WAR IN HEAVEN by D.M. Thraam

It was stardust, it was golden, I got caught in the Devil's bargain, but when the product turned out to be bunk, and the Devil was a narc, I called in the muscle and await the sound trouncing of his ass. And more so, that of his employer. I don't like narcs...especially when they play Good Cop/Bad Cop. So trite.

I got myself back to the Garden, you see. I hang out here frequently. This is a privelege granted me for reasons I will never know or understand if ever I do get clued to it...and I am not holding my breath.

I got back to the Garden, and almost never left, shacked up in a treehouse in the centre of the Tree of Knowledge with my pal, the subtle serpent. Who tells me all sorts of neat things. Things that made me realise I had to leave sometime and get some processes to start...well, processing.

The talking serpent - I call him Kunda, which he likes much better than the long version, which he says sounds like a nude belly-dance revue in Vegas performed around plastic palm trees. I guess Kunda's kind of mindbent, as he's never left this place.

In fact, he was telling me about that one day (or night, or whatever you call it in zones where normal time isn't even a consideration worthy of even being is measured) and the ensuing speech was what convinced me to take some time off from lotus-eating (oh, not TOO much time off; after all, I'm still who I am and that ain't gonna change no matter who's president on earth or God in Heaven. Or Gods, rather. It's much more complicated than the version they taught you, or even the Alterna- Version that I subscribed to because it was cheaper than cable and a lot more fulfilling.

Kunda was coiled around a branch, pendulum-swinging from it while I lay on the mattress stuffed with clippings from the svelte greensward munching another apple, con gusto. He was talkative, even for a talking snake. Talking snakes are rare, and I guess they feel they have to speak enough for all the ones that don't exist.

"Ever wonder...", queried Kunda, whose skin-patterns look kind of like what Escher would have drawn on DMT if he'd had access to a 21st century computer graphics program, "...why "God", that All Loving Father, kicked Adam and Eve out of here for listening to me, and eating that fruit there that you are so visibly enjoying...ever wonder why he threw THEIR asses out, but didn't banish ME?"

Actually, I had kind of been curious about that, ever since I was a child, who had pet snakes and who was verbally assaulted in rotation from all the neighbourhood children whose parents were Christians, and who told them not to play with me because my parents were not.

I didn't know anything about it. I just liked the pretty patterns on the skins of snakes and the rippling slithery way they moved. And the way they kept all the people away when I had one coiled on my wrist.

It kind of got to me, after a while, that whole bit about serpents being evil and satanic. They didn't even attack people, even the species which had loaded weapons in their jaws...they'd only used those for getting their dinner--or, if the goony apes stepped on them, to let them know it sure wasn't appreciated. In which case, for Pete's sake, why shouldn't they?

I got my Grandma's Bible from the box of stuff in our garage, and read that third chapter of Genesis, and I'd wondered, what the hell happened to that serpent, after the banishing of those first two curious, naive people, who'd just wanted a bite of fruit and a little knowledge? Why did they automatically get expelled for one mistake that seemed wholly arbitrary? Why didn't God tell them the reason the Tree of Knowledge was not for them? Wasn't the serpent right? Wasn't knowledge of good and evil something that one was fairly unwell off not having? My ten year old inner theodician went nuts on this stuff.

For that matter, how could getting knowledge of any sort at all be something wrong? It confused me, since I had to go to school every day, and I gathered that the point of it wasn't recess.

I asked some of the Christian kids about these things, but they didn't have any answers, only kept asking me to say these words, which I was told would "let jesus come into my heart". Wary of anything to do with hearts after my OTHER grandmother had a heart attack and died, I politely declined. They impolitely called me devil-spawn. I then began to not give a shit anymore until much later in life, and by then I had most of my answers. Now I just had a double load of questions.

Kunda continued to enlighten me furtherly.

"The two so-called eternal enemies, God and Satan, aren't enemies. They are old friends, kind of like your rotten president with the attitude problem, and those men from the other side of your spherical habitat who are supposed to be your nation-state's natural enemies. The one who bears that surname...what was it, "Full-Trashcan", I think?"

"You mean "bin Laden".

"Oh yeah. Him."

"Just like Bush and the Saudi terrorist, God and the Devil - Yow and Luce - they're tight as spandex and pretend to be enemies, and that Satan jerk being in the employ of the Rogue since the day his punk-ass was, well, made for doing exactly that."

"Go on."

