From Lands Far Away

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Don’t forget: you can also read this at my new site: http://www.johnmoyer.ca

 

Although reading short story collections can be difficult, but I’m enjoying Fragile Things immensely. It’s wonderful and magical, but collections need time to get into. Because there’s no on-going story, I found it hard to get interested at first. The first two stories are great, but they end. I don’t usually read short fiction, but this has been a good experience for me.

Just a little teaser for you: yes, I have finished The Legend of Korra and yes, I have watched the new endings for Mass Effect 3, and yes, I have things to say about both of them. I won’t get into them here because of space, but it’s coming this week.

Like I said, I have much to say on this issue.

This week’s reading isn’t quite the whole chapter, but it’s enough that I can feel satisfied showing it to you. Unlike the last time I did this, this time the chapter isn’t finished but it isn’t broken. I can handle this. Enjoy!

XX.

“God damn it, Phorcys!”

The Phyrigian looked somewhat apologetic as his halberd missed Patrick by a hair, but obviously wasn’t affected enough to stop trying to kill him. “Sorry about this, Patrick. I don’t really wanna do this, y’know, but it just, it just feels right, eh? It’s like there’s a little voice inside me that’s telling me to do this, so I gotta. I guess?”

Zizka just grunted as he stabbed with the spearhead of his halberd. Patrick spun aside, barely feeling the touch of steel as it sliced open his side. He didn’t have much choice. His friends, who now were under Gabriel’s influence and trying their best to kill him, were able to herd him around the narrow platform with ease. If he stopped moving, one or both of them could use their long halberds to either spit him like a kebab, or force him over the edge for a fall. While he might survive the fall, Patrick could see dozens of angels moving through the building. He didn’t fancy his chances against that many. Two was enough for now, thank you very much.

“You too, Jan?” Patrick pleaded with his friend.

“I do not have a choice in this, friend Patrick. I can only do what the Archangel has commanded me. I…am a good Christian. I must do this.”

There was a note of desperation in Zizka’s voice that Patrick acutely picked up on. Like a drowning man clutching to the wreckage of his ship, Patrick grabbed for anything that would keep him afloat.

“Are you trying to convince us, Jan? Or is this about God not being here? I’ve been talking, Jan, and I don’t think Gabe’s all he says he is!”

Patrick dipped below Phorcys’ next attempt to give him a haircut.

“Cor! Good dodge! But don’t go it again, my arms are getting tired!” Phorcys laughed.

Zizka, although he didn’t pause in his attack, took the bait. “What do you mean by that, Patrick? Is he not the Archangel Gabriel, appointed by God as His messenger? The very same angel that heralded the virgin birth to the Blessed Mother?”

Patrick had no clue, but realized that admitting that right now was a terrible idea. “I met with the Voice of God on the roof! Gabriel had trapped him there for thousands of years, just so he could take control of Heaven by himself! He’s gone mad, and thinks he’s God!”

“I don’t know, Patty, that sounds a little weak. Just invented that now, did ya?” Phorcys took a little break and let Zizka do the work of herding Patrick off the edge. Patrick could feel himself slowing down and knew that if he didn’t stop one of them soon, he was done for.

“No! I swear it! Look! He’s right there!”

Patrick pointed behind them at Metatron, who had come back to the platform to watch. It waved to Patrick, and to his shock, pulled out a bag of popcorn and shovelled it into the blank space that was its face. One gloved hand gave Patrick a thumb’s up as kernels of popcorn disappeared into an invisible mouth.

“Howdy, Patrick! Not dead yet, I see! Keep it up!”

“There! There!” Patrick’s voice cracked with desperation. “Ask him!”

Phorcys took of his helmet and looked at the Voice with skepticism.

“I dunno, Patty, this guy is supposed to be the voice of this God fella?”

“Uh, not “voice”. The Voice.” Metatron corrected him, and although it lacked a mouth, its voice was jumbled as though it was speaking through a mouthful of popcorn.

“Alright, fine. Is Patty here right then? Did Gabe really lock you up?”

