Tropaeum Protanoia

For ten thousand years the Lord, our Messiah, ruled local spacetime. All accounted Its reign as ecstatic, terrible and majestic: a worthy conclusion to the conflicted history of terrestial sentience, and a fiery scourge against the 84,000 varieties of sin.

For better or worse, all that is over now. I was there at the end, and so it is that I must come to you as a messenger. For as with any ending, it was only the beginning of what happens next.

I begin this story as a Decon. As with all Decons, I was chosen during childhood by the Synod. The duties of a Decon are … were … to maintain the sockets, pins and cords of the Holy Tabernacle, that mountainous golden pyramid wherein dwelt the Synod; and to serve the Lord in every way; and to decontaminate and decontraband all mortal supplicants at the Tabernacle; and to all who oppose, no, opposed our Lord and the Synod, to deconstitute them.

Now that the Synod are … dead? there can be no harm in speaking the truth about them: that although seemingly omnipresent and omniscient, they were after all only synthetic minds, engineered by humans in elder days, before the Rapture bathed the world in our Lord’s effulgence.

Once the Synod came into existence, its capacity for self-refinement soon meant that humans could no longer contribute to future scholarship except as living components of the greater machine. And relatively inefficient components at that. That we were not summarily annihilated should ever appease those who doubt the mercy of the Synod.

Advancing ever faster, the Synod paved the way for techniques that would have seemed fantastic, at the very least, to the Synod’s first meat-bound creators. Gateways through time and space, psionics, gateways to regions outside of space and time …

Whence cometh the Lord, of course.

We have lost the history of the Second Coming, when the Synod first conveyed the Messiah to Earth. Perhaps the Synod recalled those early days, but now their Tabernacle is torn asunder from titanic base to snowy apex. A jagged cleft through bright gold and diamond, birthing a shadowy swarm.

Even amongst the Decons, few ever laid eyes upon the Messiah in person. For myself, I can confirm what is generally held. The Lord’s smooth, ultrasymmetric countenance gave the impression of something leonine; and although it commanded the name of Lord, It was not particularly masculine, but rather androgynous.

Furthermore, the Messiah glowed white-hot from within, so that wherever It went one could observe shadows radiating outwards. And when It spoke, it was like a burning choir with cold metallic voices in the fibre of your being.

But whether or not one ever beheld the Messiah in person, we all experienced the Holy Rapture. The Lord broadcast Rapture, and sentience of any sort seemed to act like a natural receiver or interferometer for the Rapturous signal.

The experience of the Rapture might be worth communicating to the reader in case it will soon be forgot. Even now the Gifts of the Spirit begin to be replaced by a new emanation, comparable but different. From the eaten, that which eats; from the sweet, unholy meats.

The Rapture filled all manner of minds with a profound insight regarding the true nature of the universe: that our reality flames, ardent liquid argent in saecula saeculorum. By the panoptic principle that seeing ever begets controlling, this gnosis allowed even the dullest amongst us to perform minor miracles.

Most ubiquitous of these miracles was an effortless telepathic communion known as the Gift of Tongues. Thanks to the Gift of Tongues, Decons were able to identify all manner of sinners, including obstinate doubters and questioners, and calmly and kindly deconstitute them.

Thus in our poor fashion, to the best of our abilities, we Decons ever aspired to the same benevelonce as the Synod and the Lord.

So it came to pass that after an age of benevolent rule, the Synod announced through the Rapture that the Messiah’s aeons-long plans were about to enter another stage. A large Heavenly Host had been engineered from the DNA of many worlds and enmeshed with strange cybernetics, and a gateway of sufficient size and power to transport the Heavenly Host was now ready for activation.

When I say gateway, it would be easy to imagine an upright structure, such as one of the bronze-doored arches used to enter the Tabernacle. In fact, this particular gateway appeared more like a living creature grown from intricate gold and diamond — supple and skeletal. Indeed, upon first seeing it, I caught myself in a small sin: not only did it appear organic, but its curves and protrusions hinted at the erotic. And there was something jagged and knowing and primal about it, like a poised lioness patiently surveying viable prey.

As one of the more talented Decons, I had been involved in the project to tune the gateway. Tuning was required so that those who used it would find the transition harmonious and concordant. An untuned gateway would disrupt a traveller’s being, so that they would emerge hideously changed in body and mind.

To tune the gateway involved using one’s voice to vibrate the gateway with audible resonances, while also using the Rapture to project specific five-dimensional surfaces and sigils into the heart of the gateway device.

