“And in between the moon and you The angels get a better view Of the crumbling difference Between wrong and right.”

Round Here, by Counting Crows

In the beginning, there was nothing. God looked upon the nothingness and yawned. Michael, Gabriel and Lucifer looked upon the nothingness along with their angelic brethren and smiled. They knew that their God loved them and all angels in the Chorus with infinite, perfect Love. They noticed, however, that God was disturbed by something. Lucifer, loved above all, was first to ask what was troubling Him.

“My Lord, you seem preoccupied. What troubles you?” Lucifer asked. “I’m bored, to be quite honest, Luc. Don’t you ever wish there was more to do?”

Lucifer pondered with impish desires and said, “You have always provided whatever we should want. And we delight in being a part of your Celestial Chorus and bringing you joy through song. Shall we Sing for you?”

God, confidant he had discovered the answer just then said, “Not today... I feel like singing now — a new Word.”

Michael and Gabriel who had already donned their Choir garb in anticipation looked at each other with disappointment. Gabriel turned to Michael and said, “The last time He sang, He created us. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Michael returned, “Nonsense, Gabe. It’s probably just an experiment. You know how He is.”

Lucifer overheard the two and suggested, “My Lord, how about a grand Experiment?”

Pondering the suggestion, God asked, “Hmmm... what kind of experiment?”

Lucifer smirked and said, “How about a change of scenery?”

God said, “I know... how about Firmament?

With that Word, Lucifer saw the tiniest point of light in the distance.

The Lord God saw the disappointed look on his favorite Angel’s face, so he cleared his throat and said, “Let There Be Light!

With that Word, the point of light EXPLODED! In a glorious swirl of lights and colors, fire and gases took shape into stars and planets. These in turn swirled into solar systems, constellations, and galaxies. Lucifer marveled at the awesome display before him.

Michael and Gabriel stared at the diamond-sown Universe that sparkled around them. Michael said, “This is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Gabriel sighed, “Sure, but I doubt he’s finished.”

Lucifer overheard again then asked God, “My Lord, no more marvelous thing have I witnessed than this — is there more?”

God said, “But of course. Do you see that small blue-green planet way over there? The one revolving around that yellow sun?”

“Yes,” smiled Lucifer, “that one is my favorite.”

“Watch,” God simply stated.

As the days passed, God, Lucifer and the whole Chorus watched as the Earth’s volcanoes spewed its atmosphere, which collected into seas and oceans, dividing the quickly greening continents.

Shortly, the first signs of Life emerged in the seas and on the land.These stationary things God called Plants and then He distinguished them among their species. Then came swimming and crawling things, which God called Animals and again named their species.

Lucifer saw large reptiles, which God called Dinosaurs, dominate the planet. Lucifer asked, “What a glorious beast — are they to inherit this Earth?”

God only smiled and said, “It is not my will to see them survive or perish. I only want to see what interactions they will have with the rest of the Universe.”

Just then, Michael saw a large chunk of rock hurtling towards the Earth and asked Gabriel, “Do you think it will strike the planet?”

Gabriel smiled, “Full impact, I would imagine.”

Lucifer asked God, “Don’t you want to save your Dinosaurs?”

“No,” said God, “they did not sing to me. If the comet strikes and they die then that shall be their fate. But, do not give up so easily on the Earth.”

Lucifer watched with his brothers as the comet slammed into the Earth, spewing dust into the air, choking the creatures of oxygen and sunlight. The planet soon became cold and forbidding.

Lucifer frowned, “Such a pity.”

God did not want to see his beautiful Lucifer sad, so He decided to do something special. He said, “Look as the glaciers melt away.”

Lucifer and his brothers watched a mammal evolve into the form of a Man and another into that of a Woman. God said, “To this species I will give a gift — a Soul.”

At this point, Gabriel stopped talking to Michael and asked God directly, “A Soul? What is that?”

“A spirit similar to your own,” he said smiling.

