By Alex Blum
The snowy courtyard stood before the church, at the edge of a cliff. A steel black fence lined the perimeter, and each pike ended in a fearsome tip. White smoke billowed from the church, past its bell tower, into the misty sky.
A man stood in the snow, dressed all in white. Ebon hair flowed past his shoulders, and his fingers tingled with discomfort.
“Turn away from here,” he said, his eyes narrowed. “There is nothing for you here.”
Four figures walked through the courtyard, wearing hoods and robes, leaving shallow footprints in the snow.
One of them cracked a smile.
He pushed away his hood, revealing a head of long golden hair.
“If you want to kill me,” said the ebon-haired priest. “Then you will become a corpse. My last rite will be to defeat you, to defend this church.”
His eyes were gray steel.
“This is where a God will be born,” he continued. “If you interfere, then you will be testing the mettle of all creation.”
The man with golden hair fell to one knee, then dashed forward.
The priest held out one arm. A beast surged forth from the void.
It manifested from the atoms of the air, roaring maw and twin tusks, black breast heaving and four legs smashing into the snow.
The man had barely a second to react before he was impacted by it, sent flying into the sky.
And in mid-air he cast off his hood, his cloak, and surged toward it.
He transmuted his flesh into light, a golden bird soaring toward fresh snow.
He crashed into the beast with impossible momentum, and the two of them went careening through the fence and over the edge of the cliff.
The three other figures immediately sprinted toward him, and the priest responded with vicious alchemy.
The silverback demon stopped them in their tracks, pale fleshy face and silver claws twisting their way into existence.
Six tails smashed down into the courtyard into the snow.
The attackers saw what they were up against, and immediately transformed into their own beasts.
One slithered out of his robes, a great and powerful snake.
The second leapt forth, a tiger landing on all fours, roaring into the demon’s depressed face.
The third had become a great tortoise, a shell too thick for any claw to pierce.
The priest dropped a white mask over his face.
He stood behind his demon, and watched the war unfold.
He knew that they were no match for God.
Across the world, buried in the heart
There had been an explosion in the village.
It was an ordinary day, but still the fire appeared.
It came from the sky, the wrath of a God that couldn’t be bothered to show His face.
He struck His will down, and on that day, the guilty died.
But before an hour had passed, a miracle happened.
He appeared in the village.
He was dressed in black robes, with long dark hair.
He stepped out of the jeep, flanked on both sides by armed men. The rest of the caravan sat still, filled with armed men.
The people of the village froze, and gazed upon a God.
They dared not shoot him, they dared not approach him.
He began to walk, toward the place where the fire was made.
Down the street, toward the rubble.
He gazed upon his work, face unmoving.
The ruins the explosion had made were a sight to behold.
It had been a two-story house, but now it was a rotting whale, gutted and hollow. Its walls were black. Its floor was black. The fire had been extinguished, but no lives could be saved.
The building next to it had caved in. It was someone else’s house, someone who should have lived somewhere else.
He walked toward the target, and waved away his entourage with one hand.
It was an act of faith.
They turned toward the village, and warned everyone to look away.
A child on a bike stared, his lips peeled back.
He was escorted away by an old woman, who stared furiously at the barrels of the guns, pointed at her and deciding her fate.
She was allowed to live only by the mercy of God.
The dark-haired man approached the house, and walked into it. The door had been blown off, the entire wall had been blown off. It was a burnt husk on the verge of collapsing. The roof was gone and only the back walls and the back room remained.
He stepped on dirt, and onto a hand.
He pulled back his foot.
She was buried in the dirt, a shining ring on her finger.
He dropped onto one knee, and with his keen eyes, surveyed the remains of a living room.
A bleeding stump of a leg, soft and dark, with a sock and sneaker on its foot.
A corpse with no legs, a man roughly his age.
He stared into the glassy eyes of the damned, and rose back to his feet.
He reached into his robes, and took out a handgun.
He saw the back room, dark and isolated.
He walked toward it, cocking back the hammer.
There is a third who should have died this day. A young villain, spared by luck alone.
He stood in the entranceway, the room pitch black, only his eyes shining in the darkness.
But I do not play with dice.
He walked into the room, and took out a flashlight.
He aimed it at the wall, on the face of his mark.
The boy was shirtless.
His face was slicked with sweat, his body splattered with blood. He had a deep wound in his side, and he couldn’t stand.
