Monday, September 25, 2006

A Work in Progress

The ground on either side began to break apart and slide slowly, horribly, toward the abyss. The earth shook again and a large fissure opened ahead and to the left. Rocks and earth, torn loose by the wind and the earthquake tumbled past them, plummeting over the edge into the gaping blackness. The storm above them roared in fury. The young man was on his hands and knees screaming, his eyes wide with terror. The old man lay sprawled upon the ground. His head was bowed and his mouth moved fervently in prayer. Whatever he was saying was being drowned out by the moan of the wind and the breaking of the world. Matthew’s breaths were coming in short gasps.

The earth shook again and Matthew was thrown to the ground between the two men. In a moment the wood was bathed in hues of orange and yellow and the sound of multiple explosions filled the air. Looking up between the trees, Matthew saw the sky itself billowing in rolls of flame and fury. Amidst this new horror, the roaring of the wind became insignificant. The clouds of fire were far overhead, centered in the sky yet moving ever outward, as though the heavens themselves were being consumed. Hot breath beat down upon them now, and Matthew’s vision became blurred as the flames cast waves of heat and orange upon the earth. The abyss behind them beckoned again, sucking all things into it like a great whirl pool.

To me! To me!

Matthew looked up from the ground. Amidst the tumbling rocks and howling wind he saw the figure of a man moving toward the abyss. He was off to the right, yet heading their direction. As he moved, he leaned forward into the wind, his arm pressed against his forehead to shield his face from the flying debris. He was looking toward them, shouting. Somehow, incredibly, his voice could be heard above the din.


All three men looked up.

“Matthew! To me! To me!” It was the stranger. For a moment hope rose up in Matthew’s heart. Yet the stranger stumbled as he wrestled against the wind and the tilting earth. His face was pained, his glory gone. And this seemed to Matthew to be more horrible than even the unmaking of the world, for the glory of the world was merely a glory borrowed from the stranger. Its destruction need not be final as long as the stranger endured. But now it was clear that not even the stranger could hold back the fury of the abyss. Immortality had fallen, the divine race was spent. The voice of Nietzsche’s madman screamed in Matthew’s mind. The stranger fell hard and struggled to rise, still calling. Was he calling to them for help? Matthew despaired.

But the old man did not hesitate. Rising to his feet he fought his way to the stranger’s side. The stranger lay hold of the old man’s neck and pulled him close. He continued to call above the wind. “Matthew! To me! Come to me! It is the only way!” The pitch of the wind reached a crescendo as the sky fell began to fall upon the earth in great pieces of ash. The reek of sulfur—whether from the abyss below or the charred heaven’s above—burned in Matthew nose. The stranger continued to shout above the wind, moving steadily toward the abyss. His face was pained, but it showed neither fear or doubt.

Matthew looked over at the young man. His eyes were wide and his mouth was opened in an unheard scream. Matthew looked again toward the stranger, who was waving them toward him, his eyes earnest. Without thinking—and without hope—Matthew reached over and clutched the young man’s wrist. Dragging him to his feet he pulled him in the direction of the stranger. The young man was senseless, unable to help, unwilling to resist.

The stranger continued to call to him above the storm. “Now Matthew! Hurry! The hour has come! It will wait no longer!”

The earth pitched toward the void and Matthew went with it, letting the abyss pull them toward the stranger who had now passed them and stood between them and the gaping hole. Falling twice, the two men half fell, half crawled to the stranger’s side. The stranger reached out toward them, embracing them both. They were propped against an outcropping of rock, a dozen yards from the hole’s edge. The entire world, or what was left of it, was ablaze. Smoke billowed all around them now in great sheets. The stranger hugged Matthew tightly to his chest, putting his mouth close to his ear. “Come with me!” he shouted. “Do not let go!” Matthew tightened his grip around the stranger’s neck and nodded. As Matthew felt the stranger’s arm wrap tightly around him he realized that the other two men were gone. He looked around desperately, but the stranger seemed to not have noticed. What had happened to them Matthew didn’t have time to guess.

They rose from the outcropping and the stranger began to pull Matthew toward the abyss. Panic engulfed him. Immediately Matthew dropped his feet to the ground and braced against the stranger.

