"Done what?" The question was posed quietly, gently, without a rise of inflection to indicate surprise or to hint of curiosity-however slight. His words came out in a sigh. The Watcher knew what the woman meant.
"This! Taking up with a stranger. You know what I mean." She hesitated before adding, "You don't feel like a stranger though...”
The woman shrugged her shoulders and felt the back of her shirt stick against her skin in the moist summer heat. "No, not really." She was secretly pleased by the attention of the man who'd picked her out of the crowd at the foot of the pier; he'd taken her arm and whispered that she join him. Then he'd led her away from the noise and confusion, past the lights and the tightly packed tables clustered near the restaurant proper. The man was unusually tall and as she'd kept her head down as they threaded their way through the people moving along the boardwalk, she didn't get a good look at him. But his voice was kind and smooth and the woman was lonely, so she followed as he led her.
She took a last bite of salmon then pushed her plate away. "Thank you. That was very good. And I'll be glad to pay my share. I don't want you to think..."
With a long thin hand the Watcher stroked a scrap of linen meant as a napkin, then crumpled it in his fist and flung it atop his plate - a dish of Lobster Bisque laying untouched and ignored in front of him. He turned his head to watch the play of lights from the incoming fishing boats dance across the dark Atlantic waters. Then he sighed again, softly, and said, "Don't worry. I don't want anything from you. Just a sympathetic ear."
She looked at the man sitting across from her, wondering what would come next. The gloom hurt her eyes. He'd chosen to sit at the far end of the pier, the part that jutted out from the boardwalk and above the water - like a wooden finger pointing east, away from the bright warmth of the flambeaux burning gaily near the seafood restaurant. Resting in the center of their table was a chipped hobnail candle, a cheap concession to ambience, whose weak tiny flame provided little in the way of light. Positioned as the man was - with his back to the torches, with the moon a mere sliver that tantalized and beckoned behind drifting veils of cloud - as a woman might hide her charms from prying eyes - with the annoying flicker of the candle flame making it impossible to get a good fix on any one feature - her main impression of the man was a full head of longish hair made black by the surrounding darkness and, by contrast, a rather pale silky skin. She noticed he sat very tall and straight in the wicker chair. And his voice, when he answered her, flowed over her like a warm caress. Faintly musical with a touch of an accent that wasn't really an accent at all.
"You have a good heart," the Watcher remarked. "When I first saw your kind face I knew you were one who would listen." He edged aside as a waiter appeared to clear away the remains of their meal. The discordant clatter of plates and silverware caused him to flinch ever so slightly. "Would you care for another drink?" he asked. "Wine, perhaps?"
"I really shouldn't since I'll be driving."
The Watcher passed the waiter a crisp bill then dismissed him with a curt wave of the hand. He turned his attention back to the woman. "I think we'll let my problems rest for a while. I want to know more about you, " he whispered. "Why are you lonely?"
The woman glanced down at the table, "I found out I was loved in spite of what I was, instead of for who I am. To me, there was a huge distinction between the two. So I had to let go."
"I see." The Watcher gazed out over the indigo swells of the Atlantic for several long moments without further comment. To the right side of the pier, the last remaining party had risen to leave. The hour was late. It was a quarter past midnight and Fisherman's Wharf was shutting off lights and clearing off tables, preparing to close. With bucket in hand, a black teenager strolled along the boardwalk humming a sugar-sweet reggae as he sprinkled thick fistfuls of sand atop the crackling torches to douse them for the night. The boardwalk was immediately plunged into a thin, oily darkness that carried with it the sharp tang of the seaside - sun baked sands, brine, the rank waft of seaweed that dotted the shore like checkers on a board, decaying marine life - all over laid with a rich patina of wood smoke and pine tar.
Fumbling for a cigarette, the woman looked embarrassed to have revealed herself, further embarrassed by the man's silence. She exhaled with a tight smile, "Life's a bitch and then you marry one." She waited for the man to reply and when he didn't, when the silence became too much to bear, she said, "I'm sorry. I usually keep my baggage to myself."
Looking directly at her, with that same liquid whisper he'd spoken with earlier, the Watcher said,” Don’t apologize. I find your passion charming." Then he glanced off in the distance at some invisible speck on the watery horizon.
There was a surreal quality to all of this, the woman felt it yet she bravely struggled to keep the conversation going, “I know why I'm here. I think all lovers of melancholy make the trek to Papa's Hideaway at least once in their lives. A rite of passage or something. But what about you? What brings you to Key West, to the Island of Bones?"
The Watcher turned his head back to the woman before he replied. Obligingly, the moon chose that moment to bare a pearlescent shoulder, and so his eyes, revealed in truth for the first time since he'd spoken to her, glittered back at her like shards of green bottle-glass held before a white hot flame. "It's really very simple. You were here. So..." the Watcher let it hang at that and continued to examine her closely.
His words and their unspoken implication wiped the smile from the woman's face. She made to rise from her chair, the harsh scrape of wood against wood accompanied her movements. "You mean you followed me?!...why? I don't even know you!" Agitated and thrown off guard, the woman was mentally calculating the distance to the parking lot on the far side of the dunes when a strong hand reached out, impossibly fast, and seized hold of her arm, the long slender fingers biting into the fragile bones of her wrist. With a muffled thud, the woman's purse dropped to the warped planks beneath their feet. A tube of rose-colored lipstick rolled between the cracks and disappeared into the churning blackness below.
Drawing the woman back into her seat, the Watcher continued to hold her, to study her intently. Now she had his full attention and she squirmed under the intensity. "This isn't how I intended it to go," he murmured. "All I require is that you relax and listen. That's not too much to ask, now is it?" Turning her hand over, he pressed his lips to the palm and kissed the damp tender skin. Then he released her and reached down to retrieve her purse. He brushed the grit away and handed it back to her, saying, "Some things are inevitable, you know. A dusty compartment on a slow moving train, the neon-jungle of a hot city night where the dangerous animals are those who walk on two legs. Perhaps the worn elegance of a forgotten inn - miles from nowhere, like a stone thrown in the center of a lonely pond - where the roses outside the rain slicked windows seem as tired and faded as the flowered curtains hanging there."
The Watcher inclined his head, "The setting isn't important. I happen to like this place, that's all. We could have come together anywhere, at any time. Don't let the clutter of details bother you."
Softly, hypnotically, the Watcher continued his persuasion, "Pretend for a moment we're but two characters in a novel, guided by an unseen hand. Destined to meet." His eyes, a hot brilliant green, bored into her skull. "I PROMISE you, you have absolutely no reason to fear me."
Confusion was written all over the woman's face. "I don't understand what you mean, but I guess I over reacted," she said.
The corners of the Watcher's mouth tipped upwards. "I guess you did."
It was the first time she'd seen the man smile. Inexplicably her trust in the stranger returned and she never questioned why that should be.
He watched closely as the woman struggled to regain her composure. His eyes followed her movements as she drew a fresh package of cigarettes from her purse and lit one. He saw her shoulders relax as the fear and tension left her body. Good. To hear was all it took and she would listen to him after all, would cooperate as he had hoped. The Watcher suppressed an urge to laugh out loud.
He donned an earnest expression, "I need to tell my story, that's all. And I need to tell it to the right one. You felt right," was his enigmatic explanation. "If you write, you may write it. If you paint, then you may paint it. You can use it or not, I'll leave that decision up to you,” he said. A gusty breeze caught a lock of his hair where it fluttered darkly against a pale cheek. "It just needs to be told, that's it. This is very important to me."
The Watcher glanced up at the moon, then back at her. He saw the puzzlement. He did not want to give the human any more of the truth than was absolutely necessary. For the third time he sighed. "I am ...trying...to reach a particular person. I believe he may be in this neck of the woods, so to speak. And I have reason to believe that the sheer act alone of my telling this story to you will be enough. "
"Enough?" The woman frowned. "Enough for what? I'm afraid I don't follow you. Wouldn't it be easier to just pick up the phone and call?"
"This individual can be 'difficult' to pin-point." The Watcher gave another small, slight smile. "And this is my way of calling."
She smirked, "If you say so."
The Watcher’s next words came out gentle and light, yet were redolent with something that caused the woman’s skin to crawl. "Don't patronize me, don't humor me. Respect me, little lamb, and do not try to fit me into your world. You'll get torn apart if you do. Let your mind relax, open to me. We're just here to talk, all right? And if you choose to do anything with what I'm about to gift you, then you may try to make sense of it. Alright?"
"Alright...” A sharp drag on her cigarette turned the tip into a fiery nub. Soft smoky coils drifted upwards to uncurl in the sultry breeze. The woman glanced up in time to see the man frown against the smoke. Apologizing, she dropped the butt to the ground. "By the way, I know this sounds silly, but when you approached me earlier, somehow I didn't think to ask your name...?”
A black winged brow lifted faintly. "Emial."
"Emial. That's a devil of a name. It sounds familiar though." She looked at him, "I like it."
