Lucifer stumbled back and regained his balance, his hands still shaking as if he had struck the thick trunk of a tree with an iron rod. He raised his cruel black sword to meet the glowing steel of Jesus Christ, grinning crookedly.
“Oh ho, I see we’re really playing with fire now…or is it a Burning Bush, maybe? Either way, I bet that pig-sticker of yours’ll do the trick and put the kibosh on me if I go down, eh?”
Jesus said nothing, only standing firm with his sword at the ready.
“Right. Of course,” Lucifer rolled his eyes, “you pick NOW to finally shut up. Great. Well, I guess we’d better get to it, then!”
He charged at the Son of Man with the sword, which clattered harmlessly off Jesus’ shield. Trusting his feint, Lucifer threw his other arm round, bringing the massive trident on a collision course with Jesus’ face. Jesus slapped it away, almost idly, with his glowing, cross-shaped sword. And so the battle went, Lucifer always on the offensive, Jesus constantly on the defensive: the former beginning to sweat and strain and bellow with exertion, which the former stayed cool under pressure, never making a sound and deflecting every blow almost effortlessly. With all of the world’s evil forces joining together inside Lucifer’s bulky, monstrous form, the army of Good was left to simply sit and watch. Jesus made sure that the battle never got too close to his soldiers, constantly parrying the blows of Lucifer farther and farther away. For a long while, there was no sound on the blood-red plains of Megiddo but Lucifer’s haggard breathing and bellicose howls. The army of All Gods sat in reverence, not believing their eyes in the spectacle that they were seeing. Even the angels themselves were silent and reverent before this, the Battle for All Creation.
Suddenly, at his left, Steve Waterhouse, Lucifer’s Replacement, heard his assistant and former love Sara Donlon singing softly to herself the words to “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” As he looked around, he noticed that several of his troops, and particularly his angelic counterparts, were deep in prayer for the success of the forces of good. This was not a Christian fight, or a Muslim fight, or a Jewish fight, but a fight for the good people of the world, less now more than ever, to succeed over the forces of evil.
But for the life of him, Steve couldn’t figure out what to do. He had never been a religious man, and hardly a spiritual man, but he had been told right from wrong at an early age. After working six days a week, his parents were content to sleep in on Sunday mornings, whilst Steve and his sister Mary would “play” communion along with the services on television. When Steve was still a boy, he was away at a summer camp, a camp that he had begged his parents to go to, when Boston gang violence erupted in the hot streets and left his mother, father, and sister dead. Steve could never bring himself to trust a god until he met one, and even then he was given a charge by the Almighty for being not a good Christian, but a good person. He had fought for what was right, without a particular spiritual streak, because he simply believed it.
So, what was that man, the man who had rejected God until he met him, the man who hated God until he worked for him, the man who didn’t even think God existed until he met him face to face, in the guise of his own kid sister to give him his charges… what was that man to do in this situation?
He sat, and he watched. He watched how Jesus, a man who arguably believed more than any other, who endured such pain for his God that he was given the dominion and the task of humanity’s survival, a man who was the only thing standing between a vengeful God and the disintegration of the world as all on Earth knew it… he watched that man fight the condensed essence of all that was evil and never strike, never wound, never kill, but wear down and harass, blocking every attempt to be wounded with a mask of a face that flitted just between a scowl and a smile. He watched as Lucifer grew more and more tired, and as bits of him began to die off. He watched the horns shrink, the tail wither and fall, the blackening of his veins bleed out of him the more he fought. Finally, he was nothing but a Fallen Angel once again, and the essence of evil, by its nature an essence of cowardice, slithered and slunk away, never again to truly threaten creation, but merely existing to test the created and balance the good. Human beings could not tolerate paradise, and it was for this reason that the dilution of sin was free to escape…but not Lucifer.
The beautiful former angel lay crumpled on the ground, thin and worn, his armor no longer fitting him. His gaunt face looked up at Jesus who stood triumphant above him, his pale skin drawn tight around his bones, his eyes bleeding blood from sunken pits, his black hair now thin and plastered to his scalp, yet he was defiant to the end.
“Go ahead. Do it! Kill me now, you know you want to. You’ve beaten me, Christ, like you always said you would. You arrogant son of a bitch, KILL ME! Cut me into pieces and scatter me over Las Vegas! I tried, and I failed, and I won’t go back to serving under you and your Father, you can be sure of that! You’ll have to kill me, Christ. You’ll have to gut me like a God-damned fish, right here in front of God and everybody!”
He threw his thin, pasty arms out wide. The armor clattered off his arms onto the hard, dusty earth. The black clouds that roiled in the sky above began to rain, a hot, unforgiving rain. Jesus sheathed his sword, and slung his shield across his back, his armor reverting to comfortable robes. He picked up a stone from the ground, and offered it to Lucifer, turning it into bread. He held out his other hand, catching rainwater in it, and turned it to wine, which he also offered to the fallen angel. Lucifer took what remaining spittle he had and spat in Christ’s face.
