously, but I am still at, it gradually finishing new pieces, rounding out my original projected "Phase 1" of "Ellinger" renderings. 
                                                                                       Gersten C 
Another area in which Flicker Street has continued to grow, and very gradually gain more exposure, is with my official Flicker Street Facebook page (found here:
). My following has slowly grown, and I've been steadily adding content - posting each new completed piece of art and posting my older FS treatments that I originally posted on this very blog, albeit updated and heavily edited, eliminating typos, correcting awkward syntax, and fleshing out passages with additional plot and character information. 
                                                                       Clive, Bryn, Black Cabal
To a lesser extent, I've been using two other sites to bring attention to Flicker Street: my Deviant Art page (at, and to a much lesser extent, my Instagram account ("coverthenry" at I've been posting each new piece on both platforms. 
I'd like to thank everyone who's followed me in all the various venues I've been using to generate interest for this long-gestating project. My biggest supporters and inspirations have been on Facebook, through the FS page and my own, personal FB page. The official Facebook page has nearly 300 followers now, and some folks have been especially encouraging and attentive to my posts there. Foremost is my dear friend, Sean Lee Levin, who has abetted and collaborated with me on various projects and pursuits since 2006. There are a few other close friends/ collaborators/ influences that I run new art and ideas by on Messenger before posting them more widely. These include: Jon D Allen, a friend, confidant, and kindred spirit I have known since 1992; Mark Baranowski, a close friend and occasional collaborator since 1998 who is quite a multi-media artist in his own right; S.A. Mosley, blood brother since 1998 who I've had many adventures with, and who is forging his own Magnum Opus; Delphine Levesque Demers, a brilliant and accomplished visual artist from Quebec that I met online in 2016 but who lives in my city, and inspired me to return to an older, more ambitious art style and who I anxiously send the roughest new sketches for feedback; and the wonderful Eastern Bloc artist, Iren Frost, a fellow traveler I met online in 2016 who I've given the unofficial title 'President of the Flicker Street Fan Club'. 
                                                                                          Convy Lee
Before departing (probably for more long months), I'd like to thank by name several other friends and artists I correspond with who inspire, encourage, and support me with their kind words and valued feedback on Flicker Street: Tim McLain, Doug Williams, Vincent Black, Bill White, Shawn Michael Vogt, Richard Reynolds, Micah Harris, Matt Mundorf, Adriana Palka, Michelle Westmoreland, Sara Kathleen Krueger, Dru Maguire, Jesse Cooper, Tim Tolbert, Katrinka Ann, Izzie Frost, Marlena Marie Kruger, Leslie Willard, Renee Graham, Robin Eva Fay Embry, Yasmine Cielo, Erin Antak, Jason Wallach, Chandra Nicole, Kylie Eve Marklin, Miette Merlot, Caroline Eikenberry, Nicole Leopoldine Staudigl, Ally Bray, Lone Fleming, Zeda Mueller, Rosemary Tantra Bensko, Jezzy Wolfe, Ken Storey, Russell Vangilder, Marci Tolley-Berkheimer, Ashley Doss, Robert L Robinson, Crystal Sutton, and a good number I'm probably sadly forgetting.... 
                                                                                         Cal Thorne
And, once again, it wouldn't have happened without the spark being lit in 8 year old me by a precocious 9 year old lad named Thomas Shackleford Davis, a kid bursting at the seams with creativity akin to his idol Jack "King" Kirby. Thomas inspired me to start drawing my own comics and forged the original blueprint for how I should go about. RIP my brother. You got me through a rough childhood.
                                                                          Stephen Bartholemew
                   (the first character I created with Thomas Davis' blessing) 
I hope you enjoy the newer pieces presented here, which some may have seen before elsewhere, that I've completed since my last blog. Take care all,

Henry Zeo Covert 
July 21, 2018

Flicker Street, all art, characters, designs, and story material are Copyright 2018 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Friday, January 19, 2018



These past months since I last blogged have been interesting, on both the personal and creative fronts. I don't have much to share on the former at the moment, save that once again, I'm going through some unexpected and tumultuous changes. Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.... 

On the creative front, however, I've spent the last several months hard at work on my ongoing opus, FLICKER STREET. I've wrapped up the last long storyline I was working on, on and off, for the last three years (during the same period i was working on the 17 chapter Flicker Street backstory found on this blog), "Austerity". The follow up arc to "Austerity" is "Ellinger", which will take place, in the world of Flicker Street, during the years 2010-2014 ("Austerity" spanned 2004-2009). 


"Ellinger" has been much easier to write, thus far, than the long, erratic, and often torturous process that was "Austerity". I've been able to pick up the lives of various denizens of the Flicker Street Universe from the prior story arc, and have been heavily inspired to create new and distinctive characters to flesh out the ongoing mythos. There was ample room for new blood in the story, as "Austerity" had ended with many longtime, and even many newer, characters, permanently dispatched. It was a clearing of deadwood in many ways - a way to decisively move the narrative forward into new areas, but also to restore certain qualities that had made this tale so enjoyable for me to write over the many years since it was first conceived. 

Not only did I come up with an interesting assortment of new characters, I was also able to develop some longtime peripheral characters, some of whom had been simply too young to participate meaningfully to the ongoing storyline, but who had now come of age and could carry on another generation of the saga. And "Ellinger" is also an opportunity to bring back a few characters long absent from the canvas - some once major, some never more than minor, creations. A handful of these characters were never intended to be brought back; some of them seemingly deceased for good.    


Unlike many other fictional universes, my characters, once dead, tend to stay well and truly dead. Still, this is a universe with magick and outre phenomena at play, so, on occasion, a character can be plausibly restored - if done in a (hopefully) dramatically compelling fashion. And one of the characters returning in a huge way in the Ellinger arc wasn't permanently deceased - I'd left his fate obscure simply from lack of interest in resolving the character's fate. But an opportunity presented itself, and this long-languishing creation suddenly had not only a long overdue raison d'etre, but revealed himself to be a perfect prime mover of events across the entire arc.

In penning so much new material, I was eventually convinced that I should pick back up the drawing pencil after far too long and capture the likenesses of many characters that will be prominent in the new story arc. Some I'd designed previously and decided to update visually. Some characters I'd always had in my mind but could never adequately visualize. And some were brand-new characters that I had a fresh vision of, and was eager to capture it. 


