CHAPTER 16: A DARK SPOT
“So you’ve come to kill me at last? I can’t say much for your punctuality.”
Isabella froze. The chamber behind Nyquist’s altar was pitch black, and she could not even see five inches in front of her. But she knew the voice was Joriel’s and she felt a little sugar rush of joy. We’ve found him. At last.
“No, no. I’ve not come to kill you Joriel.”
Cold fear washed over Isabella. That voice talking with Joriel. She knew it, as anyone in New Gomorrah would have.
“I will not go back to Groethuis and his knives and poisons, Mabus. Nor will I trade one cage for another.” said Joriel.
“My, it’s dark in here.” Mabus mused, as if he hadn’t heard him “Shall we have some light?”
“I can see perfectly.” said Joriel “But by all means, if you wish. There’s a lamp on the table to your left.”
Un-oh, thought Isabella.
She heard Mabus’s hand press a switch and a small lamp flicked on, bathing a corner of the room in muted yellow light and casting shadows over everything.
Isabella looked around and breathed out in relief. The room was divided by a thick black curtain, which she was standing behind. Inside the curtain, invisible to her, Joriel and Mabus continued talking.
“Oh dear.” said Mabus sympathetically “They have not been treating you well, have they?”
“This is not their doing.” said Joriel, and Isabella realised the angel’s voice sounded so much older than when she had last heard it “Apart from keeping me here in chains, they treat me well enough.”
“I assume they found you after the battle outside my chamber?”
“Yes. I retreated to the sewers. I was badly injured.”
“Shot off a helicopter, I believe?”
“I am sorry. I hope you know that there was never any malice in my imprisoning you. I needed to be sure my New Matter weaponry would work. I needed to test it on someone. I just hope you don’t think it was personal.”
“I don’t see how it could have been.” said Joriel “You stole my wife, after all. Not the other way around.”
“Well. Ancient history.” said Mabus “Quite literally.”
“Mabus. I am dying. And I’m sure you will not be offended if I say I do not want to spend my last moments of existence talking to you. So can we please hurry this along?”
“Certainly.” said Mabus “Well I really wanted to talk to you about Roland Nyquist. “The Lord” as he would have it. I have had his group under surveillance for quite some time. Although I must confess I’m surprised by just how many he has managed to entice into his treachery.”
“Most of the people here were killed by you. You aged them until their bodies crumbled to dust. You can perhaps appreciate that their souls would not be overly grateful to you for such a death?” said Joriel.
“In any event. Nyquist. Here is what I know about Nyquist: He was a cult leader in the United States in the late twentieth century. He believed that he was God, that he had been betrayed and cast into the body of a powerless human being and that this was why the world was in such a dire state. War, poverty, genocide and so on. He believed that Judgement Day would occur in his lifetime and that on that day he and his followers would do battle with Satan, that they would prevail and that his godhead would be restored.”
“I can see why you brought him here to join your army.” said Joriel “It’s so nice to have someone with shared interests to talk to.”
“History records that he died when his compound was stormed by the FBI. I brought him here because I thought he would be useful. I was wrong. I should have known that someone who believes themselves to be God would not be willing to follow orders. But I kept him alive. Because he started doing something very interesting. He started prophesying. And I have always been fascinated by prophets. I’ve met a few in my time. Every prophet is a riddle. Is he actually in touch with the divine, or is he simply insane?”
“Nyquist is insane.” said Joriel.
“But he is also in touch with the divine, isn’t he? Or at least the formerly divine. Because he has you. This prophesy of his. The Lord’s Heir, The Devil’s Heir. A great serpent. You told him, didn’t you?”
“No.” said Joriel “He already knew the prophecy before his people found me in the sewers.”
“So why did he bring you here?”
“So I could confirm for him that it is true.”
Isabella strained to listen. She thought he had heard Mabus gasp.
“So it’s true?” he said at last “Nyquist’s prophecy will come to pass?”
“The things he describes are known to the Yoli.” said Joriel “They will come to pass.”
“But if Nyquist already knew this…?”
“Is he actually God in human form?” Joriel laughed “What do you think?”
“Then how does he know?”
“Who can say?” said Joriel “But sometimes when I speak to him he reminds me of my son. If I had to guess I would say he has some angelic blood in him. Maybe that caused him to have a vision. Some spark of divine knowledge passed into him. It happens sometimes. But regardless you can take it from me that there will be a new Heaven and a new Hell. And the Lord’s Heir and the Devil’s Heir will rule them.”
