The Beginning of the Middle of The End
Razerak stood in the humid darkness of the South American jungle next to Oderim, his second in command, looking out over the ruins of a former Incan town. It had been weathered and eroded until it was nothing but rubble and a small altar in the center of what once had been a temple to an obscure African god that honestly had no business being worshiped deep in old Incan territory. Even in its day it had been a backwater shithole that nobody visited. Every choking breath was thick with insects that stung like they were armed with tiny spears. The sound of insects and tree frogs joined in an overwhelming cacophony that made it hard to think. The humidity was giving everyone swamp ass and jungle crotch. They were in a part of western Brazil that even locals thought of as the shithouse of South America.
The clearing for the altar in front of them was only about twenty feet in diameter, and then the jungle immediately took back over. The trees were so close in many places that you had to detour hundreds of feet before there was a gap wide enough to walk through. The altar itself was only a six-foot-long by two-and-a-half-foot-wide slab of igneous stone balanced on top of a hodgepodge pile of rocks. Twelve robed figures stood in a circle around the altar with their hands joined. They weren’t simply holding hands—their hands had been fused together with molten gold. It had been excruciating, and several of them had passed out in the process. A smattering of drugs had been required to keep them going. It hadn’t been part of the plan, so it was an impromptu cocktail of crushed-up painkillers and local cocaine cut with some kind of kitchen cleaner with powdered bleach. There was no telling what kind of trip those poor bastards were on.
The robed figures began chanting, and as their chanting grew louder the wind began to pick up, blowing back the hoods of several of them. The light of a full moon revealed grotesque ashen-colored faces that had been horrifically mutilated. Their eyes had been gouged out, leaving behind scarred empty sockets. Their ears had been hacked off, and then the flesh looked like it had been melted, dripping over the ear canal to seal it off. Their noses had been cut off flush with their faces, giving them a maimed reptilian appearance. One of them broke from the unison of chanting to let out a hauntingly melodic wail, revealing only the stub of a tongue. The chanting began to speed up, the wind beginning to howl with it. Clouds quickly covered the sky, blotting out the moon and sending the clearing into near darkness. A bolt of lightning shot down, hitting the altar. Subtly etched runes on the altar began to glow a faint blue—just bright enough to see, but not bright enough to cut the darkness.
“Bring the virgin,” said Razerak in his soft, raspy voice.
The sound of snapping tree limbs came from deeper in the jungle, and a pair of acolytes emerged, escorting a young, dark-haired woman dressed in a nearly sheer, ankle-length nightgown. Although she was being escorted, she wasn’t shackled or being forced, and she had a peaceful, almost pleased expression on her face—she was doing this of her own volition. Well, mostly. She was higher than a ’70s pornstar. As she approached the ring of conjoined monks, or whatever they were, they all went to their knees and leaned forward to lay prostrate on the ground. The woman’s escorts stopped just before the border created by the prostrate figures, and she continued to the altar on her own. She laid her left hand on the altar, and the dull runes came to life with a brilliant and crackling blue.
One of the escorts turned to the woman and pushed the hood of his robe back, revealing a clean-shaven but unmutilated head.
“Do you present yourself with your maidenhead and an open womb ready to receive the seed?” asked the acolyte.
“With all my mouth and the deepest of throats,” said the woman, with a beaming child-like smile.
“I like cock,” she replied, with a giggle.
The acolyte stared blankly.
“How about you?” asked the woman when there was no response.
“Fuck it,” said the acolyte to himself and left the woman at the altar.
The woman waived at the retreating acolyte and climbed atop the altar and stood with her arms reaching to the sky. She swayed slightly to some unheard song and began to chant similarly to what the robed monks had been before they had stopped to kneel. Her chant was slightly more complicated, and considerably better enunciated considering she still had a tongue, and raised and lowered several octaves as she sang. As she continued chanting, the two monks that had escorted her to the altar each pulled a bone dagger from their sash and kneeled behind one of the prostrate monks at opposite ends of the altar. When the woman’s chant next hit a high note, the two monks simultaneously stabbed a prostrate monk at the base of the neck. The runes on the altar flashed, and fingers of electricity reached to the woman’s legs. The monks rotated clockwise to the next set of victims and repeated the process at each high note until on the sixth cycle there was an explosion of electricity as the final two monks were stabbed.
