In the tiny house in Torquay in which he resided, the Great Beast 666, To Mega Therion, Frater Perdurabo, or, as he was known to most of the population, Aleister Crowley, was making breakfast – a single boiled egg, toast, and a cup of tea. He told himself that his meditative practices would make this a sensory feast as great as any orgy, the texture of the yolk on his tongue as exquisite as the finest opium, but he still faced it with a weariness born of age.
Crowley had, in the past, been an imposing figure, a great hulk of a man whose bald head and piercing eyes could intimidate the most fearless of men into submission. He had been a mountaineer of the top rank, and a practising yogi who could bend his body into asanas which would have caused agony for even the most flexible of non-adepts. Now, though, he was sallow, his angular cheekbones showing through sagging skin. His head, no longer shaved, was fringed by tufts of white hair stained yellow by tobacco smoke. His digestion was permanently destroyed by his herculean intake of opiates, coca leaf, and absinthe. While he railed against the privations rationing caused him, he knew that in reality his diet would not be much different even were he to dine at the Savoy every evening. He never had been much good at self-deception, though that would never stop him trying.
He placed his egg-cup, toast-rack, butter dish, cup, saucer, and teapot on the tray with an exacting precision, then picked up the tray and shuffled over to his dining table. He placed the tray on the table, pulled out a chair, and sat down. He buttered his toast slowly, treating the rhythm of the knife strokes as a yogic mantra.
There was a pile of post on the table, which he had collected earlier. He opened the envelopes with his butter knife, and flicked through the letters desultorily. There were the usual missives from admirers; one from Lady Frieda Harris talking about the stultifying details of an undoubtedly tedious, but potentially lucrative, exhibition of her art, would need his attention at some point. He put it to one side and looked through the rest.
There was little of interest there. He sipped at his tea and winced to himself. There had been a time, not so long ago, when he would have disdained utterly a cup of tea made from what tasted like dust sweepings and mouse droppings, but that time had passed. This was his life now; soft-boiled eggs and flavourless grey liquids. He sighed and picked up the next letter.
Bills. Bills from the Gas Board, bills from the grocer, bills from all sides. And nothing to pay them with except a meagre income which came from public speaking and the decreasing sales of his books. Crowley could remember a time when he could have his books printed in tasteful, unique, editions for initiates only. Now, they were a commercial proposition to be sold like jars of mustard, and to an audience that could not even tell that they were being insulted in every word. And yet they still didn’t sell enough.
He sliced his toast into soldiers, each strip as thin as possible in order to prolong the meal. He picked up one, dipped it in the egg yolk once, twice, three times, timing his breathing to match the dunks, and took a bite. At least the egg was good, even if the bread was the cheap, nasty, stuff that was all that could be obtained at present.
Let the yolk settle on the tongue. Feel the sticky, viscous, texture. Taste the sulphurous yellow liquid, and then let it slide down the throat along with the bread before the taste of the bread reaches the tongue. Maximise the pleasure, minimise the discomfort. Treat it as a yogic practice.
He continued looking through the letters. Quite a mountain of post he’d collected today – if not an Everest, then at least a…no, best not think of that particular mountain. Some things were best forgotten, and into that category he put most of his correspondence as well.
One letter, however, did have something of interest about it. It was from Naval Intelligence, addressed to “Mr. Aleister Crowley”, and he thought about casting it aside then and there without reading further, given the British Government’s stubborn refusal to use his proper title. He relented, though, and decided to show the usurper’s lackeys the grace and magnanimity they so obviously refused him. He glanced through it, and saw they were asking for his assistance in the matter of Rudolf Hess.
He chuckled to himself. In the last war, half the press had been convinced he was a German spy, but now he was being asked to perform a similar task for the usurper’s Government. How times had changed.
Only a few years ago, the same newspapers that had called him “the wickedest man in England” had been printing headlines like “Hurrah for the Blackshirts!” and praising Herr Hitler’s wise governance. He wondered if, should the German invasion succeed, Rothermere’s papers would once again become the arse-licking lackeys of the German Führer. He suspected so.
Crowley had no great love for the Government headed by the supposed King, and the chaos and disruption caused by war were distractions from his meditative practices. He composed his reply bearing these factors, and others, in mind:
If it is true that Herr Hess is much influenced by astrology and Magick, my services might be of use to the Department, in case he should not be willing to do what you wish.
Col. J. F. C. Carter …, Thomas N. Driberg …, Karl J. Germer …, could testify to my status and reputation in these matters.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant Aleister Crowley.
After writing his response, he carefully burned the letter he had received, while chanting under his breath, before heading off to the post office.
This is an excerpt from my novel, Destroyer. If you like this chapter, please buy the book. It can be bought in hardback from Lulu. The Kindle and paperback editions are available from Amazon (UK) and (US). For non-Kindle ebook versions This Books2Read Universal Link will give you links for your preferred ebook retailer.