“Yep! Went kind of daft while it happened, too. Being out of the loop for a long time makes you loopy. Get it? Loop, loopy?” Metatron chuckled and shovelled more popcorn down. “By the Throne, I missed this stuff. You lot didn’t know what you missed being born in a place without corn. It’s fabulous!”

“Well, fair enough, but that doesn’t really prove anything, eh? I mean, I’m looking pretty important now, with the gold and all, and if I wanted to I could pretend to be the Voice and all.”

Zizka ducked too fast for Patrick to follow and drove his spear-head deep into Patrick’s shoulder. Patrick’s arm went dead and limp, and shock knocked him to his knees. Zizka twisted his haft and drove it deeper.

Patrick cried out in pain and screamed at Metatron.

“Use it! Please! Show them!”

“But I’m eating!” Metatron whined.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE!”

Metatron, although he lacked a physical body, still made a passable attempt at a sigh. “Fine, mister “I’m -getting-stabbed-and-need-Metatron’s-help”.

Zizka pulled out the halberd and stepped in to knock Patrick’s head clean off his shoulders, while Patrick could only watch himself about to die. Again. Phorcys was trying to look at Patrick and Metatron at the same time and was backing up to get a better view when Metatron used the Voice.

Patrick, who was not the most erudite of theologians, nevertheless had briefly wondered at the theological implications of Metatron’s existence. Was it (Patrick needed to fight the urge to think “he”. Not only was Metatron beyond gender, it very clearly lacked sexual characteristics of any kind) the actual voice of God, or did it just speak for God? And if God is, assuming here, all-powerful, then why would He need any sort of Voice at all?

These questions, however pressing at the second before Patrick was to be killed, were obliterated by the Voice.

Stop.” Said Metatron.

And Heaven stopped.

Zizka’s halberd hovered in the air a few inches from Patrick’s neck held stock-still as though he was trapped in amber. Phorcys was caught in mid-laugh and his golden form was trapped in the ghost of a belly-laugh. Patrick found himself on his knees looking up at Zizka’s shining halberd. He was aware, but completely unable to move.

“You can roll your eyes around, if you’d like. But only you. These two can stay stopped for a bit longer.” Said Metatron, its voice returned to its old nonchalance.

“What did you do?” Patrick tried to say, but his mouth was stuck open in the shape of his last scream. He was, however, perfectly able to think it and somehow, Metatron picked up on that.

“I used the Voice, like you asked me to. This seemed to be the best thing to say, but it just popped into my head, really. You know, it’s funny how that works. Sometimes I know what words I’m going to say, but sometimes, pop! They just show up and I’m half-way through them before I even know I’m talking!”

Incredible. Patrick thought, injecting as much sarcasm as he could into his inner voice. Just incredible.

“Don’t be petulant, now.” Metatron strolled over, trailing kernels on the ground as he walked. “I just saved your life, at your request, might I add.” It stuck its face close to Zizka, trying to peer into the visor of his helmet. “Yep, Gabriel’s fingers go deep into these two. They’ll do whatever he wants, even if it kills them. That’s awkward.”

Is there anything I can do to help them?

Metatron rapped a knuckle on Zizka’s helmet. “Not much, I’m afraid. There isn’t much you can do to help, because it’s not a problem you can fix. They’ve got to see through what he’s doing to them or else he’ll never let them go.”

Patrick’s heart sank, but Metatron came and clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry too much, eh? Now look,” it dropped into a crouch and whispered conspiratorially to Patrick, “I owe you a favour for getting me out of the Garden. I don’t like being in debt, and while I could argue telling you this counts, that would be a bit cheap of me. So listen, here’s what I’ll do. When I let you all go, I’ll use the Voice and tell them to follow you. Voice trumps Gabriel’s little mind-tricks. Sound good?”

The idea was awfully tempting to Patrick. He had no idea what was waiting for him beyond those golden doors, and having Phorcys and Zizka with him would make whatever was waiting for him think twice.

But the temptation passed quickly. He could, certainly, but that would make him just like Gabriel, forcing people to obey him just because he could do it. Patrick had asked them to come with him, and it was his fault they were caught like this. He had to go and make things better, not just order them so.

He had to buck up, man up, and fix his own problems. If God wasn’t going to save them, then, dammit, Patrick was going to.