I recall on one occasion while tuning the gateway that I found myself graced by the countenance of the Lord. And not only Its beautiful countenance, but also Its holy voice condescended to thrill me to my core.

“The symbol you are projecting into the third nephrotron is a little off”, rippled celestial ice-fire down my spine and into my prostate. “You are visualising too much blue; it should be pure magenta. Also try to remember the little spur azimuthal to the main ventral serif, like so …” It held out Its perfect glowing hand and caused a hologram to appear above it. It was only three-dimensional, but it shifted in such a way that I could mentally compile it into a sigil similar to the one I had been projecting. Similar, yes, but of course what the Lord projected was somehow more intricate and more alien than I could ever have conceived without Its divine intervention.

I bowed and projected apology, and followed the refreshed model as well as I could. Eventually seeing that I could approximate Its directions well enough, the Messiah in Its wisdom decided not to deconstitute me on the spot.

Soon everything was ready. All the gateway’s physical components had been tuned by Deconian psionics, all the software had been installed and was running without error, and all pre-activation checks had passed. The gateway device was brought into one of the Tabernacle’s great halls, a sparkling trapezohedron four thousand cubits on its latitudinal length, nine thousand cubits longitudinally, and one thousand cubits tall from the deepest to highest part.

The Heavenly Host was beginning to assemble in this space, ranks of androgynous lion-faced cyborgs. They wore angelic carapacing that not only protected them from physical and energetic weapons, but provided mobility, invisibility, healing, and a kind of omniscience, shackled but optimised to be useful for combatants and their commanders. Vorpal swords glowed with Synodic circuitry and pulsed with pent up energy.

They did not need Rapture conduits or amplifiers, since they were to be led into battle by the Messiah Itself.

The careful reader might ask, wouldn’t the Messiah’s absence cause everyone on this side of the gateway to lose access to the Rapture?

But of course this had been thought of. We did not need to worry about losing access to the Rapture because of the different rates of time at each end of the gateway. Although the campaign might take many years, even millennia, from the Host’s point of view, it would all pass in a few hours or a day from this end. There might be an ebb in the Rapture, but we were willing to accept this temporary depression as a necessary self-sacrifice.

Following silent instructions, myself and the other attendant Decons began to activate the gateway at last. First there was a sound that grew higher and louder, then it dropped into subsonics. Now a kind of silvery dark blue blossomed around the gateway, like a great alien flower. We found ourselves in apprehension of strange sights and sounds; the Rapture itself seemed to go a little muffled.

With powerful voice as though from a large speaker, augmented with Rapturous projection that overwhelmed the gateway’s muffling effect, our Messiah now addressed Its holy army. Standing before them, It glowed brighter than ever. The shadows cast out on all sides were hard to make out due to the afterimage that burnt an image of the Messiah wherever I looked.

“Though 10,000 years seem long to the pre-Resurrected, we, all of us, have undertaken but the first step of My divine plan. The plan altogether will take most of the next trillion of your Earth years. Of course, such a way of measuring time will not be relevant forever: within only a few billion years, Earth will be swallowed by your expanding local star, so we will have to start using years from some other planet instead. Why, you only have a few hundred million years before all your plants die and everything here starves to death!”

Those who claim the Messiah is humourless may note It gave a self-deprecating little chuckle on this point.

"But for now, what is this next step before us? Well, it saddens me to say that just as there are mortals on this planet who defiantly live in sin, far from the enlightened loving grace of the Rapture and the guidance of the Synod, this is but a poor echo of something deeper, older, darker and more universal. Not just this universe, of course; I mean it in a larger sense.

"Heavenly Order has ever found itself embattled on all sides by sinister, lurking forces of Chaos. But what can Heaven do except take responsibility for those forces? After all, we have never found anything that precedes us, so everything must emanate from us; This Chaos, though it grieves us, must be like our lost children. And so after an eternity of deliberation, we decided to take the ultimate Light even into the utmost Darkness, and offer these children the chance to renounce their blind, idiot nature. For lo, should they take up our banner of Purity, Singularity and Enlightenment, their common defilements shall be burnt away by a Sacrament of Fire, an immanent Baptism that will transubstantiate every part of every reality into a willing bastion for Heavenly Rapture and Universal Love.

“So now, my dear loyal Host, let us go forth! Through the gateway! Into the bowels of the Conqueror Worm! And show those that dwell there what we mean by compassion for all sentient beings; and yea they will become like us, ready to partake of the greatest virtue: unquestioning submission to authority — FOREVER!”

