The world ended, and salvation was denied.
Everyone knew this, because God Itself said so.
At least, most people believe It was God.
Admittedly no one had ever expected a giant diaphanous mantis to emerge from the Doors, all a-glimmer with silver inlaid silk and what smelled like rendered human fat.
And at least, most people believe that was what God said.
It was so long ago, and thunderous shrieks and mandibular clicks are rather challenging to translate when your eyes and ears bleed at the mere recollection of them.
God or no, the thing was powerful enough to open the Doors, and that alone had been miraculous. No one had ever managed to open the Doors- let alone damage them.
An entire generation has been born since that fateful day, so a bit more explanation is probably in order. Young people these days don't know their history. They're far more interested in collecting the newest and trendiest saints' bones, or predicting when the moon will stop screaming again.¹
For as long as history has been recorded, and probably for a good deal longer, the Doors stood watch over the world. They stood in the center of a black sand desert, taller than most mountains, and they were about as wide as one too. Even traveling in a straight line along the depth of one of their columns took several days on beastback. They had a sharp, angular construction with clean lines and a cold, dark grey coloration. They were made from a glassy rock that reflected sunlight some of the time, and absorbed it other times. At times it was reported to look porous. This is assuredly false. And the Doors were paired, if the pluralization wasn't an indicator.
The Doors were everything to us. They made our earliest, amiant-clad ancestors look up in awe and wonder. They sheltered our huddled bands from the five cardinal winds when they decided to bite and tear. They gave us something to emulate in our own architecture. They gave us something to aspire to understand through our arts and sciences. Shining cities rose up and studded the black desert around the Doors like the gleaming teeth that light up the night sky. I can scarcely believe that civilization would have developed in any recognizable way—if at all—without the Doors.
But we just couldn't figure out how to open the blasted thing.
Animals, ropes, and pulleys all failed to make them budge. Engines of all make broke down or exploded before they made any headway. Even astral arts failed to loosen their hinges- or ascertain if they truly had hinges at all. We couldn't even figure out which side, if any, was the "front" or "back" for the longest time- no matter how many holy wars one ideological camp launched against the others.
And there were many wars, mind you. At times the primordial, unchanging stillness of the Doors made the destruction and carnage which surrounded it seem all the more vibrant and terrible by contrast. Cities rose up, but they also fell smoldering into ruin beneath the indifferent shadow of that edifice.
From the ashes arose new realms, though none ever settled directly before or behind the Doors- not only was it sacrilege, it would be suicide when the Doors finally swung open and smote all in their arcs, as surely they would one day. We knew it even then, so certainly and fervently, though centuries had dulled a little bit of our fire I suppose.
The day started like any other. Countless scribes and splinter sects have described the hours preceding the event as absolutely drowning in prophetic phenomena, but you can trust that there was none of that. That humdrum monotony was among the last things these eyes of mine ever saw, after all.²
It felt like an earthquake, when it started. In fact you very well could call it an earthquake, except instead of originating from the heart of the earth, it came from its soul. The tremors grew worse, towers fell, and fires began to spread. Finally, all eyes not blinded by smoke saw the way the left-hand door was slightly ajar. Over the next half-hour, it and its twin swung outward fully.
Within was pitch blackness studded by the twist and swirl of nebulae and the wild dance of heavenly bodies careening through space. A million voices cried out in sudden awe, terror, and prayer- and a few miles around the edge of the Door, I am told, millions more rose up in shrieks of ultimate despair as they found themselves unable to witness this event from the Wrong Side. I am told many who found themselves in that circumstance soon died, whether by their own hands or by sheer grief. I envy their alacrity.
Slowly, the infinity within the Doors began to change and distort. Swarms hundreds of thousands strong began to push toward the portal, jockeying for space between sects and congregations until a crowd crush of such force and ferocity occurred that they are still picking the bodies out of the shattered tiles of that most sacred avenue.
At last, the first raptorial leg breached the yielding, filmy surface of the portal like it was piercing an embryonic sac- but from which side, I cannot say. The second came soon after, each bearing blades that could smite whole armies had they the intent to. By now, all were cowed, stopped dead in their tracks. I remember watching all of this from my window. I clung to the sill so tightly that the tendons exploded out of the backs of my hands.
Finally came the mandibles. And then the multifaceted eyes. And then the barbed, silken body.
And then the Voice.
I learned that day that there is a level of heavenly rapture so terrifying in its intensity that it is indistinguishable from the most hellish torment.
We could not understand what God said, but we still knew it.
