Continued from Part 3
Here in my own private Eden
I stare into the eyes of a snake
Like unto the one that deceived Eve
Seeking the truth that could unmake Satan
But seeing only the Face of Death
I am no stranger to Death
Hell, Hades and I are so close he loans me his keys
This is different
Nehushtan claimed his gift, his calling, was to uncover the greatest desire of other creatures
If so, I must have the world’s worst death wish
This time, death wears my face
Over, and over, and over again
Maybe this is what Dr. Strange felt
Living a million lifetimes in Infinity War
Dying a thousand deaths in the Dark Dimension
I see my life
All my lives
And they all end in death
Of course, all lives end with death
But mine are usually dark, and sudden
Killed by hidden forces
Too stealthy for me to prevent
Too powerful to overcome
But not always
Sometimes I live out my natural days
Those are worse
Often I am left alive
To see my enemy
Destroy everything I love
I ever fought to protect
But the absolute worst
Are the lifelines
Where I die in peace
Surrounded by wealth
Comfort and pleasure
While the world goes to hell
And I do not care
Because I have made
My deal with the devil
Earnest: This? This is how you feast on my soul? By forcing me to experience the futility of all my dreams, as a series of nightmares?
Nehushtan: I force nothing. In my hunger to find myself, I merely draw out your inhibitions. You and you alone create your own future. Whether it is horror or pleasure is entirely up to you. Either way, the agony and ecstasy feed my soul, at least for a time.
E. You are a sick monster!
N. Perhaps. But are you any different? Do you not yourself feed on the accumulated life of plants and animals? Even if you do not kill them, are you not continually extending your life by consuming the fruit of theirs?
N. Don’t blame me for your darkness. I am merely showing you the fruit of your desire.
E. Then… is there really no hope?
I don’t know how a snake with no shoulders can shrug, but somehow he does!
N. That… is above my pay grade. I can not speak to reality. I care not for truth or lies, good or evil. I am what I am. All I know is my hunger, the desire to feed on the desires of others. It defines me and controls me, just as your desire — even for good — defines and controls you.
E. Wait. What did you just say?
N. Your desire — even for good — defines and controls you.
E. No, not that. “Above my pay grade.” I know you plucked that metaphor out of my head, but it must refer to something within your conceptual reality.
N. [pauses, thinking] The only image that comes to mind is of the food chain. Which means the one above me…
E. Is an eagle. Got it. Thank you!
N. Wait, what?
E. I said, “Thank you.” You have given me my next clue. That’s all I ever really needed, or wanted. You have played your part well. I am grateful.
N. But… I tortured you! Crushed your dreams. Unmasked your secrets. Mocked your heroics. Ruined your life, as me and my kind have done for all of human history!
E. Exactly. And I know it hasn’t been easy for you. I am truly sorry for the price you had to pay, for the part you had to play. But this… this is the way it had to be. After all, I knew when I signed up that I would have to lose my soul to find it.
N. I… I don’t understand.
E. What exactly do you not understand?
N. After I consume their souls, most people just wither away. The strong ones, though, they become like me. Seeking to dominate and consume others to fill the void within. But you… thank me?
N. Ah what?!
E. That… that is it! The truth I’ve been seeking. The truth that Satan dare not, can not believe, because if he did he would cease to be Satan. The truth that would trap him, and set the rest of us free.
N. I am so confused right now.
E. Of course you are, because it was the one desire hidden from you since the dawn of creation. And… it had to be. Because if you had ever tasted of it, you would never have hungered again. You would have died happy… and your part would have gone unplayed.
N. Sir, what is this desire? Give it to me, so that I no longer need to drink from the well of human suffering!
E. I… can not.
N. But you must! How can you deny me that for which my soul craves?
E. You misunderstand. I am not refusing you. I am merely stating a fact. I cannot speak this Word without unmaking myself, and perhaps all creation. Not even to myself. It does not even fit in my head. All I have is a hole pointing to where it should be. I am sorry.
N. But why?
E. This was the very Word that was spoken to create the universe itself. It can be experienced, it can be remembered, but it cannot be spoken.
N. And so… I hunger still.
E. Perhaps. I cannot give you fulness. But I can give you the next best thing. Maybe even a greater thing.
N. What is that?
N. Joy? What joy is there for such as I, condemned to be alone by my need to feed on the dreams of others?
E. Ah, but that’s just it. You were never alone.
N. Spare me your greeting-card cliches, boy. Were you there when the Creator Himself cursed me and my line?
E. Why, yes. Yes, I was. Same as you, I was there in my Father Adam, who was cursed even as you were.
N. So you know the bitter truth!
N. So is this another of those deep truths you dare not speak?
N. Hey! Not cool, bro.
E. Sorry. Anyway, the truth is that the hunger you feel is not a sign of your emptiness, lack, or defectiveness. Rather, it is an echo — perhaps the strongest resonance — of the hunger all creation feels as it waits for the sons of god to be revealed. Which itself, universal as it is, is but a shadow of the deep longing of God Himself for His children to know Him, and themselves.
N. You mean…
E. Yes. Everything you once hated and despised about yourself was actually the part of you closest to the heart of God.
N. But… if He loved me that much, why did He curse me?
E. To be blunt, because you deserved it.
E. Sorry, perhaps I should’ve said you needed it. It has been an evening and a morning, and it is time for a new day to dawn. There is much to do, and I am impatient. But so were you. And so were my Parents. They… like me… were demanding answers too terrible for them to understand.
I stand up, and look again into the snake’s eyes. No longer with fear, but with love.
E. The curse was actually a gift, to preserve them — and you — from knowledge that would unmake them. By Naming their sin, God took that Word upon Himself, sparing them — and you — until the time came for Christ to make all things new.
N. So… is this now that time?
E. That… is what we must ask the Eagle.
To be continued in Part 5