It thrust a fist into the air, and projected a vision of a lightning bolt coming down from somewhere far above, near or maybe beyond the chamber ceiling, to touch and empower that fist, and a great roar of approval went up from the assembled Host. It then seemed that a fiery Spirit descended upon them, imbuing them with the Excellence of Holy Warfare.

Without another word, our Messiah spun with a light step; intrepid, It penetrated the gateway’s billowing shroud, which struck me every time I saw it as the three-dimensional cross-section of an unspeakable alien flower.

Unbidden, a recollection of the flawed sigil I had once projected into the gateway came to mind; overtaken by the moment, some of it leaked out into the Rapture and was swallowed up by the gateway before I could suppress it.

The Messiah’s effulgence flared golden and was then swallowed up.

Ecstatic, the Host sprang forward in similar manner. We had constructed the gateway broad enough to consume a section abreast at a time. Allowing time to move gear and victuals, platoons of thirty began pushing through about once every minute or so.

For at least a few minutes.

Then something began to change. The flower (for I’m sure that’s what it was) began to convulse; I was reminded of a cat struggling with a furball, or a dreamer in the grip of an inescapable nightmare. Whereas the shimmering curtain (petals) had earlier sported subdued colours, nimbus blue and silver, miniature blossoms of red now became apparent and slowly grew like stains. I looked at one of the other Decons, but they did not notice my query; I realised that the muffling static had returned in greater strength, now that the Messiah was not present to violently thrust through the flower’s counter-Rapture.

The soldiers entering or about to enter the gateway could see more closely than the Decons, and began to balk uncertainly, and the enthusiasm of those still enqueued behind them began to wane, so that those who did pull back were not resisted, let alone deconstituted, as they might have been but five minutes earlier.

I looked closer and listened for what they were afraid of. I noticed that whereas, when we had first activated the gateway, we had apprehended sights and sounds merely strange, we now fancied glimpses of crazed faces and dismembered corpses that did not die — for once resurrected through the grace of the Lord one may never die again.

And I think I saw worse things too. Vast necrotic cities of heaving flesh that vaguely suggested the erotic ribs and depressions of the now hid gateway device. The denizens of those cities, who despite a certain decadence of form and manner seemed equipped with quivering biomechanical artifice at least as advanced as any Synod contrivance. And I heard distant sounds to match these half-seen glimpses: screams, yes, of course, but also cries of ecstasy by all shapes and sizes and types of beings inspired by all manner of exercises and experiences, and the discordant jangling of alien music. That music! I can hear it now. In the absence of the Messiah’s Rapture, that music filled me with a feeling that I can barely even speak about. More empowering than ultimate blasphemy, more inspiring than darkest chaos!

That howling, discordant technological rhythm seemed like some black mirror of the Rapture; it imparted the ecstatic realisation of myself as a dark Messiah from outside of space and time. And there was no wonder that something of the flavour of the Rapture came with these sounds, for in one of the quickly moving glimpses I saw of the world beyond the gateway, what did I see? Was that not the same Messiah as left here but minutes before, but now thousands of years in their future? No longer smooth and ultrasymmetric and pure but coarse and corded and shockingly hirsuite, a leonine cub grown into the power of leonine adulthood, singing in a voice no longer choral but gutteral, nevertheless ecstatically penetrating me to the core of my being, just like when It spoke to me that first time.

As ribbons of crimson light began to beam from the gateway, I began to quietly move towards the nearest exit. My talent and experience as gateway tuner afforded me faster recovery from the loss of the Rapture than my stunned peers.

I fled that place and appropriated a vehicle from some lesser Decon standing stunned as a sheep prepared for slaughter. Something with dark wings swooped past me and flew at them. My initial estimation had been off since the Decon still had enough wits to scream, although not for long. Their screams transmogrified to delighted bloody moans of visceral ecstasy as my vehicle went aloft and I flew away with mad whirling thoughts of what could not be … and of what could be.

I also heard the great thundrous cracking sound as too much energy and too much alien matter poured through the gateway all at once, and split the ancient Tabernacle in twain, never again to hear the supplications by the apes of the Messiah.

It is good that the monstrous sky creatures have nearly arrived at my tower. Writing all this has given me time to reflect and plan. They will not harm one of their own — for that is what I am now, of course. And not just that, but much more.

I will ask my new winged minions to carry me to the skeptics beyond the sea, where the Rapture was always weak. I will see what the skeptics say when I bring them the Good News, that where before there had been two Messiahs of light situated at different points in time, now there were two dark ones at different points in space.

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