When I regained my life, I’d no idea it was Judgement Day. Not then.
I stood on an endless plain under an ice-blue sky, in which no sun shone. All around me, like the waves of the sea, were people; men, women and children, of all sizes and races and ages, all naked, and screaming with pain, and with sheer heart-stopping fear.
I turned to the nearest person, a big bald man with rippling muscles, and grabbed him by the arm. “What’s happening?”
He gave me a look of such abject terror that it chilled me for a moment. “Please...go away,” he whimpered. “Leave me alone. I haven’t done anything!”
“What?” I was completely confused by his reaction, because he seemed to be scared of me, and I hadn’t the faintest idea why. After all, I’d no memory of how I’d spent the aeons (presumably) that had passed since my death. I didn’t even remember anything of my life. All I knew was that I was standing in the midst of an endless crowd of terrified naked people, and I didn’t know why.
Off in the distance, I saw something rise, a column of fire. It rose and spread out, flattening at the top, until it spread out into a thin line just below the top of that ice-blue sky. There were things moving in the fire, coming steadily closer, things with wings of flame and claws of adamantine, things with pitiless glowing eyes.
“Are those what you’re frightened of?” I asked the bald man, but he was only gibbering mindlessly.
I watched the things come. Close to, they were even more horrible to behold than I’d imagined, and with as little pity and compassion as suns. And as they came, they dripped fire over the thronging crowds, and men, women and children screamed and burned to dust and ashes.
The people began to run. They rushed away from those winged monstrosities, clawing and trampling each other in their fear, rushing towards me and yet, when they laid eyes on me, they suddenly seemed unable to decide whether they ought to turn back towards those flying, burning things. Some turned back and were burned, and yet others rushed to the side, the crowd parting like a sea round me.
I stood my ground, perplexed. What was it? Why should anyone be afraid of me, especially to the extent of preferring the agony of fire to coming within touching distance of me? What had I done?
Allied to this was the fact that I felt no fear at all. What I felt was anger – an anger rising in me like my own towering pillar of fire, pushing up my spine and inflaming my thoughts. Whatever those things were, they were responsible for these people burning. They were responsible for that young woman, that old man, that one-armed child, all erupting in fire and burning, screaming, to ash. They were responsible for the stampeding crowds, the broken limbs, spilt blood and gouged-out eyes. They should be stopped, and they should pay.
At the same time, some dim corner of my mind began to tell me where I was, and what those things were. And, if that part of my mind were right, I was amongst sinners, and they were suffering the consequences of their sins.
Only, I could not believe it. These people couldn’t be sinners; what sin had that little girl, skeletonised in her mother’s arms, committed? What had that dignified old lady, writhing now as she burned, done to suffer such a fate? What kind of puppet-master of a deity would condemn them to such a fate?
I thought of It, crouching somewhere and watching gleefully as those It had committed to suffering for eternity screamed and burned, chuckling. It was worse than insane; It was a rabid beast that had to be destroyed, because until It was stopped, It would continue to inflict Its horror, over and over, for cycle upon cycle, untold.
And, as I thought this, my anger grew and grew, until it could no longer be contained.
I roared, my voice soaring up to and echoing from that ice-blue sky. I rose to my full height, spreading my wings, the stampeding crowd shrinking to scurrying marionettes around my feet. I shrieked my fury, reaching out with my claws and shredding those fire-sprouting things, smashing them down in tangles of flame and broken, tumbling tatters. Hurling them from my path, I strode towards that pillar of fire, where the Puppet-master dwelt, to deal unto It what It had dealt unto the countless souls around me.
And suddenly, it was all gone.
I swam in a vast expanse of nothingness, in the very heart of eternity. In front of me hung a great glowing Thing, a pearly opalescent oval cloud of light. And in the centre of that cloud, there was a heart of even brighter light, cold and impersonal, and I knew that there was where It crouched, waiting.
Waiting? It was waiting for me.
Now I knew, at last that whatever had happened down in that endless plain was only a mental projection, from both our sides, from Its side and from mine. I had imagined what I had, because It had willed it. I had imagined the punishment It had wreaked, because It had wanted me to punish myself in eternal torment, the way all those people had punished themselves.
It was not merely insane, not merely rabid; It was a thing of such consummate evil that my mind boggled even to think of it.
But I had not played the game; I had not succumbed. And now I was here, face to face with It; and I knew, somehow, that It was terrified.
It was terrified, because It had no power of Its own, but only what I gave It by believing.
It was terrified, because now I saw the truth, and I could never un-see it.
It was terrified, because against my fury, It had no defence.
And now I could feel them too, the multitudes behind me, who also saw; the multitudes who had risen up from the depths of the darkness, the darkness that had prevailed since the dawn of intelligence; the multitudes who now came surging forth to take their revenge.
Yes, we shall now storm the gates, and the Puppet-master shall be destroyed. Yes, It shall be ripped into Its component energy patterns, and dispersed through space and time, until It can never form Itself together again. And then, for good or bad, Truth shall prevail.
And then, perhaps, it will be truly Judgement Day.