Lamentations of the Sage, Manus
New – 20 August 2005
A Glancing Blow
Lamentations of the Sage, Manus
It was in the Seventh Age of the World, when mankind had turned from the Gods. Worshipping himself and his handiwork, he scorned the powers of the universe. Man thought the heavens constant and regular, and predictable by his technology. He never gave thought to give his awe or his devotion to the whims of cosmic change.
Then the prophet, Kirmast, came and spake. He called for the people to look to the heavens; that the Gods would surely destroy them all lest they repent and worship anew. But the people spit upon him, cursed him, and put him to death.
With his going, as if by his going, a star appeared in the sky. At first it was but a faint twinkle in the eye of heaven. But slowly and steadily, it became a flowing beacon of cosmic light -- beautiful and gleaming red, tainted with the dusk of sunset, enobled by the crystal clarity of its radiance. Daily the wanderer gained in brilliance, while the people began to admire its awesome beauty.
And yet they began to wonder, even to sense a foreboding. For each day brought forth a greater brilliance, a more intense glowing, a more fearful star. It was a star which became ever more fearful.
For soon the bright torch of heaven had joined the approaching globe. Together they spanned the heavens -- rivaling the very sun in brightness and majesty. It was the burning light of the gods, blazing from one end of the cosmos to the other.
It was now an event, a thing to be witnessed. It had become subject matter for stories yet to be told. A bright comet in the daytime sky with the horns of an angry bull and a tail sweeping like a wrathful sword.
But that it were in the night time sky, surely its magnificence would be even greater; its radiance, even more incredible; its arrival, even more memorable; its presence, even more terrifying. With each day it comes closer. With each sunset, the comet's flashing tail begins a more violent quivering, slashing about in the void.
But Manus still comprehends no fear. Had not Haley's coming been without evil? And Hale-Bopp, and Shoemaker-Levy? This was certainly no greater -- would come no closer. This they knew full well. This was predicted by their science. And there had been no ill effects before. Nothing had come of it. Why now?
Clearly this comet too would soon veer off, to approach other worlds, to strike fear in the hearts of others, those without the knowledge and the understanding of earth's civilization. It would soon be gone, leaving only a vivid memory.
Still… This messenger… He does have a bloody redness as if he were a God of War or Vengeance. Or of terror. And its fiery tail: It wields it so like an always threatening sword.
Then suddenly in earnest, the threatening sword slashes down! Its fires pierce the earth's blue shield. The sky, unable to prevent the wound, cringes. A bloody red dust fills the atmosphere. Slowly it bleeds its way to the ground. Like the ashes of hell's furnace, it covers the fields, the mountains and the waters. All the land and seas take on a bloody hue. And Manus, seeing the rivers turn to blood, finally knows fear.
For the soil no longer yields food. The air can hardly be breathed. The water is undrinkable. The skin crawls from the chafing, while boils and sickness attack the body. Fish perish and leave rotting carcasses. Animals die of thirst by the river's edge, by the stench of the very water they crave.
Men thirst, yet shrink from tasting. They dig in the ground for water, but in vain. For all seems contaminated by the alien dust.
Blood is everywhere. Plague is throughout the land. Where is our water? What is to do? All is ruin!
But all is not done. For slashing about with its bloody sword, the comet delivers an even more terrible wound, deep into the side of the earth. The fine, bloody dust becomes coarser; first as a grating sand, then turning into a rain of particles. The hail becomes a great torrent of gravel and rocks and gigantic boulders! Boulders as large as trees rain down!
And my God! Mingled with the hail, the rocks and the horror, are thunderings, loud noises, and fire -- consuming, devouring, fire. The sky is raining hail stones and coals of fire – a fiery rain grievous beyond all known to Manus or to his vaunted history.
Terrified, men flee from the torrent, from the consuming barrage of meteorites and fire. He abandons all to the cosmic holocaust, letting fields of grain, the feeders of great cities, perish in their stand. No fruits nor herbs are to be found; that which yesterday was seen, has suddenly perished.
The land is left to its weariness like the cutting of flax. In a day, fields are turned to wasteland, while the sky rains not water, but fire and red hot stones. Surely it is the stones of Barad that smites every herb of the field, that breaks every tree of the forest.
But still the Gods are not content.
Gases begin to envelop the world, exploding in bursts of fire. Naptha pours to the planet; people are drowned in the sticky substance which rains from the sky. The face of the earth grows dark as the gloomy rain endures for days and nights, and a great din of fire thunders above. Explosions rock the land, the water, and the sky. In the rain of bitumen, the very earth is obscured.
Men run hither and thither as if seized by madness Great populations are pursued, first by the strange rains, then the hails and showers inexorable. All seem ultimately to be consumed. Even in the water which quencheth all things, the fire wroughts yet more mightily.
