Lilitu on the Last Page

By Kristen Miles

 

 

A whisper in my brain. An echo, a reflection.  “The world ends with us.”

 

My eyes flew open and the world was sideways.  I blinked, trying to bring the stone structure before me into focus, as feeling spread through my nerves again – the world became real.  Slowly I realized that my face was pressed against the cobblestones in the square next to the fountain, and I managed to gather enough strength into my arms to push myself up from it.  My bones and muscles ached as though they had been positioned in that perpetual sprawl for eons.  I was unwounded, of course, but I wondered what horrors could have befallen my body in the days, weeks, months that I had lain there.  I could have healed myself many times over.

 

It was daylight – far too bright for my taste.  Unnaturally intense, in fact, like the sun was focused directly on me.  As I looked around, I began to think that maybe it was.  There was no one in sight on the street, no sounds from the shops surrounding me, no wind, no motion, no life.  I forced my legs to move and walked toward the tavern.  Even at this hour, there would be someone there, certainly.  Still slightly weak, I leaned against the door frame and ran my eyes over the empty room, incredulous.  Half full pint glasses littered the tables.  Opened bottles of liquor adorned the bar.  A full shot of absinthe stood next to its decanter.  It was as though everyone inside had teleported out, if that were possible.  It was like Roanoke.   

 

The last of the fog of unconsciousness slipped from my brain and an image of him flashed through in its place: Katz.  Was he gone, too?  He couldn’t be.  He had to be there.  As I ran from the door of the tavern to my house across the street, I had a vision of him as I had last seem him: lying prone and helpless on the bed, his body still and calm, his mind lost to the world.  Nothing anyone had done had helped him since the night he had been mysteriously poisoned in the tavern.  Peony’s human blood had not helped, my own immortal blood – to which he was blissfully addicted – had not helped, even a taste of my mortal blood from the vial he wore protectively around his neck had not brought him back.  The vampire in him was not responding and, even after 400 years, I knew precious little about his Irin side – his shadowy existence as a fallen angel. 

 

I burst through the door of our cottage and ran up the stairs.  As I turned into the bedroom I closed my eyes and grasped tightly the vial of his own blood around my neck, willing him to be there, pulling at the very thought of him by the silver cord that bound us together.  I would make him appear; I had done it before.  Slowly, I lifted my eyelids and gazed upon the stone bed, upon the red velvet blanket that had cradled his body for days.

 

He was gone.

 

I whipped around, my eyes wild and desperate.  “Katz!”  I screamed.  My own echo answered me like a warped reflection.  I began to panic.  The weight of his absence began to crush me from all sides and I could not breathe – I had to leave the house.  I ran down the stairs and out into the street, the knowledge of what I had to do already bubbling through my blood.  Passing again through the abandoned town I noticed that the air was not merely still; it was stagnant.  A growing stench surrounded me like tentacles.  It was death without beauty, blood without life, murder without lust. 

 

I stopped in my tracks at the closed door of the church.  Though I had dared to step foot in here once before, this was forbidden ground.  I had chosen to be damned – salvation was for the living.  Katz would have laughed at this, I thought.  He would have said, “It’s not that you can’t go in; it’s just that you don’t speak the language.  There’s no point.”  I shook my head to clear it, braced myself, and pushed open the door. 

 

Like everything else, the church was empty and reeked of unloved death.  I slowly made my way up the aisle, the image of the boy on the cross becoming clearer with each step.  His eyes seemed to meet mine nervously.  I was a sheep not of his flock; he did not know me.  Careful not to touch anything around me, I sank to my knees at the end of the aisle and lowered my head.  This was my last option – she would have to know what to do.

 

A long moment passed.  Suddenly, fire roared through me, thrusting my arms open and my head back. My eyes glowed angrily, the red and violet battling tumultuously for control of the iris.  “Valor!” I bellowed.  “I call you to come!  Your Irin is gone and in grave danger.  You are bound by your holy duty – I summon you here now!”  My voice rang through the cathedral, peppering the walls like diamonds on glass.  I waited, breathless, for what seemed like hours.  Days.  The thickness of the stench grew, and I closed my eyes.  She had heard me – she would make me wait.  I hated her more, then, than ever I had in 400 years.  This angel that Katz was bound to protect, this holy bitch who reveled in her secret knowledge of him, in their angelic bond, she was all that I hated.  The pinnacle of repellent perfection.  No wonder the mortals had abandoned God.

