Judgement, by Kluivert Galea
We’d called Pastor Nick a madman, believed that a man of God would not rejoice in its croaking. When he stood at the altar, his hands reaching towards the heavens, he’d yell; “The stars will be taken! You shall all repent for slandering the love of God! The heathens will burn, the sinners will be vanquished, the love of God will wash you all! But First he must have the stars!”
It mattered very little if a pastor told you that the Last Judgement shall be passed soon. You sat through a sermon to get into paradise. Everything else was white noise, a static you sifted through until the angels lifted you by your arms to place you among those joyful souls in Heaven.
The stars were gone when I woke up. . I ran downstairs. Elizabeth was gone. Her room was empty; there was only her pink stuffed bear, the one she’d made during her school trip. It was as if she had never existed. Vanished completely. I looked through everything in her room, touched every object in there, but found no trace of my daughter. I opened the drawers and threw them on the floor; I ripped the sheets; I lifted her mattress; I opened her toy chest. My daughter seemed to be nothing more than a delusion and I wondered if all this time I had simply been a madman. I looked out her window in hopes that she was only outside. She was gone, along with the stars. I swallowed my horror.
My neck was cold and stiff. I was parched. I walked to the kitchen; each step more painful than the last. I fell to the floor, grabbed my foot. My soles were covered in boils.
I crawled my way to the kitchen. I grabbed hold of the counter and heaved myself up I grabbed hold of the counter and heaved myself up, questioning whether this was all some sort of dream or if I really was just a madman. Curses slipped through my lips. Sweating, and in pain, grabbing a cup was an excessive effort. I turned on the tap and caught the red water in the glass. Red? The water was thick red, and it stank of rust. I tried to steady my breathing. I held onto the glass with difficulty, still supporting myself with the other hand on the counter. I put the glass down gently, afraid that the sound of breaking glass would encourage the waves of the world to untangle further. I stumbled on all my furniture until I made it outside.
I looked and looked but saw little. A wind knocked me down again and more boils grew, moving further and further up from my soles. They had reached my stomach. I would not get up again from my door. All I could do now was see. See Mrs. Petrude in the arms of her husband, crying to the heavens, asking where her only son, Matthew, had gone. “Where has he gone? I am not a madwoman! Where is he? Where did my son go?”
“My daughter!” I yelled to her, “She is gone. Disappeared. Taken.”
She wept further and offered me no consolation, no lie that they should/would ever come back; that this was a dream or that the entire town, which was dying or weeping in the street, were only mad.
“Samantha has her children!” she wept and beat against her husband’s chest, who only stood there, with a bulge in his throat. “They’re gone.” She beat on his chest again. “Where are they? Martha…she has her children. She still has two! My only one is gone! She has two left when before she had three!”
Mr. Petrude was dead. I could see it: he was motionless, pale, and something about his standing was unnatural, an affront to nature. The bulge in his throat eventually burst, and a toad jumped onto Mrs. Petrude, who recoiled in disgust and horror. She was completely alone, except for the toad on her breast. A howling wind pushed her, her son had disappeared, her husband was mutilated, and she had to endure it all without the company of the stars.
Now completely alone, with a howling wind pushing her, a toad on her breast, a disappeared son, and a mutilated husband, she couldn’t even turn to the company of the stars. Thunder broke, the wind got stronger and there came a rain of toads. Some fell here and some fell there. I knew with certainty that it would not be the toads that would kill me, it would be the boils. The boils that were now everywhere; in the inside of my eyelids, in my mouth, everywhere. So I stood dying on the ground as I watched the rain of toads knock over Mrs. Petrude and eat her flesh. Some bit her neck, some bit her face, and some bit her arm, but all bit with demonic intent. They devoured her and pretty soon the Petrudes were nothing more than a disgraced corpse, a picked skeleton and a vacant space in the universe. I could not close my eyes. With my neighbour dead, and lacking the strength to move at all, I simply watched the world around me burn as the condition for existence itself became a literal hell. All that we’d known was gone. I’d been dying only for a couple of minutes, but then I was able to comprehend eternity. Within the excrement of life, I had now seen what it meant to repent in hell forever: these few minutes did not make eternity, but eternity would only be made of minutes like these. I despaired at the thought, and the next pain to come was the churning of my stomach in absolute anguish.
It took a burning world to make yourselves out to be the fools you were. Scorned maidens and hell…How stupid were we to think that the worst of wrath lay with the devil or, even more stupidly, with us? No. True wrath had been called divine. Heaven had seen no fury like that of an ignored God. I would have cried had my eyes been able to. But I saw less and less as the world looked smaller and smaller as it was enveloped in darkness. What little comfort I had gotten from watching my brethren die with me was taken from me too. How do you describe the feeling of despair when the idea of joy vanished into thin air? How can you describe a despair so pure, so tragic, that it can be comprehended without its opposite? It’s an impossible task. But imagine for a moment that your skin was flayed from you as sickly brutes held you down.
The plagues worsened, by miracle or admittance I was alive. I looked at the ground around me. It was cold. Uncomforting. It was also rekindling a flame. There I will go, to pay the price of admission. To pay a price for something never brought.
Before the red arm around my ankle dragged me with it, I saw one last figure emerging from the circle of blindness. It held out its arms towards the heavens, its body was a tumour of boils, its skin was a pale white chasmic desert, and blood ran through the divides. “NEVER AGAIN! YOU’D PROMISED! NEVER AGAIN! YOU PROMISED US!” Just then I made out the figure. It was pastor Nick. Pleading gravely for his soul. I felt some comfort, strangely, knowing I was not the only one with a price to pay:
Even the pastors would burn in hell.