The Barrier (part 1)

Here is part one of a longer piece. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments!

 

On a decidedly normal day for a decidedly normal man and his equally ordinary wife, something rather abnormal was coming to pass that directly concerned them—or, more precisely, their future child—of which they had no knowledge.

Because despite the very ordinary day coming to pass below, there was quite a debate raging above between two rather influential, and rather stubborn, individuals.

There was an angel above, you see, lounging regally in his throne of light—one of many thrones, scattered, in an inconceivably vast garden of light, for though he was an influential angel, he was but a single being amongst them—getting into an increasingly heated, but civil, disagreement with one of the demons across from him.

You may think it odd that angels and demons occupy nearly the same space, but, in reality, much as humans who may want to kill each other can, in fact, live side-by-side peacefully if necessary, angels and demons can coexist, and they are rather superior at doing so, compared to us. There is, of course, a barrier between the angels’ side and the demons’ side, but it cannot be seen, except, perhaps, as a thin layer of blurring light and dark, not quite a shadow–but it is always felt. It lies between the sweet, bright beauty of the angelic dwelling, with its almost absurd splendor and the incredible sweetness of the air, and the soot-covered vagueness of the demonic dwelling, devoid of light except for incomprehensibly hot embers, swelling and filling the air with an oppressive heat and ash, making breath an inconceivable physical difficulty.

Both dwellings would be exceptionally uncomfortable for humans, as humans are adapted only to the in-betweeness of the Earth.

Some beings—both angels and demons—tend to spend more time near the barrier than others, as a matter of personal preference.

On this day in particular, the barrier seemed weaker, a phenomenon that fluctuated with the moods of the Earth below, and a demon had begun discussion with an angel who happened to be close to the barrier. He was, of course, a demon, and sought, even through the simple act of conversation, to wreak havoc.

“You know, you should look at the barrier today,” he said slyly. “It’s growing rather thin. I wonder why that might be.” A toothy, sarcastic grin covered his soot-colored face, his eyes of ember twinkling with delight at the possibility of having irritated another being.

The angel rolled his eyes, not to be goaded by simple taunts. “The only thing that’s wearing thin is my patience with your stupidity.”

But the demon pressed further.

“It’s so much fun,” he said, with a snorting laugh, “to watch you, here, idly lazing about, while your power grows ever weaker. Just look!” he said, loosing a maniacal laugh, evidently reveling in his own wit, gesturing towards the admittedly waning barrier.

“Well at least we don’t have to do what you do to get what we want. They want to be what we are!” exclaimed the angel, finally goaded to the point of response. “If we bothered putting in half the pathetic whispering and running about that you do, you would long since have been destroyed. You’re fortunate that it has been decreed by god that mankind should be left to his own devices. And you’re fortunate that we”—he gestured towards fellow angels, absorbed in their own heavenly activities—“adhere to the words of god! Unlike the slithering scum that you are.”

“Yes, and look how far all your obedience has gotten you. We’re going to win—you must know that! Mankind seeks pleasure, and your kind…” he eyed the angel scornfully, “…well, who even knows what you’re seeking?”

The angel, finally goaded past the point of endurance, leapt out of his throne, and in his rage, seemed to fill the horizon, and whatever was beyond it. “We seek FAIRNESS, and JUSTICE, and HONESTY, these are things that bring joy, and these virtues have been LOST on your kind, hoping for the illusion of temporary enjoyment! YOU are smoke and mirrors, WE”—he seemed to grow even larger—“are TRUTH and LIGHT.”

“Honesty, are you?” scoffed the demon. “You’re nothing but a farce! An attempt at covering true nature—life is visceral, and chaos grows! And the best part about it?” He seemed unable to contain his amusement now, his gloating sarcasm spilling over into maniacal declarations, “is it is all by heavenly design! Or isn’t that what you believe, anyways?”

