And The Day Grows Harsh In Light

By Eric A. Burns


For the last seven years, he had been Jeremiah Walker. Thanks to the Songs of Form and Entropy, which he knew at virtuoso levels, he had been able to remake himself. Thanks to certain other advantages, he had been able to build a life, as he had done so often before. He was in graduate school, studying medieval literature and history. He had watched some of it be written. He had seen some of the battles with his own eyes. And this decade, he was nostalgic and wistful, for when the world seemed so much smaller, so much simpler.

But this was a comfortable life, and Jeremiah had begun thinking about the next twenty years. One of the girls in his class had been making her intentions clear. Ellen was a good girl... smart, wise for her years, and beautiful. Jeremiah had never had much willpower when it came to women like that. Though each time he swore would be the last, he knew it never would be. That was why they had been thrown out of Heaven. Not because they were unrepentant. They repented every time... when it was over. But it would happen again.

It was a bright, autumn day -- cold, the way completely cloudless days might be. The sunlight was almost harsh, the breeze stiff, and Jeremiah zipped his windbreaker up higher. He wasn't really affected by weather, but when you lived your life among men, reacting as a man became second nature. Except, of course, when confronted by something mankind would never understand.

There -- at the back of his neck, the prickle of hair, the trembling of the the firmament. Soft, but not too soft. The Symphony calling out. 'This should not be happening,' it whispers, like a bow drawn across the strings, so slightly out of tune.

Jeremiah shivered. After all this time, he still knew what that sound meant. And unlike some of his brothers and sisters, he still had to respond. He looked either way, then stepped off the curb and across the street. He'd just have to miss class, this time.

It was late in the season, and that meant the breezes off the Atlantic were cold, and the seas were high, pounding against the rough terrain. The sun beat down, but gave little warmth to those few October visitors. Behind the bench was the Lobster Shack -- a popular lobsterhouse for those who came to Two Lights State Park, and to the sight of the double lighthouses that gave it its name.

The man sat on the bench. Next to him were a pair of wrapped lobster rolls from the Lobster Shack. He didn't often eat, but it seemed to fit. And this was, after all, a Tether, and it was smart to support your Tethers.

He wore a coal black suit with yellow tie. His hair was steel grey, and his eyes were so light brown they seemed amber. He was powerful even sitting there, and more than one person had been drawn to look at him as he sat, unblinking as he looked into the wind.

He glanced to the side, and saw the man he was going to meet. The man was walking along the rocky hillock that extended over one part of Two Lights's peninsula. People would go out there with their cameras, take pictures of the only sandy part of the beach below -- or even go swimming, were it July and not October. The man was perhaps six foot five, and very thin. He was pale, his hair brown and somewhat short. He wore a dark blue sweater and jeans. He didn't seem at all like the sort of person the man in the suit would be meeting.

Appearances were nothing. The man in the suit knew that. His Mistress had told him, so long before, and he had taken it to heart.

It was about five minutes before the thin man sat next to him. "Are one of these for me?" he asked.

"If you like lobster."

"I like lobster fine." He picked it up, and started unwrapping. "It's funny. In New York City, or Cleveland, or Lubbock, Texas, the meat in this would go for... what, twenty five dollars a pound. Here, it's cheap enough to grill it and mix it with mayo. Like serving hot dogs."

"They catch it, right out there." The man in the suit gestured to the ocean. "They bring it into docks in Portland and all over the coast, and they sell it. It's cheap here because it's close. It should be cheap here."

"Some of them die, every year, you know. Die fighting the sea for their living, so a rich man in Lubbock can impress a woman he won't call in the morning."

"And some of them live, every year, using these lighthouses as beacons -- knowing where the dangerous rocks are."

The man in the sweater bit into the lobster roll. "It's been a long time, Soldekai."

"It has." He looks back. "A very long time, Azrael."

Jeremiah stepped carefully around the older building. It was an old fraternity house, now closed and waiting for a buyer. They'd wait a long time, because a buyer would have to fix the place up, and the Dekes had driven this house beyond fire code violations and into 'my God, how is it still standing' before vacating. Jeremiah remembered the last time he'd been resident on this campus as a student. Hm. The thirties, it must have been. He'd been to a party or two here, then.

This is where the disturbance had been. A Song, he felt certain, along with property damage. The sort of thing that most Celestials would never hear. But the Watchers heard. In his more cynical moments, Jeremiah thought about the advantage the Watchers had represented for Dominic on Earth... before he cast his Grigori out with all the rest.

Sometimes, it all seemed so fresh. Sometimes, it seemed absurdly long ago. Today, it was just there.

Jeremiah stepped into the building, smelling the musty air and the old beer. The timbers were rotting in several places, and it had been stripped bare long before. Off in one corner he could see evidence of a few crack parties -- how recent they were he wasn't sure, but the hard drug crowd loved abandoned buildings. They might have even made drugs down here.

Was that what the disturbance was? Some Demon involved in drugs? Maybe. He peered into the musty darkness, looking....

"Hello, Jephial."

The voice was strong, and clear... and knew his name. His name, which Jeremiah hadn't heard spoken out loud in more than three hundred years. His eyes grew wide. "What is this," he asked, preparing a Celestial Song of Motion -- if a Davidian was in there, ready for some Grigori-smashing fun, he'd get away before the--

"This? This is an opportunity. This is the future." A man stepped out of what had once been the Fraternity President's room, smiling slightly. He was dark skinned, and at least six foot nine, powerfully muscled and bald, with a black turtleneck and jeans on, and a gold earring in one ear. "This is where your life turns around."

"I'm not sure my life needs turning around," Jeremiah said. "Who are you? How did you find me?"

"I found you because approximately seventeen years ago, you called a Tether to War, reporting a demonic incursion. Michael likes to know who his informants are, so he found you and he kept an eye on your movements. Just in case. He's a just in case kind of guy." The man walked, smiling. Loose, but it was the looseness of total confidence. He was pacing.

"And he told you?"

"Oh, better. I know so much, Jephial. I know so much of what my parents knew. It is so sweet. I'm the illuminated one. The one who understands. The one who puts it all together into one sweet unified whole."

"I'm going to ask again... who are you. If you don't answer me...."

"If I don't answer you're going to disappear into a cloud of symphonic notes, reappearing elsewhere. Probably down at the Chapterhouse. Instead, I will answer, and we will talk, and later we'll walk down together and share a yard of ale or two." He smiled. "I am your brother, Grigori. I am the first Grigori born in thousands of years. I am the Archangel of Unity. I am Gog. And have I got a deal for you."


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