Hello, my little dungeon-rats! The day is finally here - the FINAL chapter of Unknown Depths Below! It's been an amazing ride and I love you all for reading and-oh, forget this gushy stuff, LET'S GET TO THE GRAND FINALE!
LAWYERBOT SAYS: "Whoo."
The Binding of Isaac, including all related characters, items, and locations (c) Edmund McMillen, because he's awesome.
Original story of 'the binding of Isaac' (c) Genesis 22, one of the MANY Biblical fun-facts I learned on this journey.
Please note that the following is simply one take on a novelization of this epic adventure. The game is deep and symbolic, therefore meant to be open to interpretation. Please do not correct my version, merely enjoy it for the experience. :)
CHAPTER ELEVEN: The Wrath of the Lamb
There was a stack of Polaroids sitting at the bottom of this chest. The blue baby reached inside, handing the photos to Isaac, as if to say, here, this will explain everything.
The first was a duplicate of the photo Isaac had been cherishing for so long through this journey. It depicted himself, as well as both of his parents, all smiling for the camera without a care in the world. Isaac shook, trying to wipe away the tears that had fallen from his face non-stop throughout this nightmare. What he wouldn't give to return to those days.
The next picture was similar; it was his parents, on a pleasant outing at the bottom of their hill. His father, a thinner gentleman with a fine mustache and thinning brown hair, and his mother, just as round as ever, with her mess of blonde curl and big brown eyes. She seemed a big fuller-figured, even by typical Mom standards. Isaac flipped it over to find a message on the back. (Mom always left dates and notes on the back of pictures, just to make sure the memory was preserved.) Just found out we're expecting! Six months 'til motherhood! (I hope it's a girl!)
Isaac couldn't help but chuckle. Sorry, Mom. His mother's desire for a daughter was something Isaac grew up knowing; he did his best with the parts he was given, but still, she would go on and on about having a little blonde angel named Magdalene. He gave an embarrassed laugh as the Polaroids followed his train of memory. The next picture was of him and his mother...though you'd guess it was Maggie at first glance. In reality, it was Isaac in a curly blonde wig, with a sparkling pink dress and a crown to match. Didn't get my pretty princess...but Isaac's the best pageant boy ever!
He stared forever at the last few words scrawled on the back of his pageant Polaroid. "I love you, sweetie!" He could almost hear her now, feel her wet, lipsticked kisses and extra-warm hugs as she would smile down at him. He was far from popular at school - hated, even, by the local bullies - but Mom was always there for him.
She had chased him with a knife, trapped him in a basement, threatened to kill him and his siblings...and he still loved her.
The next was another picture of Isaac. If he recalled, it was taken right after Dad cut his hair, giving it the near-shaved look it had now. Up until that picture, it was a chestnut shade of brown, just like his father's. But Dad didn't like the length, nor Mom fighting to grow it out, so he took Isaac outside and shaved it all off. ("Bald just like his daddy!", his mother joked on the back.) He wasn't smiling in the picture; it was a sort of flat look, one that suggested he was sad when he really wasn't. Did he always look so upset in pictures?
Granted, life was rough...even ignoring the Mom and the knife thing. He didn't have friends, and he wasn't particularly good at much besides coloring. (He had learned to tap, as per his mother's wishes, which helped him manipulate her heels in his dress-up games and won him the pageant; it wasn't exactly a passion of his, though, so he didn't claim to be any good.) But was that really enough to drill this look of sadness onto his face?
Isaac nearly dropped the stack when the next picture came to the top of the pile. It showed him and his mother, gloomily staring out the window, watching a figure walk down their hill, out of their lives forever. He nearly choked on the lump in his throat. Dad.
He still sharply remembered the day his father left. He had tried to tune out their argument with his pictures, but had no choice but to listen when Dad stormed over him, stepping on the picture he spent so long coloring. Harsh accusations and angry words were everywhere, something about three-dollar bills and rainbow babies. He even smashed the crown Isaac had worked so hard to win at the pageant.
He called Isaac an abomination; a sin. Then he ran out, and they never saw him again.
The note on the back of this picture was a bit longer. Dear Isaac, I think you're perfect the way you are. Don't let your father upset you - Mommy's always here. XOXO
If only that were true. His mother was different after that day, despite insisting she was fine. All of the time that used to be spent with Dad, she now spent with the television, drowning her sorrows in Christian broadcasts. She didn't take Isaac out to play - she didn't take him anywhere, actually. Not that he minded, really - he never liked playing football with the boys, much to his father's contempt. He had taken one too many dodgeballs to the face from those nasty bullies. He much preferred sitting on the living room floor and coloring.
