Eager for the Fall
The last thousand years had been pretty good. Those who'd been around for any of the previous thousand still harped on about what a relief it was to finally have a government that cared and knew how to. It was so nice, they intoned, not to go hungry unless you wanted to, not to get shot while out shopping, not to have to change channels mid-movie because the dominant aesthetic called for a salutary stirring of the baser passions. Some of them still believed themselves and some of that select subset dreaded what was coming next, because they remembered what it was like the last time humanity had help in the wayward department and preferred endless, dull righteous harmony to the kind of gut-wrenching, blood-spilling, child-molesting uncleanness that the Devil and his angels no doubt had plans to reinstigate during their last rampage before the Big End.
Sakrim was aware of all this as he sat staring at his closet door. He was no dummy. Nobody born after the Coming was in any way challenged by what nature gave. They were all healthy, strong, bright little paragons of cherubic near-perfection, easy to give birth to, easy to train, easy to live with. They all learned what they were taught, obeyed all the rules (which were few, given the whole world's natural tendency to be good), and never got into trouble of any sort. The odd daredevil occasionally got in a tight corner from which death was the only immediate escape, but since death in that golden age of goodness meant nothing but a little pain and an instantaneous flicker from blessed mortal to even more blessed immortal, nobody worried much about danger. Loss of limb might have daunted, but as no one was actually clumsy or aggressive, it never happened and most of the living never thought to fear it as a possibility.
And so Sakrim sat staring at his closet door, atingle with the possibilities he was about to unleash on the world.
You see, the time had come. At least, Sakrim's calculations said it had---if it hadn't, well, what he was about to do wouldn't be possible, would it? The whole business was in a kind of what they used to call time vault. Until the time was up, the lock could not be tripped and the door could not be opened, so to speak. Timing was everything and, belonging to a blessed mortal with a knack for the arcane and mathematical, Sakrim's was perfect. Twelve more seconds, and the deed could be done.
He opened the closet door. His eyes fell on the usual inmates of a Millenial teen's bedroom closet: fashionable clothes (that evil had not gone to chains with the Devil), the latest sports gear, a few now useless or unused odds and ends of sentimental value, a few things that should have been put elsewhere but were perennial victims of sloth (another evil not so easily rooted out of the race). What interested him, however, could not be seen. It was a presence such as you might feel when playing blind man's bluff, akin to the warmth and soundedness we detect from other fleshy beings when our eyes are closed. Akin, but not the same. It was not warmth or sound that emanated from a tiny point in the back of the closet. It was an emotion Sakrim had never known but which lingered in the human psyche like a victim of sloth. It was fear. Unfortunately, Sakrim and the other members of his secret society of end-of-Millenium brinksmen experienced this fear not as an overpowering urge to fly or fight, but as a thrill, as the titillating promise of something forbidden and sweet, rather, he surmised, like the famous fruit offered to Eve at the turn of that earliest dispensation so closely imitated in its broad details by the one about to end. This fruit had a sweetness that could not adequately be described, though, of course, I will try to describe it.
It had the smell, as I said, of the forbidden, of the thing which, revealed, will shock and mortify those whom one might be inclined, by sheer hereditary perversity, to shock and mortify, people like parents and officials of whatever authority happens to hold the world in its interminable, narrow-minded grip. It reeked, in a tempting way, of vice, of all the lusts and passions a repressed adolescent might dream quietly of unzipping from the straitjacket of propriety and unquestioned tradition. It vibrated with a deep, musical frequency unheard by the ear but sympathized with by the very fibres of physical being. It cried, "I am delicious to the taste and very desirable to make you wise!"
Wisdom has never been the first priority of the young. Life does not spring forth to be wise. Emergent or carefully designed, it springs forth to live, to be, to experience itself in all its splendour and perversion. This was the time-locked truth set atremble in young bosoms the world over, bosoms now poised at closet doors, in quiet groves, under basketball hoops, and beside life-giving streams in every inhabited corner of the untroubled globe.
Sakrim reached forward and found the spot, the point of return. His fingers tingled. The hairs along them stood on end. The sensation of contact spread along his arm to his shoulder, across to the other shoulder, down the other arm, up his neck to his head, where the scalp seemed to burn and freeze, down his spine, chest, ribs and belly to the pelvis and groin, from there down both legs to the toes, his whole being a volcanic, glacial skirmish, the hunger and revulsion duelling in every cell.
Half the thrill is anticipation. Connoisseurs do not immediately leap from the bridge or plane or tower. They pause, testing the deadly air. They do not gulp the wine, but sniff it, swirl it, spit it out, savour the hints, pretaste the passion in the glass, prelive the bare intensity.
Sakrim was a connoisseur. He savoured the frisson of mixed emotions, the urges to flee in terror and to leap head first down the tiny, tempting hole vibrating with suppressed ferocity on his fingertip. His finger curled around the ethereal switch, gripped tightly and flicked.
There was nothing to see, but Sakrim felt the point expand before him and become an opening. A wind of taunting delicacies and long-shut tombs swept over him. He teetered on the edge of a lone and dreary abyss, a starless, gaping wound in space-time, a bottomless, lightless, hopeless pit out of which cries of intense, transient pleasure and never-ending despair reached up for him like the tentacles of some savage, ravenous, unfeeling monstrosity.
Sakrim recoiled. Now he thought only of flight, but every inch he gained in distance from that terrifying, invisible point in the closet was overmatched by the glacial pyroclastic surge he had so jauntily released. Like a plague of locusts or a storm of cloying dust it swept past him—through him—to fill the world.
(c) 2012 Mark Penny