I first read Memnoch the Devil when I was 14. During this time I was very interested in religion, wanting to see for myself if any of it made sense to me. At 12 I read the entire bible, determined to see for myself the things people had tried to teach me that never really made sense and from there I went from one religion to another. Memnoch is by Anne Rice and gives a biblical retelling of creation from the Devil's point of view. Wanting to convince Lestat to be his general in hell, to help him win his war against god, he tells him the story of creation and takes him on a journey to different points in time, including the temptation of Christ and the crucifixion, limbo, heaven and hell in an attempt to convince him to accept the deal. Interestingly evolution is a part of the narrative as were a number of theological questions, such as does god care, why he allows evil. At that time in my life when I was so busy looking for answers I remember being so fascinated and drawn into the concepts Rice wrote, from the descriptions of heaven, hell, limbo, to the idea of the literal evolution of souls and god banishing Memnoch to hell for championing the cause of humanity. As we reach the point we evolve to have an immortal soul god took no notice and allowed them to drift in limbo, refusing to grant them access to heaven. Memnoch rebels against god in this, insisting humans are now no longer simple animals (resulting in Memnoch being banished to hell) which ultimately leads to god giving in to his wishes/demands and coming to Earth in the form of man. The purpose of life, the reason we were created as Rice writes in the novel was fascinating to me. That god doesn't know how he came to be and creates us as an experiment to see if, eventually, humans evolve into gods, so as to give him an idea of his own origins (is he has any).
"Let's move through the forest as we talk," he said. "If you don't mind the walking."
"No, not at all," I said.
He brushed a little more of the grass from his garment, a fine spun robe that seemed neutral and simple, a garment that might have been worn either yesterday or a million years ago. His entire form was slightly bigger all over than mine, and bigger perhaps than that of most humans; he fulfilled every mythic promise of an angel, except that the white wings remained diaphanous, retaining their shape under some sort of cloak of invisibility, more it seemed for convenience than anything else.
"We're not in Time," he said. "Don't worry about the men and the women in the forest. They can't see us. No one here can see us, and for that reason I can keep my present form. I don't have to resort to the dark devilish body which He thinks is appropriate for earthly maneuvers, or to the Ordinary Man, which is my own unobtrusive choice."
"You mean you couldn't have appeared to me on Earth in your angelic form?"
"Not without a lot of argument and pleading, and frankly I didn't want to do it," he said. "It's too overwhelming. It would have weighted everything too much in my favor. In this form, I look too inherently good. I can't enter Heaven without this form; He doesn't want to see the other form, and I don't blame Him. And frankly, on Earth, it's easiest to go about as the Ordinary Man."
I stood up shakily, accepting his hand, which was firm and warm. In fact, his body seemed as solid as Roger's body had seemed near the very end of Roger's visitation. My body felt complete and entire and my own.
It didn't surprise me to discover my hair was badly tangled. I ran a comb through it hastily for comfort, and brushed off my own clothes - the dark suit I had put on in New Orleans, which was full of tiny specks of dust, and some grass from the garden, but otherwise unharmed. My shirt was torn at the collar, as if I myself had ripped it open hastily in an effort to breathe. Otherwise, I was the usual dandy, standing amid a thick and verdant forest garden, which was not like anything I'd ever seen.
Even a casual inspection indicated that this was no rain forest, but something considerably less dense, yet as primitive.
"Not in Time," I said.
"Well, moving through it as we please," he said, "we are only a few thousand years before your time, if you must know it. But again, the men and women roaming here won't see us. So don't worry. And the animals can't harm us. We are watchers here but we affect nothing. Come, I know this terrain by heart, and if you follow me, you'll see we have an easy path through this wilderness. I have much to tell you. Things around us will begin to change."
"And this body of yours? It's not an illusion? It's complete."
"Angels are invisible, by nature," he said. "That is, we are immaterial in terms of earth material, or the material of the physical universe, or however you would like to describe matter for yourself. But you were right in your early speculation that we have an essential body; and we can gather to ourselves sufficient matter from a whole variety of sources to create for ourselves a complete and functioning body, which we can later shatter and disperse as we see fit."
We walked slowly and easily through the grass. My boots, heavy enough for the New York winter, found the uneven ground no problem at all.
"What I'm saying," Memnoch continued, looking down at me¡ªhe was perhaps three inches taller¡ªwith his huge almond-shaped eyes¡ª"is that this isn't a borrowed body, nor is it strictly speaking a contrived body. It's my body when surrounded and permeated with matter. In other words, it's the logical result of my essence drawing to it all the various materials it needs."
"You mean you look this way because you look this way."
"Precisely. The Devilish body is a penance. The Ordinary Man is a subterfuge. But this is what I look like. There were angels like me throughout Heaven. Your focus was mainly on human souls in Heaven. But the angels were there."
I tried to remember. Had there been taller beings, winged beings? I thought so, and yet I wasn't certain. The beatific thunder of Heaven beat in my ears suddenly. I felt the joy, the safety, and above all the satisfaction of all those thriving in it. But angels, no, I had not noticed.
"I take my accurate form," Memnoch continued, "when I am in Heaven, or outside of Time. When I am on my own, so to speak, and not bound to the earth. Other angels, Michael, Gabriel, any of those can appear in their glorified form on earth if they want to. Again, it would be natural. Matter being drawn to them by their magnetic force shapes them to look their most beautiful, the way God created them. But most of the time they don't let this happen. They go about as Ordinary Men or Ordinary Women, because it's simply much easier to do so. Continuously overwhelming human beings do not serve our purposes - neither our Lord's nor mine."
"And that is the question. What is the purpose? What are you doing, if you're not evil?"
"Let me start with the Creation. And let me tell you right now that I know nothing of where God came from, or why, or how. No one knows this. The mystic writers, the prophets of Earth, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Hebrew, Egyptian - all recognized the impossibility of understanding the origin of God. That's not really the question for me and never has been, though I suspect that at the end of Time we will know."