The Watcher leaned back in his chair and stretched his long legs in front of him, feet crossed at the ankles. "The Devil, you say?" He paused for a moment, thinking. "How perceptive you are, petite. Yes, that's an appropriate place in which to begin. That's where it always begins, I suppose. At least it did for me. I've heard there are only three basic dilemmas to be solved. Man against man. Man against God. Man against himself. But combine all the three and you have the fourth dilemma--Man against Devil."
"I don't understand ..."
The Watcher held a finger to his lips. "Patience, please. I think before this night is finished you will understand." He paused and then asked, "What are your beliefs in this time and place? Do you think yourself an accident of birth, of life? Or do you suspect a higher order at work? Do you credit a God, or a higher self at play? Have you ever felt the presence of something, or someone that perhaps tinkers with your experience? Young woman, are you the captain of your ship? And if you are so deluded as to think so, what about the existence of the Divinities....of Angels and Watchers?"
"Angels? You mean are they for real? I've not given it serious thought, why?" The woman absentmindedly reached for another cigarette.
He transferred his gaze to the unlit cylinder in her hand. She followed his eyes and saw, amazingly, the tip of it begin to glow red. "You should." The Watcher frowned. "It's a serious matter, for you are their food and drink, or loosh as it is sometimes called."
The woman stared at the burning cigarette, then at the dark haired man. "Jesus! How did you do that?!"
"Unfortunately," the Watcher said, "I don't know of any Jesus ... or God himself, for that matter. Though I do believe in the sanctual reality of those beings. Let me tell you what I do know instead. Of how I came to be here, how I entered the playing field of the Gods."
Scooting his chair in closer to the table, the Watcher raised his low voice just a fraction. The dull steady throb of the waves as they broke against the pylons below provided a hypnotic orchestration to his words. "Much has been written," he began, "in fiction and otherwise, about 'preternatural' beings. I tell you now, there is man and Angel. That's it. Anything else is just a name, an empty word. A clever pretense. But no matter how clever the skill of the author, words are, after all, only words.
"And the multitude of conflicting viewpoints and rhetoric have only served to prolong the pretense." Without blinking, he held her gaze for several long moments, then murmured, "Let's put an end to the pretense. Mark my words, from experience of the most personal nature I know what I know to be true. And I'm afraid it will have to suffice." With a touch of impatience, the Watcher brushed an errant lock of dark hair away from his face, shook his head and frowned, "Unfortunately, ah...there again is that unfortunate word, I cannot really claim to have all the pieces of the grande puzzle. But I know one who does."
He lowered his head in a subtle gesture of intimacy, "So we work together, you and I. We form a pact, so to speak. I'll tell you my own little drama and you ... you may write it for me, if you wish, and see that it gets published. I know you have the talent, the necessary connections. We'll create a work that addresses these issues. As I stated earlier, there are beings above us, we are their sustenace, they NEED us, and of course, we them. From the smallest particle of subatomic matter to the immaterial substance of the soul. It is a great banquet and They come to feast, in ever changing guises. Who knows, perhaps the Almighty also changes face and form, coming again and again into being?......"
The woman watched the graceful gestures of the long sensitive hands. Even as she did so, her eyes were drawn continually back to his face, to the glittering eyes. "This is crazy. I don't know exactly who or what you are, but yes. I'll help you. I'd like to know your story. You've aroused my curiosity."
Pleased, the Watcher grinned at her. A hint of snowy-white teeth shone behind the darker flesh of his lips. "Then we are agreed. I will begin with the tale of who I was and how I came to be what I am. In fact, the two are inseparable."
And so the Watcher's Lie began.
* * *
" It happened like this. On the 26th day of May, in the year of Our Lord, 1660, I...Emial L'Mercia, had an encounter with an Angel. He called himself Lucifer, the Prince of Light. A title calculated to get my attention, no doubt."
"Maybe that type of thing happens still? It would help explain the visions and miracles which seem to surface now and then, wouldn't it? Certainly I didn't expect such a thing to happen to me. My ego, while a healthy one, was not the sort that required divine affirmation. If divine is the proper word......
"But first, I think you have to understand the times I lived in. Europe had but recently exited the late dark ages, socially speaking, and the horror of the Persecution-another dreary drama of the war between light and dark, still lingered in the minds of the succeeding generations, kept fresh and alive by the ceaseless bickering between the Catholics and the Protestants. God, was there never to be an end?! We English were a dark, unforgiving people in too many ways, and we held onto our grudges like we held onto the children of our loins, fiercely and possessively, yet we were also accurately described as a cold people, with none of the passions credited to our european cousins. We were either moved or we weren't. And though we dressed in fine clothing, at least those who could afford to do so, and scented our bodies with sweet oils and ate off good plate, though we sent our children to places of higher learning and thus regarded ourselves as worldly, educated...in reality we were no wiser than our fathers and their fathers before them, caught up in a backwash of ignorance and fear. Such was my lot and it concerned me not.
"In my century we didn't have television to satisfy the public's thirst for violence. We had the real thing. Voyeurism of the worst sort. It was considered a great source of entertainment to witness-in person!- one of the many public beheadings or hangings, while vendors strolled amongst the crowds selling food and drink to the impatient spectators. A common sight was that of the heads of the condemned on Tyburn Hill, perched atop the pointed posts and rotting in the sun and crowned with flocks of carrion crow that pulsated like a living black ash against a paler sky. A picturesque warning to those who would transgress. There wasn't a mother alive that needed a bogey-man to threaten her children into good behavior by.
"We were one step up from the Celts and the Druids. Civilized Barbarians, that's all.
"It wasn't so awfully long ago that witches were being burnt, ALIVE, at the stake. We were very much a superstitious people and our century didn't allow us the privilege to go about seeing Angels or Daemons 'round every corner. Not unless you wanted to be stripped naked and flogged by a priest, or spend your days locked behind bars in Bedlam, fighting the other lunatics for molded scraps of food! Since we still believed in those things, the less said the better.
"My point being that I was just an 'ordinary' man of my time, a brutal, decadent time, intent on his own survival as was everyone else. It would not have been a desireable feat to conjure up a meeting with an Angel, be He a Fallen one or no......
"But the day, THAT day-which was the grit in the clam's mouth around which the pearl of my life was to be formed, to climax as it did, had to have an inordinate beginning. I was at that time a poor, sickly Cavalier in the service of His Royal Majesty, Charles Stuart. That was the day we landed at Dover and were finally home. The hungry, furtive years abroad were come to an end and Stuart was finally to be proclaimed rightful King of England.
"As I recall, it was just another of our gray days, a damp and dreary afternoon that couldn't decide whether to rain or not, a dismal spring day with nothing of sunshine nor warmth about it- though it seemed otherwise to me. I, for one, was furiously glad to have left the shores of France behind. I was thin and sick and forever tired, the glamour of foreign places had long since vanished, and I thought the leaden English sky the most beautiful, comforting sight on earth!
"Well, we arrived in town a sorry bunch. Footsore and travel-stained. My sword was dull and my traveling cape hung limp around my shoulders, I reeked of sweat and fish. I think my horse looked more presentable than I. In retrospect, I'm amazed that even the toss-skirts would have us. Nevertheless, in the eyes of the our countrymen there was a certain grandeur about us. And since they thought us grand, we were. It was refreshing to be cheered through the streets in marked contrast to our lukewarm reception on Continent. The British people viewed the returning Royalists as their salvation from the turbulent, uncertain times resulting from those bitter years of Cromwell and the English Revolution. We were saviors, after all.
"So, no sooner did we reach town than we set forth to celebrate in the timeless fashion of soldiers the world over, even as men do to this day. The first order of business was to fill our aching bellies with food. The Goodwives of Dover poured from their homes, aprons laden with all manner of hearty fare, and we stood in groups in the drizzling rain, wolfing down the savory meat pies and steaming joints of mutton so generously urged upon us. I sucked every last drop of grease from my finger tips and planted a wet kiss of thanks on the rosy cheek of a buxom matron, delighting in her blushes.
"The Tavern doors were thrown open to the rain, pox be damned. A bottle of sack was thrust into my fist as if by magic. Our animals were whisked away by eager hands, fed and dried and stabled for the night. We were like Gods and the mortals around us scurried about, falling over themselves, to see to our slightest need. It was our day of triumph, and, of course, we pumped it for all it was worth. Days like that are a rare prize in a man's lifetime.
"The Innkeepers vied for our gold- what little we had- and the glory of serving the Crown, and they were not disappointed. Old Rowley, as Charles Stuart was sometimes called, and we his Cavaliers emptied untold casks of ale and wine while a local brothel enjoyed a brisk turn of business. Most of us were young and determined to make up for lost time! When our purses finally ran dry, we were given free license to make merry....
"And don't think we didn't! The wine was sweetly crisp like September apples and I couldn't get enough of it. So much food had made me thirsty, and as I drank I looked around to see everywhere, it seemed, an arm raised high to toast His Majesty.