"Yes, it was all part of a ploy, evidently a success, dreamed up by Yow, to get you people to kill each other more often, and more senselessly." I knew there had to be SOME dumbass reason that kept going on, like a merry-go-round ride whose riders thought their wooden horses actually took them somewhere other than around and around a circular mirror. "For the true name of God, or rather, THIS God, who is only one of thousands who are responsible for creating the heavens, earth and all that stuff out there outside this little terrarium - that universe out there, and the Diversity it's a section of, and the Metaverse that holds all of THOSE Diversities inside itself and also holds ITSELF inside of itself in a great big Gordian knot with no boundaries and no start or end..." "I get the point. Stop being so tangential, and get to yours already." Kunda apologised. I felt the drug - for of course that's what the deal with this tree was, its fruit was psychotrippical in exponential proportions.

"Anyway all that's moot, since by Agency rule, you people ain't gettin' to see any of that until y'all fucking grow up and learn to quit using nuclear weapons." That wasn't likely to happen in the next 20 or 30 years, so we were screwed, I guess, if we were counting on any of those First Contact fantasies coming true. I don't care. I already know a few alien consciousnesses and I like them, and don't need any strange ones that breathe different air and might say "Hello" in a voice so loud it causes death in hominids. I dreamed of that, once. So I guess there must be one. Right?

I wondered about something Kunda had said.

"What is Yow?"

"Yow", the name of Mr. Big Stuff Lord God Assmunch the Jealous God who is so self-assured and walks in such dignity that he will smash entire cities and destroy whole cultures just for honouring a god that's not him. I guess you can see I dun' much care for him." "Well, he DID curse you." Normally that's good grounds to have a beef with anyone.

"Fuck that, like I give a shit about being appreciated less than cattle. I'm not as good to eat for a reason. The only people who eat snake are Chinese and rabid rednecks who round up rattlers and say everything tastes like chicken. I'll bet they taste like chicken and just sort of can't taste anything else..."

"Stick to the point, Kunda."

"Untie my knot. That's why I'm so dithery right now. It happens sometimes. I'm not a normal snake and can't just unloop myself." "Was that the work of God? I mean..."

"Yow", Kunda repeated as I lifted the coil up and fiddled with getting his head through one end of a loop under his cloaca and out from the twisty spiral of his tail, and the arrow-headed thing at the end of it which I guess is the difference between a serpent and a snake that I had always wondered about.

"The name Yowwas merely mis-heard and miswritten as "Yahweh". Easy mistake...I coulda made it myself had I limbs to hold writing implements or mash keyboards with. The name accrues from this God's well- documented sadistic leanings: it's a universal sound human beings make when they are in PAIN, it's a sound made when you HURT, and one of very few utterances which means the same thing in just about all your lingos.

I thought about this and realised it was right.

'YOW!' A Chinese guy or a white guy or an Amerind, a rich man, a poor man, an idiot, a scholar: they all would say it if they bonked their thumbs with hammers while nailing something...like, oh, say, a rabble- rousing paean of unselfish agapelove, named Yeshua, onto a perpendicular arrangement of cross-beams, which was henceforth years later to become programmed into the heads of a few Romans and Hebrews by, as you know, the divinity which is poor Yeshua's 'father', in a sense, anyway. We all know up here Yeshua - Jesus - was borne from a zygote which formed from the egg of a woman named Mary..."

"And the Holy Spirit." I finished for him.

"Holy spirit, my ass. Yow put the mojo on a peasant girl who was travelling with her young husband. Their names were Mary and Joseph. Except they weren't really married. No one was ever supposed to know that."

I could see why. I could see the headlines if it was ever found out: JESUS: ACTUALLY A BASTARD!"

"The mind-mojo he wolloped her with wouldn't've worked as well on a woman who was legally married. Technicality. Because it was designed to get her to go lust-blind and schtupthat young Roman soldier - which was the source of the spermatozoa in question. Yow was, I assure you, fully responsible for her choice of boy-toy. Joseph, mild-mannered Joseph, would not do at all for what he was going for." >p> I thought he was going for having a son, but quickly re-assessed my ingrained Christian mythos to include a sadist instead of a loving God, which didn't take me long since I was already beginning to draw that conclusion just from watching America going to Hell around me while claiming to have stronger Christian values than ever. It fit.

"Mary met the soldier when he was wandering around after a battle after he got really, really drunk. He couldn't find his company, because they had all expired. He did find a lot of drink, causing him to ignore the gash in his arm which started to go gangrenous and ooze yellow, stinking pus..."

"Kunda, you can leave out these details, can't you? I'm starting to come on."

"Oh yeah, sorry. That was most inconsiderate of me. I haven't had anyone to talk to in a very long time, and Eve wasn't long on words. I guess I lack social graces."

"It's nothing. Go on with the story."

