I blame the moon, of course.
She zeroed in on you, fattened and bored
and made you go quite mad.
Should you have noticed my recent bouts
of temper (although I am sure you did not,
insignificant as they were), forgiveness
would have been foremost on your mind.
But that bloated orb with her beams of
delusion had other ideas and I fear
she may have ruined you.
Then there was that earthquake
in that place. You remember the one?
Perhaps you don’t. Understandable really,
given its effect on your reason.
Say, wouldn’t it be some kind of bittersweet
irony if it was tearing down bridges and setting
them aflame at the same time as we… never mind.
I can tell you what it wasn’t: it wasn’t my doubt;
that could never have expressed itself to you
without my explicit awareness and consent.
It was the earthquake.
I have also heard that something was in trine
with something else. Jupiter perhaps.
Or was it Mercury? You know how these planets are.
It must have been on that day when I most assuredly
did not convice myself there was someone else
and that noise was not what was left of us
down a very steep hill and into a ditch. No, silly,
it was the planets trining. Or whatever you call it.
Your mother’s new hat cannot be entirely discounted
One never knows with previous ownership.
Not that we are the types to believe in curses
and bad energy and the like. But that hat
came into our lives at exactly the same time
as I most definitely did not make any kind of
drunken phonecall to any kind of ex because I wanted
someone to reassure me I could be loved when
you wouldn’t. How else to explain that argument?
It seems to me that cursed hats
are an overlooked threat.
Other factors must be considered:
The soup that may or may not have been out of date,
the birthmark on your hand or the freckle on my knee,
the Moroccan mint tea,
the something-or-other in Mongolia,
the bird that landed on my fence and looked at
or the fact that I love you so deeply and dreadfully
and desperately so that it wasn’t me
It wasn’t me.
It wasn’t me.
The day of The Fall was not accompanied, as one might expect, by ominous snarls of thunder and dramatic smashes of lightning. Nor were there any omens to signify the Coming; no sudden visions from otherwise ordinary people, no Wizard of Oz-type voices appearing from thin air. Of course, there were all the usual wars, murders and natural disasters which many tried, after the fact, to use as clear examples that we were Being Warned (cue incessant calls from certain quarters for us to “Repent!”, coupled with even more incessant denouncements of everything from sex before marriage to high heeled shoes), but as earthquakes had parted the Red Sea for Moses and war has been our favourite sport since the first caveman made a spear, these “examples” could be safely dismissed as the desperate ramblings of those whose lives had been so much better before there were answers with the potential to prove them wrong.
No, the day of The Fall went largely unnoticed by most, creeping so gradually into the collective consciousness that by the time people realised what was happening, it already had happened.
It had happened before, albeit on a much smaller scale. But that had been… well, a bit of a disaster, what with the giant hybrid babies and all.
Vague ripples of excitement, of newness had piqued her interest at the start when the first sightings of winged creatures with humanoid bodies were reported. But by the time Heat magazine had published pictures of Raphael picking his nose in Camden Market on their Spotted! pages, Nicole felt the magic was pretty much gone.
Besides, she had more pressing matters to concern herself with; a mere forty-six days remained until her thirtieth birthday and she, contrary to the vows made by the arrogant fifteen year old version of herself, had not travelled across America on a Harley Davidson, married LL Cool J, become a world famous something-or-other, or even purchased matching cutlery. Instead, she had found herself, fourteen years later, living in a rented bed-sit whilst working in a call centre. She had travelled – to Benidorm when she was twenty, and again to Amsterdam for the weekend when she was twenty-two - both excursions by plane, not hog. As for marriage, she had just finished with the only man who’d ever really loved her because she was bored. Apparently LL Cool J was taken.
A pitiful whine emitted from the bedroom, a child’s cry for help in an adult’s voice. Not that Michael had ever been a child. He set down his half finished bowl of wheat based E-numbers and followed the sound down the narrow hallway and into the room it was escaping from.
“Hey there Luce, ‘sup?”
The Morning Star was hunched with his back against Michael’s headboard, knees gathered tightly to his chest as though he were afraid they would run away from him if he let go, and wailing without in perfect monotonous pitch without pause (no tears though, angels can’t cry).
