Week #3/4 "The Silver City"
Since I missed last weeks story post there will be two this week starting today with this one!
This weeks first prompt from Reddit: “You have died. You walk up a staircase and it takes you a thousand years to climb. You reach the top exhausted, and see the pearly gates. To your surprise, they have rusted over and inside is completely barren.”
He leaned against the wall breathing heavily, pearls of sweat dotting his brow. He hadn’t pushed himself this hard in forever, but it was so close now. He looked up the steep stairs and counted. Forty-nine. That was it, all that was left, forty-nine steps and then purgatory was over. After this long he didn’t even know how to feel about it. Was he supposed to be happy? Relieved? Sure he felt elated and all that but at the core of him all he really felt was exhausted and empty. With one deep breath he took a final look behind him, a last look back at the past god only knew how many centuries of his existence. Behind him the stairs wound down the steep sides of the impossibly tall mountain, a serpentine path carved out of the grey rock that disappeared in to the clouds far below him, and beyond those clouds it continued its winding path for an eternity more. He knew that from personal experience, after all he’d started at the bottom all those millennia ago. He also happened to know that stairs was all there was, not a single plateau or balcony or something where you could rest comfortably, just a never ending spiral winding ever up ever on. But that was to be expected of course, this was after all purgatory, or at least that had always been his assumption.
And now he could see the end of purgatory, the one thing that had kept him going for all this time was this moment. He’d passed others on the way, the grey emaciated souls of the damned and hopeless, the faded shadows of those who had given up along the way, now just wandering up and down the stairs, wailing in agony and abandonment. He’d been close to joining their fate more than once, but somehow he’d managed to keep that tiny shred of hope alive within him, the hope that one day the climb would end and he would at least be allowed to look upon the Pearly Gates, perhaps make his case to St Peter, and God willing walk the streets of the Silver City beyond. The mere thought of it being this close made him light headed and he had to steady himself against the wall or he was afraid he’d stumble and fall. When the lightheadedness and nausea had passed he began to slowly walk up the last forty-nine steps.
His hands were trembling and his legs could barely carry him when he finally took that last step off the stairs, feeling for the first time in a thousand years flat ground beneath his feet. Cobblestones was the last thought that passed through his mind as he was overcome with complete exhaustion, his vision went blurry and he slumped forward on to the ground as the blur turned to black.
He had no idea how long he’d been out when he finally awoke and scrambled to his feet. He was standing alone on a large cobblestone plain stretching off towards infinity around him, wisps of white clouds rolling across the ground at its edges. He looked at where he had come from and found no trace of neither mountain nor stairs, all that was there was cobblestone. As he slowly turned around he saw it. The huge gate rose to a point hundreds of feet above the ground, at each side of it was a wall of swirling mists that looked strangely solid and foreboding. As he stood there looking upon the gate a feeling of dread began to fill him, there was something wrong.
What had once been a glittering and imposing thing was now not. The mother of pearl had fallen off in flakes, beneath it rusted iron, and the gold was coming off and flying off in specks upon the breeze. The massive gates hung half open, the left one looking as if it was about to fall off its hinges and crash to the ground, and beyond them the bridge leading to the Silver City looked dilapidated and crumbling, moss and lichen covering its stonework and dead leaves blowing forlornly across the roadway.
He felt his throat tighten and darkness encroach his vision as he walked, his whole body trembling, through the dilapidated gates, their hinges creaking as they moved imperceptibly in the gentle wind. To the right of him, sticking out between fallen stonework, was a large key for a large gate, its gold faded and overgrown with grass and moss. He stood there a while, a profound feeling of emptiness filling him as stared down at the discarded key. There would be no-one to whom he would be pleading his case.
He stepped off the bridge and on to a wide avenue of white marble, once it would have been a grand sight but now the marble slabs were cracked, grass and thorns sprouting from the fissures, and the majestic trees lining the wide boulevard where but dried husks, branches reaching out over the street like gnarled taloned arms. The avenue was flanked on each side by tall silver buildings, un-ornamented and plain, with spires reaching to dizzying heights above him. He could imagine them as they must have once been, shimmering in the perpetual sunlight, but now their sheen was dulled and they were covered in the black and brown stains of oxidisation.