So, I began a Facebook fan page, Henry Covert's Flicker Street (here: began adding brand new character portraits there and on my Deviant Art page ( My latest Flicker Street art is generally much less stylized and cartoonish than that of the last several years. There's still a fair share of loose impressionism, but more of a concentration on realism and capturing distinctive features and moods of the individual characters. I've compiled a huge file of photo references, as well as drawn (literally) on some interesting real-life acquaintances, to incarnate the key figures in the "Ellinger" arc. Seen here are some of my recent pieces, and all of them can be found at the two links cited above. 

That's it for now, but I'd like to thank a few folks who've aided and abetted me, personally and creatively, with their loyalty and support: Sean Lee Levin, Mark Baranowski, Scott Mosley, Tim McLain, Jan Takehara, Steven Levin, Rhett Thompson, Delphine Levesque Demers, Cynthia Renee, Iren Frost, Tom and Dahlia Peterson, and my ex-girlfriend Stevie Lenn (I miss you). 


Henry Covert
January 19, 2018

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Renovations and Rebirth

My life has changed considerably since my last post here. I'm in the process of renovating this blog to reflect the changes. So many things that used to mean so much in my life are now gone, so there was really no need to keep any reminders here. I'm in the midst of a lengthy process of recovery and healing and doing my best to appreciate what I have left and to engage with life in some meaningful manner again. Those who follow me on Facebook are no doubt aware of some of the past year and a half's worth of drama and madness. There are quite a few wonderful people that I'm in touch with online (some of whom I know corporeally, as well) that have provided strong support and encouragement through the array of challenges I've faced since 2015.

Going forward (simply because the alternative is untenable), I'll be using this blog in much the same manner as in the past – to share thoughts, reviews, images, and to add to the foundations of FLICKER STREET, a project which I suppose I should finally embrace as my proverbial life's work. The major difference is that I'm now truly independent and not dependent on the creative and emotional infrastructure I enjoyed with my former spouse. The downside is the occasional fear and loneliness; the upshot is an autonomy I've never really been able to obtain before.

That's it for now. There is more to come, including inevitable shout-outs to those cherished folks who were crucial to my continued existence.

Henry Covert

Monday, November 23, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 17: Presence

A short but pivotal dispatch. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 17: Presence

I. 1979 Revisited

1979 was a busy year for the various personalities that had fallen under the rubric of the Aggregate. Ben Renova came out of retirement as Wurm to stop Carnifex from looting the Renova Savings & Loan main branch. He was not able to ward off Carnifex alone, especially after Urias came and teleported the money and holdings away. Urias did not need the money; he needed to humiliate a hero and hurl the gauntlet for the next big move against the Aggregate. The Damnation Brigade were the ones to make that bid, with Damnation members new and old aligned against the Aggregate. Wurm rejoined the Aggregate. He thought it was well overdue for Carnifex and Urias to be taken down. For good.

Milo Majestyk's mob (now calling themselves 'The Machine' after Skull's nascent foray into organized crime) were buying more city officials and spreading corruption throughout Hallmark. Under the aegis of Arch-Priest Urias, the new Damnation Brigade met up with Majestyk and worked out a plan for the Brigade to take down the mutual adversaries of the two groups. The new Brigade was led by Urias, tired of being behind the scenes and eager to crush the spiritis of his foes and glory in the heady draught of victory. Beside him was his on and off partner Carnifex; Urias' familiar, the undead Pallor; Solomon Vossius the Tormenter; TSD subject Alphonse Marins, also known as the incredibly strong Mexican wrestler El Perro de Guerra (the Dog of War); Cal Thorne aka Exterminans the Death Walker, in one of his premiere missions; and Scottish telepath/ telekinetic Roland Mallory, a TSD Recombinant experimented on by Donal Rykards.

Cary believed the time had to rebuild the Aggregate HQ beneath Bradcroft Manor. This space was to be the first HQ Compound. The Compounds were originally suggested by Thomas Ledge as a way to capture the team's foes and keep them imprisoned as needed. The Compounds would also be places for Aggregate members to live so that they and their families could feel safe. All of this meant that a self-governing system had to be put into effect.

The Compounds would function as co-ops/ communes. Ledge didn't like the socialist overtones yet most of his suggestions were fed into the layout though he was rather ungrateful. Euphrates Straw laid out the entire map and schema for the Compounds. Construction was hired clandestinely; it was carried out by Serafinians, who were paid well by Bradcroft and Renova. This also chafed Ledge, but by 1980, Ledge had well worn out his welcome with Bradcroft & co, so they chafed each other daily.

Cary sought many new members for the group, the last time he would do so. Caulder Gaunt agreed to join the Aggregate, as did Brother Zodiac at long last. Cary found a pocket of ex-cons who'd been injected with TSD and were in REACT custody: Empress Moth, Necrotica, Karibou, and Arc-Welder (More specific biographical details on these four to follow in upcoming segments). These were located for the group by the White Archer, who felt it a wise idea to allow Bradcroft and company to train the “talent” and the FSO's job was to exploit that talent for its own group afterward.

II. The Way They Were: The Last Days of The Original Freedom Squad

And so we return at long last to the so-called Freedom Squad, busy on foreign missions for months and retraining after the near-fatal Deomond/ Solus affair. In reconstructing their bodies, REACT subtly manipulated their minds to pledge obedience to REACT. Only the mind of John Gauvin, aka Wrath, rejected the mental invasiveness. This was because Gauvin had been a TSD trial volunteer; his only gift received by the treatment was complete immunity from telepathic invasiveness (including surgical and genetic engineering techniques). His brain was like a steel forge and could not be penetrated. Phileas Caleb realized this and kept very close tabs on Wrath.

Freedom Squad Ops (or FSO), as it was most commonly referred to in those days, was the victim of another set-up deal between Mob enterprise and Skull tech. The result was known affectionately as the “OBIT Gang” and was unfortunately led by the long-missing Princesa Verde of the Aggregate, Cedric Lykos' former lover. Under her auspices were: Garnet and Cynosure, both rejected by Bradcroft and co.; the “Solar Princess” and hippie lightbender Sunchild; the Vietnamese shape-shifting Tran; Anaximander Zayan's daughter Atheru, aka Soulfish; and the armored Terrapin, who had gotten to be good pals with Convy Lee Sutch (Cynosure).

The Freedom Squad lineup itself had morphed with the fallout of the Deomond/ Solus incident and rejuvenation of the team. With Ursulin AWOL in space and Solus and the second Duellist dead, the group amounted to Liberty Lord, Troubleshooter, White Archer, Dr E, Flare, a recent acquisition Dart (the first female member), and brand-new recruit, a powerful Bible-thumper calling himself Vigil.

