Writing and Reviews – Denise Pasutti
This is something that I didn’t intend to write, it just sort of manifested from a couple of character ideas and setting suggestion. Feedback welcome.
The Morning Star rises among fire, smoke and ash. Weep at the beauty of the fallen one.
The Priest, Father Daniel, opened his eyes to a sideways view of a room and a fireplace he did not recognize. His head hurt and when he moved to sit up, pain shot through his body. Slowly standing, Daniel lifted his sweater and saw bruises peppering his abdomen and stomach in dark splotches. The mystery of where the bruises came from was perplexing but the room puzzled him more. He walked to the marble fireplace and looked at the photos on the mantle hoping that they could provide a clue as to where he was and how he got there. He didn’t recognize the well-dressed attractive couple in the photos but did notice the sofa he had just vacated in a couple of the pictures. The photo in the centre of the mantle showed the couple beaming proudly and holding up a set of keys with a tag that read “Penthouse 2” – this must be their home but where were they and what was he doing here? A gentle wind blew through an open balcony door to the left. Shimmery drapes danced, giving a fractured view of the balcony and brought on the breeze an ordour of something foul, like sulphur and burning leaves. He moved closer to the door, halting as the outline of someone standing on the wide stone ledge of the balcony came into view. Daniel took a step back, panic flooding his mind until he realized that if this person wanted to hurt him, more than just bruising his ribs, he would have done it already. Daniel couldn’t get a good look at the person but assumed that the man must be quite formidable to have subdued him; for a priest, Daniel was in immaculate shape and muscled more like a boxer than a man of the cloth.
Tentatively, he approached the door shivering as the change from soft carpet to cold hardwood underfoot sent a chill through him. Pulling the drapes aside, a hot breeze blew into his face accompanied by the repugnant scent he caught earlier. He looked at the man on the ledge was surprised by what he saw. The man on the ledge was actually a woman, her dark hair and trench coat blowing in the wind but it was the ground below, glowing from small fires dotting the landscape, that alarmed him more. Ash and embers were creating a coating like a dusting of snow over the ground and on the trees. No alarms were sounding, no emergency vehicle sirens screamed in response to the obvious disaster. All Daniel could hear was the crack and sizzle of the fires and unsettling booms as debris hit the ground in the distance. He swallowed his fear and took a step closer to the unwavering woman on the ledge.
“Hello?” The greeting came out more meekly than he had intended but it got a response from her.
“Hello Daniel.” She said turning to look at him.
That voice, the slight British accent, her mournful tone. Daniel was certain it was Raina, an old friend whom he had known for 10 years, before and after he had taken vows. But it couldn’t be her, she died 6 months earlier.
“I know what you’re thinking Daniel, I look good for a corpse.” She tried to bring some humour into her tone but it didn’t work.
Daniel didn’t respond but instead turned away from the burning world and his dead friend and went back inside to the sanctuary of the penthouse and laid back down on the sofa. He hoped if he closed his eyes and opened them again, he would be back in his room at the house attached to the church. Daniel kept his eyes closed for a couple of minutes, then opened them. He was still on the ridiculously soft sofa and Raina was sitting on the coffee table watching him as he struggled to understand what was happening. He sat up and looked intently at her in the dimly lit room, then hung his head resignedly.
“What’s happening, how are you here?” He asked feeling dizzy and disoriented.
“The apocalypse is happening Daniel and I’m…an angel of sorts.” She didn’t sound quite convinced of the fact, like this was new to her too.
“Angel? How is that possible?”
“Well, Father Daniel, there is a heaven and there is a God and there are angels.” She replied bluntly.
“You were an atheist; you never had faith or believed in those things?”
“I know. Kind of makes it ironic. I didn’t believe even while I was in purgatory. Not until my guardian, my guide showed his true self. But that’s another story.”
Everything felt surreal, the way she spoke flatly and presented the unbelievable as fact. He was a priest but he couldn’t quite accept angels, heaven and God into his reality.