The next picture drove a cold chill up his spine. It was his mother, with murder in her eyes and the shiny knife in her hand. Quickly pushing the image away, he flipped the picture over, finding a particularly-long note on the back:
I always said Isaac was perfect, but now I'm not so sure. Was he right? Is Isaac a demon? Does he know sin? God seems to think so. I hear his voice calling out to me every day: kill Isaac, sacrifice your son and I will make things right! If I bring God the body of my child, would he return my husband? Should one that's innocent and unworthy of death die to resurrect the followers of Christ?
Isaac threw aside the picture, tears falling once again. Of course! That's why Mom did it - she was trying to bring back Dad! Suddenly, the refugee felt sick to his stomach. All of this time, he thought she was crazy. All of this time, he thought something was wrong!
Something was - a woman was torn from the man that she loved, the man she swore would be beside her, for better or worse, through sickness and health, through rich and poor, 'til death did they part.
He wanted to stop looking, but felt the cold, rigid hand of the blue baby on his shoulder. The child nudged the stack towards him. There were more pictures. The story was not yet over.
The next picture was Isaac...but what was that in the background? A black shadow overtook most of the picture; its face was concealed, but Isaac recognized the warped horns it sported. The horns of the Fallen, the horns of Eve...the horns of the reflection that was always haunting him.
Isaac showed the picture to the blue baby. "What is this?" he asked, pointing to the shadow.
The child made a flipping motion with his hand, as if signifying that his response was on the back.
What did I do wrong? Why does Mom want to kill me? Where do I go? Where can I hide? Dear God, I'm not ready to die!
Isaac shook slightly, rubbing his barren arms. Mom had done some crazy things before, but stealing all of his clothes and pencils and toys and locking him in his bedroom? That was new.
Still, Isaac had very little to play with in the first place - his little allowance always went towards new pencils and crayons. He was going to grow up to be an artist, so he needed all of the practice supplies he could get. Point is, even without his pencils, he could make his own fun. He made up his own adventures: sailing the seven seas as the swashbuckler Cain, adopting stray animals and running St. Magdalene's Hospital (which he always named after the little blonde angel his mother always wanted), fighting evil snakes in the garden to protect Princess Eve, solving mysteries as the supersleuth Dr. Judas, defending the castle from the evil invaders as the mighty Samson, warrior of justice...
Okay, so his names were unoriginal - the only books his mother read to him were the stories of the Bible. But at least the games were fun!
Curious about the quiet, Isaac peeped through his keyhole, trying to spy on his mother. He found her in the kitchen, rummaging through the knife drawer. Considering it wasn't dinner-time, Isaac couldn't help but be concerned. He squinted hard and tried to focus in on what she was muttering - something about a sacrifice? And pleasing God?
As she turned towards Isaac's room, he decided that this wasn't about to end well. So he did the only thing he could do - duck into his toybox and hide. It was a clever spot; he had hidden in there before, despite his mother's warnings not to let the lid close. It was fine, though, just so long as he could keep a single alphabet block-
THUD. Well, so much for the alphabet block.
Isaac was snapped back to reality as the memory of suffocation took him over, tightening his chest and shortening his breath. Within minutes, the air inside the box had become heavy and hot, and he was clawing for breath when the blackness finally took over. He thought he had fallen asleep in that chest. Did something else happen?
When he looked up, the blue baby was gone. The chest was closed, and there was one Polaroid left. It was a picture of Isaac, curled up against his toybox, crying and alone. There was only a single sentence on the back: What have I done?
With the pictures sorted, Isaac turned his attention to the chest. It was a fine piece of construction - wood panels, with heavy steel along the top and corners to keep it sturdy, all brushed a sparkling gold, made with love by his father...
...Because this was no chest. This was his toybox.
In a panic, Isaac flung the top open. (From the outside, it was easy to manipulate. Being on the inside made it a bit difficult.) Inside, he found the blue baby, lying with his hand on his chest, just as Isaac had been when he blacked out during his hide from his mother.
And in that perfect moment, it all made sense. "...YOU'RE Isaac, aren't you?"
The blue baby peeked out from inside, a sorry look in its dead eyes as it gave a solemn nod. No wonder he carried that bluish tint - it was the look of suffocation. This child was the real Isaac, the one that had died when it got locked inside that toybox, trying to escape his mother's misplaced wrath.
The suddenly-not-so-original Isaac took a few nervous steps away from the box, head spinning as he tried to process everything. "So...if YOU'RE Isaac...who am I?"
Isaac kicked and squirmed, in a panic to escape his toybox doom. "Somebody? Anybody! Help!"
The blackness overtook him, just as he remembered...but it wasn't the darkness of death or unconsciousness. It was the shadows of the black Isaac. You're going to die here, Isaac.
"But I don't wanna die! Help me get out of here!"
I can spare you...at a price.