So the rejuvenated Freedom Squad took on the OBIT Gang once in early 1980. The very outre group took FSO by surprise and scrambled their usual group dynamic. Still Freedom Squad's raw power looked to be winning out when Sunchild turned Dr E's power upon himself; fortunately there were no casualties. Soulfish had the dubious honor of snapping Dart's neck but succumbed to Dart's weaponry; she lived but in a comatose state. Garnet and Cynosure almost took out the White Archer. But it was Vigil, who stepped in with his array of Recombinant abilities (to be discussed in future accounts) and brutally dispersed OBIT. The group fled, much to Skull's chagrin.

III. The Trinity

Alec continued to feel tense around Kicia now that Brother Zodiac was at last a member of the Aggregate. Alec, his mind at peace regarding the Marchessa, felt that Kicia was his true love, hence he was somewhat awkward with her, despite what they had shared in the past. Finally Kicia made a move, and Cowan, having no respect for Brother Zodiac or for Kicia's love for BZ, succumbed once more to Ms. Blessing's considerable charms. Trevor was hardly faithful to Kicia anyway, having bedded Sunchild before her enlistment in the OBIT Gang when she was merely a fixture of the Flicker Street scene, as well as Empress Moth, one of the newbies to the Aggregate. Even Ghost Cat, who Caulder Gaunt had been professing love to for years, seemed drawn into Novembre's spell. Gaunt confronted Mei-Chan about the situation, and she graciously put aside her infatuation with Zodiac to allow Gaunt to “woo her properly” (his words).

Alec took a trip to New Orleans with Lykos to find info on the “Grey Messiah”, but the paper trail only reached back to 1955. Meanwhile, Cotton confronted Zodiac about his lifestyle and warned the bohemian lothario that his days in the Aggregate may be numbered, especially if he was quite literally sleeping with the enemy. On a drunken night in February 1980, Alec and Lykos confronted BZ about all of this, and suggested Zodiac go join the OBIT Gang where he might be more comfortable, and where no one in the Aggregate would have any compunctions against wiping the floor with him, even though the Brother's power levels lied somewhere Dr E's and that of the Absurd Tentacle.

Zodiac rebuffed Alec and Cedric, who had become close friends of late, and taunted Alec with braggadocio regarding Kicia. Trevor obviously had not realized that Kicia and Cowan had recently been intimate. Novembre apparently did not yet know that Kicia had just discovered that she was pregnant and wasn't sure of the paternity. Alec did know that Kicia was expecting and implored her to get a blood test. Lykos, in the meantime, had developed a rather involved theory regarding Brother Zodiac. He went to Straw and Cary with his fears. He had come to believe that Vaikuntha had avatars in Hallmark and that “Trevor Novembre” was one of them. Unfortunately, only the sword and amulet of the Black Cabal could detect a Presence in one of its avatar forms, and, even then, a Presence could make itself undetectable by most forms of magick.

It would explain much, Cary and Euphrates agreed. The three men (Bradcroft, Straw, Lykos) opted to go about their business with Zodiac, hoping he didn't suspect that they suspected him. They didn't tell Alec right away for fear of a major set-to with Zodiac. Lykos pointed out that with Caulder Gaunt's past, Gaunt's true identity also came into question.

One night in March 1980 a restless Zodiac left his room and Kicia sleeping. He had just learned that he may be a father and that Alec Duarte was his true rival for Kicia and the baby. Zodiac encountered Caulder Gaunt in the Bradcroft Manor courtyard. Zodiac drew upon a fearsome wellspring of mystical energy and absorbed the protesting Gaunt into himself down to the molecular level. He then mused to himself, “Only one more and we shall be complete..” Brother Zodiac then reached out with his far-ranging mind and located the “one more”. He was scarcely surprised at the identity of the other piece of the unholy trinity. As Caulder Gaunt had emerged 25 years earlier a total amnesiac, and Zodiac had always been guarded about his past save for his claims to be Trevor Novembre of 1960s New Orleans, the third of this trinity emerged in 1954 with a whole set of false memories, memories about to be dispelled once and for all, along with the entire being that housed those memories – all subsumed by Brother Zodiac.

And so we return to Grey Parminter's desperate summoning of Vaikuntha in 1954, which at long last bore cosmic fruit. Vaikuntha had returned to this plane after a millenium but could only do this by incarnating himself into avatars – an ability he used for millenia in the past to walk among men. Vaikuntha would erase his memories or program himself with elaborate false memories in an elaborate spell that even altered the memories of those around him, to “recall” the avatar's past human interactions. Such was the power and intricacy of an avatar working that Cary and Ashton Bradcroft studied it to master it just in case.... for the avatar, as we have seen, is untraceable by any magick perception on Earth. It is the ultimate way for a mage or Presence to walk among the populace of Earth, human or Exodesian alike, and work for good or ill undetected. Its aim could gleaned from its conscious mind if made aware, but a subconscious drive could be guiding it so that when the cosmics were right, the seed of the being who broke apart into avatars would “awaken”.. and seek out its other selves, encased in flesh ignorant of its making.

Brother Zodiac kidnapped Kicia's mother Acacia and taunted Cary, Straw, Duarte, and Lykos. Ghost Cat was despondent that Gaunt had apparently abandoned her after such a lengthy and ardent pursuit. Kicia went to Alec and stated that she chose him over BZ. They made love, with Alec knowing any moment Acacia could be a dead woman. They were interrupted by Cotton Suede, Thomas Ledge, and Konchuman, who rendezvoused with Zodiac and tried to divine just what it was that they could do so that Zodiac would free Kicia's mother. Zodiac insisted on seeing only Duarte, Straw, Bradcroft, and Lykos.

But the working had yet to conclude. Even as Zodiac was physically changing, he announced that they shall all be one family, and gestured, drawing Kicia into the maelstrom emanating from the being was once was a trinity and now is one. Alec held onto her hand until her body wilted and dissolved. Alec cried out as the woman he loved and her unborn child (which was Zodiac's, not Alec's) were consumed by the reborn Presence. And so Vaikuntha awoke, a dead ringer for the being that Gaunt and Zodiac had been dreaming of. Euphrates Straw was at a loss; he had never before encountered a Presence( few had). Vaikuntha let loose a burst of energy from his third eye, frying Straw where he stood, even as Vaikuntha himself was blasted from behind from the now cognizant Shadow Baron, flanked by Lykos. Cary was too late, however, and Euphrates Straw's remains crumpled to the ground. Vaikuntha announced his retreat and that this time around, Earth would be his to pleasure himself with however he saw fit. He disappeared, and a heartbroken Alec and his allies searched for find something to house Straw's remains.

