Great Balls Of Fire
July 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
As always, check this out at: johnmoyer.ca
I have discovered Arrested Development. My life is pretty much over for the next two weeks.
In other news, work proceeds as scheduled! So I hope you like story, because I haveheapingplatefuls for you (they’re kind of over-flowing, really).
XX Part Deux
“Bet it stings a little, don’t it?”
Patrick held a corner of Metatron’s robe to his ruined eye in a vain attempt to control something. The eye wasn’t bleeding, and even if it was, Patrick wasn’t in any danger of bleeding to death, but it still seemed like the right thing to do. Metatron wasn’t concerned and gamely allowed Patrick as much cloth as he liked. The robe he wore, after all, was for the benefit of people other than himself. Metatron certainly knew where he stood.
“Yes, yes it does.” His eye didn’t bother him at all. The only feeling that emanated from it was a painless prodding, as though someone mad but competent was messing about in there with prongs.
“Don’t judge him too harshly. It wasn’t always his way. The Gabriel I knew wouldn’t much like the Gabriel he’s now become, but I still retain a particular fondness for him.” Metatron’s voice was slowly regaining a greater vigour and clarity the longer he was outside the Garden. “He’s a good sort, just mighty confused.”
“You know, I hear what you’re saying, Metatron, but I’m inclined to disagree. I mean, maybe it’s the fact that he brainwashed my friends and I lost an eye because of it, but I’m feeling a little bitter.”
They walked through a spotless office building and Patrick’s head was still reeling. The transition had been rather jarring. The escalator had been everything he expected: that is, gold, marble, and Baroque carvings of naked angels covered every inch of exposed space. But once through the golden doors, the decor was a little more earthly. So earthly, in fact, that it resembled nothing more than the cubicle farm of any respectable accounting firm, from the buzz of the low-impact fluorescent lighting to the smell of toner and the quiet echo of desperation mixed with the buzz of slowly-dying dreams. The room was empty.
Empty, until Arngeir and Sævarr crashed through the drywall and barrelled through the cubicles. They were splattered with ink and toner, and covered in drywall dust almost an inch thick, looking all the world like very-confused anachronistic contractors.
Arngeir hooted happily when they saw Patrick, and they adjusted their path of rampage over to him.
“This blanket one of your folks, Captain?” Sævarr asked, sticking his face very close to Metatron’s.
“It’s good to see you again, Cap! Cor, what happened to your eye? That’s a nasty cut. You look like Broad Hat now! Huh…it suits you.” Arngeir’s eyes crinkled in a smile, the rest of his face invisible behind his chain mask.
“Did you find any of the others?” Sævarr asked as he used Metatron’s robe to some of the grim off his armour. The Voice of God didn’t seem to mind.
“Oh, and there’s about a hundred of those, uh, what did you call ’em…”
“Bloody sheep-fuckers, I think.”
“No! Not what you called ’em, what he called ’em…” Arngeir thumbed at Patrick.
“Angels, I think.”
“Yeah! Angels! There’s a whole bunch of them behind us. What do you want us to do?” Arngeir reported.
“Oh. That’s bad.” Said Patrick. “We should keep moving.” He started running.
“Right!” Said Arngeir, effortlessly keeping up with Patrick’s frantic pace. “Where to?”
Patrick thought. Now, distance doesn’t work like it does in the physical world, so it’s not a question of where Gabriel is. It’s all here in the same place. I just need to figure out how to get there. They ran past identical cubicles with identical posters of a robed and haloed kitten barely hanging onto a branch emblazoned with “hang in there!”. The offices, although empty and likely never used, still were designed to look as though they were. Half-empty coffee cups littered every third desk and sticky notes were scattered like freshly fallen snow.
Metatron commented as they walked. “Gabriel must have changed this in the past few decades. When I left, all I remember was stone benches and roaring fireplaces. I wonder when he decided that this place would look better if it resembled a den of soulless misery.”
“Just another of the crimes he’ll have to pay for.” Patrick muttered under his breath.
They ran, in no particular direction except away from the clanging of the angels behind them. Arngeir had been only partially correct. There wasn’t literally a “hundred” angels behind them. Rather, they could only make out one hundred angels from the throngs and throngs and throngs of angels that pursued them through the building. Arngeir, in one of his rare moments of wisdom, realized that Patrick, although a powerful wicca, was clearly not a warrior. Therefore, lacking the warrior’s indomitable spirit (a regrettable oversight on his god’s part), he probably would have wet his pants and started shrieking uncontrollably if he knew the actual odds against them. Arngeir, in a moment of remarkable cleverness, shaved down the number of angels approaching to a much more manageable “hundred”.