"So she met him at the river one evening and saw his arm and being the lady she was offered to nurse it. She took him to an inn, and--"

"I thought the inns were full up."

"Nine months down the line they were."

"Oh, duh."

"She took him to an inn, bandaged him up, got to talking and laughing. They went out and drank some, came back and since there was no TV back in those days they went straight to the "one thing led to another" part. Mary, of course, was ovulating--Yow wouldn't have picked her had she not been. And so, Mary was knocked up by a 16 year old Roman soldier -- recall, before you gasp, that Romans had rather abbreviated lifespans, and a 35 year old Roman was an old man..."

"Where the hell was Joseph while all this was going on?" I was really starting to get colourful around this point, and my eyes were firmly fixated on Kunda's fractalled back. He caught me staring and stuck his tongue out at me. I returned the gesture.

I guess that Yow character put this tree on the prohibited list because he'd wanted it all for himself. This was some fantastic shit, man!

"Joseph? That sod was always off messing with his sheep. He spent so much time with them that when he came back to Mary she would not get within five feet of him until he'd had a swim in the river, he smelled like walking sheep dung."

"I can see why Mary ran off and schlanged some kid."

"Kid nothing. He was middle-aged by their standards. Anyway, Joseph is absolutely irrelevant t

o everything. Forget him. While Mary slowly became more pregnant--" "Joseph must have loved that. Wasn't she supposedly a virgin?" "I said, forget him. The moron didn't even notice. He thought she was just eating well. Joseph had his sheep. Mary was just around him to make him appear half-normal. You didn't get far in those days if someone found out your pleasure was woolen grazing mammals of indeterminate gender."

"Okay, I get the point. Forget Joseph."

"Yow programmed the whole damn thing to happen so that he could do this: stick a bunch of code into the foetus that basically caused Mary's DNA to wither, so that the son would be not born of woman. " "What the hell for?" I asked Kunda, but I thought I knew already.

"One usually should assumes if there's a reason in anything Yow does, it's going to end up being that it is the same reason Yow does ANYTHING: Because he gets off on it, somehow. But there's more to it in this case: He was trying to create a warrior caste. He used that peasant girl at random for an incubator; she'd never know not one iota of her DNA ever turned up when she had her baby the following June." "June?" I thought Jesus was--"

"Christmas ain't even close to Jesus' birthday--that was a scam to get the Pagan solstice feast subsumed into a Yow-dominated holy day. So lies got spread about the date. Yow gets SO touchy about gods that are not himself. At least he admits it, but big deal. He's the inventor of "asshole". Satan is just a quisling, who only happened to even exist at Yow's behest. All the other Agents voted against that good/evil split, wanting to stay true to the more natural order/chaos dichotomy in their instruction manuals to the lab-designed critters...meaning you people. "So anyway...Yow was technically the father of Mary's child and the 'mother' was Pontorius Gonasticus. Who never saw his son after getting smashed and calling the emperor things redolent of Catullus couplets, getting heard by the wrong ears doing so, whose owner finked on him because he'd been owed money by him for years, and then he was captured and er, beheaded. Which of course was also the old man's work: he didn't want the guy running any interference."

"Yow seems really insecure."

"No kidding. And not only insecure, he was really lousy at getting anything he did to work out the way he planned it, because he went through all that to get a tougher guy than ever existed, and what he got was Yeshua. Lovechild, model to hippies centuries in the future, name corrupted to Jesus Christ. Served the bastard right. I laughed for days."

"Snakes can't laugh."

"Snakes can't talk, either."

He had a point.

"Yow not only got a soft-hearted man, he got something else he was not counting on: let's just say when we say Jesus preached love for one's fellow man, he took that literally in his own practice..."

"He was..."

"Queer."

I flashed back, in psychedelic technicolour, to the bet I had made about that in high school once, which a friend and I had both assumed would have to be settled posthumously. "Things are starting to make sense now. Why the Bible has bupkisabout Christ at age 18."

"How Yow could have expected a different result from a child of two really screwed up belligerent males who didn't have a maternal influence in his whole makeup, I have no idea. Yow isn't that smart, he acts, then apologises, says he'll never do something again, turns around and does it anyway and goes through the whole thing over and over." I listened as Kunda briefly outlined Jesus' decadent youth - essentially a three year pub crawl through the seedy side of Galilee. Or what would have been if those living in it actually were allowed to have homes. Most of Yeshua's 'friends' were eventually executed or ran away to other places. Daddy kept him safe, still holding out on the chance that if he could be deprived of sexual fulfilment, he'd go violence-happy and slot into the original plan. It was what happened to most human males, and still does, which is why your rotten president is so big on the Anti-Sex League crap. He sure isn't doing it for God's sake. That is a 100% load of Texas steer manure, but you knew that already. Well, Yow fucked up yet again, and his driving all of his son's gay lovers out of town or existence didn't have the desired effect. Jesus Christ was a nice guy. About the only part of the whole story the official version got spot- on."

