aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 56: Agony In The Garden

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
In your palace warm, mighty king,
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
— Noël Regney, Do You Hear What I Hear?

August 1, 1999
Colorado Springs

Given the need to keep up spirits, Robin decided the people needed whatever holidays they could get. August 1, the anniversary of Colorado’s statehood, was as good an opportunity as anything else. So she stood on a rock spire in the Garden of the Gods as crowds – disproportionately female since a million men were marching in Siberia – listened for the words of their Queen Regent.

The difference between a speech and a sermon had grown kind of thin ever since the state had become the seat of the Messiah in his war against Hell, so she began with a Bible verse. Psalm 84:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
Even the bird has found a home,
and a nest for herself.

“This place has always been so beautiful. That’s what I’ve always wanted. Everywhere to be as beautiful as here. Someday, I want everywhere in Colorado to be a garden and everywhere to be holy. The song spoke of ‘purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain’ and ‘alabaster cities undimmed by human tears’. I want that. I want to make the deserts bloom, and the forests rich and wild. I want new heights of art and science. I want new symphonies and new folk songs. I want new infrastructure, new parks, new buildings and monuments that are the envy of the world. I want everybody to be able to live the life they want, whether in the cities or in the wilderness. I want to cure disease, end poverty, create a new and better kind of civilization. You all want the same. And it’s not just that the Comet King can do it, though he can. It’s that all of us can do it. We’re the right people. At the right time.

“But we haven’t been doing any of this. And we’re not going to for a long time. Because it’s not the most important thing.”

She continued from the Psalm:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Weeping,
they make it a place of springs

“William Blake said that what we do in time echoes in Eternity, but he was being metaphorical. I’m not. What we do here now echoes in Eternity. The past twenty years, instead of building new roads and cities and better lives for our children, we’ve been building a war machine. A really, really good war machine. Not because we’re bad people who don’t love peace. Because some wars are important. Every other war has been fought over land or money or religion or something earthly. Something that disappears. This war we’re fighting now echoes in Eternity. If we win, we end eternal suffering. We save your mothers and fathers, your grandparents, all your ancestors back to Adam, from eternal suffering. And not just them. In a hundred years, we’re saving our friends, our families, our children, and maybe ourselves. There are so many things we want, so many things we need to do, but as soon as we realized the enormity of the evil below our feet, we realized there wasn’t anything else we could do. Not really. Against such horrors, everything else must be put to the side as we join a fight which we could not avoid and stay fully human.

“This is an apology and a call to arms. It’s an apology for all the beautiful and wonderful things we could have been doing the past twenty years, that we could be doing now, that will go undone because we are on a crusade. And it’s a call to arms to keep working, to keep Colorado running while our friends and family are away, because we’re in the crusade too, crusading on the home front, and nothing we could possibly do is more important than this.

“The Comet King has given us so much. But not as much as he’s asked us to sacrifice. We’re sacrificing everything right now, our dreams, our hopes of a better life – because we trust him. And because we trust ourselves to know what’s right. If we succeed, then literally through all Eternity people will remember our names. Ten million years from now, when the world is so different that no other memories remain, people will still know that there was once eternal suffering, but now their suffering is ended. Because of us.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your Anointed One
.”

She climbed down the pillar to rapturous applause, posed for the necessary photo ops, made her way through the crowd towards where Father Ellis and Nathanda were waiting for her.

Jalaketu was with them. He was hidden under a dark cloak, but she recognized him immediately.

“A word alone?” he asked, when he saw her.

Robin almost shouted with delight, then jumped in to hug him. “I thought you weren’t going to come back until the crusade was over!” she said. “I thought it cost you too much energy to keep teleporting back and forth!” She worried her smile was so broad she looked like an idiot, but she didn’t care. “This is such a surprise! We need – ”

The look on his face shut her up. This was not a personal visit, and whatever the news was, it wasn’t good.

She took his hand, and the two of them turned to lightning and then were atop a different spire, on the other side of the Garden, far from everyone else.

“Bad news?” she asked. “We heard…we heard you destroyed Yakutsk. We got the pictures and everything. What’s wrong?”

Jala nodded. “The other part,” he said. “Seems to be…ah…seems to be…”

Robin waited.

“I think it might be impossible to use the Explicit Name of God to destroy Hell,” he said all at once.

“What?” asked Robin.

“I tried,” said the Comet King. “Many times. Under Lake Baikal. Uriel had to stop me. Said if I did it any more I’d probably destroy the world. There were more gates than we thought. Some of them are…seem impregnable.”

“So how are you going to destroy Hell, then?” asked Robin.

The Comet King just looked at her hopelessly, almost like he was too terrified to speak. Then he just shook his head ‘no’.

A moment of silence.

“I…I thought you should be the first to know,” he said.

“No,” said Robin, “that’s silly. You need to figure out a better way. Ask Uriel.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King. “He said there was none.”

“Ask Sohu. She’s been studying so hard.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King. “She didn’t know either.”

“Ask the Lady. Or the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Ask the Satmar Rebbe, or the Belzer Rebbe. Or ask the Pope, maybe he’ll know.”

“I asked.”

“Ask the Dividend Monks. Go to San Francisco and ask the collective consciousness there.”

“I asked,” said the Comet King, and for the first time through her own confusion Robin heard the note of despair in his voice.

“Ask the other chief rabbi! Aren’t there always two? Ask the…”

The Comet King put his arms around Robin and whispered “I’m sorry”.

“No. Figure something out. Can’t you just…be really evil? Then die? That has to work. It’s not even Thamiel’s law. It’s God’s.”

“I asked Uriel,” said the Comet King. “He said it wouldn’t work. Doing evil for a greater good, because I want to save the world. It wouldn’t count.”

“So – figure out some way to change your personality to be genuinely evil, then do evil, then die, then use the Name.”

“You think I haven’t looked into that? Thamiel can’t be fooled that easily. God definitely can’t be fooled that easy. I promise you, Robin. I’ve thought about this. It doesn’t work.”

Robin jerked back. “No,” she said. “This isn’t how it ends. Get yourself together. You can do this. You can do anything. That’s the point! Figure it out!”

“They’ll be missing me in Siberia by now,” said the Comet King. “There’s still more work left to do. I need to mop up resistance, liberate the rest of Russia, liberate Canada. I want to be done before winter. I should go.”

“You can’t go! What do I do here? What do I tell people?”

“Nothing,” said the Comet King. “Don’t tell them anything. As far as they’re concerned we won the victory. Our army beat their army. We destroyed Yakutsk. That looks like winning. Your speech aside, so few of them think about the great work. Proclaim victory and arrange a parade. When I get back in the winter, we’ll work on what we can work on. Thamiel thinks he can make people evil? I can make them good. We can make them good. Make sure that however many souls are lost, we don’t lose a single one more. It would be a victory upon a victory. Nobody has to know about what happened at Baikal.”

I’ll know!” said Robin.

“I know,” said the Comet King.

“You can’t do this! I won’t let you! You hear me, Jala? I will not let you do this!”

“I’ll see you when the war is over,” said the Comet King, and a bolt of reverse lightning unstruck the ground, leapt into the sky, and deposited Robin back in the peopled section of the park and Jalaketu to wherever Jalaketu was going.

“Bad news?” asked Father Ellis, though it was a stupid question, with her face streaked with tears.

“What did he tell you?” she asked. “Did he say what – ”

“He found me as you started talking,” said Ellis. “Said come here from Siberia to talk to you, then didn’t tell me anything else.”

She said nothing.

“Bad news?” Ellis asked again.

“If he wanted you to know,” she snapped, “he would have told you.” Then. “We need to get home. I need to think.”

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