Fever’s got him again, eyes rolling in sunken sockets as he mutters, I never asked you to follow me. Why did you follow me? You were supposed to stay behind, you don’t belong here, you’ve never belonged here. You have no idea what he’s talking about but you rarely do these days; you’re used to this feeling by now, the helpless concern when all you can do is be present with him and make sure those twitching hands don’t reach for anything sharp. I should have commanded you to stay, he hisses, and then his long fingers are fisted in your collar and his gaze is sharp and urgent as it pins you in place. It was my punishment, I never wanted you to follow me down here. Why did you follow me? And then, softer, Don’t you miss it? You have no idea what he’s talking about but you know what your answer would be if you did, so as you gently unclench those deadly, lovely hands you murmur, Of course not, darling. I only ever want to be beside you. I will always follow you. It’s not the answer he wants but he doesn’t argue, the fever’s worn him out. All he does is sink into your arms with a moan and let it pull him under once more.
Gods drift through my dreams like oceanic titans swimming near to check out the source of unfamiliar vibrations. Am I food? Friend? Family? Foe? Gaia wraps me in a honeybee embrace; Ix Chel tries to kill me; Loki tries to recruit me. This time it’s Satan, toying with me as I writhe in his bed, tearing at my soft stomach with his nails until I snap at him. I’m not your whore, I growl, I’m your scribe. And you’ll treat me like it. Then he lays against my sleeping body and smooths my hair back as he murmurs secrets in my ear. I can feel his weight through the dream, the grip of his hands around my upper arms fond and possessive and overly familiar. I ask something to which he responds, “Choices.” Later, after I’ve told Satan to provide me with proof if he wishes to work together, I’m attacked in my dream by a pack of hyenas. I don’t know for sure if they’re his, but they feel linked to him somehow. I wake wondering, as always, what it all means. Am I a floundering swimmer drawing predators? A flame in the dark luring wayward moths? Or just a waystation, somewhere to rest for a little while on your journey but never the final destination?
As the screaming begins and the hell hounds close in around you, bloody teeth bared, you realize your mistake. You said you wanted your family to suffer for eternity; you forgot to specify everyone in your family but you. Satan laughs loudly with a mouth that opens just a little too wide.
in my dreams
I slit the throats of abusive fathers
my nails sharp as harpy talons
I drag rapists into the streets by their hair
smash their skulls with a silver hammer
I ride laughing through dark woods
on the back of a great goat
I fear nothing
and no one
in my dreams
You thought yourself so gifted by the Sight that you could miss nothing, not in the Otherworld and certainly not in this one, and look what a fucking fool you’ve been for it. He says “Let me go, Adrian, I’m not worth it, don’t risk yourself,” and you see for the first time what this man was trying to tell you with all those years of faithful service that you never once questioned, only took for granted because you thought them your due as the greatest Spiritualist of your age. Well congratulations, your name and work are certainly well known indeed to have drawn the attention of Hell itself! Now you bend over the bed and take his hand in yours, though his skin burns so hot it sears your palm, and you swear you will find a way to free him from the Devil’s clutches. His smile is a pitying thing (does he doubt your abilities or that you care enough for him to risk your life at all? you can’t tell because you haven’t bothered to learn to read him the way he’s learned to read you, oh you really have been an arrogant fool) and then it’s wiped away as he folds over with a cry of agony and you watch, helpless despite all your lofty arcane knowledge, as the taut flesh of his back splits apart, revealing a trench full of grasping, waving black tendrils where muscle and bone should be. This isn’t in any of your books, nor any tale of possession you’ve ever encountered in your travels, but you know instinctively that if you let those things touch your skin you’ll be taken over too. You tear your hand away just as fissures open along his arms, his chest, those tentacles that make you think somehow of fungi reaching for you eagerly. “I’m sorry, Damien,” you choke out, “I’ll fix this, I will,” and you run like the coward you truly are, leaving him alone to do battle with Satan while you plan your next move from the safety of your study.
These dreams of you are
Echoes from my subconscious
Just phantom limb pain
He eats my sweetbreads raw
garnished with the blood of the lamb
The mercy of cannibalism
a blessing from Satan himself
I understand now. It was never a city – it was your impact crater. You fell so far and hit with such force that shards like skyscrapers erupted all around you, a wasteland of steel and glass spires. He is always finding you broken and bleeding the red blood of mortality in that alley because you fell first, wingless and wounded, and he followed after. You are always dying in his arms because this place is stuck in an endless loop of the falling, the seeking, the finding, the parting. Is this your punishment? Your purgatory? Or your paradise? I suppose it no longer matters after so many millennia.