"You mean God hasn't promised that we will know where He came from."
"You know what?" he said, smiling. "I don't think God knows. I think that's the whole purpose of the physical universe. He thinks through watching the universe evolve, He's going to find out. What He has set in motion, you see, is a giant Savage Garden, a giant experiment, to see if the end result produces beings like Himself. We are made in His image, all of us - He is anthropomorphic, without question, but again He is not material."
"And when the light came, when you covered your eyes in Heaven, that was God."
He nodded. "God, the Father, God, the Essence, Brahma, the Aten, the Good God, En Sof, Yahweh, God!"
"Then how can He be anthropomorphic?"
"His essence has a shape, just as does mine. We, His first creations, were made in His image. He told us so. He has two legs, two arms, a head. He made us invisible images of the same. And then set the universe into motion to explore the development of that shape through matter, do you see?"
"I believe God worked backwards from the blueprint of Himself. He created a physical universe whose laws would result in the evolution of creatures who resembled Him. They would be made of matter. Except for one striking and important difference. Oh, but then there were so many surprises. You know my opinion already. Your friend David hit upon it when he was a man. I think God's plan went horribly wrong."
"Yes, David did say that, that he thought angels felt God's plan for Creation was all wrong."
"Yes. I think He did it originally to find out what it would have been like had He been Matter. And I think He was looking for a clue as to how He got where He is. And why He is shaped like He is, which is shaped like me or you. In watching man evolve, He hopes to understand His own evolution, if such a thing in fact occurred. And whether this has worked or not to His satisfaction, well, only you can judge that for yourself."
"Wait a minute," I said. "But if He is spiritual and made of light, or made of nothing - then what gave Him the idea for matter in the first place?"
"Ah, now that is the cosmic mystery. In my opinion, His imagination created Matter, or foresaw it, or longed for it. And I think the longing for it was a most important aspect of His mind. You see, Lestat, if He Himself did originate in Matter ...then all this is an experiment to see when Matter can evolve into God again.
"If He didn't originate Matter, if He proceeded and it is something He imagined and desired and longed for, well, the effects upon Him are basically the same. He wanted Matter. He wasn't satisfied without it. Or He wouldn't have made it. It was no accident, I can assure it.
"But let me caution you, not all the angels agree on this interpretation, some feel the need for no interpretation, and some have completely different theories. This is my theory, and since I am the Devil, and have been for centuries, since I am the Adversary, the Prince of Darkness, the Ruler of the World of Men and of Hell, I think my opinion is worth stating. I think it's worth believing in. So you have my article of faith.
"The design of the universe is immense, to use a feeble word, but the whole process of evolution was His calculated experiment, and we, the angels, were created long before it began."
"What was it like before Matter began?"
"I can't tell you. I know, but I don't, strictly speaking, remember. The reason for this is simple: When Matter was created, so was Time. All angels began to exist not only in heavenly perfection with God but to witness and be drawn into Time.
"Now we can step out of it, and I can to some extent recall when there was no lure of Matter or Time; but I can't really tell you what that early stage was like anymore. Matter and Time changed everything totally. They obliterated not only the pure state that preceded them, they upstaged it; they overshadowed it; they, how shall I say... ?"
"Exactly. Matter and Time eclipsed the Time before Time."
"But can you remember being happy?"
"Interesting question. Dare I say this?" he asked himself as he continued to speculate. "Dare I say, I remember the longing, the incompleteness, more than I remember complete happiness? Dare I say there was less to understand?
"You cannot underestimate the effect upon us of the creation of the physical universe. Think for one moment, if you can, what Time means, and how miserable you might be without it. No, that's not right. What I mean is, without Time you could not be conscious of yourself, either in terms of failure or achievement, or in terms of any motion backwards or forwards, or any effect."
"I see it. Rather like the old people who've lost so much intelligence that they have no memory moment to moment. They're vegetative, wide-eyed, but they are no longer human with the rest of the race because they have no sense of anything ...themselves or anyone else."
"A perfect analogy. Though let me assure you such aged and wounded individuals still have souls, which will at some point cease to be dependent upon their crippled brains."
"Souls!" I said.
We walked slowly but steadily, and I tried not to be distracted by the greenery, and the flowers; but I have always been seduced by flowers; and here I saw flowers of a size which our world would surely find impractical and impossible to support. Yet these were species of trees I knew. This was the world as it had once been.
"Yes, you're correct on that. Can you feel the warmth around you? This is a time of lovely evolutionary development on the planet. When men speak of Eden or Paradise, they 'remember' this time."
"The Ice Age is yet to come."
"The second Ice Age is coming. Definitely. And then the world will renew itself, and Eden will come again. All through the Ice Age, men and women will develop. But realize of course that even by this point, life as we know it had existed for millions of years!"
I stopped. I put my hands to my face. I tried to think it through again.
"But He knew what Matter was!" I said.
"No, I'm not sure He did," said Memnoch. "He took that seed, that egg, that essence and He cast it in a form which became Matter!
But I don't know how truly He foresaw what that would mean. You see, that's our big dispute. I don't think He sees the consequences of His actions! I don't think He pays attention! That's what the big fight is about!"
"So He created Matter perhaps by discovering what it was as He did it."
"Yes, Matter and energy, which are interchangeable as you know, yes, He created them, and I suspect that the key to Him lies within the word 'energy,' that if human anatomy ever reaches the point where angels and God can be satisfactorily explained in human language, energy will be the key."
"So He was energy," I said, "and in making the universe, He caused some of that energy to be changed into Matter."
"Yes, and to create a circular interchange independent of himself. But of course nobody said all this to us at the beginning. He didn't say it. I don't think He knew it. We certainly didn't know it. All we knew was that we were dazzled by His creations. We were absolutely astonished by the feel and taste and heat and solidity and gravitational pull of Matter in its battle with energy. We knew only what we saw."
"Ah, and you saw the universe unfolding. You saw the Big Bang."