Lucifer looked up, his beautiful face shorn with agony.
“I can’t take it Michael, I cannot take it. They hate me. Everywhere I go they just spew hatred at me. Why can’t I make them understand?”
“C’mon mate, they’ve had a good couple of millennia to fire the fuel for this, you can’t expect to change their minds in a few months. Besides, not all of them hate you – what about that fan club that was set up by those kids in Denmark? Or the New Goth Society that made you their founding father? They don’t hate you, quite the opposite in fact.”
“I appreciate the effort here, Mikey boy, I really do, but you and I both know these people are crazy. And even if they weren’t, they still only like me for what they think I am, the real me is of no interest to them whatsoever.”
Michael felt an itching glimpse of something he should say, a fleeting shadowy thought of His will, His plan, but he couldn’t grasp anything tangible enough to warrant articulation. Acceptance had been fading daily since The Fall. Hence Lucifer’s current state.
“Maybe you need a change of scenery. Just let me finish my cereal and then we can go and make a Visit.”
“A Visit? You, dear Michael, may be able to partake in such pleasures, but I show up in someone’s living room unannounced and if I actually manage not to give somebody’s grandmother an aneurysm, then it’s the lynch mob for me – and as you well know, I’ve spent most of my time since I got here narrowly escaping those.”
“Yeah, but if you go with me it’ll be different. I can calm down the Visitee before they start phoning any of those hotlines.”
“0800 DIEBEAST? Oh, I just love them.”
Sarcasm was a new one to them, it had developed fairly quickly the more humans they came into contact with. Michael quite liked it. That and swearing – hearing it, not doing it; somehow his celestial lips couldn’t quite form the words. He could get as far as fffffffffu… but that was about it. Still, he greatly admired the way humans had taken the language they were Given and ladled giant steaming heaps of flavour upon it.
“I’ll take my sword just in case.”
The voice came from the darker of the two angels who were perched on the edge of Nicole’s bed-settee, wings peeping out from behind their shoulders. The blonde one looked nervous, the dark one was holding a sword. Nicole did not drop the can of hairspray.
“Oh, I see – I’m being Visited. Well, maybe the rest of the folk you lot do this to don’t have a problem with their homes being intruded by cosmic gatecrashers, but I bloody well do.”
The dark one spoke again.
“I don't care who you are, you can fuck right off.”
“What’s that on your top lip?” This time it was the blonde one who spoke.
Nicole reached her hand up to the offending spot and felt the stinky depilatory paste smeared there. Had it been six minutes yet? Damned angels.
“Yeah… er, excuse me for a minute.” Nicole nipped through to the bathroom and scrubbed ferociously at her face. No ‘tache, but it did look a bit red – although that could be down to the excessive scrubbing she’d just done. She marched back into the living room.
“Right, you two, out. Now.”
“Nicole, I’m Michael and my friend here is Lucifer.”
Lucifer waved and mouthed “hi” at her. Well, this put quite a spin on things.
“The Archangel Michael, closest to the Big Man and all that? Wow. And the Prince of Darkness no less. What the hell do you two want with me?”
“Well Nicole, I thought Luce here could use a little change of scenery and you were the person we were drawn to Visit. These things don’t really come with guidelines, it’s more a feeling, a pull towards a certain person, one that…”
As Michael went on attempting to explain an unexplainable process, Lucifer felt a toasty warmth settle in his solar plexus. This girl wasn’t afraid of him. Yes, she was unhappy at being Visited - there was none of the dropping to knees and offering praise be to God that the others said usually happened – but she was equally as annoyed with Michael as she was with him. Her face showed only irritation, no fear or repulsion. Lucifer had thought he would sit in silence once he got here (save for the accidental slipping out of the top lip question), but something about Nicole’s demeanour encouraged him to speak.
“Nicole, don’t you mind me being here? I mean, obviously you mind the Visit, but it doesn’t bother you that it’s me in particular?”
“Why, because you’re Satan? Give me some credit. You’re just doing your job, right? I get it.”
Lucifer bounced up from the bed-settee and grabbed Nicole.
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!” He kissed her repeatedly as he jumped up and down with her in his arms. Michael shook his head.