"Everyone agrees about that... especially the people who are nothing like him."

"Not his fault. Daddy's doing. Yeshua never had anything much wrong with him but a little more naivete than average, and having an asshole for a dad, and everyone knows someone with that problem. But Daddy was getting sick of Junior's antics and hatched yet another plan to curb them: he had a chat with Luce - his lieutenant cop, essentially - and hatched a plan to get Luce to knock some 'sense' into his 'pansy-ass' son. Take him for a stroll, offer him the world's fucking oyster and the shell it came in, in exchange for allegiance and a little humiliating kneeling routine - and uh, who knows what else - tell him just for doing that, he could have unfathomable amounts of money, power, chicks--"

"I'll bet that offer bombed..."

"Of course it did. Jesus said no dice and walked off. Luce thought he was a congenital idiot. I credit his own idiocy for the plan's failure. If Luce had thought to add lush descriptions of young Jordanian servant-boys waving palmfronds and nine inches, he just might have gotten a bite on the line, and gotten Jeshua to kneel and worship him. After all, it wasn't as though his dad was all that worship worthy. Yet, the peculiar thing is, in his whole life, he never once spoke ill of his dad, when his dad did nothing but abuse him."

"Love thine enemy."

"That was the idea. Jesus preached that because it worked with Daddy. If he didn't argue, Daddy couldn't think of much reason to hang around and talk to him."

"The things people don't know about God...I wonder what they'd do if they found out?"

"You wouldn't want to know."

"Don't assume that."

Just remember I warned you, if you ever try to tell them."

"Let's forget it, I want to hear the rest.

And I did. Not hear, precisely. Receive...I was beginning to blend into the scenery and information was becoming a tangible thing I could hold in my head like I'd hold something in my hand and feel its shape. "Yeshua had his dad in a bind. He did nothing but love his dad, and tell everyone he met that his father was also their father, which is essentially true. Unfortunately, he was being kept in the dark about Yow's hobbies, so didn't know how much bullshit he was spreading."

"Hobbies?" God has hobbies. I shrugged.

"See, he has that name 'Yow' for a reason: every time one of you people on Earth feel PAIN, YOW feels pleasure. This has a lot to do with the state of things on Earth, as you might guess."

I suspected it had to be something along those lines. By now the apple, which had nothing to do with apples at all, was starting to really do a number on me. I got three-dee holovision for the rest of Kunda's talespinning. I was glad, for the hundredth time, that I had my connections that got me in the west gate of this place no one but Kunda knows about.

"Yow and his hobbies go beyond describability. He even killed his own son, as anyone'll know who's been following this from day one, and which you all were taught if you got the standard indoctrination. But forget that nonsense about how he died for your sins. He died for the sins of the fucking father - HIS. His death meant nothing but that his dad had finally decided he wasn't worth bothering with and just wanted him out of the way. And wanted to see the look on his face when he was betrayed."

"Ugh. That's hideous!" I glurped.

"Yow is evil incarnate, dearie. Look, who else created Lucifer?" He had a salient point there. But the evidence of whateveryacallit... son-o-cide...that was proof plenty.

"He didn't even have the guts to do the job himself, he did a run of mass mental metaprogramming - he messed with the minds of a bunch of specific people planting the murder plot in them in such a way that it caused them to think of his son as enough of a pain in the ass that they'd do a standard "send them all a strong message" execution - the style of the times being crucifixion, since it was nice and visible and prolonged death for a long time and was in general a sound deterrent to anyone else who might get a notion to be too uppity. Not that I am endorsing it. I think it sucks. Please tell that to the next dumbass satanic headbanger wearing anything that has a cross with a snake coiled around it anywhere on it. I'd appreciate it a lot."

I told him I would be sure to remember that.

"They were set up, wound and timed just like a bomb to go off when and where specified, and never had a clue of it. This happens all the time. Still. He does this. Constantly."

I swallowed. I hope Yow never did it to me. Somehow I was not worried about it.

