Los Angeles in California has no reason at all to be as warm as it is. A microclimate? The Rim of Fire in the Circum-Pacific belt? I never really thought about it. I just accepted that it was normal to be nice and sunny in the summer and about 20 degrees Celsius in the winter.

The San Gabriel Mountains covered in powdered snow next door over in San Bernardino sometimes made me wonder, but I mostly never thought about it.

I think about it all the time now. I just can’t stop.

The Deathless Cult of California aren’t known. Not secretive, not shady, they’re just not known. Nobody talks about them at all. The Illuminati doesn’t exist; neither do the Bilderbergs or Rothschilds or Rockefellers or Warburgs or Bruces or Cavendishs or de Medicis or Hannovers or Habsburgs or Krupps, or Romanovs or Sinclairs or Windsors. All these figures were paid money to obfuscate and distract from the Deathless Cult.

They have trillions of dollars and, at the same time, technically no money at all.

I should explain, from the beginning, at the time of my death.

I died on Friday the 15th of March, 2019. I basically walked out in front of a lorry whilst carrying my groceries and got smushed. Arms, legs, abdomen. It stopped just short of my head, but I’m told that if it hadn’t braked, it would have been crushed like an under-ripe watermelon.

I woke up sometime in April, being in a coma for the best part of three weeks. Doctors have no idea why I didn’t die, but it’s just one of those “medical miracle” things that confound doctors and textbooks as the human body continues to just be a dick about stuff, I guess.

I knew something was odd from the moment I came ‘round, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The entire world seemed less colourful. Blander. I had no memories of my time under, just a sense of blackness and then my brain seemed to pull out of thinking about it with a weird sense of dread. Which is weird, because I’ve never had problems thinking about anything traumatic, usually. But it was like an ice wall, giant and impenetrable. And even though I tried to think about it, knew I had the knowledge of something beyond the pale, the drawer in my mind simply had no key.

I left the hospital a changed man. My wife left with the kids after one week of looking at me. Not the injuries—the doctors had done their best—but my eyes.

They’d lost their colour completely.

Idiopathic benign ocular albinism is what the doctors referred to it, which is medical jargon for “your eye colour is gone for some unexplained magical reason, but you can see and it’s not cancer-related, so we don’t really care.”

At least, most of the doctors did. There was one who’d been in the medical profession for 40 years who got mad and punched a hole in a wall. Yelling about how someone must have been playing a practical joke by putting blue contact lenses in me before surgery and that it was deeply unethical.

I explained to him that my eyes had been blue for 30 years, but I could tell he didn’t buy it. And, in his defence, how do my eyes shut as blue and open as greyish white? Makes no sense.

I’d been in a coma for three weeks and almost died, but I still feel weirdly guilty for that doctor.

So I was alone in my apartment. My ten-year marriage broke apart because of something Stephanie saw when she looked in my eyes, and I was feeling pretty bummed.

I went to a bar on the Sunset Strip, trying to grab a drink. This would’ve been May, probably, but my timeframe gets a bit rusty for the second half of 2019. I was drinking screwball after screwball. My friend Pete, who was an accountant to the rich and famous “influencers” and B-listers, was trying to keep up, and he ended up sick in the parking lot. I didn’t even feel lightly buzzed. The liquor just wasn’t working the way it usually did.

I asked Antonio for the bottle. I normally wouldn’t because they charge, what, 70 bucks for the bottle when you get it for 20 at any malt liquor store. But, y’know, divorce and almost death and seeing your friend empty a bunch of yellowish-orange gunk with stringy chicken bits behind the skip will make you do crazy shit.

I chugged the entire bottle and wiped my mouth. I remember that when I plonked the bottle back down on the bar, there was silence. People had stopped conversing, the barman was staring at me in shocked silence. I didn’t have much to time to take it in, as Pete slouched in from outside.

I threw an arm around him and carried him out.

I lay awake that night, watching the ceiling fan gently rotate in the humid evening air. My mouth tasted of dust and I didn’t feel like sleeping. So I just lay there. Something was wrong, I could feel it, but there were no words in which to put my feelings into. It was like I had lost something vitally important, like an arm or a leg but not immediately nameable.

Eventually, dawn came as I tried to think of where the loss was coming from. Somewhere near my kidney or appendix; perhaps my appendix was missing. Could an appendix just go missing? Did a doctor take it out whilst operating?

I got up, feeling no more rested and—somehow—no more tired. I walked downstairs, collected the post, and headed to the mart on the corner. I picked up three packs of Slim Jims, a family bag of Cheetos, and a pack of Toll House cookie dough. That was your meal, snack, and dessert right there. I picked out a can of Mountain Dew from the nine different flavours and took them to the counter.

As the cashier rung them up, I was struck with an idea. I don’t know why I did it, and to some extent I still don’t know why, but I pointed at the box of scratchers and said, “Number three.” I tapped my card as the cashier unspooled the scratch card and pulled it off.

It was a brand called “Leprechaun’s Luck” with a ginger leprechaun throwing gold coins at a pixie illustrated just below the name. There were also a few horseshoes and pots of gold in the corners.

