“What are you?” asked the woman. She had caught a glimpse of my true form in my stolen eyes.
It had been one hundred lifetimes since I had seen a human being. A thousand years ago exactly, judgment had been passed down from on high, and I, along with those like me, had been banished to a pit of flames and ash. After the final battle, a new Earth had been established and a millennium had passed under his reign. But now, that period was over and the Revelation, the final chapter of his Book had come to a close, and I was released from my fiery prison. Nothing else was written in the Book, so the future lay before us all like blank pages.
“You cannot know,” I told the woman. She looked deep into my eyes, searching for some type of answer. I closed her eyes as she slid her hand down my bare chest, and in one fluid motion I entered her. She cried out in ecstasy. As I breathed out, she breathed in, and with that very breath – the carrier of life – she and I became one. I could feel her body in its entirety, and I knew that she was the realization of perfection…pure and flawless. From the moment of my liberation, I had searched for one like her. Her dark skin, without blemish, set her apart, and I knew that she was the one.
After the deed was done, I withdrew and she fell back against the wall, panting. Even I had trouble maintaining the image of my borrowed appearance. She saw the shimmer in my persona and her hand fell instinctively to her abdomen. I took a step forward and placed my own hand on her stomach. As my hand met her skin, I felt the faint hint of movement. It was the first new life created in a thousand years.
“What now grows inside you,” I told the woman without moving my mouth, “will assume the mastery of this world.” I saw a trace of fear flash across her face. But soon, it gave way to a content happiness, as she caressed her stomach.
“I do not understand,” she told me.
“You cannot,” I repeated.
For a thousand years after the victory of the great I Am, mankind lived in a world unlike any except that into which the original Pair was born. The survivors of the great battle lived in a world with no pain, no misery, no sorrow. He himself wiped away every tear of joy from their eyes. Every instant of the millennium was spent in joy and in worship of he who created them. However, though there was no death and no loss, there was also no creation of life. That is why the sensation of life within her womb was new and alien to the woman standing before me.
During my imprisonment it became clear to me what this new kingdom on Earth was meant to do. It was the only way that he could fix his creation’s flaws. By removing all temptation, by removing all pain, all sorrow and by providing only one option, that is gladness, salvation, oneness with him, would mankind finally be what he wanted it to be. Only on the straight and narrow path could humans achieve what he, the Lord of All Creation, deemed perfection.
For a thousand years, the embodiment of beauty standing before me worshiped her heavenly father without ceasing and sang his praises. But now I saw that I had given her something that she had never experienced: physical pleasure as well as the knowledge that there was indeed something alive inside her; it was the feeling of motherhood. And yet, she could not understand. She had not been created in this new kingdom to understand.
I reached out my hand to her and in my palm was a perfect apple.
“Eat this,” I told her, “and you will understand. And then take the seeds from the Fruit and plant them in the garden.”
Before the woman could take the apple, a wind at my back blew my robes into small wisps of smoke. And a hand, perfectly sculpted yet scarred grabbed my wrist. Even before I turned my gaze I knew who held my arm, and I looked up into the grey-blue eyes of the Archangel.
“Ah, hello, Gabriel,” I greeted him. The wounds on his left chest, the ones I inflicted on him a millennium before, still bled.
“You have been summoned,” he said to me in a voice more powerful than thunder, and he released my hand. I nodded to him and looked back at the woman one last time. I snarled as I noticed the Fruit rotting in my hand. Fiery wings erupted from the flesh of my back and I spread them wide in the room. I beat them once and leapt into the heavens.
In an instant I stood before eternal and never ending gates. A saintly gatekeeper stood before us and acknowledged my guardian and me before gesturing that we should enter. I stepped forward and Gabrielle led me into the throne room. It was a room unchanged, perfect and bright.
I saw the feet of the Alpha sitting before me, and the throne to his right was occupied once again. It was the Son, sitting, radiant and pure. My eyes rose up from the feet set before me, those foundations of all things, and I met the face of the Alpha. No man had seen that face and lived. But then again, I was no man.
His face was not beautiful or flawless like his Son’s. It was ever changing. In one instant it was that of a wise old father; in the next, that of a fresh, newborn child. In the blink of an eye the face would meld to that of a haggard woman before suddenly giving way to the wretched, repulsive face of Death.
I felt his piercing stare fall upon me, and when he spoke, his voice came not from his mouth, but radiated from his heart. “You, oh Great Deceiver,” he addressed me, “dare come before me in guise?”
As he spoke, I felt as my body was forced to assume its true form. My damnation and expulsion from heaven had scarred my figure. Once the Lord of Luminescence had stolen all Light and kept it for himself, there was nothing left for me except Darkness. And that Darkness devoured my being and left me forevermore hideous. My wings were no longer beautiful and feathered, but instead shredded and leathery. The fires of jealousy and greed had singed my skin and the envy, the desire for what had been taken from me, had consumed my angelic features. Hatred – the hatred of those countless generations that came after me, and my own hatred at the injustices thrown upon me – had distorted my body into something repulsive. My charred skin had become hard, as hard as my own heart. Even my feet had taken the same shape as that worn by the lowest beasts that walked the Earth.