“Angels and heaven are real. If that is true, wouldn’t it be forbidden for you to reveal yourself to me and tell me that God and heaven do exist?”
“There are no rules anymore. The world has ended and I need you. You’re chosen Daniel.” She replied, somewhat surprised at his reluctance to accept God but not questioning her resurrection.
“How has the world ended?” He hoped the term was just an exaggeration.
On cue, a flaming ball streaked past the balcony lighting up the room for a few seconds, followed by a great boom making the penthouse shake. Raina was not disturbed by the fireball from the sky but Daniel’s face filled was shock and fear. The last thing he remembered before waking up in this strange and beautiful place, was saying his nightly rosary and now, fire was raining from the sky, his dead friend was back among the living claiming to be an angel and he had been chosen for something.
“Why is this happening, what am I chosen for?”
It was too much for him to accept. Raina looked at him concerned, wondering how best to proceed with an explanation.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” She offered as an explanation. Raina expected his look of displeasure and decided to tell as much truth as she could offer. “You have a part to play in the doom that is unfolding and before you ask, no I don’t know what it is that you are to do. I was sent to take you somewhere safe until we are summoned. This penthouse seemed like a good idea. At least you will be comfortable while we wait.” She anticipated the next question forming on his lips. “I don’t know how long.”
Another streak of fire lit up the night casting Raina’s face in an orange glow. He studied her face in that illumination, thinking that she did indeed look ethereal. He always thought she was beautiful but now she was perfect, flawless; angelic would be the word. The room shook more intensely this time, the fireball having landed closer to the building. The penthouse might be comfortable but Daniel was questioning the safety. He reclined on the sofa, not relaxing, just trying to clear his head.
“What brought on the apocalypse?” He asked to try to distract himself from his higher purpose.
“Why is the sky blue, why is the grass green.” She replied.
“Because God has willed it so.” Raina gave a single nod of her head and he left it at that, knowing there would be no clearer answers.
Daniels’s confusion hadn’t subsided any but he felt calm replacing his panic. He got up and went to the window, hesitated then pulled back one of the shimmery drapes to look at the chaos unfolding outside the luxury that surrounded him. People in groups two and three could be seen darting from one shelter to another but there was still no sign of emergency vehicles and he was struck by the near silence that had encompassed society. He dropped the drape and turned right into Raina who had come up behind him without a sound. She touched his face gently, silently telling him everything would be alright.
“You know I never stopped loving you.” He said.
“I know but you chose God.”
“No, you chose you and left me with no say in the matter. You chose God for me.” Daniel replied curtly.
Raina knew he was right and didn’t argue. He kissed her, not caring about his vows; it was the end of the world after all. The splintering of the heavy oak door and the entrance of a disheveled man in a dirty suit drew them apart. Raina moved in front of Daniel in a shielding stance even though he must have been at least a foot taller than her.
“Verin.” Raina addressed the stranger who was obviously not to her.
“It’s time for Morgenstern.” Verin said sending an unexpected chill through Daniel with those four words.
“Right. Daniel, Verin is going to take us to a real safe house. Let’s get out here.”
He didn’t move and it didn’t appear he had any plans to follow this strange rumpled man even at the behest of Raina. She turned to Daniel and her eyes seemed to penetrate his soul with a coldness that had not previously been there. He didn’t look away and didn’t feel the swoon coming on; he was unconscious within seconds of being caught in that icy gaze.
Daniel woke in yet another strange place but this time it was not a penthouse and he wasn’t on plush sofa. He was lying on a leather seat in the back of some sort of vehicle, the smooth movement comforting him. The tinted windows dulled the embers raining from the sky like fiery snowflakes. Things were getting worse from what he could see while lying down. Daniel closed his eyes recalling Raina’s cold stare and the strange man named Verin. He wondered what Verin had meant about it being time for Morgenstern – Morning Star. Daniel knew this term had been used to reference Lucifer and felt that familiar chill crawl down his spine again. He turned toward the front of the vehicle and saw the outline of Raina and Verin. Daniel turned his head to the roof and wished he could go back to sleep and forgot what was going on and not try to guess what was about to happen.