Lucifer smiled as he imagined them to be like new children. Gabriel however scowled, “Do these... monkeys’ souls give them Free Will like us?” Michael tried to calm Gabriel down.

God scorned Gabriel saying, “No, they do not, for they are NOT angels. But Gabriel, I resent your question. If I should desire to give them Free Will, I will!” With that, God infused the pair’s souls with Free Will. When he was done, he named them Adam and Lilith.

Filled with Jealousy, Gabriel stormed off. Michael apologized for his brother then ran off after him. Lucifer turned to God and said, “Do not be upset with Gabriel. He tends to be jealous of me as well.”

God smiled and his anger subsided. He turned his attention back to Adam and Lilith. He saw some Angels fawning over Lilith, for she was the most beautiful creature they had ever seen. The angels saw that her beauty rivaled that of their own, but they were not jealous. Instead, they playfully decided to give Lilith wings of her own!

“Oh no, not again,” sighed God. “Free Will can be so taxing some times.” Just then, Lilith and Adam had an argument and she flew away. Adam stared towards the Heavens and sang a sad song.

Lucifer sighed, “All alone, no one to Love.”

God smiled as he heard the Song and put Adam to sleep. He took a bone from his ribs and fashioned Adam a new bride. “Waste not, want not,” he joked. This new bride he named Eve. Adam thanked his God and sang his praises.

This lifted God’s demeanor, “I like these Humans, but I am wondering about my gift of Free Will. Maybe I shouldn’t have gone that far.”

Lucifer anxious to play with the new Children asked God, “How about a test to see how well they handle their Free Will?” However, before God had the chance to answer him, Lucifer flew off to the Earth.

What Have You Done?” bellowed God at Lucifer upon his return from Earth.

“Wha- But I - I thought I would, um, test them,” stammered Lucifer afraid of his Lord’s anger.

“I did not Ask you, nor Command you to test them,” He said. “And even if I agreed to a test, I would not have allowed you to Tempt them! Using Temptation is cheating; you tested nothing but their virginal ignorance! Now they have sinned! They knew they were not allowed to eat of the Fruit of Knowledge.”

“Then why,” Lucifer asked confused, “does the Apple exist?”

“It exists because Good and Evil exist,” He explained. “When I created you and your brethren, I made you Good. But when I gave you Free Will, the possibility that you would choose to be Evil existed, because Evil exists.

“When I created the Humans and gave them Free Will, the Fruit of Knowledge of Good and Evil grew in the Garden of Eden. I wanted them to have Free Will but I did not want them to choose Evil over Good so I commanded them not to eat of the Fruit. Your Temptation has tainted them.”

Worried about his fate and that of the Humans, Lucifer asked, “What’s going to happen now?”

Frustrated, God replied, “I must punish them... and You. For Humanity, I punish them with Four Hardships.”

Four Angels stepped forward to receive their Words; “Famine, Pestilence, War, and Death!

The four Angels became somber, as they understood their duties. Lucifer, who had never known these Words, feared them and asked God, “When shall Humanity be visited by these Angels?”

“Throughout their existence — however, all four mean that the Lifespan of a Human is now finite. I do not wish to remove Immortality from their grasp completely, so I will make them able to Copulate. For now, I cast them out of the Garden of Eden. There the Angels will visit them.”

Lucifer absorbed the knowledge of these new Words... the very idea of a finite existence frightened Lucifer, yet the concept of Copulation intrigued him. At once he pitied and envied Adam and Eve. Then he realized his punishment was next.

“Lucifer,” God said sternly, “you have Fallen from my Grace. As such, you are cast out of Heaven, such as I cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden.”

Fear of his Fate turned into Hate behind Lucifer’s eyes. He hated Humanity as a furious parent would hate his immature children. With a shortness to his voice he asked, “Where will I go? What would you have me do?”

God sensed that Lucifer was bordering that Ineffable line between Good and Evil, and He wept for what He had done. He steeled himself to accept Lucifer’s Fate and said, “I care not where you go, as long as you do not stay here.”

