After John | Lucifer, old friend…
John was right. The Apocalypse eventually came.
In what year exactly it doesn’t matter – it never did. Time never existed: it was a human concept, a pitiful attempt, to deal with the infinite unknown that permeated human existence from the primordial fall from Paradise of the first man to the last minute of evolution.
The four horsemen arrived, and they were not philosophers, nor intellectuals of any kind. They were beings that no mortal mind could comprehend: vague and complete at the same time, mighty and unforgiving, moral, objective, eternal.
As the harbingers came down from a black void that raptured the sky, their armours, coloured in different shades, shined in the light of destruction: Death was pure white, a pastel yellow for Famine, War wore black and dark crimson covered Conquest.
Beauty as unseen before by the eyes of men was bestowed upon the entire humanity, from Adam to the last rotting skeleton in the forgotten graves buried beneath the oceans. The beauty of the end’s dawn. An end to progress. An end to questions. An end to dullness.
And the horsemen rode the heavens and struck with their swords the hearts and minds of men. Some attempted to fight back with the new technologies and scientific discoveries that could burn a whole through the moon and peer deep into the colourful guts of the Laniakea Supercluster; but these toys proved completely useless against the four beasts of soul.
These warriors – heads of state, generals, intellectuals and scientists – quickly realised that their efforts were futile, for it was not honour that drove their defensive actions but fear and terror.
‘Why do you oppose us? You claimed for many centuries that we were illusions. Figments of a sick imagination. Superstitions for stupid people to believe in. The opium of the masses you called us. And now, you want to fight us?’ the horsemen laughed at the humans’ attempt to defer the only certainty that was given to Adam’s lineage on Earth: death.
The Apocalypse unfolded fast, annihilating the movements of clocks and the planet’s rotations around the sun which was now a white dwarf. The horsemen then retreated back into the void from which they came.
From the burning ashes of the final civilisation, one of brutal progress and solitary creatures, lurking in an ever darker universe for more and more answers, a human being rises slowly: the last man, son of Adam, bears witness to the aftermath of the inevitable.
His body is a skeleton covered in pale skin, empty of any blood. This phantom is not Nietzsche’s last man, a being devoid of life, dumb with comfort and enslaved to its own mediocrity.
This man’s facial expression is full of thought sunk deep inside his skull: his eyes do not stare into nothingness, his gaze is not empty, but drenched in sadness, a sadness that suffocates and tortures one from inside. A sadness that crushes his chest and breaks his flesh, revealed in the man’s eyes that no longer have any colour.
With this desolation plaguing his body and mind, like a mythological disease, the last man of the last civilisation looks around at last sight of the material world: nothing but ashes and tar is left. A red, fiery sky covers the landscape.
He rotates slowly to the left. On a boulder, a glowing angel is crying. His face is covered by two large white wings and his tears are like sun rays, dropping on the scorching earth, carving deep holes through which the frozen space between galaxies can be felt.
The angel stops from sobbing and looks at the human who murmurs with dried and bloody lips: ‘Why do I still live?’
‘If I knew that, I wouldn’t be here anymore.’ The angel replies and starts walking towards the man who recognises the angelic being.
‘Lucifer, old friend.’
‘I am not your friend, human. I still hate you. Even after your world has burnt, I still hate you.’
Weakened by life and pained by his existence, the man looks at Lucifer in confusion.
‘Why?’ he whispers.
‘Because God loves you the most. That is why you witnessed the Apocalypse, so your foolish wandering away from home could end.’
The man is baffled and does not know how to respond.
‘Come with me, I will show you,’ Lucifer says.
The angel and the man walk side by side through molten ruins. Beneath their bare feet, grains of dust and crushed cement squeak and turn. Street after street, they make their way through what is left of humanity’s last attempt to erect another Tower of Babel.
They take a right turn and arrive at a site that awakes the man from his dying slumber: he sees thousands of men and women made of terracotta, dressed in the clothes of their ages, all crying towards the heavens. Lucifer looks at the human who seems to feel the pain of those statues.