 

Even through my closed eyes I saw and felt the heat of her shocking white light as she appeared before me in an orgasmic display of decadent self-obsession.  Everything about her was offensively white – her skin, her hair, the gossamer dress fluttering about her body.  She smiled slowly and looked down at me.  “Emerson.  It’s you,” her voice lilted through the chapel.

 

“He is gone, Valor,” I said quietly.  “Katz is gone.  Everyone is gone.”

 

She ran her hand lightly over the altar, basking in the mortals’ material manifestation of her kind.  “Yes, I know.”

 

I glared at her and stood.  “You know?  Is he…with you?”  It was impossible.  He would never have left me like that.  And where was everyone else?

 

She turned slowly back to me.  “He is not with me,” she said flatly.

 

This made no sense.  Where had he gone?  I paced down the aisle, trying to make sense of it, and whipped back to her angrily, my eyes blazing.  She was keeping something from me.  “Then where is he?  What the hell is going on?”  The stench grew greater the closer I got to the door.  The air was becoming thicker, as though the entire atmosphere were slowly settling to the ground. 

 

The angel moved toward me smiling, her head tipped gently to the side.  “Little Lily,” she said.  She had been calling me Lily for centuries, though I knew not why.  “He has finally completed what we have waited for him to do.  Do you not know the hour?”  She raised her head suddenly and pointed to the ceiling.  Automatically, I followed her hand with my gaze.  The roof of the church was gone and the sun was directly overhead, closer to earth than I had ever seen it, filling the sky with its atrocious eye. 

 

I lowered my gaze to hers, stunned.  “The hour?”  The sun grew brighter, its hideous rays whitewashing the colours from the sky, the earth, the ocean behind us.  Valor simply smiled.  “What has happened?” I said lowly.

 

The angel held out her hands to the sun, as though in supplication.  “It is true that Katz was poisoned,” she said, her voice melodious and light.  “He fought it fiercely for quite some time, but its potency was too great.  It was meant to kill him.”

 

I shook my head and backed toward the door, incredulous.  “You knew this was happening?  You knew he was dying and you did nothing?”  The air was thick with death now – it rolled in with the fog off the sea, spreading through the streets.

 

Valor moved toward me.  “Yes, I did,” she nodded slowly.  “And I am sorry that the others would allow nothing different.  But there was no other way.”

 

I backed out of the church, nearly falling down the steps, and into the street.  The fog tumbled freely over the cobblestones and seeped into every window, under every doorway, rising like the sea.  “What are you saying?” I yelled.

 

She moved to the doorway, but would not exit the church.  She spread her arms and her wings, as though creating a barrier between the holy interior of the building, and the wickedness beyond its portal.  Valor tipped her head.  “Katz is dead.”  Her voice echoed hollowly, bouncing off of every wall of every building in the square. 

 

I fell to my knees, now fully entombed by the rising fog.  “No, he can’t….” I whispered.

 

“And without him,” her voice continued, “you are nothing.”  I nodded, unable to see her anymore.  She was right.  We were heart and mind, sea and sky, blood and lust.  We were not addition, but multiplication.  1 x 0 = 0.  Suddenly, her voice was in my ear, though I knew she remained in the church.  “Recall his words, little Lily – the one the mortals call Emerson.” it whispered.  “What did he always say to you?”

 

Weakly, I racked my brain.  Four hundred years of his words came flooding through my mind.  He had said everything there ever was to say.  He had left great chasms of silence when no words were appropriate.  I looked at the vial around my neck and realized I had been clutching it this whole time.  It was empty.  Suddenly, I knew what she meant.  “The world ends with us.”

 

The fog rose high above me and obscured the sun.  The angel’s voice was all around, ubiquitously weaving itself through the mist.  “Indeed it did end, little Lily.”

 

I put my hands on the street, defiantly digging my nails across it.  I can not see the ground, but it is here – I feel my nails breaking off against the stone, feel the blood pouring from my fingertips.  I can conjure every memory for 400 years – every word, every glance, every accidental benevolence, every purposeful war.  These are the last thoughts I think before the fog is what remains.  Somewhere beyond all of this, the sun burns brilliantly, and gently, kindly, swallows its insolent child, all in the single, silent beat of an angel’s wing.

 

 

 

 

A medievalist and composition theorist by day, Kristen Miles writes darker fiction by night, and spends a great deal of time contemplating vampiric fallen angels.  She is currently working toward an MA in Literature at Portland State University, and lives with her husband and kitty cat outside of Portland, Oregon.

 

 

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Published on January 3, 2009 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

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