“And what of the Lord and the Devil?” Mabus asked.
Isabella heard chains rattling, as if Joriel had shrugged.
“I don’t know. The Lord and the Devil will no longer matter. Their world will be gone. With the Earth gone, Heaven and Hell are on borrowed time. You had best hurry, Mabus, and conquer Hell while it’s still there to be conquered.”
“But the two heirs? They will rule the new Heaven and Hell? You’re sure?”
“Yes. Two souls, human in this world, will be the God and Devil, the Yol and Gol of the next world.”
“Or one soul who will be both.” Mabus murmured as if to himself.
“What?” Joriel asked.
“I have a prophesy of my own.” Mabus told him.
Isabella heard paper rustle as Mabus unfolded a scroll.
“This was handed to me by myself from some future time. Would you like to know what it says?”
Joriel said nothing.
“It tells me that I will triumph over Gol. I will defeat him. He is on his way now, as we speak. You’ve sensed it, haven’t you? Every minute you feel colder. Heavier. As if something is leaching the life out of you. In your state I doubt you will survive his coming. And yet I will defeat him. What does that make me? According to the prophesy that you have told me is true?”
“The Lord’s Heir” Joriel whispered, as if the very words sickened him.
“Indeed. But it also says that I will march on Dis, that my armies will overthrow the city of rats and that I will take my seat on the Black Throne in Pandaemonium. What does that make me?”
“No. It’s impossible.”
“Impossible is a human word, Joriel. You should be above such petty notions. Yes. I am the Lord’s Heir, and I am the Devil’s Heir. I will rule this new world unchallenged. I will be the creator and the destroyer. I will reward the virtuous and punish the wicked. And every living thing will marvel at my power, for I will be a God above all gods, a Devil more terrible than any that has come before. And I will unite Heaven and Hell beneath one roof, and my world shall be without end. So you see, Joriel. I have not come to kill you. I can afford to be merciful. In fact I would free you right now, but we wouldn’t want little Isabella to have made her journey for nothing, would we?”
And before Isabella had a chance to run Mabus had pulled back the curtain.
“Hello my dear.” he said with a skeletal smile “He’s all yours.”
And without another word he walked out the door into the chamber.
“Are you alright?” Joriel asked.
“Fine. Fine.” said Isabella breathily “Just having a minor heart attack.” She turned to look at him and almost screamed.
Joriel sat chained to a bench. He was in his human form, and he looked near death, a tiny, emaciated old man. His hair was pure white and his face was crisscrossed with a million wrinkles. His skin was sagging all over, as if his body was dwindling and shrinking away beneath it. She tried to reconcile this image of him with the huge lion who exuded power with every breath and laugh that she had known. She couldn’t believe it was him.
“I know.” he smiled sadly “It’s not pretty.”
“What happened to you?” she whispered, her voice cracking a little.
“Well, it’s complicated.” he said “Do you know what the Yoli-awhey is?”
“Something to do with angels?” she guessed. She knew “Yoli” meant angel.
Joriel chuckled. “It is indeed. The Yoli-awhey is our word for the presence of God in every atom of the universe. We are all part of it. We angels are formed from it. And I was once part of it.”
“Yes. A long time ago I fell in love with a human woman, as did many other angels like me. And I was told that I had to make a choice between remaining a part of the Yoli-awhey, or leaving to be with her.”
“And you chose to be with her?”
“That’s really sweet.”
“I know. That’s why I did it. I thought it would be a really sweet thing to do. But this meant that I could no longer draw energy from the Yoli-awhey. And that wasn’t a problem at first. I had so much energy in me already that I could survive for millennia. But then Mabus came. And he caged me and cut my wings from me. And every day since I’ve been using my energy to keep Groethuis and his weapons from killing me. Every wound, every burn that they inflicted I had to heal. And I became weaker and weaker. And now…”
“You’re dying.” Isabella said simply.
“Yes.” said Joriel “Unless I can reach the Yoli-awhey somehow I will die.”
“Well if it’s in everything, isn’t it here?” she asked.
“Not in New Gomorrah.” he said “And certainly not in Hell. However…” he looked at her suddenly “It would be in you.”
“Yes.” said Joriel “You have a good soul. There is so much of it in you. Your courage. Your love for Marie. Yes. I could reach it through you.”
“Wait.” said Isabella “What if my soul’s not good enough? What then?”
