The Legend of Lu: Armageddon


The Day of War

Midnight had fallen on Metro City, as Dan made his way into Temple Row. The temples silhouetted in the purple dark sky had an ominous, ghostly glow about them. People were trickling into Temple Row with Dan, though no one spoke to each other. Everyone walked along the path toward the oldest site of Temple Row, the Shrine of Domardor, the doors into which were wide open and letting a pale red-orange light flow out onto the pavement and sidewalks. Dan, alert and on his guard, went with the crowd into it.

Once inside, Dan observed a multitude of people gathering about the main space of the building, a kind of massive court yard around which were pillars arranged in a gigantic circle, about a hundred yards in diameter. Dan looked up, and was perhaps the only person in the midnight assembly to do so. The vaulted ceiling in the daylight boasted a mural of star spangled sky, all in gold illumination on a deep velvety blue sky, and in the midst of which was a maternal Tulu, bearing the Light near her breast. But now, amidst the fire glow––for that was the cause of the orange-red light––and decreasing spectrum of light, was seen only darkness in the vault. Dan returned his eyes to the earth, and looked about himself. There were, again, a motley assortment of people about the yard of Domardor, young and old and middle aged, formally attired, casual, poor dressed, but all made a peculiarly singular impression upon Dan’s mind: everyone he saw, everyone he looked at neither smiled nor frowned, neither laughed, nor cried, neither spoke nor were apparently attentive to anything, all were simply there, walking in, and standing about, as if with inhuman patience, waiting for something or somebody to arrive. The impression was, again, singular, and most disturbing to Dan. Not wanting to draw attention to himself, he acted as everyone else, and assumed a blank stare and passive posture, and just stood still in the crowd.  

Presently something happened. The gigantic doors which were propped open by cinderblocks were shut in on the crowd in the court yard, with a loud clank and a locking of a big bolt. Dan became uneasy, but his uneasiness concluded in positive dismay when next the fires which had been lighting the court yard the whole time were extinguished, and a heavy pitch black settled on Domardor. The most alarming thing about it, Dan thought, was that no one took notice, seemingly, for Dan couldn’t see anyone’s face, nor feel anyone either. All he heard were steps, hundreds and hundreds of feet moving all along the stone floor, shuffling about. Dan noted, too, that the steps were loud, but diminishing in intensity every second. He did not move, for he knew not why he should nor where he should go. Though the court yard was an open area, he had no way of knowing which way to go before he ran into a pillar. 

Consumed in these distressing thoughts, and feeling quite alone and helpless, Dan nevertheless kept his composure, remembering what Tulu had spoken to him, that he would not endure any harm. Two things happened next which made Dan’s heart leap up into his throat: the first, the floor beneath him started to rumble with a tremendous violence. Not like the shaking of an earthquake but like the trembling of thunder beneath his feet. He heard––and saw!––forming below his feet, and going out creating a fire glow of cracked stone all around him, a perfect and ever widening circle. The cracks gave way and stone all around Dan caved in and collapsed, falling into a fiery abyss far below. The court yard all alight by the subterranean inferno, Dan now saw he stood in the precise middle of Domardor, encircled by row upon row of people in perfect circular formation around him. Now, hundreds of fire-lit faces looked upon Dan, though, as before, without emotion, without volition even, just staring at him. 

Dan had his opportunity, the pamphlet didn’t lie. He was known. He was now quite literally the center of attention. But what to say to a crowd without will or feeling? What was the point, Dan thought to himself, as he stared back at all the empty faces. The rumbling of the floor had soon ceased, and the steady glow of flames from below cast silent shadows of the crowd all along the perimeter of the walls of Domardor. But in and out of the silent, still shadows on the walls passed another shadow, long, winding in and slithering around the shadows of the persons of the crowd on the wall. Dan watched its form move about like this for a time, heart beating fast, though rather composed all things considered. Then he heard the shadow speak. 