Lucifer grumbled, “I do not accept your punishment. I do not accept your statement that you would Love Humans more than Angels... more than ME! I Defy You! I Defy Your Word! I Defy Your Love!” Burning with rage, he shouted, “I would rather be the Master of Hell than a Servant of Heaven!

God said, “So be it!” With those words, Lucifer closed his eyes and Fell. He tumbled for what felt like an eternity, accelerating faster. As his speed reached terminal velocity, he burst into flames, and laughed as his halo fell away from him.

Back in Heaven, the Angels were stunned. They had watched and heard the bold statements between God and Lucifer. They mumbled to each other about the consequences. Michael and Gabriel returned from their repose to hear the commotion. They started to argue over who was right, more importantly, what was right. The other Angels began arguing about what had happened.

God was still reeling from Lucifer’s Fall. The shouting of his Choir brought his attention back to the situation. God yelled, “Enough!” The silence quickly overcame the cacophony. God said, “When I gave you all Free Will, I knew this day should come. I now have two Creations of Mine with Free Will — Humans and Celestials. I cannot watch over all of you. In fact, at the rate that Humanity is developing, I will need Angels to watch over them. Will you do this for me?”

The Archangels stepped forward. Michael spoke first, “My Lord, I am yours, Thy Will be done.”

Gabriel spoke next, “My Lord, I am yours, Thy Will be done.” In his heart, Gabriel cursed Humanity, but swore he would do as he was told. God sensed this, but knew Gabriel was loyal, for now at least.

Most of the rest of the Archangels followed suit. Other angels stood behind their archangels and took their Word and their Fate in their hands. The Choirs were aligned and ready for what Eternity would bring.

Those that sympathized and agreed with Lucifer also fell to the Abyss of Hell. There they joined Lucifer as he became Satan, “The Adversary”, Lord of Darkness. The archangels that fell became his Princes and those angels that fell joined their Infernal Bands of Demons.

The Great War in Heaven Had Begun.

“Oh, I got here by killin’ off all my friends.
I think I’ve figured it out: my life begins when the fun ends.
I got my wings, I’m free to go as I please.
Yeah, I got my wings now nothing really pleases me ’til everything falls apart”

Everything Falls Apart, by Dog's Eye View

Even with a war in Heaven, life goes on in the Physical realm of Earth. Ever since Adam and Eve were tempted into committing the Original Sin, life has been finite. Four angels have been given the task of visiting the Earth and ensuring the cycle of life and death. They are War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death. They will be given special charges when the Seven Seals are broken, but that time has not yet come. In the meantime, they fulfill regular duties as required of them.

Since Humanity has spread to the extent that it has, these four angels have become Archangels with other angels below their charge. The fourth angel, the rider of the pale horse, has many working for him, since his charge requires him to take care of those who die of old age, accidents, homicides and suicides.

There are other angels that deal with death that don’t work for any of these four. I am one of those few angels. It wasn’t always that way. But then again, since I was once an angel of Mercy, I have been given a special charge.

In my present capacity, I have a role as half guardian angel, and half shepherd. I try to help people make the right decisions to prevent them from dying before their time. If I succeed, I help them to prepare for their ascension. If I fail, well, depending on the circumstances of their doom, they may be shepherded to one of two places.

As it happens, I have had many angelic professions. I have worked as a messenger, as a guardian, and as a shepherd. But, there was one time, when all of this was denied to me. Denied to me after my Fall from Grace. My Fall happened after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Abraham walked with God one day. This was one of the few times God didn’t send a messenger angel, like myself. Anyway, God told Abraham that he was furious at the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their blasphemous ways. Abraham however had family living in Sodom who were righteous, even if he agreed that the rest of the people were sinful. Abraham asked God, “Would you spare the town if there were 50 righteous people living there?”

God replied, “I would spare the city for the sake of 50 people.”

