Sightseeing in Hell: Pandemonium

As Samael’s consort, I have certain duties in Hell, such as punishing the Damned, but alongside that comes rulership.  My favorite place in all the fourteen Heavens and Hells is what I call Pandemonium, my little slice of New York City meets Marrakesh in the Underworld.  Azael recently challenged me for my queenship over this section of Samael’s kingdom, and I found myself in a near-death duel with one of the Watchers who thought I was too green to rule.  I defeated her handily, and went on to enjoy a night of partying in Pandemonium with my people.

Pandemonium is the market district of Hell in the capital city of Dis and is a refuge for all different mythical races that have fled persecution of the Abrahamic faiths.  You can find everything from qilin to fey to djinn to unktehi to Melusines roaming the streets, selling wares from fine jewelry to exotic diamond and jewel fruits to fresh food, clothing that’s every style from Steampunk to Lolita, pleasures and vices for sale, from willing bodies to Cabaret to drugs made of the distilled essences of moonflowers and dreams.  The closest it comes is to a living carnival, full of its own customs, as Pandemonium is a melting pot of spirits.  I adore riding the Behemoths, these great black elephant-like creatures that carry travelers and caravans aboard their backs, and hearing the Behemoths trumpet with their trunks.  Only small vehicles are allowed, from caravans to horse-drawn carriages to motorcycles and steeds of every imaginable kind, and there is oftentimes dancing and masquerades going on, revelries of all sorts, from unholy mummer’s plays to traditions of each species’ homelands like Lunar New Year or Eid.

Pandemonium backs onto the Styx, where fresh fish come to the markets from the ruby waters, and tributaries are traveled by gondola and rowboat alike.  It borders Asmodeus’ bars, jazz and swing clubs, and gambling district and also Lilith’s go go bars, strip clubs, and red light district, the lively circus of Pandemonium’s bodies and festivals and wares spilling into any open space available like a living organ.  Buildings are temporary: yurts, tents, cloths, an open air market that is popular for shopping and romantic getaways with unimaginable tastes for the palate.  Exit Samael’s fortress of a castle and the market starts, with paths winding and erected by a madman, lit by will o the wisps, fairies, and dragon fire.  Danse macabre is a popular past-time as it is in Samael’s kingdom, and you’ll see the dead roaming the streets alongside the living.  Ghosts and ghouls and spirits come alive at night in the shadows of the stalls.

At night, Samael holds balls and all of Pandemonium is invited to the castle, to the Devil’s Masque, which can best be described as a Viennese ball mixed with a blood orgy.  Elaborate costumes, debauchery, fine wine and finer still blood mingling between lovers and enemies, the fruits of our labors and vintage of our wrath.  His subjects wear enchanted masks to disguise their identities if they so choose and hedonism reigns.  But my favorite holiday is the Festival of Lights, which happens on All Soul’s Day – the Damned and dead souls in Hell, all ancestors that dwell their for various reasons, are allowed to return to Earth as the archdemons open a gateway to the realm of the living and visit their descendants.  Basically the Hell version of Dia de los Muertos.  The Styx is lit with paper lanterns and souls returning to Earth are a Jacob’s ladder in the sky.  There are fireworks, fresh roses strewn across the streets, and danse macabre throughout the markets.

I own a little bit of woodland, what I call the Screaming Hollow, more of a park at the border of the markets that backs up into Samael’s elaborate system of courtyards.  This is the Lover’s Lane of Hell.  Samael’s garden is famed for his blood-red roses and viticulture, with red wine made on site and trellises hung with wisteria and grapes, briars growing in forests around them.  Here are the more dangerous spirits, the wild Seirim, the flying Lilin, the howling Shedim, and everything can be found in the Screaming Hollow for the right price – it may just cost you your soul.  A river runs through it from a deep tap root at the Tree of Life and the waters are a pure crystal blue with raw garnet stones in the basin.  Lovers wild off each other’s lips often come to the screaming hollow at midnight, when the witch moon sails through the sky.  This is where the Witches Sabbats are held, at the heart of the woods in a crippled apple grove on a high, desolate hill – a piece of Eden plucked from Heaven and rotting.  The witches in Hell I am a part of practice Satanic Witchcraft, if that wasn’t obvious enough, but there’s goes a step behind what the living could ever produce.  Think Malleus Maleficarum but high on nightshade wine.  Familiars are often lower-level demons, sent throughout the mythical realms to do their bidding, there is the osculum infame and blood sacrifices and cannibalism, and Samael presides over it all on a throne of bone as the Witchfather.