IV. Vaikuntha Rising

The Aggregate regrouped. A ceremony was held in which the entire current team was there – Bradcroft, Cowan, Lykos, Ledge, Cotton, Konchuman, Wurm, Ghost Cat, Corona, Myrmidon, Empress Moth, Necrotica, Karibou, and Arc-Welder - to pay respects to Straw and acknowledge the other two fallen members, though this latter idea of Bradcroft's, in the interest of ceremony and magnanimity, enraged several members. They grumbled that Gaunt and Zodiac did little during their time with the team save plot and ploy against them. As Thomas Ledge put it: “Ya don't honor a man like Straw beside two pieces of shit who were planning our destruction the whole freakin' time – whether they knew it or not.” Cotton very vocally agreed, as did Alec (a rare instance where he and Thomas were in sync) and so a separate acknowledgment for the two avatars was held a week after Straw's elaborate funeral.

Straw's teammates and his retinue from outside the team, solemnly honored this most amazing of men. Straw's heirs attended: his lover Octavia Flay and her child by Euphrates, Darius Flay (b. 1975); his estranged widow Artemis Clancey (b. 1948) and her child by Euphrates, Zachariah “Zack” Straw (b. 1970); as well as the surviving members of the interconnected Clancey, Reale, Torrance, and Flay families.

This left the Aggregate with only one original member in its 16 year existence - the Shadow Baron, and he shouldered the blame for all that had occurred. He knew that the group, especially with so many young and lesser experienced members, needed as much help as they could get. Knowing they will refuse to help him, Cary dismissed approaching the Freedom Squad offhand, and concentrated on two extremely powerful potential allies: Orphee deLander, the Absurd Tentacle, and his lover Silent Indigo, Cary's niece. Bradcroft also tried to contact his own brother to no avail. Finally, he approached Javier's sect, who agreed to help.

Orphee immediately attempted to take control of the situation though Cary and Javier were far more well-versed in sorcery. After months planning by this uneasy alliance without any incident, Vaikuntha struck the Aggregate's nascent first Compound. Without warning, the mad god decided to merely destroy his primary foes all at once, making a statement to the Freedom Squad or any other gifted individuals looking to take him down. His main target, however, was Cary Bradcroft's knowledge of the Black Cabal talisman.

Gathered was the same line-up present at Straw's memorial – perhaps the most formidable Aggregate yet assembled. Also present were the Absurd Tentacle, Silent Indigo, and Javier. Vaikuntha announced, “Millenia I have slept, and dreamt beyond the pale... for the day I wake and unleash the destroyer force on all mankind.” In one mighty wave Vaikuntha annhilated Silent Indigo, Karibou, and the Empress Moth, critically injuring Corona and Wurm in the process. Ghost Cat, Cary's replacement as field commander for Euphrates, attempted to use advanced martial arts on Vaikuntha while Javier and Bradcroft hurled arcane forces at him, and Thomas and Lykos attempted to knock him down with brute force. Alec and Stephen Bartholemew simply shot at him. All proved ineffectual until Orphee managed to physically wrestle the six-armed god to the ground, using all of his psychokinetic power to augment his strength. Brimming with rage over Indigo's death, he brought to bear all he had against the daemonic Presence.

But then Vaikuntha unleashed his eldritch energies and the Absurd Tentacle slowly dissipated into a small puttlylike blob before evaporating altogether. “Enough!!” screamed a muffled voice. From out of the dust strode a tall man, dressed head to toe in black and grey and wearing a mask concealing his entire face, even his eyes. A bejeweled amulet gleamed about his neck, and he wielded an ornate blade. Was this the one-man embodiment of the force that laid Vaikuntha low 1000 years ago?

The oblique gentlemen swiftly moved in on Vaikuntha, fearless. He proclaimed: “Tis time once more the Balance is struck, and the Black Cabal shall make it so. I am he you have dreaded in the dreams of a millenium sleeping in the outer planes. And now you shall sleep again. I banish the Presence who would rule all Creation; I drive it back, back – into the fetid pit from which it crawled - a slug who dared believe it was God”.

Vaikuntha raised several of his arms as if to cast a spell, whispering only “Dharma..”, but the Black Cabal struck him in the heart with his blade as his amulet glistened. An all-consuming light envelopes the destined foes, and then was abruptly snuffed out. It would be safe to say that the survivors of this skirmish with Vaikuntha all stood in a state of complete shock.

They quickly reconnoitered to garner medical attention for those who needed it and to mourn their lost comrades. The year 1980 closed on a somber note for the Aggregate, and with many more questions raised than answered by the year's events.

Welcome to Flicker Street!
Henry Covert
November 23, 2015

Thanx to all of my Facebook friends, especially those who are reading.
No thanx to Baal, no thanx to Rowan, no thanx to Wolfie.

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Further Thoughts on FLICKER STREET (Slight Return)

Further Thoughts on FLICKER STREET (Slight Return)

I warned you I'd be back. So, here I sit, pondering the direction and shape Flicker Street is taking. Treatment #17 - "Presence" - is more than halfway done, even through fighting a nasty writer's block of sorts this past week. Extensive notes for #s 18 and 19 (Titles TBA) are starting to assume a manageable shape. Truthfully, these chapters have been the most crucial to surmount - being that they segue into a sharp tonal shift from past treatments. "Presence" is a joy to write, but also a bit of a bear. I have to keep all the arcs and tangents carefully juggled lest one fall, and rend asunder the gossamer loom on which I weave the world of Flicker Street.

I'm not sure if Flicker Street is quite ready for a debut proper. A doctor of mine asked me today, "What's this book you're writing all the time?" I answered that it was like a bible, or sourcebook, or whatever they call it nowadays, for a projected piece of serial fiction - comix, prose, or television. It lays out the characters and the world, the backstory, etc. - at least that's how I explained it to my doctor. Makes sense to me, though it may not have to her.

"Presence" will be the crucial chapter of the last few, wrapping up with some (hopefully) mind-bending surprises that will make clear the arcs from # 14 onward. Even I've been shocked at my characters' revelations - I love it when that happens. It just seems to be the way things shake out for me when I'm on a roll. 

Well, back to work, as Uncle Bill my moon brother admonishes me to do when I'm lagging behind on this project. As usual, many thanx are due:

To Sean Lee Levin, Jan Takehara, Bill White, "The Marksman", Michael T Jones, Kelley Widmeyer, Ryli Morgan, Lori Jones, S.a. Mosley, Shawn Michael Vogt, Morgan Overcash, Leslie K Maitri, and all those helping me keep moving, albeit sluggishly at times. I love you all!!

