The Eye of the Elohim
Fare thee well
Fare thee well
Fare thee well my faerie fae
For I’m off to Lou’siana
For to see my Suzy Anna
Singin’ polly wolly doodle alla day!
I emerged from the perpendicular infinity of the Kairos Field with an old, cheerful tune running through my head. I felt soft carpeting underfoot and drew in a deep, slow breath through my nose. Stood smiling for a long, peaceful moment with my eyes closed. Then something bit me on the ankle.
“What the crap?” Glancing down with a grimace, I saw Little Pom, Fr. Joe’s alarmingly stupid burst of white fluff, yapping at my feet like the world’s least terrifying hell-hound. “Pom, it’s me. Thomas Belmont. You’ve known me for like ten years. I come here all the time.”
Pom kept her ludicrous little fangs bared, but down-shifted from a yap to a yip. Better than nothing, I supposed.
“So this is the Church’s last line of defense,” Dill remarked, bending down to scratch Little Pom behind the ears. Surprisingly, she allowed this. “Luckily, animals tend to be friendly toward the Nephilim. Just one of the perks.”
“Well, aren’t you Mr. Cool.”
We turned at the sound of Fr. Joe’s voice. He stood in the doorway of his living room (where we had just materialized), clad in a bathrobe, with a steaming mug in one hand.
“Merry Christmas, padre,” I said.
“And to you, my friend.” He frowned at Dill for a split second, trying to place his face, and then remembered. “But I’m guessing you’re not here for the mulled wine.”
Dill bowed courteously. “Pleasant as that sounds, Father, I’m afraid you’re right. We have a situation on our hands that may steer the destinies of many souls, both on Earth and in the Mystic Realm.”
“Well, then. I suppose I’d better get dressed.” He gulped down the contents of his mug as he headed for the bedroom; forty seconds later, he emerged in clerical black. “Now, where’s the fight?”
We piled into the padre’s sedan and headed out into the icy streets. It was past 3 a.m., but revelers still reeled up and down the sidewalks, belting out Christmas carols with the singular joie de vivre of the drunken Boston Irish. We were still blocks away from Dill’s Tavern when we saw the battle spilling into the street.
“Oh, this ain’t good,” I muttered.
As we careened toward the fray, a goblin with a tomahawk leapt onto the hood of the car and smashed the windshield with a hefty swing. Fr. Joe slammed on the brakes, and the goblin went hurtling through the air like a paper boat in a typhoon. Dill and I yanked open our doors and sprinted toward the battle, with Fr. Joe racing after us.
“Stop!” I bellowed at the ultimate top of my lungs, so loud I felt something pop in my throat. “MacDrenneth’s Possessed, you damn fools. You’re being used by demons!”
“Who dares?” roared a harsh voice. “Who dares to slander our king?”
“Thomas, son of Hugh. If you’re so sure he’s clean, let him face our exorcist.”
The fighting had paused. Quite a few of the goblins were glancing back and forth at one another. I couldn’t help wondering if maybe some of them had already had their doubts about their hand-puppet of a monarch.
One of the goblins spoke, less harshly than the first one: “Perhaps, indeed, this exorcist should gaze upon our king. Then we can put these doubts to rest.”
“Silence, McGreth! You’ve been against building the tower from the beginning.”
“Against? I am for the good of goblinkind. For the honor of our people.”
“And your vow of fealty to our liege?”
“Demands that I help free him if he is under an evil spell.”
“Hear him!” cried Elladonna’s lovely voice. “Goblin McGreth is wise and true, please hear him!”
A new voice: “Nay!”
And all the goblins turned. Goblin King MacDrenneth was pacing toward us through the bitter snow. He’d managed to slip past the Guardian of the Gate. And the demon in the driver’s seat was burning more fiercely than ever.
“Heed not the sedition of these weaklings. Heed the voice of your king!”
“Thomas?” Fr. Joe asked.
“Definite hellspawn, padre. He’s nine circles deep.”
“All I need to hear.” He stepped forward, raising his arms high. In his right hand, a silver crucifix glinted in the lamplight. “Ancient Serpent! I abjure you in the Name of Christ. Go back, Satan! Go back!”
MacDrenneth gave a snarl that was half-yelp. “My loyal warriors! Do not permit this insult to the dignity of the crown!”
The goblin horde split down the middle. Several dozen gathered around MacDrenneth, ready to fight; either they didn’t believe he was Possessed, or they just wanted to be on the side of Power. The rest pulled back to stand with McGreth and the patrons of Dill’s.
“This is going to get bloody,” said Fr. Joe.
Then, for the first time since our arrival on the battlefield, Dill spoke. “No.” From the folds of his traveling cloak, he produced the Spear of the Seraphim and held it high. “We shall resolve this conflict in a place of Truth. And for once in this sorrowful cosmos, only the wicked shall bleed.”
A sudden explosion of white light. Everyone shielded their eyes. And when it faded, Dill’s Tavern and all the fighters of the Yuletide battle stood in a vast and empty plain. Or rather, plane.