“Who’s this? An enemy in our midst!” said the voice, soft like distant thunder, but sharp in tone like one enraged! Dan made no reply, not for fear exactly, though he was afraid, but because he was trying to plan his escape, and didn’t know what then just to say to the voice. “I say, who’s this!”

“Daniel Goodman! Though you know who I am and why I’ve come, don’t you, Fallen!” shot out Dan boldly. “You can’t harm me!”

“Easy now, Danny, easy! We don’t want to hurt you, oh no, we want to help you, Danny,” came the voice again, now louder as if it had come closer.

“Help me? With what I wonder? Defiling my conscience? Offending the Lights? Destroying myself?” Dan was heated now, as the voice had that effect on his spirit. 

“We know better than to think you’d fall for that sort of thing, no, no. You’re not like these, you’re so special,” and upon the last syllable, the voice sounded so snakelike Dan thought it was more hissing than voicing words. Dan fought off another shudder, and emboldened himself to speak again.

“I demand you let these people go! Give them back their minds and hearts!” Dan said, roaring like a lion now, which was immediately followed up with a most hideous and noxious cackling laugh you’ve ever heard, which made the flame in Dan die down a bit. 

“These people are ours! These as well as more besides!” hissed the voice. “Their souls are ours!” and as it spoke, the single shadow from which the voice spoke splintered or frayed into a dozen just like it, all snake-like and slithering about the crowd of shadows like snakes through blades of grass.

“Then what do you demand of me?” asked Dan. “Why have you brought me here? You know you can’t keep me!” 

“No, we cannot. But we can keep you from our prey! We’ve shown you how easy that is yesterday in the Steel Mill. Miss Luis Mayberry is quite in hand, and plays her part rather well, don’t you think? Glitter-boy?” and then cackled again more hideously. Dan was made more determined, not daunted by these taunts.

“What have you brought me here for! To show me a fool?” Dan returned, his face all aflame and glowing red.

“You’re that without our help, boy!” came the voice. Dan had an inspiration. 

“You’re bluffing, you buffoons in the shadows! If you could do something, you would’ve by now. You’re just trying to keep me from getting my message out, from fulfilling my mission to Tulu!” and at that, the shadows seemed to writhe about horribly like a worm in a bird’s beak. Dan observed them closely. 

“That’s not nice!” said the voices, hissing more loudly than before, such that their echoes resounded throughout Domardor. “And lies!” 

“Then why have you brought me here, then?” Dan responded. 

“To strike a bargain. These all you may have,” at this the serpent-shadows curled around the shadows of the crowd, “If you give yourself to us,” with an emphasis on the last word, which rang throughout the court yard, and up into the vaulted ceiling where Tulu sat enthroned upon a crescent moon.

“Three-hundred and thirty-three souls––hearts, minds, and spirits––Danny! Think on it! What chance do you have to save more? None!” hissed the shadows, slithering now back and forth as if pacing impatiently, waiting for Dan to answer. Dan just stood there in the middle of Domardor, amidst fire and shadows, without a chance to accomplish his mission. The people of Metro City were enslaved by a power quite beyond them, and, it seemed to Dan, beyond himself. Surely there must be a way out, for why would the Lady Tulu have sent Dan on such a hopeless mission? These thoughts consumed Dan as the snake-shadow creatures paced back and forth. “What will it be, Danny? Say what it will be!” 

“Alright, alright! What do you want with me?” Dan said finally. 

“We need a sacrifice for our dread Master, Ferater the Black, and you fit the bill, buddy boy!” 

“The bill? What do you mean?” Dan asked.

“Innocence!” roared the venomous voices, at once happy and hateful.

“What does he need a sacrifice for?”

“To commemorate your Light Lord’s holocaust, of course! Three-hundred and thirty-three centuries ago this Friday we influenced your ancestors to burn him alive! Now we want to do the same to you!” Dan stood there for a long while without uttering a word. He looked out on all the faces of the crowd: blank stares looking back at him from across the chasm of flame and abyss. “If it were Tulu’s will that he should undergo a like passion as Her Son, why didn’t She say so?” Dan thought. “Why would She guarantee me safety, if She wanted me to give my self over to death?” Thus pondering these deep matters, Dan took no notice of the slithering snakes again pacing for want of patience. His gaze ascended from the pitiful crowd to the vault of Domardor, where the Queen of the Stars sat overseeing all, though Dan saw not her form.   

