Lazarus is waiting for me. He stands there in the grey dust, watching me approach. As I get nearer I can see a tiny stone, lying on the ground behind him. Something tells me that this tiny pebble was once a great mountain. I am somewhat relieved that it no longer is.
“Who are you to deny my vengeance?” Lazarus’ voice is stronger than its recent incarnations. It echoes throughout his mind. I think that it’s a fair question.
“Does it matter?” I respond, fair or not, it doesn’t matter to him. “Here is where it ends. I could tell you my name, but it won’t make it any easier for you.”
“If not who, then why?” He demands. Quite frankly that is a silly question.
“You’re trying to bring the Apocalypse to the world and you ask me that?” I’m almost amused.
“Nothing is what it seems.” He tells me and I notice his voice has moderated a little. “See what they have taken from me.”
With the sadness in his voice the landscape changes. We are no longer surrounded by the desolate desert, now I can see Heaven through his eyes and it is glorious. Majestic buildings and structures of such beauty it almost hurts to look at them tower above us. Everywhere there is light and radiance. My ears are filled with harmonies from a choir from all around, each voice in concert, complimenting every other voice. Heaven is unity. Every being here is working together as one. There is no self, just the wondrous whole. Delectable scents overwhelm my senses, I feel transported on a current of bliss. I have never witnessed such union, such magnificence. For a moment my heart aches for him and what he has lost.
It is difficult for me to imagine what it would be like to be torn from such perfection. I can see the temptation of being part of a greater whole, to be more than just the self, but it is here that I see the flaw.
I look again, not at the Heaven filtered by his memories, but as he truly saw it . It looks the same, it feels the same. But it also lacks something, there’s an alien shadow that mars this exquisite vision. Heaven is the domain of all, where everyone combines their will for the greater whole. If you accept being part of this union then Heaven is what it claims. But there is no self. There is no individuality, nothing that makes each person trapped here unique.
Unity is what helps us endure, it is the coming together makes us strong. But it is self, individuals that make us great. Heaven lacks that dimension. It has strength, it has common purpose, but it does not have everything.
“You see!” Lazarus’ broken voice interrupts my thoughts. “You see what they took for me. For one glorious moment I shared myself with Heaven, became one with God. And his son took that from me.”
I see no God here. Unless God is the whole?
“He might have wept while he did it, but the result was the same. I, who was the greatest of his disciples, the most loved, betrayed by the saviour of man.”
I can taste his bitterness, but I see no saviour, enslaver maybe.
“With my Apocalypse all will be swept into Heaven, to be at one with the Almighty. There will be no more pain, no more sorrow, no more death. Evil and the terrors it creates will be vanquished for ever. And it is I that brings salvation to the world, not the son, not the betrayer.”
“Join me and together we can be the saviours of the world.”
It’s nice of him to share, but I think he’s more than a little confused, the rage that powers him has also warped him. This conversation bores me, there’s nothing for me to learn here. It is time to end this.
“Your Heaven looks to me no better than the Hell described by the priests of your God. No matter, we end it here. We end it now.”
With that rather dramatic statement from me, we clash. Our wills strain against each other. Our forms battle another as if in the physical world. Muscles powered by thought drive blows against each other. I can see that Lazarus is distracted, he’s not just fighting me, he’s fighting some inner turmoil that he hides from me.
LSD isn’t the drug you want to be on if you’re fighting. Personally I love it, but for your first time, a battle to the death is a bit harsh.
We continue to battle, he shows no fear, but his defence is weak. He is too distracted and cannot focus his will. There’s no entertainment for me here.
My hands become claws as I tear into his form, ripping great chunks from him, which I then consume. With each mouthful I am filled with his knowledge. With each bite I gain more power, memories from his past are added to my own experiences.
With each torn lump I devour I become stronger. It tastes foul.
The Friar was right, over the past two thousand years this man has become powerful. He has learned knowledge from mystics and men of power from all over the world. And now it is all mine.
It takes some time to eat all of Lazarus life, I eat every scrap until eventually all that remains is his spirit. A bedraggled wisp of a thing, it cannot touch me, let alone harm me. I step towards the pebble on the ground, with new eyes I can see somethings within. I pick up the stone, Lazarus’ spirit wails. It begs for release, to be done with this existence, to once more return to the communion he once knew.
Holding the stone in my hands, the world is shattered by the toll of a bell. Its ring is deafening and it carries with it a voice. The voice is alien to this mind, but I know it well. Friar Francis. From light years away I can hear his command.
“Destroy the miracle!”
Ah the poor Friar, he is going to be very angry with me. I twist the pebble with all my might, shredding the then stone and revealing the secret within. I hold the miracle that has sustained Lazarus for all this time and now it is mine. It feels light and warm.
That dread bell tolls again, again the repeated command.
“For the sake of your immortal soul, destroy the miracle!”
I swallow the miracle and feel its power infuse my whole being. It feels good.
The landscape around me twists into a funnel, Its gaping mouth wide open before me. It spins and the spirit of Lazarus is pulled into the maw. He cries now for release, but release of a different sort. He now realises that he has forsaken the path to Heaven. His soul screams as it falls.
I have stood at this abyss before and gaze into its depths. As before I can see the shapes in the darkness, but the miracle makes me immune from its pull. I allow myself to drift in and as Lazarus’ soul is dragged into Hell I take the moment to contemplate what I can see of Hell. It is not what I expected.
In the moment before Lazarus’ death collapses his mind I return to my own mind and open my eyes.