This Present Darkness: Chapter 5

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So, we are now about to find out what has REALLY BEEN GOING ON. Or something. I remember I was super into the angels and demons chapters as a kid but now I’d just like to go back to the people. You know, the horrific people we’re supposed to be empathizing with? Whatever.

Okay. So our angel chapter picks up immediately where we just left off – two giant men descending to earth “like glimmering, bluish-white comets, held aloft by rushing wings that swirled in a blur and burned like lightning.” Okay but burned what like lightning? What are they burning? The eyes? No one is seeing them but them. The ground? That would blow their cover pretty quick. Is there a spiritual thing they’re burning? Because that seems oddly destructive. I hate his descriptions.

One of them is “a huge, burly, black-bearded bull of a man” who is bellowing and carrying on, making angry gestures. Okay, two things here. Thing 1. Why do the angels look so much like people (and when I say people, so far I exclusively mean men) that are giant? I mean, aren’t there supposed to be lots of different kinds of angels? Remember Madeleine L’Engle’s awesome cherubim? I think it was a cherubim. Anyway. God MADE men. I have always kind-of assumed that the angels appeared to men as men so as not to make them scream MONSTER!! and run screaming into the forest. But they’re not with men now. UNLESS, and this brings me to Thing 2. Who the fuck is our narrator? Erik asked this last night and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Why are we starting this scene from like… across the campus or whatever? Who is watching this, who is describing it? It doesn’t really make sense that it would be angel or demon but it SOUNDS like someone specifically is doing it. So. Back to our story because there’s a lot of angel and demon bullshit here to cover.

So the big one is huge and angry and the smaller one is smaller and calmer and trying to get his “associate” to calm down and why are you talking this way? Associate? As soon as they stop flying and touch the ground all the light drains out of them and “save for their towering stature they appeared as two ordinary men, one trim and blind, the other build like a tank, both dressed in what looked like matching tan fatigues. Golden belts had become like dark leather, their scabbards were dull copper, and the glowing, bronze bindings on their feet had become simple leather sandals.” Okay, but that is not less weird. They are still giant men walking around with swords and sandals, dressed in army fatigues and dark leather belts. That is not what two ordinary men look like. Which, incidentally, doesn’t matter anyway because presumably they are still invisible, which is good because I’m pretty sure even this oh so ordinary look would get them picked up for questioning by the cops. But maybe not in this town.

“The big fellow was ready for a discussion.” Yeah, okay.

We find out that the blond one’s name is Triskal, which sounds like a knock-off cereal of some kind, and the angry one’s name is Guilo, which sounds maybe racist. Triskal is desperately shushing the angry Guilo, I guess so the… demons don’t hear? They are invisible to people, right…? Anyway, Triskal was also brought here by The Spirit, Guilo is outraged because that demon he saw crawling it’s creepy spider/not spider way all over Marshall was a DEMON OF COMPLACENCY AND DESPAIR IF HE HAS EVER SEEN ONE and if Triskal hadn’t been such an idiot and grabbed him, he could have “struck him and only once.”

Triskal sort-of hems and haws and agrees that’s true but says it’s good he didn’t because they’re not supposed to fight back yet. Guilo is outraged. You must have orders! Who do you have orders from??? Triskal “pauses for effect” before saying that they are “Tal’s orders.” Guilo’s angry expression immediately melts into a mixture of shock and perplexity. According to spellcheck here perplexity is a word but I think it is a stupid one.

*********

Dusk is setting over the church and our favorite asshole pastor is mowing the lawn. We throw down some more hometown bullshit about dogs barking and kids being called in for supper or whatever. THAT HAPPENS IN CITIES TOO, PERETTI.

“Unseen by these mortals, Guilo and Triskal came hurriedly up the hill on foot, secretive and unglorified but moving like the wind nevertheless.” Okay, so I guess they’re hiding from demons? But like demons hang out on earth quite a bit, right? I would think they would notice giant men wearing swords who are moving “like the wind.” Maybe angels just get tired of glowing, who knows.

They discuss how “the call” began with Hank. All of this is leading me into a different story that I would like to have where the angels are the villains somehow because nothing that HANK started could possibly be on the side of good. Guilo is freaked out about why he or the almighty Tal were called to this tiny town. Which like… I feel like you cannot have this both ways. College towns are not tiny towns. Except maybe in the summer. Which I guess it is, so it might seem small or quiet right now, I suppose. But by definition if you have a decent sized college in your town, it is no longer a quaint and tiny town. Isn’t that true? Am I crazy? This book is making me feel like I’m crazy.