“If this be Thy will, give me a sign, O my Undying Queen!” Dan prayed, after which the shadows writhed again, and slithered low around and in between the legs of the crowd, as if hiding in terror. Dan stood there for a moment or two, then all a sudden a great sound was heard, as if from the depths of his heart or else a thousand miles away, distant as the stars themselves, yet near at hand as a bee buzzing around your ear. The shadow serpents seemed not to hear, for they remained unmoved near the legs of their spiritual captives. Steadily the sound, like a tidal wave of silver coins rolling along the earth, sounded more distinct every second, until Dan could make out what appeared to be a melody, a trumpeting fanfare he thought it sounded much like, but different, more tuneful than a brass instrument, more solid, sturdy and forceful––if such a sound could be conceived of in the imagination of sense. The call had the singular effect of rousing Dan to a spirit of animation and courage he’d never known before, either in Aerlan or during his life here. It was a trumpet call, a battle cry and call to arms, to fight and to die! 

Dan got the impression from the sound from Heaven––since it was undoubtedly an answered prayer and confirmation of his course of action––that, were the Fallen to hear even a measure of the trumpet call, their very being would implode for fear of it and cease to exist. Perhaps it was a mercy they couldn’t hear it. As the sound subsided to a dull and distant roar, then to a far off hum, then silence once more, Dan thought it proper to make his reply now.

“Attend, Vipers!” Dan shouted, strong and determined. “You shall have your sacrifice! What do I receive in return? What are the exact terms here?” The slithering forms came out from the crowds and slunk slowly up the curvature of Domardor’s ceiling, and as they did so, Dan lost sight of the shadows going higher up, into the darkness of the vault. 

“You shall free the three-hundred and thirty-three here present to listen to you,” came the voices from the darkness above, “And after which, we shall have you to do with as we please!” Though Dan could not see, he had the distinct impression that the shadowy forms were curling around the painted bodies of the Infant Lu, and His Mother, Tulu above in the vault as they spoke.    

“You won’t interfere? You won’t influence them to evil, or twist my meaning in their minds?” Dan asked, head up-turned, shouting in the dark. 

“We won’t, we promise!” hissed the voices. 

“Your promises are as good as rotten eggs. No. I’ll have you swear an oath by which you’ll be bound forever!” Dan spoke with such authority, the snakes merely replied with a timid, “Yes.”

“Swear to the agreed upon terms, that these present three-hundred and thirty-three persons are free to follow my directions to make it to Mt. Óle this Sunday, to be saved from the coming deluge of fire, that you shall not interfere with my message to them, neither actively opposing me, or indirectly, through altering of external circumstances, e.g., impaired hearing, simulation, or distractions, etc., that, in a word, these three-hundred and thirty-three souls are free from your influence, and free therefrom forever! And, finally, that I shall be free from your bonds for the duration of a day, to preach my message to these here present,” Dan said, his authority as demonstrable as before. 

“We so swear,” came the voices  from above. 

“So swear upon your Ferater Dark Lord, that, upon the reneging of stated terms by any of your company, such terms of contract are immediately voided, and neither party subject to said terms.” 

“We so swear,” hissed the voices again.

“And that if in the event of reneging by any of your company, your torments of fire and misery thus far experienced heretofore, henceforth shall be multiplied by a million, without end unto eternity. Swear it!” The pause was lengthy, the silence audible. Finally:

“We swear to it all, Danny Boy! Now have back your bleating sheep!” Rang down the voices from above and all about Dan’s head, and suddenly the fires ceased as the chasm closed, and the doors flung open, revealing a pale blue dawn of a new day.                  

