By "Perry M. Lloyd" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Well, here it is... nigh final draft of The Beginning. All 20 pages.
Steve hated Monday morning, especially in New York. Every Monday morning he'd lie in bed until the clock said he had 15 minutes before he had to leap out the door to make it to the bus stop. He'd wait in bed for just a few more minutes and finally, when he only had five minutes to make his bus, he'd leap out of bed, grab a Debbie cake or whatever, jump into some haphazardly chosen clothes, and then rush down the stairs, making it out of the door just in time to catch the bus. Maybe.
In depths of Hell, in a shadowy corner of an abandoned warehouse in Shal-mari, Kobal sat upon his throne of bones. The throne was designed in dark mockery of Saminga's; the ultimate irony was that the Prince of Death would only see it as a twisted compliment. But these were not the thoughts that flittered across Kobal's mind. Recently he realized that an idea in his mind was only half-baked. It demanded his attention. And so, he sat, and thought.
Kelly's eye lids creaked open painfully, the screeching beeping of her alarm keeping her awake. Time to get up for Statistics. _Why do they always put the required courses so early in the morning?_
She flicked on the radio. "... say that this comet Hively appears to have an orbit so large that it will most likely not be seen by earth again for over a thousand years. Already, across the nation, various religious groups are making the connection between comet Hively, the ending of the Millennium, and the possible end of the world..."
Kelly turned off the radio in disgust. _How could people possibly be so naive? The world wasn't going to end anytime soon._ The sheer ignorance of the American Nation disgusted her.
The first shot was not fired by a gun, it had been fired by a rocket launcher and it had taken out the front gate.
"Sweet Jesus," whispered Colonel Graves. He saw them storming the gate, moving through the electrified fence. What in the name of God was going on? _Did they actually think they had a chance of taking a military installation?_
Turning to face his Lieutenant he found himself face to face with a tall, black robed figure. Maintaining composure, he stammered, "Who are you? How," but was cut off by a scythe at his throat.
From the center of the cloaked figure there came a low, haunting voice. "Sorry about the dramatics, but I thought you might like to know that you're about to die."
The figure vanished and Colonel Graves looked down at the blood spilling from his belly.
Tim withdrew the knife. "Man, that was so easy, he just stood there!"
"Oh, course," replied Don, "He saw that we have the glory of God on our side."
Sariel looked down from the Upper Reaches of Heaven and smirked. The Hand of God was being felt on the land already.
Kelly pulled her knapsack higher on her shoulder and ignored the Jerk she could feel tailing her. _Why did men always follow her? Men, men, men... The problem with the world is men. Men's wars, men's problems, men's stupid penis envy bullshit. Sometimes she just wished that all the men in world would just die. She didn't really want it really, but sometimes..._
"They have WHAT??!!!" Zeredah was *pissed*. Nuclear warheads don't just escape notice. Somebody had been hiding this from him and he could guess who. Michael was going to be *seriously* pissed.
"I did it!" thought Al-Hakim. "They will pay, they will pay for everything, they will pay!!!!"
He looked down at his hands and saw them shaking. Finally, the nation of Israel was punished. In horror he wondered if he had caused the destruction of Jerusalem as well!
Hair in hands he tore down the hall and out of the building. Weeping tears from the bottom of his heart he begged forgiveness from the Lord.
Kronos just smiled.
A small toy clown wobbled over to Kobal's feet. His eyes caught the serial number on the back and the words: UNRETURNABLE WITHOUT PROOF OF PURCHASE. Inside Kobal's soul, in the depths of his mind, he felt the Final Joke beginning to take shape. With disturbing clarity, he realized where Lucifer's plans for Earth would ultimately lead. His mind turned faster, looking for loop-holes to exploit the humor therein and possibly save existence.
Saminga looked on with glee as the nuclear warhead flew towards the city of Tel Aviv, eagerly expecting the rush of power and the likelihood of a new Tether.
The warhead struck the city, Saminga braced himself, the explosion rocked the world and... nothing? With confusion and Horror, Saminga watched a New Tether form on the Earth. With all the death, the tether ought to be his, yet he felt no connection to it. Suspecting Divine interference, Saminga fumed.