I didn’t think anything of it for a while. I got home, unloaded my grocery of snack items, and sat on the sofa. I think I was halfway through a Frasier rerun when I remembered the scratcher in my pocket. I found a penny in the drawer of my bedroom dresser and started to scratch.

The metallic chaff fell all over the living room carpet and I was struck for a moment by how cavalier I’d been, given that would scold me for getting her precious shag-pile carpet dirty. Then I remembered I was divorced.

I didn’t know how to feel about that.

I looked down at the ticket. $5,000 jackpot.

I smiled. The back of the scratcher said to phone a number and so I dialled it up, gave the serial number on the back of the card, received a curt congratulations, and then the dial tone hummed.

I put my mobile down. I had another idea. God help me, I had another idea. I went back to the minimart. A different cashier had started his shift and so it didn’t feel too awkward. I pulled out a crumpled ten dollars from my wallet and asked for ten more dollar scratchers.

The cashier gave me a weird look, perhaps rightfully so, and unravelled the scratch cards, pulling off a section of the roll and handing it to me.

I parted with the ten dollars and headed home. When I got back to my apartment, I wasted no time and got to work with my penny, scrubbing each card. The floor became coated in shimmering scratch glitter.

Each one had won. $2000. $500. $10,000. $750.

I pulled out my mobile and dialled the last number I’d called.

“Whaddaya want?” she said.

“I’ve won again,” I said.

“Sure you have. Have you got the serial numbers?”

I rattled off the list of numbers. She’d gone quiet. When she spoke again, her voice sounded uneven, jagged. “And where did you buy these scratchers?”

I clicked off the call on my mobile and pocketed it. Why bother?

I checked my bank balance a few hours later, and the total amount stared out at me. Not three hours before, I had 20 dollars and 93 cents. Now I had….30,400 dollars. And 93 cents. It was surreal.

I thought I should celebrate, but didn’t know how, and so I ordered some pizza. Toppings, three bottles of Coke, two different ice creams, fries, onion rings. Then I sat back and watched the Domino’s tracker on my phone.

I hesitated, tabbed into eBay, searched for a cheap laptop, and found one listed at $500. May as well, I thought, adding it to my cart.

When the pizza arrived and the boxes had been unceremoniously scrunched up and pushed into the trash, I went to bed. And didn’t sleep.

I just lay there, eyes wide, slowly wondering what was happening to me.

I knew on some conscious level that the scratch tickets hadn’t been winners until I’d scratched them. It was something I’d done, but I didn’t know what.

I lay awake until morning.

The post came bright and early and I trundled downstairs in my dressing gown to fetch my laptop. As I pulled it out of the postbox, a small letter fell to the ground. I picked it up, running my fingers over the creamy embossed paper, realising as my thumb crept around to the other side that it had been sealed with wax. It was odd.

I thought nothing of it as I spent the rest of the morning setting up my new laptop and a good two hours configuring the wallpaper and icons on the screen. It only by early afternoon that my mind crept, inextricably, back to that letter.

I opened it, the wax making a satisfying crack as it popped open.

Inside was nothing but a small scrap of paper. A business card.

There was a ZIP code on it and nothing more. The laptop next to me suddenly seemed a whole lot more convenient.

I typed the thing into Google Maps and it threw up a giant manor house in the Hollywood Hills. I tried navigating down the pathway to try and find a road, but there was just blurred ground.

I made myself some porridge. Packet mix with milk in the microwave with a squirt of honey. As I ate it, I marvelled at the giant house that had somehow avoided the omnipotent Google Maps car with its 360° camera lens.

I loaded it up again. It seemed like a fun game, trying to decipher the background. Palm trees, rocks, and—

I froze. Standing on the blurred gravel was a man holding a sign with “Hello” written on it. His hair was jet white, but he didn’t look a day over 30. And his eyes? Grey as dirty snow. They blinked.

Wait. They blinked again.

He dropped the sign, which hit the floor and came to a rest on the blurred ground.

“I’m sure you have a lot of questions” was written in murderous red print underneath.

I nodded as he dropped the next sign. Underneath was another a nine-digit password. I doubt you could use it now, as I’m sure it’s been changed or removed or whatever, along with the instructions “Type this into the search bar.” He dropped the sign, revealing a final panel. “Find your way here and we’ll talk further.” With that, he disappeared from the screen.

I typed the password into the search bar. A dull part of me expected nothing, but with everything that happened, I was fairly certain.

The screen dissolved and I could once again see the manor, this time situated in the middle of the suburbs. With a…different ZIP code.

Apprehensively, I got in my car, stabbed the ignition, and set off. On the way there, I remember checking myself in the car mirror. My hair was a lacklustre grey. I mean, I know I’m pushing 30, but it sent a shiver down my spine. It had been jet black just the day before.

I got there at about noon and wandered up the steps. I rang the doorbell and thought of what to say when the door was opened. I shouldn’t have worried.

When the door swung open, I saw five of them, whatever they are. Whatever I suppose I am now.

They invited me in, politely. Most of them were naked save for boxer shorts and striped underwear. A woman with flowing white hair was biting her lip and looking at me in a certain way. Possibly sexual, potentially more praying mantis-y. They were all covered in bizarre tattoos stretching the lengths of their entire bodies.