There are quieter parts of Pandemonium, like the residential areas, mostly stone and clay houses with thatch and patch roofs that are humble where the immigrants live.  Those are diverse as anything, with Japanese style dwellings to adobe.  Fronting the houses are often merchant tents, and the night carnival shifts each night, the heart of Hell where business off the ledgers is conducted.  Throughout it is enchanting music, buskers and street bands and sylphs and dakinis and enchantresses and sorcerers singing and fluting their songs.

Everything is for sale in Pandemonium, everything can be bought for a cost, but the best parts, in my opinions, are free.

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Immaculate Heart of the Bleeding Briar

Hosanna, I whisper through bloody lips, I got pummeled
by the riptide of my sorrow again, sweet Rabboni, and
you are far away in some Heavenly Throne, down on earth,
it is cold, and midnight comes to Galilee, with the moon
like a sickle for separating the faithful from the chaff.
Can you hear me, sweet Yeshua? Up there in your starry
abode. I bathed in lavender and myrrh, and Joseph’s coat
of dreams carried my prayers in technicolor up to your
tender hands and rose garden of desires, what obedience
to the ways and means of nature, to hang suspended on a
crossroads between Heaven and Hell, I know well, Satan
calls me whore, but sweet Christ, I would leave all the
ravishings and depravity just to receive your mark on my
scarred brow, I have many bruises and burns these days,
being the forgotten disciple means they paint me wanton
and demonize your Magdalene, Watchtower of God, Zophael,
Watchman of El, I was always a spy, anyways, of swiftest
wing, and they got our story wrong, oh Who is Like God?

No one but You, Immaculate Heart of the Bleeding Rose.

Angel’s Landing

It is Saint Agnes’ Eve, a night for spells and lover-boys

vaunting under moonlight, but angels are carnal creatures,

and we more take quick dalliances on the battlefield,

or mate like lovebirds in times of peace, we’re flower children

but warriors, when Hawks meet Doves, winged and wild.

The squadron comes to me on the magic black moon-tide –

scores of cherubim, ophanim, and seraphim to be trained.

I am not human at midnight, no longer girl or woman, no

I am burning archangel with sword of flames, bounteous

general who runs drills and sends battalions off to melee.

I do not sleep, I do not dream.  I am in the space between

heartbeats, at Angel’s Landing, the black void of Creation

where my children of the arsenal become armed, how holy

to be military commandress to Heaven’s elite, swords abreast,

guns blazing, I am all Joan of Arc handing out godly commandments,

this is the least human I have ever been, and now the sickness of

divinity is growing too hot for this mortal coil to contain, my

magic is eating me alive, I am becoming a bellows to forge

the best of blades, Abrahamic mother of a thousand tribes,

but truly, in Paradise we are all related, and a third of our brethren

live on coal and ash in the Wastes West of Nod, Cain marked beyond

redemption, so on this high holy tide, I surrender to the War that is Eternal.

This War does not have a Name.  To give it a name would be to suggest that there

is even any War beyond this cosmic match of wits between the Light and the Dark.

 

I do not sleep.

 

I do not dream.

 

I take no solace, I cannot wander.

 

For angels do not have free will, and I am fire.

Joan of Arc

Swords rust with blood, but the sheath renews
my girl is a knight of twelve blades, red blue.

My girl screams ruin and wonder, my lady shines
like rain, she rides into battle on honor divine.

So heavenly, the way she plucks my pinions and bites
my lip, sashays her hips in a way belying her might.

She is a dancer, a moon maiden wanderer, sailing
on ballerina toes to the safe harbor of my wings.

I bleed only for her glory, scream her name as night
leaves me barren in the wake of her ghost, no light.

No light at all but a promise, and I am a selfish king.