Well, “manageable” for him and Sævarr.
They barrelled down a blind corridor and slammed into a closed door. Patrick ripped it open to find a supply closet. It was filled, not with supplies, but with a cardboard cut-out of what a supply closet full of supplies ought to look like.
“Oh balls.” Said Patrick.
“Balls, indeed.” Metatron gravely concurred.
“Balls!” Chimed Arngeir and Sævarr. Male genitalia were hilarious to Vikings, just as hilarious as they would prove to be a thousand years later.
“Now what?” Patrick whined plaintively. The angelic chorus, legions, linebackers, bouncers, and all-around “nasty folks but not quite nasty enough for H-E-L-L” grew closer.
Sævarr ducked around the corner and quickly pulled his head back as three shining arrows embedded themselves into the wall at head-level. “They’re getting closer, Captain.”
“We’re trapped!” Patrick moaned.
Arngeir shared a certain look with Sævarr, and then shot out a hand with four fingers extended. Sævarr put out one.
“Damn it!” Shouted Arngeir.
“Damn it? You’re the fool! The first round is always “odds”, and then “evens”. You keep throwing four! It’s your loss, you block-headed spear sister!”
“Ain’t my fault four’s my lucky number!”
“Well, you lose. I’m staying behind.”
Arngeir’s upper lip quivered behind his mask. He hadn’t felt this moved since Ráðormr, his father, had presented him with his first maiden on his fifteenth birthday. “You give them everything, you hear me?”
Sævarr nodded, a tear threatening to leak out of the corner his eye. “I will, you arse-licking brother of a thrall. I’ll see you at the End.”
Patrick noticed them talking. “Wait, what are you talking about? What’s going on?”
Sævarr bowed to Patrick. “I still don’t really know who you are or what you’re doing, but you weren’t half-bad, for a wicca. Arngeir will see you safe know. I’ll take care of these arseholes.” He nodded to Metatron, and turned back towards the hallway, spear in hand.
Arngeir grabbed Patrick by the shoulder. “Let’s go now, Captain. Leave it to Sævarr.”
Patrick tried to shout something dramatic over Arngeir’s shoulder but words failed him. This was just like Phorcys: someone expressed loyalty for him that he didn’t understand or, at heart, deserve. He simply nodded and let Arngeir bulldoze him through the dry-wall, making a new path through the building.
“Thank you, Sævarr!” He shouted, at last, as he understood that the man wasn’t really doing it for him but was doing it anyways.
The einherjar, for his part, was lost in a world he understood: hacking and thrusting, and adding some angelic blood to the stains on his armour. For Sævarr, It was as good a way as any to die. Again.
The three remaining members of Patrick’s little band ran through the offices until Patrick threw up his hand. They skidded to a halt and looked at him.
“Isn’t it funny how we keep running and running but don’t actually make any headway?” He asked, suspicious.
“I wouldn’t say it’s particularly funny. I mean, the one about the fisherman’s wife and the porpoise, now that’s funny!” Arngeir chuckled to himself.
“But isn’t it strange? It’s like there’s no end, and no matter how far we run we’ll just keep running.”
“Well, that’s what life can feel like. Day after day where nothing gets done and everything is the same. All one sees is the same thing, over and over.” Metatron opined.
They looked out over the rows and rows of cubicles. It was the same, all completely the same. Even the little touches of character occurred at repeatable intervals, lending a depressing uniformity to the already soul-damping banality of the offices.
Patrick was on the verge of giving up. Physically, he was beginning to feel fatigue and his eye burned. Mentally, he was burnt out. Hadn’t it been enough yet? Who knew where Phorcys and Zizka were, and one of them was likely dead or dying. Add to that Sævarr, and by now possibly Hai, and Patrick was almost at a loss. How much more would have to be paid, just to get him what he wanted?
Hell, he was the only one that hadn’t lost anything.
And abruptly, he had the seed of a plan. It wasn’t much, but it was all he had to go on. He quickly counted cubicles and picked one, seemingly at random.
“We should hurry, Captain. I think Sævarr’s down for the count.” Arngeir said as a rumble grew in the background. He drummed his fingers on the pommel of his sword and threw glances behind him over his shoulder.
