THE DEVIL: CHAPTER 1

“It’s been raining in the mountains/And the river’s on the rise
And we cannot hardly/ Reach the other side…”*

It had been raining endlessly in the mountains for over a week. The normally placid creeks-usually ankle deep-had already swollen into raging, angry rivers bent on sweeping away everything downstream as they roared onward down slope. These raging monsters fed into the river which meandered into the valley from the foothills. And the river had begun to devour the low lying areas of the valley rather rapidly.

Tori had lived in these mountains for most of her twenty years, occasionally trading them for the dull flatness of the lower valley for the winter. Her brother, James, often led hunting parties throughout the region and had been away when the rains came. But she never worried about him. He had always been able to take care of himself. He had always been able to return safe and sound.

Something felt different this time, though. As if this was no ordinary storm and that their lives would be inexorably changed. It was a feeling, a premonition, she couldn’t shake. And she didn’t like feelings she couldn’t shake. They brought bad things.

The last time she had one of these feelings, they had lost Pa. Ma had been first, then Harkiss, then Pa. Philip was still somewhere out there in the woods, alive, but intentionally lost. Sara and Michael had both left the hills for the city, never to return. Thomas had been killed in a war, and David had fallen to his death a long time ago.

She had been three when David had died, and barely seven when Thomas had been killed. She had barely reached her teens when Michael left, and had just turned sixteen when Sara left. Phil left shortly afterward. Then Ma died.

Harkiss had been the moonshiner that grand pappy had been, but that had all ended in an explosion. People had found teeth and bone fragments for miles after the still exploded. After Harkiss’ death, Pa lasted only months. And each loss had been preceded by a dream…and a feeling.

Now was no different from then. Tori had dreamed that this storm was coming. She had felt the dread building–as if something evil was hidden within its folds of rain, howls of wind, and roars of thunder. She just couldn’t place her finger on what.

Outside, the lightning flashed angrily, followed by the loud cracks and ripples of thunder. The house shook as if an earthquake had beset the mountains. Tori was sure that small fires had been started along the timberline and possibly farther up in the mountains, but she was not about to venture out to find out for sure.

All she wanted was for Philip or James to return. She needed someone who would protect her. She needed someone who could soothe her fears. But she had no one. She was all alone.

*******

Philip stood atop the ridge just above his childhood home. He knew his sister was there alone. He knew James was away. Most of all, he knew what was loose in this storm. He also knew that it was up to him to protect his sister from it all.

Hell had been loosed upon the earth. An evil like no other now walked in the guise of a man. Philip had seen him.. He had seen the gateway open in the rocks. After all, he had been the one who’d found it and had done everything in his power to keep others away from it. He had fought to keep it closed.

He continued to do so, even after he’d found the stone tablets and ancient deer skins that contained the prophecy. Even after he learned that his vigil and his determined fight was all for nothing.

“God forgive me,” he whispered, “and grant me the chance to keep my family safe.”

With this, he plunged from the crest into the forest that blanketed the mountainside. He had to reach the house before the Evil One did. He was Tori’s only hope, though he didn’t know what he could possibly do. He knew that there was nothing a human could do to stop the ultimate evil, but he had to try.

******

James was beside himself. The stranger before him was pale, almost ashen, and looked like death. Yet, for one who should be dead, he was very much alive. His cold, emotionless blue eyes seemed to pierce a person to the soul bearing all their sins before God and the whole universe. Below his hawk-nose, a ribbon of blood-red thinly outlined his mouth. A wild mane of platinum, almost snow-white, blonde hair framed it all.

Seemingly frail in stature, the stranger had an amazingly strong vise-like grip that could bring even a bodybuilder to his knees. James knew he wasn’t what he seemed. He was much more. Exactly how much, James was unsure.

He rarely spoke. But when he did, his words were cold and emotionless. Often, he murmured softly in a language James imagined had not been heard for millennia.

“Stranger,” James had stated, when the man had joined the group, “I don’t believe you’ve told us your name.”

“You didn’t ask,” came the icy reply.

“I am asking now, friend. I must know who I am guiding and where.”

“Abaddon.”

“Last name?”

“None. Just Abaddon.”

The reply had been icy. Even more emotionless than before. But not empty. The name carried a lot of weight.

Abaddon. James knew the name. His new companion was also known as Apollyon. The keeper of the pit. Heaven’s jailor. The only one strong enough to lay hold of the Evil One, bind him, and imprison him.

James found himself if it was the end of time already.

“The time is not yet,” Abaddon’s hollow response came, almost as if answering James’ unvoiced question, “but he is looking to take her, and that cannot be allowed.”

“Take who?”

The look in his companion’s eyes made James wish he had never asked. Instead, he felt a compulsion to hurry back home. His companion touched his arm.

“Do not worry. We shall protect her. We three.”

“We three?”

“You, your brother, and myself.”

****

He had many names. Satan. Lucifer. The Devil. The Great Deceiver. Prince of Darkness. Lord of Lies.

All were correct. He had been corrupted before the coming of man. He had led the rebellion against the King of Heaven and had been cast out. He had once been the light bringer, but now was the master of darkness. And he was biter. He was supposed to be a ruler, not a servant.

He feared only a few in Heaven. The Creator. The Son of God. Michael. Uriel. Gabriel. Azrael. Abaddon. Raphael.

Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel barred him from ever entering heaven with any of his fallen. God and the Son had the power he craved. Uriel and Azrael hunted his followers relentlessly at the King’s behest. And Abaddon was charged with his eventual incarceration. And all had the power to call upon the Masshithim.

But he had taken precautions this time, to hide his re-emergence into the corporeal and very physical world of man. He had sent various lieutenants out before him to begin preparations. some were to spread fear and hate. Other, to spread famines and pestilence. the remaining were to escalate it all into a rise in wars and rumors of wars.

Then, when he felt all was ready, he emerged in human form. He had been amused at how man tended to represent him with a system of belief, a world leader, or the great horned satyr they called the “Old Goat”. And, so, he chose a rather plain disguise.

How better to hide than to be an undertaker? He had chuckled an evil chuckle. Better yet, An undertaker and priest, settling in the valley below the mountains. It was perfect.

****

Heaven loosed its protectors upon the earth. It was not time yet for the end. The confusion being spread had to be stopped. Michael, given the order, released the Masshithim to search the earth fr those responsible and to bring them to ruin. Azrael, too, had been loosed. As had Abaddon.

But hell had opened its gates as well. It had released one hundred and two of its one hundred and three princes upon the earth. Still, evil could never coordinate anything. And the Devil, being arrogant, never issued any orders clear enough to make their attempt all that successful. Each prince had his own idea just how to carry out the shady, unclear orders. And, thus, the chaos began.

Scattering to the winds, they began their reign of terror. Picking one hundred and two different cities,they began their assault on humanity. Only one, Beelzebub, had followed their high prince and begun to try and coordinate his attack with that of his lord. Yet, even he had handled it horribly.

His “storm of the century” approach had rapidly gotten out of hand. Too many pure of heart were dying uncorrupted. Not enough people were heeding his master’s call. He had not thought it out quite as well as he had believed.

*”The Devil”, cpyrt Hoyt Axton, verse 1-a. Used under license by permission.

(originally posted on July 22, 2014

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