aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Interlude ה: The Right Hand Of God

But woe unto them that were with him, at the valley gate, and at the University of California at Berkeley.

June 20, 1970
San Francisco

LSD became illegal in California in 1966, two years before the real world got so hallucinatory that it became redundant.

Certain elements missed both developments and continued to experiment sporadically with a substance that was becoming increasingly dangerous. It wasn’t just law enforcement. Ever since the cracks had appeared in the sky, there were scattered reports of weird things happening on psychedelics. The reports from peyote users in Mexico almost strained credibility. Even those unpatriotic enough to doubt the Nixon administration’s ever more strident warnings about drug abuse were starting to take notice.

Not the Merry Pranksters, and not Ken Kesey. He lay on the floor of an unfurnished San Francisco apartment, watching the swirling colors gently distort the malleable plane of the ceiling. Beside him, his friend Paul occasionally glanced up from the book he was reading and fulfilled his promised role of trip-sitter. It was pretty boring. Ken had been lying pretty motionless ever since taking the LSD tab, saying little. Still, the formalities needed to be observed.

The colors began to swirl a little brighter. The pulsing fractals started to expand, simultaneously growing out and gathering in.

When he reached the end of the chapter, Paul gave another cursory glance back at Kesey.

His friend was standing upright. No, not standing. Hovering. He was hovering about a foot about the floor. His face was expressionless. His eyes had lost all features, all signs of pupil and iris, and were radiant silver.

Paul screamed.

“DO NOT BE AFRAID,” said Kesey, but it was not his voice.

“What…what’s going…who…what are…help!”


Paul tried to stand. He took a second to catch his breath. Kesey – the thing in Kesey’s body – seemed content to let him. He just stood there, hovering.

“W…who are you?” asked Paul.

“KNEEL,” said the thing in Kesey’s body.

“But…who…what are you?”

“KNEEL,” said the thing in Kesey’s body, somewhat more forcefully.

Quivering from head to toe, Paul knelt.

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68 Responses to Interlude ה: The Right Hand Of God

  1. 75th says:

    What even the crap.

  2. GES says:

    Comet king origin story?

    • Alsadius says:

      That was my first thought as well.

    • hnau says:

      Thamiel (Devil) origin story, more likely.

      • Indeed. I was already suspicious when he was explaining why being afraid was not called for, but the kneeling bit fits better with my image of Thamiel so far.

        ‘course, neither image (of Thamiel or the Comet King) is very sharp at this time…

        • Deiseach says:

          Well, “be not afraid” is the standard open greeting of pretty much all angelic apparitions, given that they look less like “winged humanoid” or “ladies in nightgowns a la the sentimental 19th imaginings” but more “Lovecraftian cosmic horrors” in reality, so in order to prevent humans from screaming and running away, they have to establish their good intentions from the start.

          It doesn’t prevent the screaming but it may prevent the running away before hearing the message 🙂

          • Kiya says:

            I think Mikko was precise in their phrasing of “why being afraid was not called for.” Instructions not to be afraid are fine and traditional and all… the more concerning part was the bringing eternity (euphemism for “I’m about to kill you”?) and the walls falling around (euphemism for “I’m about to destroy your civilization”?)

        • Azrael says:

          Assaulting Hell was probably the last thing the Comet King did, as it ended terribly, so if he helped to found UNSONG in the late eighties/early nineties, there’s a twenty year gap from this moment for him to come of age and get married and all that. But he was born of Heaven and this does not sound like a being born of Heaven.

          Two years, on the other hand, sounds like about enough time for Thamiel to transition from metaphor to reality.

        • The Warren Peace NFL Report says:

          He wasn’t saying kneel because he demanded obedience, he was saying kneel because in bringing the walls down, bits of brick and mortar will be flying dangerously around head height. The command to kneel was obviously for his own safety!

      • Deiseach says:

        Exactly. When the possessing (or obsessing, there is a technical distinction) spirit commanded Paul to kneel, that’s a big flashing light that this is not an angelic being – well, yes, technically was angelic but is now fallen.