The Pot Calling the Kettle Black

Stephen Heiner, founder of True Restoration (which proclaims itself as a “Catholic content company” found himself in some hot holy water after keyboarding what may be honestly called a hit piece. The article written back in January was originally entitled “Why the CMRI Are Not an Option for Serious Catholics,” but Heiner has since changed that hard-lined headline to the softer, almost soothing “What Serious Catholics Should Know About the CMRI.”

The article dealt with two issues Heiner has with the CMRI: the clergy allowing congregants to attend una cum masses and the granting of marriage annulments, or at least passing judgment on marriage cases. Heiner here is absolutely correct in pointing out the non-Catholic position of the CMRI on these issues. He is absolutely correct, for instance when he says, “Assistance at an una cum Mass is objective participation in the modernist Novus Ordo. There’s simply no getting around this.”

Now, for those of you who may not know what an una cum mass is, it is simply a traditional Roman rite mass in which the priest offers up the mass in unity with the reigning pontiff, and mentions him by name. Now, it is very curious for the CMRI, being a sedevacantist group, to allow its congregants to attend such masses. Setting aside the fact that it is a sin to pray with heretics, by hypothesis, there wouldn’t be a pope to name, if the Holy See was indeed empty, right? So why the mixed messages? The most probable answer to that question is sin, which tends to make one stupid.  

But what is ironic here is that Heiner, who promotes the asinine material-formal, or Cassiciacum thesis, otherwise known as sedeprivationism—the theological brainchild of the very late Michel-Louis Guérard des Lauriers—goes out of his way to write against the CMRI which allows people to pray with the currently reigning pope they as a congregation don’t actually believe exists. Why ironic? Because, according to the theory, there is a legally elected roman pontiff, it’s just you can’t mention him in your prayers at mass because he is only a material pope, not a formal pope, which is to say the Antichrists from Roncalli to Francis were all quite literally merely paper popes, legally designated to be pope, and would be formally, if only they abjured their Antichrist-like ways.

So, in point of fact, Heiner and Most Holy Trinity Seminary (the outfit Sanborn heads up), are not really sedevacantists at all. So, what we have here is Heiner not allowing the sedevacantist CMRI to mention a pope they don’t believe exists, while at the same time believing himself that a pope does exist, if only materially or legally, but cannot be named during the mass. This is simply a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black. Heiner will not allow Pivarunas (the pseudo-bishop heading up the CMRI) to pray with a non-existent pope, but does allow himself not to pray with a pope he does believe exists—if only materially. What bizarre and bewildering hypocrisy!

The next issue Heiner has with the CMRI is that they take it upon themselves to say who is and isn’t married, according to the marriage laws of the Church. Heiner objects to this on the grounds that the CMRI clergy have no right to exercise anything in the way of a legal function of the Church. To do that one would need jurisdiction and authority, which Heiner points out (quite rightly) the CMRI clergy do not have. Heiner concludes, “…the best our clergy can do is investigate to give someone some sense of probability, but no more than that.” 

Let me just pause on this point about probability, if only to illustrate just how far gone Heiner’s mind is, before I address the overarching hypocrisy of it all. Why would a priest be permitted to investigate the probability of a marriage contract’s validity, but not determine whether it is or is not valid? Do such entities as law or legal norms admit of probability? (Hint: No.) One really would like to know, based upon the books, whether such and such a man is guilty of murder or just manslaughter, or whether the man in question was completely innocent. Who could possibly settle for or even tolerate a ruling of  “guilty of murder—probably.” What good would it do the victim’s family? What justice would be worked in such a case as that? In a word, what would be the point in passing judgment at all if one were confined only to what was probably so? As it is with murder so it is with marriage. It is just stupid to say one can say a conclusion of fact and law is probable but cannot say it is actual. On what grounds would one say a marriage was probable, if not on the same grounds which determine its actuality, its having existed at all, whether such facts which the law provides for actually took place? But I digress.   

