nails2Jacques is telling it…

My miracle has conjured a storm. Angry clouds smother the peaks and the valley purls with rolling thunder. Fighting the wind, I flee toward the river, past corals of stone where shepherds tend their flocks. The skies are crammed with stillborn lambs hanging from umbilicals of searing light. I stumble blind across Mill Bridge, poised on the brink of some cosmic revelation, too wonderful to imagine yet too terrible to contemplate.

The mill wheel turns in torrents, churning the dead from silted sleep, throwing flesh and bone high into air: the cadavers of sheep, washed down from the hills. I cry unto the heights:

She wasn’t dead! She wasn’t dead!

The imprints of His nails are glowing in my palms. How shall I carry the burden of His spiritual existence? Must I rebuke the Enemy in Hell? I was born into a chasm of Death, wed not to Heaven but the sods: a lowly churl in closest touch with common things – the beetle, grub and worm, whose abode is the grave. Who shall do miracles in Christ’s name and then speak ill of Him? [i]

Me,’ says Lucifer, smiting my face with hail. ‘You are a murderer and unclean in His sight. You think the Nazarene choose you? ’Twas I who sent the Cyclops. ’Twas I that leapt upon your horns with tongues of Holy fire. The miracle is mine. I am the power. I am the Life. I am the Light in your palms.’

I reel in dread and the whole earth slips out from under my feet. Breathless, I lean over the parapet and peer into the deep. My horned visage wavers in the weeds like a phantom: a repugnant devil, more monstrous than the Minotaur of Crete.

Satan purrs:

‘Do not cast such uneasy looks upon me. I am the mainstay of your entire existence. Search your heart. Which God approved you for these wonders and signs? Who sanctified you? Me.

No! I rebuke you!

‘What’s the matter child? Does the gospel prick your conscience? Is mine really the doctrine of error? Think of the devils He has set in His church: rapine priests and murderous monks. Beware. The artful schemes of the enemy are deeply planned for your overthrow. So be wise as a money changer: take that which is good, but reject that which is evil. Christ wants you to renounce the world, the flesh and the Devil. But this earth is where you dwell and have your being. Shall He lift you up above all bodily feeling? Shall he repair that miserable tunic of flesh? A recompense for what? Past life sins? What celestial rhetoric! What wicked scheme! Must you live like a hermit in a cave of penance? Flesh is your bane and blight: it wounds, tempts and decays. Yet what is the soul without Earth to nourish it? All earthly things are accessories to me. I will transmute your flesh in accordance with your heart! More than this, I will make you beautiful. Yes my child, I will intoxicate you with beauty. Thou art naught but a golem in need of my life-giving Word. Without my power, grace and guidance, you remain inanimate. Believe me, I have numbered every hair on your head. Who brought you forth into this world of flesh? Me!’

He roars and forks of lightning rip through the firmament. The skies of stillborn lambs have turned to human babes: embryonic phantoms, fed by nebulous clouds that flicker pink and blue. Their budding hands grope at the moon, as each is torn asunder, aborted, slain, cut out: a pitiless blade slicing through the heart of every human soul.

My stigmata ooze blood. How shall I betray the Christ? I might as well drink hemlock. ’Tis a bold and foolish presumption – that I possess His holy power! Who else shall lay hands upon the dead and raise them up? Master, release me of this burden! Unbind my hands and set me free!’

‘Be still, says He. ‘My burden is easy. Heed not the lips of Satan. He is the Prince of Lies. The miracle is mine. If I, by the finger of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God is surely upon you.[ii] These are the hands that bled in the desert; plucked locusts from the thorn; stole honey from the hive; fought devils in the dunes and beasts amid the rocks.’

My whole body is consumed by a fervent desire for the Host.

But Lucifer remains:

‘Why heed the Nazarene? His kingdom is not of this world. He has it in His power to effect your salvation, but he leaves you to suffer this forsaken realm. Do not trust in Him to remove your coffin lid. Only I have that power. Wait on Him, and you might as well crawl in the dirt for the rest of your life. His path is desolation and ruin. But I hold the hope of better days.’