        See Revelation 19:10 and 22: 8-9 where St John is speaking with one of the seven angels which have the seven vials to pour out the seven plagues:

        10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant

        8 And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.

        9 Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

        Also see Chesterton, “The Ball and the Cross”:

        Then after a long silence he called out: “Who and what are you?”
        “I am an angel,” said the white-robed figure, without turning round.

        …”No,” said MacIan, “I am going to jump over the side.”
        “Do you desire death?”
        “No,” said Evan, quite composedly, “I desire a miracle.”
        “From whom do you ask it? To whom do you appeal?” said his companion, sternly. “You have betrayed the king, renounced his cross on the cathedral, and insulted an archangel.”
        “I appeal to God,” said Evan, and sprang up and stood upon the edge of the swaying ship.
        The being in the prow turned slowly round; he looked at Evan with eyes which were like two suns, and put his hand to his mouth just too late to hide an awful smile.
        “And how do you know,” he said, “how do you know that I am not God?”
        MacIan screamed. “Ah!” he cried. “Now I know who you really are. You are not God. You are not one of God’s angels. But you were once.”

        • Murphy says:

          Oh! this is good.

        • Daniel says:

          1. The “Right Hand of God” suggests the sefirah Gevurah, and therefore the archangels Camael or Samael, both of whom are sort of ambiguous figures. According to most of the lore, they are satans in the Jewish sense: loyal servants of God who are tasked with testing humans. Samael in particular might tell you to “KNEEL” and then if you actually did it he’d be all “HAHA! DUMBASS.”

          This is also quite different from Thamiel, who is broken and legitimately Bad News. It’d be sort of weird for him to call himself the Right Hand of God, though.

          2. On the other, uh, hand, “Right Hand of God” might also suggest Jesus, e.g. Matthew 26:64: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” I assume from a Christian perspective it’d be perfectly appropriate to kneel before Jesus?

          • Daniel says:

            (To clarify: according to the version I’ve read, Thamiel’s deal is that he’s convinced he is God.)

          • Soumynona says:

            Why would Samael tell you to KNEEL and then laugh and call you a dumbass? Is it because he tricked you into committing idolatry? That’s like, entrapment, man.

          • Irrevenant says:

            It may or may not be relevant that in the Vertigo Lucifer comics (which are quite different to the TV show) Lucifer was originally Samael. Not sure how well-founded that is but IIRC it was Neil Gaiman who first wrote that and he usually seems to know his stuff…

  3. This really had better have some connection to the rest of the plot at some point.

    • No, I just randomly write things with no importance whatsoever. Next week it’s going to be ten thousand words about airplane landing gear.

      • Marvy says:

        My sarcasm detector doesn’t work very well, but it still caught that.

        • The really excellent thing is that you could write ten thousand words on airplane landing gear, and it might actually be supremely important.

          Also, nothing in your statement says that it wouldn’t be kabbalistic as all get out.

        • konshtok says:

          If Mr Alexander is on the spectrum and since those people are notoriously non sarcastic then it is entirely possibly that those 10,000 words are already written

          • Marvy says:

            Now you’re just being silly. “No, I just randomly write things with no importance whatsoever” is clearly sarcastic. If someone meant that seriously the wording would have been more like “no, this has little to do with the main plot, that’s why it’s an interlude, silly. I’m just adding depth and backstory and whatnot.”

            Also, 10k words is A LOT. Chapter 5 was 11k (just checked) and was a long chapter.

      • Vaniver says:

        Is this is a “alicorn princess” sort of promise? 😛

      • will408914 says:

        I look forward to it!

      • NoSuchPlace says:

        I now fully expect to have airplane landing gear feature heavily sometime in the next week or so.

      • gwern says:

        Ah, I see: you plan to top Eco’s Kabbalic explanation of cars in Foucault’s Pendulum with one of airplanes!