The explosion sent the two murderous monks flying backward into the jungle, trailing smoke and screams, while the virgin began to rise through the air. A rather isolated gust of wind ripped the nightgown in two, and her naked body swarmed with swimming arcs of electricity as she floated in the air above. Her eyes began to glow, and she looked into the forest with intent at a particular patch of darkness.
“Your sacrifice is accepted. What is it you wish to know?” asked the deep voice.
“We do not seek knowledge other than that which would aid us in freeing you from the darkness,” said Razerak from within the jungle.
“I am not that kind of god,” said the deep voice.
“No, but you could be.”
There was an anxious silence. The woman still floated in the air, but her eyes were no longer glowing, and she was looking around confused. She looked like she was about to speak when the glow returned, followed by the voice.
“If you hope to bring me across the threshold to take my power, you will be sorely disappointed. Not only are my powers limited, but things just don’t work that way,” said the deep voice.
“We want no such thing. We want to make you God,” said Razerak.
“I am already a god,” said the deep voice.
“Not a god, the God.”
The deep voice didn’t immediately respond. The woman began to moan in ecstasy, louder and louder as tendrils of electricity reached from the altar to caress her body. It wasn’t an obvious transition, but at some point ecstasy turned to agony, and then her body dropped hard and fast against the altar once, twice, then three times. Oderim turned his head and covered his eyes as bones crunched and cracked, skin split, and blood shot in spurts and sprays. The mangled mess of a body was being sucked into the cracks of the altar with a slurping noise like someone trying to get the last bit of milkshake. Within moments there was nothing left but a bloody, chunky mess dripping down the side of the altar.
Razerak considered himself a hardened bastard with steel nerves, but he lurched forward and vomited onto the ground.
“Was that a yes?” asked Oderim, still covering his eyes.
“I think we’re in business,” said Razerak, wiping spittle from his chin.
Razerak looked at the clearing. It had become a corpse-ridden landscape and a Jackson Pollock smear of gore and gibs.
“So I guess you’ll take care of the rest of the bodies?” Razerak asked aloud.
There was no answer. The violent god was gone.
Mestoph stepped around a corner of the cave he had been sent to clear out and grabbed a robed man from behind, covering his mouth with one hand and slitting his throat with the other. He held the man up as he struggled to breathe until the gurgling stopped. Once he let go, the body slammed to the floor. Mestoph was ashamed to admit that he was enjoying this little killing spree. It was the first time he had been allowed to do anything more than goad a religious zealot here and there since that unfortunate Ragnarok incident.
“Cause one stupid end of the world, and you get stuck helping old ladies cross the River Styx,” mumbled Mestoph as he looked down at the robed figure.
He had killed about a dozen of these guys hanging out in this middle-of-nowhere cave in the desserts of Qumran. This particular poor sot lying in a puddle of his own blood was a little different. He had a simplistic tattoo at the base of his neck that he supposed was meant to look like an hour glass. It was two triangles pointing toward each other. The top triangle was solid black, while the bottom triangle was just an outline. A few specks of what were likely sand were falling from the top triangle, but they didn’t seem to have accumulated at the bottom yet.
“Wonder if that means you’re new,” Mestoph wondered aloud.
Mestoph looked at two of the others he had silently taken down seconds ago just down the corridor from his most recent victim to verify what he already knew: beyond the red-and-black harlequin-patterned robes everyone down here wore, none of them had any tattoos or other distinguishing marks at all.
Mestoph shrugged. “With kids these days who knows?”
A curved blade swept across Mestoph’s path as he turned back around.
In his playing amateur detective, he hadn’t been paying attention and had given someone the chance to sneak up on him.
Mestoph stepped back in time to see a single strand of his tightly braided dreadlocks fall to the ground. He looked down at the few inches of hair on the ground and then up at a pale white-robed man with a shaved head and scimitar.
“Do you know how long it took me to get that shit back in shape after fighting a fucking fire monster?” asked Mestoph as he swept back the left flap of his trench coat and pulled out a pistol, pulling the trigger as soon as it was leveled at the man’s head.
