Why, Why Would You Think That…
April 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
I have anything new to post today?
Well, that’s not entirely true. I went back and re-edited the ending to the post from last week. Yes, I know that’s not much for a whole week (not to mention that I kind of said I would finish it before today), but I’m still busy with settling in and bustling around my store. Because yes, it is my store. Oh, and I still do not have internet. C’est la vie.
In any case, have a re-edited and altered ending to the chapter that I put up last week. There’s a bit of overlap, so I pushed it back to a reasonable starting point. Enjoy!
“I am Gabriel, Archangel of the Highest Order of Heaven, Messenger of God, and currently the CFO of Heaven. I could not help but overhear that you were looking for, how shall I put it, “he who determines admissions?” Well, of course I couldn’t help but overhear you. I know everything that happens in this building. Every. Thing.” He burst into high-pitched screeching laughter like water from an over-pressured tap that was abruptly cut off. The smile remained. It was unclear to the group whether Gabriel’s mouth had moved or not.
“Come with me. I’ll show you to him. Hai, would you please lead the way? I want to speak with Patrick.”
Hai, with a look of pure murder on her beautiful face (an expression that so pained Patrick he wanted to reach out and take her into his arms and comfort her), flew ahead of the group and grumbled to herself. Gabriel put his doll-like arm around Patrick’s shoulder, which was awkward for the both of them. For Gabriel, because he was at least a foot shorter than Patrick, and for Patrick, because the archangel’s arm felt like cold plastic with fluid pumping in it.
“Now, I don’t know what you’ve heard about our little operation here, Mr. Flanagan, but I assure you that everything is on the up and up. And up we go!” The tiles they were walking across suddenly detached from the floor and shot up into the sky. Hai continued walking forward despite their break-neck vertical ascent, and wherever she was about to step tiles flew up to receive her foot. The platform slowly disintegrated behind the group as they walked, meaning that Arngeir and Sævarr were jostling each other forward and acutely felt the collapsing tiles with the soles of their feet.
“You see, you may have heard ridiculous things, such as the fact that God has disappeared, or that there exists the attempt to create an alternate paradise for those souls that did not profess the One True Faith. Those suggestions are patently ridiculous.” Gabriel strolled in what Patrick assumed was nonchalance, except it looked more like a Barbie doll having a seizure. The archangel even tried to do air quotes, but it failed when his fingers got stuck halfway down and pointed out a perpendicular angle.
“These things you have heard, they are untrue. Falsehoods. Lies.”
“People can tell lies in Heaven?” Patrick asked, partially bewildered. What with the floor and the moving and the lecture from the walking Gabriel action figure (“Now fully poseable!”), he was having trouble keeping up.
“No, not people. Angels. And that would make an angel into a sinner, and I know you know what happens to angels who sin, Patrick.”
“Something about eternal fire and damnation?”
“You got it, partner.”
“But what did she lie about? I don’t get it.” Patrick didn’t get it. This was nothing knew, but he felt like verbalizing it.
“God is not gone. God is here, and we are doing His work. His council of Angels run Heaven now, for Him. We are,” his voice dropped to a whisper, “as good as”, and back to a stentorian squeal “God.”
Hai suddenly froze in the air and her limbs snapped out like she was the Vitruvian man. The force that had grabbed her spun her around and a look of terror was carved into her face. Her lips quivered and tears poured down her face.
“They made me lie to you Patrick. I…I didn’t want to, Patrick. I didn’t want to do any of this, but this is how they made me. Please…believe me!”
“Believe you? Why would he believe you! You’re a liar! A liar! Heaven is no place for liars!” Gabriel shouted at her in a voice of venom and fire. Hai flinched back from his words and Patrick was shocked to see cuts appear appear on her face with every shouted syllable. Blood ran down her face and mingled with the tears. Chestnut-brown feathers were torn from her wings and she opened her mouth to scream. No sound came out, however, as something gagged her from the inside. Her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell limp.
“Hey! What the Hell do you think you’re doing? Stop it! Let her go!”
Patrick tried to grab onto Gabriel, but a wave of force slammed into him and knocked him to the ground. His mind, which still thought in terms of causality (and, incidentally, good and evil), registered that this should cause him immense physical pain. It did.
He rolled, gasping, and tried to catch his metaphysical breath. Zizka shouted and rushed at Gabriel with Phorcys a step behind him, only for both of them to be blown off the platform with another wave of force.
Although this only took a second, it is important to remember:
A second is a very long time.