"Use that term with skepticism. Yes, we saw the universe come into existence; we saw everything set into motion, as it were. And we were overawed! That's why almost every early religion on earth celebrates the majesty, the grandeur, the greatness and genius of the Creator; why the earliest anthems ever put into words on Earth sing the glories of God. We were impressed, just as humans later would come to be impressed, and in our angelic minds, God was Almighty and Wondrous and Beyond Comprehension before man came into being.
"But let me remind you, especially as we walk through this magnificent garden, that we witnessed millions of explosions and chemical transformations, upheavals, all of which involved nonorganic molecules before 'life' as we call it ever came to exist."
"The mountain ranges were here."
"And the rains?"
"Torrents upon torrents of rain."
"Continuously. You can't conceive of how enthralled we were. We watched the atmosphere thicken and develop, watching it change in composition.
"And then, and then, came what I will call for you the Thirteen Revelations or mystical Evolution. And by revelation, I mean what was revealed in the process to the angels, to those of us who Watched, to us.
"I could tell you in greater detail, take you inside every basic species of organism that ever thrived in this world. But you wouldn't remember it. I'm going to tell you what you can remember so that you can make your decision while you're still alive."
"Am I alive?"
"Of course. Your soul has never suffered physical death; it's never left the earth, except with me by special dispensation for this journey. You know you are alive. You're Lestat de Lioncourt, even though your body has been mutated by the invasion of an alien and alchemic spirit, whose history and woes you have recorded yourself."
"To come with you ... to decide to follow you ... I have to die then, don't I?"
"Of course," he said.
I found myself stopped still again, hands locked to the side of my head. I stared down at the grass underneath my boots. I sensed the swarm of insectile light gathered in the sun falling on us. I looked at the reflection of radiance and verdant forest in Memnoch's eyes.
He lifted his hand very slowly, as if giving me full opportunity to move away from him, and then he laid his hand on my shoulder. I loved this sort of gesture, the respectful gesture. I tried so often to make this sort of gesture myself.
"You have the choice, remember? You can return to being exactly what you are now."
I couldn't answer. I knew what I was thinking. Immortal, material, earthbound, vampire. But I didn't speak the words. How could anyone return from this? And again, I saw His face and heard His words. You would never be my adversary, would you?
"You are responding very well to what I tell you," he said warmly.
"I knew you would, for several reasons."
"Why?" I asked. "Tell me why. I need a little reassurance. I'm too shattered by all my past weeping and stammering, though I have to confess, I'm not too interested in talking about myself."
"What you are is part of what we are doing," he said. We had come to an enormous spiderweb, suspended over our broad path by thick, shimmering threads. Respectfully, he ducked beneath it rather than destroy it, drawing his wings downward around him, and I followed his lead.
"You're curious, that's your virtue," he said. "You want to know. This is what your ancient Marius said to you, that he, having survived thousands of years, or well, nearly... would answer your questions as a young vampiric creature, because your questions were truly being asked! You wanted to know. And this is what drew me to you also.
"Through all your insolence, you wanted to know! You have been horribly insulting to me and to God continuously, but then so is everyone in your time. That's nothing unusual, except with you there was tremendous genuine curiosity and wonder behind it. You saw the Savage Garden, rather than simply assuming a role there. So this has to do with why I have picked you."
"All right," I said with a sigh. It made sense. Of course I remembered Marius revealing himself to me. I remembered him saying the very things to which Memnoch referred. And I knew, too, that my intense love of David, and of Dora, revolved around very similar traits in both beings: an inquisitiveness which was fearless and willing to take the consequence of the answers!
"God, my Dora, is she all right?"
"Ah, it's that sort of thing which surprises me, the ease with which you can be distracted. Just when I think I've really astonished you and I have you locked in, you step back and demand to be answered on your own terms. It's not a violation of your curiosity, but it is a means of controlling the inquiry, so to speak."
"Are you telling me that I must, for the moment, forget about Dora?"
"I'll go you one better. There is nothing for you to worry about. Your friends, Armand and David, have found Dora, and are looking out for her, without revealing themselves to her."
He smiled reassuringly, and gave a little doubtful, maybe scolding, shake of the head.
"And," he said, "you must remember your precious Dora has tremendous physical and mental resources of her own. You may well have fulfilled what Roger asked of you. Her belief in God set her apart from others years ago; now what you've shown her has only intensified her commitment to all that she believes. I don't want to talk anymore about Dora. I want to go on describing Creation."
"Now, where were we? There was God; and we were with Him. We had anthropomorphic shapes but we didn't call them that because we had never seen our shapes in material form. We knew our limbs, our heads, our faces, our forms, and a species of movement which is purely celestial, but which organizes all parts of us in concert, fluidly. But we knew nothing of Matter or material form. Then God created the Universe and Time.
"Well, we were astonished, and we were also enthralled! Absolutely enthralled.
"God said to us, 'Watch this, because this will be beautiful and will exceed your conceptions and expectations, as it will Mine.' "
"God said this."
"Yes, to me and the other angels. Watch. And if you go back to scripture in various forms, you will find that one of the earliest terms used for us, the angels, is the Watchers."
"Oh, yes, in Enoch and in many Hebrew texts."
"Right. And look to the other religions of the world, whose symbols and language are less familiar to you, and you will see a cosmology of similar beings, an early race of godlike creatures who looked over or preceded human beings. It's all garbled, but in a way - it's all there. We were the witnesses of God's Creation. We preceded it, and therefore did not witness our own. But we were there when He made the stars!"
"Are you saying that these other religions, that they contain the same validity as the religion to which we are obviously referring? We are speaking of God and Our Lord as though we were European Catholics - "
"It's all garbled, in countless texts throughout the world. There are texts which are irretrievable now which contained amazingly accurate information about cosmology; and there are texts that men know; and there are texts that have been forgotten but which can be rediscovered in time."
"Ah, in time."
"It's all essentially the same story. But listen to my point of view on it and you will have no difficulty reconciling it with your own points of reference, and the symbology which speaks more clearly to you."