"At one bustling tavern, Charles amused the crowd by climbing atop a trestle table and reciting some of the wicked little poems I'd taught him, including one about a blind Frenchman and a priest. The audience stomped their feet and roared in appreciation, loving nothing better than a good laugh at the expense of their prissy french cousins. Swaying on his feet, the King tried to take a dignified-though drunken-bow, and toppled face first into the laughing arms of his men, to be rescued by the Landlord's son who carried him upstairs to sleep it off. With rumors of the King's legendary stamina spread across the countryside, I wasn't too surprised to see half a score of giggling girls trailing up the stairs behind them. I doubted Charles would get much rest after all. It was fortunate Barbara Palmer was still in London awaiting him, for she would've had her lover's ears on a plate if she'd known of his escapades -Barbara was as well known for her fiery hair and temper as the King was for his prowess!
"Well ... I, too, was in my cups and had nearly exhausted myself with the light skirts that blew my way. After all, I was too poor to join in the card games and had drank enough for several men. But something private plucked and pecked away at the back of my mind, through the gaity and throughout the long night, until eventually I bade farewell to the noise and the crowds and left to seek my own company, being free for the next two days until we were scheduled to ride into London on the 29th for the Grande Appearance.
" So I took it upon myself to sneak away for a while. The rain had finally ceased and I intended to enjoy an hour or two abroad in the surrounding countryside. I would explore aways and clear my aching head. That was what I thought I would do.
"I passed down the littered and muddy streets, the din of revelry growing mercifully fainter the further I went. I turned off near the Maison Dieu-or House of God, and stood there awhile admiring the four hundred year old structure. It saddened me to think how little survives our puny efforts. For no matter how great an event the day had been, only a few tired lines in a history book would remain to mark our passage. See, I'd always been a thinker. Not such a good trait as one might suppose...because when one thinks too much the waters become muddied, and the fine line between right and wrong, black and white, reality and fantasy, becomes smudged as the world dissolves into a massive shade of gray.
"And I think that blurring of the last two polarities, by which I mean fantasy and reality, led me into a very strange landscape indeed, aided, no doubt, by a good measure of strong drink. Or maybe I was simply destined to travel that path irregardless...
"But I'm getting ahead of myself here, and that won't do." A gentle look touched the Watcher's face, and he continued on to say, "Such was my drunken melancholy as I picked my way past misty fields interspersed with an occasional farm or wooded copse, too completely lost in my own thoughts. I was getting tired at last, really tired, when I noticed the sun had lowerd in the sky. Somehow I had managed to walk away the remainder of the day and now the ground fog had begun to rise, vaporous fingers that seeped up from the hollows of the earth and clutched at my weary feet and legs. I was of half a mind to head on back when I chanced across a neglected cemetery set on the protected side of a knoll some distance from the outskirts of town.
"Yes, I know what you're thinking..'how common!' Like something out of a base fiction, correct? Well, let me assure you, in my case that is how it really was. I imagine, if one thinks about it logically, where else in all the world would be a better place in which to encounter the supernatural ...where else besides a cemetery, that misty area in which the polarities of life and death meet, head on, would be the likelier for such happenings to occur? And I also think that since this one particular cemetery had been abandoned by the living
- those unwitting guardians who keep the gates between one world and the next firmly locked and secured - that there was a void, perhaps, an emptiness waiting to be filled. In other words, the doors were thrown open from one world to the next, see? Maybe it's dangerous to let such places stand untended?
"I don't know. But it was definitely a sorry sight. There were large quantities of loose stones and rotten timbers-burnt and broken and stacked in a careless, frightful heap, that made me realize there had once been a chapel adjacent to the plot but that it must have met with an accident, and the villagers, superstitious yokels they were in those times, had probably taken the incident as an ill omen and elected to bury their newly dead elsewhere. People were like that, you understand, three hundred years ago.
"And so was I. I found myself alone, there in that place of death, and suddenly that was all I could think of. Doubts and fears, especially the fears I'd tried for months to keep at bay, came rushing back at me with a vengeance. Now a cemetery, by it's very nature, is conducive to morbid thought. But in my case it was MORE than that! This fresh reminder of my own mortality fell hard on the heels of my recent years abroad as a Cavalier, and with good reason. Years of want and worry, playing hide and seek from our enemies, always begging for food and a roof over our heads-had taken a heavy toll on my still young body. Not yet seven and twenty, I was afraid I knew the insidious sound Death makes when knocking at one's door.
"I was a good two stone lighter than when I'd joined the service, eight long years ago. And though many of us had laughingly watched our clothing loosened by the hungry times we'd known, I seemed to be the worst of the lot in many ways. The ache in my chest that never went away. The ragged excuse of a handkerchief stained with flecks of blood and hidden in my pocket. Tucked out of sight but never out of mind. It terrified me to think that Death had found my door and might one day soon demand entry.
"So I did my best not to think on it, but wasn't always successful. Some things could not be drank or loved or walked away. Some things stayed with you, no matter the country under your feet.
"Now, it's extremelly important you understand my mood at that time. What I was feeling. And the stage that I describe so carefully for you.....all the little bits and pieces that tumbled together to form the setting for the Event to come. I think all of it- my fear, my emotional and physical isolation, the vulnerability of disease, the oppressive area in which I mistakenly chose to linger - an area saturated in hopeless surrender, so much so that it surely leeched from the very ground no less so than the fog that was visible to me, as the other was not - I think all of it came together in some powerful way - psychic dominoes lined up in a row, waiting for the softest push of an unknown finger. In a word, I was ripe for the picking as I stumbled from stone to stone.
"The brief euphoria of drink was gone, and the cheap wine had given me the mother of all headaches. I, who wanted so badly to live and was afraid to die, stood wondering how soon my bones should turn to dust? I picked at my fear like a scab, returning again and again for a fresh assault. The derelict graveyard was a perfectly wonderful place to be miserable in ... so I indulged myself completely. There was no one about to see me cry, no one I had to pretend for.
"I thought, if I were lucky, I might have a few years left to me. If so...could I be assured of a place at Court as Charles had promised? Or would his mercurial nature soon forget me, and I
be forced to return to the village of my youth, tail between my legs, to spend the remainder of my days recalling when I was counted among the King's Favorites?!- confronting the indifference of the villagers, the disappointment of my sister Beatrice, the mockery of my brother-in-law. My soul would die before my flesh ... and wasn't that a pleasant prospect?!
"Perhaps, I reasoned, I might find employment of some sort in the sprawling city of London, as long as my body held out and I could be of use to some one. I would ask myself, repeatedly, how I should make my way? No matter if there were a hundred years or a hundred days left to me, one must eat. At that time, my future was an uncertain thing in too many ways.
"And I will tell you this, young woman, until the day comes when you discover it for yourself ... there is no loneliness more profound than that which comes from knowing your days are marked. The knowledge erects a wall of darkest glass, isolating...no, severing one from the rest of humanity. They move on, and you, you see yourself already forgotten under the ground and cannot imagine how the world should continue without you. It's all quite melodramatic but no less painful for the knowing.
" 'Well, Emial,' I thought. 'You've had your years of adventure plus a day or two of glory for good measure. That is more than most will ever know, isn't it?' So why did I find myself brooding in the gathering twilight?
"Self-pity was a marvelous toy, and so I'd taken it out and played with it and played with it until I finally tired of the game.
"With my head pounding, I settled myself down and lay back against a stone, all too aware that it marked some unfortunate's final bed and could just as well be my own." Emial laughed, his strong white teeth glinting in the dark, "Did you know that head-stones were a device originally intended to keep the dead trapped beneath the ground, to prevent them from rising and walking among the living? As if a few pounds pounds of stone could make a difference. But there I lay, anyway, the drunken young man with a stem of sweet grass between his teeth, brooding on the futility of my situation and trying to find a much-needed measure of comfort in the solitude of the cemetery. I watched the setting sun lay fire to the crumbling markers around me and as the sky kaleidoscoped from red to violet then black, I fell asleep to the rhythm of the crickets and never noticed when the stars came out of hiding.
"Now, I don't think too much time had passed when some small sound awakened me. Maybe it was the bones of the watchful dead whispering a warning in my ear. Anyway, I awoke to see the still figure of a man sitting across from me, barely visible in the syrupy pitch of the country night. Thinking I was about to be robbed or worse-and ashamed that I, a soldier, should be taken by surprise like a green-horn, I feigned sleep in hopes that I might take him by surprise at the first threat of an attack.
"As I peeked through one slitted eye I thought there was something uncanny about the man....how he appeared so motionless...it didn't seem natural. My heart was racing and it took every ounce of will I had to keep from uttering a tell-tale cough. Now try to imagine, if you will, my astonishment- when instead of attempting harm upon my person, the man began to sing!!