They took me through to a large room that looked like a large Victorian study, only it had been covered in plastic sheeting, every inch. Large gothic bookcases and regal leather armchairs could be seen through the hazy film that had been attached to every corner of the room. A man calling himself Jermaine offered me a seat.

Jermaine offered me a glass of wine and I accepted. He poured it from a crystal decanter into a small glass. I took a sip and coughed.


“Alcoholic?” he replied. He let out a strange and slightly clipped laugh that sent shivers down my spine. “It should be. It’s brewed to about 300 percent ABV, so it should be. It’s actually the only thing you’ll be able to taste in a week—“

A woman with long hair nudged him. “Spoilers, Jermaine. Spoilers.”

She held out a hand which I shook. It was ice cold.


“I apologise,” added Jermaine. “It’s been quite a while since we’ve had one join our number. Perhaps 20, 30 years?”

Abigail shrugged. She poured herself a glass and wandered off. I noticed that others had congregated in other rooms. Some were laughing, others deep in conversation.

“Is this some sort of party?”

“You could say that,” Jermaine replied. A smile. Unpleasant.

I finished the rest of the wine. I felt a little dizzy and looked out of the living room. I saw a white-haired young man leading a young child through the front hallway.

“Hey, is that—“

“Yeah, Mr. Three Oscars and an Emmy,” Jermaine mumbled, downing the last of the wine. “Anyway, I suppose you have a few questions. But first, I’ve got a question for you. How did you go?”

As I opened my mouth, I heard some sort of horrible crunch.

“Don’t mind that,” Jermaine replied, waving a hand.

“Bus,” I replied. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“Cool. Fairly modern. I fell on a sword. It’s generally the same for most people. Accident, body gets killed, brain continues and reboots it. We actually found you through the lottery system. We monitor it for people like us.”

“When did it happen to you?” I asked, interested about someone using a sword. I figured maybe he was some sort of professional fencer or something. I still hadn’t figured it out.


I stared.

“The last 612 years have been, admittedly, a little difficult. But we’re pretty close.”

He nodded, perhaps only to himself. He seemed to have completely forgotten that I was in the room.

He looked up and seemed to click back into place, gave me a smile that he had no doubt practised in a mirror, and gestured for me to stand.

I followed him through and we came to what looked like a large operating theatre, built with giant basalt slabs in the centre of the manor. A sacrificial stone table with—I don’t want to remember. I saw the bloodstains and limbs, but the rest I just hope to forget. In time.

There must have been 20 of them chanting down at this dead child. The Earth seemed to shake.

I heard Abigail in my ear. “We attempt to summon him, for he will set us free.”

I ran from the house. Nobody attempted to follow me. A dog walker outside saw me in hysterics as I pointed at the house and begged him to call the cops. He walked on. I took out my mobile in trembling hands. The cops arrived. I pointed, demanded they investigate.

They chided me for wasting police time, asking me repeatedly what I was indicating between the two houses. They couldn’t see it. Nobody could.

I went home. I threw up in the sink. I went through to the living room.

Jermaine was sitting on the sofa.

“We must bring things to an end. And we think he arises, up through the Earth and to take us away from this eternal damnation.”

I remember howling at him.

He gestured to a gun with pearl grips sitting comfortably on the other sofa cushion.

“You’re gonna kill me?” I asked.

He sighed. “You still don’t get it.”

I picked up the gun and aimed it at his head. The trigger depressed, but nothing happened. It kept clicking. I moved it slightly to the left. The gunshot was deafening, leaving a hole in the side of the wall.

“Lucky shot.”

He kept sitting stoically, waiting for the penny to drop.

“We can’t die.”

Jermaine tilted his head. “There are some other rules you will pick up as you glide through your new phantom life. People will start to ignore you, then forget you, and then you will be invisible to them, we—stop it, please.”

I had shoved the gun into my mouth and pulled the trigger, which clicked uselessly. I took it out, pointing it upwards, and fired three rounds, which emphatically blasted out of the spit-covered barrel. Ceiling plaster rained down.

“Anything else I should know?” I asked, weakly. “What are your tattoos?”

Jermaine pulled up his sleeve. “Oh, this is ink demarcating non-lethal veins. We end every sacrifice running knives across ourselves and then covering them in rubbing alcohol. It feels a little fuzzy, feels like…”

He clicked his fingers, searching for the word.


“Maybe you should hit a vein sometime,” I muttered.

“You’ll get it,” he said. He stood up to leave. “Keep your eye on the post. We move every month or so, and you’re always welcome to come back. In fact, Abigail took quite a shine to you before you ran away.”

“She can burn in hell.”

“Perhaps,” Jermaine said. “Or perhaps you’ll come ‘round.”

And then he left.

Later, I ran myself a hot bath and found a pack of straight razors. I think I gave up after an hour. It was like slicing open clay. Bloodless. I rubbed the wrist I’d slashed and my skin blended back together.

I cried for a while. For myself. For my wife and kids. For my soul.

I haven’t been back to that manor. And will avoid that place until I die.

Of course, there’s a slight problem with that.