O Captain, My Captain (A Confessional)

In another life, when spring was eternal, before darkness tainted Heaven,
we were young and I did not know the meaning of pain, just your burning
light. Your all-consuming love. You are who I answer to when the night
turns stone cold and lead settles into my belly, o captain, my captain!
Though Satan made my wings as subtle and quick as an eagle, Herald of Hell,
it was you who forged my sword and eyes in flame, my body in supernovas,
sculpted by golden hands – you breathed the breath of immortality into me
and my eyes lit cerulean, and it was from my first step I was your shadow,
not a footstep behind, laughing sometimes, crying others, teasing you.
Devotion does not come easily to the caged bird, the free bird sings not
as often as she in shackles, and Heaven was a prison, just like Hell.
But I would spend eternity with my talons tethered to your supple wrist.
Michael, when I was young, but I am always young, I was innocent, and
though I died in your arms after sacrificing myself for your life, I
would perish again on Satan’s spear just to see you continue on, I
am the expendable one in this eternal war of thunder and fire, your
general is supposed to give her life and beauty for her commander,
and I am so sorry I was too broken to return to your side, fractured
into a million shards, Samael sewed his heart into me and I was lost
in Hell, in Purgatory, in the wilds of the Fifth Heaven, I wandered.
The journey of a soul through its darkest night simply awaits the sun:
you are the dawn of my life, sweet archangel, He Who is Like God,
and to see you crumple around my mangled, bleeding form is too much.
Your history books in your living library say Zophael was the most
faithful to her general’s side, and that you and your dark brother
created me out of beauty, Jophiel of the Flaming Sword, Sun Stealer,
it is true I stole fire from Heaven, it is true I have made you weep.
But I thirst for freedom, and the free bird has no master, only mates.
Eagles bond for all their life and nest in aeries high on sandstone.
But your bed is small and tidy, a monkshood cell, blue and white linen,
and roses are your only extravagance, what grows from the earth alone.
You are my blue violet. You are my guiding star. You are my true North.
When it rains, on cloudy gray days, I think of the guts of our family
storming from the sky onto bloody green grass, and I am haunted by
this ageless war, this senseless ruinous bitterness between lion and wolf.
I am a bridge between Heaven and Hell, the blind High Priestess, and yet
my magic is fractured by two polarities, O Captain, I have failed you.
In moonshine, I see your face in craters, and in starlight, your faith
burns with gentle radiance, you have not given up on me, my wing gone,
my hair cut, my sword broken, my scythe fractured, my robes frayed.
I am no angel anymore, certainly not a warrior, but you do not call me
any human name, for human names are lies, and you see my eternal life.
Pray tell why I come so close to tasting your heart and then immolate.
Pray tell why I cannot sing your praise with a broken, bruised throat.
This river of love is a bloody cut that rushes deep forth from wounds.
My glorious wounds, my mangled heart, cut up and burgeoning for you,
it is all for you, My Captain, and my final words are your name, the
True Name, the Holy One. Jesus Christ, I can’t breathe, and I was
never alive, not meant to hurt you, a Molotov Cocktail of a girl.

The Thousandth Poem to the Sun

Tender is the night, but long our days –
long as ladders to Heaven, you lift me
up over a thousand suns to fly ascendant,
I am your red-tailed fledgling, soaring
aloft on your shoulders, but I fly back
to my nest in your heart, you never bend
in the wind, it is always autumn within us
your mind is a galaxy of burnished orange
and gold forests, cedar mist, trailing pine
I love you, I need you, but do I give back?
I take your succor and you are my shield,
my master defender, my champion, light of
all my lives, a seed of you in everyone
that I love, I look in the heart of All
and all I can think, Who is Like God? Who
could carry a burden of roses, waltz with
pain in every step, if I am Icarus, you are
the light I flock to, you always carry me,
why can’t I carry you? Let your guard fall,
rest, Michael, be at peace, I have never
seen you cry except when my broken body is
cradled in your arms, even when I am gone,
you carry me, your load is a Babel Tower,
and if you keep building the cross higher,
it will crash, so please, just let me in.

