Where Are We Now?
I. The Blackstar
There was no Sun.
The sky of Ormen never felt a touch of sunlight. It was barren waste, immersed in permanent twilight, with formless patches of clouds scattered here and there.
There was no Sun.
People of Ormen vaguely remembered that there should be something to separate day from night, but none of them cared anymore.
There was the Blackstar.
It hung ominously in the air, barely above the tallest building in the village, looming upon the earth, too close to the surface. It should have sucked the planet up by sheer force of gravity, but for some reason it didn’t. The Blackstar just was there, motionless, everlasting and impassive. It was not, however, completely black.
It’s perfectly round main body looked like a hole, cut in the bleak fabric of the sky by an extremely precise tailor. But its crown radiated with pure white light, which did little to disperse perpetual gloom that surrounded grim abodes, built from grey, porous stone, where people of Ormen lived.
This bright yet feeble light, nonetheless, seemed to be a source of elation and joy for the inhabitants of the village. In fact, their excitement was so great, that not a single person choose to stay at home tonight.
The main square of the village was overcrowded. The women pointed their fingers at the Blackstar, while scratching cryptic symbols in the dust. At times, a heated argument took place or a frantic burst of laughter whipped the silence, but mostly the strange work went on smoothly. Triumphant smiles almost never left the women’s faces. One by one they knelt, each in front of her own, unique symbol, drawn with chalk, paint or one’s own bare fingers. Thus, a circle of women was formed.
The second circle consisted of men, who stood still, with their arms crossed on their chests, staring directly at the Blackstar. Their eyes burned with dumb longing and avarice.
For them, there was no time for smiling. They had a gateway to open. An undertaking to perform.
A rite of passage.
Yet another circle was, to be precise, a trench, dug in the earth, near the centre of the square. In the middle of it stood a candle, made of pure white wax, burning with unsteady, flickering light. An extremely frail and decrepit man stood beside it, supporting himself with a huge cane. His hair was scarce; his face was a sea of wrinkles. His eyes were coals on a verge of burning out; his mouth was a toothless pit, smelling of rot and decay. He was dressed in a simple black robe. In spite of his decrepitude, participants of the ritual followed his orders quite closely.
By the wave of the old man’s hand the women began to chant, repeating the same lines in an unknown language over and over again. As they did so, a single ray of light descended from the Blackstar crown, aiming straight at the candle’s fire. Soon the descending ray touched the candle flame, and from that moment kept getting brighter and thicker, as the candle rapidly diminished. The women continued to chant, faster now, hysterical notes in their voices starting to prevail. Some of them were prostrated on the ground, apparently unconscious. Most of the symbols drawn earlier disappeared in a flash of light. The sky seemed to get closer to earth, and the men lifted their hands up, straining their muscles, as if trying to push the sky back. The weakest of the lot soon gave up, falling on their knees with a desperate grunt, but the majority kept pushing with fierce determination.
Meanwhile, a speck of light appeared in the sky, out of nowhere. It was falling down, but the falling had to be interrupted. There was no way to avoid collision with a ray of light produced by the Blackstar.
As soon as two sources of light touched each other, the sky was illuminated with a powerful blast of intolerable brightness and scorching heat.
From that blast, a stately built man appeared. Well, not exactly a man. A heavenly creature.
His face was devoid of ladylike, languid expression, characteristic for the human’s depictions of the angels. His sandy blond hair was cut short, his icily blue eyes glittered with formidable energy. His chin was square, his thin lips were pursed tight. As he stepped gingerly on the earth, the old man approached him and spoke solemnly:
“Messenger of Heaven! I, Melchior, the Infinite, whose immortality was granted by the Blackstar, bid you welcome! Come and give us what is rightfully ours!”
The angel’s lips curved in a queer smile. He observed the congregation, and started to spread his wings slowly as he spoke:
“Sorry guys. Not this time». — The angel unfolded his wings completely with a theatrical flap — I’m not here just for you. There are other cities and villages in this world, haven’t you noticed? I think some of them need an angel more than your village does right now. So many angels came before me, all for you. Now it’s time to explore what lies beyond Ormen. Let me pass, please!”
The congregation stood still, unable to decide what to do. Melchior inhaled sharply and began to yell, spitting profusely and stumbling over the words.
“This is outrageous! Messenger of Heaven! I, Melchior, the Infinite, whose immortality was granted by the Blackstar, command you to obey!”
The angel began to ascend slowly, staring disdainfully at those who summoned him.
“The Blackstar has no power over me! It is merely a portal by which I came into your world. You have no power over me, old man! Step back!”
“People of Ormen! Seize him! Don’t let him escape!”
Melchior grabbed the angel’s foot with his trembling hands and tried to pull him back.
“No! I said, stay away from me!” – The angel roared at the top of his lungs, knocking the majority of people off their feet. It seemed, that the angel’s deep and profound voice even made the earth to tremble slightly – “You were the only ones! The prudent! The wise! The cautious! The understanding! Look at yourself now! Taking orders from this useless old jerk!” – The angel shook the abovementioned old jerk off his feet and lifted himself quickly up in the air. Soon he disappeared behind the nearest cloud.
Melchior promptly got on his feet, and seemed to be resolved to bring prodigal angel back.
“Which way did he go?! East? West? South-west? People of Ormen! Search all four sides of the world! Hunt high and low! Bring him back! Right now!”
The people of Ormen, however, remained oblivious to the mumbling of their spiritual leader. The ritual left them physically exhausted and emotionally wasted. Of course, the search party will be organized and the angel will be found. But not right now. Right now, everyone could use some rest.
Soon the central square was empty. Only Melchior remained, weeping quietly and looking pleadingly at the Blackstar.
The Blackstar didn’t care. Now, as the light of its crown died off slowly soon after the ritual, it was totally, immaculately black.