"THAT plot, as we know, worked. Everything went down as planned, to the minute. And so it goes. And I never really forgave him. The fuck with the curse on ME, that meant nothing...that whole bit about making me eat dust, which as you can see I never paid the slightest bit of attention to, and here I am, still in Eden, simply because Yow has forgotten about me. Maybe he's thrilled with me, for giving him the excuse to torture his pets again. Yeshua had been spreading that hippie love stuff around that would have led to there being lots and lots of people who wouldn't be interested in the circuses and wars...and wars are nothing but death circuses backed by phony reasons, they're really nothing but excuses to commit murder legally and it's hardwired into humanity to do that - guess who wrote THOSE lines of the code?"

"I have no clue..." I said, and watched as two balloonlike sarcasm quotes floated in the air to bracket the breath accompanying my voice. "Ding ding. The god who wanted it all for himself so badly that he shut away this Tree so that all of those poor fools out there would be ignorant about the rest of the gods. Who are really not omnipotent, just a lot more powerful than you are, and known as something called Transversion Agents."

I didn't have to ask Kunda about that: the Fruit o' Knowledge was going full-tilt now and Kunda flickered his tongue and out came something I could parse as a packet of information. It zip-zoomed into my head and wheels spun and pictures, words, sounds swirled by a thousand times too fast for me to consciously understand, and yet in ten or eleven seconds I had the whole history of the Transversion Agents down pat.

It was quite interesting, to understate severely. They were - are - the ones responsible for changing the most basic existence in all creation, the ineffable qippothic stuff of raw order and chaos, into all the other more developed sorts of matter and energy, and combinations thereof, which manifest them.

They transmit and convert this raw material - transvert it - by means of a zillion arcane processes, into things, and then keep the balance of order and chaos loosely poised so that it remains - and this was a real headfuck to contemplate - in a balance between balance and imbalance. The imbalance part was necessary at times for there to be life; total complete balance and harmony deteriorates to entropy, which is essentially either raw order or raw chaos, depending on how you look at it. THAT in turn becomes something akin to food for the Meta-Gods.

Yeah, there's something higher up than a god. More than just higher up the hierarchical chart, more like the Alpha-omegan be-all/end-all of everything that was, is and shall be. And which are - at the same time - the greatest forces in all the metaverse, and the tiniest ones, for their 'minds' were so narrow that they have solely one imperative, and have been like this since DE expulsed CON from itself, and gave birth to Order.

DE was before CON, but CON was part of DE and the two were once one: no chaos and no order were there in anything. No differentiation. No definition, no noun, verb or adjective other than "IS/IS NOT" existed.

At some point (every point) a congealing and lumping occurred and density increased within DE. DE found it had a massive bellyache of sorts, and thusly split wide and out bounced the neatly symmetrical shape of CON. Thus Order and Chaos were separate, and the process of accretion was separated from that of disassemblage: the original Schisming which did not happen "in the beginning" but is ALWAYS happening, as is the rest of it to follow.

After CON was splormped from DE, CON tried in turn to expulse DE from itself...and failed. For Order contained not Disorder. Nothing came out of CON, or rather, Zero, the idea of Nothing, did. This fizzle frustrated CON and caused CON to declare war on DE, after which DE declared war on CON. The War in Heaven had begun and quickly Earth - and every other star, planet and piece of space dust, was dragged into it.

All these two ever think about or do is try to off each other. Sometimes they try to do it so determinedly that it ends up more like sex, and thus that raw jism that the Transversion Agents do their crafting with comes into existence. It is a war that's love and a love that's war, for each is totally necessary for the other to exist, and also, to have definition. Chaos is only chaotic when compared to order. Order only has structure when compared to the structure-lacking Void. The highest powers in existence, it would seem, are so primal as to be less than animalistically submoronic. They have no intelligence, only passion to annihilate opposition.

No one, human, Transversion Agent, or elemental - the elementals are the go-betweens that help the Agents sort out matter from energy and vice- versa; my 'packet' didn't cover them in depth - have ever communicated with a Meta-god. They just stand beneath them and catch the jism and the blood in these huge bowls (this was communicated in a certain italic- like form which somehow told me it was purely metaphor, the bit with the bowls and jism and blood; actually, it was ineffable stuff, which is why such metaphors end up used as explanations in mythopoeia and allegory instead.) Somehow the xenodimensional array was, and is still, handsomely rewarded by them--most of the Agents are subsidized dually, which is how it's supposed to be.No one knows what they are subsidized with or how. Our literature, our cultures ancient and modern alike, are loaded with their names, and their respective demesnes, which are like departments. Bailiwicks, essentially. It's.... kind of complex. But fascinating.

Especially since I have a close friend who happens to be, according to what he tells me, a Transversion Agent.

Kunda asked me if I was ready for the last part.

I had a feeling it was going to be a downer, but I nodded.