He was on one knee, wincing in pain, arms trembling.
He spoke, in a language that meant nothing.
“Was that your leg in there?” asked the man with the flashlight.
The boy said something else, something filled with wrath.
The flashlight moved down, shining on the assault rifle on the dusty floor.
He looked up at the boy again, and nodded.
“Grab it,” he said.
The boy was still.
“Grab that rifle.”
He lowered his gun, leaving only the light.
There was silence, and one heart racing.
He put his gun to his side, and nodded again.
“Come on. I want to see you try.”
He turned off the flashlight, and waited.
He heard bullets firing in the darkness, a magazine roaring through the air.
It fired twelve times, then it jammed.
He heard the trigger clicking, and the whimpering of the boy.
He turned the flashlight back on, and raised his gun.
He saw now that the boy was missing a leg.
“And that,” he said, his eyes narrowed with intensity. “Is the power of a God.”
He fired once, his aim true.
The boy took a bullet to the heart, and hit the ground in a heap.
There were twelve bullet holes in the wall behind him, tiny streaks of light shining through.
He turned and walked toward them, putting away his gun and his light.
Everyone was watching as he emerged from the darkness, into the ruins and back into the street.
“What happened in there?” asked one of his guards.
“I defended myself,” said the man. “He nearly survived, and this house was surely where he was destined to die.”
He walked down the street, shining in the sun.
Knight of Faith
He stands in the light of the church, ivory robes windswept against ivory cross.
With each motion, his body transcends itself.
The elbow sublime, bending as the blade sweeps past his robes and lingers in the air.
He raises it out before him, to slay the false God.
Matter’s apex, realized.
They stand opposite each other in the church, all in white and all in black.
The dark man grins, and he extends his arm.
Two swords face each other, and the blue veins of the tree of life appear between them, winding through the air and connecting the sword of faith and the sword of power.
God wields the sword of power.
Christ, bleeding, clings to the sword of faith.
In the Courtyard
A beast, to spite the Demiurge.
The demonic, to spite the demons.
The people merge together, and in their chests there is light.
Their arms interwoven, rising against rolling hills and the setting sun.
The Leviathan raises its hand, artificial God against the real.
Lo and behold, the Creator arrives.
From the snowy church He bellows on high, the cloudfront black and serene, vicious tendrils spiraling forth from the stars.
The Leviathan makes its stand, the monster to end all monsters.
The trident to spear the Demiurge’s spine, the weapon to sever the thread and all that He wove.
But false Gods are no match for the real.
The arm of the Leviathan extended to the stars, piercing the clouds and ushering forth the sun.
Its light fell upon his face, but how could he match Him?
The Leviathan had its day.
He, made of many, basked in the sun.
But the light in their hearts was not the golden light of resurrection.
It was not the cross.
It was power, and power meets power’s end.
The pieces of the Leviathan began to break away, his fingers, his hands.
People pouring from his body the hundreds, by the thousands, by the millions.
His massive body fell apart as his muscles wavered, as his grip weakened and he dropped his trident to the rolling hills.
Dark clouds reformed, and retained their dominion over the Earth.
The Leviathan crumpled, and spilling itself across the world, it collapsed against the darkness.
Lost and alone, the people began to run across the hills.
Their eyes popped out of their heads, their palms ran with blood.
They tried to lift the massive trident from the grass, but they could not.
As the dark and the Demiurge consumed the skies, the people began to eat themselves.
By the thousands, by the millions, starting with their feet and consuming the whole of their bodies all to fuel their hands.
But the hands were spent.
They had already pierced the clouds, for a time.
Now they languish in despair.
You remain invincible, my God.
How dare I ever despise you?
You wove my hands, you weave my light.
I need you.
“Did you hear?” screamed one person, feasting upon his legs. “The bird has come, the phoenix is here.”
In the Leviathan’s ruin came the sun, blocked by dark clouds.
The people watched, and waited.
They could see its flickering, they could see its ghostly afterimage hidden behind black skies.
Tears ran from their eyes, and they knew they would never see it again.
Their lifetimes would fade, and they gave away their hands.
The Demiurge blocked the sun, as it had no patience for imitation.
Rippling, whispering behind the dark.
The sun eventually faded, and in time, so did the meat that thought it was divine.
One More Final
And from the ashes, the dead one rose.
The one without hands, from the blood of the earth.
The cross rose against rolling green hills, and in darkness, it thrived.