A Devil’s Gospel: Chapter 1 (2/3)
The angels cheered once more. There were yells for Lucifer to waste no time in speaking to God and asking for a dimension of our own.
Lucifer put up his arms to silence them; his glow was angry, though he tried to restrain it.
“Brethren,” he said, voice soft and gentle and betraying none of his annoyance, “do any of you know God better than I do? Is any one of you closer to Him than I am?” He paused to look around the room; the angels seemed suddenly subdued and their excited glows had dimmed. “And do I think that God will hand over the reins to a new kingdom for us to rule together just because we ask? He respects strength, force, and action; not cowardice and humility and pleading. If you want to continue being servants—go your way. But if you want to rule, as God rules—if you feel you deserve to exercise your powers and your will without interference—you need to demand it with force and not just with words!”
“Use force against God?” someone said. “We’ll be destroyed!”
“He won’t destroy you,” Lucifer said, shimmering red so brightly that no one could have missed it. His glow was back to normal in the next moment. “God will give us what we want, if we give Him no other choice.”
Looking around, it seemed to me that there were fewer angels now than when Lucifer had first welcomed us.
“You’re either with me or you’re against me,” Lucifer said, and his appearance began to change. He grew, taller and taller, towering over us several-fold by the time he stopped. Of course now we would recognize it as the dragon, scaly and metallic and breathing fire, that has haunted the fantasies of the fallen, but at the time none of us had seen anything like it, and we were mesmerized.
“Enoch,” the dragon said with Lucifer’s voice, “sing us weapons.”
I did it, of course, tearing apart the hall that I’d built and reshaping the broken pieces into one sword after another. I worked in a daze, so quickly that I didn’t know how many weapons I’d already made and how many were left to make. At one point I noticed that most of the armed angels had been led away by the dragon. The remaining angels followed one at a time, leaving as soon as I handed them a sword. Much later, when the hall lay in ruins around me, and only a handful of angels were left, Moloch shifted in, looking haggard and pulsing a dull, pained glow.
“Come quick, all of you,” he said. “Forget about weapons, just come! We are being laid to waste!”
Moloch was already starting to shift but I called out after him. “By God?”
“By Michael,” Moloch said. “He’s assembled his own army. We tried to take them by surprise, but they knew. They knew we were coming and they were ready for us. Now move!”
We followed Moloch, the handful of us who hadn’t yet picked up a sword and probably weren’t too keen on getting one anytime soon. We arrived in a higher dimension of Heaven to a scene of pure chaos. Sparks of lightning flew from swords as they crashed against each other; angels grappled and struck at other angels, causing bursts of fire to erupt when their fists made contact. Towering above all was the Lucifer-Dragon, swiping his tail and breathing fire in a mad, angry attempt to damage someone or something. Mesmerized, I watched Michael dodge the dragon’s attacks. Beelzebub rushed at him, but one of Michael’s troops—Gabriel, maybe, but it’s so hard to remember now—dove between them and knocked Beelzebub to the ground, landing on top of him.
“Enoch, don’t just stand there!”
I didn’t know who spoke or even if it was one of Michael’s angels or one of Lucifer’s.
Beelzebub threw Gabriel off of him, then picked up his sword from the ground and swung. Gabriel stepped into the attack, grabbed his arm, and snapped it. In one motion, he grabbed the falling sword and plunged it into Beelzebub. His scream at that moment was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Squealing, desperate, pathetic, he yelled in pain and agony, then burst into flames. The sight and sound was horrible, and soon I saw and heard it repeated throughout the battlefield as more of Lucifer’s angels were overthrown by Michael’s soldiers.
Suddenly a sword was pressed into my hands. “Come on!”
It was Abaddon, and he was already charging at Michael. I ran after him to pull him off course—what was the point of this madness? We’d already lost, I knew; it was time to lay down weapons and suffer the consequences.
Abaddon cut down an angel on his way to Michael, but another appeared in his way. I was so focused on Abaddon that I didn’t realize someone was standing in my way too; in my panic I struck with my sword, connected. Jegudiel fell back, but reached forward almost immediately and wrenched the sword from my hand. Before I could move, he plunged it into my chest.
The pain was so powerful that for a moment I didn’t make a sound. Then I felt my entire body turn to fire and, unconscious of anything but the anguish and the terrifying feeling that my very existence was being consumed, I screamed. Slowly, although the pain didn’t subside, I became conscious of something else: I was sinking, falling, as if the fire had burned away my substance and I was no longer solid enough to stand. Before I could have another thought, an explosion like lightning blinded my vision, but I didn’t need to see to know what had happened; Lucifer was overcome, struck down by Michael’s fiery sword.
I felt myself slipping further and tried to scramble to keep my footing. But it was impossible, and I fell through the dimensions, screaming in agony and convinced that I was being annihilated.
“Have mercy, Lord!” I cried, but I knew it was too late. It will infuriate Lucifer to learn that even in those first few moments of defeat, I begged for God’s mercy, but I don’t care. What more can he do to me now?