      • Deiseach says:

        And if you think we couldn’t make a connection between airplane landing gear and the rest of the story, NormalAnomaly, you underestimate your fellow-readers 🙂

      • Decius says:

        Fixed wing, or helicopter?

      • A_S00 says:

        So basically you’re just Neal Stevenson?

      • Galle says:

        You realize that now you have to actually write a ten thousand word interlude about airplane landing gear and somehow make it fit into the story.

      • bean says:

        I suppose you’ve already got a copy of Aircraft Landing Gear Design: Principles and Practices, then.

      • teucer says:

        Can you offer advice on the optional mechanics of cereal-eating?

      • Yossarian says:

        By the way, we still haven’t seen the essay on airplane landing gear 🙁

  4. I mean, I believe it will, just also it had better. Comet King origin story could be it.

    • Marvy says:

      Do not try to guess the intent of the author for his ways are devious and subtle*

      * “devious and subtle”? Where have I heard that turn of phrase? Oh, yeah here:

    • Marvy says:

      This is over a month late, but I can’t help it:

      We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
      Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate

  5. Somni says:

    He he he


  6. Jeremy Jaffe says:

    I can’t wait for your explanation of Tet Zayin, istead of yud vuv for indicating 16 when we get up to the 16th Interlude

  7. falenas108 says:

    Prediction: The Right Hand of God is called Neil.

  8. Sophie says:

    Low key “Universal Love, Said the Cactus Person” reference?!

  9. Vanilla Fog says:

    You know you’re engrossed in a book when you don’t notice that your friend has turned into a levitating, silver-eyed Right Hand of God until the end of the chapter.

  10. Yossarian says:

    This whole interlude sounded like something out of the Laundry series.
    Oh. Now I have a crazy fan theory – this is a world similar to one described in the Laundry series, only where CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN already happened… with a biblical twist!

  11. Mike says:

    Coincidentally, doesn’t Jesus appear to another man named Paul? While we’re on the subject of the Comet King possibly being the Messiah.
    (This is not a coincidence, because … well, you know.)

  12. Nestor says:

    I absolutely love that King James programming tumblr

  13. Quixote says:

    Short and sweet. Once again I want more. Good stuff.

  14. “He was hovering about a foot about the floor.” should be “He was hovering about a foot above the floor.”

  15. Murphy says:

    Am I the only one vaguely hoping that the Comet King will turn out to be a good-omens style adam-entity?

    “Look at Satan. Created as an angel, grows up to be the Great Adversary. Hey, if you’re going to go on about genetics, you might as well say the kid will grow up to be an angel. After all, his father was really big in Heaven in the old days. Saying he’ll grow up to be a demon just because his dad _became_ one is like saying a mouse with its tail cut off will give birth to tailless mice. No. Upbringing is everything. Take it from me.”

    Heaven born doesn’t rule out hell-conceived.

  16. Kinetic_Hugh_Reeve says:

    This shows exactly what I enjoy about your world-building in UNSONG. No matter how much I think I’m getting the hang of this setting, there is another element brought in the surprises, yet fits. I’m actually slightly scared to speculate where this entry leads, and that’s kinda cool.

    I also love how this interlude is a shock not just from its contents, brevity, and abrupt ending, but also on a meta level. Given the pattern of ever more time between interludes, seeing a new one was a mild shock to begin with. That set the stage for its content quite effectively.

  17. Daniel says:

    I’m now desperate to see what happened with Charles Manson…

  18. Jacob says:

    Didn’t they already say the Right Hand of God is Gabriel? The ritual from chapter 8 had the phrase ““On my right hand, Gabriel,” said Clara in the east.”

  19. Mike says:

    So, Ken Kesey is the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. The book was published in 1962, before the timelines diverged. This must be important, but I don’t see how.

  20. John Cowan says:

    When your name is Paul, then it’s the forms, not the formalities, that must be obeyed. (Though granted, “forms” means “formalities” in that context. Still.)

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