“What devilry is this?” growled a goblin.
“Welcome to the Final Sphere,” said Dill.
The sky above was a neverending sweep of silver. The earth was a limitless field of chalk, bounded only by the horizon. And a soft white luminescence filled the air, sourceless, as if every molecule in this place was a radiant miniature sun.
Violence Jones stepped forward and jabbed a finger at MacDrenneth. “Sumbitch managed to get even uglier.”
Where the king had stood, we now saw the demon’s true form: a palpitating maw, nine feet tall, with a purple-yellow vortex for a body, spewing sludge and dreck in all directions with every quiver of its frame. The king-loyal goblins cried out in dismay and backed away from the abomination, brandishing their weapons.
“Oh, my liege,” murmured the one called McGreth. “Alas, how came you to this?”
“All right, everybody stand back,” Fr. Joe said grimly. “I’ll take it from here.”
“Father, I crave your pardon,” said Dill. “But that creature’s quarrel is with me. As Thomas deduced mere minutes ago, this entire lunatic scenario—the tower, the Anakim, all of it—was orchestrated solely to deceive me into unveiling a single weapon: the one weapon in Creation that can kill me.”
“You do have rather a genius for inspiring enmity, old friend,” Santa Claus remarked.
“True enough, but a great many lives were imperiled in pursuance of this scheme. Innocent lives, for which this foul spirit cares not the tithe of a speck. For I know you, demon, and I name you. Solsfell, Glutter of Ravens. I must credit you with tenacity; that afternoon in Mesopotamia, when you vowed to kill me, was nigh on five millennia ago.”
Tentacles lashed from the slavering maw. “The Spear, Graeladyl. Give me the Spear, Graeladyl. Give me the Spear, Graeladyl, or I will murder everyone you love.”
“You’ll murder no one else.” Dill threw a glance at Fr. Joe. “If you exorcise the Goblin King, Solsfell will merely be banished to perdition for a season. He will return.”
“Aw, come on, Dill, not this again,” I groaned. “We’re not putting MacDrenneth in a Ring of Ash.”
“Because I won’t let you sacrifice an innocent soul just to—wait, what?”
“Thomas, you freed Norman Grey from Kazregoth. You can do the same for MacDrenneth. And once you do, I can bind this unclean thing within the prison of eternity. We’ll face other evils in the years to come, but never again will we be plagued by this carrion-feeder.”
The pestilential maelstrom of Solsfell’s body contracted, slowly assuming the size and shape of a man. The maw folded in on itself, warping unnaturally into a head and a face. It resembled an uneasy composite of all the victims of Possession I’d retrieved. It was many and none, and its mouth was both sneer and snarl.
“I know you, Belmont,” hissed the demon lord. “Belmont, I know you.”
Rule number one: never talk to a demon.
I launched myself, a cannonball of wrath, across the thirty-foot gap between myself and my foe. Back on Earth, apart from my qi-sight, I’m just a regular schmoe: no super-speed, no super-strength, and certainly no flight. But I’d fought demons on the Astral Plane before, and I knew what was possible here. Soaring across the chalky landscape, I aimed a punch with the power of nations behind it. These creatures were strong, but lacked combat training: perhaps I could end this fight with a single well-placed blow.
Or not. The second I came in range, Solsfell backhanded me like a thunderclap. I went flying over Dill’s Tavern and crashed to the earth in what normally would have been the garbage-strewn alley out back.
“Okay,” I muttered, brushing myself off. “This shit just got real.”
As I emerged from behind the bar and strode toward my opponent once again, Dill spoke. “Thomas, we’re in the Final Sphere. In this place, a person’s true, innermost being becomes manifest.”
My innermost being. Who am I? I’m a guy who fights. Why do I fight? Because that’s who I am. Round and round and round she goes.
Solsfell’s venomous hiss: “Kill you, Belmont, kill you.”
That old accursed thing. That locust-plague, bipedal. Here in the Sphere, everyone could see its true nature; but I see it all the time. What did Dill call it? The Eye of the Elohim. The curse of knowledge, a gift with a price: I know what Evil truly looks like. And that’s why I fight it. I was chosen for this—and this is what I choose.
My innermost being.
And this time, I replied.
“Oh, I’m sorry. You must have me confused with someone who’s not about to obliterate your ass.”
I hadn’t forgotten the rules. I had transcended them. With a horrifying howl, the Glutter of Ravens attacked. I watched him approach like a man wading through mud—swimming through cement—entombed in obsidian. In the Astral Plane, I was as strong as I could imagine; or that’s what I used to think. But now I knew I had the Eye (I am the Eye), and all the power, all the qi, in all Creation was at my fingertips. I could see it, weave it, wield it. In the Final Sphere, I was as strong as God Himself could imagine. When Solsfell finally came in range, I punched him in the chest with the force of a trillion supernovas.