“There is no time Matthew! You must trust me!”

Matthew turned toward the gaping void—the endless nothing. He shook his head vigorously and pushed against the stranger. The stranger’s grip tightened, lifting Matthew off the ground and dragging him to the edge. The stench of a spent world rose to meet them, and Matthew could feel the weight of the great void pressing in around him. Hovering on the very edge Matthew looked down into the blackness of death itself—the final death, the irreversible end, the eternal destruction. Matthew began to flail, letting go of the stranger’s neck and trying to slide out from his grasp.

No More!

The stranger’s command broke into Matthew’s mind like a burst of thunder, silencing all else. The earth shook with the stranger’s thoughts and Matthew, terrified in a new way, looked up into his face. There cloaked beneath the stranger’s mortal frame lay still his immortal mind and it flashed forth now like hot lightening. Matthew ceased struggling as the roar of the world’s end flooded back into his ears.

“There is no other way!” The stranger shouted above the roar. “Infinite love has broken out upon the world and all must be consumed and remade—or forever destroyed! We must all go into the abyss—even I! Look around you Matthew! There is no escaping it!”

The ground to either side of them had caved toward the blackness, and they seemed to be standing on the last remaining peninsula of a spent creation. Yet through the flames Matthew could see a broken trail, strewn with boulders and ash that led up and away from their position.

As if reading Matthew thoughts the stranger called out, "Do not think of it Matthew! It is the way of death! Either you will go into the abyss with me, or you will go into it alone! There is no other way—you must trust me, Matthew!”

Matthew shook his head, his eyes remaining fixed on the darkness. He did not understand.

“You need not!” the stranger called back, reading his thoughts. “It is enough that you know! Look into my eyes!”

Matthew wrenched his gaze away from the around him and locked eyes with the stranger. And now, deeper than the abyss, higher than the stars, and longer than eternity, the stranger’s thoughts pressed in once again upon Matthew’s mind.

Do you not see that I AM greater than the abyss?

Matthew’s mind reeled anew under the weight of the stranger’s thoughts, and he knew in a moment that what the stranger said was true; not even the fury of the abyss could overrule it. There at last, amidst the world’s unmaking, Matthew saw the eternal choice: to yield to the vain flight of a madman, or to yield to truth he saw in the stranger's eyes. And in the clarity of that moment Matthew saw that there was no choice.

“There is no more time!” the stranger called. “I go now—will you go with me?”

Matthew hesitated but a moment and then nodded. The stranger’s arms embraced him again as Matthew buried his face into the stranger’s chest. Matthew felt the stranger’s chest heave deeply.

They stepped over the edge.


Canadian Calvinist said...

Very good! Vivid. Descriptive. Intense. I enjoyed it.
Several theological interpretive possibilities come to mind here:

The early Fathers describing someone coming to the laver of regeneration.

A Calvinist explaining irrisistable grace and individual election.

An Arminian teaching that a decision must be made even though Jesus helps you--just as you are--to the altar.

An Evangelical skit at the Saturday night service just before the WWJD bracelets are handed out to the crowd.

A Fundamentalist describing the ramifications for those who wear WWJD bracelets, attend Saturday Night services or drink any wine.

The Seventh Day Adventist teaching anhiliation of sinners and redemption of Sabbath keepers.

A Dispensationalist writing the next volume of Left Behind.

An Open Theist explaining that Jesus isn't even sure what is going to happen next.

Ok, sorry Gerald. My apologies. What, pray tell is the real meaning of this piece of stirring literature?

Gerald said...


The piece above is a snippet from the end of a novel I'm working on entitled "When the Earth is Young." The project is a narrative way of communicating my epistemology, soteriology, and eschatology (among other things). It's a very slow work in progress.

Given that the identity of the stranger (it’s not Christ) is hidden until the end of the story, I can’t provide anymore details at this point. Of course I could tell you, but then I would have to kill you. And we wouldn't want that.

But I am glad you liked it. Maybe I’ll publish the first 60 pages to my blog. I’ve hesitated to do so since the chapters are longer than most people want to read in a blog post. But perhaps you’ve inspired me.

But I have previously published portions of it here and here, and this is the poem that is driving my thoughts.