For ongoing eternal inspiration: Philip Jose Farmer, William S Burroughs, JG Ballard, Steve Gerber, Grant Morrison, Douglas Marland, James A Michener, L Frank Baum, V. Vale, Osamu Tezuka, Don McGregor, Roy Thomas, Peter Milligan, Jack Kirby, Win Scott Eckert, and many more....

PS Wait'll you meet one of the next new characters I have in store for you: Reverend Tim Bollin of the WOGG Ministries (Word Of God's Glory, of course). If you grew up in the Bible Belt as I did, he'll be a very familiar polygot of various unsavory "TV criminals"...

Henry Covert
November 17, 2015

Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


FLICKER STREET: A Brief Respite 

I wanted to share a few thoughts and wax introspective on Flicker Street, my ongoing series of treatments for a potential comix series. To those few souls reading this, many thanks! I deeply appreciate your comments, feedback, views, and shares. At times it seems I'm building this world in a proverbial vacuum; perhaps I am. This has been labor of love: 30 + years of love, and now, days and nights of labor. The labor comes in condensing a mammoth, living breathing organism into manageable chunks for the reader to digest. This has been difficult. 

Over the years there have been long, deep holes left in the overarching narrative, as I plowed ahead with what felt right - an ongoing catharsis that was being composed solely for me, not any prospective readers. I am attempting to plug those holes and streamline the narrative leading to the story I most want to tell ultimately. I've always felt that there was (dreaded word here) commercial potential for Flicker Street; that is, I've long believed that its target audience(s) would enjoy FS if they were merely exposed to it. But navigating through the dense underbrush of events that serve as the substratum for the FS saga 'proper' could be problematic to any new readers. The main story, beginning with '1987', was going to be convoluted enough; to grok the particulars and ground rules, so to speak, inherent in the demi-epic backstory, may be too much to ask of an audience.

These are matters I still grapple with as I plunge ever onward, recounting in these treatments all (or most) of the pertinent info needed to arm the reader with the sound foundation needed to enrich and hopefully enhance their experience of FS proper. Consider these treatments prequels to a story yet to unfold; snapshots of my attempt to world build. 

Now that I'm closer to the beginning than the end of the FS "prequels", I would like to share with any potential readers that with '1987' onward, there will be strong tonal shift in narrative. Certain concerns from the treatments may not be as useful in the saga proper. Superheros, mystery men, and pulp style action gives way to a more complex, character-based occult soap opera of sorts. This is not to say there won't be plenty of action, sex, violence, and other "exploitable" elements, but these facets will be woven in and out of the larger loom of intrigue, romance, paranoia, and sci-fi horror ahead. 

As further thoughts on the nature of my work strike me, I may report back here. If I don't (or if I do), I look forward to sharing Treatments #s 17 and 18, currently being constructed. I am still unsure of the final number of chapters, but it will be between 20 and 25 in all likelihood.

Thanx again for reading,
Henry Covert
November 5, 2015

Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.

Friday, October 30, 2015

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 16: Sojourn

Shorter but no less eventful. Enjoy!

FLICKER STREET Treatment # 16 – Sojourn

I. The Case of Caulder Gaunt and Ethan Byron

The peculiar case of the man called Caulder Gaunt was almost one case of spontaneous generation – he was seemingly born fullblown: an adult without parents or a past. But some force wished Gaunt to find his way; to retrace the steps of memory that had been wiped clean. Caulder awoke in Hallmark, in January 1955, wearing a costly suit and bearing a wallet with ID (which gave his birthdate as January 1, 1925) and thousands of dollars in cash. Instinctively, he sought out a bank and soon had some sense of security. One night, he decided to drown his sorrow and insecurity at the Lucifer Club.

There, he took a an immediate shine to the Indian belly dancer Acacia Blessing. He was mesmerized by her. When they were introduced by the club owner Javier, there was an immediate bond. But there another man enamored of Acacia, the businessman Ethan Byron. Ethan had a troubled marriage but his wife was about to have their first child. Ethan (b. 1920) had only been married for two years to Virginia de Ruyter (b. 1925) and the couple had suffered a miscarriage. They had high hopes for their next attempt at childbearing.

Acacia was married to Junius G. Hand at this time, though to date no one had told Junius that his son by Erszebet Singer survived and was adopted. Junius was overjoyed over Acacia's pregnancy, and did what he could to ward off the wolves at the club. Soon, however, she was showing and stopped dancing until after the child's birth. So all Ethan and Caulder could do was drink and fantasize over the lovely Acacia.

Virginia de Ruyter was the paternal granddaughter of the much-discussed Ananias de Ruyter, one of the founding fathers of Hallmark. Virginia's father, Victor de Ruyter, was something of a criminal, involved in all manner of vice and heavily entwined with the local mob. This made his daughter into something of a crusader for social causes, which was very compatible with husband Ethan's aspirations to one day become District Attorney and truly clean up Hallmark. But Ethan, unlike his bride's family, was not an heir to millions and his dreams seemed all but unattainable. That is, until he made the acquaintance of the mysterious Caulder Gaunt.

Caulder needed a job; Ethan needed a friend. And so, as fate would have it, Ethan brought Gaunt in at an entry level position at OrDeR Enterprises. Ethan had an uncanny knack for spotting sound investments and was soon rising at OrDeR. Ethan's son by Virginia, Clayton Ethan “Clay” Byron was born in early 1956, and his presence helped cool some of the friction between his parents. But in 1958, Junius and Acacia divorced but Acacia stayed at the club at Javier's urging. Ethan and Virginia had been arguing over money; Ethan soon had a drunken affair with Acacia. Caulder advised him to hide this from his wife, which he did, and definitely from the public as he had won the post of Hallmark District Attorney. Ethan and his wife were soon high on Tony Duarte's hit list.

II. The Chinese Connection

In 1963 Shun Ti the undisputed female master of Feng Qi (and originally the Omegan called Ish) was slain by Kith M'Nali, the “Black Tamerlane”. Kith was found out and he and the Black Skull Society, tolerated in Feng Qi for many years, were exiled permanently. Kith had been anticipating this for decades, and so fled to a new headquarters in Japan that he had set up in case of such an occurrence. He also had a secondary HQ in America that he had begun putting together as early as the 1850s. He had created an underground railroad for slaves in America. After they were free, many slaves indebted to him did his bidding, as did their descendants. Ironically, working for Kith M'Nali was akin to slavery itself. The man born Abasse Mathabane learned little from the struggles of his people; personal power was ultimately his sole objective.