We heard the initial upswell of grace and glory, followed by a certain stumbling, and then... confusion. God blinked Its alien eyes and looked around as It drew both arms in pensively. There was silence that begged to endure for an eternity after we'd had our souls blasted to pieces by those trumpets.
Then, It questioned us.
It questioned what was happening.
'What is this? What are you? What have you done to the Appointed Day? Where is your Prophet? Where is the casting of clover roots and the boiling of lead? Why have you not prepared the Way? Had It not carefully instructed Its messenger to prepare you all for the Once & Final Journey? Where has gone the Bruised One?' ³
It then began to scold us. To call us names that now adorn countless monuments and graffiti. Impudent Children. Dawdlers. Undeserving. False. Those who had ran closest to the Doors did not have time to flee before they burned away into stacks of carbon and clouds of incense smoke.
Insulted, indignant, and impatient, the thing that was God shrieked and turned away. Sources differ on whether or not It scooped up a small group of people in one arm, and sources further differ on whether these people were the Chosen Ones or merely a snack for a rather hangry insect. It finally reached Its arms out and seized the Doors. Their claws bit deep into the stone as they swung inward at the speed of sound. The stone struck, the sky split, and the earth trembled.
I awoke some hours later in the rubble of my home. Everything closer than that was naught but dust.
We do not know how much destruction was wrought, because we never looked beyond the horizon of our sacred little desert. There were inklings of a world beyond, but why would we have cared about anything that was not Doorward? The peoples of those lands were benighted savages, and we were... we were...
We only know that the horizon that had been there that morning was now gone. Nothing persists beyond.
God was gone too, as was the portal It had passed through. All that remained was the wreckage of the Doors.
It was as if a mountain had toppled, because in many ways one had. What is left of the world is irrevocably altered.
We believed this was the end. Surely nothing could come after this, when the sun was knocked out of sync and the five winds were dead? How could we survive? Why would we?
As it turned out, we did not account for mortal stubbornness.
Many died, and many more were killed in the aftermath. I know I'd be dead right now had I gotten my ruptured hands on anything effective for the task, but again I was new to blindness at the time. But most did not perish on that day, and it was with more bemusement than mass hysteria that they all picked themselves back up and ambled through the dust.
The fires were put out, and the dead were mourned- often in massive, nameless heaps too tall to name or count. The hills they were covered over with now support entire shrines and temples. Yes, new shrines and temples. Some were simple dedications of honor to the dead, but others were... something else entirely. Some are even built out of the fragments of the Door, which became the most plentiful—albeit unmalleable—building material in the world.
We simply found new things to believe in. Many people deny that that thing had been God or even a god, but many more acknowledged it yet moved on. My quip about saints' bones earlier points to the very true fact that we have forced death to beget new beginnings, and that the Closing of the Door was a foundational moment that has been literally and figuratively built upon by the next generation.
Even now, I hear the rumblings of a hunt being organized to chase off another incursion by those things that dwelt in parts once perpendicular to us. The mood is light, almost flippant, as volunteers fetch their riddle-woven earspoons. They know they have succeeded many times before, and think they will do so again. I know they will.
It is equally compelling and infuriating.
My writer grows tired, and probably needs a break from my dictation now.
I do too.
¹ Current estimates point to a period of six whole weeks within the next decade. I will be well and truly spoiled by that balmy silence, if I live to hear it.
² I wish they had taught me not to stare at deific interventions when I was a child, much the same way they warn you not to look directly into the sun.
³ Through decades of study, I believe I have finally cracked the meaning of these words. In a crumbling registry of civil and criminal cases nearly seven centuries old, there are repeat instances of disturbance of the peace in a small, now nonexistent hamlet across the desert. The perpetrator was a figure known to many in the area- an old, generally harmless eccentric who was known to drift from conspiracy theory to theory with the changing of the seasons. Their last appearance in any documentation describes how their fellow citizens held a brief service in their honor after they died ranting and raving in a shelter. They fell from a rooftop while trying to kill birds for preying upon mantids and sustained blunt-force trauma to their head and neck, resulting in severe bruising and, as was discovered too late, internal bleeding. They died in obscurity, having totally and utterly failed to attract a flock of any size through their words of an approaching journey, with zero assistance from the divine patron that had apparently shattered their mind with Its touch.
The product of too much wine and post-rock while reading about Millerism one time.ReplyDelete
I'd imagine the It-God-Mantis just tore the black desert into its own demi-plane and now the people of the world (those mentioned as benighted savages) have to come with explanation as why there is a giant, desert-wide pit hole in the world.ReplyDelete
Ooh. I Like that idea a lot.Delete