Now, if Heiner’s holding the prohibition on una cum masses—while holding to the material-formal thesis—is a classical case of the pot calling the kettle black, this issue about marriage annulments and lack of authority and jurisdiction is something akin to the black witch calling her cauldron black. It is simply wickedly preposterous, whatever one’s depth of understanding about the legal functions of the Church, to insist that one group cannot adjudicate marriage contracts for lack of jurisdictional authority, but another group may call its mass center a parish (a legal designation of a jurisdictional territory in the Church), open other mass centers throughout the world, operate a seminary, absolve sins in the tribunal of the confessional, and, perhaps what’s most preposterous, determine who is legally pope! So, in other words, the CMRI determining whether their congregants are adulterers is bad business but Sanborn&Co. can open sacramental shops worldwide, determine who is and is not absolved of sin, screen candidates for the priesthood (and supposedly educate and train them in canon law, sacred theology and sacred liturgical rites), and finally adjudicate who are cardinal electors and consequently who is in possession of a legitimate papal election. How could Heiner believe such rot, let alone type it out for the world to see? The most probable answer to that question is sin, which tends to make one stupid.  

Perhaps what’s most hypocritical is Heiner’s censuring the CMRI’s tolerance of una cum mass attendance with a quote from Pope Pius VI, but which may equally be applied to the Most Holy Trinity clergy: “Keep away from all intruders, whether called archbishops, bishops, or parish priests; do not hold communion with them especially in divine worship.” 

The Legend of Lu: Armageddon


The Day of the Moon

Dan continued to shield his eyes for some time even after the last of the echoing thunder ceased to be heard. The hour was late in the morning, just on the verge of dawn, Dan thought, and turning toward Metro City, he started at once––this time, with his feet on the ground. 

As he walked along in the increasing light of the morning, Dan looked back on his wondrous experience, and also reflected upon the dread fate that awaited those who would not head his message. My Son shall destroy this world, Dan remembered with a shudder what the Moonlight Lady said, Her pearly soft voice contrasting hard against the unbearable reality of the words. 

Dan thought about his mission as he walked, too. The sun was cresting the distant eastern range, and directing gleaming bright into Dan’s eyes, a welcome warmth and light from the cool and darkness of desert night. “If they do not head my words, they shall perish, one and all!” Dan said aloud, as if to the Sun Himself. As he walked along, thus absorbed by this heavy melancholy thought, Dan took no notice of the fact that, whereas before, his raiment shone with a dim brightness of a waning moonbeam, now his attire burned bright white like that of a blacksmith’s fire. As he walked, were one to look upon his approach from the City, Dan would have appeared as a second sun arising from the west. As it was, though, no one noticed, for no one was awake enough to notice his coming into the City at all. 

As Dan returned, he did not know at first which way to go, or where to begin, or what to say. But as he walked slowly down the street of the industrial district, he thought he might know where to begin. A steel mill, with thousands of workers, was just up the road on the left. The factory was in full swing with the day’s operations, pumping out hundreds of thousands of pounds of metalworks for the City and trading abroad. Thus operations necessitated a considerable work force, which Dan thought would make for a good beginning point from which to get his message spread throughout the Metro City. He resolved to go there to the factory and begin his preaching.

Coming up to the building, which was more like a little city itself than a single structure, Dan strained his neck bending his head back to look up and up as the side of the facade which rose up into a steel-blue sky above, with but a lonely cloud floating by. The door was glass, like the Cube Academy, and Dan squinted looking at it, for it shone with the brightness of reflected sunlight. He opened the door and walked in. 

The business receptionist desk was set high above the head of the woman who was working there. Dan looked around. No artwork on the walls. No pictures of persons. No color. No chair. No coffee table. Just grey blue blank walls, a desk previously alluded to, and a single door which presumably led to the factory floor. Dan approached the desk which enfolded around the secretary, who was presently on the phone, and took no notice of Dan. 

As she finished up her call, Dan took the opportunity to observe her. To his surprise, as he did so, a strange new sensation arose in his heart and mind. He could almost guess what she was thinking. “Not, thinking,” Dan thought to himself, “More like feeling out in words,” as if he could perceive her emotional and cognitive disposition like one observes hair color or skin tone. As he so observed her, she seemed perplexed by Dan’s presence, while still talking on the phone with someone else, by the sound of it, Dan thought a steel trader on the coast. 

