28 Sep By Fire
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"By Fire"Written by
Estimated reading time — 13 minutes
Nippy. It’s just a smidgen nippy outside. Perfect. I think to myself as I walk through the late autumn air.
“I estimate that it’s in the low fifties or high forties.” I say to no one in particular. No one at all actually. I, of course, am alone on a walk in the woods near my house. That’s just one of my quirks. Talking to myself. Not walking, that’d be weird. I like to talk to myself because I am an excellent conversationalist even if I do say so myself.
“Oh yes, it’s a bit nippy outside.” I mumble this one in a British accent. Normally my conversations with myself go along those lines. I speak in my regular American accent and then I respond (as myself) in a British accent.
“Quite.” I quickly respond to myself. I probably said this much louder than necessary as I am wearing my earbuds. Andrew York’s acoustic guitar pieces are drifting through my ears louder than they need to be, but the added decibels provide an extra level of immersion to my own autumnal New England world.
I’m staying with my dad as a vacation or sabbatical or whatever you want to call it. I’m working on a masters degree in English right now, with a focus on poetry. I’m actually one of the youngest people in the masters degree program at my college. I was a precocious little child so I managed to skip a few of my classes and as a result I’m working on the degree and I haven’t even turned 22 yet. Normally a grad student would be in school right now, but I am a sucker for the fall season, and so, every single year of my college career I haven’t gone to school for the winter semester, instead I moved my classes to be during the summer semester so I could spend all my free time during the autumn where I could read old poetry and sit on the porch watching the leaves change colors and fall lightly to the ground.
I continue my walk for another hour or so, observing the trees in the hilly terrain, listening to whimsical acoustic melodies, and thinking about the social commentary and imagery of The Divine Comedy, one of my personal favorites. I wrote a paper on it a few months ago, that was a fine piece of work. I am a fan of the first canto in particular.
Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Ah me! how hard a thing it is to say
What was this forest savage, rough, and stern,
Which in the very thought renews the fear.
So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.
But after I had reached a mountain’s foot,
At that point where the valley terminated,
Which had with consternation pierced my heart,
Upward I looked, and I beheld its shoulders
Vested already with that planet’s rays
Which leadeth others right by every road.
Then was the fear a little quieted
That in my heart’s lake had endured throughout
The night, which I had passed so piteously
And even as he, who, with distressful breath,
Forth issued from the sea upon the shore,
Turns to the water perilous and gazes;
So did my soul, that still was fleeing onward,
Turn itself back to re-behold the pass
Which never yet a living person left.
However, I was not Dante embarking on a journey through Hell, and I had survived my journey through the pass. Ahead of me my father’s house rose from over the hill. It was a two story home, black shingled roof, white wood siding, wraparound porch. Very homey. In the back of the house there is a small pen where my dad keeps a few sheep. Just a sheep, a ram, and a newborn lamb. He doesn’t slaughter them or anything like that, he just occasionally shears them down and sells the wool to local mennonites to make a little extra cash. He just recently bought the ram, he decided he wanted to ‘grow his flock’.
The house itself is a few miles outside town. When dad moved here he decided that since he was already in the country a couple extra miles couldn’t hurt, especially when it meant even more peace and quiet from the peace and quiet he already had from moving here, but whatever. I walk into the house and sit down for a nice cup of tea to ward off the cold.
As the autumn wore on I found that I am steadily running out of things to read. I brought a small library with me when I came here for the fall, and somehow I managed to plow through all of my books in just a month or so. Today I woke up and walked over to my shelf only to realize that I have now read every single tome in my collection.
My dad has been spending a lot of time in town recently. He helps out with some sort of church group that goes on nearly every day. Recently it occurred to me that every single time he comes back from the group he always has a new book with him. Initially I assumed it was just a copy of the Bible or something along those lines, but the more I noticed it I realized that the books he brings home all look slightly different, or wildly different. The point is that he always brings a new book home every time he comes back from what I’m fairly certain is a youth group. The book is always something with Judeo-Christian stories or information or something in it.