I, the Fallen One, shed my skin like a serpent and stood raw, naked and exposed before him.
“What is it you wish to accomplish in my new kingdom?” the Lord of Thrones asked me.
“I wish only to grant back to mankind that which you took away from them,” I told him. For a moment, there was silence throughout the cosmos.
“You, the ruler of only one-third of the stars, those that fell, hope to advise me, creator of all that was, is, and all that shall be, on how to govern that which I have created and provided for?”
“Yes,” I answered him.
He gave a snort and then replied, “You have been released from your prison but for an instant and already attempt to blacken their salvaged hearts.” Upon receiving no answer from me, he continued, “You seek a woman.”
“No,” I corrected him. “Not a woman, but a mother.”
“And what do you desire from a mother?”
“A fresh beginning,” I told him. “In the Beginning was the Word,” I continued, “and the Word provided for mankind, but kept from them one Fruit, the lush sustenance of Knowledge. However, I offered them the Fruit and you punished them for wanting to become like me…and like you. You had to begin again, washing away not only their sins, but everything of their past. After that, you provided yet another beginning when the Word became flesh and your own Son sacrificed himself for your creation. Yet again, you have wiped clean, through warfare and bloodshed, everything of their world, keeping it “pure” for a millennium. And yet, as you said, I have been released for only an instant, and already, upon given a Choice, one of them has already chosen against your Will.”
“Why do you wish to steal happiness from them?” he asked me.
“It is not happiness that I wish to steal. I wish to grant to them Choice. Free choice in their lives.”
“I gave them free will!” he bellowed. For a moment, the tides of time reversed, but soon proceeded normally once again.
“Free will indeed,” I told him. “And yet, it enraged you when they chose to do that which would not be pleasing to you. You have since cursed them for that, plagued them with disease, disaster, and eternal damnation. If it were not for the Compassion of your Son, not a single of these souls would join you here after death. I wish for them to have true free will.”
“You would have choice without consequences?” he demanded
“Consequences come naturally, my lord,” I replied. And then there was silence as the Ancient One thought.
His head shifted to that of a great blue elephant and he asked, “You would have them indulge in the pleasures of the flesh?”
“Yes,” I told him. “I would wish for them to know the intimate senses of the flesh, but I would also have them truly know the deeper pleasures of Life as well without fearing themselves or others. I would have them enjoy pure happiness and jubilation, that which comes from themselves, not the shallow and hollow joy which is feigned by your ministers.”
“Explain yourself,” he demanded. The sharp gaze of a falcon now stared down at me from above.
“Look below at your Creation,” I said, and turned to point at the small orb known as Earth below us. “How can one truly know pleasure if one has never felt pain? How can one actually appreciate the joy of love without ever experiencing the piercing pain of loss? One cannot exist without the other.
“Look at your new kingdom, look deep within the city walls,” I told him, “You claim to have given them delight and merriment, and yet all you have done is taken away heartache and death. In your quest to keep from them the Knowledge of Evil, you have kept from them true Knowledge of Good. No loss has fallen upon mankind for a thousand years. And here in heaven has it ever. Yet the absence of Loss does not grant Joy and Contentment. Eternal joy is not joy at all.”
The Son turned his gaze to Earth and then over to me as the Father stared down as well.
“Look around,” I told him. There were humans and angels and all of his creations bowed and worshiping him without ceasing.
“This is not salvation,” I said to him, he who sat on the throne. “It is bondage.”
Both Gabrielle and the Lamb looked to the King, anticipating his reaction. But there was none, so I continued. “To live in fear of your creator, to live in fear of those different from oneself and to live in fear of the unknown of an afterlife is to not live. Particularly when the afterlife is not a life at all, but simply the fulfillment of a duty to the cosmic master.”
The Great One waved his hand and time itself stood still. Only those in heaven continued unaffected. “And what is it that you ultimately want, oh Lord of All Things Vile?”
I took a deep breath and exhaled. I had waited for this moment since my expulsion. My forked tongue slipped forth eagerly from my lips. And then I spoke:
“I do not seek retribution, nor do I hope that you will clear my name from all of the wrongdoings and lies with which it has been falsely associated. I am not here to ask forgiveness, for I know your forgiveness has limits. I stand before you to ask for the World of Man.”
He who was, is and will be, suddenly was not in the throne, nor was he anywhere, but he was everywhere all at once. Finally, a shape reappeared on the throne, and as I looked up, I stared into the eyes of every man, woman and child that had ever lived.
The Son now looked anxious. His Father spoke: “You ask for that which I created?”
“Yes,” I answered.