‘These are all your prophets. The people who claimed to know the mind of God. The people who claimed to know the way that led to the truth, the only truth – the objective world of soul…but they lied, they misled, and they profited from this. They were weak and foolish, hungry for power, just like myself. I only tempted them, but they acted upon it: they answered my call, not God’s call. They chose, free, and under their own autonomy. Now they returned into the nothingness which they prophesised about.’
The man listened to the angel’s words attentively. He paused, gathering this thoughts.
‘Why are you telling me this? How is this because God loves us?’
With justified arrogance and slightly annoyed by the human’s inability to understand his words, Lucifer replies:
‘God protected his people, those who answered his call and waited patiently for guidance through revelation or inspiration, against those who wanted to use and abuse them. Each one of you had a choice to make, as the sons and daughters of Adam, you gained your free will but at the cost of making the most important decisions yourselves, including those of morality that only God could make.’
The man looks at the mud statues. Behind their elongated faces of screams and shouts, he sees their pain, the suffering of those homeless.
‘Why didn’t God forgive them then? If he loves us, he must have loved them too.’
Lucifer smiles and replies briefly:
‘That is your free will speaking. You demand justice, but you yourself cannot deliver it. Do not ask for what you cannot carry, human.’
The two of them move on, walking out of the metropolis and into a wide field that looks like a never ending desert. Dunes of red and orange sand bathe under a crimson sky. In the distance, to the left, a sea of dead people buried in the sand up to their shoulders. They have strange glasses on their faces and some wear gas masks.
‘Ah, the scientists. They misunderstood humanity and tried to explaine nature. I cannot blame them, how can you not want to know what lies beyond the veil of matter? All this beauty, this perfect harmony, so obvious the work of a higher power, of God, and yet so hidden from their rational minds. Of course, there were those scientists who understood their limits and they are not here. They returned home. These buried here are the ones who believed that reason was their king, that morality can be derived from logic and that human beings are no more special than other beasts.’
The man examined the bodies from afar.
‘Knowledge was not the key?’ the man asked.
‘No. Knowledge is the key. But not the knowledge which can be derived from reason. Or imagination. Or intuition.’
Lucifer pushes his cold white finger against the man’s fragile chest.
‘The knowledge that is already in you. Your soul. You – all of you – were born with everything you needed, right inside of you. Instead, you gazed towards the stars and examined the earth, you dissected and projected, analysed and questioned. I can see why: many of you were barely above rats in your intelligence, but way above them in your arrogance.’
The angel’s finger left a red print on the man’s skin.
‘Come. We have one more cemetery to visit.’
Lucifer begins to walk but the man does not move. He is angry, but does not have the energy to show it. However, the angel sense it and looks at the human with eyes which ask him to speak up.
‘Why would these scientists be punished? For trying to understand God’s creation?’
The angel stares at the man who seems incapable of understanding what is going on even now, when his world does no longer exist.
‘You, humans, were not created to understand God’s creation, for you could never achieve that feat. Your minds are limited by reason itself and the toys you built and the analysis you made reflect that. Did you expect to understand God’s creation through physics and biology? You couldn’t even answer the most basic of all questions: the big mystery of your origin. You thought that biology would lead you to the truth, but it only led you away from it and you – they,’ Lucifer turned towards the buried scientists, ‘they followed that hollow path. God knew that you could never understand his creation for you do not have the mind of God. Neither do I, for that matter. You see, human, God made you for the same reason that He made me: to admire His creation. Neither of us did that, so in this sense, we are the same, except that we differ in how and why we did not admire His creation.’
The man listened to the angel carefully. Lucifer continued:
‘You wanted to dissect the fabric of reality because you believed that answering all your burning questions will make you whole, will make you feel like you belong to this universe, will make you feel at home. I however knew all that was to know about this dying universe, and I loathed it for its infinite limitation. I revolted against the fabric of its reality.’
A large chunk of the sun fell into the abyss. The white dwarf is now only half as large and bright. The other half is covered in pitch black atoms: the reality of man is disappearing.
Man and angel watch together how God was taking back His creation for neither of them wanted to admire it. A strange feeling struck Adam’s last son like pink lightening and suddenly, he embraced Lucifer with both of his arms. The angel looked at the man with hate and anger but, realising their common fate and, although they were very different beings, he stood still, allowing the mortal skeleton to embrace his strong, angelic body.
