I was beautiful.

My face shone with the radiance of the moons, the light of the stars, the fire of the sun. I rose with the dawn and descend with twilight. My seraphic wings stretched widely from horizon to horizon, pure as snow, dazzling white with divinity and godlike authority. As the herald of the dawn, I was among the most sublime of His angels.

I never meant for it to happen.

But it did. I held the power of the sun in my hands as the sun rose over Eden and in that moment of pride, drunk on the rapture of light falling over Paradise, my mind rebelled. Why should I, fairest of the Seraphim and most magnificent of all next to Him, not share His divinity? Why should I be below Him when I too had the face of a god, the body of a god, the desire to rule?

In that instant, I was lost.

It would not have mattered in the slightest if I had won over the temptation—I had sinned. I had sinned so terribly that I knew my soul would never be free of the stain. And, nearly as bad, He knew.

But as I look back, I wonder, if I had refrained from my pathetic attempt to seize control, if I had simply pushed the impulse to the back of my immortal mind, would I have been forgiven? Would He have redeemed me with the rest?

It doesn't matter. I shall not weep for memories now—no crystal tear shall trace its melancholy path down my alabaster face. What I did, I did, and there is no going back. And His memory is long.

It happened quickly. I gathered my friends around me and fought Him for His power. The loss happened quickly, as well, and we were cast from heaven.

I, the Morning Star, fell as a transcendental comet, through the earth and into Hell to be Adonis among demons.

It was not a pleasant place.

Never, not a single day went by when I could escape the howling of a thousand souls crying out for mercy from the ruler of that dark place. They screamed as though their very souls were ablaze… As if the absence of God wrenched their hearts to the point of bursting, but the pressure had no relief. And, in truth, that is how it was. Without Him, there is Nothing. The lack of Him—that is true torture. That is my life, if it can be called a life. I lurked in that greasy, evil hole for millennium after millennium, my angelic soul darkening like pure water filled with dirt and soot. They came to associate me with Hell, and cursed me, calling me Azazel, the despaired one, and Satan the adversary. But that is not me. Satan is more wicked, more cruel than I could ever be. Satan is that one who lacks all virtue, who never had any. He is the embodiment of God's absence. He is my tormentor.

And then He sent His Son to the earth for his children. His Son died for them and descended to Hell where he was bitterly punished for crimes uncommitted. And yet his soul remained heavenly and white. I, yes, even I, wept to see him put through such agony, such undeserved pain. And I wept for the pain of God, to see His Son handed over to Satan.

But Jesus rose. I watched in disbelief and awe as he rose through the levels of Hell and into Heaven's eternal bliss. But my pleasure at his relief turned sour as I watched their souls rise joyfully after him, forgiven and purified.

I was left behind.

Next I was sent to earth. It was only marginally better than Hell, but you would have laughed at my gratefulness for being let out of that abyss. I kissed the ground, I danced in the light, I sang out praises to God.

Did He hear them?

The body I was given is magnificent by mortal standards, but it was not the paragon of masculine beauty I had in Heaven. I was given a name—Lucien—which is a weak parody of the name I once had. I felt He mocked me with these weak imitations of former glory, but I did not dare complain. It has been two thousand years that I have walked this earth.

This is not a life. This is an extended nightmare. It is hazy in places and disguised with shameful lust and inexpensive perfume and cheap red wine, but it is a nightmare all the same.

My mind had weakened with my body, and I couldn't resist the sins I had once thought so disgusting and incomprehensible. I experienced drunkenness, which made my still ever-so-slightly celestial stomach sick for weeks. I suffered through addiction to opium—a plague worse than alcohol followed and I could not move for what felt like years! There was gambling. This one I could stand for brief periods before going to pieces… But the lust was the worst. It did not hurt me physically or psychologically; the only way I could feel the guilt was intellectually.

I must clarify here: it is no sin for a mortal to desire another, not even when it is a loveless occurrence. But I was not a mortal. I looked like one—I looked too well like one—but I was not. It took years for the sin to eat through my diluted soul, but when it did, the anguish I experienced was worse even than Hell, and all of my sins came crashing down on the injury—salt in an open wound.

I cursed the women, the sirens, who had done this to me. I cursed Satan, who had suggested this horror. I cursed God for abandoning me, and I cursed the angels who had what I so desperately wanted, and I cursed the humans who He seemed to love so much more than He could ever love me. But all of these were false curses. They meant nothing because I was only truly cursing myself.

When the excruciating pain finally subsided enough for me to do more than kneel on the ground in a silent scream of misery, I wept and cried out to Him.

Why have You done this to me? Have I not paid for my crime a thousand times more than I deserved? Have You forgotten me?

There was no answer.

Are You listening? Please, my God, listen to me one more time!

Something stirred and I seized the opportunity.

You have so easily forgiven these who I live among now—the mortal men You created in Eden. You have sacrificed so much for them and they turn away from You. I have done nothing but turn towards You, but You do not forgive me. Why? I only ask why.

He didn't answer, but He listened.

After an immeasurable period, I sobbed,

You call them Your children.

Am I not Your child, too?

You are my Father. Why do You not accept my apologies and take me back? I'm not asking much—I don't want my old position back. I don't care. I just want You to forgive me. Oh, God, please.

This time, He answered. When His voice filled the tiny room I occupied, my tears were startled out of me by the shock of his presence, which filled in the holes in my tattered, barely blessed soul. The feeling was stronger than any high from the mortal drugs, more intense than the rush of a winning roll of dice, and more blissful than most euphoric orgasm I had ever experienced.

What you say is true, He said. You are my child, Lucifer. But you disobeyed me. You tried to overthrow me. Your spirit turned from me and it does not return easily.

But do not all children imitate their parents? I asked desperately.

God was silent for an age. When He spoke again, He said, Stand up, Lucifer.

I scrambled to my pale, white feet.

Spread your wings.

With a start, I realized that I did have wings again. They spread slowly, stiff from such a long time away from me, and I stretched and flexed them. But they were different. Not the elegant, clean white I remembered, but dark red at the tips of the feathers. I gasped. What happened?

They are stained. When you turned from me, they turned scarlet with the blood of the angels who fell in your rebellion.

Has my suffering washed them clean?

No, Lucifer. It was not your suffering that cleansed your soul, but your need for my presence. You are close.

God began to move away from me. I cried out again.

Not yet! I begged. Don't leave me yet, Father. Take me with you! I need to be with you.

Distantly, I heard His voice say to me, It is not my choice that will bring you home, but yours.

And I realized what I had done.

All along, through the immeasurable years, I had kept a fragment of resistance in my heart, a tiny shard of my former self that struggled to justify my sins. It was this that kept the feather tips bloody, this tiny dust speck of want for power. I had wept for my pain, for my grief, but I had not released the grains of sand that had irritated my soul to the point that I couldn't see the Light when it came.

And I let it go.

Like an oyster opened after its death, as I shucked my mortal shell for my angelic form, a pearl of faith rose in my chest and I sang out with joy as Heaven opened for me again.

He stood there, his face lined and tired with age, but smiling with nearly child-like delight. He opened His arms and I ran into them, as a son greets his father.

Welcome back, He said in his wise, aged voice. I have missed you.

Rachel Mazzara

2 August 2006