"Never in my life had I heard such a beautiful voice! An absolute stranger sitting across from me in such a morbid place, in the dead of night, singing in a tenor that would have graced to perfection the greatest cathedrals of my time.....well, I thought him MAD, naturally-what else was there to think?...but was held spellbound by the magnificence of his skill!
"So I lay there quietly, as one asleep, unsure if the stranger knew or cared that I pretended. All of nature had fallen silent or gone away. The only sounds were of the bells and lutes and pearly notes that issued from his golden throat like nectar from
a flower. Have you ever heard an Angel sing? No? Consider yourself lucky.
"At FIRST I could have wept with the enchantment of his song, the weirdly lilting cadence of notes rising and falling like drops of crystal was unlike anything I'd ever heard. It was almost too much, in fact it literally WAS too much....in quite the same way the human mind can only withstand so much horror, so it can only assimilate so much beauty until it confuses the two-the horror becomes sublime and the extremes of beauty thus a terror. His song had that affect! And as he sang, he began to glow as if lighting up from within...until his visage was one of such brilliance that I trembled, drunkenness and headache having fled before his light. It didn't take a genius to figure out what faced me wasn't human. Looking back and considering my then precarious state of health, it's no small miracle the pompous idiot didn't cause me to die of fright!
"As it was, the time for pretense was over. Unsteadily, I climbed to my feet and the stranger did likewise, continuing his song of words that had no meaning and sounds my ears could no longer stand. As his voice soared higher to stroke the heavens, I felt the ground shudder beneath my feet and an unearthly chorus joined him in song! He made the Dead to awaken and they sang along in harmony below us.
"Believe me, I didn't know what to do! It seemed as if, for a moment, time had suddenly ceased and all the familiar rules of common sense and logic were abruptly suspended! It was as if I were suddenly in another world, a shadowy world that operated side by side with our own...as if somehow I had crossed over from the one to the other. Maybe we continually jump from one string to the other, and never realize we do so unless we find ourselves in a reality with glaring discrepencies from the world we've just exited! But as it was, for me at that time, I only knew that something uncanny was occuring! Men just didn't appear out of nowhere singing notes that don't exist! Rotting flesh and crumbling bones didn't come to life! While I may have lived in a superstitious age, this was my first REAL experience with the supernatural! Now, the larger, reasoning part of my mind tried to deny the experience, rejecting it out of hand...but another TINY part of me shrieked in glee, almost VINDICATED that such things could
occur and were occuring...as if to validate the small portion of my being who'd always KNOWN that the shadows were real, that there was far more to creation than that which met the physical eye.
<:#2240,9360> "So there I was, the fragile young man, caught in a trap of beauty and madness, struggling to keep my senses...trying to insist it was only a dream, or a delirium brought about by a troubled mind and too much wine. Whatever it was, I couldn't wake up, I c
ouldn't escape the vision that grew more real with each passing moment. In vain, I tried to shield my ears from the sound and my eyes from the sight of him. I suppose I could have simply turned and run away, praying he would let me, fleeing from the monstrous aria he performed on my behalf. But you know ... a small and hidden part of me would not have missed it for the world! That inner self stood apart, trying desperately to analyze the situation while a thousand questions took shape within my head.
<:s><:#280,9360> "Such is the price of curiosity....
<:s><:#280,9360> "HAD I fled from that place, and HIM, all would be different now. At least I THINK so.
<:#840,9360>But no.. pride and curiosity sealed my fate. And stubborness. It was unthinkable I should cower before that magnificent creature! Despite the very real human fear which turned my bowels to water, my mind demanded answers. So I pretended to be brave.....
<:#1680,9360> "I think he must have realized my dilemma, or did the being read my thoughts? For next came an answer, of sorts. With feeble mortal eyes, I saw growing out of the light....immense WINGS of softest down-glistening like opals tossed on jet, fan out from be
hind his back where they undulated against the inky night. Slowly his stature enlarged until he became God-like, immense, fiercesome and lovely all at once. He emitted such light and brilliance that the sun would fail from envy. We should have been a bea
con in the dark, yet no one saw save me.
"The Angel, for that is what he was, bathed the entire area in this light. I could plainly see each leaf, each single blade of grass. I could clearly read those markers still legible. But it was a cold light. An empty illumination. It didn't feel at all warm and welcoming as I'd imagined the light of God to be. Understand, I thought he'd come from Heaven. That was the conclusion I'd too hastily made! So it puzzled me that this glorious Angel felt so cold.
"Now..what does one do when they see an Angel? Weep, pray, swoon at their feet? Like a fool, I simply stood my ground on watery legs. Too proud to run and too ignorant to see the danger. Until that moment, I'd never had faith they existed. Or God for that matter. My life centered around the physical. That was all I'd known. A hungry stomach, a sweat-slicked brow, body sore and too weary for proper rest after an endless day spent toiling in the fields. The precious seconds of lightning bliss when cleaving to a woman. Those things I knew. Leave the mysteries of Heaven to the priests that lived in fine homes and my sister Beatrice who stole away to hear their words. Divinity held no attraction for me. But here it was. And I hadn't summoned this thing. Instead, it had come in search of me.
"So I stood there staring, my head held high despite the agony of the vision. When he finally ceased to sing, I could only keep staring, dumbfounded in awe, and he smiled at me a wicked glorious grin. The Angel was proud of his show, relishing the effect he had on me. His dazzling smile said it all, 'SEE me, Emial! Am I not beautiful? Do you not desire me, to have me, to BE like me?'
"There was no other answer but yes.
"And with that thought, the light vanished as did his wings. In an instant he was as I first saw him-a strange, palely beautiful man with hair like living sunshine falling softly past his shoulders. Then the world shifted back to normal; mice danced in the fields, starlings sought their roost, and the crickets again called to one another. He came forward and took my hand, else I might have fallen, and I heard love and amusement together in his voice as he quietly began to speak:
" 'Such a brave, curious little man you are, to have not turned tail and run. Most mortals care not to consort with the Fallen One.'
My head was in such a whirl I could hardly think. Believe it or not, I actually pinched myself - hard- with my free hand to make sure I was awake and not dreaming. I felt the hurt and decided this was no dream after all. But I was too overcome to catch the implications behind his words. 'Are you truly an Angel?' I whispered against his chest.
'Once, a very long time ago,' he said. Slender fingers stroked my hair and I could feel the rough linen of his shirt where it scratched my cheek. 'Now I am only permitted that state of Grace when I sing His praises.' "
"Uncomprehending, I had to know more, to keep this going. It felt so wonderful when he held me close, the embrace of a mother and lover combined as one. My previous concerns of illness and hunger crumbled away like autumn leaves, forgotten on the wind.
'What are you then, if not man or angel?' I asked, in those last few innocent moments of my existence. Then the arms around me fell still, leaden, and at last dropped to his sides. A sense of dread stole over me, nibbling away at the edge of my awareness
while the seconds stretched into eternity as I awaited his reply.
"I don't know how or why, but in that long terrible moment the answer came to me. My mind was already shrieking in denial as the words left my lips, 'You are the Devil, aren't you?!' Shaking, I pulled away in instant fear and revulsion, all the horror and
confusion of just minutes earlier rushing back. I felt sick at my stomach. 'Am I so bad a man that Satan seeks me out and takes me to his bosom? Am I already dammed?' My luck, if not good, was at least consistent.
"I dropped to my knees in the grass and began praying for all I was worth. I must have looked pretty silly ... stammering out the half-forgotten Psalms, coughing every other sentence then having to start all over again. I could have prayed till my throat bled and my knees turned to stone. It didn't make the slightest difference. Remember, I had jumped an invisible string and the old rules no longer applied.
The Dark Angel lifted a brow and impassively watched my antics. Folding his arms, he declared, 'I go by many names. Some closer to the truth than others." He lifted his chin, "Trust me, Satan isn't one of them." With a great sigh he continued, "The children of Sumer called me Enki. Your Hebrew ancestors knew me as Lucifer. I am the Prince of Light. No matter my station now, I'm yet beloved in His sight. '
"Truly, I couldn't believe my ears. I think that is when my fear began to make me angry, that and the fact that I was in a situation I couldn't control. Already I'd accepted that this was indeed the Devil, and as terrifying as such an encounter might be, I was sincerely affronted that he should be so bold. So arrogant! The being admitted his shame with a certain pride, as if expecting me to bear witness to his greatness. In retrospect, his arrogance was his most endearing, if not infuriating, quality of character. But on that night I had yet to know him so well and I was mortally offended by his pride. With no small amount of courage and an even greater deal of trepidation, I climbed to my feet and faced the Devil. It took everything I had. I challenged, 'What does a name possibly matter? You're evil, an abomination. Why approach me when I have enough to bear? If you bring light to the world, then I'm the King of England! By all that is sacred, leave me...GO....and take your blasted light with you!'
