December 4, 1993
Gulf Of Mexico
Right on cue, people noticed the sun speeding up. There were times when this would have been a cause for concern. As it was, the astronomical community just shrugged their shoulders and said “Uriel’s doing something again”, and there the matter rested.
The unplanned solar eclipse of December 4, 1993 would reach totality around 11:08 over the Pacific Ocean. The path would continue northeast, until it reached the point of longest duration of totality over the permanent hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico just after 2:30. From there it would pass over Florida before dwindling away in the North Atlantic.
“ARE YOU READY?” asked Uriel.
“Didn’t I tell you last month?” said Sohu. “We are going to rock this eclipse.”
“I AM GOING TO HAVE MICROMANAGE THE MOON FROM THIS POINT ON,” said Uriel. “IT IS VERY DIFFICULT. PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB ME UNTIL TOTALITY HAS PASSED. YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO?”
“Yeah, for the thousandth time,” said Sohu. “When the totality hits, step into Yetzirah, look through – not with – the eye – and report back.”
“YOU ARE GOOD,” said Uriel. “QUIET TIME NOW.” He started rearranging the glowing letters in front of him. It was a new moon, so Sohu couldn’t tell if the moon was wobbling in the sky or not.
Sohu took out a book – not the Torah this time, she’d been able to teleport to some bookstores and get some light reading and had developed an appetite for comics – and sat on the edge of her cloud, glancing up every few minutes to check the state of the sky.
Uriel suddenly broke out of his trance, stared right at her.
“Is everything okay?”
“YES. I JUST REMEMBERED. I FORGOT TO TELL YOU. DO NOT STARE STRAIGHT AT THE SUN. IT WILL HURT YOUR EYES.”
“Thanks, Uriel,” said Sohu, with an eye-roll, and returned to her pasttime as Uriel returned to his.
Into her head unbidden came a verse from an old poem:
The moving moon went up the sky
And nowhere did abide…
She couldn’t concentrate on the comics. She put it down on the cloud, carefully folded to the last page she had read. Another verse, this one from her kabbalistic studies:
I reign over you, sayeth the God of Justice, in whose hands the Sun is a sword, and the Moon a through thrusting fire…
The sky started to darken. Ignoring the archangel’s advice, Sohu risked a brief glance at the sun and saw a bite taken out of it.
She readied herself for trance.
The sky got darker. A few stars appeared. Now she was sure she saw the sun wobble. Uriel must be working very carefully, giving her as much time as possible for what she had to do.
She began to drift off. Moon. Yareach in Hebrew. Corresponding to the sephirah Yesod. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun to Earth, so Yesod reflected the lights of all the other sephirot into the physical world. New moon. New Yareach. Just as New York City reflected all the peoples of the world into America. Give me your tired and poor. Alas, poor Yareach, we new him well.
She reached out to step into the thing the moon was a metaphor for.
“It looks like we’re having an eclipse party and I wasn’t invited.”
She opened her eyes, already knowing what she would see.
“A solar eclipse is a once in a lifetime event,” Thamiel told her. “And totality only lasts five minutes. I wouldn’t want you to miss it because you were spending the whole time in Yetzirah.”
Sohu very carefully backed away from him. It occurred to her that if she could get into the flying kayak, she might be able to launch it off the cloud before Thamiel could stop her, then get blown off somewhere far away by the storm.
The Lord of Demons shook his head, then reappeared in the flying kayak. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not here to torture you. A waste, without Uriel around to watch. We’ll just stay here and watch the eclipse together. In Assiah. The physical world. It’ll be fun. Just small talk. You and me, mano a diablo. The two of us so rarely get any time alone together.”
Sohu sat back down on the cloud. “Talk,” she said.
Thamiel picked up her comic. The book burst into flames in his hand, then fell in a spatter of ashes onto the cloud. “Really? Comics? We need to get you some more wholesome entertainment. Do you know what I do for fun? You know those electric fences for dogs? I find a dog with one of those electric fences, and I stand just a few feet outside with a big juicy steak. The dog runs towards me to get the steak, then gets zapped, then runs back into the fence, then tries again, gets zapped again, finally just sits on the edge of the fence while I eat the steak in front of it. It’s not the most efficient way to cause suffering, but you can’t always be all about efficiency, you need to leave some time for yourself, do you agree with that, Sohu?”
