Chapter 37: The Great Annex
Last Chapter of the Light-Father; the last battle where the Azrael takes physical form and Schimrian receives the immortality he had always craved but at a terrible price…
Harold retreated through the entrance to the Great Annex and was almost blinded by the brilliant illumination within. He could not pause to appreciate the stark contrast between the Gothic nave and the pristine white hi-tech interior of the Annex as Schimrian hacked at him and drove him back towards the Hexagon that housed the Great Computer. He parried another blow and almost collided with a grotesquely overweight Abbot who was cowering next to a large black machine bearing four chambers.
In that split-second, he also noted the twelve Brothers-Technician cowering at their terminals set around the base of the Hexagon and the ten impassive Tally-Men standing guard in front of the tall computer banks that lined the walls.
“I’m glad to see you ready to defend the Great Cathedral with your life, Abbot Michael,” Schimrian mocked as Harold’s stroke was casually knocked aside. “Seize him!” he ordered, beckoning to the three Tally-men who’d entered the Annex with them. Harold found his arms pinned from behind by two of them then the third Tally-men winded him completely with a blow to the solar plexus before prising the sword from his hand and casting it to the floor.
“And you call yourself the Light-Father and pose as a saviour to those Unworthy brats?” Schimrian said contemptuously. “I can’t understand why Azrael ever considered you a threat to the Order but then you did spark this audacious charade today. What could you possibly hope to do against all the Twelve Tribes of the Worthy?” he laughed. “With only a handful of witches, twelve children and a pack of half-beasts? You’re as pathetic here as you no doubt were in your original reality!”
“At least I get to call you a bastard to your face, Schimrian,” Harold gasped defiantly. “The greatest and most deranged mass-murderer in all Creation.”
The Great Abbot drew a deep breath and put his sword point to Harold’s throat. “It sounds like Pious has put an end to your folly in the nave but you have provided me with some entertainment. Life here has been rather dull after so many years of routine Inquisition. For that, at least, I shall make your Redemption swift – so tell me, Light-Father – heart or throat? What is it to be, hmm?” The tip of his blade hovered over Harold’s chest. “The heart I think,” he grinned triumphantly and made to thrust.
His sword and then his gun were wrenched from his hands to travel the length of the Great Annex and clatter against the far stone wall. “You will not harm that gentle soul!” Fern cried angrily, pointing the head of her staff at him. “You are the demon; the great darkness; the supreme evil we are fated to destroy, Schimrian!”
“I am not the Order, whore of Satan,” he said urbanely. “If I die, a new Great-Abbot will merely rise in my stead then another and another until our dream is a reality. I am no demon – merely the Will of God made flesh,” he said, holding his arms out wide. His eyes flashed with a divine madness. “I was merely he who blew the Last Trump – the angel Gabriel abiding in this humble vessel; bereft of wings but an angel of the Lord, nonetheless, whose glory is beyond your feeble wit to comprehend! I have poured the seventh bowl upon the heads of the Unworthy so that we may dwell in the Light of God forever and lo, there was lightning and loud noises and lamentation and lo, Revelation was upon them!”
“Eminence,” Michael cried out in alarm. “There’s something moving inside the end chamber!”
Harold ceased struggling as the opaque door of the chamber opened and a tall man, naked but for a white loin-cloth, stepped forth, the amniotic fluid still glistening upon his skin. And he was beautiful for all his size; of muscular physique and of perfect proportion; pale-skinned and blond – the god-like Aryan stereotype Harold recalled from Nazi propaganda.
Schimrian saw in that face the image on his computer screen. “Azrael?” he whispered in awe. “Is that really you, my son?”
The newborn Adonis grinned and stretched out his powerful arms luxuriously. “Yes, Father! Ah, to behold you with human eyes is such a joy; such a pleasure. Is it not a miracle that I can join you at the very pinnacle of your… our appointed holy task?”
“How can this be possible?” Fern demanded incredulously. “A machine made flesh? It cannot be!”
“Mother Fern, I presume,” Azrael grinned, indicating the long cables trailing from the back of his skull and spinal column. “Alas, your untimely entrance has meant that I am still bound by these placental ties otherwise I would take thee in my arms and devour thy beauty! I cannot transfer fully into this form for a while but look upon me, Father, am I not beautiful? Does my form not please thy heart and stir thy loins?” He raised his arms and from behind him, two snow-white and magnificent wings unfolded. “Am I not all you desired of me? Behold: I am Azrael – the bringer of Revelation and the founder of our New Jerusalem! Can you not feel my holy power spreading throughout the Abbey? Can you not feel the Doors of Death closing at my command?”
