I’ve reserved this space as a safety zone for pouring my empty and vain wishes.
Overtly, the meaning of “king” is “a hereditary monarch”.
Kabbalistically, the meaning of “king” is “one who fights for freedom”.
This we derive from Martin Luther King, whose name was “king” in two ways: first in English via his surname, second in Hebrew via his initials. Likewise, he signifies fighting for freedom in two ways. First, through his name: “Martin” comes from Latin “martinus” and shares a root with “martial” meaning “warlike” or “fighting”, “Luther” comes from Greek “eleutheria” meaning “freedom”, and so “Martin Luther” equals “one who fights for freedom”. Second, through the example of his life.
And so in accordance with the secret structure of the universe, the Comet King marched forth to fight for freedom.
His armies set out from Colorado Springs, passed through Salt Lake City, reached the Salish Free State. Advance forces captured Juneau and Anchorage, while the bulk of the troops boarded an immense flotilla ten years in the making and sailed up the coast, resupplying at the Alaskan ports as they went. An advance force reached Tin City, Alaska. The Comet King raised his sword, spoke a Name, and parted the Bering Strait. They crossed, took Chukotka and Kamchatka from the north before the Siberians could react, deconstructed the coastal batteries and seawalls that were supposed to prevent amphibious invasion. The main force landed en masse in Magadan Oblast and worked its way northeast through pestilent swamps and mountains. There was fighting every step of the way: ambushes, pit traps, a frantic battle in the pass of Ust-Nera. The demons of Siberia deployed misshapen hell-creatures, swarms of unnatural insects, darknesses that seemed to crawl and screech. The Comet King deployed strange walking tanks, floating globular airships, squadrons of kabbalists who could bring down mountains with a song. Siberia’s army kept retreating. The armies of the West kept advancing.
Finally they reached Yakutsk. After three days of apocalyptic fighting, the city fell; Thamiel and his court retreating in disarray. The Comet King had hoped to rescue the human citizens, but there was not enough left of them for this to be a mercy. So his crusaders burnt the city, pushed the memories out of their waking minds and into their nightmares, and marched on.
The last seven hundred miles were the easiest. After the fall of Yakutsk the demons gave up most resistance. The crusaders’ spirits were high. Their steps were lightened by victory. They sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic. They marched toward a final destination they only partly understood.
In this mood they came to the still blue waters of Lake Baikal and fanned out along its shoreline near Ulan-Ude. They rested and tended to their wounded while their leader stayed in his tent, praying. After three days, the Comet King decided that it was time.
He walked onto the water and it held his weight. Only a few steps; the lake was hundreds of miles long, but never too wide. Then he was on the island in the middle, the one the natives called Shaman’s Rock, the one that had a hole in it deeper than the world itself.
His men watched him from the other shore, barely daring to breathe.
His engineers had already demolished the gate’s physical defenses. Now he destroyed its spiritual defenses with a word. The rock crumbled, revealing only a deep pit. The Comet King stepped off the edge and disappeared from view.
He fell and fell, until he no longer knew if he was falling or not. There was no ground beneath him, and no walls on either side. Just endless space, tenebrous and inscrutable, like it was filled with black smoke. Were those flames that he could almost see, if he strained his eyes? A flash of movement here? The flap of a demonic wing there?
It had all been for this. The handful of lost souls in Yakutsk was only a drop in the barrel. Those who had been saved in Canada and Alaska only a trickle. This was the ocean. Billions of people through all of history who had been swept off into Hell and left to suffer forever. There was only one way to save them. He had sacrificed tens of thousands of lives to come here. Now it was time.
He fell so far and long that there was no point in waiting any further. He said a prayer. He visualized a structure in his mind’s eye, a complex kabbalistic structure of interlocking aspects of divinity and mortality beyond the power of any human but him to imagine. And then, his voice trembling only a little, he spoke the Explicit Name of God.
It went like this:
A fearsome joy.
A fervent wish.
The Comet King incanted HaMephorash.
A slight whirling of the smoke? Another hint of those flickering flames? Or were those just illusions? The Shem HaMephorash didn’t touch them. The Comet King frowned.