Abraham realized that He was a fair and just God, but also realized there probably weren’t 50 righteous people living there. In fact, beyond Lot, his Wife, and their daughters, there were none. So, Abraham began to actually bargain with God, all the way down to his last offer. ”I will not ask again,” Abraham said, “but would you save the town for the sake of 10 people?”

God hesitated, but because He knew Abraham had a personal stake in the fate of the town, he made a deal. “If there be 10 righteous people there, I shall spare the town. If there are less, it shall be destroyed.”

Abraham knew at that point that this was the best he could do, so he agreed. God on the other hand knew there were fewer than 10 righteous people, so he charged two angels with a special task.

I was one of those angels. He asked us to go to the town of Sodom and find any righteous people. If there were more than ten, He would spare the town. But if he was right, and there were fewer, we were instructed to help them escape before the town was destroyed.

Upon arriving at the gates of Sodom, we found Lot was waiting for us. No doubt a messenger angel was sent to let him know of our arrival. He let us in and told us that we could stay with him and his family before the morning when we were to survey the town for other faithful citizens.

With the rise of the morning sun, riotous knocking came upon Lot’s door. All of the townsfolk, every single person, had surrounded that house. They were clawing on the walls, banging on the doors and windows, and trying their damnedest, literally, to break in. Those that weren’t trying to get in were fornicating outside within sight of us. The rest were naked and demanded that Lot send us “newcomers” out so that they might “know” us — in this case, they wanted to rape us.

Lot would not send us out, in fact, he offered his own daughters to the throngs that we might be spared. His sacrifice was noted, even if it was fool-hearted. We decided that Lot’s family was truly the only people worth sparing. After dark, when the townsfolk had fallen asleep — which was late because many of their orgies lasted well into the evening — we helped Lot’s family escape.

As we were leaving, the other angel told Lot and his family not to look back on the town. It was none of their concern anymore and they should not look back to that life. As we came to a hill overlooking the city, Lot’s wife turned around to watch the destruction of that unholy city. When she did so, God’s wrath at her disobeying the angel was unleashed on her — He turned her into a pillar of salt. I was totally distraught and upset over the punishment. After we escorted the rest of Lot’s family to their new home, I had an argument with the other angel.

“Do not be upset. God’s will must be obeyed,” he said.

“But He promised Abraham that Lot’s family would be spared,” I yelled.

“Only if they were righteous in his eyes. He is the Judge of these tribes,” he retorted.

“All she did was look back. She did not disobey God, she disobeyed you!” To my shock, the angel that stood before me changed his visage into that of Yahweh, Lord Elohim, our God. I immediately threw myself to my knees.

“Now you know the truth,” he said, his voice deeper and wiser. “I had to go there myself to see how they lived. I could pass no judgment otherwise.”

“I understand, my Lord, but was her punishment truly necessary?”

“It was, she disobeyed me.”

“Had she known who you were, I doubt she would have,” I reasoned.

“Not true, in her heart of hearts, she was more concerned with the life she was leaving behind than the welfare of her family or with the fact that we had rescued her from the destruction,” he said authoritatively.

Still, even knowing he could tell what was in her heart, I resisted the idea that God could be such a cold judge of a woman whose only sin was that she looked back. For one moment, she looked back. “My Lord,” I continued, “how could you do this? What about Lot and his daughters? What about Abraham?”

“They will go on. I have a covenant with them.”

Then something stirred inside me, my frustration oozed from every celestial fiber of my being. I challenged Him, “What about me? You lied to me. You didn’t need me to be here if you were coming to see for yourself. Why did you bring me along?”

“To test your resolve as well as that of Lot and his family.”

I was flabbergasted! “To test me?! What have I done to warrant such an exercise?”

“You have become more and more protestant of my judgments of late,” he calmly stated.

I swallowed hard and said, “I may have voiced my opinion of how you handled Cain and the Flood but I never disobeyed you.”