Triskal pulls him into the church and a bunch of angels are all just hanging out. Some of them are guarding, some of them are presumably just lying on benches and throwing imaginary balls against the walls. Guilo is impressed that these are the most of the imposing warriors he’s ever seen in one place. So are there like runt angels then? Where do they get sent? Also, no one is happy. Everyone should be thrilled and reunited but instead everyone is depressed and somber. Oh. And now we have some descriptions of warriors. Are you ready? It seems vital. Have I mentioned that angels apparently have ethnicity? For no goddamn reason? Well, he’s about to.

Nathan, the towering Arabian who fought fiercely and spoke little. It was he who had taken demons by their ankles and used them as warclubs against their fellows. 

Armoth, the big African whose war cry and fierce countenance had often been enough to send the enemy fleeing before he even assailed them. Guilo and Armoth had once battled the demon lords of villages in Brazil and personally guarded a family of missionaries on their many long treks through the jungle. 

Chimon, the meek European with the golden hair, who bore on his forearms the marks of a fading demon’s last blows before Chimon banished him forever into the abyss. Guilo had never met this one, but had heard of his exploits and his ability to take blows simply as a shield for others and then to rally himself to defeat untold numbers alone. (what? What does that even mean?)

I… look, I don’t even know where to go with that. Since Angels literally cannot be African or European or whatever, as they were all born in heaven, he must just mean that they look that way. Which doesn’t make any sense at all. And is possibly racist? I don’t know, I GUESS if angels look like men it is nice that they do not all look like white, blonde men. But why do they look like men? Also, we are meeting Tal, who is the Captain of the Host, btw. And HE is a white blonde man. Golden hair and ruddy complexion and intense golden eyes like fire, apparently. Which sounds awful.

We get a little thing in Guio’s mind about how amazing Tal is and how no demon could ever bring him down and how he fought by his side and how much he loves him and basically wants to have sex with him. I may be reading between the lines. Tal interrupts his train of thought by saying that it is serious business, not kissing business, that brings them together again. Guilo searches Tal’s beautiful face and finds that there is no timidity but there is a certain grimness so he’s waiting now to hear what the bad news is.

He finally just asks, points out that there are 23 giant angels in the room, probably not just to like hang out, and wants to know who the enemy is. Tal answers slowly and clearly. “Rafar, the prince of Babylon.” SHOCK. DISBELIEF. AWKWARD PAUSE TO SEE IF I AM BEING PUNKED. NO ONE IS LAUGHING.

So apparently Tal and Guilo fought this guy 23 days before the fall of Babylon and Guilo still has PTSD about it. Neither of them knows who delivered the blow that finally sent him into a jagged rift into space (but maybe not hell? Or maybe he got out? WHO KNOWS. I bet we’ll find out). And now why is he here? Cause he’s all about being a prince of nations not tiny hamlets? Why is this so important? What could MATTER IN SUCH A TINY TOWN (PS people of America, your tiny battles in your tiny towns have everlasting significance in the fight against Satan)?

So none of them know what’s up but the Spirit wants them there because it’s obviously important. The Spirit just hasn’t felt like sharing. Because he’s cool that way. And they can’t fight yet because there’s not enough of them and there’s “too little prayer cover” (gag). Apparently Hank was brought here by an angel who “blinded the eyes of his enemies” to get him into the pastor spot basically. Tal keeps saying shit and they keep echoing it which is creepy. “THERE IS ALWAYS A REMNANT!” “FOR THE SAINTS OF GOD AND FOR THE LAMB!” But like it’s just while he’s saying normal things and then all the angels just repeat part of his sentences? Ew.

Apparently Marshall is important because God wanted him in charge of the Clarion but they had no idea why because he sucks. But maybe he’s “starting to stir.” The angel says he’s “tired, yes, but that will only make him more usable in the Lord’s hands” which may be the grossest thing I’ve read in several pages.

Then he tells the angels to hang out and watch tonight, don’t let Hank die but everything else is fair game, it’s a test he must undergo. Being on god’s side is the best, kids. They’re all a little surprised but they trust him because why not? Tal is still not sure about Marshall but keep an eye out. Everyone else LOOK FOR THE REMNANT!