“No.” Patrick was surprised to hear his own voice. Suddenly, he was allowed to speak again. “No, Metatron. I appreciate the offer, but that would make me just as bad as Gabriel. I came here to, well, I came here to find my wife, but once I figured out what he was doing, I couldn’t allow that anymore. He’s lying to people, controlling and manipulating them, and he wants to destroy one of my friends just because she was trying to help me. I’m not anything like him, and I’m not going to be anything like that. Let them go, please. They were only trying to help me, and they don’t deserve me doing that to them.”

Metatron shrugged. “Suit yourself.” It clapped Patrick on the shoulder again. “I’m not the sort of person that tests other people, but if I was, I’d say you passed. Might want to duck, though.”

Patrick did not have enough time to duck. He pulled his head back to avoid Zizka’s strike, but not nearly fast enough. The spear-tip, which passed through Metatron like he wasn’t even there, sliced his temple and across his face. It wasn’t a deep cut, but Patrick felt and saw his eye split in two. For a second, just as the tip sliced across his eye, he could see everything duplicated and two spears were cutting his face. But only a second, because then his eye burst, and blood and thick ocular fluid streamed down his face as his left side went dark.

He fell back, clasping his ruined eye and swearing at the pain that burst through his head and only dimly aware Zizka was stabbing down, trying to pin Patrick to the floor. Survival instinct, still strong in his soul, kicked in and he tried to roll away even though he knew he could never move fast enough.

Patrick didn’t have to. With an almighty clang, Phorcys knocked Zizka’s halberd aside and sent the big man stumbling. Rolling over, Patrick looked up with his good eye as the Phrygian forced the Bohemian back, expertly stabbing and parrying Zizka’s counter-attacks.

“Phorcys! What are you doing?” Patrick asked through the pain in his face.

“What does it look like, y’idiot? I’m saving your life! Now get out of here! I’m good, but once Zizka gets his feet back under him, I’m dead. Again. Go on! Go save Hai and get your wife back!” Phorcys was laughing wildly and there was a made gleam in his eye, but even Patrick could see that Zizka was regaining his composure. Very soon, Phorcys would be on the defense.

“But…how!” Metatron helped Patrick to his feet. The shock of losing his eye was already fading, but his feet didn’t want to listen to him. They felt like they were on ball bearings, slipping left and right when he tried to walk away. Metatron pulled a handkerchief out of…somewhere, and held it against Patrick’s eye, more or less forcing him towards the golden doors.

“How? Easy! I wasn’t really listening to that Gabe fella when he was talking to me. Just blah blah blah, “obey me”, and “you must do this”. I was just going along for the ride! It was fun, but I guess Zizka fell for it. I like ya both, but I don’t wanna see you get sliced up by him. Besides,” he smiled again, and Patrick could imagine with horror what it would have been like in the melee outside of the walls of Troy, “I’ve always wanted to see how good Zizka is. Not being able to die takes some of the fun out of it!”

Zizka’s halberd slid down the haft of Phorcys’ weapon and the Phyrigian’s left hand broke with an audible crack. He grimaced but ignored the pain and expertly redirected his blow to slam into Zizka’s greave, staggering the man and smashing the armour into pieces. Phorcys stepped back and yelled over his shoulder.

“Go on, you damn fool! Get outta here!”

Metatron concurred. “The boy’s right. Left, then right, left, good! Let’s go!”

Patrick’s mind was rebelling against him. It wasn’t prepared for having only one eye, and the remnants of shock stopped him from fighting against Metatron’s lead. He could do nothing as the Voice practically carried him through the now-closing golden doors.

“Phorcys! I’m sorry!” Patrick yelled. “Zizka, I’ll get help! Try not to kill Phorcys!”

If they heard him, neither responded. They were where they were supposed to be: two warriors, separated by time but almost perfectly matched in skill, now fighting in a perfect expression of martial power. It was beautiful, in its own way, but it was sacred, and not for the eyes of those not able to appreciate it. Patrick looked away as the golden doors closed, locking his friends away. Perhaps forever.

Metatron offered what solace he could. “Popcorn?”

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