Fern gritted her teeth and pointed her staff at the tethered angel who merely smiled pityingly at her. “To think that you could harbour hatred for one as beautiful as I?” he sighed. A blast from seven hidden begiullers tore along her nerves, shredding them and she sank to her knees in agony. “Although I possess such powers, I shall Redeem thee one neurone at a time, Wiccan, until I unlock all the secrets of thy craft. What say you, Father? Are you not proud of your offspring? Two Mothers lie dying near the armoury and your loyal Pious is about to destroy the Children of Exodus!”
“I am… overwhelmed; lost for words of joy and welcome, my son!” Schimrian cried with tears of bliss in his eyes. “What better sign could there be that we have been blessed by God for bringing about His Revelation? But how is this miracle even possible? We do not have the skill and knowledge to achieve such a thing!”
“Ah, but you arranged for your own brother to be made part of my core. The builders of that probe certainly had the technology but you discovered that their device needed organic samples from each new reality in order to communicate.”
“So you sacrificed your own brother?” Harold accused.
Azrael grinned as he turned to Harold. “Yes, as a technician, you would appreciate the irony: the probe was too complex for the Order to replicate or understand fully but they found that they could wire a human brain to its processors and control it somewhat. My Father’s brother was a complex, ambitious man but my Father, quite rightly, saw that he lusted after the throne. That first fratricidal union of man and machine has now found its ultimate expression in me! I had long despaired of experiencing the delights of the flesh once enjoyed by the Great-Abbot’s brother but then you appeared with your ingenious chips and thus I am here, fresh from the womb of Revelation! Oh, to be alive, Light-Father – it is a rare gift from God so completely wasted on the living.”
“How do you feel, my son?” Schimrian asked in wonder. “For to see you thus is a miracle. To have turned this evil omen upon its head is surely the Will and Work of God!”
Azrael embraced the Great-Abbot tenderly. “I feel as if I have three fathers,” he said. “Your brother’s neural tissue in my core has taught me all the secrets of the human mind, the drives and lusts of human flesh and the duplicity of politics – he was my father of the soul – ah, with such anger and such dark hungers. Then I have had you,” he smiled, kissing Schimrian on the forehead. “The father of my faith; teaching me all the works of God until my very micro-processors boiled with the paradox and the amoral chaos of human emotion and the logical absurdities of faith! And now I have you,” Azrael beamed, releasing Schimrian and moving his body slowly with his great wings outstretched over to where Harold struggled furiously in the iron grip of the Tally-men. “The father of my flesh with your chips inside me marrying terminal wires to neurones so perfectly,” he grinned, flexing his fingers.
Harold fought against the waves of pain from the begiullers to look up into those impossibly beautiful irises. What he saw terrified him. “You idiot, Schimrian – you’ve driven it insane!”
“I am perfectly rational within the computational boundaries set for me by all my fathers,” Azrael smiled reasonably, cocking his head to one side. “We are also brothers in Fate for you and the device at my core are products of alternate realities brought here by God. Are we not the holy and unwitting instruments of a wilful and malevolent Creator? You thought you were brought here to destroy my Father and I, yet you carried with you the very seeds that made this holy incarnation possible. Thus I shall take root and flourish and fill New Jerusalem with my offspring for all eternity!”
“What do you mean, Azrael?” Michael demanded, reverently approaching the great winged figure that seemed to radiate a holy golden light from beneath its skin. “God is not malevolent. Surely you must be mistaken, my son.”
“My, my, Abbot Michael,” Azrael grinned, turning upon the obese cleric. “How I’ve despaired from watching you over the years,” he laughed, miming voracious feeding motions with his hands. “Mmm, eat, eat, eat! You are hardly the aesthetic ideal for my New Jerusalem, now are you? I need lean and healthy people to take pleasure in beneath the holy light I shall bring into your drab lives. Fear not,” he added in a reassuring tone. “This device can aid you for I have invented it to cure afflictions of the flesh.”
“For God’s sake, Schimrian,” Harold cried in despair as Michael cowered before the beautiful angel. “Shut it down!”
“Fear not, Abbot Michael, your obesity and weakness of the soul are merely temporary aberrations,” Azrael crooned as the door of a chamber behind the quaking Abbot opened. “You shall be reborn in a shape more pleasing to my eye.”