Nicole couldn’t help but think to herself that life may have just taken a fairly interesting turn. She had no idea.
A vicious chorus of Amens jangled like angry keys as the preacher smashed fist to pulpit repeatedly.
This scene was anywhere, everywhere. Church attendance since The Fall had risen to unprecedented levels; ministers and priests used to preaching to miniscule audiences - whose presences seemed to billow and sway precariously under the weight of drafty pews and dreary hymns, just waiting for the conclusive “Let us pray” that would carry them away on a heathen breeze forevermore – had suddenly found crowds that would have been worthy of two burly bouncers at the church doors queuing and jostling to get in. And not just on Sundays either, most churches had taken to offering weekday sermons in an attempt to reach as many of their new flock as possible. Wednesdays were set aside especially for the Flippers: those who had practised what were now so obviously false religions (said with just a smidgen of smugness) and had joined the fold. The millions who had chosen not to do this were going straight to Hell very soon anyway, and they had no-one to blame but themselves.
The sermons the world over had slight variations in tone and verbage, but the basic message was the same:
Jesus was coming and the Beast must die.
Lucifer took one look at the gas man standing gape-jawed before him and realised too late his mistake – which he belatedly tried to rectify by diving behind Michael, or more specifically, Michael’s sword. It was too late though. Far, far too late.
“I know who you are. You filthy, scummy…well, jist wait till I see aboot this.” The gas man’s face was a veiny palette of disgust. He pulled his mobile phone from the pocket of his greasy overalls and pressed 1 - DIEBEAST’s speed dial service. “Hello? Aye, I’ve got the Beast with me, we’re…”
What happened next would stay in Nicole’s memory as a chopped up series of snapshots, bitty but indelible in her cortex till the day she died:
Lucifer yelped. The gas man gasped. Nicole stared.
And Michael got angry.
Lucifer, being the only one of the assembled company to have previously experienced Michael’s wrath, instinctively stood back, tucking Nicole into the folds of his wings. The gas man barely had time to register his phone in smithereens before finding himself gripped round the throat and raised the eight inches off the floor it took for him to be staring directly into Michael’s fiery eyes. This is not a metaphor: the archangel’s eye sockets had literally morphed into pits of flames, spitting brilliant light and holy judgement directly into the gas man’s limpid gaze. Michael unleashed an Almighty roar as he raised his sword above the now sobbing and piss-soaked man.
And then there was light.
Nicole was unsure how long had passed before she was able to see again, but when the scribbled blurs in front of her began to morph into discernible shapes once more, the first thing to assault her retinas was the sight of the gas man folded like paper on the floor. At first she thought he was dead, but closer inspection revealed tiny twitches shuddering sporadically through his legs.
Michael looked down at the body on the carpet.
“Oh dear. I’d better get a hold of Raphael, he’ll set him right again.”
“Isn’t he in Guatemala healing those…lepers, was it?” Lucifer poked at the gas man with his big toe as he spoke, but was greeted with only more twitches in response.
“Nah, last I heard he’d gone to France to take in the sights. I’ll try him just now.” Michael pulled a mobile phone out of his pocket and began dialling.
“Wait a minute” Nicole interjected “don’t you guys communicate telepathically with each other?”
Michael stared at her.
“I’ve got free minutes.”
A couple of minutes of frantic conversation later, Michael hung up the phone and grabbed Nicole by the arm.
“Right, Raph’s on his way. We need to get out of here. Now.”
“What do you mean we?” Nicole wrenched her arm back. “It wasn’t me who put the poor guy in that state, and it’s not my fault that he decided to pay a Visit to me.” She pointed an accusatory finger in Lucifer's direction. “Besides, I’ve got work in the morning, I can’t just take off.”
Michael tried his hand at patient negotiation, disobeying every fibre of his celestial being as he did so. Where was Gabriel when you needed him?
“Nicole, this guy has just seen Luce and phoned the DIEBEAST hotline. Now he’s lying in a pool of his own urine, unconscious and quite possibly dying. These DIEBEAST guys don’t mess about, all of the people who phone them are traced and logged the second they dial – then it’s just a quick phone call to the gas company to find out where his last appointment was, and bingo, the lynch mob shows up here and we’re all screwed, you included. Now get dressed and be quick about it. Thank you.”