“This should only take a second.” Said Patrick. I hope, was unsaid, but certainly thought.
Patrick checked the cubicle and was relieved to see a small bonsai tree accompanied by a tiny, battery-powered bubbling brook. It wasn’t much, and certainly not what he thought it would be, but it would have to do.
Reaching up to his ruined eye, which was slowly beginning to heal, he briefly thought of everything he hadn’t given for everything he’d earned up to that point. This was only a token effort but, he supposed, he had to start somewhere.
“Uh…hi.” He said.
“Hello?” He tried again. The cubicle stayed stone-silent. Patrick looked to the others for support, but Arngeir looked at him like he was mad. Metatron, for its part, tapped the side of its head, and Patrick understood.
Hello. He thought.
The bonsai shivered, its leaves rustling like they were caught in a breeze. What do you want?
I, um, would like to figure out how to get out of here. Find out how to find Gabriel, maybe? Patrick asked the tiny tree.
Oh really? That’s how this little play was supposed to go? You just come up to the first bod you find and start asking it weird questions? I’m a tree, you dumb-ass. Do I look like I know where things are?
I’ve been looking, Patrick replied, and it hasn’t gotten me anywhere. And you and I both know you’re as much a tree as I am.
The bonsai went quiet. It’s leaves drooped, a little sullen now.
It’ll cost you. It finally said.
If your eye causeth you to sin…tear it out. The bonsai shivered again, this time in anticipation.
No way! The tree said nothing. What the hell do you want with my eye? Patrick asked, startled.
I don’t care about the eye, it’s the knowledge that costs. It always costs. I heard you, on your way over. You haven’t paid a damn thing so far. That’s not justice, and if there’s justice anywhere, it’s here. You gotta give something back in return, if only to do their sacrifice justice. And besides, it added, you’re not really using it, are you?
Patrick reflexively protected his ruined eye. But I like my eye!
And I like keeping secrets. Suit yourself.
The truth weighed heavily on Patrick. He really didn’t want to pry his eye out of his face, but the more he thought about it, the more it made sense. He’d gotten a free ride up to this point. People had either volunteered or been forced to help him, and not only was he likely to fail, he’d screwed all of them over in the process.
He had a chance to make it right now, and all it would cost him would be one ruined eye.
I guess it’s a small price to pay. He thought. It was not, but he would not learn that for some time.
His fingers closed around his eye and with a disturbing pop, it came loose in his hand. It was too clean to be natural. It didn’t even hurt. It nevertheless rendered him half-blind and set his stomach churning. Patrick summoned enough will to drop it into what little water flowed through the brook and tried not to vomit. He closed his remaining eye.
There, he thought, I’ve given it all up. I’m serious now. If I have to pay my own way to find Gabriel, I will. I don’t know who’s listening, and I don’t care. I’m finding him, and that’s that.
An elevator pinged, and Patrick opened his eye and found himself in front of a quiet bank of old-fashioned elevators with double-doors and brass carriages. The bonsai had disappeared. Its job was done.
Arngeir whistled, impressed, but it came out as more of a raspberry. Metatron clapped its hands together like a schoolgirl.
“Oh good! We’re going to see the Council!” It hurried into the nearest lift which opened to accommodate him.
Patrick stepped after him and turned at Arngeir’s cough. “Uh, I think I’ll stay behind, Captain.” Arngeir was doing his best not to meet Patrick’s eye. “I think I hear some more of those angels coming, and you might need someone to watch your back. I should…yeah, I should stay behind. You can tell me not to, if you want…” His voice trailed off.
“Yeah, you’re right.” Patrick realized what the man was asking. Arngeir wasn’t going any further with him, and who was he to tell Arngeir no? “Who knows, eh? Say thanks from me if you see him.”
Arngeir nodded, and turned away as his voice began to quiver. “You get on now. I have some dying to be about.”
Patrick stepped into the elevator, unaccountably sad. It wasn’t as though he had known them long, and they certainly weren’t the sort of people he normally made friends with, but their leaving still struck him. The thought of making Gabriel own up for everything couldn’t even help him feel better.
“Pop-” Asked Metatron, before Patrick knocked its hand away in fury, spilling the frozen treat on the ground.
“-sicle?” Finished Metatron, who quickly retracted the other hand. It took the other half of the banana popsicle for itself. It was hardly Metatron’s fault if Patrick didn’t like banana.