Then, slowly, it dawned on him that there was another being in the universe which was sharing his Word. His power was being divided, his being was being split. Like Belial, his very existence was being challenged, his very power was being siphoned.
Saminga's form shimmered in anger, rage and hate. Whoever was challenging his Word was going to PAY.
"According to recent reports, the city of Tel Aviv has been attacked with a nuclear warhead. The President of the United States has declared that we shall retaliate with full non-nuclear force."
The Shedim's celestial form slithered out of his former host, leaving him to deal with what he had just started. The landscape of the Americas would never be the same.
"Salmael," came a whisper from the shadows. Looking, Salmael saw the form of Belial, clothed in robes of darkness, smoldering.
Putting a wing around Salmael's ethereal form, Belial softly commented, "You have used your Roles well and your Demons have spread over the globe with the weapons. Things bode well. Welcome to the Captains of Eternal Fire."
A sick grin crossed Salmael's many mouths. Belial smirked. "Be prepared to defend your title," he said. "Few win a title such as this without having to defeat their predecessor.
Salmael smiled confidently, but inside his twisted mind, he prayed to Lucifer that his demons' roles would hold out. _So far, so good._
Orc's face fell. The unthinkable had been done. As Angel of Networks, he'd seen it almost right away, almost before the EMP had blacked the city of Tel Aviv and the surrounding area. This was *not* going to be a good day.
This was no ordinary Monday. Steve woke up not to the sound of his alarm clock, but to the sound of wood creaking. And then the sound of wood breaking, cement breaking. Still in a daze, Steve groped for his wrist watch. It was 8:23. He was late for work!!! As plaster fell around him, Steve slowly rolled out of bed and wondered where his pants were.
Don and Tim looked over the nuclear missile. Tim looked fearfully into Don's eyes. The wide, crazed eyes were disturbing, yet calming.
"Don, you okay? Me, I'm still shaking from killing that guy."
"I'm fine; you feel fine, too," Don replied, his Resonance sweeping over Tim.
"Yeah, you're right, I guess I am. Well, let's do this and get it over with."
"Mr. President, we *have* to retaliate."
"Now, now, let's not be too hasty, I've already declared a state of National Emergency."
"Excuse me, Mister President?"
"Yes?" He said, turning away from the Secretary of State.
"Your bunker awaits."
"Zeredah, this is a grave day," said Michael, his voice low. "If this activity on Earth is indeed the result of the Diabolicals carefully altering the Symphony then we must expect an assault on our doorstep."
"The several nuclear warheads we have managed to keep out of Diabolicals' hands must have been just the tip of the ice-berg." _Funny, the Symphony is disturbingly calm._
Michael continued. "As the people die below us, I can feel my power grow. Yet, I feel the power of my fellow Archangels wane. Consult not Yves, I see as clearly as he on this issue. The Diabolicals mean to storm Heaven. Well, let them come. I shall send for the others. Heaven will be ready for them."
It takes about four minutes for the brain to die completely from lack of oxygen. Steve was not even allowed those four minutes as his New York apartment was flattened from the air pressure of the nuclear detonation.
Litheroy stood among the rubble that was once Tel Aviv. As he shook his head in utter amazement at humankind's folly, he caught sight of a black speck in the sky. Looking more closely, he saw it was a giant black crow.
"Raym," he muttered under his breath. "Raym, Calabite of the Trojan Horse, charged with the destruction of cities. His preferred vessel is that of large black crow, isn't it?" This needed to be investigated further...
"The President has been declared unfit to lead the nation, it's a matter of National Security! Launch the God-Damn planes! I don't care what you have to do just get them in the air!!!"
They stood tensely. Someone farted. Another snorted in laughter.
"God Damn it!!!"
Iniaes, Knight of Derision and Demon of Farts, chuckled to himself. It was a wonderful day and the laughs just kept coming.
"Isn't there *anything* on?"
"No, dear, just the news."
"Jesus Christ," Bob said and he crossed the floor of his underground shelter. _Couldn't even get decent radio station at the end of the world._
"I'm going to put on some Chopin, is that okay, hon?"
"That's fine," Martha replied. _Thank goodness this God-forsaken shelter got used. It'd be a shame to let all that money go to waste. I guess Bob was right about purchasing it, after all._ Musing silently, Martha continued to stir the soup. Lunch would be served, nuclear war or no.