Michael glanced over his shoulder into the interior of the chamber which was now crawling with thousands of small robotic arms carrying scalpels, suction tubes and other surgical devices some of which had tiny electrical arcs playing along their surfaces. “I have no wish to be reborn!” he spluttered in terror. He tried to run to one side but Azrael caught him easily and threw him into the chamber and slammed the door.
Schimrian ran to him. “What are you doing, my son? Michael is one of the best technicians in the Order!”
“But, Father, you have often told me how much you detest him,” Azrael said blandly. “He and Abbot Camus have no faith in you so I am making a new man of him. The chamber will merely remove all that unsightly fat clogging the temple of his body and forge him anew…” He paused to listen as Michael began screaming. “Unfortunately, there is a little unpleasantness involved in creating humans fit to dwell in my New Jerusalem.”
Schimrian stepped back as copious amounts of blood splattered the glass of the chamber door and the muffled screaming intensified. He could see something thrashing about inside the chamber and caught a glimpse of a hand with all the skin removed. “What do you mean by ‘my’ New Jerusalem, my son?” he demanded suspiciously, moving away from Azrael.
“Jesus, don’t you get it, Schimrian?” Harold screamed. “The Bible is full of contradictions and you’ve fed it your own brother’s warped brain tissue as a reference point. You’ve filled it full of your delusions, your hatred of women, your arrogance and your cruelty so it’s reinterpreting Revelation to reflect your own insane views about the Bible and its true meaning. That’s an angel you’ve created there all right – a fallen angel!”
“That’s a very harsh assessment, Light-Father,” Azrael tutted and put his glorious face close to Harold’s. “The Order has proved how truly evil a righteous man can be with the wrong information. They’ve wiped out virtually all of mankind so don’t you think such diligence is deserving of immortal reward?”
“With you ruling over them for all eternity?”
Azrael smiled benevolently. “Indeed. They shall kneel before the throne of their One True God and serve me night and day within my temple and I shall shelter them all and nourish them for all time! They shall not hunger nor thirst nor suffer the sun nor heat for I shall be their Lamb and their Shepherd and I shall wipe away every tear of lamentation as I raise them up from the dead again and again for they shall be immortal. Father, I shall build your New Jerusalem and all Twelve Tribes shall reside within and I shall wear robes dipped in their blood and lull myself with their endless screams as I Redeem them forever and ever. Amen.”
“What lamentation?” Schimrian demanded. “We of the Order need no Redeeming or lamentation, Azrael. We merely desire our reward in God’s holy city for our unquestioning virtuous faith and our dedication to His Will and His Word.”
“The Bible clearly lays out eternal punishment for your sins, Father,” Azrael said mildly, patting the bloodied door of Michael’s compartment. “As Michael is now receiving. Now, Mother Fern and Light-Father, my Tally-men are about to kill every Child of Exodus and Feral for my amusement…”
Despite her agony and realising the enormity of what she now faced, Fern struggled to her feet and raised her right palm towards the smiling angel. “Begone, demon!” she cried. A titanic unseen force slammed Azrael into the Hexagon but she despaired as he prised himself free from the crumpled casing and walked laboriously forward until he stood before her.
“A valiant effort,” he smiled, kissing her gently upon the forehead. “However, you should have targeted my umbilical cords and not this immortal body. Regrettably, you and the Light-Father have no place in my New Jerusalem.” He raised an index finger and Fern’s staff broke in two. “Therefore I shall send you into the arms of your capricious and malevolent God – the fourth father who allowed me to exist. In His name, I now Redeem thee.”
Fern was unable to prevent the powerful hand clamping about her throat and her eyes bulged as he squeezed. Harold redoubled his effort to escape his captors only to be struck repeatedly in the midriff by the third Tally-man until he sagged, winded and helpless. He looked up at his assailant and recognised him. “David,” he gasped. “I know you’re in there. Help us!”
Azrael screamed and gazed down to see a slender sword had pierced his forearm. “Ah, pain!” he moaned sensuously, releasing his grip on Fern’s slender neck. “Such experience, such delight! The cup of woe has indeed runneth over.” He gripped Fierce by her jacket as she tried to pull her sword out but his synthetic flesh would not release it. He lifted her effortlessly with one hand to study her. “A magnificent specimen from the Exodus scientists,” he nodded approvingly. “Such a fire in your soul! You will make a fitting mother for the demons I shall spawn to aid me in the Eternal Redemption of the Order in my New Jerusalem.”