Cities perish with their walls as the vast, consuming conflagration reduces whole nations to ashes. The woods of mountains are ablaze; Aetna burns without bound and twin-peaked Parnassus. Nor is Scythia saved by its chilling clime. Caucasus burns, and the heaven-piercing Alps , and even the cloud-capped Apennines .
The earth has burst into flame; the ground split with deep cracks, its moisture dried up. Meadows are burned to white ashes. Trees are consumed, green leaves and all. The ripe grain furnishes fuel for its own destruction. The hills melt like wax. The Thracian rivers, Hebrus and Strymon, pour into steaming vents. The rivers of the west, the Rhine , Rhone , Po and Tiber, become streams of dust. Great cracks yawn everywhere. Great Libya is a desert, the heat has taken her moisture. The Don's waters steam; Babylonian Euphrates burns; the Ganges, Phasis, Danube, and Alpheus boil. Spercheos' banks are aflame. The golden sands of Tagus, melt in the intense heat -- her swans scorched. The Nile flees in terror to the ends of the earth. The Mississippi and Missouri lie empty, filled with dust and death. Even the seas shrink up and become dry. For what was but now a great watery expanse, has become a dry plain of sand The mountains of the deep waters spring forth, while the very depths of the ocean boil.
Fire is everywhere, yielding gigantic billows of smoke. The black columns lend their dark shrouds to the temple of human despair. The consuming flood of fire advances, only to discover its own starvation amidst a sea of darkness.
Suddenly, the violence of the storm seems extinguished, or else made invisible and swallowed up in the density. For it is a darkness so heavy that none dare stir from their place. Nothing can be discerned; none are able to speak or hear, nor venture to take food. Only to lay themselves down -- their outward sense in a trance, their eyes blurred, and their breath choked. There they remain, overwhelmed by the affliction.
Sporadically, flames of fire shine forth in the darkness, while thunderings and lightenings are multiplied. Winds and tempests being roaring as the stars fade from view.
Death is everywhere. Fire is throughout the world. Where are our people? What is to do? All is ruin!
But all is not done.
Tentative, probing fingers reach out to cause isolated and occasional tremors. Then as the invisible grip secures its hold, the earth begins rocking with unceasing violence. Its very stability is tilted, first in one direction, then another. All the world shakes and is shattered. Great buildings of stone and steel, and great strength, in a single convulsed moment, are leveled. Cities are laid waste. Kingdoms are moved. Populations are decimated.
The forces of all power break cedars, divide the flames of fire, and shake the very wilderness of Kadesh. The rocks tremble in their fastenings. The foundations of the hills move and are shaken. Shrieking fearfully, the earth trembles and is cut with furrows. The channels of water are seen, while rivers of molten rock begin to flow. The ocean depths are exposed; the very foundations of the world are laid bare.
The earth torn and molten, the waters afraid, the depths troubled, the skies scream with an agonized cry. Suddenly the displaced sea is moved, and tossed with purple waves. White foam bursts forth, all stirred and heaped, rising up like a wall against the flames of the fire so that they should not consume the world.
Oceans charge upon the mountains, overtopping the great heights, and threatening the very heavens with their floods. Pouring onto continents, they envelope all. Rivers flow upward, while islands sink into the sea. Displaced strata and gigantic mountains clash together. Great rifts and clefts appear in a torn and violent earth's surface. Lands fall away as mountains rise thunderously to the sky. And then fall to engulf cities and fields.
The waters climb the hills to stand above them. Then cascade upon the land, sweeping madly over hills and valleys; carrying in their grip, mighty burdens of rock and earth. The very face of the earth changes as mountains collapse. Even as others grow and rise over the onrushing cataract of water -- water driven from oceanic spaces and numberless rivers who have lost their beds.
A shifting, violent earth generates a global hurricane -- destroying forests, razing mountains and cities, lifting waters and casting them away -- sweeping aside the works of men, while inundating man and beast.
The wild air spirits rage. Foaming, dashing, rising sky high, they help to lift the sea wall to crush all things. Jubmel, with one strong upheaval, makes the lands and seas turn over. Oceans fall on the continents. Hurricanes sweep the earth.
And in the midst of the tides pouring over mountains, volcanoes explode, bringing impetuous winds; all threatening to annihilate humankind.
Wild tornadoes descend from the sky and move through the debris, while mighty winds, fierce squalls, and dark clouds rise out of the horizon and rush against the earth. Dense, dark, fiery, wildly drifting, wildly bursting, they rush upon creation. And in their midst, Tawhiri-ma-tea, father of winds and storms, sweeps away giant forests and lashes the waters into billows, foaming crests to rise high as mountains.
Areas of a hundred leagues in extent crack and are thrown upward by the wind, blown to powder in the sky, and annihilated. The mountains which encircle the earth are cast up, reduced to dust, and destroyed. A hundred thousand times ten millions worlds, the cosmic wind blows and destroys. At this blast of heavenly displeasure, the earth groans, the ocean flees, and the very sky hides in terror.
