“Don’t you ever love?” I mock him, that angel of an impenetrable fortress. It is Arab Spring, and his people are lambs to slaughter, fields of the dead, from Egypt to Iraq.
“You’re killing them all, malakh ha mavat! You could never love. You’re heartless.” My voice trembles with suffrage. I deny his mercy: he is incapable of it. In my head, I scream at this sickly bone man, wings of ash, eyes of embers, hair of coal.
That Judaic tormentor of the evil dead. That burning simoom. Reaper, firstborn slaughter, Moloch. Baby bones burn at his altar as Lilith’s aborted chattel is left on their twin chalice stained with bloody grime in the temple of no return.
Suddenly, Samael’s form burns on my retinas, like he is standing right before me. I jolt in my car passenger seat, trying to open my eyes, on my way back from a sweet Southern college tour. I try to cry out, but my voice is locked. I can’t open my eyes. They are glued shut.
It is my first vision, and I am seventeen, and I am petrified, my calls and wails against Death the opposite of a benediction.
This is when the madness begins.
The archangel of Gevurah stares curiously at me, then smirks, a brick smile devoid of warmth. There is a choking bitterness about him: a horrendous sorrow that pierces me to the bone. It taints the air, creating a biting wind. The fire in his face – usually warm – is cold. Like the facade of the whited sepulcher’s humanity is stripped away, and I am left confronted by a powerful, merciless force.
I am tested by the vagaries of the grave, entrenched in a cliff of a visage.
The ironclad, dread angel takes me away to a place the infinitely tall and million eyed Ha-Satan who terrified – but could not collect – Moses’s spring green soul stands guard over: a high, ragged hill, with dead black trees stripped bare by winter and dry, yellowed grass. I wonder if it is the ruins of Eden. It is blue-gray, frozen, and in years to come, I will return again and again to haunt these blue hallows strewn with fallen saints, a decapitated hurricane of a girl.
We are both storms, Samael and I, after all. He is just my illness, my fixture of a character, bipolar bane.
The ruins of Eden loom:
It is a cool, twilit glade. He stands there, in the shadow of a tree, the Tree of Death, a charcoal cowl pulled over his pale face. I approach cautiously, drawn in like a moth to the flame of his terrible beauty. Curious, I want to know what lays in his hollow chest cavity, yet dread what I may find.
My damning curiosity will kill me.
“You sprang from the heart of Lucifer,” my imaginary demon spits, the words like a slap to the face.
“What the hell does that mean!” I demand.
“You want to know what it is?” he challenges, laughing. His voice is bitter, as if the venom he regards himself with taints his tongue. I cannot tell if he means me harm, or wants me to stay away. Perhaps the viper flash of his eye is like the red rings of the coral snake. A warning.
“It is my own black heart,” he says ruefully. A decade later, I will wonder if he is capable of lying, or if Samael always speaks fey truth in the same strange tongue of those sages driven mad by gnosis.
He delicately traces my veins above my left wrist. “Does that surprise you? You knew it all along.”
“I did?” I tremble. A wind whips across the meadow, rustling my hair and the hem of his robe. His smile is thin, a smile sharp as ice.
“You just wouldn’t admit it,” he whispers. “What will you do, when you are confronted with the darkest part of yourself?”
“This has nothing to do with me. I’m nothing like you!”
“Oh, child,” Samael laughs, his right hand’s elegant smuggler’s fingers brushing my face, Lilith’s iron-set garnet atop his middle finger. I flinch, my young guts twisting as heat sears my throat. “But you are.” His voice is enticing, but it burns, for it speaks the truth. Tears prickle my eyes, and a sob escapes my throat.
Malakh ha mavat’s pupils – like the abyss – hold tenderness. Is that what it is to be a Watcher – your sentinel eyes mirrors of my soul, the reflection of everyone but your own empty Qliphoth shell?
The void is a strange thing to see, staring back at you.
Samael continues: “You are like the tempest. Quick-striking, you fly into rages. You burn with wonder, the black storm that devours all in its path. Granted, you’re merciful, unlike me.” His grin is crooked. “I have little use for mercy. But you, dear, are split down the middle. Burning with righteousness but pity for men’s souls.”
I cock my head to the side, rebellious. “Maybe I am. But what about you? Don’t you want mercy?”
He curls his hands into fists. “Do I deserve it?”
I look at him in fear. The razor-faced angel who has little patience for my pitiance or terror. His hair is ink-black like night, and his eyes burn like the heart of a flame.
“Yes. And no.”
“That’s a pathetic answer.” He runs his fingers through my hair contemplatively, looking at the curve of my neck. I wonder if he’s imagining the snap of my spine under his elegant, devilish hands.
I inhale sharply. “Haven’t you ever loved?”
His eyes widen. His face, for once, is raw. “What do you mean?” he hisses, his deathly grip on my skull tightening.
I wince. “Everything loves, Samael. Even the most wretched creature. And maybe – just maybe – that makes them worthy of redemption.”
He lets go of my head, pulls me close as he cries, holding me strangler fig-tight by my golden neck. He kisses me with the force of a gale.