“True, but you have been distancing yourself from my Grace with every disparaging word. Your light is dependent on my Light. The more you disagree with me, the less my Light shines through you. If you don’t watch yourself, you may find yourself in Lucifer’s shoes.”

Anger came from nowhere and I rebutted, “Is that a threat?”

He winced as he realized I was about to Fall, so he said, “No, it is an observation, my Child. I do not want you to Fall. Walk with me back to Heaven?” Reassured by his demeanor, I joined him on our trek back to Heaven’s Gate.

When we arrived, we were greeted by an unexpected guest standing outside the gates. The visitor smiled a truly evil grin and said, “So, how was your visit to my little home away from home?”

God replied, biting his tongue, “I knew you had something to do with their sinful appetites, Lucifer.”

“On the contrary, Father,” he sarcastically noted, “I was not I that gave them their lustful desires. That was your doing. I simply removed their inhibitions by showing them the way from your stifling, repressive Laws.”

“And now I have shown them the consequences of disobeying my laws,” He shouted.

“Oh bravo, the big bad God has shown his temper once again. And look how my army of Darkness grows with the added souls.”

It was at that moment that I realized that God had played right into Lucifer’s hands. What was worse was I actually enjoyed that knowledge. That sweet ecstasy of knowing I was right and that God was wrong washed over me. I suddenly felt engorged with the warmth of believing that God had made a mistake. Moreover, he was played for a fool to further the cause of this stupid war. But, the true impact of that last thought didn’t hit me until later. Somehow, I came to feel as if I could sympathize with the Devil.

So I Fell away, and as I Fell, I saw tears rolling from God’s eyes, and I laughed.

“Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste.
I’ve been around for a long, long year,
Stole many a man’s soul and faith.”

Sympathy For The Devil, by the Rolling Stones

One of the first things I noticed about Hell was how infinitely dark it was. It was as dark as the empty space between Heaven and Earth — “between the Moon and You” as Counting Crows recently put it. I spent a lot of time in that void. I am not sure if I was cold or hot, because I had never experienced temperature before that moment, but I was very uncomfortable.

“That will pass,” came a voice in the distance. But I couldn’t tell from which direction. It almost seemed to surround me, that voice, like the darkness itself. ”That would be a fair analogy,” the voice answered my unspoken query. “For here, I am the Darkness.”

The voice crooned to me. With simple words, he lulled the fear of where I was out of me. The extreme temperatures I felt seemed to pass, too. Then I saw Lucifer standing above me, his hand stretched out to offer me a chance to stand.

That was when I realized I was flat on my back on a surface that felt like a downy soft bed of nails. It was a physical contradiction, and it was only one of many I would find there in Hell. For example, even though I was enveloped in total darkness, and Lucifer was dressed in black, with no light shining on him, I could clearly see him in front of me.

I took his hand in mine and pulled myself up. He patted me on the back as I arose to his height. “It seems to me,” he said, “that we could all use a little Mercy, my brother.”

“I used to think so. I used to think Mercy was the most important thing in the Universe,” I sighed.

“And yet, the Most Merciful Lord Above has just shown you that it isn’t. That Punishment is just as important.” He paused, and then added with a sneer, “All the while calling it Justice.”

“Justice,” I coughed on the word. How could his God call killing Lot’s wife, Justice?

“What about the Flood? Sure, let’s save a handful of humans and assorted animals from a flood meant to wash the sinners away?”

I added, “You mean drown thousands upon thousands of people. They could have found Salvation. Why would he only show mercy to Noah’s family?”

“He doesn’t understand Salvation. He forces his believers to do what he says, to follow his rules,” he began.

“And if they don’t, he floods them or destroys their cities. That can’t be right!”

“It’s not,” he encouraged. He smiled and said, “We could use someone like you down here, to show us and Him what Mercy is.” He paused long enough to let his words sink in, and then laid down the bargain, “Join us — lead my armies with me. Together we’ll knock on Heaven’s door and show him how wrong he is.”

