Chapter 8 - ‘Name’
Jason felt a searing pain in his feet and he looked to the ground. The pattern was still glowing an angry red, and getting brighter by the second. Before he could react, a cracking red bolt crashed down from the ceiling and drove into his chest. It went straight through him into the floor and he was lifted of the ground. Energy crackled through him and his muscles stiffened. He threw back his head in a silent scream as tiny shots of lightning danced across his skin. The lightening retracted back into the ceiling and Jason was dropped to the floor in his knees. He fell forwards onto his hands and silently retched.
There was a commotion near the edge of the cavern and Jason raised his head. He felt as if his facial muscles were frozen in some maniacal grin. He looked straight into Matt's eyes and saw the fear on his face. His sight seemed to zoom in and he could make out his own reflection in Matt's eyes. His own eyes blazed with white fire. He felt Matt's fear and concern for him like a tangible force. All he could see was Matt's face, staring back at him, but he could feel the other people in the room. He felt connected to every atom there. Their weight on the floor was like a weight on his back. He could feel the air coursing around them as if he were in a wind tunnel. He felt the grooves of their bodies and noted that one was a woman.
His mind seemed to move further from himself and he touched upon their minds. He drifted through Matt's thoughts first, seeing Matt's concern. His worries. He touched on Matt's core, his heart feelings and then deeper still. He caught a glimpse of Matt's essence and it was beautiful and terrible to behold. He saw Matt's wings, spread out around him like billowing sails, and covered in almost luminous white plumage.
He pushed deeper, and learnt where it was he had been. The council he had been taken before was the High Council of Heaven. He saw hundreds of years of experimentation and eugenics in the human race, take place in a fraction of a second. He saw the war between heaven and hell and how it had raged long before the beginning of humanity. According to Matt’s memories, the wars had spilled over into the human world and been taken up by others. Jesus had been created to free the world and unite it with heaven, but hell had too strong a foothold and had spread once more. None were safe from their deceit. Even many of the disciples had been influenced, whether they knew it or not. It had been pressed into Matt’s learning that Hell had engineered the Black Death, to sweep across the world and eliminate the earthly forces of heaven. Yet it too was stopped. They feuded and fought throughout time, influencing humans to do their will. The crusades had been one such war, with each side, heaven and hell trying to gain the upper hand through whatever means. Until the humans had been forced to end the war, or be wiped out. After that, heaven and hell agreed, not to directly influence the fate of humanity. He saw the armies of heaven and hell in ferocious battle, each side beautiful and horrible in their own way.
Jason wanted to know more, wanted to know why it had all started. But Matt's memory seemed not to stretch back that far. He looked in Matt's mind for God, expecting Him to have had some role in the ongoing struggle. He was surprised to find no such being in Matt's mind. There was no God that the angels answered to. The High Council was the final authority as far as heaven went. There was more though, Jason could feel it in Matt's mind. Blank spaces where he could find nothing, see nothing about Matt. Either someone had erased these sections from Matt's mind, or he had purposefully locked those places out. Jason tried to push trough one of the blocks and felt gossamer strands sweep across his face and then he was suddenly pulled away.
His essence spun across the room and pierced the Woman's head. He saw through her eyes, he felt her anger and tasted her hate on his tongue. Entering her mind, he tried to pull back in revulsion as he discovered her identity. Miriam. She was filled with a bitter rage, and when he tried to touch upon her core, he felt like he was being dragged inwards. He saw flames leaping around him and dark shapes swooping through the darkness that even the great conflagration could not force back.
All of this happened in a split second, but for him, time had frozen. Matt's heart was frozen in mid-beat, his blood seemingly a solid in his veins. But as he felt himself being dragged into the flames of Miriam's mind, he felt time suddenly leap forwards and return to normal. Quite suddenly, the flames were no longer in Miriam's mind. He felt their heat pulsing over his body, slowly baking him. He looked desperately for Matt, but he was gone, along with the rest of the cavern and everything in it. Then the ground he was kneeling on gave way and he plummeted downwards towards the flames.
* * *
He was rudely awoken by a sharp prod in his side. He rolled over on the baking ground and felt his blistered skin scrape against the rough surface.
"Name." A voice above him insisted.
He tried to find the speaker and raised his head, calling out for water. His throat was parched and dry. All he received was another insisting question. "What is your name?"
Jason raised his head and peered groggily at his questioner. It had large wings, and at first, Jason took it to be some sort of angel. Then his eyes cleared a bit and he saw they were made form haphazard shards of scrap metal. The man, or whatever it had been had various limbs replaced by metallic devices and plates of rusted iron were bolted to his naked flesh in places. The thing had no genitals, they had been replaced with a series of wires and what looked like a small circuit board.
"Name." It insisted again.
Jason struggled to his hands and knees and looked about him, ignoring his companion. He was kneeling on a high pillar of rock. Far below him, gouts of flame shot up every now and then from one of the large foundries that dotted the immense vista. He could make out people hauling metal to the foundries and carting away the slag for disposal or reuse.
