Forced Perspectives by Tim Powers
English | 2020 | Fantasy| ePUB | 2.8 MB
A BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF HAUNTED LOS ANGELES
Why did Cecil B. DeMille really bury the Pharaoh’s Palace set after he filmed The Ten Commandments in 1923?
Fugitives Sebastian Vickery and Ingrid Castine find themselves plunged into the supernatural secrets of Los Angeles—from Satanic indie movies of the ’60s, to the unqiet La Brea Tar Pits at midnight, to the haunted Sunken City off the coast of San Pedro . . . pursued by a Silicon Valley guru who is determined to incorporate their souls into the creation of a new and predatory World Go
“It was on the south wall of the Pharaoh’s city.”
The man had to speak loudly over the onshore wind, and in spite of the rushing veils of sand he had taken off his goggles to see the dunes more clearly in the twilight.
Apart from the shivering figures of his four hooded companions, one of them dutifully blowing into a smoking coffee can, the only features in the desolate landscape were the black rocks that stood up here and there like islands in the infinite rippled expanse of sand, and the fragments of broken plaster that littered the area all the way down to the surf line. The random arrangements of the rocks were no good as landmarks—for all he knew, they had shifted during the five years since he had last been here.
“Boundless and bare,” called Mrs. Haas, the High Priestess of the coven, “the lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Wystan fitted the goggles back over his eyes and shifted the bulky knapsack on his back to a more confortable position. His nearly-new 1925 Model T Ford pickup truck was stalled and stuck in the sand half a mile inland, and that was half a mile from the dirt track that led east to the new extension of Route 56 connecting Pismo Beach and Las Cruces. He wondered how he might find somebody in nearby Guadalupe with a truck and block and chains who would come out here at this hour. He didn’t need old women quoting Shelley at him.
The three other witches were talking among themselves, probably speculating that Wystan wasn’t a very effective High Priest, and that perhaps they didn’t need a High Priest at all—especially one who drank liquor, in blatant defiance of the Volstead Act. Mrs. Haas’ shiny new Model A sedan was parked way back there on the paved road, and the four old women had sat in the bed of his pickup for the last leg of the expedition until the truck had got stuck. They had all then walked the last half mile, with much grumbling.
“It’s unlikely we’re even in the right place,” said the witch holding the coffee can in her gloved hands. “One little movie set, out here in these miles of nothing?”
“Keep blowing on it,” said Wystan. Then, “It’s here—all these plaster fragments were part of it. It wasn’t a little movie set.” He waved around at the empty miles of dunes, and went on more loudly, “The Pharaoh’s city alone covered ten acres, and the walls were a hundred feet high! And DeMille built a whole city here, besides, with medical tents and kitchen tents—even a kosher kitchen!—for all the cast and crew, all 25,000 of us. Altogether the production covered twenty-four square miles! We took over the town—you’d see Egyptian chariots parked in front of the bars, and DeMille hired every local person and horse and steer for the crowd scenes.”
Wystan turned away from his tiresome companions, and he took the opportunity to pull his flask from an inside pocket of his overcoat. He quickly unscrewed the cap and swallowed two liberal mouthfuls of what his bootlegger swore was English gin, then twisted the cap back on and tucked the flask away.
The witch with the coffee can had resumed blowing into it; her face glowed with each puff, and smoke flickered away in the gathering darkness. The wind smelled strongly of the ocean.
“It was a fine movie,” allowed Mrs. Haas. “I never saw anything like when Moses parted the Red Sea.”