"Well, he started to laugh! That dammed smug, all-together too beautiful creature actually laughed in the midst of my tirade. His wasn't an ugly laugh, just a purely happy mirth, as if I had amused him in some way, as though the whole event were a cosmic joke too ridiculous for words. I most assuredly did not see the humor and I lunged at him to thrust him aside, screaming he was ' filthy, unclean' and all the like. It was bad enough to think I might soon be dead without having the Devil circling my still warm flesh like a vulture. When one thinks of passing over, one likes to envision a welcoming St. Peter at the Golden Gates. Someone, I fervently hoped, had made a celestial error.
"The Dark Angel caught my arms with hands of steel and could have crushed them to a useless pulp had he desired to do so. I was too scared and furious to care. 'Don't play the fool, my quick tempered Friend!' His chuckles subsided and he became serious. 'Don't be so quick to pass judgement about something you know precious little of. You don't know a damn thing about what you condemn. All youknow are the useless fragments of superstition your sister planted in your head. There is more, so much more to all these things,' he spread his pale hands wide, gesturing, imploring, 'than a man could ever begin to perceive. And I would gladly show you.'
"It seemed prudent to at least hear him out.
" 'I would show you what is truly life, what is here about you that you cannot see.'
" 'Why?' I had to ask, ever the skeptic.
"The Dark Angel looked me straight in the eye. 'Why not?' he countered. 'But, if you must have a reason, then I choose you because of all the flowers in my Garden, you are worth the price of picking. I choose you because I sense in you an intellect, an imagination, to do justice to the gift I would give you. The stories and verse you spin for your fellow soldiers and King speak of worlds within you yet untapped. And it's true your time grows short. Already you wither on the vine of Life, and all this potential inside of you will fall, wasted, to the wayside.'
" 'Why should any of that concern you?' I muttered. "What's one more mortal, more or less?'
"Without so much as a blink, the Dark Angel replied, 'It suits me to do so.' Then he gave a little sigh, 'I am lonely, Emial, and miss my brothers.'
" 'You pine for your imps in hell, then?' I was determined to be difficult. That the Dark Angel appealed to my vanity was true enough, with his talk of worthiness and intellect. He'd also succeeded in piquing my curiosity, though I tried to hide it. What kind of a gift did he have instore for me? I was sure I would have no part of it, but still ... I was very, very curious. Then I saw the smooth white surface of his cheek and the hint of a dimple threatening to break free.
The moonlight painted his hair silver white; he looked like a marble Adonis against a backdrop of midnight velvet come to life in Diana's glen. His perfection, literally, overwhelmed me, robbing me of an ability to reason. Whatever mysterious act of nature spawned this race of angels knew what it was about; obviously they were above us in some mysterious way as mankind stands above the lesser beasts and fowl. Yet mortals could not be caught so easily as mindless fish or lumbering ox. We had our intellect to preserve us...but even our mighty intellect was vulnerable to the emotional side of our being. We were ATTRACTED to beauty. What is lovely must also be Good! So nature constructed the most beautiful of predators to ever walk on two legs. And like the lowly moth attracted to the light of a flame, we mortals are likewise befuddled by the unearthly beauty of the Angels, caught in a silken trap spun from our own desires. And I was no different.
"Ah...Lucifer was such a beautiful creature! But none of that matters now. Things happened as they did and that is that. Well, to continue ... I was very tired, overcome with bone-deep weariness. It was accurate my days grew short. The fear and anxiety of that unholy encounter had doubtless shaved much from my allotted span, brief as it was. My chest was hurting. I was exhausted and no longer cared what happened to me. It was a relief to quit caring.
So I let him do as he pleased then. I allowed him to take my hand, meekly following when he led me inside a ruined crypt. We sat down on the cold stone floor in silence, watching through the broken doorway a bloated moon play hide and seek among the thinning clouds. A soft breath of a breeze had nearly cleansed away all but the faintest trace of ground-vapors and my eyes gradually adjusted to the darkened interior of the vault.
"In silence we sat, a grim parody of two boyhood companions who'd stolen away to smoke and drink behind the barn. I was on the ragged edge of nervous exhaustion, waiting to see what the Dark Angel would decide to do next. I'd steal a glance at him from time to time, drawn to the exquisite being that he was, unable to help my admiration for his regal beauty, the profile so clean and noble. I suspected he would do as he pleased and -in the long run - nothing I might say or do would halt his intent. Deep concentration and resolve was written all over his perfect face.
"So much had happened in the space of a day that it seemed as if years, instead of hours, had passed since I'd last stood in the company of my fellow man. Already I was like one dead, divorced from the living though my flesh still breathed. A mouse scuttled in the darkness and there was a very real, if brief, consolation in the presence of another flesh and blood creature.
"Apparently there was no need for haste. Unlike myself, the Dark Angel had all the time in the world. Finally, just when I thought I couldn't stand the silence one second longer, he turned to me, trailing a long, white finger in the dust. He continued where he'd left off, 'I choose you out of love, Emial. Set apart from my brothers, I hunger for another. Uriel, Guardian of the First World - he was perhaps my favorite, though I adored them all. Poor Uriel, who's heart was broken when ordered to banish forever the Adam. For all his righteous zeal and obedience to Our Father, he was in truth the most gentle, loving soul among us.'
"So very tired was I that I lay down on the cracked filthy stone and cushioned my head with my arms, staring into the blackness above me as if I would see the answers written there. I decided to ignore his last words about his brothers. The Dark Angel sounded heartbroken and I didn't want to feel compassion for him. Tempting as it was, I wasn't ready just yet to forgive him for who or what he might be. 'So you have done me this great honor and chosen me. Chosen me for what? To amuse you with stories in Hell? To teach poetry to your daemons? Wonderful, just wonderful!! I don't know how to thank you....' My words were cutting, deliberately so. It was my only defense. And even that was taken from me when I looked up in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of pain on his face, the fair head briefly bowed.
"The Dark Angel had the power to make mortals love him.
"Finally, wiping the dust on his velveteen breeches, He continued, saying, 'Emial, for my sake and yours...don't disappoint me. Hear me first before you pass sentence, and then if you wish, I'll leave you and your precious soul in peace. For the final time, I am not what you think'.
" 'I wear flesh and blood to pass among men, for that is my obligation. But neither am I human. I seek to fulfill a purpose you cannot begin to imagine. I don't know of any devil! I am no more wicked than yourself. Our Father does not work like that. I am an Angel made corporeal for reasons I won't go into now, though perhaps someday when the time is right ...' "
" 'Let me ask you this'...the Dark Angel leaned in close and I could feel the heat of his breath mingle with mine, his lion's mane of golden silk tickle my forehead. 'Had you the chance to live forever and know all things, to walk into the centuries and keep company with an Angel, would you take that chance?'
"Ah, here it was at last. The Devil and his Deal. I almost laughed, though whether in genuine amusement or outright hysteria I cannot say. Still.....I had to ask, 'And LOSE my soul?' He intrigued me in spite of the misgivings which cautioned me to go no further. Besides, I reasoned, ... no revelations appeared in the dark. No emissary of God arrived to save me from the one called Lucifer. Or from myself. I turned my face towards his so near, repeating, 'and lose my soul to you?'
"A strong white hand reached out to lightly brush a lock of hair from my face like a loving father would caress a child. He said, 'Don't be silly. Your soul was never mine to take nor shall it become a wager in a game.'
"Large dark eyes locked with my own. 'I'll ask you one last time, Emial. Will you go from this place the man that you know? Is it you would truly prefer death and decay in three years time, your charming flesh fodder for the worms? Or will you become like me - passing through the ages as water, drinking from the Tree of Life that needs sustain us?'
"I tried to suppress another bout of coughing, knowing my face was flushed and gave me away. All this he saw and pressed on: 'Are you willing to risk walking with an Angel? Will you be my accompaniment, my brother ... at least until you might weary of me and go your own way?' "
The Watcher shifted in his chair. He rested his elbows on the table's surface, bringing his hands together, fingers touching in a steeple. Looking over their top, Emial softly asked the woman, "Well....what would YOU have answered?"
Though she shook her head slightly in the negative, her expression held a trace of wonder, of weakness.
"Exactly." he said. "I was torn. In a none too steady voice, I asked, 'You can make me immortal? I should never die?'
"Oh, how I was hooked and he knew it.I remembered his song, his light, the splendorous wings that graced his form. The idea of an eternity, a continual endlessness of learning, of living,
and in the company of this Lovely One. No matter if he lied and dammed my soul to hell. I would deal with that later! Curiosity killed the cat then Desire buried her. I was a good as dead. So be it. The impetuous reckless streak in me knew he hadn't revealed the whole, yet I could not resist the bait. I could no more have turned down his offer than my flesh had turned away, a lifetime ago, the women I'd known were tainted.
" 'You shan't die unless that is your wish,' he promised. The Dark Angel continued, sure of himself now. His lips ceased to move, but I heard his voice clearly in my head:
" 'Will you walk with me?'
"Would I walk with him? Was there ever any doubt? The jaws of the trap closed firmly around me. Thrilled, too afraid to speak, I slowly nodded my head in assent.
