With rage Belial remembers the eternal spring which smiles on the ever blooming flowers of heaven. – Klopsock
Belial, seraph of heaven, fell with Satan, Moloch and the others. This is his story.
Nanowrimo 2006 is underway – four days in and I’ve written 2134 words which makes me behind by a mere 4534. I’ve been thinking about the content of this story for well over a year and a half, ever since the character of Belial appeared to me in a dream and I turned him into a screen play scripts for my wee brother’s Film class at Uni, I’ve even done some (shock, gasp) research! The working title is officialy Cado Angelus (Fallen Angels) though the top of the word document currently says “Belial”.
Anyway, here’s chapter 1 so far…
The inside of the organ loft was a cramped and dusty place, a maze of tubing and pipes of all shapes and sizes. Large plastic hoses sprawled across the floor under the unevenly spaced raised footsteps and racks of pipes, starting a few inches in size and rising to a few feet in gentle curves clung to the walls and hung from the rafters. A faint whine and deep thrum of the electric motor driving the bellows in the cellar below the belly of this grand instrument I was immersed in was a noise I could not so much hear as feel. Even with the cotton wool stuffed in my ears I could still hear the high c sharp of the open diapason shrilly whistling somewhere above my head.
The organist’s voice yelled something from the console, somewhere in front of me but hidden by the forest of pipes and a wall, which I couldn’t make out. I carefully unstopped one ear a little, wincing at the increased level of the stuck note and yelled back.
“I said, have you found it yet?” Mr. Stephens hollered a repeat of his question. Mr Henry Stephens is a loveable chap I’ve known since I first joined the church choir when I was six years old, he is dedicated to the music in this place and still applies an amazing amount of charm and energy despite his advancing years. Although I am now in my late twenties I can not get out of the habit of calling him Mr. Stephens.
“No I’ve only just got to the ladder!” I shouted back as I carefully grasped the edges of the eight short steps that led to the upper level and started ascending one foot at a time emerging onto a narrow gang plant that ran behind the huge ornamental pipes that hung outside the organ above the console. Grasping a beam carefully, I moved my head around trying to locate the source of the sound but it was difficult to pinpoint, among the array of pipes. “Twiddle some of the lower notes on the stop!” I shouted, turning my head towards the forward pipes so it might carry out into the chancel. Mr. Stephens obliged and I wobbled slightly, startled by the noise coming from some pipes very near my elbow. “OK!” I shouted and the lower notes stopped sounding leaving errant c sharp alone again.
I took a few gentle steps along the gang plank and reached for the next beam with one hand while letting my other hover over the tops of the rack of pipes I had identified until I reached one with air blowing out of the top. I smiled to myself for identifying the culprit, a glance around the wood it and its sisters were set in suggested that the control mechanism was somewhere, somewhat inaccessible, behind the rack. Clinging to the beam, I leaned over but the my own shadow blocked the light from the single bulb positioned back against a beam back at the ladder, from my side I pulled the Organ Torch, a venerable device that had served this purpose as long as I could remember, and flicked it on.
Now I could see that there was something lying on the set of long rods running into the wooden frame which stopped or opened the pipes in response to the commands from the keyboard below. It was a heavy looking folder, with a twine binding wrapped around a dull brass stud on the long edge – a few pages of yellowing paper had spilled out of the open top as well. Reaching down and over the pipes, I scraped the loose pages back into the folder and almost jumped out of my skin when this caused a few other notes, immediately under my chest, to sound. I heard Mr. Stephens call out another question and guessed he wanted to know what was happening. “Something fallen on the control rods! Just picking it up!”
More carefully I reached again to scoop the folder up, this time I didn’t jump as a quick arpeggio of notes sounded which I was more than half expecting. The c sharp still didn’t stop crying so I laid the folder with its skewed pages sticking out of the top aside on the gang plank beside me and swung the torch back into the space from which I had lifted it. One of the rods was not quite parallel with the others, reaching over I nudged it with my finger and it clicked back into place.
For a moment I wasn’t sure if the note had stopped sounding or not, it seemed to go on squealing inside my head, but quickly I realised it must have as I could hear Mr. Stephen’s cry of “Well done!” followed by a quick guffaw of laughter. I straightened and pulled one of the pieces of cotton from an ear.
“Yup, got it! I’m coming back down.” My sentence was clipped by the sudden and deafening sound of a quick tattoo being rapped on the c sharp as Mr. Stephens tested it. “Hold on!” I shouted, stuffing the bud quickly back in. Mr Stephens called back a reply which, from the plaintive tone of voice, I assumed was “Sorry!”.
I scooped the dusty old folder up, cradling the open bottom end with my fingers to prevent its contents spilling out from the other end and was about to pick my way along the gangway when it occurred to me to look where it might have come from. The space out of which I had lifted it was a cavern with rows of stalagmite pipes, nothing was stored here, there was no space that was not a part of the instrument. Sweeping the torch up I could see a horizontal beam stretching from one side to the other a couple of feet above what my reach would be if I could get over to it, stained black. A glance at the back of the folder showed that it was smudged black as well, perhaps it had been balancing up there and had fallen down, striking the c sharp’s rod?