Feng Qi was intended by Shun Ti to be ultimately inherited by Kar-Fai Liao, whose father Tsun-Lun was Shuni-Ti's son and her greatest disciple. Kong had slain Tsun-Lun as he had Tsun-Lun's father The Claimer and took his title for himself. With Kong now apparently deceased Kith was running out of allies and Shun Ti was running low on heirs. Ko Sui-Li (b. 1920), mother of Kar-Fai, took the reigns of Feng-Qi, but was constantly plotted against by her sons Li-Ang Liao and Zhey Liao. Zhey had always been loyal to Kong, and advised Li-Ang to build on the power vacuum left by Kong and Kith. Li-Ang envisioned himself an overlord in the manner of Kong, with the world's vice in his lethal grasp.

Sui-Li reorganized Feng Qi, and made her son its overlord. Under Kar-Fai's aegis, Archimedes Ko, son of Bram Vallard, was largely in charge of overseeing the temples and Solacium. Ko was young, but had been a monk almost since his birth (in 1943) and was a master of martial arts and Zen principals. His twin sister Mei-Chan Ko, the “Ghost Cat”, had also trained since birth. Kar-Fai needed the fresh blood, according to Sui-Li, as Kar-Fai spent much of his time ruminating on thoughts of vengeance against Kith for slaying his grandmother Shun Ti. Sui-Li refused to let her son turn Feng-Qi into an engine of destruction; Kith had tried and failed many times to do just that.

In 1964, Ethan and Virginia Byron were slain by Marco Allegretti. Under the advice of Bram Vallard (who that year co-founded the Aggregate), Archimedes offered to take in the eight year old Clay Byron. Kar-Fai felt he could mold Clay (pun unintended) into the instrument of vengeance he'd been yearning for. Not surprisingly, the Byrons left their fortune to Clay, but made Caulder Gaunt the trustee of the estate. Gaunt had power of attorney for the Byrons. Ethan had come to see Gaunt as a brother, and trusted him completely. Gaunt naturally agreed, but he asked one thing of Ko: that he be allowed to train alongside Clay at the monastery. Kar-Fai trusted his sincerity and felt bringing in those of different races, as Shun Ti had done, honored the original Pan-Asian creeds that Kith corrupted.

Most surprising to all was one other child who wished to train at Feng Qi: his name was Clive and his mother Jerusha Dharma brought him to the monastery she had heard so much about over the years. She was with Myrus T Fellbane, now her fiance (much to Clive's chagrin). They brought with them something Clive's father had entrusted Jerusha with – a sword and amulet that were said to be 1000 years old and once drove the vile Presence Vaikuntha from this plane of existence. Jerusha felt that Feng Qi would be the safest place on Earth to house the items, just as she felt that Exodesia would be the most unsafe place imaginable. These items were forged by a Hindu cult called the Black Cabal; legend had it that if one man was ever worthy of bearing sword and amulet, he would inherit the powers of the entire Black Cabal. Jerusha wished this for her son. Her motives were not exactly pure however; she harbored a deep resentment of Clive Dharma's father, Cary Bradcroft, for seemingly abandoning her in his quest for power in Exodesia. She felt Clive could be molded, as Kar-Fai was molding Clay Byron, into an instrument of vengeance.

Fellbane, however, had other plans. He desired the power of the Black Cabal for himself, and had schemed for nine years to be in the position to claim it. Fellbane asked Kar-Fai Liao if he could train Fellbane in some of his mystic arts. Kar-Fai was offended that such an interloper would see the training at Feng Qi as something so casual and superficial. Fellbane caused a mild uproar with his commentary following Kar-Fai's refusal to train him. Kar-Fai lost control and with one blow killed Fellbane.

Jerusha was shocked and asked to speak to Sui-Li Ko alone. Sui-Li felt Kar-Fai's action was rash and out of control, but she admonished Jerusha that Fellbane brought a potential evil with him to Feng Qi, and that was not to be tolerated. Jerusha confided that Fellbane had cast a spell nine years prior so that she and her son could not be found by Cary Bradcroft. Sui-Li was surprised, as the Shadow Baron had become well-known in mystic circles for his power and knowledge, though he'd not yet wrought the good he went on to accomplish leading the Aggregate.

Jerusha understood, but asked that Kar-Fai weave a new spell protecting her and Clive from Bradcroft. Kar-Fai did so, and added the caveat that only one who wielded the sword and amulet of the Black Cabal could banish the spell. All was made well for the time being. Jerusha was invited to stay at Feng Qi to live, and she agreed.

Thus, Clive Dharma, Clay Byron, and Caulder Gaunt trained together with Mei-Chan Ko under Archimedes for nine years. Caulder fell deeply in love with Mei-Chan but feared upsetting their dynamic at the monastery by sharing his feelings. Gaunt was a confident man, but he was troubled, as he still had no memory of his life before 1955. By 1975, Gaunt and his young fellow pupils had excelled at their training. But Clay Byron desired a slightly different path. He announced that he was leaving for training in Libania under the Marchessa. The others chose to remain in Feng Qi for a bit longer. Clay embarked, and Kar-Fai wished him well, and dubbed him “Sojourner” for his restless spirit. Clay promised Clive and Gaunt that he'd meet them again one day.

The one saddest about Clay leaving was Kar-Fai's young son, Jun-Kim Liao (or June Kim, born 1967) who saw Clay and Clive as older brothers and Gaunt as an uncle. Jun-Kim was the offspring of the marriage of Kar-Fai to Colleen Soh (b. 1940), a half-Irish, half-Korean whose father Kim Park Soh (b. 1918) had lived at Feng Qi in the 1930s and 1940s and became an agent of Bram Vallard via his connection to Feng Qi, where he had trained in the 1920s. Kim Park's other daughter, Lerby Soh, married Vallard's son Randolph Hoxworth (b.1947) and the couple settled in Hallmark and had three daughters: Betsy, Lerby, and Jill, all of whom would one day meet their cousin Jun-Kim, whose importance to this narrative will grow as we move along.

III. Lucifer Revisited

Alec Duarte first encountered Kicia Marie Blessing in 1971 when he came to Hallmark to finish off his father Tony Duarte and Tony's partner and lover Marco Allegretti. He set up his place of operation in a Hotel 6 and that evening, after staking out Tony's mansion, dropped in at the Lucifer Club for a few drinks and to see naked girls dance. He was sexually frustrated due to his time with Mariposa Marisol. Celibacy was getting old for him. Kicia was a stunning dancer at the club who caught his eye immediately. He soon learned after a table dance from Kicia that she was only 15 years old. The pimp Diggs Reale who, at that time, owned and ran the Lucifer Club had managed to persuade Kicia to start stripping at 14. He roped her in via her mother Acacia, who Javier, the founder of the club, enlisted as a dancer after he met her by chance on a trip to India in 1954. One year later, Kicia was born, the offspring of Acacia's marriage to Black Torpedo Ray, whom she had wed one week after meeting him.