"From that moment on I would call him Lucifer. I still thought of him as the Dark Angel, for that is what he was. But now he'd become more. He had a face and a name and I loved to use it, to hear it lightly on my tongue..Lu-ci-fer. So lovely. A poem made of three precious little syllables.
"No sooner than he had my consent, Lucifer, lustrous and fair, rose above me-unsmiling now and deadly serious. Something of great import was about to occur. Gathering me in his arms, he held me up. The Dark Angel looked at me long and hard, taking my face between his hands and sighed, 'You look like Raphael come to life. A little thinner, a little sadder perhaps, but we'll soon fix all of that.'
"I didn't understand what he meant and apparently it showed. The Dark Angel ran a finger across my cheek and said, 'We're going to freeze this moment in time.' Then he held me against him and we began to move, round and round, in circles. We were dancing. An ancient dance, one that 'celebrated life and death', he murmured in my ear. A forgotten dance that perished with the inhabitants of the Third Creation, whose homeland fell in a single day and
night of unimaginable destruction and now rests hidden deep within the twilight fathoms of the Atlantic.
<:#560,9360> " 'They were MY children,' he said. 'I tried to warn them, to save them.' The Dark Angel's voice was thick with emotion. 'Everything I ever love is stolen from me.'
"Faster and lighter we spun, till it seemed we danced on air. My feet no longer touched the floor. Dizzy, seconds away from a swoon, my head fell back and I had to close my eyes to the darkness swirling insanely above me.
"Lucifer supported me. Locked in his embrace like two lovers, we spun about the vault to the tune of invisible musicians. He kissed me then, face pressed tight against my throat, and I
thought, 'what is this?'. It felt thickly sweet. I had no idea what was happening. Sensation flooded throughout me, as if my entire body vibrated in a light of fire, and I sank into a unfathomable ecstasy unknown to me before that moment. The Dark Angel called it the 'Rapture'.....
"There were drums pounding away in the darkness. I heard their beat, insistent and strong. We moved in time to the rhythm. I gradually grew weaker, a great lassitude threatened to sweep me away into the clouds of heaven and I held fast to Lucifer for I had no strength. And then it was that I felt myself detach from the flesh! For a split second in eternity I was a pinpoint of awareness somewhere in the dark-watching without emotion-a tall blond man and his dark companion spinning far below. I thought I heard my Mother's voice, soft and sweet, beckoning from a tunnel of light that appeared before me out of nowhere. It seemed I should go to her, I wanted to join her, but the drums chained me to the spot and eventually she no longer called.
"I watched helplessly as the spiralling tunnel of light collapsed into nothingness, taking her with it, and rejecting me back into my flesh.
"All too soon the rhythm slowed, the pounding of the drums fading into memory. And with their absence came a panorama of visions! I saw things on the screen of my mind, images that must have come from Lucifer himself.....because there was a tremendous sense of personal loss attached to the visions. I saw a land, a MAGNIFICENT land, lushly verdant, full of all manner of strange and beautiful things. There were trees pregnant with oranges and lemons and the succulent banana. There were trees burdened with the weight of pecans and filberts. I saw forests teeming with game and crystal blue lakes with fish thick as a man's hand. I saw plump naked children, brown as ripe berries, playing and laughing in springs that bubbled up fountains of hot and cold waters. Clad in snow-white robes that shimmered under a loving sun, healthy men and women talked and laughed and moved in and out of immense noble structures, some of which towered so far into the sky that they stood ABOVE the reaches of the highest trees where flocks of
delicately-tinted birds circled carefully between them. The buildings were fashioned from cyclopean stones of three colors-black, white and red. This was done in an unusual, yet decorative manner and very appealing to the eye. The most spectacular structures were the ones iced with precious metals that glinted in the sunshine. The designs had a flavor that reminded me of Greece-there were scrolled and carved arches and columns and open-air porticos, yet some of the buildings were in a triangular shape that made me think of the stories I'd heard of gigantic pyramids embedded in the hot, shifting sands of Africa. It was breathtaking! Fantastic!
"The scene then moved to the widest street I'd ever seen, one wide enough for several coaches to pass in safety, where a procession of bulls went lumbering down the midst of it. Each and every bull had a garland of exotic flowers draped around his neck, and all of them appeared well fed and kindly treated. The largest bull, at the head of the line, sported a massive pair of horns whose tips had been dipped in pure-as-butter gold!
"There was a delicate aura of gracious beauty manifest in all aspects of life. It touched the soul and I felt a surge of tenderness, of protectiveness that may or may not have come from Lucifer. All I know is that the people and their land were unknown to me and I was glad for it because I could have loved them well...making what came NEXT all the harder to bear.
"The vision faded and ANOTHER took it's place. I wish it hadn't. Even now, in this time and place, it makes me shudder-for we know how history so loves to repeat itself......
"Black. The sky was blacker than a poor man's hopes, darker than the Devil's heart. I saw
<:#840,9360>stars race across the heavens,dizzying and sickening to behold, as though the planet spun out of control like a whirling top, and then the sun appeared and seemed to stop dead in the sky, swollen red and angry like a pustule....casting a lurid glare on the
pitiful spectacle unfolding beneath it.
<:#280,9360> "Something unprecedented, something too horrible for comprehension, was taking place in
<:#1960,9360>a world of long ago. Great quakes rocked the land, terrifying to see! Held in a demented fist, the gentle land was violently shaken, again and again, until she began to tear apart at the seams. Great gouges scored the surface and she began to bleed with t
he blood of her people. They flowed in all directions.. seeking safety and finding none. Some tried to escape by boat in an ocean gone mad and they were immediately swallowed up by the frothing raging waters that surged across the land and cities, sweepin
g away every living creature that had the misfortune to be trapped in the ocean's path.
<:s><:#280,9360> "I wanted to cry out, to warn them, to find a way to cross time and space and save them
<:#1400,9360>from the horror of those final moments! I could only gnash my teeth in impotent sympathy when I saw a wave of GIGANTIC proportions, a wave so tall that the frightful sun was hidden from view, bearing down slowly, relentlessly, on to the cursed people. Thi
s mountain of water crashed into the land with such FORCE that plumes of earth were jettisoned hundreds of feet into the air! Geysers of earth, trees, animals and lastly man spewed forth like so much rubbish! The marvelous
<:#840,9360>architectures that could never be duplicated or replaced collapsed under the horrific pressures, the stones and statues scattered like wooden blocks before a child's wrath! God himself only knows what mankind lost forever in those terrible moments!
<:#1400,9360> "If they were lucky, mothers were able to die with their children clasped tight in their arms-knowing when they took their last breath it would be together. Most, if not all, were wrenched apart to perish alone, in terror, by the sheer power of the catacl
ysm. I was horrified to be witness to such devastation! In less time than a single day and night, the paradisiacal island of a now legendary race ceased to be.
<:#280,9360> "Then came the deluge. For forty days and forty nights the fountains of Heaven broke
<:#560,9360>asunder and the Gods wept for what they had wrought. Undoubtedly mankind would wear the emotional scars of the great disaster for generations to come. I'd thought at the time that
<:#560,9360>it must have been the event remembered in the Bible as the Flood of Noah. A reasonable assumption, don't you think?
<:#1120,9360> "Well, the last thing I saw was that of the toppled buildings and the mountains' head and shoulders disappear beneath the muddy waves. And Lucifer...the golden father of empty promises...standing defiant under the moon and stars of a foreign land....shake
his fist skyward as tears were drying on his smooth white cheeks.
<:#840,9360> "It was a welcome mercy when the visions came to an end. With a low groan, I opened my eyes to see the Dark Angel, blurred and indistinct, laying above me. The music was gone. We no longer danced and I wanted to PROTEST, to call it back...but I had no v
oice to speak with.
<:#1960,9360> "When he saw my eyes had opened and the expression of puzzlement therein, a tiny spark of triumph flickered in his face, like that of a man who'd taken his first virgin. It was the fire of conquest, of ownership. The Dark Angel's mouth, swollen and unnat
urally red, contrasted vividly with the silken ivory of his skin. His lips were moist with blood and before I could ask whose blood it was...I already knew the answer. And in that moment I understood that Lucifer was the BEGINNING of our earthly legends,
the spring from which the blood and darkness flowed. An Angel, punished for all eternity.
<:#1400,9360> "'How sad', I mused. 'What a lonely creature!' But there wasn't time for thought! There wasn't time for the realization that NOW his sentence was also MINE!" Emial smiled to himself, a tiny smile of derision and knowing, "You see, I had run OUT of time
! Placing those lips above my own, pressing the stolen blood against my mouth, the Dark Angel ordered me to taste! 'Taste,' he murmured. 'Taste ALL the heaven, all the ECSTASY you will ever desire!' "
<:#840,9360> The woman put a hand to her mouth as if to wipe away the thought of blood entering her own fresh lips. The Angel continued on in an absent sort of way as if he were recanting a story that had happened to someone else. His eyes were fixed on a point in sp
ace as he recalled:
<:s><:#280,9360> "Running past his chin was a trickle of blood that mesmerized me, though I did my best to
away. I KNEW I should be disgusted, repelled by the thing he suggested. Indeed, what person in their right mind would think to drink another's blood? Or allow such an act? But Lucifer was not a person such as you or I......