"But the validity of other religions! You're saying that the being I saw in Heaven wasn't Christ."
"I didn't say that. As a matter of fact, I said that He was God Incarnate. Wait till we get to that point!"
We had come out of the forest and stood now on what seemed the edge of a veldt. For the first time I caught sight of the humans whose scent had been distracting me - a very distant band of scantily clothed nomads moving steadily through the grass. There must have been thirty of them, perhaps less.
"And the Ice Age is yet to come," I repeated. I turned round and round, trying to absorb and memorize the details of the enormous trees. But even as I did so, I realized the forest had changed.
"But look carefully at the human beings," he said. "Look." He pointed. "What do you see?"
I narrowed my eyes and called upon my vampiric powers to observe more closely. "Men and women, who look very similar to those of today. Yes, I would say this is Homo sapiens sapiens. I would say, they are our species."
"Exactly. What do you notice about their faces?"
"That they have distinct expressions that seem entirely modern, at least readable to a modern mind. Some are frowning; some are talking; one or two seem deep in thought. The shaggy-haired man lagging behind, he seems unhappy. And the woman, the woman with the huge breasts - are you sure she can't see us?"
"She can't. She's merely looking in this direction. What differentiates her from the men?"
"Well, her breasts, clearly, and the fact that she is beardless. The men have beards. Her hair is longer of course, and well, she's pretty; she's delicate of bone; she's feminine. She isn't carrying an infant, but the others are. She must be the youngest, or one who hasn't given birth."
It did seem that she could see us. She was narrowing her gaze as I did mine. Her face was longish, oval, what an archaeologist would call Cro-Magnon; there was nothing apelike about her, or about her kin. She wasn't fair, however, her skin was dark golden, rather like that of the Semitic or Arab peoples, like His skin in Heaven Above. Her dark hair lifted exquisitely in the wind as she turned and moved forward.
"These people are all naked."
Memnoch gave a short laugh.
We moved back into the forest; the veldt vanished. The air was thick and moist and fragrant around us.
Towering over us were immense conifers and ferns. Never had I seen ferns of this size, their monstrous fronds bigger by far than the blades of banana trees, and as for the conifers, I could only compare them to the great, barbaric redwoods of the western California forests trees which have always made me feel alone and afraid.
He continued to lead us, oblivious to this swarming tropical jungle through which we made our way. Things slithered past us; there were muted roars in the distance. The earth itself was layered over with green growth, velvety, ruckled, and sometimes seemingly with living rocks!
I was aware of a rather cool breeze suddenly, and glanced over my shoulder. The veldt and the humans were long gone. The shadowy ferns rose so thickly behind us that it took me a moment to realize that rain was falling from the sky, high above, striking the topmost greenery and only touching us with its soft, soothing sound.
There had been no humans in this forest ever, that was certain, but what manner of monsters were there, which might step from the shadows?
"Now," Memnoch said, easily moving aside the dense foliage with his right arm as we continued to walk. "Let me get to the specifics, or what I have organized into the Thirteen Revelations of Evolution as the angels perceived them and discussed them with God. Understand, throughout we will speak of this world only - planets, stars, other galaxies, these have nothing to do with our discussion."
"You mean, we are the only life in the entire universe."
"I mean my world and my heaven and my God are all that I know."
"As I told you, we witnessed complex geological processes; we saw the mountains rise, we saw the seas created, we saw the continents shift. Our anthems of praise and wonder were endless. You cannot imagine the singing in Heaven; you heard a mere taste of it in a Heaven filled with human souls. Then we were only the celestial choirs, and each new development prompted its psalms and canticles. The sound was different. Not better, no, but not the same.
"Meantime, we were very busy, descending into the atmosphere of earth, oblivious to its composition, and losing ourselves in contemplation of various details. The minutiae of life involved a demand on our focus which did not exist in the celestial realm."
"You mean everything there was large and clear."
"Precisely and fully illuminated, the Love of God was in no way enhanced or enlarged or complicated by any question of tiny details."
We had come now to a waterfall, thin, fierce, and descending into a bubbling pool. I stood for a moment, refreshed by the mist of water on my face and hands. Memnoch seemed to enjoy the same.
For the first time I realized his feet were bare. He let his foot slip into the water itself, and watched the water swirl around his toes. The nails of his toes were ivory, perfectly trimmed.
As he looked down into the churning, bubbling water, his wings became visible, rising straight up suddenly to great peaks above him, and I could see the moisture glittering as it coated the feathers. There was a commotion; the wings appeared to close, exactly like those of a bird, and to fold back behind him, and then to disappear.
"Imagine now," he said, "the legions of angels, the multitudes of all ranks - and there are ranks - coming down to this earth to fall in love with something as simple as the bubbling water we see before us or the changing color of sunlight as it pierces the gases surrounding the planet itself."
"Was it more interesting than Heaven?"
"Yes. One has to say yes. Of course, on reentry, one feels complete satisfaction in Heaven, especially if God is pleased; but the longing returns, the innate curiosity, thoughts seemed to collect inside our minds. We became aware of having a mind in this fashion, but let me move on to the Thirteen Revelations.
"The First Revelation was the change of inorganic molecules to organic molecules .. . from rock to tiny living molecule, so to speak. Forget this forest. It didn't exist then. But look to the pool. It was in pools such as this, caught in the hands of the mountain, warm, and busy, and full of gases from the furnaces of the earth, that such things started - the first organic molecules appeared.
"A clamour rose to Heaven. 'Lord, look what Matter has done.' And the Almighty gave His usual beaming smile of approval. 'Wait and Watch,' He said again, and as we watched, there came the Second Revelation: Molecules commenced to organize themselves into three forms of Material: cells, enzymes, and genes. Indeed, no sooner had the one-celled form of such things appeared than the multicellular forms began to appear; and what we had divined with the first organic molecules was now fully apparent; some spark of life animated these things; they had a crude form of purpose, and it was as if we could see that spark of life and recognize it as a tiny, tiny evidence of the essence of life which we in abundance possessed!