Sævarr drove low and, rolling his arm over his shoulder, drove his spear through Gabriel’s body. Arngeir, not to be outdone, brought his sword crashing down on the archangel’s head, splitting it in two and flicking one of the halves off the edge. He turned the swing into a backpedal and planted his shield in front of Patrick, while Sævarr pulled his spear out of Gabriel’s body and menaced the archangel with the blade. They worked as one perfect team, with each motion expected, guessed, and acted upon by the other. It was like watching two musicians play the duet they had played together a million times before. It was beautiful.
It was also pointless. Gabriel chuckled in his fire hose way and turned his smiling half-face on the vikings.
“I knew you too would be trouble. Odin was getting too big for his boots even before we put him in charge. He’s going to pay for this one, yes he is. Yes he is! He can’t help you here, einherjar. You’re mine, now.”
“No,” said Arngeir in his deep burr of a voice, “we are Óðinn’s. And we are our own men.”
Sævarr kept his spear tip dancing in front of Gabriel. “And we are his,” he gestured towards Patrick, “but never yours, demon.”
Gabriel’s eye went wide and the angel’s ruined body went stock still. “Demon?” His whole body quivered like a plucked string. “I will forgive you. We ought to forgive the sins that others inflict upon us. I forgive. Seven times seven times I forgive.” His voice turned beatific and he looked to the ceiling. Light streamed through a stained-glass window depicting St. Michael vanquishing the dragon.
“But you forgot to say that you belong to God. And He is a jealous God. You are His, as I am, and I do His work. And I, I do so love to do that work.”
Gabriel snapped his fingers and the platform on which the vikings stood collapsed. They dropped instantly and were lost to sight. That left just Patrick, Hai, and the maimed Gabriel on the platform, which was still rising at incredible speeds. He touched a finger to his ruined face.
“Ow. That should not have hurt. It should not have done anything to me. This must be rectified, but not yet. You, Patrick, must understand.”
“What don’t I understand?” Patrick managed to gasp out. “It seems pretty clear. The cat’s, I mean Cat, is away, and you decided to make yourself Head Mouse. So God’s gone, no-one’s in charge, and you didn’t think to tell everyone who lives here. What else are you hiding from them, Gabriel?”
“Hiding? I hide nothing because there is nothing to hide. God has not left. He cannot leave. He is immanent in all places and all times. There is no-where He is not, even when He is not.” He leaned down and stuck his ruined face into Patrick’s. The single eye goggled at him. It rolled and spun without focusing on anything, and Patrick retched at the smell of spilled brain and angelic fluid.
“But He created us to administer to Heaven, and administer we shall. We must, as it were, keep the pax dei. All as God Wills, you understand. Deus vult.”
“Isn’t that what your crusaders said just before slaughtering a city full of Muslims?”
Gabriel’s eye suddenly ceased rolling and focused on Patrick. “Just as I said. But you have been busy, Patrick, and you have learned things you ought not have. But I forgive you. God forgives you. Seven thousand times seven thousand times we forgive you. You have been lied to, and the liar shall be punished. But soon, we will all sing together in the glory of God. Would you like that? Would you like that, Patrick?”
“What…” his breath failed him for a moment, “what are you going to do with Hai?”
“She has failed in her design. It was faulty. We shall have to scrap it and go with a new one.” It was said so matter-of-factly, so patiently that it was clear Gabriel considered Hai nothing more than a tool to be used. That was unacceptable to Patrick. True, he had only known her for a little while, but this was Heaven. He had known her for what was practically an eternity. It may very well have been. And however short that eternity may have been, he liked her.
That thought blossomed into a full blown fire inside Patrick’s mind. Maybe a little more than he ought to, but he liked her, God-dammit. And after the fiasco with his comic collection in his second year of University, it is know that one didn’t throw away things that Patrick O’Flanagan liked without consulting with him first!
“You…you…I won’t let you do that. You son of a bitch.”
Gabriel sniffed. “I am no-one’s son. I am Gabriel. And your concern for her is misplaced. She had been manipulating you from the start. You proved more resistant to her charms than anticipated, and her failure started a chain of events that ultimately led you here. If she had succeeded, you would have never seen me, and if she failed, you coming here was inevitable. We are Legion, Patrick, and we are Eternal. There is nothing we cannot see and nothing we cannot plan for. And now that we have you back here, we may restart the process, and this time, with a more suitable model. There will be no failure, and if there is, then we will be having this conversation again soon. Except likely without the einherjar, they are going to have to be removed. It is a pity, but as I said, Odin is becoming too troublesome. It would be best to scrap his model and try again.”