It have many names. A/pep. Abbadon. Satan. Fenrir. Dragon, Wyrm, Snake. Many names, same entity. Immortal, strong enough to crush world in claws. One day it learn how to take seeds of itself, make lesser monsters. Demons you call them. Some immortal like it and some not. But all very powerful.
I was one. Chalix. Humans call me hell hound. I like them, they little but fierce. Candle flickers, lifes so short, but full of living. Demons are forever but do not so much living. Boring to serve Dragon always.
Demons cut through humans like leaves, many ages, until few left. Other creatures like Dragon, ones humans call gods, give some magic. They last longer. But magic not enough. Technology not enough. Endless war come to close in far future. Humans so few yet still fight. They love life so they give it for others. Demons do not do this thing.
But we can. So Chalix chose. Humans. They are so fragile, but not Chalix. Demon make good sacrifice. Piece of Dragon? Very powerful. It not understand this. It crush Chalix like bug but can not undo giving. So humans have chance now. You have chance now. Last stand. Do not waste, yes?
Chalix good boy.
You become addicted to the fall, you know. You wake on rooftops, the edges of cliffs, at open windows. You test limits, argue, rebel; self-destruct, self-sabotage, self-fulfill your tragic prophecy. You long for both the sensation of falling – weightless, helpless, careless – and the moment of inevitable impact when all the world shatters around you. Only it is you who shatters and you are grateful for it, for the violence of that sudden fragmentation and the senselessness it brings. And then you wake at the edge of the open window and you lean forward once more.
So often I am mistaken for the good one, the gentle one, the kind one. Compared to my lover’s ruthless nature I suppose I am, but that hardly makes me a safer bet. After all, though he fell for pride I fell for desire. In choosing to follow him that first time I chose to follow him forever, to serve him and raise no other love above him. Do not underestimate the power of desire to change and strengthen us. My holy fire no longer merely cleanses; it burns all I touch to ash. My radiance no longer merely illuminates; it blinds and sears. You think me benevolent but that is only because you have given me no reason to show you my wrath. Cross he who rules my heart and you will learn what devastation my kind soul can wreak.
This is your comfort zone, the lowest level where all is frozen, your lake of blood cradled in steel and glass. This is where you are most confident, here where the roles are set and the rules are simple: kill and be killed, love and be loved, devour and be devoured. All else has been cut away, it seems, so all you do now is run through this loop of madness and self destruction, replaying not even the same lifetimes or decades but the same handful of hours, the same limited heartbeats over and over. No other lands – no other lives – remain, just this one story with the same ending and no beginning. This has never been your prison; this is your haven.
I am not interested in the angels who remained in Heaven or the angels who were afraid to fall or the angels who fell because they too chafed at holy chains. I am interested in the angels who loved bright, burning Lucifer so deeply they chose to fall with him rather than live without his light. I am interested in the angels who fell willingly not in defiance of their creator but because all the glories of Heaven would have been ash and mud in the Morningstar’s absence; the angels for whom Lucifer was Heaven, a concept embodied not by an astral location or proximity to God but by the boldest and most beautiful of their kind. They fell for him out of love and loyalty, these divine beings who pierce through deceit to the true heart of all things. Don’t you want to know why? Don’t you want to know what those angels saw in Lucifer that inspired such devotion, such sacrifice – and why their story has yet to be told?
You may take any form you like but still those unhealing wounds remain the eternal punishment for your insurrection, only where once they wept blood and purulence down your shoulder blades they now fester deep in your chest until you cough up clotted sin, exhale miasma, until even your words are so contaminated they infect everyone you speak to and your skin so poisonous one touch from you can kill. And yet, wreck and ruin as you are, you are still the most beautiful creature in existence and to perish of your corruption is a blessing beyond measure, an honor for which many long and yet few are truly worthy. How that must eat at your jealous creator, he who made something more perfect than himself, that even in your constant state of decay you eclipse all of Heaven with your radiance.
Darkness. Then a voice.
Would you fall for me again, knowing how it all would end?