"In sum, the world was full of commotion of a new kind altogether; and as we watched these tiny multicelled beings drift through water, collecting to form the most primitive algae, or fungi, we saw these green living things then take hold upon the land itself! Out of the water climbed the slime which had clung for millions of years to its shores. And from these creeping green things sprang the ferns and the conifers which you see around us, rising finally until they attained massive size.
"Now angels have size. We could walk beneath these things on the green-covered world. Again, listen, if you will, in your imagination, to the anthems of praise that rose to heaven; listen if you will to the joy of God, perceiving all this through His own Intellect and through the choruses and tales and prayers of his angels!
"Angels began to spread out all over the earth; they began to delight in certain places; some preferred the mountains; others the deep valleys, some the waters, some the forest of green shadow and shade."
"So they became like the water spirits," I said, "or the spirits of the woods - all the spirits that men later came to worship."
"Precisely. But you jump way ahead!
"My response to these very first Two Revelations was like that of many of my legions; as quickly as we sensed a spark of life emanating from these multicelled plant organisms, we also began to sense the death of that spark, as one organism devoured another, or overran it and took its food from it; indeed we saw multiplicity and destruction!
"What had been mere change before - exchange of energy and matter - now took on a new dimension. We began to see the beginning of the Third Revelation. Only it did not come home to us until the first animal organisms distinguished themselves from plants.
"As we watched their sharp, determined movement, with their seemingly greater variety of choices, we sensed that the spark of life they evinced was indeed very similar to the life inside ourselves. And what was happening to these creatures? To these tiny animals and to plants?
'They died, that's what was happening. They were born, lived and died, and began to decay. And that was the Third Revelation of Evolution: Death and Decay."
Memnoch's face became the darkest I'd ever seen it. It retained the innocence, and the wonder, but it was clouded with something terrible that seemed a mixture of fear and disappointment; maybe it was only the naive wonder that perceives a horrible conclusion.
"The Third Revelation was Death and Decay," I said. "And you found yourself repelled by it."
"Not repelled! I just assumed it had to be a mistake! I went soaring to heaven! 'Look,' I said to God, 'these tiny things can cease to live, the spark can go out -
as it could never go out of You or us, and then what is left behind them in matter rots.' I wasn't the only angel who went flying into the face of God with this great cry.
"But I think my anthems of wonder were more colored by suspicion and fear. Fear had been born in my heart. I didn't know it, but it had come to me with the perception of decay and death; and the perception felt punitive to my mind."
He looked at me. "Remember, we are angels. Until this time, there had been nothing punitive to our minds; nothing that made suffering in our thoughts! You grasp? And I suffered; and fear was a tiny component of it."
"And what did God say?"
"What do you think He said?"
"That it was all part of the plan."
"Exactly. 'Watch. Watch, and look, and you will see that essentially nothing new is happening; there is the same interchange of energy and matter.'"
"But what about the spark?" I cried.
" 'You are living creatures,' said God. 'It is a credit to your fine intellect that you perceive such a thing. Now watch. More is to come.'"
"But suffering, the punitive quality. ..."
"It was all resolved in a Great Discussion. Discussion with God involves not only coherent words but immense love of God, the light you saw, surrounding and permeating us all. What God gave us was reassurance, and perhaps the reassurance that this inkling of suffering in me required - that there was Nothing To Fear."
"Now comes the Fourth Revelation, and remember my organization of these revelations is arbitrary. I cannot take you through the minutiae, as I've said. The Fourth Revelation I call the Revelation of Color, and it began with flowering plants. The creation of flowers; the introduction of an entirely more extravagant and visibly beautiful means of mating between organisms. Now understand mating had always taken place. Even in the one-celled animals there had been a mating.
"But flowers! Flowers introduced in profusion colors which had never been before in nature, except in the rainbow! Colors we had known in Heaven and thought to be purely celestial and now we saw they were not purely celestial but could develop in this great laboratory called earth for natural reasons.
"Let me say at this time that spectacular colors were also developing in sea creatures, in fishes in warm waters. But the flowers struck me in particular as exquisitely beautiful, and when it became obvious that the species would be numberless, that the patterns of petals should be endless, our anthems again rose to Heaven in such music that everything before seemed lesser, or not so deep.
"This music had of course already been tinged with something dark... dare I say it - the hesitation or the shadow produced in us by the Revelation of Death and Decay. And now with the flowers, this dark element grew even stronger in our songs and exclamations of wonder and gratitude, for when the flowers died, when they lost their petals, when they fell to the earth, it seemed a terrible loss.
"The spark of life had emanated most powerfully from these flowers, and from the larger trees and plants that were growing everywhere in profusion; and so the song took on its sombre notes.
"But we were more than ever enthralled with the earth. In fact, I would say at this time that the character of Heaven had been changed utterly. All of Heaven, God, the angels in all ranks, were now focused on the Earth. It was impossible to be in Heaven merely singing to God as before. The song would have to have something in it about Matter and process and beauty. And of course those angels who make the most complex songs did wind together these elements - death, decay, beauty - into more coherent anthems than those which came from me.
"I was troubled. I had a sleepless mind in my soul, I think. I had something in me which had already become insatiable. ..."
"Those words, I spoke those words to David when I spoke of you, when you first stalked me," I said.
"They come from an old poem that was sung of me, written in Hebrew and now rarely found in translation anywhere in the world. Those were the words of the Sibylline Oracle when she described the Watchers ...we angels whom God had sent to observe. She was right. I liked her poetry, so I remember it. I adopted it in my definition of myself. God only knows why other angels are more nearly content."
Memnoch's whole manner had become sombre. I wondered if the music of Heaven which / had heard included this sombre quality he was describing to me, or whether its pure joy had been restored.
"No, you hear now the music of human souls in heaven as well as angels. The sounds are completely different. But let me go on quickly through the Revelations, because I know that they aren't easy to grasp except as a whole.