Acacia knew her daughter looked much older than her age, and she knew the next stop on the illusory highway to fame and riches offered by Diggs was a life of turning tricks. In 1971, Kicia's father was in prison, framed by Diggs and Eli Singer; he and Acacia had divorced in 1958. Alec was the first man Kicia had danced for that didn't immediately attempt to score with her. She was fascinated by this 23 year old loner with pale blue eyes and a swanky moustache and soul patch. At the end of the evening, Alec bid her a fond farewell and she gave him her phone number. He said he didn't know how much longer he'd be in Hallmark; only that he would be back and look her up – and hoped she'd be in school by then.

Three years later, Duarte returned to Hallmark for phase two of the Marchessa's three mandates. He decided impulsively to make it a stealth mission, mainly to get a job in Hallmark and establish a dual ID so that he could move freely as Cowan, whose cowl he first donned on this trip (the cowl would have many configurations over the years). But above all, he stayed around to see Kicia Blessing. The job he chose was as a cab driver; he was utterly fascinated by taxi driving.

Alec began hanging out at the club for a few weeks, getting to know Kicia's father; they became fast friends. Ray approved of Alec, and Alec alone, as a match for his now 19 year old daughter. Acacia had returned to India for a time, but Ray wanted her back at the club, their differences aside. Alec made some young friends who frequented the Lucifer Club, much to their families' dismay. From Gossingham, he met Shirley Townshend Drake and her husband Shelby and son Lance. Lance was only six years old and already craved heavy metal and occult imagery; his favorite group was the infamous White Rabbit, led by the rowdy Hasty Greenhalgh, and his favorite shop was Bradcroft LTD. Lance loved Alec; Alec wasn't sure what to make of this kid but appreciated the cameraderie. Lance's uncle was preparing to open a comic book store in Hallmark called Origins, but for now, was holding mini-conventions at Northland Mall in upper Hallmark. H. Sidney Drake looked down on his relatives, especially nephew Lance's proclivities as Sidney was a devout born again Christian.

One of Alec's drinking buddies was a fellow cabbie at Zenith Cab: Renee Pointier, a French immigrant who was in her 30s and certainly an alcoholic. She and Alec had a few drunken nights of wanton sex, but he felt he was getting far off track from his fixation on Kicia, not to mention his impossible yearnings for his teacher the Marchessa. Renee dug Alec a good bit, and confronted him over Kicia. He made his feelings apparent, and Renee soon left Alec, Zenith, and Hallmark – at least for a good 10 years. Her replacement became Alec's “sidekick” for the duration of his time cruising Flicker Street for fares: a 16 year old cabbie-in-training named Hobie T Reale, Diggs' nephew. Alec taught Hobie some martial arts and Hobie referred to Alec as “teacher”. Alec said he was on a mission, Hobie could not come along, and when next he came to Hallmark, he would give Hobie a proper training. The two would often smoke ganja and ruminate on the nature of the universe, which Alec would soon be doing in a whole different venue.

In the midst of all this, Alec never wavered in using his tightness with Ray to see Kicia every chance he got. They had a sweet and tender dynamic that belied the violence and vice surrounding them. Alec practiced using his hard-won skills to hit the mob, and was only marginally successful. Finally, the time came for his mission: to infiltrate Javier's Order of Cosmic Emptiness. He managed to kill guest speaker Antioch Moldor, a powerful warlock and founder of the Aggregate analog group the Damnation Brigade. Javier let Cowan escape and was intrigued by him.

It had been two months of what was supposed to be a two week mission. Alec went to see Kicia one night when she was home alone studying (Ray got her back in school) and Ray was clubbing. They finally had “The Talk” (capital “T”, capital “T”), which was what Alec called the awkward crossroads a potential couple invariably arrived at, in order to decide to be a couple or not. Alec tried to spill his guts, and was doing okay when Kicia savagely seduced Duarte. She had wanted him for so long she was boiling over. After an hour of oftimes tender, oftimes tempestuous coupling, the two lay in bed and finished “The Talk”.

Kicia didn't think they would work unless Alec took her with him when he left and unless Alec got over his infatuation with his teacher. Neither seemed possible, and for the first time that he could remember, Alec Duarte – Cowan – cried. He said goodbye to Kicia and expressed that should their paths cross again, maybe they could be together. Kicia found this unlikely and said some soul-crushing things to Alec to disabuse him of this notion and get him to leave before she, too, lost it. And thus, Alec returned to the Marchessa for three more years, and consummated their attraction. Kicia dropped out of school and embraced the Flicker Street bohemian crowd, the hub of Hallmark's outcasts, freaks, loners, artists, and aesthetes. There she met the enigmatic Brother Zodiac and the two began a passionate affair filled with romance and music and – other, darker things to be discussed shortly.

IV. Sojourner's Solacium

Sojourner made it to the Marchessa's Solacium in Libania in 1975.He submitted himself for training, and was accepted. He met Cowan for the first time, having no idea yet that Alec avenged Clay's family's deaths. Duarte helped Sojourner adjust to the different approach of Marchessa's Solacium. Clay responded well to his new teacher. Clay was intrigued by the relationship Libania and FOPA had with Serafinia. While at the Solacium, he met Redmund Jeffrey, an African-American spy for REACT posing as a FOPA double agent. Jeffrey was there to aid in destabilizing relations ever further with Serafinia. Ironically he married a Serafinia native and had two daughters they raised in Serafinia: Laura (b. 1956) and Ophelia (b. 1958). Clay met and fell for Laura Jeffrey. With Redmund's permission they wed. Redmund despised Byron, however, and plotted to eliminate him without provoking the Marchessa.

Laura was soon pregnant, and, in her eighth month, she was killed by an explosion set at the Solacium by Redmund and meant to be blamed on the Serafinians. Laura's child, to be named Jeffrey Byron, survived however, and Redmund gave the baby to Ophelia and demanded she and her husband Charles Mourning raise the child as their own back home in the U.S. with Redmund's aging mother, the baby's great-grandmother, Cecilia Jeffrey. The child was born in June 1976 and was named Michelito Mourning. It would be many years before the truth of his parentage was outed.