Sariel, Archangel of Death, Hand of God, looked out over his armies. He turned to his first division and said "Go unto the earth below and mark those who are Destined to be in New Jerusalem. Mark them with the name of the Lord. Avoid disturbing the Symphony, we must not disturb God's creation. You serve the Hand of God!"
"Now go!" Sariel cried out, pointing down to the earth with his dark blade. The first division swarmed onto the earth like locusts onto fields of grain.
Sariel took his finger and forced his new Tether in Tel Aviv even wider.
New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo... Grand cities of the world would fall this day, all thanks to his and Salmael's demons. Raym was very pleased with himself. _All those years of waiting, plotting, the burying of Pompeii, the burning of Rome, the Chicago Fire, the fire-bombing of Hamburg, the Manhattan Project, the San Francisco Earthquake, all had been mere stepping stones to this day, this great day..._
As Baal watched the death and terror above, the impatience within him was growing. He felt a tap his shoulder.
"Oh, Baal," Kronos cooed.
"What?" Baal replied bluntly, turning sharply. His callous tone was softened immediately upon sight of Lucifer himself standing behind Kronos.
Lucifer, Bringer of Light, Morningstar, Prince of the Power of the Air spoke. "Heaven's power wanes as the storm below rages. The peoples of the earth are dying in great number. Our power thus grows. Heaven is weak, the time to overthrow God is now."
Pride swelled in Baal's belly.
"Baal, Prince of the War, gather your troops and join their forces with those of Belial and Saminga. I, too, shall bring my brightest. We take Heaven NOW!"
A cry went up among the troops, a battle cry of defiance and unholiness. A cry of revenge against the tyrant they had all grown to hate. The tyrant God would be toppled from his throne.
With fierce fire and glorious pride, the four led their respective armies towards Heaven with abandon.
Orc was losing power, and in a very real way. The Networks of the Earth were collapsing. Huge chucks of net were becoming rapidly nonexistent, one after the other, causing massive structure gaps and weaknesses. But, he couldn't allow mere self-preservation to guide his thinking, that sort of pride could only lead to one thing. He turned his thoughts to setting things right as best he could.
"Jean!" cried Novalis, "Do you know what's going on down there?"
"Yes, I've been informed."
"You've got to do something!"
"I cannot, the humans have brought it upon themselves. The Symphony remains undisturbed. You have felt this, yourself, I'm sure."
"But millions are dying!"
"Yes. And, it seems that this is the Will of the Lord. The Symphony has not been disturbed enough recently for there to be celestial interference."
In a flurry of tears and ruffled petals, Novalis ran from Jean's Cathedral. Undaunted, she decided to run to the Eternal City and seek an audience with Yves.
Tracy came out of her house. She could hear her family calling out to her to come back inside, to the safety of the basement. In her heart of hearts she knew that she would die. There was no doubt about that, none, she had complete faith in this fact. She just wanted to see the sky.
Above the Great Plains, the sky was changing colors, from pink to violet. It was... enrapturing. Suddenly, without warning, she found herself lifted off the ground by a powerful hand. The roar of motorcycle engines filled her ears The smell of stale sweat and old leather offended her nose; she came face to face with a biker laughing maniacally at her. They and their bikes sped across the wheat fields, carrying Tracy with her.
"Urk," was all she was able to get out of her mouth before she felt a rough hand on her neck, holding her head in place. The first sensation she had was the smell of burning flesh, the second was of the hot pain on her forehead, the third was on landing roughly on the ground.
Her eyes flew open and she saw the sky begin to fill with darkness. She made it to the porch, her family had come out to help her. No one could make any sense of the brand upon her forehead:
@@@@@@@@ @@@ @@@@@@@@ @@@ @ @@@ @ @@@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @
As the sky darkened to pitch blackness and became as night, Tracy's family convinced her to enter the house. They retreated into the basement. The dust from the motorcycles faded in the distance.
Laurence glanced at Michael. Michael nodded and looked to David. David, too, was ready. He looked to Gabriel who seemed lost in her own world.
That might be as ready she was going to get.
"Yves!" cried out Novalis in the doorway of the Great Library.
