Title: Or Becomes It
Written for: jax for Yuletide 2009
Warnings: character death
Summary: "Life being what arises when the self throws down its barricades and lets the world break in." Lucifer makes ripples wherever he goes. Even when he's going nowhere.
Memories fell from him. With each wingbeat into nothing, another fragment of his being spun into the void. If anyone had been following him—if it was possible to follow anyone in a place that was no place, an emptiness of space and time—if anyone had wanted to, they could have tracked him by the trail of remembrances. Lucifer scattered his past like breadcrumbs.
Because he never looked back, he took no note of this. He didn't see elements of himself break apart and fade into nothingness. He didn't know that parts of him were missing, and would not have cared if he did. That was why he had left creation: to discover the freedom of being uncreated.
Because he never looked back, he didn't see how, very occasionally, a lost memory would collide with the seed of one of the new creations arising and decaying everywhere in the void. And that piece of his mind would burn into the foundations of a young universe and give it shape, a pattern repeated over and over again in a new reality.
"It's easy for you to sneer. You've done this before."
The girl frowned. She brushed a strand of hair out of her eyes for the umpteenth time, leaving a smudge of dirt on her forehead. As soon as she bent over the dome, the hair fell back across her face. She studied the contents of the tiny habitat intently, trying to see where she had gone wrong.
"Let me rephrase the question," said the man standing behind her. "What are you doing now?"
"It was too cold. And I've put in some bugs that eat dead things. Do you think that'll do it, Uncle?"
Her uncle wandered away to the far side of the kitchen and began to rummage through a cupboard. "Sorry. This is called learning by doing." Something in the cupboard fell over with a clank and he emerged, triumphant, with a can of hot fika beans.
"The bugs are killing each other!" The girl said after a moment. "No! It's all falling apart!" She let her head thunk onto the kitchen table in despair. From that vantage, her eyes flicked over everything spread out on the tabletop, trying to see what necessary element she had missed: soil, seeds, temperature regulators, water purifiers, feed, genetic diversity charts, ecological diagrams. "I can't do this anymore! I just can't. I'll never get it to be self-sustaining and I'll never pass the exam at this rate."
Her uncle showed no sign of concern as he opened the can and shoveled a spoonful of beans into his mouth.
"Trust me," he said, chewing. "You're nearly there."
The girl raised her head and glared at him. A shadow of annoyance crossed his face, but then he softened, coming to her side to survey the mess on the table.
"No, really, Nella, I mean it. You're very talented—you have the creative power. Ecosystems are complicated, it just takes a bit of practice." He smiled. "I'm very proud of everything you've done. And I know you're only going to accomplish more in the future."
Nella's glare melted into a smile and she took a deep breath, stretching out arms and back and wings. She shook out her feathers gently and squared her shoulders.
"Right. I'll give it another shot," she said. Then she paused and cocked her head curiously. "I just had the strangest feeling of déjà-vu."
Her uncle stopped chewing to consider and his wings shivered with a hint of restiveness. "Funny, so did I. Wonder what it means?"
And so he became a bit less Lucifer and a bit more nothing. The memories left him easily—snakeskin—even the ones that might have pained him, if he could ever have admitted to regret. Some were too poisoned with feeling to be sustained and when they collided with a budding creation, they seared through it like a summer wildfire until it collapsed back into shards of the void.
"Brother—I don't want to kill you."
In a desert, two men fought with swords, their shadows short under the high-riding sun.
"Kill me? Your strength is failing. I am the furnace in which you will be unmade. I am your death!" screamed the younger, sweat rolling down his contorted face.
"I don't want to kill you," said the elder, parrying a thrust with ease and kicking sand into his brother's eyes. When his opponent recoiled, he took the opportunity to disarm him; a flick of his blade to the wrist, a step in for the kill, the swords thudding dully onto the sand dune, and then he had his hand wrapped around his brother's neck.
"But it would be easy for me to do so," he said, without anger. "I've always been the stronger of us. You know that."