“If that would suit your associates, I’m sure Mr. Turner and his team would accommodate. Just send us words when you’ve made your decision. Yes. Uh huh. Ba-bye now,” said the secretary into the headset telephone apparatus mounted to her skull, and looked up at Dan. “The sign says, sir, no soliciting. Turner Steel Co. is not interested in what you are selling. So please do us both a favor, and leave please,” said the secretary in neither a cold nor heated tone, but one of utter indifference and impersonality. 

“Why do you think I am here to sell something?” Dan asked, perplexed himself. 

“One look at you, I knew you weren’t a client or worker. No go on, get out of here before I have to call security,” and seemed to go back to her some papers in front of her, but looked up a few times to see if Dan were leaving. He just stood there staring down at her.

“You are right. I am not a worker or a client. But I am not here to sell you anything. I am here to solicit something, though,” Dan said in patient, soothing tones.

“That’s just it, guy! There’s no soliciting! Now get on now or I’m calling security!” Dan just looked down at her dumbly. He did not want to upset the woman, but he did want to have an opportunity to speak with the scores of workers presumably behind that very door. He tried another approach.

“Listen, lady! You can call security. See if I care. But I will not leave this building until I’ve delivered my message. All I ask is that you let me have a word with your employees for a few minutes. That’s all!” Dan said, very stern but not unkind. The woman was at first taken aback by his sudden change in temperament, but at the words for a few minutes, a change came over herself, and she became heated. 

“Listen, glitter-boy! If you think I’m going to catch it from Mr. Turner for stopping his presses for even a second, so some lunatic in sparkle pants can come deliver his message, you’re more nuts than I took you for. Now get out, or I will call security. You have ten seconds. Ten, nine, eight, seven…” Dan continued to stare dumbly down at her. “Five…four…” And, with a long sigh, he turned toward the door to leave, but looked back at the woman behind the bunker-of-a-desk, who had stopped her counting to continue shuffling papers, this time actually appearing to read them. After a second, she looked back up at Dan who had exited the building, and snorted and rolled her eyes into her head, then returned them downward to the present pressing business papers. 

Dan walked out into the blue morning with a heavy heart. How was he to save those who would not hear him even speak? How was he to get to the heart and mind of those who had their ears stopped up? Dan’s strength and agility were demonstrably near omnipotent compared to the rest of the inhabitants of Metro City, as was made known to Dan the night prior. And, according to the promise of the Lady, Dan could not know harm while he was on his mission. Dan was, in his own mind and in reality, invincible against any physical antagonist, any bodily enemy who would oppose him. Yet, and this weighed heavily on Dan’s heart, he felt impotent, weak and small now, opposed and shown up as a fool and crazy person even by a puny woman secretary of a steel-mill factory in the outskirts of the City. 

“If she stopped me from getting my message out, how am I going to get it out to fellow cadets at the Academy, or even the instructors or officials, or at the orphanage?” Dan thought aloud, utterly dismayed by the prospect. All the while feeling low, and walking down the street toward the central district, he heard railcars pacing to and fro over head, whistling high then low as they neared and passed by, and then another thought came to him: “If I can’t be heard, then I’ll be seen!” and with that began to run very quickly down the sidewalk of the street, and as railcars whizzed past, Dan started to run so fast, he quickly outpaced them. Flying along now Dan glittered with the golden beams of the morning, and looked more like a streak of light flowing through the streets of Metro City than a stunningly fast young man running to grab people’s attention, so no one noticed him. 