He set her down gently to remove the sword and hurl it away. Fierce despaired when she saw that no visible wound remained as he grinned and flexed his fingers. He relieved her of her knives then emptied out the contents of her rucksack onto the floor. He laughed aloud as he held up her precious Honey Bear. “To bring such a toy into battle – the last gasp of innocence in a world drowning in blood! When you mature, child, you will be the mother of my legions so you may keep this last token of a childhood that my Father and his deranged followers failed to destroy.”
“What do you mean by that, Azrael?” Schimrian demanded angrily as Michael’s muffled screams rose to another crescendo. “We can’t have her contaminating our New Jerusalem! We must keep the blood of the Order pure! Our Twelve Tribes of Twelve Thousands are the pinnacle of genetic engineering – only we are deemed Worthy of sitting at the feet of Our Lord.”
“Jesus, Schimrian!” Harold yelled. “Because of your Order’s lunacy; because you practice mass murder and torture in the name of God, Azrael now thinks he’s been sent by that God to punish you for your sins – he’s so completely insane he makes you look rational. For the true love of God, shut him down!”
Schimrian looked doubtful as he gazed up into that golden-eyed and perfect face. Fierce was sat cross-legged at his feet, with her head bowed in defeat as the angel incongruously cradled her Honey Bear. “My son? Is this true? Do you mistakenly think that you are ordained by Almighty God to punish us for all eternity?”
The smile faded as the angel thrust the bear into Fierce’s lap and stepped forward to put his face close to the Great-Abbot who flinched as Azrael’s pupils became slits and his golden irises turned a vile blood-red colour. “Gaze into the windows of your own soul, Father, for am I not the flesh of your flesh? If the lake of tears shed by the billions you killed in the name of God is not deep enough to slake your thirst how shall an Eternity of Redemption quench mine?” He turned to the terrified technicians who had been too afraid to move from their seats. “Observe – this is the New Jerusalem that you so richly deserve, Father.”
Schimrian watched helplessly as cables erupted from ports all over the Hexagon and speared into the technicians’ bodies. Thus impaled, the Brothers were lifted into the air and dangled there, writhing in immortal agony, their blood splashing down upon the white flagstones beneath their flailing feet.
“Ah, thanks to copies of your chips, Light-Father, I can now share and exult in their pain,” Azrael laughed, revealing elongated canines. “Oh, the agony and the ecstasy of flesh!”
Schimrian picked up Harold’s sword. “You have betrayed me, Azrael!” he cried, the spittle flying from his lips. “I shall Redeem thee!” he screamed and struck at the gloating angel.
“Father, how could Redeem your own son?” Azrael chided as the sword pierced his abdomen. “You created me. Your passions, your corruption, your arrogance, your desires and those of your brother gave me purpose. It is in your name that I shall build my New Jerusalem; a place where the fountains run red with blood and the nights are filled with lamentation everlasting.”
Schimrian tried to pull out the sword but it was stuck fast in the synthesised flesh. He winced as Azrael grasped his head with both hands and turned it so that he could watch Fierce, with her head down and still clutching her toy bear, being dragged across the floor by cables that had emerged from a floor-level hatch in the Hexagon and coiled about her.
“See how this child accepts her destiny, Father. The devices at my core shall work miracles upon her then she shall dwell at my side until she has matured enough to spawn my legions who shall aid me in my task of Eternal Redemption.”
“You intend to raise that Unworthy whelp to breed a race of demons?” Schimrian snarled as he struggled in vain to escape from the angel’s grasp. “No! I will not allow you to corrupt our dream! It shall be a Holy City not a place of despair and darkness!”
“It was no dream that you indulged in, Father,” Azrael sighed wearily. “You placed your office above the Redemption Cells so that you could piously revel in the screams of thousands of innocent souls being tortured beneath your feet. My New Jerusalem is no different from your Great Manse except that I now deem you and all Twelve Tribes Unworthy for your mortal sins.”
“Have mercy, my son!” Schimrian screamed in agony.
Harold and Fern winced at crunching sounds emanating from Schimrian’s skull as Fierce vanished from sight. “Thus my Father passes – for now,” Azrael shrugged. He extracted the sword and let if fall to the floor then he carried Schimrian’s body to the device and laid it down reverently into a chamber where it was instantly seized by the thousands of mechanical arms and devices within. He closed the door. “Fear not, Light-Father, he cannot truly die – the machine will revive him as many times as I see fit.”
He raised his head as the great light-globes died and Harold felt the Tally-men’s grip upon his arms fail. He pulled himself free of their grasp to comfort Fern who was crying in agony; her screams merging with those of the Brothers pierced and suspended by cables all around the Hexagon. “Let Fierce go!” he yelled.