The bald man had been confused by the fact that someone he had just attacked was trying to have a conversation with him about his hair. He just stood there dumbfounded as Mestoph blew his brains out. The gun had a silencer, but they weren’t exactly as silent as the name implied. If anyone was nearby, the element of surprise was over. Despite that, Mestoph took a moment to flip the swordsman over. At the base of his neck was the same simple hourglass, though the empty bottom half of his looked more like it was surgically carved out of his skin instead of just outlined.
“Maybe you’re just more of a masochist than the others,” said Mestoph.
In the distance Mestoph could hear the clatter of hurried footsteps and what he assumed were swords being drawn. Mestoph smiled, holstered his gun, and picked up the dead man’s curved scimitar. He took a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship of the Ottoman sword—it was old, but it was in excellent shape and was obviously plenty sharp. He deftly entered a practiced and comfortable swordsman’s stance and waited for whoever would be coming around the corner. Moments later another pale bald man with a scimitar rounded the corner and immediately lost his head. The body tumbled over itself as Mestoph danced out of the way like a matador. The man’s head rolled off somewhere behind him.
Another grunt hurtled around the corner, meeting a swift death. The sword was sharper than Mestoph realized. Having a Demon’s strength behind it didn’t hurt either. There was a long pause without anyone coming round the corner, so Mestoph began to carefully make his way deeper into the cave. It wasn’t likely that there were only three guys with swords, especially since these kinds of cults loved even numbers and symmetry. Those he had just killed were obviously the dumber ones of the group. Mestoph waited a moment and then spun around the corner in a defensive pose. He had judged the pose just right and easily blocked the strong blow that was waiting for him and kicked back at the assailant to give himself some distance.
The man staring back at him was naked and almost as dark-skinned as Mestoph, his Demonic complexion being nearly absolute black. The man had neatly folded his robe and set it out of the way. Clearly being clothed was too constricting for effective fighting to this guy. Mestoph had little doubt the guy was crazy, but he was just as likely a very good swordsman too. Men that crazy don’t usually live very long lives being mediocre fighters.
The dark man made a few exploratory swipes at Mestoph, but he just flicked them away. He was just gauging Mestoph’s response—maybe hoping he was overeager or hotheaded enough to blindly charge in. The man made a more serious attack, and Mestoph blocked and dodged a series of increasingly stronger swings, the final of which was an all-in show of strength that Mestoph took advantage of and slashed at the man’s backside as he swiveled around the attack, his coat swishing behind him as he moved. To Mestoph’s surprise, he didn’t connect. Instead, the man had given up the attack mid-swing and rolled out of the way.
“Not bad,” said the bald man in an accent that was both odd, and oddly familiar.
The accent clicked, and Mestoph dropped the sword and pulled his gun.
“What are you doing down here with some silly cult?” asked Mestoph, pointing the gun at the man.
The man looked at him with equal amounts of confusion and disappointment.
“Do I know you?” asked the man, the accent now securing any doubt Mestoph might have had.
“I am Mestopholes, spawn of Mephistopheles. Who are you?”
“Uh…I’m Aziz,” replied the man.
This time it was Mestoph’s turn to be confused.
“Aziz Anwar. From Arizona. Maybe you know my dad?” said bald, naked Aziz from Arizona.
“Who’s that?” asked Mestoph,
“Satan!” said Aziz with a grin as he charged Mestoph.
Mestoph backed away frantically, trying to avoid the flurry of blows all while shooting wildly at Aziz from Arizona. Mestoph backed into the stone wall of the cave and kept pulling the trigger until it clicked. Aziz had stopped his charge forward and was panting in exhaustion. He began to shake as adrenaline was fading, and he looked down to see he had been shot a half-dozen times in his chest and once in his leg. The blood coming from the bullet wounds was a deep, dark red, but it wasn’t what Mestoph had been expecting.
“You have no idea what you are, do you?” asked Mestoph.
“I’m Aziz. From Arizona,” said the man as he collapsed to one knee.
“You’re a half-blood, Aziz. Part Demon,” said Mestoph as he pulled a knife and walked up to the shaking man.
The man just looked up at Mestoph, confusion and fear in his eyes. He knew he was dying, but he didn’t have a clue what Mestoph was talking about.
“Enjoy Hell, Aziz,” said Mestoph as he thrust his knife deep into the man’s throat.
Aziz from Arizona gurgled and bubbled blood and then flopped backward.