Now, demons can’t die—no matter how much they might like to. Solsfell was blasted backward, thousands of miles across the blank expanse, at the speed of starlight. I launched myself after him: fast as a photon, quick as a quark. But only at first. With every passing picosecond, I shared more fully in the energy of the cosmos, pulling it into my inmost self, suffusing my spirit and flesh. In the blink of an Elohim, I broke the Einsteinian speed limits of the universe. I shot past my enemy, still accelerating, as he hurtled uncontrollably over the Spherescape; I banked, swung around, and came rocketing back towards him as he rocketed to meet me. And this punch wasn’t some relativistic love tap. This time, I hit him so hard it shattered the dimensional barriers. Shrieking like an echo of all the misery he’d ever caused, Solsfell plummeted through Kairos.
Deep breath before the plunge: before I chased him through the Astral rift, I gathered all the cosmic qi my soul could hold. I knew exiting the Final Sphere meant interrupting my link to the might of the Mightiness. I hoped I hadn’t cost myself this battle by using a level of power beyond my own control.
But I needn’t have worried. As I stepped into the warm night breeze of some tropical grassland, resonant with the shimmering song of peepers and aglow with the happy childhood spark of fireflies, I saw that old bent monster cowering in the turf. The meanness had been knocked out of him for the nonce; probably hadn’t been hit that hard since his Master tried to usurp the Ultimate Throne.
“No more, no more,” he whined. “It’s not fair, you cheated!”
“Sure I did, now get on your feet. Or rather, MacDrenneth’s.”
I grabbed him by the scruff and dragged him back through the swiftly healing rip in the space-time fabric. And a short flight later, I dumped him like a sack of grain at the feet of my half-angel friend. “One dark spirit, lightly scrambled, with a side of goblin king.”
“Honorably done, Thomas.”
Jones nodded placidly. “Yeah, good fight, bro.”
“Not fair,” Solsfell muttered. “Not fair.”
“Hold your peace and come out of him,” said Dill.
The man-shape convulsed and began to vomit oily black smog. As it did so, its feet transformed, revealing the gnarled green toes of goblinkind. And as the vile cloud grew above its head, the transformation proceeded up its legs and waist and chest. Finally, belching out the last wisp of demon-smoke, King MacDrenneth fell shaking to the earth.
Then Dill raised a scuffed grey circle the size of a steering wheel, and gave an eerie cry: “Raaakaaalaaakaaaraaaaa!”
A horrible soundless keening filled our minds and rattled our teeth like a mystical dentist’s drill. The swirling black cloud was drawn into the Ring of Ash, which steadily shrank as it filled up with demon, till it was barely the size of a Cheerio. Dill slipped it into his pocket; and just like that, a five-thousand-year blood-feud was ended.
“Well,” he said, and sighed an ancient weight from his shoulders. “That’s an evening’s work. Shall we all have a drink?”
“I can’t believe we’re still standin’ around sober,” said Jones.
“Speak for yourself, friend,” our massive buddy Bartholomew replied, hoisting a flagon of ale.
The whole gang headed inside. By some miracle, no one had died in the fray, though many were critically wounded; but Santa’s ensorcelled elixirs soon had everyone back on their feet and joining in the joy. MacDrenneth would have much to answer for in the morning, but tonight, all was forgiven. Even Samaelion was released from whatever hole Jones had stuffed him into.
“It’s not over,” he said dourly, once he caught up on the evening’s events. “Solsfell was merely a pawn in the dark game.”
“That’s as it may be,” Dill said, refilling my bourbon glass. “But we see before our eyes the making of a new peace between goblins and elves; the Anakim will return to their slumber in the deep and be slow to answer another call to war; and now that we have a new Eye of the Elohim—the first in many, many centuries—I have more hope for tomorrow than I had yesterday.”
“I’ve still gotta find that Possessed kid, Ash Overlook,” I mused.
“And I owe a life-boon to a dragoness,” added Ella the elf-maid. “This tale is far from finished.”
Jones waved his beer dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, but I got a more important question. Belmont, you saw one a’ them Anakim up close, right? So how big was, y’know, his merchandise?”
“Dude, what the hell is wrong with you?”
“Just sizin’ up the competition, man.”
“Forget about that. Come on, let’s arm wrestle.”
“Yeah, maybe when we get back to Earth.”
I later learned that time in the Final Sphere flows differently. In subjective time, our revels went on for days; but as long as love and merriment reigned, it stayed that same Christmas Eve. In fact (though I’m getting ahead of the story here), there’s a place where all the revelry, all the loving, all the Christmas Eves of all our lives, are still going on. One of these Eternities, my friend, I’ll meet you there. And on that day, the first round is on me.
J.B. Toner studied Literature at Thomas More College and holds a black belt in Ohana Kilohana Kenpo-Jujitsu. He currently works as a groundskeeper in New Hampshire, and he and his lovely wife just had their first daughter, Sonya Magdalena Rose. Toner blogs at jbtoner.blogspot.com and tweets at AntiheroCouplet@twitter.com.” And latest novel: https://www.sunburypressstore.com/Whisper-Music-9781620060803.htm