The younger brother pried at the fingers at his throat, the whites of his eyes wide and wild. His struggles barely made his adversary budge; and those fingers were too powerful, crushing his windpipe until he saw stars.
No, he was seeing actual stars. It had become night and the air was warm and wet, the ground soggy, there were strange noises like birds or insects chirping. The grip on his neck slackened in sudden confusion and he wrenched himself free. His sword was still there, lying in what was now mud.
He snatched it up quickly and dealt his elder brother a wound; not, to his disappointment, a mortal one, but one that would bleed and weaken him nevertheless. The other man, still weaponless, staggered out of range, pressing a hand to his thigh where the blood gushed out.
"Stronger in pure power," said the younger. "But I have always been crueler than you and my will more ruthless. I will not stop, surrender, or call a truce. You flinch and make excuses but I would even stab you through the back without regret or shame."
He lunged and the elder brother retreated frantically, splashing through scummy puddles. One foot lodged in a patch of sucking mud and the injured man tripped backwards.
In mid-fall, their surroundings changed to an ancient forest and they rediscovered themselves, the elder sprawled among the roots of a tree and the younger standing over him with his sword poised for the killing strike.
"No! I didn't kill you when I had the chance. We're brothers, doesn't it mean anything to you?"
"We are enemies first. And I won't repeat your mistakes," said the younger, and his sword flashed. Blood soaked the earth and the tree roots; but the pattern was too violent, and the pocket universe tore itself to pieces, and the memory of fratricide faded back into nothing.
Eventually he was nearly empty, transparent, a ghost of what had been Lucifer. He had given away the fire of the Morningstar and cast off his origins, destinations, and struggles one by one until he was nearly, sublimely free. All that remained was a lingering trace of the resolve that had carried him so far, and a memory that resisted being discarded.
He had wrestled with that memory since the beginning, thinking it would be easier if he let it go quickly. But it persisted, outliving all the others until it, and the struggle to leave it behind, were the only standing pillars of his fading consciousness. It clung, holding him together like glue: the sound of a missed note.
Lucifer didn't look up from the piano at the sound of Mazikeen's slurred voice. He was nearly finished with the piece. It was one of Israfel's most complex works and had taken him some time to master. He'd dedicated several late evenings at the bar to it and even felt a twinge of irritation at how much trouble it was giving him. He didn't wish to be distracted so near the end.
"What is it?"
"I have done your bidding. It was not a psychic manifestation, but one of the older breed of demons. It was not difficult to kill." Mazikeen sounded as composed and deferential as ever. Another assignment carried out exactly as per his instruction, he presumed.
With only a few, soft bars of the piece remaining, he allowed himself a glance of acknowledgement.
His finger slipped on a key and a discordant note sounded.
Mazikeen's right side was covered from hip to heel with blood. Three deep slashes on her side were visible through the remains of her shirt. Neither her voice nor her face hinted at any indication of pain— he would have expected nothing different. She had been injured many times and had never given complaint. She had been injured many times and he had never considered it his concern.
So why, now, was he disturbed enough to flub a note?
"Excellent. You may go," he said. She bowed her head and turned to leave, moving with slightly more care than usual. Instead of resuming his playing, he watched her depart and found, with another sting of surprise, that he wanted to follow.
He tried to recall if he had ever cared about the well-being of another. Not that he wished anyone ill; other people, beings, creatures were simply not his priority. He didn't think he had ever felt fear or worry on behalf of someone else. It was rare enough for him to feel such things for himself.
Still, he was too self-aware to deny it. This particular servant of his, it seemed, had struck a chord. He was curious to see where such a feeling might lead. And since Lucifer was hardly the type to resist a desire, he abandoned the piano and the music and followed Lilith's daughter.
Entropy will have its way, and finally even the memory of that first, though not last, of Lucifer's rare moments of unselfishness dropped away. With it went the last facet of his self and his consciousness burst into dust, to scatter through the void and perish or fuse with new creations or simply drift. And that was the end of God's most wayward son; though whether Lucifer became nothing or whether the nothing simply became Lucifer is a matter of interpretation.