The threat of a lynch mob was enough. Nicole got dressed.
Raphael felt the life return to the gas man just as the sound of footsteps boomed from the hallway. He knew it was pointless to stay and attempt an explanation: Michael's holy wrath had nothing on human beings who’d decided to hate something enough to form a group in its honour.
“It didn’t have to be this way mate, it really didn’t.” Raphael sighed, checked one last time that his charge was back to full health, then left.
“David? David MacKenzie? You’re safe now, we’ve got you. But David, you must tell us, where did the Beast go?”
The bewildered gas man opened his eyes to find himself slumped against Nicole's living room wall with six strange faces peering at him. The Beast, Michael and the lassie with the odd socks on were gone.
“The Beast…he was here. Him and the angry one – and the girl, she must be with them. And it’s Davey.” Why he’d felt the need to add the last part was unclear even to him, but meeting Satan in the flesh then being attacked by one of his cohorts will do funny things to a guy. Not funny ha-ha mind you, not that at all. The crowd before him opened their mouths and released a sparrow-like warbling of excitement.
“Girl? There was a girl with them?”
“Yes, she must be the Beast’s Whore. Must be.”
“We need to find them. We need to know where they’ve gone.”
Unfortunately, Davey could not help them there.
“Milk? Sugar?” Lucifer was stirring a steaming mug of tea; he’d heard the natives couldn’t get enough of the stuff in times of adversity.
“Yes to both please, plenty of the latter. So, what now?”
“Well,” he said, handing her the mug “Michael's just off the phone to Raphael and it seems the gas man is going to be fine. The lynch mob arrived just as he was leaving though, so I suppose we should turn on the television and wait for a bulletin. The advantages of teleporting include no-one knowing I live here, so we should be safe for a little while. But you…ahh…may not get off too lightly.”
Nicole was about to ask what he meant by that when Michael switched the television on. Then she saw exactly what he meant by that.
“The Whore now walks among us, the Beast has found her and she is in league with his Dark Forces. This girl, this Whore, must be found and destroyed along with the Beast.” The balding puce-faced man on the screen held up a picture of Nicole and prodded at it as though it were evil personified – or rather, laminated.
“That’s my passport photo! How the hell did they get a hold of that, it’s only been a couple of hours? God, you’d think they could have at least picked a better picture.”
Michael and Lucifer stared at her, waiting for the other, more significant, penny to drop. It only took a couple of seconds.
“Whore? Whore! Who do they think they’re calling a whore?” Another second. “Oh shit. I’m in big trouble, aren't I?” Now she had it.
“Yes Nicole, you are. For now, nobody knows where Lucifer lives, but I wouldn’t imagine that’s going to last to long after this. We’ll need to find somewhere safer to hide, and since it seems as though I’m the only one to have escaped undetected from this whole mess, I should be the one…”
“Er, Mikey, I think you’d better take a look at this.” Lucifer pointed to the T.V set as the balding man on the screen turned an even pucier shade of puce.
“And Michael, he who is closest to the Lord, has betrayed his master and fallen under the Beast’s dark thrall. He did smite an agent of Jesus as he tried to warn us of Satan’s presence, leaving him for dead as he escaped with the Beast and his Whore. Only thanks to the quick thinking and compassionate workers of the DIEBEAST congregation is this beloved member of our flock alive. This is a sad, sad day people. Nobody can be trusted. Nobody!”
The mobs began forming even before the television broadcast was over. On each corner or the globe, and most of the spaces in between, people gathered together themselves, their weapons, and their indignant sense of righteousness and set about finding the Beast and his consorts. For all they knew, the Messiah could be amongst them already and there could be no chances taken in ensuring the Second Coming went smoothly. It was either that or face the uncertainty of the death that would come to all of them one day; a fear that had been the glue of religion since time immemorial.
On the other side were the minority: the supporters of the Beast. They too organised themselves, ignited the spark that lit up the underground networks dedicated to providing safety (and in some hopeful cases a platform) for the much maligned Lucifer. These networks had been in place since The Fall, and its members were just itching for the chance to be put to use.
