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It's all Charlie's fault. Or maybe Joanne's. If it weren't for them, I never would have gotten involved with the apocalyptic pagan cult.

Let's back up a minute.

I was eighteen years old and bored. wombat-socho and I had gotten in on the ground floor of the local anime convention. This was interesting, strictly due to the amount of weird people that flow through a convention's convention committee (or concom, as we liked to call it), but it limited my social opportunities. Being a home-schooled teenager without a car had some distinct drawbacks.

Floating in the pool in what was then the Sheraton Bloomington, I was sunk deep in that pit of world-weary ennui every teenager in existence digs themselves into. Life was shit, I thought, staring at the blue sky through the skylights in the vaulted ceiling. Boring. Social anxiety kept me more or less sequestered from all but the estrogen-heavy registration crew - and they had actually interesting things going on in their life, whether it be a job making Renaissance Faire garb or a hobby involving robotics.

I was a student. A student with a bit more money than usual, thanks to an inheritance from my Grandmother, but a student. A very depressed, twitchy, goth student with a distinctly non-mainstream belief system.

So when Joanne, an older, tattoo-adorned science fiction fan (and the head of the convention's hospitality suite) came up to me and started talking and mentioned a twice-monthly informal pagan gathering, I was interested enough to consider going. When Joanne made it clear she'd be by with Charlie that night to provide transportation from the far-flung suburbs I lived in to the university, I was sold.

And so I spent the first of what would come to be many Wednesday nights at a coffeehouse discussing the flexibility and inflexibility of the Wiccan Rede, drinking chai, and trying not too get too twitchy about the reality-benders, the UFO conspiracy theorist, or the grim, unsmiling triad of Asatruar clustered (inevitably) around the a literature-strewn table in the back.

Towards the end of the evening, a tall man, more beautiful than handsome, his shaven head gleaming in the track lighting, entered. He was clad in a black t-shirt and tight jeans and combat boots, but showed none of the ostentatious pentagrams or tie-died t-shirts most of the rest of the attendees were festooned with.

"See something you like?" Charlie said, leaning over. Scott turned to look at us, a broad, shit-eating grin on his angel-seeming face. We made eye contact. I blushed and immediately averted my own, staring determinedly at one of the large crystal prisms for sale.

"Who, um."

"That's Scott. He's one of us." Charlie said, chuckling. "Not one of them."

Charlie's tie-dyed shirt stung my eyes as I turned to look again at Scott weaving his way around fragile glass cases and bat-winged Goddess statues towards us. "One of us?"

"You know." Charlie said, still chuckling. "The chosen."

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