When she awoke, her head was scrambled-but mercifully, unbloodied. The sentries, when they finally got around to bursting in, were too late. The crazy female angel had already peeled off her skin and burned her eyes.
In all fairness, she knew it was not the guards fault. The blizzard had kept all but the medical teams deep inside the camps.
Truthfully, the howling, white tsunami of snow was daunting in the best of times. The camp itself, Paradise Lost, was already situated on the very peak of the Earth’s tallest mountain. No one in their right mind would expect a pair of celestials to come parambling through this eclipse of rational weather, just to get through to the priestess.
So, she could not blame Rodrick and Paulo for their late entry.
To them, they had done their duty. When they had heard her terror- her screaming and panic as she had tried to run from the angels, they had rushed in. Just like they were supposed to. To them, no one had gotten past, they had been vigilant all night. They were Prophet Guards for G.W’s sake. The Praetorians of the New Age, vanguards to destiny. They would not be caught slipping.
And anyway-silent as kept- they knew that the Great Prophet was already on his death bed. The battle was over and now the army waited for the acknowledgement from Chris-Anne, the High Priestess, of what they all knew already. Their walking deity Zildjan, was dead. So you see, there was no point for the Tartari to send an assassin. The deed had already been done. So, what had been the cause of the terror?
When they stormed in, they didn’t know what to expect but whatever it was that they were expecting, this wasn’t it.
“Don’t be afraid.” Her voice was shrill, tiny, like it was far away in a long tunnel.
“Sister, what was…” Paulo’s voice trailed off into darkness.
Who was this woman?
Certainly not the statuesque blonde with the curly hair and golden-blue eyes shaped like an hourglass.
This woman was alabaster white and nearly-ethereal, as if cut from marble. She was completely nude and blemishless. Smooth skin sparkled like cut diamonds, smoke- red as apples- rose from that naked skin, like steam from cold water poured over hot stones.
“What the fuck?” said Rodrick. But he dismissed the sight of the pallid woman for the moment and instead stared at something just as amazing. The prone figure next to her, laying on his pallet.
His tunic, an hour ago stained with his blood from the last battle, was off. But that was not remarkable, what was remarkable was the gaping stab wound from the seven-foot two handled broad sword which had protruded from his belly- was gone. The arrow wounds from the deadly archers- gone. He was whole. Woundless. Perfect. Yet Rodrick knew, because he was one of the drivers of the evac unit which had transported the Great Prophet back to this tent, that that nigga should be dead.
That gut shot wound was fatal and not even Chris-Anne, their Chief Medicrat Technician, could do anything but make him a little bit more comfortable.
For several moments, the two guards just stood there, holding their lances, mesmerized, mouth agape.
“Our Lord is dead. The time has begun,” said the Alabaster Apparition.
“Who are you?” asked Paulo.
“It’s me you idiot. Chris-Anne. High Priest to the Mighty Zildjan, Conqueror of the Earth. Prophet of the Great Writer, and Savior of Human Kind. What’s the matter, you don’t recognize me?” the apparition smiled.
“Uhh..are you o.k? You seem a little… different,” Rodrick said.
“Yeah. Like what in the name of the seven hells happened to you? And the Prophet. How is he….and your skin--”
“The Great Prophet is gone. I am now the Sorceress, mystic of your dreams. You have an important decision to make gentlemen. I know that I am not what you remembered. But that time is gone. You have all followed our leader, and by proxy, me, over all these years and all these battles against the Tartari and our foes. You knew this time would come. No one knows the hour when He shall arrive again, but He will. But we, who are His chosen people, must make the way ready for His return. We must write the sacred scrolls, prepare for the return of the Outworlders, and destroy the White Tartari once and for all. This is the moment of choice. Are you believers? Or will you take those lances and end the future?”
Wouldn’t you know it? Thought Rodrick. The end of the world, on his watch, again. And now, it was up to them to make maybe the hardest choices in humankind history. And why them? They were supposed to be guards, not deciders of the fate of the world.
The two guards looked at each other. It was obvious Paulo was thinking the same thing. He was a fighter, a soldier, not a priest or a politician. He went were the humans went and fought for his side, that was easy. This, well, this was bullshit. Now it was up to them to decide the coming of the Lord and the beginning of The Armagheddio?
Paulo wondered if the guards who had to be there when Jesus died on the Cross, who saw the skies turn black and the earthquake strike at the moment he gave up the ghost, Paulo wondered if they felt as he and Rodrick did now- mainly… why me?
They both stared for several moments at the nearly translucent, white haired woman who was claiming to be their High Priestess.