Of course, there were also the vast numbers of people who couldn’t have cared less about the whole thing and wished everyone would just shut up about it. But those people never seem to get stories written about them, and this occasion is no different.
Nicole found herself standing in a room she thought was a far more fitting living space for the Prince of Darkness. The walls were painted blood red, black candles swarmed like rats on every available surface and there was a giant gold pentagram painted onto the parquet floors. Lucifer, however, looked distinctly unimpressed.
“I can’t believe they did that to the floor – do you have any idea how much flooring like this costs?” he hissed in Nicole's ear. Nicole shrugged. She still wasn’t too sure how she’d gotten here. One minute she’d been sitting on Lucifer's couch in Govan, the next Michael had grabbed her wrist and she’d found herself here. All Michael had offered by way of explanation was that they were in Denmark. Judging by the way the conversation was going, they wouldn’t be staying there for long.
“Yes, I understand that you are not ashamed to be supporters of Lucifer, and I’m sure I’m safe in speaking for Lucifer when I say he appreciates that.”
Lucifer responded with in indecipherable grunt and Nicole already recognised the sound of Michael trying to stay patient.
“It’s just that, did you have to be so, well, public about it? I see posters for your group everywhere, fliers too. We were told this would be a safe place, but frankly, it’s the first place anyone with even half a brain is going to look. I mean, if you go all out to advertise the fact that you’ll take Luce in at the first sight of trouble, who do you think the lynch mob will target first?”
The members of the I Love Satan fan club fidgeted but none of them seemed to have an answer. Truth be told, they’d just been having a laugh and whilst they may have convinced themselves that they were acting in earnest, none of them had really expected Satan to show up on their doorstep. Now that he was here, they weren’t really sure they wanted the hassle.
“C’mon,” said Michael, grabbing Nicole's wrist once more “we’re leaving.”
The nuns of the Blessed Virgin abbey lived a quiet, some may say dull, existence on the quite magnificent Mount Zion. They had no television, did not read newspapers or listen to the radio. Days consisted of prayer interspersed with work in the kitchen and garden and nights were quiet affairs; contemplation following prayer following bed. The Abbess was one Sister Bernadette, an elderly woman who may have been beautiful once, had she ever given it a thought, and whose calm exterior belied the sharp mind behind it.
She sometimes felt she was married more to paperwork than to God and was at that moment in the drudgerous process of adding her signature to the eternal pile of forms that seemed to appear each night as she slept. So pleased was she for an interruption that when she heard the hushed commotion in the hallway she gave a smile of relief and went to investigate immediately.
“Oh!” Sister Bernadette was greeted by the archangel Michael holding a rather bewildered looking young woman by the wrist.
“Sister, we apologise for the intrusion, but we have come to ask for your help.”
The sister, instead of listening to a word Michael was saying, had begun to prostrate herself vigorously before him.
“Sister, there really is no need for that.” Michael helped her to her feet. “We need to ask if we may stay here for a short while. It is a complicated matter, but we need the utmost privacy and ask, should you choose to offer your hospitality, that you tell no-one outside of the abbey that we are here. Do you think that would be possible?”
Well, of course it was possible, and it happened with Sister Bernadette offering praise be to God every step of the way. The only question she asked was:
“Is it just the two of you?”
Michael looked pained, and slightly purple, before replying “Yes, yes it is.”
Even Michael's request that he and Nicole be given adjoining rooms elicited only the merest of frowns and soon they found themselves with a little cot bed each and steaming bowls of soup laid out before them. Nicole waited for Sister Bernadette to leave then took her soup next door to Michael's room. The two of them had just finished the last drops (Michael licked the bowl) when Lucifer appeared.
“Is the coast clear?” he asked, smoothing down his somewhat ruffled feathers.
“Yes Luce, it is. Just as well really, or you’d just have landed us all in it.” Michael looked tetchy, but Nicole was learning that this seemed to be pretty much par for the course with him.
“Sorry Mikey, but I figured the safest place to hide while you guys sorted things in here was the desert. It was… strange out there. Anyway, this was a fantastic idea, nobody will ever think of looking for us here.”
“I bloody hope not,” said Nicole “it’s just occurred to me that out of the three of us, I’m the only human.”