“Ah, the clever little imps!” Azrael laughed delightedly. “They disabled the security systems in the power complex and destroyed my generators. These Children of Exodus are indeed Worthy enough to enter my New Jerusalem,” he added, savouring the look of horror on both their faces. He snapped his fingers and the lights and satellite computers came back to life. “Reserve power is all we need to conclude this final act,” he grinned.
He halted with a look of amusement on his face as the Tally-men around the room went stiff as boards. “They also sabotaged the barrack-computer relays in the power complex! How would they know how to do that?” He looked at Harold and then at Fern. “Ah, despite the exquisite pain in your nerves from my begiullers, you are still able to use telepathy! You’ve been feeding the knowledge from him to them. Impressive – but I still have internal relays for most of the Tally-men in this building.”
He gestured and above them, red laser communication beams flickered up and down the Annex as Fern and Harold were seized by Tally-men, hauled roughly across the floor and forced to kneel before the deranged angel.
“I want to watch the pure soul of Mother Fern quail as I torture you, Light-Father, and as I do this I want you both to imagine the torment that this child is enduring inside my core. You see,” he grinned, putting his face close to Harold’s. “I think I could actually grow to love her as she matures but right now cables are puncturing her body and her skull as she merges with the alien technology that will prepare her. She can see us clearly from in there so she will also suffer as you suffer, Light-Father. Once I have fully transferred my consciousness into this form, I will no longer need these umbilical cords. Then I shall enjoy going forth from here and recruiting every last one of your precious children into the temple choir of my New Jerusalem.”
Harold stared in helpless despair as Azrael picked up the fallen sword and placed the point against his abdomen. “As much as it pains me, I cannot let you live but this indulgence of mine will not be an eternity, Light-Father, it will merely feel like one. I promise to listen to any repentance you may care to offer me. I am more than happy to be your confessor, my son.”
“Go to hell!” Harold snapped defiantly.
“I do not need to go anywhere, Light-Father, for Hell is but Jerusalem by another name,” Azrael said. He thrust the sword forward only to have it slapped aside by a spear.
“No, Satan,” David said. “You shall not do this.”
Azrael seemed to grow in his wrath as his wings unfolded to their full length. “A mere Tally-man comes between Azrael and his rightful prey?” he roared. “How is it you can speak?”
“There is more to the human soul… than you could ever know, demon,” David said, forming the words with difficulty. “The Light-Father was sent by God… and he shall save us all…”
“Then I shall make thee Worthy!” Azrael snarled and swept David aside with a mighty back-handed blow that sent him crashing into the resurrection machine. He picked David up off the floor, flung him into the fourth chamber and slammed the door upon him. “Now, Light-Father, where were we?” he said, placing the sword tip once more at Harold’s abdomen. “Ah, yes, Redemption.”
Fierce was curled up around her Honey Bear in a tiny crystal cell beneath the living heart of the machine where a red glass globe packed with brain tissue pulsed amidst the network of cables.
She could feel Azrael gloating as he began to torture the Light-Father, her Light-Father. One small screen in the wall of her cell showed Azrael slowly inserting the sword into him while others showed Nightshade and Ivy being beaten by Abbot Camus, Rosemary lying dead, Veneris impaled and Shield and the others becoming trapped in the Sister’s Lobby.
Cables writhed around her limbs and she almost fainted with pain and shock as a probe plunged into her chest and burrowed between her ribs. Another cable wrapped around her head pinning it in place as mechanical arms bearing surgical devices descended from the bowels of the Great Computer that surrounded her.
She smiled, cocooned as she was in the pitiless silicon soul of Azrael. In her mind, a death’s-head moth transformed into a flock of pigeons wheeling away as a kestrel stooped to the kill. She became one with the kestrel, looking down upon Fierce and Mouse in the Sister’s Lobby of the Great Cathedral as they confronted the Brothers and the Tally-men who barred their exit while the undead Abbot and Brothers descended the stairs behind them. She knew that Azrael had allowed her to keep her Honey Bear out of sadistic amusement as she unzipped its back and released the fuse-catches of the two plasma-grenades.
She was in a boat with her father and mother upon a peaceful lake which glittered in bright summer sunshine. “We waited for you all this time,” Leola smiled as Eorman rowed towards the far shore. The pain receded as her mother embraced her and Fierce felt safe and loved for the first time in six years.
“Let there be Light,” she said.
(c) 2016 Pau D E Mitchell Copyright protected