"Shhh..." hushed Archangel Beth.
Moving past the relatively new Archangel, Novalis charged into the interior of the Library. From behind her came Yves' voice, "What is the matter?"
"They're destroying themselves!"
"Yes, they've been doing it since Abel's time."
"That's not the point! This time it's really terrible! People everywhere are dying, I feel the Earth herself crying out in pain. It's just not right!"
"The Lord works in mysterious ways, my dear. There is much more to come."
"You always say that!"
Yves smiled and went back to his books.
Uriel touched the path of the comet with his celestial hands. He was the Archangel of Purity. Before had been too early, his time was now. He could feel it. Grasping the path of the comet in his left hand he tugged its path so that it intersected with Earth. Comet Hively was large, a kilometer or so across, but it wouldn't destroy the earth completely. The Symphony would survive, if this even disturbed it. He was an agent of the Lord, how could he do wrong?
As Lucifer and his fallen angels approached Heaven, his stomach fell. He could see them there, waiting for him. How had they known?
With a battle cry, a whoop and a scream to the Glory which is not God, Lucifer, Baal, Belial and Saminga met Michael, Laurence, David and Gabriel.
Lucifer and Michael wrestled, Michael's power increased one hundred-fold by the war across Earth and in the Holy Land, Lucifer's power increased from ruling over Hell for so many millennia.
"We will take Heaven, ignorant snake, Kronos has foreseen it!"
"I see the Liar has begun to believe in his own lies!" Michael shot back.
"If freedom is a lie then I embrace it! Not even all of God's slaves can stop us now!!!" cried out Lucifer. The two giants battled on the field, thousands of angels and demons surrounding them. Heaven and Hell's best and brightest, battling for Fate and battling for Destiny.
Laurence squared off with Baal. He battled courageously, but his honor deceived him and was defeated easily. David tried to intervene but was forced back by Saminga's armies. In mad rage, Gabriel snapped out of her trance-like state and launched herself upon Belial who had been taking up the rear.
"Traitor to the Word!!" Gabriel cried in bitter hate.
"Speak for yourself, whore," spat Belial. They rolled in flames, flames of pure energy. Flames of raw destruction, raw consumption, heat and burning death. Centuries of competing for dominance over their shared Word had come to a head. They wrestled, two beings battling for the same object of desire. All's fair in love and war.
As Saminga's forces cornered David, Baal turned from Laurence's fallen form and launched an attack on Saminga's target. Just as it looked like a second archangel would perish that day, the curtain of the Heavens opened and a grand angel soared downward on wings black at night with veins of gold and trimmed with silver. Sariel had arrived and his sword ached for blood.
Michael turned to look back upon Lucifer, but the Bringer of Light had disappeared.
Kelly was huddled down in the basement of Horney Hall, named after the esteemed Karen Horney, although that didn't stop people from making jokes about it. Well, no one was joking now. Tel Aviv had been bombed, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and major cities across the globe.
Kobal ran across the fields of Perdition, looking, looking. Finally, he found it. The poor soul who had his calculator snatched from him wailed in misery.
Slapping him across the face, Kobal said, "You'll get it back, don't worry your little head."
"Hey, Kobal, baby," shouted out Nybbas. He moved across the plain to meet the Demon Prince who had entered his domain. "Watcha doing?"
"Math," replied Kobal.
"I want it back!" wailed the lost soul.
"Shut up!" the two princes snapped in unison. Turning to each other, they let back with a howl as the soul folded up on itself before their eyes, retreating from them as best it could.
"You old dog," Nybbas said, smiling.
"You bitch," replied Kobal.
"So, what *are* you doing?"
"I told you; math," Kobal said as his fingers moved over the keypad.
"Why don't you...."
"It's more fun this way," he replied, not bothering to hear the rest of Nybbas' dribble.
Sariel's sword cut dispassionately through the Demon hordes as he made his way towards Saminga. The Word of Death could only have one owner, and he was the Hand of God.
Saminga turned from David for he felt the one who challenged his word. _He will pay!_ With a haunting and ferocious howl he swept over Sariel's form. His grey mass engulfed the Archangel and pulled them both down to the ground.