Jesus smiled, sadly, and blinked it away, turning another rock into a chalice for the wine. He put both bread and wine on the ground and began to walk away. Lucifer picked up his weapons, by now horridly heavy for him and attempted one last assault at the Messiah’s unprotected back. Jesus spun quickly, using the hilt of his sword to neatly snap the black blade in half, and sending both parts spinning off into the distance. Now fully enraged, Lucifer aimed one last shot with the pitchfork at Jesus’ eyes, only to have the Son stop the prongs with the upright palms of both hands, blood trickling down his wrists in an act of pacifism. Jesus quickly brought his arms down, shattering the trident as if it were made of thin crystal.
Lucifer had lost. He fell to his knees again, though not in repentance. He would never be sorry. Jesus, as if nothing had happened, turned around again and walked back to his soldiers, calmly wiping his blood on his robes.
“Wouldn’t you know it, eh?”
His smile was so gentle and warm that even the scorched plains of Megiddo seemed like Eden. He turned to his angels, and nodded, and in a trice they were gone back to Heaven. He turned to his soldiers, who most of which fell to their knees, but Jesus bid them stand up, and with another nod, they had returned to their proper lives and times. He turned to the demons who had stayed loyal, who had found redemption, and with a nod they, too, became angels and went up to Heaven, leaving only Sara, Steve, Jesus, and the defeated Lucifer where once the giant battle had waged.
“Nice job, you two,” he said, grinning now. Steve smiled nervously, not knowing what to expect, as Sara looked behind the Son to the fallen one.
“What will happen to him?” she asked, “Will he… die?”
“He is, at his basest, and angel,” Jesus said, “and therefore he cannot die. My Father would not want to destroy any of his creations, even those who hate him. His love is…hard to understand by mortals. I still don’t fully understand it, but I like to think I get that from my mother’s side of the family.”
He winked. Steve laughed. Sara didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, or both.
“He’ll be taken up to Heaven with the rest of us,” Jesus continued, “My Father has ordered that Hell will no longer be below, and will no longer remain separate from his jurisdiction. He is confident now that He, along with others like I and yourselves, can keep dominion completely from Heaven. Hell will now be constructed side-by-side, where the fallen and those seeking redemption can constantly be reminded of what lays in store. He said that… He had grown out of touch with Hell, and it was wrong of Him to do so. He’s always like that though, thinking everything is his fault.”
He waited for the joke to take. It didn’t. Jesus coughed uncomfortably and went again.
“Lucifer will be put back in charge, but he is under my Father’s eye, now, and He will be broken by my Father before he can return to his services. Who knows, maybe we will even find cause for redemption deep within him.”
“Redemption?” Steve cocked an eyebrow, “Even for him?”
“You’ll never take me, I won’t go,” Lucifer whined from behind, “I’d rather kill myself right here, right now, just gimme that big mammer-jammer sword of yours…”
He reached for it, but it burned his hand. The black clouds above opened up, and a single shaft of pure light cut through, illuminating the fallen angel, who began to shriek as it touched him.
“No! No! Stop! I don’t want it! You can’t! I won’t! Aaaaaagh!”
And in an instant, he was gone, save for his shrieks that echoed through the plains.
“Yes,” Jesus said with his head bowed, “Redemption even for him.”
Sara and Steve couldn’t be sure, but they thought they saw tears on the face of the Son. Jesus turned from them, shaking his head and putting a laugh in his voice.
“I guess you could say I’m promoting you. Father wants you two to be in charge of a new Redemption movement. He says that He doesn’t want this to happen again, for people to feel so alone, so without His presence… and He’s not close enough to humans to do it. He was impressed with the work you two did so… it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!”
He turned back around and was radiant, grinning and laughing as the black clouds rolled away to reveal a gorgeous pink sunset. Sara looked at Steve, who looked at Sara.
“After all we’ve been through: alive, not alive, war, death, rebirth, Heaven, Hell, everything in between… and I’m still so sorry. About Nelson. About Me and my foolish pride. About everything. So, so sorry,” Sara said, her tears sparkling in the newfound sunlight. Steve took her into his arms and kissed her gently, brushing away the tears.
“You don’t need to be,” was all he said.
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
“Come on now,” Jesus grabbed a hand of Steve’s and of Sara’s each, and immediately they felt all burdens lifted from their shoulders, and all of their flesh seemed to melt away until all was made of glittering gold. Jesus, shining now like the morning sun, smiled again and took them with him to Heaven, to work forever in the service of the Almighty.
“Let’s Go Home.”
Steve Waterhouse – The End.