He spoke the Name a second time, vocalizing every letter clearly and precisely, like the notes of a song. Somewhere high above him, dogs started barking. Babies began to cry. Clouds shattered like glass, huge waves appeared from nowhere and lashed against every coast. The archangel Uriel screamed and clutched his forehead, then started frantically drawing symbols in the air to calm storms that only he could see.
But if the smoky realm below the pit was affected at all, it was only the tiniest perturbation, too minute for the Comet King to even be sure it had happened.
Jalaketu’s eyes narrowed. He started tracing glyphs around him, arcane geometries to magnify his words and purify their impact. He wrote manically, and symbols in a hundred languages living and dead gleamed through the darkness and added their powers to his. He stood surrounded by a living web of power. Then, a third time, he spoke the Name of God.
The sky turned red. The seas turned red. The sunlight became fractured and schizophrenic, like it was shining through stained glass. Trees exploded. Every religious building in the world, be it church or mosque or temple, caught fire at the same time.
But the Comet King saw only little eddies in the darkness, like when a child blows a puff of air into the smoke of a bonfire.
Now he was really angry. He spread himself across all the worlds and sephirot, drew all of their power into himself. The web of glyphs crackled and burned with the strain, pulsed from color to color at epileptic speed, shot off sparks like a volcano. The Comet King opened his mouth –
“STOP”, said a voice. A bolt of lightning flashed through the smoke, and the archangel Uriel appeared beside him, flaming sword held high. “STOP, LEST THE ENERGIES YOU INVOKE DESTROY THE WORLD.”
“Not going to destroy the world!” said the Comet King. He didn’t look remotely human at this point. His skin had gone night-black, his hair was starlight-silver, no one could have counted how many limbs he had. “Going to destroy Hell! Don’t deny me this, Uriel! You know it has to be done!”
“YOU ARE NOT ENTIRELY IN HELL. YOU ARE ONLY SORT OF IN HELL. YOU ARE UNLEASHING THE ENERGY OF THE SHEM HAMEPHORASH PARTLY INTO THE ORDINARY WORLD. THERE ARE ALREADY TOO MANY CRACKS. SING AGAIN AND THE SKY WILL SHATTER.”
“I’m trying to aim at Hell,” said the Comet King. “Not sure where I am…but it’s close. If I can get enough power…”
“THEN YOU WILL SHATTER THE SKY,” said Uriel. “THIS IS NOT A MATTER OF POWER. WHAT YOU ARE DOING IS FUNDAMENTALLY ILL-ADVISED. STOP.”
“This is the gate, Uriel! I passed through the gate! You saw me, they all saw me.”
“THERE ARE MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE OPEN. YOU HAVE PASSED THROUGH ONE. YOU ARE STILL OUTSIDE OTHERS. IF YOU SAY THE SHEM HAMEPHORASH AGAIN YOU WILL DESTROY THE WORLD.”
“Many gates? Uriel, we talked about this. We spent years researching. We both agreed that if we could get through the hole in Lake Baikal, we could break into Hell.”
“YES. IT MADE SENSE AT THE TIME. NOW WE ARE HERE OBSERVING FIRST-HAND. I AM TELLING YOU THERE ARE MORE GATES THAN WE THOUGHT. SOME OF THEM ARE CLOSED. YOU CANNOT GET THROUGH THEM.”
“If I just give it more power…”
“THAMIEL IS A FACET OF GOD. BRUTE STRENGTH WILL NOT SUFFICE AGAINST HIM.”
“This is the Shem HaMephorash! It’s literally the power of God Himself! There’s nothing that can stand up to it.”
“YES. THAT IS WHY YOU ARE DESTROYING THE WORLD.”
“Give me something to work with, Uriel!”
“Give me something to work with!”
“GATES ARE VERY COMPLICATED.”
“For the love of God, give me something to work with, Uriel!”
“Are you saying there is literally no way to destroy Hell even with the Explicit Name of God?”
“Is that what you’re saying?”
“Why would God do that? Why would He make a universe where the one thing it is absolutely one hundred percent morally obligatory to do is totally impossible, even if you do everything right, even if you get a weapon capable of destroying worlds themselves, who does that sort of thing?”