Silver tipped wings lashed and cut, the sword in Sariel's hand began to shred Saminga's form to ribbons. The Demon Prince slithered away in a hasty retreat into the depths of Stygia. Sariel followed.
Michael turned to David. "Who in God's name was that?"
David merely raised an eyebrow in response. With Saminga gone, they concentrated on Baal's forces.
"Holy Moly!" cried out Orc as he checked Earth's satellite images. Comet Hively was headed straight towards Earth! Essence flew and Orc started sending out messages of warning across the Net, to all those who were listening, to any and all. Today, *everyone* got e-mail.
Baal fell back and regrouped. Sending for aid, he continued to battle against the combined forces of Michael and David. This was a losing battle, he could feel it.
From his rear he heard the shouts of reinforcements. Asmodeus came out from the right, his black cloak fluttering in the breeze. Behind him were talk black knights, equipped with glorious gleaming armor.
"Who are they?" Baal asked slowly.
"Lucifer's best. Haagenti should be arriving soon as well, at Saminga's request."
"Word travels fast."
"Oh, Hell," said Marc in his heavenly Office. "This is wrecking havoc with the economy." _The nukes have put a dent the U.S.'s economy, that means that there would surely be a crash in the global market. That plus the nukes flying at global targets means that the weather would be bit more chilly for a while. And there have been no unusual disturbances in the Symphony so far..._
Dominic looked down from Heaven. His opposite had just entered the battle.
Sighing, Dominic looked over his schedule book and descended from Heaven to continue his rounds. His angels had to be checked up on, after all.
"Jordi!" shouted out Novalis as she tore across the Savannah. "Jordi! We have to do something."
"Like what?" came Jordi's voice from a bear nearby.
"Well, we can get down there and stop all the..."
Suddenly the Symphony shifted like a boat on a high wave, so violently that it shook the leaves of Jordi's Savannah.
"Alright, that's it!" shouted Novalis. "I knew the Diabolicals were behind this!"
Jordi looked at her and merely said, "My, but you're naive. Death has never been solely under the domain of Hell."
Kelly felt the earth beneath her tremble slightly. She listened more closely, hoping it was just the air conditioning coming on. Suddenly, she felt a cold chill spring from within her. Something terribly wrong had just happened.
"Ohmigod," whispered her friend Sara who was gazing at her computer screen.
"How can you do e-mail at a time like this?"
"Comet Hively is going to strike the earth, I mean, it just did." She pointed at the screen. The ETA on the comet was just seconds ago. That had *not* been the air conditioning coming on.
Uriel winced as he heard the Symphony cry out in momentary pain. Then, just as suddenly, he felt the Symphony *shift*. The melody had suddenly changed. The tones had become darker, intoning warnings and whispering Dark tones. He knew that the change in the Symphony's mood would be reflected in all creation. It was a necessary step in the plans he had for Earth. The seven seals had been broken and the seven trumpets were sounding even right now. It wasn't perfect, but it was Pure.
The battle in the depths of Hell suddenly stopped as all stood in awe of the shifting in the Symphony around them. Angels paused. Demons stayed their hand. Ears were keyed to the echoes. Breaking the silence were the sounds of great smacking of lips and gnashing of teeth. Haagenti and his hordes had arrived. He let out a terrifying war cry and the battle began to pick up again, but the fighting on both sides was not as enthusiastic as it had first been.
Nybbas' gloved hand touched Kobal's shoulder. "Did you feel that?"
"We are in deep doo-doo, my friend."
Kobal just grinned. Tossing the calculator back at the tortured soul, he waved good bye and moved up towards the battle.
The poor soul grabbed his toy greedily and lost himself in it once more. Nybbas looked out over his land. _God, it's boring down here._ He needed an action film.
Yves smile sadly as he felt the change in the Symphony, the shift in mood. He had known it would come. Just now that it was here, he saw dark times ahead for the majority of the human race.
Something felt wrong, though. Yves hadn't expected this day for some time yet. The entire land of Europe, Northern Africa, Southwest Asia had just been flattened. He suspected someone was seriously playing God and he was willing to bet he knew who...
There had only been one Celestial since Lucifer who had taken things too far out of hand. Uriel, Archangel of Purification had gone there in the eighth century, not that long ago. But, Yves sensed another...