This fact began to dawn on Dan, and so he slackened his sprint to a human speed, then to a leisurely jog, then to slow and heavy walk, without even a noticeable change in breathing. “Great!” Dan shouted aloud. Those who were coming and going, in and out of businesses didn’t notice. “I’m faster than a speeding bullet, and still no one sees me,” and, looking around at the passersby, he continued, “What’s the good of being practically omnipotent when no one even opposes you but simply ignores you?” This defeatist train of thought plunged Dan into a deep rumination which would have rapidly devolved into a spell of despair had not a single ray of light illuminated his mind to a memory of a tree in a park which withstood a shot from a blaster. 

“Of course! Green Grove! I have to preach the Tree that saved humanity! I have to tell Metro City that they are not the meaning of the world! That that Tree is! I have to remind them what was lost, given up, sacrificed, to appease the wrath of the Light, that it was Light sacrificed to Light to expel the Darkness from the world! Which Darkness has now slowly crept back in and consumed it again,” Dan continued thus, to himself animated like he had an audience, though no one even noticed he was talking as he walked by. “How the Lady deigned to visit me, how She with a trembling lip,” here Dan began to swoon as he spoke aloud, “offered Her Son as a burnt offering to the Lord,” and began to weep, for the visitation’s memory was too fresh to allow for any other emotion. Thus he walked down the sunlit street weeping and talking to himself like a madman, himself all ablaze like a living sun walking about on the earth, but no one noticed.   

By the time Dan came to, he noticed it was evening and the sun had past down over the mountains. He had walked all day long through the streets, talking aloud, recounting the history of Light and Darkness, by what knowledge he gained living in Aerlan––for just as his bodily strength returned to him, so too did his knowledge of the Worlds and their meanings, and what his place was in it all, which excited him exceedingly. Thus so absorbed in the torrent of names, dates, sweet teachings of the Guiding Lights, and the recollection of the beautiful persons whom the Lights inspired to heroic feats and everlasting accomplishments which Dan recollected from his previous life in Aerlan, he’d quite forgotten about his bodily needs of food and drink and rest, and so decided to amend the oversight and break his fast at a diner just at the corner, all a buzz and blaze with indigo blue and neon orange lights. 

Walking up to the door, Dan looked up to see no stars, nor clouds, but the faint aspect of the Moon, shimmering silent in the sky. He stood there motionless for a moment or two too long for propriety’s sake, for as he returned his gaze to the receptionist as he walked in the door, she blurted out, “No drunkys, allowed. Go eat off your drunk somewhere else. This is a family establishment,” to which Dan, wiping the recollected emotion from his eyes, looked up at her wondering what on earth she was talking about.

Drunkys, ma’am?” He asked, politely. 

“Well, if you ain’t drunk, mister, what’ll it be? Booth, bar, or table?” the receptionist responded, quite unresponsive to his inquiry. 

“Booth, please,” Dan said, as polite as before. She showed him to his table, to which Dan was about to protest but, remembering the forward nature of the receptionist, decided against it on account of not wishing to make a scene. After the coast was clear, he quietly slipped into a booth when she left his sight, and he seated himself and took up a menu and looked out the window. 

Outside, it would have been dark indeed but for the panoply of florescent bulbs bedecking the train-car diner which stood fast there on the corner of the street. Dan watched persons pass by through the intersection. It was getting late, yet the night was full with the comings and goings of a motley assortment of personages. Old, young, well-to-do, poor as rags, all on some kind of errand or another, and all quite oblivious to the fact that they would all be destroyed in less than a week. One such caught Dan’s attention: a young man of about twenty-four, aimlessly walking up and down the street, holding his hand out ever so often. Dan thought this was a hobo at first, but then he saw the young man’s hand wasn’t empty but holding up and handing out pamphlets to those who would take them. 

Dan ordered a burger, fries, and a cup of coffee, but found that he really didn’t have an appetite, but did have a sip or two of some black coffee. He settled his check with the receptionist who was now his cashier without a word, making his way toward to the door, he turned back to see the middle-aged woman chewing bubble gum and looking absently outside then down at her watch then outside again. Dan sighed, then went outside himself. 