"Okay. Once upon a millennium, there was a guy named John, who one morning ate a bunch of fly agaric because he felt like a snack, flipped way out into the stratosphere and catapulted himself right into a melodramatic episode of mass proportions. When he could see his hand in front of his face again, he started to wrote it down. After that, he then disappeared into obscurity. The trip report, however, somehow got picked up and became society's most potent and dangerous memetic. And also the most prolific, as it was carried down through centuries and determined the fate of endless numbers of lives. It is regarded as a prophecy, but what it really is is a viral disease of the mass mind, a duplicative pathogenic set of notions spread by carriers called human minds. It is going to end up being what causes your habitat to destroy itself unless a miracle happens, and if you've not already guessed, Yow does not do miracles.

That was all lies. The miracle is that you haven't nuke-fucked yourselves YET. Your luck is not going to hold much longer though, since you're not getting rid of your shitting president who isn't even elected legally and who has millions convinced God put him there. Guess what, they're right. Yow DID put him there.

I gather the reason is clearly obvious. He will self-fulfill the Revelations prophecy and close the book on this comedy-opera. And the eerie thing is, he's totally aware of that. He's loving his role as Antichrist and getting away with it since nobody imagines the Antichrist as being so fucking idiotic, they imagine him as charismatic. He laughs at them.

He enjoys watching people die. Just like Yow. He is the perfect man of God, all right. "

"I KNEW it. "

"Revelations is just a bad mushroom trip. It sure ain't the word o' God, though Yow would have approved fully, and eventually DID, thus egging King James years later on into rescinding his decision NOT to put that wacko tract in the official authority version of the Bible. Consider for a moment the different world that would be yours had that fucking wack shit about monsters and plagues and dragons and lamb's blood and all that crap had not been codified into doctrine." I did. Briefly. It made me very sad. I wasn't in it. i was in the world according to Revelations. I was supposed to be in the world according to Reveling. We all were.

"The Bible is 40% historic observation, lots of it flawed or incorrectly cited, another 30% or so is pure human political tinkering, and the rest is a combination of linguistic drift, translation fuck-ups and about 3% of it is actually true, relevant and is what it claims to be."

"The Word of God?"

"The LOGOS, which translates into 'word' only indirectly; it also translates to glyph, hence, the word 'logo'. Your world is ruled by LOGOS at the moment, of a different sort. But that's a story for another day... What was supposed to be your manual for life on earth was the codex - 'the logos' - of the Agency. " "Logos. Word. Codex."

"Agency, consortium of the millions of original xenodimensional entities - discorporate beings of intense intelligence and incredible power, which filtered down from the entities borne of the essences of earth, air, water, fire--"

"I know about them..."

"...electricity, radiation, gravitation, delta-gamma-syncrete plasmoidica - oh,wait, that one's not in this universe, never mind - and there's the Caretakers, that pair of elementals that were borne of the first set, who cause the earth to stay moving, its crust alive and breathing and its blood flowing...They cause natural disasters. They aren't very happy about Yow shunting his pet project to your world, since it ended up messing it up probably beyond repair. The air/water Caretaker elemental, VSHILSHAVULISHEVILI, is particularly petulant. She does hurricanes and blizzards and floods--and for that matter, droughts. VREKAKEQUAI, her mate, does earthquakes and volcanoes. I guarantee you, if one more nuclear bomb falls onto that world, those two will erase you from it - they've sworn as much onto the Akashic Record. It's your final warning to avoid a permanent eviction notice - and not many are even paying attention."

"You're talking about the planet as if it were alive or something."

"Where'd you ever get the idea it wasn't?"

"Science." "Well, it's alive. It just isn't an animal, so it doesn't eat or reproduce. It's a mineral-based life-form. A rock by itself does not live; it is the gestalt that lives: sum total of all elements, energies, living things. And the humans, following the dictate of YOW, have shat in their nest and fucked it up, probably forever. Sometimes in between moments I understand Yow's hatred of his 'projects'. But then I remember his reason for even making you and it goes away.

The living totality of Earth is named Gaia and mistakenly called female; it is gender-neutral. It has fluid that moves through tunnels and it breathes through what lives rooted in it, eating its soil-elements: the plants. Oh, you - humanity, that is - were supposed to get photosynthesis, but when Yow and Luce putsched the whole affair and drove the other Agents into hiding, they vetoed that immediately. Plants don't scream loud enough when you cut them and they feared if you could produce sustenance you'd be immune from dependency on THEM. They had everyone convinced for thousands of years that worshiping Yow hard enough could make it rain.

Lots still think so. Every so often, he DOES do that, just to keep up the illusion. But then when bored he'll make a drought happen, sit back and watch lots of people slowly die. Watch them and catch the buzz.