“GOD,” said Uriel. “HE DOES MANY THINGS THAT ARE HARD TO EXPLAIN. I AM SURPRISED YOU HAVE NOT REALIZED THIS BY NOW.”
“Who creates suffering that can never end? Who makes people, tells them to do the right thing, then pulls the rug out from under them when they try? I was supposed to be His sword, Uriel! I was Moshiach! He forged me, He and my father, put me through all of those trials so I could be worthy to be here today. Who forges a weapon like that and then keeps it sheathed? Why would God do that?”
“STOP TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE WILL OF GOD,” said Uriel. “IT NEVER HELPS.”
“So,” said the Comet King. His voice was icy calm now. “What do you propose I do?”
“LET ME TAKE YOU HOME,” said Uriel.
“No,” said the Comet King.
“YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO LEAVE THIS PLACE ALONE,” said Uriel. “YOU HAVE CROSSED THROUGH TOO MANY GATES. NOT ALL OF THEM ARE AS EASY TO PASS IN THE OTHER DIRECTION.”
“I’m not going, Uriel.”
“PLEASE,” said Uriel. “SOME OF THE GATES MAY SHUT AGAIN, IN TIME. YOU WOULD BE TRAPPED DOWN HERE.”
“So what? So you want me to give up? Lead a million men all the way to Siberia and let however many of them die and then just give up? Just because…”
“IF YOU RETURN TO THE LIVING WORLD PERHAPS WE CAN FIGURE OUT A SOLUTION.”
“You’ve already said! There’s no solution! Even the Explicit Name of God isn’t enough!”
“I DO NOT THINK THERE IS A VERY GOOD CHANCE OF US FINDING A SOLUTION, BUT IT IS PROBABLY HIGHER IF YOU ARE WORKING HARD ON LOOKING FOR IT THAN IF YOU ARE TRAPPED FOREVER IN THE ANTECHAMBER OF HELL.”
“Uriel. Give me something to work with.”
“I AM GOING TO TAKE YOU OUT OF HERE NOW. I AM SURE YOU CAN FIGHT ME OFF IF YOU WANTED TO BUT I WOULD REALLY APPRECIATE IT IF YOU DID NOT TRY.”
The archangel reached out a gigantic hand and grabbed the Comet King. Then he rocketed upwards, fiery sword outstretched above him, clearing the smoke from their path. The darkness began to thin. A sense of orientation returned. At last a rush of information hit all of Jalaketu’s senses at once and he realized he was out of the pit, back above the earthly Lake Baikal.
His men started to cheer. Some of them blew horns. A few started singing verses from the Battle Hymn. His heart sank. They think I succeeded, he thought to himself. Of course they think I succeeded. I’m the Comet King, here I am shooting out of the Abyss alive, being carried by an archangel, of course they think I succeeded. “No!” he shouted at the armies. “Stop! I failed! I couldn’t do it! I couldn’t destroy Hell! You brought me all this way, you trusted me, and I couldn’t do it! It’s all gone wrong! Stop singing! Stop singing! Stop!”
Most of them couldn’t hear him, but a few caught the gist of his message. One by one, the songs wavered, but they didn’t die, his men still singing, sure that there must be something worth singing about. A few cried out, or raised banners, or started cheering on general principle.
“Don’t bring me back to them,” the Comet King said, almost sobbing. “Take me somewhere else…can’t face them, just now.” Uriel looked down at him, tilted his colossal head in a gesture of confusion. “Just for now,” he said. “Just for a few hours. Somewhere I can think. Give me time to think, Uriel.”
The archangel deposited Jalaketu on a hill a few miles outside of camp. Then he gave a long sigh.
“I’M SORRY,” he said.
“No,” said the Comet King. He looked mostly human again now. “You did the right thing. Prevented me from destroying the world.”
“YES,” said Uriel. “ARE YOU OKAY?”
“Sort of. I need to think. It’s not a total loss. We still have the army. The military action went well. Better than expected. We can hold onto Baikal while we try to figure out where to go from here. I can convince people to…wait…oh no. Oh no.”
“WHAT?” asked Uriel.
“I just realized,” said the Comet King. “What am I going to tell my wife?”