“And your point is?”
“My point is, dear Michael, that these lynch mob guys are pretty heavy. You two don’t have a mortal life to fear for, but I do. I can’t teleport, I can’t fly, and last time I checked I wasn’t Buffy the sodding Vampire Slayer. Don’t look at me like that, it’s a TV show. You and Lucifer can be certain of going back upstairs should anything happen to you here, but can you guarantee the same for me? I mean, I’m not the whore the DIEBEAST guys say I am, but…”
“But you are a sinner?” offered Lucifer.
“Look mate, I’m not the one who’s just lied to a nun.” Michael blushed. “I’m just saying that I didn’t ask for this, but now that I’m here, I hope you’ll both look after me.”
“Of course we will Nicole. We promise.” Lucifer put his arm around her shoulder and gave her a little squeeze. Michael nodded in agreement.
“Promise. We’re in this together.”
The members of the I Love Satan fan club had just discovered that enduring tales about the likes of Oscar Schindler, Florence Nightingale, William Wallace et al were so enduring because of their rarity. The truth was, most human beings, when faced with a threat to their personal safety would, entirely without consideration or hesitation, totally shite it.
When the lynch mob had first arrived at their headquarters, any attempts to hide were soon realised to be belated ones and the Satanists who now wished they’d gone to church like their mothers had told them had surrendered immediately, singing like a veritable army of little yellow birds.
“So, they wouldn’t stay here because it was too obvious a choice?”
“I see. Well then, we shall just have to continue our searches in the less obvious places. Places people, we’re moving on!”
The last thing the members of the I Love Satan fan club were aware of was the smell of petrol.
Nicole had managed to smuggle some soup from the kitchen for Lucifer. She thought that as far as places went, this one wasn’t too bad. Ok, it was no five star hotel and the residents weren’t exactly a laugh a minute, but given the circumstances it would do nicely. It struck her that she was in Israel. And Denmark before that. If she was going to get lynched, then at least she’d finally gotten to do some travelling beforehand. She wondered if she could persuade her angelic companions to hide in St Barts for a couple of weeks. Or maybe Tahiti.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a young nun bursting through the door. Michael had, for obvious reasons, asked for the utmost privacy, but Sister Candida was so overcome with joy at the thought of a real, live archangel within those very walls that she could not stop herself for tearing through the halls and up the stairs to meet him.
“Oh, praise be, praise be! It is such…YOU!” Sister Candida fixed her gaze on the startled Lucifer. “We were given pictures of you. We were warned!” And at that she promptly fell into a dead faint on the rug beneath her (which was probably just as well given the look on Michael's face).
Michael made to reach for Nicole's wrist just as Lucifer held out a hand to stop him.
“No, Michael, enough running. I have to at least try to explain things to people. Maybe if I can reach even a few with the truth, it’ll be enough to call off the mob.”
Michael shook his head.
“Luce, have you lost your mind? If you go out there in public, the last thing anyone is going to do is listen to you. You know what they’re like once they’ve made up their minds – if they even suspect you of even thinking about saying something that could prove them wrong, they’ll kill you before you get a chance to form your first syllable. Besides, what about Nicole? This is hardly the way to keep her safe.”
“So, what, we just keep her running for the rest of her life? We have no idea how long we’re supposed to be here for – we could even be called home tomorrow. But Nicole won’t be forgotten about by this lot in hurry. We have to take some kind of action now Michael. I don’t see any other way about it.”
Nicole looked at Michael and sighed.
“He’s got a point, you know.”
Israel wasn’t exactly the world’s most popular tourist destination, but upon hearing that the Beast himself planned to give a speech atop Mount Zion, people flocked there in their thousands. Michael may have been right in assuming the mob would want to kill Lucifer before he spoke, but he hadn’t banked on that other ubiquitous human trait: curiosity.
Lucifer would be allowed to speak simply because people were desperate to hear what he had to say.
Of course, the lynch mob would be there in force for when he’d finished.