“Well, you know what my good sir?” My British self has come up with an idea.
“What old chap?” My American self responds in kind, mocking the accent poorly.
“*grumble* Well, since your old man always brings home a new book, quit being an bloody buffoon and go read through some of his lot o’ literature!”
“Excellent idea, me!” I pat myself on the head as a reward.
Everyone has weird quirks, talking to myself is mine.
I waltz into my dad’s room and stroll over to his bookshelf. I run my fingers over the leather bound books. How classy, I didn’t know he had this many books. Then a book catches my eye, one I’ve been meaning to read, but never gotten around to reading, John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
As I stated earlier, I’m by no means religious, but I do find the mythology and various other works surrounding Judeo-Christian history interesting. So I grab the book off the shelf and grab a seat on the porch to read this long poem.
First Moloch, horrid King besmear’d with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents tears,
Though, for the noise of Drums and Timbrels loud,
Their children’s cries unheard that passed through fire
To his grim Idol.
Holy shit, that’s vivid. I read the lines a second time. Well, I chose to read it. After a couple hours I finish the book.
“Well my friend, you did want to read the poem.” My American self mentions.
“Yes. The intention completed, thy task was successful.” This voice wasn’t my British one, it was a new one entirely. More than once I’d thought about getting a new voice instead of the saucy Brit, he was overbearing sometimes. So I decided to try out a new voice. This one was much deeper, more commanding I thought. For characterization I figure that I should make his speech much more formal and slightly dated. I like it.
“So, new me, what shall we name you?” My American self asked, “Shall it be something run of the mill, say…. Harold? No, no it should be something else. Something… exotic. Something foreign sounding…”
I thought for a few minutes, trying to determine a name, then I thought of one.
“I shall be known as,” the new voice announced himself, “Milcom.”
“Alright, Milcom, that’s what we’ll call you from now on.”
The rest of the day went on normally. Around 7:30 my dad arrived home and we started prepping for dinner. He decided to make mac and cheese with hamburger in it, I did not object, because as any true patriot knows, mac and cheese is America’s finest dish. I walked over to the bathroom to clean up before I sat down to eat dinner. I washed my hands real quick and then looked in the mirror. My eyes were a little bit bloodshot from all the reading. Damn english degree, I thought to myself. I rubbed my chin with my hands a little bit, I had a little bit of a 5 o’ clock shadow that I should probably take care of. Then in the corner of the mirror I noticed a white shape rustle slightly. I turned around to see what was there, and there wasn’t anything. Damn english degree, I repeated to myself.
I walked out and grabbed a bowl of mac and cheese then slumped onto the couch and looked out the window. In front of me I saw my dad’s daily book lying on the coffee table. A ribbon was sitting inside it marking a page. The book was a volume of information and writing by Rashi, a frenchmen from the twelfth century. I opened the book to the marked page;
Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.
“What the hell?” I asked myself.
“It is just literature, do not fret over small words.” Milcom responded shortly.
I left the house to go on a walk. It was dark outside now and it had gotten noticeably cooler. I was walking briskly in the forest. The wind rustled through the trees quietly.
“And he shall rise.”
Someone whispered in my ear. I jumped a couple inches off the ground and spun on my heel. No one was behind me. I kept walking, just a little bit faster. The leaves crunched under my feet. It was late enough in the year that there were no bugs still alive outside, yet the silence of the woods was a little unnerving. About ten minutes passed by. My walk was calming me down more and more with every step.
“Through the fire he shall come.” The voice was louder now.
I whipped around again to see that, again, no one was there. The wind died down until everything in the forest was still. There was absolutely no movement whatsoever. It was creepily quiet. Then I saw something move in my peripheral vision. It was ever so slight, just a small shift in something off to my left, but it was enough for me to notice. I flipped around once again, and didn’t see anything, although I distinctly remember seeing something move, a pale shape or something.