The land is shriveled by the heat of the flames and desolated by the waters, with darkness stretching to each horizon. For six days the hurricane, deluge, and tempest sweep the land. All human back to its clay is returned.
Quaking is everywhere. Torrents rage throughout the world. Where is our civilization? What is to do? All is ruin!
And then occurs relative peace, comparative tranquility. The screams of fire, flood, and wind become suddenly lessened. As the violent quaking reduces to a sub-earthly roar of pain, incredible noises rise up in low screams of agony. Survivors, as few as they are, lay with dulled senses, choking in the smoking air, grasping at a shifting earth, and prostrate in a trance for days.
For some the darkness is protracted. For others, an extended, diffuse daylight. Some begin to wander, to search for an end to the day or to the night, to seek the setting of the sun or its rising, to escape the land aflame or the inundation of the seas.
As they stumble through the debris, their eyes lift momentarily to the sky. And there, the comet glows in a state of candescence. With its writhing, glistening tail, it shines through the tempest of dust and smoke.
For the lull had been but a moment when the comet pulled away. Now she had returned, the earth, this time, passing through her very neck -- a fiery comet's head and a column of smoke -- the Light God and the Leviathan serpent commencing to do battle before the very eyes of all humankind.
The tail of the comet slashes down to light upon the horizon. Then break away, to roam the earth as a column of smoke, or in the night as a pillar of fire. It draws atop the mountain as if to establish its domain. Its head trembles like that of a writhing serpent's, brushing the stars. Out of its body one hand reaches to the west, the other to the east. A hundred dragons' heads project from each arm. Huge coils of vipers, bulging from the thighs downward, emit long hissings. Rocks of lava are hurled from its winged body, as great jets of fire spout from his mouth ablaze.
Rushing from the heavens, the Light God, the comet, deals out bolts of fire to strike at the crooked serpent, the dragon, the coiler viper. The serpent shudders and breaks, while the Light God, seeing the monster sore wounded, grapples with him. But only to be entwined and gripped by his tails. In a blaze of primeval fire, they break apart.
But the writing serpentine tail, the Light God has not done with. Violent and incessant electrical discharges rip across the void, linking the comet's atmosphere and the terrestrial air. The perpetual night begins to glow from the lightening bolts of fire.
Then suddenly from heaven, riding in a chariot of winged horses and unmindful of the battle's effect on the people, the Light God strikes the serpent with thunderbolts. They entangle in earnest, attacking with violent discharges of electricity.
For weeks the battle rages, cincturing the very earth. In the midst of a climax, the seas are torn apart. The tides climb above the clouds. The tremendous sparks, flying between the earth and the comet, release the mile high billows of water to collapse back to the earth.
Streams of blood gush from the mountains. It is the very blood of the planet, of Seth or Apopi, or slain Tiamat, the heavenly messenger. The blood foretells the doom of the serpent. For the dragon has perished and fallen into the sea. The comet's tail is no more.
Surely, the Lord, with his sure and great and powerful sword, has punished Leviathan that crooked serpent. And he has slain the dragon that is in the sea.
But the dragon had accomplished his task to break the binding hold of errant gods. For with the comet slowly moving away from the earth, there is the sense of bifurcation, a divisive point of no return; and the dragon in the sea takes his rest.
The battle done, the earth shudders in simplicity, wreathing itself for a decade or more on a thick, gloomy, haze. Darkness consumes all, as explosive fires roam like random walks, prowling throughout the world for its victims.
Death is everywhere. Where are our lives? What is to do? All is ruin!
The torrent exhausted, the fires dying, and the waters receding, there falls a nourishing manna, an ambrosia, a gift from the departing dragon. It precipitates in the heavy atmosphere -- a sweet, yellowish hoar frost, falling with the morning dew. It is gentle and soothing, and edible. Ambrosial carbohydrates fill the atmosphere with a sweet fragrance, yielding streams which flow with milk and honey; the very presence of the dragon's heavenly gift allowing survival.
Survival in a new world age -- an age where the sun rises in the west, where the quarters of the world are displaced, the seasons disorganized, and winter coming as summer. The months have been reversed, the hours disordered, and the world overturned. Its orbit has been distorted, its oceans thrown upon it continents, its seas turned into deserts, its mountains up heaved, its islands submerged, and its rivers running upstream. It is a world flowing with lava, shattered by meteorites, with yawning chasms, burning naphtha, vomiting volcanoes, and shaking ground. It is a world enshrouded in an atmosphere filled with smoke and vapor. And with years of noise. There is no end to the noise.
Oh… that the earth would cease from noise and tumult be no more, in a world that yet lives, where Manus survives amidst the ruin and the dead, in the Eighth Age of the World.
Chapter Twelve -- Loose Ends
Chapter Fourteen -- Diverse Lives
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