Patrick managed to stumble to his feet. This was too much. About five sentences into Gabriel’s speech was too much, but this now crossed a line that Patrick didn’t even know he had drawn inside him. Treating Hai, what he would have called a (not technically) living, breathing person like garbage, manipulating him to go along some pre-programmed path, and planning to eliminate some people for protecting him? Patrick didn’t know where the line was, and figured it was a little further back than a decent man’s line ought to be drawn, but Gabriel had stepped well over that. The striped-shirt referee of Patrick’s conscious was calling foul on Gabriel.
“I’m not going to let you do that.” He spat out blood, even though his soul didn’t have any, just because it looked cool.
Gabriel laughed again, screeching like an owl. “How in the name of God are you going to stop me? There’s nothing to stop. I am not a person, I am a force that will do whatever it takes to see the Word of God followed.” His eyeball began swelling and pressing out matter from the top of his head.
The next second was very strange to Patrick. First, he noticed that Gabriel winced when his eye began to swell. It was a brief flash of pain written across his face, but it was definitely there. He didn’t understand the significance of this, but let it slide.
Second, he noticed that the world exploded.
There was a crash and a flaming, spinning thing smashed through the window. Gabriel screeched, a horrible nails-on-chalkboard screech that paralysed Patrick, and disappeared. So too, did Hai.
Unfortunately, so too did the platform. Patrick began to tumble through the air, but the ground was so far below him that it looked like he was falling into a black pit. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he saw that it was, indeed, a enormous black pit. He wondered what had happened to the office building, but then stopped caring as his animal brain took over and began screaming.
“YOU MUST FIGHT THIS, MORTAL.”
The flaming thing flew in front of Patrick, so fast that it looked like it was hovering in front of him. They were moving with such speed that Patrick would have thought he was hovering, except for the howling wind in his ears.
He looked at the thing falling with him and nearly choked. It was two giant, flaming wheels, each with the diameter the length of a car, rotating one inside the other. Huge, unblinking and disturbingly human eyes lined the outside of the two wheels, and they were also surrounded with a nimbus of fire. Oh, and it spoke.
“YOU MUST FIGHT THIS, MORTAL.”
“Fight what?” He screamed back at the monster, for lack of a better term, as the darkness reached up to claim him.
“FIGHT YOUR FEAR. FIGHT THE FALSE ARCHANGELS. FIGHT FOR BOTH OF YOUR ANGELS. FIGHT THE COMING OF THE END TIME. YOU ARE NEEDED. THE BROAD HAT SPOKE TO US, AND WE HAVE COME. DO NOT BE AFRAID.”
“What are you talking about! How am I not supposed to be afraid! I’m falling, forever! I’ve been falling since I got here, and I’m going to be falling until everything comes to ruin now! And if I get out of this, then that damn Gabriel is just going to throw me down here again! How am I supposed to fight?”
“BE NOT AFRAID.”
“OH FOR THE LOVE OF…PATRICK! NO FEAR-ING, REMEMBER?”
“Azrael? Is that you?” Patrick’s brain was running on autopilot, but it still caught the messages.
“I WAS GOING FOR SOMETHING A BIT MORE POWERFUL, BUT YES, IT’S ME. HOW ARE YOU?”
“This is what you look like?”
“I NEVER NOTICED. THE EYES LOOK OUTWARDS, REMEMBER?”
Patrick’s brain, even as it fell towards death, chided him for embarrassing himself. “Oh.”
“BUT WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE ANYWAYS?”
“Falling to my eternal death.”
“OH YES, ALMOST FORGOT. LISTEN, PATRICK. YOU CAN’T BE AFRAID.”
“How the bloody hell am I supposed to do that? He’s an all-powerful, immortal Archangel, and I’m just a guy in Heaven who has no idea what’s going on. What can I do?”
“I’M TELLING YOU! BE. NOT. AFRAID.”
“Fine! I’ll just shut up my damn brain and say “Hey, brain, you know how you evolved and were designed to be able to feel fear as a healthy, natural response? I need you to stop doing that. Now. Thanks!” Is that supposed to work?”
And Patrick thought.
Gee, this is dumb. I mean, I can hardly think for all the wailing that’s going on in here. Just noise and noise and noise, trying to figure out how the wind feels or what the impact would feel like or something else equally dumb. I can’t even control my damn thoughts! So yeah! How the hell is telling myself that “no, I won’t be scared anymore” supposed to work?
Obviously, there was no answer.
Fine. I’ll do it anyways. “Don’t be afraid, Patrick.” There. Stupid, huh? How is just telling myself something going to do anything?
Azrael’s voice filled his mind like a hammer fills the empty space as it hits a glass jar.
And Patrick no longer fell.