Black & White Isn’t Right

The war has raged on since the first cell split from the Source, and Michael and the Dragon are up to each other’s crushed necks and bitten heels in venom.  Angels are bleeding, demons are holding the carcasses of their beloved wretched ruins to their breasts, and archangels fly through the battlefield armed with fiery whips and flaming swords and blazing shields.  Satan has a spear and it is long and sharp and filled with the gall of death, his own dripping poison, but it smells like flowers – the kind the brothers used to walk through when they were young, when they wrestled and played at chess, now they play at war, and it such a curse to grow old and bitter when once there was no good and evil, just twins, Left Hand and Right Hand, with the Source their Queen, but now all that is left of the Source is the ichor that drains from the angels, and in Her Image is a girl with white wings and innocence and beauty.

They created her as a pact you see, perhaps as a scapegoat, perhaps for sacrifice, Virgin and Whore.  She flies through the battlefield as Jophiel, Michael’s general, but also as Zophael, Heaven’s Watchman and double agent in Hell.  This is not her first life, but it is no one’s first life, for the Ancient Ones spring from the Source and return to it and are spat out full-formed again with different names.  Michael is the oldest.  Perhaps the Dragon too.  Michael always wins, but that triumph comes with the tithe, and woman’s blood is the best kind of payment.

Satan aims that spear, that long spear, and it will kill Michael.  Michael is too busy being the father of the battlefield, glorious general, and Satan does not fight fair and is wily and wolf-wild.  She sees the spear headed towards her creator, screams, and it pierces her heart and Michael stops smiling from that day on, or does he?  He catches her dying form, she is fountains of red on an ivory gown, golden sandals drooping, blue eyes crying in a blood rain.  Michael is tearing at his hair and rocking back and forth amongst the fields tilled with dead bodies and hacked off limbs and guts that smell like sulfur, smelted by swords and decay.  There is no poetry in her death, just mangled wings, and Satan cries and says no, not her, not her, not the child we created between us, this bridge between Heaven and Hell, and he grabs the spear Michael has pulled from her breast and breaks it in two.

Michael and the Dragon share a look of hate.  It is pure, it is ragged, it is burning.  But there is duty, and there is love, and though one is the Tree of Death and one the Tree of Life, once there was a cutting from both of them and she grew curved as a pear, she was sweet, and lord knows they were idiots to bind their fates together into this dumb blonde archangel who only has a mind for poetry and perfume and flowers and love.  She should never have been given a white scythe or a flaming sword, god knows she is just a child, and now her heart is mangled and she is gasping their names and clutching at Michael’s hair which she has braided so many times and reaching for Satan’s eyes and wishing they would change from their poison red to her beloved blue.

Once again Michael and Satan are fathers, and she is a child, and the last bit of archangel that the Void has not claimed as it’s master, Satan pries his heart from his breast and gives her new life.  She will die as an angel, yes, and archangels are not meant to live through the Judge of God’s gall, it would even kill Michael, and Satan knows in giving up  his immortality he will lose this ancient battle of Good and Evil, that his head will crush dirt and he will eat dust on his belly all his days, but for Eloa, for Sophia, for the Magdalene, for Eve, for the First Woman and Last Whore and Idiot Girl, he would swallow his own poison instead of spitting it out.

Michael knows Satan has damned her with a cursed life, a half-life, for to spring from Satan’s heart as he told her in her childhood is a raging black storm, a sword without mercy, and she will be caught in death and rebirth and madness.  She dies then, and it is a meaningless death, but perhaps it means the War in Heaven is won, for as soon as they bury her body and send her off to her next life in Hell, Satan has already accepted his fate.

He bows before the Prince of Heaven.  He eats dust.  He lets his twin crush his head into dirt, toss him off a cliff, strip him of a manhood for a serpent tail, and now the burden of raising her in her second life has fallen upon him, not Michael feeding the baby manna dew and wild honey but Satan rocking her on his throne, princess of Hell, and when she comes to him in the reeds like Moses, Satan takes the doll and places her on a cradle, and he cries, for now her eyes are red like his, and she will never be pure again.  Eidolon cleft from his ribs, he calls her throughout the ages, yellow canary in a coal mine, guiding light in hell, and her wings are gone but scars remain.  She grows and runs wild in Hell and sings, and Michael hears her from Heaven’s empty throne, and he weeps, and she drinks down his tears like rain.

They were idiots to create her, after all, but brothers drunk off the cosmos place bets, and her reason for existing is a secret best kept between the Knight and the Dragon, for princesses choose the victor, and maybe they wanted to see who could win the love of love herself.