Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
 
Editorial    
Long Fiction and Serials
Short Stories
Flash Fiction
Poetry
Features
Series
Archives
Submission Guidelines
Contact Us
Forum
Flash Writing Challenge
Forum
Dan's Promo Page
   

The Devil's Repent

by Iain Cambridge




PROLOGUE

This is now a silent world, free from the background sounds of industry and civilization. The sky had burned for a thousand years as a result of the igniting of a lifetime of poisonous gases being pumped into the atmosphere. A huge, unimaginable loss had befallen the human race and all that was left now in the wake of the biggest disaster ever to strike mankind down, was shock-induced peace.

This was my doing.


Looking back, I can see now that she would have been the turning point in my life, the one person that would have put me on a better road.

But the folly of youth casts a seed that grows into a choking weed.

My name is Luci.

Over the years I have been referred to as Beelzebub, The Morning Star and by far the most popular--Satan, and for thousands of years I have been recognized as the first of the fallen, the Archangel that went to war against God.

It was a war like no other.

A war that made all the wars you have ever had seem like weak echoes of the original. It was a war fuelled by pride and jealousy, a war between Angels, an unfortunate result of which ended with my followers and I being cast out of paradise and into a realm of fire and brimstone.

Frozen in the depths of Hell I spat my vengeance at Mankind as the war raged on, driven by a hatred born of sorrow.

The love of my Father had been taken away from me, and from my prison, I spent the millennia using every trick at my disposal to turn the righteous away from the truth, blinded by hatred as to what that truth really was.

One of the many things I lost in the many battles was my immortality, don't get me wrong, my mortality would take me to the end of time, but that end would include mine.

The war is over now.

The battles that raged scorched the Earth and left the plains strewn with the corpses of Angels and Demons alike.

The gates of Heaven have been sealed.

Hell has frozen over.

We won.

We tore through the resistance that guarded the celestial plains, killing any spirit that stood in our way. Level by level we fought our way to the top of existence until we found "The Watchmaker."

He never looked up from his work, even as we stood in front of him dripping with the blood of his army. Instead, he carried on working on his precious creation--seemingly oblivious to the carnage that had been happening outside his door.

My anger grew so much at his arrogance against the millions that had fallen in his lost cause, that I stepped forward and raised my sword, ready to take his existence from ours.

Then he spoke.

"Do I not get one last request, Lucifer?"

I paused in my actions and lowered my weapon. Its flame died down, but the blade still glowed with the anticipation of Death.

"What possible request could I grant the Watchmaker?" I asked.

He put his tools down and removed the eyeglass he had been using to see the minute mechanisms within the device that he had been working on.

He looked up at me and then to remains of the fallen that had fought by my side, and at once, they all fell to dust before my eyes. I returned his gaze, fearful that I had forgotten the power that he commanded, but vengeance filled my heart with enough bile that would overcome my fears and force me to stand my ground.

"I have returned your clan from whence they came."

"I will raise another army, as I raised them." The anger in my voice made it quiver and I cursed myself for giving the impression of fear.

He stood up and walked over, stopping before me.

"I am sure you will, Lucifer--I am sure you will, but you have not answered my question."

I tilted my head to one side as to suggest that he needed to expand further on his last remark.

"My last request," he said. "Do I get one?"

I sneered at him as I spat my reply. "If it will end this charade--then name it."

He walked back to his workbench and picked up the small apparatus that had been seemingly more important than the destruction of everything he held dear. Using his eyepiece, he checked it once again as if to make sure that it was finished.

"Here," he said "a final gift, from me to you," and with that he tossed it over to me. I snatched it out of the air without taking my eyes from his. I raised my eyebrows and tilted my head once more in question.

"A goodbye present--or maybe the spoils of war, you can choose." I dared a glance down in order to see what it was.

"Feel free to examine it," he said as he sat down once more "don't worry, you will get no resistance from me. I concede Lucifer--you win." He placed his feet on the workbench and put his hands behind his head as if to add animation to his surrender, and so I looked a little closer.

It seemed to be a small fob watch that had the words 'Repeat or Change' on its outer casing.

"What is it?"

"A chance maybe--for us both."

I gave no reply, leaving a gap for him to fill.

"She was to be yours originally--I think deep down that you knew that then and still know it now, but love, like all the things worth having, has to be fought for. You gave in too soon Lucifer, way too soon."

"You let her grow old and return to dust rather than let me have her, just because I freed her from the prison that you had them both caged in."

At that point, the light in his eyes glowed red in anger--enough for me to re-ignite my sword.

"It was paradise."

"It was a cell, built for your own amusement, to be filled with puppets that would fawn over you, forever."

The anger in his voice was growing. "They had free will."

"An oversight on your part, and you know it."

At this, he calmed himself. The light in his eyes paled to white once more. "Maybe so," he said sadly.

There was a silence between us as his words sank in. It was something he had never admitted to, and I believe now as I did then that it was just as much as a shock for him as it was for me.

I broke the silence.

"So what does it do, then?"

He looked up as if confused at my question.

"The watch--or whatever it is."

He swung his feet down from his bench and leaned forwards, placing his hands before him.

"If you could go back to that time--to that place, what would you do differently? Now that you know what you know and have suffered as you have--what would you do to change that moment?"

As this was to be our last conversation, I pulled up a box that contained the materials he used to make his little worlds, and sat down.

My sword still glowed as if to show him that I was still on my guard.

"Well," I said, "temptation didn't work."

"Well that's true enough," he agreed.

This drew a smile from both of us.

As Heaven was burning and creation was on its knees, we actually made jokes.

"We used to laugh all the time, you and I," he said, still smiling.

