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Stairway from Heaven

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'Sauntering’ was just a lie he’d told himself. 

Sauntering implied a certain degree of bravado which he didn’t feel. He was descending, that was for sure, but with only a vague sense of downward direction. For how long and to where, he wasn’t certain. He’d already traveled quite a distance from the glorious light of Heaven and, at this point in history, the passage of time was not measurable by the cycles of day and night. Everything outside of Heaven was Darkness, and the only places that existed were Heaven and not Heaven. 

He’d not been involved in the civil war. He’d never lifted a finger against any of his fellow angels. His position had been creating pleasing things—flowers, butterflies, fluffy white clouds—to glorify Yahweh and beautify Heaven. All he had wanted was to belong, be accepted, and have others appreciate his work. When dissent first appeared in the angelic ranks, he’d kept his head down and devoted himself to his job in an effort to ignore it. He’d tried to avoid the stress of listening to arguments and having to choose a side, but then Lucifer had openly rebelled against Yahweh with half the host of Heaven. The ensuing battles had no respect for the beauty he’d tried to create. The flowers were trampled, the butterflies incinerated, and the clouds turned dark and threatening. Lightning flashed, and thunder underscored the turmoil as Michael and his army cast Lucifer and the rebels out of Heaven. 

Heartbroken by the destruction of what he’d created, the angel had impulsively made the decision to leave. Since many of his colleagues had been involved in the rebellion and had fallen, he no longer had any friends to talk to—and Yahweh was sulking. The angel was no longer sure of the value of his work and there didn’t seem to be any point in trying to bring joy to Yahweh’s heart. 

In those times, Yahweh was vengeful and hot-tempered, and brooding over the loss of half his angels. All-seeing Yahweh observed the wayward angel on the stairs who’d made a choice of his own to leave Heaven. Instead of gently picking him up and carrying him Home, Yahweh made a different decision—perhaps one that, on a different day (had there been days), he would have chosen otherwise. 

Now Yahweh knew this angel by name, as he knows each of us by name. But such was His anger that he singularly enacted all his vengeance by erasing the angel’s identity from the roll of Heaven. Then the angel felt the terrible presence of Yahweh directly in his head. 

You disobedient angel, the voice said. How dare you make a choice of free will, a decision to leave my Presence? Because you have left Me, I have taken away your Name, your angelic Grace, and your Heavenly membership. Finally, I leave you with this curse—you will never again know love until the day someone Loves you in return. 

The angel fell to his metaphoric knees—for angels are creatures of Essence—to beg for Mercy. But the presence of Yahweh had already left him…totally, completely. And the absence of Yahweh is the definition of Hell—and abandonment is Hell, when all one wants is to Belong. 

Art by azile_teacup

At this point, there was no more staircase, no more Darkness—for the angel was transported instantaneously to Hell. He was dumped unceremoniously in what appeared to be a small room—an office? As he cowered on the floor, a sinister laugh wafted above him. 

“What have we here? An Angel? And not a fallen angel either, but one rejected by Yahweh! Delightful! I shall call you Crawly...for you will henceforth crawl and know your place before me!” 

Crawly looked up into the sneering face of a Duke of Hell—for, just as in Heaven, there were ranks. This particular duke was named Hastur and he was still burning with rancor inside from his ignominious toss from Heaven. The presence of an Angel was a glorious opportunity for retaliation. 

For the next extended period of time, Crawly did everything Hastur demanded: licked his boots, emptied his trash, went through Demon training. Crawly was incredibly lonely as he made no friends in Hell and never felt like he Belonged—for belonging and friendship pre-requires some level of trust, and demons don’t trust one another. Everywhere he went, he heard snickering behind his back—that’s the angel personally rejected by Yahweh! Crawly began to crave solitude as a means of self-preservation. Being alone was better than being laughed at all the time and having to perform Hastur’s demeaning chores. Surprisingly, Crawly had demonstrated an amazing aptitude on his demon achievement tests for Tempting. This unexpectedly opened an opportunity for him as word spread through Hell that Yahweh was undertaking something New. 

“Yahweh’s created an Earth,” Hastur explained to Ligur, “and he’s populated it with all sorts of disgusting creatures. Chief among them is something called Human—created to be just a little lower than the angels. No mention of demons—I ‘spect we’re even lower than that!” 