I kept walking. I purposefully made it so that my path was now curving back towards the house. The woods were unnerving me more than they should’ve been. I know there’s nothing out here. You’re just int he northeast, it’s late, you’re tired, you’re probably just hearing things that aren’t even there. You’re not crazy, don’t think about it that way. Just go home and get some sleep, everything will be better in the morning, maybe read something before you rest, it’ll be fine. I started to jog home, not really wanting to be int eh forest any longer.
“And I shall feed on the burnt.” The voice was at a speaking volume now, and I recognized it. It was coming from my own mouth. It was Milcom’s voice. What the fuck?! I sprinted all the way back to the house now. I did not want be outside anymore.
Once I made it back to the house I jumped up the stairs and flew into my bed, not before shutting the blinds on my window. Once my breathing returned to normal I could hear all the sounds of the house again. The smell f macaroni and cheese was hanging in the air, and I could hear my dad snoring from his bedroom a few feet away. He sounded more like an eighteen wheeler than a human being.
I kicked off my shoes and rearranged my feet to be more comfortable on my bed. Then I reached over to my nightstand and grabbed the book I left there to help me fall asleep at night. I opened it to the bookmark and continued reading.
It is known that his appearance is that of a great pale man with the head of a bull, ram, or possibly just a humanoid head with horns. Throughout history this deity has been associated with several religions, all pertaining to Judeo-Christian mythology, particularly in the Old Testament. Noticeably his worship was practiced by the Canaanites and the Phoenicians. His historical origins name him as an ancient Ammonite God, although this has been disputed as to the amount of times he comes up in various Judeo-Christian mythological texts as a demon of Shaitan, or Satan. However, despite the differences relating to origin, all mythological texts keep one point constant in particular. That point being that the ancient god or demon is known to be associated with sacrifice. Sacrifice of any kind can be related to him, but the most notorious type of sacrifice is by that of fire, in which worshippers would sacrifice animals to him by burning them alive. His notoriety however, comes from the fact that, ideally, his worshippers are to sacrifice their own children to Moloch by fire.
After finishing this sentence I fell asleep almost immediately. I felt as if I were falling from the top of a building into a dark hole that was sleep. The book slipped out of my hands and landed on the floor with a thud. That was the last thing I heard before my eyelids cut me off from the world. In the lat moment before slumber I thought I say a white shape appear in my doorway.
The moment I fell asleep my dreams began.
I was in my house. In my room, standing totally still. Behind me the blinds were drawn. The room itself was lit by a single lamp in the corner. My bookshelf was illuminated by the lamp. For some reason every single book was turned around so you couldn’t see the spines, just the pages. The walls were gray, and the floor had a faded look to it, as though I were watching as if through some old movie.
I moved out of my room. More glided out of my room. I felt my legs moving, but I put no effort into moving them. It was as though I wasn’t even in control of my own legs anymore. They were just leading me on this predetermined path. I glided down the hallway to the staircase and floated down the stairs.
Then suddenly I was outside. I was standing before the pen where the sheep were held. In my right hand I held a rope, I placed it around the neck of one of the two animals in the pen and I glided back into the house. The animal trailing close behind me. Then I blacked out.
Suddenly I flashed back into the world. I was standing in the kitchen, completely naked. Totally hairless from head to toe. I was rubbing my body down with a coating of chalk. Then I floated into the next room. It was totally cleared of all furniture. In my left hand was a bucket of red liquid. It only took me a moment to realize that I was to paint the wall. In my right hand I had a bunch of fur, or hair of some sort. I put down the bucket and dipped my right hand all the way down into the liquid. Then I began to write on the wall in Latin. Speaking aloud in Milcom’s voice the words that I wrote.
“Ipse est enim Deus unus et verus . Fingat antiquis. Tollet eum, et adorabunt mortalia vota ment generis carnem. Afferentur ei igne erunt et filii eius super sacrificia. Ignis et dabitur ei . Unum scio quia verum esse deum, demonem inferni, Moloch.”