The sound of buffeting wings reached his ears and he turned his head to look to the other side of the pillar. Metal workshops were scattered to this side, with an imposing stone palace rising above it all, far in the distance. The beating of wings grew louder and a dark form shot up past his rocky roost. It rose above him and then slowly drifted downwards on pitch-black wings. Wings of feather.
The man beat his wings slowly, hovering a few feet from the edge. Naked from the waist up, his bronzed skin glowed in the light of constant fires and his jet-black hair tossed gently in heat waves. He wore tight, black, woven, leather leggings with a belt of steel rings. It looked unbearably stifling in the intense heat.
"What's the delay here? We have an entire days worth of new arrivals." He addressed the metal winged being that had been questioning Jason.
"It refuses to answer." The thing replied as it stared at Jason through the two metal orbs that covered its eye sockets. "It requests water, but refuses to give its name."
"That's what your powers are for you fool," the black winged man snapped.
The sexless quasi-metal being bowed its head, "We did, your Excellency. It had no effect upon it."
Now the newcomer seemed to take interest in Jason. He stepped onto the rock and spread his wings to their full extent, creating an even more imposing sight. He grasped Jason by the neck with a large, calloused hand and dragged him to his feet. Jason glared back at him and he felt his eyes once again blaze with their white fire.
The man's eyes widened in surprise. "You're powerful, pup." He leaned in and sniffed at Jason's bare neck, drawing long, deep breaths. He pulled away suddenly and squeezed Jason's neck harder until he was gasping for breath. "Give it me, boy. Your full name, now!"
Jason sputtered a moment and the man loosened his grasp slightly. "J-Jason Azrael P-Parker." He managed to stutter at last and the man's eyes widened further in shock.
He quickly released Jason's neck and, kneeling, folded his dark wings in submission. "Forgive me. You were not expected to arrive by this method for a very long time. Please, accept my humblest apologies."
The metallic being seemed to look on questioningly. It shifted restlessly, unsure of what to make of the sudden roll reversal, it's scrap-metal wings scraping against each other. The man glared at it angrily. "You will take Mr. Parker back to earth and send him to wherever it is he may choose. You are not to question him or his authority." He rose to his feet. "Again, my apologies for this inconvenience." He turned to take flight again and then paused. "Perhaps, when the time comes, you will remember me?"
Jason stared at him in utter confusion. But the man seemed to read his silence differently. "Ah, I see," he said. "I suppose if you weren't impartial, you would not perform your intended purpose." He nodded at Jason and then leapt into the air, his powerful wings beating a few times to gain altitude before he soared off towards the distant palace.
Jason stared after him. 'What the hell just happened?' he asked himself. A scrape of metal on metal reminded him of his remaining companion. He felt slightly odd about taking advantage of the confusion that seemed to have arisen over his name, but then he looked at the vista again. It didn't seem like people generally got treated the way he was being treated in this place. 'Besides,' he thought, 'who am I to tell them not to treat me like royalty?'
He rounded on the still waiting being. "Well? What are you standing there for? Take me back to earth."
It bowed its head and prepared to leap into the air. Jason cleared his throat and it seemed to notice Jason's wings, or rather the lack there of, for the first time. It sighed heavily and set down the thin metal sheet it hand been clutching in one hand. It stood behind Jason and then sprang into the air, steadying itself with a few beat of its wings.
It seemed impossible that something could fly on such ragged, mismatched things. Indeed, when it grasped Jason's shoulders with its claw like feet, he could feel a gentile vibration as of a motor or small engine. He guesses the wings were more for balance or show rather than a means of propulsion.
They rose into the air, leaving the rocky prominence far below. They moved out over a lake of fire and Jason could feel the heat even from at what he guessed must be many hundreds of feet. The rose higher still, and a number of large, swirling, red and black circles opened into the sky. Occasionally, a person or two would plummet out of one and fall towards the ground, only to be caught by several bat-looking creatures and whisked away to other sites.
The being carrying Jason headed towards one of the smaller portals and called down to him, "Where does it wish to go?"
Jason thought hard and fast, 'Where could he go, naked and scorched as he was, and still find a trusting friend?' finally he chose, and called upwards. "Fiona Sutherland. I want to go to Fiona Sutherland's house."
It flew directly towards the portal and then, moments before they both collided, it released Jason from its grip and flung him into the window, before banking sharply and veering off back the way they had come.
Jason screamed as he fell through the air into the portal. He hit it with a wet sucking sound and was instantly pulled in. Black and red swirled around him as he continued to fall. And then suddenly, he was falling onto a painted wood deck, from a height of just a few feet. He hit with a heavy thud, startling Fiona from a nap she had been taking in the porch hammock.
"What the fuck?" she started awake. Then her eyes fell on Jason. "Jesus Jason you- Whoa! Put some clothes on, I can see your bits."