‘Liar!’

‘He calls me Liar because I speak the truth and reveal the error of His ways. He calls me unclean because my judgement is sound, and my wits are full of reason. My exhortation is not in error, nor uncleanness, nor deceit. Mine is the spirit of truth.

‘You will turn me into Future Jack.’

‘Why do you fear Future Jack? Because he is moonstruck? Or because he is Jack? His asylum is not your destiny. Unless you refuse my pact. Either way, I shall never desert you. For I am compelled to pay all lunatics a visit each moon. And I can positively affirm, that the girl called “Jack”, whom the doctors call “mad” is not insane at all.

‘That is terrible.’

‘Terrible indeed. Ask yourself, where is the everlasting dwelling of the soul? By what mystery were you put in your mother’s womb? From whence did you come? Like me, you fell from glory into this base world. I have conquered, but you are still wretched and lost. I know why such pains arise in your heart. How shall you extinguish the fiery darts of your flesh? Know this my child: a spirit hath not flesh and bones. A spirit is naught but vapour. Serve me, and you shall taste the fruits of Paradise.

‘But your kingdom is Earth.’

Mine is The Garden of Earthly Delights. Would you like to be pretty? Would you like to taste honey? Would you like to wear silks? Whisper it child…’

Yes.

I have heard your fervent prayers. All mortals pray for miracles. But where are His graces and healings? Where are His apostles, prophets and doctors? Be zealous for my better gifts. I give unto you a more excellent way. Be ruthless like the cuckoo and thrive. Girdle your loins with my Light. Let me be your sole support and Death shall flee from you. At dawn I shall send sign of my allegiance: a blooming rod to seal our pact. Take this rod and let it be your guide, for it shall lead to my tabernacle…’

He fades in an onslaught of hail that makes the waters boil. I struggle home, battling the elements, my soul in shreds. The mighty oaks are tossed hither and thither, groaning, cracking and falling. It seems the whole world is rent in the tempest. The thunder is full of booming voices that roar like lions: the Lord’s wrath for raising the dead.

The way grows slippery and dark. I clamber a muddy bank, backsliding and clawing at the sedge, struggling like a cockroach in a cataract. Yet a bright new flame flickers in my heart: the desire to transmute and conquer. All my hope rests in Lucifer. And as I flee across the meadow, I envisage myself floating above the turfs in a tunic of Light.

Haggard and drenched to the bone, I arrive home and bang upon the door:

‘Moma! Moma! Let me in!’

The hovel is dark and forbidding, without a chink of light. I force the latch and burst inside, wind howling in my ears. The squall beats upon the stile as I heave it shut.

I am greeted by a sepulchral gloom. The fire is out. Darkness lies under my feet; it hangs about the rafters, menacing, cold and thick. I fear to pass lest I fall into nothing…

‘Moma, are you there?’

I grope for the pallet, fumbling along a fold of wet blanket. A flash. She glares with bloodshot eyes, hands clawing at the dark. I freeze in terror. Another flash. And there she lies, contorted on the bed, her limbs twisted like briars. I hesitate to touch. Her face is cold as stone.

Oh Moma!

The blasted oak moans with grief. His mistletoe maiden has gone; gone with the fast-fading bloom, that drops it’s golden leaves into the dryads’ hands; gone with Apollo into his sacred grove.

Thunder purls.

Her crown is clammy to my lips. I clasp the knotted hands that tore me from the womb and plaster them with kisses.

She died alone; she died in pain. Blessed Margot, who poured balm on all my days. Hail to thee wise woman! Midwife of berries and boles! Sweet deliverer and giver of life! Keeper of perpetual fire! Great Vesta, bright mother, queen of cauldron and hearth!’

Come back Moma! Come back!

If He would only raise her! To love and sing, and walk the Earth again!

‘I’ll fetch the mistletoe for you Moma! I’ll fetch the mistletoe!’

But the palms of Lucifer cannot bring her back.

Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2007

i. Mark 9:38.

ii. Luke 11:20.