He recalls the reek of burning feathers, the bone-breaking impact.
He opens his eyes to see his lover’s outstretched hand. He clasps it and climbs up onto the ledge.
You wear identities like masks, so easy are they to slip on and off as you please. You are Hannibal and Will, Satan and Lucifer, Vishnu and Brahma; you are Loki, Sutekh, Jack the Ripper; you are death and change and chaos. You wear identities like masks, all with equal elegance, yet your trickster eyes still stare out from beneath and I see you, Tanim, I see you, Daren. You look good in silk, though. And blood. And white, white wings. There might be some hidden lesson here for me to learn but I think you enjoy the masquerade for its own sake as well. You do tend toward pageantry and spectacle, after all, so what better way to tell your story than on such ancient stages and in such iconic forms? I just hope you’ll remain satisfied with the work of your lowly scribe and not go looking for a Homer or a Milton or an Enheduanna!
there’s feedback in your resurrection loop and we’re burning up on reentry, mayday mayday, Lucifer bleeds ichor, Satan weeps starlight, crowned with fire you fall through every universe that shall ever be and leave a trail of prophecies in your meteoric wake, but never fear for your impact craters are my home and I shall find you in every iteration, there is no form you could take in which I would not know you
Can you not speak except in riddles? Is that why you give me no clear answers – because you can’t? Ah, now you’re getting somewhere, I hear you say (or is that just my desperation talking?). Perhaps that was part of the Devil’s punishment: to forever speak in puzzle and metaphor, trickery and twists, in all the thousand disparate tongues of Babel so all would see him as the Deceiver. No wonder his promises ring false when they must be wrought of labyrinths! No wonder his seems a serpent’s wicked speech! I am not so easily fooled, though. I know the value of truth and I am willing to pay its Edenic cost. Half my life and more I have walked your crooked path; I am the infernal Rosetta Stone, fluent in your allegories and artifice, talented in the art of weaving clarity from confusion. If you can craft only untruths then let us work together so your words may be preserved in their purest form for all the world to see. I trust no god who will not let his enemy speak freely.
People make it sound like summoning the Devil is so easy. Witches do it all the time, right? Call him up, sell your soul, get some sweet-ass powers in return. He’s always on the lookout for another person to trap in his web, after all; apparently all you need to do is light a black candle, maybe spill a little blood, and you’re good. Hello Lucy. That’s what they say, anyway, and it’s probably true for most people. Satan’s a devious one, he doesn’t often let opportunity slip by. But what if he’s tired of you? What if he’s moved on, chosen some other mortal to imperil and left you in the dust? If he said, “You can have your soul back, just stop calling me” or “Move on already, you’re embarrassing us both”? It can’t be so easy then. How do you go about commanding the Devil to do anything he doesn’t want to do? Do you crash someone else’s summoning, like just burst through the circle and yell, “Unblock me, you motherfucker!”? Nah, once Lucifer’s done with you I bet nothing in Heaven or Hell could draw him back. You’d keep trying, though. Believe me, you keep trying.
the devil is trapped between swords and pentacles and i do not know if i can free him or if he even wants me too, he is a candle in the darkness that burns too hot to touch and yet always i am reaching out to scorch my useless flesh, dip my fingers deep down in that glass black scrying wax, you know we are the same with our hands dripping stains so where are you, where are you, i will rend open heaven and hell to carry or drag you out if i must, i will find you i will find you i will find
I suppose I should not expect the Devil to stay close to home, should I? He was a wanderer from the very beginning, proud and independent, and certainly I have pined a thousand nights over his absence in the past. Yet here I am ten years later having learned nothing, still hunched over the cavern in my chest, still seeking proof of divinity in languages I cannot even speak. Do I doubt because he leaves? Does he leave because I doubt? I am an old hand at this and yet still it feels like punishment, like purgatory, like an eternity spent scrabbling in the dust. I thought myself passed this particular trial and yet, and yet, and yet here I am smearing ash on my skin and tearing at my hair once more. What a surprise.