Mestoph had heard of half-Demons, and had even met a few in Hell, but didn’t think they existed on Earth. There was a dark time just after The Fall where all sorts of half-creatures had roamed the world, but God and His most trusted Angels had hunted them to extinction—or so he thought. Mestoph flipped naked Aziz from Arizona over, and the tattoo on his neck was the same hourglass shape, but each triangle was only half-full. Maybe it alluded to his half-bloodedness. Maybe it was just an indication of rank. Maybe it was both, and maybe it was nothing. Regardless, Mestoph moved on. Unsure whether there were any more cult members in fighting shape, he loaded another clip in his gun before holstering it and picked up his dropped scimitar.
Mestoph cautiously delved deeper into the ancient cave, finding definite signs of life but no actual life to speak of. There were living quarters for what he would assume were about two dozen cult members. They were divided with simple curtains and contained two to three cots or pallet beds per room. There were simple, functional items such as wooden trunks, clay cups, and crude iron eating utensils that were all neatly arranged in cubbyholes in the walls of the cave.
“Why are cults always such horrible decorators?” Mestoph asked himself.
Some of the beds were neatly made, while some of them were disheveled. He wasn’t sure if they were messy or had been startled awake by the sound of fighting. Considering how clean and orderly just about everything else was, he was guessing the latter. Mestoph lifted up the corner of the mattress of one of the messier beds to see a stack of old, well-worn porno mags. He flipped through a few pages of hardcore porn. The kind with the thinnest veils of story for those weirdos that needed plot to get off.
“Oooh. Naughty, naughty cult member,” said Mestoph as he threw the magazine on the bed.
There were all the signs of people living, thriving, and maybe even being happy in the dreary and styleless little cult hideaway. What he did not see were shelves of swords, any room that could’ve been an armory, or any sign of a training room for the warriors. Mestoph was coming to what he assumed was the end of the habitable cave system, assuming no one was living in the deeper parts of the cave that appeared through narrow crevices even an anorexic model would have a hard time slipping through.
There were two carved arches at the end of a long, wide corridor that seemed to be the end of the road. Both arches were filled in with a wooden slat wall and a thick, heavy door with old iron locks and pull-rings. There was also the unmistakable stench of burning flesh that seemed to be emanating from the door to the left. It wasn’t heavy, but there was also no doubt in his mind as to what it was. He’d spit-roasted enough humans in Hell to know.
Mestoph held his hand close to the door from which the stench emanated to make sure it wasn’t hot and then double checked the iron pull-ring. Satisfied he wasn’t going to have a permanent brand on his hand, he pulled the ring and opened the door to a long mess hall. The hall was lined with eight simple but sturdy and well-made wooden bench tables in two rows of four. Sitting slumped face-first on the tables were about a dozen cult members in their harlequin robes. In front of most were clay cups like he had seen in the rooms. A few sat upright and proper, a few had tipped over with tiny bits of liquid spilled, and a few had fallen to the ground and shattered. It had the telltale signs of a mass suicide.
Mestoph walked up and down the rows and inspected the necks of each, made easy by the fact they were all leaning forward, and found that the tattoos of each one had been cut and peeled from their necks. Mestoph checked the large fireplace that had been carved out of the far wall and saw curled, smoldering flaps of burned leather—or more accurately, skin. The smell of burning flesh was coming from the fireplace, confirming his theory. He doubted they had poisoned themselves and carved their own tattoos off, which meant that there was at least one more body to be found. Mestoph checked the kitchen beyond the mess hall and the larder beyond that but found nothing of interest but some dried meat he hoped was beef jerky. He finally made his way back outside the mess hall and stood at the second door munching on a piece. He wasn’t sure why, but he was compelled to knock on the door. It swung open on well-oiled hinges to reveal a well-appointed study with a large, ornate desk at the back. Sitting at it and facing Mestoph was an ancient, ink-black man with long, almost pure white hair—a full-blooded Demon.
“Come on in,” said a soft, shaky voice in the old Demonic tongue of a time before he was born. It was the language the Angels had made up to secretly plan their mischief before The Fall.