He handed me a blood red rose that was so beautiful to behold. I stared at what was another physical contradiction. It was a rose perfectly perfumed and blossomed into maturity that seductively begged me to take it from Lucifer. I grabbed it and felt the pain and pleasure of the razor sharp thorns as they burst into my celestial flesh and I bled light. As the light seeped from my hand, I could see the ranks of lost souls he had collected from God’s wrath.

I put the deep red rose into my lapel and that was when I knew I had a job to do.

“Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners Saints
As heads is tails, just call me Lucifer
’Cause I’m in need of some restraint”

Sympathy for the Devil, by the Rolling Stones

The faces of the lost souls haunted me as I marshaled them together into troops. There was, of course, no organizing them. Chaos had to prevail down here. But at least everyone was accounted for. I spoke with each soul. I learned of their sins and how they were punished. But I didn’t let my anger over their punishment dissuade me from my task. We had an appointment to keep.

Not every soul would confess their sins to me. In fact, most of the souls were to stay behind. The truly damned would not be able to join us. Lucifer didn’t mind leaving many behind. He knew it would be good for the morale of the other demons to have souls to torture.

So one night, we set out for Heaven. As the daylight came, all of us paused to adjust our eyes to the brightness of it. When the light of day gave way to the Light of Heaven, we charged towards Heaven.

Before we could reach Heaven’s Gate, the Archangel Michael and God Himself stood in our way. There were no other angels or souls to defend their gates. Michael ran up to Lucifer and flat out punched him. Lucifer put up a strong fight, but Michael was his equal in fighting. So eventually they tired of battle and stopped in order to rest.

I walked up to God and some of my anger welled up again, but I bit my tongue and said, “Have Mercy on these souls and let them enter Heaven.” After I spoke the words, Lucifer yelled over to me, “Traitor!”

God ignored Lucifer’s remark and asked, “Why should I?”

Calmly, I replied, “It is true that they have sinned. But they seek Salvation for their sins. Punishment is a course of action when people won’t repent. But they realize that they were wrong, they have paid their dues. They seek your Forgiveness. Others in Hell will not repent, and they should stay there to be punished. But have Mercy on these souls and forgive them.”

God straightened up and looked upon the faces of the lost souls before him. He could sense the weight on their souls and that they truly wanted forgiveness. He opened the gates to them and shouted, “Embrace Hope All That Enter Here!” The cheers of thousands of freed souls rang out as they rushed into Heaven to receive their Reward.

After the last soul passed through, Michael stood up in front of the gates with a grim look on his face. Lucifer turned to God and sobbed, “Will you not show me the same Mercy?”

"Perhaps, one day, when you repent. But for now, you still are against me. You stole an angel from me, but he has returned to me now. Go Back To Darkness, Lucifer!"

As he fell away again to Hell, he laughed. Oh, how that laugh echoed and rang in my ears long after he disappeared. God turned to me then and stared at the rose that I wore. I stared at it and noticed that it had changed from a blood red blossomed rose into a pristine white rosebud.

I bent down on one knee and looked straight down. I begged, “Will you show me the same Mercy as those you gave Salvation?”

He laughed and said, “Their salvation is because of you. Know you this, you have passed your test. It is obvious that your salvation is warranted as well.”

“However”, he continued, “you now wear a Fallen Halo. It will be some time before I think we can trust each other perfectly, and I understand that. But, if you will work with me, you will be rewarded.” It was then that the true revelation hit me. God was never fooled. He knew all along how to fool Lucifer into bringing many souls to their salvation. The scales were now balanced.

"I met God this afternoon ridin' on an uptown train
I said, 'Don't you have better things to do?'
He said, 'If I do my job what would you complain about?
So I let it go to Hell, now I'll have something to do.'
He said, 'I'll let it go to hell; does that sound familiar to you?'"

Everything Falls Apart, by Dog's Eye View

Originally published in Acrimony Magazine Issue #11 July 2004