Jean jerked to attention, maybe Novalis hadn't been as wrong as he thought she'd been. Suddenly the implications of Orc's e-mail hit him. _Perhaps Comet Hively had not been meant to strike the earth! But.... who had the power to steer the course of a comet? Certainly only the Seraphim council, Lucifer himself or a Greater Celestial Being from the Upper Reaches of Heaven had that power. It was certainly not the Seraphim council and he was pretty damn sure that Lucifer, even in his darkest dreams, wouldn't do such a thing. But since it had not merely disturbed the Symphony, but had severely changed it, maybe Lucifer had accomplished what he had been striving for all these millennia. Perhaps the Diabolicals had been behind this after all..._
"Order, this council is called to order. Now, as you know, the Seraphim Council is short a few members who are... otherwise engaged. We have evidence that Uriel has returned from the Upper Reaches of Heaven."
"Yes, he has not consulted us. He does not feel obligated to acknowledge us."
"I have felt the presence of another."
"Another from the Upper Reaches of Heaven."
"Yes, I, too, have felt it. It seems that Saminga's Word is being challenged."
"Which can only mean that the newcomer's word is Death."
"Yes. But we have not granted any Archangel that Word."
"Obviously, it was not us who granted the Word, then."
As the shift in the Symphony flooded the Marches, Blandine sat in her tower. The destruction on Earth was wrecking havoc on the Dream lands. Once the terrible shift in the Symphony had occurred, nearly every single soul that was still sleeping was pulled over to the side of Nightmares.
She was virtually alone.
Blandine came down from her tower and moved out into her Dream lands. Her angels gathered around her, seeking guidance. Her Hopes clung closest of all, seeking power to continue. Blandine was greatly disturbed to find that she had very little to give. Beleth, poor Beleth, was taking all of her power away from her. The Nightmares were winning the day. Something had to be done.
Baal found himself jerked from combat by the hand of Lucifer. Screaming and writhing, he fought it every inch of the way. Lucifer pulled Baal's tortured soul along until the Prince of the War stopped struggling.
"You have completely dishonored me!" Baal screamed, his anger hot and boiling.
"Don't hold your breath, Baal," Lucifer snarled. "If you want to survive Armageddon, your entire definition of Honor is going to have to change."
Saminga hurried through the maze of Stygia. It had all been so sudden, why had he sent Haagenti to aid Baal when he needed support so badly now. Where's Kobal? he thought.
As Saminga rushed around a corner he found himself impaled on a long, dark, gleaming blade with an edge as dark as void. Sariel's voice boomed out, "Saminga, Dark Prince of Death, by the power invested in me through this sword forged by God Himself I hereby strip you of your Word and all the power it grants you. The title, the power, and the Word are mine."
Eyes turned upwards, Saminga tasted death in his many mouths, he felt paralysis in his many limbs. He was not experiencing death, he was experiencing destruction. Looking at his murderer straight in the eye, Saminga forced a hoarse whisper through his many mouths, "I am evil incarnate, but I see you wish the title. You shall have it."
In a sudden burst of inky blackness, Saminga's form exploded with power and flowed into Sariel. Sariel stood for a moment, bobbing back and forth from the sudden flow of entropic energy into him. He felt Saminga's Dark power working itself into him. Fearing the worst, Sariel turned his blade upon himself and began to cut Saminga's soul out of himself. He was the Hand of God, he could not allow himself to be thus tainted, his honor to be tarnished.
Above Heaven, Uriel gathered his army of angels around him. Spreading his arms wide over hundred or so angels he had plucked from Laurence's army from the battle in Hell, Uriel said: "I shall lead as Laurence had, and this is my command. The rising of the numbers is nigh. Go down to the Earth and kill all those with the mark of the beast upon their right hand. The number is 666, and any may calculate it, for it is the name of a man."
"Upon my signal go down unto the Earth and let God's wrath be felt. The unbelievers shall be punished! Purify the world! Go, my warriors!"
Belial lay crumpled under Gabriel's feet, Asmodeus had disappeared back into the depths of Hell. David was battling with Haagenti, having little luck, being unable to come very close to the Demon Prince. Haagenti's avarice for Angel had become quite acute and David had already lost a celestial limb to Haagenti's gorge, but he fought bravely on.