No one realizes, or at least no one remarks on how we have gradually come to use the words of the fallen to understand ourselves, even to understand and describe half-remembered events that occurred before the fallen were created. We’ve lived among them for so long now that their very concepts and images have become our own. I suppose we thought—certainly Lucifer thought—that influence and persuasion could flow in a line with a single direction from us to them. But can any of you listen to yourself speak for a moment and deny that they have influenced us just as much as we’ve tried to influence them?
I remember nothing of what happened next, nothing until I awoke some time later, feeling dazed and groggy, to borrow three more concepts from the fallen. I wasn’t sure where I was, not because I couldn’t see but because I saw everything as if through a fog. I stumbled to my feet. Shadows passed over me.
“Hello?” I said, and suddenly I became aware of the sound of wailing coming from all around.
I tripped over something and fell to the ground. The fog started to clear, or I grew accustomed to it. A creature crawled on the ground next to me.
“The pain,” Beelzebub said, in a voice as different from his old voice as his appearance, dark and glob-like, was from his previous form and radiance. “Make it stop. The pain…the burning.”
I kneeled beside him, not sure if touching him would provide comfort or agony, and especially not sure which sensation it would cause in me. “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I can—”
There was no point in continuing to speak. Beelzebub had forgotten about my presence and returned to wailing and crawling, half-blind, searching like the others for something that would quench their agony and ignoring everything else, including one another.
Before us stretched plains of dark, craggy rock. As my vision cleared, I saw a lake on fire and walked toward it. The lake burned and bubbled, and as I stood on its shore, something reached out and grabbed my ankle, burning me with its excruciating touch.
“No!” I yelled, and struggled against the slithering fire that crept up my leg. “Let go!”
But suddenly a head emerged from the fire. The once-luminous angel of God used my body to pull himself out of the lake. Finally he stood before me, charred and ugly, not equal to the shadow of the creature he used to be—not that the creature he used to be had ever cast a shadow.
“Don’t call me that anymore,” he said, his voice soft and distant and choked by pain. He looked past me, over my shoulder to the pathetic sight of the crying, crawling remains of his army.
“Silence!” he yelled suddenly. “Silence all of you!” They quieted down, probably as a reflexive response to his voice, which still carried the memory of the power and glory of the one he once commanded. “Gather around me.”
The dark angels pulled themselves together and, one by one, walked or crawled toward Lucifer, who stood backlit by the small explosions of the fiery lake.
“You’re scared,” he said, spreading out his arms as if he wanted to embrace us all and make the fear disappear. “You’re terrified because you think we’ve lost the war.” His voice suddenly dropped in intensity, as if he were about to whisper a secret. “We haven’t lost. We’ve won!” He spun his arms around. “What did we fight for? Independence, no? A home of our own, far from the Enemy? Look around, brethren!”
They looked around, and saw what Lucifer wanted them to see. In a loud and happy voice, he told us that the pain we currently felt was the Enemy’s one parting shot; he told us to think about the agony He must be in to have lost his greatest angels; and when finally he said “We won, brethren! We won!” a great cheer went up, although it sounded more like screaming than cheering.
He turned to me. “Enoch, sing us a palace.”
Lucifer nodded, eyes burning with lust. “Make it the same as the Enemy’s.”
I sang, but nothing happened. I sang again, more insistently, then more desperately, but still the rocks didn’t respond.
The fire in Lucifer’s eyes flickered for only a moment. “Brethren, it is as I suspected. This is the price of freedom! It is not a cost I hesitate to pay. Mammon, pick up that stone you’re sitting on. Moloch, Agares, Sytri—knock down that cliff. Enoch, don’t just stand there—show them what to do!”
I did my best, directing the dark angels like a colony of ants. Some pieces could be used as they were brought to me; others needed to be smoothed out in the fiery lake; still others could be combined by smashing them into one another. Soon I had everyone separated into groups of gatherers and smoothers and smashers. We worked in a frenzy while Lucifer watched with thinly veiled impatience. When construction was complete, we had a structure that looked nothing like the Enemy’s palace, consisting entirely of a throne room that was barely worthy of the name.
“Behold your castle, brethren!” The brethren screamed their cheers. “Is it not wonderful?” Lucifer led everyone inside. “Is it not more glorious than anything you’ve ever seen?” He sat down on the rocky, jagged-topped throne. “We must elect a leader, brethren. Someone who will—”
“Lucifer!” Beelzebub yelled and the cry was taken up by others. “Lucifer!”
He held out his hands to quiet them. “I accept,” he said, leaning forward. “I ask only one thing—call me Lucifer no longer. I am Satan, and I will oppose the Enemy and bring destruction on everyone He favors.”
As the dark angels chanted the new name of their new leader, Satan sank back into the chair, looking comfortable and pleased with his throne and his castle.
Through thousands of years, we’ve rebuilt that chair, and the room, and the palace. We’ve added levels above and below, and rooms all around. And when Satan asked me to design and build a dungeon far beneath everything else, I carried out his order and had no idea that he was making me build the place where he planned to imprison me.
Tune in on Friday for the third and final part of this chapter!