“It is, Isabella. You don’t have to worry.”
“Answer the question. What if I wasn’t good? What if I was evil and you tried to do this?”
“Then…I would touch the Goli-awhey. The darkness.”
“And it would kill me.”
“Then you’ve got to find another way. We’ll get out of here, we’ll find…”
“There is no time. I have maybe an hour.”
“Then you have to find someone else.”
“Isabella, there is no one else in Hell with a soul as good as yours.”
“You don’t know the first thing about my soul.” said Isabella.
Outside, she heard an angry roar. Something had made the congregation very angry.
Oh no. Cole?
“If I help you do this, you have to save Cole. He’s right out there, you have to save him, understand?” she said to Joriel.
“What do you need to do?” she asked.
“Take my hand.” he said, his voice no stronger than a whisper.
Isabella closed her eyes. Please God, let nothing bad happen, she thought to herself.
She took Joriel’s hand in hers.
“Listen.” she said “There’s something you need to know about me.”
It was too late. Suddenly the room was gone and she was light, a single burning torch in an immensity of total darkness. She looked down at herself, her arms and body transformed into sunlight, so bright that it held the solid darkness around her at bay. In front of her, was a tiny, dwindling spark, and she instinctively knew that it was Joriel.
Hurry. Not much time.
Oh no. She reached out to the spark as it sputtered, light radiating from her.
Don’t go out. Please.
Not enough. It can’t be from you.
From where then?
The light that was Isabella shone upwards and there was the Yoli-awhey.
And she was like a candle staring at the sun.
And even there, in Hell’s darkness, Heaven’s light shone down on her. A great fabric of shining joy woven into the blackness.
She shone her arm up to touch it and suddenly she felt herself filling with everything that was good, and warm, and loving. This was bliss. This was happiness And she shone like a mirror when it has been struck by sunlight.
And the Yoli-awhey passed through her into Joriel and he began to grow bright again.
Yes. Thank you. Thank you.
His light was growing strong now, and Isabella laughed, and realised that she could see her laughter as it rose like vapour from her mouth, white and shining, and then fading to a rainbow and evaporating into the blackness.
More. Need more. Still weak.
Whatever you need, Isabella thought, I could do this forever. I could stay here forever. And she flared brighter still.
And then she felt it. She looked down and saw to her horror a tiny spot of blackness just below her heart. It was tiny, almost the size of a pinhead, but it was growing.
More. Need more.
The blackness was growing.
It was like a hole in her, a void. And the brighter she burned the darker and larger it got.
And suddenly it was loose, broken free of whatever mooring had held it in place and it was drifting upward, like a blood clot, up her chest, up the side of her neck, it touched her head…
…Isabella choked as a stink of alcohol and vomit forced itself into her nostrils. In the dim light she could see the prostrate form of a man lying on the ground. There was a knife in her hand and a bearded mouth was whispering in her tiny ear. Do it. Do it now.
She was shaking he head. No, no, no.
The man lying in front of her was hideous, his face so red it was almost purple, drool and flecks of vomit bubbling between his lips, his eyes puffy and half-closed.
Do it, the bearded mouth scratched her ear. Do it or it’s a finger.
Her hand was trembling so hard that the knife almost missed his neck altogether when she brought it down…
She screamed as the memory left her and she was back in the light and the darkness. The black spot had now grown and was stretching down her arm like oil towards Joriel’s light.
He couldn’t hear her. He was fighting for life, his light getting stronger and stronger. He was dwarfing her now, a great furnace of light and heat towering above her. And she could feel now the undiluted power that Joriel had exuded when they first met. But now it was purer. This is what he really looks like, she thought. The other forms he wears are just masks.
And she was powerless as she watched the blackness within her, that one poisonous memory, snaking down her arm and into Joriel.
And the Goli-awhey touched him.
Joriel screamed in pain, shuddered and went dark.
His hand dropped from her forehead and Isabella screamed in shock as she fell to the ground. Every limb felt like it weighed a ton, and it took her three attempts to finally stagger to her feet. Joriel lay prone in the corner of the room, pieces of broken chain scattered across the floor. She scrambled over to him and laid him flat on his back.
He was young again, as young as when they had first met. And he was totally and utterly still.
A ferocious roar came from the chamber outside. She could hear Cole’s voice shouting something to Holtz, and then a stampede of feet and the sound of a riot.
“Joriel.” she whispered to him, shaking him desperately
“Please wake up. Oh God, please wake up.”