*******

Okay, so now we’re into demons. I’ll just… do the opening paragraph cause I can’t.

Complacency unfurled his wings (seriously is every angel and demon male? Sigh. Okay) and drifted into Stewart Hall, sinking down through the main floor and into the catacombs of the basement level, the area set aside for administration and the private offices of the Psychology Department. (Yep. That’s right guys. The private offices of the Psych department are in the CATACOMBS OF THE BASEMENT LEVEL. But it will get better) In this dismal nether world the ceiling was low and oppressive, and crawling with water pipes and heat ducts that seemed like so many huge snakes waiting to drop. Everything – walls, ceiling, pipes, woodwork – was painted the same dirty beige, and light was scarce, which suited Complacency and his associates just fine. (Okay but not like… psychologists? Psychologists would generally be believers in natural daylight? WHY ARE THEY EXISTING IN CAVES?) They preferred the darkness and Complacency noticed that there seemed to be a touch more than usual. The others must have arrived. 

Okay. So. The psych department has a demon infestation, maybe because they live in a creepy basement where everything seems like snakes. Someone should look into that.

He floats down a hallway into a conference room, which sort of cracked me up because I love the idea of demons meeting in conference rooms, and then he “passed through the door into a cauldron of living evil.” Is it a cauldron? Is that what we would say? Apparently all demons have horrible yellow cat-eyes, btw. There’s a bunch of them staring out of the darkness, the darkness that is more a physical presence than anything. They’re all grotesque and horrible and there’s a sourceless (which he does not hyphenate weirdly, even though spellcheck tells me I should) red glow because I guess they just miss the fires of home and carry it everywhere. It smells terrible and there are hushed and gargling conversations everywhere because I guess god fucked up their vocal chords along with everything else.

Apparently they all hate little Complacency but he hates them too. He’s a little guy and easy to pick on. I guess he’s not as cool of a demon as like… Lust or something. Which, incidentally… is there only one? Like I would think there would be a lot for each of these sins so probably they’d have to have actual names? Or maybe there’s like a hundred Complacencies and sometimes it’s just gets really confusing at parties. Maybe not having names is part of the deal. Also, I feel like complacency is a particularly terrible flaw personally but I suppose maybe it’s not as flashy.

He approached two hulking forms in the middle of some debate, and from their massive, spine-covered arms and poisonous words he could tell they were demons who specialized in hate – planting, aggravating, and spreading it, using their crushing arms and venomous quills to constrict and poison the love out of anyone.

Okay, I love this. Did God give them all this thrilling weaponry? Did they have demon scientists who designed it? Did they evolve in some crazy demon way? ALSO why do only demons get to specialize? Are there angels who specialize in compassion or forgiveness or whatever? Are they covered in down feathers or silk, so they can hug the hate out of anyone? I feel like he really missed some exciting opportunities here.

He’s looking for Prince Lucius which.. isn’t that Satan? Is Satan here? Is that who they were talking about but using a different name with the angels? I did not recognize the first name although I guess prince of Babylon kind-of rings a bell. But I thought maybe it was just a high prince person, since apparently there’s a whole hierarchy. Or maybe Lucius is different than Lucifer. I’m sure we’ll find out. In the meantime, there’s some bullying.

A demon of lust “with darting and shifty eyes and a slippery hide” grabs Complacency with his talons and demands to know where he’s been sleeping today. Complacency retorts that he doesn’t sleep, he causes people to sleep. “To lust and steal innocence is far better,” says the grumpy slippery one. “But someone must turn away the eyes of others.” (note to the readers. I just hit the book on the table three times. I scared the cats) Lust gives a smirk of approval and tosses Complacency on his way.

Complacency passes Deception but doesn’t bother to ask him anything because he is the worst demon of all. Bullshit but whatever. Also I was super disappointed we didn’t get a description of what he looked like. Murder has talons dripping with blood, so that’s nice.

Anyway. He finds Lucius who I guess is not Satan but maybe just liked his name. Also he gets his own name and maybe that’s what you get when you get high enough in the ranks. Complacency does the unthinkable, because apparently some demons are sticklers for rules, which is hilarious and awesome, and goes shoving his way into his meeting to tell him he’s totally fucking up by messing with Hogan Marshall’s daughter. Lucius goes insane and starts screaming about being accused of a mistake, which is what every good leader does.