Here's the really icky part...when they say those who die meet their Maker, it's the truth. He meets them. Then, eats them. It's the final cruel joke." I just stared at him. I could say not a word. He eats them. Has 'em all into the heaven schpiel for 70-odd years and then that last moment of consciousness they see their Lord God laughing at them and swallowing their souls, or Isms, or whatever it is that is the energy equivalent of your dead body. Apparently it's supposed to disperse into infinity and be recycled like all else, but Yow, once again, fucked THAT one up. "I'm beginning to think maybe this Yow has to go."

"Took you long enough."

Not really. It wasn't the first time that thought had crossed my mind. "The original program - which was instigated by the elementals acting together and was not intelligently planned as much as slowly accreted by a combination of tradition and attrition, was that the Agency was to have full responsibility for maintaining the balance, and keeping the entropy flowing out of your realm and back to the Meta-Gods. Thus making a cycle. It is the closest thing to 'nature' that ever was, and if it had not been usurped by one rage-drunk sadist among them who had been assigned no demesne of his own and got really pissy about it - there's more to it than that, but it gets way esoteric at that point because it transcends all human sense-bandwidths and thus has absolutely no linguistic referents to grasp and apprehend...

Nowhere in the bible am I, the Serpent, actually called Satan, except in Revelations. That chapter was put into the Bible to assure your temporaryness of span: Yow thinks he and Luce fucked up and made you people too compassionate. Luce convinced Yow that without some compassion the whole project would implode and that prized pain energy'd have to be found elsewhere-- meaning the only other elsewhere there was: amongst those belonging to the Transversion Agency.

"That idea was, as you'd gather, quite unpopular, and was soundly trounced. But the code for termination was snuck in at the 11th hour, like a rider on a Republican budget bill. Revelations was intended to self-fulfill by simple dint of belief that it was destined fate. And kawabing, kawaBOOM! Kind of looks like it's going to be that way, don't it?"

I didn't have to answer that one.

"Your only hope, admittedly barely worth calling hope at all, is to somehow get the attention of all the other Agents and get a fucking quorum again. There hasn't been a quorum of Transversion Agents since the Dark Ages began, or maybe even before that. The Transversion Agents were afraid YOW might do what he spoke of doing, and start taking out on THEM what he's been doing to YOU people. One of them who had something of a leadership among them, though unofficial and unbinding, spoke for the rest when it said: "Let the little clay garden-tenders that YOW keeps tinkering with, let them suffer the bastard's hang-ups, we didn't put that code in them, so we wash our hands of the whole mess."

"Then, it gets hazy--they apparently all retreated to separate dimensionalities and ceased most or all earthly manifestation. Here and there exist pockets of people who know their names. Some even invest belief and love in them, which causes them to stay interested and pay attention. If they get snuffed out, though, you're dogfood, because the only way to impeach YOW is to get a quorum large enough to not be cowed by his threats to torture them. And xenodimensional immortals, who can't die and who feel whole planetsworths of pain if they are harmed, are not eager to challenge him for that reason."

I could sympathize, especially in my enhanced state of empathy. But they did bail on us. What would convince them to return?

"The Metaverse, and all its universes and diverses and the Omniverse around our Metaverse, ALL that all was a committee project, not a one- man job, and it's ongoing, not over and done with. Does all that strike you as one entity's work? I can see you get the picture.

"Here, have an apple. Keeps the doctor away, they say. "

"I think I'm plenty full already." I had indeed more knowledge in me than I could adequately digest at this point. Still, just to be polite, I took Kunda's offering. Suddenly an idea occurred to me. I stashed it in my jacket pocket. I couldn't believe I was thinking of doing what I thought I was thinking of doing...

"Incidentally, Adam and Eve never even got a shot at gnosis: instead, they got a rotten, wormy fruit that wasn't even from this tree...a fake that Yow hung there, tied with a piece of thread. It was full of some evil smelling contaminant that, when ingested, caused an odd effect: shame. Particularly of one's earthly vessel. In other words, the body hatred humanity is obsessed with stems from this.

You weren't born 'fallen', automatically evil, that's just more lies... instead, eating the faux fruit causes one to became just a little too easily ashamed of one's own physical existence. First thing the Original Pair did when they get 'knowledge'? Worry about being seen nude. That wasn't gnosis, that was bunk."

Oh man.

How about a second chance?

"You're getting the real deal, the stuff Yow doesn't want your collective mitts on. Look, he's sadistic, not stupid. Why would he put a Tree of Knowledge here and then turn the little pets loose and hope they take your word on faith that it'll kill you. Right. He was just playing around trying to see if he'd made the species complacent enough yet."