Then I moved to the next wall, Hebrew.
“כי הואהאל היחיד והאמיתי . השד של ישן . כל ment התמותה ישתחוו לו והוא ינקוט בהצעותיהם של בשר תאומה . הם יובאו אליו על ידי אש ,והילדים של גברים יהיו קורבנותיו. והם יינתנו לועל ידי אש . יודע להיות אמת זה כי הוא האל אמיתי אחד ,השד מגיהינום , המולך .”
And then the third wall, Greek.
“Γιατί αυτός είναι ο μοναδικός αληθινός Θεός . Ο Δαίμονας των παλαιών . Όλα τα θνητά ΜΕΝΤ θα υποκύψει σε αυτόν και αυτός λαμβάνει τις προσφορές τους συγγένειας σάρκας . Θα πρέπει να φέρεται σε αυτόν από τη φωτιά , και τα παιδιά των ανδρών θα είναι οι θυσίες του. Και θα πρέπει να δοθεί σ ‘αυτόν από τη φωτιά . Γνωρίζετε ότι αυτό είναι αλήθεια, γιατί είναι ο μοναδικός αληθινός Θεός , ο δαίμονας της κόλασης , Μολώχ .”
And finally the fourth wall.
“For he is the one true God. The Demon of old. All mortal men shall bow to him and he shall take their offerings of kindred flesh. They shall be brought to him by fire, and the children of men shall be his sacrifices. And they shall be given unto him by fire. Know this to be truth for he is the one true god, the demon of hell, Moloch.”
Then I was in the kitchen again. Covered from head to toe in a thin laver of white chalk. A mask was over my head. I glided to the stair to the basement and floated down them. My legs moving under their own volition. Down the stairs. In the back of the basement there was a wall length mirror. In front of the mirror stood a burning pyre. Crackling and hissing with the noises of cooking meat and splintering wood. In front of the pyre stood my father. He was totally naked, and covered from head to toe in a fine layer of white chalk. Over his face he wore the severed head of the ram from the yard. As I approached the fire I saw that the mask I was wearing was made of the lamb. I reached the pyre and saw hundreds of charred bones lying about the floor. Those of our young.
Behind us the stairs creaked. In this moment I knew my father and I were equals as we knelt to the ground before the fire. The stairs creaked again, one after the other. My eyes flicked to the side to view the staircase. On the stairs my master was descending. His dirtied, three toed, clawed, white feet landing softly on each step before the wood gently creaked under his massive form. Each step brought him closer to us and into greater view. His beautiful legs were pale as the moon and smoother than the skin of a fresh infant. On his stomach there was no bellybutton, only white skin with dark splotches spread about. His slender arms extended down to his knees, ending in curved hands with bony fingers and nails sharper than razors. When his head came into view I was struck with awe at his majesty, his smile was ever-lasting, cut into his face like a sculpture’s. He had no lips, and his teeth were yellowed and cracked canines extending three an four inches from his perfect black gums. His tongue flicked around his open mouth, tasting the air as he walked down the stairs. His nose was flat on his face, two perfect snake-like slits above his mouth. His eyes laid below his hairless scalp like two obsidian ovals, all knowing and all seeing. His horns came from his temples like those of a ram, quietly scraping the sides of the walls. He was beautiful.
This one true God walked towards us effortlessly before stopping behind us, our naked backs presented as canvases to Him, and he bestowed upon us his symbol of purity, his claws tasting the purity of our skin.
Then in Milcom’s voice I said, “For he is the one true God. The Demon of old. All mortal men shall bow to him and he shall take their offerings of kindred flesh. They shall be brought to him by fire, and the children of men shall be his sacrifices. And they shall be given unto him by fire. Know this to be truth for he is the one true god, the demon of hell.”
Behind us He opened its mouth wider than than that of any human, his scalp pointing directly back at the stairs from which he descended, and out from his maw gurgled his name,
We stepped into the pyre.
Then I realized I wasn’t dreaming.
Credit: Pablo Swaurez