Her eyes blazed red and gold, the bluish human tint once in them now gone. Paulo and Rodrick were devout Zildjians, believers in the prophecies of the Great Writer, He Who Knows and Writes All. To question the meaning of this powerful transformation, inside the Great Prophets own tent, while he lay on his death bed, may be the highest blasphemy. Their souls could be damned forever to wander the Wasted Waze for forsaking the veracity of their God. Like that Roman sentry who punctured Jesus with his spear while he was nailed at the cross. That sentry was cursed to live through eternity, with the stain of Jesus’s blood, smeared over his face until the end of existence. That didn’t seem like a good idea to Rodrick and Paulo.
So, they could choose to believe in the miracle -or kill this woman as a murderer.
Either choice was irrevocable. Because if they gave her authority, so would the army. Because she would undoubtedly task them with gathering the army and spreading the news, even through the blizzard, telling their people that the Great Prophet was dead. That their work was just beginning.
They turned to face each other. A moment later, the thought, like a flash of thunder in a cloudless sky… two simple words conveyed with a group think between two soldiers.
‘Fuck it.’ Indecision was always worse than a bad decision.
They made their choice.
“It will be as you command,” Paulo said cheerfully.
They went down on their knees and genuflected to the Sorceress, then kowtowed to the pristine body of their Prophet-King-Warrior-God, then they left. They had great but terrible news to spread and an army to rally. They would proclaim to all the Remnant, The Prophecies of the Waze Walker had begun.
Once they were gone, the Sorceress put on the goat skin robe and knelt next to the prostate figure on the pallet floor. Her skin itched from the transformation. Yet she had a job to do.
She looked at the body of her best friend. Its eyes were open- but not human, they were stone white, no pupils. It was simply a recording now, a husk of the man that was.
She grabbed the stylus, smoothed the parchment.
A single tear fell from her eye.
A fleeting memory of her teacher. She brushed it away. Everything had to be perfect.
“I am ready to begin,” she told it.
The grizzly, bearded old man with no eyes began to speak. His voice was hollow.
“Earth is hell,” he began, “That is not an allegory. Many people do not understand that the End times had come and gone and we are the last ones left. The Remnant. This red angry planet was destroyed long ago. The monsters, the plagues, the dust. That is all that is left. And us, the Damned.”
“But you are the Walker.”
“Yes. The Walker. The one promised. He who walked the length and breadth of this world. From one axis in Hell to the other.”
“Through the Waze.”
“Yes. I. Walker of the Wasted Waze. Earth is Hell. The Waze is the entrance to the Ninth Circle of that Hell. A space of space so deep and polluted that none venture through it.”.
“None are insane or protected enough to try, Master.”
“I am no longer your Master.”
She looked bemused, as if to say “You will always be my Master.” But she kept her own counsel. She had no idea who this being was, not anymore.
“The Great War of the Seventy-Seven Seasons had made ruins of all the Earth. The children of God escaped, or foolishly thought they had. But all they did was take Hell with them, spreading it like a virus to the celestial bodies of Gods Kingdom. Of course, we did not understand this at the time.”
“What time Mas…what time?”
“The time when I woke up.”
“When you woke up from your odyssey through the Waze.”
“Will you tell me about that? No one, not even me, understands what happened in the Waze. How you, a mortal being, survived.”
“You mean how Zildjan managed to crawl out of the lowest pit of Hell?”
“The how, I will not relate. That is for another day. The why is easy…In fact. I’m pretty sure you met her already.”
The Sorceress involuntarily shook as she recalled the Angel whom had skinned her alive and burrowed her fingers into her soul- through her beating heart.
“I don’t think she likes me.”
“No, I would tend to agree with that.”
‘In the Land-of-the-Dead—the dead never truly die…’ The Sorceress started, “and the living will never find rest,” he finished. “An old proverb, but no truer words could be spoken. And for me, true. We had escaped the Waze. Walked out with our skin intact. But, even though we had somehow entered back into LOD…I had given up. Truly, what was the point? We had not found her-- my love. We had walked through the inner circles of the Inferno, looking for her and walked back out again, for the sake of love. But when we got out, without her, what was the point of it all? We were still trapped in Hell. For me. There was nothing left. I had lost. I lay down… to die. My mortality was no longer a prize I wished to preserve.”
“God had different plans,” she said, beginning to transpose the script onto the parchment. The deep black ink, made from the blood of their enemies, sank deep into the goatskin parchment.
“Yes. Man proposes and God--”
“--Disposes?” she added helpfully.
“Doesn’t give a shit,” he said quietly. “Let me tell you the story…”