"The Fifth Revelation was that of Encephalization. Animals had differentiated themselves in the water from plants some time ago, and now these gelatinous creatures were beginning to form nervous systems and skeletons and with this formation came the process of encephalization. Creatures began to develop heads!
"And it did not escape our notice for one divine instant that we, as angels, had heads! The thinking processes of these evolving organisms were centered in the head. So it was with us, obviously! No one had to tell us. Our angelic intelligence knew how we were organized. The eyes were the giveway. We had eyes, and these eyes were part of our brains and sight led us in our movements, and in our responses, and in our search for knowledge more than any other sense.
"There was a tumult in heaven. 'Lord,' I said, 'what is happening? These creatures are developing shapes ... limbs ... heads.' And once again the anthems rose, but this time mingled with confusion as well as ecstasy, fear of God that such things could happen, that from Matter things could spring which had heads.
"Then even before the reptiles began to crawl out of the sea into the land, even before that happened, there came the Sixth Revelation, which struck nothing short of horror in me. These creatures, with their heads and their limbs, no matter how bizarre, or various in their structures, these things had faces! Faces like ours. I mean the simplest anthropoid had two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. This is a face, such as I have! First the head, now the face, the expression of intelligence within the mind!
"I was aghast! I raised the worst arguments. 'Is this something you want to happen? Where will this end? What are these creatures? The spark of life from them grows stronger, flares hotter, and dies hard! Are you paying attention!' Some of my fellow angels were horrified. "They said, 'Memnoch, you are pushing God too far! Obviously there is a kinship between us, magnificent as we are, the Sons of God, the inhabitants of the bene ha elohim, and these creatures. The head, the face, yes, it's evident. But how dare you challenge the plan of God?'
"I couldn't be comforted. I was too full of suspicion, and so were those who agreed with me. We were puzzled, and back down to Earth we went, persuaded by the earth to wander, to walk. I could now measure myself in size by the scale of things as I earlier mentioned, and I could lie amongst soft bowers of plants, listening to them grow and thinking about them, and letting their colors fill my eyes.
"Yet, still the promise of disaster haunted me. Then an exceptional thing happened. God came to me.
"God doesn't leave Heaven when He does this. He merely extends Himself, so to speak; His light came down and took me in where I was, rolled me up into it and against Him, and He began to talk to me.
"Of course this was immediately comforting. I had denied myself the bliss of Heaven for long periods, and now to have this bliss come down and enfold me in perfect love and quiet, I was satisfied. All my arguments and doubts left me. Pain left me. The punitive effect upon my mind of death and decay was eased.
"God spoke. I was of course fused with Him and had no sense of my form in this moment; we had been so close many a time in the past, and we were this close when I had been made, and came forth out of God. But nevertheless it was a profound, merciful gift for it to happen now.
" 'You see more than other angels,' He said. 'You think in terms of the future, a concept which they are just beginning to learn. They are as mirrors reflecting the magnificence of each step; whereas you have your suspicions. You do not trust in me.'
"These words filled me with sorrow. 'You do not trust in me.' I had not thought of it as distrust, my fears. And no sooner had I realized this than that realization was sufficient for God, and He called me back to Heaven and said that now I should watch more often from that vantage point and not go so deep into the foliage of the world."
I could only stare at Memnoch as he explained all these things. We stood on the bank of the stream still. He didn't seem comforted now as he told me about this comfort. Only eager to go on with his tale.
"I did go back to Heaven, but as I told you, the entire composition of Heaven was now changed. Heaven was focused on Earth. Earth was the Heavenly Discourse. And never was I so aware of it as on this return. I went to God, I knelt in adoration, I poured out my heart, my doubts, above all my gratitude that He had come to me as He had. I asked if I was free again to return to the World below.
"He gave one of His sublime noncommittal answers, meaning, 'You are not forbidden. You are a Watcher and your duty is to Watch.' So I went down - "
"Wait," I said. "I want to ask you a question."
"Yes," he answered patiently. "But come, let's continue on our journey. You can step on the rocks as you cross the stream."
I followed him this way easily enough, and within minutes we had left the sound of the water behind us, and we were in an even denser forest alive, I think, with creatures, though I couldn't tell.
"My question," I pressed, "was this. Was Heaven boring compared to Earth?"
"Oh, never, it's just that the Earth was the focus. One could not be in Heaven and forget about Earth because everybody in Heaven was watching Earth and singing about it. That's all. No, Heaven was as fascinating and blissful as ever; in fact, the sombre note which had been introduced, the solemn acknowledgment of decay and death had added to the infinite variation of things which might be said and sung and dwelt upon in Heaven."
"I see. Heaven expanded with these revelations."
"Always! And remember the music, never, never think that that is a cliche of religion. The music was reaching new heights all the time in its celebration of wonder. It would be millennia before physical instruments would reach a level where they could make even a pale imitation of the sounds of the music of the angels - their voices, mingling with the beat of their wings, and some interplay with the winds that rose from Earth."
"What is it?" he asked. "What do you want to say?"
"I can't put it in words! Only that our understanding of Heaven fails again and again because we are not taught this, that Heaven is focused upon the earth. Why, all my life, I've heard nothing but the contrary, the denigration of matter, and that it is a prison for the soul."
"Well, you saw Heaven for yourself," he said. "But let me continue:
"The Seventh Revelation was that the animals came out of the sea. That they came into the forests which now covered the land and they found ways to live in it. The Reptiles were born. They became great lizards, monsters, things of such size that even the strength of angels couldn't have stopped them. And these things had heads and faces, and now they not only swam with their legs - legs like ours - but they walked upon them, and some walked on two legs instead of four, holding against their chests two tiny legs like our arms.
"I watched this happen as someone watches a fire grow. From the tiny blaze, giving warmth, I now saw a conflagration!