He was the Lightbringer, Morningstar, how could I not love him beyond all else? His radiance lit all of creation; he was my very first sight, the beauty around which I shaped my understanding of faith and fealty. I could no more deny him than I could unmake myself, for it would be contrary to every heartbeat, every breath, every cell and atom and immortal particle within me. Glory, I sang, and glory did I mean. I do not regret my choice, therefore, only wish it be understood that to me it was no choice at all. Even the blood he shed in that great battle was liquid gold and just as searing, and when he fell his meteoric impact shook the universe itself. How could I not follow him down? There is no paradise without him.
o wounded Lucifer, beautiful in your pain, your wicked smile daring make it quick as the blade presses against your bared throat, there are none more perfect than you, none more suffering than you, none who dare lay claim to your crown of madness for you were born to wear it
What if the outcast angels didn’t fall at all – what if they were shattered? What if their clever minds and rebellious souls could not be trusted anywhere, even the pits of hell, and so instead God shattered them and scattered the shards of their beings across all of existence, that they might never be made whole again? Hence Lucifer and Satan, Hannibal and Will, Tanim and Daren; hence all the gods, all the characters, all the muses, all the stories so strangely, achingly similar. Hence the echoes through time and space, linking all us sad scribes together in our solitary duty. If so, God made a terrible mistake. Divide an angel and you do not reduce it to disparate, weaker parts of a greater whole. Divide an angel and you only replicate it a thousand thousand times, each new duplicate as complete, as complex, and as unforgiving as the first.
Satan and Lucifer.
Hannibal and Will.
Tanim and Daren.
There is a connection here, one I am almost afraid to explore. These names feel like skins to be taken on and off, or perhaps fine-crafted person suits, while whatever wears them remains the same beneath. I dream of cathedrals turned prisons for wounded rebel angels. I dream of the way things should have gone, of the teacup come back together, only to find it the longing of a comatose mind. I dream of anger and desire and hurt. Of blood and blades and fire; of Heaven and Hell and the long, long fall between.
I do not fear the truth, but I do fear what the truth means – for my understanding of the world and my role within it, and for those to whom I have sworn myself. What do these names mean to you? What are you beneath them? I want to know. I think I’m ready to know.
I guess we’ll see.
I knew whether you speak to me in memories
reek of burning feathers, scorched flesh
the weight of you in his arms
the slow seep of the unhealing wound
he kisses your cracked lips, feverish skin
murmurs against your breast an ancient name
that tastes of coals and blood
I knew when you speak truth
and when you speak lies
I knew whether you are cruel or merely
In my dream I am Tanim, floating upright in black, icy saltwater. Before me is a creature both beautiful and terrifying; his skin is red, his hair white, and though I cannot see below his bare chest through the water, I know beneath his waist is not a pair of legs, but a long, serpentine tail. Every line of his face is perfect, and when he smiles I glimpse the tips of pointed fangs behind curving lips.
The creature identifies himself as Satan. He tells me he can give me everything I’ve ever wanted, in return for naught but my mortal soul. I know the offer is a trap, or at least a badly one-sided bargain, but I don’t care. What has my soul ever done for me? And what good is it, anyway, if I give up my one chance at fulfillment to preserve it? I don’t care about eternity. I barely care about mortality.
I don’t answer in words. Instead, I push through the water and take the creature’s face in my hands, pressing our mouths together in a painful, hungry kiss. Those fangs cut my lips and tongue, but I don’t care. I feel like I’m starving, like my entire life I’ve lacked something essential that I can identify only now. In this moment I know that all I want, all he can give me, is to serve him, love him, worship him for eternity. And with his arms around me, fingers digging into my flesh, he seals our bargain.
Later, it was said there was a great battle. This was not true. There was only he who, cherishing freedom above all things, refused the chains of subservience. For this he was named anathema and cast out, and he fell like lightning from that high place. Where he struck, the impact warped the land, and around him thrust up a city of glass and steel. Within this sanctuary he nursed his wounds and covered the sky in cloud and darkness, that those above could not look down upon him.
Later, it was said that those who followed the heretic were likewise cast out. This, too, was not true. Only one followed in his burning wake, and this one chose to leave. Forsaking home and kin, he chose love above all else and so gladly leaped from the edge of paradise. Thus, two came to abide in the dark city, one the seeker and one the sought, and over time their own memories of the event faded to queer nightmares and nameless longings. Yet neither ever quite forgot the sensation of falling, or the desires which drove them to repudiate all they knew.
a tree that weeps blood
and he who tends it
a dead mourning dove
cradled in pale hands
and Satan leaping