“What makes you think that I would grant such a request?”
“Because,” I told him, “the final chapter of your Book has closed. There is nothing left. Your millennial reign on Earth has ended. And yet, you are not pleased with your creation.”
In the silence that followed, I realized that the Father strummed the cover of his Book. As I continued, I wondered if he thought of the final pages:
“You are the Alpha, but you are also the Omega. You created this world many lifetimes ago, and now you have ended it. Go! Begin anew! Elsewhere,” I told him. “But, leave this world to me.
“You remain angry and unsatisfied with the World of Man and blame them for their flaws, those decisions which are against your Will. But, both you and I know, oh Exalted One, the real reason for your anger. You wrote a book that limits your own power, and above all, a flawed creation means a flawed creator.”
Suddenly, the Son sat upright in anger. Instinctively, my hand moved swiftly to the hilt of my sword. Yet, I knew I had nothing to fear. The Prince would not strike me; for, violence had been reserved for the Father, and the Son’s own Compassion was too great. He felt it even towards me. However, his Father’s silent contemplation only angered him further.
Moments would have passed if time had been allowed to run its course. As it were, I could not tell if I waited for a second or an eternity, though I knew it was neither.
Finally, the Father spoke: “So be it.”
The Son’s face fell. That was understandable. He had given his life, had given everything for the salvation of Mankind so that they may not be eternally damned by the Cosmic Judge. And suddenly his Father had, with three words, delivered the entire fate of mankind into my hands.
And yet, when he looked at me, and our eyes met, I felt a sense, however small, of understanding. For, he had stepped into the World of Man so that they could escape the strict and impersonal rules and commandments laid forth by the God of Gods and instead find Compassion and the personal connection with the Lamb. A part of me expected the Prince to speak, but he remained silent. I did not know if his silence stemmed from fear of his Father, or from his wordless consent.
Suddenly, I noticed a third throne, sitting to the King’s left. In it sat a woman, more perfect than all creation. Her dark skin set her apart and was pleasing to my eye. She sat staring down at me, beautiful and frightening.
I felt the Father’s voice in my body once again, “She who carries your seed is yours. Of her own free will.”
The woman stepped down from her throne to stand beside me. She turned to face the Father and Son. “Does this please thee?” the King of all Kings and the Lord of all Lords asked me.
“Yes,” I answered. “I wish for nothing further. I will not pursue you anywhere you may go.” My gaze met with the Prince’s once more and I saw a twinkle in his eye before he looked sternly forward, glancing only momentarily down at Earth one last time.
“One final thing,” said a voice from the throne in the middle. I was given a start as I looked up. The Father’s eyes now peered down through a majestic and angelic figure, my original given body. He was talking to the woman. I saw how she gazed at the heavenly creature sitting before her, and anger flared up inside of me as I stared down at the distortion I had become.
In my body, the Father stepped down from his throne and extended his hand. In his palm was a perfect apple, the Fruit. “Take this,” he commanded her. She obeyed. His body, my body, suddenly shriveled like the desert sand and withered away. He was back on his throne, faceless.
“Then I have spoken,” boomed the Lord, Creator of All Things. “It is done.”
In the next instant, I stood on the wall of New Jerusalem, my talons digging deep into the stone. A clap of thunder more profound than had ever before been known heralded my reentrance into this world. People ceased their worshiping and then exited their dwellings to step out into the streets. For the first time in a thousand years, a cloud drifted in front of the sun. Many people below were afraid of its shadow, yet some found comfort in its shade.
Without warning, the sun was extinguished and the world was plunged into darkness as all of the stars fell from the sky. Chaos reigned as the Creator and the Word left this world forever. I wasted no time in replacing every star individually and I hung the moon tenderly myself. My winged followers began dismantling the walls of the Golden City so that mankind could again inhabit the whole of the Earth.
However, I remained perched in the sky alongside the woman. I silently folded my wings tight around me, cloaking myself to hide my scarred exterior. “Eat, Mother,” I told her. She bit deep into the Fruit, and then I set the world in motion once more.
I reached over and placed my hand on the woman’s stomach. Feeling the life that I had created brought a smile to my now attractive, borrowed face. The smile only widened as I watched the people below as they gulped up water and fed themselves for the first time since the Four Horsemen established the heavenly Reign on Earth. Hunger had been a stranger for the past millennium, but so had the pleasure of food and a full stomach.
Yes, the humans went on with their new lives and they once again became the host of Age. For now they were grateful for their gifts. However, there would come a day when their Compassion and Patience with each other would come to an end. Some would want Favor, others Riches and Power. Others still would want Answers. A segment of their kind would simply always feel unworthy and lost, seeking personal validation, satisfaction and Purpose. And when these desires could not be fulfilled to their liking by Earthly means, they would turn their attention to the heavens.
This time, I and my son would be waiting to fill the empty thrones.
“After the End” by W. J. Newsome is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.