Talk. In Hebrew, d’var. Diver. Getting to the bottom of things. Differ. Resolving conflicting opinions. Differ contains di-, the prefix for two. Thamiel. Duality in God, also a two. Attempting to distract her. Another di-. Two channels. But they could become one channel…how long left in totality? Two minutes? One?
Thamiel broke off suddenly. “Oh, I see what you’re trying to do,” he said. “No! Bad Sohu!” He took his bident and drove it into her head.
Pain. Blinding, searing pain. But worse, wrongness. Impossible wrongness. Pain. Sounded like pey. Pey is a yud in a kaf. The divine spark in the human form. Pain is of the human form. But still a divine spark within, able to direct it, transcend it. In Hebrew, ke’ev. Sounds like kaf. In Hebrew pain is of the body, but in English, it recognizes that pain is only partially of the body, can be overcome. She was an English-speaker.
“I’ll kill you!” Thamiel said. “Come back, or I’ll kill you!”
Threats. In the Bible, God threatened Adam: eat of the fruit, and you will surely die. He interpreted it to mean immediate death; when Eve ate of the fruit and didn’t perish, he thought the threat was empty. But God had meant that he would become mortal, die eventually, and so he did. But it was death that allowed humanity to reach the world to come, to truly join with God. Threat. Thread. I give you the end of a golden thread, only roll it into a ball…
Sohu stepped into Yetzirah and opened her eyes.
The Comet King was in his study. But it was different now; there were some new books on the shelves, a few new tchotchkes on the desk. Father looked older. Much older. And worse. Some of the light had left his face. He was sitting in his chair and there was a book in front of him. Maps. An atlas. He was speaking to Father Ellis, also older. They were arguing about something, at first politely, then louder. Finally the Comet King turned away. Ellis looked like he wanted to say something, but all of a sudden he blinked, and when he opened his eyes again they were purest silver, and he began to hover, as if too holy to be polluted by the touch of the ground. The Comet King stayed fixed on something out of sight for a moment, then turned and saw the transformation. After a moment’s thought, he knelt.
“Metatron,” he said.
“YOU ARE LOST IN DARKNESS,” said Metatron.
“So is the moon,” said the Comet King, “and so much the worse for the darkness.”
“YET YOU BEAR WITHIN YOU THE MOST HOLY NAME, WHICH MAY NEVER BE DESECRATED.”
“I earned it,” said the Comet King. “You gave it to me.”
“NOW I AM GOING TO TAKE IT BACK.”
“You can’t take it back!”
“I need it!”
“THE EXPLICIT NAME MAY ONLY BE BORNE IN A PURE MIND.”
The Archangel Metatron stared at him. No one, not even the Comet King, could stare down the Archangel Metatron.
“I’m angry, and I’m heartbroken, and I’m empty inside. But I’m pure.”
The Archangel Metatron did not get flustered. The Archangel Metatron did not work that way.
“THE SANCTITY OF THE NAME WILL BE PRESERVED. I WILL GIVE IT BACK TO YOU WHEN YOU ARE READY.”
“You will, will you?”
“HOWEVER I WISH.”
Ellis reached out a ghostly hand and touched the Comet King’s brow. Something left him in that moment, something vast, like a note too low to hear. Then the silver left Ellis’ eyes, and he crumpled to the ground.
A ray of sunlight burst out from behind the moon.
Sohu stepped into Assiah.
Thamiel was standing directly in front of her. He was staring straight into her eyes. Then he reached out a single deformed finger and touched her on the nose.
“Boop,” he said.
Sohu’s eyes went white, and she seized.
Uriel dropped the moon.
“SOHU, ARE YOU OKAY?”
“Oh, hello Uriel, I was going to say hello, but you looked busy. Got to go now.” The Lord of Demons disappeared in a bolt of lightning.
Sohu kept seizing until the last curve of the moon came out from behind the sun. Then she fell down prone on the cloud. Uriel kept watch over her until she regained consciousness.
“ARE YOU OKAY?” he asked.
“Yes…” she said, still a little confused.
Sohu strained. Her forehead wrinkled. Then a look of panic fell over her face.
“I…I don’t remember. The eclipse started, and after that I don’t remember anything.”
“IT IS OKAY,” said Uriel.
“My eyes hurt.”
“YOU STARED AT THE SUN, DIDN’T YOU?”