"Besides, I'd already given my consent. Hadn't I?
"I looked up into the Dark Angel's face-inches from my own- past the jaw and the luscious lips. Past the nose so straight and proud, skimming across the rugged hills and hollow plains that made his face a work of art. There was no coarseness to his features, none whatsoever. It was the type of beauty that is sometimes called androgynous, though his appearance was of a decidedly masculine nature. And when I reached his eyes-brilliant amber pools deepening from brown to nearly black- the expression there caused my breath to catch in my throat. All one NEEDS- to wage war or make love...or hold another captive to their will- are beautifully expressive eyes! I understood what the poets meant when they penned the phrase 'drowning in the eyes'. No man or woman walked the earth who would not surrender gladly to such a pair of eyes!
"The angelic Lucifer required surrender of a different sort.
"I forgot to ask what he'd done to me. I only watched as a lone ruby drop slowly fell, just the ONE, but that was all it took. The droplet fell, worked it's treacherous way past my lips, and I tasted then! At once I was in the grip of a hunger, an immediate WANT, such as there are no words to describe. This WAS the milk of Life. All needs-real or imagined, were fulfilled within that liquid morsel!
"When he saw my anguish, my desire, his face lit up with exultation. What a clever little Devil he was! Sitting back, smug and satisfied, Lucifer rolled up the sleeve of his left arm, tugging the cloth as high as it would go. I remember hearing the linen tear. He next took out a small silver razor and brought it down quickly, slicing a thin deep gash on the inner flesh of his elbow. A font of crimson erupted and he forced my mouth to the wound, urging me to drink. To hurry! His free hand was digging in my scalp. There was an urgency, a palpable tension emanating from him. 'Drink, Emial ... do it NOW!!'
"I believe he almost went too far. In his greed he'd drunk too long from me, see, and was that I wouldn't live long enough to exchange the blood, to complete the Consummation!" The Angel made a small, self-depreciating laugh. He shook his dark head at the woman across from him, 'Well, he needn't have feared on MY account! The hunger, a LIVING thing, took hold and blazed inside me! I was indeed a newborn babe feasting at the teat. And the more I took, the longer the rich ruby-red milk flowed down my throat, the more I wanted and was determined to have!
"So this was what was meant by his cryptic phrase, 'the Tree of Life that needs sustain us'! In retrospect so perfectly obvious! Picture for a moment your own circulatory system....can
you see the symbology? Can you see the slender trunk of your feet and legs....growing ever upwards towards the canopy of branches in the chest....veins and arteries sending off shoots of life-giving fluid....the tiniest of these limbs ever spreading this way and that, as they unfurl throughout your system like the smallest of leaves on a tree...forever seeking to sustain the living object of your own mortal flesh?!
"Trust the Dark Angel to write the script in such a way that the actors never knew their parts until the play was finished!
"A few years later I accused him of using trickery and deceit to gain his ends. He answered my charges by responding that he'd only told the TRUTH! That it was 'mankind who hid behind a web of distortion and lies'. He said I was 'one of the lucky ones', the CHOSEN Adapa they were called. Those who were granted the chance to know FIRST HAND the truth behind the legends. In my veins now coursed the blood of the Originals-the
Anunnaki-who raised man up from the beasts. He said 'Our Kind' were meant to inherit the Earth, but something went wrong.
"So it would seem.....
Mmmm....but let's continue with the blood. And such blood it was! The blood surpassed the finest Claret! The flesh that housed it more DEAR than Venetian Crystal! I did see further images as I fed, confusing vibrant scenes of people and places out of the distant past, but I paid them no heed, they no longer held my interest. They couldn't touch me. Lucifer was right, damn him to Hell.....all the heaven I now held dear was in the red hot tide that swallowed me whole...as I swallowed it!"
Lucifer's first rejection of me came when he thrust me from him with such force that hunks of hair tore loose from my head. And his voice! The richly vibrant timber I heard in it as his words belied his actions, 'You take ENOUGH, my newborn friend. The essence of Anu is within you. When next you feed, it will not be from me.'
"My sight was clearing. I could see and breathe again! Soon I would form words. I needed to ask, 'What do you mean? When NEXT I feed? Will this hunger never end?' This and more I needed to know, but before I could question him, HORRIFIC claws of pain ripped inside of me!"
The Angel made a little face and shook his head at the woman both eagerly awaiting and dreading his every word . "The Change isn't the pretty TALE told in stories!.....
"Lucifer had to have known what I was going through, but he only watched in silence and made no move to help me. Unbelievably violent seizures shook my frame, sweat broke out on my forehead in slow, hot drops that ran into my eyes and burned like acid. My bowels twisted and cramped as if the intestines wrestled one another to the death. In TORMENT, reduced to no more than an animal, I bit through my own lip and for a brief distracting moment enjoyed the tang of blood-teasing on the tongue!
"I really thought I was dying then, I was in pain beyond bearing! Rolling onto my belly, I sought purchase in the stony floor with my fingers, digging the ends deep into the dusty cracks, rending them wider. I couldn't hold back a scream when, in a mighty burst of agony, my back arched and a torrent of waste escaped my loins...leaving me faint and nauseous, disoriented. Out of the corner of my eye I barely noticed the Dark Angel edge slightly away. He must have found his handiwork distasteful!
"Now forget your modern fiction-all your lovely tales of counts and capes and castles- for there was no glamour in this! There was no romance, no going gently into the good night. There was only pain and blood, and more pain. My breeches, fouled and stinking, clung to my lower body like a second skin. Dirt and blood covered my face. My fingernails were practically shorn from their roots, tips torn and bludgeoned by the battle I fought on the ground-like a woman in her travail. I was locked away in my own private piece of hell! In THOSE moments, as my body sampled death and found it not to it's liking, as my humanity evolved into something ancient, something that lurked deep within the well-spring of man's creation...I would have gladly sold my soul, on the spot, to be the man I could never be again.
"Then it passed. Just like that. I heard the distant throb of the drums return. Each beat stronger than the last. My heart! My heart had resumed it's purpose, strengthened by the Dark Angel's luscious blood.
"Shuddering one final time, another wave of filth, then the pain was gone. As was Lucifer!
"Abandoned by my mother, my father. All these things my maker was to me. We'd shared the ultimate act of intimacy-the Consummation!.....yet the regal Prince of Cowards left me, on my own, without so much as a backwards glance. It wouldn't be the only time he'd leave me. It was what he did best. The final time he did so would cost me my life.
"In panic I cried out, 'LUCIFER....!!!' Immediately I clapped my hands to my ears as thunder lanced through my skull. My very own voice was a weapon I'd unwittingly turned against myself! 'Dear God,' I prayed,' what have I gotten myself into?!'
"There came no answer to my prayers. I'm sure if God HAD been listening, watching over me, then He would have turned away from me in shame and sorrow and left to me my rightful fate. As it was, only the sigh of the wind, audible to the extraordinary hearing I seemed to possess, responded to my cries. I was alone, more alone than you can possibly imagine, with a stranger that was me. Frightened, furiously angry, and feeling very, very sorry for myself. But my mind, so overwhelmed by the events of the last few hours, couldn't stay focused on any one emotion or single thought for very long. It darted every which way, scrabbling at the boundaries of reason, looking for a way out. The words 'help me, help me, help me' ran like a litany through my head. I don't know if I was praying to the God of Light or the Angel of Darkness. But I DO think I went just a little insane, for a short while, there on the first night.
"I peeled the ruined clothing away from my body, all the while looking frantically about for some sign of the Dark Angel and finding none. I couldn't believe he was gone! I kept calling his name as if at any moment he might pop his head out from behind a headstone and yell, 'Surprise!' Yet there was no mistaking the fact I was alone. I looked all around as I ran my bloodied hands through my hair, seeing and hearing no sign of his presence! The gloom no longer bothered my eyes and I could see everything about me with a knife-edged clarity. 'Amazing!' I thought. It took only seconds to find my little friend, the mouse. I caught his scent, then clearly saw him huddled in the farthest corner of the vault. I heard his tiny heart racing, his blood tempted my senses, but my mind was on other things and I suppose my first act of mercy, inadverdent as it was, was to let the creature live.
"On shaking legs I approached the gaping doorway of the crypt and discovered a fluttering scrap of paper embedded in a split in the frame. It was a note to me. Written in blood. The note read: 'Beware the smallest light of Day. It means death, otherwise.' This was signed with a great looping 'L'. Which, by the way, I kept on my person for a very long time, the note I mean. Right before I died it was stolen from me.