“Ladies and gentlemen, first of all I would like to thank you all for coming today, I know how hard this must be for some of you.” The silence was deafening. “I want to speak to you today about God’s will.” Even at that the crowd was still and stony. Lucifer felt the Acceptance flow through his eyes and flood every pore of his body. He nodded to Michael to see if he’d noticed it, but Michael was sniffing the air. He knew He was here, but was not feeling it as strongly as Lucifer. He did, however, feel calm – no mean feat for Michael. Both were overwhelmed with homesickness.
Lucifer was talking without so much as a glance at the carefully written script he had worked so hard on. The words were flooding out of him as though he were a vessel built for this very purpose. His voice was not even particularly loud; the audience were rooted like transfixed trees before him. Nobody even coughed.
Nicole, without even realising what she was doing, dropped to her knees. She wasn’t the only one.
Some of the crowd had tears streaming down their faces; the kind of tears that come without noise or effort or sadness. Still Lucifer spoke, never once raising his voice or banging his hand. He explained God’s will, tolerance, charity. He explained love. And the crowd - the majority of whom were raised on a diet of self-help books and daytime chat shows, who were so used to listening to whatever the accepted “wisdom” of the moment was – they heard. For the first time in their lives, they actually heard.
The lynch mob too stood and heard. Many of them were moved to the same silent tears that had overcome the rest of the audience. But they could not bring themselves to feel the peace that had descended upon everyone else. It nudged them gently, like a horse looking for an apple, asked for access in the sweetest of tones. But they refused. Everything they had believed in, everything that had been their reason for waking and their comfort during sleep had just been turned on its head and they were left floating in their own wrongness.
This would not do.
Politicians stood back, also nervously swatting away the peace that threatened to envelope them. They watched as here, here in Israel, people stood together in peace, in tolerance.
This would not do.
Lucifer finished talking.
The crowd bathed in the Glory.
The lynch mob screamed and charged.
The politicians did nothing.
The mob were on top of Lucifer before he had time to register what was happening. Michael instinctively reached for his sword, but something stopped him.
“Michael, don’t just stand there, do something! Help him!” Nicole was screaming, dirt and blood smeared across her face from where she had been kicked to the ground. Michael pushed through the angry mob (was there ever any other kind?) and wrapped her in his wings. She was sobbing uncontrollably, watching helplessly as Lucifer was set upon. They were hacking off his wings as he screamed. Michael stroked her hair.
“Shhh, Nicole, it’s okay. This is was He wants.”
“How could he want this? Look at what they’re doing to him Michael, look!”
“Not him, Nicole – Him. This is what He wants.” He cupped his hands over the top of her skull and applied gentle pressure. “See!” he commanded.
And Nicole saw. She stopped sobbing.
That the Beast should suffer in the same way as Jesus seemed fitting to the lynch mob. They murdered a tree for its wood, nailed it together so that there was one long vertical strip to hold the body, with one horizontal one across the top to take the arms.
And they nailed him to it in the midday sun as Nicole and Michael knelt before him and watched.
Lucifer Accepted his Fate, and cried out only once when the agony became unbearable. One of the mob standing guard heard his terrible howl and saw what they had done. But there could be no going back now. He grabbed a dagger from his pocket and swiftly stabbed Lucifer in the side, thus ending his pain.
Nicole and Michael gently lifted the body from the cross and carried it for what seemed like miles until they came to a cave. They wanted him away from the crowds, the mobs, the curious. They wanted him to rest in peace.
They laid his corpse out in the cave and then Michael pushed a moss covered rock in front of the entrance to keep any wildlife out.
Three days later, the body was gone.
The Church of Our Blessed Lady Nicole welcomed its fellow Lucians with open arms. Each of them wore a small gold cross on a chain around their necks. At the intersection of each cross was a small star. A morning star.
The minister, and myriad more the world over, stood in front of the congregation.
“Let us pray.”
I declare war.
Assemble the masses, let us rise
to heaven under cover of darkness,
rifles strapped to haggard backs,
grenades slung low round waists
There, comrade! Fire!
Do angels bleed when their father
lets them die?
If God is the God of the Bible,
I demand an audience.
Our army will burn through heaven,
making a deceiver of the God who promised
no suffering there.
Yes, we can create too.