Suddenly, Gabriel's form began to shimmer and shake. Belial backed off quickly and watched in terror as her mouth began to sound words that came from a higher source: "War so you have waged and so you shall receive!" And with a fierce grin Gabriel's hands jerked together as though moved by an external force sending a blast of brilliant light straight through the center of Belial's form.
Gabriel crumpled to the ground.
"Oh, dear, Bob," Martha said over tomato soup, touching her husband Bob's hand.
"What is it?"
"I know that look, your sixth sense is kicking in again, isn't it."
"I swear I can see numbers on your hand."
"Yeah? Is this like that time you saw the phone-number of Old Billy Jenkins on the bathroom wall?" Bob chuckled.
"No, this is *much* clearer."
"Martha, you're probably just seeing things again. It doesn't mean anything."
"Bob? How many fingers am I holding up?"
"You're seeing things, Bob. I see those numbers just as..." Martha gasped.
"What is it?"
She recoiled from Bob's hand, unwilling to touch the 666 that had formed there.
Uriel cried out to his angels, "Go! Go my angels and destroy all those who have the mark of darkness upon their hands and forehead. Six-six-six is the number and all who are marked with it must be slain!"
He pointed with a finger to the Earth below, his angels streamed down with sharped blades and weapons ready. The time of Purification had begun.
Waiting until they had gone, he began the rituals of the song that would call his city down from the sky. Soon, all would be complete; the Lord's work would be finished.
A sharp pain ran down Kobal's back. He let out an agonized cry and lifted into the air. Soaring upwards through the battle, he passed through Haagenti's form, splitting him in half.
"Sorry, brother," Kobal called out over his shoulder. David stood below, glowering at his chance to kill Haagenti robbed from him by the Prince of Dark Humor.
Snickering to himself, Kobal descended onto earth. He dipped within his being, using specific meditation exercises he learned in ancient Japan. Then, remembering what he had come to earth to do, he re-centered himself and gathered all his forces and essence into one tight, tiny package.
Gathering every single scrap of power he had, drawing power from every laugh that had been released into the Symphony during the nuclear attacks and comet strike, the delight every mad-man had ever taken in his work, every ounce of Dark Humor swimming about in existance, Kobal prepared the final joke.
Sariel swooped up from Stygia, relatively confident that he had carved Saminga's influence from his being. Seeing Kobal he suddenly realized that Kobal was about to commit the most honorable act of his entire existance.
With a sharp piercing scream in the Symphony, a high-pitched wail that sung itself into every nook and cranny of existance, Kobal released every bit of energy he had. Essence, forces, everything he released.
As the mist lifted from around the space where Kobal used to be, Sariel saw that the prankster was gone. Just gone.
Martha's heart rate slowed slightly as she watched the numbers on Bob's hand shift and change shape. Instead of 666, they now read 616. Martha fell back in her chair and fainted.
Bob looked at her, looked back at his soup, looked back at his wife, and continued eating his soup. She was a strong woman, she'd be fine.
The sharp high-pitched disturbance in the Symphony rang in Novalis' ears. Ahhhh, she thought, Heaven has started to counter the Diabolicals.
Jordi just sighed. All would work itself out, it always did, in a way.
Uriel listened carefully. If he wasn't mistaken, that disturbance in the Symphony had come from where Tel Aviv had once been, the site of Sariel's newest Tether connecting the Pit to where New Jerusalem would be. What could it be? No matter, all shall come together in the end.
He was God's chosen, he could do no wrong.
Michael, Gabriel and David pushed downward into Hell, determined to claim it once and for all. Andrealphus put up little fight. David had seen little point in destroying him, but Gabriel muttered something about sexual assault and shattered his forces with frightening glee.
Within the course of an hour, all of Hell was under Heaven's control, all Princes were accounted for excepting Kobal, Valefor, Baal and Lilith.
But, where was the Shining One himself, Lucifer?
As Sariel waved his sword in the smoke where Kobal's form had been, he began to wonder exactly what had happened to the little bastard... That had been extremely suspicious behavior.
Uriel felt that the reclaiming of Hell was nearing completion. Putting on the finishing touches to the very special song he was using, he stood up and rose his right hand to the sky. New Jerusalem began to descend.