"Anything, just help me!" He coughed; already, the air was too dense to catch his breath. He wouldn't be able to negotiate, so whatever this strange entity wanted, he'd have to give it. He had to escape. He had to survive!
...Most of all, he needed to figure out why Mom was so angry with him. What did he do that made God want to kill him? Wasn't there anything he could do to make it better?
Surrender and self-sacrifice, son of Abraham. I cannot spare you, but spare you eternal life. You shall never die, but have never been born, and never to be born again. You will be painted in sin, a picture of salvation. Will you lie with darkness and give yourself to the light?
"Yes! Yes, please, just get me out of here! Just help me make everything better again!"
Very well, son of Abraham. May God look down upon your sacrifice and save ye yet.
Yes, his mom was crazy, grounding him and taking his toys for no good reason. She was tired and upset; sleep-deprivation and depression are a scary mix sometimes.
But she would never pull a knife on her only son.
The basement, the cellar, the caves, the depths, the womb, Sheol, the cathedral...none of it was real. Despite feeling every bump and bruise and ache, none of it actually happened. It was all a test - a test of willpower, a test of faith, a test to see how far he could be pushed and how far he would fight.
God tempted him to stop. The angel that had stopped his mother was sent to save him, to lure him away from discovering the truth and finishing his quest.
Satan sowed his seeds of evil. Realizing Isaac's potential for corruption, he created the shade, his whore of Babylon, to trick and seduce him. He named her after his first daughter of sin - Eve. Satan had hoped to turn Isaac into one of his sins, to keep his power trapped in Sheol and used for the forces of darkness.
His brothers and sisters? No such thing - Isaac was an only child, and that's the way it would stay. They were merely figments of his imagination, divisions of his shattered soul that needed to be brought back together. The first was his love and compassion, found within his mother's blonde angel, little Magdalene. Then came his anger, the taste for blood and revenge that started him on this path - Samson, still sporting the long hair Isaac had right before his father had cut it all off, beginning the slope that started the madness. Next was Cain, Isaac's keen eye and quick cunning that made him such a swift improver in his make-believe games; the wild streak that needed to be tamed.
Finally, there was the one in the red hat. Judas struck the closest chord with Isaac because he embodied the darkness - fear, uncertainty, shyness, all of the panic emotions that accompanied this new presence...but also the confidence that could emerge once he accepted his fate.
Judas was obsessed with discovering the truth. Now Isaac knew what it was.
"I~saac!" Finally, the shrill voice was back to its tired attempts at light and sing-song. Isaac prayed he would never have to hear the echoing taunt ever again. "Grab your book, Isaac! It's twenty 'til, we're going to be late!"
"Coming, Mom!" Hopping out of bed, Isaac rustled through his night-stand, pulling out his Bible. It was a younger version, with simpler language that he could understand, but it still had the worn leather cover as his mother's, which made it feel a bit more special.
Typical Sunday morning in the house on the hill. Mother forces son out of bed early to put on his best for morning mass, allowing him to sit and daydream while she fixes her hair and make-up, inevitably making them nearly-late for the sermon.
Isaac peeked in the mirror quickly to make sure he looked presentable. His hair had yet to grow back, which made maintenance a breeze, and it was nice to wear clothes again after (what he thought was) so long without them.
As he looked on, though, the reflection shook, snapping back to the black Isaac with the cold red eyes, forcing the child to turn away.
His eyes fell upon the toybox. It was locked now, and it would stay that way forever. The blue baby was still trapped inside. Everything was back to normal, alright...except nothing would ever be the same.
This darkness was part of him now. He could not be rid of it, he could only accept the foolishness of his actions. His desperation and fear had twisted into this demon, and now this mark of sin would follow him everywhere.
Now, life was about making things right. It was about caring for his mother, doing whatever he could to ease her sorrow and heal the wound left by his father's abandonment. It was about constant confession, always having a nervous feeling in his stomach when he entered the church and never being able to explain why he would cry so much in the light of the stained-glass windows.
It was about making the most of his second chance.
It was about taking a deep breath and exploring the unknown depths below.
And so, on that day, the son of Abraham realized the purpose of his journey. Thou shalt not question or shift the winds of God's will, for all things shall end as He requires. God freed Isaac from his bindings, welcoming the battered child into his arms. "Do you forgive me, Lord?" the child asked. The Lord replied, "Yea, for thou hast repented thine sin and forgave yourself."
The wrath of the lamb had been sated.
Whoo! We did it! I really hope you guys enjoyed this; it's the most support I've had on a story in a long time, and I thank you guys so much for sticking through to the end! Big hugs and kisses to all of my reviewers and followers and everybody!
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some other stories to write. So until next time, everyone! Bye! [hops down trap-door]
§ Tucker's Mayflower, signing off! §