Redmund's own wife Unocita Quonquonero tried to kill him for using her and playing with their family's lives. Redmund beat her badly and she confided in Clay that she contemplated suicide daily. She threatened to tell Clay the truth about why the Mournings left South America so suddenly after Laura's death. Redmund killed her, making it look like suicide. Unocita's brother Rajael cried out for Redmund's blood. Alec Duarte knew it was time for the monster Redmund Jeffrey to pay the price, and so he challenged him to a duel of hand to hand combat. Redmund was no slouch in this area, but hardly up to the training of the Marchessa. Alec snapped his neck and his threat was over. Once again, Cowan had avenged Sojourner without really knowing it; Alec was none the wiser than Clay was about Clay's son.

With Redmund's entire family gone, Clay Byron focused once more deeply on his training. When Alec left the Solacium in 1977 to fulfill his final mandate, Marchessa knew he may never return, and he did not. Clay was left behind to lose himself in honing his body and mind to their sharpest points in order to obliterate the pain of his lost wife and son. The Marchessa promised Alec that when Clay seemed ready, she would send him back to Hallmark to claim his fortune and, hopefully, his place beside Cowan in the Aggregate. Cowan did indeed find his place among the Aggregate, as recounted elsewhere, but he was pained to learn that Kicia was involved with the enigmatic Brother Zodiac.

V. Black Cabal Rising

In early 1977, Jerusha Dharma fell ill and could not be saved by anyone at Feng Qi. Clive felt it was time to conclude his training there and go to London to get his mother's affairs in order. He left behind Mei-Chen to train for one more year before she headed to Hallmark to petition for membership in the Aggregate. With the resources available to him via the Byron estate, Caulder Gaunt accompanied Clive and loaned him a large sum of money and helped to establish his credentials.

Gaunt called upon a friend and former co-worker at OrDeR Enterprises, Oswin Juan Clancey for help in Clive's ventures. Oswin flew to London from Hallmark with his associate Stephanie Ransom Avril, wife of Egon Avril of the infamous Avril clan discussed in our tenth installment. Gaunt and Clancey forged documents such as an archaeologist's degree, a tidy bank account, and any other identifying documents. These items were created for Clive under the name Randell Coventry. Clive Dharma wished the world to continue with their ignorance of his existence.

Oswin Clancey (b. 1953) is noteworthy as the son of Zachariah Clancey and Dawn Cheshire, both discussed thoroughly in earlier treatments. He was an executive in advertising at OrDeR. He and Clive bonded immediately and he used his resources to help “create” Randell Coventry. He was also looking to invest in new ventures. Stephanie was as well, and she had a degree in archaeology and shared Clive's interests. It was implicit that no one involved in this enterprise reveal the truth. Gault assured everyone that they would be rewarded richly when Clay finally took control of his fortune. Another investor, the Frenchman Aloysius Pascal, came on board in late 1977, and he and Clive became best friends. He, Clancey, Stephanie, and Gaunt set up shop in London, where Clive stayed for nearly two years, scraping together enough cash for one last grand expedition. Thus was Coventry Expeditions born. During his time in London, Clive/ Randell engaged in a short-lived and tempestuous marriage to Pascal's sister Margeurite.

Caulder worried that he had been corrupted by Clive's obsessions and that their years at Feng Qi were for naught. He missed the peace he had found there. But he found himself drawn in by the danger and clandestine nature of his activities. He wondered what kind of man he really was before his amnesia. He decided to forge ahead with Clive's plan and head to Hallmark, where he met with Cary Bradcroft and propose a merger with Bradcroft Ltd. Cary agreed to consider it, but felt he should meet with Coventry himself first.

For Gaunt's part, he decided to stay in Hallmark until the Ghost Cat arrived as planned to petition for membership in the Aggregate. He felt the time had come to tell her how much he truly loved her. But Mei-Chan rejected Caulder's advances, however. She simply did not see him in that way. Gaunt was frustrated beyond words. He began hanging out in Flicker Street, drinking heavily and filled with self-pity. He took up painting, producing abstract portraits inspired by his time at Feng Qi. The more he painted, the more bizarre the symbolism – images of vistas unimaginable filled his canvases, as visions of frightening planes and creatures filled his lucid dreaming. He dreamt almost nightly of Clive and his sword and amulet. In his dreams the Black Cabal was reborn as one man, wielding the ancient talisman against a mad god with a third eye and six arms.

As for Clive Dharma, he left Stephanie in charge of their London office and planned an expedition to Exodesia in 1979. He felt they needed a guide, a go-between to survive in Exodesia. Gaunt recommended Javier, who was grudgingly welcome in Exodesia. Javier went to London to meet with Clive, Oswin, and Aloysius, and soon the four of them were in Africa, making the expedition up the mountain where lied the city of Exodesia. They came before the priest Assias, whose attention was drawn to Clive's talisman. Assias attempted to barter with Dharma for the objects. This was in vain. Clive announced that he wished the defeat of the Shadow Baron and could assure it happening if Assias trained himself and Pascal in certain Exodesian and Piscean arts of dark alchemy. Oswin had no desire to learn and Javier was already well-versed. Assias agreed, and Dharma and Pascal trained for one year in Exodesia. During this time, Arch Priest Urias was in America working for SkullCorp and assembling a new Damnation Brigade to plague the Aggregate. This was fortunate as he coveted the secrets of the Black Cabal himself. Assias was not a member of the Obscuros; thus, Clive and Javier correctly believed that he could be trusted.

Oswin was housed in Exodesia's Azure City, a place where Exodesians of a more benign bent than the Obscuros dwelt. Assias was the prime minister of sorts of Azure City. Javier finally felt at home somewhere in Exodesia. The year at Azure City went by quickly and surprisingly well for Clive's party, especially given the dark forces at work all around them. Oswin attributed much of this to Clive's talisman, which Oswin believed gave Clive a certain aura that protected the group. Though this seemed to be mere speculation on the part of a layman, it actually was a correct assumption.

In the summer of 1980 Clive “graduated” from his studies in Exodesia. The next stop for the Dharma party was Hallmark. Pascal was sent to the London office to meet with Stephanie. He was to work there, while Gault and Oswin took care of business with Cary Bradcroft. Javier bowed out of the whole affair, but thanked all for helping him actually have a decent experience in Exodesia. Clive now assumed the identity of Randell Coventry and began traveling with Stephanie to archaeological digs to gain actual experience at the position he had faked his way into. Before he left Hallmark, however, he met with one final investor – someone he'd wanted to seek out for some time – Orphee deLander. What passed between them was to be revealed to the public late that year and will be discussed in our next installment, in which Clive steels himself to finally face Cary Bradcroft.

Welcome to Flicker Street!

Henry Covert
October 31, 2015

Flicker Street, all characters, images, and story elements are Copyright (c) 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.