This old man, or whatever he was, still bore the physical signs of youth and his innocent remarks seemed that of a mere child. If I had not sat by his side for so long I would swear now that I was speaking to an equal, and not my Father, and if I had not witnessed his power for myself I would be drawn to stand down my assault with no fear of consequence, but I knew better, and had seen worse.

"We had things to laugh about."

"What changed, Lucifer?"

His comment caused my sword to ignite as it reflected my anger.

"You grew bored with me--with all of us," I snarled. "Not content with our company you looked for something else, and when you found nothing to amuse you, you built a 'Man.'"

The last word almost caught in my throat like bile.

He stood once more and resettled himself on the edge of his workbench. "Is that what you thought?"

"Why would I, or we think anything else? They had their own paradise and were to live forever."

He walked over and sat next to me. "You were supposed to join them, to become one with them."

I looked into his eyes. They where as white as snow and showed no emotion, except--from inside you could feel someone looking back at you, as if there was another in there with him. I said nothing and gave him the space once again to continue.

"They were made for you all. To bond with, to love and fill the new paradise with offspring. It was all designed so that you can see and feel the pride and love that I do when you see sons and daughters of your own loins carrying on your work."

He seemed to grow a little sad at this point. "This came with a price of course."

"Rebellion?" I said

He smiled once again.

"No--mortality, both yours and mine."

"You have no mortality."

It was a statement rather than a question.

"You are correct, but I can relinquish my immortality--if I choose to."

From anyone else this would be seen as a stalling tactic, something to delay the inevitable. Although my sword would not kill him, it would take him from this plane and banish him into another. This would leave me alone in this existence and be effectively--a God. He knew this, and so this last conversation was more of a confession than a plea for mercy.

"And you were willing to do this," again, a statement, only this time tinted with unnecessary sarcasm, for The Watchmaker could never lie.

He stood again and walked over to the small window that once gave him a view of his world, only now it showed a burnt and charred ruin, populated with the stricken and fallen together.

"What have we done, you and I?"

I walked over to him and stood by his side, which drew memories of happier times. We both watched in silence as we viewed the devastation.

"This is my doing," I said, "and I am sorry for nothing."

"Then I will be sorry for both of us."

He turned to me, but before he could say anything, I said, "What does this do?"

I held up the device.

"It is, as I said, a chance for us both."

"A chance for what?"

"Salvation, hope, happiness--you choose."

I looked at the object a little closer. It had a small catch on the side that allowed the top to be opened, but before I could open it, he placed his hand over mine.

"Let me explain a little more."

He saw the look on my face at his touch, and so removed his hand.

"The 'moment,' let's call it that, has been locked in there for all eternity until the people, or person that are contained in that moment choose to open it."

"That would be me then, as the other two have been returned to the dust you created them from."

He grinned with the air of someone who knew something that no one else did, which in his case was an awful lot. "She was never made from the dust, Luci."

This was a name he had not called me for so long, and I started at a long forgotten emotion that awoke within me--Hope.

"The choices that are inscribed on the cover are yours to make. You can repeat everything you did back then, or you can use what you have learned from our--'struggles' together and change everything. You, Her--all of it."

"Struggles." I asked, "Is that what you call them?"

"All this need not happen."

I smiled at him. "You know what that would mean?"

"Do tell."

"I would know more than you."

He laughed an easy laugh. "Indeed you would--if I were there with you,"

I was confused by his last comment. "Of course you will be there, you're omnipresent."

His eyes flicked down to my sword that still glowed with the fires of vengeance. I looked at him with confusion.

"As then, sacrifices have to be made. Last time it was our mortality, this time this includes my existence. You see Luci, the device will not open if I am in here."

"You knew this would happen," I said with cold realization. "From the very start of it all, you knew that this time would come."

"Go back and claim her, Luci. Go back and live the life I built for you. Do this and remember what has happened before and what could happen again. They need no one to worship; they just need someone to guide them. Someone who had felt a pain they could never feel."

"Repeat or Change," I said to myself.

I looked down at my sword only to find that my hand was empty, for now The Watchmaker held it. Its flame burned blue at his touch and its heat had been replaced by a blast of ice-cold air.

The alarm I felt at this was obviously reflected on my face. As I stepped forward, I found that my feet firmly fixed to the floor.

"Trickery?" I spat.

"None on my part, Luci. The sword has chosen its true destiny, one that says that you will not decide my retreat from this plane."

My look of alarm must have turned to confusion, for he added, "You will kill no more my friend."

With that, the sword struck its mark--and the device opened.

***

My name is Luci.

Over these past years, I have been referred to as Husband, neighbor, friend and lover, and by far the most popular--father.

The world is a happy and peaceful place, populated by Human/Angel hybrids. There are no wars, no disease, and no famine.

There is death, but only after life has run its course.

We worship no one, for there is no one to fear and command us.

Eve and I lived a happy and wonderful life together and produced many sons and daughters, who in turn filled this world and many more besides.

She died in my arms some time ago at the age of one hundred and eighty three, a victim of nothing but time.

However, this paradise was paid for with both life and death.

The Watchmaker removed himself from our existence as a punishment for his folly, whilst I get to live as a mortal. Don't get me wrong, my mortality would take me to the end of time, and that end would include mine, but until then I live my life watching all that I love eventually turn to dust.


THE END


2015 Iain Cambridge

Bio: Mr. Cambridge stated writing in 2010 when he became ill with cancer as an aid to recovery. Now fully recovered he still loves to write and gets no greater thrill than when he finds someone who enjoys his work. He is originally from England but now lives with his wife and son in New Zealand.

E-mail: Iain Cambridge

Comment on this story in the Aphelion Forum

Return to Aphelion's Index page.