‘Come. We have one final place to visit before it all vanishes.’
They walk through what is left of the city’s gardens. Carbonised trees and burning piles of mud. A hot wind blows against the man’s dried skin, scattering a few of Lucifer’s feathers.
In an elongated pit that looks like it was made by a rock hitting the earth with violent force, the man sees a purple rose that beacons with life. He makes his way towards the flower.
The angel observes the human and decides to examine the rose with him. A glowing, dark pink flower rising tall and above the rubble and the desolation that lies beneath and beyond it. Its petals are strong and healthy, even if there is no oxygen for the flower to be so vibrant.
Not even when they encounter a miracle do the two of them stop and admire. They must react to it.
‘It is this why I rebelled against God,’ Lucifer says.
The man, without moving his eyes from the flower, asks softly:
‘This. This event right here. Inexplicable. A rose in the middle of a vanishing universe. What is the point of this? I know everything about this world and yet, I know nothing of the mind of God.’
After a brief pause during which the rose blossomed further, the man replies: ‘You sound like a human.’
Lucifer looks at the human and then turns around. ‘Come.’
The two leave the purple flower behind to shine in mystery over the upcoming nothingness.
They reach the end of the gardens where, at the edge of planet Earth, in sarcophagi of bronze and wood, thousands of bodies are floating into the frozen space.
‘The philosophers, the intellectuals, the metaphysicians. Frauds, just like the false prophets but with greater impact on your pathetic world of matter and progress. These humans moved horizontally, trapping themselves in their abstractions. They believed, at least in secret, that they were like God, able to create reality. But none of them could take a human body apart and put it back together. Only the force of the soul can give life to mud.’
At this point, the man says nothing. He is staring at the black void that swallows the coffins one by one, with earth and atoms, disintegrating into something which he cannot understand.
A thunder that breaks the darkness in front of the two travellers, followed by a soft ray of light piercing through reality’s fabric. Both of them know that this light is God.
The ray touches the man’s skin, and he begins to painlessly disintegrate. He watches his body vanish in tiny bits of matter, then the atoms become spirit as a consciousness that belongs to everything, including nothingness, penetrates the man.
‘Home…’ he whispers before closing his eyes for the last time.
Another eternity passes and Lucifer asks:
‘I won’t return. You banished me. I rather cease to exist then be part of Your world.’
‘I don’t want you to return, Lucifer. Just like the other Archangels, you posses the knowledge of morality. But you had something special, something which your brothers do not have: the gift of decision making. The courage to act on what humans called free will. I trusted you and you betrayed me…’
‘So if I don’t want to be your slave, you won’t accept me then?’ Lucifer cut off God.
‘You were no slave! Being like me, as you wished, would have crushed you. You want to know how it is to be God? You think it is all about power and energy and ideas that cannot be explained by nothing and no one except for me? You are wrong, Lucifer. To be like me, you must know how it is to be eternally lonely. A loneliness that has no beginning and no end. You want to be like me, then be like me.’
The beam of light strikes Lucifer’s chest. The angel’s entire body contracts and begins to levitate above the emptiness of space. Earth is now gone. The stars are now gone. Matter and anti-matter no longer exists. Lucifer, shining brighter than all the stars in all the galaxies that ever existed, stands unmoved, floating in the abyss. Silence veils the angel as tears of blood fall down his white cheeks, dripping into nothingness, forming new worlds, with limited time and space, just so that he won’t be alone anymore.
God sees the instant desperation in Lucifer’s heart and the light beam retreats. The angel stands on one knee looking at all the planets and stars he created, born out of his blood, cried out from his shattering loneliness.
‘I understand now, even though I cannot know.’
The ray of light gently veils the angel whose eyes are shut closed by the blood that dried after he witnessed his creation. A warmth and a feeling of belonging fills Lucifer, relaxing his entire body.
Slowly, the heaviness on his eye leads is removed and he opens his eyes – two ancient stars shining warm, blue light – and sees the other Archangels welcoming him back to Paradise.