He walked through the empty streets, his heart sinking with each step. He was alone, entirely desperately alone. Was this still purgatory? Was he trapped in some Sisyphean hell of his own making? Something caught his eye and he bent down. The feather was tumbling gently across the cracked marble and he picked it up, turning it in his hands.
It was huge, at least a couple of feet long and the quill thick as a thumb. It had once been shining white but now it was stained with dirt and grime, and some sort of black oily substance clung to the white barbules in places. He drew his hand along it and felt the soft down against his skin. As he stood there, lost in his own thoughts, a wailing cut through the air, startling him and as he looked around he saw it. There at the very end of the avenue there was a pulsing golden light. What did he have to loose? He made for it.
The square he entered was vast, encircled by silver spires, the dead husks of trees lining the facades. At the centre of the square was a massive fountain, crumbled and dried up and upon sat a creature. Its arms and hands were long and gangly, the skin grey and cracked. It wore dirty white robes and from its back sprung six massive wings of stained white feathers. Where its head and neck should be there was nothing, instead there floated above it a circle of seven golden faces each with a different visage, the faces glowed with an early yellow light. All over its body were cuts and gashes from which leaked an oily black goo. Occasionally a wail or moan escaped one of its seven mouths. As he slowly approached it the creature seemed to notice him and one of its seven faces turned to him, a visage of pure pain gazing down upon him with unseeing golden eyes.
“I. AM. THE. METATRON. VOICE. OF. GOD.” The effect of its voice was like being struck. Each word spoken by a separate mouth, each with its own timbre and pitch and each as loud and absolute as falling tombstones. Warily he walked up to the giant angel. “I am… Well I can’t really remember truth be told.” He was surprised by the steadiness of his own voice. The angel turned yet another face towards him, this one a face of deepest sadness. “HE. HAS. LEFT. US. HUMAN.” The absolute pain in its voices cut him to his core. “But purgatory… I walked for so long.” He didn’t know what to say.
“I am sorry. One day he was here, the other gone.” Metatron spoke softer now his seven voices a chorus. “My brothers searched creation for father but he was nowhere.” The angels shoulders slumped. “I’m sorry.” It was all he could think of to say. “At first we thought to rule our selves. The strongest of us, Michael and Uriel, summoned the host and descended to hell, thinking to fulfil their function and end the eternal war. Perhaps that would bring father back.” It seemed as if the Metatron had not spoken to another in eons and he decided just to listen. “We walked up to the gates of hell and I let my voice ring. But there was no answer. Then we breached the gates and found it empty.” The confusion in its voice was heartrending. “The Morningstar had wiped hell clean and left too. My brother was not there.” He wailed those last words.
“When we returned to the Silver City we lost ourselves. Functions without purpose was all we where. And now I am the last. The only one left. A voice without source.”
Tears of shimmering oil ran down its seven faces, dropping to the ground.
“But I climbed for an eternity. I thought… When I finally got to the gates…” His voice trailed off. What else was there to say? Whine about fate? Curse a God who was no longer there? He sat down before the Metatron and simply stared hollow eyed before him.
“Perhaps you can rebuild it human? Perhaps you can bring it to life once more?” He looked up at the angel in complete bafflement. “Rebuild heaven?” Surely the angel didn’t think he could do that.
“ You have no function. You are not bound by the word and the voice. You have free will.” The Metatron seemed almost to plead with him, as if it should be obvious to him what to do and how.
“But I don’t even know where to begin, or how. I’m not God.” This was insane.
“Perhaps you can be.” The angel wasn’t asking, it was a statement rather than a question. “I’m sorry what?”
“Perhaps when there is no God you are your own God. Perhaps you are your own sun around which all things turn.”
He sat there in silence looking around him in bewildered silence, the angels words rattling through his mind. Perhaps he could rebuild heaven. Perhaps that was what was at the end of purgatory. A smile crept across his face as he looked upon the Silver City with newfound purpose. Perhaps he was his own God.