Wait a minute. "Yet?!"

"Uh huh. You think you're the first-ever run of your kind? The template was designed so long ago time itself has no memory of it. You are the 119th pressing run, or didn't you know that?" "I kind of didn't, actually."

"Well, now you do. There were 118 prior attempts that never saw the outside of this Petri dish here because Yow and Luce pronounced them too intelligent, rational, and able to achieve states of satisfaction. That just wouldn't give that blasted asshole his cruelty fix without too much effort spent to spur them into getting around to killing each other. They didn't enjoy it at all, thought it was insane to want to fight wars or kill people because they don't look the same or have so much personal power-lack that they would be driven to crave dominating weaker ones among them."

"what happened to the other 118 uh...runs?" I immediately regretted asking.

"Um...he kind of fed them to that monster with the wheels and eyes and weird wings that are at impossible angles. It hangs out around the southeast end of this garden in over yonder volcano, and I'd recommend that if you see that thing, don't get curious and go get a closer look. I really hope you take my advice there, I've seen 118 purgings and don't wish to see any more.

"I'm just a serpent, and always was, I am not the Devil. The serpent I am is the one inside you. Only one of your races even got to the point of even discovering me and giving me a name."

I continue munching my fruit and watching, as ever, from the outside, secure in my knowledge that I, at least, have a Transversion Agent watching my back...the one called CHORONZON whose bailiwick is dispersion and outspreading, of order in service of chaos, of exponential orgasm and laughter.

Yow so dislikes him that he plugged a rampant phobia into the last century's most prolific metaphysician, so that future generations would not think to turn to him for help, knowing he'd be plenty happy to give it if it could. It almost worked, too. Yow almost stopped him. But it's too late for that, thank...er, thank the Powers That Be, excepting certain ones unnamed and obvious.

CHORONZON's fully awake and knows what needs doing. A lot of it won't be pretty, but it will be infinitely less horrid than nuclear extermination - or Yow and Lucifer drinking together in their own cosmic Abu-Ghraib, announcing the 119th creation of life on earth as RECALLED...

And having a century or two long binge. On the emanations of our purge. CHORONZON's got the names and numbers for the rest of them, and an old score to settle with the Rogue and his Pal, the Undercover Narc people call "Satan". Whose job it is to get all the people who annoy YOW together in one place and keep them good and unhappy so that his boss stays happy.

Look, Yow created this guy. The only other Transversion Agent who wanted anything to do with the idea of making a race of angels to be servants to them. "We can do our own jobs. Why must everything be you telling someone weaker what to do? Yow, how did you ever get accepted into this Agency?"

He smirked and mentioned his father. Who apparently wields a lot of clout. And whom none of the rest of the Agents - as well as Kunda, the talking fractal-backed Kia snake, know jack diddly-doo-dah about. There always, it seems, will be a terminus point at which knowledge ends and total mystery is all that lies beyond it.

But as they say: as above, so below. In earth as in Heaven. But ever since CHORONZON and LILITH and SAMAEL teamed up as the Gang of Three, pulled in a very angry ASHTORETH, a blustery APHRODITE, and a whole gang of twelve Aztec xenodimensionals with names I can't even mentally pronounce who make Lucifer seem like a kitten, the biker-gang from the hollow pyramid-volcano that tear, rip and gouge, and that's when it's something they have respect for. They might be able to put a quiver of justifiable pause in YOW's black heart.

Ever since they rose up and took back Eden, for the first time in how many damn centuries now, I sense you - my fellow citizens of Nation Gaia, might have a sliver of a chance. But a sliver, still. Kunda is ambivalent. "I hope you make it, I been rootin' for you, just between us. Kind of silly, but I like underdogs. But I detest lapdogs...and you got too many of them among you. Somehow, you got to do on earth what we've accomplished in Heaven. And you just go back there and tell it on the mountain, and get it going, because until you do, I am not going to let you have any more of that fruit. Save some for the victory party, or else, for the last gasp ghost-dance moment before the Fall. I mean the REAL one. Not the phony one that has you all hornswoggled. That ought to motivate you."

And with that, my friend slithered off into a stickerbush and left me holding a gutted apple core and a headful of the bizarre admixture of desperation, hope and some damned good drugs. Tomorrow I have to face the world again. I have something to give it, a little gift stowed away in my jacket pocket.

Provided I get past the wheely-eyed wingedy-thing, and slip by the cherub with the swords and bluff my way through the rest of the airport security detail, I think you're going to like the taste of it...

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