“In situations like this, it is often not the Chosen’s choice to be involved. You just have to accept it and do what you are destined to do.” Raina said in response to his silent sorrow.
“And you, Father, are chosen for something miraculous.” Verin added.
“Chosen for what?” Daniel asked, still lying down so he wouldn’t see what was unfolding outside.
Raina and Verin exchanged a glance. “You are the Morning Star Daniel. Morgenstern, Son of the Morning, Lucifer. It is you, you are it.”
“Why.” His voice was weak, his mouth dry with the proclamation of what they believed he was. Miraculous didn’t seem like a the right word to describe what they were implying but he didn’t question it.
“It’s not for us for us to say. You are chosen.” Verin replied.
“No, that’s not an answer. Who chose me and why.” He shouted finally sitting up as his anger rose.
Daniel looked around and was overwhelmed by the sight, his anger and confusion were forgotten as he looked at the horror out the window. The sky glowed umber, the stars hidden by the glow and smoke of fires and flaming debris littering the ground and still raining from the sky. Verin easily avoided the flaming litter dotting the road. Daniel couldn’t see any signs of life as they drove on but he knew where they were and guessed where they were heading. The white washed church with its silver cross on the steeple, rippled in waves of flame reflecting from the ground. They were taking him home. He mumbled again, why, but didn’t care about getting an answer this time.
As they approached, Daniel could see half a dozen people waiting on the steps; 3 on each side of the church doors. They didn’t look panicked and they didn’t move. He suspected they were more of whatever Verin and Raina were and had begun to suspect that perhaps he had been misled about what they truly were. He didn’t trust Verin and lost trust in Raina as he asked himself, why would angels be protecting and escorting Lucifer incarnate; not for any good reason. The car stopped in front of the church, Verin and Raina got out but Daniel made no move to follow. He sat looking at the 6 motionless sentinels and his two escorts, not wanting to go anywhere near any of them and not wanting to enter the church. His home and sanctuary had taken on a foreboding atmosphere since the apocalypse had started and instinct told him not to go inside. Daniel sat unmoving for a few minutes until the church doors opened and out stumbled one of his fellow clergyman, Father Henry, an older man and good friend. In the dull firelight he could see blood coating the side of Henry’s head and face. Daniel had to get out and go to his friend and try to help him if possible. The angels or whatever they were, had given him no choice by blooding and beating one of his own.
Daniel opened the car door and became engulfed by a desert like heat. Of course, he thought, the world is burning. He tossed off the coat and sweater and stood in a short-sleeved black shirt, his stiff white collar felt stifling around his neck as the heat hit him in waves. He closed his eyes for a moment and relented to the heat, breathing in wave after wave of it even as his eyes watered and his throat started to burn. He opened his eyes and looked at Henry again.
“Daniel, you have to leave now. They’re going to kill us. Run.” Father Henry pleaded with him.
Daniel didn’t respond as he walked forward with a renewed confidence, knowing what he had to do to save his friend. As he walked, Verin and Raina joined him but he didn’t feel alarmed, didn’t even care if they or the sentinels would try to stop him. He stood before Henry and brushed his blood matted hair aside to look at the wound. Henry looked into Daniel’s eyes and fell to his knees. It wasn’t Father Daniel looking back at Henry, at least not the Father Daniel he had known. There was nothing in his green eyes – no emotion, no compassion, no soul. Daniel looked down at Henry on his knees and felt revulsion, hate and disgust as he saw pleading and weakness in his eyes.
“Rest brother.” Daniel moved quicker than he thought he could and certainly quicker than Henry could see. The priest’s neck snapped smoothly with a simple movement of his hands. Henry fell to the ground in front of Daniel. He didn’t look down or acknowledge what he had just done as he stepped over the body and went into the church. Verin, Raina and the sentinels followed the newly born Daniel Morgenstern as he accepted his title of Lord of Hell as Hell itself unfolded and enveloped the Earth.
© 2012, Denise Pasutti