He changed his tone abruptly, asking with feigned, wide-eyed innocence, his voice an attempt at childlike softness that made him all the more grating, merriment dancing behind his soot-and-ember eyes, “Let me ask you a question! If you are all good…and god is all good…and god is all-powerful…well, where does my power come from! Why do we persist in the battle for humanity, if you could supposedly win over humankind in an instant with the supreme power of god?!”

The angel eyed him scornfully, debating whether to continue dignifying the taunting with response. He knew, truly, that no amount of explanation would cause such a being to change his feelings, let alone his actions. But it was difficult, to simply let things go.

He glared at the other being, his unfathomable beauty seeming to swell, light bursting forth as he deigned to answer, “You are an imbecile. You cannot seem to comprehend the gift that god has given humankind, which it seems he has not even given to us. Although,” he glanced around at the sun-filled, fragrant gardens, the air holding an inexplicable joy in its weetness, “to have this and the ability to glorify god is a truly incredible charity! We have this. We have beauty and security. Mankind has, instead, been given choice. God is all good. And we glorify god because he is all good. Choice is just, and almost suitable for Earthly matters, but it is certainly not all good!”

“Mankind may choose to ignore the gifts given by god, and refuse to acknowledge his glory! And then he becomes like you.” Disdain covered the angel’s face, as he glanced down at the minor, repulsive being, and said, his tone full of ridicule, “he becomes like you. He becomes a purposeless, ugly thing, dedicated only to chaos. Man can make any number of choices. When he chooses to turn away from god…that is what fuels your pathetic existence,” he spat at the demon.

“Mmm…if you say so,” replied the demon, with a passive shrug to nullify the angel’s intensity, wanting him to feel stupid, perhaps even mildly shameful, for his having even provided a semblance of emotional involvement in their debate.

The angel swelled again, “I DO say so. And it is easily proven!”

“Then…”–another cackle from the demon–“let us prove it!”

The angel finally removed himself from his throne and backed slightly away from the barrier. Members of his kind were not easily tricked, but it had happened before, and this seemed a set up—and yet if he were to back down and relinquish his position, the demon would believe that he had been correct and that their power did, in fact, surpass any angelic power. He could not allow this to happen; the position of divine will must be secured.

The demon pressed his nose to the barrier in response to the angel’s attempt to create distance. “What?! Are you scared? Scared of a being of my size, a mere ant in comparison to your supposed power!” Scorn and glee mixed in his voice to create an intoxicating, rage-inducing brew.

Suddenly, the angel, too, was pressed close to the barrier, his enormous, glowing mass pushing with almost infinite pressure against the barrier that separated them–the demon leapt backwards in shock. “FINE,” he asserted in his booming, massive voice; the entirety of the heavens and the pit had frozen, able to hear the tremendous projection. “IT SHALL BE PROVEN! IT SHALL BE PROVEN EASILY! We shall pick a man—no, a child—a child of a thoroughly ordinary man and woman, and shall grant him awareness of the realm beyond the worldly. This will be his gift and his test: we shall see what mankind will choose when he truly knows what lies before him.”

“Hmm…” the demon relaxed in mock-thoughtfulness. “But…what happens when I win? What happens when he realizes the utter worthlessness, the incredibly arbitrary nature, of the world before him? What happens when he realizes that none of it matters, and the only thing he can truly work towards is his own pleasure?” He cackled again, releasing a cloud of soot into the air.

The angel eyed him in disgust and felt a twinge of misgiving, which he quickly drowned in self-assuredness. Demons may be inclined towards trickery, but truth would overcome it, he told himself. “When you lose, your kind is banished to the depths of the pit. No more running about the earthly realm wreaking havoc. Humans may be given choice untainted by your disgusting, lying tongues.”

The demon laughed uproariously, his most intense bout of hysterics yet. “Alright! Okay! But if you lose, the barrier must be broken forever! The heavens, the pit, the earthly realm—all will be united into one delightfully chaotic mess! You agree?”

He eyed the angel, who pushed the last of his misgivings out of his mind, and said, “Of course.”

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