Mestoph stepped in, looking to his sides for waiting attackers, but there were none. After a few steps he felt the cushion of thick carpet below him and looked down to see a large, rectangular rug depicting The Fall. On the left and right sides it showed Angels on high cliffs cutting off their own or each other’s wings. Some of those wingless Angels were diving off the cliffs with swords pointing to the ground below like sword-tipped kamikazes. At the top was a series of spiraling clouds with a single, much larger Demon falling backward, reaching up to a single hand that poked out from the clouds. Around that hand flew small seraphim that were fighting among each other. On the ground were winged and wingless Angels fighting each other with intense brutality. They were impaling each other, lopping off heads and limbs, and disemboweling one another.
“I’m one of those wingless ones fighting on the ground,” said the old Demon.
Mestoph had been lost in the detail and looked up, slightly startled. The old Demon brushed long strands of wispy white hair behind his shoulders to reveal the broken remnants of keratinous horns. Demons didn’t really have horns. What they actually had were dimmed and broken halos, and only the really old ones had those. Until now, his father was the only Demon he had personally met that had horns.
“Which one?” asked Mestoph.
“Tuluzel. Bright One. Obviously that was before The Fall. Now I’m just a dim remnant of what was once considered perfection,” said the old man, letting his hair fall back in place.
“I don’t understand. What is all this?” said Mestoph.
“Too much to explain. But I do have a message for your master,” said Tuluzel.
“You can tell him yourself,” said Mestoph as he began to cross the distance between him and the desk. He stopped abruptly when Tuluzel swept aside a massive hourglass and picked up an old Colt Baby Paterson revolver lying on the desk, unnoticed because of the clutter of old scrolls, leather-bound books, and random artifacts on it.
“I don’t think so,” said Tuluzel.
Mestoph paused for a second and then pulled his pistol from inside his coat. Mestoph was quick, but the ancient Demon was quicker. Tuluzel shot off a round into the shoulder of Mestoph’s gun arm, causing him to drop his pistol. The Demon then burst forth, splitting the heavy wooden desk in two. Wood, paper, and priceless artifacts went in all directions as Tuluzel slid forward in a blur. The Colt revolver was at Mestoph’s temple before his own pistol even hit the ground.
“Well, let’s get this over with,” he said.
Tuluzel laughed hoarsely, revealing long canine teeth and spitting in Mestoph’s face. Mestoph squeezed his eyes shut, waiting for the bang.
“Tell Lucifer the Sons of Light and Darkness are coming for him. We’re coming for you all,” said the ancient Demon and then pulled the trigger.
It took a second for Mestoph to realize he wasn’t dead. He’d died plenty of times before. He was used to the brief but agonizing pain and then the disorientation of waking up either in his apartment or in one of the debriefing cells, depending on who killed him and where he was when he died. When he opened his eyes he was in neither of those places. He was on the plush carpet depicting The Fall, and he was covered in brains and blood, and there was a mostly headless Demon lying on top of him. The crazy motherfucker had Mestoph dead to rights but had killed himself instead.
Mestoph stood up and looked down at the Demon. The top half of his head was gone. Equal parts of it were now on Mestoph and the ceiling. He started kicking the body.
“Do you know how hard it is to get blood and brains out of dreadlocks, you dickface?” he said, continuing to kick the corpse.
After a good minute of venting, and kicking Tuluzel’s ribcage into a rumpled mess, Mestoph finally stopped and took a deep breath.
“Feel better?” asked a man’s muffled voice from the corner of the room behind what was left of the desk Tuluzel had destroyed.
“Who the hell is that?” asked Mestoph.
“Why don’t you come find out?” asked the voice, sounding like there was something partially stuffed in his mouth.
“Why don’t you come out?” asked Mestoph.
“I would if I could.”
Mestoph pondered for a moment but realized there really wasn’t much someone under the rubble of a desk could do. Especially since he hadn’t seen anyone else in the room before Brain Splatter Bob ruined his hair. He moved the largest pieces of desk aside and found a rectangular-shaped something covered up with a linen tablecloth. He pulled the tablecloth quickly like a magician, revealing a small three-foot-square cage made of bone with a sturdy lock on the door. The man inside was folded in ways that would make a contortionist cringe and had a small gag hanging half out of his mouth.
Mestoph looked around for something blunt to smash the lock before deciding to just shoot it off. He opened the cage and began trying to unfold the cramped man.