"Anyway, that all comes later, and in any event none of it mattered very much, in the end. Now I want you to try to picture,to imagine in your mind, what it must have been like for me?! You, young woman, who hang so dewy-eyed on my every word....I want you to put aside your lovely fantasies and imagine, really imagine, how you would have felt had you been in my shoes?! Can you imagine the horror and the fear?! Knowing that what was done was irrevocable and there was absolutely no going back?! Can you imagine being thrust into a whole NEW game in which you didn't know the rules?! I had an OVERWHELMING desire for blood, for MORE blood, and that desire scared me to death! For I knew what it meant, I wasn't a COMPLETE idiot!....it meant someone or something
would have to die if I were to gratify my desire, didn't it?! I suppose, in a hard-nosed way of looking at things, that it's not much different than your eating meat? Did you enjoy your steak tonight? Yes? Well, good....but something died so you could f
eed, didn't it?! Maybe it's all the same, really. And I'm not ashamed to admit that eventually I found ways to GET AROUND the moral dilemma. But all that was in the future for me. My immediate NOW was that of a frightened, TERRIFIED, young man with his body host to some independent process that scared the hell out of him! At first I felt very, very trapped in the flesh...because, after all, wherever I went my body followed, didn't it?! Now HAD the Dark Angel hung around, for just a little while, there on that first night, he could have spared me untold mental agony. But that wasn't his STYLE! So I had to work through the immediate situation myself! I took a deep breath, already the pain in my chest a dim memory while tears, the first blood tears I would ever shed, began to fall. 'Lucifer,' I thought, 'is this ALL you have to give me?' Devastated beyond words that he would do this unimaginable thing to me, then abandon me! I was changed, REBORN, different in ways beyond my comprehension and I needed him to guide me. Of course, no one's ever played with the Devil and won. I know that now. But back then I didn't.
"Now, when it came that I saw him again after all, on the following night, with his perfect face wreathed in reassurance and warm smiles, he declared that he'd left me for my own good, to make me strong. To see if I could survive that first night, which he swore was a 'crucial test'! I believed him, accomplished liar that he was, and was grateful for his concern! Can you believe that?!....
"Anyway, so there I was. Naked, caked in my own waste. Bedazzled by the preternatural senses that were newly mine. I hurried off into the waiting night. I was a frenzied satyr leaping over the lopsided markers. Quickly, quickly I sped to find a stream to cleanse my stinking flesh. To secure a safe haven from the dawn I sensed fast approaching. It was awful!
"Everything I saw enthralled me. It was a constant struggle to ignore the distraction of my senses. There was a fresh, seductive vitality which seemed to infuse everything about me-no matter how great or how small. No fragment of nature was beneath my notice. All things were equal in my eyes. I felt as if I'd lived my life peering through a clouded glass and now the glass had cleared! Every sense I had was MAGNIFIED a thousand fold! Every bit of rock and dirt and grass-each texture, each color, to it's own slightest hue and tint, was unique unto itself, a wonder to behold. The stars appeared to FROLIC in the sky. I felt I could leap into the night, catch one in my palm, and call it MINE, if so I wished.
"The trees-like beautiful maidens, graceful arms raised high and beckoning, swayed ever gently this way and that. If I looked HARD enough, I could see the springtime leaves unfurling
on the limbs. A tender breeze called out to me and I heard my name whispered on the wind... 'Emial....Emial....'
"Half out of my mind, no doubt, I sprinted across the damp night-blackened fields. I discovered I could run like the wind itself and, as I saw the ground pass as a blur under my feet, all the while I was searching madly for a place in which to rest, to hide. To think. All creatures are gifted with some instinct and MINE was an eldritch instinct-hoary with age, older than the world I knew, urging me on and on to seek refuge. When at last I stumbled across a yeoman's dairy, my quest had peaked into a state of near panic. Again, the intuition I've spoke of reared it's wise little head and cautioned me to proceed with care. I waited outside the barn, in shadow, listening for any sign of a mortal presence within. Hearing none, satisfied I was alone, I crept
"The dirt-packed floor was velvety cool against the bare soles of my feet. I savored the sweet scent of fresh cut hay and the heady musk of animal flesh, the hot thick odor of bovine blood and teats filled warm with creamy milk. The cattle, uneasy, regarded me from their huge liquid eyes. Some grew restless in their stalls, preparing to bawl, but all I had to do was to THINK them quiet and they obeyed. A useful skill to have, I found!
"But I was beginning to feel dizzy. My skin felt flushed and hot. Looking through a crack in the wall, I noticed the sky had a faint violet tinge. Time was pressing. And though there was no way of knowing PRECISELY what might happen to me if the sun were to catch me by surprise, I was fairly certain it wouldn't be pleasant. And I mustn't forget the farm children who would soon be at their chores with the first break of dawn. I would have hated for the little ones to be traumatized by the sight of my horribly - so I feared - expired body! So on I pushed, into the depths of the barn, past the gleaming copper milk pans stacked in a pile. Past the sturdy tin buckets brimming with last year's oats. Further into the darkness I went, making little if any sound.
"I was the world's greatest predator moving on stealthy feet-mightier than the great cats that roamed Africa striking fear in the hearts of men.
"I wasn't sure exactly what I intended to do when, a dozen or so foot above me, the loft caught my attention. On the spur of the moment, I made a decision and took a small running leap into the blackness overhead and landed with a gentle thump on the sturdy boards of the hay loft. Things were getting more interesting by the moment! And on back to the furthest recesses I went, scattering vermin before me as if I were Moses parting the Red Sea! I burrowed into the deepest, most odious mound of straw I could find, careful to erase any hint of disturbance and I knew I'd barely reached my bed in time. My limbs had mysteriously become leaden. I had to WORK to make them obey! There was a sluggishness of mind as well. A great black oblivion yawned before me, coaxing me to surrender. Then I was sinking, falling into an abysmal sleep. The last coherent thought I remember was realizing, FINALLY, that something was wrong with my face.
"My gums hurt, the blasted things were killing me. and then I realized that the Devil's infant had grown his fangs! I started to laugh through my tears, then my eyes closed of their own accord and the spoilt straw cradled me in her protective cocoon......
"I knew no more until I awoke with the following sunset."
With a faint smile for the woman's benefit, the Angel came out of his reverie. He reached over and gently placed a cigarette between her fingers, lighting it for her the old-fashioned way, the MORTAL way, with only a match. "Thus concluded the first day of my encounter with an Angel. Of course, that was just the beginning."
"The beginning ...?"
The Angel laughed, his eyes shards of broken glass glinting through the thin veil of cigarette smoke trailing out to sea. "You have more paper?" he asked. The first pad was ruined, lying forgotten in a puddle of water and ash.
The woman nodded and hurried to pull another from her purse. Her hands trembled and were slow to respond. When she looked back up to set it in front of her, the hurricane-candle was once again burning it's tender little flame. It had gone out ages ago and she'd never even noticed. The Angel took the candle by the base and picked it up, setting it directly in front of him. The flame flared up brightly, bathing his face in a warm golden glow. He cupped his hands around the glass, obviously enjoying the heat. All too well the woman could see him now and the color drained slowly from her cheeks! She had never seen a man so frighteningly beautiful, so horribly seductive, in her entire life!
Like a marvelous statue come to life, Emial hardly looked real. His eyes were unbelievable in themselves, but it was the sheer PERFECTION of the flesh that took the breath away! There was nothing of the Dracula about him, no pasty white face..no cartoonish exaggeration of animation. Nor did he resemble a demon or devil in any way. But, if what he'd said was TRUE, then he was in reality all of those things and none....how had he put it?.....the TRUTH behind the legends....there were man and Angel, period.
Some light, some dark.
She had to wonder. If Emial, possessor of incredible spiritual and physical gifts, was only a second generation product-a HYBRID of man and Angel ... then what would the Dark Angel Lucifer be like? How might an entity of pure lineage appear?
She didn't want to know. It was all too much and one thing was certain, the Angel Emial had lied. There was every reason to fear him. To sit mere inches away as she did, to be the object of his scrutiny, was to be emeshed in a web of such heightened awareness that it bordered on the edge of a ghastly eroticism. The woman felt dizzy and sick. It was difficult to swallow, to pull air into her lungs. She was sincerely afraid she would not come out of this alive ... and yet, self-ruination had never been so sweetly enticing.
"Then we continue," the Angel whispered, "with my life in death."
Obediently, the woman picked up her pen. "You have more to tell?"
He leaned across the table to tuck a silky strand of hair behind her ear, pretending he didn't see the flinch she tried to hide. "Yes, I do. If that's alright. If you still want to see this through?"
Her face flushed in the candle-light, "There's nothing on earth I want more."
The Angel called Emial looked at the woman long and hard without comment. Finally a corner of his mouth curled upwards and he said, "Good. You don't know the pleasure it gives me to hear you say that...
END OF PART ONE
TO BE CONTINUED