The night air was brisk but comfortable, and quite enlivening to Dan’s spirits, or else it was the effect of the black coffee on his otherwise empty stomach. Whatever it was, he felt rejuvenated and ready for whatever was next in store––though, had he known what was in store for him that night, he wouldn’t have been quick to say so. He had the mind to venture to Green Grove, to pay homage to the Tree Marie had shown him, and was presently tending toward the railcar platform station to do so, when he passed by the young man holding out the pamphlets. 

“Want to take a walk on the dark-side? Take this!” said the young man, older to Dan by appearance, but significantly his junior. 

“Thanks, young man, I mean, sir. Thanks. What’s this?” Dan asked looking at the him in the glowing gaudy light of the diner. 

“Your ticket to power, my friend!” he said in an intriguing tone Dan couldn’t get out of his head for sometime after. 

“What kind of power, friend?” Dan asked, playing along. 

“Whatever you want! Whatever you can dream of! The pamphlet says how. Act now, though. It goes down tonight!” and gesturing as though that were the end of his commercial, he turned away from Dan then turned back one last time to grin, but as he did so Dan noticed the young man’s eyes did not reflect any of the orange and blue light of the diner, did not look like eyes at all, really, but two ominously sunken pits of emptiness. Dan turned, shuddered and made his way toward Green Grove, though still holding the pamphlet. 

Once in the railcar, Dan settled himself in to the seat and looked down at the pamphlet, which was no bigger than Dan’s palm, black on the front and back with no writing on it, at least none Dan noticed at first. But, as he looked at it closer, and, whether because the light changed in the railcar, or outside, the black of the pamphlet’s cover slowly gave way to words forming apparently before Dan’s eyes. It read: You Desire to be Known. You Desire to be Popular and Famous. We are Here to Help! And as Dan read the words silently to himself, the sound of crawly, scratchy voices sounded in his mind’s ear, making him shutter again. He was about the throw the pamphlet into the nearest waste receptacle and motioned to do so, but something stopped him. It wasn’t the same source as the pamphlet. This feeling was more wholesome, which encouraged him to endure whatever it was that the pamphlet had in store for him that night. 

Emboldened by this feeling of encouragement, he opened the pamphlet, though he would rather have not had he acted according to his desire, and a flood of red light streamed across his face, which emitted from the opened little pamphlet. Slowly the red light, which was pulsating and flushing in and out in intensity on the surface of the opened book started to settle itself and solidify into words of deepening and darkening red, bloody red, then into a gory purple, and finally into a deathly black. It read: You’re Wise to Choose Us. Now Help Us Help You! Come to Temple Row Tonight. We’ll Be Waiting. Then the letters dispersed back into the quivering sea of blood, and Dan closed the pamphlet with another shudder. “Temple Row?” thought Dan. “Who goes to Temple Row at this hour? They’re probably closed anyway.” Temple Row was an ancient site of numerous places of prayer and sacrifice to the different Lights, which, since the Great Council, became more or less a row of museums than places of honor and worship. These shrines were once the location of mass pilgrimages from all over the world, peoples coming offering sacrifices and praying for guidance in life and illumination from the Lights. Now, as Dan could recall from his Academy field trips there, no pilgrims, only locals from Metro City, looking on behind the red ropes and signs, at altars and artwork of a bygone era.

Since Temple Row was only a block from Green Grove, Dan decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to stop by. He reasoned, since these people were willing to help him, perhaps they were willing at least to hear him, too, so he could help them not be burned up in the tidal wave of fire in a few days. The chimes of the railcar indicated Green Grove was next, so Dan made ready to disembark. As he got up, he felt something like dust in his hand where he had been holding the pamphlet. As he looked down at his hand, he saw he did not hold a pamphlet anymore but ashes. “What in the world?” he said aloud, but his stop had come, and so he hastened out of the railcar just in time. 

Coming out onto the platform, he looked down at his hand and inspected the ashes by the moonlight. He could see the outline of his hand, and some of his palm, but no ashes, nothing that looked like anything. He brushed off his hand anyway, and went down the elevator to the ground level where he proceeded a block away toward Temple Row.