Crawly half-listened with dull interest as he unobtrusively mopped the floor of Hastur’s office. The very next day (for now there were days and nights) he was called to Dagon’s office. Dagon was in charge of Administration and asked Crawly to have a seat as he pulled several files out of drawers and spread them on his desk. 

“Crawly,” intoned Dagon, not unkindly, “we have an opportunity for you. Yahweh has created an Earth, and Satan himself has requested that we send someone up there to make some trouble. You’ve shown an astonishing degree of ability for Tempting on your demon tests, and a demonstrated understanding of Free Will. We’re going to graduate you early. You’ll become a Demon in name, be fully accepted into our ranks; but immediately be promoted to this field assignment. Your job will be to do anything possible to upset Yahweh’s apple cart. Yahweh is playing favorites with the newly created Humans, and they cannot be allowed to further develop their relationship! Satan wants to claim the Earth and the Humans as his own. 

“Now,” Dagon continued, “you’ll need a body. You can’t go as an Angel, and frankly, I blame Hastur for not requesting a demonic incarnation for you sooner. Wandering around Hell as an Angelic Essence could not have made it easy for you to assimilate. We’ve some excellent suggestions for you; please take a look!” He spread open a catalog before Crawly. 

Crawly mulled over the choices. Inwardly, he was quite excited about the opportunity. It presented an escape from his current circumstance. He waved toward what appeared to be an inconspicuous choice—small, sleek; without any unnecessary limbs to get in the way. Dagon snapped his fingers and suddenly Crawly was transported… 

…to a beautiful Garden. To his surprise, the Garden was decorated with flowers and butterflies, and overhead floated puffy white clouds. Yahweh replicated my ideas! Crawly thought, pleased, but then remembered he was here to cause trouble. He slithered through the underbrush to reconnoiter his new surroundings. 

It wasn’t difficult to find the Humans. They were always hanging around each other, laughing and playing and enjoying each other’s company. They Belonged to each other and didn’t seem to have a care in the world. Crawly belonged to no one. He wasn’t even sure he was a full-fledged demon—despite Dagon’s reassurances, the senior demon had seemed rather quick to move Crawly along and out of Hell. 

Notwithstanding his mission, Crawly found himself fascinated by the humans. They did such interesting things. The one called Adam had given names to all the animals and the one known as Eve had woven flowers into beautiful garlands which she draped around their necks. Yahweh himself came to the Garden every evening to walk with the Humans and chat about their day. Crawly frowned—he certainly didn’t want to be found by Yahweh! He slithered underneath a low-hanging bush to observe the evening ritual. The two humans and Yahweh seemed to enjoy each other’s company. Yahweh had made the humans in his own image, unlike the angels or anything else in the Garden. Yahweh appeared to dote on Adam and Eve by fulfilling their every need. They even called Him ‘Father.’ Crawly almost choked on his hiss of derision. 

Crawly painfully remembered how Yahweh had banished him from Heaven for making one poor choice. If he could convince one of the Humans to do likewise, maybe Yahweh wouldn’t favor them anymore. They’d be disowned by Yahweh and maybe even separated from each other! Crawly moved smoothly toward the very middle of the Garden where two trees were planted. One was called Morality and one was named Immortality. These two trees were unique in some way, as Yahweh had instructed the Humans they could enjoy any of the beauty or bounty of the Garden except the fruit of these trees. Crawly studied the trees carefully. Crawly (like all demons and angels) already had Immortality. He decided to experiment with the other tree, as its fruit must embody some idiosyncratic danger. Humans had already been gifted by Yahweh with Free Will. But the free will to pick whether to eat papayas or pears for lunch didn’t equate to the question of choice Crawly was considering. 

***

Eve awoke the next day and smiled over at Adam, who was still slumbering. She arose to wander through the Garden, which was still bathed in early-morning dew. Sunlight glistened off the myriad drops to create an appearance of sparkling jewels all along the path as Eve meandered toward the center of the Garden. She’d always had a curious nature, if one can label ‘always’ as the several days she’d been in existence. Her inquisitiveness had led her to create articles of beauty such as the flower necklace she currently wore. Adam had a slightly different character as he liked knowing the names of things and how they worked. 

Like a magnet, the two forbidden trees drew Eve in. Today, she saw something new. A serpent had draped itself over the lower branches of Morality. It hissed at her in a friendly manner and said, “Hello, Eve.” 