As the massive structure began to lower onto Earth, it made not a single note of dissonance in the Symphony. The Lord was with him, Uriel could feel it. Walls clear as crystal, streets of gold and nouveaux Edens shone out. Uriel could feel the millions of human souls within the city, already moving about in their new vessels.
His dream was becoming reality.
Fatigue-worn and wary of the appearance of Lucifer and perhaps hidden reinforcements, Michael and Gabriel moved through Shal-Mari, or what was left of Shal-Mari. It looked like something *very* large and powerful had wrecked havoc through it. A few demons were still running around, Michael expected David's forces would clean them up. David was very good at that, cleaning up.
"Michael, where is Lucifer?" said Gabriel.
"I don't know."
Just then there came a powerful wind through the city with Janus at the front.
"This place is pretty clean," he spat. "No sign of Lucifer. We've been searching for a while now."
"Really?" Michael asked. "How'd you get down here so fast?"
Janus just smiled. From far behind him there rose a tall black shape, moving between the falling, twisted buildings. Behind it swarmed hundreds of smaller black forms.
"Who's that," Michael said, nodding towards the form.
"That's Sariel. He says that he's come to bring Death to Hell."
"Death to Hell?" Gabriel asked. "Just who the Hell does he think he is? I'm going to go tell him a thing or two."
"Hold on, Gabriel. He might be on our side."
"Well," said Janus, "He didn't kill *me*. I'm guessing he arrived with Uriel."
"URIEL??" Gabriel screamed.
"Uriel is back? Oy Veh. That's not good."
"Hey," said Janus, "I'm not going to question the Old Man." With a quick salute, Janus sped off into the darkness, towards Heaven.
"Janus doesn't mean Yves. He means the Big Man Upstairs."
"I figured that, Yves isn't the sort to call down Uriel." Michael gave Gabriel a questioning look. "It's true," she said, "Yves was one of the first who petitioned to have him pulled up in the first place."
Michael stood in silence, watching the dark figure, waiting for him to come closer.
The figure paused and seemed to focus his attention on Michael. It approached. Its wings were tipped with silver and the blade in its hand was blacker than night. The being stood at nearly twice Michael's height and its blade was taller than Gabriel.
"You are Michael, Archangel of War," the figure said, the sound of its voice coming from deep within its chest. "Pointing his sword at Michael, it declared, "You are no longer needed. Go and find your new purpose."
Stunned, Michael stood and felt the truth of the figure's words bore into his chest. Then, as the echoes of Kobal's cry reached him, Michael felt a second shift in the Symphony. He saw that this figure's words had suddenly become false in the eyes of God.
"You're wrong. War continues in this world." said Michael. Raising his battle axe high he charged the tall figure.
"I am Sariel, Hand of God, Archangel of Death. I also will not be needed when Uriel's work is complete." Sariel lowered his sword towards Michael's form, catching Michael's axe in the blade.
Violence began to broil inside Gabriel, the Symphony had been severely violated, some guy named Sariel was here threatening Michael and Uriel had returned to earth. Deep within her core she felt Heaven begin to split above them, things were happening beyond her control.
Screaming maniacally, Gabriel stormed out of Heaven and fell upon the Earth disappearing onto the land below.
"Gabriel!" Michael cried out in anger. He tore himself from Sariel's blade and rushed down onto Earth after her.
"This is CNN. The world has been rocked by nuclear devastation. Japan, Korea and China have been heavily hit, as has South America. Here in the United States, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago have been struck. Capitol Hill remains untouched. This day has been a terrible, terrible day. The whole of the Middle East as well as most of Europe, Northern Africa, and Western Asia has been flattened by Comet Hively. World-wide forest fires have been predicted and evidence of this has already been seen. The center of the comet strike appears to have been the nation of Israel. Right now, according to satellite photos, there appears to be a huge source of bright light roughly circle shaped centering on Israel. The light is nearly four thousand miles across. Scientists are baffled and have been unable to... "
Something deep in Kelly's being broke and the tears behind her eyes began fall. She was alive and judgement day had come, judgement day had come, judgement day had come.
Copyright 1997 Perry M. Lloyd
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