“Easy, asshole. I’ve been folded up like this for two fucking years.”
Mestoph just ignored him. He decided to take the Band-Aid approach and jerked him out all at once. The main screamed briefly before passing out on the floor for a few seconds. When he woke back up, he stared at Mestoph, and his face contorted in rage.
“You!” he said and jumped up, his hands out like he was going to strangle Mestoph.
The threat was empty, as his atrophied muscles let him down and he barely made it to his knees without falling over. Mestoph took a closer look at the guy. He was emaciated and wore nothing but a thin and tattered pair of pants made from sackcloth. When he looked back up at Mestoph, he saw a matted mess of reddish-brown hair with a thick and mangy beard of the same color, but there was something about the eyes and nose that were familiar. When anger reentered the man’s face he looked like a mangy animal, and then it clicked – he knew this Demon.
“Fuck you, Mestoph!” shouted The Weasel, and he tapped some inner reserve of rodent strength, lunging forward.
The Weasel managed to tackle Mestoph, more out of surprise than strength, and straddled him on the ground. He swung at Mestoph repeatedly, but it was ineffective, and Mestoph just laughed as he halfheartedly blocked the punches.
“It’s your fault I ended up down here,” said The Weasel, breathlessly as he continued to try to hurt Mestoph.
Mestoph grabbed both of the Demon’s arms to stop the weak assault.
“How do you figure that?” he asked.
“After that shootout in Truth or Consequences, I got sent to the desert for ‘patrol duty,’ and then these assholes captured me,” said The Weasel, spitting with anger as he talked.
Mestoph threw the Demon’s arms back and just shook his head.
“It’s not my fault you have poor judgment and sided with that psycho of an Angel. Or that you suck at being a security guard,” he said.
“How about this for poor judgment,” spat The Weasel, pointing Tuluzel’s Colt in Mestoph’s face.
“Oh,” was all Mestoph got out before The Weasel pulled the trigger. This time he really was dead.
The Weasel smiled at the hole in the center of Mestoph’s forehead. He stared at it proudly for a few seconds until Mestoph’s body began to deflate. The Weasel looked down at the collapsing body as it began to go brittle and flake to ash.
“And my name’s Atreyus, asshole.” And he shot the body again. It turned to dust.
Atreyus looked around at the ransacked room. He wouldn’t be missing this place. He could really use a good, stiff drink and thought about a bar he liked to haunt in the bay area of Vladivostok where the submarine crews liked to get lit on shore leave. He felt the old familiar tug of teleportation kicking in and disappeared from the cave with an explosive decompression that destroyed what was left of the room’s contents.
But when Atreyus popped back out, he wasn’t in the familiar belly of his favorite dive bar. Instead he was floating aimlessly in blackness. There was no up or down, north or south, in or out—just black. He tried to teleport again, felt the familiar pull, and heard the normal pop and puff of smoke, and yet he was still suspended in black. Again and again he tried with the same end result of a pop and a puff—or maybe he was just teleporting right back to the emptiness every time. In a haze of slightly dissipated teleport smoke, he finally gave up. He was just going to have to wait this out. After a while the smoke cleared and his eyes began to adjust to the darkness, and he realized it wasn’t entirely black. There was a faint green glow from an angular black shape in the distance. He couldn’t make out any details from this distance, but it was definitely something.
After a little bit of flailing to try and swim or gain any kind of momentum in the direction of the glow, he realized he was still holding the Colt revolver. He wasn’t entirely sure what would happen, but he decided to point it in the opposite direction of the distant shape. The gun went off silently. He felt the recoil, and he saw a nearly perfect sphere of smoke where the end of the barrel had been. If it weren’t for the smoke he wouldn’t even have known he was moving. It was painfully slow, but definite progress. He didn’t know how many bullets were left in the little gun, so he saved them. An hour later he fired again for course correction. This time he moved slightly faster. He could already tell he was still a little off course, but he decided to wait until he was closer and could make a more accurate judge of the angle. Two hours later he fired another shot and was confident he was heading straight for the glow.
Time blurred. He had no idea how long he floated there. It felt like days. Slowly the object backlit by the green glow came into focus. It was a house. An old Queen Anne-style, three-story house with huge bay windows, an octagonal tower on one side, and weathered clapboard siding and cedar shingles. Below the house were copper pipes that stretched a few feet before ending abruptly. It looked like it had literally been lifted out of the ground and tumbled into space.