Eve was startled. “Snakes can’t talk!” 

“Certain sssnakes do. Tell me, Eve, what’s so sspecial about this tree?” 

“Father said we’re not supposed to eat the apples.” 

“But why?” 

Eve hung her head. “I don’t know,” she whispered. 

“Did you know,” confided the serpent conspiratorially, “that if you eat this fruit, you’ll be like Father?” 

“But Adam and I are already made in Father’s image!” 

“Yesss,” agreed the serpent, “but you don’t know the thingss Father knows. How to own thingss. How to use thingss. You’re sssooo innocent and pampered. You don’t even know that there’s a world beyond the Garden gates!” 

Startled, Eve looked up. “There is?” 

“Oh yesss. Waiting for you to explore, invent, discover. This fruit is like the key to the Gate. Jussst take a bite. Why would Father deny you all that knowledge?” 

Eve considered. “I don’t know,” she repeated. But now she had an irresistible urge to find out. 

She took a bite. 

At first, nothing seemed terribly different. But suddenly, Eve knew

Crawly smiled like a snake. 

***

“Hey,” Crawly said to the Angel of the Eastern Gate. 

The angel, whose name was Aziraphale, turned. “Oh, it’s you.” He’d made the acquaintance of the snake on one of Crawly’s earlier jaunts around the Garden. In Aziraphale’s opinion, the serpent, having self-identified as a demon, was Someone to Be Avoided. But the angel couldn’t evade Crawly while still guarding the gate. 

Crawly, meanwhile, had found the kindness of Aziraphale’s noncommittal indifference to be better than rejection. He’d missed having someone to talk to, and Aziraphale was a captive audience who was not as scary and intimidating as the angels at the other gates. Those angels stood at alert with flaming swords, while Aziraphale had a sword that he had once demonstrated to Crawly could flame. The angel was currently seated leaning against a tree idly twirling one of his loose wing feathers by its quill in the dirt. His sword was propped on the other side of the tree.

“Any traffic in or out of the Gate?” Crawly sarcastically inquired.

Aziraphale huffed. “The point is…well, just my presence here should be enough of a deterrent.” A sudden commotion from the middle of the Garden caused Aziraphale to grab his sword and scramble to his feet. Crawly looked curiously on.

“Adam! Eve! Where are you?” Yahweh called. Crawly did a double-take. Why would all-knowing Yahweh not know where the Humans were? The mystery was short-lived as they stepped out from where they had been concealed. Adam held an apple in his hand.

“Eve,” Yahweh said sadly. “You ate the fruit from Morality.”

“Oh, yes!” replied Eve. “And now I know so much more than I did before. I’ve got imagination! I want to explore, discover, build, uncover something to call my own! I want to climb mountains, cross rivers, use things to make new things! Why wouldn’t you want us to know this?”

“And you also know right from wrong. You are no longer innocent, Eve,” Yahweh continued. “You’ll have to leave the Garden.”

“But why?” questioned Eve.

“Because you disobeyed Me. You had everything,” Yahweh said, “and it wasn’t enough for you.”

Adam fell to his knees, still clutching the apple. “No!” he wailed. “Please, Father, don’t make me choose between her and you. Either way, it’s more than I can bear to lose. You both hold my heart in your hands!”

“See what you’ve done, Eve,” Yahweh pronounced. “Adam, stay here with me. You’ll never have to make a decision like this again. Everything will be given to you.”

Stricken, Adam looked to Eve. “Eve,” he implored, “knowing what you know now, would you still eat the apple?”

With tears in her eyes, Eve nodded with certainty. “Yes.”

Adam stared at Yahweh and defiantly took a bite of the apple.

Aziraphale and Crawly felt the world change.

***

Amidst the dark clouds and pounding rain of the storm of Yahweh’s wrath, which bruised the flowers and obliterated the butterflies, Crawly had received a literally glowing commendation from Hell. Apparently he was now highly favored, which wouldn’t help his relationship with Hastur at all, but helped to assuage his worries about Belonging. Crawly had accepted the enclosed offer of a continuing field assignment on Earth. As the storm cleared and the last drips fell from the sodden trees, Crawly set out on his new course filled with confidence. After all, he’d even gotten an angel of Heaven to doubt his actions!

As he sauntered out of Eden, he nonchalantly wondered whom Heaven would appoint to oppose him.