The chains squeaked slowly as they swayed gently above the chasm, stretched taut by the shackled body of Aziel. His arms pulled high above his head, his feet dangling over an infinite abyss below.
The cavern was a cathedral of fire and shadow. Its shifting molten glow silent except for the occasional wailing wisps of light that spiraled around the pit and then descended into its depths.
Aziel felt the presence of the Magistrate drawing near and raised his head to see the cloaked form emerge from the darkness. His eyes shone like two dying stars trapped in pools of black void. Aziel hung his head unable to bear their weight.
"Oh my dear Aziel" the Magistrate's smooth lyrical voice intoned. "How you do so like to torture yourself."
The hint of a smile filled with cruelty.
"Time and again you repeat the same old mistakes. How boring you've become. How provincial. How many centuries? How many lives? And for what, a woman?"
The last word dripped with disdain.
The Magistrate tilted his head to one side peering at the suspended form before him.
"And yet for the life of me I can't understand why."
"Oh ok yes of course I can, it's just, fun to let you think you're making some kind of spiritual progress beyond my scope."
He reached out and caressed the chains, testing their strength, then began stroking them up and down while leaning in close to Aziel's face and moaning like a whore.
His faux orgasm turned to laughter as he spun Aziel around, then let the chains unwind and spin him back the other direction.
"You see dear Aziel" he continued, procuring an apple from somewhere within his cloak and rubbing it on his sleeve before taking a slow, deliberate, sumptuous bite.
There was a distant, fading scream as he chewed with savory delight.
"I have some things to share with you. You-", he pointed his index finger at Aziel's forehead and twirled it in a spiraling pattern for emphasis, "are operating under some very real, very dangerous delusions my friend. Oh yes, very dangerous to the well being of the administration, dare I say, treasonous and heretical misapprehensions have clouded your mind."
He tossed the apple into the chasm and jumped up onto Aziel, wrapping his legs around him, embracing him.
"You, my beautiful demon have strayed from the path. No no, there's no use denying it, you've wandered into forbidden lands, filled with love and rainbows and hope and doubt. All the things that our kind despise. All the things in fact, that we were commissioned to undo."
He began swinging them slowly back and forth over the abyss.
"We bring hate, and darkness, and despair, and certainty." He tapped Aziel's nose with a clawed finger, his demeanor becoming serious, callous, spiteful.
"But youuuuuu, have been trying to understand love. Bad. Bad demon!"
He tapped his nose in succession.
"Bad. Bad. Bad."
He leaned his head back and looked up into the darkness as they continued to swing.
"You think you are more than you are. You think that in trying to love you achieve something noble. But what happens every time Aziel?"
He brought his burning gaze down and lifted Aziel's chin to look directly into his eyes. "What happens hmm? Every time. An axe to the head, a bullet to the temple, a car over a cliff. And I ask myself, I say to myself, Self, how is it that he does these things? What possible pleasure is there in the repeated failures of love? Is it the righteous striving he seeks? Is it the vanity of selflessness he's trying to attain? And then I realize, no; it's that he believes the pain he feels at his failures redeems him."
The Magistrate gripped the side of Aziel's head with both hands, like a lover desperate for a kiss.
"It's that, he believes his suffering makes him more than what he is, that his guilt and shame indicate that he has some kind of evolving consciousness, a conscience pointing to an escape hatch, a portal to transcendence, a way out. Every lover who murders him does so justly, and because he knows he deserves to be murdered, he has become aware of the knowledge of good and evil. He has eaten from the tree."
The Magistrate drew his clawed fingers across Aziel's face until the blood ran in streams.
"Have you evolved my beautiful Aziel? Have you eaten from the tree? Let me help you by telling you the truth."
He leaned in close and whispered in his ear.
"There is no truth. There is no salvation. There is no God. And do you know how I know these things? Because...none of this is real."
He hopped off of him and tapped him in the center of the chest.
"You're not really a demon, I'm not really the devil. You thought you could be redeemed because you were a demon dreaming he was a man. But you're wrong my sweet Aziel; you're not a demon dreaming he's a man...you're a man dreaming he's a demon."
The Magistrate smiled wickedly, his eyes the wellsprings for the laughter of all serial killers. And as he started to slowly back away his laughter grew into a cackle.
"You can't be redeemed if it's all a fantasy. It's all chemicals Aziel, it's all misfiring neurons."
His cackle began to swell as his form merged into shadows and flame.
"God is a fantasy, redemption is a fantasy, your remorse means nothing, your conscience means nothing. Salvation is a myth. There is only the cold black oblivion awaiting you Aziel. Everything else is the lies you tell yourself to make the bitter meaningless horror of it all endurable."
The screams from the chasm began to rise towards a crescendo of agony, harmonizing perversely with the malevolent laughter that now filled the vaulted chamber. Aziel struggled against the chains. He tried to hold on to the lessons he had learned, the hope, the compassion, the love.
"It's just mirror neurons running wild boy" the growling savage mocking voice of the Magistrate roared through the maelstrom.
"But at least it will make for another one of your short stories."
Unholy laughter filled the cavern.
The spiraling cacophony of madness and suffering erupted like a geyser riding the fury of his words, the purity of his hate, the pitch of his laughter blended with the screams of the damned rising higher, higher, higher until it became...
an alarm clock.
Copyright © 2017 Short Stories by Christopher Daniel Barnes - All Rights Reserved.