"Insects in all forms developed. Some took to the air with a form of flight very different and monstrous compared to our own. The world swarmed with all these new species of the living and mobile and the hungry, for creature fed upon creature just as it had always been, but now with the animals, the feasting and killing was far more obvious and happened not merely in minuscule but with giant skirmishes amongst lizards who tore each other to pieces, and great reptilian birds who could glide down upon the lesser crawling things and carry them away to their nests.
"The form of propagation began to change. Things were born in eggs. Then some spawn came live from the mother.
"For millions of years I studied these things, talking to God about them, more or less absently, singing when I was overwhelmed with beauty, going up to the heavens, and generally finding my questions disturbing to everyone as before. Great debates happened. Should we question nothing? Look, the spark of life flares monstrous and hot from the giant lizard as he dies! And again and again into the womb of God I was taken, just when I thought my agitation would give me no peace.
" 'Look at the scheme more closely. You are deliberately seeing only parts of it,' He said to me. He pointed out as He had from the beginning that waste was unheard of in the universe, that decay became food for others, that the means of interchange was now Kill and Devour, Digest and Excrete.
" 'When I'm with you,' I told Him, 'I see the beauty of it. But when I go down there, when I roll in the high grass, I see differently.'
" 'You are my angel and my Watcher. Overcome that contradiction,' He said.
"I went back down to the Earth. And then came the Eighth Revelation of Evolution: the appearance of warm-blooded birds with feathered wings!"
I smiled. It was partly the expression on his face, the knowing, patient expression, and the emphasis with which he had described the wings.
"Feathered wings!" he said. "First we see our faces on the heads of insects, of lizards and monsters! And now behold, there is a warm-blooded creature, a creature completely more fragile and pulsing with precarious life and it has feathered wings! It flies as we fly. It rises, it spreads its wings, it soars.
"Well, for once mine was not the only outcry in heaven. Angels by the thousands were astonished to discover that little beings of matter had wings so like our own. Feathers, such as the feathers that covered ours, made them soft and made them move through the wind ... all this now had its corollary in the material world!
"Heaven was stormy with songs, exclamations, outcries. Angels took flight after birds, surrounding them in the air, and then following them and imitating them and following them to their nests and watching as chicks were born from these eggs and grew to full size.
"Now, you know we had seen this entire question of birth, growth, maturity in other creatures, but in nothing that so resembled ourselves."
"God was silent?" I asked.
"No. But this time He called us all together and He asked us why we had not learnt enough by now that we were not insulated from such horror and pride. Pride, he said, is what we suffered; we were outraged that such puny, tiny-headed things, things that had really very limited faces, actually, had feathered wings. He gave us a stern lesson and warning: 'Once again, I tell you, this process will continue and you will see things that will astonish you, and you are my angels and you belong to me, and your trust is mine!'
"The Ninth Revelation of Evolution was painful for all angels. It was filled with horror for some, and fear for others; indeed it was as if the Ninth Revelation mirrored for us the very emotions it produced in our hearts. This was the coming of mammals upon the earth, mammals whose hideous cries of pain rose higher to Heaven than any noise of suffering and death that any other animal had ever made! Ooooh, the promise of fear that we had seen in death and decay was now hideously fulfilled.
"The music rising from Earth was transformed; and all we could do in our fear and suffering was sing in even greater amazement, and the song darkened, and became more complex. The countenance of God, the light of God, remained undisturbed.
"At last the Tenth Revelation of Evolution. The apes walked upright!
Was not God Himself mocked! There it was, in hairy, brutal form, the two-legged, two-armed upright creature in whose image we had been made! It lacked our wings, for the love of Heaven; indeed the winged creatures never even came close to it in development. But there it lumbered upon the earth, club in hand, brutal, savage, tearing the flesh of enemies with its teeth, beating, biting, stabbing to death all that resisted it - the image of God and the proud Sons of God, his angels - in hairy material form and wielding tools! "Thunderstruck, we examined its hands. Had it thumbs? Almost. Thunderstruck, we surrounded its gatherings. Was speech coming from its mouth, the audible eloquent expression of thoughts? Al-most! What could be God's plan? Why had He done this? Would this not rouse His anger?
"But the light of God flowed eternal and unceasingly, as if the scream of the dying ape could not reach it, as if the monkey torn to pieces by its larger assailants had no witness to the great flaring spark that sputtered before it died.
" 'No, no, this is unthinkable, this is unimaginable,' I said. I flew in the face of Heaven again, and God said, very simply, and without consolation, 'Memnoch, if I am not mocked by this being, if it is my creation, how can you be mocked? Be satisfied, Memnoch, and enjoy amazement in your satisfaction, and trouble me no more! Anthems rise all around you which tell me of every detail my Creation has accomplished. You come with questions that are accusations, Memnoch! No more!'
"I was humbled. The word 'accusations' frightened or caused a long pause in my thoughts. Do you know that Satan means in Hebrew 'the accuser'?"
"Yes," I said.
"Let me continue. To me this was a wholly new concept and yet I realized that I had been flinging accusations at God all along. I had insisted that this evolutionary process could not be what He wanted or intended.
"Now He told me plainly to stop, and to examine further. And He also gave me to know again, in wide perspective, the immensity and diversity of the developments I witnessed. In sum, He visited upon me a flash of His perspective, which mine could never be.
"As I said, I was humbled. 'May I join with you, Lord?' I asked. And He said, 'But of course.' We were reconciled, and slumbering in the divine light, yet I kept waking as an animal might wake, ever on alert for its lurking enemy, waking and fearing, But what is happening now down there!
"Lo and behold! Are those the words I should use, or shall I speak like J, the author of the book of Genesis, and say 'Look!' with all its fierce power. The hairy upright ones had begun a strange ritual. The hairy upright ones had begun all kinds of different patterns of complex behavior. Allow me for the moment to skip over to the most significant. The hairy upright ones had begun to bury their dead."
I narrowed my eyes, looking at Memnoch, puzzled. He was so deeply invested in this tale that he looked for the first time convincingly unhappy, and yet his face retained its beauty. You couldn't say unhappiness distorted him. Nothing could.
