Finale – Now Available!
Soaring through space, and time, and countless other fluid quantities of being, getting one’s bearings is a complicated business. Plunged into their very flow, it can be difficult to measure any of them with certainty. For this reason, it is entirely possible that Gabriel has been punching Doctor Blood for more than a thousand years.
And it is Doctor Blood, the real one - not some amalgam of divine will and human conduit. Any remnant of mystic power has long been beaten out. The Book is gone, and in its place are the ten thousand regrets which are wreathed around his heart. The Book had manipulated him, certainly; but in the end, it had given him what he wanted: passage into the very mouth of Hell. If he is being struck repeatedly - and he is being struck repeatedly - maybe he deserves it. Given the gruesome weight of his evil acts, it might not be possible to beat him enough.
The blows are still being delivered when this spiraling pair hits earth, or Hell’s earth equivalent, a burst of granular stuff announcing their arrival on the beach of a tremendous red sea. There are a few moments of silence, bundled together in close proximity, after which Doctor Blood is thrown out and Gabriel leaps up after. “You’re a real can of peaches, Doc,” he says. He is looking out at this sea, whose waves are coaxing mournful tones from jutting ribs of some nightmare mineral. He shakes his head. “Just a big ol’ fucking can.”
“I’m going to rest for a little while,” says Gabe. He flexes his fingers a few times, knits them, and gives them a deep crack. Stays limber. “Don’t go anywhere, though,” he says, getting into a side bend, really leaning into it. “I’m not done punching you yet.”
The newcomer is looking at the fine stitches that affix his arms and legs to their rightful places. There is a silver whisper of a thread, glinting and fine, barely visible in the crease. He knows without seeing it that a similar braid exists around the base of his neck. He can contextualize the others, bin them mentally as this or that, curiosities. For some reason, this bit about the neck is authentically disturbing. He thinks about touching it.
Black rock so smooth it appears to flow surrounds him. He is lying atop a bed, or at any rate a slab of the same material. He drops his feet over the side, expecting a cold reception. He is surprised to find the floor almost inviting in its warmth.
The room has no door, but why would it? What would privacy even mean here, he thought? In the end, he surmises that it would mean jack and/or shit. And here was an object lesson for why exactly that was, leaning against the round portal that denotes the room’s exit: what might be an exact duplicate of himself, smiling at him, clad in a loose hooded robe of simple construction. He is carrying a similar robe, which he tosses to the naked newcomer, who just now has become consciously aware of his nakedness. He catches the robe, and shifts it strategically.
“Don’t worry about it,” says the friendly doppelganger, and chuckles. “It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”
Properly garbed, the newcomer and Mr. Has-My-Face emerge from the room into a kind of warren, walking an upper tier that looks down into a great common room where men in robes boil and shift in the prosecution of some unidentifiable task. He leans over the rough railing, takes a breath. It is at this point that he decides to ask the first of many, many questions.
“Can you help me with something?”
“Possibly,” comes the reply.
“I never understood why we called it the Quartet For the Dusk Of Man if it only had three verses,” says the newcomer.
“There are four verses,” comes the reply. “That’s why. Listen.” And he begins.
When two Gods wait on the windowsill
The wick of the world is burning, still
But when one God in triumph shouts
The candle of the world goes out.
“I know that part,” says the newcomer, realizing very quickly that he has spoken out of turn.
A long pause. Then, at last, his associate continues:And when that candle, bare and white,
Sheds at last its dancing light
Then we will rouse, with raiséd rod
To pierce the very house of God.
“Oh, oh,” he says. “So that’s how it ends.”
“Yes, son,” he replies. “It is.”