Basically Complacency points out, logically, that Marshall was pretty set where he was and was good with letting things stay that way until he got all up in arms about his daughter. Which would almost be good logic except for even better logic would be “hey, maybe you guys should stop clearly hypnotizing him and giving him reasons to be freaked out about the world because that is obviously going to make him be freaked out.” But Complacency’s GENERAL point is that you shouldn’t give him an enemy to fight because if you don’t, he will be chill. Which makes sense. Lucius says he’s ordered no attack on Sandy, Deception says he hasn’t either, that he and his people are just telling her what she wants to hear, which is not an attack, just follow-through. Whatever.

Then Lucius is basically like “you suck at your job, do I need to find someone else?” Complacency tries to say that he saw angels who were totally a serious threat and they all laugh at him and throw sports symbols about how they are the best team and god’s team is stupid and Complacency is ashamed and sad.

******

As the demons remained in their basement lair, patting each other’s backs and stabbing Complacency’s, they took no notice of the strange, unnatural cold front outside. It moved slowly over the town, bringing a harsh wind and chilling rain. Though the evening had promised to be bright and clear, it now grew dark under a low, oppressive shroud, half natural, half spirit.

Atop the little white church, Signa and his two companions continued to stand guard as the darkness descended over Ashton, deeper and colder with each passing moment. All over the nearby neighborhood dogs began to bark and howl. Here and there a quarrel broke out among humans.

“He’s here,” Signa said.

This really confused me because A) have we met Signa? There are way too many characters in these books. I guess he must be an angel? And since we went back to the angels I thought the angels were making it dark and cold, which seemed odd and counter-intuitive. And B) they made it sound like the big bad was already here but I guess he wasn’t. So that was confusing.

In the meantime Lucius is “preoccupied with his own glory” which is a normal thing that anyone says. But the demons are freaking out because they can feel something horrible coming closer and closer and I feel like it must really suck to be a demon. You’re just never happy about anything. Never fun to see old friends, no one cool every shows up, I bet you never even appreciate all the cool skills you have. Lame.

So Lucius is kicking Complacency and telling him he’s an idiot when out of nowhere a giant monster demon shows up and has Lucius by the throat. He is “a giant demon with a lion-like face, fiery eyes, incredibly muscular body and giant wings that fill the room.” Which is kind of boring except the lion face. I mean, a lion face is cool. And not very evil sounding. Aren’t lions traditionally associated with good things? Like Aslan? Anyway. Whatever. He’s wearing a lot of bling, he’s been super honored for past victories, his fangs are very shiny and after shaking Lucius around like a rag doll for a while, he demands he announce him.

So did demons all start out the same size and get bigger or smaller depending on things? Like can you BECOME bigger as a demon based on like a ton of people following you and killing a lot of angels? Do we kill angels? Does that even make sense? Either way. I mean, this demon is very huge. And his name is Ba-al Rafar, prince of Babylon. Ba-al. Ah.

Rafar humiliates Lucius by telling him to go hang out with the others cause really you only need one prince. He initially says no, that he hasn’t been challenged but Rafar cuts the shit out of him with his giant sword and he quickly changes his mind. It’s a NEW DAY, PEOPLE!

He grabs Complacency and asks him what he saw, was there a flash of light? He says yes and he screams at all of them for being such idiots because obviously whenever a messenger of God is going to attack there is always a flash of light. He then points out that Hank and Marshall seem to have come out of nowhere and were almost certainly put there by God and that they are all incompetent morons.

He decides he wants Marshall attacked on every side until he has nothing left to fight and is destroyed and demoralized and tells Complacency to discourage him like a sensible demon. He says that with Hank they’ll have to try something different, that the hosts of heaven have been smart enough to make them think they are weak. TONIGHT we will see what these two “thorns in our hoof” are made of.

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2 thoughts on “This Present Darkness: Chapter 5

  1. I enjoyed this. A little long for the blog reader, in my opinion, but I like it. I think I will go to Tue beginning and read straight through.
    Be ready for some constructive criticism my friend.

    • Oh, please do! They didn’t actually start out as blog entries, they started out as something between a friend and me. As you go along, let me know what you think. I would love any thoughts you have. 🙂
      If you think the length is just too unmanageable, I could consider cutting them in half or something? They tend to have convenient stopping points, so that’s nice. 😛
      Thanks for reading!

      Meg

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