I shrugged my shoulders and edged along the plank and back down the ladder, along the raised stepping stones and out to the door which led into the organ’s interior from a small passageway next to the console. Just inside I switched restored the torch to its little shelf next to the packet of cotton wool and flicked the switch that put out the bulb above the door here and the one above the ladder, plunging the pipe-work back into darkness. I patted my pocket to make sure I had the ring of organ keys and closed the door behind me whose ancient yale lock clicked home.
Stepping out of the passage and blinking at the bright pale lights in the chancel I found Mr. Stephens sitting on the organ bench. He glanced around at me and then played a rising arpeggio from the lowest note to the highest on the recently repaired diapason. “There we go! Good work Peter. What was it?”
I waved the folder in one hand, “This had fallen from the rafters onto the rods, it had knocked one of them out of place.” I turned the folder over in my hands to look at it closely for the first time. It smelled damp and musty and the card board was thick and dirty, mottled with spots of brown yellow mold under a substantial layer of dust. It was a simple jacket surrounding a bunch of papers about half an inch thick with brass fasteners at the centre of the long open edge around which a piece of dark read thread had been tightly wound to hold it shut. I picked at the thread and found an end of it and unravelled it from the front fastener then lifted the old cardboard apart, a small cloud of dust drifted up from it a little of which got in my eye causing it to sting a little and water.
Blinking away the grime I peered at leaf of paper on top; it was a small piece of writing paper, the rest of the pages being foolscap, with a hand written note on it in very faded purple ink. The hand was very regular, carefully sloped and evenly spaced copperplate which took me a moment to work out how to read:
“Concerning the events of 1907, that they may one day be known. Beware the words that seem kindly and reasoned, falsehoods lie within.” I read out, “I can’t make out the signature.” I lifted the sheet to glance at the others beneath. “The rest is typed.” I said looking at the greying letters imprinted on the old paper. “What happened in 1907?” I asked, looking up at Mr. Stephens who was peering over the top of the folder, still seated on the bench.
“No idea, I’m not that old!” He shrugged and sat back up. “I guess it’s your find if you want it, let me know what it’s all about once you’ve read it.” He smiled and looked back at the music set above the organ console. “Now I’m going to practice my voluntary, since I’ve got all the stops I want working again – you’d better get along to Skinner’s if you want any food to be left!” He waggled his thick greying eyebrows at me and smiled again. “Thanks for doing that, the climb up there’s a little… tight these days.” He tapped his well rounded stomach.
I laughed briefly and said that yes indeed I was hungry and that I’d see him at the service. As I turned away and walked into the chancel proper I heard the click and pump of stops being changed and a page being turned, a moment later he had launched into the Widor Toccata with some gusto. I scooped up my jacket from the choir stalls, which had green carol books with pieces of paper marking pages lying on top of carefully ordered stacks of sheet music at each place, along with a different orange coloured carol book with dog-eared corners. I pulled on my coat and stuck the folder and book under an arm and headed out of the chancel past a large and well decorated Christmas tree complete with glowing fairy lights and down the nave towards the west door.
The chancel was well lit but the lights of the nave, past the tree, were off save for one at the rear door itself next to the small cupboard that contained the rest of the light switches. And yet I noticed another small light in a pool of darkness in the middle of a set of pews, I blinked at it and as my eyes became accustomed to the dark I realised that it was the lit end of a cigarette being smoked by someone. I sniffed the air and caught the acrid edge of tobacco smoke and thought it strange that I had not smelled it before.
“Hello?” I asked cheerfully as I continued up the aisle, still trying to make out the person’s face in the limited light and trying to work out if it was someone I knew or not.
I’d been coming to the church for as long as I could remember and singing in the choir for very nearly as long. Recently I’d moved away, first to university and then on into a job, but often returned to rejoin the choir for special musical events like choral evensongs or, of course, Christmas. I therefore knew all of the regular attendees here at St. Michael’s by sight at least and, for the most part, by name as well. However the Christmas Eve Midnight Eucharist was often very busy with plenty of folk who were nominally members but only ever turned up now and at Easter plus plenty of others – a local hotel had taken to running a mini-bus to this service a few years ago.
I realise of course that this may make it sound like I wouldn’t welcome everyone that turns up, this is of course far from the truth – the more the merrier, particularly at this time of year, no one even really minds if you are a little tipsy at this service (I was certainly planning on having a largish glass of wine at the Skinners’ when I got there) however I assumed that this person, whoever it was, was perhaps a little drunk and a couple of hours early; why else would they think it was socially acceptable to smoke a cigarette in a church?
“Greetings.” the stranger replied.