The sight of something relatively familiar put Atreyus at ease, and he let himself drift slowly toward the glowing house. That was until he heard a rumbling that sounded like someone with an empty stomach, and a deep humming like a giant that just saw something of interest.
“What have we here?” said a voice so deep Atreyus felt rather than heard it.
“Ahh. Another tasty morsel.”
“No. Fucking. Way,” said Atreyus, and he stuck the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
It only clicked. He was out of bullets.
“You’re not going anywhere,” rumbled the voice.
God was sitting at His desk, leaning far back into His chair, snoozing when the beep of the intercom startled Him awake. He sat upright and looked around confused for a moment. He wiped drool off His chin as the intercom beeped again.
“Yes?” asked God, still a little dazed from His nap.
“Sorry to bother you, sir, but there’s a rather agitated little man here talking like it’s The End of the World,” said His pleasant secretary, Mary, through the speaker.
“They’re disappearing!” shouted an exasperated man in the background.
“Is that Horace?” asked God, though He knew very well it was.
“Yes, sir,” said Mary.
God took a deep breath and sighed. Horace was always thinking The End of the World was coming. But He also knew that the longer he put Horace off, the more annoying he would get—and the longer it would take to calm him down.
“Send him in,” said God.
When the static of the intercom cut off He picked up a small brass bell from His desk and rang it once. A moment later a small door in the wall near the entrance to the office opened up, and a small man of about three feet stepped out wearing a white robe that covered his feet.
“The works, Metatron. Let’s make him think we’re taking him seriously,” said God to the little man.
Just before the door opened, God’s appearance went blurry, and He was engulfed in a white light. The light moved as God walked to the center of the room and waited. Metatron, the diminutive man that was the Voice of God, walked to the door and waited until the door opened.
“Come in,” said Metatron, acting as the voice of God.
The voice was deep enough to be commanding, but not so much as to be intimidating. He spoke clearly and eloquently with a slight British accent—it’s what Horace expected. The only problem was that Horace paid Metatron no mind. The short Roman marched straight through the edge of the blur, his toga rustling behind him, and slammed a stack of papers on God’s desk.
“I appreciate the theatrics, but we don’t have time for this,” said Horace impatiently.
Metatron looked to God, shrugged, and nodded as he headed back to his little door. The glow surrounding God went out, and then the blur disappeared.
“What’s got you so riled up this time, Horace?” asked God, trying to hide His annoyance.
“Angels are disappearing. At least a thousand of them in the last hour. They’re teleporting and never making it where they’re going. Something is broken,” blurted the short Roman man.
“So? Angels are vanishing and not coming back. The crystals are corrupt. Or maybe the lenses are out of alignment. Or maybe there’s dark magic at work. Whatever it is, something bad is happening,” said Horace, his voice suddenly loud and high-pitched.
“Well, if that’s true, it’s obviously part of My plan,” said God, shrugging it off.
“How should I know?” asked God.
“If it’s Your plan, shouldn’t You know what it is?” asked Horace, his eyes bulging.
“Well, if it’s not My plan, then that means something really bad is happening,” said God, as if that explained everything.
“Good. I’m glad we got that sorted out. Now why don’t you go grab yourself a nice wine and calm down,” said God.
“Sorted? Sorted? What’s sorted? What are You going to do?”
Horace was red in the face and breathing shallow. He looked like he was about to pass out. God realized this was just going to keep going in circles if He didn’t do something to placate the hysterical little guy.
“Fine. Fine. We’ll turn off the Apparatus and go back to the old way. Magic mirrors, wishing wells, enchanted locomotion—the works. No teleportation until we figure out what My plan was.”
“Already done. And I’ve already made an inventory of our artifacts with a list of who should get what. I’ve also got a draft for informing the public, recommended routes for regular travel, and a list of public transportation systems we can put back into service,” said Horace, clearly pleased with God’s decision.
God sighed. This meeting was going to take forever.
If you enjoyed reading this sample chapter of Sons of Light and Darkness and want to find out what kind of crazy shit Mestoph and Leviticus get involved in then pick up the copy here!