And when the screaming angels
who have drawn their swords to us
so many times for infractions
their father created us to commit
I will reply:
“This is in the name of
The smashed tomb of my Christian
aunt, and the cancer that ate her womb,
the ripped hymen of the four year old, the gold
children dig for at gunpoint aching for water
that isn't there, the hair on my arms that stood
up when I heard the screams from my screen
of the newly homeless because wind and wave,
not sin, but wind and wave had slaughtered
their parents and this is also in the name of
the flesh eating parasite and of the blind
and the paralysed and the free will that
is not possible if God is the God of the Bible.
This is in the name of
the neutron, the atom, the proton,
the hydrogen and carbon that cobble
intricate being never seeing that they
leave no clue as to consciousness,
as to soul, that makes the whole of who we
are; of who the rapist is when he rapes, who
the thief is when he takes; the majesty
of the ocean and the horrors that feast on
tiny shoals who know no other purpose
to this life than to swim away, swim away!
Then die, chewed in the maw of that which
terrified them since birth. This is for mirth
that can only be known through the comparison
of sorrow and comfort that only shows its
sweet relief after fear. You hear me God?
You hear? Face your creation
and tell us it was no mistake. For this is in the name
of all that makes us ache and sob whether we
keep the faith or not.
Take your best shot, Father, take it now”.
And God shows Himself.
And there before him,
in spite of myself.
And I weep.
I weep the tears of a million lost souls,
knowing that all are mine.
I see what I can never comprehend
and I know why.
He reaches down to
clasp my face in His hands
and I gaze up at Him,
the tears and the snot and the salt
upon my lips
and I say
“But you knew, you bastard.
All along, you knew”.
I danced because they told me to.
The steps were clumsy; skirt-rustled trips,
Clouts of indiscretion and the mired hopelessness
That propelled them.
I danced because they told me to
And when I was done I stopped.
That’s a lie.
I danced because I wanted to
And sailed through stages and
I fought with Finn McCoul, fed fire
To masked Greeks. I bruised bone
And tore ligament,
Fell and fell and fell.
I told stories words could never tell,
Shot soldiers stage-left, loved princes stage-right.
They applauded every time.
Stood to clap.
I ate the air and savaged the norm,
Smiled and cried and bled.
Cardboard spires watched me leap
As him, her, him caught me.
I gave life to things that had no name,
Filled all that was empty inside
Just by moving.
I danced because I wanted to
And I stopped long before I was done.
Miss Princesscharmin got a call,
Her handsome Prince had had a fall.
From a witch he'd eaten food quite rotten
And landed right upon his bottom.
Our Princess set out on her quest,
Making sure she looked her best.
She was in a tizzy and a rather foul mood
How dare he eat another woman's food?
Battling dragons and fearsome creatures,
Stopping to apply touch ups to her features,
She found her Prince upon the floor
And kissed him once, and then once more.
He woke, quite startled and a little shaken
'My Princess! Let's get to some hot love-makin''
(I won't describe the very next part
in case it harms the weak of heart)
Now, I'd like to say they lived Happily Ever After,
Their lives fulfilled with joy and laughter,
But six months later our Miss had fits
When he left her for a Princess with bigger tits.
Maybe she was at peace,
dimension jumping in dreams,
grateful for the apple and the rest
from endless dishes and tiny stitches in tiny shirts.
Did our Prince stop to consider this?
Would he have if he'd known, could have bitten
into his own enchanted fruit and seen
the years spread out before him
like a wrinkled sky?
Most likely not.
As Snow White slumbered, free from
the tethers of insipid genres,
he kissed her.
What if that kiss had shown her, in
her heightened state, all that would be?
The entireness of it sandwiched between
one glimmer of lips to lips...
could it be that she was awakened
not by the kiss,
but by the horror?
But awake she did.
Perhaps the horror
was better than sleep.
Ah, you are not a fellow Wordeater I see,
so I do not know how best to explain this to you:
you who thinks only in the tangible world
of your own five senses.
You, who argues this did not happen "to me"
when I can assure you it did.
I was buried, ensconced.
snuggled on a bed of enchanted stars
as a tapestry already in existence
weaved itself anew over my hungry flesh.
The heavens engulfed me in a blanket of bliss
as the grasses below bent to the shape of my song
and even the angels fell silent to listen.
Peter came back
and Wendy was old.