"Was this then the Eleventh Revelation of Evolution?" I asked.
"That they should bury their dead?"
He studied me a long time, and I sensed his frustration, that he couldn't begin to get across to me all that he wanted me to know.
"What did it mean?" I pressed, impatient and eager to know.
"What did it mean, they buried their dead?"
"Many things," he whispered, shaking his finger emphatically, "for this ritual of burying came along with a kinship we had seldom if ever witnessed in any other species for more than a moment - the caring for the weak by the strong, the helping and the nourishing of the crippled by the whole, and finally the burial with flowers. Lestat, flowers! Flowers were laid from one end to the other of the body softly deposited in the earth, so that the Eleventh Revelation of Evolution was that Modern Man had commenced to exist. Shaggy, stooped, awkward, covered with apelike hair, but with faces more than ever like our faces, modern man walked on the earth! And modern man knew affection such as only angels had known in the universe, angels and God who made them, and modern man showered that affection upon his kindred, and modern man loved flowers as we had, and grieved as - with flowers - he buried his dead."
I was silent for a long time, considering it, and considering above all Memnoch's starting point - that he and God and the angels represented the ideal towards which this human form was evolving before their very eyes. I had not considered it from such a perspective. And again came the image of Him, turning from the balustrade, and the voice asking me with such conviction, You would never be my adversary, would you?
Memnoch watched me. I looked away. I felt the strongest loyalty to him already, rising out of the tale he was telling me and the emotions invested in it, and I was confused by the words of God Incarnate.
"And well you should be," said Memnoch. "For the question you must ask yourself is this: Knowing you, Lestat, as surely He must, why He does not already consider you His adversary? Can you guess?"
He waited until I was ready for him to continue, and there were moments there when I thought that point might never come. Drawn to him as I was, totally enthralled as I was, I felt a sheer mortal desire to flee from something overwhelming, something that threatened the structure of my reasoning mind.
"When I was with God," Memnoch continued, "I saw as God sees - I saw the humans with their families; I saw the humans gathered to witness and assist the birth; I saw the humans cover the graves with ceremonial stones. I saw as God sees, and I saw as if Forever and in All Directions, and the sheer complexity of every aspect of creation, every molecule of moisture, and every syllable of sound issuing from the mouths of birds or humans, all seemed to be nothing more than the product of the utter Greatness of God. Songs came from my heart which I have never equaled.
"And God told me again, 'Memnoch, stay close to me in Heaven. Watch now from afar.'
" 'Must I, Lord?' I asked. 'I want so badly to watch them and over them. I want with my invisible hands to feel their softening skin.'
" 'You are my angel, Memnoch. Go then and watch, and remember that all you see is made and willed by me.'
"I looked down once before leaving Heaven, and I do speak now in metaphor, we both know this, I looked down and I saw the
Creation teeming with Watcher angels, I saw them everywhere engaged in their various fascinations as I have described, from forest to valley to sea.
"But there seemed something in the atmosphere of Earth that had changed it; call it a new element; a thin swirl of tiny particles? No, that suggests something greater than what it was. But it was there.
"I went to Earth, and immediately the other angels confirmed for me that they, too, had sensed this new element in the atmosphere of Earth, though it was not dependent upon the air as was every other living thing.
" 'How can this be?' I asked.
" 'Listen,' said the Angel Michael. 'Just listen. You can hear it.'
"And Raphael said, 'This is something invisible but living! And what is there under Heaven that is invisible and lives but us!'
"Hundreds of other angels gathered to discuss this thing, to speak of their own experience of this new element, this new presence of invisibility which seemed to swarm about us, unaware of our presence yet making some vibration, or that is, inaudible sound, which we struggled to hear.
" 'You've done it!' said one of the angels to me, and let him remain nameless. 'You've disappointed God with all your accusing and all your rages, and He has made something else other than us that is invisible and has our powers! Memnoch, you have to go to Him and find out if He means to do away with us, and let this new invisible thing rule.'
" 'How can that be so?' asked Michael. Michael is, of all the angels, one of the most calm and reasonable. Legend tells you this; so does Angelology, folklore, the whole kit and caboodle. It's true. He is reasonable. And he pointed out now to the distressed angels that these tiny invisible presences of which we were aware could not conceivably equal our power. They could scarcely make themselves known to us, and we were angels, from whom nothing on earth could possibly hide!
" 'We have to find out what this is,' I said. 'This is bound to the earth and part of it. This is not celestial. It is here, dwelling close to the forests and hills.'
"Everyone agreed. We were beings from whom the composition of nothing was secret. You might take thousands of years to understand cynobacteria, or nitrogen, but we understood them! But we didn't understand this. Or let me say, we could not recognize this for what it was."
"Yes, I understand."
"We listened; we reached out our arms. We perceived that it was bodiless and invisible, yes, but that it had to it a continuity, an individuality, indeed, what we perceived were a multitude of individualities. And they were weeping, and very gradually, that sound was heard within our own realm of invisibility, and by our own spiritual ears."
He paused again.
"You see the distinction I make?" he asked.
"They were spiritual individuals," I said.
"And as we pondered, as we opened our arms and sang and tried to comfort them, while stepping invisibly and artfully through the material of Earth, something momentous made itself known to us, shocking us out of our explorations. Before our very eyes, the Twelfth Revelation of Physical Evolution was upon us! It struck us like the light from Heaven; it distracted us from the cries of the covert invisible! It shattered our reason. It caused our songs to become laughter and wails.
"The Twelfth Revelation of Evolution was that the female of the human species had begun to look more distinctly different from the male of the human species by a margin so great that no other anthropoid could compare! The female grew pretty in our eyes, and seductive; the hair left her face, and her limbs grew graceful; her manner transcended the necessities of survival; and she became beautiful as flowers are beautiful, as the wings of birds are beautiful! Out of the couplings of the hairy ape had risen a female tender-skinned and radiant of face. And though we had no breasts and she had no wings, she looked like US!!!!"&